Emily Strange was really popular when I was in high school. So was Ruby Gloom--but she was a lot harder, and more expensive--to find. I was used to her as a brand, though, so seeing her appear as a graphic novel character was akin to realizing that they're making a Happy Bunny movie (they aren't--but they should. Maybe. That could either rock the awesome casbah, or blow major partially-digested chunks).
In this book, Emily is a mad scientist inventor/goth/demented and very weird little girl. Kind of like if Scott Pilgrim were a member of the Addams family! Anyway, she participates in a contest to get a haunted guitar owned by her hero, Professa Kraken, but in order to KEEP the guitar, she has to do a battle of the bands thing.
She needs a band.
But unfortunately, Emily does not play well with others.
(She says this like three or four times. It's funny because this was one of the more common slogans that appeared on Emily Strange t-shirts/memorabilia. Hahahaha...no.)
I wanted to like EMILY AND THE STRANGERS, but I just couldn't get into it. The made-up swearwords, Emily's bitchiness, and the crackfic-like storyline were just too...too too. Maybe the problem is that I'm too old? I'm trying to think about whether middle school me would have enjoyed this or not. Probably, she would have. But I am no longer middle school me, and I was not impressed.
This was...oh, wonderful doesn't even begin to cover it.
So Anda is an overweight nerdy girl who likes gaming. One day, a guest speaker from Australia comes in. She talks about Coarsegold, which is like a cross between Runescape and WoW, and how much trouble she has as a girl gamer because of the misogynistic culture. She then tells the girls who are interested that she will invite them into her clan, and if they manage to prove themselves after three months by becoming active and being good examples in the gameworld, their game play will be comped and they will be able to play permanently for free! Yay!
Jen Wang's drawings are gorgeous, kind of like a softer around the edges version of the Scott Pilgrim style. She really captures the fun fantasy aspect of online gaming with her drawings. I was charmed, just as Anda was, and felt nostalgic for my own days of internet gaming. *sigh*
Then one of the girls in the clan tells Anda about a way to make real world money while playing Coarsegold: killing bot players who are gaming the system and selling game avatars and items on eBay-like sites for money. (This really does happen, btw.) Anda's mom gets suspicious by the strangers who are putting money into her Paypal account and cuts off Anda's internet, forcing her to go to internet cafes to play. But then one day, one of the bot players talks to her, and when she hears his story, suddenly everything changes...
Anyway, IN REAL LIFE was great. I was excited about a book about a girl gamer from the get-go, but the artwork and the storyline made it the amazing little piece of wonderful that it is. I loved that Anda wasn't super skinny, that she was smart and worked hard, and sneaked out around her parents' back. I loved all the characters. I loved the artwork. I loved how it showed that nerds can be cliquish assholes too. I loved that everything is set right in the end, and I loved how all of the girls in this story take such an active role in being masters of their own fates.
This was amazing.
I'm just...so happy. It was that amazing. Girl gamers rock!
I was really excited when I saw the Pop Classics series being launched on Netgalley. I'm all about pop-culture, and these books, with their 1980s and 1990s references, seemed specifically geared towards my generation! How exciting. I read and loved IT DOESN'T SUCK: SHOWGIRLS, so my expectations for this book were high, but sadly, they weren't met.
I never read or watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I think I vaguely remember a handful of episodes of the cartoon, but the turtles annoyed me with their loud voices and mean banter, and there was only one girl character who--let's be honest--kind of sucked, so yeah, there wasn't a lot to appeal to nine-year-old me. However, I never watched Showgirls, either, and I found IT DOESN'T SUCK to be engaging, so maybe that's not why I couldn't get into RAISE SOME SHELL.
To be honest, RAISE SOME SHELL and I got off on the wrong foot the moment the author compared being self-published to being in "a smudgy gutter." I found that an incredibly rude and condescending thing to say, not to mention unwarranted. That took a lot of my excitement away. But I still pressed on, because I try to be a fair reviewer, and I know a lot of people share Rosenbaum's attitude towards SPAs in light of recent events. So yeah, onwards and hopefully upwards. But no. The more I read, the less I liked, and thinking on it, I think I know why.
