Friday, December 22, 2017

Review: Double Exposure by Chelsea Cameron

Double Exposure is the second in the Violet Hill series of short romance novels set in a queer cafe in Maine. While it's the second in a series, each book can be read as a standalone and you can start anywhere in the series. I picked this one up when it was on sale, and am glad I did! 

[Trigger warnings: a character makes an ageist/age-disparaging comment; there's one sex scene; a character mentions past panmisia and rejection from her parents; character describes past queermisia against the cafe]



Double Exposure is an extremely heckin' cute meet cute. Anna is a twenty-something working her butt off at the Violet Hill cafe ... when in walks the beautiful photographer Lacey. Instant crush! 

Lacey wants to do a piece on the cafe, and she wants to interview Anna. As Anna convinces her media-shy bosses to do the piece, she knows her enthusiasm for Lacey and her work goes beyond professional interest. But Lacey is a travelling photojournalist, and Anna doesn't know if she's ready to commit her feelings to someone who's going to leave. 

Characters worrying about money, or, why I am basically Anna in many ways

As a millennial, I found Anna extremely relatable. She is clearly happy where she is, but has an air of being frazzled that I've definitely experienced. She works hard, and while she's settled nicely in Violet Hill, there's this sense that she's frantically moving around and doesn't take much time to enjoy herself because she's so busy. She mentions that as a pansexual woman, she is attracted to people of all genders; however, while she forms crushes easily, she is afraid of forming emotional connections because she's been burned by heartbreak in the past. She's a little shy, a little vulnerable, a little self-conscious. 

Of course, Anna can't help falling for Lacey emotionally as well as physically. Lacey is the elegant, traveled, sophisticated woman -- Anna is pretty intimidated by her at first. But when they finally admit their mutual attraction, we learn that Lacey is warm and friendly and funny. She has a black cat named Murder, who I loved. Give a character a cat, and I will love that character. 

a black cat sits on a tree stump outdoors, looking photogenic.

Beautiful, Healthy, Happy Queer Romance

My favorite thing about this budding romance between the small-town girl and the glamorous out-of-towner was how open and communicative they were. They talked about themselves, their body confidence issues, their work, their boundaries, and what they wanted their relationship to be in a healthy way. 

For instance, when they are kissing, Anna stops and confesses that she isn't ready for a serious relationship because Lacey will leave in just a few weeks. They talk about it and set physical boundaries in an attempt to create some emotional distance.

Situating Sex

The book then gets into what constitutes a "serious" relationship. Despite their mutual -- and intense -- physical attraction, Anna and Lacey don't have sex until the very end of the book. When one of her coworkers makes a joke about her "fling" with Lacey, Anna replies that it isn't a fling since they haven't had sex. Her coworker challenges that -- does it need sex to be a fling? Why does sex need to be involved for a relationship to be serious or valid?

These are questions which give Anna pause, and I'm glad the book included them. There's definitely a stigma that sex = serious, or that having sex must deepen emotional commitment. Anna and Lacey's relationship demonstrates this to be false -- despite holding off sex until the very end, they develop Serious Feelings and ... well, without spoilers, everything does work out for them in the end. :)

I would say that this book is a low to medium heat romance, with some kissing and one sex scene at the very end. It delves into the questions of emotional and physical boundaries with a sensitivity that I've rarely seen, and overturns the idea that a sex-free relationship is less valid.

Representation and Body Confidence

Lacey tells Anna that her work as a photojournalist focusing on queer spaces and issues is important to her as a bisexual trans woman. Anna, who had been furtively (and amusingly) trying to figure out if Lacey is into girls, blurts out that she's pansexual. It was a cute scene. 

Frequently, books with trans characters resort to insulting tropes to reveal that the character is trans. I was relieved that this was not the case here. Also, Anna does not assume that Lacey being bisexual automatically means that she's into women. This was incredibly affirming to read, as bisexual does not necessarily include or exclude the two main binary genders. 

While both Anna and Lacey have body insecurities, Anna does not try to compare her body confidence issues as a cis woman with Lacey's body confidence and dysphoria as a trans woman. At one moment, when Lacey is lamenting the size of her breasts, Anna holds off saying that she thinks they're awesome -- because at that moment, complimenting her partner's body would be more invalidating than uplifting. 

Lacey also has some hesitation about whether Anna is OK with her being trans. Lacey is so elegant and confident that that moment of vulnerability was more touching. Lacey talking to Anna about her own body was clearly somewhat difficult for her, and Anna is very supportive and lovely about everything. Some people might view these scenes in a different light, so if you know of any own voices review of Double Exposure by trans women, please let me know so that I can link them here. 

Using Xan West's ranking, I would call this a fat-neutral romance. The author has written other fat heroines and love interests in this series (which I am reading now!). 

Two quibbles

The dialogue is confusingly spaced so that it is hard to tell which character is talking. When formatting dialogue, a new paragraph break should mean a new character is speaking. For instance, 

"The soup is cold," Mary said. 

I stuck a finger in the soup. "Feels fine to me."

The book did not obey these formatting rules, and that made for a slower read as I spent more time parsing who was talking when. It may hamper your comprehension of what's going on. I wish the books would be re-released with this changed.

The other quibble is the cover. With the somber black and white flower on a black background, I thought it would be a much gloomier read than it was. I'm not sure how much control the author has over these elements, but if I noticed them, others probably will -- so I included them. The book is worth the read, though! Don't let that discourage you! :)

Would I recommend?

Overall, I would recommend this book. It's an incredibly sweet meet cute. I did not think I could like meet cute romances. I was wrong!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

I DID get around to my New Year's Resolution

Hello friends! I've not made much progress on my blog revamp, but I wanted to drop by for a quick blog post.

This year I wanted to read more out of my comfort zones and favorite genres, specifically non-fiction and romance. I'm glad to say I enjoyed most of what I read, too -- always a plus. :)

I will do a post later on the books as a group and will likely review some of them separately. It's just, well, it's a lot to do. I have not kept up with the pile of other tasks I have to do, either. Mainly, I'm working on a project for school and all else is shelved until that is finished. 

I think I will just have to put the blog aside until the New Year, unless I finish that thing before then. Still, I look forward to sharing these wonderful books with you. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Hello! Hope you are having a good holiday. 

 I haven't been around on the blog much lately. I'm going to do a revamp of the look of the whole thing and revisit some of my reviews -- revise them, and also revise how I do reviews period. 

I'm going to get rid of star ratings and do some other stuff. I've been reading a lot of books that I want to share my thoughts on, but I never seem to have the time to make full-blown posts. I'm going to try to change that and free up more time for blogging... 

