I read a lot. Here are some of my raves and rants for the first four months of 2024.


Watchmen by Alan Moore — 4.5/5 Stars

The comic that changed the world of comics. It’s gritty, nihilistic, heavy handed on an impending sense of doom and splash (storm?) of pretension — all of my favorite things in comics.

There are no superheroes here, just people making decisions with consequences. There is no saving the world, only attempting to fix, conceal, or capitalize on the mistakes of others. And at the end of it all, as Rorschach put it, “Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after starting at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs… It’s us. Only us.”

 


Wolfsong by TJ Klune — 5/5 Stars

Ah, where to start. This is an M/M shifter romance which spans a decade of storytelling, starting with Ox as a teenager and Joe as a kid. This is a book that I dnf’d over a year ago and decided to pick up again as it kept being recommended.

Let’s start with the bad: Much of the lore felt like reading a Teen Wolf fanfic circa 2015… but in fantastic way for me. Might not be everyone’s cup of tea. There is an age gap, which is normally something I cannot stand and wondered whether I could get over, and suddenly it felt normal and natural and was written well. The ending wasn’t the strongest executed thing in the world, but by that point I didn’t care. The writing style might not be for everyone; I found it to be completely immersive. (I guess this is a job interview where the negatives were actually positives.)

The good: Everybody’s gay (or bisexual at least). Werewolves!!! Childhood friends to lovers on steroids. I experienced emotion upon emotion — angst and sadness and grief, hope and hopelessness, laugh out loud hilarity. SO much angst (the deserved kind because this is not a light book).

I guess all this to say that I’ll be thinking about this one for a long while.


Without Words by Ellen O’Connell — 4.5/5 Stars

If you’re into cowboys (like the rest of the right now) and old-timey romances, this is the one for you.

Please ignore the cover. She obviously needs some help.

Western frontier historical romance. Bret the bounty hunter meets Hassie the widow under unusual circumstances and the honorable man can’t help but try to make it right. Why’d I love it? One, it hit a lot of my favorite tropes — an overall good guy who gets a little violent to defend his lady, a competent and lovable heroine, etc.

O’Connell’s writing is really awesome and I love the frontier/Western slice of life she captures so well (I assume, I obviously have not experience it firsthand lol)


The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter — 1.5/5 Stars

Sometimes I read books knowing that I am not the target audience. This is one of those times.

The thesis of the book is that people are too comfortable. The “people who’d faced some adversity reported better psychological well-being… higher life satisfaction, fewer psychological and physical symptoms.” The thought is that to live a better live, you must be uncomfortable more. The focus is not on emotional discomfort, like going to therapy, etc, but physical discomfort. The big lesson is if you don’t or haven’t faced enough adversity to develop resilience, go on a backcountry hunting trip to manufacture some. (Or do one of the other things he mentions, like hauling a boulder at the bottom of the ocean, a 19 mile open ocean swim, etc.) (People who have kids, jobs, and lack the thousands of dollars to spend on this kind of trip’s necessary guides and equipment, sorry, there are no realistic suggestions to be presented here.)

The good: the sections of reflection on traveling through cultures who emphasize death and impermanence are thought provoking. I love the sections about how humans don’t spend enough time in nature and all the positive effects nature has. Most Americans not spending any type of recreational time in nature is a sobering fact. We should allow more time for boredom and silence. All good messages.

On the other hand… the book is poorly structured and wildly out of touch. Quote // For most modern Americans, “stress” is so often “This traffic is going to make me late to my yoga class” stress. Or “Is my neighbor making more money than me?” stress. Or “If my child doesn’t get into an Ivy League school we will all live lives of complete and utter nothingness” stress // End quote. Yeah…. sure, Jan. That’s what people are stressed about in the US — inflation, rescinding reproductive rights, gun violence, climate change… Nope, we’re all just worried about keeping up with the Jones’. He glosses over the fact that 1 in 5 children across America don’t have enough to eat but waxes poetic for pages and pages about all the reasons Americans are fat (hint: “laziness” and an unwillingness to “embrace the suck” of being hungry (but also acknowledges an incredibly small percentage of people who diet keep weight off ???)). Acknowledges food deserts but doesn’t touch on the intersectionality of obesity of race and socioeconomics. Cites a bunch of studies where only men were test subjects but proceeds to make generalizations about all humans from it. All of the interesting science and research is intertwined with this backcountry hunting trip in Alaska where he’s simultaneously super bored but also working his ass off and being super uncomfortable.

Again, I imagine I’m not the target audience and the target audience is white guy without kids and with disposable income and time to burn. I’m not sure what utility this could provide that can’t be summed up with exercise more, spend time outdoors, and remind yourself that you’re going to die someday.