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So my goal for the year was to read 75 books and I did it, just barely, but in order to do so I had to stick to the very shortest books I could find. I read a lot of young adult books because not only do those tend to be shorter, but they also tend to be very quick reads. I avoided reading books over 300 pages if possible, and I avoided reading non-fiction for the most part because it tends to take me longer than fiction. I'm not happy with those decisions.

I did read 75 books that were on my shelf to be read, though, so it's not like I went out and found 75 short books and avoided books I really wanted to read. These were all books I wanted to read at some point. So I still made a great dent in my reading pile.

But. I'm setting a lower goal this year. Having that goal makes me anxious. If I set a lower goal and end up reading more, that's great. But when I think I have to meet a high goal, I find I just cannot bear to think about not making it.

So this year I'm going with a goal of 50 books. This will allow me to read more of the longer books on my shelf without stressing that it's taking too long.

You can see the full list of what I read this year, reviews included, on LibraryThing. Manga is counted separately because otherwise it overwhelms the list.

2009 stats & 2010 goals - books )

I also read 223 volumes of manga, and the LibraryThing list is here. That was without even making an effort, which is why I keep track of them separately and do not count manga in my general reading goal. XD Though I would like to aim for 250-300 this year, just to make a bigger dent in my "to read" folder.

2009 stats & 2010 goals - manga )

If you want, you can go over here and take a poll about what books and manga I read this year that you have also read.
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Title: The Birchbark House
Author: Louise Erdrich
Number of Pages: 256 pages
Book Number/Goal: 73/75 for 2009
My Rating: 4/5

This tells the story of a year in the life of Omakayas, an eight-year-old Anishinabe girl, and her family in the mid-1800s. It reminded me a lot of Little House on the Prairie and the other Laura Ingalls Wilder books in that it was basically just following Omakayas's life and spent a lot of time showing how they cooked, planted, harvested, made things, etc. All those little details of life back then. I do like that style of story, and this series is a nice antidote to the racist portrayal/erasure of Indians in the Little House books.

Title: The Game of Silence
Author: Louise Erdrich
Number of Pages: 288 pages
Book Number/Goal: 74/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

This sequel to The Birchbark House spans another year in the life of Omakayas, two years after the events of the first book. While the first book mainly focused on everyday life and events throughout the year, with little hints of coming changes due to the encroaching white population, The Game of Silence places that struggle front and center, as the Anishinabeg try to figure out why the white men have gone back on their word to let the Anishinabeg stay where they are. There is still plenty of daily life stuff going on, though, as life goes on for Omakayas despite the fear that she and her family might be forced to leave.

There were several new characters introduced, and more focus on some of the supporting characters (I love Two Strike Girl), but the focus remains on Omakayas. I think this book is actually a little longer than the first, but I found it a much faster read and enjoyed it a little more. Definitely no "middle book syndrome" here.

Title: The Porcupine Year
Author: Louise Erdrich
Number of Pages: 208 pages
Book Number/Goal: 75/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

Two years after Omakayas and her family were forced to leave their island, they still haven't found a new permanent home. The Porcupine Year follows them through another year as they make their way north.

These books just keep getting better and better. I definitely liked this one best of all. It was a lot more of an adventure story than the first two.

Apparently there will be more books in the series, but considering the author's note says the next one will be about Omakayas's children, these three do make their own trilogy.

One thing I didn't like about these books is the way the author translates some names and not others. The protagonist is Omakayas, but her brother is Pinch. Her father is Mikwam, but her mother is Yellow Kettle. Sometimes the name is given alongside a translation, but often the translations are all we get. And then there's things like how one character was called Little Bee for the first two books, but then suddenly in The Porcupine Year, is called by her untranslated name, Amoosens. I don't like when books translate names, but I like the lack of consistency even more.

The other thing I didn't like was that what I originally thought was a casual positive portrayal of a gender-noncomforming child, ended up being "oh, she acts like a boy because she doesn't have a father who loves her". Ugh...
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Title: Shaman King
Author: Mitsui Hideki
Number of Pages: 220 pages
Book Number/Goal: 72/75 for 2009
My Rating: 1.5/5

Wow, what a waste of time this book was. It is basically a retelling of the early volumes of Shaman King with a tiny bit of new content tacked on at the end. Seriously, while the jacket flap promised a new character exclusive to the novelisation (which is why I bought it, because I only wanted to read it if it was an original story, not a retelling of the manga), it was only about the last twenty pages that contained any new content.

