Showing posts with label mini-review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mini-review. Show all posts

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Mini-Review! - Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

Title: Giovanni's Room

Author: James Baldwin

Genre: Classics (Modern), LGBTQ+ (M/F; M/M)

Amazon: UK - USA


This was an exceptionally good book.

It will however tear your heart out and then show it to you. Yep. That is the level of feels we are dealing with here.


So, this about a young American, David, who gets involved with an Italian bartender, Giovanni, in Paris.

Apparently this book was controversial (to say the least) in the 1950s, when it was written, not only because it was about a romantic relationship between men, but also because it was a black author writing about white men.

And for that fact alone, you should read this.

Because James Baldwin refused to be restricted in the people he could write about - he refused to play it safe and only ever write about black people, as he was expected to.

(And you know me guys, I like a rebel!)

David, as a character, isn't all that likeable. Putting it plainly, he's a bit of a jerk.

But you can still see his perspective - he's a selfish jerk, but that's because of the internalised homophobia and ideas of masculinity that he won't let himself let go of.

And, in his own way, he really does love Giovanni. I'm not sure whether that makes things better or worse, you'll have to read it and decide for yourself.

But Giovanni... argh! He totally broke my heart. Like HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO HIM?!?! *Ahem.* Sorry.

There are a couple of issues with this book:

It can be very dismissive, to the degree of disgust, towards men who are perceived to be more feminine in their mannerisms. 

And it's very offensive to the transgender women who hang around the bar.

It actually describes them as disgusting, which is obviously NOT GOOD, and transphobic.

And the attitudes towards women wanting equality (I mean, how dare they?!) are clearly that of a narrow-minded, and fairly misogynistic, man from the 1950s. Sorry, I call them as I see them.

BUT, for all that: this is a good book. And it was an exceptionally important stepping stone for diversity.

I'm not giving it carte blanche for jerkiness, this book was written in the 1950s, and it bl**dy well shows.

But I will be looking out for more James Baldwin books - once I've recovered from the feels after what happened to poor Giovanni. *Sniffles*

Oh, and quick warning: there's a lot of implied sexual assault, and some implied rape.

There are also some male/female sex scenes. And I think there might've been swearing? Maybe? I really need to pay more attention to these things...

So that's Giovanni's Room - not a perfect book, by any means, but an important one, and largely worth the read - the writing is quality, and the offensiveness is annoying and harmful, but brief (thank God.)

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Monday, 14 November 2016

Mini-Review! - God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

Title: God Help the Child

Author: Toni Morrison

Genre: Contemporary, Magic Realism* (*ish)

Amazon: UK - USA


This was a pretty damned awesome book.

And, I'm told, by pretty much everyone, that Toni Morrison's other books are even better - so I'm totally going to check out more!

This follows Bride, who always felt unloved by her mother, Sweetness, as she tries to deal with her falling-apart relationship with boyfriend Booker.

It's really quite difficult to explain what this book is about - except childhood, and how it relates to everything else.

Because Bride's childhood, Booker's, even Sweetness', affects everything that comes after. And in Rain, the girl adopted by the hippie couple, we see the current face of a traumatised child.

Huge warning guys: child abuse is a big theme here.

There is child abuse of every type in this book - emotional, physical, and sexual. There's even some child murder.

It's handled well - but I figured I'd let you know in case that's going to be a problem for you.

There's also a butt-tonne of swearing.

Generally though? This book is fantastically well written, and infinitely readable.

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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Mini-Review! - Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Title: Finders Keepers

Author: Stephen King

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Series: Bill Hodges #2

Amazon: UK - USA


After reading the first book in this series, Mr Mercedes, a little while back, I wanted to read the sequel.

So, yes, this book is a sequel.

It's actually very different in terms of tone to Mr Mercedes - the central crime-fighting team takes a bit of a back-seat to the plot here - but I actually would recommend reading Mr Mercedes first, rather than reading this as standalone.

(This advice is coming to you from someone who reads most series in a random order according to mood and what book was in the library.

So people who like things organised - and you know who you are - you will definitely want to read Mr Mercedes first.)

This though, is not a book that's that much about our main characters.

I know, that sounds crazy. But this is a book where the central characters of this series are very much in the background.

Instead, our focus is on a decades-old crime, (which, a la Mr Mercedes, we already know the perpetrator of,) and it's unforeseen affect on a teenager from the present day.

This is a tale of literary obsession which bookish folks will recognise as the potential frightening extremity of fandom. This is about the power of words, and people who will literally kill to possess them.

