Showing posts with label print book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label print book. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum

Rating: WARTY!

This novel is a product of its time and in some ways shouldn't be judged based on modern standards, but this review is not about how children in 1900 will perceive the 'modern fairytale', but how children and parents in the 21st century will, and I have to say up front that the book is long, tedious in parts and worst of all, decidedly gory. It's also - unsurprisingly - clueless when held up against our modern sensibilities. I did not like it and I cannot recommend it.

This is a print book that I got on close-out at a book store. It's a classic, heavy, solid tome, with glossy pages and illustrations, so it's a nicely put-together book overall, but the illustrations are bizarre; they make all the characters look like zombies on drugs! Austin-based artist Michael Sieben illustrated this book, but I have to say how disappointed I was with the colored drawings. They were ugly and unappealing. There were also pages where a quote from the text was strewn across the double-page, writ-large like it had been hand-printed in block caps. Who did these and what the point was I have no idea, but they contributed nothing positive to the overall appearance of this edition.

Prior to this reading, the only knowledge I had of this story was from the movie, which in its own time really wasn't a huge success (it took a decade to break even!) and which had multiple problems in filming and abundant continuity issues in the finished product. The movie only really took off once it began to be shown on TV, and while the two (book and movie) are the same in broad general terms, some of the details are quite different in the book as compared with the 1939 movie. I read somewhere that there are some forty differences which I guess isn't so surprising given Hollywood.

What jumped out at me is that there is no interaction between Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West in the early part of the book. That was all added to the movie to create dramatic tension. Nor did Dorothy meet Glinda until the end of the novel. She met merely the Good Witch of the North at the beginning (Glinda was actually the good witch of the south), who gave her a mark on her forehead by means of a kiss, that protected her rather like the Mark of Cain!

In fact, the movie makes no sense in having Glinda appear and outright lie to Dorothy that she has to see the Wizard in order to get home! You may recall that Glinda tells her later that she's always had the power by clicking her heels Nazi style. Why would a good witch lie to keep her from going home? The book doesn't have this problem.

There's very little interaction with the munchkins either (and no singing!). Dorothy is off along the yellow brick road pretty briskly. One thing I did note is that during their journey, the scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Woodman really step-up, thereby disproving their supposed brainless, cowardly, and heartless traits by the things they do to help get their party to Emerald City.

A better writer than Lyman Frank Baum would have gathered these threads together at the end of the story and had the wizard point this out instead of having him hand out worthless baubles. The wizard claims to be a good man (and a bad wizard) but he's actually a deceitful con-artist who does nothing for his adopted people and gets away with it.

I was really surprised by how gory the book is. I know this was penned in an era of wild and crazy fairytales and he was writing a modern version of those (so he claimed), but I think it's far too much for young kids even in this era of overly violent video games, TV, and movies. Sensibilities were different over a hundred years ago in a time when fairy stories were having witches eat children, but Baum did not need to go that route, but he made the deliberate choice to do so

The Tin Woodman, for example is described as being that way because he was once a flesh and blood person, but the evil witch, by means of enchanting his axe, cut off in turn, his arms, his legs, his head, and finally cleaved his body in twain. Each time he lost a body part, the local tinsmith replaced the missing part, but not his heart. I can see why they wouldn't want to go into any detail about all that in the movie!

In turn, the Tin Woodman shows no qualms about cutting off the head of a wildcat chasing mice (thereby proving he does have a heart). He defends Dorothy from the wicked witch in defeating forty wolves by means of simply cutting off their heads one by one. Dorothy, waking up to a pile of headless wolves, shows no reaction whatsoever. No wonder wolves are scarce in California! Yes! Unsurprisingly, Oz is southern California. Dorothy crossed a desert from Kansas to get there - where else would it be?!

That sam,e night, the scarecrow defends her from evil crows also dispatched by the witch only to be dispatched themselves by means of his wrenching their necks one by one. The cowardly lion proves he isn't cowardly by scaring off the witch's henchmen. The scarecrow proves he isn't brainless by devising several means to help them on their journey. Contrarily, his movie-self proves he is brainless by screwing up his lines and getting the Pythagorean theorem wrong!

One amusing thing to me was that tin doesn't rust like iron does. It oxidizes of course, as most metals do, but it's quite resistant to this, so the tin man, were he were truly made from tin, likely wouldn't rust and seize-up as he's depicted as doing in the story. This isn't really important in the grand scheme of the story though, which moves along at a brisk pace when it isn't sitting in the doldrums inexplicably. It drags on at the end though when it ought to wind up smartly.

The real problem is that it's not very inventive, nor is it very interesting, except for me in noting the differences between it and the movie version! The writing is a bit leaden in tone, and too grown up. It's very politically incorrect being a product of the nineteenth century, so parents might want to consider whether they want their kids reading something so violent, so unappreciative of nature, and with little to redeem it.

Dorothy is hardly the modern girl. She's like a character from your typical modern YA story: helpless, weepy, and needy, and really never takes charge. She's very selfish and ungrateful, and hardly a strong female character, nor is she a resourceful one. She defeats both evil witches, yes, but not through smarts and bravery (or even by good looks!), but by pure accident in each case. In the first instance, her house falls on the witch and kills her, and in the second, she simply throws a convenient bucket of water at the witch and melts her!

Why a witch susceptible to water damage would keep buckets of water lying around her establishment is an unresolved mystery, Clearly Baum didn't think his wiring through at all, but that's a common problem with writers. Hopefully it's all clear now why I cannot recommend this. There were too many issues with it, and there are far better stories about intelligent and self-possesed young women to be had. I'd recommend looking for those in place of this one. The Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Andersen have told a few.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Reborn by Mark Millar, Greg Capullo, Jonathon Glapion, FCO Plascencia

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a graphic novel I got from my local library which has these days quite the selection. In amongst all the comics aimed at pleasing the Marvel and DC movie crowds as well as comic book aficionados, there are some gems that are not so mainstream even though they may have been penned by mainstream writers and artists. This is one of those.

The writer is a Scot named Mark Millar who has written quite a few graphic novels that I've enjoyed, many of which have been great successes, and some of which have been made into movies including one which starred Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, and Morgan Freeman (Wanted) and another which starred Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton, and Michael Caine (Kingsman). Millar tends to lean towards writing of the fantastic and the so out there it's almost but not quite parody.

Reborn is a story relating that when people die in our world they're born again into a different fantasy world. Of course in this world there is a sharp divide between good and evil. Decent people are reborn into a world of light and friendship, whereas bad people are born to the dark side which is of course intent upon encroaching onto the light side.

