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review 2018-04-16 19:31
Harry Houdini has nothing on me | The Art of Escaping Review
The Art of Escaping - Erin Callahan The Art of Escaping - Erin Callahan

Fantasy books aren't the only stories with magic. In The Art of Escaping, Mattie shows that determination, grit, and the magic of picking a lock are just as interesting as wizards, dragons, and far-away lands.  

 

I know that everyone is familiar with Houdini and his infamous stunts, but Mattie and her mentor Miyu shatter the theatrics of Houdini in order to show the true danger of stage "magic". Mattie's obsession with escapology brought the darker side of magic to real life. It is easy to watch an escape artist or magician from the safety of the audience, but Callahan brought the readers up close and personal, literally under the water with Mattie. This view of escapology contrasts to the innocence of card tricks and pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Instead of the flashy magic associated with sleight of hand, I was intrigued by the stakes of escapology and those willing to risk their lives for its sake.


The focus on Mattie as a escape artist also flips stereotypes of magic performance since she is the star of the show and not merely the eye-candy assistant. Much to my delight, her magic didn't depend on romance. Mattie is a strong, independent woman who doesn't need a man to be extraordinary. The raw diary entries incorporated throughout the story also worked to defy the facade of magic. She was a courageous escapologist, but she was also a person with magic of her own. 


Will's development as a character was also strong as he dealt with coming out in the hostile environment of high school. He was a round character who was not only gay, but also an amazing friend, a magical assistant, a witty voice of reason, and a protagonist in his own right. Will was not a side character pushed off to the side, but a main character with just as much page-time and depth as Mattie. 


Even though I loved the twist on magic and the intricacies of escapology, the execution of the ideas could have been better. 


The book is told in dual perspectives through the voices of Mattie and Will, which I do not think was necessary. Both characters had unique voices and I loved the differentiation in style, but they narrated many of the same events. While I mostly enjoyed both perspectives, there were times when I felt that I was getting the same story over again. It also didn't help that the plot was a little bit predictable, which emphasized the repetition even more. Some fragments of the timeline were told more than once, but there were also weeks and weeks of the time line that were glossed over (like the entirety of their high school experience). 


On the whole, I enjoyed the vibrant voice and unique metaphors that Callahan used to create the atmosphere of high school. There weren't any of the same old cliches, but the style tended to exaggerate for the sake of uniqueness. Specifically, Will's voice tried too hard at points to be "cool" and "hipster" with the retro references. Instead of incorporating a few vintage phrases, at times he spoke in the full vernacular of the 1920's, which teenagers are not normally apt to do. 


Recommended for: fans of Harry Houdini (or the cinematic masterpiece Now You See Me), fantasy fans looking to explore contemporary, contemporary fans looking for a little bit of magic, those looking for LGBT+ representation in a high school setting 

 

 

 

<b>This review and other bookish shenanigans can be found on my original blog, <a href="http://4evercrazyforya.blogspot.com/">Crazy for YA</a>.</b>

 

Source: 4evercrazyforya.blogspot.com/2018/04/harry-houdini-has-nothing-on-me-art-of.html
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text 2018-04-02 19:58
I don't know if I'm doing this correctly

Courtney Milan's thread on Twitter regarding RWA, RITA awards, Harlequin, and Authors of Color.

 

https://twitter.com/courtneymilan/status/980872293256544256

 

I really do have to get myself to work, but I thought I'd post this here because we're mostly readers here, but we are also involved, intelligent, critical readers, and I'd love to read your thoughts.

 

Or you can post to Courtney Milan, I suppose.

 

My only contributions would be:

 

Harlequin has been screwing authors since forever.  That part of it is nothing new.  I think I've written about it before, so I won't bore you again. 

 

RWA has also been screwing authors.  The fact that the organization remains majority unpublished is probably the main reason.  No one was ever willing to stand up to the publishers, with their puny royalties and shitty treatment, because heaven forbid that some unpublished idiot -- not that all unpublished writers are idiots, but the idiot ones are the people who held the most power in RWA in the past, and I'm assuming they still do -- would lose a chance to publish her masterpiece.

 

I've never been a heavy reader of Harlequin books, but the first contemporary romance

about POC and written by an AOC that I ever read was for the RITA judging in the mid-1990s, in the preliminary round.  The book was good and I gave it an appropriately high score, but it didn't go on to the next round.  This was before there were separate lines for African American authors/characters.  (Side note: Am I the only one who thinks it's odd that Harlequin, known for its global/exotic settings, is somehow leaving out of this category POC from other "Anglo" countries?  Hello, but there are Black people in England, Canada, Australia, etc.  Okay, enough of that tangent.)

