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Mini Book Review: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Mini Book Review: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

“I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists.” (Satrapi, introduction)

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Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Cover blurb (from Amazon): “In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family.

Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.”

***

I think I’m in the minority when I say that this book didn’t do much for me. It was fine. I’m not sorry I read it but I don’t quite understand the hype.

On the positive side, it does an excellent job of showing everyday life in the midst of cultural change. Too often we see revolutions reported by statistics and political analysis but what about the human experience? What is it like to be an average person, when your country is in turmoil? Persepolis dives directly into that issue. Satrapi brings you into her home, and into her family. From this perspective, it is much easier to understand individual choices.

The narration through the eyes of a child is really interesting. Kids see things in black and white. It’s easy to see, then, how you can twist the flow of information. Satrapi’s parents are liberal, but she is not immune to the influences of her teachers and friends. It’s also easy to see how you can convince young people to take action. When you create an extreme split between good and evil, it becomes easy to target the “bad guys.” In Persepolis, we see this from the military recruiters and the “Guardians of the Revolution.”

This desire to create an obvious enemy is universal. No matter where you live, I think it’s important to understand how easy it is to turn people against one another. Arbitrary differences can get blown out of proportion, and become an issue of life or death. For those of us in the “west,” the media is quick to demonize entire countries. The world isn’t that simple. A dictator does not represent the everyday people. Religious extremist don’t represent the religion as a whole.

Having said that, this graphic novel was’t my favorite. The separated sections made it feel a bit choppy. I think the intention is to show quick vignettes over time. Persepolis takes place over 8 years so Satrapi jumps to the most important experiences. For me, it felt disjointed. That could also be due to a loss in translation. I think the core message of this book is excellent, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the presentation.

If you’re unfamiliar with the history of Iran, and want a more humanized explanation, you should read Persepolis. I’d also recommend the Iran episode of Parts Unknown. In any case, I think it’s worth asking yourself “what do I really know about this part of the world?” If you’ve only gotten information from the news, I strongly encourage you to look a little deeper. Do your own research. Read. Learn. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to remind yourself that those people on the other side of the world are still just people. People with flaws. People with hopes. They love, fear and live just like anyone else.

I’ll get off my soapbox now.

 

Book Review: Karma by Cynthia Vespia

Book Review: Karma by Cynthia Vespia

“It defied all logic. But maybe logic had too many boundaries.” (Vespia pg. 122)

The links below will take you to Amazon.com. Disclosure: LiteratureLynx is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This adds no additional cost to you.

Karma by Cynthia Vespia

Karma (Silke Butters Superhero Series Book 1) by [Vespia, Cynthia]

Cover blurb (from Amazon): “A mask, a makeup brush, and amazing powers. It’s all in a days work for supermodel turned superhero, Karma. Silke Butters lived within the glitz and glamour of the modeling world, until the day that world was turned upside down. Suddenly embodied with superpowers, she finds herself thrust into a world of heroes and villains, each enhanced with powers of their own. As Silke’s powers begin to grow she finds herself caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between both a subdivision of the U.S. government known as Shadow Company, and a ruthless terrorist organization known as The Sin Squad. Both entities want the “enhanced” for their respective teams with Silke as the main prize.

To disguise her famous face, and protect those that she loves, Silke invents an alter ego. Karma is born of necessity to decide the fate of those who are ill-intentioned and empower others with hope. With the help of her former flame Joe Riggs, and her computer hacker friend Maki, Silke develops a heroes call-to-action to battle the dark force that threatens to annihilate humanity. Karma, the 1st in a 5 part series, blends the over-the-top punch of popular comic book stories, with the literary nuance of an urban fantasy novel. A genre-blending roller coaster ride, Karma will delight both superhero fans and fantasy readers alike.”

***

I received a free copy of Karma in exchange for an honest review. For more information, please see my review policy page.

***

What I liked:

Karma is fun and fast-paced. As the cover blurb says, it has the feel of a comic book (but it isn’t a graphic novel). X-Men is a decent comparison. The “enhancements” backstory is easy to follow and the various powers are each interesting. Action and relationship scenes are well balanced and I enjoyed the family drama aspect.

The secondary characters are a real strength in this book. The Sin Squad members each embody one of the seven deadly sins from the Bible. Maki and her family were also a high point for me. I really enjoyed the fact that women drove the story. Silke is a model, but her beauty isn’t relevant when it comes time to throw down. Maki is a computer whiz and work-at-home Mom, and both pieces of her personality are equally valued.

