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review 2019-01-16 00:46
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World - Shannon Hale,Vitale Mangiatordi,Dean Hale
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

This one is kind of tricky for me to review. There were things I really liked and things I wasn't such a fan of.

Overall, I think the book was good. I recently read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power and loved it because it was super duper awesome. I fell in love with Doreen Green and her amazingness. So I was very excited to see that there was a novelization of her adventures and it was written by none other than Shannon Hale, the author of the Ever After High: Storybook of Legends book series, which I also love.

Then I got this. It wasn't bad, it just didn't reach my exceptions. There were definitely good things. I really liked Ana Sofia's character. I think the authors did a good job of incorporating various aspects of deaf culture into the text (ASL, hearing aids, music, lip reading). I was a little disappointed Ana Sofia could "read lips" like almost every deaf character in mass media, but I think they did a good job showing how it isn't an easy task and not a perfect system. I also thought it was good how Ana Sofia called out misperceptions about deafness in the book. 

But then there were things that were not so cool. For one thing, I was super confused why Tippy-Toe's sections were the only ones in first person. The other sections were in third person. Was Tippy-Toe supposed to be the narrator of the whole thing? I listened to the audiobook and they used different narrators for some of the sections, so even if that were true, it would be super confusing. The footnotes were funny, sometimes annoying and disruptive, but overall they were a good addition that definitely felt like something Squirrel Girl would do.

There were a few times where the narration just did not make sense. Like the whole carjacking scene. How it the world did she open the hood while standing on the hood? I realize she has unbeatable squirrel powers, but I don't think being able to move through solid objects is one of them. And then how did the carjacker keep driving when said hood was up? That scene totally threw me out of the narration because it was so confusing. I had to listen to it again and it still bugged me. 

I also felt that sometimes the book got a little dark. There are dangerous things and fight scenes that happen in the graphic novel, but the cutesy, colorful artwork and hilarious dialogue helped brighten it up. Without the visuals, the book was kind of creepy and weird. Tippy-Toe's sections felt especially gritty. And what was with all of the cute animals in danger? Seriously? Trying to poison dogs and squish squirrels? Are you kidding me? Unnecessarily dark, especially for a Squirrel Girl book. 

So overall, I thought it was good, but some things just didn't seem to ring true for Squirrel Girl. I loved the comic because it was a funny spin on a superhero adventure. This was a decent book, but not one of my favorites.
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review 2019-01-15 20:30
Daba's Travels from Ouadda to Bangui by Makombo Bamboté
Daba's Travels from Ouadda to Bangui - Makombo Bamboté,George Ford

Like apparently most of the people who read this book, I read it for my world books challenge and wasn’t particularly impressed. It seems to be aimed at middle-grade readers (ages 9-12), and recounts the childhood experiences of a boy named Daba as he leaves his village in the Central African Republic to attend school in a larger town and spends his vacations traveling around the country with friends and relatives.

As you would expect, this is a quick and easy read that even includes some illustrations. It’s a pretty gentle story, including adventures such as attending a boarding school and tagging along for a crocodile hunt. However, it is disjointed, prematurely ending events that could have been exciting if fully-developed – like the crocodile hunt, which gets less page time than a neighbor telling the boys a story – and including more episodes than fit comfortably within its brief page count. It does little to immerse the reader in Daba’s feelings or experiences; in the second half of the book, he seems to fade into his group of friends, who are indistinguishable in personality and experiences (except for the French pen pal who somehow is able to fly to a Central African Republic town alone and spend the summer wandering from village to isolated village with the local boys).

Daba grows older – the book appears to cover a couple of years – but he doesn’t really have struggles to overcome or seem to change or learn more about life. At times, knowing the story to be based in some way on the author’s childhood, Daba’s portrayal even comes across as self-aggrandizing: a star pupil, always cool and confident, beats adults at games, liked by everyone except for one classmate who’s condemned by other children and adults alike. Meanwhile, for adult readers, the language is perhaps too simple, and some of the events are eyebrow-raising or could use more explanation (the pen pal trip, Daba’s being awarded a scholarship to study abroad without any apparent effort from him or consent from his parents, etc.).

At any rate, this isn’t too bad if you’re doing a world books challenge – Daba travels around his country, giving the reader a sense of the landscape and the culture in the places he visits, and quick reads are always valued for big challenges – but those searching for diverse books to give to the children in their lives would be better served looking elsewhere.

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text 2019-01-15 14:55
Reading progress update: I've read 46 out of 279 pages.
My Criminal World - Henry Sutton

I love the "novel within a novel" approach here; it sure is serving its purpose. the book is subtly commenting on the genre it is part of.

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text 2019-01-15 09:57
Reading progress update: I've read 80 out of 288 pages.
The Honey Factory: Inside the Ingenious World of Bees - Diedrich Steen,Jürgen Tautz

So. much. science.


Which is awesome.  I'm thoroughly enjoying it and getting exactly what I wanted: an in-depth, you-are-there, description of the world of honey bees and what we know so far about how they function in the hive.


Originally written in German, the translation is good, but it's funny because the narrative voice reminds me so much of the way one of my former colleagues in Denmark spoke English.  Grammatically perfect, but with a rhythm–dare I say melody?–that made it sound like he was ... I want to say 'talking to a  child' but it wasn't condescending; it was simply a similar cadence.  It's hard to explain, but the result is I can't hardly read this without picturing him in my head and hearing his voice.  Which is totally ok (I liked him), but a tad discordant too, as to the best of my knowledge he was not a beekeeper.  

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text 2019-01-15 09:46
Reading progress update: I've read 33 out of 320 pages.
The Scent Of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, And The World's Most Beautiful Orchid - Craig Pittman

I started this last night and I think it's one of those books you have to have a connection to in order to really get into it.  My connection is actually two-fold: I am a Florida native, born and raised in the Sarasota area, where this story takes place, and my father was an orchid grower and hybridiser who did a lot of work for, and with, Selby Botanical Gardens, the 'scene fo the crime'.  His health by the time this story takes place had deteriorated enough that he was in no way a part of it (nor would he have been anyway; his interest was creating hybrids, not obtaining rarities), but he would have known most of the players.


So far, Pittman's writing is straight-forward investigative journalism and reads like it.  This is fine - he's a journalist, after all - and I've read one of his other books and enjoyed his style well enough.  He started out writing for the Sarasota Herald Tribune, so he knows the area well (and is also a native); this is a bonus to a native Sarasotian - he's got the atmosphere pretty well nailed.


The other part he has nailed is the obsessive, fanatical, competitiveness of orchidists and orchid hobbyists.  I'd say you have to see it to believe it, but I lived my whole life with it and I still can't believe the lengths they will go to in order to obtain new specimens, or hoard the ones they have.  Whatever 'secrets' they develop to raise them successfully are just that - jealously guarded secrets.  When my father wanted to learn about orchids (in the 50's or 60's, I think) - nobody would tell him anything beyond the basics about water, food and light.  When he wanted to start hybridising - forget it; he might as well have been asking for CIA documents.  My dad being my dad, he just did his own research, experimented, created his own glove-box, tested it out, and when it worked, gave the plans and specifications for it to anyone who asked for it.  My dad was the best!


Still a long way to go in this book, and it's not going to be an easy, breezy read, but so far it's exactly what this native Florida girl living on the other side of the world needed.  A true virtual trip home.

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