let’s talk about sex (criminals)

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When I was reading Sex Criminals, I saw one of my most embarrassing real life moments play out in the pages. But when it happened to Suzie instead of me, it was a lot funnier.

My embarrassing moment happened when I was in college and I went to the student health center. (A lot of stories probably start this same way.) I don’t remember the specifics of what was wrong with me or why I went there, and if I did I probably wouldn’t say, but I do vividly remember the doctor seeing a mark on my skin. And I remember them not knowing what it was.

So they called in a few more doctors. And a few other nurses. And any one else they could find. To look at me, partially dressed, and an unknown mark on my skin. That they must have decided was nothing because I don’t remember being treated for it, or ever finding out what it was.

Suzie’s moment came when she went to talk to her gynecologist about birth control. Instead of finding an irregular mark, Suzie’s young, attractive doctor found her textbook-perfect cervix. And called in every intern at the doctor’s to see it, too.

For a young woman with a questionable sexual event in her own life who gets shot down every time she tries to talk about it, having people line up to look at her cervix probably doesn’t even make her top five biggest embarrassments.

The greatest part of Sex Criminals isn’t the relatable characters, or the funny moments, or even the great art–it’s that this comic takes deeply embarrassing stories that no one ever wants to talk about and turns them into the funny, charming main event. And doing so makes it a little easier to laugh and talk about it in your own life.

Suzie realizes as a teenager that she can make time stop when she orgasms (as if sex isn’t confusing enough for teenagers without a super power). She spends time alone in the Quiet, as she calls it, until she meets Jon, who has the same mysterious gift. Then they spend time in the Quiet together. And that’s when things begin to get (even more) interesting.

Sex Criminals is so fun and one of my favorite comics this year (though the subject matter may not be for everyone, and definitely this is not a comic for kids, if the title didn’t give it away). The first volume is out now, volume two will be out in February, and you can pick up current issues at your local comic book store or on Comixology. It’s also in the final round of the Goodreads Choice Awards. Cast your vote for your favorite comic!

the sandman, vol. 8: world’s end

sandman worlds end vol 8

It’s been a few hours since I’ve finished World’s End. It’s been a few hours since I settled in to listen to the stories of my fellow travelers. It’s been a few hours since strangers became less strange by sharing a part of themselves–by taking a few hours themselves to share a story. It’s been a few hours, but I can’t get it out of my head.

Stories are how we connect to one another. Whether we tell these stories with the clothes we wear, or with our voice, or with our body language, these connections are as necessary as breathing. And Neil Gaiman has never made this point as beautifully as in World’s End. (At least, until I get to the next two volumes of The Sandman.)

As a group of travelers hits a reality storm, they end up stuck in an inn until the storm passes. And the price of a stay is telling a tale. These stories celebrate lands from all over many worlds. There are cities of the living and the dead, and other Americas, and monsters on land and under water.

My favorite story in the volume tells of both the living and the dead. In the necropolis of Litharge, masters and apprentices learn and practice their trade of burial. They show respect to all cultures and dispose of their clients in the way the clients choose. And in an air burial, it is tradition to spend time telling stories after it’s complete.

This idea is beautiful and simple: people may die, but stories live on.

This necropolis holds the stories and secrets of the dead, and all the stories in World’s End held secrets for astute readers. They revealed hints of the past and foreshadowed horrors to come. Familiar characters popped up like old friends, and it was wonderful to spend time with them again.

We have a history with the Lord of Dreams and his worlds, and Gaiman trusts that we’ll be able to make these connections. There’s no need to re-explain a character or draw us a map of a place we’ve been before. He trusts his readers, as the best tale tellers do.

It’s refreshing to dive into a story that allows you to draw your own conclusions. This isn’t easy, to be sure. The story has to leave enough clues and at the right times. But if you want a lesson in how to lay a story out, World’s End is a master class.

The ideas and hints Gaiman has planted along the way come together brilliantly in the last few double page spreads. The art is gorgeous and huge. And so is the slow realization of what has happened to these travelers. Gaiman paints pictures with pure heartbreak, and I have not yet recovered.

Just like all forms of heartbreak, I’m not sure quite what to do now. But if you have some time, won’t you tell me a story?

You can read my other posts on The Sandman series here.

(I picked this series on my own and am not being paid to write about it. But these are affiliate links, so if you buy through my links I’ll receive a little bit of money.)

goldie the gargoyle (embroidery no. 17)

goldie the gargoyle embroidery

It kills me when adorable things show up in comic books. Here I am, reading about a nightmare/King of Dreams/contract killers/reimagined biblical characters and WHAM, something cute drops in the frame.

