Showing posts with label print book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label print book. Show all posts

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a short and fascinating book which ought to be required reading for anyone interested in autism, or who has some sort of relationship of any kind with someone on the autism spectrum. it was written by a Japanese boy who has this condition, and who painstakingly typed out each letter using a system not dissimilar to the one Stephen Hawking used. It's really quite entrancing to read his inner perspective and his explanations for the things some autism sufferers do.

As I said, it's not a long book, but it makes for engrossing reading. In some ways, it's a bit like reading something written by an alien because his thought process are so altered by his condition that they are truly alien to those of us who do not have this condition. That he was thirteen when he wrote it makes it all the more of an achievement. Highly recommended.


Calling My Name by Liara Tamani


Rating: WARTY!

This book sounded interesting from the blurb, but turned out to be boring and I gave up on it after about a third of it. It was really a sort of journal or diary of disjointed days in the life of this ordinary, everyday girl and some of it was kind of interesting, but most of it was just routine events from which I learned nothing and was not even entertained because the happenings detailed here were so commonplace.

If you're going to tell us about mundane events, then your character had better be extraordinary in some way either in herself or in how she reacts to these events. If she's ordinary, then the events had better be extraordinary, otherwise why would we care about this story that's the same as anyone's story that we might meet or know in our own day-to-day life? If I'd been give a reason to care about this character, that would have been something, but I wasn't given any reason at all. She wasn't awful but neither was she outstanding in any way, so my feelings for her and her story were as flat as the story was. I felt no compulsion to keep turning that many pages.

I could not take the character's name seriously! In Britain, tadger is a nickname for penis. It sounds like Taja, depending on how you pronounce Taja - with a hard 'j' or a soft one. But a tadger can be hard or soft too! LOL! I'm sorry, but the name really amused me and the book failed to distract me from it. It's not my fault, honest! Seriously though, Taja is supposed to be pronounced with a soft 'j' which isn't a common use of that letter in English.

In Hindi though, the name means 'crown' or 'jewel' and while Jewel works as a girl's name, Crown really doesn't, so Taja is better. In Arabic and in Urdu, it means Mention or Name! A name that means name! Mention is actually an interesting name for a character in a novel, I think. But I'm weird. Moving right along, from the Greek - where it derives from the harder sounding 'Tadja' (see, I was right!) - it means beautiful or divine, so it's really quite a good name. Just don't use it in Britain!

That said, and as you may have gathered by now, I can't recommend this because of the monotony. It's supposedly a coming-of-age story but it takes forever to get there and it covers so many years with such brief cameo looks into her life that it really doesn't tell us anything. It's like trying to get a person's life story from merely looking at a few snapshots. This was the same but used a few words instead of a few photographs.


The Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian


Rating: WARTY!

Sixteen year old Theodosia, yet another in a long line of dumb, boring, derivative and pointless YA princesses has convinced me that YA princesses are now officially overtaking Disney princesses as the most interchangeable, generic, blandest princesses of all. Disney is showing some improvement, YA writers in general are not.

I now am honestly and seriously wondering what is wrong in particular with female YA writers that they cannot get out of both this princess rut and this asinine and tedious trilogy rut they are in. I guess money is more important to them than writing a good story. They so desperately want that book contract, don't they? And Big Publishing™ so desperately wants a story it can milk no matter how many times it's been done before, doesn't it? I'd rather never be published than play that game or get stuck in that rut.

So here we have Princess Dumbass, who saw her mother the Fire Queen killed on the order of the evil invading king, and now we're conveniently ten years on so we can have a princess in her mid-teens so we can have a moronic love-triangle, we find the princess is best friends with the daughter of the man who literally killed her mother, and falling in love with the son of the evil invading king. Barf. Is it even possible to have a dumber princess than this? Is it even possible to have a story that is more mix-and-match than this, with every single element taken from other YA stories?

Why, if the land of Theodocile was so powerful with the force (magical gems or air, earth, fire, and water barf) was it even possible for the invading king and his people - who have no magic - to win this war? And having won it, why would the invading king even leave anyone alive who was remotely connected to the ruling family? IT. MAKES. NO. SENSE. But it's a YA story written by a female author featuring a cloned princess, so why would it make any sense? There are, thank goodness, female YA writers who get it, but there are so many more of them who simply do not get it and never will. This author is one of them. She has drunk the YA Kool-Aid™ and the princess Flavor Aid™

From the first chapter I could see exactly how this would all pan out. I could tell, even though the book itself gave no indication of it on the cover, that this was going to be a trilogy with a love triangle. It was so painfully obvious that this book could well be a parody of itself. Having decided this was not for me, I read a few reviews on it, and the negative ones all agreed with my assessment. Don't even think of saying you can't review a book after reading so little of it. Yes, you can, when it's patently obvious that this is a cookie-cutter, YA, troll-ogy, female lead, female-written, love-triangle, uninventive, unimaginative, paint-by-the-numbers-of-dollars-you're-aiming-at, piece of tree-wasting garbage.


