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My favorite thing is monsters. Book one
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  New York Times Review

BLIND SPOT, by Teju Cole. (Random House, $40.) This lyrical essay in photographs paired with texts explores the mysteries of the ordinary. Cole's questioning, tentative habit of mind, suspending judgment while hoping for the brief miracle of insight, is a form of what used to be called humanism. MY FAVORITE THING IS MONSTERS, by Emil Ferris. (Fantagraphics, paper, $39.99.) In this graphic novel, drawn entirely on blue-lined notebook paper, a monster-loving 10-year-old in 1960s Chicago tries to make sense of a neighbor's death, her mother's decline from cancer, and her crush on another girl. The story is punctuated by drawings of the covers of the horror magazines she loves. CHEMISTRY, by Weike Wang. (Knopf, $24.95.) A Chinese-American graduate student struggles to find her place in the world, arguing with her parents about whether she can give up her Ph.D. and wondering whether to marry her boyfriend. Wang's debut novel is both honest and funny. CATTLE KINGDOM: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West, by Christopher Knowlton. (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29.) The 20-year grand era of cowboys and cattle barons is a story of boom and bust. Knowlton's deftnarrative is filled with sharp observations about cowboys and fortune-hunters. THEFT BY FINDING: Diaries (1977-2002), by David Sedaris. (Little, Brown, $28.) Over 25 years, these diaries mutate from a stress vent, to limbering-up exercises for the kind of writing Sedaris is going to do, to rough drafts. His developing voice - graceful, whining, hilarious - is the lifeline that pulls him through. TOWN IS BY THE SEA, by Joanne Schwartz. Illustrated by Sydney Smith. (Groundwood/House of Anansi, $19.95; ages 5 to 9.) This evocation of daily life in a picturesque, run-down seaside town in the 1950s stirs timeless, elemental emotions. The ocean light is contrasted with the coal mine far below, where a boy's father works and where he is destined (and resigned) to follow. OTIS REDDING: An Unfinished Life, by Jonathan Gould. (Crown Archetype, $30.) It's hard to write about Redding; he died at 26 and no one has anything nasty to say about him. Gould relies on interviews with his surviving family members and exhaustive research into his early years as a performer to tell his story. THE COMPLETE STORIES, by Leonora Carrington. Translated by Kathrine Talbot and Anthony Kerrigan. (Dorothy, paper, $16.) The Surrealist painter and fabulist wrote 25 fantastical and droll stories in English, Spanish and French. COCKFOSTERS: Stories, by Helen Simpson. (Knopf, $23.95.) Nine tales offer memorable characters, comic timing, originality, economy, poignancy and heart. Although they are entertaining, the mortality and the passage of time is an underlying theme. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web:

  Publishers Weekly Review

Karen loves monsters, comic books, and her tattooed, art-loving big brother, Deeze. She hates her mom's cancer diagnosis, the cool kids at school, and being a little girl Chicago in the 1960s. She wants to be a monster, but when the upstairs neighbor, a Holocaust survivor left haunted and unstable by her experiences, dies under suspicious circumstances, Karen decides to become a detective. This stunningly ambitious and assured graphic novel, the creator's first, slides gracefully between past and present, reality and imagination, and the shifting kingdom of children and the hard-concrete world of adults. Ferris's writing, full of wordplay, elisions, and unpredictable revelations, suggests the cockeyed genius of Lynda Barry, comics' most fearless chronicler of childhood. But her art, presented on lined notebook paper in the form of Karen's own ballpoint-and-pencil sketches (though surely no real 10-year-old could draw this beautifully), is entirely her own. This is a book that surprises at every turn. It's about the power of art, the nature of monsters, the way secrets keep unfolding, and everything else Karen's investigations can uncover. It's the best graphic novel to come along in recent memory. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of late '60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the fictional graphic diary of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, filled with B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines iconography. Karen Reyes tries to solve the murder of her enigmatic upstairs neighbour, Anka Silverberg, a holocaust survivor, while the interconnected stories of those around her unfold. When Karen's investigation takes us back to Anka's life in Nazi Germany, the reader discovers how the personal, the political, the past, and the present converge.
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