meghan rose allen

Review of Betty Boop by Roger Langridge

Posted by in netgalley copy

Previously, my entire exposure to Betty Boop was her bit in Roger Rabbit, although, like Star Wars and pop music, Betty Boop as a cultural-concept has long buried its way into my subconscious. Plus, like me, she has a middle part (in her hair), so I feel we should stick together (although my middle-part is a lot more Joey on Dawson's Creek than Betty Boop). I'm also somewhat concerned, as I am with Wonder Woman, as to the state of Betty Boop's back due to her mammary endowments. That and she's apparently sixteen. I don't really know if this:

is a good look for a sixteen year old. I mean, the Jazz Inspector, who is clearly an adult (and who calls the Jazz Police!), is hitting on her in a way that a grown man should not be hitting on a sixteen year old. Thankfully for all her questionably appropriate attire, Langridge's Betty Boop never uses her sexuality as a performance: she's a waitress who wants to be a singer and she just so happens to look like Betty Boop.

How much boob tape (Boop tape?) do you think someone needs to keep that dress up? My enquiring mind wants to know.

So this book is a collection of four Betty Boop comics, in which the Devil sends a lizard to try and steal Gramps' house so that the Devil can claim Betty Boop's innocent soul for his own and ... well, it doesn't work obviously (I guess that's a spoiler, but this isn't some gritty reboot of Betty Boop where Gramps is a junkie and she's been sold into sex slavery or anything like that). It's seems rather convoluted a premise, but maybe the old Betty Boop cartoons (again -- all I know is this) are as wacky and convoluted. The whole thing read like watching a cartoon -- when I think back to last night (when I read it before going to bed), it isn't as if I read a book, but as if I watched cartoons. I like cartoons. And for all its silly twistiness, I liked this Betty Boop comic collection too.

Betty Boop by Robert Langridge went on sale May 16, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

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Ahh, to once again be a swooning high school student, with true love meaning a struggle against miscommunication, errant text messages, and interference by meddling friends. Without a physical Cyrano around, our heroine Phoebe resorts to cribbing behaviour and repartée from her favourite paranormal YA novels. Does she get the guy (it's a teen romance novel, so the answer to that should be obvious)? Do we know the outcome pretty much from the get-go (again, teen romance, obvious answer)? Did that stop me from greedily rushing through to the end to make sure (randos on the internet may not know me, but rest assured, this is another obvious answer)?

It's an escapist, romance novel where I can pretend that all high school are like fictional American high schools with football teams and clubs and friends whose parents give them cars, rather than the hellish, lonely, public transit slog that my high school years turned into, and that even if I am a bookish, antisocial crafter, I can Mary Sue myself up and get a hot guy and it'll all be wonderful (I originally typed worderful, which I think may be an even better word to describe Bookishly Ever After) fantasy and doesn't high school seem much better in fiction? In my nightmares where I'm back in high school, I'm going to start hoping for some fictional locales.

Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira went on sale January 12, 2016.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of Coullian Cuill by Riti Bridie

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Just flat out there: I did not like this book. Characters in the book seemed quite blasé about the fact that there are ghosts all around and that they get to be ghost guardians. Wouldn't they freak out? I'd freak out if someone was like "Here, run a race against all these phantoms and if you win, you've got a job looking after ghosts." Obviously, it's a fantasy, and people can act differently in fantasies, but I couldn't wrap my head around anyone's behaviour and it ruined the book for me.

Coullian Cuill by Riti Bridie went on sale May 28, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

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I hate writing reviews for books that I didn't like (especially since it seems whenever I write anything less than complimentary, the authors contact me and try to convince me that I'm wrong), so I'll say, for Stay With Me, that the book works better in theory than in practice. In theory: when a wife fails to fall pregnant, her inlaws convince her husband to take a second wife. In practice: facile characters who behave with no more depth than a child's puppets made from construction paper and popsicle sticks. As an example: the second wife. It wouldn't have been out of place for her to cackle maniacally. There's no examination of what she is getting out of the arrangement. She exists solely as a foil for the main character to rage against.