In the story, this really old woman named Bonnie dies and finds herself in this other world as her thirty-year-old younger self who is supposed to be some sort of savior of this new world. She meets her father, who had died on Earth when she herself was young. He is also quite young in this world. She learns of others who are reborn at the same age they died, and yet others who are born younger or older. None of it seems to make any sense. One of her dear friends is bitter because she died after her husband, but by the time she died and came to this world, her husband had grown old and died here as well.

Animals are also born into this world, and some of them seem to have appeared with the ability to speak, including this girl's cat which has gone over to the dark side because it's resentful of being neutered. Also present is her dog which cannot speak and which is the size of a small horse. The dog is reminiscent of the luck dragon in The Neverending Story movie, but it's not quite that awful. I am by no means a fan of having cute animals in stories, but here it wasn't so bad.

The savior girl has no powers and no knowledge of why she should be the chosen one, although she seems to grow powers as time passes. The problem is that when Bonnie discovers that her husband, who had died years before and whom she has long pined for, is also here, but has been taken prisoner by the dark side because they want to lure her into a trap, she abandons her world-saving role to go find him.

The story in some ways is most reminiscent of Lord of the Rings with the hobbit (in this case Bonnie) crossing from the shire to Mordor with her magic sword in hand. There's even a tower, but no eye glares balefully from its twin spires. The leader of the dark side is predictably a Lord - in this case Lord Golgotha. At first I thought he would turn out to be her husband, but later I decided Golgotha is probably her mother or maybe the sniper from the opening panels. Whether I was right or wrong (I'm usually wrong in these guesses!) you'll have to read this to find out! I recommend it as a worthy read.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Sunstone Vol 4 by Stjepan Šejić

Rating: WARTY!

I really have very little to say about this! I got both volumes 3 & 4 from the library at the same time, thinking they might be interesting but after I read volume 3 I was so disappointed that I had no real interest in reading this one. In the end, I skimmed the whole thing stopping here and there to read a section, and it was just as uninteresting as the earlier volume.

The art was great as before, although as before the female characters were all the same character with different hair and clothes! There was at least one character of color I noticed, so that was a minor improvement, but the 'story' was simply the same thing over again - shallow, one-note, and uninteresting with the author relying entirely on the sexual and the kinky to focus the reader's interest, and it failed in my case.

I'm not the kind of person who finds a negligée on a store mannequin remotely interesting. Put it on a woman in whom I have no vested interest, and I might find it mildly distracting, but put it on a woman I already find fascinating and who might merely be a choice voice in an audiobook, and it's a different story. The same thing applies here. I need a story. I need to be interested in the women. Putting leather on them doesn't make me interested. Shallowness turns me off. This novel was far too larded with both, and all this author could offer was a gossamer fabric with no body of work underneath it. It's nowhere near enough!

As I mentioned in my review of volume three, this was such a disappointment because I had loved Šejić's work in a volume of Death Vigil and a volume of Rat Queens both of which I reviewed favorably here. I cannot offer the same for this.

Sunstone Vol 3 by Stjepan Šejić

Rating: WARTY!

I picked this up on spec from the local library because it looked interesting and the artwork was awesome, but on closer inspection - and reading - it turned out to be much ado about doting, and BDSM came to mean Boring Detail, Sapping Mindfulness. I wasn't impressed at all. This was a disappointment because I loved Šejić's work on a volume of Death Vigil and a volume of Rat Queens both of which I reviewed favorably here.

I have not read either of the first two of this five volume set, so I can't speak to how those were or what kind of lead-in they were to these two volumes. I can say that this story was not interesting. I think the author is far more in love with the idea of portraying women in kinky clothing than ever he was in telling a story of two lesbian women who happened to share an interest in Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission (or sado-masochism if it's okay with you, Mistress Acronym).

The artwork was gorgeous and several leagues ahead of the all-too-common comic book flat color, flat image style. It was nuanced and shaded and had a lot of character, but ironically, having used that word, the big problem was that every single female character looked exactly the same! They were all thin lipped, long nosed, and lithe, willowy and skinny. In contrast the guys depicted in the story (although few and far between), had at least some characteristics to differentiate them, although all of them seemed to sport facial hair. This did make a refreshing change from most other comic books where precious few guys have facial hair, but it was taking the pendulum too far in the opposite direction! Worse, there were absolutely no people of color present whatsoever.

The biggest problem with this volume though, was the complete lack of a story. There's a thing known as the Bechdel-Wallace-Woolf test wherein a story, film, or show is said to fail unless it features at least a couple of women (preferably named characters) who talk to each other about something other than guys. I think there should be a similar test about stories where characters seem to have a problem talking to each other about anything that's not the core topic - in this case BDSM. It should include a component about the level of obsession with the core topic, too.

The two main women in this story were almost tunnel-vision, to the exclusion of pretty much everything else - on the topic in question. In short, they were simply not realistic to say nothing of a total failure in the rounded and interesting people department. Though an outside life was hinted at (one was supposed to be a writer, the other a lawyer, yet none of this was actually depicted), they actually had no life at all outside of their sexual interludes! Worse, they failed to treat even those interactions like they were actually a real part of their lives. Instead, they were disproportionately excited, surprised, drooling and wanting, to a level that was simply idiotic. It made it all fake and far more like cheap pornography than erotica.

In the end this story was not at all about how they were falling in love and building a relationship, but about how much the author-artist loved to draw shallow characters in leather and latex. The problem was that this was all the story was about. This was so clearly a guy's take on this topic that it failed to entertain or engross me at all. I don't mind reading about people's quirks and kinks, whether or a sexual or of any other nature, but when that's all the writer has to offer and there's really no actual story in sight, it's tiresome. I cannot recommend this one at all.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Promethea by Alan Moore, JH Williams

Rating: WARTY!

This is a graphic novel I picked up from the library because it looked interesting. It's the fifth and final issue in the Apocalyptic series (this compendium collects individual issues 26 - 32), which I knew up front, so I have only myself to blame for this mistake! I have not read any of the other four and I'm actually pleased I missed them because this novel sucked majorly.

The story is about some powerful goddess coming back angrily and determined to destroy Earth, although she does a really poor job of it because she actually improves things, This part was interesting because she changed the flat, solid color 2D images into something a lot more realistic: 3D-looking subtly-shaded views of scenery and people, Some images were simply photographs which had been 'cartoonised'. None of that could make a really confused, boring, and meaningless story come to life though.