Doing Harm by Maya Dusenberry


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a great book about gender problems within modern medical practice. There is a systemic bias against women not only in how many women get into medicine and just as importantly, get onto professional medical boards, but also in how women are perceived and treated as patients and even how medical studies exclude women. The contents list is quite short, but the book is quite fat and very dense. I liked the fact that it was not written in an academic style which means wide, tree-killing margins and acres of wasted paper. Just the opposite here! What it does mean is lots of detail to wade through, and I confess I skipped some sections once I'd got a good sense of the general topic.

Topics in part one cover things like a knowledge gap and a trust gap, both of them serious. The author tackles issues from lab rats (mostly male!) to human tests (mostly male) to how a female patient is perceived by the majority of doctors versus how that same doctor views a male patient. There are anecdotal stories, yes, and those are tragic, telling of women who took forever to be taken seriously when they showed up reporting pain, but these individual stories are backed by study after study which shows that sexism in the practice of medicine is rife at all levels, harking sadly back to an era when women's medical complaints were far more likely to be brushed off as 'hysteria' than they were to be taken seriously, diagnosed, and treated.

Part two investigates heart diseases and auto-immune diseases, relating how people have taken literally years to get a decent diagnosis after being dismissed repeatedly by multiple male doctors many of whom would rather overlook a woman's reported symptoms of pain, labeling them as attention-seeking or drug-seeking. Ninety percent of lupus cases are in female, yet it takes longer to diagnose a woman with lupus than it does a man because of the lack of regard doctors have for female medical complaints. Black women not only received an even shorter end of the stick, they were beaten with it being dismissed as drug-seekers, despite the fact that the largest abuse of prescription drugs is by whites! Racism. Genderism. It's the same old story.

Part three is amusingly subtitled "The Disorders Formerly Known as Hysteria" but it's no joke how the possession of a womb, the most important thing to the continuation of the human race, gets its owner dismissed and labeled as not a serious patient. It was depressing to read story after story of people failing to get vital treatment not because they didn't have a medical issue but because doctors wouldn't believe they had one. it's sickening and it needs to stop. Hopefully this book will at least start a serious movement away from status quo.This is an important book, to be taken seriously and to be seen as a call to alarms when over half the population is being discriminated against in very real and dangerous ways. I fully recommend this as a worthy, if sad, read.


Freaks by Kieran Larwood


Rating: WORTHY!

Sheba is a freak, so-called. She has some sort of wolfish traits in her that don't come out at the full Moon, but which do surface when she's emotionally disturbed. Fortunately that isn't often, since she's quite accepting of her freakishness and her lot in life which is as a lonely exhibit on a pier in an obscure Victorian seaside town.

This all changes one day when a rotund man from London shows up with his traveling freak show and buys her from her 'owner'. She finds herself in a wagon full of people like her - not wolfish, but each with strange appearance or talents, and unfortunate smells. Sheba's enhanced sense of smell is one thing which is always on tap, she's sometimes sorry to suffer. At other times it can be very useful.

This change isn't a bad thing as it happens, because she finds acceptance and companionship in this circus as they travel back to London and take up residence in their permanent quarters, as a freak show in a dismal London side-street in a ramshackle, run-down and dirty house, where Sheba has to sit each day in a room so people can stare at her. But it's just for a short time and then she gets to have a decent bed and not too horrible food, which is new to her.

One day a little girl sneaks in to the show and meets Sheba, before the interloper is discovered and tossed out. The two of them bond in that moment, so when Sheba later learns that this same girl - a mudder who scours the low-tide banks of the Thames for anything of value to sell to buy food for her family - has gone missing, Sheba is moved to act. In her search for the mudder, she is joined by Sister Moon, a ninja girl with almost super-human speed and accuracy, and Monkey Boy, who is frankly gross-out disgusting.

This for me was the first and one of very few false steps in this Victorian era novel with steampunk elements, which is aimed at middle-grade readers. Given that three of the main five 'freak' characters are female, it suggests that the novel is aimed primarily at girls, yet the toilet 'humor' if you can term it that, is aimed at boys, so it made little sense. Other than that it was fine and it featured some other intriguing characters too, such as the woman who trains rats and the gentle giant who writes romance stories!

