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review 2017-08-12 21:49
The perfect Spider-Man novel
Miles Morales: Spider-Man (A Marvel YA Novel) - Jason Reynolds,Kadir Nelson

This not only balanced the action of a racist regime actively trying to keep minorities down but also the more personal stories: Miles' crush on a poet, and fellow student, named Alicia.   (She's black as well, which is only important because one of their teachers is pretty openly and grossly racist.   While Miles bears the brunt of Chamberlain's wrath, Alicia isn't unaffected, and she's not the type to not get involved.   I also wonder if Miles is more of a target because of his socioeconomic status - poorer, a scholarship student at this school - but also because he's half Puerto Rican.  Or perhaps his family history on his father's side makes him the seemingly logical choice to torment for Chamberlain.   His father, Jefferson Davis and his brother, Aaron, play a large role in this novel and started out poor, and resorting to petty theft and non-violent crimes to make their way through life.   Jefferson managed to get out thanks to Rio, the woman who became his wife, and Aaron never did manage to go straight.)


Regardless, Miles is one of the most obedient students in school, and one of the more studious young people.   He respects his parents, and his teachers, especially when they aren't racist.  


And while Alicia and Miles' story isn't all about racism, by bringing the outside, the super villainy, into the school and by using it as something that does affect both Alicia and Miles, it means that the two storylines can't be completely separated.   Reynolds can, and does, work on both those stories at once. 


In addition, there are family issues: Miles, his roommate Ganke's family issues, and all this is worked in with an expert hand.   There's a lot going on and Reynolds does it all with a fairly low word count.   Not only that, it's fun to read.   There are moments of despair, for both Miles and Ganke, but the way that they hold each other up and cheer each other up is the true friendship that is in the comics: warm, goofy, nerdy, and always supportive, even when one thinks the other is being an idiot.   (Ganke does get pushy, especially about Morales and Spider-Man, but he's not so overly pushy that he comes off as manipulative or coercive and not all the time.   Only when he truly believes in something, like Spider-Man.)


This was not only a charming read, but it had a lot of important things to say about racism and how systemic it can be.   How it can poison minds, youths, and make them believe nothing will get better.   How it can turn them down the wrong path, a path they may never get off no matter how much try.   It was touching, funny, heartbreaking and all in character.   It was, in fact, one of the best Marvel tie-ins I've read.   I highly suggest this book, although I also warn you: you'll find it in the teens or young adult section.   And you should.   This is an important read, but especially for children, especially those who might not see their faces normally represented in comic books, or even comic book tie-ins.   

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review 2016-09-10 09:15
What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing - Brian Seibert


Brian Siebert

Hardcover, 624 pages
Published November 17th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 0865479534 (ISBN13: 9780865479531)

also available for Kindle and ebook.


Seibert has magnificently researched Tap;  starting with original steps brought in with Irish Jigs, African Drums, and Appalachian Clogging in very early American society, then through Thomas Jefferson's plantation, Charles Dicken's visit to the Five Pointes Dance Hall, and more. He wonderfully brings us through the minstrelsy, the jazz age, to Taps comeback with television, then movies and Broadway. Seibert leaves nothing out, making this a long book (624 pages). He includes some great photos throughout. the book is definitely an entertaining read while giving us, the readers, a remarkable view at a true piece of American history. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who dances, enjoys music, and wants to learn more.

****I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in exchange for a fair review.****

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text 2016-05-09 00:00
Book 33/100: The End - 50 Apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture That You Should Know About ... Before It's Too Late by Laura Barcella
The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About...Before It's Too Late - Laura Barcella

If you are a fan of post-apocalyptic/apocalyptic stories, make sure to have your TBR and TBW (to-be-watched) lists handy -- plus Google if you want to check into any of the non-book/movie suggestions featured in this book.

Despite being a long-time fan of the genre, there were tons of books and movies I either had never heard of, or had heard of but didn't know exactly what they were about. The format is the same for every entry -- it sets up the plot/scenario, and then includes notes about how likely such an apocalypse is, what impact the work had on the culture/later works, and what inspired the creator. The tone is casual and slightly ironic, clearly written by an enthusiast of the genre. Although mostly featuring books and movies, there are also some apocalyptic visions from artwork, theater, and music included. (The theater ones bummed me out a little because it's the hardest to get a hold of -- but now that I know these apocalyptic plays exist, I'll keep my eyes open for whether they are ever performed near me.)

It would be easy to criticize this book for all the stuff it left OUT, but one of its strengths is that it creates a somewhat manageable collection of apocalyptic visions, unlike the "1001 ..." book series that is pretty much overhwelming (which is why I guess you get "until you die" as the deadline). This book could serve as a handy guide to someone who is just getting into the post-apocalyptic genre, or a current enthusiast who might want to fill in the gaps. It also gave me a sense for why some of the books/movies in the genre became such classics.

The book reinforces the fact that there really aren't a ton of scenarios that have been explored for the world ending -- pretty much every piece in the book falls into one of the following categories: nuclear war, alien invasion, asteroid from space, zombies (zombies seemed a bit overrepresented), climate change, and plague. It's in the way these themes are rendered that you might glimpse something new.

