Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Source: Borrowed

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
 

In case you didn’t see my rating up there, I’m going to say it here: I did not enjoy this book. I know it’s a well-loved book and this is probably heresy or something, but this book was just not for me, and here’s why.

The characters: Did I care about even one single character? No. They were roles, not characters. We have the Strong Female Protagonist who’s ready to save the world. We have the Charming Love Interest who… doesn’t really have much more of a function than that. We have some Fun Side Characters whose only purpose is to die for shock value.

The plot: I’m sorry, what plot? There are two ships, okay. There’s a very contagious sickness on one of them. Some lovers who’ve been separated after breaking up but they’re still in love? There’s a war, I guess, but it’s not really explained in any kind of detail. I don’t even know what the plot is, really, aside from Kady and Ezra pining over each other for no reason.

The relationship: I’m a romance lover and even I can admit that the romance in this book was entirely unnecessary. If Kady and Ezra love each other so much, why did they break up at the beginning of the book? I couldn’t take them seriously.

The plot twist: I rolled my eyes. It wasn’t one of those “oh wow, that plot twist!!” kind of situations. It was one of those “really? are you actually serious? this is what I waited for??” kind of moments. The big plot twist was some nonsense.

I had really hoped to enjoy Illuminae since so many of my Goodreads friends and fellow bloggers love it, but I just couldn’t get into it. The format is fun, but that’s about all that I can say about this one. I love Jay Kristoff, but I’m not going to be continuing with this series.


Have you read Illuminae? Do you agree with me or did you love it?
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Book Review: MCMLXXV by Joe Casey

MCMLXXV by Joe Casey
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 15, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Meet Pamela Evans. Much more than a typical Manhattan cab driver, she also happens to be a badass monster fighter who wields an enchanted tire iron. Yeah, that’s right. Welcome to the year of her greatest adventure.

MCMLXXV is modern mythology for a new generation, from JOE CASEY (NEW LIEUTENANTS OF METAL, JESUSFREAK) and IAN MacEWAN (PROPHET: EARTH WAR, SEX).

Collects MCMLXXV #1-3

This is going to be a pretty short review because I did not enjoy this one very much. Pretty much the only reason I read this was because of the title, which doesn’t even figure into the story at all.

Let me start with the positive. It starts off well enough. I’d probably give it four stars for the first issue. I appreciate that it features a strong female lead. I appreciate the premise of the story. The art is fine. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can say.

Some bullet points, because I don’t really want to devote too much more time to this graphic novel:

  • If you like random words being emphasized for no reason, you might enjoy this graphic novel.
  • Aside from a taxi driver fighting demons, there’s not too terribly much of a plot, and the world-building is basically non-existent.
  • I cared about literally none of the characters. I didn’t dislike them or anything, but I just didn’t feel anything for them. Even when some pretty major characters died, I was just like, “oh… alright then.”
  • Please explain to me how Pamela destroys her cabs on a nightly basis and still has a job??

I’m not mad that I took the time to read this, but I can’t really recommend it either.

#mm19: animal, number, color, name


Have you read MCMLXXV? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: Comics for Choice by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox

Comics for Choice by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 2017
Source: Borrowed

Comics for Choice is anthology of comics about abortion. As this fundamental reproductive right continues to be stigmatized and jeopardized, over sixty artists and writers have created comics that boldly share their own experiences, and educate readers on the history of abortion, current political struggles, activism, and more. Lawyers, activists, medical professionals, historians, and abortion fund volunteers have teamed up with cartoonists and illustrators to share their knowledge in accessible comics form.

Comics for Choice is edited by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor, and Ø.K. Fox, and contains comics from exciting cartoonists like Sophia Foster-Dimino (Sex Fantasy), Leah Hayes (Not Funny Ha-Ha), Anna Bongiovanni (Grease Bats), Jennifer Camper (Rude Girls and Dangerous Women), Ally Shwed (Sex Bomb Strikes Again) and Kat Fajardo (Gringa!, La Raza Anthology), and reproductive justice scholars like Rickie Solinger, (Reproductive Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know) Renee Bracey Sherman (Program Director, We Testify), and Dr. Cynthia Greenlee (Senior Editor, Rewire).