 Have a good turkey day, wherever you are. :)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book Review: Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

Hello friends! I woke up at 6:15 this morning for NO REASON and with boundless energy. I have no idea where it came from, but I'll take it. Here's a review of Blind Spot, a YA mystery/suspense novel by Laura Ellen. 

I found Blind Spot from an interview with the author on Disability In Kidlit. Their site does great stuff and you should totally check them out. 


Blind Spot is the story of Roz, a teenager with macular degeneration who is put in a Special Education class for the first time -- and then has to solve the murder of one of her classmates. She has a blind spot in the center of her vision, where everything is blurry. Despite living with this for most of her life, it was never diagnosed and she's been in mainstream class her whole life. Roz is initially angry and offended to be put in Special Ed; she feels like she's being singled out and doesn't like the "disabled" label. However, after a suicide of a disabled teen in the past year, the class is now mandatory for all disabled students. 

Text: Blind Spot, Laura Ellen. Tagline: "What you can't see might be murder." Review quote at the top reads: "An utterly believable mystery, gritty with high school drama and shot through with suspense...A captivating read, right to the last page." -- Carol Plum-Ucci, author of 'The Body of Christopher Creed.' Image: A close-up of a girl's eye looking out past the reader, with some jagged lines crossing the top and bottom of the cover. Everything is tinted blue, image and text included.


On her first day in the class, everyone is paired up with a partner who's supposed to act as a homework-buddy-slash-support-system. Roz gets paired with Tricia, a girl who deals with drug addiction, PTSD, and, in her somewhat sarcastic words, "emotional disturbance." When Tricia is found dead, Roz may have been the last person to see her alive -- during their fight. And she doesn't remember the rest of the night. 

I'm not tagging Tricia's death as a spoiler, because it's on the summary and the first page of the book. However, throughout the story we get to know Tricia, and her death really has an emotional impact. Roz and her friends try to find the killer. As events unfold, however, Roz starts to worry that she might be the killer.


The teens in this novel felt authentic to me. Roz is extremely excited to catch the attention of an older, popular boy -- her first real boyfriend -- who, surprise surprise, turns out to be an unrepentant pile of shit. He emotionally manipulates her, showering her with affection only to drop all communication for days, only to mack on her at the dance. Roz, thankfully, finally realizes what a dick he is, but only after about a ton of drama. Even then, her physical attraction to him doesn't totally disappear -- she still finds herself thinking how cute he is, and is frustrated by that. I thought that was pretty realistic. 

The love interest of the book is Roz's study buddy -- but don't worry, there's a ton of drama there, too. They're constantly sniping at each other, having misunderstandings, sweet moments which are interrupted, and arguing before finally getting on the same page. 

The Character I Hated

I wanted to STRANGLE Roz's Special Ed teacher. He is an example of 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions.' While he does want Roz to be able to accept her disability and work with it rather than fight it, he starts going about that in ways that first cross the line and then turn straight-up abusive. Furthermore, he's a shitty teacher in other ways. For his class's "career development," he organizes a series of unpaid jobs. Hiring disabled people for less than minimum wage or for no money at all is practiced widely in the U.S. Predictably, the students are hurt and angry. They rebel, which is a fantastically satisfying part of the book. 

Some Things I Didn't Like

One thing I didn't like was that it was unclear whether the teacher still had his job by the end of the book. He should've been fired. He's awful. 

Blind Spot also spends a lot of time on the issue of consent and relationship abuse. These, I felt, were important topics to address in a book for teens where drugs and roofies are involved. One thing I didn't like is when we find out Heather slept with the guy Roz likes while she was drunk. The way Heather described it, "it just sort of happened" and she wasn't fully in control -- while, I'm pretty sure, the guy was sober. If you are sober and have sex with someone who isn't, that's rape. While the book did address other parts of this subplot, and did a decent job of handling consent elsewhere, it never addressed the problem of consent there. It's never framed as rape.

Finally, some of the kids from the Special Ed class are excluded from the final plot to try and catch the killer. The abled kids, Roz, her physically disabled friend, and others who are not intellectually disabled decide that it would all be too much for the intellectually disabled kids in the class to understand, and that they don't want to get their hopes up only to have them crushed. This is infantilizing and goes against the message from other parts of the book. It's fairly common for non-intellectually-disabled disabled folks to still display forms of ableism towards intellectually disabled people. While this happens in real life, I didn't like it much and wished the book would have done more to challenge those assumptions.

Some Things I Liked

Roz begins this book with a lot of internalized ableism. She stereotypes her classmates, is furious to be labelled disabled, and tries to hide her disability whenever possible. By the end of the book, she's started to overcome a lot of that internalized ableism. Internalized ableism is something many disabled people deal with, and I thought Blind Spot handled it pretty sensitively. 

Roz also has to deal with abled expectations of behavior. For instance, when she is being questioned by police, she has to put in an effort to look them straight in the eye -- because otherwise, she looks shifty and guilty. But, her macular degeneration means that she can't look someone right in the eye, because that way, she can't see them. Roz is constantly being mistaken for shy, aloof, or shifty because of how she uses her peripheral vision to see people's faces. The author has macular degeneration herself, so this is an ownvoices work that captures a lot of the experiences an abled writer would probably miss. (You can read an interview with the author here.)

I liked that the book had a fair range of disabilities represented in the class, and that each of the students had a personality and goals beyond a stereotype. I particularly liked Tricia as a character, even though her fate saddened me. I won't give away too much, but Tricia is an example of how the system failed her and her family. I think she'd have been much better off if authority figures (including the teacher) didn't intervene to try to """"save"""" her by "doing the right thing." 

The ending may frustrate some with its odd lack of closure. I thought it was a satisfying way to close things off. 

The suspense in this was also through the roof. I was simultaneously cringing and on the edge of my seat flipping the pages, desperate to see what would happen next!

Overall, I would give this 4/5 stars. It's a great read. I got very into the characters and totally absorbed in the story. I recommend it to those who like mystery and suspense.

[Trigger warnings for this book include: death, ableism, drug and alcohol use/abuse, emotional abuse, descriptions of past sexual assault, discussion of suicide, physical assault, kidnapping, apartment fire.]

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Review: But Not Up Here by RoAnna Sylver

For today's review, something a little different: a book of poetry! I don't review poetry often (or ever? not on this blog, anyway) but I do read it pretty regularly and I love poetry, so. When RoAnna Sylver, author of Chameleon Moon and generally cool indie writer person, asked if people were interested in ARC's of But Not Up Here to review, I was excited.

but not up here cover.png

But Not Up Here: poems about remembering in neon is a book of poems about grief, loss, and survival. It's a beautiful collection and, as a plus, the cover is gorgeous as well. 

