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Dead Harvest

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You know those kitschy Chinese lucky cats? Yeah, well, next time you're dining at a local Chinese restaurant, you might want to pick up one, or two, or three to have on hand for when shit gets real. This is the most important lesson I learned from Dead Harvest, but you'll have to read the book to find out why.Sam has been merrily plucking the souls of the living for decades now, with no remorse. As a Death Collector, remorse really isn't an issue. Souls need to be harvested when their hosts are ready to shuffle off this mortal coil. It's all part of the complex system that keeps everything in balance between The Maker and The Adversary, as well as the host of angels and demons that do their bidding. And, all things considered, both the holy and the damned are happy with the arrangement and don't want to do anything to tip the balance in such a way that will usher in the apocalypse.That's why Sam hesitates on his newest assignment. When he is sent to collect the soul of Kate, a teenager guilty of torturing and murdering her entire family, Sam is shocked to discover that, as he closes his fingers around her soul, it is pure, innocent, blameless--and if there's one thing guaranteed to piss off those up on high, it is the reaping of an innocent soul by the damned. The evidence against Kate is irrefutable, but so is the spanking white condition of her soul. Until Sam can figure out the paradox, he kidnaps Kate, bringing all the forces of Heaven and Hell to bear on him.Another reviewer compared this to one long chase scene, which is apt. The action begins on page 1 and never lets up. But it's a clever chase scene, full of quirky (if sometimes underdeveloped) characters, a fun mythology, and sharp dialogue. It's Good Omens meets Elmore Leonard. As a Death Collector, the character of Sam is a likable anti-hero, wanting to do the right thing yet managing to make a fuster-cluck out of everything. His inability to live outside of a human body (living or dead) is a twist that created several unique problems for an essentially immortal (though certainly not all-powerful) being, and it provides interesting narrative possibilities for future books. He prefers the bodies of the recently deceased ("meat suits") because he's not hindered by the internal monologue and pesky thoughts of sharing a body with a living host. Also, if a living host is killed while he's in the body, his soul is jettisoned out and into another body, which could be nearby or on the other side of the world. Because Sam still has a conscious, he doesn't want to destroy any living vessel he's "borrowed," but circumstances don't always make his choices so easy and his aversion to danger possible.I can't wait to get my hands on the second book (which features Sam on the cover, looking a lot like John Constantine--or is that just my imagination?).
World War Z

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I have biblio-cooties.There. I said it and I accept it. Because the majority of my friends really, really loved this book. And I fear they will reject me now that they know that it did little to nothing for me. I shall have to sit alone in the library, other readers keeping a wide berth for fear of contagion, but I cannot tell a lie and I stand by my pronouncement: Hi, my name is Amanda and I did not enjoy World War Z. In the past, I have ripped into books I disliked with a gleeful, almost maniacal abandon, and so there are some who may suspect that I will do so here. But this is an entirely different case, for World War Z's fault is not that it's a bad book. It's well-written, it's got an intriguing conceit (the tale of the zombie apocalypse told in journalistic hindsight from the perspective of those who survived), some imaginative scenarios (sure, we've all thought about zombies on land, but what about zombies underwater?). In fact there's no fault at all here other than the fact that, as far as undead ghouls go, I'm Team Vampire. I've never really found anything that frightening about zombies, other than a certain "Eww" factor that compels me to think about how I need to stock up on hand sanitizer and wet wipes in a zombiefied world because they're leaving nasty bits and pieces everywhere. To me, there is nothing more frightening than intellect coupled with either undeniable evil or with moral apathy. Since zombies are basically husks driven by a biological imperative instead of conscious thought, they're not my monster of choice. The only zombie flicks I've enjoyed have been Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. Humor + zombies = a win. Horror + zombies = not so much.So I knew going in that this was likely a swing and a miss, but it had received such rave reviews that I couldn't resist. I thought the journalistic style might appeal to me, but few of the voices were clearly differentiated enough for me to connect with any one character. There were 3 or 4 stories that really engaged me, but not enough to enjoy the overall experience. What was really frightening, however, is that Brooks does an excellent job of showing how ill-equipped we are globally to deal with any type of rapidly-spreading contagion and the fear and panic that comes out of facing an unknown. Particularly in first world countries, we are so complacent with "knowing all the answers" and controlling everything that the mental toll of facing a problem we could not solve would be just as damaging as the physical one. Brooks does an excellent job of capturing this.
Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam

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In his famous chapter How to Tell a True War Story from the Vietnam classic The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien says, "True war stories do not generalize. They do not indulge in abstraction or analysis. For example: War is hell. As a moral declaration the old truism seems perfectly true, and yet because it abstracts, because it generalizes, I can't believe it with my stomach. Nothing turns inside. It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe" (78).Kill Anything That Moves is not a pleasure to read. It's not an entertainment. It's a rote account of atrocity after atrocity that gives names and faces to the abstraction created by numbers and statistics. And I felt it in my stomach with every turn of the page. This is war at its most foul, most hellish, most base and brutish. In other words, it's war without the veneer of romanticism; it's war that is not cloaked in nobility and honor and valor. It's about what men can and will do to a people they feel are inferior, labeled as "Other." It's an important book because it confronts us with the truth of what war is and the toll it takes on the land on which it's fought and its civilian populace. And it reminds us of the moral corrosion it sometimes inflicts upon the boys--little more than children--who fight it. Countless novels and non-fictions have been written about the horror of the Vietnam War and the impact it had on a generation, and rightly so. It is important to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of those who fought, regardless of how one feels about the policies of the U.S. in Vietnam. However, those accounts have mostly focused on the American cost in the war. Turse's account is different in that its purpose is to explore the war atrocities committed by American forces as a result of military policies that reinforced a "kill anything that moves" mentality. The book also reveals that My Lai was not an aberration, but only seemed one after the military used intimidation and cover-ups to keep other atrocities quiet and out of the media. This was especially true of Operation Speedy Express in the Mekong Delta, which led to approximately 5,000 civilian deaths (250).Because Vietnam was not traditional Western warfare where troops met on a battlefield, the notion of "body count" as a means of determining who was winning was instituted. The results were disastrous. War became a machine with a quantifiable output, leading to increasing pressure to produce high body counts as a sign of American victory. From this, the "Mere Gook Rule" mentality was born--if it's Vietnamese, it must be VC. Kill boards were sometimes erected, keeping tally of how many kills a unit had. Because troops were told that anyone who ran in the presence of U.S. military must be a VC and could therefore by justifiably killed as an enemy, civilians were often purposefully frightened so that they would run. Women, children, and old men who clearly were not enemies were tortured and killed with little or no effort given to ensuring they were, in fact, the enemy. Weapons were planted on some of the bodies so they could be called in as enemy kills. For example, Operation Speedy Express yielded results such as "During the week of April 19 . . . 699 guerillas had been added to the division's body count (at the cost of a single American life), but only nine weapons were captured" (250). Such discrepancies should have raised suspicions--and, in fact, often did--but the whistle blowers were often threatened into keeping quiet. Turse chronicles these harrowing events, both from the perspective of the Vietnamese survivors and from interviews conducted with American veterans. Turse clearly points the finger of blame at a military establishment more concerned with sweeping everything under the rug than confronting the demons it created with its both spoken and unspoken policies. He's not without sympathy, however, on the part of the average soldier in Vietnam and he doesn't generalize. Not every American in Vietnam is portrayed as a ruthless killer. Many of the soldiers, fresh out of high school, were placed in a war where not knowing who the enemy was, seeing the gruesome and tragic deaths of their comrades, and spending endless days humping through the boonies while worrying about a seemingly phantom enemy created a sense of disorientation, fear, and anger. Combined with fear of retribution should they disobey orders, many would do as they were told without second guessing command. The book is also not without its heroes. Men like Jamie Henry, Ron Ridenhour, and the 100 Vietnam veterans who testified at the Winter Soldier Investigations refused to remain silent about what they had seen, and participated in (both willingly and unwillingly), in Vietnam. The Winter Soldier Investigations themselves "put the lie to any notion of bad apples and isolated incidents . . . the Winter Soldiers explicitly pointed to superior officers and command policies as the ultimate sources of the war crimes they had seen or committed" (239). It took tremendous courage to stand up to the military establishment and these men should be praised for their refusal to keep silent on behalf of a people who seemed a world away to the average American.I'm not naive enough to think that war is completely unavoidable. However, books like Turse's remind us of what war really is and how it can warp the morality and finer points of human nature. It's also a reminder that when we send our men and women in uniform to fight on behalf of our country, we better make certain it is for a justifiable cause--because the costs are just too high and the sacrifice too great, for both sides, when it's not.