I was excited to read this book. Sadly, it's one of those books where melodrama replaces character depth. Books like this make me feel manipulated: of course I'm going to feel badly for people in sorry situations (infertility under a dictatorship), but when there's no further complexity to the characters other than their sorry situations, when the characters are defined solely by their sorry situation, I'm going to get frustrated. And I got frustrated.

Boo.

(Hopefully too Ms Adebayo isn't going to write me something to tell me I'm a jerk for not liking her novel. Fingers crossed.)

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo went on sale August 22, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of The Voynich Manuscript by Whoever Wrote It with intros and background by some other people

Posted by in netgalley copy

Well, that was a bit of an anti-climax, although I'm not quite sure what I was expecting -- a sudden, complete translation, that I'd look at it and my background in mathematics and cryptography would just reveal everything to me, even though clever mathematicians and cryptographers than myself have tried? I guess, yes, a little. In any case, my copy from Netgalley was fairly pixelated and impossible to make out the individual "letters", so even if I'd been visited by an expected bit of genius, it wouldn't have mattered much. So yeah, I did not crack the code.

There's an intro and historical overview, not going as in depth into the math and statistical analysis as I would have liked. It was interesting, but didn't tell me much more than I already knew. The pictograms on the bottoms of the pages in the actual manuscript, telling you where in each folio each page went, or how it was laid out on the fold-out pages, was helpful. But, in the end, like in my last book review, I wanted this to be a coffee-table book, not a blurry collection of squiggles on my ipad.

The Voynich Manuscript by ? went on sale August 15, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

(I have put that I want to connect with the author on Netgalley, who has yet to set up any seances for me with regards to dead authors.)

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Review of 150 Fascinating Facts About Canadian Women

Posted by in netgalley copy

Firstly, the book is published today and I'm writing the review on the day of publication, so I think there should be a netgalley badge for that -- not writing the review way after the publication date or way before and then scheduling it to post. Maybe I'll make one in Paint later today (gotta keep up the pressure) and post it.

So I read this little listicle of book celebrating (a) Canadian women and (b) 150 of them because of Canada 150. A little proviso in the opening credits about the problematic taking of one hundred and fifty as the "age" of Canada, then right on into the facts.

Which I read.

All of them.

And other than the ones I already knew, mainly due to Heritage Minutes, I can't recall any of them. Wait, there was a Sarah Polley quote about working hard.

Maybe it's not a format that lends itself well to ebooks. Maybe a paper copy would have stuck in my mind more. Maybe it needs to be more like 50 Women In Science, with longer bios so that I have more for my memory to cling to.

In any case, yay Canadian women! I wish I could cram more of you into my brain.

150 Fascinating Facts About Canadian Women by Margie Wolfe went on sale August 15, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of The White Hare by Michael Fishwick

Posted by in netgalley copy

I don't know. I kind of just want to say that and be done with it. I don't know.

The White Hare is like walking into a movie part-way through. You know you missed something, and you spend more time deciding if it's worth it than in actually following along to what little you have left. It isn't as if I necessarily dislike books that start with a sink-or-swim attitude (see The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet for example); I just floundered through this one.

Oooh -- I figured it out. It isn't like a half-way done movie. It's like those magic eye posters. I never ever ever saw anything in those, but other people said they did, and the most I ever saw was a wiggle, maybe, before giving myself a massive headache. I feel something must be there, so I keep looking. But how much work should a book be? Maybe if I was more tied to the land in the novel (somewhere in England, I'm not sure where), to the mythos of the white hare, to why these people believe in it, I would see what Fishwick portrays. But all I see are squiggles of arson, parental death, blended families, suicide, stalking, magical bunny rabbits (yes, I know bunny rabbits are not hares, but I like typing bunny rabbits more than I like typing hares), corrupt local raffle draws. Simultaneously overcrowded, yet at the same time, sparse.

I can't say it was worth the effort on my part. But I'm still staring at that rotten magic eye, making myself sick.

