Book Review – The Serpent King, Jeff Zentner

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Hardcover, 384 pages, Owlcrate subscription


Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending- one that will rock his life to the core.

Is this really the only book I finished between May and September? Yikes. I had to take a break from Adrienne Mayor’s The Amazons; not that it isn’t an interesting read, but it’s the sort of nonfiction with several hundred pages of footnotes and cross-references, and it’s hard to rebuild momentum now that I’ve lost the initial push.

But moving on to The Serpent King. I’m having trouble putting it into words. This is a novel about growing up, facing down monumental change, friendship, and feeling trapped by expectations and legacy. It deals with family – the good, the bad, the downright ugly. It deals with jealousy, depression, how life is often shitty and unfair and how people are more often than not the reason for that shittiness and unfairness.

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Month In Review – May 2017

So May… happened. That’s a terrible summary but aside from a few highlights May passed in a blur. Hopefully June will be better, both in general and for blog productivity!

MAY POSTS (2)
ENTERTAINMENT

• Reading: Halfway through The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World. This is the type of book I would have torn through in one sitting before becoming a mom, but reading these days happens mostly before bed and ten pages at a time maximum.

• Television: Checked Love Live! Sunshine!! off the to-watch list. I don’t watch much anime but this was a lighthearted, fun, and most importantly short (13 episodes) series about a group of high school girls who form a school idol club. The music is catchy if you’re into JPop – Humming Friend is my personal favourite.

PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS

• The Toddler Tornado Turned Two. It seems like just yesterday that we brought her home from the hospital. Actual yesterday: she called the cat a shithead when he knocked her crayons off the table and my life (and word choices) flashed before my eyes.

• Started a bullet journal. May was mostly a trial month with an old notebook, but I made the switch to a Leuchtturm1917 for June. It’s been especially handy for habit and sleep tracking, but also as a hub for all of my scattered projects and thoughts.

• Maintained a 124-Day Streak on Duolingo. Pour moi, Français n’est pas une langue nouvelle – je l’ai étudie pendant l’école primaire et secondaire – mais j’ai arrêté mes étudies après cela. J’utilise Duolingo pour rafraîchir mon vocabulaire et compétences de base. Éventuellement je veux étudier encore et devenir couramment, mais maintenant c’est un petit projet pour chaque matin.

Or: four months ago my decade-out-of-practice self decided to use Duolingo to brush up on French basics and vocabulary. I remember some things! I do not remember a lot of things. The above is probably painful to read.

Book Review – Wonder Woman: The Golden Age, Les Daniels

Wonder Woman: The Golden Age by Les Daniels
Hardcover, 80 pages, yard sale find


Beautiful as Aphrodite, strong as Hercules, wise as Athena, and swift as Mercury, Wonder Woman is the most popular female comic book hero of all time. Created in 1941 by a maverick psychologist with a Ph.D. from Harvard and some revolutionary ideas about women, Wonder Woman was modeled after the mythological Amazon warrior and endowed with Olympian strength, a peacekeeping mission, and a golden lasso that could bend anyone to her will. Wonder Woman: The Golden Age celebrates her heyday, from 1941 to 1948. Packed with archival comic book art, photos, and more, this full-color book is a beautifully designed tribute to the super heroine who set out to “change your mind – and change the world!”

Disclaimer: my knowledge of – and interest in – U.S. comics is limited. Wonder Woman is the exception, though, and I picked this book up to learn more about the character, beyond what I know through pop culture osmosis.

This book has multiple official names; my edition is titled Wonder Woman: The Golden Age, Goodreads has it down as The Life and Times of the Amazon Princess, and I’ve noticed several other covers with subtitle The Complete History. The former is the best reflection of its content and “complete” history is a misnomer: this book is a light introduction to Wonder Woman’s inception and initial popularity, from 1941 to 1948, with a short biography of her (very eccentric) creator and some of the key players in the comic’s early publication.

