Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: If You Could Be Mine

If You Could Be Mine If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sahar and Nasrin are teenage girls living in Tehran, Iran and they are in love. As homosexuality is more than just a sin in Iran, it is a crime punishable by death, the girls have to keep their love secret. When Nasrin’s parents arrange a marriage for her with a young doctor named Reza, Sahar considers going to extremes so that she can be with Nasrin instead.
This story shines a light on a part of the LGBT experience that many Americans don’t even think about. Here, there is discrimination, some of which can leads to violence, but there isn’t an automatic death sentence as there is in Iran. Aside from the fear of being caught by parents and police, Sahar is dealing with the confusion of a broken heart. Sahar is forced to reevaluate her relationship with Nasrin and decide to what lengths she is willing to go to keep Nasrin in her life. If you’re interested in a YA romance that’s a little outside the norm, then this is a really good choice. I loved so many of the supporting characters in this story and would like to read more about Sahar and her life.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Review: Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In true Vonnegut fashion, this is a weird little book. It includes a fake religion known as Bokononism and a scientist who develops a means to destroy the entire world. No big deal though, since he didn’t tell anyone about it before he died, right? The narrator is working on a book about the day the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima, and interviews those who knew Felix Hoenikker, one of the scientists who designed the bomb. In his investigation, he finds out that Hoenikker had also been working on something purely theoretical called ice-nine­ which could turn water into ice immediately and had a melting point of well over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Thing is, he succeeded in creating it and now his three children each have a piece of ice-nine.

All throughout the book, the narrator (who identifies himself as Jonah in the first chapter, and then his name is not mentioned again by him or anyone else throughout the book) provides quotes and insights from The Books of Bokonon, the holy texts of Bokononism. It’s funny, because a few of these quotes I had encountered elsewhere over the years, never knowing this was their source. The book overall is funny, though darkly so, which is typical of Vonnegut’s writing. While this book predates his more famous Slaughterhouse-Five, the idea of wars being fought by children is touched on here as well.

As an avid Vonnegut fan, I really enjoyed this book. I’ve read most of his non-fiction and a large handful of his novels, and this is the first time I read Cat’s Cradle. It is clearly not as strong as his later fiction, yet the dark humor and just plain weirdness of the story and of Bokononism still make me enjoy this book as an odd little cautionary tale. Vonnegut has great insight into human nature and has this strange way of almost cheerfully predicting the worst outcomes of humanity. His narrative voice is always bemused, even when talking about terrible things. I love Kurt Vonnegut and anyone else who considers themselves a fan will want to read this book too. If you’re new to Vonnegut, and you enjoy dark humor and quirky stories, you should give Cat’s Cradle a try.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Review: Lonely Planet an Innocent Abroad

Lonely Planet an Innocent Abroad Lonely Planet an Innocent Abroad by Don George
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This collection of travel essays encompasses a broad spectrum of experiences. Some are stories of traveling abroad for the very first time. Others are tales of people who have traveled many times in the past but who have come upon a unique experience that made them grow. This is a great read for lovers of travelogues and anyone who wishes to dip their toes into the world of travel essays.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Review: The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a collection of non-fiction, only some of which has been previously published. Included in this volume are speeches and book reviews as well as introductions, articles, interviews, and essays. I had encountered only a few of these before, so most of the book was entirely new to me.

Some of the book introductions here were for books I’d never read or even heard of, but quickly added to my To Read list. A couple of the essays moved me to tears and many had me laughing out loud. If you are a fan of Neil Gaiman, you will love this book. I’m not sure it will have much of a wider appeal outside his fan base, but I think everyone can find something to enjoy in this collection. I also highly recommend listening to the audio book because Gaiman himself reads it and it adds an extra layer of intimacy to the essays when they are spoken in his voice.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Curies discovered radium in the late 19th Century. Although they noticed that the element had destructive properties, they and other scientists extolled its virtues to the degree that it was deemed perfectly safe. In the years before WWI, women in factories painted watch dials with radium. They used no protection because the factory bosses said it was perfectly safe. After all, it was used to kill cancer, so it must be healthy. So the young women painted their watch dials, keeping their paintbrushes to a point, by sucking them between their teeth. This was the standard practice for years and when women started exhibiting problems with their teeth, no one made the connection between their work with radium and their illnesses.
This book follows the fates of these women in a very approachable way, making their stories personal. Moore used diaries, court transcripts, and letters, among other sources to create a vivid picture of the women who fought against corporate irresponsibility and won. I enjoyed the intimate portrait of the women involved and their lives, and it is always wonderful and important to highlight forgotten parts of history such as this. However, I will warn the reader that some of the descriptions of the women’s physical afflictions are on the graphic side.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning

A Shadow Bright and Burning A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved, loved, loved this book. The audiobook is narrated by Fiona Hardingham who created distinct character voices and I can’t recommend enough reading the book in this format. This is the first in a Young Adult magical realism series called Kingdom on Fire. Several years ago a witch and magician opened a portal that allowed the Ancients, heinous otherworldly monsters, to enter our world. As punishment for this serious infraction, witches have been outlawed and magician’s rights have been seriously curtailed. Henrietta Howell is a young woman who fears that her magical affinity for fire means that she is a witch, but she is soon brought into the world of sorcery. She has much to learn to pass her Commendation, and about her own past.
Howell is a great character whose big heart makes her a hero, though her fears sometimes cause her to make poor choices. I love imperfect heroes like her. The supporting cast of characters bring humor and intrigue and animosity to the story in varying degrees. The second book in the series, A Poison Dark and Drowning, came out in September 2017 and I simply cannot wait to dig in.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Review: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 7: Damage Per Second

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 7: Damage Per Second Ms. Marvel, Vol. 7: Damage Per Second by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At this point in Kamala Khan’s story, she is still dealing with some of the consequences from the recent Civil War II event during which Bruno left for a fancy school in Wakanda and Kamala had a falling out with her hero Captain Marvel. This volume includes 6 issues, starting with a timely story about local elections and then going into the main story arc involving a seriously bad computer virus.

I’m a huge Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel fan and have been reading her books since day one. This book provides more of the quality Khan content we come to love and expect. We peek in on Bruno’s life in Wakanda and see Kamala fighting enemies on the home front. I would gladly recommend this to anyone from grade school students to adults. Read this book, read ‘em all. You won’t be disappointed.

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