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review 2020-04-27 23:25
It's foggy and rainy and this made me sad
Amigos por el Viento - Liliana Bodoc

This collection was so sad and melancholy. There are some tales calling hope (though I have some issues with "Ancient hunts" that I have trouble verbalizing; I think I'd end up with an essay on subtle ways of racism, and race guilt, and so much soapy hot water), and "The lover and the other" is pretty positive, but it's difficult to offset the tragedy of "Fruit candies and grey eyes".

The writing is lyric as always with Bodoc; at some points it works and at others it read to me as a bit too plainly florid or forced, but I had this sense that I would have loved it as a tween.

There seems to be an underlying theme of duality, or duets, in all the things where you need two, be it struggle, friendship, love, family, support, example to follow. The afterword, talking about how a story written is a half of it that gets completed when it's read by the reader, seems to give credence to it.

The presentation and illustration in the volume gives it an extra bump up. Extra kudos for the editor for the whole arrangement, specially in the order of stories. "Bridge of sand" is the best of the lot and is a good way of closing the collection on a positive note.

In the whole, I'm pretty ambivalent, and damn depressed so, eh.

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review 2020-04-04 08:22
Silence, privilege and opression
Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book is terrible. It hurts like a bitch in a very quiet, understated way, it does not have the grace of tying the themes in any of the expected or more hopeful ways, and does so in a excellently written way. "Beat me while I love you" much?... Feels like a meta-theme.

 

There are: parallels between the government and Kambili's father's tyranny, between her aunt dithering on leaving the country while urging her mother to leave her father, the friend's questions on what is to be done if the strong leave, the children as reasons for leaving, where to go as the mother asks.

 

There are: commentaries about privilege, and the amount of issues it conceals, about the difference between public and private image, about having for others to see but not enjoying, about compassion not being something deserved, or related to station.

 

There are: questions about internalized colonization, the way religion opens paths for oppression and culture erosion (I raged so hard at the baptism and confirmation names thing), how a nation's identity gets eaten.

 

The motto of a university being "to restore dignity", like dignity has been lost, and higher education is what "gives" it... I have so many issues with the pretentiousness of that motto even while I think education does empower a people.

 

There is frankly a lot, and it left me so sad.

 

The first tenth is a mastery of the ominous. There is no overt violence, but the atmosphere itself is violently oppressive, and you can feel how the silence was bred into this girl. There is a moment where Jaja talks about another girl that saw her father murdered just starting to talk after 4 months, and he says she'll never heal from that, and it stayed with me that none of this characters ever will. The mother drank the love sips and was grateful that there was no second wife. Jaja paid heartily for his inner guilt. Kambili still yearns for her father's approval in her dreams, and that's how terrible and binding this twisted mockery of love is. They still do not talk. But maybe they have some hope of laughter.

 

I'm not touching that other priest with a ten foot pole because she's freaking 15.

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review 2019-05-10 19:48
Second Lives by P.D. Cacek
Second Lives - P.D. Cacek

Second Lives has an amazingly creepy cover and an intriguing blurb and when I sat down with it I knew it was going to be an emotionally intense read. The plot is about a group of four people who die, after all, but I wasn’t expecting the heavy blanket of sadness that was dropped over my head to stay there until almost the very last page.

Be warned if you’re feeling blue because this one may need to wait a bit but if you’re feeling too chipper give it a go but make sure you have no distractions and big chunk of time and maybe a notebook . . .

This book starts out telling the backstories of eight characters and five different timelines chapter by chapter. I’ve seen some people say they read like short stories and they do but they do eventually connect but it takes a while before that happens. There is a lot to absorb in the first half or so of the book. I took notes to keep everybody straight because I knew my faulty brain would never be able to keep up and I did find myself referring back to my notes to remind myself who was who. After the first half (or so) it was easy going and I no longer needed them but without them I would’ve been tripped up a time or ten.

The characterization here is incredible and the author really excels at breathing life into all of her people. I found it an easy read for that reason but it left me feeling blue the entire week of reading. It’s incredibly sad and lacks any sort of break from all of the gloom. Each situation is pretty terrible and heartrending for everyone involved.

This one is hard to review and even more difficult to rate. I’m going to settle on a three. It’s not a book I’d ever willingly read again because I found it incredibly depressing but it’s well written and fans of fantasy and reincarnation-type novels might feel differently.