The subtitle, "poems about remembering in neon," references one of the poems in which the speaker talks about Michelangelo's paintings. For years, the poem says, we thought he painted in drab and muted hues -- until art restoration and new technology revealed the bright colors he really used. The speaker of that poem says that anyone who looks at them would think their memories of the lost person are like his paintings -- drab, damaged by time, water (like tears), etc. But instead, "With you and me, / As with him and his rainbow-hidden centuries, / Our world was neon." Many of the poems, this one in particular, speak to trying to move on from a loss when memories are still fresh and seems like the lost person ought to be there. 

The rainbow is a recurring image; Michelangelo's centuries are "rainbow-hidden," the poems are sprinkled with bright colors and images, and at one particularly memorable point the speaker notices the rainbow in a slick of gasoline on a puddle. The clash between glorious color and descriptive imagery and the pain of grief and loss seems counterintuitive at first. We tend to associate death, grief, and loss with black and grey tones. But these images work within the collection to convey the overwhelming nature of sensations -- whether it's emotional sensations like denial and anger or sensory images bewildering the speaker as they try to deal with the fact that Earth can be beautiful and hold life and color even after they have experienced such a personal loss. 

The poems do not necessarily offer an answer for how to move on -- and in many cases, "moving on" and acceptance don't seem like a desirable goal. Rather, memory and letting the loss live and accepting what that does to someone emotionally are the focus of the poems. Towards the end, resolution comes about in several poems that focus on the future, on growth and incorporating loss into one's own survival. The book ends with the lines, "Years later, I can breathe. / And that is enough." 

The book is structured with five poems that are titled with the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance, each with a separate poem between them. Then there is a series of other poems that close out the work. Not everyone moves through the five stages in order, but they are both somewhat universal and yet, in this book, deeply personal as they explore the relationship between the speaker and the lost person and their particular circumstances. 

Sylver's style is breathless with long sentences, lines and sometimes paragraphs reaching to the edge of the page. This allows a lot of lyricism but also conveys a certain desperation to many of the poems. In other poems, the long lines and sentences make it feel more conversational, especially when the speaker is talking to the lost person. When the lines break up into shorter segments, it's more noticeable. 

Sylver also uses form with italic and bolded words. I liked this because the italicized and bolded words usually fit well with the rhythm of the line. It makes you think, why is this section italicized? You "say" the lines differently in your head when they are bold. I believe poetry should be read aloud, and these italicized and bolded words both let a reader know that they are being emphasized for some reason -- and let someone who is reading them aloud demarcate a difference in the way the words should be said. 

In addition to the beautiful imagery and style, much of this book is harsh. In terms of content, it deals with some tough topics. In terms of style, imagery, and words, it also veers towards harshness and pain when necessary. It is a moving collection of poems about grief and trauma, and I definitely recommend it. 5/5 stars.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

No, I haven't been around, sorry not sorry

I haven't been around here lately and that's for very good reasons. 

If you're a friend or I know you, I'm very happy to take your email or message. It may take me a little bit to get back to you, but I will get back to you. But if we are friends, don't propose me any new projects or fun activities unless I propose them to you first or it's something we talked about ages ago, like the book club/book swap idea I chatted with someone about a while back. Because I will not be available right now. I wish I was! But I won't be. 

If I have some kind of contract or agreement with you, you are of course very welcome to check in with me about how the work is going. At this point I don't have any of those contracts with anyone except the nonprofit I volunteer for. And despite some weird technical difficulties on my end, I'm trying to get that work done asap. The only other people I should be hearing from are authors who I beta'd for if they have any questions on my feedback. Thassit. Zip. The end. 

If we don't have a contract, I'm probably not going to reply because I am not available right now. For example, I have a backlog of reviews I want to get out.

I do wish I could churn out reviews daily. I also wish I could follow up on that invite to write for a blog or do a guest post, or submit something to the several horror mags I've seen taking stories right now, but I can't do that either. In conclusion, I am not writing for nearly anything right now -- including myself -- unless it's the aforementioned nonprofit, and this makes me EXTREMELY SALTY with myself and with life in general. I'm not really reading anything at the moment either unless it's purely for escapism. Even then I've had a hard time concentrating. Reading and human-ing in general isn't fun right now for Very Good Reasons. 

I'm not available. The doctor is OUT.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review: The Kingdom of Oceana by Mitchell Charles

I received a copy of The Kingdom of Oceana for free to review from the publisher. So, here's my review!

Image result for the kingdom of oceana book

The Plot

The Kingdom of Oceana is told from the perspective of Ailani, the teenaged second son of the king of Royal Island (Hawai'i). One day, he and his brother Nahoa are exploring, when Nahoa dares him to go to a forbidden spot above a waterfall. There, they encounter a tiki head with a strange, malevolent power. Their encounter shapes their destinies, and that of all the island kingdoms of Oceana, forever. 

This is a classic coming of age tale set in ancient Hawai'i. Ailani struggles with feelings of rivalry, jealousy, and friendship with his older brother Nahoa, who is bigger, stronger, more confident, and seems destined to become the next king. As we see from Ailani's perspective, Nahoa is frequently nasty, borderline abusive towards his younger brother. Their relationship is fascinating as it dances the line between normal sibling rivalry and toxicity. Ailani's main character arc is coming to accept himself for the person he is, rather than always trying to define himself in comparison to his brother. 

Court Intrigue

Trouble plagues the different kingdoms in the form of international tensions between Ailani's father and the king of Pearl Island, which has become rich but corrupt. Pearls, in Ailani's culture, are sacred and magical gems; but Pearl Island has perfected the practice of creating manufactured pearls. This has created a deal of wealth for them, but also increased the wealth gap and made their king want more wealth, power, prestige -- even empire. 

As a son of the king, Ailani is taken on a diplomatic mission to Pearl Island to try to resolve their differences. There, he befriends Momi, a princess, and together they unearth the corruption, cruelty, and sacrilege which have given Pearl Island much of its power. Ailani's father Haga doesn't believe that going against the natural order of things and discarding their beliefs is worth it just to achieve material wealth; obviously, the King of Pearl Island has a different outlook. Tensions rise and Haga is given an ultimatum: they have to submit to the rule of Pearl Island, or face war.

The depictions of the different kingdoms, their practices, and the figures controlling power are all detailed, engaging, and frankly a delight to read. 


Another conflict is the resurgence of evil magic and the undead, caused by Ailani and Nahoa's disturbance of the tiki. The framing of magic in this book seems at first very black and white: there's light magic (good) and shadow magic (bad). But as the book goes on, we see that things are not necessarily so cut and dried. I was a little wary at first to see the strong opposition between light and shadow magic. It didn't seem to reflect the interplay between the two, the grey areas, that exist in many belief systems (and fantasy magic systems!). 

