15 July 2014

Two novels, Intertwined by Theme

I read two books recently that I felt were a wonderful pair to read at the same time.  Both take place in England and cover portions of the 20th Century.  Both concentrate on women's rights, roles, and expectations during this time.  Both were fantasy/sci-fi novels that deal with multiple lifetimes. 

 My Real Children by Jo Walton is the shorter book.  Patricia was born in 1926 and it is now 2015.  She now has dementia and lives in a nursing home.  She's remembering back over her life but remembers two separate lives.  In one, she got married young, left her work behind, had a miserable marriage and four children.  In the other, she didn't get married, entered a long-term relationship with a woman, was incredibly happy, and had three children.  It isn't just her personal history that is different.  In the married timeline, things for the world are better: the Cold War ended earlier, people were more accepting (gay marriage became legal) and there are moon colonies.  In the unmarried timeline, things were definitely worse: there was a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia, the moon has missiles on it. 

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson is more intricate.  It takes place a little earlier; Ursula was born in 1910.  She keeps dying though and restarting her life, sometimes living longer, sometimes dying earlier. Like in a video game, if you had to start at the very beginning whenever you died. She has a few childhood problems (the Spanish flu throws her for a loop) but it is really World War 2 that much of the book takes place.  She lives it on both sides, German and British. 

I guess what struck me were the severe limits placed on women's lives and how hard things were for them.  I mean, I know, logically, that things were very different back then, but just seeing how awfully Patricia and Ursula are treated in parts of their various timelines was kinda shocking.  It makes me just want to go around and hug women over 60.  

I really enjoyed both books.  I really recommend both!  Each gets a 7!

30 June 2014

June Movies

Philomena: a sweet, movie though a bit sad.  I didn't expect it to go the way it did, which I guess is good?  a 6.  

Trollhunter: a foreign movie shot Blair Witch-style about a guy who hunts trolls.  It was weird. a 3.

Shutter Island: somehow I missed this one.  I kept wanting to see it; i even had the Netflix disc for about 3 weeks once.  Just never got around to it.  B sat me down and made me watch it one night.  It was fabulous! Twisty but never felt contrived. a 6.

Her: another bittersweet one.  The Joaquin Phoenix character was a bit of a weird guy but who wouldn't fall in love with Scarlett Johansson's voice? a 6.

29 June 2014

Five Days at Memorial

Want to read something shocking and though-provoking?  Something that will make you by turns angry and sad?  I finished Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink and it hits all those feelings. It is a book about Katrina and the people who died and survived at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans.  It is, at times, hard to read.  Fink does a great job of portraying the horrible conditions after the hurricane.  I can hardly imagine it.  If there is a clear-cut villain, it's the parent company of Memorial.  While I know I wouldn't have made the same decisions as some of the medical staff purportedly did, the doctors and nurses should have never gotten to the point where those decisions were even considered. 

Also, I know I don't normally talk about art or covers on this blog but I have to say I really love this cover.  It is so simple but so striking.  Everybody knows what water damaged paper looks like and the book really looks like it's been sitting in 3 inches of water.  That being said, I would have loved some pictures inside the book!  I can understand that the author may have been unable to get pictures of the various people involved, on both sides, and even why patient families might not want to allow their relatives to be shown, but I can't believe location shots were also out of bounds.  I know a bit about getting around in New Orleans and was able to follow the locations but someone who hadn't been down there a good bit might have issues.  

Overall though, this book is very good and feels really important.  Highly recommended, a 7. 

22 June 2014

Harry Potter Relisten 3 and 4

The Relisten continues! 

Prisoner of Azkaban is always one of my favorite Potter books.  The introduction of Remus and Sirius, Hagrid's disastrous classes, Hermione's schedule, winning the Quidditch Cup, these are some of my favorite things.  There is also the feeling you get on a reread that this book is really the last one about Harry and the gang as children. I got pretty teary eyed in parts as I was remember what is going to happen in books 5 and 7. 

