Books I’ve Read But Will Never Review

 

I have no strict review guidelines, at least not as far as my casual reviews. I used to think it was better to try to make them poetic… which, looking back at some of my older reviews, maybe it wasn’t… But there are some books, while I might have liked them, I don’t feel adequate in reviewing them. I love nonfiction and memoirs, but I slightly dread getting requests to review them, because I’m not often as knowledgeable about the subject as I feel I would have to be to do the book justice. These are some that I probably won’t ever review, at least not in-depth, though some hold a lot of interest for me and I like to discuss them.

The Bible
Genre: Religion
I’ve read the majority of the Bible, and even took a class on theology. It’s a fascinating subject to me, but understandably, I would never feel right “reviewing” a religious text, period, even though it would be more of a general overview than a typical review. How could I possibly? The Bible means so much to some people, and to others bringing it up infuriates them. It’s not fair to either party, and I would need to gather loads of historical information and context to even begin. Not to mention that the only version I’ve read likely is missing crucial pieces. You can also count other religious texts as literature I will never review.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Genre: Magic Realism / Science Fiction
Infinite Jest tested my patience. I don’t believe I finished it. I admire Wallace as a journalist, his nonfiction is amongst my favourite, but I don’t personally enjoy his fiction. If you’ve never heard of this book, it’s a strange science fiction novel about the size of an orca, with about ten squillion characters, each with their own unique narrative styles. I don’t not recommend it, but to me, it wasn’t pleasant at all to attempt. It would be ideal for a specific type of reader, that is not me, but I would definitely download a preview before you buy a copy. Continue reading “Books I’ve Read But Will Never Review”

Book Review – Brazen by Pénélope Bagieu

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Full Title: Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World
Genre: Biography
Publication Date: March 6th, 2018
Publisher: First Second

There is no more straightforward way to put it – this graphic novel is phenomenal. If you need a boost of vitality and determination in such trying times as these, look no further than Brazen. This book makes you reflect on yourself and say, I could do this too. The obstacles suddenly don’t seem so insurmountable anymore, at least for awhile.

Though if I did learn one important fact in this collection, it’s that most artistic and scientific fields historically have been overseen by, well… bigots and incompetents, and even with the efforts of these wonderful women and others, are still very much in dire need of an overhaul in their bureaucracy and ways they practice. Most, if not all of these women, even those alive in more recent years, have had to struggle for recognition because of these institutions and their staunch attitudes that they can do no wrong. If we hope to make any positive change to this little gloom-ball we live on, sometimes the system has to be challenged.

Bagieu tells the shortened but fascinating legacy of thirty important women, both influential and underappreciated, in all their determination, wit and triumph, giving each of their stories their own unique colour scheme. Not only is Brazen a visually beautiful and charming book, but it never feels anything less than passionate and heartfelt on the artist’s part, and is one of the most inspiring collections I’ve read.

What surprised me is that I actually knew most of these women. I’m very familiar with Tove Jansson, Nellie Bly, Josephine Baker, but I didn’t know the sheer extent of their accomplishments. That’s something a simple search won’t really elaborate on. Some of these women were practically the nucleus of their field, it being nonexistent or a hopeless train wreck before they came along. Continue reading “Book Review – Brazen by Pénélope Bagieu”

Book Review – Leontyne Price by Carole Boston Weatherford

★★★★ 4 Stars

Full Title: Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century
Genre:
 Biography
Publication Date: December 23rd, 2014
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Leontyne Price is a classical singer, the first African American woman to become a prima donna at the Metropolitan Opera, inspired by the magnificent Marian Anderson and her own family who encouraged her to learn music. Price is an innovator and a fascinating figure that I didn’t really know much about, so this book is kind of an introduction to me as well. I was already familiar with Marian Anderson, who I probably don’t even need to say, was superb.

Both Anderson and Price faced and rose above prejudice in the American music industry, and in opera, to now be renowned as some of the best. Their voices are striking and one-of-a-kind.
Voice of a Century is a beautiful, inspiring book aimed at children, but you know, anyone can like, and I think it does justice to Leontyne Price’s story. I stress that the illustrations really are amazing. Splashes of red, blue and gold brighten the eye while her biography is told, fittingly, in lyrical poems.
It’s a little abridged but if music, history, or both is an interest to you, I definitely recommend this one!

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Book Review – Tacking on the Styx by Jeffrey L. Hatcher

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Full Title: Tacking on the Styx: An Epileptic Sails the Facts, Fiction and Philosophy of a Mental Illness
Genre: Psychology / Science
Publication Date: March 15th, 2016
Publisher: AuthorHouse

Tacking on the Styx is a fascinating and unabashed look at epilepsy and cognition, unique from your usual psychology book in that it is also intertwined with both memoir and a fiction narrative, so a richer, more empathetic understanding and sense of individuality can be gained as you also learn more about epilepsy and neurology of the brain.

