meghan rose allen

Review of The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico

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Well, I had a good run of ARCs that didn't have something bizarre in them. No squid sex or unexpected aliens or guess what someone has multiple personalities and we're like sixty percent of the way through the book before we even mention it once. I'd even started getting into The Lucky Ones. I wasn't that enthused after the first two or so chapters (each one a self-contained slice of characters that are all inter-related somehow in Columbia's many and varied civil wars/war on drugs/insurgencies/etc.), but then I got into the rhythm, wasn't thrown off by the jumping perspectives, the changes in viewpoint, even the second-person (you, we, etc.) parts.

Then rabbits. On cocaine.

Not just rabbits on cocaine. Rabbits on cocaine from their perspective because, of course, their thoughts and everything would be exactly like humans. Word-for-word.

One of the rabbits smokes a crack pipe.

And so, my respect for the novel was pretty much ruined. I tried. I really did. I got to the end. I thought all the different connections between the characters were interesting. I could see it all in my mind, the locations, the people, the sounds, but, no matter what, this is a book where a rabbit smokes a crack pipe and my mind is so small and petty that that's all I'm going to be able to associate with it.

The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico went on sale March 7, 2017.

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


Review of March of the Crabs Volume 1 by Arthur de Pins

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I read this comic, then promptly forgot that I read it, which is odd since it's actually a kinda cute book about cute little crabs who can only move in a straight line.
Then two crabs intersect at a perpendicular angle and the world is their oyster (hee hee sea pun!), and if not the world, than their little French estuary. The drawings have that French mod/new-wave feel and I did enjoy reading it, but then again, I keep forgetting that I did, which must mean something, if I could only figure out what.

March of the Crabs Volume 1 by Arthur de Pins went on sale March 31, 2015.

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


Review of The Flintstones Vol 1. by Mark Russell

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Other than getting the theme song stuck in my head, what is the purpose of a rebooted Flintstones? Nostalgia I suppose. Getting to play around within the confines of a system? All those stories you wish the Flintstones had told while you were home sick at lunch during grade school (The Flintstones came on at noon when I was growing up. This may not be the case for people who did not grow up in the same environs as I did -- I don't know. And so, The Flintstones always make me taste Zoodles because that's what you ate when you were home sick. Again, that might not be a universally understood *thing*)?

Recently I read A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl, which briefly touches on whether readers want new characters and new stories or simply new stories for comics. Would I have requested a comic about early humans that weren't the Flintstones? I don't know. So I guess that's the purpose of a rebooted Flintstones, for people like me, who are indecisive about what they want out of reading-life, I guess.

And none of this has anything to do with The Flintsones Vol. 1 per se. Hmmm.

So it's The Flintstones, but more for grown-ups with digs at vitamins and chimpanzees spouting David Bowie lyrics. Fred and Barney are veterans of a Vietnam-War-type-of-debacle that clear-cut the way for Bedrock's establishment. Wilma is an artist (was she on the TV show? I remember she was a cigarette girl in one episode). Betty is just Betty (boo!). The elephant vacuum cleaner forms a friendship with the armadillo bowling ball that is the most compelling relationship in the comic, although I get the impression that there are a lot of sight gags and *wink wink nudge nudge*'s that I missed because I am lousy at reading comics (I tend to read the words and gloss over the pictures) and, as an ARC, the quality is not as great as it would be in the actual book.

The strength in The Flintstones Vol. 1 (and I keep typing Flintsones rather than Flintstones, so I apologize if that typo squeezes its way into the final review) is the way each comic feels like an episode of the TV show, even with updated drawings and situations and style. It feels like I watched six episodes of The Flintstones yesterday, eating Zoodles, in my pyjamas. Russell captured that television feeling somehow, and I'm not exactly sure how, but he did, even if I think the whole thing should be abandoned for a spin-off Vacuum and Bowling Ball story line instead.

The Flintstones Vol. 1 by Mark Russell went on sale March 28, 2017.

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


Review of Everything Reminds You of Something Else by Elana Wolff

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I'm still not sure if I know how to read poetry. I find poems don't stick in my head very long, like they blend into my neurons' background noise after reading them, thinning out until there's not much left. Like yesterday, less than twelve hours ago, I read Everything Reminds You of Something Else, with a poem about the ringing postman, and laying in bed not getting up, and I knew exactly that feeling and thought I'll write about that in my review! and then forgot about it entirely until this moment when I was flipping (well, e-flipping, it's a PDF) through and remembered. So I went from knowing exactly that feeling, a poem with perfect resonance, to, less than a day later, wiped from my mind. Is that me or the poetry? What does it say that the only poems I manage to recall are A.A. Milne's and Shel Silverstein's poems for kids?

