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Hogwarts, Gallifrey, EarthSea, Smekland

All the RiversAll the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love this book for what it begins. Rabinyan tells the story of two young people, from opposing sides of a conflict, falling in love in an in-between state. A young Arab man and an young Israeli woman, both temporarily in New York for professional and artistic reasons, cannot ignore the pull they have towards one another. And they cannot ignore the fact that they have no future together.

There is some really chewy beginning of an exploration of their deeply held beliefs and different understandings of current events, but it doesn’t last. A big chunk of the book is just the two of them having irritating lovers’ spats, so annoying to this reader that I just wanted them to break up already. And the ending Rabinyan gave them handily kept them from having to figure out an adult resolution.

Lately, I seem to be picking up novels that center on difficult themes and fill in the crevices of my ignorance. Many are translated into English from a variety of other languages. I’m grateful to writers and translators for helping me widen my world and my vision.

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Moving KingsMoving Kings by Joshua Cohen

What do you do when you are released from a world in which your job is to obey orders, and now you get to decide for yourself? Who will you be when everyone you meet projects on you, and you don’t like any of their choices? How will you go forward with your life when the world has mis-used you at every turn, putting you in danger and cutting you no slack?

Uri and Yoav were Israeli soldiers in the West Bank who have no idea how to be peaceful working adults. David is a non-religious Jew in an ugly business. Avery/Imamu was an American soldier in Vietnam, returned home with hopes of making an honest life, but cannot escape certain aspects of American culture and ends up drug addicted and foreclosed upon (where all their stories interconnect). (Ruth and Tammy and all the other women are underdeveloped stand-ins for female “types.” But that is in keeping with the way the males in this book thought of them.)

I don’t know how many stars to give this disturbing, enlightening, confusing, and well-crafted book. Cohen did what I often say I want from a writer: characters and situations I wouldn’t likely imagine myself; an ending I wouldn’t say I didn’t see coming, but that did surprise me; a glimpse into parts of the world I have never, in real life, seen up close. But boy was it uncomfortable. And sad. And also disgusting.

I’ll admit that I was confused at times and suspect I lack the contextual knowledge to understand everything Cohen was conveying. I hope someone else I know will read this so we can talk about it. This would be a great choice for a book group that is willing to do background reading and have uncomfortable conversations.

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Review: Meddling Kids

Meddling KidsMeddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very wild ride.

They spent their teen summers solving gentle crimes in a vacation town in the Pacific Northwest. Now, they are young twenty-somethings derailed by the remnant horrors of their last case, unable to move forward and become functioning adults. In an attempt to finally put things to rest, they get the band back together and head back to face what may be truly supernatural.

If you remember Scooby-Doo, are a fan of Lovecraft, and enjoy horror, action, super long sentences, odd vocabulary, and a dose of silliness, you will probably like Meddling Kids.

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Review: Rabbit Cake

Rabbit Cake
Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was very good. But it was not funny. Why do blurb writers always have to say everything is hilarious? Rabbit Cake is thoughtful, unique, maybe quirky, and has interesting and wonderful characters. But it is sad. Moving. A little hopeful towards the end. Not funny.

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Review: Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine

Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine
Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine by Tim Hanley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Originally written as an undergraduate essay, Wonder Woman Unbound, definitely still reads as a college paper. While there are some interesting parts about the history of comic books in North America and the evolution of superheroes, the book could have been improved with editing. There are sections which are repetitious, some of the footnotes are just side jokes that the author thought were cute, and the writing style didn’t hold my attention. I found myself reading faster and faster just to finish.

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Review: If Apples Had Teeth

If Apples Had Teeth
If Apples Had Teeth by Shirley Glaser
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a reprint of a title originally published by Knopf in 1960. The words and illustrations are delightfully wide-eyed, deranged, and possibly subversive. Apples bite back. The soup talks back! Alligators masquerade as luggage. (Watch out!) Each page posits ‘what if,’ and offers a delightfully absurd response. Some pages rhyme. Some don’t. But there’s a zippy rhythm to the text that makes for good reading aloud. Five to eight year olds who like to laugh will love this one. Young wordsmiths and artists will be eager to create their own ‘what ifs’ and draw them. It’s a book that makes the reader feel energized and want to participate.

There’s nothing I didn’t like about this book. It’s joyous and goofy and the color palette of yellow-orange, turquoise, pink, orange, and green is fully in the spirit of the time of its original publishing date.

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Review: Welcome to the Slipstream

Welcome to the Slipstream
Welcome to the Slipstream by Natalka Burian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was very powerful. Van is a young teenager who has led a nomadic life with her talented but troubled mother and their family friend, Ida. They are well-off now, but Van remembers lean and scary times from when she was very young. She is old enough now to understand that her mother Sofia has a mental illness as well as brilliance. Van and Ida work together to keep Sofia out of hospitals and jails. As Van gets older, she begins to see the appeal of the normal life she did not get to have.

The characters in this book were wonderful, particularly Ida and Van. Their relationship was lovely and well written. Van’s growing awareness that her own talents and intelligence may also have their seeds in mania, and the realization that she may need to separate from her mother to stay sane is heartbreaking and effectively presented.

The only thing I din’t like was the speed with which the Silver Saddle staff came to love and truly care for Van and Ida didn’t ring true. It was a false note in an otherwise skillfully presented story.

Burian is an author to watch.

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