Blankets by Craig Thompson

August 30, 2016
Blankets, Craig Thompson, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Top Shelf Productions on August 18, 2003
Format Read:  Hardcover Edition (592 Pages)
Genre: Graphic Novel/ Coming of Age/ Contemporary
Series: Standalone
Source: Purchased
Rating: THREE STARS
Blankets
~Amazon~
Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith.

REVIEW:

I was excited to be blown away by this because of all of the booktuber's who have recommended this. This was a sweet story about coming of age. first love and grappling with Christian beliefs. However I was underwhelmed and wanted more to be explained.  Craig explores the pivotal experiences and memories that have shaped his life. I was happy to learn more about him, but the emotional turmoil and angst of adolescence was not well communicated through his story. Much of the book focuses on Raina and Craig's romance that they were able to explore for two weeks when he comes to visit.
Raina was a very complex character, who had a lot of responsibilities and hardship to deal with. We were briefly allowed into her family life when Craig goes to visit. Raina has to care for her two special needs siblings, her infant niece and mediate between her divorcing parents.  But the story really doesn't address hard issues in more then a passing way. There are fascinating panels featuring verses of the bible intertwined with Craig's pondering about life. But Craig never addresses how he  feels about things happening. He may describe an emotion but he never explores the "so what"? He leaves the reader to fill in a lot of the blanks, and so I struggled to engage.

The artwork was done well and imaginatively. But this memoir falls short because there's no real reflection on what Craig has learned. There were heart felt moments, and thought provoking messages, but nothing that  stuck with me. I would recommend this for fans of non-fiction graphic novels, who enjoy good artwork. Many other readers have absolutely loved this, so it's worth a shot, but this didn't work for me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Craig Ringwalt Thompson (b. September 21, 1975 in Traverse City, Michigan) is a graphic novelist best known for his 2003 work Blankets. Thompson has received four Harvey Awards, two Eisner Awards, and two Ignatz Awards. In 2007, his cover design for the Menomena album Friend and Foe received a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package.

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Let's Play White by Chesya Burke

August 29, 2016
Book Review, InToriLex, Let's Play White, Chesya Burke
Published By: Apex Publications on April 26, 2011
Format Read: Paperback Edition (200 pages)
Genre: Horror/ Fantasy/ Short Story
Series: Standalone
Source:  Boston Radical Feminists of Color Book Club
Rating: FIVE STARS
Let's Play White
~Amazon~
White brings with it dreams of respect, of wealth, of simply being treated as a human being. It's the one thing Walter will never be. But what if he could play white, the way so many others seem to do? Would it bring him privilege or simply deny the pain? The title story in this collection asks those questions, and then moves on to challenge notions of race, privilege, personal choice, and even life and death with equal vigor. From the spectrum spanning despair and hope in "What She Saw When They Flew Away" to the stark weave of personal struggles in "Chocolate Park," Let's Play White speaks with the voices of the overlooked and unheard. "I Make People Do Bad Things" shines a metaphysical light on Harlem's most notorious historical madame, and then, with a deft twist into melancholic humor, "Cue: Change" brings a zombie-esque apocalypse, possibly for the betterment of all mankind.

Gritty and sublime, the stories of Let's Play White feature real people facing the worlds they're given, bringing out the best and the worst of what it means to be human. If you're ready to slip into someone else's skin for a while, then it's time to come play white.

REVIEW:

This short story collection rocked my socks off.  Each story had enough real world and fantastical elements to help suspend your disbelief in a entertaining way. The African American experience in America can be horrific, it is a reality that belongs in some fictional horror story but fortunately is very real. Within very few pages, I became attached to characters and longed for the stories to continue.  This author has an incredible talent to draw the reader in, and make them uncomfortable. Some of the story's deserve a trigger warning  because they involve sexual abuse, prostitution and graphic violence. But overall I was never overwhelmed with what was described because it hit so close to home.
I would recommend this to everyone who can handle uncomfortable topics and enjoy engaging and memorable writing. This was a brief but powerful collection of stories, that lend themselves open to interpretation. Below are my brief spoiler free thoughts on each:

Walter and the Three Legged King- Walter is a man determined to make a life for himself. He gets a unlikely wake up call, that leads him to better opportunities. This story has great visceral descriptions of what it's like to live in poverty.

