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review 2018-05-03 15:48
A Great Detective: The Amos Decker Character
Memory Man - David Baldacci

Excellent story!

 

Wonderfully unique protagonist with a deep dark history. I really felt for this man who lost everything, except his memories. The support characters (his old partner and his new sidekick) are also well fleshed out.and the plot keeps moving and twisting until there's no way to turn.

 

When Amos finally connects the memories of his past and relates them to the current murders, the wall tumbles.

 

I noticed this is book one - I will definitely read the following books about Amos Decker. Baldacci has written us a great character.

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review 2018-04-26 12:17
A book for those who are not afraid to ask uncomfortable questions and are willing to challenge the status quo.
Memory Battles of the Spanish Civil War: History, Fiction, Photography - Sebastiaan Faber

Thanks to Edelweiss and to the publishers (Vanderbilt University Press) for providing me a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I was drawn to this book because although I was born and grew up in Spain, I have spent the last 25 years of my life in the UK, and between the time invested in education and work, I know I have missed some of the big debates about the past that have taken place in the country. From personal experience, I know that living abroad gives you a different perspective, usually wider, on a country’s history and society, and I was interested to learn the opinions of a foreign Hispanist on the controversial topic of the book.

This book was illuminating for me. I’ve discovered that I need to catch up and read books, watch documentaries, and explore the memory movement in Spain. I know some details thanks to my mother’s family, but it is a drop in the ocean compared to the many initiatives and projects that have been implemented. I learned about laws (helpful and, mostly, unhelpful), about controversy and debates, about the origin of well-known photographs and documents (including the fact that photographers shared cameras and subjects during the Spanish Civil War, and no matter what their intent, those photographs also had, even at the time, a commercial value), about the uneasy relationship between Culture, cultural objects, and History. Is fiction less valuable when it comes to documenting the reception and the collective memory of a historical event? Or more?

Although I am not an expert in History, I have read some History books over the years and one of the things I found more refreshing about this volume, which collects a variety of essays on topics that fit in well together, is the fact that rather than offering an authoritative version of events or pontificating about the right or wrong way of looking at a particular period in history, it asks questions. On relevancy: how can an academic book written in English discussing events and recent debates about Spanish history and politics reach a wider audience? Are academics simply talking to themselves without ever reaching the general public (unless given an “official” status)? On the approach and the position historians should take when researching and writing their findings: Can historical essays and books ever be “neutral”? And should they be “neutral”? Isn’t it better to be open about one’s point of view and allegiances? (As the author observes, WWII historians are clearly positioned when writing about the war, but in Spain, this is frowned upon). On comparative studies and the risks of conflating similar events in different countries and eras, thereby missing the most interesting and fruitful aspects for analysis: Is it legitimate to apply international models (like those developed through the Holocaust studies) to the Spanish Civil War and the Francoist repression?  On the position of the intellectuals and how politics and affiliations affect even those who try hardest to be rigorous. How can those intellectuals who were heavily invested in the Transition open up to other opinions and not consider them a personal criticism? On the memory movement, the hurdles faced by those trying to find out more about relatives or friends, and about the resistance of historians to see any value in memory narratives. Is forgetting the past the best option, or do the unhealed wounds and traumas that have been festering, no matter how long for, always find a way to resurface? About the boom in historical fiction novels about the Civil War and what they tell us about society and popular opinion. Although the author’s opinions are clearly stated, the questions hang there and readers can take them up and find their own answers.

As I said, I cannot claim to any expertise on the topic, and I suspect experts will have much to take issue with in this book, but for me, it helps provide the tools to answer some of the questions that inform the author’s work and that are the same that a large part of the Spanish population are asking. Quoting from the book:

How have history, fiction, and photography shaped Spanish memory? How has democratic Spain dealt with the legacy of the Civil War, the Franco dictatorship, and the Transition? And how have academics, writers, filmmakers, photographers, and journalists in Spain and elsewhere engaged with a collective process that is central to the country’s future as a unified, functioning democracy?

In view of recent events, these questions are more pressing and relevant than ever, and I hope this book reaches as wide an audience as possible. I recommend it to anybody who is open to fresh perspectives on the subject and is up for a challenging — but ultimately rewarding— read.

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review 2018-04-11 00:17
Memory of Water: Lyrical but not Deep
Memory of Water: A Novel - Emmi Itäranta

The writing in this book is absolutely lovely. It's lyrical, almost meditative, and really pulled me into a sense of place and tone. I could feel the heat pushing down on me, and the bugs buzzing in the air. The descriptions were lush and evocative, especially when describing the tea ceremony. It is easily one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I've read in quite some time. While I was reading I was absolutely engrossed and transported. Whenever I set the book down, however, things would niggle at me. And now that a little time has passed since I finished the book I find I've cooled on it even more.

 

The actions of the main character, the science, the way the world operates, it all just fails to make sense upon inspection. And this book wants you to inspect. It pulls you close, and very clearly wants you to think about the messages and themes it presents. I can't remember the last time I read a book that had such lovely prose, but at its core such uneven storytelling. The main character was so naive it went beyond the point where I would have disliked her, and instead went into territory where I could no longer suspend disbelief in her. There were points where I actually found myself exclaiming aloud at her poor decisions. It didn't feel like the actions of a dumb girl - it felt like the author manipulating the flow of the story to reach a certain conclusion. Since the story toys with being a character study this is pretty damning.

