Archive: October 2018

Book Review: Zenobia by Morten Dürr & Lars Horneman (2018)

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

A powerful piece of activism.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through Edelweiss.)

One day, young Amina’s parents leave her home alone, ostensibly while they travel to the market. This is kind of a Big Deal because they haven’t had much to eat lately. But when they fail to return, Amina must summon the courage of Zenobia – a warrior woman and queen of the Palmyrene Empire, who once ruled over Syria and is now widely considered a national hero – to help her traverse her war-torn homeland and make it to safety.

Zenobia provides a window into the Syrian war and resulting refugee crisis through the eyes of a child. The result is deeply personal and moving. The narration is sparse and the illustrations, simple, sometimes rendered in just two tones of a single color. This allows Amina’s experiences take center stage.

The ending is rather jarring and deeply unsatisfying. I’ve been trying hard to shake the hollow feeling settling deep in my bones since finishing the book several hours ago. But perhaps that’s the point: there is no happy ending, at least not yet. And though I consider Zenobia a powerful piece of activism, it’s hard to imagine that it will soften hearts and change minds in this deeply divided and hateful political landscape.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2018-10-15

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

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Monday, October 15th, 2018

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Sunday, October 14th, 2018

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Saturday, October 13th, 2018

Book Review: The Book of Onions: Comics to Make You Cry Laughing and Cry Crying by Jake Thompson (2018)

Friday, October 12th, 2018

Embrace It, Jack

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley.)

This is not a cookbook, although a book of onion-based delicacies does sound amazing. Rather, The Book of Onions is a collection of strips from the webcomic Jake Likes Onions by by Jake Thompson. Drawn in black and white with a four-panel convention, Thompson’s comics often veer toward the absurd and bizarre, with a wickedly dark sense of humor. They’re a little reminiscent of The Far Side, but more obscene (mostly in a good way). The never did get me crying quite like a fat, juicy onion, but they were good for a chuckle or two, and some of the especially bleak ones just may haunt my nightmares. (Jack, I’m looking at you.)

If you don’t follow Jake on twitter, what are you waiting for?

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2018-10-11

Friday, October 12th, 2018

Twenty-One Little Ralphie Things

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

2012-10-03 - A lazy afternoon with the dogs - 0002

Dear Ralphie,

I know I’m a day late with this, but cut me some slack, okay? It’s been a pretty stressful week/month/year/decade around here. Mags is maybe-probably dying – or at least really struggling – and I have to deal with selling my house, packing up, and moving back to New York when I should be worrying over her 24/7. (Yup, right back where we started!) Anyway, if you think about it, it’s a tiny miracle that I was able to continue the tradition at all this year. I’m sure there are a million other things I oughta be doing right now.

Anyway, you’ve been on my mind lately. I’ve spent no small amount of time in the local auto shop’s waiting room, and the owners have two dachshunds that they bring to work with them! The more curious of the pair kept me company; I rubbed my clothes all over her to keep my doggos jealous and on their toes. It worked as planned with Rennie and Finnick, but Mags really couldn’t have cared less. She knows where she stands. (Right on top of me, if that is her wish.)

I miss you, bud, but I’m also glad you got to go first. These have not been happy times, and you got out while the getting was good. Lucky goose. I still miss you anyway. Shine a little light my way if you can, okay? I mean, assuming part of you is now a star. We could sure use it down here.

Love you. Wish this was more upbeat. Next year, maybe?

Forever yours,

Mom

Sunday Afternoon

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2018-10-10

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

tweets for 2018-10-09

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018
  • RT @alex_cono: This post in my neighborhood FB group is getting absolutely destroyed https://t.co/8i0wAGP0qO ->
  • RT @camanpour: Exclusive: @HillaryClinton says “you cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what y… ->
  • RT @AriBerman: SCOTUS just upheld voter ID law in North Dakota that could disenfranchise thousands of Native voters & cost Heidi Heitkamp h… ->
  • RT @linhtropy: Did you know there's a comic anthology written & edited by Native women?
    Check out Deer Woman: An Anthology!
    Content noti… ->
  • RT @spindlypete: you, foolish: in my country we simply pay for cancer doctors and hospitals collectively
    me, wise: here, for cancer, we sel… ->
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Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

Book Review: Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels (2018)

Monday, October 8th, 2018

Welcome to the anti-Clone Club.

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley.)

Despite being an interracial couple who married in the ’70s, Molly and Hank Nonnar have built a pretty charmed life together. Dr. Manuela Nonnar is a scientist (geneticist?) at the top of her field, while Hank continues the legacy left him by his father, a franchise based on a popular black superhero named Slane. Though they have no children of their own, the couple acts as surrogate parents to their niece Del, who likes play researcher in Molly’s backyard. (Yay girls in STEM!) Then a fateful meeting between Hank and Dr. Victoria Teel upends their world and calls everything they thought they knew into question.

For their 40th anniversary,* the couple decides to make a substantial investment in a company called Via; in exchange, they’ll be the first to undergo Via’s experimental “genetic purification” procedure. It promises to make them stronger, smarter, faster, healthier, and more long-lived than any human before them. And it does, in a way.

Molly and Hank wake up seven months later in bodies that have seemingly aged ten years. Instead of being changed, they have been cloned. And their clones are half-formed “monsters”: aborted (er, “canceled”) during the 10th week of development, Manuela and Henry (as their counterparts are christened) resemble baked potatoes with cured ham for limbs (in technical terms). But they are “better” than the source material in every other way, blessed with superhuman strength and intellectual prowess that surpasses that of their creators.