I'm not sure who would be a good audience for this book, because it ends with a "to be continued" sort of vibe that means you're going to have to go read the manga to find out what happens to Yoh and Amidamaru and Manta and Anna and Ren and the whole Shaman Fight thing, but when you do, you'll be retreading old ground if you start from the beginning of the manga. And yet as a fan of the manga, it's really redundant.

This is the third of these red-spine Jump books that I've read and all of them have been really not that great (though at least the Naruto and One Piece ones were novelisations of movies which I hadn't seen), so even if I see them on the dollar shelf, I think I'll be avoiding them from now on and sticking to the smaller manga-sized novels which seem to be actual original stories and not novelisations of anything (if the D.Gray-man Reverse books are anything to go by).
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Title: Unseen Academicals
Author: Terry Pratchett
Number of Pages: 400 pages
Book Number/Goal: 71/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

Ponder Stibbons discovers that the university will lose a large bequest if they don't have a football team. The wizards are unsurprisingly reluctant, but when he tells them it will affect the food budget, they decide football can't be that bad.

In addition to the wizards we all know and love, this introduces several new characters who work at the university, with three of them (Glenda, Trev, and Nutt) being the main POV characters. There are also several other new minor characters and I especially liked Pepe, the dwarf who might not be a dwarf.

This was a bit of a slow starter, but once it got going, I found it really hard to put down. I could have wished for a bit more Vetinari, but I loved him when he did show up. I loved the new characters, especially Glenda, who was awesome and a nice surprise, as I was expecting a book about the university to be a mostly male cast. Which it was, but she was the character we spent the most time with.

The whole thing with Nutt was kind of awkward. I liked him a lot and the history was neat, but I wish he'd stop the racism metaphors.
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Title: Keeping You a Secret
Author: Julie Anne Peters
Number of Pages: 250 pages
Book Number/Goal: 70/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

Holland is the student body president, on the swim team, a straight-A student, and has a great boyfriend who's also one of her best friends. Everyone thinks her life is perfect. But when she falls in love with Cece, a new girl at school, that all starts to change.

I read another book by Peters earlier this year and liked it a lot, so I was hoping this would be as good and it definitely was. It felt a little less textbooky than Luna, which I think has to do with the fact that the author is writing from personal experience here, where she wasn't with Luna. There's a subplot in this with Holland's stepsister Faith, who's a goth, and that part has the same "let me show you my research" feel to it that all the transgender stuff in Luna did.

Mooch from BookMooch.
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Title: Because I Said So
Author: Dawn Meehan
Number of Pages: 226 pages
Book Number/Goal: 69/75 for 2009
My Rating: 2/5

This book is based on the blog by the same name, which I started reading a couple years ago after seeing her humorous eBay auction for some Pokemon cards. So the blog is basically funny stories about her kids and it's amusing, though she irritates me occasionally and I every so often think of unsubscribing, but never seem to.

Anyway, I was given to understand that the book had a lot of new material, but it really, really didn't. Most was lifted directly from the blog, and the rest was also very familiar like maybe she'd mentioned it and then expanded a bit. So for me, it was totally not worth reading, though I did enjoy the stories the first time around, so for a reader not familiar with her blog, it would probably be more enjoyable.

I do recommend skipping the second-to-last chapter, though, which is all about her "seventh child", i.e. her husband. I cannot stand that sort of thing. She complains about her husband being a big kid, but puts up with and indulges his behaviour, and it's just not amusing. The whole "men are just big, stupid kids who can't ever be expected to do anything" meme needs to die now. The same chapter is also filled with a bunch of "men are from Mars, women are from Venus" crap, which also gives me the eye-twitch.
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Title: War Dances
Author: Sherman Alexie
Number of Pages: 256 pages
Book Number/Goal: 68/75 for 2009
My Rating: 2.5/5

This is a collection of short stories and poems linked mainly by the fact that they're about whiny guys. I don't know. I did like a couple of the stories (especially the last one, Salt, and the title story), but the ones that left a bad taste in my mouth really left a bad taste in my mouth and kind of overpower all the rest. The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless was just gross, and I get that he was supposed to be a gross asshat guy, but I don't really need to read a story about a guy who's just wallowing in his assholishness while going "wah, wah, poor me", you know? I could go anywhere on the internet and find a million of them.

