RHC 2019: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Read Harder Challenge 2019

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2019 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a comic by an LGBTQIA creator.

I’d stepped away from comics for a few years – no reason, it just sort of happened. Then last year I read My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, and it made me remember everything I love about comics storytelling. I’ve missed a lot of incredible work, and now I’m having an absolutely wonderful time catching up.

Which brings me to this book. This book! It’s been a while since I read a horror comic (Harrow County!), and this was a delicious reentry point.

Through the Woods consists of five stories, framed by an introduction and a conclusion (which might be my favorite part). The stories are all gothic fairy tales – every bit as bloody and unsettling as a fairy tale should be – with strong echoes of Angela Carter, Edgar Allan Poe, and a splash of Edward Gorey. There’s no specified time period or place in any of them, though “The Nesting Place” feels the most connected with reality, with cars, cities, and boarding schools being part of its setting. That one is also the goriest, while the horror in the others is more atmospheric than jump scare. 

And the art. THE ART. I read this in print, and the book had beautifully glossy black pages full of nightmarish visual delights. There’s lots of black, lots of red, and lots of terrifyingly long shadows.

If you want to see what I’m talking about, one of the pieces in this collection was originally published as a web comic, and you can still read it online for free. Her whole site is worth checking out, though be advised it’s slightly NSFW. 

This is short, because I’m not sure what I can really say beyond jumping up and down, clapping my hands, and cheering. Good stuff. 

RHC 2019: The Bees by Laline Paull

Read Harder Challenge 2019

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2019 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character.

I wholeheartedly love talking animal books, which I know aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. I grew up with a steady diet of horse books, dog books, bear books, wolf books, mouse books, and rabbit books (more on that, inevitably, in a sec). I don’t read many mysteries, but I loved Three Bags Full (the detectives are a herd of domestic Irish sheep). A Dog’s Purpose nearly sent me to the hospital for emergency rehydration. I love plenty of comics in this vein as well.  

Of course there’s no talking about talking animals without mentioning Watership Down, which I think numbers not only in the highest ranks of talking animal stories but in that of English-language novels, period.

There’s no way to read a book like The Bees without thinking about those rabbits. Laline Paull pretty clearly knows that – her bees refer to their natural predators as The Myriad, which is a nice echo of The Thousand. She doesn’t go so far as to give her bees an apis (apine?) language, but there is a common tongue among insects that’s reminiscent of Hedgerow. She’s also developed a very logical religion for her characters, complete with Deuteronomy-style codes of conduct (“only the Queen may breed”) enforced by capital punishment. 

A lot goes right here, and if you’re looking for an offbeat novel with an unusual protagonist and a highly detailed world, this is a good choice.

RHC 2019: Iep Jaltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter by Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

Read Harder Challenge 2019

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2019 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads.

Alternate: A collection of poetry published since 2014.

Springdale, Arkansas (near where I live) is home to the largest population of Marshallese nationals outside of the Marshall Islands. That migration started in the 1970s and snowballed from there, in an emigration pattern quirk that lends a wonderful and unique blend of languages and cultures to the area.

Nevertheless, there’s uncomfortable complexity to that escalating migration in terms of what it means for Marshallese identity as more and more people leave the islands. This Guardian article gets into that.

Now, there is an absolutely disgusting history between the US and the Marshall Islands. I know there’s a lot of black marks in US history, but what the US did on Bikini Atoll should be something we handle the same way that Germany handles the Holocaust, by taking it extremely seriously and educating everyone here about exactly what happened and what we can do to prevent anything even remotely similar from happening ever again.

We… don’t do that.