Review- How to Talk to Girls at Parties

How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman

26372 Rating: 5/5 stars

 Let me start off by saying this is the best book I’ve read in September 2016 and the best graphic novel I’ve ever gotten my hands on. I already knew that Gaiman was a genius, but this still blew me away. I am making this my October staff pick at the book store I work at, as I want to share it with everyone who will possibly listen.

Enn is a teenage boy still learning what life is like after puberty. His friend, Vic, is the same age as him, but does not struggle with this awkward stage nearly as badly as Enn. The duo decides to attend a party (that they weren’t really invited to) and Vic is immediately away from Enn’s side and talking to the prettiest girl in the room. Enn envies Vic, but doesn’t have the same courage to really say anything of substance to a girl—he can barely get a few words out. As Enn wanders from room to room in this giant house, he discovers that not everyone at the party is very…normal.

This graphic novel is very short, but in my opinion it was the perfect length to get the story across without over explaining anything. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the illustration is breathtaking. There are a lot of otherworldly girls in this novel, and the illustrators depicted them as true goddesses. I wish these feminine creatures were real solely so I could see actual photographs of them. I think that means this is truly well done artwork.

Neil Gaiman certainly has a creative mind. I have read 5 of his books and each one is brilliant in its own way. I don’t think I’ve heard of anything quite like How to Talk to Girl at Parties and I don’t think I want to read anything like it ever again; it wouldn’t measure up. I wish I could follow Enn on more adventures, but perhaps being left wanting more is better.

I would recommend this book to any adult looking for shorter read. You don’t need to be a graphic novel enthusiast to fall in love with this book. It definitely is a cover grab too, as the illustrations on the hard cover will make anyone want to get their hands on it. I can’t wait to read more Gaiman graphic novels (I’m looking at Sandman Vol. 1 next).

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Review- The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach

 Rating: 4/5 stars

28221009 “’I think the monsters are already in you’.

‘How do I kill the monsters?’

‘I don’t think you need to kill them.’

‘Then what?’

‘I think you invite them. And let them stay. And learn to live with them. Then when you die, they stop being monsters.’”

 -I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review-

 Ivan is a 17 year old boy living in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children. He has lived there his whole life, as he does not know his mother’s name or even his own birthday. Ivan was born without legs and only one arm that bears two fingers and thumb. It is believed that this condition was a result of radiation from a nuclear reactor. Ivan does almost the same thing every day—eat three meals alone and use the TV three hours. He goes to bed at the same time and has a set routine for getting his clothes on in the morning. Ivan believes he has each patient figured out until a girl his age walks in into the hospital. This girl, Polina, has beautiful hair that will soon be gone due to chemotherapy, as she has leukemia and was sentenced to the hospital after both of her parents died. Ivan’s entire world is turned upside down and his daily routine is shattered as he tries to figure out Polina and learn what it’s like to have a real friend and possible love.

This book was great, but it was really, really depressing. The story reads as Ivan’s diary and the language is very raw. Ivan does not sugarcoat his life of a legless boy confined to a hospital full of other ill children. He shares in great detail what it’s like trapped in that building with nurses who don’t care and patients that don’t make any conversation.

I really enjoyed the first quarter of the book because it’s when we really get to know how things work around the hospital and the other characters through Ivan’s voice. He tells us about Dennis, the boy born without a soul. Dennis spends his days rocking in his bed at a steady pace, a pace so steady that Ivan can use it to count time. We also learn about the ginger twins. These twins don’t say a word to each other, or anyone else for that matter, but somehow communicate well enough to do everything at the same time.

Polina enters the story about a 1/3 way through the novel and, although it is a very interesting plot line, I was actually more curious to hear about daily hospital life. I did think that the growing relationship between Ivan and Polina was very cute, but it didn’t grab all of my attention like I was hoping. Still, I was definitely rooting for them and the inevitable end made me very sad (sadder than I already was reading this depressing diary).

