Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup: June 20-24, 2022

David Bowie in Comics

Book Cover
Thierry Lamy
Nicolas Finet
NBM
Hardcover $27.99 (176pp)
978-1-68112-298-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

The life and career of rock superstar David Bowie is charted in the graphic biography David Bowie in Comics.

David Bowie’s music is as memorable as his frequent, bold experimentation in sound and presentation. From his childhood in England to his death in New York City, this book highlights his constant urge to be creative. It also illuminates his inner life, revealing the inspirations behind his forays into music, theater, and film; and it reveals his personal dramas, as when it covers his relationship with his troubled older brother, his romantic liaisons, and his battles with drugs and his health. It takes care to showcase Bowie’s loyalty and generosity, too: he offered to produce the album of a friend, Lou Reed, and he recommended his childhood saxophone teacher to play on it. The result is an excellent retrospective on an intriguing musical legend’s story and work.

Each of the book’s twenty chapters is illustrated by a different artist; this variety invigorates the story in much the same way that Bowie’s surprising work did. And each micro-narrative is supplemented by texts and stunning photographs, the former of which sometimes repeat details from the panels.

David Bowie in Comics is a thorough, stirring graphic biography of the musical icon.

PETER DABBENE (June 19, 2022)

Vera Kelly Lost and Found

Book Cover
Rosalie Knecht
Tin House
Softcover $15.95 (228pp)
978-1-953534-16-3
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

The third installment of the Vera Kelly mystery series, Rosalie Knecht’s Vera Kelly Lost and Found hits close to home as Vera travels the length and breadth of Southern California, fighting to recover her girlfriend and their future together.

In the spring of 1971, Vera Kelly is thirty years old—and is a former CIA operative, a private detective, and an occasional freelance film editor. She finds herself entering a kind of “psychic heath.” In a committed and illegal lesbian relationship with Max, she’s unmoored from the usual requirements of women. But discontent bubbles below the surface of her life’s comfortable, limited routines.

Meanwhile, Max is estranged from her family. It’s a topic that Vera has learned is better left alone. When Max is contacted about her parents’ impending divorce, she returns to old-moneyed Los Angeles and gets sucked back into the family drama, this time with Vera by her side.

Flavored with the auteur aesthetic of seventies films, the novel portrays Southern California as being in the grip of New Age occultists, the latest crop of bright young talents, and cultural experimentation. Max’s family drama crosses “poor little rich girl” with homophobia and provides occasion for Vera to interrogate her own relationships to her present and past.

For anyone familiar with queer history and the pathological medicalization of homosexuality, the novel telegraphs its moves. Yet, in its exploration of the relationship at stake, it also includes a personalized glimpse into the struggles of a lesbian couple living openly. And it recasts visual and cultural tableaus of the era, with women occupying center stage, saving each other and functioning as heroes.

A pulpy detective novel moved by familiar, easy beats, Vera Kelly Lost and Found recasts cozy mysteries through a queer lens.

LETITIA MONTGOMERY-RODGERS (April 27, 2022)

Long Way Home

Book Cover
Lynn Austin
Tyndale Fiction
Hardcover $26.99 (416pp)
978-1-4964-3739-6
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Lynn Austin’s poignant historical novel Long Way Home highlights the heroism of those who lived through WWII.

Gisela’s family becomes unsafe as Germany turns hostile toward Jewish people. They secure spots on a boat bound for Cuba, only to be turned away upon their arrival. The next few years are filled with heartbreak as WWII threatens everything Gisela holds dear.

After the war, Peggy is thrilled when her childhood best friend, Jimmy, returns home. But Jimmy is no longer the lighthearted boy she knew. Determined to help him, Peggy sets out to uncover what happened during his tour.

The book alternates between Peggy and Gisela’s points of view, exploring the pre- and post-war world. It is unflinching in dealing with heavy topics including antisemitism, genocide, and suicide, yet also highlights the courage and perseverance of individuals facing such horrors.

Faith plays a large role. Gisela questions her Jewish heritage, and Peggy reminds Jimmy of the scriptures he once clung to. The age-old question of how a benevolent god can allow evil is raised, answered with ideas of human responsibility and the possibility of grace that suffering brings.

