Tag Archive: 7

Apr 26

Review: Only Serious About You Vol. 1-2 by Kai Asou

Only Serious About You Vol. 1 Only Serious About You Vol. 2

I found this 2-part series on a list of LGBT comics recommended by one of the library magazines (I think Library Journal, but I’m not sure and I’m too lazy right now to go look it up). So I ILL’d it in since it fit perfectly with what I’ve had going on over the last month. Work is still going good with the GLBT News, the weekly news blog I run with the GLBTRT, and then I served as a juror for the first ever William Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grant. So, gay and graphic novel has been my extracurricular focus for a good chunk of the last month, so I figured I should find areas where the two meet.

Only Serious About You is the story of Oosawa, a single dad who works at a chef in a nearby restaurant. His wife left him because she couldn’t stand the stresses of raising a child on her own while he was at work all day. So, now he takes care of his daughter Mizu by himself. Oosawa has a regular client at the restaurant named Yoshioka. Yoshioka brings in all his boyfriends, and he seems to have a new guy every week. Well, the shit hits the fan when Mizu’s kindergarten calls Oosawa and tells him that she has a fever and has to go home. He can’t afford to take the time off of work, and he doesn’t really have any friends or family that can look after her.

Enter Yoshioka. He invites them to stay at his place for a while so that he can help look after Mizu. So begins this pretty lighthearted story of a nontraditional family forming to meet the needs of raising a child. Mizu immediately bonds with Yoshi, and they both care for her as she gets better. Then, when Oosawa catches her bug, Yoshi takes care of him, and they end up staying with Yoshi much longer than they intended. Everything looks like its going to be fine, with Oosawa eventually falling for Yoshi in a “I’m not gay but I’m gay for you” kinda way, but then the deadbeat mom shows back up and wants custody of the kid. So the lovely togetherness that ends the first volume is shattered in the second as they have to figure out what their family is going to look like and whether they are going to stay together.

The weirdest thing about this to me was that even though it was printed in English, it maintained the traditional Japanese printing, binding the book on the right hand side and turning pages right to left. While initially a little off-putting, it’s something that I quickly got used to and barely noticed by the end of it. The story in and of itself was interesting, and the book reads very quickly. There’s just enough layers of characterization that the characters aren’t quite stock, but there’s not a detail added in at any point that doesn’t come into play later on. So the story feels very compact and focused, but it did leave me wanting to know a bit more. And, for the most part, the artwork of their relationship stays pretty tame except for one sexy-times bit in Part 2. It was my first time ever reading manga/yaoi, so I didn’t know what to expect, but this was good. I’ll have to try the genre again some time.

JMF Rating: 7/10

‘Til next time,

-JMF

Dec 31

Review: Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler

Self-Inflicted Wounds by Aisha Tyler

Dale and I have a penchant for listening to nonfiction on trips. I think it’s probably because the most we travel any significant distance is like once  a week, and it’s easier to keep the narrative thread of a piece of nonfiction in your head than a novel. At least for me it is. And Dale doesn’t seem to care what we listen to, so my 51% vote carries it every time.

And have I mentioned before that I love when authors read their own books (I have. Every time.). Because I do. I love it when authors read their own books. And when they are awesome comedic actresses (and voice actresses, to boot), it’s even better.

Self-Inflicted Wounds is 33 stories from Aisha Tyler’s past, all of them centered around a moment of embarrassment, humiliation, or mortification. Now, I have long been a fan of Tyler’s. I love her as Lana in Archer. I thought she was funny on Friends. And I love her for being game enough to be a judge on the Season 3 Snatch Game.

These stories…can be rough. I’m someone who can’t watch certain television shows because of the embarrassment factor. I over-empathize and over-relate, so I feel the character’s stupidity, rejection, and humiliation as something akin to my own. It makes my face flush. It makes me sweat. It makes me breathe faster. I hate it, and so I typically avoid it, even if it’s a show that I know I would otherwise love (looking at you, Parks and Recreation).

