Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rosemary,The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

It took me a couple of days, and a few post rewrites to finally figure out what was giving me pause about this book.

It's actually not about Rosemary.

Oh sure, her name and picture is on the title, and she is mentioned throughout the book, and there are events and memories that involve her, but it's never about her. 

It's impeccably researched, but the problem is that there isn't much about Rosemary's internal thoughts and experiences. Of course there isn't, because she undergoes a lobotomy in her early 20s and spends the next decades of her life hidden away. As well, before that, Joe and Rose do everything in their power to cover up Rosemary's shortcomings, and keep her letters under lock and key.

So instead, Larson uses Rosemary to promote her viewpoints. Instead of the book being about Rosemary (seriously, couldn't you have made up something in a fictionalized account?), it's about how The Kennedy's real triumph is through the passing of various state and federal disability legislation that promoted and protected disability rights.

If you are an able-bodied person that doesn't encounter those with disabilities in their daily life, this may be an eye opening book for you. However, I am very familiar with the disability narrative, because not only do I have a masters in special education, I am also a part of the tribe. (Though John Nagle and I declared a sub-tribe for just us two).

John Nagle and I clearly do have matching overalls. But Larson didn't tell me anything knew, and she went over at length to which I practiced my eye rolling skills.

Finally, the tone of the book was just... condescending? I write that with a question mark because I can't really put a finger on it. One moment she's lauding Rose for caring for Rosemary, the next minute she's chastising the Kennedys for believing in eugenics, and finally, she's showing the readers the horrors of institutions! It felt like she was all over the place, trying to put a place for each letter she read as well as put in her own thoughts and feelings.

Overall, this book blew. I'm sure there are better books out there and ones that treat Rosemary as a person instead of a mantel that the Kennedys had to carry.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

I think our friend Scott brought it over with Wicked and Divine, and it was just put in my book pile. So instead of reading some of the biographies or non-fiction books, I figured I would give this a shot. There is a quote by Neil Gaiman, and that's cool, right? 

However, when I went to pick it up, however, Josh looked at me, and just went
He has some strong hate feelings about Sculptor, which of course made it all the more interesting.

So... it's about this guy who lives in New York City who is an artist, a SCULPTOR to be exact.
We're off to a smashing start.

He's a sculptor, but he's a struggling artist, and hasn't sold any pieces. He use to have a patron, but he no longer funds him because the Sculptor,  David Smith, is a huge dick. And realistically, probably on the spectrum? Or maybe a bit emotionally disturbed? Or probably just has a big case of the fuccbois.

Whatever his problem is, he's running out of money and is failing miserably in the most expensive city ever: NYC. He has no idea what to do, but getting a job and maybe getting a roommate is out of the question, apparently.

So he's in this diner dive, and in walks his Uncle Harry. They have this conversation, and Uncle Harry talks about what would exactly happened if he just moved out of NYC, got a job, got married and essentially give up his dream.

"No!" Dick McGee cries, and says he has to make art! Then Uncle Harry, who is really Death who sometimes wears the skin of  deceased Uncle Harry, says that he will be given a gift to create, but will only have 200 days to live. He will receive his gift at sunrise.

Rick McDick takes it and when he walks home, an angel seemingly appears out of nowhere, kisses him and tells him he's going to be alright.

Well, Fuccboi Slickrick is in love and he's super happy.

Then some bullshit happens after this where this guy, who is Ron Ramrod's best friend, tells him that he needs to get out more and drags him to a party. Some more bullshit happens and Fuck Fuckstein realizes that the angel that came to him was part of a Flash mob. He feels tricked.

Apparently David Smith... or I'm sorry, Rick Schlong, isn't too bright either.

He also does this annoying thing where he makes "rules" and he has to abide by them. "I don't take charity!" is definitely a thing he does, and I HATE it when that's a thing... because it's never a good person that says that, right? They are always super annoying and I never understand the not taking charity deal. If people want to give it you, take it! What's the big deal?

