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A Reader of Fictions: December 2011

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Friday, December 30, 2011

Hold On Hope - Guided by Voices

A Raisin in the Sun

Author: Lorraine Hansberry
Performers: L.A. Theatre Works Cast:
Judyann Elder, James Gleason, Noah Gray-Cabey, Corey Hawkins, Deidrie Henry,
Terrell Tilford, Rutina Wesley, and Mirron E. Willis
Duration: 1 hr, 19 mins
Publisher: L.A. Theatre Works

The Story:
It's really shameful how little I know about some classics in English literature. Prior to receiving this audiobook, I'm not sure whether I had ever even heard of A Raisin in the Sun. Since I had actual discs of this, I had to load it onto my iPod in three minute chunks as 'songs,' rather than as an audiobook. Unfortunately, this means that chunks kept coming on my shuffle, which I can tell you is really irritating, especially since one part begins with an alarm clock. Not cool. So, because of this, I was a bit biased against this play and assumed I would hate it.

Well, sometimes, I don't so much mind being wrong. This was a really good play, albeit a short one. It follows a brief period in the life of the Younger family of Chicago. They live in a small apartment, three generations all together. Even though all of them are working (or going to school) like they should be, money is tight.

However, there is a gleam of hope on the horizon, because an insurance check for $10,000 dollars is coming to Mama. Everyone in the family has their own idea of what should be done with the money. Mama wants to buy a house for everyone. Well, the down payment anyway. Beneatha wants money so she can attend medical school. Walter wants seed money for some money-making scheme with his drinking buddies.

The characters all seem very real in the way they interact and behave. I love the little squabbles they get into, which are so...family.

The Performance:
Everyone in the cast did a completely awesome job. I really liked all of their voices, and they all seemed well matched to the characters. Fun fact: Beneatha is actually voiced by the actress who plays Tara on True Blood.

I wasn't sure how it would be to listen to a play being acted out. I thought it might be confusing, especially since I did not have a copy of the play with me while I was listening. Plays are meant to be watched, so I thought I might lose out on some things. Well, I'm sure I did, and I would like to see it performed. However, it doesn't feel like I really missed out on anything enjoying the play this way.

Rating: 4.5/5

"But time still goes on
And through each life of misery
Everybody's got a hold on hope
It's the last thing that's holding me"

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Summertime - Glenn Miller

Five by Fitzgerald:
Classic Stories of the Jazz Age

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Narrators: Bronson Pinchot, Stephen R. Thorne
Duration: 5 hrs, 6 mins
Publisher: AudioGO

Stories:
This audiobook consists of five short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The included stories are: "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz," "Dalyrimple Goes Wrong" and "Head and Shoulders." My only previous experience of Fitzgerald, as is the case with most people I imagine, is The Great Gatsby which we read in high school. While I liked it more than I didn't, I mostly felt meh about it. These stories, though, I greatly enjoyed, particularly the fantastical ones.

In "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," the title character is staying with her cousin Marjorie, a bright, popular girl. Bernice, in contrast, is dull and disliked, despite her pretty face. Marjorie, sick of having to take this depressing girl with her everywhere, teachers her all the tricks to flirting with the boys and being popular. When Bernice does too well, Marjorie challenges her to follow through with her promise to bob her hair. Although I didn't like the characters and would not like this as a full-length novel, it made a fun, light short story about the 1920s.

I must confess that I have never managed to watch the movie version of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." I have tried twice (once on an airplane and once on Netflix watch instantly), but was too creeped out by the old man baby and too annoyed by his voice to keep going. Plus, kinda bored. The story is an interesting one, really making you consider how much it would suck to age backwards. My guess is that the movie made more of a romance out of it; I can tell you right now that the story is not romantic. Unfortunately, Pinchot chose to use pretty much the exact same creepy, obnoxious voice for the old man baby. Sigh.

The third story is both somewhat creepy (they do seem to be this way) and really fascinating. In "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz," Fitzgerald created a family blessed with impossible wealth, their forefather having discovered a mountain made out of a flawless diamond. The eerie part comes in with the lengths they have taken to keep the source of their wealth secret. Something about this was really incredibly interesting to me, although, now, it's hard to say why.

"Dalyrimple Goes Wrong" was definitely not my favorite story of the bunch. However, having reached the end of it, I was surprised and enchanted to find that Fitzgerald is capable of some delightful dark humor. Plus, the whole story renders a social commentary that I find quite amusing. Most, perhaps all, of his works are social commentary, but I think this one takes a slightly different bent.

This last may have been my favorite story. The main character, Horace, is a philosopher, with little interest in doing anything but read philosophical tomes. He even named his two chairs after philosophers (Berkeley and Hume). Then, thanks to a practical joke by a friend, a beautiful actress comes sweeping into his life. I don't want to spoil the humor of the story, so I'll stop there. Anyway, Horace is so delightfully written, fully the socially awkward, hyper intelligent personality I know so well. He reminds me of many dear friends.

Performance:
Only the final story is narrated by Stephen R. Thorne. I rather wonder why they didn't just have Pinchot finish it out. Despite finding this strange, I didn't find the narrator shift unpleasant. However, I do not approve of a change of format that took place along with the shift; namely, Pinchot announced the chapter numbers, as each story is divided into sections, and Thorne skipped these, merely reading his story as one long, unbroken tale. I find the latter approach untrue to what Fitzgerald wrote. The audiobook does still start a new chapter with each of these, though, to aid in navigation.

As much as I disliked Bronson Pinchot's narration on the last audiobook I finished, I was not much thrilled to see he was also a narrator for this one. Thankfully, I didn't find his voice distasteful here. I suppose, then, that much of the obnoxiousness, like the accent, of his voice must have been assumed for the role. I don't know why he thought that was a good idea. Anyway, I liked his work here and was almost sorry to see him go when it switched to the last story.

That said, Stephen R. Thorne did a good job as well. He played the socially awkward guy superbly well, and, given how many people I know of that type, this was very important to me.