 

In the end I'm torn on this one. I enjoyed reading it, and I loved the prose, but I'm left frustrated. There are just too many plot holes and story crafting issues for this to be the sort of read I can solidly say I love. That said, I very much want to read more of Itäranta's work in the future. I think she could become brilliant if her storytelling can catch up to her writing skills.

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review 2018-03-24 00:00
Memory Zero
Memory Zero - Keri Arthur Memory Zero was first published in 2004, but has since been republished in 2014 with a new book cover. I have to say I really like the 2014 book cover. It’s eye catching.

WOW!! Memory Zero hooked me. I couldn’t put the book down and read it almost in one sitting.

I absolutely adored the mystery behind Sam and who or what she is. She doesn’t remember her past and the records that could help her, do not exist or where hidden by influential people. But things in her life soon take on a new turn and now she’s got to discover a new mystery besides finding out about herself. It’s all so intriguing!! Sam's past, the mystery on her partner Jack, this war that's coming, and everything else that pops up. I can’t wait to fully unravel it all in this three book series.

I loved the characters, plot, mystery, and well everything. It's action-packed throughout and the plot takes us away. Sam soon finds herself in the middle of something. The suspense and mystery keep her and us on our toes and on the edge of our seats. Sam, our heroine, is a determined person, dedicated to learn the truth, loyal and sweet, but that’s not all, because she’s full of flaws and fears. We get some answers, some changes in Sam, and then their are still more things to figure out. I’m very curious to see what Sam will become and where the mystery leads us.

As for a romance don’t expect anything big, because their is none, but it does have the potential and the possibility for their to be a romance.

Memory Zero focuses on a the mystery’s and a war thats coming to this world. So much happens and I can't wait to dive into Generation 18.

Rated: 4.5 Stars

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review 2018-03-15 17:18
Land of the Lustrous (manga, vol. 3) by Haruko Ichikawa, translation by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley
Land of the Lustrous 3 - Haruko Ichikawa

In this volume we get a bit more world-building and a new character. Winter is starting, which means less sunlight and therefore less energy for most of the Lustrous. While almost all of them go into hibernation, Kongo-sensei and Antarcticite become everyone's guardians. Antarcticite spends most of the year in a liquid form, but every winter they solidify and gradually grow stronger as temperatures get colder.

Phos is usually the first of the Lustrous to begin hibernation and the last to wake up, but this time around they can't seem to stay asleep, a possible side effect of their new legs. Kongo-sensei assigns Phos to Antarcticite as their new partner. Phos isn't sure they're up to the task, especially after the disastrous incident with the Amethyst twins, and then there's the issue of the talking ice floes that prey on Phos's anxieties.

Although the first volume made this series look like it was going to be a "natural discovery or Lunarian attack of the week" kind of thing, in the last couple volumes it's become more focused on Phos's desire to become stronger and more useful and eventually able to help Cinnabar. There are also hints that Kongo-sensei knows more about the Lunarians than he's told the younger Lustrous.

I wasn't expecting this volume to be as tragic as it was. The panels in which Lustrous (I won't say which ones) were broken into pieces were brutal, and this time around there was more explicit recognition of the horror inherent in the Lustrous's tendency to lose memories whenever they permanently lost a body part.

It'll be interesting to see where Ichikawa goes after this.

Will Phos be able to get their memories back, or will they just make new ones? Are they going to lose more? And I wonder, has anyone ever retrieved kidnapped Lustrous from the Lunarians before?

(spoiler show)


Although I'm very much enjoying the story and world-building details, I do still have some issues with this series. First, I'm just going to say it: the action scenes in this series aren't always very good. They're pretty, and the composition of individual panels and pages is great, but the action often requires a lot of effort to follow and doesn't always make sense. For example, at the beginning of the volume the Amethyst twins cut open another weird pod-like Lunarian. In the first volume, when a similar Lunarian was cut open there was a sequence of panels that showed arrows made out of Lustrous pieces emerging from the Lunarian's...pore things.

In this volume, it wasn't nearly as easy to tell what had happened and how. In one panel, the Lunarian's pore things were just empty holes. In the next panel, giant spiky blade-things has already fully emerged, which no obvious indication of how something so big could have fit inside the Lunarian and emerged from those holes. After staring at the image for a while, I eventually figured out what might have happened, but those pages were really jarring and confusing the first time I saw them.

After the fun I had looking up the properties of real-life cinnabar after reading volume 1, I decided to see if Ichikawa had based Antarcticite off of the properties of real antarcticite. From what I can tell, although antarcticite is just as brittle as the manga said it was, Ichikawa made up most of the character's abilities. A bit disappointing.

All in all, this volume contributed a few more interesting world-building details and continued Phos's transformation into...something. It's definitely looking like this series is going to end in tragedy, at least where Phos is concerned. I plan to continue on with Land of the Lustrous, although limited library availability may mean that I'll have to switch to buying it.

Extras:

Two pages of 4-panel comics - the humor felt a little weird and out-of-place after the events of this volume. Also, a page with two translator's notes.

 

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

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