Added to that the fact that I'm not a big fan of poetry and these poems didn't do anything to change my mind, and that the writing itself wasn't that great, this was just really not the book for me. I'm glad this wasn't the first thing of his I ever read, otherwise I'd probably write him off and never read anything of his again.
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Title: The House on Mango Street
Author: Sandra Cisneros
Number of Pages: 110 pages
Book Number/Goal: 67/75 for 2009
My Rating: 4.5/5

This is a series of vignettes about Esperanza, a pre-teen girl growing up in a latino neighborhood in Chicago. It's very, very short, even shorter than the 110 pages it appears to be, because each story starts halfway down on the page, and often end with just one paragraph or a few lines on the next page, so there's a ton of empty space. The stories are all just little ordinary things, like reading somebody's memories rather than A Novel. I enjoyed it a lot.

Mooch from BookMooch.
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Title: Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet
Author: Sherri L. Smith
Number of Pages: 167 pages
Book Number/Goal: 66/75 for 2009
My Rating: 3/5

When a pipe bursts during Ana Shen's middle school graduation, flooding the field and cutting the ceremony short, it doesn't seem like things could get any worse. Then comes the announcement that the gym is flooded, too, and the graduation dance is cancelled. The dance was going to be Ana's big chance to tell Jamie Tabata she likes him before they go their separate ways for high school, but when her best friend Chelsea ends up inviting Jamie and his family over to Ana's for a graduation dinner, it looks like there might be hope after all. Assuming Ana can keep her grandmothers' rivalry from ruining everything.

I'd seen several reviews for this on [ profile] 50books_poc and wasn't really that interested, but after reading and loving Flygirl, I decided to give some of Smith's other books a try. definitely no Flygirl. It's cute enough, and it's nice to see a biracial main character (or any character!) who isn't half white, but I wasn't wowed or anything.

I really think the book could have used a lot more editing. Most of it is fine, but it starts to fall apart at the ending, which seems really rushed, plus has a couple of chapters that don't really fit. At one point her grandfather starts telling a story and instead of just making it quick or summarising, we actually get a random flashback chapter in his POV about the event he's relating. We also get a few paragraphs in one of the grandmothers' POV towards the end, in a story that has otherwise been very tight third person with only one POV. It just seemed sloppy.

Also I was really excited about the story being set in LA at first, but it ended up being more frustrating than anything because the author gave all sorts of conflicting details. The kids have gone to school together since kindergarten, yet for some reason they all go to an elementary school in a totally different zone than where they live. (One person going to a far away public school might have some excuse, but not a whole class.) Then the high school mentioned is not the high school that middle school feeds into. Neither is it the high school she would actually be going to for where she's supposed to live. Which being less than a mile from the beach would be Santa Monica and she'd go to SaMoHi, not Uni (also everyone keeps saying University High and I'm sorry but I have never heard anyone call it that; it's Uni). Plus the author gives a freeway exit that they're supposed to live near, which is not less than a mile from the beach, either.

I really don't know what she was thinking. The jacket flap says she lives in LA, so it's not just that she didn't know what she was talking about. It's like she wanted to use real names of stuff, but didn't want to be specific, so she ended up taking bits from all over. If you don't want to be specific, then either be vague or make up names of school and stuff. But if you're going to be specific then you have to get your facts right!

Of course most of the people reading aren't going to know or care, but it really took a lot of fun out of it for me.
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Title: Push
Author: Sapphire
Number of Pages: 192 pages
Book Number/Goal: 65/75 for 2009
My Rating: 4.5/5

Precious is sixteen, illiterate, and pregnant with her second child by her own father. But when she gets kicked out of junior high and starts attending an alternative school, her life finally starts to turn around.

This is written in an experimental style, very stream-of-consciousness, with lots of dialect to mimic the way precious talks. Some parts are even written as if Precious had written them herself, complete with spelling errors, which gradually improve over the course of the book. I didn't find that a barrier at all, though. It was really easy to read (I zipped through it in two sittings). The last fifty pages or so of the book are essays and poems written by Precious and the other girls in her class.

Pretty much everything bad you could imagine happening has happened to Precious and it sometimes seems like overkill, but overall I really enjoyed the book. And I'm glad the ending was optimistic but realistic and not all magically wonderful.