Because this is what happens when the teenage Peter Saubers finds the missing notebooks of a murdered literary genius. This is what happens when the person who hid them wants those notebooks back...

This isn't for the faint of heart - but then, it's Stephen King; even though it's not horror as such, you probably guessed that it was going to be dark.

I found the final showdown pretty disturbing, in honesty. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing ;) But yeah, I actually flinched; it was pretty damn vivid.

There's loads of violence, a shed-load of swearing, and slurs of various sorts from some pretty horrible people.

There's also a lot of reference to rape - there's a lot of rape-as-incidental-plot-point in this book. It's not gratuitous, but it's also very uncomfortable.

I'm glad that black character Jerome is phasing out his jive-talking alter-ego (who consciously came out whenever Jerome decided to act like a jack-a*s,) because that was one of the things that bugged me most about the previous book.

A white dude writing a black character who liked to mock negative stereotypes by inhabiting those stereotypes was a very fine line to tread, and I'm glad that aspect of Jerome's character seems to be falling by the wayside.

I still love our female crime-fighter Holly - the sidekick to main character, ex-cop Bill. She's fab.

She's strong, smart, and has OCD and anxiety problems. And she still kicks a*s.

Allow me to indulge myself in an awesome heroine with mental health problems, ok? ;)

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Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Mini-Review! (Comics Edition!) - Bread and Butter #1

Title: Bread and Butter #1

Author: Liz Mayorga

Genre: Comics, Contemporary

Series: Bread and Butter

Release Date: 5th October 2016

Amazon: UK - USA


I received a free digital review copy of this comic from the publishers, Rosarium Publishing, via NetGalley, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Liana, a young Latina woman living in San Francisco, dreams of making a living as an artist. Instead, she ends up working at a local coffee shop.

Honestly, I was surprised by how much I liked this one - it was uber-readable. 

I think there are a fair few millennials who will empathise with being stuck in the sh*ttiest of jobs, when what they really want to do seems so far in the distance...

Even worse for Liana is the way some people treat her. Working for a low wage, she has to deal with customers she would rather punch in the face (I would too!)

There's also the casual racism - like the creepy guy who asks 'What are you?'

The way Mayorga weaves all this into this 24-page first issue is impressive - and hopefully will continue throughout the series!

The artwork is distinctive... and quite unusual; I'm not sure whether I liked the style or not. 

I think it may've worked better in colour rather than black-and-white, and I found the lack of background in a lot of the panels really odd, but by the end it was starting to grow on me.

Oh, and there's some swearing in there - just letting you know; bloggerly duty and all that!

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Monday, 19 September 2016

Mini-Review! (Classics Edition!) - And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Title: And Then There Were None

Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Classics, Crime

Amazon: UK - USA


I read this for the Mystery-a-thon hosted by the lovely Ely @ Tea & Titles, which was last week. I decided to only read one book for it because it was my birthday on Thursday and BIRTHDAY BOOKS ;)

Firstly, to the big, galumphing, heffalump in the room (yes, I say heffalump not elephant. Blame either Disney or my mother - both are equally valid,) - I had some major moral/ethical dilemmas with this book.

Largely, this was because of the history of the book's title, and some anti-Semitism and disparaging comments about indigenous peoples (within POV of not-very-nice people.)

I've already talked extensively about my befuddled feelings on the subject, so I won't repeat myself here: let's just say I had some issues with this book that can't be easily dealt with.

So, putting said heffalump back in his corner, having been acknowledged: this book is exceptionally well written and sooooooo atmospheric!

I also liked that there were depths beneath the surface of each and every one of our ten main characters.

They aren't nice people. None of them are nice people. But, all the same, Christie tricks you into a certain level of uncomfortable investment in them.

And it's the interplay of characters, the sense of things unsaid, and the atmosphere of the prose, that will keep you reading.

The writing is truly masterful, and I can only thank the BBC adaptation for inspiring me to read it, despite my muddled feelings on some of the distasteful aspects.

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Saturday, 17 September 2016

Mini-Review! (Comics Edition!) - The Sun Dragon's Song #1

Title: The Sun Dragon's Song #1

Author: Joyce Chng, Kim Miranda

Genre: Kids, Fantasy

Series: The Sun Dragon's Song

Release Date: 21 September 2016

Amazon: UK - USA


I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publishers, Rosarium Publishing, via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I know I normally write full reviews instead of mini-reviews when I have an ARC, but this is only a single comic issue, so I figured a mini-review would give me enough time to talk about it. :)

This is the first issue in 'The Sun Dragon's Song' series - and it's a promising start.

