Book Reviews

La mujer que se sabía todos los cuentos by Carlos Rubio

La mujer que se sabía todos los cuentosENGLISH BELOW

Rating: 🍁🍁🍁

La mujer que se sabía todos los cuentos trata sobre una cuenta cuentos que desconoce su propio nombre.

Esta cae dentro de un libro donde aprende historias que desconoce, todas sobre mujeres célebres Latinoamericanas cuyas historias merecen ser contadas y conocidas más ampliamente, así explicando la ironía de porqué la cuenta cuentos nunca ha escuchado sobre ellas. Algunas de ellas son: Alfonsina Storni, Gabriela Mistral, y Carmen Lyra.

Al finalizar sus historias, cada mujer le entrega a la contadora una de las letras de su nombre, y al conseguirlas todas, ella debe juntarlas para descubrir la respuesta.

La revelación del nombre es conmovedora y siento que vale la pena, especialmente para los chiquitos. Sería buenísimo que lo leyeran con alguien mayor que los pueda guiar con preguntas, porque el librito da muchas ironías sobre las cuales pensar.

Al final del libro hay una mini biografía para cada una de las mujeres en el libro y así no hay que estar Googleando.

Este libro está bonito para leerlo antes de dormir, porque es muy muy lento y tranquilo y cada capítulo es cortito y no hay que ponerle demasiada atención para seguir el hilo de la historia.

Las ilustraciones son lindísimas, todas en escala de grises, con gradientes suaves y líneas ondulantes que se prestan para la abstracción y un poco de surrealismo.

El texto sí me disgustó bastante en dos ocasiones donde el autor usa un lenguaje anticuado y dañino.

Primero habla de una ‘niña inválida’ en vez de ‘una niña con discapacidad’. En ese sí podría más o menos darle el beneficio de la duda porque no recuerdo que en el 2006 ya el lenguaje hubiera evolucionado (por favor alguien dígame si estoy equivocada). Pero igualmente, ahora sabemos que está mal.

Y segundo, habla de una canción y un baile que provocan la paz mundial, de tal manera que toda la gente del mundo se da de las manos y en eso dice: ‘manos negras, amarillas, rojas, blancas…’

Por dios, literalmente con un imbécil que se inventó esos colores ES QUE EMPEZÓ EL RACISMO como lo conocemos hoy en día. Y eso no hay excusa para no haberlo sabido en el 2006. Y en una historia sobre LA PAZ MUNDIAL. Fatal, fatal, fatal.

Yo este libro no se lo daría a una niña o a un niño sin antes tachar esas dos líneas con corrector porque es inadmisible perpetuar ese tipo de lenguaje a estas alturas. No suelo rayar mis libros pero en este lo hice.

Le recomendaría este libro a: niñas y niños pequeños, o a adultos que quieren leer algo tranquilo antes de irse a dormir.

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ENGLISH:

The Woman Who Knew Every Tale is about a storyteller who doesn’t know her own name.

She falls into a book where she learns stories that she’s never heard before, each one starring a celebrated Latin American woman whose story deserves to be told and more widely known, therefore explaining the irony about why the storyteller has never heard of them before. Some of the women are: Alfonsina Storni, Gabriela Mistral, and Carmen Lyra.

At the end of their stories, each woman hands her a letter from her name, which she must put together to discover the answer.

The final reveal is quite moving and I found it worthwhile, especially for children. It would be great for them to read it with an adult who can guide them through, because there’s a lot of food for thought with the many ironies it contains.

At the end of the book there’s a mini biography for every woman in the book, so there’s no need to Google them as you read.

This is a nice book for reading at bedtime because it’s very very slow and calming and each chapter is super short and you don’t have to pay much attention to keep track of the story.

The illustrations are quite pretty; all rendered in gray tones, with soft gradients and wavy lines that lend themselves to abstraction with a dash of surrealism.

However, the text itself pissed me off quite a lot in two occasions where the author uses harmful, antiquated language.

First he mentions an “invalid girl” instead of “a girl with disabilities”. With this one I can maybe kind of sort of give him the benefit of the doubt because I can’t recall if this language had evolved by 2006 (please let me know if I’m mistaken). But regardless, now we know that it is wrong.