 

I left RWA with few regrets in 1998.  I felt it was an unprofessional organization then, and I still do.  Courtney Milan's long Twitter thread didn't change my mind.

 

 

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review 2018-03-20 20:39
Unsettling, entrancing tale of escaping the traps we're born to
Along the Indigo - Elsie Chapman

Disclaimer: Reviewing pre-publication proof via NetGalley

 

I loved this. Vivid, strong character writing and a fully fleshed-out sense of place from the first page made this an engaging story, and the dark fantasy/paranormal elements, while light, tinted the story with a deliciously creepy atmosphere.

 

Marsden is saving up to skip town with her 8-year-old little sister before one or both of them get roped into joining Nina's girls like their mom. Their dad died (or killed himself) when she was her sister's age, and their mom started working the not-so-secret nightshift in the boarding house they live in/brothel.

 

Being pressured toward sex work isn't the only source of Marsden's misery. She's half Chinese in a white, rural American town. Her mother's job - and her likely future - are an open secret, and the predatory, bullying behaviour of her peers and neighbours has her self-isolating to survive. And she can't hear the voices of the dead - despite regularly visiting the covert behind the boardinghouse to strip the bodies of the dead for cash. It's the last remaining piece of family property, a sort of suicide forest, tainted by the murder spree of a mad ancestor.

 

So there's a lot going on here. The visible minority/POC/mixed ancestry thing is handled well and comes up in Mars & her sister's experience, as well as another boy in town's story. The absent/abusive parent thing is troubling but very well handled, as is the dysfunctional community. And the suicides. There's heaps upon heaps of messed up in this book, but the author doesn't bury you in it. It's an engaging read, atmospheric and challenging without feeling hopeless. It reminds me of Brenna Yovanoff's books, and Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed In Blood just a touch. I think it's set in eastern Oregon or Washington maybe, or one of the prairie/desert states further east of there, but it has more in common with Southern Gothic paranormals. Creepy, foreign and familiar at the same time, unsettling and entrancing. Will circle back to this author's earlier works and follow her future books with great interest. Highly recommended read.

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review 2018-02-02 16:37
The Crossover
The Crossover - Kwame Alexander

Author: Kwame Alexander

Rating: 4 stars

 

2015 Newberry Medal Winner

 

This was so good.  

 

The story of twin African-American brothers told in verse, this book was different and wonderfully engaging. I really enjoyed seeing JB and Josh's different personalities come through the page.  

 

In short, JB and Josh are twins who play basketball. Their dad is ex-NBA and their mom is the school assistant principal. Their family is tight-knit and HAPPY. Trouble comes when one of the boys gets a girlfriend and the other feels left out, trouble also comes from other directions that I won't spoil. There were such positive messages about education and balancing a love of sports, making your character a priority, family loyalty - I loved it.

 

The story itself was bittersweet and that is all I will say to avoid spoilers. The lessons imparted by their parents were powerful and would serve kids well. When I read the reviews, I  couldn't help but smile seeing how excited educators were to bring this book into their classrooms. 

 

It's a quick read but a worthy one. Definitely recommend.

 

 

 

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review 2017-12-03 17:50
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress ★★★★☆
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress - Sijie Dai

This was an interesting story with an unusual setting – China during Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the 1970s – following two teenaged boys who are being “re-educated” in the country for the crime of being part of the bourgeoisie, as part of the Down to the Countryside Movement. In a political and social atmosphere that punishes independent thought and romantic ideals, celebrating ignorance and encouraging violence against dissenters, the boys discover a stash of forbidden classic Western literature and are transformed. Perhaps the best part of this story is the twist at the end, where they discover its true power that is so feared by the authorities: that this transformative power can’t be leashed to serve their own needs alone.

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive, with an excellent reading by BD Wong.

 

I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season; Square 7: December 10th & 13th: Book themes for International Human Rights Day: Read a book originally written in another language (i.e., not in English and not in your mother tongue), –OR– a book written by anyone not anglo-saxon, –OR– any story revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused –OR– Read a book set in New York City, or The Netherlands (home of the UN and UN World Court respectively). This book fits several of the requirements: written by a Chinese author in French, with a theme of human rights and civil liberty abuses.

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