Anyway, You all probably guess how I feel about this comic.  There is a Manic-Pixi-Dream-Girl who Slick Dick falls in loves with, who is the same girl that played the Angel in the beginning of the story, and there is a lot drama and emotions along with the countdown to his death date.

Somewhere in this story Blunt Bangs girl reveals she is bipolar. She also apparently hangs out with her ex boyfriends... which are her only defining characteristics. BTW, girls that "hangs" out with her ex-boyfriends means she's still sleeping with them.

So, she loves David and tells him she's preggers, so the horrifying vision of him moving to the suburbs and having a family suddenly becomes appealing because the grass is always greener when you have a pretty booby lady with zero personality traits who wants to move into a nice house with you.

WOOF. There is a dramatic ending that doesn't pull any heartstrings. Spoiler: he dies, which kudos for McCloud for pulling the trigger so there isn't a Sculptor Two: More Sculpting.

I'm so clever sometimes.

It says something that I finished the comic since I ragequit both Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne in a week, so it's at least an entertaining way to spend a few nights reading.

I think there is a message about following your dreams... or not flying so close to the sun... or maybe not make a deal with the devil... or happiness is least where you expect it... You know? I don't know.

So if you find the comic book in your house I like I did because a friend really wanted your husband to read it, read it. Otherwise, don't spend money on it. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Alright, the final book of the series. I remembered really enjoying the Percy Jackson series way back when. I thought they were fun and creative, and they were an easy way to kill a bit of time. (My relationship at the time was starting to go south, so books are an easy way to avoid that shit storm.)

Whereas I do admire Rick's ambition to include Roman deities with an interesting way of introducing them into the Percy Jackson universe, I couldn't keep everyone's story straight, which is odd, because I'm usually pretty good about that. However, I have a sneaking suspicion it's because it was a big gap between reading The Mark of Athena and House of Hades, and I just didn't have the energy to re-read or revisit the other books before jumping in and finishing them.

Naturally, as  I read the books,  when one of the characters (Which btw, is very GOT, Riordan) makes a reference to someone else or another book, I sometimes remember but sometimes I don't... Sometimes I care when I don't remember, and then... sometimes I don't... and skim over until it becomes interesting again.

There are things that Rick does very well. He can write action superbly and does a great job of using Greek and Roman Mythology to tell a story, as well as set up a story for future books with Apollo. However, the character development fell flat during these series of books. During the Lightening Thief series, the reader has time to connect to Percy and Annabeth but in these books, Rick introduced a slew of new characters, wrote in their points of view all within the same time frame as the Lightening Thief series...and just didn't build that same connection.

The strange thing is that I didn't notice it until this book, where Piper and Annabeth have to go on a mini quest to get something... for something... in order to beat Gaea, who, once she wakes, will destroy the world. They set off to do this, and then have a conversation about boyfriends. See, Annabeth is dating Percy and Piper is dating Jason. Normally I would protest about having weird inappropriate conversations in life or death crisis, but in YA, that's not anything new.

Besides, when else can you have an conversation about the guy your dating if not trying to save the world?

Now back to the conversation by which, having two girls talk about boys isn't a bad thing. Girls talk about boys often. In House of Hades, a lot of terrible things happen to both Percy and Annabeth, and Piper wants to support her friend by talking about it. But before this conversation, I realized that I couldn't remember the last time Piper and Annabeth talked about well... anything. So instead of showing a connection between the two characters where they learn from each other, it's a device to further the plot so we can end the series already. Boo.

At least Riordan acknowledges that 14-16 years old date, whereas JK Rowling threw teenage hormones and sexual curiosity all in one book. He does a good job of having sort of be together for a bit and then come to their sense and kick some butt. So there's that, I guess.

However, it's a shame when it's revealed that Nico is in fact, gay, and has a crush on Percy Jackson (and confused as hell about it),  it plays just like the conversation between Piper and Annabeth, reads like a device with a dash of

instead of anything with real meaning.

The ONLY relationship I was invested in was not even a real relationship: Leo and Calypso. I was really glad to see him find her again... but there was no epilogue! No 'several months' later sort of deal...