As one reviewer amusing put it, it looks like Moore finished up the last section on acid, but to me it seemed more like the artist was the one doing the drugs. The artwork was a mess of pastel psychedelia, and the text was in white and some other colors and impossible to read against the heliotrope background. I honestly didn't even try. I'd been ready to give up on this many pages before this last section, and it was the perfect excuse to simply drop it. Not literally, since it was a library book, but I truly did wish I could have dropped it right into the recycling. Cardboard coffee cup holders would have been a better use of these poor trees than this was. What a bloated, self-indulgent, self-absorbed exercise in masturbation it truly was! Don't miss it! Avoid it like the plague.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fun book. It started out great and just when I thought the author was giving me a tiresomely trope school-bully story, she changed her game and twisted things around, and overall I really enjoyed it, despite an oddly-rushed a somewhat lackluster ending.

The main character is Piper McCloud, who was born late to her simply country-folk parents and who, from a very early age, exhibited her lighter-than-air abilities. This did not go down well. Her dad had little to say about anything, and mom managed to keep Piper indoors, and keep suspicious and gossipy neighbors away, homeschooling her daughter, but Piper really wanted to explore her ability even though she also tried to keep it secret at her mom's behest. It nevertheless got out and soon the government was showing up offering to take this troublesome child off her mother's hands to a place where there are many children like Piper, and where Piper will get a good education. She certainly does.

The children at the school are very regimented, and are not allowed to use their abilities, which is quite the opposite of what Piper had been expecting. The smooth-talking Doctor Hellion has evidently fed Piper a bill of goods, but while Piper may be down, she's not out and she's going to be up and at 'em first chance she gets. The novel is a bit long and at some points annoying. Also it's lacking somewhat in logic, in particular that all of these children would be sent off by their parents to a place unseen and completely unknown, including its location, and that no parents would raise a stink about their kids disappearing and losing contact with them?

I was surprised no other reviewers raised this issue - not of the reviews I read anyway, not even the negative ones. It's even more curious given that there were other objections raised, such as that the novel pokes fun at religion, like somehow religion is not to be talked about in any negative light? Bullshit! It's not a crime to write fiction about religion whether positive or negative. But I didn't see it as poking fun at anything; it was simply showing Piper in a certain milieu from which she longed to escape. Religion was a very minor part of it and not even the most important one - just like life, in fact!

The other issue was about grown-up themes which clearly never impinge upon children's lives and all children of Piper's age are too dumb to understand them anyway, Right? Again, bullshit. I found these objections rather curious and narrow-minded. They seemed to forget that this is purest fiction. It's not a documentary. It's not a biography. It's not a prescription for how to raise children. It's merely fiction for children. Get over yourselves!

For me the most curious thing was that in the acknowledgements, the author writes of the first thankee: "My Dear husband, Wayne, who has stood by and watched me muddle through this process." I'm not sure that's much of a compliment. At best it's back-handed. From a writer it's poorly worded! If she means he has stood by her, then that's one thing, but if she means what she wrote, then he wasn't much help, was he? What you say matters, How you say it matters more! Every writer should know this, especially one with this author's experience. But aside from these quibbles, I recommend this novel as a worthy read.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Goodnight Baby Moon by James Mitchem, Clare Patane

Rating: WARTY!

This was a lot of book for little content. The Moon lights up, but not very well, and the light doesn't translate to any of the interior pages, which were quite dark in coloring (illustrations by Clare Patane, who quite obviously did the bulk of the work involved in creating this story), so I had to wonder what the purpose was, plus the button isn't amenable to little fingers pressing it, so a young child might have trouble lighting that Moon.

That said, the story inside, which was very short and light on text, was quite charming, aiming at showing a child that things which go away (like the Moon appears to), always come back, so it offered reassurance and a touchstone for children who might have separation anxiety.

For me, this story could have been done better, and the lighting didn't seem like it was worth the extra expense and bulk. This was quite a fat and heavy book for a young child to manipulate, and you would not want such a child gnawing on this book because of the electrics and battery. If you can afford to pay for mostly show and not much tell, then go ahead, but for me this seems like it might be an unworthy burden on a family paying all the attendant bills a young child brings with her. In that light (pun intended!), I'm not going to recommend this one, even given how charming and useful the story was.

I think you'd be better off showing your child the real phases of the real Moon. You could take a series of pictures and tell your own story to the same effect and make it a much more engrossing and enveloping story for the child. A better story is that the Moon doesn't actually go away and come back - it's there all the time even when you can't see it! This might offer much more reassurance for a young child than this book does.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony

Rating: WARTY!

I got interested in this novel when someone told me the main character, Bink, marries a woman who goes through phases: she's either ugly and really smart or she's beautiful and really stupid. I was curious as to how a story like that panned out. It turned out to be a little more complicated than I as told (isn't it always?!). She actually went through a monthly phase matching the Moon's cycle. As Fanchon, she was unattractive, but very smart. As Wynne, she was outstandingly attractive (all this is by Bink's standards, whatever those are), but very stupid. As Dee, the in-between phase, she was considered average in both departments. The phases cycled into one another by small amounts, and although Bink had met each of these, he had not seen them for long enough at a time to realize they were the same person. So who, really was dumber?

This was published in 1977, but there were problems I had with it almost from the off. The entire value of woman in this novel seemed to be focused around whether or not they were attractive. On page six, Bink is described as "smart, strong, and handsome." The page before, his fiancé is described as "beautiful, and intelligent, and talented. My question is, why are Bink's looks placed last in his trio of traits, but in hers, beauty is placed first? It's genderist and inappropriate, and this turned me off the book. No one has to read books like this when there are so many out there which are so much better written and which do not reduce women to object d'art.

Once I'd seen how women were rated in the Piers Anthony school of thought, I lost all interest in how the Dee trio panned out with their changing smarts and appearance and I quit reading this novel. I can't recommend it.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Saints and Misfits by SK Ali

Rating: WARTY!

I had mixed feeling about this throughout. On the one hand I liked a lot of the writing, but on the other, the plot and the main character were a real problem. In the end, the ending decided me against favoring this.

I read a few reviews of this to see if I was way off-base or on-point and it seems I was the latter, not the former. Although many people liked this, those of us who did not, seemed to have similar issues with it. My problem was not with the presentation of Muslims, because I don't have a fixed idea of what Islam is like or what any given Muslim might do.

Some of those who are Muslim seem to have a problem with Muslims who are represented in ways which are different from their own narrow idea of what a Muslim should be and how one should behave, but such people are forgetting that above and beyond everything else they may or may not be, Muslims are people just like the rest of us, and they do smart and dumb things, brave and cowardly things, rational and irrational things, exactly like the rest of us do! readers and writers who fail to grasp this are limiting themselves chronically.