I think I'll be searching out more Fitzgerald in the future. Thank goodness I didn't miss out on good things because of forced reading in high school.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Requiem for the Masses - The Association

Drum-Taps and Memoranda During the War

Author: Walt Whitman
Narrator: Bronson Pinchot
Duration: 6 hrs, 50 mins
Publisher: AudioGo

Story:
Okay, I know that neither of these are exactly possessed of a story, but I couldn't devise a better term and I like consistency. So. Memoranda During the War consists of Walt Whitman's experiences in the hospitals of the Union during the Civil War. Drum-Taps (which I humorously initially mistyped as Dum-Taps) is a collection of his war poems. Despite the title, Memoranda During the War comes first on the audiobook, which I think is stupid.

Memoranda During the War is interesting, assuming you are curious about the conditions of the Civil War. My one history course that spent a time focusing on that conflict would have benefited from these reminiscences perhaps more than from some of the books we did read (or were supposed to read). However, given its construction, which is just a series of short vignettes, it's a bit awkward to listen to. In audiobook form, it was hard to pick up on what exactly was going on. Instead, a sense of the blood, the guts, the pain and the terrible things that constantly happened just sort of washed over me. Maybe that's good, but I'm not sure. Certainly, I got an idea of the mood and the conditions, if not specific instances.

Drum-Taps I did not like at all. I suppose I should inform you that I am not a fan of poetry. Obviously, some poetry I do like, Shakespeare's sonnets (some of them) for example, but, mostly, I find prose to be much more beautiful. Anyway, I especially do not care for Whitman, or at least not when read by this guy. And, in audio format, poems are worse it seems. Poetry needs to be chewed on a little more, and listening to someone plow through poem after poem does not give time for appreciation. One definite failing of Whitman in this format is that he is one of those poets who almost always titles his poem whatever happens to be the first line, meaning that you have to hear that line twice. Many times. Ugh.

Even worse, there was a message saying this portion was over, but it was just a tease, because there were many more poems. fml.

Performance:
I have already intimated that I did not care for this narrator. My problem with Pinchot is primarily his accent. I don't care for the sound of his voice either, but that could just be me, so I won't harp on that. However, his accent is really distracting. He has a bit of a Jersey or New York sound to him (I don't know which). This means that 'er' tends to be come 'ah,' as in the case of mothah. I just can't take that seriously. Any time he dropped some serious dialect, I would start laughing, even though the content is sad.

Also, I looked at the two books herein contained just a little bit, trying to figure out what the format was, because, as I mentioned, it was a bit confusing to listen to without preparation. In the short time I spent doing so, I found two words he swapped for different ones (i. e. 'these' instead of 'those'). They didn't really make a change in content, but I do know you're not supposed to do that as a narrator.

Rating: 1/5

"Red was the color of his blood flowing thin
Pallid white was the color of his lifeless skin
Blue was the color of the morning sky
He saw looking up from the ground where he died"

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Existentialism on Prom Night - Straylight Run

Tina's Mouth

Author: Keshni Kashyap
Illustrator: Mari Araki
Pages: 250
ARC Acquired from: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
For her course on existentialist philosophy in her sophomore year of high school (she goes to the fanciest of schools), Tina is writing a diary to Jean-Jacques Rousseau about her thoughts regarding existentialism and trying to discover herself. Accompanying, the entries are her illustrations.

Review:
First of all, I feel the need to emphasize how much I wish I could have gone to a high school with classes specifically on existentialism and Russian literature. I went to a good high school, but not that good. Also, I am super envious of her project being to write a journal that the teacher has promised not to open and read. He must, though, right? Otherwise, I bet about half of the students who had chosen that project wrote nothing.

Anyway, I loved this. Tina was a really believable heroine, suffering through such angsty teen problems as friend breakups, boy drama and family crises. The bits on friendship were really hard-hitting and realistic, as I should know having had many such issues of my own.

Another main theme of the book is diversity and not making assumptions based on race. For example, Tina is Indian. Everyone keeps asking her stupid questions about things, particularly religion. Her crush throughout the book is even laboring under the delusion that she is a Buddhist (she's not; she's a atheist).

What really made this book pop, though, were the illustrations. I just loved them. They really do make the journal look like something a teen (a much more artistic one than I ever was or could have hoped to have been) would make. So much of her personality shines through the illustrations. I bet they look stellar in the actual book (as opposed to the e-galley).

Even though the story does not actually involve prom or prom night, I couldn't pass up the only song currently in my music library about existentialism. There may not be singing in the book, but, hey, you sing with a mouth right?

Rating: 3.5/5

"Sing me something soft,
Sad and delicate,
Or loud and out of key,
Sing me anything,
We're glad for what we've got,
Done with what we've lost
Our whole lives laid out right in front of us"

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Dancing in the Street - Martha Reeves & the Vandellas

for colored girls who have considered suicide - when the rainbow is enuf

Author: Ntozake Shange
Narrator: Thandie Newton
Duration: 1 hr, 59 mins
Publisher: Audible, Inc.

Story:
Written in 1975, for colored girls, is a choreopoem, which, apparently, means that it is a collection of poems performed as a play. Shange wrote this as a feminist, giving voice to the colored woman's experience. Obviously, I am not the primary audience for whom this play was intended. However, I still found parts of this extremely moving. Some aspects of experience run through womankind.

Usually, I skip introductions, prefaces, etc. This may be shameful, but I just want to get on to the story. However, in this case, I am so glad I didn't. For some reason, the most moving part of this story was the introduction, written for this later edition of the story by the author.

It tells the story of how the play came to be and of all of the different versions that have been put on that she has witnessed. She even mentioned, with pride, that a version was done by an all-white theatre in Kentucky, which focused on economic class rather than race. This displays and openness that I really appreciate.

Performance:
Thandie Newton is cast in the film version Tyler Perry is currently creating. This I learned from the super helpful introduction. Her narration really worked for me. Her voice is rather quiet and calm, yet can be full of emotion when needed.

Most of the story, she speaks in a steady, quiet tone. I think this conveyed a sense of the way that women, colored women, have submitted to terrible things in the past. Then, in the portions where she yelled or sang, a juxtaposition is created between the brightness of women standing up for themselves.

Despite her having done a great job, it's a bit weird listening to a play. Certain things just can't be the same, like when the actresses are supposed to be dancing to a song, like "Dancing in the Street."