So, overall.. it's a good YA series and it's entertaining, once you accept the fact that it's aimed for the YA crowd and not for 20-somethings that wished one of their parents ended up being a Greek God.

...what? A girl can dream.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Code Talker by Chester Nez with Judith Schiess Avila

I never did watch the movie, Windtalkers but the story of the Navajo Marines who developed the unbreakable code based off the Navajo language is legendary. I'm not sure if I know anyone who doesn't know the story but if you don't, you need to quickly google it, and then buy this book. I'm not sure if Audible has their sale, but if it's full price, it's so worth the money.

This is Chester Nez's memoir, one of the original 29 code developers, who took his Navajo language  with help from Judith Schiess Avila. She writes the forward, and confirms that this is his story, and his book.

I previewed some of the reviews on goodreads, and I understand why some of them didn't like the book. Some didn't like revisiting the horrors of "White Man," or thought that Judith didn't do a good job of putting together the book, wavering from a journal feel to a history lesson. I do understand the second critic and throughout the book, wavered back and forth on how I felt about Judith keeping a lot of his repetitive phrases, I ultimate appreciated it, especially towards the last quarter of the book, where he recounts his life after the war.

However, I have great issue with the first one critic. The reviewers who stated that they didn't want to feel "personally responsible" for what his ancestors did missed the point of the entire book. In spite of all he and his people had to endure, he still answered the call, and took pride for what he did and what he did to protect his family, his tribe and his country.

When I hear of what atrocities that white people in power inflicted on those who are not white and powerless, I don't feel white guilt. I look at that history as my history too, and our generation and future generations need to work together to fight against those atrocities. We need to learn and understand our past to avoid repeating the future.

ANYWAY, off my soap box.

Chester Nez 
Look at that handsome man.  It's not a spoiler, but Chester Nez lived until he was 93 and kept touring and speaking until like... 2012, or something like that. He passed away in 2014.

There were so many good pictures, but I particularly like this one because of the look, that I think his son, Mike, gives him.

Nez chronicles his life starting from the time he was born, growing up in Four Corners, New Mexico, which I appreciated because it allowed me to see who he was as a person, and all that he experienced before, during and after the war. I also appreciated the deep insight he provided about his religion and culture, which he leaned on heavily throughout the war, and when he came home to fight PTSD.

What made me a weepy mess for most of the book is the tone he takes. He could, like many others are, be really angry for the way the U.S government treats him and his people. He should be angry about the way the U.S government treated his tribe, his culture and his history... but he takes a step back, and actually reflects that the hardship he went through as preparation for what he want to do in the Marines.

Damn. We should all be ashamed.

And not that "White Guilt" either. It puts your own life into perspective in using terrible events that happened and using them for good. Chester Nez didn't have to enlist in the Marines. He did it because he wanted to serve his country, and he wanted to make his his suffering worth something.

He also is a BAMF. Because the Code Talkers were so valuable, they were not given R&R for most of the time he was in the Pacific. They worked under brutal conditions, and most Marines and Army personnel had no idea what kind work they were doing.

Now, my grandfather never fought in the Pacific. He was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, and was to be sent home. However, I remember my grandmother talking about the war when I was younger, and stating that surely my grandfather would have died, because he couldn't take the heat.

The horrors of war.

What also made me a weepy mess was what he endured after the war. He came home, unable to vote, and struggled to find his way in life. He couldn't tell anyone what he did because there may be a time that it needed to be used again. He was lucky, able to find love and a job, but he reminds the readers gently that not all those who fought were as lucky. He also reminds us that though he was honored, there were many Navajo Code Talkers that were not honored, due to the lack of legal paperwork and his memoir is for all those who served.

I quickly previewed what the Windtalkers movie was about, and now I understand a part of the book where he discusses his Marine's bodyguards. Like the rest of the book, he's so matter of fact and he simply states that he had no idea they were his bodyguards, he thought they were really good buddies, and they just liked going to the bathroom with him! He also states that he didn't know if they were given orders to kill them if they were captured by the Japanese... but thankfully, it never had to come to that.

