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review 2017-08-15 01:37
The White Monkey
The White Monkey - John Galsworthy
A Modern Comedy - John Galsworthy

This first part of the second of three (!) trilogies concerning the Forsytes does not have the epic sweep or grandeur of The Forsyte Saga. Many of the more dynamic characters of the previous books are marginalized or not present at all, leaving us with Fleur and Michael, and her father Soames.

The plot revolves around the question of Fleur's affections. Her husband, Michael, well remembers Fleur's sudden turn-around considering his suit and knows that her love for him, if there at all, is more of convenience than passion. Will she abandon him for another? Meanwhile, he introduces the wife of a former employee to a line of work not considered 'suitable' by the world at large. Soames tests his conscience when he finds out about a scandal after being newly appointed as trustee to a financial concern.

Everything and everyone is uneasy, it seems. The writing is far cry from the more modern styles of some of Galsworthy's contemporaries, but he hits on the unease and the open acknowledgement of moral ambiguity. The cracks that were appearing when Soames reflected with horror on all the common people strolling in Hyde Park are now ravines. A person's backgrounds and connections are no guarantee of their behavior, conversation is less about information and more about affect, and Soames' eyes, as well as others, are turned up to the sky and thinking of fire raining down from the skies.

That was the single most interesting thing about the novel to me. The first World War hardly received a mention, but it plays in the minds of the characters of The White Monkey. The characters also know it is not the last war either. The advent of airplanes used in warfare and the possibility of bombs falling on London is reflected on more than once.

Overall, I liked the novel, but it was easy for me to occasionally forget about the book and move on to others for weeks at a time. These characters are worth further consideration, but they don't have the sparkle of Irene or June.

A Modern Comedy

Previous (The Forsyte Saga): To Let

Next: The Silver Spoon

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review 2017-07-28 05:05
Cells at Work! (manga, vol. 1) by Akane Shimizu, translated by Yamato Tanaka
Cells at Work! 1 - Akane Shimizu

Cells at Work is a semi-educational series that takes place inside a human body and stars a bunch of anthropomorphized cells. Red Blood Cell is a cheerful delivery girl who takes oxygen to cells (I suppose they’d qualify as the “ordinary folks” of this world) and carbon dioxide back to the lungs. There are lots of potential dangers along the way, so different kinds of White Blood Cells protect everybody. One recurring character, for example, is White Blood Cell (Neutrophil) 1146, who is part of the force that acts as the body’s initial defense against foreign invaders and infectious diseases. He’s depicted as a savagely violent man who is nevertheless polite and maybe even a little friendly towards Red Blood Cell.

In this volume, readers get to see White Blood Cell and others deal with Streptococcus pneumoniae, cedar pollen, Influenza virus, and a scrape wound. This results in the introduction of characters like Helper T Cell, the violent and manly Killer T Cells, hilariously intense and dramatic Memory Cell, Mast Cell, Macrophage, the adorable Platelets, and more.

I can’t remember which review put this on my radar, but I’m glad it did. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to continue on with this series before it gets stale, but this first volume, at least, was a lot of fun.

The educational aspects were a little rough. Yes, there were little information boxes that explained what each type of cell was and what it did, what each invader was, etc., but it’s been a long time since my last Biology class, and I admit that I got a bit confused here and there. For example, I had a tough time grasping the distinction between the different kinds of white blood cells. Also, I had particular trouble translating what was happening on-page during the cedar pollen chapter to what would have actually been happening in the human body. The steroid’s actions seemed extreme. If the author had truly intended this series to be educational, then diagrams and/or a few paragraphs of explanations at the end of each chapter that went into a little more detail about what would really be happening inside the human body would have been helpful.

That said, I was certainly entertained, and I loved the way Shimizu opted to reinterpret some of the biological details. For example, since platelets are relatively small compared to a lot of the other cells, Shimizu opted to depict them as an army of adorable children. And since one of the things macrophages do is remove dead cells and cellular debris, they’re depicted as maids. Extremely violent and powerful maids. I also enjoyed the naive T cell’s transformation process.

The entire volume was fun, but my favorite chapters were probably the cedar pollen and scrape wound ones. Although the cedar pollen chapter was chaotic and occasionally a little hard to follow, Memory Cell’s habit of lurking around and issuing dire warnings made me laugh. Plus, since I’m currently dealing with allergy-related drainage and headache issues, I could definitely relate. I found it bitterly amusing to see the whole horror show depicted as confusion and overreaction on several cells’ part that just snowballed from there.