The plot became clear pretty quickly, but for younger readers it may remain more of a mystery for a little longer, and the story is engaging, with a few thrills and spills to keep a young heart racing, so overall I liked it. In some small ways it reminded me of the Philip Pullman series 'His Dark Materials' and young Lyra Belaqua. Sheba isn't quite like that, and this novel isn't in that league or about the same subjects, but young readers who enjoyed that might like this, and vice-versa. It's educational too, about the horrific conditions under which children lived, and how they were exploited back then, especially if they were not like most other children, so I recommend this as a worthy read.


Heartthrob Vol 1 Never Going Back Again by Christopher Sebela, Robert Wilson 4, Nick Filardi


Rating: WARTY!

This one looked interesting from first glance but was tedious to read. It had the engaging premise that a sickly woman who got a heart transplant was now haunted and sometimes possessed by the man whose heart she gained, but she also gained his heart in a figurative sense, and she can experience him as a real person and have a physical relationship with him. The two become inseparable - so to speak.

While this was an intriguing idea and a slightly new take on this kind of story, the problem was that she talked to him regularly in the company of others and never once was she picked up by those people in white coats and carted off someplace for medical attention, so it was a bit unbelievable.

The problem for her in the story was that the man was a smooth criminal, and he wanted to continue his thievery using her as his host - and she agreed and developed a real taste for robbing banks and pulling other heists. That's pretty much the story right there, believe it or not and it really wasn't that great. It was tedious how they kept on robbing places and all that really changed was the venue, so...boring! The dialog was poor and the artwork equally bad, and I really have no desire to read any more of this and I cannot recommend this volume.


Welcome Back by Christopher Sebela, Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, Claire Row


Rating: WORTHY!

This piqued my curiosity because it as about a character who kept reliving her life through the ages, and in assorted genders, carrying on a feud which went so far back in history that no one knew any longer why it was they were feuding.

People are reincarnated and the main character Mali, reappeared this time as a woman named Mali. She is living a quiet life because her father was a serial killer. It's only when she 'wakes' and recovers memories of her past lives that she realizes her father is a reincarnator too, and his serial killing was no more than him 'doing his job' which job Mali now inherits.

Her main foe is Tessa, a kick-ass, short-haired blonde girl who was quite impressive and who was relentlessly if not manically pursing Mali for their showdown, even as Mali backs away, tiring of this endless, pointless, ridiculous war.

I enjoyed this story but it was rather wordy with endless expositional internal monologue, so i will not pursue this series, but this one I can recommend because it had a great ending.


James Joyce Portrait of a Dubliner by Alfonso Zapico


Rating: WORTHY!

Erratum:
“...practicing law, or becoming as academic” = should be AN academic!

This graphic novel was interesting, not least of which because it paints James Augustine Aloysius Joyce in a very unflattering light. The man was a moocher, a womanizer, an alcoholic who was often abusive towards his wife, and he was extremely lazy. Based on how he was presented here, he was not a person I would like had I ever met him in real life. But my review isn't of him, it's of this graphic novel, and in that case, for the art and the story, I can recommend it.

if I had reservations, it would be over two things: some of the poses of characters in the panels - especially of people walking - seem very static, almost like they weren't walking at all, but were posing as though they were walking, or like their legs were copied from earlier pictures and repurposed. I can understand this from those of us who are lesser artists (if artists at all!). The temptation to reuse and modify is great, but this author/illustrator can draw, so it would have been nice to have seen some variation.

The other issue was with the high volume of text. It seemed to overshadow if not entirely defeat the purpose of the novel being graphic. Sometimes it felt more like an illustrated biography than a graphic novel! To be fair, it was a graphic novel with many panels on every page, but be warned there is a heck of a lot of narrative reading.

The story covers Joyce from childhood - actually from before - there is an introductory section which details the failed business exploits of his forebears. Joyce makes petulant and impulsive decisions, like going off to study medicine in Paris for no good reason and without a penny to his name. Consequently, he mooches money off everyone and then rather than spend it on his stated need, he spends it on living high on the hog until it runs out and he's kicked out of yet another boarding house.

He seduces and lives with Nora Barnacle, who turns out to be his lifelong partner and the real hero of the story in my opinion for what she put up with. Eventually they did get married, but why she stuck with a man like that I cannot imagine and the author of this novel, perhaps wisely, doesn't try to understand either. He doesn't even address the paradox. This is a judgment-free biography!