The book itself has pictures of his life, which is probably why there were so many online. However, I think the best part of the audiobook was the interview at the end, with Judith and Chester. Hearing him speak the code gave me chills. He said he never forgot the first code he transmitted, because as soon as he sent the message, it actually happened. Hearing his voice turned him into a real person for me and that despite being forbidden to speak his own language, he went on to use that language to save many soldiers, and inevitably, turned the war.

I wanted to finish this review with pictures of the ceremony that acknowledged what the Code Talkers did. I liked the picture on the left because it shows the other Code Talkers, waiting in line. Recognizing that there were others, not just him, is what Chester would have wanted.

Finally, he mentions the picture on the right in the book. He retrieves his award and salutes President W. Bush. His son asks him why he saluted him. Chester Nez states, quite simply, that if you served, you always salute your Commander-in-Chief. It's what you do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Who can say no to Tim Mison reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for 49 cents?! I sure couldn't!

I was interested in reading the actual story that stemmed a lot of adaptations. I'm sure someone, somewhere pretentiously told me that the adaptations are nothing like the short story, but again... less than 50 cents and Tim Mison reading it? Sure!

Even though I feel slightly dirty now for saying this due to horrible allegations of domestic violence stemming from the pending divorce between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp (to be crystal clear, #imwithamber) but I will say, from what I remembered about the movie, I remembered enjoying it. I liked Burton back in high school (I don't think I ever stopped, actually) and I enjoyed Christopher Walkins and Christina Ricci as well.

Except now I'm a bit grossed out with the age difference between Johnny and Christina in that movie.

Josh and I watched first and half of the second season of Sleepy Hollow with Tom Mison and Nichole Beharie. I really liked the first season of Sleepy Hollow, where the focus was on Abbie, the cop that finds Ichabod Crane and her sister, Jenny. Josh and I lost interest in season 2 where it became solely about Ichabod and Katrina. Also, Ichabod was a Gary Stu if I ever saw one. I swear the man knew everything.

Aw man, why did they cut his hair? He looks even dumber now.

I'm sure there are other adaptations of the Headless Horseman, but obviously they aren't memorable since I don't remember them.

It always takes me a bit to get use to a British voice actor. It's not that it's harder to listen, but I have to adjust how the British say certain words. However, once I got use to Mison, he was the perfect choice to read the book.

However... seriously? That's it? After all the hype Sleepy Hollow gets, that's it? Most of the book is just describing Ichabod and his job in Sleepy Hollow... and I'm unsure whether it's satirical or not? Is Irving making fun of Ichabod or not? Is the rest of the town in on the joke that is Ichabod or not? Am I stupid or not?

It's completely underwhelming. Most of the story is about Ichabod trying to obtain the affections of Katrina Van Tassel, who is much more interested in Brom Bones, the Gaston-type character of the story. It ends with Ichabod meeting the headless horseman, after hearing so much about him throughout the story, and then mysteriously disappearing, leaving Brom Bones to marry Katrina.

Ichabod is never seen again, and though Brom Bones is definitely winking at the reader, the Dutch housewives are certain that the actual Headless Horseman found him, and now his ghost haunts Sleepy Hallow.

I guess it was good I just spent 50 cents on it and it was a good way to spend an hour or two while I worked. But... I daresay the adaptations are definitely better than the actual story.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Wicked and The Divine Vol. 1 The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles

I remember learning about this series through a variety of different posts detailing different comics books to read. It was put on my list, and I went on my merry way, not in a particular rush to buy it or read it. However, months later, Josh's friend, Scott, loaned him a few comic books, and this was one of them.

I grew up mostly on manga instead of comics, so I like the longer story format rather than the monthly installments of comics, which is partly why I was interested in this comic. I also was interested in the premise, which gods and goddesses from different religions, current and past in urban fantasy. Sure, I could make the argument that uses such mythology in any capacity is over used and over rated, but I'm a sucker for those types of stories. It was partly the reason why I was a Religious Studies minor. Aren't we all drawn a bit to the "who, what, why and how" of the mysteries of the universe? 

