Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Review: I am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina, ill. by Stacey Robinson and John Jennings

Synopsis: Alfonso Jones can't wait to play the role of Hamlet in his school's hip-hop rendition of the classic Shakespearean play. He also wants to let his best friend, Danetta, know how he really feels about her. But as he is buying his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun, and he shoots Alfonso. When Alfonso wakes up in the afterlife, he's on a ghost train guided by well-known victims of police shootings, who teach him what he needs to know about this subterranean spiritual world. Meanwhile, Alfonso's family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice for Alfonso in the streets. As they confront their new realities, both Alfonso and those he loves realize the work that lies ahead in the fight for justice. (from the online description)

Review:  Tony Medina wrote this graphic novel as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. He based the fictional Alfonso Jones on several of the young men shot by law officers in the last few years.
I specifically asked for this book to review because I’m white and I’m a racist. As the Black Lives Matter grew to prominence, I reacted with contempt and scorn, pushing aside the movement as the petulant rantings of a self-victimizing people.
It was through speaking with a friend several years ago, that I began to question this attitude. Maybe…I was wrong.
I decide to explore the racism in my heart, a journey which has lead me to get involved in my community, listen to voices I previously ignored, contemplate thoughts I previously considered stupid, and – to read books that challenge my own experience and education.
Medina’s book is just such a book. With thick bold lines and dynamic art, Medina weaves the tale of the fictional Alfonso Jones into a narrative of black lives taken through police action. I did not agree with everything Medina said – but I can’t tell if that is because he was actually wrong or because of my own racist perceptions. It seemed as if he was saying that everyone killed by police was innocent of any crime. That isn’t true. But perhaps, that isn’t the point? Guilty or not, every American is entitled to a fair trial and the expectation of safety while under police management. As a white American, I take that expectation as fact. I am learning that for black Americans, it is a lie.
This book did not magically change my thinking. Instead, it is another valuable step in my own journey to understand the struggle of Blacks in America, and my own contribution to that injustice.
I would recommend it as part of any library dedicated to understanding the condition of black Americans and particularly, I recommend this work to anyone looking to understand a perspective outside their own.
Note: I received this free from LibaryThing’s Early Review Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: 2018 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens list (Young Adult Library Services Association) and the New York Public Library's list of Best Books for Teens.

ISBN: 978-1-62014-263-9-51895
Year Published: 2017
Date Finished: 5-1-2017
Pages: 166

Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: Annie and the Old One by Miska Miles

Synopsis: Annie is a young Navajo girl who refuses to believe that her grandmother, the Old One, will die. As she struggles to left go, she learns about life and death.

Review: Sweet story of a young girl learning to deal with the death of a loved one. Her attempts to prevent it are child-like, and remind me how child conceive the world. It was sweet and heart-breaking. An excellent book for young children, perhaps for those who are struggling to understand death.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: Newbery Honor

ISBN: 0-316-57120-2
Year Published: 1971
Date Finished: 4-30-2018
Pages: 44

Friday, May 18, 2018

Review: The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough

Synopsis: Sometimes fairy tales can come true-even for plain, shy spinsters like Missy Wright. Neither as pretty as cousin Alicia nor as domineering as mother Drusilla, she seems doomed to a quiet life of near poverty at Missalonghi, her family's pitifully small homestead in Australia's Blue Mountains. But It's a brand-new century-the twentieth-a time for new thoughts and bold new actions. And Missy Wright is about to set every self-righteous tongue in the town of Byron wagging. Because she has just set her sights on a mysterious, mistrusted and unsuspecting stranger ... who just might be Prince-Charming in disguise. (from the online description)

Review: It is impossible to read this book without comparing it to The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery. Indeed, McCullough has to answer charges of plagiarism when this was published.
The back-bone of the stories are the same: a spinster, poor among wealthy relatives, who finds out she is dying and decides to take charge of her life. From there, the details are different. McCullough version has a bit more drama, a few more villains, and several direct references to sex.
It makes sense, given that this book was published in 1987 and The Blue Castle was published 1926, when references to sex would have been taboo in proper books. McCullough’s work would not have been constrained by such laws or social rules.
That being said, I liked most of the details of McCullough’s work. Except the sex. It seemed crass, too crass for the story. It ruined the Hero for me.
It’s a sweet fun story and worth reading, preferably on a beach or by a pool. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-380-70458-7
Year Published: 1987
Date Finished: 4-29-2018
Pages: 189

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Review: When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (L)

Synopsis: To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up. (from the online description)

Review:  Excellent book if you are looking for a story about secrets, gender identity, and family. Magical Realism for the modern age.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-250-05866-9
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 4-29-2018
Pages: 270

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Review: Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a Fuck by Matt Holloway and Michelle Davis (L)