When you are trying to get someone excited about something, you have to put yourself in their shoes, and think of ways to relate to their experiences and have them apply those experiences to whatever you're trying to get them excited about. IT DOESN'T SUCK talks about female empowerment, sexual abuse, slut-shaming, homoeroticism, and good-girl heroines trying to avoid getting typecasted. Even if you haven't seen the movie, you can think of a lot of similar scenarios--some of which may even be personal. He talked about it with a passion, and had a whole slew of associations that had me running to Google, and helped build up my understanding about a movie I hadn't even seen. By the end of the book, I kind of wanted to see the movie. He succeeded; I was won over, and charmed.
RAISE SOME SHELL, on the other hand, was very closed-minded. While reading, I was put in mind of a sneering guy who's like, "Oh, you don't know about _____?" And then proceeds to exclude you from the conversation by making all these exclusive references that may or may not be making fun of you in the process. You don't know, and it's totally off-putting. I would get this sometimes when I shopped at a specific college store. A man once came up to me and asked me what I was doing in there (a man who didn't even work at the store). And I was like, "Um, browsing." And he was like, "Browsing? Who comes in here to browse?" Like I had to have an alibi or something for shopping in a freaking comic store. Ridiculous. Anyway. Yeah, if you're not a fan of TMNT, there isn't a lot for you in this book. There aren't a whole lot of outside references apart from references to other comic books, and since I'm not a fan of comics in general (for reasons you can read on my review of WONDER WOMAN UNBOUND) those associates just plum didn't work.
If you're a TMNT fan you may well enjoy this for the nostalgia factor. There are a lot of episodes mentioned, and the author seems to be hugely passionate about TMNT. Unfortunately, most of these reasons are not super well defined for the outsider, and will be about as entertaining as listening to That One Guy at the coffee shop list off all the reasons about why Battlestar Galactica is awesome.
HIPSTER FASHION tries so hard, and fails so bad. I was trying to think of the best way to go about discussing my problems with this book. I thought a list might be the best way.
1. HIPSTER FASHION calls Miley Cyrus a hipster style icon.
2. It throws around the words "kicks", "flowy", and "ironic", like bywords.
3. The information in this book is about several seasons out of date. Day-glo orange jeans? Fedoras? Um, no.
4. Fannypacks aren't trendy. They weren't trendy in the 90s, and they sure as heck-fire aren't trendy now.
5. It talks about "chalking" as temporary hair-dye, which means wetting the hair and using pastels, then using a haircurler to set the color. I don't think oil pastels were meant to be used that way, and I'm pretty sure that they're also...flammable.
6. It touts The Cosby Show as a potential fashion source. For sweaters.
7. The pictures are inconsistent. Sometimes they look hipster, and sometimes they look scene, prep, or even just really, really dorky.
8. HIPSTER FASHION does not seem to really understand hipster fashion in the slightest.
9. Tumblr is used more by fangirls than hipsters. Hipsters tend to prefer Instagram because of the vintage filters.
10. It suggests that girls have asymmetrical hairstyles. One half, long; one half, shaved. Ummm. No.
First off, let me point out a huge, glaring error.
On page 251 of my netgalley edition, Hanley says that Emma Watson plays the role of Gwen Stacy in the revamped Spiderman movie series. BEH! Wrong! It's Emma Stone. You got the wrong Emma, dude. Oopsie-daisy.
Apart from that pretty big oops, I really enjoyed WONDER WOMAN UNBOUND. I'll be honest, at first I was a little skeptical. They were having a dude write about feminism, and the misrepresentation of a female character? Call me sexist, but my first thought was immediately of all the ways that this could go horribly, horribly wrong.