However, by the end of the book, we've got light and shadow sorcerers coming together, each using different kinds of magic, as well as the introduction of something called luminescent magic -- the way energy flows between and throughout light and dark through all of the world. In the end, Ailani also has to embrace the shadow magic when it's needed if he wants to be victorious. 

I personally would differentiate a bit between magic and spirituality as portrayed in the book. Magic appears to be a certain thing only accessible to some people, whereas spirituality -- finding one's spirit animal, sensing spirits, talking to animals and spirits throughout the world, accessing the spirit realm -- is a part of the world open to everyone (albeit sometimes under very specific circumstances, such as the vision quest Ailani and Nahoa must undertake to find their spirit animals). There's a lot of overlap between the two, but it was handled well in a way that I, at least, found easy to understand. A lot of this is based on Indigenous beliefs, and the author appears to have incorporated real spirituality and beliefs into a fantasy setting in a sensitive way. I don't practice those beliefs, so I can't speak with authority on this topic. 

The Setting, Characters, and More

This all, gratifyingly, takes place in a pre-white-people world. While the author is not Hawai'ian, you can read more about his research process and where he drew inspiration on his website.

I also appreciated the fact that Puhi, Ailani's friend who is a Little Person, does not get a "magic cure" in the end. At one point, spoiler, he has his finger bitten off by a zombie. While magic saves his life, someone asks if another act of magic will restore his finger. The answer is no. That was a small thing, but quite gratifying considering how most fantasy uses magic to fix every disability, injury, or even minor inconvenience. 

One thing that I did not particularly like was how the fat characters, notably the King of Pearl Island and his corrupt alchemist, are described. Several metaphors about their greed, coupled with the descriptions of their physical fatness, draw distasteful parallels between their corruptness/wealth/greed and them being fat. Fat characters, particularly fat corrupt royals and such in fantasy, are often coded as evil, and their physical appearance stands in for their metaphorical "hunger" for power.  

The settings are a delight to read and you feel like you are actually there. Also, Ailani, being Hawai'ian, uses Hawai'ian words to describe the important things around him even though the book is written in English. When a new Hawai'ian word is introduced, there's a linked footnote to a definition at the end of each chapter. At the definition, another link takes you back to your place. Once a word has been defined the first time, it's never footnoted again. So, the book doesn't presume that you do know the words, but it doesn't assume that you don't, either. This was a FAR more organic way of using Indigenous terms in an English-language book than doing something like having Ailani stop to explain what they mean in the middle of his thought. 

More About Sibling Rivalry, Because I'm A Sucker For That

I found the sibling rivalry one of the most interesting factors in the book. Ailani and Nahoa are the main pair of siblings, but there's another pair (not revealing because it's a major spoiler) as well as a historical pair of brothers. While the rivalry themes mainly center around brotherhood, other family dynamics are explored as well. For instance, Nahoa and Ailani's mother clearly favors Nahoa, while their father seems more fair in his treatment of the brothers. 

And while the book handles themes of sibling rivalry, it also doesn't show just one cut-and-dried way to resolve -- or not resolve -- it. While we get to see the good sides of Nahoa, his bullying is never excused as just a misunderstanding. This is an important contrast to the other pair of brothers, whose toxic relationship IS just based on a misunderstanding. 

As for female characters, there's Luina, who is younger but already learning to become a master of seafaring and navigation. I did wish she played a more prominent role in the climax of the book, but she dropped out of the plot at some point. Ailani's mother is a more troubled, but complex, character. She has abrupt mood swings and is easily swayed by promises of wealth and pretty things. However, it's hard not to sympathize with her unconditional love for even the bullying Nahoa, or with her being upset when her husband leaves to journey for weeks or months at a time. 

Finally, there's Momi, the princess of Pearl Island. There's a minor love triangle, but it's pretty clear who Momi prefers from the start. I feel like a lot of plots concerning coming of age are wrapped up with "and the hero gets the girl," but The Kingdom of Oceana didn't do that. Momi plays an important role in helping expose corruption and get rid of the evil magic, and in the end, it's understood that Momi and Ailani will continue their relationship. However, there's not a gross moment when she gifts him her love as a prize, as we sometimes see. Actually, the end of the novel focuses on a mother's grief, and Ailani trying to mend things with her and make things right within his own family. 

One thing that helped with avoiding this trope is that the ending is definitely ambiguous -- there's certainly room for a sequel and more trouble down the line. Another thing is that Momi and Ailani establish their relationship earlier on, and are able to work as a team to help everyone in the finale. They're equals and I appreciated that. 

Cover and Title

I wasn't particularly enthused about the cover art or title, to be honest. The cover art is pretty, but I like to see characters or action on the cover myself. Like a significant scene such as Ailani, Puhi, and Luina on the wa'a going into the mists, or something. Maybe I'm weird. You might like the cover. It didn't really tell me all that much about the book that the title itself didn't. You can read more about the title art and artist here. 

As for the title, it reads to me like something out of a history book, almost signalling a nonfiction work. This is probably just me being weird. If not for the blurb, I'd also be a little unclear on genre; I was initially unsure whether this was purely historical fiction or fantasy, or historical fantasy, or whether it was a purely fantasy world just based on Polynesian and Pacific Islander culture. Just so you know, it's historical fantasy (set on Earth in the past, but with fantasy elements). At least, that's how I understood it!

Final Thoughts

I'm not Hawai'ian and have never even been to Hawai'i, so I can't speak to the book's authenticity of setting or comment on how it uses culture. I'll leave that up to reviewers who are. The author does talk about his process and people who helped build the book on his site, which I've already linked. I personally found this an overall delight to read, the descriptions a sensory marvel, the characters well-drawn and developed, and overall it's a gem of a find if you're looking for indies to read. 5 stars.

Monday, April 3, 2017

We Fuck Up Sometimes (I fucked up this time)

Thing you may not have known about me: I volunteer for a local civic action group. I'm one of the coordinators. 

And, as you might expect, it's been a learning experience. In other words, we done fucked up. I done fucked up.

There was a rally held in support of veterans' rights which a friend of ours organized. To support this event, a fellow coordinator from my group wanted to hold a sign-making and mission-clarifying logistics event. We normally book events at a local library, but they were holding a book sale in the rooms we use all the days we wanted to hold it.  So, my fellow coordinator proposed the meeting be held upstairs on the second floor of a local restaurant instead. 

I wasn't super thrilled about this. I wanted to assert that, especially since the event was focused on veterans -- and many veterans live with disability -- that it would be better not to hold the event at all than to hold it at an inaccessible location. I did point out the inaccessibility of the venue and suggest another one. The other venue, my fellow coordinator pointed out, was smaller and didn't have very good lighting. They said we'd just livestream it. 