Unprompted, here is what I remembered from Everything Reminds You of Something Else:

  1. there is a poem with a guinea pig in it (for eating, not cuddling; they are in Ecuador);
  2. this quote: writing is compensation for a shortfall of some sort.

Maybe poetry is like air and we breathe it in greedily, use it in our muscles, but then, usefulness exhausted, we breathe out the remains and forget about it?

I think I liked Everything Reminds You of Something Else. There were many >, which make me think of greater than's. Indents are cut lines all over the pages. I liked the flow. It seemed consistent. Maybe I should stop requesting to review poetry books, but I like having poetry in my life, even if I don't know how to speak intelligently about it.

A pigeon in a crack of the Wailing Wall -- that was in the poetry book too. See, I can remember some things 🙂

Everything Reminds You of Something Else by Elana Wolff went on sale April 1, 2017.

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


Review of The Universe is a Machine by James Michel Hughes

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In which Meghan judges requests books by their cover and finds herself reading a self-published physics manifesto.

See this cover:

It reminds me of this cover:

even though the blue and green are inverted and the first is about physics and the second about modern algebra. The second I bought when I was eleven or twelve at the Port Charlotte public library, thinking I was so smart because I totally knew what algebra meant. Me thinking algebra meant the elementary algebra of solving linear equations. The book thinking algebra meant abstract algebra starting by defining what I vaguely recall as a group and going from there. Smack down to eleven-year old Meghan. I think my copy of Modern Algebra might be somewhere. Geoff's office maybe? I always meant to go through it and be super smart. Then I went and got some math degrees, so I probably don't really *need* to go through it any more, especially since I don't know where it ended up.

Is any of this relevant to The Universe is a Machine? No. Not really, other than I am interested in things that remind me of other things I didn't read.

So here's the rub: The Universe is a Machine is a self-published book about classical mechanics, specifically centrifugal forces, which acted on the (cutest nomenclature ever) baby universe, giving the universe an ellipsoid shape, which one can infer through imaging of the CMB in which a doppler effect is observed. Spinning at startling speeds at its outset, all matter was flung to the edges, while anti-matter was not. So somewhere in the center of the universe is a big glob of antimatter, while at the edges is matter. If we assume a big crunch, then eventually matter and anti-matter will meet, EXPLOSION, and possibly cause global warming.

It all sounds ... plausible maybe? I have no idea. I'm not a cosmologist. It definitely sounds science-y enough, but I can't shake the feeling that, while I shouldn't discount outsider scientists, wouldn't you rather share your ideas in a peer-reviewed setting? Or even on arXiv? How do I know you're not just cherry-picking the examples and numbers that support your hypothesis rather than taking a look at everything to find a hypothesis that best suits the data? You know that feeling you get when your grocery bill is a whole dollar amount (like $63.00) and you think Wow! How rare is that!, even though it's just as rare as getting a decimal of $0.89 or $0.12 or $0.45, except we tend not to notice the other decimals, only the times when it's $0.00. Felt that way the whole book.

So I have no idea. It's dry and it attempts to sound scientific. But without peer review by people who actually know astrophysics, I can't say much. Even though I did. A whole lot. Up above.

The Universe is a Machine by James Michel Hughes went on sale September 28, 2016.

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


Review of Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us by Ananth Hirsch and Yuko Ota

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I understand the sentiment. Tesfa had a birthday party for our cat the same day as my party. More people came for the cat party.

Little slice-of-life comics collected together. No real over-arching plot. At the end they get married (out of nowhere, but maybe if I had followed along on the webcomic it wouldn't have been so out of nowhere). There are cats. I enjoy reading books where cats are present. Ananth and Yuko's cats seem very much like my two cats (although, perhaps all cats seem like my cats because all cats are essentially interchangeable and we cat lovers are deluding ourselves into giving our pets personalities and ... nah. Cats are each and every one uniquely awesome.)

Nothing earth shattering, but a pleasant way to spend an hour, reading about cats and New York and bits of other people's lives.

Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us by Ananth Hirsch and Yuko Ota went on sale March 29, 2017.

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


Review of Are You There Krishna? It's Me, Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever. by Rachel Khona

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There wasn't a whole lot here that resonated with me, probably because I'm not going to have a lot of similarities with someone who sees a pubic hair peaking out of a bathing suit crotch and freaks out. Or who expects her friends to pull the emergency-stop lever on a train after she misses it. But, at the same time, there's something to be admired about a woman who acts, to take Mindy Kaling's words, "with the entitlement of a tall, blond, white man." Something. But then many tall, blond, white men act like jerks. The vignettes Khona recounts in her book also make her look like a jerk. So success? Yay?