I'm definitely interested in seeing the movie, though probably not til it's out on DVD. I was looking at the cast, though, and The teacher is described as dark with dreads, yet somehow in the movie she is really lightskinned and has wavy hair. It's like they made her as close to a Nice White Lady as possible without actually casting a white actress. D:

(This is something else I would totally have nominated for [ profile] yuletide! Damn it! I'd especially love fic about Jermaine.)
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Title: Bones of Faerie
Author: Janni Lee Simner
Number of Pages: 247 pages
Book Number/Goal: 64/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

Before Liza was born there was a war, and humans were attacked by the faerie, magical creatures no one had known existed. Now the faerie are gone, but the world is changed. Animals and plants have been infected with magic and now hunt humans. Children are being born with magic powers, including Liza's little sister. When her father leaves the baby out in the night for wild animals to devour, it sets in motion a chain of events that will cause Liza to question everything she's been told about magic and the faerie.

This was really awesome. I picked it up a while ago because it sounded interesting, but by the time I read it, all I remembered was the bit about the baby being left out to die, so I had no idea this was a post-apocalyptic Earth and not just a random fantasy world. I love the idea of a magic apocalypse and this is really well done. It's a fast read and really hard to put down.

I wish we'd learned more of the backstory about the war, but maybe she'll write about that in future books. There's apparently a sequel planned for 2011. There's also a short story set in the same universe, though it kind of retreads a lot of the same ground as the novel, just with different characters in a different setting. (I wonder if perhaps it was the basis for the novel.)

Anyway, like so much fantasy, this book is thoughtlessly white. Apparently no people of color survived the apocalypse. :p But that's pretty much my only complaint. This was very cool.

I wish I'd read this before [ profile] yuletide nominations. And that, you know, I'd known I could participate so I could actually nominate stuff, because this has so much room to explore. She's created such a neat world, but we only get hints about the war and what happened in the years since, both of which are things that interest me more than Liza's story itself.
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Title: Rabbit-Proof Fence
Author: Doris Pilkington
Number of Pages: 137 pages
Book Number/Goal: 63/75 for 2009
My Rating: 4/5

This is the true story of how three girls, Molly, Daisy, and Gracie, escaped from a residential school designed to turn half-white Aboriginal children into servants for white families and walked 1600 km back to their home.

It's a good story and I enjoyed learning more about Australian history, but I found the writing style sort of hard to get into. It's neither a novel nor a straight historical account, but a mix of both, and that didn't really work for me. There would be bits written in a very fictional tone, including thoughts from characters the author couldn't have known the thoughts of, and then you'd hit a big section with excerpts of historical documents, complete with citations.

Still, I enjoyed it (and it helped that it was quite short) and would definitely recommend it.

I'm curious to see the movie and see how it compares with the book.
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Title: Derby Girl
Author: Shauna Cross
Number of Pages: 234 pages
Book Number/Goal: 62/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

Sixteen-year-old Bliss hates her smalltown life, especially the part where her mom is trying to live out her dreams of becoming a beauty queen through Bliss. Then one day she sees a poster for a roller derby match and the next thing she knows she's trying out for the team.

I really enjoyed this book. It's written in that first-person chatty style that is all the rage with YA and chicklit these days, but despite being a bit exposition-heavy in the early chapters (having read more in these genres lately, I have come to dread the "let me pause the story so I can give you my entire history" bit that usually comes in chapter two), I really enjoyed the narrator's voice and liked Bliss a lot.

The story is cute and female friendship is front and center. While there is the stereotypical mean girls that kind of made me roll my eyes at how cliched they were (one at school and one on the opposing roller derby team), it's balanced out by the fact that there are a ton of supportive (female) friends, so it doesn't come off as "girls are bitches" like so many stories do. There's a romance subplot, but it takes a backseat to friendships, too.

The one thing I really disliked about the book was how white it was. Aside from Bliss's best friend and possibly one of the roller derby girls whose derby nickname is Juana, everyone is white. And this takes place in Texas! But aside from that one girl, there weren't even any incidental characters with Spanish names. And her best friend Pash is mentioned as being Arab-American, but that's all we get. No actual country to give her any sort of specific heritage. It's just like Arabs are a big mob who come from Arabvania or something. And aside from the initial introduction (where she's mentioned as having exotic good looks, gag) and one or two mentions of kids at school being racist, she might as well have been white.