I was still not OK with this, as it would have barred disabled veterans and disabled people in general from attending and participating in a meaningful way. A livestream lets people watch along at home, but doesn't let them give input in real time. On a topic which was discussing their -- our -- lives. It felt like a case of "abled people to the rescue" doing stuff on behalf of disabled folks, yet without their (our) attendance and input.

But, I also didn't want to overstep or alienate or come across as angry. They had veterans in the family, it was clearly important to them, and I was feeling the pressure of having to organize this thing SOON because deadlines were approaching. I was working through a cloud of brain fog due to pain and exhaustion and wasn't sure whether this was the hill I wanted to die on. Wasn't sure if I had the spoons -- or even the right -- to stand up for myself and people like me.

So, I let it slide. I took the easy way out. I fucked up. I could have had a difficult conversation with my friend. I could have put my foot down. Instead, I wrote a public apology for the event, said it would not happen again, and requested input from people on the page as to how we could not fuck up like this in the future.

The event happened. I've been feeling gross about it ever since. And today, someone publicly responded to my request for feedback. 

My first reaction was to wince. Then, as I read on, feeling their anger, their anger started to feel validating. It validated my own feelings of frustration and anger. It made me really examine my guilt over asking for equal access and my fear of expressing it -- this internalized idea that I was seeking "special treatment." Or raining on the activism parade with my pesky concerns about accessibility. I knew this couldn't be OK with everyone, that I was surely not the only one with a problem like this, and it was great to see that critique expressed.

Expressed by a person who clearly seemed so much more courageous than me.

My second reaction was shame. Didn't I get involved specifically to prevent situations like this? Didn't I get angry because the Women's March refused to offer a wheelchair-accessible route? Didn't I insist that the other coordinators include ability in our mission statement after they left it out in the early days? Aren't I tired of disability always being the last thing activism thinks about?

Yes, obviously, I am. But when push came to shove, I let it slide. I done fucked up. Why, I'm wondering, did I do that?

I could blame it on the brain fog or on the rushed nature of the thing but the truth is, it was because I felt uncomfortable. Because I didn't want to stand out, to lose friends, to alienate people or to suggest that I was ungrateful to the restaurant owner who'd offered the venue. I didn't want to say, "I'm here, I'm disabled, and I and people like me have needs. We should be allowed to exist in public spaces. We want to participate fully in events which can determine the course of our futures."

I wrote earlier in this post that "It felt like a case of 'abled people to the rescue' doing stuff on behalf of disabled folks, yet without their (our) attendance and input." The truth is, abled organizers DID have "our" input. They had me. I WAS in a position to advocate, to take the hard line. I pointed out the problems -- but I let it slide when I should have gone farther.

This thing is bigger than me. Bigger than my personal discomfort. I need to learn to trust my instincts, listen to my gut when something feels squicky and point it out. To be unapologetic in stating problems or calling out, to push allies, and to stop excusing myself when I fuck up.

I done fucked up. Apologies don't mean much when a thing has already been said and done, but I CAN promise to do better. To be angrier. To stop feeling guilty about pushing for accessibility, and to really work to overcome my internalized ableism.

This is all relatively new to me, and as such, I'm going to fuck up. I've fucked up in the past on many occasions. I'm sure this won't be the last time I fuck up. But I can make every effort not to fuck up again on this issue. Because this thing is bigger than me, and personal discomfort can't be allowed to get in the way.

I fucked up. I'm sorry. And I'm going to commit to doing better -- being better -- in the future.

Audiobook Review: Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar

This one was a DNF (did not finish) for me, but not for the reasons you think! It wasn't a bad book. It was actually quite good; I just didn't like the audio. I'll explain. 


The author narrates this semi-autobiographical book about a Cuban girl who moves to the United States in the 1960's. Ruthie must adjust to culture shock and feeling like an outsider after moving away from Cuba to Queens. Then, in her teens, she's in a car accident and her world is turned upside down. 

image description: book cover with drawings of skyscrapers and apartment buildings, overlaid with colorful flowers. Text: Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar. A review snippet reads: "Ruth Behar's heartfelt story reminds us how the broken places inside can heal." --Sandra Cisernos, author of "The House on Mango Street."

Audiobook review

As I said, the book is narrated by the author! Since this is a semi-autobiographical work of fiction, with the main character even being named Ruth, that made sense to a certain point.

However, I just couldn't get past the actual audio/voice. She doesn't have a BAD voice. It was just that the audio was so precise or so good that it picked up every sound her mouth and lips made as she spoke. All the "moist" clicks, slips, slides, and everything drove me up the wall and I had to turn it off. I've had sensory processing issues since I was a kid, and my biggest trigger today is mouth sounds. 

[Advisory: this paragraph discusses self-harm in the abstract.] Problems with extreme frustration with certain sounds is called misophonia. It's a real thing (I swear) and when it's really bad, it actually drives me to self-harm as a form of alternate stimulation (aka "stimming." Not all stimming is self-harming, though, and not all self-harming is stimming). I seriously could not handle listening to this. Something about her vocal quality combined with the excellent audio quality exaggerated each of those sounds to my ears and I couldn't get past the very beginning while listening. 

I have mixed feelings about authors narrating their own work. It can either be very good or, well, not very good. Trevor Noah, a professional performer and comedian, does an amazing job narrating his memoir Born a Crime, for instance. I think authors with theatre or performance backgrounds should certainly narrate their own work when they want to. I'm not sure about everyone else. 

I don't think Ruth Behar did a bad job narrating; I'm also not sure how much of my reaction to the narration was due to the actual quality of her performance and how much of it was due to my visceral "I can't handle listening to these other sounds" problem. Also, does she actually have a "moist" voice or was it just the way it's recorded? Is it possible for your audio recording tech to be TOO good? Idk. 

Book review

So, this seems like something I would want to pick up from the library and read in a text format. It's an interesting story about friendship, moving to a different country and culture, and coping with a traumatic car accident. This seems like something I'd like to read (just not, apparently, listen to). 

One thing that makes me wary of it was the dedication. Ruthie's story is semi-autobiographical; however, the car accident part and Ruthie's struggle afterwards is based on the author's son. Authors basing their work on their kids, especially their kids who have disabilities, cancer, addiction, or some other form of marginalization, is something of a red flag to me. It seems exploitative. I also don't like the idea of co-opting a child's experience as part of a semi-autobiographical book about the parent. 

[Advisory: this bit discusses the book's treatment of ableism and ableist language.] However, it seems the author wanted to write about this with good intentions as a way of honoring her son and his experiences. Again, I'd have to read the thing to make a full analysis. What I heard of it, I liked. But I couldn't even get to the car accident part. I stopped after Ruthie and her friend tested out of the "dumb" class to get into the "smart" class. 

