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review 2017-08-18 18:56
Good if you need bits of trivia to share at dinner parties.
A Flag Worth Dying For: The Power and Po... A Flag Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of National Symbols - Tim Marshall

The premise of the book sounded quite intriguing. What are flags? Why do we use flags to represent nations? Why are there certain protocols and procedures when treating certain flags? How have flags changed over time? Author Marshall takes the reader though that question.

 

Countries, entities like the European Union and their member states, flags of revolution, flags of particular groups, etc. all get a look. From the US Stars and Stripes to the Olympic flag the author gives a look at the history, how it changed, variations, bits of trivia and the like. Some countries like the US get a greater focus (and indeed, the US flag is the first one examined). Some like the countries that make up the EU have a few paragraphs. 

 

I liked the idea but overall I didn't think it was great. As other reviews note it's not an academic work so don't expect a great deal of historical explanations or detail. One huge detriment for me was that kept wishing there were pictures embedded in the text instead of slapped in the middle of the book. Yes, pictures can be distracting. But when discussing the changes of a flag I would have found it much more helpful if there were pictures running along the text.

 

The book seemed very relevant especially in light of the Confederate flag being removed from official buildings and appearing in protests. But I honestly felt like this was a guy talking about a quirky interest he has in flags at a dinner party. I haven't read Marshall's other work but based on what I know of it I'm wondering if this work might have been some sort of side project or off-shoot of his 'Prisoners of Geography' work that wasn't quite relevant for that book and ended up being shuffled into its own text.

 

Mildly interesting but I didn't like it as much as I hoped I would. Borrow from the library.

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review 2017-08-12 22:47
LISTEN, LIBERAL OR WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE PARTY OF THE PEOPLE by Thomas Frank
Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? - Thomas Frank

Starting with the Carter administration this is a look at how the Democratic party pulled away from its working class base and turned toward the people with money.  It gives a history of the change and the affect it had on the middle class and politics up through today.  I got mad as I read it and had to put it down several times.  I understood what was said.  Mr. Frank kept it simple and, at times, humor poked through.  I wish I would have been more politically aware when I was younger and understood what was happening and how it would impact me and my world.  Worth the read!

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review 2017-08-06 04:22
Visual novel review - Animal Lover

 

Warning: this game includes a death, references to suicide, and references to homophobic bullying.

Animal Lover is a visual novel created by Trainwreck Studios. It's primarily fantasy with some romance aspects later on. There's no sex, not even fade-to-black, implied, or text-only - the romance is limited to a date and an on-screen kiss or two. I considered this a plus. If you're particularly interested in games with LGBT aspects, one of the romanceable guys is revealed to probably be bisexual later on in the game (I say "probably" because the word is never used, but he does talk about a past relationship with another guy).

Now for the summary: You play as Lucy (the default character name, which you can change), an intern at a veterinary clinic. Lucy loves animals and is immediately charmed by the hamster a little girl brings into the clinic. Because it reminds her so much of the hamster she used to have, Lucy briefly forgets herself and gives him a little kiss before putting him back in his cage. Shockingly, the little hamster then transforms into a human being. A good-looking and very naked young man.

The hamster’s owners run out in horror, leaving Lucy to figure out what to do with the guy, whose name turns out to be Edmund. Edmund used to be a prince until he was transformed into a hamster (or something very like one) hundreds of years ago. Since then, he has repeatedly lived and died as a hamster, with no end in sight. Until now. Lucy agrees to help him find and free another human-turned-animal, eventually resulting in her having to clothe, feed, and house five good-looking guys from a variety of time periods. Not only that, but it looks like her kisses don’t have a permanent effect: a random guy keeps transforming back into an animal each time the sun sets. They need to figure out a way to undo the curse for good. Especially before Charlie, whose animal form was a bear, transforms.

I’d seen this game on Steam a bunch of times but kept passing on it because the art style didn’t appeal to me. Then, during a sale, I read a few reviews written by people who said they had also disliked the art style and still ended up liking the game, so I decided to take a chance on it.

I’ll start off by saying that it takes a long time for this game to get going. My first full play through, the only one where I read all of the text, took somewhere between 5 and 5.5 hours. I didn’t keep track, but I think it might have taken an hour and a half for all the guys to be introduced and remember how they’d been cursed, at least half the game before they made some headway on figuring out what to do about it, and two thirds before romance really entered the picture. While I was a little frustrated with how long it took for all the main characters to join the story, the rest didn’t bother me quite as much because I enjoyed the characters’ conversations and banter. Your mileage may vary.

Gameplay is simple - this isn’t a stat raising visual novel. There are a variety of decision points where you have to choose between different dialogue options or actions, and that’s it. You’re not technically locked into a particular guy’s route until you decide which one you’d like to spend an afternoon (day?) with approximately two thirds of the way through the game, although certain responses earlier on will affect when one particular thing happens and, in the case of one character, whether you can get his “good” ending.

Lucy has five romantic options: Edmund, who used to be a prince several hundred years ago and was transformed into a hamster; Frankie, a car mechanic from the 1950s who was transformed into a cat; Kyle, an anarchist punk rocker from the 1980s (if I remember right) who was transformed into a ferret; Miguel, a football player from the 1990s (again, not sure if I’m remembering this right) who was transformed into a dog; and Charlie, who was only transformed into a bear a year ago and who owns a website designed to help indie bands/musicians sell their music.