Rating: 4/5

"All we need is music, sweet music,
There'll be music everywhere
There'll be swingin' swayin', and records playin,
Dancin' in the street"

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Be Be Your Love - Rachael Yamagata

The Age of Innocence

Author: Edith Wharton
Narrator: Barbara Caruso
Duration: 11 hrs, 45 mins
Publisher: Recorded Books

Story:
I came into this story with a lot of expectations. Basically, I expected it to be about the amorous affair between Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska, his wife's cousin. While it was about their love, it turned out not to be about adultery. Oh yeah, spoiler, sorry. I figure most people already know what this is about because they've seen the movie.

Actually, the movie, which I have not actually seen, is what gave me the wrong idea. The most famous image from the film is of Archer (Daniel Day Lewis) passionately kissing Madame Olenska's (Michelle Pfeiffer's) neck. Thus the assumption that they were getting busy. Anyway, false. Turns out the book is more of a slow-moving look at how society puts constraints on people such that they cannot be with the person they love.

Madame Olenska married a Russian man and turned out to be fabulously unhappy despite her resulting wealth. She ran away to New York, where she fell for her cousin's fiancee. Ellen hoped to obtain a divorce, but her family threatened her with shunning (not the religious kind, just the snooty kind) were she to do so. As a result, Archer could not be with her, even were he willing to leave May Welland and put up with the resulting scandal.

The ending of the book was a bit odd and unsatisfying, the latter of which was likely intended. In the last chapter, you suddenly zoom ahead to the future to see what became of Archer. At first, this didn't make sense to me, but why became evident. Unfortunately, I thought the end was lame. Oh well.

All in all, I'm glad to have gotten through this book, as it was definitely on my list of things to read. I may even try reading the physical book at some point, since I already owned a copy before I was given the audiobook. At any rate, I would rate this far better than the only other Frome novel I have read, Ethan Frome. This may be her most optimistic famous novel, as I believe The House of Mirth is anything but mirthful.

Performance:
Barbara Caruso did a pretty stellar job. Her voice is perfectly snobby, well fit to the New York uppercrust society of the 1910s. I wonder, though, whether the people of that time would sound British, as Caruso does. Not exactly a criticism so much as a curious concern.

She did not particularly differentiate the voices of characters, beyond those of Archer (essentially her voice but a shade deeper) and Madame Olenska (she had a uniquely husky tone). The other ladies and men all sounded the same. Her voice for men was hilarious; they all sound like fat, wealthy, pompous, cigar-smoking, brandy drinking old white men. Of course, most of them probably were.

Although I have complained of other narrators for not doing voices for the characters (although that was compounded with another issue), I didn't mind the way she did it. Her voice is full of inflection and made listening a pleasure, even if I couldn't tell Mr. Lefferts from Mr. Letterblair without the text's helpful clues in that direction (aka. Mr. Lefferts said).

My biggest complaint about this audiobook is that nowhere on the internet could I find a photo of the cover. For real. I don't have a scanner, so I am using the image of the book version I have of The Age of Innocence. Also, Recorded Books should improve their website, because it is completely absurd not to have the latest cover up.

Rating: 3/5

"Everybody's talking how I, can't, can't be your love
But I want, want, want to be your love
Want to be your love for real
Want to be your everything"

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Monday, December 26, 2011

The Rat - The Walkmen

The Death Cure
The Maze Runner, Book 3

Author: James Dashner
Pages: 324
Publisher: Delacorte Press

Dashner's series has been highly lauded by a lot of people. Many rate it just below The Hunger Games in action-packed awesome dystopia. Unfortunately, I have never liked it, as is evinced in my review for the second book. I kept hoping I would find something of serious value in it, which is why I read through to the end of the series. In fact, I liked the first book best of all of them.

Even now, having finished, I feel like so much was never explained or perhaps even though out about what was going on in this world. The ending struck me as incredibly lame and ineffective. There were so many hints about deeper things going on with WICKED and with the Flare. He has all of these dreams/memories that suggest all of this crazy, interesting, horrifying stuff, but nothing else is ever done with that. Perhaps he wanted to leave it open for more books later, but I don't think this was cool at all.

Anyway, I don't want to continue ranting about this, because, as I said, most people will really love this book and this series. However, if you're in the minority that was not impressed with the first book (or even two), you will not be thrilled with this one either. This series is more about action than explanation or really getting into a well-thought-out new universe.

Rating: .5/5

The song is in honor (?) of the Rat Man, and how he stupidly thought anyone would want to help him after the trials, even if they helped plan them in the first place.

"You've got a nerve to be asking a favor"

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bathwater - No Doubt

Dreaming of Mr. Darcy
Austen Addicts, Book 2

Author: Victoria Connelly
Pages: 351
ARC Acquired from: Sourcebooks Landmark via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Having lost her mother and a good friend in a short span of time, Kay is done with Hertfordshire, home of her favorite hero, Mr. Darcy. Now, everything's coming up Wentworth. She moves to Lyme Regis and purchases a lovely B&B, conveniently named after Wentworth. Even better, her first guests, who show up before she's even opened the place, are the main cast and crew for a new film adaptation of Persuasion, including the swoon-inducing Oli Wade Owens, playing Captain Wentworth. Unfortunately, heroes aren't always what you expect them to be.

Review:
Kay is a full-blown Austen fanatic. I have it pretty bad myself, thus the reading every spinoff I can get my hands on, but she's worse than me. Thus far, I have managed to avoid owning multiple copies of each of her books just because I love the different covers. Anyway, with this in common, along with a tendency to daydream and romantic expectations set way too high because of our dear Jane, I had every expectation to like Kay. And I did, initially. However, after a pretty short while, she pissed me right the hell off.

Why? Because she's so stupid. I get that she's swooning over Mr. Sexy Movie Star and all, but who would ever be interested in him after hearing about all of his conquests, and even having seen him leave someone's room in the morning. How can you convince yourself there's true love involved after that? She just jumps from one thing to another because she can't bear to be alone. Kay should see a shrink, because her behavior is not healthy.

Okay, rant over. As Jane Austen spinoffs go, I thought this was a pretty good one. It's light and fun with a nice ensemble of characters. I particularly liked Gemma, and Adam was a sweetheart. This makes for some good chick lit, whether you're a Jane Austen fan or not. If you aren't though, you will probably be tempted to give her a try afterwards though. Or not, what with all the discussion of how she messes you up for life because you want a man like that. (Speaking of, where is my Henry Tilney?) My main complaint about her writing is an overabundance of the word 'whilst.' This does not make you sound Austen-esque, and I really don't think Brits say that word constantly. Seriously, all the time.

