Tag Archive: 5.5

Mar 22

Review: Five Chiefs by John Paul Stevens

Five Chiefs

Guys, being #SaturdayLibrarian is no fun. Don’t get me wrong; I fully support the idea that public libraries should be open on Saturdays, and I don’t mind covering the reference desk when it’s my turn. But after a long week, on a day when the sun is shining and the number of people through the door is more of a trickle than a flood, it can be a little boring. So, I decided to put my time to good use and knock out the third book on my 2014 TBR Pile: Five Chiefs by John Paul Stevens.

A Gallup poll a few years ago found that way more people could name members of the Brady Bunch than could name Supreme Court justices. Well, one of the things that makes my relationship with Dale work so well is that we have an incredible fascination with the Supreme Court. Even though we often don’t agree with their rulings, the whole idea of a branch of government not being riddled with hate-mongering or unnecessary delays is really quite intriguing. John Paul Stevens served on the Supreme Court from 1975 to his retirement in 2010. Though he was appointed by Republican President Ford, he was widely considered to be one of the Court’s more liberal justices by the time of his retirement. In short, he was on the side of the angels.

John Paul Stevens

This picture of him on the right doesn’t really do him in any favors; he certainly doesn’t look like he’s on the side of the angels. This memoir gives a very quick look at his interactions with the Supreme Court, told through the framework of the five Chief Justices who shaped the Court over the course of his lifetime. So, we get bits from Fred Vinson, Earl Warren, Warren Burger, William Rehnquist, and John Roberts, Jr.

There are interesting moments in this book, but the pace is really clipped, and there are moments when I wish that Stevens would have taken more time. After all, he disposes of the entire story in about 200 pages. That’s not nearly enough time for all the gossipy bits that I want. Truth be told, there aren’t a lot of gossipy bits in this book, which makes sense since the Supreme Court is usually pretty tight-lipped. But at the same time, he does throw shade on other justices from time-to-time, noting how they “correctly” or “incorrectly” decided this or that issue. Their correctness of course being a direct measure of how much they agreed with him. So that’s good for a laugh.

And let’s not get it twisted: anybody who makes it to the Supreme Court and has the chance to shape the nation’s jurisprudence is someone deserving of respect. But sometimes Stevens can come off as a bit…crotchety. The Supreme Court building underwent some renovations in the 2000’s, and this was led by a three-judge panel that Stevens wasn’t on. Apparently, they redesigned the room where deliberations were held so that the table was now in the middle of the room instead of along one wall. Stephens harumphs about this for about five pages and mentions complaining about it to several other members, though nothing ever happened. He also through several pints of shade at Rehnquist’s decision to wear the gold bars on his robe when Rehnquist was Chief Justice. I know that these are minor points, but in book that covers his 35 year stint on the Court in about 150 pages (a good chunk happens before he ever hits the bench), it seems funny that these are the things that he’d still be focused on.

John Paul Stevens, on the side of the liberal angels. But crotchety if you move his stuff. I also bet he doesn’t like it when squirrels eat from the bird feeder.

JMF Rating: 5.5/10

‘Til next time,

-JMF

Feb 13

Review: Cindrella: Fables Are Forever by Bill Willingham, et al.

Cinderella - Fables Are Forever

Okay, this is the cover art to Cinderela: Fables are Forever. This is the second in a graphic novel spinoff from Fables, and it follows Cinderella, supers spy extraordinaire as she goes on a quest to find an old nemesis. Back in the day, when the Russian fables fled the Homelands, Cinderella went undercover to try to find out where they were hiding. Along the way, though, she ran into Dorothy Gale (of Oz fame) and the two became fast enemies. So the story follows Cinderella, tracking down an old enemy she thought was dead, trying to get to her before everything goes to hell too much.

First things first, let’s talk about this cover.

Really

This cover is problematic. If you’ve ever been to Russia, it’s cold. It was cold in May when I was there. I can’t imagine trying to do super spy type things in the middle of winter at a chateau wearing what she’s wearing on the cover. There’s nowhere for her to keep that gun. And it just seems like its meant to titillate the adolescent male audience for this graphic novel.  And the subsequent bra-and-underwear fight between Dorothy and Cinderella in the first issue just left my eyes rolling. I’d reuse the really gif, but I just used it, and I think you know where I stand. These stories are better than this sort of pandering.