The story goes on to discuss Joyce's health, notably his recurring problems with his eyesight, and finally his work which he eventually got around to writing. We also learn of Joyce's two children, Giorgio, who died as recently as 1976, and sadly, of his daughter Lucia, who was a dancer and later in life suffered from schizophrenia, but she outlived all of them, dying in 1982 still in an institution - the very one that Joyce himself did not want her staying at 'among the English'!

So not a happy life for James Joyce at all, but he had his moments and was fortunately taken care of by a strong and inexplicably devoted woman. I recommend this as a worthy read for anyone interested in Joyce.


Rat Queens Vol. 3 Demons by Kurtis J Wiebe, Tess Fowler, Tamra Bonvillain


Rating: WORTHY!

This is the last of these that I had not yet reviewed. It was slightly odd, reading them out of order, but it really didn't spoil my experience because I really loved these characters and this series. I look forward to the next one! Tess Fowler took over the art work when Stjepan Šejić stepped down due to ill-health. She had illustrated a special issue introducing transgender Orc warrior Braga and stayed on for this volume which brings together individual issues 11 - 15 and also includes the Braga story as an appendix.

This story was mostly about Hannah the mage, who it turns out got her magic in a somewhat unorthodox way, and now it seems the tab has come due. The four Rat Queens (Braga is not yet with them) return to Mage University so that lingering business can be taken care of, and they find all is not well. Dee hooks up with her brother whom she hasn't seen in quite a while. Betty the Halfling befriends a dragon, and Hannah confronts her past about which there are conflicting stories. Violet the dwarf is about the only one who has a quiet story.

The art and coloring were great, and it was nice to get some back story on at least one of these Rat Queens. Hannah not only has Mage issues, she also has family drama going on. I really liked this one and consider it a real contender for my favorite of the series, but I think I shall have to read them all again before I decide. I recommend this volume, and this series.


Rat Queens Vol 4 by Kurtis J Weibe, Owen Gieni


Rating: WORTHY!

I've been following this series, but somehow I missed volume three (newsflash - not any more!). I love it. I loved this volume. This one is about the adventures of Betty the smidge, Delilah the human witch, Hannah the elf, and Violet the dwarf teaming up with Braga the transgender Orc to find work again after a brief layoff. Vi is still not sporting her beard, and her brother, perhaps concerned about her shaving habits, has suddenly started turning up with his own team - aimed at mimicking hers. He has someone teleport him to the site of the Rat Queens' proposed work, so he can take some of the credit for it and claim some of the reward. This does not please Vi at all.

This series has been plagued by issues with the artist - not the artwork, but the artist. Original artist Roc Upchurch was arrested on charges of domestic violence in late 2014, so Stjepan Šejić came in to replace him, but he left in mid-2015 for health reasons. Tess Fowler took over and then she left (due to creative differences, apparently) which led to a hiatus in early 2016. In late 2016, Owen Gieni was brought on board for this volume 4 aka 'High Fantasies'. Rat Queens can also be found in web comic adventures.

As usual, this was a fun read and as usual, I recommend it.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger


Rating: WARTY!

I had to give up on this one. The story is of a newbie at a fashion magazine which has a spoiled bitch as a chief editor. The author actually is a Cornell graduate who for reasons which escape me actually did work at a fashion magazine, so I guess she knows of what she speaketh, but it was first person voice which is not my favorite by a long skirt, and it was fashion-obsessed (of course - I knew this going in!), and I have absolutely zero respect for models, fashion designers, and let's face it, the whole self-absorbed, mis-focused, self-obsessed, tragically shallow and utterly pointless fashion industry.

I've actually managed to enjoy some novels like this, and I don't recall being nauseated by the movie which I saw many fashion seasons ago (times four, one for each actual season here in the north), but this was simply too much, and when the insulting, trope, clichéd, gay fashion guy showed up at the end of chapter four, I said, "Check please, I'm outta here!"

It was way the hell too much, and this author should be ashamed of herself. I'm sorry to learn that she isn't, because she's written a sequel, I'm guessing because nothing else she's written is selling. I'm guessing the sequel won't cut it either, because she's just not fashionable any more, but I don't care if it does or it doesn't because I'm done with this author.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Interview by Manuele Fior, Anne-Lise Vernejoul


Rating: WORTHY!

Translated from the original Italian (L'intervista) by Jamie Richards, this graphic novel tells a strange story of an alien invasion - or maybe it doesn't? Maybe it's just a collective breakdown of society.

