Between the Bookends, Image: Sophie Brown

Between the Bookends: 8 Books We Read in June 2019

Between the Bookends Books Comic Books Featured Columns
Between the Bookends, Image: Sophie Brown
Between the Bookends, Image: Sophie Brown

In this month’s Between the Bookends, Sophie, Corrina, Amy, and Patricia share some of their favorite reads of the last month, including laugh-out-loud fiction, amazing dogs, punk rock history, diet advice, and Nigerian fantasy. We hope there’s something for everyone, including you, in this diverse assortment and are already looking forward to sharing next month’s collection with you.

Please Send Help, Image: Wednesday Books
Please Send Help, Image: Wednesday Books

Please Send Help by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

Sophie’s favorite book by far this month was Please Send Help by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin. This book is the sequel to 2017’s I Hate Everyone But You (which Sophie hasn’t actually read) but the premise lured Sophie in without her realizing it was a follow-up. Luckily, you don’t need to have read the first book to fully enjoy this one.

Please Send Help follows best friends Ava and Gen who have recently finished college and are taking their first steps into the world of jobs, rent, awkward office romances and all the other fun things that come with adulthood. Ava has lucked into an unpaid internship at a popular late-night TV show in New York, while Gen has taken on a print journalism role in small-town Florida. Both are struggling. Ava worries she will fail to make the most of her opportunity of a lifetime, Gen that she will be stuck going nowhere in Hicksville – and both are making a series of questionable choices involving feral cats, homeless guys, and sex with the wrong people.

The book is told purely through emails and text message exchanges between Ava and Gen. Sophie read it in short bursts on her phone which felt like the perfect medium for a book told in this format. She quickly fell in love with both characters and constantly found herself screenshotting funny passages to send to her own long-distance BFF. In fact, the worst thing about Please Send Help for Sophie was that she often found herself thinking, “I should text this to Gen,” before quickly remembering that both girls are fictional! She loved that the relationship between the two friends hit ups and downs throughout the book, the inclusion of an unapologetic bisexual central character, and she often recognized relateable moments from her own friendships.

Sophie will absolutely be picking up I Hate Everyone But You and hopes this won’t be the last we hear from Ava and Gen.

(Definitely) The Best Dogs of All Time, Image: Scribe Publications
(Definitely) The Best Dogs of All Time, Image: Scribe Publications

(Definitely) The Best Dogs of All Time by Jadan Carroll

Despite currently owning three cats, Sophie grew up with dogs and considers herself a to be a dog-lover, so she was immediately drawn in by the title of (Definitely) The Best Dogs of All Time which claims to showcase the “most exceptional hounds” throughout history. The book mostly focuses on real dogs but also dips into mythology with dogs like Cerberus, Cylart, and the She-Wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus. There are also some dogs that you could argue aren’t really dogs at all such as Sirius the Dog Star, the Lazy Pangram Dog (the one who was jumped over by a quick, brown fox) and the dog of the Chinese Zodiac.

The entries that really interested Sophie, however, were the real stories about real dogs. She really enjoyed reading about Susan: the first corgi of Queen Elizabeth II, Balto the Siberian Husky who led a dog sled across Alaska in a race against time, and Laika the first dog in space. There were many sad stories included here so you may want to keep a tissue handy, but there were also mysteries like the disappearance of Masterpiece the poodle, and wonderfully happy stories such as those of the Chilean Reforestation Border Collies.

The writing is very laid back with many of the entries reading more like late night Tumblr posts than a published book, but Sophie really enjoyed the style and found herself laughing out loud on several occasions such as when the popularity of the enduring myth of St Bernards delivering brandy to lost climbers is explained by the comment that, “the dream of a great jowly dog who will not only save your life but also deliver booze in the process is a dream that is simply too good to snuff out.”

This is a great book for dog lovers of all ages.

Bedlam, Image: HarperCollins Children's Books
Bedlam, Image: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Bedlam (Skulduggery Pleasant #12) by Derek Landy

Bedlam is the twelfth book in Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series. While a number of plots are moving at differing paces, the two key threads in Bedlam are Valkyrie trying to recover her sister’s lost soul while obviously suffering from PTSD and serious mental health issues as a consequence of previous events, while Abyssinia plans to rule the worlds of both sorcerers and mortals by inciting a war between the two.

