B-15

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, Joy San. Image Comics, 2018. 9781534307506. 80pp.

The story of Elle and her soulmate, Mari, opens in a home for seniors in 2038 (Elle is telling her story to a young woman who needs to hear it) and quickly flashes back to the day in 1963 when Elle first saw Mari. They’re best friends for years, and for a while Elle doesn’t know how to talk about her feelings for Mari. And then it becomes clear to everyone that they love each other in a way they’re not supposed to, which freaks their church-going families out. Mari is sent away to get married. Elle’s father makes her marry James the following year, and they start a family when he gets back from Vietnam. And the thing is it’s an amazing family, and they’re as happy as they can be without actually being in love. So when Elle finally meets Mari again (after quite a few decades of marriage), it’s clear to both of them what they’ve been missing. (This isn’t a spoiler if you look at the cover before you open the book.)

It’s a joyous, colorful, well told story full of love and hope. I don’t normally like framing stories in this “let me tell you about the past” way but it works here, and there’s a secondary reason for it that becomes clear at the end of the book. All in all this book is delightful, and I can’t imagine a public library in the world that shouldn’t have a graphic novel about grandmas in love on its shelves.)

Unattached

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Plume, 2012. 9780452297548. 336pp.

Gene: Why did we pick this book?
Sarah: One of the Book Wows I’m going to post about in a few weeks —  Dear Fahrenheit 451 — recommended it as a good romance.
G: Oh, right. That was after trying to read a different book I picked and neither of us liked it. We were both like, WTF is up with this?
S: [mentions title, but Gene and I are not revealing it because we know folks who like the book in question, though it’s not a book for us]
G: Unrelated, but can I admit I shit-talked a book by a publisher whose books I usually like to an author whose books I love, and she admitted she didn’t like the book in question, either. So satisfying.
S: I got to talk to some of the school librarians I work with in a non-school setting and they were able to tell me which of the Battle of the Books books they hate. It was great.
G: Have you read Rainbow Rowell’s books before?
S: No.
G: I loved Eleanor & Park. It’s one of my top 10 YA books of all time. It’s on my shelf at home, my entire family loved it. It’s so good.
This was her first novel, and an adult novel, apparently.
S: It’s set in 1999, which is important.
G: I was pitching it to my 15-year-old daughter, and I realized why it’s not a YA book. “It’s set in a newspaper office in 1999!” Her eyes rolled back into her head. (She is excited by Rainbow Rowell’s current run on the Runaways comics for Marvel. In fact the first collection was just published.)
S: So yeah, a newspaper, 1999. The office just got computers because their publisher is like, “Everyone is just going to be screwing off. They’ll look like they’re working but they won’t be working.” So they hire a few people in the tech department, and one of them is this guy who’s been hired to make sure people aren’t screwing off on work time.

Continue reading “Unattached”

Sometimes a fantasy is all you need

Sex Fantasy by Sophia Foster-Dimino. Koyama Press, 2017. 9781927668467. Lots of pages.

I love this book so much!

It is square-ish, if not perfectly square, and it fits in your hand. It seems to have been originally published as 10 minicomics of the same title. (There are a few issues and other things by Foster-Domino available digitally.) Each issue (chapter?) is quite different from the others but each page features just a single comics panel.

“Issue 1” is a first person narration by a person (male? female? both? (both because at one point they say they’re Ranma!)) telling about and showing all of the things they do for those they’re obsessed with. Simple sentences and drawings add up to a view into the mind of someone super complicated. (And, you know, way over-obsessed.)

Issue 4” is a tear-inducing conversation. “Issue 5” is another conversation between two women talking about their childhoods and art. “Issue 7” has a surprise I’m still pondering. And you should find out about the other issues yourself, both because I don’t know how to do this book justice and because it’s so quick to experience.

I hope your local library has a copy (mine does), or you know someone who will lend you theirs, or that this sounds so compelling you’ll buy one of your own.

Yellow Dots About Comics

Pigmentation d’un Discours Amoureux by Mai Li Bernard. Dédales Éditions / Collection Détours, 2014. No ISBN in the book, but 9782955060605 found elsewhere. 48pp.

To see images from the book, go to May 2015 in Mai Li Bernard’s Tumblr archive.