Under the Tuscan Sun

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At 66 pages in, I'm throwing in the towel.Somewhere around the age of 22 or 23, I decided I was done with library books. Now, don't get me wrong, I love and appreciate libraries. I became a reader because of access to wonderful libraries. But, as an adult, I'm OCD enough not to enjoy the concept of library books. Wondering how many people read them while on the toilet, encountering books that smelled like ash trays, finding potato chip crumbs wedged between pages 32 and 33, encountering a sticky cover, or, dear God, whose hair is that?!!?--these are all things that would give me a nervous twitch for days. Add to that a county library that seemed unaware of the existence of authors other than Nicholas Sparks, Norah Roberts, James Patterson, and John Grisham, well, the choice was clear. I had to buy my own books.The thing is, I was so punchdrunk giddy with the idea of buying my own books and not being limited to what was on the library shelves that I was pretty damn bad at it in the beginning. I bought anything and everything that struck my fancy. Part of this was also because I was willing to see if I was the kind of person who would like these books that I didn't have access to previously. A book about a woman moving to sun-drenched Italy and finding herself? Why not? Maybe I'm the kind of person who could like that. My shelves are still filled with secret shames I acquired in those heady days of biblio-freedom. Let's just say that, today, I am not the kind of person who would ever pick this book up. Under the Tuscan Sun is not a bad book. It's just not a me book. As far as I can tell, here is the basic premise:1) Frances and Ed search all of Italy for the perfect summer house and have terrible trouble finding the place that's meant for them (talk about rich people problems, eh?)2) Frances and Ed buy the house that speaks to them--and apparently the house is saying, "Freeze! Gimme all your money and no one gets hurt!" Because this house needs some serious work.3) Frances and Ed perpetually need or get permits, contracts, money wires, and estimates for the bajillion and one things that need to be fixed. Every time the expense is exorbitant, but, before one can feel sorry for them, they scrape together the money needed with seemingly minimal effort. It's kind of like the movie The Money Pit with Tom Hanks and Shelly Long--only this time I was kind of rooting for the house. 4) Frances and Ed make a quaint little discovery on their property! Isn't Italy wonderful!5) Something else goes wrong with the house. (Stick it to 'em, house!)6) Frances cooks something. It's always Italian. It always has fresh ingredients. It is always fabulous.It reads like a well-written, but repetitive and ultimately uninteresting diary.Now, again, I did not finish reading the book, but skimmed through it enough to feel fairly assured that nothing new was ever going to happen. Other reviews reaffirmed this belief, so I do not feel compelled to read further. Had this been a travel article, I probably would have been intrigued but I just can't do another 240 pages of this. And so, Under the Tuscan Sun, ciao! I'm off to sunnier literary climes.Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
Curse of the Spellmans

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3 1/2 stars for this one.Curse of the Spellmans is the sequel to The Spellman Files, a novel about an unconventional family that runs a private investigation firm. I really enjoyed The Spellman Files--it's light, amusing, and there is an inventive quality to the narrator, Izzy Spellman's, manner of conveying her story. Because of her training as a P.I., Izzy tells us everything in the form of case file reports and transcripts of secret recordings. What worked for the first novel lost some of its quirky charm for me in the second novel simply because I expected it. However, that is not to say that I didn't enjoy Curse of the Spellmans, because I certainly did.Izzy Spellman is now 30 years old and has spent half of her life working for her parents' private investigation firm. Because she was exposed to this lifestyle in her impressionable years, Izzy is pathologically suspicious of everyone and everything, and she lacks the ability to compartmentalize her work life and her personal life. With skills like surveillance, lock picking, on-the-spot lying, GPS tracking, and performing routine background checks, woe upon you if Izzy thinks