Also, I would really love to watch the adaptation they made in the movie. There are two already that I have seen, but neither has quite captured the novel for me.

Rating: 3.5/5

"So why do we choose the boys that are naughty?
I don't fit in so why do you want me?
And I know I can't tame you...but I just keep trying"

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Hold On, Hold On - Neko Case

Every Other Day

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Pages: 336
ARC Acquired from: Egmont via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Every other day, Kali is human. The days in between, well, not so much. To be honest, she has no clue what she is. All she knows is that on those non-human days, she has an irresistible urge to kill anything paranormal that gets too close. She thinks of herself as a hunter, and a freak. Her father doesn't notice her odd habits, like coming in with blood-stained clothing. She lives her strange life quietly, trying to avoid all notice. When she starts a new school, she makes her first friend, which is awesome but also the start of some serious danger.

Review:
What a fun paranormal romp this was! Paranormal has been a bit overdone recently, although, to be honest, I still love it (when it's done creatively). Barnes has taken the paranormal craze and given it an alternative history twist, which I think is pretty fantastic. In this world, Darwin discovered a hydra when he went sailing on the Beagle, which let the paranormal cat out of the proverbial bag. All of this is humorously similar to the beginning of the divergence in Leviathan.

Kali is awesome. For one thing, she's one tough chick. Despite being rather closed off, she's not a total jerk to everyone either. She has a sense of humor and does the best she knows how to with the cards she's been dealt. Plus, she's part Indian. It's nice having heroines that come from different cultures.

Every Other Day would probably be a good book for boys too, if you could get them to look past the fact that it sounds like a chick book. The book is primarily composed of action scenes. Many hell hounds and zombies are slaughtered within its pages. As I mentioned, Kali's hardcore.

Plus, there's not really any romance. This is the point that separates the book from the bulk of YA fare aimed at girls, especially when it's paranormal. Although there is some suggested romance, nothing happens. I appreciated that, because I don't think there was anyone who worked for her just yet. Besides, it's nice to see a book step out of the standard formula and dare to be different.

The ending totally left a sequel a possibility, although I don't know that one is intended. It would be probably have to be targeted more to adults, but I, for one, would love to get more of Kali's story. Think about it, Jennifer Lynn Barnes!

Rating: 4/5

"The most tender place in my heart is for strangers
I know it's unkind, but my own blood is much too dangerous"

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Friday, December 23, 2011

We Work the Black Seam - Sting

How Green Was My Valley

Author: Richard Llewellyn
Narrator: Ralph Cosham
Duration: 16 hrs, 23 mins
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Story:
How Green Was My Valley is a man in his 60s looking back on his youth in a coal mining valley in Wales. The focus is on the romantic drama of his family, the difficulties of coal mining, the need for a union, education by the British and the way that industrialization is slowly poisoning the beautiful green valley. I did not much care for the story.

For the most part, the book seemed to be a Welsh, male-focused combination of North and South (which has the unions, depression and industrialization) and Little Women (which has the big family, the awful schoolmaster, and the complicated romantic entanglements, wherein siblings steal romantic prospects from one another).

Oh, one thing that's central to the book that I forgot to list previously: fighting. Huw, the narrator and youngest boy in a big family, is taught that phsyical violence is the right way to respond to and insult, verbal or otherwise. When he starts school and boys destroy his pencil box, he challenges them all to a fight. Unsurprisingly, they whup him. When he goes home, he is given money, told to keep fighting until he wins, and given boxing lessons. Later, he beats up his teacher, who was mean but still. Both his parents praise him for this behavior. Ummm, no.

Audiobook Performance:
Without a doubt, this was the worst audiobook to listen to thus far. The story lent itself well to the format, but the narration was incredibly awful. For one thing, the guy's voice was annoying and did not sound particularly Welsh. I had to do research in the beginning to figure out where the story was set.

What makes the narration so awful, though, is that his voice is incredibly monotonous. He speaks at the same speed and the same volume all the time. Nor does he supply different voices for the characters. Thus, this audiobook consists of almost 17 hours of unvaried tone. Painful!

Rating: .5/5

"This place has changed for good
Your economic theory said it would

It's hard for us to understand

We can't give up our jobs the way we should

Our blood has stained the coal

We tunneled deep inside the nation's soul

We matter more than pounds and pence

Your economic theory makes no sense"

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Giveaway: From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry

Last night, I finished From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant. I stayed up late to do so and it was well worth it, as you can see in the review.


Penguin has been kind enough to offer a giveaway copy to one of my blog's readers. The giveaway is open to the US and Canada. The rules are simple: fill out the following form by January 3rd at 5 PM. For an optional bonus entry, leave a blog post comment.

This giveaway is now closed. The winner is S.E. Andres!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fashion - Lady Gaga

From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant

Author: Alex Gilvarry
Pages: 302
Review Copy Acquired from: Viking

Brief Summary:
Boy Hernandez has been interested in women's fashion since he was a young boy. His dream was to move to New York and take part in fashion week, then selling his incredibly successful line to the best stores in the world. He moved from his home in the Philippines to New York City and, after five years of struggle, he achieved his dream. Unfortunately, his backer was a shady guy and Boy got taken to Guantanamo Bay under suspicion of being a terrorist.

Review:
If you're a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that this is a bit out of my normal range of reading. This is not just because I have been reading so much YA literature, but also because I generally try to avoid anything political. However, when I got an offer to review this book, I took it, since who doesn't love a free book. Besides, it's always (note: this is hyperbole) good to push your boundaries and leave your comfort zone. I am so glad I did.

From the first, I loved this book. Boy has such a clear strong voice and a wonderful sense of humor, despite the darkness of many sections of the story. The bulk of the book is his confession to his interrogators, alternating between his current thoughts at the time and his memories of events in roughly chronological order. There are also humorous footnotes here and there that contain a fashion magazine writer's notes on what Boy got wrong in his statement.

From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant is like Ugly Betty meets Little Brother. What makes everything in this book so painful, and not just because you're laughing so hard at the dark humor, is that it is believable. I can totally imagine our government mistakenly ruining an innocent man's life and never owning up to their errors.

