You Look Better Online — Emmet Truxes

 

 

Hi there,

This was a funny little book with a couple of chuckles. None of them made me howl with laughter but it was still the kind of tongue-in-cheek humour that people around my age would understand. It’s a great book to share with friends to fill up a lull in a conversation.

Side note: It is interesting to me how more books are being published which are reflective of society as it is now with regards to things such as the technology and “online culture”.

Happy reading

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101 Problems for the Armchair Scientist — Joey Levy

Hi there,

This is an interesting coffee table book that I couldn’t finish because it was due at the library. The topics were pretty interesting but I wasn’t so interested in the “space” topics as I was about the other ones. I think it’s a good way to understand new concepts in a digestible format.

I also noticed a Singapore university being mentioned. However, it was credited as “Nanyang Technical University” instead of “Nanyang Technological University”. This could have been easily checked through a google search so it did make me doubt the credibility of the other facts presented in the book.

Happy reading

 

 

Braving The Wilderness — Brené Brown

 

Hi there,

I was intrigued first by the cover, and then by the blurb. It suggested that this book might provide a framework to help myself find true belonging. In fact, I left with more questions than when I first began.

I found the book very difficult to understand. Perhaps it is due to a lack of years of experience and wisdom. Some chapters were impossible for me to understand. I couldn’t comprehend why reading any of it was imperative to understanding how we can belong together. I think it is important for potential readers to bookmark the meaning of “true belonging” as defined in the book just as a reference for all the remaining contents of the book.

I think the closest I came to understanding “true belonging” was when 8th graders explained it to me in one of the concluding chapters. Using that definition, I could almost understand what Brown was trying to put across to her readers.

The book is pitched as a guide on how to find true belonging, but it is actually a guide on how to “belong to yourself”, which essentially means to be true to your values and beliefs even if they do not align with others. It is a guide on alternative ways to conduct yourself, when facing others who may disagree. Instead of isolating yourself, use ways to bring yourself closer to the people who disagree with you. Something like that.

In the end, I just found myself more confused. Perhaps I’m simply too short on life experience to fully appreciate this book. Maybe this will make more sense if I had read it later on in life.

Meanwhile, for those who are interested in reading or have read the book, there are plenty of additional resources online to delve deeper into what Brown talks about in the book.

Happy reading

In Real Life — Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang

Hello there,

“This book is about gaming and economics.” 

Woah woah woah.

Hold on a second. I thought this was a coming-of-age graphic novel about a girl finding her footing in life through playing an online game! This isn’t what I signed up for.

Well, I read the book anyway and I’m glad I did. Our main character Anda joins an MMO(Massively Multiplayer Online) game called Coarsegold. A natural talent, she quickly progresses and finds herself sucked into the darker world of online gaming.

As the story is rather short, that’s all I will reveal. There’s no need to know the premise beforehand anyway.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story, though I felt like there may have been some unexplained loopholes. It was concise while trying to fit in some very big topics and I think it was fairly well done. The story was entertaining and flew by quickly. After reading this book, I sorta wish Coarsegold really existed. I’d love to try it out, even though I’m not a huge fan of MMOs.

The graphics were amazing! I loved the colours Jen used to depict both the online and offline worlds. Most importantly, the lines were clean and this fact delighted me so much. The action scenes were well formatted and so was most of the novel. The drawings were just detailed enough to flesh out the world but not so much that it looked cramped.

inreallife-combined_100-30

One of my favourite pages.

I’m hoping to get my hands on The Prince and The Dressmaker eventually. It’s another book by Jen Wang. Check out some of her art here. (I liked her comic “Open House” which you can read on her website in full. I think it would be perfect for people who enjoy looking at interior design.)

 

Happy reading,

 

 

 

 


POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD

Scroll away quickly to avoid!

I did some googling because I know I want to cover more ground on “gaming” and “economics”. I’ve included some interesting articles below if you’ve read the book and are interested in some of the real-world events that inspired the story.

What is Gold Farming? —  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_farming 

What are MMOs — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massively_multiplayer_online_game

Original story by Cory Doctorow — https://www.salon.com/2004/11/15/andas_game/

I honestly have only read the beginning of the original story but I hope to get to it soon. There are probably some details that were excluded in the graphic novel.

How gold farming has changed in the last decade — https://www.wired.com/2017/03/geeks-guide-gold-farming/

The realities of goldfarming — http://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-2228-im-paid-to-play-mmorpgs-its-nightmare-5-realities.html

Chinese Gold Farms — https://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/17/magazine/17lootfarmers-t.html

Lumberjanes Vol.1: Beware the Kitten Holy — Stevenson et al.

Hello there,

I’m a little late to the Lumberjane train, I know. Even so, I’m not completely sold on it yet.

The characters were unique and so was the setting. I’m interested to solve the mysteries of the camp and the surrounding forests.