The previous two books since Landy returned to the Skulduggery universe were a little lacking in comparison to the first nine. One criticism from fans was that the main two characters who had drawn fans in and held their love and attention, Skulduggery and Valkyrie, spent too much time apart. In Bedlam, Skulduggery and Valkyrie spend more time together and their delightful wit and banter of old shine through.

Another criticism has been the profusion of characters to keep up with, many new and some with little apparent impact on the plot of each book. Bedlam suffers from this again as the chapters leap around the various groupings and plot threads, some integral to this book’s plot and others obviously spanning a larger arc. You have to be paying attention and retaining who everyone is and everything that is going on. Happily, though, one character (Omen Darkly) who has frankly been irritating in the previous two books, now has some pleasing character development.

While Bedlam could benefit from stronger editing to trim the fat of Landy’s convoluted plotlines, there is enough of his trademark wit and humor here to please long term fans, plus a bit of fan servicing with some old fan favorite characters making appearances. While nowhere near one of the better books in the Skulduggery Pleasant series, Bedlam is an enjoyable improvement on the previous two.

Pros and (Comic) Cons, Image: Dark Horse Books
Pros and (Comic) Cons, Image: Dark Horse Books

Pros and (Comic) Cons, Edited by Hope Nicholson

Finally, Sophie finished off Pros and (Comic) Cons. This anthology from Dark Horse Books is edited by Hope Nicholson and the follow-up to The Secret Loves of Geeks which Sophie loved last year. This new collection is, again, a mixture of prose and comic-style story-telling and features over 35 stories that all feature comic conventions in some form from the eyes of the professionals who attend them.

Sophie really loved the diversity on show here. There were stories from LGBTQ writers, POC writers, Indigenous writers, and lots of female voices. The collection also avoided focusing purely on the “now” of comic conventions with older, veteran voices coming aboard to recount their memories of conventions in the 1960s and 70s. She really enjoyed hearing about the experience of attending Comic-Con as a professional, and how those experiences differ for everyone involved.

As always, there were some pieces in this anthology that stood out to Sophie more than others. Her favorite by far was Bonnie Burton’s “Follow the Goths” while Tia Vasilios’s “Never Wear Comfortable Shoes to a Con” gave her a lot to think about in both her personal and professional lives – as did Karama Horne’s “Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Geek Journalist”. She was less enthused by Bud Plant’s mini-memoir “The California Guys”, but “Thought Bubble” by Kieron Gillen and Julia Scheele made her want to finally take the trip up north to Leeds to attend that show.

This is another great anthology collection and will appeal to anyone who has ever attended (or dreamed of attending) a comic convention with both lots to learn from and to reminisce about. Sophie hopes this won’t be the last of these books.

Punk Avenue and Please Kill Me, Images: Three Room Press and Grove Press
Punk Avenue and Please Kill Me, Images: Three Room Press and Grove Press

Punk Avenue: Inside the New York City Underground, 1972-1982 by Phil Marcade; Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain

This month, Corrina has been doing a deep dive into the evolution of punk rock, specifically New York City punk rock, as research for a book series that’s being pitched as “punk rock Lois Lane.”

The two oral histories she read were Punk Avenue: Inside the New York City Underground, 1972-1982 and Please Kill Me: An Uncensored Oral History of Punk. (Note: both were easily obtained with an inter-library loan. Don’t forget your local libraries!) She wanted first-person accounts of the time period and these books more than fit the bill.

Punk Avenue, the oral history by Phil Marcade, was shorter and kinder to those around him. He had few axes to grind against many of the people involved in the scene and instead provides a somewhat objective picture of what it was like. The most well-known story involved Nancy Spungen and how Marcade encouraged her to go to the UK punk scene, which is where she met Sid Vicious and their destructive co-dependency began but he’s a great guide to the type of music the punk scene was built around, and since he saw New York City through the eyes of an outsider (he was born in France), it makes for looking at the city in the 70s and 80s with a new angle.