Yet there’s only room in the world for one Molly and Hank. Will it be the “source material” that Dr. Kallose intended to destroy upon the successful completion of the project, or the “monsters” that are a sentient success, yet are too aesthetically displeasing to ever present in public?

Upgrade Soul might just be one of the most bizarre, horrifying, and thought-provoking books I’ve ever read, graphic novel or otherwise. It raises a myriad of deliciously thorny questions: What makes you you? Is a person more than the sum of their parts? How much are we shaped by our environments? Our bodies? What is normality, and who gets to define it?

Plus it delights in a wicked sense of humor while doing so, particularly in the forms of Molly and Hank 2.0.

The plot’s pretty compelling, and the artwork, appropriately crude and weird – but in an oddly moving way. There were a few holes, though; for example, it was never entirely clear to me what Molly and Hank expected of the procedure (e.g., did they know that their “original” bodies were destined for the incinerator?). Also: an already creepy story gets even freakier with the additional of an incest subplot, which is kind of left dangling, much to this reader’s dismay. (You can’t just drop a bomb like that and walk away, mkay.) And just why did Manuela do what she did?

Still, Upgrade Soul is one of the better graphic novels I’ve read in recent memory: a legit page-turner that both entertains and challenges. If you dig sci-fi, you owe to yourself to add it to your TBR list.

* It’s right there on page 47 of my ARC, no matter what the synopsis says.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2018-10-07

Monday, October 8th, 2018

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Sunday, October 7th, 2018
  • RT @FierceReads: Have you been following our Renegades Readalong? 📖 It’s time for the first giveaway!!! Follow+RT to enter to win a paperba… ->
  • RT @traceyecorder: Today #ElevatorWomen tried to have a conversation with .@RickSantorum
    Maria told him her story and asked if he believe… ->
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  • RT @WonderKitteh: Aren’t time zones amazing?
    In Australia it’s tomorrow.
    In Europe it’s tonight.
    And in the US, it’s 1942 where minoriti… ->
  • RT @ava: I’ve been on a plane all morning. Just landed. Trying to make it home. Feel like I want to scream. And rage. And cry. I usually sl… ->
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tweets for 2018-10-05

Saturday, October 6th, 2018
  • RT @GiuliaRozzi: ps. just got the suggestion that postcards might be a better idea in case her mail is being screened. ->
  • RT @GiuliaRozzi: I remember Anita Hill saying how all the cards she received meant so much to her, let’s do the same for Dr Ford. 💛 https:/… ->
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  • RT @crampell: friend texts me: If Susan Collins had my back in a knife fight, I’d save time and stab myself in the front ->
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Friday, October 5th, 2018

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Thursday, October 4th, 2018

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Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018
  • RT @TanekaStotts: I just backed ELECTRUM: A mixed-race comics anthology on @Kickstarter https://t.co/XlxQGU219U ->
  • RT @ThePigPreserve: We will miss this sweet, gentle girl so very much. She was so special to all. Please help us in remembering Jasmine tod… ->
  • RT @nancywyuen: "‘Blue’s Clues’ can have tremendous cultural and educational influence on young children and their families while allowing… ->
  • RT @arthur_affect: I've heard this argument before and I always point out the situation in TKAM is not a fabricated accusation
    She WAS rap… ->
  • RT @jbouie: In the Jim Crow South, accusations of rape against black men were understood as pretexts for vigilante violence. Either @RichLo->
  • (More below the fold…)

Book Review: Bald Knobber by Robert Sergel (2018)

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

Not so much about the Bald Knobbers as a struggling middle-schooler.

two out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through Edelweiss.)

Named for the bald knob summit on which the group formed, the Bald Knobbers was a vigilante group that operated in the Ozarks in the wake of the Civil War. Being a border state, Missouri “was hard hit by neighbor against neighbor bushwhacker fighting.” (h/t to wikipedia for this paragraph.) After the war’s end, the violence continued, with law enforcement either powerless to – or disinterested in – stopping it. The Bald Knobbers – largely Republicans who sided with the Union Army – ostensibly formed to bring marauding gangs to justice. This led to the birth of opposition groups, the rather uncreatively named anti-Bald Knobbers. The original Taney County chapter was ultimately forced to disband when the Missouri Governor became involved due to escalating violence.

Sergel uses this chapter in history – presented in the form of a book report given by our middle-school protagonist Cole – as a backdrop for Cole’s own personal problems. His divorced parents loathe one another, and have no qualms about fighting – and fighting dirty – in front of their only child. Cole is the target of a local bully named Sam and, when he fights back, he finds that the relief is only temporary. Everything comes to a head in a shocking twist that could either be an act of unspeakable cruelty … or a tragic accident.

Honestly, I was hoping to learn more about the Bald Knobbers than we actually do. The parallels that Cole finds between their lives and his feel superficial and a bit contrived – especially since the book mostly ignores the group’s enforcement of religious mores, of which there is nothing heroic. (There is a mention of whipping “drunkards and loose women,” a term the teacher scolds Cole for using, but that’s about it.) Curiously, there’s also no mention of slavery, Reconstruction, or the Bald Knobbers’ political alliances. I am not fond of Civil War discussions that don’t include the words “slavery” the bare minimum of once.

Cole also comes to the conclusion that violence is never the solution; rather, violence always begets more violence. This, um, in a book at least tangentially about the Civil War. Tell me, were we going to work that one out with politely worded missives and caramel-loaded candy-grams?

Otherwise, the art is nice to look at; the black and white color scheme feels clean and simple, and helps to underscore the book’s tone. I just wish the story had shown more depth and nuance.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

tweets for 2018-10-01

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018