Both Peggy and Gisela are strong leads, with Peggy’s strength lying in her compassion, and Gisela’s in her perseverance. Peggy spends months contacting Jimmy’s fellow soldiers for answers. Gisela witnesses countless horrors, first in worn-torn cities and later in a concentration camp, yet still manages to see good in the world. She helps Jimmy when he needs her, resulting in a satisfying union of the two story lines at the book’s end.

A masterful, heartwarming, and heartbreaking historical novel, Long Way Home contains reminders of human beings’ ability to do great evil—and their duty to do great good.

VIVIAN TURNBULL (April 27, 2022)

The Queen’s Rain

After Ever After: Book III

Book Cover
Mindi Meltz
Logosophia Books
Softcover $32.00 (664pp)
978-1-73504-327-2
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Those fallible kings who are left standing witness the storied rise of their indomnitable queens in Mindi Meltz’s stunning fantasy novel The Queen’s Rain, the third book of the After Ever After series.

King Sol is dead, and Sirenia is held by Barbarians under the leadership of Leo, a heartless usurper. Ella, in exile in the Ghost Kingdom, fortifies herself against the coming difficulties; in a cave held by fleeing Barbarian woman, she begins to recognize her own strength. Meanwhile, Mina summons the audacity to call unicorns back into being, though the people of her kingdom thought them extinct. And Lemara, back in the South Forest, fights against changes to the priestess’s role, regenerating the old magic that made her land’s wild expanses so special.

The rich, poetic language that marked the previous volumes is represented here as well—deepened, even, by the book’s fresh nuances and realizations. There are ghosts and mermaids; there are acts of rebellion and reconciliation, too. And though it follows tragedies, this trilogy entry is a triumphant one: its defiant women cycle their lands toward regeneration, exemplifying strength and challenging comfortable paradigms regarding right and wrong—and even regarding sacred and profane. It recognizes the fragility of lives and kingdoms, noting that “with every magic, when we fell in love with it, we broke it with our clutching hands.” And it elevates women to a place of reverence, noting their singular strength, and casting suspicion on every patriarchal expectation: “everything beautiful that was beaten down and forbidden … belongs to woman.”

It is human habit, and folly, to fear what is magical: so the unforgettable women of The Queen’s Rain know. This gorgeous fantasy novel works to reposition what’s powerful and elemental about stories we all know well, but whose contours we learned to take for granted.

MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER (June 20, 2022)

The Queen’s Rain

After Ever After: Book III

Book Cover
Mindi Meltz
Logosophia Books
Softcover $32.00 (664pp)
978-1-73504-327-2
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Those fallible kings who are left standing witness the storied rise of their indomnitable queens in Mindi Meltz’s stunning fantasy novel The Queen’s Rain, the third book of the After Ever After series.

King Sol is dead, and Sirenia is held by Barbarians under the leadership of Leo, a heartless usurper. Ella, in exile in the Ghost Kingdom, fortifies herself against the coming difficulties; in a cave held by fleeing Barbarian woman, she begins to recognize her own strength. Meanwhile, Mina summons the audacity to call unicorns back into being, though the people of her kingdom thought them extinct. And Lemara, back in the South Forest, fights against changes to the priestess’s role, regenerating the old magic that made her land’s wild expanses so special.

The rich, poetic language that marked the previous volumes is represented here as well—deepened, even, by the book’s fresh nuances and realizations. There are ghosts and mermaids; there are acts of rebellion and reconciliation, too. And though it follows tragedies, this trilogy entry is a triumphant one: its defiant women cycle their lands toward regeneration, exemplifying strength and challenging comfortable paradigms regarding right and wrong—and even regarding sacred and profane. It recognizes the fragility of lives and kingdoms, noting that “with every magic, when we fell in love with it, we broke it with our clutching hands.” And it elevates women to a place of reverence, noting their singular strength, and casting suspicion on every patriarchal expectation: “everything beautiful that was beaten down and forbidden … belongs to woman.”

It is human habit, and folly, to fear what is magical: so the unforgettable women of The Queen’s Rain know. This gorgeous fantasy novel works to reposition what’s powerful and elemental about stories we all know well, but whose contours we learned to take for granted.

MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER (June 20, 2022)

Barbara Hodge

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