This is a most excellent read that I recommend highly to those who fear our country may be turning into a dystopia, who love black comedy, or adore high fashion. Also, the Gilvarry is adorable:



"J'adore Vivienne, La Vie et Moi
Gucci, Fendi, et Prada. Valentino, Armani too.
Merde I love them Jimmy Choo"

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cinderella Undercover - Oingo Boingo

Cinder
The Lunar Chronicles, Book 1

Author: Marissa Meyer
Pages: 387
ARC Acquired from: Feiwel & Friends via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Linh Cinder is a cyborg, a fact which her stepmother and one of her stepsisters will not let her forget. Being a cyborg makes her a second-class citizen, worth nothing to anyone, except as a test subject in the ongoing search to find a cure for letumosis, a plague killing many Commonwealth citizens. As yet, Cinder has been spared this fate because she's worth more to her aunt using her skills as a mechanic. Cinder tries to avoid notice, but somehow catches Prince Kai's eye when he comes to her shop to have a robot fixed. Thus begin Cinder's adventures.

Review:
First of all, I need to state clearly for the record that this was a totally stellar read. It reminded me quite a bit of A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan, which I read and adored a couple months ago. The stories are not the same at all, but the general idea is. Both take a well-known fairy tale, put it into a futuristic setting, and make something completely new and original with it. Cinder is, in case you couldn't guess, a revisionist version of Cinderella.

I loved how Meyer weaved in the core elements of the fairy tale, but felt free to make some changes too. For example, Cinder was adopted into a family by Linh Garan, who promptly died, leaving her in the care of her stepmother, rather than him being her father as in the original story. One of her stepsisters is evil, but the other one is actually her best friend. She attends the ball where Kai is to choose his bride, despite having been ordered not to go. All of that clearly draws the correlation to the fairy tale.

Cinder is all about dramatic irony, or at least it was for me. The book ends with a big reveal. I'm not sure whether it was supposed to be a twist, or if the audience was supposed to be sitting there shaking the book all the way through because they knew what was going on and no one else did. I suspect it may be the latter, because what happened was so obvious. Really though, I don't think the knowledge of where the overall story was heading detracted from the book at all.

The setting here is completely amazing. Earth has apparently been through some serious turmoil. It now contains only six countries. The formation of these large powers occurred during the peace conference following World War IV. Ouch. Not to mention the fact that there are now folks living on the moon. What I am not sure of is whether the Lunars were initially human, although I suspect so.

Cinder is a powerful heroine. I love how much she is not run of the mill. She has expert skills as a mechanic, is over a quarter machine, and hardly cares about her appearance. She cares deeply about the few people (or androids) she's close to and will risk herself to protect them. Plus, having a crush on the prince does not turn her into a brainless puddle of goo, something that I see a lot when the heroine hangs out with the hero of her book.

Book two promises to be even better. I have no idea where the story will go from here and cannot wait to find out! Recommended to all fans of science fiction and fairy tales.

"Cinderella undercover
I say, better alive than dead

The war is coming, but there's nothing much that we can do"

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Kingdom of the Animals - Iron & Wine

Wolf Captured
Firekeeper Saga, Book 4

Author: Jane Lindskold
Pages: 709
Publisher: Tor

Brief Summary:
Firekeeper, Blind Seer and Derian have been captured by mysterious people. They are being sailed to some country they have never heard of, where they do not know the language. In this land, the people worship animals, particularly those of what Firekeeper calls the Royal kind. Animals and people live in harmony, all subscribing to the same religion of the elements. Having heard of Firekeeper, they want to know if she can interface more clearly with the deities.

Review:
If you've read my reviews for the previous books in the series, you probably know that I've been really struggling with these books. While the ideas have been interesting, the execution has been too long and lacking in enough action or drama to keep the pages turning swiftly. The books are slow, rather unsatisfying reads. In some ways, this one was better and in others worse.

First, the better. I really liked the change in setting, although I found the kidnapping scenario a bit far-fetched, given that the two countries had barely even heard of one another. How does word of such a specific nature get there and yet the Liglimom have no idea about Hawk Haven generally. Absurd!

Still, I loved getting to learn more about the animals. The religion they practiced was, to my agnostic brain, ridiculous, but still quite interesting. I found this book going a bit faster than the others, since my childhood love of animals spurred me on.

Unfortunately, the weak points of the other books are still here. Even though this book has romance, it failed to satisfy. Most worryingly is the love between wolf and human, which is now specifically referenced as being of a romantic variety. Yeah, unless they can work something out that is so not okay. Plus, Lindskold decided to curtail the one successful romance of the novel with a Whedon-esque no one can be happy moment.

I missed some of the other characters and hope the momentum gathered in some of this book will continue. However, I fear that I will have to suffer through more about Queen Valora of the Isles.

Note: I made it 250 pages into the next book, Wolf Hunting, and finally gave up on this series. It is not for me.

"Just where heaven calls
The kingdom of the animals
Scratching our heads
Where the wolf would go to lay"

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The Perseus Chronicles, Chapter 5

They Grow Up So Fast

Parents always comment on how speedily their little tykes grow out of being wee things. Personally, I'm really glad Percy's getting older fast (although not Robin Williams in Jack fast, because that would be bad like the movie). With age has come some amount of calmness. Believe it or not Percy actually took a nap on my lap yesterday. He slept! I could hardly believe it.


"I is now taller than this machine you constantly ignore me for. Victory!"

As you can see, Perseus is now taller than the height of a laptop on a laptop stand thing. He has also grown into his ears somewhat, which is good, but I do miss his comically large ears sometimes. Oh well, at least guests won't make Dumbo jokes anymore.


"Herro!"

One thing that's really been consistent through his many months of life with me, along with the energy, is that Percy loves to make eye contact. Thankfully, he no longer pounces each and every time he manages to catch your eye.


Notice how he immediately looked up when I stealthily tried to get his picture in a natural attitude. One of Percy's favorite things is to get underneath the curtains by the sliding glass door at the back of my townhouse and look out the window at all the things, by which I mostly mean the grass waving. I'll end with a picture where he's actually doing that and not staring at me, a difficult thing to capture.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cuckoo's Nest - Nickel Creek

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Author: Mark Twain
Narrator: Ian Lynch
Duration: 7 hrs, 12 mins
Publisher: Cherry Hill Publishing

Allow me to preface this review by informing my reader that I do not much care for southern accents. I do not find them appealing. I say this as a southern girl (with no accent...I'm Atlanta born and raised). This audiobook definitely plays up the southern-ness of the story. The narrator pulls out the accent, which, perfectly fitting to the story though it may be, annoys me greatly.

