Wednesday, October 29, 2014

RIP IX - The Comics! Wytches and Sabrina

What to read in the early morning hours of a 24 Hour Readathon? You guessed it! Comics are my choice. I had a couple of review copies on my e-reader, so this is what I read that was RIP IX-worthy. 

Wytches #1 by Scott Snyder and JOCK opens with a bang! It's quite violent and grisly, a true horror comic, so beware if that's not your bag. 

Across the globe, century after century, men and women were burned, drowned, hanged, tortured, imprisoned, persecuted, and murdered for witchcraft. None of them were witches. They died protecting a terrible and hidden truth: witches, real witches, are out there. They are ancient, elusive, and deadly creatures that are rarely seen and even more rarely survived. (via Goodreads)

I probably need to re-read this one since I actually went through it at 3:30 am during the Readathon, but it was a fairly shocking start to the series, and the artwork was rough and a little chicken scratchy. That's a terrible descriptor, but it definitely played into the fact that in this story witches are primordial nature dwellers who can suck their victims into trees to imprison them. Thing long craggy fingers, fingernails, tree branches, scratching on windows. That kind of visual and that kind of scary vibe run all the way through this first installment. I definitely want to read more. 

On the other end of the spectrum we have Sabrina #1 from Archie Comics, created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack. Remember Sabrina the Teenage Witch? This is her, rebooted. While this is lauded as a "darker take on Sabrina," it wasn't terribly dark, especially in comparison to Wytches

Terror is born anew in this dark re-imagining of Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s origin. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family’s past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda. (via Goodreads)

Overall, while this one was fun, it was also silly, and I wasn't a huge fan of the artwork. If you're into the Archie universe, give it a go. Others might end up in the "so so" boat with me. 

That's all for now! I read more comics during the Readathon, so you'll see reviews of those soon. 

Wytches #1
Pub. Date: October 2014
Publisher: Image Comics
Format: E-galley
Source: Publisher for review consideration.

Sabrina #1
Pub. Date: October 2014
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Format: E-galley
Source: Publisher for review consideration.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

RIP IX: White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

I didn't have much luck with Oyeyemi's most recent release, Boy, Snow, Bird, so I went into White is for Witching interested but with tempered expectations. While it definitely surpassed my BSB experience, this novel was not without its issues. 

As a child, Miranda Silver developed pica, a rare eating disorder that causes its victims to consume nonedible substances (for Miranda, chalk). The death of her mother when Miranda is sixteen exacerbates her condition; nothing, however, satisfies a strange hunger passed down through the women in her family. And then there’s the family house in Dover, England, converted to a bed-and-breakfast by Miranda’s father. Dover has long been known for its hostility toward outsiders. But the Silver House manifests a more conscious malice toward strangers, dispatching those visitors it despises. Enraged by the constant stream of foreign staff and guests, the house finally unleashes its most destructive power. With distinct originality and grace, and an extraordinary gift for making the fantastic believable, Helen Oyeyemi spins the politics of family and nation into a riveting and unforgettable mystery.

Soooo, yeah. That blurb makes some big promises, and the book only partially follows through. Miranda's story is interesting. She's all screwed up from the loss of her mother, and rightly so. The house seems to have an even more destructive effect on her, but is it really the house or is Miranda just crazy? Signs point to both. 

This book is just weird. Weird-beautiful in spots and frustratingly weird in others. While I enjoyed the smattering of fairy tale elements in this story, I was less satisfied by the alternating perspectives of Miranda, her twin, the house, and one of Miranda's friends from college. 

There was definitely an off-kilter, menacing atmosphere in this book, but I kept looking for some deeper message or meaning to it. The blurb mentions issues of politics, family, and nation, but those things were only glimpses. The overarching story seemed to lack depth, and like Boy, Snow, Bird, I thought Oyeyemi had way too many conflicts in the air to flesh any of them out to a satisfying degree. 

In short, while I enjoyed bits of it, I doubt I'll pick up more of Oyeyemi's work. 

Pub. Date: February 2014 reprint
Publisher: Riverhead
Format: Trade paperback
ISBN: 159463307X
Source: Bought it!

Monday, October 27, 2014

RIP IX: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Other Lessons From the Crematory

Many years ago, I bought my mom an odd Mother's Day gift. It was a little book called Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach. People looked at me funny, admittedly, but our family is kinda into the gory details. When I started seeing buzz about Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory, by Caitlin Doughty, I knew I'd found the next Stiff. Something gross, insightful, and worth sharing. Luckily for me, Heather beat me to the punch and bought this book for me! Which I, in turn, shared with my mom. In short, we're all very happy for having read it. 

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased. (From Goodreads.)

So what does all that boil down to? Doughty is honest about her everyday work in a San Francisco crematory. She describes the process, the machinery, the everyday work of dealing with corpses: smells, appearance, decomposition. She also explores the lesser-known parts of death work: picking up bodies from the morgue, the hospital, ordering cremation services online, dealing with people's families in the midst of their toughest times. She also ruminates on the funeral industry in general....the good, bad, and ugly. Furthermore, she finds opportunities to share death practices from around the world and how other cultures, in facing death in a more straightforward manner, may actually have a healthier relationship with their mortality. 

There is a lot going on here, and it's just wonderfully done. The writing is warm and humorous and inviting. The stories might make you a little queasy at times, but it's ok because Doughty is dealing with the same feelings...especially in the beginning. So whether she's grinding bones, getting sloshed with melted fat, or ruffling around in the "reefer" cooler, we're in good hands. 

I went into this book expecting some honest gross stories, but what really comes of it is some really raw emotion and well-thought arguments about the way Americans deal with death. It was plenty to think about, and it's definitely worth sharing with your mom if she's into this sort of thing. 

Also, if you're interested in learning more about this topic and Caitlin Doughty's work, check out her YouTube channel, Order of the Good Death. There's a whole "Ask a Mortician" series! 

Pub. Date: September 2014
Publisher: W.W. Norton and Company
Format: E-book
ISBN: 0393240231