I’ve been reading through The Sandman–the first issue is just a little younger than I am–and though it took me 25 years to catch on, I’m finally getting up to speed and loving every minute. Along with Death, one of the most fun characters I’ve ever met, I’ve also enjoyed spending time with Dream and his other siblings. And mixed in with the twisting, dark, interesting story lines are hilarious moments of fun. Like a super cute gargoyle called Goldie (aka Irving).

goldie the gargoyle embroidery close up

I’ve been thinking of a way to incorporate Sandman into my project of embroidering books and quotes that I enjoy, and Goldie is a perfect representation of what I love about this series: unexpected fun.

You can’t see dark without the light, or cruelty without kindness, and this epic storyline that takes us in and out of worlds and dreams is all the stronger by including some (adorable) levity.

As you can see on my to-read list, I’m just through volume 7, so if anything terrible happens to Goldie in volumes 8-10, don’t tell me.

embroidery and the sandman vol. 8

I am working on a project to sew some of my favorite quotes and images from books. You can see the other pieces of my embroidery project here:

top 10 books I read in 2013

top 10 books

I’m on track to read 29 books this year. Maybe a few more if I can sneak them in before the clock strikes 12. Not a huge amount–I do have a day job, which is coincidentally also reading–but I’ll take it. My top 10 favorite books this year, in no particular order, are:

Saga
Written by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Fiona Staples, Saga was the first comic book I’ve read, and, man, was it a great introduction. The characters are sharp and funny, the art is gorgeous and modern, and the story focuses on relationships–that just happen to be during a war in space. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to try out graphic novels but isn’t sure of making the jump. It convinced me to dive into the medium, and I’m so glad it did…  [see saga related posts here]

The Sandman  
…because then I picked up Sandman. Neil Gaiman’s epic is a tremendously fun journey that I’m still reading–two volumes left to go. It’s not too late to pick this up. In fact, now might be a great time to get started because there are reports Joseph Gordon-Levitt wants to make it into a movie.  [see sandman related posts here]

Where’d You Go Bernadette (Kindle here)
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple was a delight. It’s a funny, touching look at a family’s relationship with a struggling woman who disappears for a while–like I’m sure we’d all like to sometimes. It’s a compilation of (fictional) letters and documents that Bernadette’s daughter puts together to try to track her down, but it reads like a charming story from beginning to end.  [see bernadette related posts here]

The Gift of Fear (Kindle here)
I recommend this book to everyone. It is a brilliant read and it helps me understand and feel better about fears that I and most women (and men!) face every day. Each chapter showed me new ways to look at fears, process them, and live safer. It focuses on women’s safety but can be helpful for anyone–it has chapters on the workplace and schools, as well as regular scary places like parking garages. Gavin De Becker also shines a light on men’s actions that can be scary without them realizing it, which can promote more understanding and safer lives for everyone. Seriously, read this book.

Boy’s Life (Kindle here)
Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon, was possibly the best book I read this year. (But…so is this whole list.) It encapsulates feelings and the imagination of childhood and could connect with even the most hardened adult. I live as a grown up in a big city now, but reading about Cory’s life in a small southern town still resonates.  [see boy’s life related posts here]

The Revolution was Televised (Kindle here)
I have loved getting more into television. I am devouring show after show–most recently Orphan Black–and Alan Sepinwall’s book on some of the best shows from the past decade (or so) was excellent. Even for the shows I haven’t seen, hearing his analysis gave me a fuller picture of the medium and more appreciation for the storytelling that I am able to watch. He is passionate about the subject, and hearing his views on show after show was like talking to my friends about great shows I just saw–and that’s one of my favorite parts of watching TV.

Joyland
Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, and Joyland was not as scary as the thrillers he is usually known for. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less quality. To me, Joyland was a perfect summer read about a young man’s summer love–with an amusement park. It has enough love and mystery to keep things interesting, but it’s not too scary or saccharine.