Set in the near future, it had a feel to it like Stephen Speilberg's Close Encounters of the third Kind but without the embarrassingly juvenile effects. This was especially highlighted by a a parallel encounter with oddity at a railroad crossing at the start of the story, but rest assured this is much more subtle and a much deeper story than that ever could have hoped to be.

I loved the artwork. The book was gorgeously and richly illustrated in a soft, dark, gray scale palette, and I adored the main female character Dora. Both she and the main male character Raniero were not your usual comic book icons of masculinity and femininity and yet both achieved that end.

In an acknowledgement at the back, the author gives thanks to Anne-Lise Vernejoul for conceiving and creating special effects, but it makes no specification as to what they were or on which pages they appeared. I wondered if it was some of the night scenes, particularly the encounter between Raniero and Dora between pages 86 and 115. I don't know.

I can say this made for a wonderfully illustrated and entertaining story, if slightly confusing over the ending! I enjoyed reading it though and in the end, that's all that matters! Do note that it is a quite graphic graphic novel so be prepared!


Sunday, May 6, 2018

I Have the Right To by Chessy Prout, Jenn Abelson


Rating: WARTY!

On May 30, 2014, at the venerable St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, eighteen-year-old athlete Owen Labrie went with fifteen year old Chessy Prout - who had been previously warned by her older sister about this very same boy and advised to steer clear of him - to the mechanical room in the attic of the math and science building on campus. The consequence of this excursion was three misdemeanor convictions: statutory rape penetration of his under-age victim with hands, tongue, and penis, and also of a felony: using a computer to lure a minor for sex. He was was acquitted on three counts of felony sexual assault, apparently because their age difference was less than four years, but on his conviction on the other offenses, he was sentenced to a year in jail, five years of probation, and he was required to register as a sex offender for life.

These are the legally established facts since that night. The accounts of each party in the events naturally differ, but that night and its aftermath is the subject of this book. Note that my review here is not of that night or of what happened, or of either party, although I do believe the author's account, not the defendant's except in where it coincides with the author's.

There are a paltry and pitiful handful of women who have concocted stories of assault, but they are negligible, especially when compared with the massive number of women who are assaulted in one way or another, but who fail to step forward for whatever reasons of their own. So this review is only of the book which describes these events. Not the events themselves.

The Goodreads blurb of the book begins, unsurprisingly, by saying, "A young survivor tells her searing, visceral story of sexual assault, justice, and healing in this gutwrenching [sic] memoir." but I beg to disagree. There is no searing. There is no gut hyphen wrenching. There are over 360 pages of which the first eighty-some is pure fluff and irrelevant to what happened except in that it reveals what a sheltered and privileged existence the author led prior to returning to the US from Japan where she grew up.

In those 360+ pages I am not counting the prologue or the introduction; I never read those things. I assume the fluff is due to the publisher-assigned co-writer, Jenn Abelson of whom I've never heard. She's a newspaper reporter. From my reading of this, I was forced to conclude that those who can, write, while those who can't, co-write, and by co-writing, I mean add upholstery wherever they can. In my opinion, this was a serious mistake in this book.

The blurb repeatedly mentions sexual assault, but from the description given post page ninety, this was not assault; it was out-and-out rape. Why did the publisher's blurb writer not have the guts to describe it as it is? Perhaps because there was no conviction on the charge of rape? The victim (or survivor, but I do not play with words when it comes to something as serious as this) uses the word rape and that's what I will use. The problem is that the book itself is larded with so much fluff and stuffing that it diminishes what was a horrible attack on a naïve and culturally defenseless girl who quite simply did not know how to handle what happened to her and got precious little help.

I get that this was a series of confusing events and that she had nothing by which to get a handle on them, but in hindsight which was how this book was written, I think a little more hard-writing and a lot less "purdying-up" would have served the author - the real author - far better than what we got. She should not have been playing second-violin in her own story, and I find it as surprising as it is inexcusable that a professional journalist pussy-footed around so much.

The victim's worst enemy after the rape was herself, because she maintained a pleasant, jokey, even flirtatious relationship with her rapist for several days, exchanging humorous and polite texts before wising-up and ceasing contact with him. This is how thoroughly confused she was. An assault like this will do that and worse to a person, and sometimes juries simply don't get that, especially if they've never had anything like this happen to them - and the defense team, rest assured, will try to have dismissed any potential juror who has.

The author's sister was about the only one who seemed to treat the rape as what it was, and literally punched the guy. I'd like to read her story! As far as the author was concerned, her writing (or Jenn not-so-Abelson's writing) made it feel like this whole thing was just one more relatively minor event between finals and a pep rally.

