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text 2017-10-30 00:31
Books I Read in August and September 2017
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation - Damian Duffy,John Jennings,Octavia E. Butler
Breakfast in Bed (The Innkeepers) - Rochelle Alers
Surrender to Me (The Lawsons of Louisiana) - Donna Hill
Seeking Sarah: A Novel - ReShonda Tate Billingsley
To Wager Her Heart (A Belle Meade Plantation Novel) - Tamera Alexander
Pretty, Nasty, Lovely - Rosalind Noonan
Stay with Me: A novel - Adebayo Ayobami
The Mothers: A Novel - Brit Bennett
Gravel Heart - Abdulrazak Gurnah
Children of Blood and Bone: The OrÏsha Legacy (Children of OrÏsha) - Tomi Adeyemi

I will list the rating and to the side add commentary. 

 

 

5 Stars

 

 None

 

 

4 Stars

 

Breakfast in Bed by Rochelle Alers (solid read)

 

Seeking Sarah by Reshonda Tate Billingsley (solid read)

 

To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander (fantastic story, pleasantly surprised)

 

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebeyo (unforgettable stand out read)

 

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy (Liked this, LOVE book) 

 

 

3 Stars

 

Surrender to Me by Donna Hill (solid read)

 

Pretty, Nast, Lovely by Rosalind Noonin (interesting story)

 

Gravel Heart by Abdulrazak Gurnah (good story)

 

 

2.5 Stars

 

The Mothers by Brit Bennett 

 

I've been thinking what to say about my displeasure with this book. It was an okay read for me. Such a hyped book that I did everything possible to get my hands on it for months; giveaways, egalleys and such. To only be disappointed. There's nothing new here for me. It definitely wasn't what I expected in terms of the storyline. Maybe it's my age. I've read a lot of books and many heavy hitters at a young age. It takes a lot to impress me in story and writing. However, both don't have to be great. I'll take a good story with subpar writing or a well written book with just okay plot. Many love this one. It just wasn't for me. Beautiful cover and great publicity with a new up and coming author, I do believe Ms. Bennett is definitely one to watch!

 

 

 

 

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text 2017-08-04 17:15
Reading progress update: I've read 42%.
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation - Damian Duffy,John Jennings,Octavia E. Butler

I love Kindred by Octavia Butler. I chose it for World Book Day, when the U. S.  was participating, and everyone that I followed up with enjoyed it. So, when I heard that there was going to be a graphic novel of the book I was very hesitant to give it a try. I saw pics of the drawing on Instagram and wasn't impressed. Just like movie adaptations, I didn't want the graphic novel to taint my love and disappoint.

 

To my surprise, I'm really enjoying it! I have a few issues, but so far so good. I thought reading it would be a nuisance on a Kindle, but it working out great on my Fire 8.

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review 2017-07-09 02:35
No Longer Human (manga, vol. 1) by Usamaru Furuya, based on the novel by Osamu Dazai
No Longer Human, Part 1 - Osamu Dazai

This is technically the first volume of a manga adaptation of Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human. However, in reality it’s more like a work inspired by Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human. It has a lot of the same characters and a lot of the same events, but also enough important changes that the impact of certain familiar scenes and characters is completely different. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

The volume begins with Usamaru Furuya as a character in his own manga. He’s trying, and failing, to think up an idea for his next serial when he suddenly gets an anonymous email pointing him to an online “ouch diary.” The website contains three images: one of 6-year-old Yozo posing with his family while wearing a wide fake smile; one of Yozo at age 25, his expression lifeless and worn down; and one of Yozo at age 17, cool and handsome. Furuya proceeds to read the diary that goes with those images, to learn how Yozo fell so far so quickly.

Then readers get the story of Yozo’s life, starting with a few pages showing him as a child and middle school student, behaving like a class clown in order to get people to like him. The story quickly progresses into Yozo’s high school years, when he is befriended by Horiki, who Yozo believes is truly what he has spent his life pretending to be, a friendly and shiftless clown. Although Yozo starts off with everything in life handed to him on a silver platter, things rapidly fall apart, and the volume ends with Yozo’s first suicide attempt (I’m assuming the manga will include the next one).

When I reviewed Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human, I said that the beginning of the book, which dealt with Yozo’s childhood, worked best for me. Furuya opted to either skip most of that or include it as vague flashbacks. I thought, at first, that I’d be okay with this, until I realized that it really changed the overall tone. In the book, Yozo started off as a child who couldn’t empathize with others, had trouble figuring out what other people were thinking and why they acted the way they acted the way they did, and was terrified that people would see through his desperate attempts to fit in. The manga wasn’t as successful at setting the stage, and so high school Yozo was even more insufferable. Readers basically only saw Yozo at his absolute worst, looking down on everyone around him, drinking, skipping class, and paying for sex and doing his very best to not get to know the women he had sex with as actual people.

A few things I should add, at this point. First, Furuya aged Yozo down a bit. I don’t think Yozo met Horiki until college in the book, whereas in the manga they became friends during high school (with Yozo, the word "friend" can be assumed to mean nothing more than "acquaintance with whom he spends time"). Also, unlike the book, which alluded to sex but never mentioned anything in detail, there is quite a bit of on-page sex in the manga. One scene in particular did a good job of getting across the kind of guy Yozo was: he found himself distracted by thoughts of something a friend from school told him while he was having sex with a girl who’d just told him she wanted him to be her boyfriend. Then he couldn’t understand why she was so upset with him. I don’t know that the other sex scenes (four, total) were strictly necessary, though.