In middle school, I had to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which seemed to me at the time to be essentially a form of torture exacted by my teacher. I can say, gratefully, that this one was not so bad, although whether that is the audio format or the different, shorter book, it's hard to say.

The story did not hugely impress me, although it was interesting to learn the details of a book about which my only knowledge was drawn from Wishbone. True fact. As I was listening, I kept trying to remember what I knew about it and I just now realized that all I know is thanks to a spunky Jack Russell terrier. Man, I miss that show.

Anyway, the book was not too bad. Except for the blatant racism. The discussions of black people and of Injun Joe were certainly what would be expected of a man of Twain's time, but definitely are completely awful. Also, there was one scene in which Tom was talking about being a pirate in which he describes how pirates or robbers get ladies; his description is essentially of Stockholm Syndrome. Terrifying!!!

Lynch did, accent issues put aside, a really good job with the book. His voices were really unique, almost always allowing me to know who was speaking, even if I missed the part that said who was talking. Aunt Polly's voice definitely grated, even beyond the accent, but I thought his Tom definitely conveyed the excitement of a young, incorrigible boy.

The production of the audiobook seems to have been done pretty well. I liked the music, which had a sort of slouch-y, casual southern feel to it that fit perfectly. What was odd, though, was that the music seemed to occur at completely random intervals.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Spellbound - Doves

Spellbound
Spellbound, Book 1

Author: Cara Lynn Shultz
Pages: 324
ARC Acquired from: Harlequin Teen via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
After her mother's death, Emma was left with only her drunken step-father to take care of her. She put up with him, until the day he drove the car into a tree, leaving her with a nasty scar on her arm and even the vestiges of trust in him, and humanity, gone. Luckily, her wealthy Aunt Christine in New York was able to get her into the local coed private academy, so that she can finish her last two years of high school in style. All Emma wants is to avoid notice, but, of course, that's not likely given her strange connection to the hottest guy in school and that she has immediately attracted the hatred of the two most popular students. Add in some magical curses and she's in for a hell of a time.


Review:
Honestly, I really was not expecting much from Spellbound. I imagined it would be a simple teenage romance novel, complete with instalove and completely disgusting couple scenes. Thus, I was incredibly surprised to find that I was wrong (rare though that occurrence may be) and that Spellbound definitely stands above the average teen fare.

While the whole plot of Spellbound does involve what I have termed instalove, it is much better done than in a lot of YA. I don't want to spoiler anything, so I can't be too detailed as to why it makes sense in this case. Generally, though, despite the great attraction the two main characters feel to one another, they do try to fight it, in ways that are rather familiar to anyone who has gone through high school. So, while their romance is unrealistic, that's because this is fantasy and, accepting the fantastical plot, I think it has been well done.

What really made Spellbound an utter pleasure for me to read, though, was not the romance or the sexily disheveled hero of the piece. Shultz clearly loves pop culture and references it constantly. At pretty much every reference, I really just wanted to give her a high five for her sense of humor and her good choices. While I did not love everything she referenced, I think the references were well-woven and fit with the personality of the narrator.

I definitely ended up being quite impressed with this novel. Spellbound is ultimately just a flight of fancy, not a great literary work, but I highly recommend it to anyone looking for fun, romance and magic. There is also a pretty dang convincing horror scene in there, too. Recommended to people who liked The Eternal Ones (or who liked the idea and thought it could have been waaaay better).

"She keeps me here so spellbound
Her love pulls me near to stranger ground
I've lost my mind there
This dark magic mirror, spellbound"

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's a Hard Life - Queen

David Copperfield

Author: Charles Dickens
Narrator: Charlton Griffin
Duration: 38 hrs, 55 mins
Publisher: Audio Connoisseur

Once again, I listened to the audiobook of this classic. Thank goodness for that, as I do not know whether I would have made it through the novel had I been reading it, or, if I did, it would have taken a matter of months. It's funny how though listening to audiobooks is slower than reading it can, at times, be much faster.

The reason this would have been a really slow novel for me to read was the complete lack of plot. It is the autobiographical fictional biography of the title character. He begins with his childhood and goes into his old age. There is no narrative to speak of. What I expected was that it would be about how David Copperfield overcame the incredibly evil Uriah Heep, since the only thing I knew about the novel was that he was the bad guy, but that's not really how it was.

While the story wasn't bad, and I am glad that I managed to get through it just because of its fame, I definitely was never anywhere close to loving it. I never connected with the characters and saw a lot of the plot twists coming from a ways away. If interested in Dickens, I would recommend instead the rather less well-known Bleak House (and watching the miniseries...so good!).

There are a number of audiobook versions of this novel, I do believe. I would certainly recommend this one, although I have not listened to the others, for one determined to get through the classic novel David Copperfield. For one thing, you get to listen to fancy classical music at the beginning and conclusion of each of the 60 chapters. I love that, although I do regret that an already incredibly long book is made longer. The production seems to have been fairly good, although they did miss editing quite a bit of Griffin's breathing.

Griffin does a really good job as a narrator, as his pompous voice fits quite well to the lofty air of Dickens' writing. He also is remarkable at doing voices, not to Robin Williams' level, but his various characters were generally quite distinct. In fact, many of the voices did not much resemble his his regular voice, so much so that it was sometimes difficult to believe that the whole thing was recorded by this one man.

Unfortunately, some of the voices were rather creepy or annoying. Uriah Heep, of course, is intentionally given an irritating, writhing voice, but creepiest by far is the voice he uses for young Davy Copperfield. I will be haunted by this voice for a while.

"Yes it's a hard life
In a world that's filled with sorrow
There are people searching for love in ev'ry way
It's a long hard fight
But I'll always live for tomorrow"

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hair / Crazy in Love from Glee

Beauty Pop

Author: Kiyoko Arai
Volumes: 10
Publisher: Viz Media

Brief Summary:
Kiri has amazing hair cutting skills, learned from her father, one of the best stylists in Japan. Unfortunately, Kiri no longer gets joy from cutting hair, ever since she accidentally cut her mother's ear as a child. Still, she helps people out when they need it. In this way, she attracts the notice and rivalry of the self proclaimed genius stylist, Narumi, of her school's Scissors Project, a group of boys all determined to open a salon when they grow up.

