Book Review: “Nimona” (2015) by Noelle Stevenson

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I first became aware of Noelle Stevenson through Tumblr, about five years ago. At the time, she had gained an online following for the comics she drew about movies she’d watched (Thor, The Lord of the Rings, X-Men) and general fandom experiences, like this one. She was funny and relatable, but what kept me coming back were her comments on the depiction of female characters and general misogyny in the comics industry. For example, she drew this comic about her experiences with “self-appointed gatekeepers” who make many would-be comic readers feel unwelcome. Stevenson also started the Hawkey Initiative, where she pointed out the trend of unrealistic and sexist “strong female character” poses in superhero comics and suggested that they could be fixed by replacing the character with Hawkeye doing the same thing. She invited artists to send in their creations, and the results were both hilarious and deeply uncomfortable,

At twenty-five years old, Stevenson is now working as an industry professional, and in 2015 her popular web comic Nimona was published by HarperTeen.

I’m very pleased to say that there is not a single boobs-and-butt panel to be found.

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Book Review: “Where Am I Now?” (2016) by Mara Wilson

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Picture Credit: Huffington Post.

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When I was a little girl, Matilda was my hero. I read the book until it started to fall apart, I had listened to the audio book so many times that I could recite entire paragraphs with the exact intonation the narrator used, and I would watch the movie any time I caught it on TV. Mara Wilson, the girl who played Matilda, was not as scruffy as I had always imagined the character to look when I read the book (too sweet, especially with that ribbon in her perfectly combed hair), but I still sighed with relief every time she got her happy ending.

(I also cried a lot when I listened to the West End cast recording of the Matilda musical for the first time, but that’s a story for another time.)

Years later, Mara Wilson rushed back into my world. She had a hilarious cameo on The Nostalgia Critic’s review of A Simple Wish, became a recurring guest star on Welcome to Night Vale as the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home, and before I knew it I was scrolling through her Facebook feed, laughing at her posts. She’s funny! I’m so glad she’s funny! I found myself wondering why she had disappeared from the public eye all those years ago. One minute she was a star, and the next she was gone. What happened?

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Book Review: “The Raven King” (2016) by Maggie Stiefvater

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(Well, 3.5 stars.)

Note: It’s been a while since I actually read this book (yes, I had preordered it and was eagerly waiting for the mailman the day it came out), but hadn’t been able to put together a review until now – and I felt that I should still write down my thoughts, since some of you have been asking for my opinion on the final installment in the Raven Cycle series.

I will be back to posting book reviews on a more regular basis from now on, hopefully. I have read about thirty books since my last review (as you can see on my Goodreads page) and there is no way I can possibly catch up, but I hope to at least make a dent of sorts.

That said, on to the review!

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Book Review: “Alexander Hamilton” (2004) by Ron Chernow

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I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of American history is spotty at best – only the bare minimum is covered in Dutch schools – so if you had asked me one year ago who Alexander Hamilton was, I probably would have said something along the lines of: “That name does ring a bell… One of the founding fathers, I think? Maybe. I don’t know.” One little Broadway cast recording later, I found myself diving headfirst into Thomas Paine and picking up the 800-page biography that started it all. The combined popularity of Chernow’s book and the juggernaut of a musical it inspired has brought Alexander Hamilton right back into popular consciousness in a major way, and I have been watching this development with great interest. What happens when a controversial historical figure gets dusted off and put back into the general public’s spotlight two hundred years after his death?

Memes, of course.

Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.

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Book Review: “The Price of Salt” (1952) by Patricia Highsmith

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Cate Blanchett in the 2015 movie adaptation, Carol.

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Before the 2015 movie Carol started raking in the Oscar nominations, the general public mostly knew Patricia Highsmith for her psychological thrillers Strangers On A Train (1950) and The Talented Mr Ripley (1955), two stories about mystery and murder. In fact, The Price of Salt is the only one of Highsmith’s novels that does not feature a violent crime – but it is still incredibly suspenseful. Yes, Highsmith introduces a gun in the third act, but there is more to it than that; this story about two women falling in love in 1950s New York City is set up like a detective. The protagonist, Therese, sets out to solve a very specific puzzle: does Carol love me back? Is there a chance we can be together? Do I dare to put everything on the line for her?

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Book Review: “Common Sense” (1776) by Thomas Paine

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I’ve been reading “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine
So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane
You want a revolution? I want a revelation!
So listen to my declaration:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident
that all men are created equal,”
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson
Imma compel him to include women in the sequel!
Work! (X)

Yes, I did pick up this pamphlet because I am obsessed with the musical Hamilton (what can I say, I can relate to men thinking that you’re intense and/or insane), and I am so glad that I did. Common Sense is a remarkable read that holds up incredibly well and is worth reading for anyone interested in history or political philosophy. Who’d have thought that an eighteenth-century political essay would make me laugh out loud multiple times?

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Book Review: “Welcome To Night Vale” (2015) by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

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In the summer of 2013, Tumblr was briefly taken over by a curious little fandom – a podcast by the name of Welcome To Night Vale. Up to that point, no one had ever heard of it and those in the know had trouble explaining it to newcomers. “It’s like if Twin Peaks had a local radio show. And there were angels. And an entire civilisation of tiny people hidden underneath the bowling alley. …You kind of have to find out for yourself – just listen.” After a few days of scrolling past pictures of mysterious desert landscapes and fanart of the stars above a glowing Arby’s sign, curiosity got the best of me and I downloaded the first few episodes. An hour later, I was hooked.

Over the next couple of weeks, the smooth voice of Cecil Baldwin became my constant companion as I did my grocery shopping, folded laundry, and waited for the bus (bus not here why the bus so late). For me, this story could not have come at a better time; after my obsession with the TV show Hannibal and Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves earlier that summer, Night Vale‘s strange combination of horror and comedy fit right in. As time went on, I dusted off my rarely-used credit card to buy the crossover episode with The Thrilling Adventure Hour, got a ticket to one of the live shows, and started exploring other podcasts like Serial and The Infinite Monkey Cage. Night Vale ended up being much more than a summer obsession – it was an eye-opener.

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Book Review: “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks” (2009) by E. Lockhart

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This was a first for me – a book cover that informs you of the main elements of the plot (see picture above). Pranks? Infiltration? Secret society? Boys? How thrilling! On top of this premise, I had heard good things about this author’s other book, We Were Liars, so I was very excited to start reading this novel. In some respects The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was better than I had expected it to be; Lockhart manages to tackle issues of gender and power in a thoughtful yet accessible way. How many young adult books introduce their readers to Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon? I know sixteen-year-old me would have been hooked (and would have worked the Panopticon into every single one of her school essays and presentations for the rest of the year).

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