They're placed in the class with "problem" kids -- kids with emotional disturbance, delinquency, and learning disabilities -- because they aren't native English speakers. 10-year-old Ruthie starts out by asserting that "I am not dumb." She was only considered "dumb" when she moved to America, where she couldn't speak English. The author's use of the word "dumb," which implies that people who can't speak are not intelligent/smart/worthy, seemed very deliberate. Because she literally couldn't speak English, they considered her "dumb," or non-speaking. 

Though Ruthie starts out with disdain for "dumb," she starts to critique the word and its assumptions. Even as a ten-year-old, she starts to think that maybe NONE of the kids in the "dumb" class are really "dumb." They've just been put there because the education system has assigned them a certain value and has no idea how to address their needs. This realization, especially with a young character having that level of insight, struck me as a very positive thing.

The friendship we started to see developing between Ruthie and her classmate was also really sweet. I want to see if my library has this, so I can finish reading it. 

I received this audiobook book for free to review from the publisher. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Audiobook Review: Valentina Goldman Ships Out by Marisol Murano

If you read my review from last week, you'll know I hated Valentina Goldman's Immaculate Confusion. 

So why the hell would I read the sequel?

Well, I got these as a pair to review. I thought they were going to be funny and sharp, and I looked forward to a worldly, sarcastic protagonist. The book WAS funny and interesting in parts, with enough serious drama and suspense to hold my interest -- but I had to slog through LOT of bigoted crap from Valentina. I got to her lecture on how poor women are ruining society and was finally like, NOPE. DONE. DNF. 

BUT! Free books are free books! And I was hoping for some character growth in the sequel. I did end up skipping to the end and listening to the final chapters. The conclusion was such that I found myself wondering what the heck this character was going to do with her life now. 

This is a lone case of me hating the first book and liking the sequel. Usually if I hate a book I don't even read the sequel. 

Image description: shows a woman's sandaled feet crossed in front of an expanse of bright blue sky and ocean. A red flower is in the bottom left corner. Text: Valentina Goldman Ships Out. Marisol Murano, author of the best-selling Valentina Goldman's Immaculate Confusion.

Plot (Spoilers)

After Valentina's husband Max killed himself (back in book one), her stepdaughter Emily left for Ecuador to find herself and left Valentina alone in the house. A widow in a foreign country, with no job, left to manage her late husband's disastrous finances, Valentina just barely manages to keep it together. When her mother swoops in one day, she pronounces Valentina depressed. What Valentina needs, she declares, is to get away from it all. She needs to go on a cruise.

Left adrift by her husband's death, Valentina is literally adrift on the high seas on a mother-daughter cruise. She does her best to enjoy herself but keeps coming back to her "lonely widow" status and the questions surrounding her husband's death. On the cruise, however, she finds new friends, some peace, some adventure, and perhaps a little romance. 

Image description: 3 cruise ships in harbor under a bright blue sky with bright, clear waters.
This does look pretty nice.

Writing style

In the first book, Valentina was always addressing Emily, her stepdaughter. In this book, which is also in first person, the addressee is not always clear. At times she appears to be addressing Max, who now sits in an urn on her mantel (and who accompanies her on the cruise). At other times, this appears to be a general first person narrative. I think I may have been confused by the audiobook format; perhaps it's clearer written out. I both missed the neat structure of the first book and enjoyed this form of address far better. 

Without Emily to talk to, it seems that a lot of Valentina's posturing and viciousness has diminished. She's still judgmental -- but whether she doesn't feel the pressure to act "strong" in front of her stepdaughter or whether she's softened by grief, she seems like less of a horrible person. 

Family matters

One thing I found touching in this book was the way it looked at Valentina and Emily's relationship. Valentina does feel a need to be a good stepmother and mother figure to Emily, but always keeps in the back of her mind the fact that she is the second mother. The substitute mother, not really the mother Emily wants. Emily's biological mother is abusive, frequently leaving Emily in tears after every phone call. But, as Valentina sadly observes, we crave the thing we are denied, so Emily keeps going back to her mother to try to win her love and affection.

Mother-daughter relationships are also important to Valentina's story. Valentina's mother is a psychiatrist who tends to be cold, calculating, and controlling even when she has her daughter's best interests at heart. The mother-daughter dynamics on the cruise provided a lot of conflict. Valentina resents that her mother's sole vision of happiness for her is as a heterosexually married woman with biological children. At the same time, Valentina's mom is clearly trying to be supportive and present in the only way she knows how.

One thing I disliked about the mom-daughter relationship was that Valentina's mom is very much bigoted towards gay people. I thought this was used as a way to deflect from some of Valentina's own prejudices, making her seem not as bad by comparison. The gay couple Valentina befriends, however, are fun characters: the cynic and the Southern gentleman.

Image description: A rainbow gay pride flag.

Mental illness

Yeah, these books are still pretty much shit for mental illness and disability. 

A lot of Valentina's attitudes seem pretty fucking callous for someone whose husband killed himself. In the first book, she derides people she doesn't like by fake-diagnosing them; stereotypes depressed men as cheaters; calls anyone skinny an anorexic; and even tries to talk Emily out of therapy by convincing her that maybe she's not really depressed. She is against "clinical" diagnoses, completely opposed to medication, thinks psychotherapy is a scam, and even more disdainful to people who ARE diagnosed with something. 

Hence why she is so horrified when her mother proclaims that she is "clinically depressed." Valentina spends a good long while saying she can't be really depressed; she's just grieving. By the symptoms she describes, she does seem to have lost a lot of her old habits and interests. Clinically depressed? I don't know; however, being depressed after the loss of your husband is not some kind of horrible thing that you should rail about for pages and pages. It's entirely reasonable. A diagnosis is not a condemnation. 

I can't even with these books, honestly. 

Also, Emily's mother Helen is "borderline," meaning borderline personality disorder. Whether that is her diagnosis or whether Valentina has just made that up (as is her habit) is unclear. Either way, the stereotype about women with BPD is that they are emotionally abusive, manipulative, and bitchy. This is Helen to a T. While it's certainly true that mentally ill people and those with personality disorders can be abusive, adding another character to this trope doesn't do anyone any favors. It's a problem because abusive, manipulative characters make up the majority of representation of mental illness in fiction. It was another thing that made me sigh quietly to myself. 

Character development?

Overall, Valentina seemed more introspective and self-aware in this book. She still annoyed me at parts, but overall I found myself entertained -- even charmed -- by Valentina Goldman Ships Out. I still had some major problems with it, but Valentina grows as a character as events unfold on the cruise. 

Audiobook review: 5 stars. 

Ginger Roll is just as amazing in this one as she was in the last one. Her narration also kept me going through both of these when I might have put it down otherwise (especially the first one). She adds a lot of nuance to Valentina's character. 