Never Let Me Go (Kindle here)
This novel, by Kazuo Ishiguro, is technically about a strange boarding school and a twisted reality I’m thankful we don’t live in. But it’s more about basic humanity than almost anything else I’ve read this year. This book touches on what makes us human and the importance of basic decency, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Its first-person narration was easy to read and felt so real and true to the young woman Kathy C. that I was shocked to remember it was written by a man.  [see never let me go related posts here]

Under the Dome (Kindle here)
Stephen King again. And a story about a small town again, like Boy’s Life, but this time in the Northeast. Although King often uses scary monsters in his books, the true horrors are what we face in real life: jealousy, anger, substance abuse, insecurity, power. These terrors can take hold of anyone, and they invade a small town that finds itself trapped under a dome.  [see under the dome related posts here]

Salvage the Bones (Kindle here)
Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward, was not what I was expecting. I heard this was a book about Hurricane Katrina, but the hurricane doesn’t make an appearance until the memorable closing scenes. This story follows a poor family as it prepares for a storm no one could prepare for while Esch, the only girl in the family with three brothers, faces a storm of her own. It’s touching and heartbreaking, and though they live a life very different from my own, Esch’s emotions are all recognizable.

(These books are my own choices, and I’m not paid for them. I am part of the Amazon affiliate program, so if you buy through my links I’ll receive a teeny bit of money for it.)

a to-read list for 2014

I don’t have a strict schedule to read books on Rae’s Days, but next year (and the tail end of this year) I am going to be keeping a list of what I’ll likely read next. I’ll plan on going down the list in order, alternating between novels and comic book volumes. But the list is flexible and I’ll add/delete/change the order whenever life calls for it. Like The Stand, for instance, I might bump down the list until I’m totally ready to commit, but I do plan on reading it during the year.

Books:

Comic books:

Got any suggestions? Let me know! Leave a comment, tweet at me, or email me at raesdays [at] gmail [dot] com. If you want to see what I’m currently reading (or what I have read), you can check out my Goodreads. The list will have a permanent spot here that I’ll keep updated throughout the year.

(These book selections are my own and I’m not paid for them. If I ever am, I’ll let you know. I am part of the Amazon affiliate program, so if you buy through my links I’ll receive a teeny bit of money for it.)

izabel from saga (embroidery no. 16)

saga embroidery

I feel like I come late to the game to a lot of things. I just discovered Sandman–only 15 years after the first one came out. I am furiously trying to catch up on the Good Wife, which just started season 5. Last year I got really into Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and the first one came out five years before I was born. I guess I can’t help being late for that one.

But I am into the comic books series Saga. And Saga is coming out right now. (To be fair, I did only read it after the first two volumes were complete.) Issue 15 came out on Oct. 30, and that issue is the inspiration for this embroidery of Izabel.

izabel from Saga

I like so many of the characters in Saga. Alana is a badass. The Will and Lying Cat really love each other. And Izabel is so nice and fun. Izabel may be dead, but she’s still a great babysitter to Alana and Marko’s daughter Hazel. She seems like a spunky teenager who cares for the family she is now working with. I really like Izabel’s fresh voice and positive attitude. Marko’s mom, on the other hand, may never warm up to her.

Saga has kept me on my toes and in love with the characters and stories. The next one comes out Nov. 27. I’ve been reading on my iPad, but if you can, swing by your local comic books store to check out Saga and see what else looks good!

izabel from saga issue 15

I am working on a project to sew some of my favorite quotes and images from books. You can see the other pieces of my embroidery project here:

what would death wear

death neil gaiman's sandman

Death is my favorite of Dream’s siblings.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series has me saying nonsensical things like that and meaning every word.

In Gaiman’s universe, our hero Dream has six siblings. I’ve met five of them: Death, Desire, Delirium, Despair, and Destiny.

Destiny is the oldest, and he seems like a little bit of a wet blanket. Delirium sounds like she’d be fun, but she’s gone a little mad since the days she was known as Delight. Desire is a tricky scoundrel who takes the male or female form as he or she feels fit. Desire’s twin is Despair–and she just sounds exhausting.

Which leaves us with Death. She is spunky and kind. And eventually we all belong to Death, no matter how much time we spend tangling with her brothers and sisters. I like Death’s attitude and I like her style. Here she is in formal wear, for a family meeting.

death from the sandman

I’d like to pick up a lot of things from Death: how to be kind to people in a time of need, how to be dependable to your friends and family, and how to rock your own personal style. 

If Death were in real life instead of comic book life, here’s what she might wear:

outfit inspiration polyvore

Death can dress up, when the situation calls for it. But I bet her personality still shines through and you know she has some fun jewelry.

polyvore collage

If she’s heading out for a date night (does Death date??), I could see her throwing on some jeans and a cool blazer.

simple polyvore

And of course, she knows how to keep it simple and true to herself. You can read what I thought about Sandman Vol. 1 here. I’m on volume 6 now and I can’t wait to keep reading.

(I bought this book on my own and am not being paid to write about it. But I am a part of the Amazon affiliate’s program, so if you buy through my links I’ll make a little bit of money off of it.)