Review:
Beauty Pop is a shoujo manga that focuses more on the subject matter than on romance. The early volumes are very similar to some other makeover manga, in that they don't have quite as much plot and each chapter centers around a different makeover. The later volumes involve more romance and more leveling up in the stylists' skills.

My favorite thing about this manga is that, despite being a reverse harem shoujo series , the heroine is not constantly concerned about having a boyfriend or focused on romance. Actually, the best word to describe Kiri might be apathetic. Her hairstyle is practical not pretty, as are her clothes. She's sarcastic and disinterested. In fact, when the romance comes into the series, it's the boys who suffer from desperation not the female character, which is rather nice to see.

The first time I read this, I remember being hugely disappointed by the way the romance turned out, as I had been rooting for an entirely different guy to win. This time through, prepared for the ending, I was more okay with it.

Although not one of my favorite series, Beauty Pop definitely has good features and is worth a read for a shoujo fan. Recommended to fans of The Knockout Makers, Ouran High School Host Club or My Heavenly Hockey Club.

"Give me a head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen"

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin

The Glass Swallow
Dragonfly, Book 2

Author: Julia Golding
Pages: 304
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Brief Summary:
In Tigral, only men can be glassmakers. This does not stop Rain from being the best stained glass designer in the country. Her father, the head of a glassmaking shop, allows her to design and pretends they are his so that they can get around the guild. Although he too hates the rules of the guild, he is afraid to challenge them. When orders come for his designer to travel to Magharna to design windows for the Master's summer palace, she accompanies her cousin (as his betrothed, but not for real) so that the charade can continue. No one planned, though, for their company to be beset by bandits and murdered (all but Rain) before they even reached the capital. All of a sudden, Rain finds herself caught up in the revolution of another country.

Review:
The Glass Swallow is a companion novel to Dragonfly, which I read, and loved, a couple years ago. The main characters from Dragonfly do make a brief appearance, but are, for the most part, quite distant. Nonetheless, this was quite a satisfying companion to that fantastic book.

What makes these books, and probably the others of Julia Golding that I have yet to read, so fantastic is how strong her heroines are. Rain lacks physical strength pretty much entirely. She is diminutive, especially in this new country, and certainly would stand no chance in a fight with most anyone. However, she is still most definitely a force to be reckoned with. Her intellect, talent and stubbornness are what make her shine and make people respect her.

Also super adorable was the romance between Peri and Rain. I've always been a sucker for the romance plot line where the couple didn't like each other at first. I wonder why. (cough...Pride and Prejudice...cough.) Plus, I really liked their dynamic together, the fact that being in love doesn't mean that they don't bicker and even have serious fights. Despite this being a fantasy, the romance seems much more realistic than those in so many young adult realistic fiction novels.

Fans of Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore should really consider giving Julia Golding's novels a try. Her books are a bit less dramatic perhaps, but I think the core of them is similar.

"So now you'd better stop and rebuild all your ruins,
For peace and trust can win the day despite of all your losing."

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Monday, December 5, 2011

You Really Got a Hold on Me - She & Him

Touch of Power
Healer, Book 1

Author: Maria V. Snyder
Pages: 392
ARC Acquired from: Mira via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Avry hides out and tries not to get too close to people, since, should anyone discover her secret, her death will likely be imminent. Why? Because she is a healer, able to take on the diseases and pains of others, so that they can be healthy again. Healers are blessed with speedier healing. Unfortunately, the tide of public opinion turned against those with healing magic after they were blamed for causing a plague that slept the kingdoms and killed many. They received even more hatred for not healing the people of the plague, not knowing that healers could not heal from the plague themselves. Even though she knows the danger, Avry cannot resist healing a young girl from her illness, which results in her getting caught and put in prison to be executed. Rescue comes in the form of a grumpy man named Kerrick, who wants her to heal a man she hates...and he has the plague.

Review:
Oh my goodness. You're going to need to let me gush right now. I just love, love, love this book. Having finished, I almost want to go back to the beginning and start over or read every book Snyder has ever written. Almost from the first pages, I have just devoured this story, living in fear of the ending coming too soon (which of course it did). Book two should be out now! Waiting will be so, so painful.

Okay, I will try to be a little bit more helpful in my review now and explain why I am such a fan girl about this book. Like the main character in the Inside Out series, the only other books I've read by Snyder thus far, Avry is an incredibly strong woman (she's 20, so a bit older) with some serious emotional scarring. Unlike her counterpart, though, Avry has a much more likable personality by nature. She is vibrant, incredibly bright and stubborn as anything (I wonder why I identify with her so much, haha).

Another consistent factor in Snyder's writing is that she is completely stellar at building up romantic tension. Without resorting to any sort of torrid descriptions of the physical reactions every time the hero does so much as touch the heroine, Snyder makes the reader swoon for the heroes as they live vicariously. Honestly. The romance sections are just so amazing, even though she doesn't go into serious detail, you feel and imagine everything.

I also love the fantasy world she created. I mean, princes + magic + dystopian background almost cannot go wrong. And she did it well. Her world feels really well thought out. The different kinds of magic, the way they interact, and the fact that science in its way remains important despite these higher powers completely blew me away with the awesome.

The drama has only just begun, and, as you already know, I will be first in line to read book two. I recommend this highly to fans of The Goose Girl, Kristin Cashore, or Snyder's other books.

"I don't like you
But I love you
Seems that I'm always
Thinking of you
Oh, oh, oh,
You treat me badly
I love you madly
You've really got a hold on me
(You really got a hold on me)
You really got a hold on me
(You really got a hold on me)"

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Boycott Immorality - Rachel Portman

The Printmaker's Daughter

Author: Katherine Govier
Pages: 494
ARC Acquired from: HarperPerennial via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
The painter, Hokusai, became famous by selling his prints to the Dutch, during the years where the were allowed some little access to Japan. He lived for what was then a remarkable 8 years, with his faithful daughter Oei at his side for most of this time. This is Oei's story, which tells of being a non-feminine woman in a time when nothing else was deemed acceptable, of being a better painter than most men, and of taking care of her aging father.