Contrary to what the blurb implied, it was virtually robbed of any real impact because of the way it was written. And contradictory elements in it did not help. At one point, in the same paragraph, the author (one of them) bemoans being an anonymous victim (which given that she's a minor is required by law) and then a sentence or two later, rails at being outed on an Internet message board! She cannot have it both ways. As it was, she outed herself later to commendably speak up about sexual assault.

In another similar contradiction, she makes a big deal about praying to her god at one point, something which is a proven waste of time since this god did nothing whatsoever to help her, and then later rails at a rabbi for forgiving her attacker! Excuse me, isn't the author purportedly a Christian: an adherent of a teaching that explicitly instructs that we turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and give our shirt? No Christians actually do that in reality because they're hypocrites, but this means that strictly speaking, according to her religion she should have forgiven her attacker too, and let this go. Let me make it clear that I do NOT advocate that at all. She did the right thing - eventually - by pursuing it through legal channels, but she cannot then rail at the rabbi or claim to be a true Christian.

The decision to let her go back to the school after these events was in my opinion ill-advised, and although I did not read on (I quit this book after chapter fourteen, around page 155), I do know it was doomed to failure because in that kind of culture, all that happens is that she becomes victimized even more. People were already dissing her, calling her foul names, and trying to trivialize what had happened. People whine about an athlete's life being ruined without stopping to think for a minute how much more the girl's life has been taken apart at the seams and more.

In this age of #MeToo, I live in hopes that this cluelessness about rape and sexual assault is changing, but the tendency in the past has been to favor the male version of the story rather than the female. This is par for the course in these situations, especially if the male in question has some sort of celebratory status, such as in the case where he is on a sports team, and especially if it's a successful sports team. And it's not just guys. I've seen cases where women have come down in support of the guy rather than the victim of an assault. More young girls need to be educated on this topic - seriously educated and quickly educated, and they need to be encouraged to come forward, because every time a guy gets away with this behavior, he's thereby encouraged to repeat it.

But the end of this attitude is the hope. The reality in this case is that I cannot recommend this book not because of the story it tells, but because of the ill-advised way in which it's told. It's so poorly-written and it constantly highlights what a privileged existence Chessy Prout led, which contrasts sharply with her convicted attacker who was far less privileged so I understand. Instead, it should have focused tightly on what happened, and investigated a real possibility, if this is to be judged by other such tragedies, that there might be a sorry litany of similar assaults when the truth comes out.

The book should have begun with the assault and then went on to discussing how often these thing happen on campuses like this one, and what could be done to prevent them. The New York Times has an article (or did at the time I posted this) about serious sexual misconduct at this same school. Maybe the second half of the book did investigate, but I lost all faith in it. After plowing gamely through the rich upholstery of the first half, I had zero interest in reading on and for that I apologize to the author. None of this was her fault.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

In Clothes Called Fat by Myoko Anno


Rating: WORTHY!

Author Myoko Anno is married to director Hideaki Anno of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame. This story was first published as a serial in Shukan Josei (主観 女性 women's matters), Japan's first magazine aimed at mature women. The story was published as a manga in 1997. I don't normally go for books that depict weak women, but this one was compelling because it was so very real in its story.

Society, it does not matter whether it is western or eastern, is quite obviously intent upon treating women like cars. If the vehicle is not new and sexy, it's really not worth anything, so women are raised by society to understand that they really are worthless if they are not young, beautiful, slim, readily available, willing, and compliant. A woman can't be too willing otherwise she's a slut. She can't behave like a man otherwise she's a lesbian slut. On the other hand, men can never be sluts no matter how willing they are. Those are the rules society has imposed upon women from birth, and one consequence of that is women like Noko.

Noko Hanazawa is like every other middle class Japanese woman: she wants a respectable job, she wants to perform well in the job, she wants a happy love life (and note this is a very graphic novel!). Noko seems to have all of this, but her success hides a diseased mind which constantly struggles with her body image. She binge-eats to cover emotional stress, and constantly berates herself for being fat, despite having an apparently loving boyfriend who has dated her for many years.

As depicted in the illustrations, Noko isn't really fat. Maybe she has a few extra pounds but she doesn't look bad except in the tightly-focused and highly-critical lens of societal pressure. The biggest problem with this novel I feel, is that Noko's 1mage isn't helped by the rather inconsistent artwork, and by some portions of the story feeling more fantasy than reality, so paradoxically, it's quite hard to get a good idea of what Noko looks like despite this being a graphic novel! Or more accurately, despite it being a manga, since it reads backwards, which I found rather less than usually irritating in this case for reasons I cannot define! It occurred to me more than once that perhaps Noko is not a reliable narrator and perhaps she isn't being honest about everything that happens to her.

