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If you're an avid follower of Tsyaston's (aka Shen, Shencomix, or Owlturd), there's nothing here you haven't seen; instead it's a collection of some of the best comic strips he's released so far, and a perfect primer for those unfamiliar with Shen's particular blend of #relateable content - getting beat up on by Life, and overcoming the obstacles Life throws at you (not always in that order). This collection includes one comic from Shen's arc, ""Fly to the Heavens on a Bicycle Made of Stars"; I would have loved for the full saga to be included to cap off the book. Still, it's a great collection to have. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis
There's a genre of fiction where a lone person living after the end of the world finds a wild dog, and through mutual respect form a bond, look out for each other, and provide companionship for each other.
In Giant Spider & Me, the person is 12 year old Nagi, the dog is an arachnid the size of a small car, and the bond is formed over food. The story itself is very sweet and relaxing - Asa, the titular spider, is very cute (even when they're shown being terrifying) and I kinda want an Asa of my own. And startlingly, it is a cooking manga, so in each chapter Nagi prepares a different dish, talking through it for anyone that might be listening as well as for the reader, and afterward an ingredient list for the recipe is displayed with a full-page splash of the finished dish.
Ultimately, it's the perfect read for a quiet, rainy day, and now I really want to try making pumpkin dumplings. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis
Oneida tells three stories - first, the story of the deeply religious yet egotistical John Humphrey Noyes; then, the story of the Oneida Community, which he founded to follow his own teachings of how humanity might get closer to God (and, along the way doing some very questionable stuff and some surprisingly progressive stuff); and third, the story of Oneida Ltd., insofar as the silverware giant was still a product of what came before. Each is presented with a bevy of background information that makes plain why people made the decisions they did and makes everything make sense in context to one another - not an easy feat, considering some of the variables in play are free love, contraception, feminism, and eugenics.
Wayland-Smith’s status as a descendant of the original Community grants her access to materials not available to any outsider - firsthand accounts, stories from a century and a half earlier, sometimes invaluable considering the intentional destruction of many Community records in the 1940s. She never feels too close to the subject matter to give it a critical eye - Noyes’ shortcomings are well displayed, as are those of others around him. The history is solidly presented and the people within feel true-to-life; so when you turn over a spoon to see the "ONEIDA" stamp on the back, here is where you can go for more background on how it came to your table. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis
A densely written alternate history, The Years of Rice and Salt focuses not on the big picture of how the world is different after a much more destructive Black Plague, but rather on the individual people as they grow up in this alternate world. Robinson envisions this by following a group of reincarnated souls - or jāti - from the point of divergence in the 1400s up through the 2080s in a series of ten short stories - novellas, almost. Each story feels like a different genre, and it's gratifying to see the characters' reincarnated souls grow and mature together as they try to shape their world for the better. Europe's departure also means the departure of Christianity as a driving force in world history, and Confucianism, Buddhism and Islam rise to take its place. The final story doesn't come to any sort of definitive close as it wraps up the novel - it doesn't end it in any traditional sense - but rather promises that the cycle of reincarnation continues, and the characters will continue to improve, always looking to a better tomorrow. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis
Hope Never Dies starts with the protagonist lamenting not being in contact with his best friend of eight years, then that friend showing up one night, telling him that another of his good friends died under mysterious circumstances. They team up, try to patch their friendship while investigating, always asking questions and getting more questions than answers in return.
It just so happens that the protagonist is former Vice President Joe Biden, and his best friend is the Forty-Fourth President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
Through his investigation, Joe reflects on the friends he’s fallen out of touch with, with the life he once led, and on his successes and failures over time. There’s serious reflection on dealing with grief and a close look at how America’s opioid epidemic impacts his home town. And at one point there’s Obama, recovering from a moment of doubt, looking at Biden with renewed determination and saying, “Yes we can.”
With plenty of references to the eight years they spent in office together and their time on the campaign trail before that, “Hope Never Dies” draws you in with the prospect of a madcap caper as Joe and Barack, amateur detectives, bumble their way around blue-collar America, but the meat of the book – estranged friendships, an ever-deepening web of seemingly-disconnected evidence, and a vibrant cast of characters – is what keeps you invested, from the first page to the last. Recommended reading for anyone wanting to spend just a few more hours with America’s favorite bromance. ~ Reviewed by Andrew Bugenis