Readers should be warned that this book is totally ruthless about spoilers -- it looks at each work as a whole, which usually includes giving away how the story ends. So if you are very anti-spoiler, you might want to skip entries for pieces you haven't read/seen or just read the first couple paragraphs. I have so many things on my to-watch/to-read list that I figure I'll forget the spoilers by the time I get to them, anyway. :p

This is not a long book, but I found it to be best enjoyed reading just a couple entries at a time -- otherwise, they start to blend together a bit.

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review 2016-03-14 00:00
Dad Magazine: America's #1 Magazine for "Pop" Culture
Dad Magazine: America's #1 Magazine for ... Dad Magazine: America's #1 Magazine for "Pop" Culture - NOT A BOOK My husband & giggled so hard we occasionally snorted.
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review 2016-02-27 01:22
Different than what I had expected
Flood - S. Alexander Reed,Philip Sandifer

I had multiple issues with this book: the design of the book is nice, smaller books that delve into one record each, but the words were smaller and felt more crammed together and the paper was that blinding white that I really don't prefer.  (I didn't count this towards my star rating, however, as they were minor complaints.   Maybe I should have as I doubt I'll buy these in paperback for myself, but I didn't.)


Furthermore, I'd read that there were issues with this series in general.   See, each one is written by a different author, or even co-written, and this makes this series hit and miss for some people.   The review I'm thinking of said that there were either varying quality or interest levels; I'm fairly sure it was quality, but I have not found that to be so - yet.   I've only read three of these, however, and I would argue that interest level does vary for me.   The Bowie book on Low?   I've read that twice and was fascinated throughout.   The one on the Beach Boys?   That was enlightening, terrifying, sobering, but was another book I would gladly reread.   This book was different.   Maybe it's because I read the other two as e-books and had a little more control over the things that annoyed me.   (Text size, line spacing, margins, and brightness on my Kindle Paperwhite.)


I have a feeling I would have been almost as annoyed reading this as an e-book, however. See, I came into it with a certain set of expectations.   The two books I've already read mixed the personal with factional; it was a biography of the artists, although with such little space, it had an economy to the biographical aspect.   Everything led back to that one particular somehow, someway.   The personal wasn't so much about the authors but about the authors themselves; it made the artists feel more real to me in ways that other non-fiction has not.   Perhaps it's the fact that the authors clearly loved their subjects, and that shone through.   They were not blindly adoring of their subjects, particularly the Bowie biography.   There was no way to make his drug addiction, his feverish hallucinations, his at times extremely bizarre behavior anything other than it was, and the author didn't even attempt to do so.   He reported this factually, in an unbiased as possible way, as he did when he spoke of how the record was recorded.   The love came through when he spoke of the music, however, and it bled onto the page.   There was something honest and deep that could only come from repeated listenings to that record, and from massive amounts of time, thought and energy poured into those songs.   


Look, I'm not saying this book wasn't well written.   It was.   It was factual, in-depth, and the authors had at least limited access to the two Johns who make up They May Be Giants.   (There was at least one in person interview.)   The problem isn't that they aren't fans of the music, or that they didn't think about this music, or that they don't have smart, opinionated things to say about the music.   The problem is it was... dry.    Very dry.   While the biographical element was limited, that may be because They May Be Giants guard their privacy.   (I'm not saying that they're wrong to do so, but rather that because of this, it may be harder to write a heavily biographical piece.   Fair.   I'm not so much faulting this book for that as for the actual tack it did take.)


But the charm of the other two books was the personal and it was lacking from this book.   It was either straight factual biography, or interpretation.    It felt like a long paper on the was to interpret They Might Be Giants' songs.   The problem I had was I was expecting something else, and well, I got bored.  


It didn't help that there hints of something more interesting, like when the authors talk about how unsexy the music is.   (Not as a trash talking bit, but rather acknowledging that They Might Be Giants don't really sing about sex.)   There's this funny story about one of their college mack out sessions on which this album, Flood, comes on his girlfriends CD shuffler.   Knowing that it would kill the mood, he injures himself trying to turn it off.   It was funny, yes, but more than that, it spoke to how the music spoke to him.   It was a shy little moment, letting the reader in on not only what he liked about the music, but how it didn't work.   It made the authors seems like genuine fans rather than sycophants, and all I can think is that this moment sticks out in my head.   It did more than charm me, it disarmed me.   See, folks, we're willing to have a laugh at this album and ourselves.  


Unfortunately there weren't that many moments like that, and the few that are there make it obvious that there could have been more of that in this.   I certainly don't regret reading this, and I did kinda fly through it in two or so days.   That being said, while I found it fascinating, enlightening, with detailed research and a tight writing style, it lacked the balance in some of the other books.   It also showed what it could have been and the only regret I have is that I didn't get more of those moments.  


I'd love to read another of these guys books, though, either together or solo.   Like I said, I saw some really great moments of potential and I'd give another book a try to see if that potential is followed through on in later writings.   


I may need a break from these, though, so I'm finishing The Magician's Elephant before I delve into my next 33 1/3.

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