As each chapter rolls by, we realize that we are reading an onion, with each new layer peeling back to reveal underneath it a glistening, slightly sticky, white vein that seems to pulse with scarcely understood animation, and which may well bring tears to your eyes. Noko's best friend at work secretly conspires to undermine her both professionally and socially, even while promoting their friendship. She's secretly seeing Noko's boyfriend, but not because she wants him. Instead she seems to want to punish him for choosing Noko over her, and consequently takes the role of Dom to his submissive.

Noko lives only for Saito, the boyfriend, and at first the relationship seems loyal, loving and healthy, but as we continue to read about it and more layers are peeled back for us, it reveals itself to be as diseased as everything else in Noko's life. Saito wants only sex, it seems, and it also seems that he seeks to punish himself for wanting Noko.

The novel feels claustrophobic and repetitive, and I think this does an admirable job of depicting Noko's state of mind as she binges and purges, and pays for expensive diet plans which in real life almost never work, and neither does it here. The only diet plan that works is eat healthily and exercise, and hold a realistic and accepting view of your body. Not everyone can be a runway model and I am personally glad of it because runways models are ridiculous. They are broken toys; dolls for men to dress up. The problem is that giving good advice doesn't work in cases like Noko's because it's not a matter of lack of willpower or laziness. It's not stupidity or simply not caring; it's a medical problem and can only be properly aided with competent and qualified medical care.

And that's the problem in a nutshell. No one seems to want to help Noko, not even Noko herself, and so the story comes to an unsatisfactory, if realistic close. There's no Disney ending here; it's more like an Infinity Wars ending. In this it is perhaps most realistic of all because people with eating disorders are like those with a drug problem: they're never really cured and it's a long, hard climb back from those depths. It's a constant and ongoing fight, and the battleground is the cold light of each new day and every long. lonely night. I recommend this book for a great story, if a slightly depressing one!


Friday, May 4, 2018

My Pretty Vampire by Katie Skelly


Rating: WARTY!

This was a waste of my time. There is no story here, just female nudity and random bloodletting. The inexplicably named Clover isn't in such. She's a vampire who demands blood. Her brother kept her confined for several years in order to protect her and humanity both, but Clover is hardly the sharpest canine in the dentition.

She breaks out and seeks fresh human blood. No excuse is given for why she simply doesn't drink her brother dry. She clearly has no morals, yet for reasons unknown, she leaves the man who has imprisoned her for years, untouched, and picks-off assorted, random innocent people she encounters. She's too stupid to know she must get out of the sunlight until she starts broiling herself. She's not remotely likable, and the ending makes no sense at all mostly because it's not really an ending in any meaningful sense. Story? What story? Art? What art? At least it was short.

Comic book writer Jaime Hernandez recommends this. I have no idea who he is so you'll have to remind me never to read anything by him if he thinks this is so great. He either hasn't read it and therefore is completely clueless, or he's just completely clueless. I don't get why idiot publishers think a recommendation by a writer most people have never heard of somehow carries any weight. I honestly do not give a damn what other writers think, even if they're writers I like. I want to make up my own mind, and I did. I certainly cannot recommend this waste of time.


Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, Hope Larson


Rating: WARTY!

This is my third attempt at getting into Madeleine L'Engle's work and I finally realized the problem: it's a Newbery award winner which more than adequately explains why I can't stand it. Why I even imagined continuing after I tried the actual novel in May of 2015 and did not like it, is a mystery, but I saw the movie recently and did not like that, and now even a graphic novel gets the thumbs down.

Hope Larson's adaptation I suppose is not bad, but her artwork leaves a heck of a lot to be desired. The real problem though, is the original story which tries so hard to be cute and ends up being a nonsensical pile of centaur crap. Or is it flying horseshit? I'm not sure there's any real difference. There's no point in going on about this because I already covered it in the original review, so I'll say this did not work for me but at least I made it all the way through! I cannot recommend it though. Just the opposite. It's a great pity that this didn't end with Tesseract One.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Hexed by Michael Alan Nelson, Emma Ríos, Cris Peter


Rating: WORTHY!

This was an awesome graphic novel written beautifully by Nelson, drawn gorgeously by Ríos, and colored richly by Peter.

