I'm listing this as read for 2016 because I made it over half into the book. The book starts promisingly enough, but the plot then becomes too predictI'm listing this as read for 2016 because I made it over half into the book. The book starts promisingly enough, but the plot then becomes too predictable too justify the info dump after info dump the main character feels she must give. Yes, honey, I know you just told me two paragraphs ago. First 100 pages are wonderful and then you are like, wtf....more
Very interesting play that does really get you to think about guilt, past, present, and future. It's interesting because the central character in theVery interesting play that does really get you to think about guilt, past, present, and future. It's interesting because the central character in the play (based on the source book's author) comes across as almost unlikable in some cases, and that is a bold choice....more
This is not a perfect book. The ending is a bit too much thrown at the reader too soon, and some of it doesn't really seem to have a point. The reader This is not a perfect book. The ending is a bit too much thrown at the reader too soon, and some of it doesn't really seem to have a point. The reader is told one too many times how perfect Joanna is, though in fairness the perfect is more moral and intelligence than looks (a nice change).
Yet, I found myself enjoying the book. It's a step above The Other Boleyn Girl (anyone else crack up about PG's quest for historical accuracy in movies?). I found something likable about Joanna, perhaps because she found herself in situations that felt real. The most compelling part of the novel is the sequence in the Tower of London....more
Disclaimer: ARC courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Spring –Heeled Jack is enjoying something of resurgence, inDisclaimer: ARC courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Spring –Heeled Jack is enjoying something of resurgence, in part thanks to the rise of Steampunk. And if anyone was made for Steampunk, it is Spring-Heeled Jack. If you don’t know, Jack was one of those mysteries that were never solved, but does get over-shadowed by Jack the Ripper. Jack made his first appearance in 1837; he had fire and could jump very high. He was busy in London, but eventually branched out.
John Matthews traces the history of Spring-Heeled Jack in this book. He doesn’t attempt really to solve the mystery, more to enlighten the reader about the origins of the story as well as its use in current fiction.
In discussing the origins of Jack, Matthews quotes at great length from firsthand accounts and newspaper reports. He also makes links to other famous stalkers, such as the London Monster and Jack the Ripper. The use of the firsthand accounts allows the reader to form an opinion or an idea before Matthews presents more information.
Matthews links the folk character to Robin Hood and the Green Man. While I am not sure I entirely agree, it does give one food for thought and a compelling argument is presented. There is also a connection to the Punch and Judy shows which is even stronger.
The weakest part of the book was the part dealing with the modern Steampunk era. Too much of this section is devoted to a very an overly detailed summery of a radio program that sounds interesting, but why should I listen to it know when I know what is going to happen. I also found it strange that Heart of Iron by Ekaterina Sedia was not mentioned.
Still, a very in depth look at a legend, and a much needed look at that. ...more
It's an interesting idea, but why are the women so blah. Honesty, two episodes in I was rooting for Sussanna to tell both her father and son off. TheIt's an interesting idea, but why are the women so blah. Honesty, two episodes in I was rooting for Sussanna to tell both her father and son off. The man are unlikable, and the women underdeveloped (view spoiler)[ and end up paying the prices that the men don't (hide spoiler)].
The idea of GMO is well done and the conspircy is worthy of Le Carre but Le Carre would not have done the women such a disservice. ["br"]>["br"]>...more
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and balanced review
In some ways, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is an alternate view of The HanDisclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and balanced review
In some ways, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is an alternate view of The Handmaid’s Tale. Perhaps it is even a Handmaid’s Tale produced by today’s world, even though Atwood’s book is still relevant and powerful today. Midwife is both like and unlike Handmaid’s Tale, even while it refers to it. Offred is an unnamed Handmaid (or a male named handmaid; Offred =of Fred), so the Unnamed Midwife in this book, who at times takes a male name, is Offred’s sister and opposite.
The Unnamed Midwife also has a gun. Just saying.
Therefore, the book feels like a cross between the Handmaid’s Tale and Resident Evil, in part because of the gun and how the midwife wakes up to the new dystopia. It’s strange, but it works. Far better than When She Woke, which tried to be a more up to date Handmaid’s Tale and Scarlett Letter.
