Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review: Arab in America

Arab in America Arab in America by Toufic El Rassi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw this weathered graphic novel sitting on the "New Books" rack at the library and picked it up. I'm currently reading Day of Honey by Annia Ciezadlo, and her experiences in the Middle East have made me curious about the experiences of Arabs and Muslims in regards to the last two decades of warfare. The graphic-novel-meets-memoir is well written and well drawn. This graphic novel presents an American view of Arabs and Muslims that surprises me at the same time that it doesn't. It isn't, because seeing it I realize it's always been there, and yet having it pointed out to me all at the same time makes me realize just how much of it there is.

I'm not a fan of war movies; my mom watched a lot of them when I was growing up, so I feel well-versed in the Anti-Asian sentiments of the older generations, and I took for granted that "the war" would cause a lot of my generation to have an Anti-Arab sentiment. But when you see it all on the same page (well, several pages, there's a lot of it... really Star Wars?) it's scary. I already knew anti-Arab and ant-Muslim sentiment filled so much media space (televised news, newspapers, online news, and op-eds every which way), and as much as I rail on about female minority representation, I didn't notice this. Or, it was so commonplace that I didn't process it. Imagine that the only person in movies or the news that looks like you is "the bad guy". Maybe you can. I'm just learning, at 34.

It was an unexpected boon to see this at the library, and I wish it were required reading in today's high schools. Yea, there are curse words, drug and alcohol use, even a stripper's butt, but it's real life. It's maybe not a powerful political piece, but it's a real view of racist America, from a real American Person of Color (as we now say), that's easy to understand and digest. The conflicts are explained, the sentiments and confusion make sense, and it's, just, eye opening. In high school (1997-2001), the Taliban didn't even register on my radar until they blew up the Buddhas. And I didn't give it another thought until they blew up the Twin Towers. It was horrifying, of course. After that, though, the war was nearly commonplace. Just another day. Because I was a white American, at home, seeing blips about how many Americans were killed today. So little from the other side, or about them, filtered through the media to me. I wish I'd had this book then, or in 2008 when it came out. I wish there was a sequel.

But... I mentioned Day of Honey by Annia Ciezadlo; and in her story she and her Lebanese husband are in Beirut Lebanon from 2006-2007. Toufic's graphic novel ends when he board a plane to Lebanon in 2006. Maybe they ran into each other, and talked over cups of Arak.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this. It's like a bit of Fan Fiction that let's us replay material from the originals, with a neat (but not hinted at) twist.

Some people had trouble reading the format of a script, but I read a lot of Shakespeare in my youth and found I could jump right into the style without issue. It's not a terribly DEEP book, but does touch on the troubles of parents (living vicariously and overprotection) while telling a good short story. A quick, nostalgic read.

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Review: Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Note, I have not heard the podcast at the time of this reading.) I listened to the audiobook, which I've heard was easier to digest than the paperback. I think I'd prefer the audiobook too, because some eerie music and creative narration really lent depth to the story (and weirdness of Night Vale).

It was a WEIRD a heartwarming story that, while failing Beschdel, managed to present strong independent women at very different stages of their life, while being both amusing and a little creepy. Though this book was proposed to me as a Horror, I don't feel it really this that category. In fact, I read it to satisfy the Horror category in the Goodreads.com 2016 Read Harder challenge and now need to decide if I should read another, scarier, horror novel.

I'm glad I read it, and might pop in to the podcast, but it's definitely not something for everyone.

Some nifty things I thought while reading it, that I posted as status updates:

Librarians are the darkest of evil... makes me think of Parks and Recreation!
(At about 24%) The story often seems too disjoint to be enjoyable, but is otherwise interesting.

I really like the scientists in Night Vale. There's much in this book that might be social commentary on science and religion, and while We All Agree It Makes NO Sense, it does make me smirk.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Review: Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd been both interested and avoiding this series. Sounds like my sort of universe, but nervous about rooting for a villain. Irrational, probably, but we've all got lines. Read Harder 2016 pushed me to finally start it.

The smart-alecky voice of the narrator kept me grinning as I read the book. The characters are pretty well written, better than I expected, honestly. Perhaps I didn't have much faith in a Middle Grade book, but the author doesn't talk down to the Middle Grade reader. The tone certain things are moderated, and the narrator actually quips about it.. mentioning an "adult" version of the 'report' the story represents.

I liked the characters, I agreed with the plights and motivations of both sides. I adored the unique take on dwarves (I don't think I'll ever look at Gimli the same way again!). It's always nice to see a fresh perspective on 'age old' fairy lore. I've got quite a bit on my reading list this year, but I'll probably make room for some more of these short, but riveting, middle grade masterpieces.

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth

Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth by Adam Glass
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I like the art and colors. Harley's costume is a bit, well, impractical. Do you know how often you have to pull-up corsets if you do anything besides stand still? I can see wanting to update the harlequin suit, but this is a bit too far in the opposite direction for me.

I don't like that they changed her origin. Oh, every time they do it they change it just a little (it's been angling more in the Legitimate-Doctor direction, which I'm fine with) but Joker's new add-on takes away Harley's agency. Before she was batsh*t of her own accord, and though we see her a little batsh*t (a nice start, perhaps), I think Joker's push was unnecessary.

I like that the Squad dynamic gives the writers a way to cycle team members, so it gives them a nice way to keep the missions and team interactions fresh.

The last issue in this volume... is a nice cliffhanger, sorta, but I like closing out volumes with an issue having a definite wrap-up. And, it's almost a throw-away 'cliffhanger' anyway, because we KNOW the character is coming back. Meh. Either way, I still plan on reading the next volume at least.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Review: The Life List

The Life List The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read the first half by paperback and the second by audiobook. I don't recommend the audiobook version; the narrator has a stilted and uneven cadence that made the novel sound less well written than it was.

The book WAS pretty well written. It wasn't my style of novel, I was asked to read it by a friend. It was like watching a lifetime movie, or a live-action Disney movie, where people keep telling the princess that she can't always get everything she wants, but she clearly is. I'm usually happy to have a character second guess themselves, but she dives between extreme self-doubt and this unwavering faith in her death mother that the mother is painted to be as omnipotent as a god. The mother might actually BE an analogy for God, and the Life List an analogy for the Ten Commandments. If you told me right now "that was the exact point" I would believe you.

The message of the book is a good one: it's never too late to be happy. You shouldn't settle for being unhappy because you think you can't be / don't deserve to be / being happy is too hard. I like the oddball method of moving the story along... the Life List. I even like the character basically trying to convince herself that each man is the one she's supposed to be with, as painful as it is to read, because I think people really do that.

It's not a waste of paper, and hopefully inspires some people. I appreciate it for what it is, but wish I'd taken it out of the library instead of buying it. I'll be donating it to the Little Library.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review: Blood Bound

Blood Bound Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The voice of this book, and the attitude of the main character, reminds me of why I loved the Kim Harrison Dead Witch Walking series. I do a little bit of eyerolling over the "all the males seems to love me" thread, but after reading Laurel K Hamilton for so long, it's tame by comparison.

I liked that the story had "two story villainy", where once the immediate threat was gone Mercy had to deal with the underlying cause. The first threat brings the action and intensity, and the second allows for non-boyfriend introspection and deliberate, planned, action that really builds character.

I borrowed the next audiobook from the library just 20 minutes after finishing this one, and am trying to convince myself to finish my other book before I start this one. I think, Mercy is going to win.

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