Luci Jennifer Inacio das Neves, or Lucifer for short(?!), is no ordinary thief. She steals magical artifacts which often have dangerous magical protections. Unfortunately, the job she turned before immediately leaving town is coming back to bite her in the form of Dietrich, who insists that since she skipped out on him, she owes him and will steal something for him as well as introduce him to The Harlot. Or else.

Dietrich aims to become number one in the magical underworld, which makes him number two right now, and he behaves like it towards Luci. After he threatens her employer Val Brisendine, a vulnerable art dealer, she feels like she has no choice but to go along with his plan even as she plots to get out permanently from under his thumb.

The stakes grow higher and Luci dives deeper, and it's starting to look like maybe she can't fight her way through this. Or can she? I ain't tellin'! But I do promise you this is an awesome novel and well worth the time to read it if you're into magical fantasy work at all.

I knew as I was reading this that I would welcome a sequel and it looks like I'm in luck, because the author appears to have written such a thing in at least two parts: Hexed: The Harlot & The Thief! Unfortunately that has a different illustrator: Dan Mora. I'm not a big fan of male illustrators' habit of hypersexualizing characters, but I may still take a look at this in the hope that Dan Mora is not focused on physical. Don't go searching for this series on Boom! Studios's site though: their sad search engine can't find it even though I know for a fact that it's on there! Look elsewhere for information about it or do a site search from outside of the actual website.


She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton, Alexandra Boiger


Rating: WARTY!

This is a short and essentially meaningless book aimed at young children. It purportedly champions women who were sold short, but persisted and became famous for something other than overcoming obstacles. Written by Chelsea Clinton (yes, that Chelsea Clinton!) and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger since Clinton can only draw a crowd and big bucks, it features a scant paragraph about each of the following: Virginia Apgar, Nellie Bly, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Claudette Colvin, Florence Griffith Joyner, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Sally Ride, Sonia Sotomayor, Maria Tallchief, Harriet Tubman, and Oprah Winfrey.

Chelsea Clinton and Penguin Random House were sued by Christopher Kimberley for copyright infringement. His assertion is that they 'cashed in on his hard work'. Last I heard Clinton's team of lawyers filed to dismiss the suit. I'm no lawyer and even if I were, my opinion would be irrelevant, but it seems to me that a suit like this particular one has little standing especially when launched against a millionaire celebrity.

As for the book, it became yet another celebrity best-seller, pushing out lesser-known writers once again. Big Publishing™ lavishes big bucks on big celebrities whilst turning down good books by unknowns. This is why I will never publish with Big Publishing. Every time one of us sells out to them, we walk all over others like us.

I hate for books to do well not because of their content, but because of their author, and in this case this is exactly what's happened because there really is very little content. The author is earning a six-figure sum on the backs of those who have gone before her, and if she had made an effort to put some content into the book, that would be one thing, but for someone who has grown up in a very privileged existence to then climb on the backs of those who were far less privileged and milk their hard work for tens of thousands of dollars is a bit much.

Actually, it's a lot much, and I cannot recommend this one or its sequel, wherein the author recognizes that while the USA isn't the only country in the world, it is the most important (by granting it the first publishing), and also on par with all other nations put together (they merit only one book of equivalent size). This book is far more about illustration than it is about illumination, so despite its superifcial good intentions, I really can't recommend it, and I have to wonder where all that money is going from the sales of the book. It's not like the author is exactly short of cash, but maybe it'll help pay-off that five million dollar mortgage, huh?


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Where is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz


Rating: WORTHY!

Talking of stimulating a child's mind, which I was in my last few reviews as it happens, here's another fun book that's aimed at very young children, which can do just that. It also teaches about parts of the body such as eyes, feet, hands, and of course, navel gazing! Each page asks a simple question and on the color illustration lies a flap that can be lifted and which will, I promise you, answer the question! The cute pictures of the children are wonderfully diverse, so no child will feel left out. I thought this was fun and appropriate for young children and I recommend it.


Little Owl's Night by Divya Srinivasan


Rating: WORTHY!

This is a simple story, simply, but cutely illustrated in color, of the very charming little owl who starts the night flying around the countryside and greeting fellow animals as little owls are wont to do. It was a sweet and a speedy read for sending a child off to noddy-land, perhaps with dreams of themselves flying around the forest. There's no better way to put a child down for the night than by reading (or just telling) them a story which may in turn give them fun, imaginative, and sweet dreams, and this one is a worthy read. There's no better way to stimulate a child's imagination than to read to them, and no better thing you can do for a child's mind than to make it think outside the box.