WONDER WOMAN UNBOUND starts off with the Golden Age of comic books (during WWII). There's a lot of discussion about the series' debut because of the dude who did a lot of the writing, William Marston. Talk about a weird dude. He's responsible for the stereotype of Wonder Woman being into bondage because, um, when he was in charge of the series, she pretty much was. It had the highest incidence of rope bondage of any comic book, and on Paradise Island, where the Amazons lived in peace away from the evils of men, they played many a game of bondage, that involved frolicking around and tying each other up. Marston was also in a polyamorous relationship between his wife, Elizabeth Marston and his girlfriend, Olive Bryne. Apparently the three of them had an "understanding" and William and Elizabeth were the breadwinners while Olive stayed home with the kids (he had two with each wife). Marston apparently also wrote a titillating book about Julius Caesar that has many of the same tropes that appear in Wonder Woman, only presented in a more sexualized form. I'm on it!
What made Wonder Woman so special was that she was a virtuous heroine who tried to set things right nonviolently. She didn't need a man to bail her ass out of trouble, like Lois Lane, and she was really quite self-possessed. Unfortunately, in the Silver Age of comics (post-WWII), Wonder Woman suffered many setbacks that caused her to become more outmoded as women's rights flourished. Even when Ms. tried to adopt Wonder Woman as a mascot, she failed miserably in the hands of the new writers, who started the series with an assassination of an editor of a woman's magazine. Um...
Way to flip the bird to your cheerleaders.
WONDER WOMAN UNBOUND doesn't just cover the history of Wonder Woman. It also traces the development of Batman and Robin, Superman, and The Fantastic Four, and their female superheroes/romantic leads, such as Batgirl, Supergirl, The Black Widow, Mary Jane Watson, and various others. It's interesting how cruel Batman and Superman were to their female sidekicks, and also quite sad. I also really appreciated how Hanley touched upon the use of sexual and physical abuse against women in the Bronze Age of comics to garner sympathy for the heroes and to spur them into action. He covered the crippling and naked photographs of Barbara Gordon, but failed to mention the similar tropes in Watchmen (mother of the female character is brutally raped), and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Mina Harker is raped and sodomized by the Invisible Man). It's one of the reasons I've sworn off the superhero genre -- they are so incredibly misogynistic.
Hanley also covers the sexualization of Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter was hired for her cup size and pretty face, in addition for her acting abilities), mentioning the infamous photo shoot with Tiffany Fallon on the cover of Playboy, where she's wearing only boots and a painted-on Wonder Woman costume where you can quite clearly see her nipples. I looked into this, and there's a similar one for Megan Fox as Supergirl, wearing a painted-on Supergirl shirt and a super short skirt (we're talking anime short) where you can see her panties. I'm not sure if this latter is legit though; it looks photoshopped. But then again, most things are. (Right, Target?)
I know a nonfiction book is good when it has me opening numerous Google tabs to look things up, which WONDER WOMAN UNBOUND did. I learned so much about the development of our culture, and how its driven the content of our pop culture, and also about superhero comics in general. It makes me sad, too, how one of the most iconic female superheroes in history seems to be doomed to relative obscurity in the face of such successes as Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. Nobody knows Diana Prince's name, or her origin story.
One thing that did surprise me, though, was the fact that Tim Hanley didn't mention Lucy Lawless or Xena: Warrior Princess. I know she's not a comic book character, but L.L. really resembles Lynda Carter, and there are many things about Xena (and her Amazon friend, Gabrielle) that resemble the Wonder Woman universe. I mean, it's even got ties to Greek mythology.
This book really, really, really wants to be the next CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME. It even says so in the summary. (By the way, doing this is a really bad idea. It creates raised expectations that aren't fair to you. Or the original book. Such comparisons must be earned--not branded.)
My expectations were not met.
IN A CAT'S EYE does not have the well-researched, psychological angle of CURIOUS INCIDENT.
What it does have is a boring male character who is just...boring. The dialog is awful. It's like listening to two Furbies talk. (You remember Furbies, right? God, I feel so old right now...)
I honestly don't get the comparison to CATCHER IN THE RYE. This book doesn't have any literary merit. It's easily as pretentious as most literature, but without the street cred.
