What Happened by President Hillary Rodham Clinton
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 512 pages)
I laughed, I cried, I cursed, but mostly I just shook my head. What Happened has been marketed as the story of the 2016 presidential election, but it’s more than that. The first half of the book is an autobiographical account of Mrs. Clinton’s life and how the events and people close to her helped her get to this point. She also gives insight into her everyday personal habits—her diet, her fashion sense (or lack thereof), and what she watches on tv. In the second half of the book, Mrs. Clinton talks about the policies, spending a lot of time on coal, an issue on which she felt misunderstood. Everything else you would expect to be here is—“those damn emails,” Russian interference, Trump creeping up behind her during debates, etc. She even reads a portion of what would have been her victory speech. Those who should read this won’t, but supporters of Mrs. Clinton will find it bittersweet and lament what could have been.
(aka 5/5 stars)
The Vision (Vol. 2): Little Better Than a Beast
by Tom King; art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Michael Walsh
(Marvel, 2016, 136 pages)
Vision is an android, or synthezoid, created by Ultron (a bad guy), but who later defied his creator by joining the Avengers (the good guys). This is not a typical “superhero vs. the bad guys” story though; it’s the story of the Vision and the synthezoid family he created–wife Virginia and twins Vin and Viv–and their attempt to fit into a suburban neighborhood near Washington, DC. The Visions just want to be a normal family, but things happen, and people die. Violence is not the focus of the book though. It’s all about the relationships in this unconventional family and how they protect one another as any family would. I highly recommend this comic book series to anyone.
House of Women by Sophie Goldstein
(Fantagraphics, 2017, 200 pages)
In this black and white graphic novel, four women go to a planet to help civilize the natives who live there, particularly the children. The natives, who look part Grinch, part human, do not speak the women’s language, except young Zaza. The women aren’t prepared for an unexpected transformation that occurs when the young natives, including Zaza, hit puberty that could endanger their lives. A man living on the planet who seems human, but strangely has four eyes, provides understanding of the natives, but has also formed a sexual bond with them.
The book leaves unanswered questions, including information about the man’s past and the fate of the natives and the women, perhaps leaving it open to a sequel! I recommend House of Women for a quick read for fans of science fiction and graphic novels.
Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards
by Josh Wilker
(Seven Footer Press, 2010, 208 pages)
Josh Wilker tells the story of his life growing up in the late 1970s in New England as a diehard Red Sox (and Carl Yastrzemski) fan. As many young baseball fans did in the 1970s, Wilker would often take $1 to the corner store to buy four packs of Topps baseball cards. He describes the feelings associated with opening a new pack and the taste of the hard, sugar-filled gum. Wilker begins each chapter with the year, card number, and player of a certain card from a year between 1975 and 1981. Not all the players he highlights were stars, but each had an interesting story to tell—sometimes a statistic or a life tragedy, and sometimes a story Wilker had made up himself as a child of what he thought that player’s story might be based on the photo on the card. He tells these stories as he tells his own story, making parallels between them. I imagine a small audience would pick up this book, but that audience would enjoy it. Recommended to baseball fans, especially those who grew up in the late 1970s collecting baseball cards.
Spinning by Tillie Walden
(Roaring Book Press, 2017, 402 pages)
This autobiographical graphic novel follows Tillie Walden through her teen years starting when her family moves to another state, and she is forced to join a new skating rink and get used to a new group of girls. With an emotionally absent mother and parents who never attend her skating events, Tillie becomes the target of other girls’ mothers who continually stare her down and accuse her of not paying for lessons. Tillie also experiences bullying by other girls, sexual harassment by her SAT tutor, and loss of a first love. She finds solace in a few close friends and her cello teacher. Not too many good things happen to this poor girl except that she’s a good skater, but she doesn’t always succeed at that. There isn’t really anything intriguing about this story, but it was interesting enough that I continued to read it; maybe I was hoping it would get better for her. Recommended if you like graphic novels, but not if you’re looking for something really exciting to happen.
Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family by Kathy McKeon
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 321 pages)
As a teenager, author Kathy McKeon left Ireland for the U.S., and in 1964, landed a job as the personal assistant to Jacqueline Kennedy. Referred to as “Jackie’s Girl” by JFK’s mother Rose Kennedy—who couldn’t keep all of her children’s employee’s names straight—McKeon also often served as the caretaker of Mrs. Kennedy’s children, Caroline and John. This is an insightful and touching story of what it was like to be close to the most famous family in the world at the time. Mrs. Kennedy (called “Madam” by McKeon) expected loyalty of her employees—sometimes demanding overtime even if they had other plans, or requiring them to drop everything at the last minute to leave the country for 2 or 3 weeks—but she returned the loyalty “tenfold” with her generosity and otherwise caring nature. The stories of Caroline and John as children are also very endearing. McKeon takes the reader through all of the Kennedy main events—the untimely assassination of Robert Kennedy, the tragic death of a young woman in a car driven by Ted Kennedy, Jackie’s marriage to Aristotle Onassis, and, ultimately, the deaths of Jackie and John, Jr., to whom she had remained close over the years. The audio version of the book is read by Irish American actress Aedin Moloney, whose accent gives authenticity to McKeon’s words. She also does a great job with the sweet, high, sometimes breathy voice of Jacqueline Kennedy. The book made me chuckle and cry, and I would listen to it again. Highly recommended.
The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story
by Marie Kondo; illustrated by Yuko Uramoto
(Ten Speed Press, 2017, 192 pages)
Marie Kondo, best-selling author of Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, presents her KonMari method of decluttering in graphic novel form. Her subject is Chiaki, a 29-year old Japanese woman with a house so cluttered she can’t invite people inside. Embarrassed when a handsome neighbor knocks on her door and sees the mess, she contacts Kondo to give her “tidying lessons.” Kondo helps her through the process of discarding clothing, books, papers, and sentimental items—in that recommended order. This is a quick and fun way to learn the KonMari method of decluttering outlined in her previous two books.