This book has all of that, but instead, it just made me laugh. Whether it’s hearing about Tyler quasi-vomiting wasabi and fish all over one of her crushes, some of her tragic first performances during her time at Dartmouth, breaking her arm at Sundance, spitting on audience members, or her first steps in the stand-up world, the stories are true humiliations, but Tyler approaches them with little self-pity. Instead, she recognizes and prods at her own shortsightedness, stubbornness, and foolish bravado. To hilarious effect.

While any collection of stories will have stronger and weaker pieces, this book is pretty evenly paced. And it has some fantastic lines that made me bark with laughter and occasionally made me think Dale might swerve us into another lane of traffic. And that’s what I’m looking for in a comedic book.

Tyler’s basic philosophy seems to boil down to the idea that, even though failure is waiting for all of us around every bend, it is so much better to just try things. But in the words of the Dartmouth party cry, “Boot and rally.” Or put another way, fail, pick yourself up, and start again. Wallowing or never trying will get you absolutely nowhere. And sure Tyler has been successful, and she has had some lucky breaks. But listening to this book and reading her IMDB bio shows that it wasn’t handed to her; she grabbed it and wrestled it to the ground.

Oh, and the stories about corporate gigs and her re-setting her own toe while drunk in a Miami hotel room are pretty priceless.

JMF Rating: 7/10

‘Til next time,

-JMF

Nov 26

Review: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath

It’s hard to believe that just six months ago, I had never read a Malcolm Gladwell book. Now, I’ve read them all. With the publication of his latest book, David and Goliath, I’m caught back up.

The book centers around two central themes that both become readily apparent from the biblical story of David and Goliath. First, things that seem like strengths can often be great hindrances. The other is that things that seem like weaknesses can often turn out to be a person or organization’s greatest strengths. This isn’t the same as how David and Goliath is usually presented. It isn’t necessarily right overpowering might. Instead, it’s that might isn’t actually mighty (despite outside appearances) and that weak can hide inner strength.

Malcolm Gladwell does a better job of explaining it than I can, so I highly recommend this TED talk which is basically a rehashing of the first chapter of this book. Further, since Dale and I listened to this as an audiobook as we’ve traveled over the last few months, I just need to shout out again that I love it when authors read their own books. It’s one of my favorite things next to food, minimal design, and throwing things away when I’m angry.

Much like Gladwell’s other books, this book takes the central themes and then explores them through a series of stories that bolster his points. In the idea of using weakness to your advantage, he talks about how the London bombings created a mass of people who were far-misses: close enough to hear the bombs, but far enough way to not see any direct damage or experience any negative outcomes. This created a hardened group of people that were psychologically immune to the blitz due to feelings of invincibility. A strategy designed to break the British spirit is the ultimate one that gave them the resolve to see things through to their victorious end. Other examples include successful people with dyslexia, the American civil rights movement, a French village in the mountain becoming a hiding place for Jews during World War II, and a Silicon Valley girls basketball team that took a zoning strategy all the way to a national championship.

Further, Gladwell shows that strength often backfires. His greatest example of this is the mess the British made in Northern Ireland trying to put down the IRA. Obviously, both sides have a lot to answer for, but the conflict has been as long and bloody as it has been due to the lack of credibility that the British had in using overwhelming force. The disenfranchised and powerless do not behave as rational actors, so extra force (what the powerful have at their disposal) becomes less and less effective over time. Instead, the overuse of force has actually been shown to worsen conflicts and deepen resentments.

While not the best Gladwell book, this is a certainly a great entry into his oeuvre. I especially found his argument related to affirmative action interesting. Gladwell once again proves that nothing is as simple as it appears at first glance because the world is truly one complicated place.

JMF Rating: 7/10

‘Til next time,

-JMF

Sep 05

Review: Cut and Run by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Cut and Run by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

It is hard to motivate me to work out.  My desire to not be a butter troll is constantly outweighed by my desire to not be sweaty and sore.  But, an audiobook series can get me out the door and to the gym if I just force myself to only listen to it while I’m there.  That’s how I blazed through the entire Jim Butcher Dresden Files in less than six months: one hour at a time, mostly on the elliptical.

So, in an effort to find a new series to latch on to, I picked up Cut & Run by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux.  One of the most highly rated gay romance-ish books on Goodreads, and it’s already got like five more books in the series.