Still, it was really cute and I can't wait to see Whip It. I also really, really want to write and read fic for this fandom, especially Malice/Bliss.
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Title: The Last Time I Wore a Dress
Author: Daphne Scholinski with Jane Meredith Adams
Number of Pages: 211 pages
Book Number/Goal: 61/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

Note: The author now goes by Dylan, but I will use Daphne and female pronouns for the purposes of talking about the book, because that's how the book is written.

Daphne's father beat her. Her mother abandoned her. She was sexually abused many times as a child. She essentially had to raise herself and her sister. When she unsurprisingly acted out, instead of anyone actually caring, she was locked up in a series of mental institutions for most of her teenage years.

Because she was tomboyish, the doctors focused on that, in some cases forcing her to wear makeup every day as part of her treatment. She suffered from depression the entire time she was locked up, was raped several times by male patients, and her parents barely kept in contact with her, yet the doctors continued to focus on the fact that she didn't act like their idea of what a girl should be. She was looked on with suspicion for not having sex with the male patients, as most of the other boys and girls paired up. She was punished for having a female best friend, as they thought the relationship was inappropriate.

This book is really, really depressing to read and basically will make you hate the medical establishment. This quote from the last chapter really sums it up best:

I still wonder why I wasn't treated for my depression, why no one noticed I'd been sexually abused, why the doctors didn't seem to believe that I'd come from a home with physical violence. Why the thing they cared about the most was whether I acted the part of a feminine young lady. The shame is that the effects of depression, sexual abuse, violence: all treatable. But where I stood on the feminine/masculine scale: unchangeable. It's who I am.

Oh, and as if that wasn't bad enough, go to the Amazon reviews and you'll find that all the negative reviews are filled with victim-blaming. Fun!

The book is a really good read, though, and I highly recommend it.
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Title: Naruto: Takigakure no Shitou Ore ga Eiyuu Datteba yo!
Author: Kusakabe Masatoshi
Number of Pages: 222 pages
Book Number/Goal: 60/75 for 2009
My Rating: 1.5/5

Naruto and the gang are on a mission to escort the head of Takigakure Village back home, but not long after they arrive, the village falls under attack. Kakashi has been called back to Konoha, so it's up to Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura to save the day.

I'm a big fan of Naruto, but this was really boring. Part of my problem was that this was set really early on and so it felt weird going back to when they were younger. I forgot how clueless Naruto was about everything and how annoying Sakura was with her Sasuke obsession (though unsurprisingly, she hardly had any role in the story, especially once the fighting got going). But mostly it was just a boring story that didn't need to be 200 pages long. :p

I read it in Japanese, but it's also been released in English under the title Mission: Protect the Waterfall Village! (The link above goes to the English version on Amazon.)

Mooch from BookMooch.
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Title: Transgender History
Author: Susan Stryker
Number of Pages: 190 pages
Book Number/Goal: 59/75 for 2009
My Rating: 3.5/5

A better title for the book would be Transgender History in the US, as there's barely any acknowledgement that other countries exist, much less that there might be trans people living there. It's also really short. The last forty pages are notes and such, and the first thirty are defining terms, so only 120 pages are actually devoted to the topic at hand. But for what it is, it's a pretty good read. While focusing primarily on white trans people, it does include PoC fairly often and acknowledges their contributions (which is frankly better than I expected when I saw it was published by the now infamous Seal Press).

Oh, and one thing I really didn't like was that it was written in a sort of textbook form, with lots of insert boxes. I hate those, because you either have to stop reading in the middle of something to read them, or you have to remember to come back to them at the end of a section/chapter.
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Title: Wizard and Glass
Author: Stephen King
Number of Pages: 672 pages
Book Number/Goal: 58/75 for 2009
My Rating: 4/5

I had hoped that this would be the year I finally finished reading The Dark Tower. That's...obviously not going to happen. But at least it's the year I finally finish rereading the books I read years ago, so that I can finally read the final three.

I read Wizard and Glass not long after it came out, so it's been a while. I found there was a lot I didn't remember, though I still remembered the gist of things. I wasn't quite as annoyed by the detour this time around, since I have the final three right here, whereas the first time I read it, I'd been waiting years and years for a new book in the series and then instead of furthering the plot, it was all backstory.