I kind of get the feeling that the author just picked random books from the best-seller list and slapped them into his summary as a feel-good comparison, hoping they'd help him to sell more books...
How funny that this is the same author of ALSO KNOWN AS. The two books are nothing alike. Robin Benway is totally a chicklit writer at heart, you can tell. Meg Cabot wrote the blurb on the cover of my edition & her style is TOTALLY reminiscent of Cabot at her best, from the perky, plucky heroine, to the all's well that ends well ending. AUDREY, WAIT! is so much better than ALSO KNOWN AS, though, and I think that's because it's much easier to write a fluffy, chicklitty rock star story than it is a fluffy, chicklitty espionage thriller. Yeah. About that.
Audrey Cuttler is, like, the Everygirl. She's a bit punk, so of course, counterculture teenagers everywhere will totes relate, whether they consider themselves hipster or goth. Audrey can't stand poseurs, she likes to keep it real--and that is why she dumps her boyfriend, even though he's in a band. He's completely self-focused and immature and she just doesn't have time for him in her life anymore. It's nothing personal, just the facts.
Unfortunately, her now-ex, Evan, doesn't see things that way. He writes a mean-spirited song about their breakup, portraying Audrey as a cheating, heartbreaking slutmobile, and the song shoots up the charts, eventually becoming a #1 hit. The band is catapulted into fame, and Audrey is, too, because she is the girl who inspired the band. Everyone thinks she's going to be the next Yoko Ono or Courtney Love. Suddenly she's got paparazzi stalking her to class, groupies sneaking into her job or school to take her picture, and band members sleazing around her, trying to use her for fame.
This is teen fantasy at its finest. Who doesn't dream of fame and fortune as a teenager? It's a bit unrealistic, but the pitch-perfect narrative more than make up for it. I was really reminded of Cabot's ALL-AMERICAN GIRL book while reading AUDREY, WAIT! The scenarios, and characters, are similar, and I think the same sorts of girls will like them. The emotions in this book are pretty deep, too. During several moments I was like,
One thing that did bother me, though, was the slut-shaming. Audrey says several times that she's not "one of those girls", and of course, we all know who those girls are. There's also a villainous, scheming popular girl named Sharon Eggleston, who serves as the social climbing, boyfriend-stealing slut, and whom Audrey treats as badly as Sharon treats her, only we're supposed to feel disgusted when Sharon does it and vindicated when Audrey does. That bothered me, as did Audrey's condemnation of people like Ashlee Simpson and Lindsay Lohan. It felt unnecessary.
Overall, this was a fun, light read. I'm going to lend it to one of my friends tomorrow, who's recovering from an injury. I think she'll get a kick out of it. It's that kind of book. :)
All the people on my flist, and all the people on their flists, were hyping up this book like there's no tomorrow. And that's cool for the author--I'm sure she's excited to see so much squee for her book--but bad for me, the Picky and Unregenerate Reader.
Let me start by saying that this book does not have BDSM. I'm sorry, but rough sex does not constitute BDSM. The kinkiest thing they do is buttsecks. (And the unapologetic asshole uses hair conditioner as lube on her...er...unapologetic asshole.)
So yeah, if you were looking forward to BDSM, prepare yourself for disappointment.
I knew from page one that I would not like Theresa Drazen. Her narrative voice just rubbed me the wrong way. Plus, she has so many annoying nicknames. "Tinkerbell"? "Tee Dray"? I'm just going to call her "Too Dumb," because that's what she is.
Reasons to f ollow.
So anyway, Too Dumb meets Italian Stereotype at a bar. She's got toilet paper stuck to her shoe. He informs her of this. She goes back to the restroom in a swooning stupor, thinking to herself that his hand on hers felt like sex. (Uhh...no comment.)
Too Dumb has a sister, Too Drunk. Too Dumb finds a guy disrespecting Too Drunk and gets mad. Italian Stereotype proceeds to beat the living shit out of Random Douchebag on the hood of a Porsche, and then makes Random Douchebag lick up Too Drunk's vomit from the hood. Ew.