Can I say first that Tacking on the Styx is ridiculously in-depth. It could well be the definitive book on epilepsy. The narrative benefits the medical text strongly as well, which you might not expect. It reminds me of David B.’s graphic novel classic, Epileptic, though is more striking, being from an epileptic person’s viewpoint rather than their close relative as Epileptic was. I would recommend both to get the best understanding if it’s something you wish to know more about.

The body’s most vital organ is a complex landscape. I don’t pretend to be a doctor, definitely having more of an amateur interest in medical science, but I think we can all agree with Hatcher in that empathy is the key to mapping and understanding the mind.
I can speak from personal experience, however, that a healthy environment is also vital. No one with any disorder, whether mental, physical or neurological, can hope to mollify or heal it in an environment completely devoid of empathy and peace.
The roads to recovery and stability are delicate indeed, and I think that while modern medicine is truly a godsend, doctors can lose sight of this, so it’s very necessary to have books like Styx to promote that understanding. Continue reading “Book Review – Tacking on the Styx by Jeffrey L. Hatcher”

Book Review – Death is a Bloodstained Shadow by B. B. Frank

Death Is A Bloodstained Shadow: The Giallo Cinema Chopping List

★★★ 3.5 Stars

Full Title: Death is a Bloodstained Shadow – The Giallo Cinema Chopping List
Genre: Horror / Nonfiction
Publication Date: November 5th, 2015
Publisher: Videogeddon

If you didn’t know, giallo is a subset of horror-thriller film, set apart by its blend of both psychological and visceral themes. Giallo is considered the grandfather of the slasher film genre and had a significant influence on modern psychological horror. Most giallo are Italian or Spanish, and in fact giallo is just ‘yellow’ in Italian – the genre named after the colour most mystery paperbacks were at the time these movies started to become popular, in the early 70s. Giallo posters tend to be outrageous, beautiful and psychedelic. Vibrant infernal colours abound.

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Death is a Bloodstained Shadow is a pretty solid list – it goes beyond the mainstream Argento and Bava into more obscure gems (or ironically enjoyable grubby rocks, depending on your personal taste), and the poster art is extremely entertaining. Many remind me of pulp book covers from around the same era.

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However, the eBook version could be better and less cramped, and some crucial info is missing. The actors are never listed and there isn’t any DVD information! I know that several of these are likely to be extremely expensive and difficult to find in print, especially outside of Europe. Nonetheless, an engaging look at a much-loved genre (at least by me, anyway.)

One more neat fact and I’ll leave you to be scarred by this artwork – the Dario Argento film Phenomena, known also as a butchered version called Creepers, was the inspiration behind one of the innovating survival horror series, Clock Tower. Dario Argento’s filmography is, in fact, a fantastic place to begin if you want to get into the giallo genre, as they are the easiest to find and for the most part masterpieces of their time.
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Book Review – California’s Deadly Women by Michael Thomas Barry

★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Full Title: California’s Deadly Women: Murder and Mayhem in the Golden State
Genre: True Crime / History
Publication Date: June 28th, 2018
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing

Darkly fascinating and tragic, California’s Deadly Women unearths the crimes of a hundred years. The blood, shame and sorrow of these womens’ acts of murder are shown in a versatile light – whether it’s forgiving or damning is up to the individual circumstance. Whether desperation or malice, accident or intent, the crime was done, nonetheless.

The cases in this book range from 1850 to the 1950’s, and speak volumes about the issues of their respective era, notably women’s rights. Some were nothing more than a straightforward act of evil, but many of the stories are ones of panic and desperation which led to the worst. These showcased with clarity how paradoxical, stigmatizing and merciless society could be to women, even if the law was lenient.
Consider that they were almost always victims themselves, and if it weren’t for that same system, they wouldn’t have been driven to desperate ends in the first place. The cases where it wasn’t intentional, but a necessity of self-defense, are a deeply disturbing portrait of the time. No one should get away with murder, but no one should be forced onto a path where something as vile as killing seems like the only means of escape, either.

The book delves heavily into different facets of women murderers and how they became that way, as well as the flippant inequalities of the American justice system towards criminals based on their gender, race, appearance and personal history – still unfortunately very prevalent today, as evidenced by the uncanny parallels between these women’s circumstances and recent stories.

The writing style is accessible and clever, and many interesting photographs of good quality are included – such as portraits and gravestones of the accused, as well as houses, locations and how these places look today. Ultimately a thought-provoking and well-constructed piece of nonfiction which gives a face and story to tragedies and cruelties buried by time.

 

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]