I really love Goblet of Fire! It's the first big book and so many things happen, for the story and as setup for later parts, that you just rocket from event to event.  All the relationship stuff, the Harry-growing-up stuff, and of course Cedric, and the interactions with Sirius (which got me teary again).  It's all so good.

20 June 2014

More Young Adult Books

Still trying to close some gaps in my Young Adult knowledge. 

Every Day by David Levithan: Not sure if this one counts as sci-fi or fantasy.  The main character, A, wakes up every day in someone else's body.  He has always done this, slowly getting older with each new body.  He's a boy, he's a girl, black, white, gay, straight, everything.  When he meets Rhiannon he falls for her and wants to stay near her.  Unfortunately, this desire makes A change how he acts in his temporary bodies, causing suspicion.  It's cooler than my blurb makes it sound!  a 6.

Insurgent and Allegiant by Veronica Roth: hmm.  After I read Divergent I wasn't too interested in continuing but when I saw the movie I wanted to know how things turned out.  Not sure I should have bothered. Tris is really annoying and all the kids are extremely naive and simplistic in their thinking.  a 4. 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: I saw the movie with B and really liked it.  The book is very similar.  It has great illustrations and big sections of the story are told in pictures a 6. 

I am J by Cris Beam: a book about a boy, J, who was born a girl, and his struggle to figure out why he is what he is and what he wants to be.  It isn't anything I've not read before in YA books, though the transgendered bit is new.  Things aren't too easy, or too hard for J; I think he makes things harder for himself than he really has to.  a 5 but a good thing for a high school library to have. 

I am still working on YA books but am going to try to read a few elementary/middle grade books too.  I always feel like I have a handle on that level then, when I try to come up with titles, blank out after Neil Gaiman and some classics.  Planning to hit the library this weekend with some lists!

18 June 2014

I have been a very bad blogger!

I have been reading a lot but not really blogging about it.   I've been doing a lot of other things.  I finally finished graduate school and received my Masters of Information Science!  I'm also unemployed now so I've been applying for ALL THE JOBS.  Kinda the last thing I want to do after writing cover letters and typing the same info over and over into forms is to blog.  Seems like many of the bloggers I follow are also in the middle of lulls so hopefully we'll all get through this together.  I've also been trying out Twitter and Tumblr, though I just read on Tumblr, not blog.  I'm watching tv (rewatching The X-files, World Cup soccer) and playing a lot of Skyrim and Tomb Raider and other video games.  I am so backlogged on blogging I feel a bit overwhelmed!  So, in an attempt to catch up, I am going to do a massive flyby review post.

The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doesher: Part two of Shakespeare does Star Wars.  It was fine but I had the feeling the author didn't think he'd get to do part 2 and used up the really good, famous speeches in part 1.  The Han/Leia relationship was great, very Benedick/Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing.  a 5.

Rurouni Kenshin Volume 2 by Nobuhiro Watsuki: Manga.  I liked the first volume better.  I'm still not used to reading backwards so I think that pulls me out of the story sometimes.  a 5.

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone: I loved this book!  It is set in a really new, interesting fantasy world, great female characters, is a mystery with magic and some great twists.  Can't recommend more.  a 7.

Battling Boy by Paul Pope: A comic where a 13 year old Thor-like character is sent by his father to save a city from these monster things.  His superpower is that he had a collection of tee-shirts that give him the abilities of what is on each shirt.  Definitely the beginning of a series; much is introduced and little resolved.  a 5 but I want more!
Bleach 3-in-1 by Tite Kubo: More Manga.  I really just couldn't get into it.  I really think this would be better on TV so I may try out the cartoon. a 4.

Saga volume 3 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples: I love this series!  The art is gorgeous and the characters are just great.  I trust Vaughan to take me anywhere he wants to go with this story.  a 7.