Still, I didn't like this as much as the first three books. Which is weird, because usually I love backstory and flashbacks and reveals and all that sort of stuff, but I just find the story of Roland's time in Hambry really dull. I mean, obviously I still liked the book, since I gave it a four, but really. Especially anything to do with Roland and Susan was just beyond tedious. Someone needs to sit Stephen King down and tell him not to write romance, because it's really not his strong suit.

I won't be starting Wolves of the Calla right yet, because it's super long and would take most of the rest of the year to read. Instead I'll read short books to try and get closer to my goal. XD Then Wolves of the Calla will probably be one of the first books I read in 2010. :)
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Title: Does My Head Look Big in This?
Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Number of Pages: 360 pages
Book Number/Goal: 57/75 for 2009
My Rating: 3.5/5

Amal is a sixteen-year-old Palestinian-Australian girl attending a mostly-white prep school. When the new semester starts, she decides she wants to wear the hijab full-time, even though she knows she's just letting herself in for even more harrassment from her clueless classmates.

This is a cute story. It seems like a pretty typical YA chick-lit story. The girls are all very girly and into fashion and makeup and boys, and there's boy trouble and mean girls screaming at parents who Just Don't Understand and all that sort of thing. But it's nice to see that sort of story with a Muslim protagonist.

I really liked that she wasn't the only Muslim in the story, either. She wasn't standing in for all Muslim women; there were her family members, her friends Yasmeen and Leila and their families, and mentions of the kids at the Islamic school Amal used to go to.

Reading this felt almost as nostalgic as Alex Sanchez's The God Box did. Even though I was raised in a conservative Christian family, not Muslim, a lot of what Amal said felt very familiar (I was never personally religious the way she is, but I certainly knew many people who were/are).

The writing isn't that great. I'm really over this first-person info-dump thing that seems to be so popular. I don't mind first-person narration, but it's possible to tell a story without first giving me a whole chapter about the narrator's life story, really.

Mooch from BookMooch.
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Title: V for Vendetta
Author: Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Number of Pages: 288 pages
Book Number/Goal: 56/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

In the post-apocalyptic "future" of the late 1990s, Britain is under totalitarian rule, but a mysterious man known only as V is about to change all that.

This is pretty much right up my alley storywise. The art...well, it was bearable to get the story. I would have much preferred it as a novel, though, because the art definitely didn't add anything to me. I'm not a fan of most western comic styles and this seemed worse than most in that it was so dark and everyone's faces were half in shadows all the time, so I had real trouble distinguishing characters (especially since aside from V and Evey, they were pretty much all Generic White Guy With Short Hair). But as with many less-than-stellarly-drawn manga, it's well worth it for the story.

I kind of feel frazzled at the moment, so I don't really have much to say beyond that, though there were definitely things that didn't sit well with me, most notably the fact that while it makes sense for the government as set up here, having all the people of color and queers sent away to concentration camps sure makes for a convenient excuse to tell a story about only straight white people (except for that one tragic lesbian whose tragic life and death is nothing more than a tool to cause straight people to change). I wasn't too thrilled with the portrayal of women here, either.
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Title: The Mzungu Boy
Author: Meja Mwangi
Number of Pages: 150 pages
Book Number/Goal: 55/75 for 2009
My Rating: 4/5

Set in British-ruled Kenya in the early '50s, this is the story of Kariuki, a Kenyan boy who becomes friends with Nigel, an English boy who's come to stay on his grandparents' farm during the summer.

What I really liked about this book is how honest it was. While the boys are friends, it doesn't paint an idealistic portrait of their friendship. Being friends doesn't magically make the horrible things that are going on any better, nor does it solve any problems. In fact, it only makes things worse. It's not a story about a white person becoming friends with a person of color and learning to be a better person, either. This is told from Kariuki's POV and Nigel's entitlement and privilege are not glossed over at all.

For example, when they first meet, he insists Kariuki take some fish he (Nigel) caught, even though Kariuki tells him they're not allowed to have fish and that he will get in trouble if he takes them. So of course Kariuki gets in trouble, and Nigel is just la-di-da, whatever, and goes on about his merry way and continues to do the same sort of thoughtless things throughout the book. Another good example is when the villagers are all rounded up in a pen because Nigel's grandfather thinks they've done something, and Nigel just sits there and then when he spots Kariuki, waves blithely at him.

Reading this book, I could imagine how it would have been if written by your typical white children's author and was so, so glad it wasn't.


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