While this is going on, Too Dumb orgasms to herself over Italian Stereotype, marveling how someone can look so breathtakingly beautiful while pummeling someone on a car. I, on the other hand, would be screaming my head off and calling the cops, but maybe that's why I'm still single. I'm not letting all these Christian Grey lookalikes give me the runaround and treat me like shit.
Italian Stereotype hits on Too Dumb, and she turns him down. He gives her a business card and they go out to dinner. Too Dumb jokes about the guy he beat up, because when you see a guy beat someone up and make him eat vomit, you aren't revolted, no, you're turned on and use it as a bonding thing. Of course. Italian Stereotype propositions Too Dumb, who immediately runs to the nearest cash wrap to get herself all wrapped up like a little present so he can tear off her bow.
Here's what happens next:
-Italian Stereotype tells her that "he will hurt her to keep her safe." Uh-huh.
-Butt sex. Italian Stereotype uses hair conditioner as lube. He calls his Saint Christopher medal his protection. Because Saint Christopher totally gives a shit about whether or not you get AIDS.
-The word "my pucker" is used to describe Too Dumb's butthole.
-I laugh. A lot.
-Italian Stereotype sings an ass-fucking song while he fucks her in the ass. It goes, "...in your ass, Contessa, si, si, si..." NO, I am not joking. Page 134, bitches.
-I laugh. Some more.
-Italian Stereotype says a whole bunch of really misogynistic things that are supposed to show us how he is a Rebel without a Cause. (Does being in the mafia count as a cause? Hmm...)
-Cheating Boyfriend, AKA Too Dumb's ex, who also happens to be the District Attorney, tries to use Too Dumb to find out Top Sekrit Infoz on Italian Stereotype's 'legitimate businesses.'
-Italian Stereotype castrates some people, & chokes them with their own genitals.
-Too Dumb listens to this and then sets out to look for Italian Stereotype. Not to tell him off, but to fuck him some moar. More threats for her own good. More misogyny. She tells Italian Stereotype to fuck her while she's scared. Some panties get ripped.
(Are Panty-Rippers the new Bodice Rippers, or something?)
-Sex, sex, sex.
-Deus ex machina.
I will say this, though. It was better written than most erotica out there. But that doesn't do much in the way of redemption for this Fifty Shades of Awful.
I will never understand the hype. Never. Sorry. :(
Oh, baby. You just threaten me so good.
I love it when you're psychotic.
Tell me how many men you'll kill for me. It makes me feel like such a special snowflake.
Oh, yeah, awkward and physically implausible sex. GIVE IT TO ME IN THE PUCKER.
Goodreads doesn't have a summary up yet, so here's the one from Netgalley:
In France, Alain Robbe-Grillet's final novel was sold in shrink-wrap, labeled with a sticker warning readers that this perverse fairy tale might offend certain sensibilities. It tells the story of Gigi, also known as Djinn, who is being schooled by her father to be a perfect slave and mistress. Running the gamut of unacceptable subject matter from incest to torture, this book abounds with vignettes that explore taboos and their representation in fiction, from the Brothers Grimm to the Marquis de Sade. It is titillating and disgusting, the work of a dirty old man or brilliant agent provocateur -- or both.
I applied for A SENTIMENTAL NOVEL because it sounded controversial. I don't really enjoy books of this nature, but hey- it was free, newly translated, & I figured it could be entertaining.
I made the mistake of reading the preface where I learned several things about the author that really disturbed me, & indicated that I might have many reasons not to like this novel. For starters, A SENTIMENTAL NOVEL is about sadism. Not the vanilla kind of sadism that has become so popular in NA romances (handcuffs? please), but, like, screaming, Nightmare on Elm Street run-to-mommy type sadism. The type that Marquis de Sade was famous for.
We all have limits. I can't stand seeing human beings tortured. Robbe-Grillet does not share that problem. The female characters in this book experience HORRIBLE ACTS OF TORTURE, like being whipped on their crotches as they pee, having their vaginas sawed open, and, oh, yes, getting red hot irons being put on their breasts. Doesn't that sound fun? NO? I DON'T THINK SO EITHER.