Please Kill Me was a more comprehensive oral history of the punk movement in general, though it eventually lands in New York City. This is a meaty book, with quotes from nearly everyone involved, sometimes with differing views of what happened. It’s a walk through with people who were there at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB in the beginning, Iggy Pop rolling around on broken glass onstage, the formation of the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols tour of the U.S. which ended in disaster.

Corrina’s takeaway from all this is, first, how young they all were. Spungen was only 21 when she was killed and few of the people were over 25 at the time. Second, how many drugs they all seemed to be doing, all the time. She was surprised any of them are still alive (and not surprised that Patti Smith eventually tapped completely out.) Third, the treatment of female fans, many underage teens, was somewhat appalling and no men involved in the scene seemed to think there was anything truly wrong about 20-year-olds dating 14-year-olds, even when they ran away from home.

Corrina would have liked more focus on how the bands created their music but perhaps the answers is that, though a haze of drugs and rebellions and three cords and frustration at their role in the changing world, they changed music. She’s going to have to look up books now that do some evaluation and study of the movement, rather than first-person accounts, to put more of it in context.

Akata Warrior, Image: Viking Books
Akata Warrior, Image: Viking Books

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

Amy and kids (12 and 10) read Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Warrior for the past few weeks, having finished the first book in the series, Akata Witch, a month ago. While Amy had read that book before, Akata Warrior was new for all three of them. It continues the story of Sunny, the American-born Nigerian albino girl who, in the first book, discovered she was a magical Leopard Person and had to stop a creepy serial killer from raising an apocalyptic demon.

In this book, Sunny continues to hone her powers, including learning to read a language of living symbols that bring worlds to life in your head and practicing moving between the ordinary world and the “wilderness” spirit world. It’s becoming harder to explain herself to her worried family (to whom she is bound to never reveal anything about Leopard life), particularly to her brothers, one of whom has started drawing visions she’s seen and told no one about, and the other of whom has run into trouble of his own at the University – they keep trying to protect each other, but Sunny can’t explain to him why she doesn’t need his protection. Or, that his protection can’t do anything against her real danger: that apocalyptic demon she banished last year who is trying to come back, with Sunny in her sights!

This series is a delight for anyone who loves scary stories of magic and friendship. Akata Warrior feels slightly more YA than the upper-middle-grade Akata Witch, but even the 10-year-old hung on every word and reacted to the scares and violence with exclamations of excitement.

Delay, Don't Deny, Image: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Delay, Don’t Deny, Image: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Delay, Don’t Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle by Gin Stephens

Patricia is always looking for tips for treating her body better. Whether it’s trying to stick to natural foods, or just eating less in general. A friend tipped her off to a short read titled Delay, Don’t Deny, which explains “intermittent fasting” as a technique for improving insulin response. The author, Gin Stephens, contends that appropriately spacing your meals allows your body to completely turn off its insulin response, thereby minimizing your body’s storing of fat in reserve. Intermittent fasting, or “IF”, is a relatively simple technique to force that spacing.

How does it work? Easy! Choose a non-eating-to-eating ratio and abide by it. In Patricia’s husband’s case, since the beginning of May, he’s been choosing to not eat for 16 hours, and then eat for 8 hours. That’s called a 16:8 fast. He’s lost over 10 lbs. in 6 weeks. Loosely speaking, he ends up just eating lunch and dinner…with nothing in between. No late night snacking, and no breakfast. Black coffee is okay, so that’s what he has in the morning. One can also choose to fast for 18 hours per day, 20 hours per day, even beyond 24 hours several times per week.

This is a quick and easy read, but readers should know that while Gin Stephens is a doctor, she isn’t the type of doctor that has the credibility to speak as a medical professional on the topic. However, Dr. Stephens does have over 20 years of experience in trying to maintain her own healthy weight. She discloses all of the other fad diets she has tried and failed. That experience spoke to Patricia profoundly. During parts of the stories of her health journey, Patricia felt as if she was reading her own biography. Dr. Stephens makes perfectly clear that her only credibility is her own experience, and highly recommends another book The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung. He IS a medical professional, and Patricia is reading his book now.

GeekMom received some titles in this collection for review purposes.

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