Rental woes

There are few things more heart palpitating and anxiety inducing than shopping for a new apartment. Part of being an adult is finding a place to live and house all the material things you have acquired. Living in a city like Boston makes this a challenging and nerve trying experience.

Boston is a college town, which means there is high turnover for apartments. Lots of students entering and leaving, dotting the city with potential living spaces. This results in a lot of competition, particularly if you are looking for a lease beginning September 1st, as we are (though I am tempted to lease in August and take the financial hit just to avoid having to deal with everyone else moving that day). It is also a city, which means $$$$. It’s expensive to live here. Sometimes I weep when I see the cost of comparable apartments just outside of the city. More and more neighborhoods are pricing people out. Where am I supposed to gooooooooo???

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Review: Boxers & Saints

The Boxer Rebellion is an instance of what the hell were you thinking you western imperialists? It was a pretty awful time all around. Basically, the western powers wanted to infiltrate China for her raw materials and did so with Christian missionaries, assuming that the Chinese religion and way of life was “heathenism.” (NEWSFLASH, THEY WERE WRONG.) They were driven by that imperialistic greed that this modern girl simply does not understand and is, in fact, fairly ashamed of. This resulted in the Chinese people being pretty pissed off about that. They just wanted the foreigners to get the hell out of China and leave them alone. The situation was a little more complicated, foreigners having infiltrated China and forced the Qing dynasty to accept its economic control over a wide swath of the country. This was all exacerbated by droughts and flooding that led to the peasantry of China suffering from poor crops and starvation. It was basically a melting pot for unrest that resulted in a rebel force known as the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists. The trained forces in ritualistic martial arts and attempted to drive the western powers out of China by killing any foreigners, Christians, or Chinese Christians they came upon, leading to a siege upon Peking (modern Beijing). This did not end well, as an international force of over 20,000 troops rose up from the western powers to subdue the Chinese rebels. Losses were great and the battle was violent and vicious. This occurred between the years of 1899 to 1901.

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Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Why am I telling you all this? Boxers & Saints is a two volume set written by author Gene Luen Yang (of American Born Chinese fame; see that review here) that covers dual sides of the Boxer Rebellion. Boxers shows the side of the oppressed Chinese and the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists, while Saints shows the side of the converted Chinese Christians. SPOILER ALERT: There are no happy endings in this story. So if you are looking for that, you may want to pick up another graphic novel. However, if you are looking for a spirited examination of two sides of a coin, then dear reader, read on.

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Review: Lost at Sea

For Christmas, Neil gave me Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley, of Scott Pilgrim fame. I have read none of the Scott Pilgrim books (though I did see the movie) and I find it vaguely funny that I read his two standalone works first.

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Lost at Sea is O’Malley’s first graphic novel. It’s a deeply personal, stream of consciousness fever dream. It’s one of those books where you are not entirely sure what is real and what is imagined, taking place in our reality, but with an ambiguous fantastical flair. The fact we are locked in one character’s head adds to this ambiguity. The novel follows a girl named Rayleigh who is on a road trip up the United States, from California to Canada, with three classmates she barely knows. A shy, pseudo-depressed, and troubled girl, Rayleigh embodies the lost feeling we all go through when straddling that awkward gap from high school to whatever we consider “the real world.” Without giving too much away, there is insecurity in relation to first love that may or may not involve internet romance as well as an inability to see one’s self clearly. Also, there are cats. Lots of cats. And potentially pacts with the devil. It’s a short read and the art is really quite pretty. I really love the colors in the 10-year anniversary edition. It’s a book that’s young at heart and very emotionally charged. I found it very easy to relate to Rayleigh’s feelings. If you’re seeking a zany and touching romp, look no further.

Like so many cats. Seriously.
Like so many cats. Seriously. ©Bryan Lee O’Malley

In the future, I will be reviewing O’Malley’s most recent work Seconds. So stay tuned for that nugget.

Neil asked me today if we were living in Siberia. I had no good answer for him. The snow continues to terrorize Boston, a city not entirely prepared to deal with this snowpocalypse. The train keeps breaking down. Getting downtown is a disaster. I’m considering just working from home until April. That would be okay right? Maybe not.

