Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Two Mini Reviews: Archival Quality and Kim Reaper

Archival Quality, by Ivy Noelle Weir

Archival Quality is a gem of a little comic. Starring Celeste Walden, who has just lost her library job due to a nervous breakdown, the story follows her explorations as archivist in a strange and secretive library. There's a mystery to uncover, one that becomes deeply personal to her as she begins to identify with the ghost contacting her. But these things are harder to investigate when people question your perceptions at every turn, and maybe you question your own.
Delving into the dark history of the treatment of mental illness in America, and reflecting on lingering perceptions and reactions that all people who have mental illness must face, Archival Quality transcends its mystery format to be exploratory and highly relatable. I read it in one sitting and will probably purchase a paperback copy for my collection later in the year when it's published.

I'd also say that this story in itself would be a good text for cultural/literary studies for young people, and it could be well paired with many staples in literature that deal with a narrator that is treated as unreliable or dismissed based on their mental status.


Kim Reaper, Vol 1 by Sarah Graley

This little book is ten thousand percent adorable. The art and style reminds me a bit of the spooky-cute books in the late nineties like Lenore from Roman Dirge and the Nightmares & Fairytales. Granted, the story isn't super deep, and things move fast, but I really enjoyed the fast-paced shenanigans between two girls crushing on each other while dealing with ghouls and reapers and zombies. 

Good clean lesbian fun, with little drama. I'll definitely be following this title as long as they're writing it.
I received copies of these titles from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Mini Review: Mae Vol 1




Mae (by Gene Ha) is a super entertaining little quest in which the titular character’s sister Abbie reappears after years of being missing, and in the span of a day, ropes Mae into a quest to save their father. They go into a wondrous alternate world, where Abbie proceeds to try to find their father mostly through blunt force, and Mae finds that her skills aren’t entirely useless here, either.

Vol 1 ends after a few failed attempts at rescue, so keep an eye out for volume 2, which won’t drop until January 2019. Until then, the author's website has a sample you can read online for free.

Friday, July 6, 2018

REVIEW: GIRLS MADE OF SNOW AND GLASS




I’ve been mulling on how to review Girls Made of Snow and Glass for a week.

There have been a lot of efforts over the years to revision Snow White. Add dwarves, subtract dwarves. Make Snow White evil. Give Regina The Queen backstory. The Nightmares and Fairytales comic version has the Queen literally steal Snow’s heart, and Snow becomes a monster who comes to steal it back (then she frolics off into the forest with the animals). Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories portrays the Queen as a tragic figure, a princess who was never saved. Manipulated by the Enchantress to do her will, Evly uses her ruthlessness and determination to try to save the love of her life (and screw anyone who gets in her way). She ends up trapped herself, and Snow ends up sharing her stepmother’s story to the other queens, because there’s nothing else that can be done for her, and understanding is all Snow can give to Evly now.

In Girls Made of Snow and Glass, Melissa Bashardoust does what some fairytale revisionists have tried before: focus on the relationship between Snow and The Queen. However, rather than adding a little development of their relationship to an overall love story about being rescued by a prince, Bashardoust sets the love between Snow (Here, Lynet) and The Queen (Mina) center stage. Following in importance are the relationships with their fathers, and Lynet’s relationship with her love interest, Nadia.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ocean's 8: Live Fast Die Young, Bad Girls Do It Well


The new installment of the Ocean’s franchise follows Danny Ocean’s sister Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) immediately upon her release from jail. Her target? A multimillion dollar necklace, placed on a starlet attending the Met Gala, and she hires a team of women to help her do it, because who better to go unnoticed than women serving and cleaning up after a room full of elites?

All in all, I have to say the movie was entertaining. I did feel the beginning dragged a bit, but it is a problem with the caper flick genre as a whole, especially ones that have to introduce a host of characters. However, I’m probably not the person to review this movie as an instalment in the franchise, since I only watched the original Ocean’s 11 back in 2004 and didn’t find it compelling enough to warrant following the same plot twice more. I watched simply as a movie-goer, and one who ought to appreciate any movie franchise hijacked from previously all-male casts to all female casts.