It's a sort of fluff-feminism, like a collection of Cosmo articles, which is fine. Nothing wrong with fluff-feminism, and, as Khona points out a handful of times, nothing wrong with being a feminist and also enjoying fashion, makeup, etc. But this book is just potato chips: you aren't going to feel that full afterwards, even if you get a grin or two from it.

Are You There Krishna? It's Me, Reshma. Or Rachel. Or Whatever. by Rachel Khona went on sale February 1, 2017.

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


Review of Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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Why are you smiling? my daughter asks me. You never smile.

It's funny I say. The book.

Oh my daughter says. That's good.

And it is funny. It's almost light-hearted as it touches on the different aspects of growing up mixed-race in apartheid and early-post apartheid South Africa. Obviously, none of the racism, sexism, colourism, poverty, domestic violence, general violence, etc., is funny or light-hearted, but Noah's approach makes all the heavy stuff manageable. He pokes fun at the inane society he was born into, taking its power away by demonstrating how ridiculous apartheid and its consequences are. Some of it is shtick (what memoir isn't?), but it's a genuinely well-written, well-thought-out memoir about South Africa in transition, about his mother (who I loved), about being a kid and doing stupid things in a brutal world.

And, thankfully, it's not rags-to-riches, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps-despite-injustice read. As Noah himself writes:

People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.

Maybe some of our neo-con politicians need to sit down and think about that.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah went on sale November 15, 2016.

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


Review of Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

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I am rarely this enthused about my ARCs.

But yes. All the yesses.

A collection of comic strips from a book-loving, anxiety-feeling, over-thinking, always-cold introvert whose uterus often just pops up and surprises her? You can bet your bippy that when it shows up on Netgalley with the Read Now button right there I'm going to stop everything I'm doing, click on it, and then devour it immediately, actual work be-damned!

It's basically me, in comic book form, and it's funny, and I laughed laughed laughed laughed laughed, which I rarely do.

Granted, if you're not exactly like me/Sarah Andersen, maybe it won't be as wonderfully awesome, but it'll still be, if not wonderfully, then at least adequately awesome. I might even buy a paper copy of it just to have around for smile-needing, surprise-uturus-depression emergencies.

Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen went on sale March 7, 2016.

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


Review of Bright Air Black by David Vann

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I guess spoiler alerts for a story that originated around 700 BCE. Consider yourself duly warned.

Another of those Netgalley books I must request in a! trance because it's a retelling of the story of Medea and I knew nothing about the initial telling of the story of Medea so how much did I really need to read a retelling of it? (Surprisingly though, from somewhere in the great media stew that is popular culture, I did know that Medea is known, in part, for killing her own sons. Now, where did I learn that? I doubt it was from forgotten nineties CBC melodrama The Odyssey, which had a character named Medea. Does anyone other than my mother and I remember that show? Can't drive past a field of corn without thinking about it.)

So we're thrown right in mid-story. Jason has stolen the golden fleece and is escaping with Medea, who has just killed her brother and is launching him, bit by bit, overboard (they're on a boat!) to slow down her father, who is pursuing them. There's a presumption that the reader knows the story of Medea and doesn't need to look this background information up or if they do, they have internet access and aren't, say, sitting in their car in the parking lot of the public pool waiting to pick their kid up from a birthday party.

But honestly, I got half-way through the book before I decided to look up the story of Medea (thank you wikipedia), which actually means that even thrown into Bright Air Black blind, there was enough there to keep me going. It's dense, sure, but intriguing to read, with an interesting take that many of the stories of Jason's Argonauts were enriched in the telling, i.e. fish story lies with only nuggets of truth as the base.

But for a book about Medea, from Medea's perspective, all that could be said is that she's angry. The prototypical angry female. Obviously, much of the anger is justified (like being made a slave by her uncle-in-law), but other times (like having sex with a corpse), I just don't get it. Take away that anger and it's hard to say something specifically about Medea. She's not a flesh-and-blood character as much as raw rage. Raw rage is forceful enough to move a story forward, but not as compelling as a character in-and-of itself.

Still, those are after-thoughts. While reading it, I kept at it, wanting to see how Vann would portray the next step of the story. So maybe I'm overthinking everything.

The ultimate bitches-be-crazy book, except, just like in real life when someone mansplains away a woman's anger as bitches-be-crazy, Medea justifiably has a lot to be pissed off about, in part because men in the book keep mansplaining to her and saying bitches-be-crazy in her direction.

Bright Air Black by David Vann went on sale March 7, 2017.

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