Conclusion: 3 stars

This is my "not for me, but someone else might like it" rating. I'm not going to go around recommending it, but I'm not going to bash it, either. 

Image result for 3 stars image

Sunday, March 26, 2017

25 Years, 25 Things

I turned 25 in March. 25 brings some new things and new thoughts, but I'd like to make a silly post sharing 25 old facts that you may or may not have known about me.

1. If it were healthy or possible to eat nothing but raviolis every day for the rest of my life, I might do it. 

2. I'm a sucker for cheesy, bad, over the top movies -- especially horror movies. 

3. Speaking of which, I watched The Blair Witch Project for my birthday. Ha. Ha.

4. I like puns. 

5. I love cats and barely tolerate dogs. I've met some good dogs, but...Dogs are nice and all, but dog smell actually makes me nauseous and want to vomit, dogs drool and jump on me, and they generally make me anxious. 

6. My least favorite book of all time is The World According to Garp.

7. My favorite book of all time varies week to week, honestly. 

8. I don't really date, though I've had relationships in the past. 

9. I went to a women's college. 

10. I volunteer for a nonprofit. 

11. My favorite David Bowie song is "Heroes."

12. I think The Shining is actually Stephen King's worse, sappiest, most ridiculous book; the Stanley Kubrick movie was much better. 

13. In that vein, the show adaptation Game of Thrones is better than the books. (I still read the books.)

14. Whenever anyone brings up Alfred Hitchcock, I am That Person who brings up the fact that he was an animal-abusing, actor-abusing pervert. His legacy shouldn't be prettied up. He doesn't deserve it. 

15. I know how to do stage makeup but suck at regular makeup. 

16. I once had a bad reaction to an antibiotic which made me look like a meth-addicted zombie. 

17. I LOVE HAVING SHORT HAIR. Also, don't touch my hair. Just don't. 

18. I like writing stories. I'll go for months very enthusiastically making progress, then months of "I hate this, it's amateur crap, and it deserves to burn." The truth about the quality of my fiction, such as it is, is probably somewhere in the middle. 

19. As I get older, I find it increasingly difficult to justify my existence. This is one of the reasons I volunteer for things. 

20. Somewhat to the contrary, as I get older I find I give fewer and fewer fucks about the people who ask me what I've done with my life, anyway?

21. I feel old, creaky, in pain. This irritates me because I've constantly been told I "shouldn't" feel this way when I'm so young. When people aren't saying that, they're saying I must be lying or exaggerating, or just refusing to believe me. Internalized ableism tells me there must be something wrong with me, but in reality, I know that sometimes that's just the luck of the draw. It happens. 

22. At 25, I'm also tired of people telling me to fix or change my body or voice for theatre purposes. Like, this is it, y'all. If my voice was going to drop, it would have done years ago. Same with everything about my looks that people keep telling me to change.

23. I don't look 12. I look 25, because I am 25, and this is what a 25-year-old looks like. I blame Hollywood for casting so many 35-year-old women to play 15-year-old girls.

24. I can speak Spanish, but I wish I had someone to practice it with daily so that I don't lose my confidence.

25. I live right across from a cemetery!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Graphic Novel Review: The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew

This may have been my first graphic novel in...well, ever. I don't remember reading many of them before. 

I read several web comics and have been known to read comics and comic books when I was younger, but for the most part I've avoided graphic novels and comics. This is because I used to be incredibly anxious about people reading over my shoulder or teasing me for whatever I was reading. The idea of a graphic novel, where anybody could just look over your shoulder and see what was happening, was horrifying to me. I think this sense has stayed with me as an adult. I still tend to stray away from graphic novels and choose books with less flashy cover art, and I still obsessively hide what I'm reading. 

Anyway, this is my review -- as a total graphic novel novice -- of The Shadow Hero. 

Cover of The Shadow Hero; text reads The Shadow Hero: Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew. From the New York Times bestselling author of American Born Chinese. Image: It's done in a retro comics style with bright yellow and green font. The image shows the Green Turtle, face masked and body covered by a cape with a turtle shell, mid-jump and looking directly out at the viewer. Behind him, the large shadow of the Turtle takes up most of the page.

First, some background

The Shadow Hero was created to give an origin story to The Green Turtle, a hero in a short-lived comic series during the Golden Age of comics. The Green Turtle fought Japanese troops in China and elsewhere, but never revealed his face, origin story, or true identity. He also had a strangely-shaped, cheekily smiling shadow which was never quite explained before the comic was cancelled. 

The theory of The Shadow Hero's creators is that The Green Turtle is the first Asian American superhero. As they explain in the back, the creator of the original comic, Chu Hing, was Chinese American. He wanted to make an Asian hero, but his publisher wouldn't let him. As Gene Yang and Sonny Liew point out, the original comic features a hero who never shows his face and whose skin is almost ludicrously pink -- as though Hing is sarcastically emphasizing just how white he's supposed to be. Additionally, The Green Turtle is always interrupted whenever he's about to explain his origins or backstory.

A black and white photo of Chu Hing shows him looking directly into the camera. He wears his hair short and is clad in a suit and tie with a pin.
Chu Hing, author of the original comics which inspired this adaptation.
You can read more about him and view his comics here.

The Shadow Hero is their answer to the question of the The Green Turtle's origin story. Drawing inspiration from the original comic, they created a new story for this old and obscure character. 

Plot: a normal kid in the time of superheros

Hank is a young man with ordinary aspirations: he wants to grow up to take over the family grocery from his father. His dad moved to the U.S. from China, quit drinking, and became a successful grocer. Hank's mother is also an immigrant, but she was largely disappointed in America and always felt like there must be more to life.

Then one day, she's abducted at gunpoint by a bank robber and rescued by a superhero. From then on, she's obsessed with superheros -- it becomes her mission to turn Hank into a superhero (whether he wants to be one or not). 

Shows a man from the waist up and shoulders down tearing open his suit jacket and shirt to reveal a Superman symbol.

Reluctantly, Hank dons the cape. Then, tragedy strikes when he gets on the wrong side of a notorious gangster. After the tragedy, Hank gains a mysterious helper: a spirit turtle which inhabits Hank's shadow in exchange for granting one wish. Hank wishes that he will never be shot, and embarks on a mission to take out the gangsters and become a real superhero.

The Turtle is the best thing ever

The turtle in Hank's shadow turns out to be one of the ancient spirits of China. He slipped out of China after an argument with the other spirits and inhabited Hank's father (fulfilling his wish never to drink again). The turtle helps Hank but often seems exasperated by who he's been paired with. For instance, he's always warning Hank about traps, lampshading the silly things Hank does, and generally lamenting that he, a centuries-old being with centuries of wisdom and experience, got stuck with a 19-year-old kid who never listens to him. 