you're hiding something from her. As one might expect, this wrecks any chance Izzy has for a normal romantic relationship. Izzy fast-forwards through the whole "getting to know you" stage of a blossoming romance in favor of gaining DOB and SSN to rummage around in the prospective romantic interest's background. This usually leads to some serious trust issues on the part of the men who fall for Izzy and, as a result, Izzy is still single. And it's just this pattern of thinking that leads her to believe that her next-door-neighbor-and-potential-future-boyfriend is hiding a criminal past behind his suspiciously average name and an even more suspiciously locked door in his home. In addition to this mystery, Izzy's family members seem to have secrets of their own and Izzy, a complete stranger to the concept of personal privacy, begins to ferret out why her brother's wife seems to have disappeared, why her mother runs suspicious errands at 2:30 a.m., why her father is rapidly losing weight, and why her loner sister suddenly has friends no one in the family has ever met.If this sounds like another light, chick-lit screwball comedy, it is. The novels don't focus on the serious investigations of the Spellman Agency and instead focus on what happens in a family trying to keep secrets and boundaries when their bread-and-butter is to cross boundaries as a routine part of discovering the secrets of others. The mysteries really don't matter. They're simply vehicles for getting to know this bizarre and dysfunctional and frequently amusing family.
This is Where I Leave You

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Judd Foxman had a content, but not always perfect marriage to the woman of his dreams. And then, I guess because Life just enjoys being an asshole, Life knocks Judd down. Judd and his wife lose their first baby, which causes Judd to lose his wife to his boss, which causes Judd to lose his job. And, because Life in this book likes to remorselessly kick people while they're down, Judd loses his father to cancer. And just when you think things can't get any worse, Judd finds out that his atheist father's last request is for his emotionally stunted family to sit shiva, seven days for a family full of anger and resentment and unresolved issues to come together and morn. Oh, and Judd's soon to be ex-wife is pregnant. Judd is clearly Life's bitch. To say that the Foxman family is dysfunctional is an understatement. They're nuckin' futs, folks. There's the oversexed, always inappropriate mother. The middle-aged failed-college-athlete brother. The perpetual boy-child younger brother. The bitter and sarcastic child-factory of a sister. The anxious and emotional sister-in-law desperate for her own child. The brother-in-law who is always glued to his cell phone while spitting out words like "mergers" and "net profit." And lonely, depressed Judd. The whole dysfunctional family thing is a tricky one for me. When done well, I can't get enough. For example, I love Arrested Development, a show that got the concept just right. But This is Where I Leave You, while admittedly hilarious in spots, is just trying too hard for the laughs in others. These laughs are even harder to come by when one takes into account the angry and bitter tone that runs throughout. It seems to want to be a comedy and a thought-provoking look at mortality and family, but never hits the right balance.I think what's lacking in the novel is Arrested Development's key to success: Michael Bluth. In a family this messed up and unlikable, you need a relatable character--one you can root for, one that you like, one whose normalcy plays straight man to the overabundance of quirky found in the other characters. I need such a lynchpin character to connect me to the others, because normally these are people I would actively avoid in real life. And Judd Foxman is not such a character. When I say he's Life's bitch, I mean it. Life happens to Judd; he seldom acts to change it or fight against it. He mopes, he whines, he thinks about sex. It's tedious as he's an underdog that I honestly believed deserved to be an underdog. Judd Foxman, you, sir, are no Michael Bluth.So why the 3 star? There were parts I liked, moments of real, honest humor and the scenes where Judd reflects on the father he remembered and the father he lost to the unavoidable act of growing up have a real poignancy. I wish more time had been spent pursuing this aspect of the novel and less in mourning the loss of a marriage.