There was a lot of bandying about the 'hashtag own voices' bullshit in the reviews I read, but this seemed like such a reflexive, if not knee=jerk, label that I laughed at it. It still comes down to the antique notion of 'write what you know'. If people wrote what they know, there'd be no science fiction, because we don't fly around the galaxy or time-travel. There are no magical super heroes. Stephen King never went into another dimension and met a gunslinger. John Grisham was doubtlessly an attorney, but he never was involved in the specific cases he wrote about, and his books really aren't about the practice of law. They'd be boring if they were. JK Rowling never was an eleven-year-old boy, much less a wizard. Suzanne Collins never entered a dystopian death match. Write what you know is nonsensical. My advice is to write what you can get away with and make it as real as you possibly can.

I do not have any time for religion and especially not for organized religion which is a bane of life on Earth. I don't care what people privately believe. It's none of my business as long as they're harming no-one and not trying to impose their beliefs on others, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good story about people of faith or about the 'battle' between good and evil. I was interested in reading this one not because it was written by an author who writes on Muslim topics in Canada, but because it was, I thought, a story about rape and I was curious as to how it was treated in the context of Islam.

It turned out that the Islam part was irrelevant; it was bait and switch. The story told here was no different from how the same novel would have been had the characters been Christian, Judaist, Hindu or atheist! So the Muslim context was in effect nothing more than a niqab flimsily covering what everyone knows is underneath anyway. And that segues into a definition of these outfits. What's a hijab? This is my understanding - which I admit may be flawed, but in general simple terms, a hijab is what we in the west would call a headscarf. So why even call it a hijab? Well, a hijab tends to actually incorporate a scarf which wraps round the neck.

A burka is full head-to-toe covering. Strictly speaking, a niqab is a face veil, but it's often viewed as a complete head and shoulders covering rather like what Ronan the Accuser wears in Guardians of the Galaxy as it happens. That overall ensemble may or may not cover the face, but the tendency is for the face to be covered leaving only the most alluring part of the face visible - the eyes, which to me is hypocritical, but then, as I said, I have no time for hidebound traditions. I think people who blindly follow a set of rules laid down fourteen hundred years ago, or two thousand years or more ago, are morons, and it seems a lot of religious adherents agree with me since the majority of people tend to practice a very relaxed version of their religion rather than the original, usually much more strict path.

For example, all Christians are hypocrites in that they claim to follow what Jesus taught, but very few actually do. I don't believe there ever was a Jesus Christ, miracle-working son of a god, but if there had been, he was a Jew, not a gentile, and he practiced Judaism, not Christianity! He taught Judaism, and he came only for those of the house of Israel. No Christians practice Judaism. None of them is really a follower of Jesus; they're followers of Paul, who very effectively derailed what Jesus purportedly taught. His name wasn't even Jesus for Christ's sake! It was Yeshua, so anyone praying in his name is calling on the wrong guy unless they're praying to Yeshua (which is what we in the unsubtle west call Joshua)!

But let's talk about this book. The main character is Janna Yusef. She's a young Muslim in school and she wears a hijab. To me the hijab is an abuse of women. The Koran, as I understand it (which may be wrong!) talks about modesty. That talk applies equally to men and women, yet today all the onus is of course on the women of Islam to cover themselves lest they excite and incite men. There is no onus on men to quit being such lustful dicks. It's all on the woman, and so conveniently is the blame should something go wrong. Repeatedly we see attacks on women for immodesty or for wanting an education; we never see attacks on men. This is a fundamental flaw and weakness not only in Islam, but in any religion where women are isngle-d out negatively, and it needs to stop.

So one problem with this novel (and to be fair with several other such novels I've read) is that this this author fails to explore any of that. Like her main character, she simply accepts status quo, aka subjugation and repression. That was one problem with the novel, but the Islam novels I've read accept it; none of the main characters even question it, much less rebel against it. That was a problem with Janna. She had an nice sense of humor, but she was such a limp character, and she never changed except for one brief irrational and completely out-of-character spell near the end, which was too little, too late, and therefore entirely ineffective. No justice was delivered because she was so retiring and subjugated. To me this was badly written.

So what happened to Janna? This was another problem for this novel. It is entirely unclear what happened until close to the end. Was she raped or was she merely threatened with a violation - which is bad enough, but nowhere near as bad as an actual rape? The novel doesn't make this clear until near the end, so Janna's reaction to it is entirely out of proportion, and it is nonsensical. Before I go on, let me make it clear that for me, it's the victim's choice how they react to something like this. Those who have been violated are entitled to react in any way they want, but that said, they also ought to bear in mind that if they're accepting, or at least passive and retiring after something like this, then they're encouraging the violator to repeat-offend, and this is a problem because if they get away with it once, there is a big compulsion to try it again and another woman becomes the victim.

For the longest time while reading this I was bothered by Janna's reaction - or more accurately, an almost complete lack of one, because on the one hand she was persistently referring to Farooq, the man who did this, as a monster and living in near-terror of him when he was around, yet she never reported it. On the other hand her terror disappeared when he was out of sight, and she was going about her life as though nothing bad had happened. She was even obsessing on another boy in school who was not a Muslim. This felt inauthentic to me.

I've never been raped or violated in that way, but I have had events in my life where I've felt threatened, and I tend not to be able to let those things go, especially not in the immediate aftermath. I still remember them and in (fortunately!) an increasingly mild way relive them. I assume that others - to a greater or lesser degree - go through a similar process. Perhaps other people are able to let things go better than I am, but I doubt everyone is, especially after an event like Janna experienced, so this almost complete lack of any kind of real traumatization on Janna's part was unrealistic in my book.

The only time she had any issues was when Farooq was in proximity. The rest of the time it was like nothing bad had happened, so we were bouncing back and forth: was she raped, which would explain why she saw him only as a monster, in which case why was she not more traumatized than she was? Why was she not angry? How could she become interested in another guy so quickly? Or was she merely threatened with rape, which would explain some of her behavior afterwards, but not all of it?

I think the author failed in not describing the event better. No one in their right mind wants 'juicy details' of something like this, and maybe she intended it to be ambiguous, but for what purpose? I saw no purpose to it. In my opinion this was a writing fail, so let me clear this up now and reveal that there was no rape. There was a serious violation in that Farooq pushed her down on the couch and was trying to put his hand under her sweater when he was interrupted, but that was it. That was bad enough, and it was unacceptable and should have been dealt with. It wasn't. Again, this was a writing fail.

