Cats in Spring Rain, curated & translated by Aya Kusch
Published by Chronicle Books, 2022
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
An incredibly charming selection of classic Japanese art and poetry that celebrates our love of cats. Their mischief, aloofness, elegance, fierceness, and affection are all showcased, and the design and layout of the book itself is gorgeous.
I really appreciated the inclusion of the Japanese, phonetic, and English versions of each poem, with the gentle, fleeting, contemplative nature of haiku perfectly suited to the subject matter.
My only criticism is that women writers and artists are very underrepresented. I appreciate it was historically much more difficult for them to pursue the arts and be taken seriously, but I would have liked to see a little more diversity in the creators featured.
Still, this is such a lovely little read and an ideal gift for any lover of cats, traditional Japanese art, and/or haiku.
Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn
Published by Tor, 2021
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I like a short, sharp horror story, which is what I was hoping for from this, but despite a good set up and strong, evocative prose, it never quite delivered on its own promise.
I don’t think this will stick with me, but I like the ideas being flirted with and the author’s overall style, so I would certainly check out more from them in the future.
Tamlin by Aven Wildsmith
Published by Knight Errant Press, 2021
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This graphic novel is a queer retelling of a Scottish folktale. First and foremost, Wildsmith’s art is gorgeous; suitably lush to draw you into the forest setting and the whimsy of this classic story. The prose itself is simple yet lovely, reading like an extended free verse poem, while the loose, flowing nature of the panel structure adds to the dreamy quality.
It’s short, so I won’t go into any story details for those unfamiliar with the original, but its themes of forbidden love, feeling trapped, going unseen by society, and finding peace within our own bodies through (painful) transformation all lend themselves perfectly to being reimagined through a queer lens.
Fangs by Sarah Andersen
Published by Andrews McMeel, 2020
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Normally, the idea of a self-proclaimed funny book that threatens to be this twee would not be my kind of thing. Having seen a couple of panels from this graphic novel online, however, I decided to give it a go, and I’m really glad I did. There’s not much of a story, per se. Instead, it’s a series of slice-of-life moments between a vampire and a werewolf navigating a new relationship together, playing around with well-known supernatural tropes and real-life, contemporary dating.
Something about the charm of this really worked for me: I found myself smiling the whole way through and even chuckling out loud several times. It’s a fun, silly, tongue-in-cheek yet heartfelt little read that’s perfect for an afternoon’s escapism.