I’ve mentioned this countless times before, but sci-fi/fantasy isn’t always know for being inclusive. Karma breaks the mold. Vespia includes a number of diverse characters and that inclusion earns a big thumbs up. Multiple main characters are WOC and they all kick ass.

What I didn’t like:

As much as I enjoyed the supporting characters (and the villains) I wasn’t a huge fan of the love interest, Joe. His decision making was pretty questionable to me, and I found myself losing patience with him about a third of the way through the book. Silke is quick to forgive him after the truth comes out, which was also annoying to me.

Karma relies heavily on superhero tropes. I won’t go into a ton of detail, to avoid spoilers, but there were some aspects that felt stereotypical. I didn’t hate it, because I think most superhero stories share common threads. Having said that, I do think there was room for more creative detail.

Would I recommend this book?

Yeah. It’s a solid addition to the genre and includes some underrepresented characters.

**Spoiler alert/sensitive content warning** Karma includes scenes of sex, violence and torture but none of them are described in great detail. For context, I think it would be a light PG-13 rating. There is one event that some might find particularly upsetting. ***Major spoilers*** Maki is 8 months pregnant, but during the course of the book, she loses the baby. This miscarriage is brought about by violence.**

Additional thoughts:

Karma deserves credit from a racial diversity standpoint. Silke is half Indian, half Welsh and her “exotic” looks are a point of contention within the modeling world. Her ethnicity is a talking point for reporters, but “to stay grounded, Silke reminded herself that only a handful of years ago, nobody even wanted to look twice at the young Indian newcomer.” (Vespia pg 8) Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another urban fantasy novel with an Indian protagonist. Cleo, an important supporting character, is African and Cherokee. The shadowy leader of the Sin Squad is of Chinese heritage (based on his name and description).

Silke’s friend and makeup artist, Damien, is openly gay but it isn’t a huge part of the story. Silke is Buddhist but again, it isn’t discussed in any great detail.

Vespia brings some much needed diversity to the superhero genre. Karma is book one of five, so I’ll be curious to see what happens to Silke and the gang in the next installments.

For more diversity in fantasy, here’s a quick list of resources. Or, check out some previous reviews, like Shadowshaper, Shadow Blade or Blood Flow.

 

Mini Book Review: A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs by Andrew Kozma

Mini Book Review: A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs by Andrew Kozma

“Childhood is a world of fantasy and nightmare for everyone, but maturity means fantasy for only those who can afford it, and nightmares for everyone else.” (Kozma pg. 9)

The links below will take you to Amazon.com. Disclosure: LiteratureLynx is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This adds no additional cost to you.

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs by Andrew Kozma

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs and Other Stories by [Kozma, Andrew]

Cover blurb (from Amazon): “A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs is a collection of weird, speculative fiction containing four stories of people exploring strange places and situations, from a newly-discovered civilization of six-foot-tall talking slugs to being haunted by a man in a dark chocolate suit. Whether waking up in a prison camp or navigating a city full of copies of themselves, the characters in these stories are bent on understanding their world, even if that understanding also means the end of the world they thought they knew.”

***

I received a free copy of A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs in exchange for an honest review. For more information, please see my review policy page.

***

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. The cover blurb gave me a Douglas Adams vibe. After reading though, I think The Twilight Zone is a better comparison.

Like The Twilight Zone, each of these stories leaves you feeling disconcerted and unsettled. They aren’t scary or disturbing, but they leave you feeling slightly off-kilter. The conclusions all made me say “wait, what happens next?!” Each tale leaves you on a cliff-hanger, and nothing is totally explained.

If you like neat endings, you will not like this collection. If you like open-ended ideas that leave plenty of room for discussion, you should pick up this book. Like the last collection of short stories I reviewed, I’m desperate to talk to someone else who has read it. What do you think it means? What would you do in this situation? This is a collection that I could read over and over again, and I feel like I’d get something different from it every time.

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs is an extremely quick read. It’s only about 20 pages, and the writing is easy to understand. Somehow, though, Kozma’s worlds are fascinating and detailed. There isn’t a lot for me to say as far as diversity goes. The stories are more idea-driven, than character-driven.

**Spoiler alert/sensitive content warning** Murder, suicide and sex appear in this collection, but nothing is overtly graphic**