During my first playthrough, I focused on Miguel and Charlie and decided to have Lucy go out with Charlie when I was finally asked to make a decision. And that’s when the game became more than just lots of laid back conversations and funny moments and really hooked me. I mean, I enjoyed the humor, I enjoyed Lucy’s strong personality, and I liked most of the guys, but for a while there I was sure my final verdict was going to be that this was simply an okay visual novel.

I had thought that the guys’ explanations about how and why they’d been transformed sounded pretty weak, but I hadn’t realized how much they’d been holding back until Charlie told me the full truth about his transformation. Then the

“Last Living Punk Rocker” chapter happened, and it was like a gut punch. I wanted to go back, choose Kyle, and fix everything. (FYI: there’s no way to make that chapter not happen. Sorry. But things can get better, depending on your past and future choices. I promise.)

(spoiler show)


There are essentially seven endings: one “good” ending for each of the guys, one “I don’t forgive you” ending where Lucy ends up single, and one “you can’t be serious, where’s the ‘good’ ending?” ending for

Kyle

(spoiler show)

. Although it’s fairly obvious that the “Lucy ends up single” ending isn’t the way you’re supposed to want things to go, I appreciated that Lucy had clearly started to move on with her life and wasn’t a wreck, and that the guys had accepted her choice. It didn’t feel like a “bad” ending, aside from the whole thing with Kyle (which is present in four of the five “good” endings, anyway).

I’ve only managed to get three of the five guys (Charlie, Frankie, and Kyle) to tell me the full truth about why they were transformed, although I imagine it’s possible to get all of them to talk to you depending on your choices. It bugged me a little that, in order for any of the romances to work out, Lucy had to decide in an instant whether she forgave the guy for what he’d done or didn’t. A day of processing time would have been nice. That said, I liked that each of the “I forgive” dialogues explicitly recognized that the guys had done something bad, something that counted as a potential relationship red flag. Those “I forgive” moments were also a lot better if the guys had admitted what they’d done earlier on, rather than waiting for their secret to forcibly be revealed later. As much as I liked and felt for Miguel, for example, it irked me that I had to hear the full truth from someone else. I’ll probably do another playthrough with an eye towards getting him to tell me what he’d done.

All in all, this packed more of a punch than I expected it would. Parts with

Kyle

(spoiler show)

flat out made me cry - I became way more invested in him than I expected I would. And I’ll probably be thinking about the game’s “forgiveness” aspect for quite some time, even though it didn’t 100% work for me.

Additional Comments:

  • If you want to use an actual "Save" slot and not the "Quick" of "Auto" save slots, you need to right-click on the screen to do that - the Save button just does "Quick" saves.
  • There's no art gallery. Although the artwork didn't appeal to me at first, it eventually grew on me, so this bugged me. I'd have liked to save a few scenes. My favorites: Kyle's first appearance, Kyle's kissing scene, and Miguel's kissing scene (wow, that height difference).

 

Rating Note:

 

For a large portion of my first playthrough, I thought I'd be giving this 3.5 stars. There were spots where I got really impatient and just wanted things to move along - the first half of the story really could have used some tightening up. However, this is one of those visual novels that actually seemed to improve with each playthrough (keeping in mind that I made liberal use of the "skip read text" button). I could see myself rereading the full thing (aiming for the "canon" ending) sometime in the future.

 

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

 

I'll end this with one of my favorite spoiler-free screenshots. Kyle is the cutest and wildest little ferret.

 

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review 2017-08-02 18:45
The Daily Show: An Oral History
The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests - Chris Smith,Jon Stewart

 

This book was a lot of fun! It seems like everyone that was ever part of the show as far as on-air personalities or behind the scenes people were interviewed here. However, many of the guests-friendly to the show or not, were also interviewed, which made the book all the more interesting.

 

I learned a lot about the dynamics of the show and how it worked. I learned about who was not happy there and who was. I learned that Jon Stewart paid people out of his own pocket for as long as he could when the writers went on strike. I learned that Jon really cared about the people he worked with, and he deeply cared about some causes-like obtaining health care for 9/11 rescuers. I learned all of this and plenty more, laughing all the while.

 

I enjoyed hearing what John McCain felt when interviewed, (at times friendly interviews, at others-not so much). Anthony Weiner, Hillary Clinton and many others were also interviewed-all very absorbing.

 

This book didn't present only one side, but it did mostly slant towards loving Jon Stewart, and since I already did that, now I love and respect him even more. I'm not sure if the book started out to deify Jon, or if it was just because he's actually a good man- so what everyone had to say about him was mostly positive.

 

What I disliked about this audio book is that actors do all the voices. First, that was hard to get used to. Second, since all of these former employees, guests, and comedians were interviewed for this book already, wasn't there a way to get their permissions to use their actual voices instead of actors?

 

The Daily Show: An Oral History was hilarious and I learned a lot. I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the show.

 

*Thanks to my awesome local library for the audiobook loan.*

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review 2017-07-31 08:00
The Communist Manifesto
The Communist Manifesto (Little Black Classics #20) - Friedrich Engels,Karl Marx

This was part of the Little Black Classics collection from Penguin I'm reading my way through. And while I'm really glad there is a great variety of different kinds of books in this collection, there have been some disappointments on the way.

I was interested in reading The Communist Manifesto, not because of its communist thoughts but rather from a historical point of view. Fear for communism is something I've never completely understood, but then I was born safely in the 1990s so perhaps that's only natural.

So, while not expecting much in the terms of the content, I did expect something that would be easy readable. It was not. I've said before that I'm judging these books based on the reading experience I had, and it was just so boring. I sort of fell asleep twice (in the span of only fifty pages!). I think that says it all.

Little Black Classics #20

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