What makes it more disturbing is that all the female characters are underage. Obviously, no one should have to endure stuff like this, but the fact that these are children experiencing such things makes it way worse. A baby is tortured too, and the narrator observes that you can tell it's a female baby because of the "precociously sexy" expressions it makes. That made me even angrier and more disgusted, because it gave words to the theme that had heretofore been implicit: that the women in this story had done something to deserve these punishments, & were nothing more than objects.
I thought I'd give this a try because it was different, but I just can't do it. I can't believe that there are people in the world who find stuff like this erotic. It's horrific and inhuman. & it perpetuates rape culture in a way that is nightmarish in the extreme. Nobody deserves...this. Nobody.
Each chapter opens up with a PSA-type letter reminiscent of Ted L. Nancy's Letters from a Nut series. I loved these letters; they made me smile with their blunt satire of American culture.
It is then followed by a funny anecdote that is pretty typical as far as comedic female memoirs go, except with a distinctly Korean flavor which sets it apart and keeps it from being too bland. She writes out her mother and father's accents phonetically & I could almost hear their voices in my head.
I'm not sure why this book has such a low rating. I found Choi's anecdotes both funny and charming. She's pretty much a Korean version of me. I got to drool over dried cuttlefish, reminisce over family trips without air conditioning gone horribly, horribly wrong, and laugh over parental expectations regarding a) college, b) career paths, c) marriage, and d) children.
It takes a lot of talent to be able to turn the ordinary into laugh-out-loud extraordinary. Fans of Chelsea Handler, Tina Fey, and the like will probably really enjoy SHUT UP, YOU'RE WELCOME. I certainly did!
I know Hellboy is a hugely popular franchise & I don't blame publishers for trying to get younger kids interested, the way they are with Spiderman and Batman. Hellboy is kind of scary and chibi-izing everything is a pretty good way to make him less so.
Unfortunately, the way they chose to go about it really caused the storyline to suffer. It's so juvenile & silly. It reminded me of the Captain Underpants series. Lots of randomness and potty humor.
I've never seen the Hellboy movie or read the graphic-novels but I know enough to safely say that this book is nothing like the world that Mike Mignola created.
Maybe this would be good for a five-year-old boy. For a fan of the series? Probably not.
I haven't played the Plants vs. Zombies games, but I love art! Especially cute cartoon art. What really wooed me was the adorable little sunflower on the cover, and the things that look like green Bellsprouts. How could I resist?
Even if you haven't played the games (speaking as someone who hasn't), you can still enjoy this book. THE ART OF PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES has gorgeous illustrations, concepts, sketches, and splash panels. I think my favorites were the Chinese illustrations. Those ideograms look so cute in bubble letters.
The layout is kind of similar to one of the Brian Froud books. There are pictures of all the different kinds of zombies and plants, done in various styles and mediums. Then there are comments in the margins from the zombies about how awesome they are, and how the zombies will never lose to the lame loser plants.
There are also pictures of some of the levels, and theme-based pictures based on popular games or movies that reminded me of the schematics of ALTERNATIVE MOVIE POSTERS: FILM ART FROM THE UNDERGROUND (my review of which, you can read HERE).
Basically, this is a fun, cute book of art that can be enjoyed by anyone, but especially those who like zombies and/or the Plants vs. Zombies games. I think it says something that I don't like zombies at all, but yet was still able to enjoy this book. :)
LUNGS FULL OF NOISE was a frustrating read for me- it perfectly encapsulates all the reasons of why I get so irritated with anthologies. Don't get me wrong; I love anthologies. They're the equivalent of the free-samples tables at Costco. But at the same time, I fear that short stories can make the author lazy. Like, "Oh, it's only 20-50 pages. I don't have to try as hard," when, really, the shortness of space means you have to try three times as hard to woo the reader with a satisfying beginning and a good ending with 1/10 of the space of a novel.
But hey, that's just me.
