Salt & Fog

The Art of Veronica Casson


Summer Vacation, Whimsical Homes & Zombies

NightstandVeronica CassonComment

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
Science Fiction

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.

Purchase The Girl With All the Gifts

This One Summer


Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
Graphic Novel

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
Illustrated Storybook

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:

home_ 2

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.

Book Shopping: my tips and tricks

Book & Record, NightstandVeronica Casson2 Comments

I adore book stores. I find them soothing the way others do a spa day or yoga retreat. The general quiet and soft murmur of other customers. The warm lighting. The shelves of experiences past and yet to come.

I do my best to support any bookseller, particularly independent ones, but I do not have a large expendable budget. Its crazy challenging.  To ease my discomfort of being overwhelmed, by finding too many items I would love to purchase with little chance of getting them all, I use this method.

Step one:

I take a quick snapshot of any title that interests me.

Step two:

When I am ready to leave (usually at the urging of whomever I am shopping with) I do a quick scroll through the photos I took and see if there is any title I cannot live without and purchase that one. 

Bonus step:

Once home I review my photos and after a little bit of research or internal searching I post the ones I want on my wish list (I currently use Evernote, but have also used Good Reads, Amazon wish lists and pinterest boards.)

Here’s what I snapped during this last trip and why. 

Bring Up The Bodies, By Hilary Mantel


Mantel has written a lot of excellent books, including one of my all time favorite novels Fludd.

She has become most well known for her Cromwell Series of books, a fictional account of Thomas Cromwell's rise to power in the court of Henry VIII. This book, Bringing up the Bodies, is the second in the trilogy and Wolf Hall is the first.


As a long time fan of Mantel’s work I have been meaning to read her most popular novels and have just not gotten around to it. After finding this one on sale I thought it might be the time.


Annihilation, By Jeff Vandermeer


The first in the Southern Reach Trilogy. It is a Sci-fi thriller about four scientists who visit a remote area of civilization called 'Area X' that has a reputation for inflicting mayhem on anyone who visits.


You know who likes Annihilation and the rest of The Southern Reach trilogy? Friken’ everybody.

Another book series that I have heard a ton of buzz about. It was on the shelf with the other two parts of the series looking all tempting with its pretty graphic covers. 


RAT QUEENS , Volume one: Sass and Sorcery.
Story by Kurtis J. Wiebe and art by Roc Upchurch


The first volume of a fantasy comic series about four foul-mouth adventures.


There was a sign on the shelf marking it as the 2015 GLAAD Media Award winner which made me pick it up and take a peak. The art was pretty and after reading the first few pages it looks like it might be a lot of fun.



M. O. Walsh’s debut novel got a lot of attention after it’s release. Set in Baton Rouge it involves a horrible crime perpetuated on 15-year old girl who is a favorite of the neighborhood.


Another one I found in the bargain bin and considered grabbing. I have heard very good thing about Walsh’s prose but have kept my distance knowing there will be violence done to a minor. Any story that involves kid violence has been really hard for me to sit through since having our son. It’s also the reason what I have not watched the supposedly amazing first season of True Detective.




 Ron Lieber, The New York Times “Your Money” columnist's book about how to raise money conscious kids.


Who doesn’t want “Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money, “ as the cover promises? I sure do. I am taking strides to be grounded, generous and smart about money as a grown up. Perhaps reading this could help me pass on better money habits to Luke. I do think this is intended for older kids though.



WOMEN - by Chloe Caldwell


novella that explores an affair and the aftermath between two women who have a nineteen year age difference. 


I am a sucker for this little card displayed on bookstore shelves. The ones that say “Staff Picks” or “reader favorites” and ha s a little review or quote on them. This one said, “…..” and it got me to pick up the book and read the first page.

Here’s what I read and liked:

Sometimes I wonder what it is I could tell you about her for my job here to be done. I am looking for a short­cut—something I could say that would effortlessly un­tangle the ball of yarn I am trying to untangle here on these pages. But that would be asking too much from you. It wasn’t you who loved her, or thought you loved her. I wonder what I could write that would help you to understand that it is profoundly easy to fall in love with an olive-skinned woman that touches you just so, and who has a tattoo of a quote from Orlando trail­ing down her back. Show me your tattoo again, I’d say in bed. She’d pull up the bottom of her shirt, and I’d trace my fingers over the cursive words by Virgin­ia Woolf that read: Love, the poet said, is a woman’s whole existence.


This was the one I finally purchased. I decided I would easily come across the others again but there was a chance I might not encounter Women if I did not pick it up then. Which would be a shame as I really was drawn to the first page and loved the store review.