Booknotes: May 2024

In which I briefly comment on the books I read each month, so a few years from now when I’m trying to remember one I think I read, I’ll be able to find it here. I’m also not going to limit this just to books because I’m a media omnivore. Maybe you’ll find something interesting, too?

Let’s find out!

Book Notes

Black Panther, Vol. 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, Books 1-3 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Walden Wong

  • (3.0; print & ebook) I’ve been a fan of Coates from way back during his blogging days for The Atlantic and fondly remember when he’d randomly nerd out about comics, while Between the World and Me had such an impact, I got a quote from it tattooed on my forearm. That said, I was hesitant to read these because I’m just not into superheroes anymore, but the first two volumes had been sitting on my shelf for a few years and they were on deck for weeding. Sadly, my instincts were right; his core thesis was interesting, but he doesn’t quite balance the Marvel superheroics and banter with the deeper philosophical questions he wants to tackle, while the periodical format made for awkward pacing throughout. It’s also hampered by having to reference previous events for emotional impact, while also setting up future stories, making it all feel like a 12-issue interstitial for engaged fans instead of a self-contained story anyone can pick up and enjoy on its own merits. I actually read the third book digitally, which is usually good enough on its own, but following the first two volumes in print, made for a notably less engaging experience.

The Strange Tale of Panorama Island by Suehiro Maruo

  • (3.0; print) On my initial read, I thought it was a weird, somewhat shallow, but very beautifully illustrated story. Afterwards, I listened to the Mangasplaining episode dedicated to it, which revealed layers I’d been unaware of and made me appreciate it much more as an allegory for the horrors of gentrification and unfettered wealth. It was going to be a keeper simply because the art is amazing and the book itself is beautifully produced, but I think I’m going to re-read it later this year and give it a closer look.

{STAR} Quince by Sebastian Kadlecik, Kit Steinkellner, Emma Steinkellner

  • (4.0; ebook) This has been a huge hit at the day job, regularly jumping into our top 25 circulating titles, and I use it often as an example of the power of diverse collections, deep backlist, and active curation. I’d never gotten around to reading it myself, though, because it’s arguably a middle grade book and I still don’t love reading digital comics. I finally jumped in and although the first few chapters didn’t quite grab me because I’m becoming a cranky old man, I eventually realized they were just confidently setting the stage for an unexpectedly delightful story that actually had me tearing up by the end!?!? The bilingual hardcover is expensive, but Fanbase Press is a small indie publisher so it’s worth it, especially as a beautiful gift for teenage fans of superheroes looking for something different.

{STAR} The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V, Filipe Andrade

  • (4.5; print) I’d heard a lot of praise for this series, so much that I was worried it couldn’t live up to the hype and almost read it digitally instead. After finishing it, I wish I’d bought the hardcover edition because it’s going on my all-time favorites shelf! No spoilers, no notes; believe the hype.

Media Notes

Diablo IV (Xbox)

  • I finished the lengthy campaign and got my Druid to level 74 before the new season started, and briefly debated moving on. Instead, I jumped into Season 4 with a brand-new Rogue, and the complete revamp of the game has been a lot of fun. So much so, I’m already at level 82, dabbling with the Paragon system to tweak my build, and actively paying attention to optimizing my gear to match it. I can see dipping in and out over the next few weeks in a push to level 100 as there isn’t another game on the horizon, although Multiversus is a contender if they fix the various issues that are currently making it almost unplayable.

Dark, Season Three (Netflix)

  • They did it, Joe! With two episodes left in the final season, I was worried there wasn’t any way they’d be able to satisfactorily wrap it all up, but they pulled it off. For a show that came completely out of nowhere for me, it ended up being one of the best things I’ve watched in years.

Under the Bridge (Hulu)

  • I don’t typically like true crime and didn’t realize this was based on a true story until we started watching, but the first episode was intriguing, so we jumped in and caught up just in time for its finale. It ultimately pulled off its tricky balance of perspective and focus, partly thanks to some great casting and keeping the core of the truth intact, which is the best you can ask from stories like this. From beginning to end, it was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve watched in a long time.

Your Notes?

If you’ve read (watched or played) any of these, let me know what you thought. And if you have any related recommendations, drop ’em in the comments like we used to do in the good old days! Some of you prefer email, which is cool, too. You do you!

PS: Notes on Notes

Where possible, I’m linking to as the least offensive online shopping option for books, although I’ve been disappointed to find some books I’ve read don’t have a listing there, as if the book I held in my hand didn’t exist. They’re affiliate links, but feel free to switch to your preferred local bookshop if you have one and decide to buy anything. Where Bookshop doesn’t have a listing, I’ll link to the publisher’s page, which is often the best place to purchase your books anyway, although it may be a little more expensive and less convenient. If you’re lucky, some of them may also be available at your local library, in print or digital format!

Despite my day job, I still mostly read in print, but I’m noting the format along with my rating for context. If the format has any impact on my rating, I’ll mention that, but it rarely will since I try to avoid reading ebooks of anything that has a visual element.

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