Now, back to the story/character changes. Another thing Furuya did was add a bit more to the plot. In the book, Yozo hung out with Marxists and took part in meaningless (to him) meetings and activities. The work annoyed him, but he stayed with the group because he couldn’t quite figure out how to leave and because others expected him to do things. In the manga, Yozo actually kind of liked being involved with the Japan United Labor Association, although he looked down on its members. He gradually realized that they were

planning terrorist activities, and he might have become even further involved if it hadn’t been for an incident involving a jealous boyfriend.

(spoiler show)


Furuya also ascribed emotions to Yozo that I’m not really sure he actually felt in the original book. For example, in the manga Yozo indicated that he actually cared about Ageha (I can’t remember if that was her name in the novel, too). I don’t know that the Yozo of the original novel truly cared about a single person, especially enough to admit it to himself. He cared about how people made him see himself, and that was pretty much it.

This was a funhouse mirror sort of adaptation, although the end result was still largely “miserable people doing self-destructive things." I’ll read the next volume because I already have it on hand, but I doubt I’ll be putting in an ILL request for the third and final volume.

 

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

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review 2017-07-06 18:35
My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne du Maurier
My Cousin Rachel - Daphne du Maurier

I thought to read this, my second du Maurier novel, after recently seeing the film adaptation with Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin. The story balances upon the question of whether or not Rachel is a villain. I was interested to know if the novel might be more definitive about the answer, and it seems to me it is. (Also, I enjoyed reading Rebecca.)

 

Perhaps because I saw the film first, it felt more like a mystery than the novel. The novel illuminates even more the influence of perspective, as it's written from Philip's (English, young, male landowner) first person point of view. I was most engaged with the novel in those moments when I questioned his perspective and instead considered Rachel's. I've started keeping a reading diary, and many of my notes focus on the ways in which Philip is ignorant: for example, he finds Rachel (like all women) to be mercurial and emotionally manipulative while he himself is often moody and simply ignorant of the effect his words and actions can have. Though almost 25, he's childish, and like a child, grows churlish when his immaturity is pointed out to him.

 

I was also interested by the character of Louise, the daughter of Philip's godfather. She's clearly interested in marrying Philip, and the whole county, including Rachel, is behind the idea. Philip is resistant; he at first wants to remain a bachelor as his beloved cousin and guardian Ambrose was for so long. He's also unused to the company of women and has a narrow view of them and marriage. What interested me most was that Louise is the first character to voice suspicions about Rachel; later in the story, at a key moment, she once again wonders about Rachel's character and possible misdeeds. This novel is not one in which all the men or all the women are wrong; it's more nuanced, thankfully.

 

My Cousin Rachel low-key critiques privileged male perspectives and women's roles through its storytelling techniques. The writing and narrative are engaging as well, and I look forward to my next du Maurier.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-05-01 19:24
Deliverance, by James Dickey
Deliverance (Modern Library 100 Best Novels) - James Dickey

The film version of Deliverance is known for "that scene," the one where Bobby, one of four city men traversing a wild river in Georgia, is raped by a "hillbilly." The scene is a bit different in the book--there's no "Squeal like a pig!" moment--but essentially the same. Before I even saw the film, I knew about that scene. Men as victims of rape (outside of prison as a context) in stories shock us; women as victims are so common, often serving as the impetus for a male protagonist to seek revenge, or to "develop" a female character, that it's rare for their victimization to become the talking point of a film or book, unless the scene is especially brutal (e.g. Irreversible) or unique (e.g. that turkey baster in Don't Breathe).

 

I mention this because I came to Deliverance as a reader who is now rarely interested in books with white masculinity as their subject. Its spot on the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century likely put it on my radar, and when I read a sample I was dazzled by its language. Dickey's prose is the best thing about the novel, for a reader like me. He has a way of describing moments of consciousness or states of being that is unlike anything else I've read. It carried me through the story, even as the book became what I feared it might. In essence, it's about using and relying on one's physical and mental resources as a man to make it through a dire situation.

 

The leader of this river expedition is Lewis, the most capable and masculine "man's man" of the foursome. He's what we would today call a survivalist; he has faith in himself and his body, first and foremost, and wants to be prepared for anything. There's Drew, the sensible, amateur musician, and Bobby, the smartass who's the least helpful on the river. The protagonist and narrator is Ed, Lewis's best friend. Ed is mildly dissatisfied with his work (in advertising) and goes back and forth about wanting to take part in the river trip. When Lewis is badly injured and another member of their party killed by the surviving local man who participated in the rape (Lewis killed the other), it's up to Ed to get them out of there alive. He does, though injured and obliged to murder (or kill in self-defense, depending on your perspective). The three survivors lie about what happened, concerned they won't be believed by local law enforcement. This experience will clearly haunt them always.

 

What troubles me is the way Bobby is characterized, especially after the rape. When reading, especially a violent and potentially offensive book like this, I try to separate characters' actions and attitudes from the author's. Immediately after the rapist is killed by Lewis, Ed thinks to himself that he doesn't want to touch or be around Bobby. This is a moment where you can distinguish between character and author. But Bobby is elsewhere characterized as weak by the author; his ineptitude makes him a hazard to his friends more than a help as they traverse the river and try to escape the situation. Bobby is, in effect, the least masculine and feminized. Drew had his sense of morality going for him; what does Bobby have except (useless) humor?

 

The few women in the book are wives or objects of a desirous male gaze. Ed has sex with his wife the morning he leaves for the trip, and when he returns, thinks he hasn't appreciated her enough. Drew's widow is angry and predictably points out how useless a death he suffered, adventuring on a river. Throughout the story, Ed thinks of the model who posed topless (back to the camera) and held her breast in a roomful of men, a gold tint in one eye. The women seem there to help define the men's masculinity.

 

Deliverance is tightly constructed, the type of book with symbolism to pore through, ready for a book group or class discussion. I've mentioned its stellar language and also gasped at several points. I can certainly understand its presence on the Modern Library's list, even as I struggle with some elements.

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