The story follows Zayn and Ty.  They’re both FBI agents, but they couldn’t be more different.  Zayn is all straitlaced and by the book while Ty is kind of a slob and shoots from the hip.  They get partnered to pursue a serial killer who kills randomly with elaborate staging in New York City.  Hijinx ensue.

Okay, there’s a bit more to it than that, but I’ll be the first to admit that the setup doesn’t sound the most promising.  The character types are cliche, but that doesn’t make them not fun.  Rather, Urban and Roux give the boys detailed back stories, secret pasts, and a penchant for emotional turmoil.  This makes the stereotype fresh, and it makes following the boys on the case more engaging.

Anywho, as previously mentioned, it’s has a gay romance subplot where the two partners fall for each other.  And I applaud the book for not shying away from bisexuality or from how relationships can get complicated.  Also, kudos to the two ladies for making the romantic leads in their 30’s and 40’s.  Not a fresh-faced twink or innocent to be corrupted in a ten block radius of this story.  But sometimes this was just a little too emotionally heavy.  Sometimes new relationships aren’t that hard.  Scratch that–almost always, it’s not that hard.  Calm down and see where it takes you.  Like someone’s grandma probably says: “Worrying is like a rocking chair.  You can do it all day and not get anywhere.”  These two seriously needed to chill.

But aside from the romance plot which was only average, the story was actually pretty good.  The mystery was engaging, the murders were original, there were enough side characters to provide a bevy of suspects, and I felt myself constantly trying to figure it out.  I was a little disappointed (Dale will say that I sighed loudly in semi-disgust, but it wasn’t that bad) when I figured out the killer so early, but that didn’t take away that much of my overall enjoyment of the book.

This book was a thriller in book form with explosions and car chases and some sexy time and drugs and banter and anything else a girl could possibly want.  I’ll be giving the next one a shot.  After all, I can’t walk the dog or do lat lifts in silence.

JMF Rating: 7/10

‘Til next time,

-JMF

Sep 04

Review: Creating Your Library Brand by Elisabeth Doucett

Just a head’s up: I’m in my last semester at Valdosta State University to get my Master’s in Library and Information Science Degree.  Which means its big paper writing time.  And my big paper is on the confluence of marketing and community building.  So, a lot of the books that I review over the next few months might be slanted towards those subjects.  Sorry in advance if you find that as boring as it occasionally is.Up for this challenge

Anywho, that’s where this latest book comes in.  I’m trying to find support for the idea that while public libraries are ostensibly for everyone, public library marketing can’t be or it will be completely ineffective like a Metapod verses Metapod battle.  Creating Your Library BrandSo I ordered all the books like the good little scholar I am, and the first one I finished was Creating Your Library Brand by Elisabeth Doucett.  It is, somewhat unsurprisingly, about creating library brands.  I’m here all week.

But seriously, Doucett takes readers step-by-step through the branding process, assuming that they have next to no knowledge about marketing.  Which is good, because a lot of people in smaller libraries may not have a Blue’s Clue.  She goes from the initial idea, through getting stakeholders on board, the design process, and how to use it once you’ve got it.  Every section ends with an activity so that you can get better about what she’s talking about.

Overall, the book is pretty solid, but considering what I do for a living, it was mostly stuff I already knew.  Did give me quotes and considerations for my paper, so that’s solid, and it’s something I can see recommending to other people.  And I did appreciate the section where she talks about working with a graphic designer because a) she strongly recommends in like four places that you hire a graphic designer and not the boss’s niece for your logo and design work and b) she tells you to leave them the fuckity fuck alone and don’t try to micromanage them.  Both solid pieces of advice.

Clocking in right at 100 pages, it reads quickly and doesn’t overreach its original mission.  This isn’t everything you need for marketing a library in one stop–this is just the branding.  It kind of glosses over resistance to branding ideas.  While Doucett acknowledges that there may be resistance and that you need to get people on board with the idea and ask for input and all these things, moving with any sort of reasonable pace in the typically very conservative world of public library management seems to be asking a bit much.  So I imagine this book has the potential to be disheartening to those who want to change the world but don’t have the authority to change the toner in the printer.

As far as LIS books go, this was readable, informative, and covered its ground well.

JMF Rating: 7/10

‘Til next time,

-JMF

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