I loved the colours used for the graphics but I didn’t enjoy the rough sketching style that much. Some of the scenes involved slapstick comedy which I think would have been better received if it was an animated TV episode instead. I enjoyed looking through the gallery of alternative covers. It was interesting to see how different artists interpreted the same content in their own style. Even the characters were drawn a little differently by different artists.

My overall feeling about the collection was ‘eh’. It remains to be seen whether I will continue on with the series.

Happy reading

 

The Art Of Holding On and Letting Go — Kristin Bartley Lenz

 

Hello there,

I read this quite a while back. Here were my rough thoughts about the book…

I enjoyed the descriptions. I enjoyed the discussion about coping with loss, finding yourself, growing up, and living a new life. I really enjoyed the rock climbing aspects. I think the story is actually very deep but I just haven’t thought harder about it. But superficially, it was an enjoyable read. I like the interview section at the back, it probes me to think about the content more.

The question I answered was:

How do the writings of naturalists such as John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, and Annie Dillard shape Cara’s worldview?

Their writings shape her views on her vital connection with nature. These books provided an anchor during a tumultuous part of her life. They were relatable experiences and feelings about life and loss. My favourite quote was

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.”

— Henry David Thoreau.

To me, it’s a reminder to go forth and do what we want to do in the time that we have. To love the people around us, to love the things we do and to be the best person we can be. We should take the opportunities that we come across without hesitation. We should be fearless in trying new things and leave this world with no regrets.

 

Happy reading

Like No Other — Una LaMarche

Hello there,

Like No Other tells the age-old story of forbidden love. Devorah is a Hasidic girl and Jaxon is black. Fate brings them together and the story is about them trying to navigate their relationship and overcome the obstacles that are keeping them apart.

I was drawn to the story because these two characters come from cultures and backgrounds that are vastly different from myself and the people I know. The author did a pretty good job of weaving in and explaining cultural elements into Devorah’s story. I did have to look up certain words and do some basic research on the context of why there is old “bad blood” between their separate groups.

Even though the book does the job of providing alternating perspectives, the story is still more focused on Devorah’s personal growth. While we do see Jaxon’s POV, I feel like his character is used as a plot device to spur the growth of Devorah’s character. Jaxon is just the hopeless romantic, while Deborah has a deeper story to tell.

The story was very sweet overall. It left me interested to know how the characters will progress beyond the ending of the book.

Happy reading

Two Roads From Here — Teddy Steinkellner

 

Hello there,

“Two roads from here” is a story about 5 teenagers who are about to graduate high school. They each face a unique situation that requires them to make a decision. There are two choices, choose road A or road B. So which will they choose?

I was intrigued by the premise of this story. I decided to pick it up as I was in a similar age bracket as the characters. On the inside flap, it listed the names and dilemmas of each of the 5 characters. Going over them, I thought that they were all very relatable dilemmas. One was about whether he should cheat on the SAT to get into his dream school. Another one was about whether he should confess his feelings for his best friend at the risk of ruining their friendship. I was expecting more thought and discussion about the decisions made. I wanted to know the motivations behind the characters and why they chose to make a certain decision. Unfortunately, the story focused more on the consequences of their individual decisions on themselves and the people around them instead.

The concept of the book itself presented another problem I had with this book: the writer had to present both scenarios for every character. This is a gargantuan task for any writer. Understandably(I hope), I found the format of the story very difficult to follow. There are 5 characters. Each character has 2 roads to choose from. So already we are following 10 different storylines. We follow them in chronological order. So Fall, road A: person 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; then Fall, road B: person 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; then Winter, road A: person 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; then Winter, road B: person 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on and so forth. I think there are 5 time periods in total: Fall, Winter, Prom, Graduation, Afterwards(?). All in all that is 5x2x5 which is 50 different smaller sections that meld into 2 different timelines for 5 different characters. It was definitely too much of a brain workout for me.

It didn’t help that I felt like the characters always made terrible decisions. No matter which decision they chose, I found either their reasoning or their subsequent reactions to be incredibly strange. Contrary to my initial impression, the characters were completely unrelatable, so they were unable to make up for any of their shortcomings.

As the story was written in the first person and alternating between five characters, there were distinctive voices for different characters. At the beginning, for instance, the athlete spoke and thought in stereotypical “jock speak” which was painful to read. As the story went on however, the voices seemed to get more and more similar. It was hard to tell who was who.

The whole read was unenjoyable and I couldn’t remember which path was which and who was who and where each one was going. Eventually I gave up and stopped with a few small sections left. I just couldn’t bring myself to read any further. I can’t say how the author could have structured the story better though, so maybe the book was just overly ambitious. On the other hand, maybe this was just a personal preference. Overall, my opinion is that the book had an interesting premise, but wasn’t what I had hoped for. This book seems to be the divisive kind, so perhaps someone else who reads this post will enjoy the book. I sure hope so!

