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« June, 2014 »
Zita the Spacegirl

Everything :01 does is amazing. This is a fun romp to another planet with a nifty young girl. It has fun monsters and robots and its not too scary. Very worthwhile.

My Brother, My Sister

I suspect I don’t like memoirs. This book about Haskell’s sibling’s decision to undergo transgender surgery later in life had me gritting my teeth a lot of the way through it. Some of this was probably because I’ve come up discussing trans* issues online and I’m aware of a lot of the etiquette surrounding those discussions. How you refer to people’s sex and gender, the things you do and don’t talk about, the lazy traps you can fall into that are hurtful for trans* people and their allies. Haskell does most of these things: midgenders people, does the “but what about your PENIS” things, insists on the primacy of her own views and feelings (it is a memoir, this is not necessarily a bad thing) and just makes her sister’s difficult late in life transformation all about her.

That said, this book got a lot of positive reviews and it may be serving a purpose for people who are coming to trans* issues from a differing perspective. Privileged people who never really gave it much thought before and are suddenly confronted. Thinky people who wants to look at transgender issues through the lens of Greek Myths. Chatty people who can’t imagine having a big event happen in their family and being asked not to talk about it as if that were such a huge inconvenience. People newer to trans* issues may enjoy these parts and not mind the other parts. I found many of Haskell’s views difficult to take and found myself rooting even more for her sister than I might otherwise.

Desert Sojourn: A Woman’s Forty Days and Nights Alone

Super mixed feelings about this book. Short form: woman goes through a divorce, is in a new relationship, is not happy, decides to go out into the desert to “find herself” and get a bit of a grip (Like Budddha and Jesus) she says. In reality, despite having grown up camping, she is poorly-prepared, deals with horrible weather and actually winds up spending only about a week or two alone at a stretch because the local-ish ranger comes to check on her (and brings her a warm jacket and a little stove for her tent). Oh and it turns out her family has a history of mental illness. This book which takes the form of daily-ish journal entries sounds more like a cautionary tale for people contemplating similar things and less of a soul-searching “What is life all about?” sort of pontification. I found myself just being ongoingly frustrated with the narrator (didn’t bring warm boots but brought nail polish "by accident"? How does that happen?) which overrode my ability to just sit back and think about the wilderness and quiet contemplation.

Three Can Keep A Secret

This was the post-Irene Gunther mystery that I’d heard so much about and I really liked it. Like the last book, Tag Man, the story doesn’t resolve neatly, but you’re not left hanging either. It’s a smart and more realistic feeling Mayor book and it’s all homegrown in Vermont and very evocative of recent events.

The Problem of Slavery in Early Vermont

VT has always patted itself on the back about its constitution that outlawed slavery but the constitution had some big loopholes, such as children still being able to be enslaved and people who came to Vermont still keeping their slaves, etc. Whitfield, a professor at UVM, scoured up the primary source documents that showed people exploiting these constitutional loopholes. Considering that there were maybe only 75-100 people of color in VT at the time,he did an amazing job ferreting the details out and comments on the documents that he was able to find. A short but important book about Vermont’s early history.

The Hovercraft Story

Picked this up at a library booksale thinking “Ooooh hovercrafts.” It was great plane reading where I just had to make the time go by, but other than a pretty interesting look into testing out new hovercrafts in the desert, this was a sort of dry recitation of hovercraft facts along with a few cool photos.

The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders

Lefèvre was a photojournalist how took a trip into Afghanistan with Doctors without Borders in 1986 during the Soviet War. This was in a pre-technological era where he carried all of his cameras and lenses over miles and miles of inhospitable terrain and through locations with inhospitable (and hospitable) people. His photographs, many of which weren’t published until this book originally came out in 2003, shows a part of the world that many of us know (or knew) almost nothing about. Lefèvre discusses the world that DWB do and explains in some detail how they manage to do the jobs that they do. This is a graphic novel (published in this country by the always awesome :01 and put together by Emmanuel Guibert) written around Lefèvre’s story and his photographs.

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Another great graphic novel from :01 (First Second). Everything I’ve picked up from them has been terrific. This one is about a jock and a nerd who are friends and who face a bunch of different challenges in high school culminating in a holidaytime robot competition. Great illustrations from Faith Erin Hicks make this a really worthwhile read.

Tag Man

A really great Gunther mystery with a bit character from an earlier story taking on a much larger role. This story seemed a bit more involved than some of the earlier ones, but maybe I just liked the main character more. In any case, a good read and a nice complex story.

Red Herring

One of the more interesting complex mysteries in the Joe Gunther series. Some fun and interesting forensic stuff and a lot of deceptive clues. A few twists at the end (and a main character killed) made this a bit of a tough read in some ways but a lot more clever than some of the other recent ones.

The Price of Malice

One of the more icky stories but one that was more local to Brattleboro of a creepy supposed child molester that was found very seriously killed. Good story overall and I kept singing “A town called malice...” to myself as I’d read it.