‘Velvet, Vol. 1: Before the Living End’ by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting

velvet-vol1I have been carrying the first volume of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet for quite literally years. I love Brubaker’s run of Captain America comics and, when I heard he was doing a stand-alone mystery series starring a female spy, I preordered the first volume. It arrived in summer 2014 and I’ve been moving it around with me every since.

Upon its release, Velvet got glowing reviews, so I think I waited to read it like you wait to open presents until Christmas morning: you want to savor something good as your expectations grow over time. Fortunately for me, Velvet delivered. This is a book worth saving, savoring, and then enjoying repeatedly.

As promised, Velvet is an espionage-style mystery, taking place in the 1970s with flashbacks to the ’50s and ’60s. Our hero (the titular Velvet Templeton) is a middle-aged, lowly secretary at a super-secret spy agency, but, of course, nothing is quite as it seems in this stylish graphic novel. (more…)

July 14, 2016 at 6:32 am Leave a comment

The LT Summer of 2016 Reading List

Summer is now properly upon us — how is it July already?! — so we here at Literary Transgressions pooled our To Be Read lists and made our own Summer Reading List. Is it as nostalgia-filled as the ones from school? No, but we still think it’s a pretty great list.

Check out our list below and share what’s on the docket for your summer reading this year in the comments!

Summer Traditions & Rereads:
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (reread)
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (reread)
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (reread)
The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte
OR The Wind from the East by Almudena Grandes
(I always read something Spanish each summer, still not sure why! – CFB)

Classics (Old and New): (more…)

July 5, 2016 at 6:06 am Leave a comment

Short Thoughts on Recent Reads

I recently went through a spurt of serendipitous library reads. In keeping with the great stereotype of “beach reads,” I read these books quickly and fairly mindlessly, so I can’t say I have any particularly deep thoughts to share, but, all the same, I wanted to write a few warnings and praise for those wandering their own library aisles:

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Synopsis: The Secret History + baseball – murder
Short Thoughts: Enjoyable, male-centric summer book. You do not, repeat, do not have to like baseball to enjoy the book (says the reader who enjoys baseball), but a vague notion of Melville/Moby Dick will probably help.
More serious reviews: New York Times; The Guardian

In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Ovrent
Synopsis: Just My Type – typography + linguistics + Klingon
Short Thoughts: Terrifically engaging book about the inventiveness and dreamy tendencies of those who have invented their own languages throughout history. If you have ever feel yourself losing faith in humanity, read the chapters on Esperanto and you’ll feel a little bit better.
More series review: The Washington Post

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett
Synopsis: Any Dan Brown/Robert Langdon book – religious conspiracy theories + Jane Austen conspiracy theories + fan fiction
Short Thoughts: Charlie Lovett should not go within 100 miles of writing women. (Or, more accurately, trying to write women.) Basically, his utterly rubbish female protagonist makes a silly book even less palpable. Very disappointing for those who enjoyed his first book, The Bookman’s Tale.
More serious reviews: Kirkus Reviews; The Washington Post

Falling Upwards by Richard Holmes
Synopsis: BALLOONS
Short Thoughts: Few books were so entrancing and enjoyable as Holmes’ Age of Wonders, so I was disappointed not to feel any intellectual curiosity piqued at Falling Upwards. I barely made it through the first chapter before giving up.
More serious review (which suggests I should try again!): New York Times

What have you been reading lately? Chime in below!

June 30, 2016 at 6:12 am Leave a comment

‘Parnassus on Wheels’ and ‘The Haunted Bookshop’ by Christopher Morley


The old Rizzoli bookshop on West 57th Street was one of those New York spaces that are so grand, so beautiful, and so established that you never even think to fear for its survival. Some things, you think, will endure even in a constantly-changing city like New York.