The Sisters Brothers

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I like reading about bad people in fiction. And, lest we jump to conclusions, it's not because I'm a bad person myself (at least not in the torture or kill people kind of way; no, the sins in which I dabble are much more pedestrian than that), but it's because I like peering into those dark little corners of their brains. And, what is often the most frightening and fascinating is when I find that, really, they're much more like me than I care to admit. Take Pulp Fiction, for example, which may be my favorite movie of all time. Sure, you've got some of the old ultraviolence, but what's really chilling is to see how it's part of the average work day for Jules and Vincent. Their days are filled with conversations both philosophical and mundane, punctuated by acts of violence that they accept as part of how their world works. When we think of men who can kill, we think of monsters, depraved beings who have no moral compass, an inability to reason. While that is certainly sometimes the case, sometimes we find that--behind the monster--there is just a man, one who knows that what he is doing is wrong, but does it anyway: for money, for love, for power. And what worked for Pulp Fiction is what works for The Sisters Brothers.Charlie and Eli Sisters are two of the most feared assassins in the West, working for a shadowy figure known only as "The Commodore." Charlie, the older brother, is ruthless and power hungry, while his brother, Eli, is a sensitive sort who is prone to violence when he becomes enraged--a tool often used by Charlie to his advantage. Even in adulthood, Eli is relegated to the archetypal role of the younger brother, haplessly following and obeying his older brother, while occasionally challenging Charlie just to see how far he can be pushed. The brothers are sent by The Commodore on an errand to kill Hermann Kermit Warm, a prospector who has crossed The Commodore in ways unknown to the brothers. Not that it matters as their job is to kill and not ask questions. The journey there provides the brothers with adequate time to be attacked by a bear, run into a backwoods witch, visit a brothel, and encounter characters curious and strange. As the men travel, we see them banter back and forth, every bit true siblings, alternately needling each other's quirks and weaknesses and then engaging in profound conversations about their beliefs and shared history. The dialogue between the brothers is the real treat of the novel--witty and peculiarly formal (think Charles Portis' characters as portrayed in the Coen version of True Grit). As he longs for love, worries about his weight, discovers the joys of dental hygiene, and wrestles with his disdain and admiration for his one-eyed, cantankerous horse, Tub, Eli Sisters is the more relatable of the two brothers. However, before one can become too attached to either character, a scene of needless and wanton violence reminds us that both of these men are killers and, for all the contemplation of human nature the two engage in, it proves as difficult to put down a gun as it is to pick one up.
Stormdancer: The Lotus War Book One

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And now, the book genre I did not know I had been waiting my whole life to read: Japanese steampunk. Oh, hell yes.Set in an alternate feudal Japan where a crumbling empire is teetering on the brink of collapse due to its dependence on the blood lotus (a plant that powers their machines, drugs their populace, and is rapidly destroying their land while it pollutes a sky that has turned red from its toxins), Yukiko is a member of the Fox Clan. Her father, the imperial hunter, is given an impossible task--to catch an extinct griffin and return it to the power crazed Shogun. When the quest proves successful, Yukiko uses her secret gift, the Keening, to probe the mind of the griffin only to find the animal possesses a human like consciousness and intelligence. The Keening is a gift for which Yukiko could be killed if it's discovered by the religious zealots known as The Guild, mechanized men who keep the blood lotus blooming and wield the true power of the Shogun's empire. As her mind becomes increasingly intertwined with that of the griffin, Yukiko begins to question the rigid class system and the reliance upon a power source that is so clearly destroying the environment and the minds of the populace. During the first 40 pages or so, I was settling in to truly dislike the book. I mean, it's got some problems: some purple prose here and there, a bit of melodrama, a monster that seems a little too easily tamed, and some seriously anachronistic language (I was ready to bail when a poster in the beginning encourages people to "be all that you can be"). At times, it also seems as though the author is trying too hard to convince us that he knows Japanese history and culture (seppuku is mentioned umpteen times--yes, we get it, you know what seppuku is; move on). The environmental theme also bothered me in the beginning; the blood lotus as a stand-in for big oil is pretty transparent. I can attribute my initial reaction to the fear that the core of the book was simply going to be a didactic environmental message and the fantasy elements were simply a veneer for an agenda. Once I realized the environmental message was taking absolutely nothing away from the world-building, I embraced it. (By the way, I have nothing against such messages and, in fact, whole-heartedly agree with them; I just prefer them in non-fiction form.) However, there's also a lot that's right: 1984-esque overtones, an inventive world, Iron Samurai, air ships powered by the blood lotus, Japanese mythology, and, my favorite, the Keening that allows you to witness Yukiko and the griffin become of one mind (this also helps offset the seemingly impossible ease with which Yukiko tames the beast; in fact, she becomes more aggressive and animalistic in her responses as the griffin engages in more complex thought and emotion). Also, I look forward to Kristoff exploring the framework of The Guild in future novels as they're only introduced here and, as a secret sect, offer many possibilities as antagonists in future novels.All in all, this is an impressive debut and I'm sure that the series will only get better. I'll definitely be on the lookout for book 2.
