The Furious Gazelle

Literary as hell.

Tag: Review

Book Review: The Gypsies of New Rochelle by Ivan Jenson

The Gypsies of New Rochelle is a charming new novel by Ivan Jenson. It follows the Aldridges, an eccentric family, as they attempt to launch the music career of their talented daughter Nora and make it big in New York.

Set in 1980, Gypsies shows us a grittier version of New York City than exists today. The Aldridges call themselves gypsies because they move around so often, rootless and always looking for the next adventure. Shawn, the youngest child of the family, narrates the book. Family is at the heart of Gypsies. The book trafficks mostly in the day-to-day life of the Aldridges, a small caravan of well-drawn out characters. Jenson revels in the small dramas of the Aldridges: pranks played, petty squabbles between siblings, and their dealings with Carey Casey, the exasperated producer who has to answer their questions.

Jenson captures a unique large family dynamic, something which is hard to do well. Shawn’s family is full of odd, vibrant characters, each with their own shtick: his overbearing parents, who pressure sister Nora to become a concert violinist.  A cousin, Pito, is brainwashed by hippies in Manhattan and must be rescued.  Shawn is catapulted to momentary fame when his brother Jarrett, builds a flying contraption and dares Shawn to get on. Each character has their own arc, all weaving together beautifully to create a blended picture of family life. Continue reading

Book Review: Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi

Tool of War is the third book in Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker trilogy. A fast-moving dystopian YA novel, Tool of War picks up where Drowned Cities left off. Tool has broken away from his masters and is preparing for all out war against the people who created him.

As much as war, this book is about survival. Bacigalupi gives us insight into his characters’ emotional journeys. How do they cope with the horrifying world they live in? Tool grapples with the “monster” he was designed to be, an augment halfway between man and animal, kept genetically chained to his master for most of his life. Mahlia, a young healer who hates violence, faces the idea that she might need to hurt others to defend herself at some point in the near future. There is a rotating cast of main characters, but they all feel distinct and unique in their own way. This makes his dystopian world all the more horrifying: this isn’t happening in some abstract way; the terrible things are happening to these people. Continue reading

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis is the latest novel by the bestselling author of The Martian, Andy Weir. Named after the novel’s location, Artemis is a sci-fi adventure that takes place on the first and only city on the moon.

 

Artemis is somewhat less heavy than The Martian in terms of scientific facts offered up but Weir does not disappoint in making the moon city seem believable. Everything from the actual layout of the city, physical construction, safety protocols specific to life on the moon (e.g. air closets in case of a breach, all flammable materials being highly controlled), and varied neighborhood details- make Artemis distinct. However, creating the novel’s physical landscape is where Weir’s creativity ends.

 

Based on the caricatures running across the moon it’s possible that Andy Weir has never met a person. Main character Jazz Bashara is a porter with a side job as a smuggler who has lived in Artemis since she was 6 years old. Jazz isn’t like other girls, she’s a Cool Girl. She’s good looking but really doesn’t work at it you know? She’s incredibly intelligent but doesn’t make a thing of it. That’s maybe the one trait she has- smart. But she tells us she doesn’t want to work at anything, despite working very hard at hustling. Continue reading

Book Review: Watershed, a novel by Colin Dodds

Colin Dodd’s latest novel Watershed, a gripping thriller, begins when Raquel, a pretty young escort, is thrown out of a helicopter. From there, the story only gets stranger and more complex, as Raquel meets Norwood, a former sculptor who earns his living from odd off-the-books jobs and selling snakes. Set in the near future, Norwood is a “Ludlite,” part of a community that eschews all modern technology – part hipster, part Luddite.

After Raquel meets Norwood, the pair becomes embroiled in the sinister plans of former Senator Robert Hurley, also known as Rudolf Ostanze. Hurley is a man of seemingly infinite wealth and power who wants the one thing money can’t buy: the baby growing in Raquel’s womb, which may or may not be his. As Hurley sends Tyra, his hired hand, to dog Raquel, it becomes clear that Hurley is involved in a much bigger conspiracy. Meanwhile, plans are underway for real estate fraud, disguised as a commemoration for 9/11. Continue reading

One Ridiculously Small Detail That Made Me Furious in Emma Robert’s new film Ashby

Ashby, a new comedy about a young boy who befriends an ex-CIA assassin, is not exactly a land mine of diversity. Not a single line was spoken by a person of color, and neither of the film’s female characters, played by Sarah Silverman and Emma Roberts, are given anything to do. Eloise (Roberts) has a mysterious MRI machine in her basement and even though she is really much more interesting than the male lead, played by Nat Wolff, she gets almost no screen time.

