Monday, September 30, 2019

#CBR11 Review #33: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

CBR11 Bingo Square: Birthday

Originally I wanted to read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere for the birthday bingo square, but since our library had this book available first, I figured it was worth a read. And it certainly hit on a few soft spots in my heart along the way. Emotions? Yeah, I have those in spades, and this book absolutely brought some of them out.

Everything I Never Told You centers on a mixed-race Chinese American family named the Lee’s in the 1970’s, whose middle daughter Lydia is found having drowned in lake near the Lee’s house. The novel then flits back and forth, through the history of the family and how they relate to one another both before and after this tragic incident. Lydia’s mother is convinced someone else knows something or had a hand in her death, while the police find nothing but evidence that Lydia was a loner and believe she killed herself. Through investigating the family’s histories and the secrets they keep between one another, the tenuous relationships and moments that have defined their lives, they grieve and try to find answers that may not ever come. There were some bare bones similarities to another novel I read earlier this year, Jasper Jones, which I did like, but I think I liked this book more at the end of the day.

This story, at it’s heart, is a lonely one (and I do love me a lonely book or two). It deals greatly with racism, othering, trying to find a place when everyone thinks you are different, and even the loneliness that comes with fitting in if you are doing so in a false manner. It hits on familiar themes of expectations, and of trying to get people to notice you are not okay without directly saying it: why does no one notice? Sometimes people have ways of communicating that don’t require words, but is anyone listening? Or are we so wrapped up in ourselves and our own problems, or perhaps misconstruing a put-on happy face from others as a real one? And further than all that, this reasonably trim book also hits on dreams and goals, the pressure we put on ourselves in life, that which others place upon us, and even a certain pressure to not end up a certain way.

There were a lot of moments in Everything I Never Told You which really hit me because the emotions are extremely real and relatable to me. Is this a novel where a lot happens? Well, not really, so people who look for things that are more plot-based may be disappointed. And truth be told there were sections in this that didn’t catch me as much as others, and in fact felt like they dragged a bit. But the last quarter or so really struck me hard, and being someone who likes reading things that are more introspective, this was up my alley.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Monday, September 16, 2019

#CBR11 Review #32: Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

CBR11 Bingo Square: Travel

Now perhaps the characters in this story don’t journey far beyond their city (though they do end up in the outskirts) and largely travel within it in a physical sense, but this novel also includes a journey to an unseen world of djinn, and therefore I picked it for the Travel square for CBR bingo.

Alif the Unseen centers around a young hacker who goes by the pseudonym Alif, in an unnamed city along the Persian Gulf. This city is a security state, and he provides services to any dissidents who want to speak freely. After getting tangled up in a bit of a mess with a woman, and creating a program that can identify people’s digital footprints, he finds himself in trouble not just romantically, but now with a Prince who goes by the alias of The Hand, who seeks to imprison those who speak against the state. On the run with his neighbour, Dina, who accidentally gets caught up in everything, and with nowhere to hide, Alif finds himself seeking help and refuge from those he may never have considered, and creating a perfect storm that may just spur the revolution that people have long desired. But what if the mess Alif has made is not one that can be fixed?

The world created in Alif the Unseen is rich and detailed, a true cyberpunk fantasy that mixes the technological with old myths, religion, and philosophies in an intriguing way. Truly, this is a story of a young man finding himself heeding a call, and coming to understand a greater extension of the world. While I love the tangling of myth and science, and think that for the most part it works in this novel, this is also my one sticking point: sometimes the tech stuff gets a little too techy and I just don’t understanding what they are getting at. It’s like when I watch Mr. Robot and suddenly my brain shuts off when they start discussing more in-depth computer terms. And I thought I was pretty good at picking up technology? Hmm.

All in all, this novel was an engaging read with a pace that never felt like it was dragging, and engaging characters that made it both fun and thought-provoking. This is also, in fact, the second novel I have read from G. Willow Wilson this year, and I have enjoyed both of them!

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

#CBR11 Review #31: Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection edited by Hope Nicholson

CBR11 Bingo Square: Reader’s Choice (replacing: Classics)

Let me begin by saying that I did indeed want to read a classic for my classics square: I really wish I could get into the old language more, but it’s such a struggle for me! And truth be told I did start reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but I just kept drifting and realized about a tenth of the way in that I wasn’t up to the task (so instead I connived my friends into watching the movie as a part of our weekly movie-nights Keanu-athon, and boooooy howdy does that movie make some choices). Anywho, I therefore am using my Reader’s Choice square for the spot of Moonshot.

Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection is indeed exactly as described on the tin. This collection of short comics and graphic stories come from indigenous authors and artists (including but not limited to those identifying as M├ętis, Inuit, Dene, Anishnaabe, Cree, Mi’Kmaq, Caddo, Haida, Sioux, and Suquamish), and largely focus on lesser-known stories and beings from indigenous oral histories. A main focus of the collection is to present these stories and characters in ways that differ from the too-common stereotypes that make up the majority of aboriginal representation in media.

The stories and artwork within this collection is varied, though most of the stories included are very short: I felt like many of them were just finding their feet or barely just began and suddenly that was the end. I need to slow down and savor them a bit more. However, the inclusion of some explanations and inspirations at the beginning of each included section added a deeper understanding for me that I would not necessarily have picked up on otherwise, even if the explanation was short itself. The artwork, however, is stunning, and in particular there are a few isolated pieces that are not per-say a part of any story included that really stood out to me. These include: Water Spirit by Haiwei Hou, and Northern Crow by Stephen Gladue (also used for the cover), and a few others that I can’t find links or images of such as “Harbinger” and “Raven Stealing Light” by Jeffrey Veregge, and “Thunderbird” by Stephen Gladue.

Overall this was a quick read, and while I would have liked to have gone more in-depth with some of the stories, they all had at least some interesting aspects to them. Of course, with any collection, mileage may vary, but the scope and purpose of this work is irrevocably meaningful, and gives voice to a range of stories and perspectives that are often not well-represented. 

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]