August 22, 2016

Recent Reads

121. Death: The Time of Your Life
I'm a huge fan of the Sandman series, and have been intrigued by the sibling spin offs for a while, so thought I'd try this one. If I had to pick my favorite Endless sibling, after Dream, of course, it would be Death.

This graphic novel tells a story I did not expect. It is a coming out story, and while it was interesting, Death herself only makes a cameo appearance. While, we would wish that she visits us that infrequently in real life, I wanted more of her, and less of the melodrama of the coming out story. That being said, if you are in the closet and have coming out drama, or if you want to revisit those angsty days, you might like this one very much.

I, however, did not have the time of my life while reading this one. Rating: 2 stars.

122. The Golem and the Jinni
I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by George Guidall.

A golem and a jinni walk into a bar. Well, not a bar exactly, but New York city circa early 1900s.

I've been saving this book for just the right moment, after all, it is not everyday that I am in the mood for magical realism. I was pleasantly surprised that this one is more historical fiction than magical realism. There is the golem and the jinni and other magical stuff to be sure, but their story plays out against the backdrop of 1901 New York city.

The scope of this novel is wonderful. It is an immigrant story, a coming of age one, an exploration of various cultures and the clash of said cultures. History and mythology all swirl around seamlessly in this lovely tale. The author wonderfully juxtaposes the innate characteristics of a golem and a jinni against each other, and one cannot help but see all of humanity in this exploration. I was expecting the magical realism, but the philosophical musings were an unexpected delight. This is a fun and fantastical tale that really asks what it is to be human.

The only reason I docked a star is there is some repetitive stuff that could have been edited out to make this a tighter story. After finishing this I see that there will be a sequel, and I look forward to spending more time with Chava (the golem) and Ahmad (the jinni) during the Great War. Rating: 4 stars.

123. Cowboys and East Indians
"We were the wrong kind of Indians living in Wyoming."

While in college I worked in an after school program, and a five year old girl asked me if I was Spanish. When I said I was Indian, she paused, squinted her eyes, and then calmly said, " I thought all the Indians were dead."

Another flashback. When we were kids playing Cowboys and Indians in Kenya, all of us wanted to be Cowboys, because they were the good guys, besides the Indians all got killed. Sigh.

The immigrant experience tends to be unique to each immigrant, but so is the American experience. It is too easy to cast all Americans into one bucket and call it done, but the author quickly dissuades you of that notion. These stories all have an Indian at their center, the dot not feather kind, which is also the category I fall into.

I'm not a fan of the short story format, but I really liked the voice and glimpses of the American experience captured in this one. As with any collection, there are stories I loved, and others I did not, and the ones I loved have stayed me. Rating: 4 stars.

124. The Fireman
I was in the mood for a thrillery summer read, but do expect that a few brain cells will be engaged while I read said thriller. That is not the case with this one.

This post apocalyptic story has all the summer buzz this year, and it has two things going for it in my opinion: spontaneous human combustion and about 800 pages to wallow about in for a good while. You've probably heard of the premise by now, but in case you missed it, the world has gone to hell in a hand basket, and people are a flame, literally. You know you're infected when cool markings that look that tattoos start to appear on your body. Death by spontaneous combustion is right around the corner, so how is it that there is this guy who's infected but not burning to death?

On the plus side, I really liked the premise of the story, and some of the interesting plot points. The negatives however tip the scale. The characters are not fleshed out and do not develop at all over the course of the story. Given the ecological adage of move, adapt, or go extinct, the main characters should have gone extinct. After the initial setup and world building, the plot is rather ridiculous, and predictable. I'm no rocket scientist, but I knew where this was heading the entire time. I was annoyed by the magical realism touches as they were not developed enough to really belong to this genre story. The writing is rather pedestrian and simple and might have worked better if targeted at a young adult reader. I could go on and on, by why bother? The only reason this does not get a 1 star is that I actually finished it, and that is mainly because it was a really fast read despite its size.

This is the first novel I've read by the author, though I'm a fan of his graphic novel series, Locke and Key, and if you have not read it, I would highly recommend the series. He brings some of that talent to this book; so much of the dialog felt like it was a speech bubble. Ah well, I cannot love them all I suppose. Rating: 2 stars.

125. Finding Wild
The art in this children's picture book is gorgeous, and I really like the message of getting out and exploring the natural world to "find wild", however as an adult reader the text is rather underwhelming. This one is geared for the very young, and maybe it's just right for that audience, so if you've got littles in your home this one might be worth checking out. Rating: 2 stars.

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