However, he does help Hank and impart wisdom at appropriate moments. They're a bit like roommates mismatched by age. Their relationship is highly entertaining. (If you've seen Legends of Tomorrow or The Flash, it's a little like the interactions between the two guys who make up Firestorm -- the grumpy old professor and the young hothead.) Also, I loved the way the shadow turtle was drawn. 

Hank's parents and "The American dream"

Hank's dad is the everyman with the iconic "American dream": he moves to the U.S., quits drinking, starts his own business, becomes his own man, and starts a family. At first, it all seems very idyllic. 

However, the comic starts to crack apart the notion of the American dream with the introduction of Hank's mother. She was incredibly excited to move to the U.S., which she imagined as a big, colorful, exciting place of dreams. Instead, she was disappointed by the same old drab life there. She resigned herself to a boring life and, when her parents told her to, obediently married Hank's dad and had Hank. She knows her life is OK, but it's not the life she wanted. 

This provides the backstory for her superhero obsession. It also speaks to the theme of the book and the question the creators are answering in regards to the first Asian American superhero. Hank's parents are immigrants, but they move to a country which is still racist against them and which doesn't want to give them a legitimate place. The heroes of society -- superheros -- are all white. The cops don't care about murders and crime in Chinatown. We learn that even the dad's business has to pay a tithe to gangsters, and no one cares. Hank's mom is justifiably angry about this -- maybe all these dynamics factor into why she wants her son to be a superhero so badly.

However, Hank's dad has the counterpoint that resisting the messed-up order of things can make you a target by the people who enforce that order. Both viewpoints have merit, and Hank has to decide which one he wants to subscribe to. The comic seems to come down on the side of trying to make a difference (but it helps if you have superpowers). 

I also liked Hank's mom because I felt much the same way when I came (back) to America. I pretty much hated it here and was disappointed in everything. In my experience, there is a tendency to paint America as this positive, welcoming place when that simply doesn't match reality. Especially in public school, we had to write oodles and oodles of essays on "The American Dream" and how great it was. Until I took advanced history classes in high school, we got an incredibly skewed-positive view of immigration and just American history in general.

An alternative perspective

I read The Shadow Hero at the same time as my friend, who IS experienced with graphic novels. They had the opposite reaction to Hank's mom, who they saw as too stereotypically nagging and pushy. Hank's mom pesters and pesters him to be a superhero and take fighting classes, and he keeps evading her. One day, his dad takes him aside and asks him to humor his mom because this is the first time he's ever seen her really excited and happy about something. Reluctantly, Hank agrees. 

Hank later goes on to make decisions for himself and be more of a superhero in his own right, but some readers might not like how he's pushed into it by his mom. I mean, I related to the story because I have pushy parents, and I feel like this could be a relatable dynamic for a lot of people. On the other hand, you might see his mom's behavior as extreme. She does change and grow, eventually realizing that she pressured her son and never appreciated her ordinary, peaceful family as it was. Still, she is super excited to see Hank fighting crime as a real superhero, a mantle he's taken up of his own accord. She realizes where she's gone wrong, but still keeps her love of superheros.

Part of my take on the mom and their relationship in general comes from how I read this graphic novel. It's a little hard for me to take slapstick or general physical humor and harm happening to cartoon people very seriously. To my inexperienced eyes, there's a definite tonal shift between the first part and the second half once he gets the companionship of the turtle. However, your take on certain moments could depend on how you read it as well as your experience with the medium. 

The art

The Shadow Hero keeps elements of that classic look without being too distant for modern readers (like me, comic book novice). I particularly enjoyed how the turtle was drawn, and the other characters are well-realized, too. 

The style is not hyper-realistic, which affected how I read the violence. Even when gangsters are shooting people, it's not graphic in a disturbing way. The art focuses on making significant violence emotionally/thematically important rather than sticking to realism. I thought this was a good choice.  

When the characters are speaking Mandarin, < their dialogue is marked like this > . English is unmarked text. Seeing where they switch between the two and how people react to different languages was neat. 

One of the gangster bad guys has an eye patch, which I originally thought was added to his character design to make him seem more other/bad/scary. There's a tendency to give villains physical disabilities or disfigurements to mark them as bad, because people associate disability with negative things. However, his eye patch is a plot point. The Main Bad Guy took his eye -- so the eye patch is a sign of how brutal the other bad guy is. It's a small thing, but I thought I would mention it because it shows some of the thought that went into the character designs.

An amusing part of the art is the moment when Hank's skin turns a weird shade of pink and starts to glow. This is the result of his mother's experiments to try and turn him into a superhero, from seances to radioactive spills. They don't do anything but make his skin turn pink and glow when wet -- the creators' explanation of the odd pink skin color of The Green Turtle in the original comics. 

Other stuff, Hank, and closing thoughts

I think this was a good graphic novel for someone who doesn't normally read these. It wasn't super long, and the art was generally light, bright, or pastel in color and open in style. If that makes ANY sense. I'm not sure it does. What I mean is, this was physically easy on the eyes to read and that was a HUGE help since I was reading it on a small Nook-for-phone screen. This book has also been awarded for several things and the creators are very well-known, so I feel a bit silly reviewing it as someone who virtually never reads in this format.

I think there is room for a sequel or spin-off here, but the creators also closed the story in a satisfying way that doesn't leave you needing a sequel. I read a lot of series, and I found this to be a satisfying and complete standalone. I also appreciated the creators' note in the back as well as the fact that it included the first issue of The Green Turtle comic for context. The original comic was also racist in its drawings and portrayals of Japanese people, and the creators discuss this in their note. They did a good job of addressing the potential reasons behind it without trying to excuse it. 

Cover for the original comics; text reads: Blazing comics. F.D.C. 10 cents. July no. 2. The image shows Green Turtle and his sidekick beating up Japanese soldiers. The Turtle's cloak flares up behind him, casting a black shadow of a turtle on the wall behind him.
Cover for an issue of The Green Turtle comics.

I ended up really liking Hank as a hero. He does some foolish things, of course, but is a good guy. The turning point of his hero's journey isn't getting superpowers, beating up bad guys, or learning how to fight. He becomes a "real" superhero when he has to choose between killing one of the gangsters who hurt his family vs. turning him in. He decides to turn him in, because being a hero is about character rather than powers. I thought this was a good message to send.

But, I did find myself wishing -- as I inevitably do with superheros -- that Hank would put on real pants.

I'd recommend this, especially if you're interested in superhero lore. 

Image result for five stars

A stroke of luck?

My class was cancelled today. This means I don't have to turn in work that is probably -- definitely -- below standard. I also get more ...