In the summer of 2013, the Rizzoli bookshop seemed as stable and beautiful as ever. Its interior was like walking into the library in ‘Beauty & the Beast’ — books stretched from carpeted floor to opulently-decorated ceiling. The shelves were made of wood that looked impossibly dark and old and they were matched by huge library tables that didn’t look like they could ever be moved by mere mortals. Grand chandeliers hung from the ceiling between floors, giving the whole store a warm, safe, nook-like feeling even on the brightest summer day.

I wandered in on that particular sunny day with a visiting art historian friend who I was showing around New York. Truthfully, after living in the city for almost 6 years, I had never been inside the famed Rizzoli bookstore on 57th Street. I had just heard that it was beautiful and artistic and that one really ought to see it.

Now I agreed wholeheartedly. My pupils actually dilated in delight when we walked in and saw the glory of Rizzoli’s interior. The respectful hush of the place felt very far away from the heat and bustle of midtown just outside the doors and my friend and I spent a very pleasant afternoon in the shop, neglectful of all other plans. (more…)

June 23, 2016 at 6:48 am 2 comments

Summer Reading Lists

As weather heats up this year, I find myself nostalgically thinking back on the various summer reading lists I used to get as a middle schooler. There were the crinkled print-out copies from school — multi-page manifestos stapled in one corner and hopefully passed out at the end of the school year by optimistic teachers with the request to try and read at least one book on the list.

There were the glossier pamphlets from the public library, where there was an annual summer reading contest that awarded much-coveted stickers if you read a certain number of books.

And then there was my own personal reading list, full of a mixture of aspirational books I thought I ought to read (one misguided summer at age twelve I attempted John Updike’s Rabbit, Run and was much chagrined to discover it had nothing to do with rabbits) and as many Baby-Sitter Club books as I could get my hands on. (more…)

June 16, 2016 at 6:34 am 1 comment

‘Shadows on the Nile’ by Kate Furnivall

I could write a book unto itself about dodgy books I’ve read merely because of a passing relation to Egypt of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. On this list, I would include:

And now, with great fanfare, let us add Kate Furnivall’s Shadows on the Nile to their esteemed company!

Basically, the book tells the story of our Fearless Heroine (Jessie) as she tries to track down her missing Egyptologist brother. Of course, this almost immediately throws her in the path of “dashing and impoverished aristocrat, Sir Montague Chamford,” who inexplicably joins her on her quest all the way to the bloody deserts outside of Luxor.

Oh, and she has a secret autistic brother who has been locked away and forgotten in some asylum by her almost impossibly cruel parents. Oh, and she’s an artist who lives with a lady saxophonist. Oh, and fascism’s on the rise. Also, there’s social unrest at home and abroad. And workers are rioting and subsequently being brutally attacked by police. And, just for some good old-fashioned character development, she has a cat. (Because, obviously, a cat = character development.) Also, she has inexplicably picked up expert-level Egyptological expertise from her brother, evidently through some kind of osmosis.

Needless to say, this book is trying to be a great many things and, I regret to say, fails on most fronts. (more…)

June 13, 2016 at 6:19 am 2 comments

‘The Wood Beyond the World’ by William Morris

This post is part of our on-going 2016 Spring Reading Spree. Kick off your own reading spree this spring by giving some love to the unread books on your shelf!


Oh, William Morris, you just did everything, don’t you? You were not content to merely create beautiful design or start the entire trend of Victorian medievalism or lead the Arts and Crafts Movement or create utterly lovely books. No, you had to also go ahead and invent the modern genre of fantasy fiction with your novel The Wood Beyond the World. Just couldn’t help yourself, is that it?

William Morris (who, in case you couldn’t tell, I adore) wrote The Wood Beyond the World in 1894 — that’s roughly 30 years before Lord Dunsany produced his fantasy urtext The King of Elfland’s Daughter and two years before Morris’ own influential The Well at the World’s End.

In other words: this is it, folks. This is the first adult fantasy novel. (more…)

June 9, 2016 at 6:54 am Leave a comment

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