I didn’t really know what to expect when I checked this anthology out from the library. All I really knew was that it was a ton of abortion stories and that it would probably make me very, very sad. The thing is, while I can’t see myself ever getting an abortion (except in a very extreme case), I don’t think it’s my place to tell anyone else what they can or cannot do with their life and their body. That means that I’m very firmly on the pro-choice side of the debate. I thought it might be a good idea to expand my horizons a little bit and learn more about abortion.

Turns out that this book was possibly not the right place to go for that. First of all, there are a ton of stories here. A ton. Most of them are very, very short, and most of them feel like they were put together very quickly. There are a lot of misspellings and a lot of grammatical issues. A few of the stories looked more like drafts than finished art. It’s not the end of the world, I guess, but this is a book that’s been put out into the world for people to purchase. I expected more from it.

As for the stories, some of them hit me very hard. I can’t imagine being in the situation that a lot of these women were in and I can’t imagine how difficult the choice to get an abortion must be. I also found the stories from the abortion doulas and clinic escorts very interesting. I hadn’t even known that abortion doulas were a thing before I picked this book up! But some of the stories seemed to be there just to prove a point or push an agenda, which is something I don’t really appreciate, even when it’s a point or an agenda that I can get behind.

When this anthology was good, it was good. But when it wasn’t good, it was just disappointing. Overall, I think two stars is probably the best I can do here.

Have you read Comics for Choice? Do you have any recommendations for feminist nonfiction?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Dodge City by Josh Trujillo

Dodge City by Josh Trujillo
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Dodge City is a YA sports comedy about making sense of a chaotic world and growing up against the insane backdrop of competitive dodgeball, told through the eyes of oddball Tomás and his teammates.

Life comes at you fast, but dodgeballs come way faster! Tomás is a teenage misfit, but when he joins the Jazz Pandas dodgeball team, he’s thrown into a family of oddballs and outcasts who are willing to do whatever it takes to win the summer regional dodgeball championships. Through a season of highs, lows, and blows to the face, Tomás might finally find a place where he truly belongs, and the person inside himself he didn’t know he could be.

I checked this graphic novel out from my library because, first of all, it looked like fun, and second of all, I more or less enjoyed the first several issues of Fence. A graphic novel focusing on dodgeball sounded like it would be a great time — after all, Dodgeball was one of my favorite movies when I was in high school.

The thing is, I feel like this graphic novel was a lot of nice art featuring a ton of diverse characters and not much else. There’s not much of a story aside from the dodgeball, and what little story there is is kind of choppy and confusing. This is definitely a fast-paced story, but it’s almost too fast for anything meaningful to happen. The characters aren’t particularly well-developed either — four issues in and I feel like I know them about as well as I did on page one.

All of that said, I don’t think this is necessarily a terrible graphic novel. There’s definitely potential for character development and for the story to improve, but I don’t know that I’ll be jumping at the chance to read any more of it any time soon.


Have you read Dodge City? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine

Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2015
Source: Purchased

Killing and Dying is a stunning showcase of the possibilities of the graphic novel medium and a wry exploration of loss, creative ambition, identity, and family dynamics. With this work, Adrian Tomine (Shortcomings, Scenes from an Impending Marriage) reaffirms his place not only as one of the most significant creators of contemporary comics but as one of the great voices of modern American literature. His gift for capturing emotion and intellect resonates here: the weight of love and its absence, the pride and disappointment of family, the anxiety and hopefulness of being alive in the twenty-first century.

“Amber Sweet” shows the disastrous impact of mistaken identity in a hyper-connected world; “A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture” details the invention and destruction of a vital new art form in short comic strips; “Translated, from the Japanese” is a lush, full-color display of storytelling through still images; the title story, “Killing and Dying”, centers on parenthood, mortality, and stand-up comedy. In six interconnected, darkly funny stories, Tomine forms a quietly moving portrait of contemporary life.