Another frustration I have with anthologies is that there is, inevitably, one story (or a small group of stories) that outshine all the rest, causing the whole to suffer by comparison. That was definitely the case with LUNGS FULL OF NOISE. (Cool title, by the way.) Some of the stories were awesome, & made me want to know more, more, more! And others, I skimmed entirely because they were Blahsville.
LUNGS FULL OF NOISE opens strong with MARIPOSA GIRLS and BIBI FROM JUPITER, stories about figure skaters who drill metal into their feet, and a college freshman with an androgynous roommate who also happens to be a transfer student from Jupiter. BLUE SKY WHITE was interesting, kind of like a post-apocalyptic novel in the style of Saramago's BLINDNESS. I liked it, but I wasn't in love with it the way I was with the first two stories. THE WHITE WINGS OF MOTHS starts off weak, but picks up speed by the second half of the story. Unfortunately by the time I finally got a feel for the main character and her motivations, I'd reached the end of the story. (This is a recurring theme with this author- she starts out slowly, almost dragging, and just when you finally start to grasp where she's going, the story ends. It's quite frustrating.) QUIET CAMP was interesting but poorly executed. BEAN STALK was dull, & uninspired. I skimmed the next three stories, but really enjoyed DYE JOB. In fact, I think it might have been my favorite out of the collection. I drank up every word greedily & thought to myself, "Hey, I might just give this book four stars, after all!" But then it ended on a weak note with SO MANY WINGS and I thought, "Damn. So much for that."
I think Tessa Mellas has a lot of talent & I can see why she won so many awards. This is obviously an experimental effort. The styles were so different. I think she wanted to try her hand at everything, but she probably would have been better off sticking with something more cohesive. I, as a reader, found the overall effect very disorienting and not in a good way. I love her way with words. I love how each word she chooses seems deliberate. Mellas is a ponderous writer, & I think she could do amazing things with a full-length novel. This collection as it stands, however, was disappointing.
Graphic-novels don't just have to be all pulp and superheroes. They can also be a medium...moreYou can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
Graphic-novels don't just have to be all pulp and superheroes. They can also be a medium for artists to tell a story with drawings and artwork and impressive color schemes. THE UNDERTAKING OF LILY CHEN is one of these latter, and oh, what a beautiful job it does of telling the story.
THE UNDERTAKING OF LILY CHEN deals with a superstition that still plagues rural China - that of the "ghost bride". When Deshi accidentally kills his older brother, Wei, his parents are furious, and demand that he find a bride for the funeral, so that Wei will not have to be alone in the afterlife. A ghost bride. Unfortunately, because of China's one-child policy and a preference for sons, fresh female corpses are in short supply.
Enter Lily Chen.
Lily is the daughter of a peasant family who is about to get evicted off their land. She's caught the eye of the landlord, however, and her family wants to marry her off to the creep. When she encounters Deshi, who seems wealthier and has experienced much of the city life and its comforts, she runs off with him in the hopes of making it big and gaining her independence.
Meanwhile, Deshi continues to search for female corpses- in morgues, cemeteries, funeral parlors, and shrines. As he continues to come up short, time and time again, he must decide how far he is willing to go to honor his parents' wishes, because there is only one suitable bride around...Lily.
I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. It had such an intriguing premise, and was so dark and spooky. The watercolors really add to the overall effect, making the panels themselves seem ghostly. It's funny, because the drawings are quite childish and remind me of the almost deformed-looking characters you used to see on Saturday morning cartoons, like Teacher's Pet, or Pepper Ann, but the story is so dark and so obviously adult that there's a bit of a disconnect.
THE UNDERTAKING OF LILY CHEN played with my heart. It made me bite my nails and fear what was going to happen next, but it also made it impossible to look away.
So, disclosure time. Turns out the author is, like, the cousin of one of my best friends of all time. Small world, huh? I didn't know this when I applied for the ARC on Netgalley; I've never met the guy, and this freaky-deaky six degrees of separation has no bearing on my rating OR my review. There.
