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Review: Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods

Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods by Danna Staaf My rating: 5 of 5 stars Disclaimer: I won a copy via Lib...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Review: Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods

Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods by Danna Staaf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I won a copy via Librarything.
Unlike Staaf, it took me quite a while to warm up to squid, octopuses and the like. It wasn’t until I read “The Vampie Squid from Hell” by Richard Ellis that I took an interest. Staaf’s book isn’t about one specific squid, octopus, or whatnot; instead it is about the history of cephalopods as a whole, in particular the evolution.

Which you think would make it a rather dull science book, but it is not.

In part, this is because of all the cool and interesting facts that Staaf shares. For instance, did you know that a sperm whale eats 700-800 squid every day and that isn’t that unusual because apparently everything eats squid, including squid. And then there is the squid’s brain and that is really strange. Not to mention the whole thing about gas. So, all that is pretty awesome.

Then there are all the Clue references. Quite honestly, I mean that should have to be all I need to say.

But if that is not enough for you, there is this. Staaf’s love for her subject comes through with every single word. She’s not trying to talk down to the reader, to be smart, to be funny, to be cool. She is simply, lovingly, wonderfully writing about a family of animals she loves. This is a love poem. She will make you love cephalopods and give you reasons why you should - like the whole thing about shells.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review: Invisible Victims: Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women

Invisible Victims: Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women Invisible Victims: Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women by Katherine McCarthy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First the bad - there are several typos, the footnotes are, big and large, simply a website link. While this makes sense for an ebook, I still want correct citation format, sorry. Lastly, you could say that a few of the sections about serial killers are de facto ads for other books in the series. They are and they are not in my view. McCarthy does a good job of showing how those cases are related to the scope of the story, so considering the series, I'm neutral on these inclusions. Finally, and this was most annoying, it was unclear at points whether a work mentioned was an essay or a book. I spent several minutes searching for a book title when it was really an essay I should have been looking for. That was rather annoying.

HOWEVER

Those faults aside, this a pretty good overview and not at all senesation as the cover might lead some to think. McCarthy cites when she needs to and deals with the overarching issues quite well. The book is an overview, so the sections dealing with the history that lead to the society problems that allow for the murder of Indigenous women are perhaps too short, but McCarthy points you in the direction to learn more (and some of those facts, wow). McCarthy deals sympathically with the victims and points out how race and the question of "good" or "bad" girls plays into the how the media views the victim. Unlike some other work on the death of Indigenous women, McCarthy moves beyond the Highway of Tears and Residental schools and brings in classes that were not first thought of, making the book an overview.

If the editing errors had been fixed, this would have been four stars.

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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Review: Executive Assistant Iris Vol. 2 #0

Executive Assistant Iris Vol. 2 #0 Executive Assistant Iris Vol. 2 #0 by David Wohl
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Okay, I am sorry but the cover. Kick ass women in comics are wonderful but the whole sexy look thing is a bit over the topic, especially with the cover. Look below her belt.  I mean, it could be an accident, but really?  C'mon.  Look below.

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Review: White Lotus

White Lotus White Lotus by Libbie Hawker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Rhodopis is an Egyptian version of Cinderella, or at the very least, it involves a foot fitting into a shoe if not evil step sisters. Libbie Hawker’s White Lotus is the first in a trilogy about Rhodopis.

The book isn’t bad. This volume details Doricha (who will become Rhodopis) beginnings from the daughter of a starting Thracian family trapped in Egypt to joining the household of the Pharaoh. IN short, it is about a young girl sold into slavery as a high-end prostitute.

While Hawker does a good job of immersing the reader in the society and time of ancient Egypt and the clash of Egyptian and Greek saviors, as it were. Yet, the central character of Doricha is rather dull. I mean really dull. She is a great dancer, smart, and wonderful. And constantly having bad things done to her by people she trusts.

The one character that really shines is Archidike, who is at first takes Doricha under her wing, but becomes her enemy due to a misunderstanding that, quite frankly, isn’t quite explained very well to the reader. She then becomes a one-dimension villain. But before that, she carries the book because she has the spark. Archidike sings. She almost steals the story from Doricha. When she is forced back, the book suffers, and we no longer truly care about the ending or Doricha’s success.