Gene: This is a French graphic novel, but it’s wordless. Its title in English would be <Pigmentation of Loving Speech> or <The Color of Loving Conversation> or something like that. I bought it at Stuart Ng Books last time I was in Los Angeles. (I found out about his bookstore via his booth at the San Diego Comic-Con. He sells a lot of art books that are related of the comic scene: sketchbooks, graphic novels, reference books…and one of the things he does is he imports French books based on how beautiful they are. I find things in his showroom that I’d never see anywhere else.)
In this book, everyone’s thought bubbles and word balloons contain colored dots, and they’re more about that character’s mood during the interaction than anything else. Continue reading “Yellow Dots About Comics”

Build a Better Billionaire Bang

How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall. Forever Yours, 2017. 9781455571321.

How much do I love Alexis Hall? I’m willing to tell you that I deeply enjoyed this book, despite its embarrassing title. Hall has written a sweet and genuinely funny erotic romance with dom/sub themes and characters that are both three dimensional and utterly likable. English major Arden meets Caspian, a tremendously wealthy and successful financier, while making fundraising calls for his college. They hit it off immediately and discover that they are very sexually compatible. The story then follows Arden graduating and struggling to find a career while he and Caspian gradually get to know and trust each other.

As enjoyable as the story is, it’s a pointed and refreshing departure from the tropes of the billionaire romance genre (yes, this is a thing), the dom/sub romance genre (you are perhaps less surprised that this is a thing) and especially both combined (Fifty Shades of Grey). Caspian’s money is only important in that he can afford to let Arden stay in one of his investment properties while he looks for work in London. (There is a hilarious interlude where Arden and his college roommate Nik order food from the apartment’s attached Heston Blumenthal restaurant. They are baffled by the menu and decide to order the worst-sounding things for each other.) The older and dominant Caspian is fairly timid and anxious around this sort of relationship, which is very new to him, while the submissive Arden provides the confidence and caring needed to guide him. Arden is well versed in queer culture, gender and sexual politics, and principles of safety and consent. And (wonder of wonders) he states outright that dominance and submission “doesn’t have to be about who does what. It’s about how it’s done.” Arden is also very funny, self-deprecating, enthusiastic, kind, and quite silly. He is astonished that Caspian could fall in love with him. I’m not. I can’t wait for the sequel, How to Blow It With a Billionaire.

“Well, Wendy said something about a shadow…”

Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa. First Second, 2017. 9781596438774. 220pp.

Two things I immediately loved about this graphic novel: the ghostly “bees” (there are a few on the dedication page) and the grey tones done by Alex Eckman-Lawn, which reminded me of some of Andi Watson’s best black and white art.

Greg doesn’t cast a shadow. He’s missing his mom and is more than a little angry that his dad’s girlfriend, Ruth, is moving in. His best friend Layla is super tough, and tired of his moping. The town’s mayor is always trying new attractions to bring in tourists (the latest is The World’s Largest Hairball). They mayor’s son Jake is not Greg’s favorite person. Oh, and there’s a haunted house, the scene of several murders, where the ghosts mess with whoever messes with the house.

Greg and Layla go into the house where Greg finds out he can see the very cute ghost of a teenage girl who haunts the place. He more than kinda falls for her which is good because she hasn’t had anyone to talk to for a long while. But Layla has also fallen for Jake, which isn’t good. Plus Greg is being a jerk to Layla. And then his shadow suddenly shows up.

The book is way more romantic than harrowing, and seems to be part of a wave of middle grade graphic novels about mostly friendly ghosts. All in all it’s a bit of innocent fun which touches on bullying, dealing with the romantic lives of friends and parents, and embracing weirdness.

Love in Wartime

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. Simon and Schuster, 2016. 9781501124372.

Eighteen-year-old Mary North, spoiled daughter of a politician, abandons her Swiss ski trip to volunteer at the outbreak of World War II — so suddenly that she’s still in ski wear when she checks in. She’s disappointed with her boring assignment as schoolteacher. But then she creates her own excitement by seducing her boss, Tom Shaw. Everything is complicated when Mary meets Tom’s handsome roommate Alistair Heath, formerly an art restorer but currently an artillery officer, just back from the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Alistair is posted to Malta, Mary takes charge of a motley class of kids returned from their evacuation from London, and the two continue their romance in lighthearted letters, not all of which reach their destinations. Alistair narrowly escapes death many times. Mary ruffles society feathers with her egalitarian notions and by accepting a black student into her class. Mary and her friend Hilda volunteer for air raid duty, and Mary drives an improvised ambulance that carries stretchers which, empty or not, are tied to its roof!

This romance is sprawling, vivid, witty, and, though it might seem messy at first, tightly plotted and carefully constructed.

Thanks to Robert in San Diego for this guest book review!