Until next time!

Review: Serenity Rose: 10 Awkward Years

Like so many wonderful things in my life, I have Neil to thank for my introduction to the world of Serenity Rose. I read the first two volumes on their own, so when I saw Aaron Alexovich was kickstarting a gorgeous three volume bound edition, I had to pitch in. The kickstarter actually happened a while ago, but I only got around to reading it (and finally reading volume 3 which I insisted I read in print) in the last couple of days. I sat and read the whole thing cover to cover and boy howdy do I have a lot of feelings.

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First off, what is Serenity Rose? The better question would be who is Serenity Rose? Serenity Rose is a graphic novel series by artist Aaron Alexovich and follows the life of the reclusive and painfully shy Serenity “Sera” Rose, one of five witches in the entirety of the United States. She can conjure ectoplasmic beasties, change the color of her hair, fly through the air, use telekinesis, and shapeshift anything and everything! Alexovich’s world is a magical place: one where witches are born arbitrarily, where Serenity is only one of fifty-seven witches worldwide, where there are rock star witches, where there is a special government agency (the SSI) in place to lockdown all the weird supernatural shit that goes down. The book is full of mystery, intrigue, and death defying experiences! It’s a fun place to inhabit.

Serenity lives in Crestfallen, the self-proclaimed “Spookiest ‘lil town in the U. S. of A.” Originally, the home of a powerful witch coven that mysteriously went missing, Crestfallen was turned into a creepy crawly and scary stuff tourist trap and Serenity is the unwilling star of the show. After accidentally freezing most of Lake Michigan following her mother’s death at a young age, Sera’s father gets an offer to move to Crestfallen, pitched as a more accepting community for a young witch. However, Sera and her family are having none of the publicity and Sera mostly sticks to herself. The polarities within Serenity are so endearing: she is an all-powerful witch and yet she suffers from such crippling social anxiety, a fact that permeates the books and changes and develops throughout the course of the series. A whole cast of characters accompanies Serenity, including her brash and loud best friend Tess; the endearingly dopey and nerdy Kelton; her kind and understanding stepmom Zoe and half-sister Mary Ann; and the larger than life, ultra-talented, and super powerful, though slightly meddling, sorceress, rock witch Vicious Whisper. There are a whole host of others, including a badass sheriff, SSI operatives, and those of her past and bad dreams. All these characters have so much personality; each is its own force to be reckoned with.

There is SO MUCH going on in this series. Alexovich has built a complex and sophisticated alternate reality. It is one I would like to curl up inside and inhabit pretty much forever. The main conflict revolves around Serenity’s power, focusing on her mysterious past and the shadow of an incident involving teenagers and a bus. The past has a tendency to infect her present, namely, in being attacked and also attacking. I will leave it vague so as to not give too much away.

The writing is very, very strong. Sera is funny, sarcastic, serious, insightful. Her voice is so real and so close to the reader. You get so much expression from this painfully shy witch. That is one of the things the graphic novel has over a regular, old book. You’ve got thought, but also physical expression. You can watch Sera soar or squirm. The girl really does run the gambit. I laughed out loud so many times while reading. I found myself gripping the pages in suspense and out of concern for our hero. In the final volume, I found myself complaining to Neil how I was questioning the motives of one of the characters. This is a truly engaging series.

And of course there is the art, which is just so beautiful; enchanting and dark, with splashes of color and so very, very detailed. Alexovich puts so much into each panel. His style really grows from one volume to the next. I prefer the style of the second volume , but they are all quite good. I would actually say the second volume is my favorite. So much happens in that book. It’s all good though. I did not have a single unenjoyable moment while reading the compendium. I like listening to what Serenity has to say and seeing what she goes through. I loved this book and it’s worth a read if you have the time.

Now for the SPOILERS part of this review. NOTE! Below will feature SPOILERS! DO NOT READ ON IF YOU WOULD PREFER TO REMAIN UNSPOILED.

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