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Monday, March 3, 2014

Things I've Read Recently (10)

So if you're new around here or you forgot who I am completely because I suck at blogging, Things I've Read Recently is a series of blog posts I do that are basically mini-reviews because I forgot to review it until it'd been way too long since I read it, or I don't want to do a full review, or it needed to go back to the library, or what have you.

Vanished in the Night by Eileen Carr

Published: 2011 by Pocket Books
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 337
Part of a series? Nope.
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Veronica Osborne has had enough problems with the police, thanks to her volatile father. So when tall, strapping Sergeant Zach McKnight shows up at her door, she’s prepared for anything—except the news that her beloved missing brother, Max, has been dead for nearly twenty years... ever since he ran away.

Appalled when the police suspect her father of Max’s murder, Veronica begins her own investigation. But as her surprising role in her brother’s disappearance surfaces, so do more bodies. The ghosts of Max’s past are working hard to hide the truth, while another, more sinister force will do anything to expose it. How far will a killer go to get revenge? And can Zach stop him before he targets the woman Zach’s coming to love?

Thoughts: I wasn't really a huge fond of this one, honestly. There were some weird moments like why is the main guy saying the main character looks like a teenager, how is that not creepy?? And there were some moments where he was really misogynistic. There was a sexual abuse plot not even hinted at in the summary that could be very triggering, fyi, and that kind of came out of nowhere? Sometimes the writing was clunky, it was slightly dated (characters using VRCs without it being explained why???) and it just... it didn't work for me. I didn't hate it, but I wouldn't reread it and it took me longer than I would have liked to finish. Not recommending this one.

The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl

Published: Some time in 1985 by Puffin/Penguin
Genre: Children's Fantasy, maybe Middle Grade?
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 79
Part of a series? No
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Who needs a ladder when you’ve got a giraffe with an extended neck?

The Ladderless Window-Cleaning Company certainly doesn't. They don’t need a pail, either, because they have a pelican with a bucket-sized beak. With a monkey to do the washing and Billy as their manager, this business is destined for success. Now they have their big break—a chance to clean all 677 windows of the Hampshire House, owned by the richest man in all of England! That’s exciting enough, but along the way there are surprises and adventures beyond their wildest window-washing dreams.

Thoughts: I've read this before, but at some point I got it in my head that it was a picture book so I actually ordered it as an extra book for a Storytime. It's not a picture book, it's a chapter book. (Although is there a version with colour pages or something?)

Anyways, Roald Dahl is a classic author for a reason. This is a lot of fun. Nice quick read as an adult, would be a lot of fun for kids. Some of the stuff in there (the Duke says the d-word at one point) might need to be explained as it being an old book, but all in all, these have aged very well, obviously. It's not really my favourite Dahl, but it's solid. I like how there's a mention of Wonka candy, like a little inside joke for kids. Also, apparently there's an audiobook version narrated by Hugh Laurie. This would be at least a three and a half, probably a solid four for me.

Grimm Fairy Tales Omnibus

Published: 2013 by Zenescope
Genre: It's a bind-up of comic books
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Like 1350 in my copy
Part of a series? Yup.
Amazon / Book Depository / IndieBound

Summary (from goodreads): Follow Professor Sela Mathers as she uses fairy tales and fables to teach life lessons to those who find themselves on the cusp of making immoral choices. While some will heed her warnings, others will choose to ignore these valuable lessons and ultimately face the horrifying consequences of their actions.

Thoughts: Okay, let's get one thing out of the way first - I know next to nothing about comic books. I read the occasional Archie comic and I like Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes. There are a couple webcomics I read, but no actual comic books. I didn't even realize this was a comic. It had a weird picture on my library website that was really small and not the cover and I couldn't figure out what it was so I ordered it because I was logged in already.

You know, as you do.

