The Story of Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin’s brief, tragic, and spectacular career is recounted in the graphic biography Love Me Please!
Beginning with her childhood in Port Arthur, Texas, the book follows Joplin through the difficult and erratic process of finding herself. As she establishes herself as a singer, she faces sexism and insults about her appearance, and her reliance on drugs and alcohol becomes dangerous. Her unique singing style leads to great success, but also more out of control behavior, culminating in her overdose in 1970.
The book positions Joplin among other greats of the blues singer pantheon; it’s narrated by the ghosts of Bessie Smith, Odetta Holmes, and Ma Rainey. That musical heritage is emphasized throughout the book, with lyrics floating across panels as they’re sung, and song titles and composers listed at the bottom of the page.
Another focus is Joplin’s search for inner peace—a quest that leads her to addiction, but also to a series of love affairs with famous figures including Eric Clapton, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Leonard Cohen. Joplin’s excitement over her meteoric rise is captured, as are the conflicts between her goals and those of her family, bandmates, and business managers.
The art features excellent likenesses, delivering the look and feel of the psychedelic, hippie era. Its memorable, surreal imagery illustrates the grip of addiction in the form of tentacles that appear throughout, surrounding Joplin and others. Love Me Please! is a perfect graphic introduction to the short, shining life of an unforgettable vocalist.
PETER DABBENE (June 27, 2021)
A hoarding matriarch throws a family into disarray in the endearing novel A House Full of Windsor.
Sarah delivers advice as the host of a beloved morning show segment in New York. When the ratings drop, she begins to have doubts about her future. Then, a family secret comes to light: Debbie, Sarah’s mom, is a compulsive hoarder of British royal memorabilia, and her house becomes more of a hazard every day.
When Sarah’s brother lands a job working for a reality show centered on helping hoarders, he suggests Debbie as the subject of an upcoming episode. But despite enduring injuries from moving about her home, Debbie refuses help. Each piece that she hoards is a memory, beginning from the time when Princess Diana captured her imagination.
Later, Debbie used collecting as a way to distract herself from her failed marriage, and from being forced to move from a haughty English estate to an unassuming Pennsylvania home to raise her three children alone. Each addition to her collection became a brick in the wall she built around herself, which also pushed her family away. And, because of their focus on the perception of perfection, the emotional distance between Sarah and Debbie grew.
While the show’s attention offers an unexpected source of relief for Debbie, it also leads to upheavals. Debbie, Sarah, and their family confront what they’ve repressed, and family and romantic secrets bubble to the surface. And then a surprise romance suggests a potential future full of warmth, love, and the freedom to make mistakes.
As Sarah and Debbie sort out their pasts, their family drama becomes a lovely story of self-discovery. A House Full of Windsor is a life-affirming novel in which an epic collection of royal memorabilia and a reality show lead a family back toward love.
JOHN M. MURRAY (June 27, 2021)
In Chris McKinney’s futuristic thriller Midnight, Water City, a detective uncovers a conspiracy that makes him question his life’s work.
Akira, the most brilliant scientist in the world, hired her head of security because of his unique synesthesia: he senses the presence of death and murder as red and green wisps of color around crime scenes, items, and people. He also possesses specialized and violent skill sets. As Akira’s perfect weapon, he subdued anyone who stood in the way of her great work: creating a beam that could stop a giant asteroid from destroying Earth, which left a mark on the sky that’s known as Ascalon’s Scar.
But now, thirty years after Akira saved the world, she is found murdered in her laboratory. It’s a gruesome scene, and her former bodyguard, who’s now a detective, is charged with solving the case. While he thought of Akira as an Earth-saving genius, a cybernetically enhanced, shadowy figure from her past reveals uncomfortable truths about her and her work. The detective is forced to rethink everything—including the deadly actions that he performed for Akira’s sake.
As the detective mulls over his relationship with Akira, those considerations are complemented by his general thoughts on humanity. The result is a philosophical, futuristic narrative. Here, after the wake-up call of near destruction, human beings become more environmentally focused, but still need to accommodate for Earth’s large, and longer-living, population. Descriptions of looming cloudscrapers and dense underwater cities made of recycled materials bring this intriguing setting to life. Dangerous, inventive technologies are also introduced, while entertaining fight scenes punctuate the story.
Set in a plausible future, the novel Midnight, Water City concerns a detective’s reckonings with his complicated past.
DELIA STANLEY (June 27, 2021)
A curious mudskipper seeks a single definition of what a fish is, knowing that he’s outside of the norm of others’ expectations himself. Illustrations awash in innumerable examples of underwater biodiversity validate his curiosity: “fish” is an umbrella under which a vast and varied number of creatures swim! Educational and enchanting, this busy picture book does an excellent job of introducing curious young readers to the wide world just beneath the water’s surface.
MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER (June 27, 2021)
The Memoir That Sparked Japan’s #MeToo Movement
Japanese journalist Shiori Ito’s efforts to reform Japan’s antiquated rape laws and give victims a voice are credited with sparking Japan’s controversial #MeToo movement; her memoir Black Box begins with the rape that almost destroyed her.
In 2015, following her university studies, Ito returned to Japan, eager to begin her career. During an internship at Reuters, she covered dangerous international situations; in her home country, which was supposed to be safe, she was violated and left to struggle with the aftermath alone and unsupported.
Ito narrates as though she’s still in shock, telling how her rapist, a well-connected Japanese reporter, invited her to dinner to discuss advancing her career. He drugged her; over her protests, he dragged her to his hotel room and raped her as she lay unconscious. Witnesses and hotel videos supported Ito’s claim that she had been in no condition for consensual sex, but Japan’s 110-year-old rape laws invalidate the evidence of those not present. Her case fell into the “black box” category, making prosecution impossible, even though forensic evidence confirmed the perpetrator’s identity.
Ito describes how patriarchal societies favor silence over open discussions of sex crimes. In Japan, she says, victims are often ignorant of how and where to get help as a result. Confused, afraid, and ashamed, they are subjected to investigations so traumatic and ineffectual that some give up and endure, while others resort to suicide.
Despite the global spread of the #MeToo movement, Ito reports hearing a lawyer say, “In Japan, it’s dangerous even to whisper ‘Me Too.’” Her memoir Black Box is unforgettable as it exposes how patriarchal cultures and codes of silence deprive rape victims of justice.
KRISTINE MORRIS (June 27, 2021)