And secondly, he talks about a song and dance that produces world peace because everyone in the world is holding hands, and then he has the gall to say: “black hands, yellow ones, red ones, white ones…”

My god, racism as we know it today LITERALLY began when some asshole just casually decided to assign those colors to people. And there is NO excuse to have been ignorant about that in 2006. And in a story about WORLD PEACE of all things. Awful, awful, awful.

I would not give this book to a child without first covering those two lines with whiteout. It’s inadmissible to perpetuate that type of language in this day and age. I generally don’t write in my books, but in this one I did.

I would recommend this book to: young children, or adults who want to read something chill before bedtime.

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Book Reviews

The Apple-Tree Throne by Premee Mohamed

the apple tree throne

Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁

The Apple-Tree Throne is Premee Mohamed’s first novella, based on the song “The Ghost of Genova Heights” by Stars, from the album “In our Bedroom After the War.”

It is the autumnal first-person narrative of a soldier who returns from an unnamed war and is haunted by his superior officer. It takes place in an alternate England of an indeterminate era, complete with all the social mannerisms you’d expect.

The ghost himself seldom appears, so we mostly read about the effects that his haunting is having on the mind of the main character; who spends his days inserted into the spaces that his ghost used to occupy in life, while ruminating on life, death, and everything in between.

Can’t say much more without running into spoilers, but disregarding the plot, the reason why you’d want to read this book is because of its beautiful, beautiful prose.

Premee is a rare breed of writer known as a prose poet and even if “soldier haunted after the war” doesn’t pique your interest (as was the case with me*), hers is the superior level of an elegant voice that is just a pleasure to read. I highly recommend it.

*I follow Premee on Twitter and she is one of the funniest people around, precisely because of her constant and intelligent play on words. Even though the plot didn’t call to me, I just needed to read more of her words and it ended up being such a treat.

I would recommend this to: someone looking for a quick read/novella for a rainy afternoon (especially during these crisp autumn days), and also to people who want to enjoy the beautiful words of poems without necessarily having to read one.

The Apple-Tree Throne is available on Amazon for $2.99.

Book Reviews

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr, illustrated by Katie Harnett

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr, also Freymann-Weyr (Goodreads Author), Katie Harnett (Goodreads Author) (Illustrations)Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁

This is… a sad little book.

But it isn’t so much sad as in depressing, but sad as in: life is hard and it doesn’t always go the way we’d expect it to, we can’t have everything we want, and there’s sacrifices we have to make, whether we like it or not.

However, this book is written in tender, warm and fuzzy language that’ll make you feel like a child again, and that’s what I loved the most about it. It just feels whole-hearted all the way around. (By the way, if this were an objective review I’d give this 3 stars instead of 4.)

It’s hard to say much about the plot without spoiling half the story, but just know that it includes: magic that is hidden in plain sight, enchanted cats (one of which is named TATIANA!!!), an evil sorcerer, dragons with eyes and scales that come in every color, a bourgeois little girl with the warm-heartedness of a thousand suns, and enough kind souls to restore your faith in humanity.

Every chapter is headed by a full page illustration in black and white ink. The illustrations have that loose handmade folksy style that is so trendy nowadays.

The ending is… Not what you’d expect. The ending is the kind of thing I would have been super upset about as a child, so therefore, it would have been a great book to read in a class setting with guiding questions. There’s a LOT to discuss here, and I can see children having very strong opinions about this book for days.

I would recommend this to: young pensive children, and to adults who want to feel cozy before bedtime but also question themselves about the magics they may ignore on the daily.

Book Reviews

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness, Rovina Cai (Illustrator)

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness,  Rovina Cai (Illustrator).jpgRating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁

And The Ocean Was Our Sky is one of those rare genre-bending books that sits in a niche all on its own. (It was shelved under “Teen”, probably because of Patrick Ness’s previous works, but it definitely doesn’t belong there.)

I would describe it as existential fantasy. 

It is the story of a small team of whales who hunt the humans who hunt them.  Their hardened captain, Alexandra, is in a vicious search for a mythical foe known as “Toby Wick”. 

Their story is told by Bathsheba, a young apprentice, and the only one who is asking the important existential questions that nobody else is. “Are we hunting a devil? Does that not make devils of us also?”

Besides the obvious phonetic similarity between Moby Dick and “Toby Wick”, the epigraph also quotes that book. I haven’t read Moby Dick yet but if you have, I’d be interested to hear about any parallels with Bathsheba’s story. 