There's a lot of instances in here where female anatomy is just impossible. Like spines and breasts and bodies just don't work the way they're shown and it kind of really sucks. The ratio of women working on these is sad, a fair amount of the early stories especially seem to have a focus on punishing women for their sexuality and choices, a historian would cry over the clothing in the fairy tales, there's ableism, racism, racial slurs, some of the most impractical fight wear ever, a lot of whitewashing, a thin Ursula (and don't tell me that's only a Disney thing because there is a very sexualized Snow White costume that is obviously taken from the Disney movie), and a lot of the female faces end up almost identical.

I liked that there were a lot of female characters and a lot of them were very interesting and different. Between issues, you'd have different writers and illustrators, and some had more strength than others. Brusha especially was a more repetitive, sometimes really sloppy writer. I like the idea of twisted fairy tales and this was a good way to get into having a conversation with my friend who actually likes comics about things I need to try because, hey, actually, comic books are kind of fun, but this probably wasn't for me and I don't think I'll be looking into future issues.

(Oh, and apologies for the cover being slightly off. The Goodreads one was slightly different and I like this one better.)

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Published: July 23rd, 2012 by HarperCollins
Genre: YA Fantasy
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 292
Part of a series? No.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

Thoughts: I like Tinker Bell. Like, in general. But quite frankly, I've never really loved Peter Pan. I'm actually a pretty big Disney fan, but it's never been one of my favourites. I don't seek it out to watch it and I'm just honestly not the biggest fan. I did real the book once, I think, but it was a long time ago, so when I say Peter Pan, I am pretty much just talking about the Disney movie portrayal. And obviously there is a huge problem in that that movie is massively racist. And it's not okay to say "that was just the time" or make excuses, especially not since Tinker Bell is such a popular character.

So it is really hard for me to separate that, honestly. The Sky Eater people in this are set up as a race of people native to Never Land. There's a shaman character. They're called tribes. They're obviously based on Aboriginal people. But which tribes? There are lots and they're not all the same thing. I am by no means an expert on this stuff, but I really have to question how comfortable I should be with this and whether or not this is something problematic that could hurt people.

(Also, as a trigger warning, there is a nondescript rape scene.)

That being said, it was an interesting book. I liked the focus on a character I didn't know about, Tiger Lily, and I loved that it was narrated by Tinker Bell. I think the idea of a narrating character who doesn't speak is fascinating and something that I'd like to see more. It was interesting to see the Peter Pan story from the Neverland side of things, not just from the Wendy side of things. And, honestly, I liked that Tink actually seemed to care about Tiger Lily more than she cared about Peter. It was said quite often that Tink was in love with Peter and fairies could only love one person, but she really seemed to love and care about Tiger Lily so much more. I liked how there were a lot of female characters, including Tiger Lily having a female friend who she very much cared about.

There was also a character who was possibly genderfluid. I'm cisgender and I don't feel completely comfortable judging the portrayal of that character, but it's something I personally don't see that often and it is important.

I did enjoy reading this. The characters are well-written and it's very interesting to see the deeper motivations and goals and such of characters from classic stories like this. I loved the mermaids because I have this total thing for murderous mermaids. But I also think that it's not good to ignore this kind of thing and we need to talk about them sometimes. So while I enjoyed the book, I am also conflicted over it.

Oh, also. The cover is really pretty. (Although this is making me realize I had a very different idea of what tiger lilies look like. Apparently I was thinking of the wrong flower. Long story.) But... the girl is kind of really skinny? And something about her arm, which wraps around to the back cover, looks not quite right to me. And I personally would like to see more girls who aren't white and skinny on covers. And considering Tiger Lily is a POC, I question the decision of the cover model to be a thin, white headless girl even though the cover is very pretty. (And I love the font.) It is eye-catching, for sure, but is it unique?

Update December 2014: When I was putting this on goodreads, I found this review, which tackles a lot of things I mentioned, and really explains why the treatment of Native people in this book was not very good at all.

Alright, that's about everything, I think. Have you read any of these? What'd you think?

Peace and cookies,