Three Parts Dead

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When your god has died, who ya gonna call? Why, the thaumaturgical firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, of course.At least that's what the priesthood of Alt Coulumb does when their fire deity, Kos, snuffs it (a rather embarrassing turn of events for a god billed as "Kos the Everburning"). Without his power driving the steam engines of the city, Alt Coulumb will eventually come to a grinding halt, so it is up to Tara Abernathy (the newest recruit of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao) to unravel the circumstances surrounding the death of Kos and determine if there is enough of the deity left to resurrect a remnant of his power to keep Alt Coulumb moving. To complicate matters, Tara suspects that Kos did not just die--he was murdered.Welcome to Three Parts Dead, a novel set in an unclear time and an unclear place populated by Stone Men (gargoyles that can shift into human form), vampire pirates, Justice personified, fallen gods, deified humans and all other manner of weird and wonderful things held together by the Craft, the magic of starlight and earth wielded by Craftspeople like Tara. It's a world where gods use their power to barter with other cities and other gods, and where the death of one god can leave the whole world in a precarious position indeed. It's also a world still feeling the effects of the God Wars, a war between gods and Craftspeople that took place decades before and led to deep distrust between religious factions and practicioners of the Craft. All of this creates a complex mythology and political structure that hopefully author Max Gladstone has just begun to dip into as there's enough at work here to keep a well-written series going for several more books. Gladstone's inventiveness is impressive and, despite a sometimes baroque attention to detail, the narrative never gets bogged down and moves along at a brusque pace. Unlike many fantasy novels, he largely avoids the "infodump" in favor of just dunking your ass into the deep end of the pool and seeing if you can swim, a method of storytelling I much prefer as it leaves the reader to assimilate himself while exploring the world he has created. If I have one complaint with the novel, it's that there is a lot going on, with a lot of people involved, and all at a breakneck speed. Frankly, I could have done with 50 more pages if it would have slowed things down a bit as a whole lot goes on over the span of what is apparently two days. The ultimate villain is also a little obvious, but the manner in which the villain is discovered and dealt with more than makes up for it. Overall, this was one weird little ride that I enjoyed the hell out of. So much so that his next book, Two Serpents Rise is already on my pre-order list.