Synopsis: Thug Kitchen started their wildly popular website to inspire people to eat some goddamn vegetables and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Beloved by Gwyneth Paltrow ('This might be my favorite thing ever') and with half a million Facebook fans and counting, Thug Kitchen wants to show everyone how to take charge of their plates and cook up some real f*cking food.
Yeah, plenty of blogs and cookbooks preach about how to eat more kale, why ginger fights inflammation, and how to cook with microgreens and nettles. But they are dull or pretentious as hell -and most people can't afford the hype.  
Thug Kitchen lives in the real world. In their first cookbook, they're throwing down more than 100 recipes for their best-loved meals, snacks and sides for beginning cooks to home chefs. (Roasted Beer and Lime Cauliflower Tacos? Pumpkin Chili? Grilled Peach Salsa? Believe that sh*t.) Plus they're going to arm you with all the info and techniques you need to shop on a budget and go and kick a bunch of ass on your own.  
This book is an invitation to everyone who wants to do better to elevate their kitchen game. No more ketchup and pizza counting as vegetables. No more drive-thru lines. No more avoiding the produce corner of the supermarket. Sh*t is about to get real. (from the online description)

Review: It seems fair to divide my review of this book into two parts. First, presentation - 5/5 to be sure. Hilarious. The liberal use of swear words, how they give voice to the thoughts we've all had (such as wtf is kale?) and their honesty about how most cookbooks have a tone that can be patronizing to someone who's never cooked anything but instant ramen. As for a first-level cookbook, this is it. If you want to eat healthier but are lost, pick up this book! With humor and honesty, the authors introduce new ideas and ingredients, explaining the recipes without insulting the intelligence of the reader.
The second part: The nutrition ideas - are wrong. They are, naturally, based on the nutrition advice that the government has given us since the 80s. It's all bullshit. Read Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes or see the documentary call FatHead or watch the Youtube lecture by Robert Lustig to understand why much of their advice is incorrect. However, they do include a section on the dangers of sugar, which is excellent.
In the end, if you are looking for a VEGAN cookbook, with yummy recipes and hilarious notes, buy this. But be careful of taking the nutritional advice.

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-62336-358-1
Year Published: 2014
Date Finished: 4-28-2018
Pages: 212

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Ramble: Adjustments to my 2018 Reading Goals

I posted my 2018 Goals in Early January.

After some review and consideration, I'm adjusting my goals for the year:

TOTAL: 200

120 Books
80 Graphic Novels / Manga

Mini-Challenges have been revised to reflect this change.

Christian: 10+
Non-Fiction: 15+

- One on Evolution
- Three written by a Non-Western Author or Translated Work
- One Biography

Science Fiction / Fantasy: 30+

- Two from the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois MacMaster Bujold
- Three Grimdark Books
- Ten+ Vintage Sci-Fi (defined as printed before 1980) 
- One Anthology
- One Trilogy (Must Be a Complete Already-Owned Trilogy)
Classics / General Fiction: 20+

- One Persephone Book
- Two African-American Fiction
- Ten by Non-Western Authors or Translated Works

Young Adult / Children: 20+

- Five Newbery Books

- Two Classic (Published Pre-1950)
- No More Than Five Picture/Young Reader Books

In the Fall, I will write an update of these goals and add additional adjustments depending on my success.

Review: The Valiant by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, Paolo Rivera, Joe Rivera (L)

Synopsis: The Eternal Warrior has protected the Earth for more than 10,000 years. A master of countless weapons and long forgotten martial arts, he is guided by the Geomancers — those who speak for the Earth. During his long watch, the Eternal Warrior has failed three times. Each time, the Geomancer was killed...and a new dark age for humanity began. Each time, he was unable to stop The Immortal Enemy - a monstrous force of nature. A civilization killer. A horror that appears differently each time it arrives...and whose seemingly only purpose is to bring disorder and darkness to the world. Now, the time has come for The Immortal Enemy to return once more. But, this time, the Eternal Warrior will be ready. This time, he has a force greater than any single warrior. This time, he has...THE VALIANT. (from the online description)

Review: When an Eternal Enemy rises once again, Gilad Anni-Padda must call on all the heroes of the Valiant Universe to help protect the Geomancer and save the World.
The stories of many of these heroes intersect here, with several experiencing pivotal points in their lives. The action and plot are face-paced and edge-of-your-seat. It is a bit gory, so be aware for younger readers. The art is bold, dynamic, with extensive use of red and black. There wasn’t time to get into all the characters, so it mostly focused on Bloodshot, Gilad, and the Geomancer. I would argue this story is pivotal for all three of those characters.
An absolute must-read for any fan of the Valiant Universe.  
NOTE: I read this backwards – meaning, I read Bloodshot:Reborn first, then this one. Don’t. You need to read this BEFORE the Bloodshot:Reborn series. Also, you need to read Archer&Armstrong, at least the first 3 volumes, as well. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-9393-6605
Year Published: 2015
Date Finished: 4-27-18
Pages: 124