From the reviews that I’ve read, I gather that The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko is very similar to The Fault in Our Stars. I haven’t read the latter novel, but I’d say if you enjoy John Green books you’d probably like this one as well. A big thank you to St. Martin’s Press for a copy of this wonderful book! I really enjoyed this read.

Review- Edenborn

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“No one ever proved to me why we’re so fucking great. Why should we be at the top of the food chain? If we die out, some other animal just takes our place. That’s as it should be. Maybe it was our turn to go. But we didn’t. Maybe our existence ruined Nature’s plan.”

3/5 stars

Pandora, Haji, Penny, and their families all live on Earth after a disease called Black Ep killed the last generation of pure humans. Now, everyone left on Earth is formed through cloning or artificial wombs. Many of the adults spend their time researching a cure for Black Ep that may make the planet habitable for natural life forms in the future. These individuals tell their children that they are always only one mutation away from being infected by the disease. What if that one mutation is already in the works? How can the population survive in a world where a plague is one amino acid combination away from killing all of them?

As I try to summarize this book, I’m realizing that I’m not quite sure what it was really about. There were a lot of storylines going on and the book wasn’t long enough to let them properly intertwine and piece together. On the other hand, if it had been much longer, I probably would have just put it down. It wasn’t interesting enough to be more than 350 pages.

Maybe my problem with Edenborn is that I haven’t read it’s prequel, Idlewild. I say maybe because every review I checked before picking up this novel told me that I didn’t have to read the first in the series to know what was happening. I guess I’m just making excuses for a mediocre book.

I don’t have much to say about Edenborn. I was hoping for a great science fiction read with a hint of feminist rhetoric and ended up with a story with great potential that fell short of the mark. A+ idea, C- execution.

 

 

Review- Joe Gould’s Teeth

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Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

“Torment had never stayed his pen: Gould was an artist, a bohemian, suffering for his art, suffering for their art, suffering for all art.”

Somewhere around 1918, Joe Gould began recording every conversation he had with other people living in the United States. He wrote in hundreds of composition journals and filled the pages with quotations and paraphrases from his daily encounters and called it the “Oral History”. Gould insisted that publishers could not publish his work until after he died, as it was not meant for the current generation. In the late 1940’s, Gould was admitted to a hospital that virtually ceased his writing. After that, the journals stopped. After Gould passed away in 1957, the search for the “Oral History” began. Researchers tried contacting Gould’s friends, relatives, and people mentioned in his surviving letters. The story told in the surviving paperwork falls apart upon fact-checking some of the dates. If there is no trace of the hundreds of journals containing the “Oral History”, is it possible that it never existed at all?

Jill Lepore, thank you for writing the biography that got me out of my reading slump. I rarely read nonfiction, much less biographies, but I am so glad I picked up this book.

What I love about this book is the dual-plot structure between Joe Gould’s history and Lepore’s search for clues about the accuracy of the first plot. She tells Gould’s story as previous researchers have told it, but also voices her questions and rediscovers parts of his life herself. Although others have tackled the debate over the existence of the “Oral History”, Lepore certainly conducts her own research and draws her own conclusions. Interestingly, although Lepore outlines the facts she discovered, she allows the readers to form their own thoughts on the issue as well. Lepore says, “After reading everything about Gould I could possibly get my hands on, here are the facts and the story as I found it; do what you’d like with that”. In my opinion, that makes for the best kind of biography.

I also want to comment on the language of the book. The sentences are structured in a clear and succinct way. I have been deterred from biographies in the past because of the superfluous sentences that make the plot boring. I end up wondering why I’d want to read a biography about someone whose life was plainly uninteresting to me, and set the book down. Lepore has a way of keeping each sentence short enough to continue holding the reader, but concise enough to give the information needed. I wish every biography that I tried reading in the past could be rewritten into this sentence format because I am sure I’d pick them up again.

This was a really great read on a subject and person I knew nothing about beforehand. I’m glad I picked it up off of the NYT nonfiction best seller’s table at my town’s bookstore. It was an impulse buy, but a cherished one.