And I did appreciate that this Fables involved Russian and East Asian characters that I was only dimly aware of. Anything that can expand my knowledge is always appreciated. Further, when they go to Africa and meet Anansi, it was interesting to see him displayed as a local crime baron who always gets his way due to clever planning and traps. I’m a sucker for an updated myth, what can I say?

But this story didn’t really come together for me. Maybe it was the over-reliance on flashbacks. Maybe it was that the stakes weren’t high enough. Maybe it was because it seemed so episodic with every other scene taking place not only in a new location but with an entirely new set of characters. Maybe it was that Dorothy Gale as psychopath for hire didn’t ring true or plausible. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t clicking with me.

But, that’s the thing about the Fables universe. It’s kind of like sex and cake: even the worst sex and/or cake is better than none at all. And so it is with Cinderella: Fables Are Forever.

JMF Rating: 5.5/10

‘Til next time,

-JMF

Oct 07

Review: What I Was by Meg Rosoff

what_i_was_1Okay, so there’s a book blog I read called Books I Done Read. And while she reads a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t (see: Georgette Heyer, diet books, etc.), the books that we have read in common, we feel the same way about. We both loved Rook and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.  Her 10/10 books include The Happiness Project, The Hobbit, and The Princess Bride, all of which I loved. And she just reviewed the new Meg Rosoff book which referred back to Rosoff’s previous book about a boy at boarding school meeting and becoming obsessed with a boy who lives by himself on a shack on the beach. So I decided to give What I Was a shot.

A lot of people really loved this book. I thought it was just okay, and I’m almost sure that I’m not the right audience for it. Because let’s not kid ourselves: Rosoff can write. The book is incredibly atmospheric, and the feeling of who-gives-a-fuckedness in teenage life rings real true and real clear. The main character (whose name is kind of a twist, so the Narrator) has been kicked out of two boarding schools for just not feeling it, and he’s still the odd man out at St. Oswald’s. And it’s mid-century England, so everything is kind of gloomy all the time. The kids are gloomy and mean. The teachers are gloomy and mean. The food is gloomy and mean. So when Narrator runs into Finn in an abandoned shack on the beach while out on an enforced run, he quickly becomes obsessed. Finn, on the other hand, is super taciturn and doesn’t appear to care one way or another about the Narrator. Their relationship develops until (obviously) tragedy strikes and rips everything asunder.

The book isn’t that long (just over 200 pages), and like I said: beautifully written. But not a lot happens. And I didn’t go into the book expecting car chases and murders and witty banter–I knew that not a lot was going to happen. But it really is all about their relationship. And you guys know I love a good boy-on-boy relationship. But…I just don’t know. Thinking back on it, I don’t really know why I didn’t connect with this story. The story flowed easily. I didn’t have to force myself to read it. I think maybe what it was was that for all the internal struggle we get from the Narrator, so little is offered from everyone else. And I know that’s kinda the point. But it just didn’t do it for me.

Anywho, this isn’t one of those books where I go “I can’t believe anyone has ever enjoyed this ever.” Rather, this was me stretching out of my typical types of books, and being somewhat disappointed with the results.

P.S. I read that Rosoff is super-nice, so now I feel kinda bad that What I Was wasn’t my cup of tea.

JMF Rating: 5.5/10

‘Til next time,

-JMF

Aug 06

Review: Hunted by Kevin Hearne

Hunted by Kevin Hearnes

I must have forgotten how disappointed I was in the last Iron Druid book when I reviewed it earlier this year because I grabbed the audiobook version of Hunted by Kevin Hearne last week.  I’ve been listening to it at night as a less light-intensive way of trying to fall asleep.

This edition is also narrated by Luke Daniels, who also narrated the previous five books in this series.  Great voice acting, and he stays remarkably consistent with his differently voiced characters both within the novel and throughout the series.

