meghan rose allen

Review of You Can't Just Kiss Anyone You Want by Marzena Sowa

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So I sat there a while, trying to think of what I was trying to say, because You Can't Just Kiss Anyone You Want is a bit like a domino run or a chain reaction and then I realized what I wanted to say was You Can't Just Kiss Anyone You Want is a kind of like If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, but in Communist Poland, wherein if you try to give your classmate a kiss, a whole horrible list of events transpires, but in the end, your classmate writes you a cute note that you send her back because even totalitarian governments can't stop you from feeling. Awww....

But don't get too awwww.... Someone gets sexually assaulted. People disappear. No one trusts anyone else. Welcome to your Socialist paradise, comrades.

And, as I almost always feel with graphic novels, it went by so fast that it felt like skimming a deep pond that had so much more to offer beneath the surface.

You Can't Just Kiss Anyone You Want by Marzena Sowa went on sale April 19, 2017.

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

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Review of Russian Absurd by Daniil Kharms

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Books can be weird. I can read Russian Absurd, which are absurd vignettes recovered from Kharms' notebooks, written in the 1920s and 1930s, pieces as the introduction says that may not have been intended for public consumption, and they don't seem dated and they don't seem foreign and they don't seem like something I should never have heard about until now. True, a lot of old women tend to fall out of windows, but I can picture myself as an old woman tumbling after defenestration, so that seems all right. And the man alternates between looking terrifyingly serious:

to a foppish Pushkin-esque dandy:

to simply terrifying:

He starved to death in 1942. That hurts my heart. And there's so much out there, so much writing I may never get to know, hidden in notebooks in languages I don't speak.

The sky is shimmering with lamps
And we are flying like the stars

I am glad your friends saved your notebooks Daniil Kharms. I am glad I got to read from them.

Russian Absurd by Daniil Kharms went on sale February 15, 2017.

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

ETA: I have, as I always do with deceased authors, checked yes to Netgalley's Are you interested in connecting with this author (interviews, events, etc)? They have yet to conduct even one séance for me to talk to the dead.

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Review of The Marshall Plan by Benn Steil

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I did it -- I read the beast! Five hundred plus pages detailing a specific time period and specific policy, in which I was disabused of the notion that The Marshall Plan was merely a large airdrop of food to Berlin and a front to siphon off funds for the CIA. I don't know why I had the food-drop impression, but before reading Steil's book, literally, the Marshall Plan, in my brain, was a huge crate of food suspended from a helicopter and dropped into a field somewhere on the outskirts of Berlin. I also learned redound is a word, not a typo, and looked up autarky every time it appeared because that definition could not stay in my brain (my brain is a closed-economy for new words ha ha ha economics joke).

And ... I read this big-ass book on that Marshall Plan and I don't know how much I really got out of it (although that economic joke in the previous paragraph wouldn't exist without it, so ...). Most of the book is a historic detailing of what went on to get the Marshall Plan up and running, which old white dude met with which other old white dude, which old white dude was like "No way!", which old white dude was like "Come on!", which old white dude was put in charge of running things, which old white dude had just pissed off Stalin, etc. History is okay and all, but it isn't, let's just say, thrill-a-minute exciting detailing what had to be added onto the bill in regard to subsidies to appease constituencies, especially since (a) it was all in the past and (b) I'm not American so the whole Congressional/House system is already kind of fuzzy in my mind (my sketchy understand of the Marshall Plan, pre reading this book, should probably give you a hint that American politics and policy are not my forte). It's all information, essentially archival rather than plot driven, and after a few hundred pages of this, I started to ask Couldn't we have just gotten a timeline? Why present all this if there isn't going to be any sort of analysis?

Ah me, be careful what I wish for.

So then comes analysis. Did the Marshall Plan succeed? Well, Western Europe didn't collapse in 1949 and Soviet expansion didn't make it all the way to Ireland, so yes. Didn't need three hundred-odd pages to tell me that; I could have just dug up my map from my 1988 copy of Where In Europe is Carmen Sandiego. Would Europe have recovered as non-Communistly without the Marshall Plan? That analysis, which could have been an entire book itself, is sort of meandering, written like a last-minute history paper. The change in tone is staggering compared with the earlier sections, and the book falters. Then there's some talk about NATO in the 90s and beyond that doesn't tie in very well with either a historical recounting or analysis of the Marshall plan, and then it ends with a big, long, list of old white dudes who were important to the Marshall Plan and I was like huh. Okay. Good to know.

So I learned words, had my incorrect historical assumptions smacked up the side of the head, then forced myself to the end. A middling success for the book. Too bad I already used up my funny quota for the day because I feel like this should close with some sort of silly Marshall Plan joke (Marshall my resources?), but I'm spent.

The Marshall Plan by Benn Steil went on sale February 13, 2018.

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

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Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm by Dana Simpson

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Tesfa reads this series, so whenever I see one on Netgalley, I request it for her. I haven't read any since maybe number two (this one is number six). But I didn't want to think too hard the other day, so I picked this one up and it was a nice break from my heavy, literary books I'm trying to read before their library due dates on Tuesday.

So Dakota has a bunch of goblins now, and there's Max who likes electricity, and rather than being episodic/comic strip one-offs, Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm is a whole story about a magic storm and there's a dragon and I thought it was kind of clever, the plot. Max has two moms and it's just so normal and not commented upon and basically,
I loved that bit the most. I still think Phoebe and Marigold and Dakota are a bit too smarmy Disney-channel sitcom rather than genuine, but they aren't bad; I'm just overly annoyed by stuff like that.

So yay, thar be dragons!

Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm by Dana Simpson went on sale October 17, 2017.

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

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Review of Life Lessons from Catsass by Claude Combacau

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Hmmm...it's probably not a great endorsement that I finished this book and thought was that really necessary? Maybe because I just read another cat-loving book where the protagonist might be me (in a kind of Fight Club situation wherein I don't actually know it is me but it is) and Life Lessons from Catsass is more from the perspective of an asshole cat. I have an asshole cat. While Catsass hits all the targets regarding asshole cat behaviour, all it made me do was remember the time my asshole cat peed on my half-way finished 3000 piece puzzle of Guernica, completely ruining it while looking smugly at me all the while.

Cats are jerks.

(Also I love cats.)

(Hopefully your cat isn't an asshole.)

(And I keep typing Catass rather than Catsass.)

Fin.

Life Lessons from Catsass by Claude Combacau went on sale July 4, 2017.

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

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Review of All The Beloved Ghosts by Alison MacLeod

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A writer of great descriptive power says the blurb on the front. Okay. Description. Except I don't really enjoy reading description. Description reads heavy and unnecessary. From the name of one of the stories -- Sylvia Wears Pink in the Underworld -- I knew immediately it would be about Sylvia Plath, so much description is extraneous. A story with Diana in the title would be about Princess Diana. I think the titles do more than the stories, since they are short and snappy. The stories are pretty, but as I said, heavy. There's no overall theme, except when there is (which we'll say is beloved ghosts, like Diana and Sylvia and a great aunt who drowned in Cape Breton and Chekov and Angelica Garnett), and then the stories that don't fit in with this theme (like In Praise of Radical Fish) are, like all the description, extraneous.

I liked the bits I liked. But then most of it is going to fade away like an empty spirit.

All The Beloved Ghosts by Alison MacLeod went on sale May 30, 2017.

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

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Review of The Accusation by Bandi

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There's a story in The Accusation about faking emotion: crying when we're happy, laughing when we're sad. Under such a system as North Korea, all emotions are either muted or exaggerated. In the same vein, and for the same reasons, the writing style of The Accusation
also veers between muted or exaggerated melodrama, but what else can one expect from a society that represses or fakes emotion? I didn't come into these stories expecting literature as much as a window into North Korean life. The Accusation is important not because of its literary merits, but because it exists as an act of rebellion against the horror of the North Korean regime. It's crazy that North Korea exists, and The Accusation exists to show us that.

The Accusation by Bandi went on sale March 7, 2017.

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

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Review of Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten

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If one ever needs an example of insidious misogyny/rape culture/patriarchy/whatever, let's just turn to a book that has two violent, male, psychopaths which is entitled and not ironically:
Beware That Girl.

And of course, the girl (or girls) in question, are all over eighteen, and legally adults, so girl is ever so appropriate a moniker.

Blahhhhhhahahhhhhhahhahhblahblha.

Can we get past the awful title? Is a wondrous novel hiding in behind there? Or a trashy thriller that the back assures me will keep [me] guessing until the very last line?

Yep. It's a trashy thriller. I was not guessing until the very last line either. But it kept me occupied for a few hours, and it's no worse than most other trashy thrillers out there;
it might even be somewhat better written than the trashy thriller average. And a character ends up in Fort Mac, so yay Canadian content.

Basically, it was a big bag of brain junk food that then made me angry when I actually thought about the title.

Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten went on sale May 31, 2016.

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

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Review of A Separation by Katie Kitamura

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Ah, rich people problems. To have a flat in London, sitting unoccupied. To jet off to Greece at the behest of a relative, and on a moment's notice, because work, what's that? To stay in a fancy Greek hotel, eating out at restaurants, and sure, it's the off-season, but really? Come on.

And here we are, trapped inside the head of our nameless narrator, who, separated from her husband, still goes to Greece at her mother-in-law's order, to find him. Her thoughts are banal because, like most people, her thoughts are banal and not in need of having every single on detailed. Her husband is rich and a playboy, and they separated because of his numerous infidelities, and I have used banal twice already but it is so banal and we have two hundred pages plus of this banality of our cipher narrator searching after her cipher husband with cipher locals poking about and there is absolutely nothing there. I can tell you nothing about the narrator or her personality or her likes and dislikes. Ditto everyone else in the book. Ditto why this woman would undertake this task. Ditto why this book got such accolades (amazon tells me Named a best book of the year by the New York Times, NPR, Huffington Post, The A.V. Club, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian, Refinery29, Town & Country, Harper's Bazaar, NYLON, BookRiot.). Obviously, there are far worse written books out there, but this is just a flat, monotone where I don't care about anything, at all, ever.

A Separation by Katie Kitamura went on sale March 23, 2017.

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

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Review of Fugue States by Pasha Malla

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So this is a huh of a book. Definitely not a huh? (with a question mark) what the heck did I just read? sort of book, but a book you finish and go huh or any other of your non-committal sounds of choice. His dad dies. He may or may not have lost his job as a radio host. He may or may not be in love with his radio producer. His sister may or may not be getting a divorce. His best friend may or may not be unhinged. His friend may or may not be a rapist. So, sure, let's go take his father's ashes to Kashmir, his father's homeland. And go skiing. And yes, there is a fugue state. And a death, and I always think of music fugues as death-y, so there's that. But in the end, it's just one of those books where

  1. lots of stuff happens, and yet
  2. I can't shake the feeling that absolutely nothing has happened at all.

No one seems wiser or smarter or even changed by the end. Except I guess the dad, who is dead. But maybe he's the same in death, so who knows?

Fugue States by Pasha Malla went on sale May 30, 2017.

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

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