Review:
Drawn in by the pretty cover and the lure of Japan, I had little idea what to expect of this novel. Although the title suggests that the tale would be all about the relationship of a father and daughter, I did not really suspect that would be almost the entirety of what it was about. There is little romance. Mostly, this is a story of art and the family ties between these two.

Actually, given the romance there was, I am glad there was not more. The men Oei took up with were rather creepy, especially the first, a man of her father's years (and he was not young when she was born) seduced her when she was only fifteen. Not strange for that time period, but that does not make it any more okay to me now.

The sections that really came alive were those about the making of the art. The loving discussion of the colors and the lines were touching, even for one, like me, who does not have an artistic bone in her body when it comes to painting, drawing, etc. Oei is a very strong woman, although not when confronted with her father, and she has more skill than most artists, even perhaps her lauded father.

In library school, we discussed at one point the legitimacy of someone from outside a culture trying to write a book about that culture. I don't really know how I feel about that, but I think Govier has likely done a fantastic job. Her mass of research is evident from her Afterword, which goes into detail on why she wrote the novel and the historical basis for her suppositions.

I never really got swept away by this. Despite Oei's strength, I had trouble relating to her and her decisions. There are certainly good things here, but this was not a perfect choice for me.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm - Andrew Bird

1919
U.S.A. Trilogy, Book 2

Author: John Dos Passos
Narrator: David Drummond
Duration: 16 hrs, 12 mins
Publisher: Tantor Audio

What a seriously strange book this was. Having received a copy of this book to listen to, I was somewhat dismayed to discover that it was the second book in a series. I absolutely abhor reading or listening to things out of order. However, I decided to start in on it without attempting book one, figuring that if I liked what I was hearing, I could run out and find book one and come back to 1919. The fact that I am reviewing this, having not reviewed the first book in the series should be rather telling.

1919 has zero plot. This is by design, but that does not endear it any more to me. The book is told in various sections: headlines/jingles, stories about regular depressing Americans, autobiographical segments (called Camera Eye) and biographies of famous Americans. Although that mixture of elements sounded really intriguing to me, it came of ass just a confusing jumble, something that I suspect may have been worse in audio format, especially with the headlines.

None of the segments interested me at all, except for some of the stories of regular folk, although those tended not to keep me enthralled either. The problem was that every one of them will destroy themselves with bad decisions, as you discover in the forward by E. L. Doctorow. So, basically, even if I did like someone, it was inevitable that I would come to hate them because they would act like an idiot. Argh!

I will give the narrator his props, because I think he did a pretty good job with this confusing mess of a book. He happily sang the songs in the headline bits and did a pretty good job differentiating the sections. I think he did mispronounce some of the Italian though.

This definitely was not a book for me. In theory, it sounded interesting, but the execution of the different sections and the pointlessness of the main people's stories just wore me down. Maybe it would have been better had I read the first book.

"How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm
after they've seen Paris, Paris?"

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To Sir, with Love - Lulu

Aishiteruze Baby

Author: Yoko Maki
Volumes: 7
Publisher: VIZ Media

Brief Summary:
Kippei, a high school student, is a bit of a playboy without much ambition. Everything changes when his Aunt Miyako leaves her five year old daughter with his family, since she cannot take care of her for a while in the wake of her husband's death. Kippei is told that he will be responsible for Yuzuyu. At first, he resents this a little bit, but he quickly comes to care deeply for the little girl, who helps him grow as a person even more than he helps her.

Review:
Aishiteruze Baby is a pretty great shoujo series. For one thing, I really appreciate the fact that the main character is a male, because this is rare to see in shoujo series. He's not a perfect guy, but he definitely seems like a real person. Watching him evolve into a mature adult from the flirty guy with no thought of the future is quite touching.

Generally, I do not much care for stories about children, but even I must admit that Yuzu is often quite charming. What person has a heart hard enough to not feel bad for a five year old abandoned by her mother? And, of course, caring for Yuzu makes Kippei sensitive enough to be able to support a slightly bruised girl like Kokoro.

While mostly light-hearted, the story also takes on darker issues like child abuse and bullying. This is an utterly touching story about the importance of family and growing up.

Although this song is about a girl thanking her teacher, I think it captures better than any other the way that Yuzu will probably think about Kippei when she's older, even if he wasn't actually raising her until she was old enough for perfume. Then again, I doubt the teacher would have been teaching a student for that many years either.

"Those schoolgirl days, of telling tales and biting nails are gone,
But in my mind,
I know they will still live on and on,
But how do you thank someone, who has taken you from crayons to perfume?"

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Run Through the Jungle by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Red Flags:
A Novel of the Vietnam War


Author: Juris Jurjevics
Pages: 320
ARC Acquired from: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Erik Rider does his best to get away from the past, which is why he is not particularly eager to talk when Celeste Bennett comes to his door. She never met her father and is on a quest to understand something about his life and his death. To do so, she has been seeking the men who were stationed with him in Vietnam. This trail has lead her to Erik, who tells her his story, after a warning that it won't be pretty.

Review:
Red Flags hooked me in the opening and then quickly lost me again for quite a while. The premise of the girl wanting to learn about the father she never knew was compelling, particularly given Rider's hesitancy to speak. Knowing all the awful things that occur in any war, and the especially unique and terrible things that transpired in the Vietnam conflict, it set my mind spinning and prepared me for serious drama.

Instead, the novel is not propelled forward by any real plot or constant action. There is some action, of course, but there's also a lot of boredom. Soldiers spend a lot of time standing around or watching for attackers only to have none come. There were also some places where the story seemed to jump awkwardly, which could be due to Rider's own memory of the events. All of this combines to make Red Flags a better novel, I expect, but did not always make it incredibly readable.

What I really liked about Red Flags was that it focused on some elements of the war that I never previously learned much about. For one thing, I never knew about the Montagnards, the tribes in the highlands of Vietnam, and the way they were used by every side. Additionally, I knew quite a bit about the corruption of the South Vietnamese government, but the corruption within the ARVN was completely eye-opening. Some of the stuff they were doing was just...well, awful and dumb. Why would you help the enemy kill your side?

Red Flags is a slow burner, but really makes you think. While not my favorite Vietnam War book, this is a solid read with an interesting focus.

"Better run through the jungle,
Whoa, Don't look back to see."

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