Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: The Complete Phonogram

The Complete Phonogram The Complete Phonogram by Kieron Gillen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This comic book series is a love letter to Britpop of the 90s. Magic here draws power from music and dance and practitioners are called phonomancers. The first arc, Rue Brittannia, follows David Kohl who finds that someone is rewriting the past and his memories aren’t necessarily his memories anymore. Also, he apparently killed a goddess and that’s a bit of a problem. The next arc, The Singles Club, is a single night at a club with each issue focusing on the perspective of a different character. Finally, we have The Immaterial Girl, which gives Emily Aster back story and a serious identity crisis.
The timeline between the arcs, and indeed the individual issues is all over the place, but Gillen helpfully provided a guide at the back of the book. Also included are little one-shots that usually feature art by someone other than McKelvie and which fit in between stories and issues in the series. (Again, consult the timeline if needed.)
While I enjoyed the book, I also missed a lot because I didn’t know the names of about 80 % of the bands mentioned. Kieron Gillen has a Spotify playlist [https://play.spotify.com/user/missada...] for The Singles Club. (Actually all of Gillen’s playlists are worth a listen.) I also picked up some Long Blondes albums to listen to thanks to this series and the characters’ love for them. Aside from fleshing out my musical taste, the book often confused me, because I wasn’t fully sure what was happening. This has also been a problem for me when reading Gillen and McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine series. I think in both cases, there’s just so much happening on the page along with a lot of references I don’t get (because my musical taste was pretty bland back in the 90s, so that’s my fault. I have a lot of catching up to do.) Nonetheless, I liked the book and would gladly recommend it to fans of McKelvie and Gillen and fans of Britpop.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: The Martian

The Martian The Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Recently this came out as a movie starring Matt Damon as Mark Watney. Depsite my love for sci-fi, I haven’t seen the movie yet, so at the start of the book I had no clue at all whether or not Watney would survive. He’s stranded on Mars after a mission goes south and his whole crew thinks that he’s dead. A few months later a satellite sweep of the area reveals that he’s still alive and that’s when NASA starts planning a rescue mission.

The book was a lot of fun. Watney’s character is funny and easy to like, and his log entries are the highlight of the book. There has been some criticism that it’s a bit unbelievable that the whole world would basically stop to save just one dude stranded on Mars, and that’s fair. But I’m willing to overlook that because the joy of reading a book like this is in HOW he plans to survive and in HOW NASA plans to rescue him. One of the things I really enjoyed was the science. While manned missions to Mars are not possible yet, such technology is definitely in the process of being made. My parents got to watch Neil Armstrong’s footsteps on the Moon. Will I be watching as someone steps down onto Mars’ surface for the first time? If you enjoy science-fiction, you will enjoy this book. As for me, I’m going to watch the movie when I get home tonight.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review: The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The mystery of who killed Laura Palmer intrigued viewers during season one of Twin Peaks. Laura’s diary (as seen by Jennifer Lynch, David Lynch’s daughter) was published during the break before season two. The diary won’t tell you who killed her but it will expound on her relationship with Bob, and others in the seemingly quiet town of Twin Peaks.
The journal starts on her 12th birthday and ends only days before her murder. Jennifer Lynch did a great job of writing as differing age levels through the course of the diary. The insights into Laura’s psyche and history add quite a lot to what we learn from the TV series. I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone who hasn’t seen the show, but then this is specifically made for fans. I wonder how many viewers of the new series know about this book. I have a feeling they’d like it.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Review: The Facts of Life

The Facts of Life The Facts of Life by Paula Knight
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Facts of Life is a graphic memoir of Paula’s attempts to get pregnant and the miscarriages she suffers in that pursuit. The story is divided into three parts: her childhood, her struggle to become pregnant, and her decision not to try any more. While this sounds like a sad story (and parts of it definitely are), it is also a story of hope and healing.
While this is a very personal story, it is also one many can relate to. Polly struggles with whether or not she really wants to be a parent throughout much of the book and she often questions her motives for wanting children. After all, she grew up at a time when it was just *expected* that women would get married and have kids, so is her current desire for children really her own wishes or just falling in line with her childhood conditioning. I’m sure many people, whether they choose to become parents or not, have similar doubts and concerns rolling around in their minds.
Covering a topic that tends to only be discussed behind closed doors, this memoir does the hard work of normalizing difficulties in becoming pregnant, miscarriage, and the choice to not have children. I would recommend it to anyone who is currently struggling through these things or who enjoys heart-felt memoirs.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Review: Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Goble Johnson, Mary Jackson, and many others worked for NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), later called NASA, at Langley as computers. They worked in West Computing, the section for African-American computers; the White computers worked in East Computing. Both sets of women had their own hurdles to cross in the male-dominated agency, yet those in West Computing had additional barriers to contend with. This is their story.

By focusing on the lives of specific women, Shetterly easily avoids having written a “dry history book.” She brings the women’s stories to the forefront in order to highlight the various struggles and triumphs of all the women at Langley. Reading this book got me incredibly excited about science and math and space travel. I wanted to go back in time and tell college age me to pursue a degree in the sciences instead of liberal arts. (Not that I’m not happy being a librarian and your humble reviewer, but I just got REALLY EXCITED about science while reading Hidden Figures.) And that’s the point, right? By shining a light on the untold stories of these women, Shetterly is inspiring others to pursue careers in the sciences as well. And, really, there can be no better recommendation than that.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 3

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 3 Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 3 by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This concludes the “Nation Under Our Feet” arc in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ excellent Black Panther comic. After having suffered defeats from Incursions, Doom, and Namor, Wakanda is very fragile and two different factions are rebelling against King T’Challa. Now, his sister Shuri has returned and is taking her place as Queen once again, working with T’Challa to bring peace to their kingdom. The back matter in this volume includes excerpts from comics that show the various attacks Wakanda had suffered before the start of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run on Black Panther.

I’m a big fan of this version of Black Panther. The Dora Milaje here are warriors who want the best for the country but feel that T’Challa has mishandled things quite a bit. And they’re right. The history and culture of Wakanda are on full display in this series. With the revival of Shuri, we have an amazing woman and queen and her influence on T’Challa plays a fundamental role in this story. I am very excited to see where this story goes.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: Faithful

Faithful Faithful by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a horrific car accident, Shelby’s survivor’s guilt throws into into a tailspin of depression and self-harm. On a whim, she moves to New York with her drug dealer boyfriend and gets a job at a pet store. Things start to change for Shelby when she takes in a couple of rescue dogs and makes friends with a coworker.

The book starts off pretty depressing because that’s where Shelby is at that point of the story, but just as things improve for Shelby when the dogs come into her life, the book itself improved for me as well. The idea of a little French Bulldog named the General cracks me up and I hope to give my future pets similarly ridiculous names. Shelby’s life is rough and she frequently makes poor decisions, which served to make her more real for me. I felt as though I knew her, or a character very much like her before. The book is billed as magical realism but really there’s very little magic. Just a bit of talk of miracles performed by Helene, and the book never comes down one way or another whether or not the miracles are real. I liked that ambiguity. The book wasn’t my cup of tea on the whole, but I’d definitely give Alice Hoffman another try.

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