*Thank you Flame Tree Press for the advanced readers copy!

 

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review 2017-12-28 19:37
Not Simple (manga) by Natsume Ono, translation by Joe Yamazaki
not simple - Natsume Ono

I’m not sure how to summarize this story, since so much of it counts as spoilers. I suppose I’ll start at the beginning. A young woman named Irene wants to run away with her boyfriend but is afraid that her dad will find them and literally kill her boyfriend. She then comes up with an idea that immediately qualifies her as a horrible person: pick up a random homeless guy, convince her dad’s goons that he’s her boyfriend, and run off with her boyfriend while the goons beat the homeless guy half to death. It seems like a great (horrible) plan, until she learns that her random homeless guy, Ian, is actually same same guy who convinced a family member of hers not to run off three years ago.

Unfortunately, a misunderstanding results in Ian lying on the ground, dying from a gut wound. Ian’s friend, Jim, tells Irene that he plans to turn Ian’s life into a book that will be coming out in about a year. The rest of the manga is Ian’s life up to this point: growing up with an alcoholic mother and cold and dismissive father, trying to keep his promise to his sister so that he can see her again, and then walking across the US searching for his sister after she disappears.

I read Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso several years ago. I wasn’t a huge fan of it the first time around, but it grew on me after a reread. I’ve always wanted to try another one of her works, and this one-shot seemed like a good place to start. I vaguely remembered it getting some buzz when it first came out.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be almost unrelentingly depressing. Ian was written as being very innocent and pure, no matter what sorts of horrible things happened to him. All he wanted was to be with the one person he loved and who loved him back, his sister. When this turned out to be impossible, he sought out other people who’d been good and kind to him...and the universe stomped on him yet again until finally even he couldn’t take it anymore. The horribleness of it all bled into his friend Jim, if the rumors about his fate after the publication of his book were true.

There’s a massive amount of child abuse in this story:

neglect, emotional abuse, child prostitution, and incest.

(spoiler show)

It sometimes came up in such an offhand manner that I found myself wondering if the things I had thought just happened really had. Ian kept taking absolutely horrific things in stride.

I can’t even say this ended on a bittersweet note. Yes, it stopped at a slightly happier time in Ian’s life, but readers had already been told that that was all going to fall apart in the next 3-5 years. I wanted a do-over, with Jim telling Ian “that stuff that happened to you wasn’t okay, and I know it can’t be undone, but we can try to make some good memories from here on out.” Instead, I feel like the mom and her “you should never have been born” speech won out. And wow, her words still make me angry. She spent years heaping punishment on people she should have been trying to help and protect.

In the end, this manga just pissed me off and left a bad taste in my mouth. Not Simple bent over backwards to hurt its characters - the bit with Ian's sister's boyfriend was both cruel and difficult to believe. I also wasn't a fan of this on an artistic level. Although I know some people love Ono's unusual style, it doesn't work for me. I’m at least glad that I got this via the library and didn’t pay for it.

 

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

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text 2017-10-21 13:53
OT: The #metoo campaign

This past week I've read about the #metoo campaign. It's depressing reading. Today I found out that one of our most famous singers is in fact a rapist and also a person who takes advantage of his position to silence his victims. I don't know who it is, and that's really unsettling. It might be one of my favorites. The victim said (anonymously) that every time a friend sings along to one of his songs or even just plays it, she gets a flashback to that night and she can't say anything about it.

What I really wanted to mention was the fact that my mom, sister and I have never (or at least almost never) been targeted. My mom has lived a relatively fun and varied life. She's travelled a bit, worked in different professions and had lots of friends. Back in those days people were clearly better brought up. Or she's been lucky and met only decent people.

My sister and I didn't grow up in such a time. Girls we went to school with were probably targeted like these women that I've read about in the media over this past week. But not my sister and I. And - it may not come as much of a surprise to my readers - we've lived very sheltered lives. Most of the time we just sat at home and read our beloved books. We're simply not very outgoing.

After reading all this depressing stuff, it hit me. Does it really have to be this way? Do you have to stay inside the safety of your own home to be respected as a human being?

Source: crimsoncorundum.dreamwidth.org/182145.html
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