The action picks up en medias ras: Atticus and company are running away from Diana and Artemis, the Roman and Greek goddesses of the hunt, because he offended them in previous books (the salient details slip from mind.  Suffice to say they’re angry and ready to kill).  Anywho, The Morrigan, the Irish chooser of the slain and longtime series character, is holding them back.  That is, until she delivers her final message: Europe is locked down from teleportation between the planes, but they have to get form Poland to an old way in England before the huntresses and others catch up with them and kill them.  So the chase is on.

Most of this book is just this single chase sequence.  There are a few side quests, Loki shows up a few time to wreak minimal havoc, Atticus “dies” (but totally really doesn’t because see my redshirt comment in my last Iron Druid review), but the action always quickly returns to either the run towards England, or the next one of the fight scenes.  It’s a very telegraphed narrative.

For the first time, Granuaille narrates portions of the book.  This is very distracting from an audiobook perspective, and it doesn’t fit with the tone or style of the series up to this point.  The narrator has just been Atticus, not Atticus and friend(s).  I didn’t care for it (obviously), and it was jarring enough to take me out of the story every time it happened.

Hearne’s world is getting ambitious.  There are running threads of story around a shakeup in the vampiric world, new power structures in the Greek/Roman pantheons, the oncoming of Ragnarok, personal challenges for the main characters, intrigue in the Irish pantheon, and characters from the past that won’t stay down.  And if that sounds like a lot, it’s only because it is.  However, with the action-packed narrative that most of these books possess, few of these side narratives can be treated on with any sort of depth, or their resolutions feel forced or too easy.  While progress was made towards finding out who is really pulling the strings behind Ragnarok, you don’t find out in this book.  The Greek/Roman storyline is handled somewhat, but it could easily explode again.  The vampires are in chaos, but it isn’t really covered.  The action in this story is great, but it’s just a bridge towards the really important things that will take place in the future.

And I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but according to Goodreads, Hearne’s been tapped for at least three more books in this series.  So, don’t expect any dramatic deaths or anything.

JMF Rating: 5.5/10

‘Til next time,

-JMF

Aug 18

Book Review: Strange Bedfellows by Rob Byrnes

Strange Bedfellows by Rob Byrnes book cover

(c) Bold Strokes Books

Austin Peebles, a Democratic candidate for Congress and the scion of two Kennedy-esque political families, has a sext of his land in the hands of one of his arch-nemeses, June Forteene, a hardcore right-wing blogess who makes Ann Coulter look rational by comparison.  Enter Grant and Chase, a middle-aged couple who get hired to steal the picture back at any cost.  Along the way, they have to enlist the help of lesbian con artists, shopping divas, an alcoholic driver, and a bratty potential Congressman (excuse me, Representative) to get the job done and to get their money.

This story unites a lot of my disparate interests.  Politics?  Check.  Elaborately planned crime routines?  Check.  Superheros?  Sorta-check.  Spearing the hard right wing?  Check, check, check.

You can’t go into this book expecting it to be a serious caper novel.  From the word go, Byrnes embraces the ludicrousness of the concept and imbues the novel with farcical elements.  Although the novel never enters full camp, some of the scenes are so ridiculous in their resolution (particularly when Grant and Chase are trying to fool other people in the commission of crimes) that I had to put the book down for a minute and look away before stealing myself to get to the other side of the scene.

My favorite part of this book is the characters.  The ridiculous June Forteene is great with her daily affirmations and her frantic, Palin-esque conspiracy blog.  On the other side of the political scale, technophobe Grant and confused costume crusader Nick provide a warming touch on this ridiculous tale.  The entire posse is worth remembering, and the book is fun to read.

Although occasionally it jumps the shark into ludicrous waters, Byrnes’ Strange Bedfellows  is worth a read for anyone looking for gay, crime, and politics mixed together with a dash of camp.

JMF Rating: 5.5/10

Click here to view this book at the publisher’s website!

Full disclaimer:  This is a review of a galley received from the publisher through the NetGalley ARC distribution process.  If you would like more information, please visit www.netgalley.com.