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review 2018-03-22 00:21
Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel - Ahmed Saadawi
“Because I'm made up of body parts of people from diverse backgrounds - ethnicities, tribes, races and social classes - I represent the impossible mix that never was achieved in the past. I'm the first true Iraqi citizen, he (the Whatsitsname) thinks.”

I'm completely gobsmacked after finishing FRANKENSTEIN IN BAGHDAD. I didn't really know what to expect. I'm not usually a big horror reader, but this sounded so interesting, I decided how could it hurt to try? So I borrowed the fairly short library book, telling myself I could just give it back if I wasn't into it. Not only was I into it, I read it quickly in two sittings and I've been talking about this and one other book to anyone who will listen for days.


The large number of characters are fully realized and formed. It's incredibly complex and has a deep, twisty narrative with various interwoven storylines. It's satire, dark witty humor, and on a surface level both funny and freakish. Then the minute you think for a second about what's going on, this horror novel is deeply disturbing on myriad levels. It's allegorical, it's a straight-up retelling of Shelley's Frankenstein, it's a government spoof, and a few other things.


In US-occupied Baghdad, we start off with classified documents about a "story." It involves all the usual nonsense the US government is fond of doing, and my first thought was "I can see the government classifying everything and arresting people for a story." Seemed highly realistic to me. 


It may be a substandard horror novel. I wasn't scared. It may be a poor translation, or it may simply be that the terror is found in a different reading. I was disturbed and slightly tortured about the underlying message and circumstance being satirized -- the American occupation of Baghdad, the constant drones, the literal blowing-apart of both people and a country. 


There is some true brilliance of social, political, national, religious, human, etc commentary offered.Some people found it "slow." I'd guess they were looking for a horror novel only, not one that integrates the many facets this novel brings. 


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review 2018-03-21 00:04
Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America - Jill Leovy

There are two competing, rather than complimentary stories in this book. Part of the blurb:


Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential, but mostly ignored, American murder—a “ghettoside” killing, one young black man slaying another—and a brilliant and driven cadre of detectives whose creed is to pursue justice for forgotten victims at all costs. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of why murder happens in our cities—and how the epidemic of killings might yet be stopped.


The problem is that the "quintessential" American murder she picks is the son of an LAPD detective. Of course they solve that murder. It's absurd that they have to work around their own department to solve this or any crime, but they do it. If it's possible to be more disgusted by the LAPD as an institution, reading this book may have done it for me.


It's clear that Leovy has been charmed by the men with whom she's been "embedded" for a year. At times it reads like glorification of the hardworking, put-upon detectives with complete disregard for the murder victims they are supposed to be serving. The only thing that saves it is the detectives themselves and her increasingly critical eye toward the middle and end of the book.


It's very slow to start as she introduces us to every detective mentioned with a long character study, and only around the middle does "action" happen, but even that action is fairly muted. The personalities are interesting, but I thought of putting it down once or twice. The climax comes with an interview of the suspect in the "featured murder." There are a lot of murders, a lot of statistics, a lot of complaints about the LAPD brass, a lot of passing judgement on the people they police and a lot of surprising love for those very same people.


The sheer frustration of being anyone who isn't related to the police wasn't presented. There are mountains of problems quickly tossed out, some of which could be cleared up fairly quickly if anyone cared to do so (ie, stop melting down guns that are possibly evidence.) Many of the problems are much more intractable though, and like all police departments, the LAPD has a culture that gets in its way more often than not. I wish the urgency had been imparted. I wish the case chosen wasn't the only one solved that month. I wish the problems in getting even the police department to take these homicides seriously had been the entire book. Instead Leovy covers a huge mountain of issues and offers no solutions.

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review 2018-03-20 23:48
Dear Martin -- my best YA read in recent memory
Dear Martin - Nic Stone





This is what I imagine Justyce, the MC, would do if asked to hold a sign about race early on.


There has been a stream of books about race and police brutality in the last few years. One could read nothing but books on the topic and still not keep up with the books available. What a great problem to have: too many books on important topics. Now if only these books were useless because the problem had been solved.


If one can "enjoy" a book like this, then I enjoyed Nic Stone's telling of tragedy story more than I've enjoyed almost any other. There are obvious comparisons both in other recent books but also to real cases in real America. Nic Stone writes for the young reader in a simple way that never is dumbed down or too basic. She has all the nuances and difficulties of her subject matter under command as she writes the story of Justyce and his friend Manny, two black kids at a liberal, elite school and the ways they handle casual, subtle, daily racialization, microaggressions, as well as the more obvious and deadly type.


The POV shifts between third person storytelling to Justyce's interior life to second-person letters/journaling to "Dear Martin" (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) Nic Stone makes excellent use of the "safe place" classroom, where the white students do all the talking on race while the black students sit uncomfortably or angrily by, but certainly don't feel "safe" on the topic of race, despite having a black teacher. There is confusion by the bundle for our protagonist, in the way his friends behave, the racial issues involved in dating, the always-difficult world of being a teenager. He takes refuge in writing honest letters to MLK, and it's here that he feels safe enough to say what he thinks. But can even Dr. King help Justyce when the world caves in?


This is, ultimately, an uplifting story with characters who grow in the face of extreme circumstances and stereotypes that threaten to keep them stuck. Well worth anyone's time.


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review 2018-03-17 18:45
Audiobook Review: Nights at Seaside (Sweet with Heat: Seaside Summers) by Addison Cole and Melissa Moran
Nights at Seaside - Addison Cole,Melissa Moran


Nights at Seaside is a work of art.  Addison Cole has created a beautiful watercolor that spans multiple canvases.  Her delivery is like the sweetest melody. Not easily forgotten.  Skye and Sawyer blend artistry and poetry to create an ever changing masterpiece. A metamorphosis of heartbreaking moments, life changing revelations and an enduring love.  Melissa Moran takes this emotive coming of age journey and runs with it.  Her's is a voice of hope that shines a light when times are at their most heart-aching. John Michael Montgomery said it best:  "Life's a dance.  We learn as we go!" It took a bit of practice, but Skye and Sawyer finally got it right.





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review 2018-03-17 08:26
Inherit The Stars
Inherit the Stars - Tessa Elwood

Inherit The Stars is the first book in a duology by the same title. It has some problems, sure, but after reading the negative reviews, I was bracing myself for much worse.

Asa, as youngest daughter of a great House, pretends to be her older sister and gets married to the Heir of another great House. All of this is rather impulsive, which really characterizes Asa. She's not likeable and difficult to feel any kind of sympathy for. The romance I think, will not surprise anyone. However, besides these things it was a rather fast and nice read. Since I already have the second book in the duology, I will be reading it some time.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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