First off: the artwork. THE ARTWORK. SERIOUSLY, THE ARTWORK.

It's stunningly beautiful. I would frame any page from this book and put it on my wall. Wow. Just... WOW.

I also liked the slow pace to this first issue, it's very gentle, but not at all boring - which I really like.

Pretty much the only criticism I can make of this book is that some of the dialogue felt a little overly-exposition-based, and perhaps a little forced...?

But overall, that really wasn't a big problem. And I'm being a little nit-picky now, I know; but that was really the only thing that I could criticise.

I just hope the rest of the series is this beautiful! Seriously, it's hard to exaggerate just how stunning this comic was visually.

(And dragons! I mean... dragons!!!!!)

Hopefully our little hero will get closer to his dream of being a Sun Dragon Rider, and prove the a**-holes who make fun of his disability wrong! (Yes, I'm invested in this... very much so!)

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Monday, 5 September 2016

Mini-Review! - The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Title: The Shock of the Fall

Author: Nathan Filer

Genre: Contemporary

Amazon: UK - USA


'There was the shock of the fall and the blood on my knee...'

A book with a schizophrenic protagonist is a delicate balancing act. One which Filer excels at.

Matthew - our point-of-view narrator - is a complex, realistic character. He doesn't fall head-long into stereotypes, but neither is his illness ignored.

He is mentally ill. He is also a nineteen-year-old boy in Bristol. One who wants to tell his own story, thank you very much.

He wants people to listen to him - even if he's not making much sense, he still wants to be heard. And it's the characters who listen to him - even if they ultimately disagree with his opinions - who Matt prefers.

Because people with mental illnesses don't just want to be talked at, over, or around. They want you to hear them out, even if you make decisions that go against their wishes, they'd still like their wishes to at least be acknowledged.

We want you to understand that we are not children. We are adults who are ill.

If you made a decision for a cancer patient without at least listening to their opinion, there would be uproar. Make a decision for a mental health patient without asking their opinion? Meh.

But Filer explains this without ever explaining it. He simply allows the character to tell his story, and places the reader in Matt's shoes for a while.

Not that he paints Matt as an angel - far from it. He's not some martyred saint. He's a real person, with all the flaws and quirks that brings.

He's not pitied, but neither is he demonised. And that is an incredible achievement.

And I love the non-linear structure.

We experience the story as Matt does - with flitting thoughts as he moves from one train of thought to another. We experience his present as well as his past, complete with complaints at people reading over his shoulder.

This is an excellent book guys. Read it.

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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Mini-Review! - Switched by Amanda Hocking

Title: Switched

Author: Amanda Hocking

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal* (*ish)

Series: Trylle Trilogy #1

Amazon: UK - USA


This book is nuttier than a squirrel's hoard.

OK, so we have mademoiselle-YA-heroine Wendy. Who is completely unlikeable and pretty abrasive. When she's not whining, she's making truly stupid decisions.

But then, she's a YA heroine, and these things happen.

Then Wendy finds out she's a troll (I know - what?!) and a changeling-child t'boot.

She moves in with the other trolls, and we find out that she's about the nicest and least whiny of all of the trolls - who knew?

Everyone continues to make stupid-a*s decisions, although there is a ray of intelligence at the end - which I can't go into, cos, y'know, it'd get spoiler-y.

Sometimes I questioned why I was still reading it but... I just couldn't seem to help myself.

You know when you see an accident? And you know you shouldn't stare, but you can't look away? It's that feeling.

I shouldn't've wanted to keep reading... but I did.

Oh and those of you who hate/love/love-to-hate/hate-to-love love triangles?

Yeah, this book actually has more of a love rectangle/multi-sided shape... comprised mainly of Wendy and countless broody mystery-dudes. (There are a lot of them. Turns out teenage trolls are naturally pi*sy.)

Other girls also fancy various members of the broody-dude-troop. See? Multi-sided love-shape. (I don't even know.)

There's some violence, and eternally-thwarted sexy-times of one type and another. (Troll society is one massive chastity belt as far as Wendy's concerned.)

There might be swearing... but I honestly can't remember, so if there was it passed me by. It's possible that there was the odd 'cr*p' in there, I really don't know.

If you read this, you will enjoy it... you just won't necessarily want to enjoy it.

*Shrugs* - sometimes you need some absolutely crackers YA, if you love it, go for it.

I liked it. I really don't know why.

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