First, the strengths of this film lie in the characters. Debbie’s motivations are complex and revealed throughout the movie.

(SPOILERS)


Friday, March 16, 2018

A Wrinkle In Time: Be a Warrior



A Wrinkle in Time is a gloriously bright, fun quest in which three children go looking for two of their father and end up becoming part of the unending fight against real evil. While many reviews have claimed that this movie is incomprehensible, not faithful to the book, or filled with unrelatable, unlikable characters, upon actually watching this film (as someone who was a huge fan of the books as a child), I found none of these things to be true. In fact, this movie is a wonderful, entertaining adaptation that had me crying at several points.

I sympathized with and adored Meg, I laughed with Calvin, and I feared for Charles Wallace. Mr. Murray’s relationship with his wife is deep and touching, and we can see the depth of their love for each other and for their children. This movie is a beautiful offering to young women, particularly young black women, as well as the smart young men who get erased from media too often in favor of stereotypically aggressive forms of masculinity. I walked out of the theatre feeling energized and moved, and hoping, (intensely) that the studio gets on board with making A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet to follow up.

Spoilers under the cut:

Saturday, January 20, 2018

POETRY REVIEWS: Amanda Lovelace's Witch


The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One, Amanda Lovelace’s second volume of poetry, is ambitious in concept. Like her first volume, The Princess Saves Herself in This One, Lovelace’s style lends itself to a multi-section chapbook of freeform poetry, and like that first volume, many of the poems are so simple as to say almost nothing. The strengths from The Princess—personal, detailed pain transliterated into poetry—are mostly absent in The Witch, leaving it to stand on the emotional residue of current political unrest.

One reason that this structure worked for her first volume is simply that we were following Lovelace through her own journey. It was powerful for its personal nature. This is a similar structure to what you would find from Rupi Kaur, but with extreme simplicity of form for each poem. That in itself isn’t a criticism. Part of Lovelace’s appeal is her readability for those just getting into poetry. The problem lies in the fact that many of her poems sound the same, have the same point, with little variation. Her experiments with text spacing and font changes don’t always add something to what she’s writing, either. So when the narrative of the volume is absent, as it is with The Witch, and the topic of each poem is vaguely political rather than personal, each poem loses more and more impact. It gives the reader the feeling that they’re scrolling through the poetry tag on Tumblr, rather than reading a volume of poetry they bought for $15.

Furthermore, as I mentioned before, the poetry is rather one-note. For the first section, I only marked two poems as standing out. The middle sections faired a bit better, but since most of the topics were either a vague “women are powerful” or a rehash of what Lovelace did in the first volume, it is difficult really to find a lot of good poems to pull out as examples. Additionally, she made several “homages” to other literary works, from The Handmaid’s Tale to The Hunger Games to Hamilton to “Goblin Market”—something that should improve the quality of her poetry… However for the most part, the allusions are superficial. I would ask Lovelace, how are you building on the themes here? How does their inspiration bring strength to your own work?

A few themes appeared in The Witch that were notable. One is the encouragement of women to write poetry and draw from the strength of poets who came before them. This theme would have been strengthened if Lovelace had demonstrated any knowledge of this history beyond mentioning “Goblin Market,” since the poem itself only had a connection of women eating fruit and didn’t develop thematically to explore the meaning behind eating that fruit. Especially given the running theme of fire and witchcraft, there could be endless material for building on women poets who have come before Lovelace. That she doesn’t feels like an omission.

Another theme, which actually turns out well for Lovelace, is her attempt to draw on the notion of sisterhood. Overall, Lovelace’s portrayal of feminism here is a bit reminiscent of the second wave Sisterhood is Powerful bit and tries to totalize women’s experiences, but in several poems she directly addresses the broad spectrum of women and asking that women work together and for one another, particularly for their sisters on the margins. This brings out two poems from one of the stronger sections, The Firestorm, “your sisters are not your enemies” and “witch girl gang”, and one from The Ashes, “there’s plenty of room for all of us.” The latter is one instance in which her use of typography strengthens the reading of the poem on the paper.