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However, one thing bugged me even more than this. Emma Roberts, what are you doing with your glasses? Her character has thick frames and brown hair, as befits a young nerd. But the actress seems lost on what to do with them. She wears them like an accessory. In one scene she has her glasses off, and puts them on to read a computer. Why does she do this? Is her character nearsighted? And if so why does she wear them to walk around? She’s supposed to be high school aged. Does she have bifocals?

I’m imagining a new final scene. Roberts goes to an optometrist. “But doctor, I’m losing all my near sight and my long-distance vision. I thought this was an ailment of the middle age?”

“No Emma, this is actually quite common in women of your age.”

Roberts hisses. “You promised me that the blood of orphans you gave me would keep me young. I want to keep playing high school students for another 10, 20 years.”

Ant-Man left me irrationally Furious- A review rant (minor spoilers)

hope antman

 

Marvel’s Ant-Man gives us a woman, a man, and an ant-suit. Both want to wear the suit. The woman knows martial arts, can talk to ants, and already has the high-tech secrets to a master plan to save the world. The man is likeable thief Paul Rudd. The movie is called Ant-Man. Guess which one gets to wear the suit?

While still enjoyable and fun, Ant-Man left me with one burning question: why couldn’t Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Hank Pym’s (Michael Douglas) daughter, have been a hero?

Early on, Hope brings the stirrings of an evil plot to her father’s attention. Hank Pym starts looking for a new person to wear the Ant-Man suit he created and save the world. When Hope first confronts her father about how she should be doing the job she sums up in one sentence why she is the best choice (I’m loosely quoting here): ‘I know everything about everything gimme the suit.’ Pym’s reply: “Nah I’ve got a complete stranger in mind…he doesn’t know shit about my insanely weird tech but he’s a pretty qualified thief.”

Continue reading

Review: Elizabeth Copeland’s Jazz

Elizabeth Copeland’s Jazz takes us on a touching journey as a young trans man reclaims his body and identity. Aimed at a young audience, this book is sure to help closed-minded youth gain a new perspective, and to help trans youth and other members of the LGBT community realize that they are not alone.

Jazz cover

Named Jaswinder at birth, Copeland’s protagonist prefers the name “Jazz.” He says, “At birth, I was labeled a girl. I was named Jaswinder. My chosen name is Jazz. Like the music, I am nature’s improvisation.” The reader follows Jazz through his childhood in a middle-class Indian Canadian home with a father and brother who hate his non-conforming behavior, and a mother who doesn’t understand his burgeoning gender identity. When they try to suppress Jazz’s gender expression, he retreats, becoming depressed, withdrawn, and eating less. On his 17th birthday, Jazz comes out to his family as transgender, hoping to be welcomed as a man. Instead, Jazz’s family rejects him, and his father tells him that he is no longer welcome in his home. Jazz is forced to leave, becoming homeless. The rest of the novel covers his journey as he finds an LGBT community to help him survive the streets, and struggles to be accepted.

The book is mainly told from Jazz’s point of view but also features the internal thoughts from supporting characters on Jazz’s transition. We get to hear why the people closest to Jazz, his family, would abandon him, and how they wrestle with the news. The reader also gets to hear from Jazz’s newfound supporters allowing us to hear both sides of the “conversation.”

Though the issue is complex and also grapples with very adult content the book is definitely aimed at younger readers. As a protagonist, Jazz can be immature at times, rejecting help when it is offered to him by social workers Kendall, an older FTM transgender individual who has gone through the same journey as Jazz, and Sister Mary Francis, an ex-nun. As in many young adult novels, some aspects of the plot ravel together too neatly for real life: for example, Jazz very quickly finds a job and a place to stay and a job after becoming homeless. While there is some emotional and personal growth for Jazz, none of it goes past the realistic maturity level of a 17-year-old, which might prove frustrating for some adults, but well suited to younger readers. However, though geared towards a younger crowd, the book is a good read for any age. The language of the book is almost musical or poetic, and the writing is very poignant at times, with apt descriptions. Jazz is a charming, sometimes-sweet tale of one character’s “It Gets Better” story.

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