Purse- This involves a women dealing with the hustle and bustle or riding a NYC subway. But very quickly things take a turn. I was genuinely surprised at the story's ability to grip me in three short pages.

I Make People Do Bad Things- There's some great fantastical elements included in this story of a crime regime lead and maintained by Madame St. Clair. Madame St. Clair has to grapple with making morally just decisions, in a business where making money trumps all.

The Unremembered- This takes the relateable narrative of having a sick child, and adds new meaning towards perseverance and the value of past knowledge.
"The slavery my dear was not the most difficult part; no the hard part was the loss. The loss of everything past, present and future. To take away one's past is to deny them a future." 
Chocolate Park- It's clearly very difficult to keep a family together who has been forever marked by poverty and tragedy. Three sisters find their own ways to hope and make a future for themselves. This was emotionally wrenching and includes some very violent and sexually abusive scenes, not for the faint of heart.

What She Saw When They Flew Away- Everyone deals with loss differently, but it can be extremely hard to help a child deal with grief. This story illustrates how crippling grief can be, and how one mother learns the importance of being free.

He Who Takes the Pain Away- A very touching and symbolic story challenging ideas about faith and belief.

CUE:Change- It seems like everyone has a zombie story to tell, but this zombie story is about much more then mindless monsters. These zombies have a plan, this bizarre narrative highlights how hard change can be.
"In fact, some may say that our special garden variety of zombie was actually less threatening than the brutal police or rich perverts who had roamed our streets previously. At least they weren't licensed by corrupt laws. That was how I saw it, it's how a lot of people saw it."
The Room Where Ben Disappeared- The only story told from the perspective of a white man, this had some very relatable moments of worry and despair.

The Light of Cree- This is a coming of age story, where how to accept your purpose takes main stage.

The Teachings and Redemption of Ms. Fannie Lou Mason- People fear the unknown, but some people are created to address the fearful abyss. This story is as fantastical as it is true, it was fantastic.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chesya Burke has written and published nearly a hundred fiction pieces and articles within the genres of science fiction, fantasy, noir and horror. Her story collection, Let's Play White, is being taught in universities around the country. In addition, Burke wrote several articles for the African American National Biography in 2008, and Burke's novel, THE STRANGE CRIMES OF LITTLE AFRICA, debuts later this fall. Poet Nikki Giovanni compared her writing to that of Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison.

Burke's thesis was on the comic book character Storm from the X-MEN, and her comic, Shiv, is scheduled to debut in 2016.

Burke is currently pursuing her PhD in English at University of Florida. She's Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Charis Books and More, one of the oldest feminist book stores in the country.

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Book Scoop August 19- August 26 2016

August 26, 2016
Book News, Links to Click, InToriLex
Book Industry News and Links to Sift Through When Your Face Isn't buried in a Book 
Happy Women's Equality Day!

HEADLINES






THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS... FOR THE LAST TIME.
A season of endings has begun.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.
The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)~Amazon~


LINKS TO CLICK




Sly, funny, intelligent, and artfully structured, The Fortunes recasts American history through the lives of Chinese Americans and reimagines the multigenerational novel through the fractures of immigrant family experience.
Inhabiting four lives—a railroad baron’s valet who unwittingly ignites an explosion in Chinese labor, Hollywood's first Chinese movie star, a hate-crime victim whose death mobilizes Asian Americans, and a biracial writer visiting China for an adoption—this novel captures and capsizes over a century of our history, showing that even as family bonds are denied and broken, a community can survive—as much through love as blood.
Building fact into fiction, spinning fiction around fact, Davies uses each of these stories—three inspired by real historical characters—to examine the process of becoming not only Chinese American, but American.
The Fortunes~Amazon~
Did I miss Anything in the Book World This Week?
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Patches of Grey by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