So my problem with this was that it was really much ado about nothing. Not that what happened was nothing; it wasn't, but the way this was written meant the writer sadly treated it as nothing for the almost the entire length of the novel! It didn't work. Nor did it matter about the Islamic veneer. It really played no part in the story. It felt like it was just set decoration - those background objects in a movie which people tend to see but pay little attention to. So I didn't get why people focused on this, rather than the poor story-telling. It was serious misdirection. That's not to say you can't have a novel where Islam is just a background. We do need more like that: a quarter of the world's population is Islam, but you'd never know it if all you read was novels published in the USA by native authors!

From that perspective, there was another character, Sausun, who was far more interesting than ever Janna was, but we got nowhere near enough of her. There was another character named Tats who was also more interesting, but we got precious little of her, too. In fact, even 'Saint Sarah' was a more interesting character than Janna. Her wedding to Mohammed) which was in the very early planning stage in this novel) would have made a better story than this one.

Why the author didn't chose to write about one of these people instead of Janna is a mystery. So for me the novel was a fail for all these reasons, and despite the fact that, for a while, I was liking it. Having finished it now, and found that there was no justice and a lot of the side stories simply fizzled out, I cannot recommend it. The book would have been better and a lot shorter had those red herrings been ditched. It would have packed more punch had it stayed focused on the central issue, and had Janna been less of a limp biscuit.

This brings me back to the 'own voices' bullshit. I think this novel was in part a fail because it was written by a person who was intimately familiar with the Muslim faith. I think if a non-Muslim writer had written it, we would have had a better story, in the same way that say, a Hindu writer had written about a Christian character, or a Muslim written about an atheist. I think if you are a person of faith writing a story, even if your intended audience is others of your faith, you have a duty to think at least a little bit outside the box if you want to tell a really good story. Otherwise what's the point? A better Muslim writer would have seen that and given us a great story, so this one wasn't any such story and I was sorry of it, because it could have been so much better had it been written even just a little bit more wisely and with more clarity.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Spaceman by Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso

Rating: WARTY!

With utility art by Eduardo Risso, this hardback graphic novel had looked interesting on the library shelf, but as soon as I began reading it, I realized it made little sense and it was obvious I'd made a wrong choice here!

The story began with an introductory news item about a scientist who had illegally bred children to be biologically kitted-out for a trip to Mars. How they were supposed to be so well-adapted was never explained, but apparently the way to breed a person for a Mars trip is to make them look like a caveman - and not even a Neanderthal, but some weird large breed that had long skinny legs, a weight-lifter sized chest and a relatively tiny skull with a pointy dome and brow ridges. They were exclusively male of course, because Darwin forbid we should have any females going to Mars! It is the god of war's planet after all! The women can all be packed off to Venus, right?!

For as little sense as that made, it made more sense than the rest of the story put together - at least as far as I read, which was about halfway before I gave up in disgust. All the characters spoke a weird-ass pigeon English which simply didn't work. It made half of what they said unintelligible, but I guess at least that kept it in line with the story itself which was apparently about some young girl being kidnapped. The story alternated between hairy Mars men on Earth, one of whom found the kidnapped girl accidentally, but never did turn her in to the police, and hairy Mars men apparently on Mars. I saw absolutely no connection whatsoever between these two stories - not in the part I read anyway. I had no idea whatsoever what was going on in the Mars portion of the story.

Though there were surprisingly few of them in this boys' fantasy, every adult or near-adult female who appeared in it was sexualized in the typical adolescent comic-book fashion, including the news reader at the start whose only appearance was one frame of her torso, leaning her ample and exposed cleavage into the camera's greedy eye. There was some sort of sex worker who was barely dressed, but this was not only when she was performing as might be expected, but also in every other appearance. Apparently she spent her life in her skivvies, day and night, indoors and out. It was pathetic.

Even had there been a coherent story it would not have excused this antiquated approach to femininity. This comic was published within the last decade so it looks like we have a hell of a long way to go, doesn't it? I dis-recommend this one.

The World Inside by Robert Silverberg

Rating: WARTY!

The cover image says it all: the exploitation of women in a novel only a male author could have got so wrong.

Silverberg was in his mid-thirties when he wrote this 1971 novel, two years before the World Trade Center was opened. It's interesting to speculate about whether those massive towers influenced his writing at all. The novel is set in 2381, and it posits a dystopian future where, in order to accommodate Earth's burgeoning population and provide food for everyone, massively tall towers have been erected, each containing a thousand floors, thereby leaving the land free for cultivation. The logic behind this rather escapes me, and the fact that everyone seems to be in complete compliance with it simply isn't credible. You'd think someone writing immediately after the close of the rebellious sixties might have thought about that!

Within these absurd accommodations, there is a set of "Urbmons" consisting of 25 self-contained "cities" of 40 floors each. People, we're supposed to believe, live in this confinement without ever leaving their 'city', much less leaving the building. I found that hard to credit, people being who they are. Everyone was supposed to be contented, but clearly they were not. I don't see how they could be, given that they were essentially being treated like cattle.

The other main characteristic was the complete lack of exclusive relationships. People got married at an early age (mid-teens!), but all the marriages were open, which begged the question as to what was the point of marriage in this society? I suppose it gave a stable platform for raising kids, but people were not allowed to have kids willy-nilly. Well, maybe nilly, but certainly not willy: they had to be approved, but having large families was paradoxically encouraged in this crowded world! And no one saw a contradiction in this!

Once the kids were there, it seemed like it was the female job to stay at home and take care of them. Guys were out working, so there was a real fifties vibe to this, rather than a 23rd century vibe. Guys would routinely wander the halls and floors at night, and stroll into any apartment they chose (doors had no locks on them), whereupon the woman was expected to accommodate them sexually even if her own husband was lying in the bed right next to them. The women didn't ever seem to roam, although it seems that they were technically allowed to do so.

Everyone seemed fine with this arrangement and it was, we're told, fostered to relieve tensions and avoid violence in this world. I found it hard to believe that there were no couples who wanted to enjoy an exclusive relationship, and who resented that any guy could bed any woman whenever he wanted. It sounded to me more like a male writer's fantasy world than ever it did a realistic projection of human society into the future. The problem was that anyone who exhibited any sort of rebellion or dissension from these arrangements was tossed down a chute to become generator fuel - and no one seemed to have a problem with that either!

Even if I'd been willing to accept all of this at face value, which I really was not, there was still the problem of the story being boring. There were several stories told, each about a guy, but these guys were (and predictably so in a society like this) indistinguishable from one another. One story even featured a woman, but she was also indistinguishable from the guys! Even when one of the guys snuck out of the building into the agricultural world outside, the story didn't improve any. It was at that point that I DNF'd this. I cannot recommend it. It was an exercise in adolescent fantasy as pointless as it was fatuous far as I could see.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

Rating: WORTHY!