Happy reading

Ms Marvel, Vol.1: No Normal

 

Writer: G. Willow Wilson

Artist: Adrian Alphona

Colour Artist: Ian Herring

Letterer:  VC’S Joe Caramagna

 

Hello there,

To preface this post, I’m not a huge fan of superhero comics, so my thoughts on this subject are limited. I have read only a few other superhero comics in the past but only on a whim. Unsurprisingly, this means that I did not know the backstory of the character Ms. Marvel. I did not even know what powers she had and if she even had any.

ms-marvel-vol-1-1-how-are-these-two-not-out-of-breath-from-talking-and-fighting

I don’t really enjoy this type of art as much, which put me off superhero comics.

This is the newest iteration of the Ms Marvel series. Kamala Khan is the sixteen year old in the main role. In the first volume, we see her gain her powers, watch her learn to control them and see what she decides to do with those powers. We also see how the acquisition of those powers affect the way she views her relationship with her family, friends, people who are not her friends, and herself.

I liked seeing how a Muslim Pakistani-American family might go about their day to day. We can see snippets of their culture through what kind of food they eat or don’t eat, their places of worship, their family dynamics and other traditions. All this still in the context of an immigrant family in America. While I don’t get the context of the location as much as most Americans will, such as the appeal of teenage parties involving alcohol, young people and young people drinking alcohol, I still appreciate the story and I do not think it diminishes my enjoyment in any way.

I’m excited to continue on with this story because it is about a girl who is around my age and who has been thrust into a weird situation. She does not really know what she’s doing or what she wants to do and that’s okay.

The character, as I understand from one small scene, is also an artist, which is cool. I just find it quite funny that lots of fictional characters enjoy reading, writing, drawing and other creative things. 🙂

Moving on to the art of the comic. TLDR: I love it!

I’m a big fan of the art, line and colour of the whole volume. The lines were not too heavy and stylised like some comic books. I personally don’t enjoy that type of style as it’s too dramatic for my eyes. The colour is also muted, taking on different hues at different times for different purposes. While there are instances of bright colours, it’s used more selectively so it does not become “too much”. This is just my opinion because I’m not an “art expert”, it’s just what I like.

tumblr_inline_ngt8bgzpdt1rj7l1x

Here is a page sample, you can see the slightly more muted colours that I mentioned.

Also, a big thumbs up for all the funny details in the background and all the detail on clothing, walls, store facades. It really makes the story that much more immersive.

Happy reading,

 

To find out more about the series:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ms._Marvel_(Kamala_Khan)

Rodent — Lisa J. Lawrence

Hello there,

This book follows the story of Isabelle, who has an alcoholic mother and is thus unable to lead a “normal teenage life”. For instance, in addition to school, she works a part time job and takes care of her two younger siblings in a run down apartment. We follow her as she tries to juggle all the responsibilities that a girl her age should not have to bear.

The story was uplifting but predictable. While it did not sugar coat the truth of real-life situations that are still happening today, the ending was hopeful, if perhaps naively so. Still, the portrayal was realistic enough to be believable.

My thoughts on this book are pretty neutral as it did not invoke any strong feelings, positive or negative. To start off, I enjoyed the interactions between Isabelle and her two younger siblings, Maisie and Evan. It was interesting to see how a young person steps up to act as a surrogate mother when their own mother is unavailable.

Another interesting point to note (I say “interesting” because it’s not exactly an aspect people typically “enjoy”) was that I found Isabelle’s character flawed and believable. While I did not like her at times, I could also understand why she thought or did the things she did.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the supporting characters. I understand that it may be easier to see all sides of Isabelle because the story is written in the first person. However, all the other supporting characters like her mother, siblings and her schoolmates seemed weirdly one dimensional in comparison. This could be attributed to the sheer number of characters in the story. Counting off the top of my head, there were around 24 characters including Isabelle who were mentioned at least twice in this book. Some of these characters who had a recurring role did not play into the major plot line of the story. As such, their inclusion seemed almost unnecessary.

However, perhaps that was a reflection of real life. There are people in your life who come and go. Even when a big situation happens that does not involve them, they are still around and have their own stories to live out. Their inclusion could be a way to show that the world of the story is even richer than what we can see through Isabelle’s eyes.

I know this review has unexpectedly gone into a super deep discussion about writing and intent, but I just think it’s interesting to think about the different sides to an issue. In this case, while I did not enjoy the way something was done in the book, I can still appreciate the possible intention. Moving on.

Overall, the book was okay but the pacing was just a little off for me. There were either too many characters or too few pages. I would have enjoyed getting to know the characters better but that might just be my personal preference. Maybe you will enjoy this story more than I did. 😀

Happy reading