Visual of Lovelace's poems: Left, regular poetry with one line dangling; Right, a poem in the shape of a torch.

The continued reference to fire and witches in effect is more of a motif, and it is disappointing that this wasn’t exploited further. However, in some poems, these elements really come together in a way that resonates and elevates. My favorite of these would be “call me alexandria,” for which the subject is the dismissal of women as unknowable, and the allusion is of course the historical burning of the library of Alexandria. Fire, feminism, violence, and poetry, all in one.

From the themes addressed in her first volume, The Witch follows up with a few regarding body positivity and sexual violence that are worth the time. For few examples, “my body rejects your desires” and “rip to the women who lost these games.” These seem to be Lovelace’s strength. These poems, along with the fighting spirit, however repetitive, will make The Witch another favorite for her fans. In fact, I’d say that if you have a young woman in your life who is just getting into poetry, who may just be getting into social justice and feminism, they will enjoy The Witch, even with all of the missed opportunities for Lovelace to elevate her style, references, and truly produce a powerful collection of poetry.


Ultimately, any review of Amanda Lovelace will have to be bittersweet. There’s so much promise. So much ability for her to lead young readers into deeper and more complex poetry with her bare and easily digestible style. And still, I know that as is, The Witch will probably outsell most collections coming out this year and older ones that young people could explore. Thus, I hope with its target demographic The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One will put a fire under its readers and have them thinking more deeply about the political implications that are so relevant to their lives, now more than ever.

I received a copy of the ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

BOOK REVIEWS: Two Moons


Two Moons by Krystal A. Smith is a collection of short speculative fiction. Smith is a Black lesbian poet, and her poetic roots come through as she brings the figurative world of emotion into the literal, asking her readers to follow each protagonist in her soul's journey. While not all stories center on romance, this collection features Black lesbian and bisexual leads, some with disabilities. Trust that the range of representation here weaves organically into each story.

Most anthologies will be hit or miss; Two Moons is no exception. The weak stories fall flat mostly because they are so very short that they lack the development or tension needed to fully bring the reader into the concept. A few I forgot about when I was listing the stories out in my review notes. Overall, though, Two Moons offers a worthwhile peak in layered, extra-natural worlds. Smith brings us to a places where Earth and the heavens can be just a step and a whim away; young women can become goddesses; and the line between delusion, fantasy, and reality is really more of a semi-permeable membrane.

Two Moons excels in abstractions of problems the protagonists are working through: women falling in love with or being threatened by celestial bodies, drawing their strength from the weaknesses that have defined them. My favorites are “Me, the Moon, and Olivia,” “Cosmic,” and “Demetria’s Nature.” The first stars a woman recovering from a traumatic brain injury, whose therapist is struggling with devastating personal problems while the lead struggles to determine what is real. In the second, a former drug addict (and a literal star) is determined to redeem herself by protecting the heavens. The last, to avoid spoilers, I’ll only describe as a girl coming of age and finding out what is inside of her. And it’s mind-blowing.

A few of the stories hit the middle range; strong and interesting, but not as resonating as the ones mentioned above. The titular “Two Moons,” “Harvest,” “Life Cycle,” and “What the Heart Wants.” “Search” also hits a difficult balance between intriguing and lyrically. Plus, I have to give extra props for being able to pull off a story in second person. All of these are enjoyable on their own merits.

While a few of the stories could not hold my interest, they are still smartly conceived and could potentially reach the strength of the others. Because of this, I am bit of a rating bump. From the strongest stories, Smith has made me want to follow her work to see what she comes up with in the future. I’ll be hoping she continues in the genre of speculative fiction, and that she decides to expand some of her ideas into full novellas so we can see where she will go extending a concept to its final conclusions.

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.