Or maybe it's just me? 

It's about a super fan named Laura who follows the Pantheon, a group of 12 who have been selected to merge with powerful gods and goddesses and given unlimited fame, power and wealth only to die within 2 years and reincarnated every 90 years.


I guess the reason there are such strict rules on merging with a super powerful mythological deity is so they don't become too powerful or whatever.

Joking aside, I like the strict rules placed on them, because it gives the Pantheon such urgency to live vicariously and recklessly with knowing that they have no idea how long their powers last. It also makes for a great set up to a series.

Now, I would be lying if I said I was 100% sure I knew what was going on in the first issue. There is a lot being thrown at the reader that includes the predicament of Lucifer, the introduction of these famous but doomed deities, the super fan, the world itself, along with brazenly diverse characters, Whedon-esque dialogue with a splash of super stardom and a side of cheese.

Instead of taking the time to explore the world and the setting, the authors demand the reader to buckle in and enjoy the ride, because they are not stopping to cater to those new to the world where gods and goddesses exist.

Normally, my eyes would scrap the top of my skull from rolling so hard at this. It shouldn't work, and I should be bothered by this. Seldom are authors able to pull this sort of immersion off, and I'm quick to judge those books that don't make the cut.

What I think saves it all.. is the illustrations. The art is just beautiful, and seeing these particular characters, in their diverse, wonderful glory interacting with each other and barely able to navigate their own world brought it all together for me. I was able to just sit back and enjoy the ride, bypassing the fact that I was lost on several occasions.

I can't wait to read the rest of the series... Hopefully, my friend Scott has them!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres

Thanks Audible.com, for your 4.95 sale on mostly nonfiction books (with a dash of autobiographies, biographies and classics thrown in there for good measure) because I bought a lot of them. Yes, yes, I can actually get books and audiobooks for free at the library, and slowly, I'm making my way over there. It's very bizarre, but even though my mother and I were voracious readers, we don't really go to the library. Maybe it's the time constraints and the overdue fee? And even now, even though books are free at the library, I'm still buying them?

Something is wrong with me, I know. 

Anyway, so I have a weird fascination with religions and most notably, cults. I remember reading a ton about Islam and about Latter-day Saints, and then about Fundamental Latter-day Saints. I don't know why, per say, but something about a group of people believing in something greater than themselves and these beliefs govern their daily lives just fascinates me. 

When I spotted this book in Audible, it reminded me of this story a family friend, Linda, told me. She grew up in Northern California, and would go horse back riding on a daily basis. She would ride her horse close to where the Peoples Temple Communes were located, but she didn't realize it at the time.

So of course I get the book about Jim Jones, The Peoples Temple and the demise of Jonestown. Because of course I do. 

In the beginning of the book, it's a bit hard to follow. Scheeres just jumps right in by introducing a teenager by the name of Tommy arrives to Jonestown to finally see his father after what appears to be several months of being separated. Even though there are four main characters that are followed throughout the book, she doesn't stick with them, drifting in and out between the many people who made up The Peoples Temple. 

What I also found a bit hard to swallow was just how much of her personal self and emotions she put into the book. It's a fictionalized account from her extensive research, a fact she doesn't try to hide but she emotes what Jim Jones thinks and feels, along with other characters as well, which is a bit too omnipresent for my own personal tastes. 

For half of the book, she shows the buildup of Jim Jones popularity, which at the time, I found a bit boring. At first, I thought, oh... Jim Jones just wants equality and Harvey Milk dug him? Ok then. 

Then the tides turned when the author peeled back more and more layers. The twisted and psychological mind games that Jim Jones played with his believers were terrifying like a train flying full speed into the dark, dark tunnel of Jonestown,

The last few chapters detailing the end of Jonestown, with Jim Jones descending into madness with his addiction to drugs and obsession with death shook me to the core. What turned from a Congressman checking in on his constituents into a man's last power play almost seems laughably plausible.

