Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: Target Practice

Target Practice Target Practice by Mike Maihack
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

15-year-old Princess Cleopatra has little interest in her school lessons. She’d rather make slingshots and go exploring. While investigating a strange cave, she is accidentally catapulted into the future and surrounded by talking cats. Unable to return to her present, she is enrolled in the Yasiro Academy and told of the evil Xaius Octavian who is destroying planet after planet. Cleo is no fan of her classes, except combat training, and has to struggle with adjusting to a new world and finding her place in it.

Maihack’s artwork is simple and wonderful. The linework is expressive and the colors are perfect. He has also created a universe that basically looks like ‘what if the Ancient Egyptians lived in the distant future and were capable of casual flight between worlds.’ It’s awesome. The characters are diverse and it’s easy to sense the love that Maihack has for them. This is an all-ages comic that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys adventure stories, science fiction, or Ancient Egypt. If you love all three of those things, then you’re definitely going to want to check this out.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold

Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a modern retelling of Shakepeare’s The Tempest. In this version, the Prospero insert, Felix, is usurped in his position as creative head of the Makeshewig Festival (which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Stratford Festival). His Miranda died young due to illness, and after losing his job at Makeshewig, he settles into life in a glorified shack and plans his revenge against Tony and others. He starts teaching theatre at a nearby prison, and when he learns his enemies will be attending a performance, he throws his elaborate scheme into action.

I hadn’t read The Tempest, but I wanted to familiarize myself with the story before I started Hag-Seed, so I rented a version on DVD that starred Christopher Plummer as Prospero, and was recorded at Stratford Festival. (I chose this version because Plummer is always amazing, but Atwood mentioned in her acknowledgements a version with Helen Mirren as Prospera, so now I have to find that one too.) Anyway, Hag-Seed follows the story from Shakespeare’s play very well. I was dead curious to see how the revenge would play out and if it would cause any peripheral damage. Felix is a hard character to like, though I’m not sure we’re meant to like him. His need for revenge is so overwhelming that he seems to devolve into madness. Jury’s still out on whether or not he’s truly mad, to be honest. The other characters, Anne-Marie especially are great. I liked many of the inmates, though they often seemed to be stereotypes rather than fully-fledged characters in their own right. I would recommend Hag-Seed to Shakespeare nerds, of course, but also to those interested in theatre in prisons or theatre in general.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review: In the Unlikely Event

In the Unlikely Event In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if a plane crashed in your town? What if this happened three times in a three-month period one winter? In a story inspired by true events, Miri and her friends and fellow townsfolk witness these crashes and the trauma reverberates throughout the whole town. Miri is 15 and falling in love for the first time, Rusty is a single mother adamant that Miri never met her father, and Christina is in a relationship she keeps hidden from her family, fearing their disapproval. This is one of the few adult novels that Judy Blume has written, though given that the primary protagonist is a teenager, I can see young adult fans of Blume’s other books wanting to read this as well.

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ready Player One is a love letter to the 80s, especially the geeky side of 80s culture. In a near future dystopian setting, the world is falling to pieces in large part because most people have opted out. They spend most of their waking hours inside an interactive virtual reality simulation game known as the OASIS. The creator of The OASIS, James Halliday, was a game designer extraordinaire. He was also an agoraphobe who was completely obsessed with 80s culture, as that was the decade of his youth. Upon his death, he initiates a quest: Whosoever completes the quest and finds the Easter Egg he’s hidden in yhe OASIS inherits his entire fortune, including the OASIS. Naturally, a bunch of gamers join the quest and become dedicated gunters (a portmanteau of egg hunters). Another interested party is IOI, a corporation that controls much of the internet access, which would love the opportunity to monetize the OASIS which is currently free to access. (Though like many free apps today, there’s only so much you can do before you get caught up by in-app purchases.) Our main character is a gunter named Wade (known as Parzival within the OASIS). He searches for the egg with the help (sort of) of his friends Aech, Art3mis, Daito, and Shoto.
While the book is heavy on the nostalgia, it never feels overwhelmingly so. As a non-gamer, it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book at all that I didn’t know 90 % of the games mentioned. Those that were plot-relevant were described briefly to catch people like me up to speed without boring experienced gamers. I enjoyed the puzzle-solving aspect of the quest and can even imagine that I would have made an attempt as a gunter had I lived in this world. While not without its flaws, I really liked this book and would gladly recommend it to anyone.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Review: Cairo

Cairo Cairo by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a story of magical realism involving a disparate group of strangers brought together by a stolen hookah which is home to a jinn who is avoiding a magician/gangster who wants the box that the jinn is protecting. Perker’s art is in black and white and transports the reader to the streets of Cairo. I love Wilson’s writing from both Ms. Marvel and Alif the Unseen, and this is another example of her ability to humanize her characters in a way that makes the readers love them, flaws and all. I would recommend this to fans of Neil Gamain’s Sandman.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: A Damsel In Distress

A Damsel In Distress A Damsel In Distress by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

George is a music writer for several successful plays and Maud hops into his cab in Piccadilly to avoid seeing her brother who thinks she is back home in the country, rather than in London. George falls in love with Maud, but Maud is in love with an American she met in Wales last summer. All the while, her family wants her to marry Reggie who is love with his uncle’s secretary. This confusing set of circumstances all gets sorted out by the end in this comedy by Wodehouse. No one is better at poking fun at the upper classes while untangling a mass of miscommunication and chaos than Wodehouse is and I literally laughed out loud several times while reading this book.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lonely Evelyn befriends elderly Ninny who reminisces about the people she knew and loved in Whistle Stop, Alabama during the Depression. He stories are supplemented by excerpts from the Weems Weekly, a weekly newsletter written by Dot Weems of the Post Office in Whistle Stop, and by third-person narrative that allows the reader to see a bit more than Ninny may have been aware of in Whistle Stop. Ninny’s tales mostly follow the exploits of Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison. Idgie was a tomboy who loved practical jokes and telling tall tales. She helped people out whenever she could and loved Ruth with all her heart. Ruth and Idgie opened up the Whistle Stop Café after Ruth left her husband in Georgia. The two of them raised Ruth’s son Stump together and were well-loved by the entire town. Meanwhile in the present, Evelyn rises out of her depression through her friendship with Ninny.
I saw the movie 15-20 years ago and vaguely remember enjoying it, but very little else. And that’s good, because this story has a couple of mysteries and I was surprised by both. Who killed Frank Bennett? (I had this one narrowed down to three characters and turned out to be completely wrong. It was great.) Who is Railroad Bill, who throws canned food and goods from the train for the poor black folks in Troutville during the Depression? Troutville characters also play a large part in the book. Sipsey and her son Big George both cook at the café and the story follows Big George’s children as well, especially Artis Peavey.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s funny and heartfelt, and it’s clear how much love Flagg had for these characters. Since it’s been such a long time, I think I’ll rewatch the movie soon.

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