April 18, 2016

Recent Reads

31. Whatever You Are, Be a Good One
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this was not it. This is a book that has inspirational/self help quotes on each page. These quotes are hand-lettered, and often accompanied by a whimsical sketch. The author does make clear that this is a sample set from a project she used to improve her handwriting, but I fail to understand why this book was published. Simply not for me, but if you are a fan of quote books, you might like it. Rating: 1 star.

32. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Originally published in 1968, this post apocalyptic novel imagines the world in 2021, after the World War essentially destroyed the planet and most living things. The majority of humans now live off planet, and the ones that remain on Earth covet any living thing, be it a horse or a spider, and since most people cannot afford the real thing, they buy simulated animals. But that's not the interesting part of this story. The interesting part is that there is a new robot on the market, and this robot is virtually indistinguishable from humans. The only way to tell if one is a robot or not is to have a test administered that evaluates your empathy response to various scenarios.

I started this book in graphic format, and realized that was not working for me, so moved to the actual text itself. It is good, but not great. The exploration of what constitutes life is an interesting one, and while I enjoyed the story, it did not have the impact I was expecting based on the the premise.

As an aside, my nephews and I have a password that we have to say out loud whenever we see each other in order to ensure that they have not been replaced by a robot or alien life form. So far, so good. Rating: 3 stars.

33. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 7
This is the best one in this manga series so far. The court intrigues continue, political maneuvering, murder, all of the stuff that I now expect from these books. What this one had in addition is the story of Ejima, and it is a sad one indeed. The emotional depth conveyed in his story is wonderful. We also circle back to Yoshimune's rise to power, and she is the powerful woman indeed. Loved it. Rating: 5 stars.

34. Giant Days, Vol. 1
This volume collects Issues #1-4.

This graphic novel tells the story of Susan, Esther, and Daisy. They are three weeks into university, and have become friends because their dorm rooms are next to each other. There is much to work out when you first start university, and are away from parental supervision. I was quite amused when the characters realized that they would fail the Bechdel test. This was a fun read, though it did lack a cohesive direction. Rating: 3 stars.

35. The Price of Salt
Book blurb: First published in 1952 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan and touted as "the novel of a love society forbids," the book soon became a lesbian cult classic.

Let me start by saying that this novel is wonderfully narrated by Cassandra Campbell.

Patricia Highsmith has been on my TBR list for ages, and since I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie, the stars finally aligned. This is really a coming of age story, and I did not know that going in. Therese Belivet, 19, has dreams of being a stage designer, but in the meanwhile she's got a deary temporary job in a department store over the Christmas holidays. One day her eyes lock onto Carol Aird, a customer buying a present for her daughter, and Therese is smitten. The rest of the novel follows the relationship that develops between the two women.

Highsmith wonderfully evokes a place and time in New York, and I could almost smell the cigarette smoke, and taste the cocktails. I also really liked the exploration of power dynamics in relationships between the various couples: Therese/Richard, Therese/Carol, Carol/Harge, and the author captures really well that shock of recognition when you fall in love for the first time. However, the story moves at an incredibly slow pace, there are really tedious scenes that add little to the overall story in my opinion, and I found both women not very well fleshed out. Okay, so I do know that it was first published in the 50s, and the world was a different place back then, so there is only so much that Highsmith could get away with, but still, I expected more of an emotional depth to this story given what the main themes were. I did not love it as much as I expected to, though I was delighted that the author did not end the book the way most books/movies of that era seemed to end gay/lesbian tropes.

As an aside, the book blurb contain spoilers that, though I saw coming, might be very spoilery for some. Rating: 3 stars.

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