The White Hare by Michael Fishwick went on sale March 9, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of The Daisy Rock by Eva Hanagan

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Quietly affecting, but ultimately unsatisfying, likely because any book about elderly UK people brings Staying On to my mind, and then I end up thinking about that instead of the book I'm reading. The Daisy Rock does have its moments and the small affections/annoyances between a long married couple come through, but the time jumps -- not even drastic ones, usually only a few days or a few hours -- are like being jarred awake by a phone call when you're almost asleep. The periphery characters are superfluous, an unnecessary widening of perspective. The whole thing could be tightened right into only the main characters, which is where the heart of this short novel is anyways.

Still, these faults are few, and while I wish Flora had a bit more self-awareness or introspection for what she ultimately decides (placing herself in a role that she disdained another woman being in earlier in the novel), The Daisy Rock is still a very genteel and moving story.

The Daisy Rock by Eva Hanagan went on sale March 17, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of Why? by Mario Levi

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So I found this book about curiosity to be dull, which seems to me antithetical to a book on curiosity (also, I keep typing curiousity because the English language and I are having issues today). Even as the book traveled between psychology, neuroscience, and history, all subjects I have levels of curiosity about, I just did not care. Maybe it was the writing style, which is neither dry and scientific nor really pop-science chummy, but somewhere in between (I really didn't need to know, for instance, that the author skyped with certain interviewees in the book)? Maybe it was the lack of narrative, since I'm a sucker for narrative and reading non-fiction books that don't have a story-line is often difficult for me? Maybe there was too much talking about Feynman in the book, who while brilliant, always makes me feel very uncomfortable. Maybe I'm just plain incurious about curiosity? I can't say. But the book left me not wanting more, so I can't say that, in the realms of curiosity, it was a success.

Also, if anyone can explain to me why we don't spell it curiousity, it would be greatly appreciated.

Addendum: Levi is a physicist. Every other book I've reviewed by a physicist, said physicist has contacted me to point out flaws and/or disagree with my review. So I have that to look forward to, I suppose :p

Why? by Mario Levi went on sale July 11, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of Messages from a Lost World by Stefan Zweig

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Once upon a time, Netgalley gave me The Collected Novellas of Stefan Zweig, which I read, deemed acceptable, and then, somehow, decided I liked a lot more than it turns out I did, based on my review at the time. Basically, my entire interest in Zweig is rooted in the fact that he killed himself in Brazil, in part as a reaction to the Second World War. It just seems simultaneously so ballsy and yet so futile and stupid an action (it's hardly like Zweig killing himself in 1942 would have been as war-disrupting as Hitler or Goebbels or Hirohito doing the same). Still, my mind has Alien-facehuggered onto this sole fact, i.e. Stefan Zweig killed himself in Brazil!!!!!! ..... (also he wrote some things, I guess, maybe, whatever). But obviously, before he killed himself in Brazil, he wrote, amongst other things, the essays contained in Messages from a Lost World, which I read, while thinking of Austrian authors who killed themselves in Brazil. Did you know that Stefan Zweig was an Austrian author who killed himself in Brazil in 1942? You didn't? Well, let me tell you about Stefan Zweig who killed himself in Brazil in 1942...

Messages from a Lost World's essays (all of which were written prior to Zweig killing himself in Brazil in 1942) manage to be both dated and relevant at the same time. There's a lot of talk of men only, side-by-side with worries about ultra-nationalism and exceptionalism that seem written in reaction to Brexit and Trump. But then what? The struggle to override nationalism is continual, but I don't know what I'm supposed to do with the fact that Zweig was warning about this during fascism's thrall. I can't imagine Steve Bannon and Nigel Farange being like Hey, I should totally read these essays from 1920s to the 1940s by a dead Jewish Austrian man and then Oh my goodness, I now see the error of my ways regarding the dangers of nationalism, unless they too are somewhat obsessed with the fact that Zweig killed himself in Brazil in 1942 as a reaction to the Second World War. Do you think they are? Because I could tell you some things about an Austrian writer who killed himself in Brazil in 1942.

Messages from a Lost World by Stefan Zweig went on sale March 28, 2017.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

(Again, I checked the Are you interested in connecting with this author checkbox on Netgalley, but Stefan Zweig's ghost has yet to appear to me.
Boo.)

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