This is ostensibly a high-school romance story, but it offered so much more than that. It begins during Shabnam Qureshi's last week of high-school and extends into her last summer before college starts. She is nominally a Muslim, but that speaks more to her heritage than her practice, because she really doesn't practice her faith. The story is more about cultural and religious clashes and about how foolish a first love can be.

Shabnam meets Jamie, a charming, romantic guy who easily knocks sheltered Shabnam off her feet. Because of her sheltered upbringing, she has very little experience of boys and is therefore easy prey for the much more worldly Jamie, who seems a bit 'off' right from the start. While Shabnam is falling in foolish teenage love with him, he's more in love with the idea of an exotic and potentially forbidden femme than ever he is with her for herself, and she is far too inexperienced to see this.

In a way, they have a lot in common: they are both very shallow in their own way, and they both purvey a big lie to the other. The difference is that Shabnam is potentially a much deeper person than ever Jamie could hope to be, and as the story progresses, we see this blossoming in her repeatedly. Shabnam knows she lies, Jamie is too selfishly in love with himself to see that he's a living embodiment of a lie.

On the topic of lies, too many YA novels betray their main female character by insisting that she be validated by a man. I detest novels like that. This was not such a novel. It was about girl power and female friendship and it was the better for it. It was also about culture, religion, and conflict between generations, and in some ways I felt it risked cheapening the very message it was trying to send: about the riots and slaughter in India during partition, by tacking those on to this story.

The Brits are often blamed for the problems they caused in India as they should be, but at least they treated all Indians with equal disdain; they didn't single-out any one ethnic group or religion for abuse, whereas during partition, every religion turned against every other religion, which is one reason why I detest religion. It's divisive by its very nature in its arrogant and unprovable assertion that 'we're the chosen ones and you're doomed to hell' or whatever. That said, the injection of the parts about partition were not overdone, so it didn't feel like a lecture, nor did it disrupt the story, and it did get the word out about an historical tragedy that's been largely forgotten today.

Lending more weight to what is an already heavy subject, Shabnam is also at odds with her once best friend Farah, who is far more deeply religious than is Shabnam, but Farah has her own take on her religion. She approaches it in a far more fluid manner than many other people, adapting it to herself as much as she adapts to it. She's a lot more brash and brave, wise and mature than is Shabnam, and she was my favorite character, but I am often in the position of finding the side-kick more interesting than the main character in YA novels.

This is very much a high-school romance, YA novel, but that said, it's leagues ahead of the usual poorly-written, crappily-plotted story that's out there. That's why it won't sell as well as the others, because the bar is so low in YA books, and this one clears it so handily that it's going to be way above the head of an embarrassingly large number of YA readers. That said, this novel, like many YA novels, does fixate on music which it seems to me, is far more the author's addiction than ever it is the character's. This music will date this novel, so I paid as little attention to it as I did the poetry. The music and the poetry were both overdone and contributed nothing to he story. There was more wisdom came out of Farah's mouth than came out of the mouth of the poets and songwriters featured here!

Shabnam betrayed Farah when her friend chose to start wearing a hijab, but Farah failed to give Shabnam advance warning of her unilateral decision, and this is what caused the rift. Shabnam is embarrassed by Farah's change in habit (as it were!), and Farah feels betrayed by her friend's distancing of herself and her lack of support. They do maintain a prickly contact with each other especially since Farah is the only one Shabnam can turn to over her romance. Farah is often warning her friend about it, but Shabnam won't listen because she claims that Farah doesn't know Jamie like she does. In the end, it turns out that Farah actually knows Jamie better, even though the latter two have never met.

Some reviewers have chastised this novel for its lack of portrayal of Islam accurately, but those reviewers make the blind assumption that everyone practices Islam in exactly the same way and no-one ever makes foolish teenage jokes about aspects of it. I don't know a heck of a lot about Islam, and I am not religious myself. I think it's a serious mistake to blindly put your faith in the scientifically ignorant dictates of relatively primitive people from some two thousand or more years ago, but I do know people, and at least I have the decency to regard practitioners of religion, misguided as they are, as individuals, and not as a monolithic block of clones. Every walk of life and every religion has saints and sinners, and I would be surprised if Islam is somehow fundamentally different given that its practitioners are people just like the rest of us!

One thing which did strike me as odd was the whole hijab issue. My understanding is that it's related to modesty (and in this regard, both men and women are supposed to be modest), so I find it interesting that Farah, who considered wearing it to be pretty much a tenet of her faith, made such a big deal of wearing brightly colored and patterned hujub (the plural of hijab, although most westerners use 'hijabs'). I'm against forcing women to do something which men are never forced to do, but I don't have a lot of time for religion, and especially for rigid and blind religious practices, but that's not my point here.

Note that there is a spectrum of covering for females in the Muslim world from the least which is the hijab, or headscarf as we in the west would call it, to the most, which is the full-body burka. Farah wears only the headscarf and it's that term which is used in this novel for the most part, but the ones she wears are colorful and she also dolls them up as elaborate fashion statements. This whole practice was never discussed other than to mention it, but it occurred to me that this was rather hypocritical in that it can hardly be considered modest to wear such bright colors and to sport designs so elaborate that they can only succeed in drawing more attention to a woman than would otherwise be drawn!

In fact, I'd go further than that, because if the purpose of wearing a hijab is to avoid drawing attention, then wearing a hijab or any such garment in the west fails because it draws more attention! If they were to be rational and consistent (which religion is not, admittedly) then they would wear such things only where the majority wears them, and dispense with them where the majority does not wear them, because this is the only way that they would truly blend in instead of standing out! I know it's not quite that simple, and that modesty and means different things to different people, but in this particular story, Farah seems to be flying in the face of modesty by wearing the things she wears in the style she wears them. This was never raised as an issue, which I felt betrayed the whole point of Farah's choices.

That and the fact that the author doesn't seem to know the difference between tread and trod (the past tense of tread, as in 'take a step', is trod, not treaded, and tread and trod are not interchangeable!) are the only complaints I had about this. Farah was awesome and kick-ass, and I'm tempted to think a whole novel about her (her first year in college would be a great place to stage it) would be a worthy read, but that feeling is tempered by the fact that her power perhaps came from the fact that she was a limited exposure character, and if she had a whole novel to herself it might ruin her(!), unless the writer was me! No I'm kidding, I want to say unless the writer was particularly adept at her craft, which has author seems to be, so maybe it would work. But for now, I thoroughly recommend this as a worthy read and I plan to read more by this author.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Science for Sale by Daniel S Greenberg

Rating: WARTY!