While the dystopia presented is closer to that of a zombie tale – unknown virus, vast death, lots of smoke - there are no zombies here, at least no zombies in terms of eating brains. The book becomes one of those Road Trip dystopia novels, where the heroine struggles to find a place to be because no place is safe. Like most type of quest tales, there are false starts and stops along the way. What makes the book more than just a rehash of such tales is the character of the Midwife herself. Too often in books such as these, the central character demands the reader’s pity. In the best books, this demand does not happen, and such is the case here. To call the Midwife likable would be a misstatement, but you do end up rooting for her.
The Midwife finds herself in a world decimated by a virus. The virus is also particularly deadly to women, and among women, those who are pregnant. Therefore, the midwife isn’t just out of a job, she is also one of the few surviving women. Hence, the road trip is also a look at how people react to fewer women. In some of the dystopias, in particular, those decimated human population ones, this issue really isn’t examined. One wonders why. Elison readdresses, in part, this omission. The Midwife’s behavior is in part determined by the knowledge that she is one of a few. The story isn’t just about missing food (though there is a brilliant conversation about bananas,) but all the things. In some ways this landscape does contribute to the weaker aspect of the novel. The behavior of Elison’s characters is real, that isn’t the problem. Like Atwood, Elison uses practices that have historical precedent. It does, though, feel like those women who do not automatically follow everything the Midwife says are punished for that.
The only other flaw in the novel is a change of point of view that occurs in late in the book. The story is told using a frame. The reader is reading the diaries of the Mid-Wife. Each chapter starts with or contains part of the diary transitioning between that a third person point of view that is confined largely to the Midwife’s thoughts and feelings. At times, the Midwife allows other characters to write in her journal. Halfway through the book, the third person viewpoint leaves the midwife and follows those that have long separated from the midwife. While this is not a total violation because of the frame, it is a bit jarring, and also presents too neat of a bow. The one point where it doesn’t jar is at the very end, where a wider world view is given.
Elison, however, gets huge points for her use of FGM in the novel. Considering the world that Elison creates, its use is hardly surprising, but many authors would not have the guts to use. Elison does. In fact, this is something that Atwood herself might have done had she written Handmaid’s Tale today. Hopefully, The Book of the Unknown Midwife will be placed beside many a copy of Atwood’s classic. ...more
If you are of a certain age, you remember, most likely with fondness, those Chose Your Own Adventure books. You know whDisclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.
If you are of a certain age, you remember, most likely with fondness, those Chose Your Own Adventure books. You know where you flipped to different pages depending on what action you chose to do. (You also most likely remember games like Zork and King’s Quest where you typed in commands). Those books seemed to end most of the time with the reader being eaten by wild dogs, trapped in a sewer, imprisoned by Santa Claus. In other words, a very messy ending.
But that was part of the charm.
Something that MacDonald and Gagnon seem to realize. This is a Choose Your Adventure for the Real World. In other words that holiday that should be fun but is so loaded with everything from family drama, perfection stress, and what not – Christmas. The pair of authors not only parodies the Choose Your Own Adventure books, but also how people fuss during the holidays.
It’s not a perfect book – the basic assumption is still that the reader is straight male, but that’s part of the parody. MacDonald and Gagnon incorporate that beautiful into various jokes. Play attention to the names that they use as well.
Disclaimer: ARC courtesy of I.B. Tauris via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
What makes a movement? What leads to protest? Why do sDisclaimer: ARC courtesy of I.B. Tauris via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
What makes a movement? What leads to protest? Why do some people who seem sympathetic to a movement yet not join a protest? These basic questions are not just confined to the political situation in any country, yet Genc uses the basic questions to shield more light on the protest movement in Turkey, and in particular those young people behind it.
For the average American who has no real connection to Turkey, most of the news about the country is limited to sound bites on the news, and the average American international news broadcast is pretty bad. When the recent coup attempt happened, it made the nightly news and CNN broadcasted heavily for a bit, but outside of mentioning where the accused coup inspirer lives, nothing. Very little about the arrests that occurred after. When the protests were occurring in Taksim square, there was very little context. Genc’s book does something to readdress this for the American public.
Genc’s book is more a series of profiles and interviews with people –ranging from student protests to business men, to filmmakers, to journalists. The topics include the protests at Taskim but also the closure of magazines and other forms of censorship. Because of timing, the book obvious could not examine the most recent coup attempt, though Genc’s introduction does include it.
One of the book’s strengths is the use of the interviewees. While the book does start with an interview of a protestor in Taskim square, Genc includes an interview with those who chose not to join the protest or even saw it as little more than a protest of the middle class. This allows the reader into the varying and conflicting political views. Perhaps the most telling is the chapter concerning the filmmaker Evrenol and his experience of censorship, a story that does make one think.