Throughout the book, I wanted to yell at them to run and that commanding people to write letters incriminating themselves is not a normal thing to do, and fervent tests of loyalty are also not a normal thing to do! That it's ok to back out! Don't be afraid!

I always assumed that people that were sucked into cults were gullible and devoid of critical thinking skills. However, this story, despite the author's own embellishment, shows a group of people, mostly the disenfranchised, who wanted equal rights. They wanted to help make the world a better place, and at first glance, a white man who also believed that seems to be a powerful way to go.

What also hit me hard was the story of Edith Roller because I saw myself the most in her. She was a well-educated, white woman who valued her privacy but also had a strong desire to succeed, and to use her talents for the greater good. She was in the military, and then worked for the CIA. She doesn't fit the profile for someone who would willingly follow Jim Jones into death.

It really brings it into perspective on psychopaths who use what people wish for the most to control, manipulate and gain power. Especially now, where the world is changing and all people want is for it to be better... is it so easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys?

Jim Jones started out as a man who would fight for the end of racism and promoted living in a perfect world. Politicians in California loved him and counted on his influence. He had a "rainbow family" and adopted an African American boy, and gave him his namesake, something unheard of at the time. He staged rallies, and protest, and preached about God's love and will, and about equal rights for all.

He tricked people into thinking he could heal them. He started asking for their money, and then even more of their money. He coerced people into blinding following him by intimidation, guilt, love and hope.

In this election year, where there are so many rising stars, both loved and hated... Do we truly know who the good guys are? I think about this question a lot.

Weirdly enough, I would like to see Jonestown. It's in ruins and the Guyanese government toyed with the idea of turning it into a dark tourist site where people could stay the night to get the experience of Jonestown.

Couldn't they take a page from the concentration camp memorials?

I would've liked to say that I would be interested in reading other accounts and stories of Jim Jones... but I think one book is enough.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Joyland by Stephen King

I received this book from my good friend, John, over at Rant n' Rave.  He's an excellent writer, who is working on many things at the moment, including a script that will change the 'inspirational disabled' troupe that he and I have gripe over since forever. He knew how much I enjoyed 11.22.63, so he recommended a book like it. 

I dutifully took it to jury duty, and with the slow day and no interruptions, I got through half of it. It was an easy read and King does what he does so well, which write a story where it's not full out horror, but a story based on suspense and creepiness.

You know that feeling you get when you see something move out of the corner of your eye, but when you turn to focus on it, it's no longer there? Or when the hair on the back of you neck stands up? Joyland gives me that same sensation, just like 11.22.63.

Joyland is about a young man named Devin, who takes a job at an independent amusement park for the summer after getting his heart broken by his college sweetheart. Devin is concerned about losing his virginity, replays what went wrong with his relationship, and befriends Tom and Erin, who become a couple by summer's end. He learns the ins and outs of an Amusement Park, makes a lot of friends, and slowly comes into his own with a few bumps along the way. 

Tom and Erin learns that Joyland was the setting of a murder years back, and those who work there state that some could see her ghost. As well, Devin is confronted by the park's fortune teller, who tells him that he'll meet a boy with a dog and a girl in the hat.

The reviews about this book are all over the place. Some loved it, and others hated it for various reasons. There was a rather long review about how King didn't do any research on the Amusement Park life and his lingo and set up were all wrong.

I personally enjoyed the novel simply because I don't know much about that Amusement Park life. King took me on a roller coaster (pun intended) where the end of the book had me weeping hysterically at 11pm on a Sunday night.

Josh woke up alarmed and wondered what the heck was wrong with me.  I blubbered that it was because of the ending of the book and he held me bewilderingly, not understanding a word I just said.
Even though the book was a supernatural mystery, the overarching theme was the importance of life, and that life is fleeting; take advantage of it now.

Also, be nice to sick kids, cause there is a chance they have the ability to talk to ghosts and help you out one day.

In all seriousness, I enjoyed the novel, even though I bawled my eyes out at the end. It's sad, but it's still a King creepy-mystery, which also makes it a good read.

So, thanks John. I liked the book and I cried a lot.