Each month I pick three to four books— usually one novel, one picture book, and one non-fiction or graphic novel — and highlight some of the things I liked about them. Keeping with the theme of Salt & Fog , I will most likely not review something I did not like.
On the nightstand this month:
The Girl with All the Gifts
By M.R. Carey
Can I be both a sucker for anything post-apocalyptic and tired of it all? The great ones hit that perfect mark of horror, survival, human relationships and adventure.The bad ones are rehashed scary movie tropes with new characters less alive than the zombies they are running from.
There are so many books in the post-civilized genre these day that even the most avid fan is starting to get burn out. I am for sure. Still, a few each year cut through the crowd of mindless infected unlike the others. One example is last year’s very excellent Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Another is currently on my nightstand, The Girl with all the Gifts.
Almost anything I say will be a spoiler as the story starts mid-action. I hate spoilers myself so will not go down that path even when tempted. I will say that in between the terror, gore and running for their lives the characters have a huge beating tender heart and such stunning empathy. Even if the heart itself is cold and devoid of blood.
From the first page:
Melanie was new herself, once, but that’s hard to remember because it was a long time ago. It was before there were any words; there were just things without names, and things without names don’t stay in your mind. They fall out and then they’re gone.
This was a book club pick. Some members lamented that the second half felt too comic book or action movie. I was okay with that, but you have been warned.
This One Summer
Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
Oh gosh, this graphic novel was so great. I found it on the recommend shelf at Folio books in Noe Valley. After flipping through the first few pages Julie and I both had to have it. I let her read first, because I am a nice wife (and was not quite done with The Girl with all the Gifts yet).
This One Summer flat out captures that pre-teen summer vacation feeling perfectly. You want to be an adult, and to be taken seriously, but grown ups are messed up and can be scary as hell. So you kind of fake it and hope your old friends won’t call your bluff. Or maybe you have outgrown the summer camp friends you only see once a year and who never seem to change even when your whole world has shifted in the intervening months. Why can’t they just get with it already and stop being such babies? Or maybe it’s you who is being the jerk? Feelings are hard.
Some page from This One Summer:
The time in-between milestones can be as momentous as those we photograph and hang on the walls and This one Summer gives those days their due.
Purchase This One Summer at Powell's Books.
by Carson Ellis
Carson Ellis is one of my favorite illustrators. She manages to capture so much in such a sparse drawing style that her watercolors seem like jewels of cut paper.
I first became aware of her work as the artist for The Mysterious Benedict Society YA series and her paintings for the album covers of her husband’s band the The Decemberists (though it took me a ridiculously long time to make that connection).
She has rightfully won awards for illustrating Dillweed’s Revenge by Florence Parry Heide and The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket but this is her first solo outing.
The sign of any great storybook is when the parent is as excited to read it as the kid is. This is one of those books. Take a look at some of these pages and you will get why all three of us look forward to sitting down with this:
Now for complete fangirling; Carson and her husband Colin live on this adorable farm in Portland (as per her instagram feed), and are actively making amazing art all the time. She and Colin are probably my favorite “celebrity” couple.
Purchase Home here.