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Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Awesome Covers (and Artists)

This week’s prompt is cover theme freebie – anything about covers. I’m a sucker for beautiful cover art, so I’ll be taking this opportunity to show off ten of my favourite book cover illustrations (plus two comic covers), with links to their respective artists’ websites so you can check out more of their gorgeous work!


Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett, Misericorde, illustrated by Kekai Kotaki

Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven King, illustrated by Adam S. Doyle

Megan Whalen Turner, A Conspiracy of Kings, illustrated by Vince Natale


Stephanie Burgis, Renegade Magic, illustrated by Annette Marnat

Lisa Mantchev, So Silver Bright, illustrated by Jason Chan

A.M. Dellamonica, A Daughter of No Nation, illustrated by Cynthia Sheppard


Yukio Mishima, Spring Snow, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu

Nancy J. Cohen, Hanging by a Hair, illustrated by Jacqui Oakley

Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation, illustrated by Eric Nyquist


Claire Legrand, Some Kind of Happiness, illustrated by Júlia Sardà

Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang, In Real Life, illustrated by Jen Wang

Greg Rucka and Carmen Carnero, Dragon Age: Magekiller, cover illustrations by Sachin Teng

Top Ten Tuesday: Instant Do Not Want to Reads

Another Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish! This week’s prompt is the flip side of last week’s: Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Not Want To Read A Book.

1. It is a literal brick. I don’t have much time to read, so I’m hesitant to start a huge book unless it sounds incredible, in case I lose momentum and it takes six months to finish… or never gets finished. Sorry, A Game of Thrones.

2. Pet death. Or pet books period, to be honest. I know the pain of losing a pet from experience – as well as the joys and idiosyncrasies of living with animals – so I don’t care to read books that are solely about other people’s pets.

3. Love triangles. Knowing nothing else about a book, I won’t pick it up if the love triangle is advertised in the summary or comprises the main plot.

4. Child characters written by authors who clearly don’t spend much time with kids. There’s a broad range of what’s considered normal development for children at any given age, but guides for age-appropriate development are available on the internet for when you have a pressing question, like “would my two-year-old character be able to debate the state of today’s economy with adults?” The average two-year-old is just figuring out how to string together two- to three-word sentences, and has no concept of the value of money, so probably not.

5. (Classic) with a Supernatural Twist! It’s hard to pull off without feeling like the story has been stretched too thin between conflicting genres, so these are usually an automatic pass.

6. The author has acted like an asshole in public. People make mistakes. People say cringe-worthy things sometimes without thinking. People have bad moods and bad days. Authors being people, I would hold them to the same standards I would use for anyone else. However, if an author uses their work as a platform to act like a douche-canoe on the regular, or advocates for something that conflicts with my morals, that will definitely colour my relationship with their work and my decision to read their books going forward.

7. Authors writing about issues that don’t affect them or cultures they aren’t part of. Disclaimer: I absolutely believe that it’s possible to write outside of your experience with good intentions, empathy, and solid research. However, when approaching a book written by someone who is obviously writing beyond their own experience, especially on a contentious issue, especially when it’s an issue I don’t know much about, I think it’s important to step back and ask questions. What biases does the author bring to the narrative? Why did they choose this to write about? Has this author done enough research to do it justice? Is their book spreading harmful stereotypes? Are there books written by someone more qualified to share their own experiences that I could read instead? Do I know enough about the topic to be able to tell the difference?

8. Autobiographies of the young and famous. I’m picky about autobiographies in general and actors/musicians/famous personalities are at the bottom of that list.

9. Glorified war and military. It took a long time to realize that I don’t universally hate fiction and nonfiction based on war. What I actually hate is how war and nationalism are glorified in fiction and the end-justifies-the-means mentality as applied to war and human suffering.

10. Angels. Guardian angels, good versus evil, heaven versus hell, or anything that turns morality into a binary. Terrifying otherworldly wheel-of-wings-and-eyes biblical angels are cool though.