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review 2019-06-27 21:53
My Life as a Rat by Joyce Carol Oates
My Life as a Rat - Joyce Carol Oates

This is a complicated book.
It’s as much about Violet Rue as it is about the men that abuse her and the women that allow this abuse to happen. Although the book takes place over a number of years, Violets lack of character growth is reflective of the cycles of abuse that she finds herself in, which I enjoyed as a narrative and structural choice. Moreover, the pieces of flash fiction that are interspaced between the longer chapters do well to add to the sense of growth for the other characters as well as accentuating how stunted Violet has become. This makes her decision at the end of the novel all the more cathartic for the reader.
However, The first 100 pages of this book were very difficult to get through as it lacked anything that would make the reader latch on to the characters and care about Violet (given this is a character-driven novel). Yet once the actual plot of the book got going and Violet began her journey I found the book to be very interesting. But I can say that sadly although I enjoyed the book overall if I hadn’t been intending to review the book and hadn’t been sent it by the publishers then I doubt I would have made it past that first chunk.
The relationships in this book lack the intimacy that a person would expect from a novel like this. There is sexual intimacy but no romantic chemistry for the most part which was a welcome change from what we normally see from books of this genre. And since Violet's loneliness blended well with this theme it is clear that Joyce Carol Oates had clear intentions of what she wanted to say with this book.
Having said that the theme of Racism that runs through this book is also controversial and I implore you to seek out a black reviewer to read about their opinions on its presentation.
Overall, this is an interesting character study on the effects of separation and abuse on a child and if those first 100 pages weren't so difficult to get through this would be a 5 Star read. I will certainly read another book by this author again.
⚠Trigger Warning: Paedophilia, Sexual Assault, Racism, Domestic Violence, Implied Animal Abuse⚠

I was sent this book as an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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review 2019-06-23 22:28
The Half-God of Rainfall
The Half-God of Rainfall - Inua Ellams

This is Percy Jackson for grown-ups. ⚡
Inua Ellams does it again with an outstanding novella about heartache, motherhood and abuse.
I was enamoured from the very first line:
Portrait of Prometheus
as a basketball player.

Every word in this collection was perfectly chosen. Its concise writing style makes for an easy read despite the difficult topics that the author is discussing and this is largely thanks to his ability to craft relatable characters despite some being Minor Gods. I felt the rise and falls of these characters with an amount of emotion I didn't know I felt for them.
Character crafting in poetry can be especially difficult. However, I found it easy to distinguish one character from another because of how different they were. Petty female vs female hatred did not exist in the pages of this novel and considering some of the characters involved and how they are portrayed generally by other writers, I found to be very refreshing. Not only this but the format of this novel- free verse poetry split into books and acts, was something I had never seen for a book like this and very much enjoyed. I think this works very well here due to the influence Greek gods have on the story. The structure can be compared to a classic Greek tragedy and when you realise that it makes rereading the novel and an even better experience (especially as it made me realised that this was more the story of Modupe, Demi's mother before the perspective switched back to her).
This is a diverse multi-generational exploration of sexual assault that should be missed by no one.
⚠Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, PTSD

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/2865572106
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review 2019-06-22 01:26
Out in Sept
Kid Activists: True Tales of Childhood from Champions of Change - Robin Stevenson,Allison Steinfeld
Disclaimer: I recieved an ARC of this book as a freebie in an order I had with Quirk Books.

This is a pretty good luck at the youth of people who became activists and some people who became activists as children. There are total of 16 main biographies as well as a total of 12 secondary mentions. For well known people, such as Rosa Parks, the focus in on thier childhood.

While the majority of people discussed are from the USA, the majority of the people discussed are people of color and women. If the book fails anywhere on representation it is having Helen Keller as the only person with a disability.

It is a children's book so the chapters about famous people - such as King - do not always include the assassination or killing of the person (in some cases this could be because of the person's fame). Hamilton's duel, for instance, isn't dealt with. Additionally, some more complicted aspects of the biographies are left out - such as (understandably) Hamilton's unfaithfulness to his wife and the 180 the woman who taught Frederick Douglass how to read did.

It's true that two of the entries feel a bit like a marketing move - these would be Emma Watson and Alexander Hamilton. Not to say what either did or does is not important, it just seems a bit off, especially in regards to Hamilton.