I got this book from the library thinking it might be interesting, but it was as dry as week-old bread that has been overly-toasted and then freeze-dried. That's how dry it was. I expect academic-style tomes to be dry, but I don't usually have the issues with them that I had with this, with its uninspired cover and its academic margins. What's with that?

By academic margins I mean they are unnecessarily wide. I know this is traditional, but do not these bozos in colleges and universities care about trees? It's still possible to format it decently and have it look good, while using more of the page and saving a few trees, but none of them seem to get that. I think from this point on I'm going to automatically rate a book negatively if it looks like they're wantonly slaughtering trees, regardless of the quality of the book.

The margins in this book were an inch at the outside and on the bottom, and three-quarters of an inch at the top and in the gutter. The page was six by nine. That means the print area, even as admirably dense (yet readable) as it was, was occupying only roughly 60% of the paper. With less generous overly-margins, it could have occupied more, and thereby used fewer pages.

There were indented quotes, too, which were identified not only by a slightly smaller font, but also by huge indentations. These could have been adjusted too, so that instead of being a three-quarter inch shift further into the page than even the text was, they could have been a half or even a quarter inch. Whoever designed this book would appear to be either a moron or a tree-hater.

I cannot recommend this at all unless you're in dire (and I do mean dire) need of something to put you to sleep. If you're an insomniac, this will likely cure you, but in terms of helping a reader to understand what's going on with college finance, it's of no help at all.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Turkey Monster Thanksgiving by Anne Warren Smith

Rating: WORTHY!

Nine-year-old Katie and school friend Claire, who is also Katie's across-the-street neighbor, both have in common that are short of a mom. Claire's father is, I believe, divorced. Katie's mom selfishly left the family to pursue a singing career in Nashville, although Katie apparently is apparently fine with that.

Claire is a bit uppity, so while Katie is looking forward to their usual Thanksgiving: eating her father's "famous" pizza in their pajamas, and then eating popcorn while watching the football on TV, Claire proudly announces that her family is going to throw a banquet for a score of people. Also her Thanksgiving decorations, which are spilling out onto the porch and the yard, are something else, especially the monster turkey which Claire's father plans to put onto the house roof, and which scares Katie's young brother.

Katie starts to feel like her plans are inadequate, and she begins to compete with Claire by making a list, checking it twice, and,...wait, wrong holiday! She does make a list of things to do, including making decorations and buying a bird ahead of time so it can be thawed and cooked, and also looking up recipes for traditional Thanksgiving dishes to prepare. She starts looking for people to invite to dinner as well, but in the end she can come up with only two, one of whom is a teacher and the other her dad's boss. It doesn't help her situation that she's lied to Claire about what kind of a Thanksgiving her family's will be like.

Now you know things will go astray here and they do (festooning the house with poison oak and setting the sweet potato dish on fire are never good ideas), but Katie stays true to her course even as she realizes and acknowledges that compromises must be made. She is an admirable and strong female character who has dreams, but who also has her feet firmly on the ground. I liked her and thought she was a good role-model for children of her age. I really enjoyed this book, and I recommend it unreservedly.

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh

Rating: WORTHY!

Being a big fan of well-done plays on words, I loved the title of this book and I also loved the book itself. It was a smart, well-written and beautifully-plotted work, and the main character was a strong female who is a good role model. She's is very withdrawn when the novel starts, but comes out of her shell naturally and admirably as the story grows.

Bea (Beatrix) is a schoolgirl poet of Taiwanese extraction, but she is painfully shy, and sensitive to people noticing her. She tries to be invisible but she also wants to be involved with the school paper for the experience, yet she doesn't want her poetry to appear in it! In short, she is trapped in a strange maze of her own making, and she needs to find her way out. It's fortuitous then, that she starts forming a friendship with an autistic boy (maybe Asperger's) who also works at the paper and whose ambition she learns, is to navigate a private labyrinth.

He likes to keep files to help him categorize things, and he's very precise in all his thoughts and behaviors, so he lectures Bea on the difference between a maze and a labyrinth. Since the labyrinth is private and no one is allowed in there except the family which owns it, he is a bit at a loss as to how to go about it, although very exacting in his plans where he can make them. Bea discovers a secret that will give them an 'in' to the labyrinth, and this is where things begin to unravel and Bea really needs to step-up to save the day. She does not fail.

I love the way Bea is very physical about her poems - mostly haiku which were fun - writing the words in the air before her as the poem materializes, working through the beats and the rhythm. Unfortunately, this gets her noticed, so she starts writing them in invisible ink and posting them in a hole in a wall in the woods near the school. It's only when someone starts writing back that she is jolted out of her private world. So she is dealing with her shyness, her loss of a dear friend who now seems to be hanging out with a new crowd, and the arrival of new people in her life with whom she does not know how to interact.

I loved the characters in the newspaper office, and how they were very individual and slightly quirky and how they all interfaced with one another. I am glad the book did not say 'quirky' in the blurb because I immediately walk away from books that do and tell them to go jump into Lake Woebegone as I leave, but this was just the right amount of quirk to appeal to me without being idiotic or painful in how hard it was trying. The story was wonderfully-written and well-worth reading.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

Rating: WARTY!

Sofonisba Anguissola was a real person who lived during the time of Michelangelo and in fact studied under him for a short time. She was a gifted artist who deserves much better than this author gives her. The prime mover in Sofonisba's life was art yet here, the author reduces her to a love-sick YA character, stupid with anguished love for Tibiero Calcagni, a fictional sculptor she purportedly knew from Michelangelo's studio.

There is an incident with Tiberio, and the book doesn't make clear what happened. Some reviewers believe they had sex, but I am not convinced that they did. Whatever happened, Sofonisba is upset by it and feels shamed, but instead of moving on, she agonizes over this for half the freaking book (which is as far as I could stand to read)! It’s tedious. Tiberio is Michelangelo's boy toy (I'm guessing - I don't know for sure) and you were merely a diversion, Sofi. Move on!

She is put into the service of the French wife of the Spanish king as an art tutor. He is in his thirties and she is barely into her teens. That story could have been interesting, but we’re supposed to be getting Sofinisba's story which is also an interesting one. The author seems to have forgotten this and rather than talk about Sofonisba and her art, she depicts the artist as merely an observer, relating the story of the Spanish triangle between Don Juan, the king, and his wife. It’s boring. Most love triangles are, especially in YA literature.