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Review: Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this because I am teaching The Fire Next Time.

It's one of those books that I find hard to review. I think everyone in America should read it, and if I had a magic wand or the power of the Force, I would make everyone read it. But writing that sounds flippant despite it being true.

What Kendi (with the aid of his wife he thanks quite a bit) does is trace the development of Racist ideas in America. He does this in part by challenging the standard definations of some words and terms. This is done early on in the book, so you know extactly what Kendi means when he uses words like antiracist, racist, and assilmation later. It's true that some people (gives certain Orange being and family the stink eye) will say that the book doesn't deal with racism towards white people - but really? Honesty, if you read the book, that question is answered. (Though in fairness, Kendi limits, or seems to do, the defination of racism as towards black. Racism towards Native Americans and Asians is mentioned but only in how racism towards or by such groups is connected to racism towards Blacks. But this limiting matches what Kendi sets out in the introduction).

Kendi traces racism though various major public figures in America, even pre-Independence. Jefferson of course is here, but so are Angela Davis, DuBois, Mater, and Garrison. In some ways, the weakest section is Davis, almost like this section could be a whole book in and of itsself, mostly because at that point it almost feels like Kendi is hitting a check list. Yet the first four sections are engrossing and stacked with facts. So, is the last section despite it's checklist feel. In the interest of fairness, I am from Philly, and Kendi's brief, very brief, mention of the Mumia case is enough to get anyone in Philly a bit annoyed for a wide variety of reasons. (I am of the he is guilty but the system/time was extremely racist group. Honesty, there are better anti-death cases out there. Does Mumia get the attention because he is well read and a good speaker? Is that class or the extradorinary Negro racism that Kendi talks about). It was puzzling because Kendi calls Mumia is a political prison, but Kendi doesn't mention Move and the bombing of that group (done by the police, and which ended in the destruction of a neighborhood), an event that surely seems far more political and raicst.

But this book gives the reader so much information and so much to think about. It really should be required reading for everyone in America. Quite frankly, if you are teaching about Civil Rights, Slavery, or African-American culture/literature, you should read this book before teaching the subject matter.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Review: A Married Woman: A Novel

A Married Woman: A Novel A Married Woman: A Novel by Manju Kapur
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s famous “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History” has a point. History tends to ignore or undervalue those who are nameless and do the chores. In other words, let’s took about Socrates but give Xantippe a bad rep because, you know, for nagging about where the grocery money was coming from. Grocery money is so not important. In some ways, this is also true about books. We prefer to read novels with people doing things, discovering things, whacking things, screwing things.

Okay, maybe screwing people and not things, but you take my point.

Kapur’s novel, A Married Woman, is a well-behaved woman novel, a story about stories we don’t usually considering important or even worth reading about. There’s a reason for this. Conflict sells for a variety of reasons, yet we are missing something with conflict all the time.

Kapur’s novel about a married woman does have conflict, though it is a largely internal struggle. Ashta is making her way through life – a desire to be who she is, or to at the very least discover who she is – as well as to follow the traditional roles that are laid out for her. What happens are conflicts between duty and art, the survival of a marriage and the discovery of a new passion. These conflicts are played out with a backdrop of Muslim/Hindu conflict.

The book is quiet. In fact, it is hard at times to feel as if something more major must happen. It isn’t so much that nothing happens, but that what happens is very much real. Strangely, the weakest part of the book is the section that is Ashta’s voice. There is something off about those diary entries.

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Review: Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe

Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so thankful that My Book Box had this book for a selection. This is quite honesty of the best books I have read all year. I want to read Kassabova’s poetry. I am so happy that I read this. And without My Book Box, I very much doubt that I would have read this.

Border is part travel memoir, part personal memoir, and part social history. It chronicles the area between Bulgaria and Turkey, looking at myth, legend, and survival as the towns and people move from Cold War to democracy. Each chapter is preceded by a small brief discussion of a word and its meaning.

The book is wonderful because of the use of language. Kassabova describes a woman who was criticized for her accent “She never spoke a word of Bulgarian again. For a time, she fell between languages” (146).

There stories that she tells, like the story of the white legged maiden, or Kassabova’s own retracing of a crossover route, used to move, illegally, from East to West. There are bits about gardens, about refugees, about how past funnels into present.

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