Captain Marvel volume 1: In Pursuit of Flight, and Volume 2: Down: I read these and wrote the titles down but can hardly remember them.  Captain Marvel is a female pilot with superpowers and these books deal with some aspects of her powers and her life as an Avenger and as a woman.  I do remember kick-ass females, not just Captain Marvel but many women throughout the books.  I'm seeing a theme in my recent reading here. a 5.

Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky: Definitely a weird book that deserves a much better review than this. It's about 2 people who, when they have sex, stop time.  So they decide to rob banks to get money to save a library.  It has a lot more to say than my little blurb implies.  a 6. When's the next Hawkeye coming out?

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell: another great one that deserves a better review.  Set in Scotland, Marnie and Nelly are sisters whose parents are both deadbeats and drug addicts.  They die at home at Christmas so the girls bury them in the yard.  Marnie is 15 but if they can hide everything for a year she will be legally able to take care of Nelly, 12.  Nelly loves old movies and literature and speaks as if she's from the 18th century while Marnie is a foul-mouthed smoking straight A student.  Both girls are smart, and damaged, and too old for their ages.  A neighbor, Lennie, realizes the girls are on their own but doesn't call the authorities, trying to take care of the girls as he can.  This one really reminded me of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.  I really liked this one, a 7.

I'll have another post up soon with the YA books I've been reading too.  

31 May 2014

May Movies

American Hustle: very good and the ending was not what I was expecting.  I am really glad i was only a very little child in the late 70's as those clothes would not have worked for me.  a 6

In A World: Really funny movie about women in the film industry, specifically the voice-over market.  See anything Lake Bell does, she's fabulous. a 7

Fast and Furious 6: I watched this one with my dad when I went on a trip to Louisiana.  As I have never seen any of the other ones, I really had very little sense of what was going on.   Anna Lucia came back from the dead and there were 'splosions.  a 4. 

X-Men: Days of Future Past: a really great story and very cool movie.  Wish they had mentioned why exactly Kitty Pryde's powers could send someone back in time.  Very good commentary on women's agency.  a 7.

Dallas Buyer's Club:  another really good movie.  not as sad as I was expecting.  a bit too promoting of pseudoscience but I liked it.  a 6.

08 May 2014

I write up short reviews for the books I read during the Readathon!

Yeah, finally, I know.  Life has been pretty hectic around here. 

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore:  This book is a non-fiction work about Ben Franklin's sister, Jane, derived from many letters and other documents.  Ben was several years older but the two were very close.  She became a wife and mother before the age of 18, had a pretty pitiful husband, suffered the loss of multiple children/grandchildren, and lived through the Revolutionary war.  The letters show what life was like for a woman in the 18th century. Things like how important marrying a decent worker was, how unhealthy the atmosphere was, how hard it was for her to just read and write.  So much of her letters are lost and most of what was kept was because it was to her brother.  a 6.

Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye:  a sequel to The Gods of Gotham which I liked.  In this one, Timothy Wilde (who I picture as Shane West for some reason) and his brother Val, also a police officer, help people who are captured for being escaped slaves, though they are free blacks.  Lots of mystery, politics, murder and mayhem.  A good, fiction companion for 12 Years a Slave (the movie anyway).  I liked it!  a 6.

Serenity Volume 2: Better Days by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad, and Adam Hughes: This one is kinda all over the place in the art and story focus.  Nothing really brand new or revelatory (though the Wash issue is great) it was a pretty good set of stories for fans.  a 6. 

Rurouni Kenshin vol 1 by Nobuhiro Watsuki: I am trying to read some Manga. I found this one on a list and gave it a go.  Between reading backwards, everything being black and white, and lots of close ups of action, I'm having a bit of trouble with it.  Maybe it's the combo of silly/serious, maybe it's that I lack the cultural background.  I think i liked it.  a 5.

March Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell: After seeing him many times on things like The Colbert Report, i got to hear him and the illustrator of this speak at the Southern Festival of Books.  This comic is about his childhood and how he became involved in the Civil Rights movement when he was in college here in Nashville.  A must read!  a 7.