There is also a discussion about the police officers, in particular the actions of the police during the protests combined with the police in everyday life. In some ways this section shows that conflicting views are sometimes simply conflicting views and speaks to the human condition.
Genc is aware of her book use as a starting point for trying to understand Turkish politics. She includes a further reading list at the end of the book so the reader can further her knowledge.
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Do we really need yet another book about Paris during the Second World War?
I don’t knDisclaimer: ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Do we really need yet another book about Paris during the Second World War?
I don’t know the answer to that question. We do need this book, however.
In the past few years, it seems that the role of women in war is getting more attention and study, at least in popular culture. Hopefully, Hollywood will catch up and instead of the fictional Charlotte Grey we will have a lavish movie about the real Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, who also went by the name Hedgehog. Maybe instead of a one hour program on PBS Noor Khan will finally get her own Hollywood movie. Maybe in additional to Band of Brothers and The Pacific, HBO will finally have a series about women resistance fighters – and not the by now tried and tired cliché of the woman falling in love with the German officer she is suppose to be spying on. Don’t give me that. Give me Virginia Hall and Cuthbert. Please, please, someone do that.
For those of you that don’t know, Cuthbert is a wooden leg.
That’s not to say that such romances between German officers and French women didn’t happen. Sebba’s book does detail some of those relationships, though how many of them occurred between a woman resistance member and the man she was spying on, Sebba doesn’t say. (I do wonder why it is always that pairing in fiction at least).
Les Parisiennes chronicles the lives of French women, in particular those women of Paris, during the Second World War. Despite the book’s title, some of the women mention therein is not in Paris, usually because of the War. Sebba counts for this quite nicely by counting Parisenne as a style or sense instead just a living situation. And she really isn’t wrong when you think about it.
In many ways, Sebba’s book is important because it balances the women on the sidelines stories that seem to be so much of popular and easily accessible World War II history. It’s true that there are several books about the role of women in the British SOE, but it wasn’t until this year that WW II woman pilots (WASPS) could legally be buried at Arlington. Usually, there are a few general statements, books about women rescuers of Jewish civilians, and information about nurses. You really have to look to find books about women, and finding books in English about French resistance woman fighters is especially hard in some cases. So we do need books about this.
In another way, Sebba’s book is important because it is not just resistance members that she focuses on. She looks at what drove women to take the steps they did. She also looks at the lives of women who resisted passively or just lived. It isn’t just one type of woman that makes up the story, but many. In some cases, Sebba offers what could be seen as a corrective. This is particularly true of Rose Valland, who kept track of art that the Nazis stole. Nothing against Cate Blanchett, but the character based on her in Monuments Men was just insulting –and it is difficult to find information about Valland in English. Sebba gives you some. She also mentions other quasi well known women, such as Vera Atkins, Noor Khan, and other SOE agents. She details Colette and Chanel as well. In the case of Chanel, one does want a bit more detail about the collaboration she might have/did does with the Nazis. The focus is women of all sort and types – Jewish, communist, mothers, fighters, you name it.
In fact, if there is a weak point in the book, it is about the collaborators. In many cases, there seems too little about women who collaborators. This is not to say that she does not deal with it. Quite frankly, I would be willing to forgive the book more grievous sins simply for the section that deals with the head shaving of women upon liberation of Paris. Sebba looks at what drove people, mostly men, to do it as well as the reactions of those in Paris who saw it. It is a very detailed and compelling section.
Sebba divides the book up into sections based upon time; therefore for each year of the war as well as the years of liberation and rebuilding. She follows some women throughout the timeline (and not everyone survives). At times, she travels far from Paris, for instance to Ravensbruck where many Parisian women were sent. At other times, she seems to reach a bit too far – the presence of Jacqueline Bouvier while showing how close to returning to normal Paris was feels a bit too forced. Yet, the timeline does allow her to show the use of culture – some fashion houses stayed home for instance – as well as the need to find food. She traces how women involved in some political movements, such as Communist groups, rose to lead protests about food shortages. She shows how women rising to take care of family during the absence of men, pushed society forward despite what both the Germans and Vichy government tried to do.
Sebba’s book is the type of a book we need about war. It isn’t about the armies or the rescuers (or at least just the rescuers), it is about a group that during many wars is simply seen as something to possess. ...more