The book blurb is misleading, as usual. It says, "...after a scandal involving one of Michelangelo's students, she flees Rome and fears she has doomed herself and her family," but this greatly exaggerates what happened. The blurb also tells us that "Sofi yearns only to paint," but this is an outright lie since she's rarely shown painting or even thinking about painting. The way the story is told here, the only real yearning Sofi experiences is over Tiberio.

Set in the mid 1500's, the story is superficially about this remarkable and talented painter struggling to make herself known for her art in a very masculine world where women were tightly constrained everywhere. The story could have been equally remarkable, but this author destroyed it. We got no sense of frustration or struggle from Sofonisba and precious little of her art as she's reduced to being a documentarian of the life at the Spanish court.

That life is tediously repetitive. The foppish young men at court are laughable. The main character in the book could have been anyone, including the chamber maid, and the story would have been largely the same. Don't look here for art; there's precious little of it, neither in the narrow sense of Sofinisba's life ambition, nor in the larger sense of the word. Artless is more accurate.

We're told that women are not allowed to paint nudes but there is a nude (Minerva Dressing) painted by artist Lavinia Fontana in 1613. Fontana was influenced by Anguissola, so whether things changed in the fifty years between this novel's setting, and Fontana's painting or the author just got it wrong, I don’t know. Fontana does seem to be the first female artist to paint female nudes, so maybe she was a cutting edge girl, in which case, a well-written story about her would be worth reading, and certainly better than this one! I cannot recommend this novel.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Curiosity House: The Screaming Statue by Lauren Oliver and HC Chester

Rating: WARTY!

I'm not sure about the HC Chester - whether that's a real person or some sort of fictional device - but I have avoided Lauren Oliver's books since she's never written one which has appealed to me enough to want to read it. Now I know why! This one did appeal until I started reading it; then I found it was definitely not to my taste at all, and I DNF'd it rather quickly. Yes, it's not aimed at me, but I have to wonder if those at whom it is aimed would like it. My own two kids who are broadly in that age range would not give it the time of day, I'm sure.

The book is part two of a series of loosely connected adventures, I believe, featuring the same mystery-solving kids, and I know this is what Big Publishing™ pushes authors into, and authors dream of getting that series sinecure so they don't have to think-up good ideas for stories anymore, but I am not a fan of those authors who chase easy cash, and I don't read series very much for the same reason I tend not to go for overly long novels: I'm very easily bored by a surfeit of sameness, and books like this are all about same-old, same-old: once you get through that introductory portion, whether it be the first twenty chapters or the first volume.

There are exceptions which are rare and treasured, but this was not one of them. I didn't like the charcters or find them interesting. It took way too long to actually find a mystery (I was still unsure what it was when I quit reading, but it seemed like maybe the 'murdered' wife wasn't actually dead at all). Maybe I'm wrong in that guess, but what I do guess right is that I'm done with Lauren Olvier now.

Pie for Chuck by Pat Schories

Rating: WARTY!

This was in some ways quite a charming story about a bunch of small rodents aiming to steal a freshly-baked pie. Do people really sit freshly-baked pies out on the window sill anymore? It's a bit of a trope, and maybe they really did at one time, but I doubt they do now! Most people just buy these sugar-loaded concoctions at the store ready-made, and microwave them! LOL! Anyway, the pie is there and so is Chuck, who daydreams about the flaky pastry and the gooey filling. Chuck has to have it, but he can't get it by himself, so he recruits his friends, and they each try but fail. It's only when they cooperate that they can enjoy the literal fruits of their labors.

Normally I like to cut children's authors some slack and try to find positive things to say about their stories, but in this case, and despite the fun book and the nice illustrations, and the story about cooperation, I have to give this a thumbs down because it's about theft! There are ways to tell a story to children about cooperation, without teaching them that thieving is okay, and even fun and rewarding. I can't rate this positively because of that. The author could just as easily have added a moral to this tale and had the animals get sick because fruit pie is not their natural food! There could have been a health message too for that matter: about eating right, but he author left it at 'thievery brings its own rewards' and to me, that's the wrong idea to pass on to children.

Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi, Betheny Hegedus

Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated impressively by Evan Turk employing a dazzling variety of inventive techniques, this was a fascinating book. How do you ever cope with having a close relative who is as famous and renowned as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, aka Mahatma Gandhi? This is written by Arun Gandhi, son of Manilal, who was Mahatma Gandhi's second child to survive; conditions were harsh back then and still are for many people, and not only in India.

Arun describes an event which obviously must have made an impression on him. It was when he went to visit his father as a young child and was abused on the football (soccer) field. He became very angry at being pushed, and then ashamed that he was unable to emulate his grandfather, but in talks with Gandhi-ji, he learns a few things about how to live his life non-violently and turn his anger into a light, not a thunderous darkness.

If only we could all learn this! All of us struggle with anger and frustration at times. The book might have offered more, but it's aimed at young children and I think it at least lights a candle, so I recommend this book as a beginning for children trying to deal with all of that.

Getting to the Bottom of Global Warming by Terry Collins

Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated well by Cynthia Martin and Bill Anderson, this book teaches young kids about climate change, aka global warming. 'Climate change' is a better term because 'global warming' confuses stupid people, who seem to think it means that everywhere will get dramatically hotter. No, it means climate change.

In general, the planet will warm (and has been warming because of human induced pollution), but not everywhere will warm up and become a tropical paradise. It's more a case of extremes becoming more extreme, so while some areas are becoming hotter, others are seeing serious winter storming. On top of that we're seeing flooding from more extreme rainfall and rising oceans, and we're seeing plant and animal life changing in terms of the areas it's normally found. We're also seeing tropic diseases spreading beyond their historical boundaries. In short, it's a mess.

This book features the novel idea of time-traveler, Isabel Soto who is "an archaeologist and world explorer with the skills to go wherever and whenever she needs to research history, solve a mystery, or rescue colleagues in trouble." One has to wonder why she can't fix climate change if she can go back into the past, but it's a lot to ask one person, so I decided to let that pass! Maybe she tried and no one would listen. We've sure seen way too much of that. Yes, Republicans, I'm looking at you.

We have a president who is obsessed with saving coal-mining jobs when he ought to be proposing retraining programs to find work for all those people in sensible and forward-thinking technologies like solar energy which is the fastest rising portion of the US economy, or in other renewable energy employment which will, given resources and time, solve the energy and pollution crisis. Now there's a case of a man who cannot think out of the box and who is obsessively-compulsively offering knee-jerk non-solutions instead of thinking it through, and looking to the future. That's why books like this are important: so children can learn that they do not have to be hide-bound by tradition and blinkered by the erroneous, selfish, and tunnel-vision thought patterns of yesteryear and politicians who, despite being past their sell-by date have nonetheless sold out to corporate interests.