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review 2017-08-08 00:13
Gaijin: American Prisoner of War
Gaijin: American Prisoner of War - Matt Faulkner

It’s not fair, why is this happening? The year is 1941 and America has just declared war on Japan. Koji’s father has returned to Japan for family matters a while back and now Koji and his mother are alone in San Francisco, when this news hits. Being of mixed race, Koji immediately begins to feel discrimination towards him, in every part of his world. Concerned over his father’s whereabouts, Koji world is becoming smaller and more limited as the war progresses. Word is sent that he must leave for a relocation center for Japanese-Americans and I could feel the tension and the anger in the novel mounting. Why is this happening to me? Where is my father? These were the sentiments racing through Koji’s mind. Relocating with his mother, Koji soon realizes that things are not much different at the center than they were in San Francisco as Koji is still an outcast, only for different reasons. I began to wonder if they would receive communication from Koji’s father and when things would settle down for this family. I am at odds with his mother for she seemed personable and caring yet I felt that she was too lenient with Koji, there seemed to be something off with her relationship with her son. Koji is on edge; his world is no longer accepting of who he is and he begins to isolate himself. Someone needed to get on top of this situation before it escalated. This novel is based on true events.

I liked the way this graphic novel was put together. The illustrator varied the sizes of the text boxes throughout the novel isolating each one with a white boarder. The story is told through white text balloons that told the story of a dark world that Koji possessed. I loved the characters faces, the detail and emotions that were expressed in the lines. I wasn’t too fond of the ending, it seemed rushed and not altogether. I am glad that I picked this novel up, it’s a good novel to shed light on some major issues.

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review 2017-07-05 23:18
Great read, definitely recommended
American War - Omar El Akkad

I really enjoyed reading this book. It wasn’t a light read that’s for sure. Yet I liked following Sarat through her life and how she became to be.

 

Sarat’s childhood is pretty much ripped apart and continues its’ descent as the book goes on. She’s pretty much robbed of it - although she’s not like other children. She’s a tomboy, taller than most kids and sticks out like a sore thumb. She’s also very inquisitive and curious. Now if you sum those characteristics and consider the living conditions she’s in, and the setting, this is ripe for anyone to take advantage of these people and manipulation is key here.

 

You have to admit, you had to take a liking to Albert Gaines. He was proper, soft spoken, intelligent, was able to spin history as tales and stories for you to imagine. You knew what was underneath that exterior. You knew he had another agenda in his mind (it was evident that Sarat knew about this too, as did other camp inhabitants) but it didn’t matter. Living in squalor and having nowhere to go, someone with that much charisma can certainly be attractive, and Sarat was no exception. She felt special and wanted. She was perfectly manipulated into becoming an instrumental machine to their cause. You can’t blame Sarat for becoming what she ultimately came to be later in the book.

 

The setting and plot was good. It’s pretty much civil war in the USA and climate change has wrecked havoc in some parts of the East. You also have alternate history elements in the book where you have the Bouazizi empire who have expanded and wield influence in the world, and of course you have the North and the South fighting against each other again.

 

What really compliments the setting are the characters. There’s not many to choose from, since Sarat is really central to the story. Her family: Martina, Dana, and Simon are secondary characters. (Simon plays a larger part later in the latter half of the book). However, they’re very well rounded and you’re so attached to Sarat because she’s human. I loved Sarat for her strength and resilience. She displayed this even when she was a young child. That carried her throughout the novel and she maintained the strength up until the end. I really felt for her as she suffered immensely and yet you would completely understand her situation if it had happened to you. You would be out for revenge every chance you get. However it also goes to show how far her manipulation went and the consequences.

 

It’s definitely not a light read but one to read slowly and to be carefully thought through. Definitely recommended.

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text 2017-06-20 07:56
Reading progress update: I've read 45%.
American War - Omar El Akkad

So many appealing things about this book. The mirroring of world affairs, the jumps from individual to "historical" viewpoints, the ever present backdrop of climate change. This is shaping up to be a good one.

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review 2017-06-15 19:40
Recommended to fans of romantic historic novels looking for a short, enjoyable and thrilling read set in the early Civil War era
Genteel Secrets - S.R. Mallery

I have read, enjoyed and reviewed several of S.R. Mallery’s novels and short story collections (most recently The Dolan Girls, check the review here) and she has a knack for combining historical fact and characters with gripping stories that grab the readers, transporting them into another world, sometimes closer and sometimes  far back in the past.

In this novella, the author takes us back to the period of the early American Civil War, and our guides are two characters, James, a medical student from New York (an Irish immigrant who moved with his parents when he was a child and suffered tragedy and deprivation from an early age) and Hannah, a Southern girl, the daughter of slave owners, although not a typical Southern belle, as she enjoys books more than balls and feels closer to some slaves (including her childhood friend, Noah) than to her own cousin, the manipulating Lavinia.

The story is told in the third person from both characters’ point of view. They meet in Washington D.C. at the beginning of the novel, realise they have plenty in common (their love of books and their political sympathies among other things) and fall in love (more at at-first-meeting than at-first-sight) as they should in these kinds of stories. There are many things that separate them (I’m not sure I’d call them star-crossed lovers, but there is a bit of that), and matters get even more complicated when James decides to join the Pinkerton Detective Agency and ends up chasing Confederate Spies. At the same time, Hannah is forced to spy for the South, much against her will, and… Well, as the author quotes at the start of one of the chapters (thanks, Shakespeare) ‘the course of true love never did run smooth’. I won’t give you full details but let me tell you there are secret codes, interesting hiding places, blackmail, occult passages, and betrayals galore. The underground railway is put into action, Frederick Douglass (one of my favourite historical figures of the period, and I’ll recommend again his  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave here in Project Gutenberg) makes a guest appearance, and famous spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow plays an important part. (I must confess I hadn’t heard of her before but the author’s decision of using her as one of her background characters is a great success).

The story flows easily and although there are no lengthy descriptions that deflect from the action, we get a clear sense of the locations and of the atmosphere of the period, including the abuse slaves were subject to, and the social morasses of the time, particularly the different treatment of women and the expectations of the genders and races. I was fascinated by the Washington of the period, the political machinations, and the fantastic description of the Battle of Manassas from the point of view of the spectators (as it seems that the well-off people decided it was a good occasion for a picnic and they ate and observed the fighting from the hilltop). The two main characters and Noah are likeable and sympathetic, although this is a fairly short story and there is no time for an intense exploration of psychological depths (their consciences struggle between complying with their duties and following their feelings but their conflict does not last too long). There is no time to get bored, and the ending will please fans of romantic historical fiction (although some might find it a bit rushed).

My only complaint is that the story is too short and more traditionally romantic than I expected (pushing the suspension of disbelief a bit). I would have liked to learn more about the Pinkerton’s role chasing spies during the war (one of the author’s characters in the Dolan Girls was also a Pinkerton detective), and I hope there might be a more detailed exploration of the underground railway in future stories (although the role of quilts to signal secret messages is discussed in one of the stories of Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads).

Recommended to fans of romantic historic novels looking for a short, enjoyable and thrilling read set in the early Civil War era. Another great story from S.R. Mallery.

 

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url 2017-06-01 20:52
Slate: Dark Futures
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan
The Book of Joan: A Novel - Lidia Yuknavitch
American War - Omar El Akkad

Slate asks, "What happens when literary novelists experiment with science fiction."

 

I answer, "Lots of wonderful things."

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