Tomine is a master of the small gesture, equally deft at signaling emotion via a subtle change of expression or writ large across landscapes illustrated in full color. Killing and Dying is a fraught, realist masterpiece. 

I found this book for $2.00 at my library’s annual used book sale. Being someone who generally enjoys graphic novels, I thought I didn’t really have a lot to lose by buying it. It took me a little bit of time to get around to reading it, but I finally read it over a couple lunches at work.

When I first started this one, I really enjoyed it. I liked “A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture,” mostly because I liked the twist at the end. It really did not end in a way that I expected, and I appreciated that. I also really enjoyed “Amber Sweet” and the more or less unexpected ending that one had as well.

The other four stories, though? I was not a huge fan. I don’t know if I’d really call them “darkly funny” like the synopsis promises. I didn’t find them particularly emotional, and, in fact, really felt very little of anything as I was reading them.

In the end, I’m not mad that I bought this, but it’ll be going to a Little Free Library or back to the used bookstore with me one of these days.


Have you read Killing and Dying? Have you enjoyed any great graphic novels recently?
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Mini-Review: Fante Bukowski by Noah Van Sciver

Fante Bukowski by Noah Van Sciver
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: July 22, 2015
Source: Borrowed

Noah Van Sciver’s latest graphic novella drops in on the life of the self-styled, aspiring young writer, Fante Bukowski, as he delusively makes his way to literary fame and fortune, one drink at a time. Living in a cheap hotel, consorting with the debased and downtrodden, searching for that golden idea that will rocket him to the success he yearns for as the great American novelist, and to get respect from his father once and for all. But, there’s just one problem: Fante Bukowski has no talent for writing.

If I had to describe the plot of this book in one sentence, it would be “an entitled man thinks the world should fawn over his terrible writing.” This is going to be a pretty short review because this is a pretty short book and I don’t have a ton of feelings about it. I think it’s one of those things you’re either going to like or you’re not.

I enjoyed this one at the beginning when it was really satirizing its subject matter, but as the book went on, I was just annoyed. I was annoyed by Fante’s attitude and his entitlement and all of the cliches.

At least I laughed exactly three times while I was reading it.


Have you read Fante Bukowski? Have you read any very strange books recently?
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Book Review: Slam, The Next Jam by Pamela Ribon

Slam, The Next Jam by Pamela Ribon
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Source: Borrowed

In the fast-paced, hard-hitting, super cheeky, all-female world of banked track roller derby, two young women will need to balance the pull of budding relationships and family obligations with the demands and excitement of roller derby. 

After breaking one of the biggest rules in derby (not to mention an actual collarbone) Knockout and Can-Can are back on the track! But they have a lot of rehab to do, both on their battered bodies and their reputations in the league…will their friendship survive the dreaded derby drama?

From bestselling novelist, screenwriter, and Los Angeles Derby Doll Pamela Ribon (Going In Circles, Why Girls Are Weird) and artist Marina Julia (Lumberjanes: Faire and Square) comes the next chapter in SLAM!.

After being so pleasantly surprised by volume one of Slam, I was really excited to jump into what I thought was volume two. It turns out that while Slam: The Next Jam is technically volume two in the series, it’s also considered a new series and the numbering resets at one. As if that isn’t confusing enough, we’ve also got a new artist, so while the characters are sort of identifiable, they also look surprisingly different.

While the pacing in the first volume was fast, I didn’t feel as though the actual work was rushed. I can’t say the same for The Next Jam. Everything in this volume, from the artwork to the storyline to the character development (or lack thereof) feels like it was assembled in about five minutes.

I might have finished volume one of this graphic novel feeling impressed, but I just finished volume two feeling disappointed. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I won’t be continuing on with this one.

#mm19: diversify your reading


Have you read Slam? Is it on your TBR?
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