Lastly, apart from loving Patrick Ness’s previous work, Rovina Cai is half the reason I got this book. Her illustrations skillfully set the dark, contemplative mood of the story. They are mostly monochromatic, using dark greys with the smallest tinge of dark blue, plus the occasional bright scarlet stream of blood. 

I would recommend this to: readers looking for something different and reflective, someone who wants a deep read that isn’t necessarily long and dense, and people who appreciate dark wispy illustrations. 

Book Reviews

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

What If?- Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁

You’ve probably seen tons of xkcd comics online throughout the years. This book was written by the same guy! And it’s just as funny, curious and entertaining as those comics, but super fleshed out. 

All of the questions were submitted through Randall Munroe’s website, and he of course includes his characteristic stick figures for more laughs. 

The questions aren’t ordered by any theme or anything, so you can just flip through and pick whatever catches your attention.

As a layperson, I can’t say I 100% understood every equation or calculation he uses, but he includes helpful comparisons to further clarify the answer in your mind. 

After every so many pages, there’s a single page of “Weird and Worrying Questions” that he doesn’t answer, but responds a funny reaction comic instead. 

My only qualm with this book is he sometimes veered away from answering the exact question. He made up for it by asking the question in a different way, or adding other, often more catastrophic variables. (This reminded me a lot of Adam from Myth Busters!) 

I would recommend this to: fans of xkcd, curious children who love asking questions in science class, and the adults who used to be those children. 

Book Reviews

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. ChakrabortyRating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁

The City of Brass is an adult fantasy set in the Middle East. (Specifying it falls under adult since this is one of those books that might be mistaken for YA just because of the cover and because the author and the main character are female.) 

Nahri, the main character, is a human (???) girl who has mysterious healing powers and has been able to understand a bunch of different languages since birth. She eventually befriends Dara, a magical being, who takes her to Daevabad, the hidden city where the daeva/djinn reside. 

Daevabad is a strict monarchic patriarchy where a large part of the population is discriminated against through: language, blood color, tribe, vocabulary and anything else the ruling class can concoct. The story constantly explores these themes of prejudice, marginalization and competing versions of history (depending on who you ask).  It’s as disorienting for the reader as I imagine it is for Nahri, who is brand new in the city, and it’s very dramatic to see her navigate through this political intrigue. 

There’s also a small bit of romance, in the form of a love triangle. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book but it took me a while to read because I lost interest after the middle when it switched from “dangerous epic journey across the land!” to “let’s suddenly be trapped in a snooty place with static upper class drama”. But that’s just me. 

The ending is very dramatic and it only sort of leaves you in a cliffhanger. It gives you enough information that you don’t feel cheated out of a good ending, yet it’s shocking enough to make you want to read the sequel ASAP. 

There’s a glossary in the back with all the Arabic words used throughout the book; and sadly it doesn’t include a map, but the publisher’s website has one. 

the city of brass

I would recommend this to: people who like strong female characters, and someone who would like to read fantasy that isn’t Middle Earthy for once. 

Book Reviews

Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir (Author), Steenz (Illustrator)

Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir (Goodreads Author), Steenz (Goodreads Author) (Illustrator)Rating: 🍁

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This is not a book I can honestly recommend.

The main character is very unlikable. She is: immature, stubborn, willfully ignorant, self-indulgent, and as other reviewers have pointed out, emotionally abusive. She is offered help constantly but always refuses it and instead flips those offers on their heads in order to accuse the people who are trying to help her. She also mistakes anger for determination.

At one point she fully admits that she doesn’t want help and that apparently what she needs to do to feel better is to lash out at people? Again, that’s emotionally abusive.

There’s also a small hint of romance that is not believable because it plays out like a fantasy from the main character’s mind. The person who seemingly has a crush on her lists qualities that she has NOT displayed up to that point in the book, and it just sounds like he’s saying what she’s wanted to hear all along, which is a lie.

The most enjoyable aspect of this book is found in the character design. The cast was diverse (including body types) and a lot of thought was put into the outfits and their bright colors and patterns.

But I was often pulled out of the story because the action was sometimes hard to understand, and the transitions from scene to scene were too abrupt. I found myself flipping back and forth in multiple occasions, trying to figure out if I had missed something. I hadn’t, it was just a sudden transition.

The story itself (archivist at a museum helping the ghost who haunts it) is not a bad pitch; it is the reason why I wanted to read this, after all. But the execution could be much improved.