The scrape wound chapter appeared, at first, to be a rehash of the same kind of thing the cells dealt with during the Streptococcus pneumoniae chapter, with just a few slight differences. While I enjoyed several of the panels depicting particularly crazed White Blood Cells, I was a little worried that the author had already run out of ideas. That was when the Platelets came into play. I had thought they were okay but nothing particularly special earlier in the volume, but they won me over in this chapter. They made the most adorable little army. Somehow the blood-spattered White Blood Cells standing around them and protecting them made the whole thing even better.

I definitely plan on getting the next volume, but nothing beyond that just yet - I’m going to approach this series one volume at a time. I doubt there will be cliffhangers, and I don’t want to buy several volumes only to discover that the series is already stale by Volume 2. This first volume, at least, was lots of fun despite some occasionally confusing moments. Crossing my fingers that Shimizu manages to keep things fresh and interesting in the next one.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-07-27 00:00
Royally Wed: A Romantic Comedy (Ladies-in-Waiting Book 2)
Royally Wed: A Romantic Comedy (Ladies-in-Waiting Book 2) - Pamela DuMond Where fairy tales and real life collide ....

Ms. Dumond has the perfect formula for romance. Love, laughter and perhaps happily ever after. Royally Wed is short enough to complete in one setting but long enough to leave an impression. Lucy is a mass of neurotic charm that is hard not to love. You can take the girl out of the city but not the city out of the girl.
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text 2017-07-23 18:06
A work of no literary merit*
The Aggressors!! - Chris Hamlin,Shane Cuthbert,Marcus Harwood,Dan Lee,Chris Young,Brett Savory,Jeff Robinson

Full disclosure: I know Brett.   I talk to him each year at Readercon, I've made his wife cry with beautiful reviews of her poetry, and he talked to me about this book itself.  I was going to write a kinda mean review based on what I'd heard, and send it to him, but I'm not sure I'll bother sending it anymore. 

 

I also need to tell a story before I start talking about this work, just so you understand what I thought.   Back when I was reading a lot of Transformers fanfic, there was an author who wrote a couple stories.   (I found them again, although I vaguely recall them being in all caps and one about Jazz getting spanked that seems to be gone.   But here: read Happy Birthday, Megatron if you dare.)   This, guys, is one of the worst things I've read.   I mean, I know I've read some self-published bullshit and yet this...

 

And I'm awful because I laugh every time.   So when someone tells me a book they wrote is really bad, and I'm reading something superb by them, my mind kinda vaguely thinks, 'well, it't can't be that bad.   And I keep getting shocked that it is. 

 

So some backstory: this was a multi-author universe that the boys started when they were just that.   Boys.   Young men, if you will.  So I figured it might be some fun, even if it was offensive - which it seemed it might be.   I've also seen Brett bing his wife coffee, I've seen how kind and generous he is, and I've seen him interact with other customers.   I've seen him with the authors he works with, and he's always lovely.    I knew he'd written this a while ago and he wasn't the same person anymore.   As I mentioned, I also knew he'd grown into an amazing written, as evidenced by A Perfect Machine.   (Which I'm savoring, but also scared by because Brett was very vague about the ending and now I think it might be the machine story that makes me sad at the end.)

 

As far as the aggressors, I wasn't either amused enough to laugh or offended enough to really hate this work on that level.   (I did roll my eyes after the fourth or so time a 'cunt' - body part, not person - was described as smelly.   That was also the only time this book seemed really vicious.)  However, that fanfic I linked up there?    Those two stories might not have the punctuation and technical writing skill this book has, but they are at least more coherent.   Partly, I think, due to length: they didn't have time to get their plots quite as twisted up as this book did.   And at least those stories make me giggle like crazy.   

 

This book felt like it really, really wanted to make me laugh, but I was vaguely bored.   I kinda kept reading just to see if it got better, and it kinda never did.   If anything, it got more and more disconnected.  

 

So, yeah, I'm gonna write a brutally honest, full on mean review and not send the link to Brett at all. 

 

*Brett Savory himself gave me this title. 

**A Perfect Machine.   Brett signed this for me this year, too.

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text 2017-06-15 10:40
15th June 2017
The Divine Comedy - Sandro Botticelli,Peter Armour,Dante Alighieri,Allen Mandelbaum,Eugenio Montale

Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.

 

Dante Alighieri

 

On this date in the year 1300, poet Dante Alighieri became one of six priors of Florence. His political activities would eventually lead to his own exile from Florence. It was in this exile that wrote his great work, The Divine Comedy.

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