Mark-fucking-Watney. Where do I even begin? I mean, talk about your tortured characters. I sometimes feel bad about the strife I put my characters through. Well, Andy Weir takes the cake.
Mark Watney was part of a six crew mission to Mars when something went Horribly Wrong (and things going Horribly Wrong is a recurring theme for this book). Because of a glitch in his bio suit, his crew thinks he's dead, and they leave him stranded on Mars, all alone, with limited supplies.
Now this is probably the worst thing I can imagine. I'd be peeing myself. But Mark takes it with good humor and immediately starts trying to figure out how he can live long enough to survive. Because NASA has a plan that can save him, it's just gonna take time.
Time Mark really doesn't have....
I love how sciencey this is. In terms of survival stories, it's a lot like Apollo 13. I was just blown away by how well-researched this book was. This makes THE MARTIAN stand out apart from all this science-fiction-fantasy stuff. Not that there's anything wrong with SFF, but it's nice to see sci-fi that errs on the more science part of sci-fi, like CONTACT. Or MOON.
Mark Watney is such a likable protagonist. I was rooting for him from the start, and the more I got to know him as a character, the more I really didn't fucking want him to die. There would be moments when things would get so intense I'd either have to set the computer aside so I could start hyperventilating or else skim through the passages to make sure that nothing bad would happen.
(This was in vain, by the way. SOMETHING BAD ALWAYS HAPPENED.)
The other five members of the crew were pretty awesome too. I liked how Mark got to know them better through the books, movies, and music that they left behind on the Mars habitat. This would make a great movie. I watched MOON pretty recently and I think Sam Rockwell would make a fantastic Mark Watney. This is just such a great book about survival, and it says some wonderful things about how tragedy and hope can bridge gaps across cultures and rivalries.
I'm glad I can tell my friend in all honesty that I liked her cousin's book. :)
I like magic-realism. The only problem is that it's often pretentious. It's like authors decide that if they're going to write in this genre, they have to be as pretentious as humanly possible.
This book is no exception.
The main character and narrator of this book is a GIANT. She has acromegaly, an over-active pituitary gland that will cause her to keep on growing until she dies. (Andre the Giant had this, too.) Giant also has a sister, Pretty Bitch. Pretty Bitch gets everything she ever wanted out of life simply because she's beautiful, and ignores the shit out of GIANT. GIANT accepts this, because Pretty Bitch is pretty. Except one day Pretty Bitch gets raped by Dr. Douchebag, gets preggers, and is forced into a shotgun wedding. Her son is a gay transvestite. The doctor doesn't know. Pretty Bitch is miserable and accidentally/maybe not kills herself.
Meanwhile, GIANT has a friend, Quiet Girl. Quiet Girl's family adopted GIANT because the woman who adopted Pretty Bitch (let's call her Actual Bitch) doesn't want GIANT skulking around her house. Dr. Douchebag is pretty much shite at taking care of himself, though, and tells GIANT he wants her to move in with him and Gay Transvestite, because if she doesn't he'll call in all the debts on Quiet Girl's family farm.
GIANT learns herblore, and experiments on Dr. Douchebag. She makes him gravely ill because he deserves it, in her mind, and it's good practice to see what the herbs actually do. Vomiting, the shits, boils, pus -- nothing is too good for Dr. Douchebag. GIANT also uses the herbs to kill Actual Bitch's poor innocent kitty (D:), and, eventually, become an Angel of Death.
This book might have gotten three stars for me if not for the ending. The way GIANT treated her Best Friend was disgusting. Seriously disgusting. You want to talk about selfish, GIANT? Look at the way you treated your friend. Look at the way you treated the only person who ever stood by you in your miserable fucking life. But it doesn't matter, right? Because you got married at the end.
Couldn't really get into this so not going to write a full review. I liked the premise but the execution was pretty terrible. And giving all the gods...moreCouldn't really get into this so not going to write a full review. I liked the premise but the execution was pretty terrible. And giving all the gods modern nicknames not only made it difficult to keep track of who was whom, it also made me feel like I was watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians or something. Lamesauce.(less)