I really like the inclusion of Autumn Peltier - the First Nations member in Canada who focuses on clean and accesible water. Especially when today it seems as if people think the only child focuses on climate is the girl from Sweden - Greta Thunberg (this is not to diminish what she does). Additionally, Stevenson also presents Nelson Mandela's other names as opposed to just the one US citizens know.

The last section focuses on activists who influenced the world as children in recent years, and includes Iqbab Masin (and mentions his death). The book includes a bibliography section with child-friendly sources on the various people.

The only really weird thing was the illustrations for the Hellen Keller chapter. Overall the illustrations are great. The thing is in the Hellen Keller chapter, the illustrations of Keller keep showing her locking eyes with other people which is a bit strange. I'm not saying she should black holes where her eyes are or anything, but she keeps meeting people's gazes with her eyes.
 
 
Break Down (informal)
 
Main Biographies: 16
Male: 7
Female: 9
POC ; 11
LGBT+ 3
Disabled: 1
USA: 11
South Africa, England, Pakistan, Canada : 1 each
First Nation/Indigenous: 1
 
Secondary People (mentioned after main chapters)
Total: 12
Male: 4
Women: 8
POC: at least 6
LGBT+ - 3
USA- 9
South Africa, France, India - 1 each
 
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review 2019-06-22 01:12
Out in Nov 2019
And Go Like This: Stories - John Crowley
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via a Librarything giveaway. I did a happy dance when I found out I won.

Many of my favorite authors I have discovered due to Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. John Crowley is one of those writers. I first read Little, Big. Eventually, I read his Aegypt sequence. He is one those fantasy writers that people who don’t read much fantasy put in literature because for some reason they think literature isn’t fantasy. (Yeah, I don’t know why they think that either).

This collection of short fiction includes stories that have, for the most part, been already published, and if it has a theme, it is about the power reading and the story. In some ways, it reminds me of Dinesen’s Anecdotes of Destiny, another collection of stories about stories.

The collection opens with “The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines” which starts as a story about a theatre intern and morphs into something far more powerful. But honesty, you are most likely going to want to read it for the scene where Beatrice (of Much Ado) confronts pirates. The story makes use not only of a book about the heroines, but also about the authorship debate.

It is followed by a very short story, “In the Tom Mix Museum”. While the shortest one in the collection, it is also a master class in how a story does not have to be long to be powerful and to say much.

The title story, “And Go Like This”, takes the rather interesting idea of NYC’s rooms and overpopulation. The ending sequence is just beautifully rendered. It is followed by “Spring Break” which quite frankly is disturbing on so many levels – but not in a bad read type of way. It has to do with how learning and reading have changed since the rise of the internet – in particular websites like Twitter or Facebook. It isn’t so much fake news that is being looked at but the lack of reading critically and in depth – and important aspect of storytelling.

It is followed by “The Million Monkeys of M Borel” which is a wonderful story about how we read and why the device or format we use is important. It too is one of those stories with a particularly beautiful ending. If you are a reader, this is the type of story that will speak to your story. A somewhat similar point pops in the interlinked stories that make up “Mount Auburn Street”.

“Conversation Hearts” is perhaps the story that most directly confronts storytelling. Not only because the story is about a family where the woman is an author but because Crowley makes use of tropes that populate movies but twists them.

Strangely, I found the last two stories the least interesting. They are not bad. “Flint and Mirror” has Dee in it and “Anosognosia” is a neat story about creation and reality. This is also true of “This is Our Town”.

But the overwhelming theme of the stories is that of love for stories. It makes this collection a thumping good read (to borrow a phrase) for any reader.
 
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review 2019-06-20 22:09
Lord of the Butterflies
Lord of the Butterflies - Andrea Gibson

This is an exceptional collection. It speaks to the American experience; gun violence, mental illness and politics are all discussed in breathtaking verse. I read this in an hour and in that time it took me through every emotion I have. I laughed through 'Boomerang Valentine' and felt my heart sink with 'Depression'. Poetry written by the same author made me laugh and cry within minutes of each other, earning its place on my favourites shelf. I will be ordering a physical copy of it to share with friends so they can read the work of Andrea Gibson in their best collection yet...

I sneak the steam from the kettle into my pocket
so the next time I'm missing the coast of Maine
I can gift myself the fog
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