Sunday, October 23, 2016

Review: East To The Dawn: The Life Of Amelia Earhart

East To The Dawn: The Life Of Amelia Earhart East To The Dawn: The Life Of Amelia Earhart by Susan Butler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book two two reasons: Secondly, I was tasked with a biography for the 2016 Goodreads Read Harder Challenge; Firstly, I own "The Sound of Wings" by Mary Lovell but haven't been able to convince myself to continue it, though I really liked it when I started it in May 2014.

"East to Dawn" is interesting, providing a wide view lens on Amelia and her life, motivations, and background. Some of the technical details made the reading dry at times, and I was thankful to be reading it by audiobook, though the calm and not-quite-monotone voice of the narrator didn't help in those dry spots. (She did have good enthusiasm at times, but what altogether reserved.)

This book has me curious to read Eleanor Roosevelt's autobiography (due to their relationship in the book). I also wonder if the The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR)'s 2015-2016 work on what they think is the remains of Earhart and her plane, will make it into any revised edition in the future. I found some of the speculations on her disappearance, presented at the end of the book, to be very interesting, as the world seems to as well. The narrator white-knuckles the reader through the play-by-play of disappearance and search, and swoops perfectly into these speculations. A good job on her part.

So, while it might be a bit of a challenge in pacing, I do recommend this book. I can't say it would have been better or worse than "Sound of Wings", but it was the one I was able to find on audiobook (a Must for me, at this time in my life).

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezadlo
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I read this book for the 2016 Goodreads Read Harder challenge, and I'm so glad I did. I never would have picked it up otherwise. "A FOOD memoir? Ugh." Honestly I had a moment where I wondered how to get around the requirement, but it stuck out at me from the "recommended books in this genre" list.

You can read the accolades and summary for yourself, but know I agree with them.

Annia's form of storytelling is one of my favorites: a coherent timeline dotted with memories and stories and various interruptions. It sometimes can make things a little awkward to follow, especially in an audiobook, but I feel like more soul comes through that way. She tucks in little quotes from the people she met or other relevant sources. "What makes us civilized? .... We are the only creatures who share food with strangers, people not from our family or tribe... Cambridge University archaeologist Martin Jones in Feast: Why Humans Share Food." I loved "Before Islam, the word Shariah, the path to God, meant the path to a watering hole."

She's completely right that so many memories are tied to food or smells (of food). She mentioned "midwest chicken", and it reminded me that I liked pork rinds (stay with me here) because they first time I tried them I thought they taste like whatever Mom used to spice chicken skin. I actually can't recall what that tastes like, and don't know what she used, but just "midwest chicken" brought that up just the same.

This book also had me looking up recipes right at left. She has a collection in the back, most too involved for me to try my terrible hand at, but I wanted to know what they LOOKED like. She is fantastic at describing the presentation of the food as well as the scenes and the people, and I felt I could see them... but food isn't quite the same. I wondered if the printed version has photos.

When I reached the time of the 2006 Lebanon War, something I barely knew was happening at the time, I was a little shocked at the...closeness of it all. I submit I didn't actually know, except in hindsight, that it was going on at all. It's terrible. Both to read it, and to have not known it was happening. We see photos all the time, of child soldiers, and hear it really happened, and she witnessed it, and gave it to us, and it was terrible. And I felt terrible for not knowing it happened.

While I was reading this book, I happened upon Toufic El Rassi's graphic novel "Arab in America". It was captivating and eye opening, the Lebanese-born-American witnessing all the other side of this coin, the side Annia would have both seen and been a little oblivious to, had she stayed in America. At the end, the author catches a plane to Lebanon in 2006, when Annia's there. Maybe they ran into each other, and talked over cups of Arak.

I'm very glad I read this book, and recommended it to my grandmother, who also admitted she'd never have picked it up. If there is any better commendation for the 2016 Goodreads Read Harder Challenge, it's that it found me this book. Nearly any book that can make me grok how little I really know about the world can be useful, but this one has soul, and I loved it.

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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 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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