August 25, 2016
Roy L. Pickering Jr., Book Review, Patches of Grey, InToriLex
Published By: M.U.D. House Books on January 8, 2010
Format Read: Paperback (329 pages)
Genre: Contemporary/ Romance / African American Experience
Series: Standalone
Source: Author Request
Rating: FOUR POINT FIVE STARS
Patches Of Grey
~Amazon~
Tony Johnson is a studious young man planning to soon graduate from much more than high school. Although his zip code places him in a Bronx tenement pre "rise of Obama", his sights are set far beyond the trappings of a humble upbringing. Collegiate dreams combined with falling in love with a white classmate put him strongly at odds with his father. He incurs Lionel Johnson's wrath for the sins of ambition and daring to be with Janet Mitchell. Seeing unrealized goals reincarnated in the eyes of his eldest son remind Lionel of what once could have been, and of what went wrong. His own upbringing in a segregated town established a bitter, prejudiced outlook that is the only legacy he has to pass down to his children. When his job and role as primary breadwinner are lost, Lionel's authority erodes and he drowns disappointment one drink at a time. This affords Tony an opportunity to assert independence rather than allowing history to repeat itself and his fate to be set by chance and circumstance. Throughout the course of a tumultuous year, Tony comes to learn that the world is not as black and white as he and his father's opposing mindsets would suggest.

REVIEW:

I enjoyed reading this book immensely.  I was engaged the entire time and looked forward to learning more about the characters lives. Tony Johnson is a relateable and memorable protagonist, who learns alot about who he is and who he wants to be. The Johnson family faces many hardships financially, mentally, emotionally and physically. They all have to live in our society where being black means you are constantly figuring out how to deal with racism and the effect that is has on your life. Each member of the Johnson family has to grapple with some harsh choices and realities, they weave together well to create an engaging narrative. The good writing, and well developed characters were refreshing.
"I could have five PHD's, but that wouldn't change nothing. I could click my heels and think good thoughts all day ling, but they'll still see me as a nigger. You're my son, so how do you think they see you?"
Beyond the important experiences and situations described, the author does take time to explore some deep seated psychological pain. Tony's father Lionel is a case study of what happens when you let the fear of failure hold you back and eat you from the inside out. Tony also faces some hard realizations because he's growing into a man and realizing how much of life is not black and white. The humor was well timed and the commentary thrown in that never felt preachy or forced. The flow of the story was great and didn't shy away from hard truth's.
"Whether in times of feast or of famine, it could be counted on that times would change. God was a good name to call the fickle nature of fate as any."
I'm starting to read more Contemporary's and this reminded me to branch out into genre's I don't usually read. This is more then just a narrative about black experience, its a gem because of it's well developed discussion of race. The only thing I didn't enjoy fully was the ending, I wanted a more concrete ending for the Johnson family.  I enjoy learning what happens to the characters fictional or not, I feel invested. It has something for everyone and I shed some tears during some emotionally trying moments. Despite the ending I can recommend this book to everyone without reservations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roy Pickering was born on the idyllic island of St. Thomas and currently resides in a quaint New Jersey town with his wife and daughter. His debut novel Patches of Grey is published by M.U.D. House Books. His novella Feeding the Squirrels is published in electronic format by SynergEbooks - http://www.synergebooks.com/ebook_fee...Patches of Grey was named a 2012 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree
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Book Scoop August 12- August 19 2016

August 19, 2016
Giveaway, InToriLex, Book News, Book Scoop, Weekly Feature
Book Industry News and Links to Sift Through When Your Face Isn't buried in a Book  
Back Into My Groove & I'm Celebrating with A Giveaway You Can Enter in the Rafflecopter Below (US Only)

HEADLINES

Four Part Animated Series of WaterShip Down Coming in 2017
Set in England's Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.
Watership Down
~Amazon~
The Evolution of Publishing Treasure Hunts

