Reviews of the Week with David Litchfield, Adrian Tomine, Jin Yong, and More!

The Review of the Day has always been a brief, early way to spotlight exceptional upcoming titles on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

Fanciful flights and illustrated narratives comingle in this week’s #ReviewsoftheDay as our issue spotlight turns from graphic novels to sf/fantasy and horror. Booklist wishes you all well.

Monday, August 3

Lights on Wonder Rock, written and illustrated by David Litchfield

More than anything else in the world, little Heather wants an alien to come take her away so she can live among the stars, so she sits on Wonder Rock, flashing the beam of her flashlight on and off into the night sky. One night, she gets her wish, but her parents miss her, so she returns to Earth, and time passes, as time does. As she grows up and has children and grandchildren of her own, Heather returns to the rock over and over, calling out for her alien friend with everything from radio waves to electricity signals, but the spaceship never returns. Until, one night, Wonder Rock has just one more wonder in store. This book takes the reader on the emotional journey of an entire feature-length film in just a few perfect pages.

Tuesday, August 4

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, written and illustrated by Adrian Tomine

As early as age eight, Tomine (Killing and Dying) publicly announced exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up: “A famous cartoonist,” he told his Fresno class in 1982. He confused his teacher, who thought perhaps he aspired to be Walt Disney, so he had to clarify: “like John Romita . . . the best Spiderman artist ever.” Classmates laughed, to which he responded “Stupid idiots!” earning him plenty of lasting bullying. By 16, he was self-publishing. By 1995, he was indeed “famous,” dubbed “the best realist comic today.” In the decades since, he’s continued to earn substantial accolades (Eisners, Ignatzes, Angoulême), but what Tomine highlights here, with self-deprecating vulnerability and humble humor on pages of graph paper, are, well, the many failures: crushing reviews, disastrous readings (when audiences even show up), humiliating interviews, public invisibility, and still more.

Wednesday, August 5

Of Salt and Shore, written and illustrated by Annet Schaap and translated by Laura Watkinson

Growing up in a village by the sea, Emilia, daughter of the lighthouse keeper and thus nicknamed Lampie, has heard the rumors about the monster in the Admiral’s Black House. Now she’s about to experience the Black House firsthand, all because she forgot to get the matches for the lighthouse lamp. As luck would have it, a storm blows in while the lamp is unlit and a ship wrecks on the rocks. Now, to pay off the damages, Lampie must work in the Black House for seven years while her father is locked in the lighthouse for the same period. Once in the mansion, Lampie’s curiosity leads her to a locked tower, where she finds not a monster but Edward, the admiral’s son, who is a merman. What ensues is a friendship that neither Lampie nor Edward ever expected, but one that rescues them for life.

Thursday, August 6

A Snake Lies Waiting, by Jin Yong

The third installment in this translation of Yong’s wuxia classic (after A Bond Undone, 2019) continues to follow the journeys of Guo Jing, Lotus Huang, and their various allies and adversaries. Beginning with Guo Jing and his mentors being rescued from a sinking ship by the sinister Viper Ouyang, this action-packed volume follows its central couple as they end up marooned on a deserted island, sneak into the Song imperial palace, witness an entire weeks’ worth of martial battles at an inn, and journey to the mountain headquarters of the mysterious Beggar Clan. Throughout these adventures, Guo Jing and Lotus must fight off their enemies, including Guo Jing’s former sworn brother Yang Kang, and their burgeoning feelings for each other, since Guo Jing has been betrothed since childhood to Khojin, the daughter of Genghis Khan.

Friday, August 7

The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice, by Lisa DeSelm

“None of us escape becoming real without a few scars.” Pirouette knows this well, for once she was a tree, then a marionette, and then one night, by the light of the blue moon and the will of a grieving father, an 11-year-old girl. Seven years later, she has plenty of scars, cursed to be pierced by a splinter whenever she lies. Despite her secret, her life is happy; she has her craft, her friends in the Makers Guild, her father, Gephardt, and her best friend, Bran. If only the Margrave, their tyrant ruler, would see reason. His impossible deadlines for dozens of life-size marionette soldiers, a gift for his spoiled son Laszlo, has broken her father’s health. To spare him, Pirouette agrees to make the final marionette, a sleek and dangerous assassin, but she fears Laszlo’s intentions when he reveals he knows her secret.

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About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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