How to Be a Woman

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Quite an uneven reading experience, a fault I largely blame on the marketing of this book. How to Be a Woman is touted as basically "Feminism--now with jokes!" And that's a concept that I could get onboard with. I would consider myself a feminist, I would consider myself moderately amusing at times, and I would consider myself a fan of Caitlin Moran's white streak in her wild mane--a bit reminiscent of the 90's version of Rogue. So, yes, let's do this! I want to feel empowered as a woman, I want to laugh, and I want to rewatch the X-Men cartoons on Netflix!This was reaffirmed when I heard an NPR interview with Caitlin Moran. She spoke intelligently about a variety of topics facing women and was very humorous in doing so. She sounded like someone I would like: funny, self-deprecating, and smart.So did the book live up to my expectations? Not so much. The main reason is that instead of a funny feminist manifesto, the book is basically a memoir that should have been titled How to Be Caitlin Moran. Not that that is a bad thing as I still find Moran likable, but I generally do not like memoirs. I was expecting a book of ideas. And there are wide swaths of Moran's life that I simply can't relate to. Other than the chapter I Am a Feminist!, there's surprisingly little feminism in the book other than sprinkling the term "strident feminist" in some seemingly incongruous places (such as "But what am I wearing, now? As a strident feminist, how am I dressed?" [202] in the chapter I Get Into Fashion!). As though there's some sort of feminist dress code? It may be simpler to split this up into what I did and did not like about the book, so without further ado:What I Did Like About the Book1. From the chapter on feminism, Moran presents a simple test for discovering whether or not you're a feminist: "So here is the quick way of working out if you're a feminist. Put your hand in your underpants. a. Do you have a vagina? and b. Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said 'yes' to both, then congratulations! You're a feminist" (75). She makes the point that almost every woman in the Western world is a feminist, whether they like being associated with that "dirty word" or not. Even women who say they're not feminists are enjoying the fruits of feminism as there was a time when a woman wasn't allowed to have an opinion, let alone express it. Being in charge of one's reproductive rights is a much larger issue than that of abortion. Deciding for yourself if you want to have one child, fifteen children, or none at all, thank you very much, is a right women haven't traditionally had before. Being able to say "enough already" is certainly a right women should be thankful for as so many women who came before us dropped a kid yearly, preferably sometime between clearing away the breakfast dishes and making supper.2. Moran's funny, unapologetically irreverent take on everything. I didn't always agree with her views, but admired that she had the daring to say them. If there's one thing you can't claim, it's that she's inauthentic.3. Her chapter on marriages. Weddings have become a ridiculously high-priced event that generally makes everyone involved miserable.4. The extremely honest chapter about her own experience with abortion. Agree or disagree with abortion, so many make up their mind without having lived through it or, you know, asking the women of a society what they think. Reading about it from a personal level brings up some interesting points for thought and reflection.5. Moments like this: "This is the first time I've really been out in the world and met adults. Previously, all my socializing took place on the dance floor and in the bathroom of the Raglan, a tiny dark pit populated by fringed, boot-wearing teenagers: essentially a playpen with a bar. Our innocence was obvious--it shone in our faces the same way our teeth glowed white under the UV light. Yes, people were having sex, and fighting, and spreading rumors, and taking drugs--but it was essentially like tiger cubs knocking each other around, claws velveted. We were all equal. There was no calculation or recrimination. Everything was forgotten after a nap" (117). I just like that.What I Did Not Like About the Book1. Dear GOD!!!!! I did not like all of the FREAKING UNNECESSARY CAPITALIZATION that made me feel like I was reading an unhinged TEENAGER'S DIARY!!! And for the love of all that is punctuation, would someone please remove the exclamation mark from Moran's keyboard? Early in the book, I thought this was just an affectation meant to show how the teenage Moran thought and felt; however, it continued, unrelentingly throughout the entire book. Every single chapter title ended with an exclamation. 2. There were some squirm worthy moments: I did not enjoy reading about Moran's early experiences with menstruation. I did not enjoy the suggestion that one should taste one's menstrual blood. I did not enjoy the suggestion that one should name one's vagina and one's breasts. Granted, I'm the type of person who perpetually lives in fear of TMI--Caitlin Moran clearly does not.3. The suggestion that Lady GaGa is a feminist and should be placed upon a pedestal. To me, a feminist icon should be one who presents ideas. GaGa strikes me more as someone who is reaping the benefits of feminism, but not adding much new to the conversation. She is definitely a polarizing lightning rod, but more in the realm of image and sexuality. She definitely confronts and shatters stereotypes, but beyond that adds little to the conversation. 4. The fact that there's so little feminism in a book supposedly about feminism.
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