J.K. Rowling to Release 'Pottermore Presents' Short Stories

LINKS TO CLICK

Differences in US and UK Cloud Atlas 

Obama's Summer Reading List 

Sandra Cisneros Interview on Leaving Home 

8 Great Japanese Translations Not Murakami 
Four disillusioned Tokyo teenagers who have never met are suddenly drawn together by a mysterious chain mail message sent to their cell phones.
Chain Mail: Addicted to You
~Amazon~

Films You Didn't Know were Book Adaptaions

Reading Lists of Women in Translation

Did I miss anything in the book world this week?
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Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

August 17, 2016
Here Comes the Sun, Nicole Dennis-Been, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Liveright  on July 5 2016
Format Read: ARC Edition (358 pages)
Genre: Adult/ Contemporary/ LGBQT
Series: Standalone
Source: Purchased at Library Book Sale
Rating: THREE POINT FIVE STARS
Here Comes the Sun
~Amazon~
Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis- Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate. When plans for a new hotel threaten their village, Margot sees not only an opportunity for her own financial independence but also perhaps a chance to admit a shocking secret: her forbidden love for another woman. As they face the impending destruction of their community, each woman—fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves—must confront long-hidden scars. From a much-heralded new writer, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise.

REVIEW:

This was an emotionally wrenching read, that explores the lives of very poor and marginalized women. I was immediately drawn to the cover of this book at a local library book sale, because of its brightly colored cover. But this book describes some dark topics. I wasn't expecting. Margot is a broken women who works to give her sister Thandi a better future, but loses herself in the process. Thandi is a very talented young women who wants to fit in and to decide her own future, but feels the weight of her family's hope. Delores is Margot and Thandie's mom, who made hard choices to survive, but who walks under the weight of her sins. All three of them have to navigate survival as tourism wrecks the community around them. The accounts of sexual abuse, betrayal, violence and sadness were portrayed in a genuine way peppered with dialogue written in the Jamaican dialect patois.
"Her imagination began to produce walls behind which she crouched in silence, closed off from the pain of the memory. She didn't have to leave this hiding place, for her imagination also produced its own food, water supply and oxygen."
The character development was great,the book slowly peels back the actions of these characters to describe the twisted reasons why. Jamaica was described as beautiful, but included descriptions of the poverty and helplessness left on its shores when tourists leave. There is a lot of sexual abuse described, but little justice given to the victims it leaves behind. Margot's sexuality is harbored as a badge of shame and dangerous in the small River Bank village, where people have no tolerance for same sex relationships. The writing was great and there was enough description of side characters to feel immersed in the community.
The main issue I had with this book, is a lack of resolution in the ending. Not every story should or has to have a happy ending, but I feel this book just abruptly stopped and I wanted more. Especially considering the sad reality of the characters, I wanted to see a future for these characters. Despite the ending I was engaged the entire time reading. This is an important book because it doesn't allow you too look away from the consequences of racism, sexism, and exploitation. If we aren't reminded by the stark reality of most of the people in the world, how else will we be inspired to change it. I would recommend this to adult readers who can handle looking at the consequences of heartbreak, through three women's eyes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Nicole Dennis-Benn's highly anticipated debut novel, HERE COMES THE SUN, will be published by W. W. Norton/Liveright (JULY 2016). Her writing has been awarded a Richard and Julie Logsdon Fiction Prize; and two of her stories have been nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize in Fiction. She has received fellowships from MacDowell Colony, Hedgebrook, Sewanee Writers' Conference, the Hurston/Wright Foundation, Lambda Foundation, and Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for Women Writers. Her work has appeared in Electric Literature, Red Rock Review, Kweli Literary Journal, Mosaic, Ebony.com, and the Feminist Wire.

Nicole Dennis-Benn was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. She is a graduate of Cornell University and has an MPH from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She is the Founder and Director of Stuyvesant Writing Workshop and currently teaches Writing for the City University of New York. She lives with her wife in Brooklyn, NY.

To learn more about Nicole, visit her website at www.nicoledennisbenn.com. You can also follow her on twitter @ndennis_benn.
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