Christina’s Review: The Marketplace of Revolution by T. H. Breen

Christina’s Review: The Marketplace of Revolution by T. H. BreenThe Marketplace of Revolution : How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence by T. H. Breen William Smith Mason Professor of American History Northwestern University
Published by Oxford University Press on 2004-02-26
Genres: Business & Economics, Economic History, History, Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
The Marketplace of Revolution offers a boldly innovative interpretation of the mobilization of ordinary Americans on the eve of independence. Breen explores how colonists who came from very different ethnic and religious backgrounds managed to overcome difference and create a common cause capable of galvanizing resistance. In a richly interdisciplinary narrative that weaves insights into a changing material culture with analysis of popular political protests, Breen shows how virtual strangers managed to communicate a sense of trust that effectively united men and women long before they had established a nation of their own. The Marketplace of Revolution argues that the colonists' shared experience as consumers in a new imperial economy afforded them the cultural resources that they needed to develop a radical strategy of political protest--the consumer boycott. Never before had a mass political movement organized itself around disruption of the marketplace. As Breen demonstrates, often through anecdotes about obscure Americans, communal rituals of shared sacrifice provided an effective means to educate and energize a dispersed populace. The boycott movement--the signature of American resistance--invited colonists traditionally excluded from formal political processes to voice their opinions about liberty and rights within a revolutionary marketplace, an open, raucous public forum that defined itself around subscription lists passed door-to-door, voluntary associations, street protests, destruction of imported British goods, and incendiary newspaper exchanges. Within these exchanges was born a new form of politics in which ordinary man and women--precisely the people most often overlooked in traditional accounts of revolution--experienced an exhilarating surge of empowerment. Breen recreates an

The American Revolution was not only a political revolution that engaged the elite members of the American colonies. It was a revolution that empowered colonists from all classes and across gender to stand together against the tyrannical mother country of England and their oppressive rule. This is what T. H. Breen focuses on in his book: The Marketplace of Revolution. The American Revolution was possible due to the mobilization of colonists who were brought together under the common cause of consumer oppression. These colonists developed strategies of collaborative resistance and communication that took consumer goods and politicized them across the Atlantic. They spoke through their actions against British control, including the British taxation of goods without the representation and consent of the American colonists. Breen focused on consumerism across the colonies and the development of the marketplace and colonial unification over the course of a decade prior to the outbreak of war.

In his book, Breen argued the American colonists shared in an imagined community of collective experiences through consumerism found in the marketplace. Despite being spread out across a long distance of land, the American colonists came together and took a stance against the “political oppression” of the British.(xiii, xiv-xv) Breen focused primarily on the decade leading up to the outbreak of the Revolution and the ability of ordinary men and women to play a role in the “politicizing” of imported goods. The shared experience and the actions taken by the colonists, including the boycotting of British goods, were a new form of public protest that transformed the Revolution into both a political and economic one. (21) To approach the development of this political and economic revolution that brought together the masses, including women, Breen focused on the development of choice that emerged in the marketplace during the 1760s and how this became the foundation for political resistance through the declaration of natural rights.

Breen laid out the sources he used succinctly in his book, including letters, colonial newspapers and customs records. He also looked at museum artifacts, archeologists’ findings, and probate records, amongst other sources.(35) (I personally found his look at artifacts to be intriguing) He utilized these sources to show the development of consumerism over time and how this brought colonists together and later contributed to their actions against the British. He also looked at advertisements in newspapers especially to demonstrate the growing number of consumer choices in the marketplace and how this choice developed into natural rights. As this concept grew, newspapers helped spread messages of discontent and actions to be taken against the British across the colonies. (examples on this can be found throughout Breen’s book, particularly pages 134, 290-293)

Breen focused on numerous colonial locations, ranging from port cities to wholesalers, merchants, peddlers, country stores and other consumer marketplaces. His focus was not limited to one part of the colonies but stretched from the New England colonies to the southern colonies, and included marketplace insights from cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, and market-centers in the Chesapeake region further south.

His book was a dense history on how colonists politicized consumer goods and took a unified stance against British oppression. I personally enjoyed the book because it took readers away from the typical studies of the political elite and beyond the Constitutional Convention, “give me liberty or give me death” speeches, and the “we hold these truths to be self evident…” Declaration of Independence readings. I read this book for my Revolutionary America class and actually did a comparative review for the class between this book and Benjamin Carp’s Defiance of the Patriots. Taken together, these two books complimented each other. I read Breen’s first, which helped develop and further my understanding of consumerism in the colonies and the events that led to the Boston Tea Party (the primary focus of Carp’s book).

Overall, a good book and one I recommend reading for those interested in the period of the American Revolution. Breen helped to open my eyes to the complexities behind the causes of the revolution through the colonial marketplace through this reading. I have found his arguments in this book and other articles to be intriguing, and ones I have related back to as I have read other works on the revolutionary period, the transatlantic nature of the revolution, and the point at which the colonists no longer saw themselves as “British” and the revolution avoidable.

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: We’re All Infected edited by Dawn Keetley

I received this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: We’re All Infected edited by Dawn KeetleyWe're All Infected: Essays on AMC's the Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human by Dawn Keetley
Published by McFarland on 2014-01-29
Genres: General, Performing Arts, Television
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: LibraryThing
This edited collection brings together an introduction and 13 original scholarly essays on AMC's The Walking Dead. The essays in the first section address the pervasive bloodletting of the series: What are the consequences of the series' unremitting violence? Essays explore violence committed in self-defense, racist violence, mass lawlessness, the violence of law enforcement, the violence of mourning, and the violence of history.

The essays in the second section explore an equally urgent question: What does it mean to be human? Several argue that notions of the human must acknowledge the centrality of the body--the fact that we share a

If I’m being honest, I quit even though I was so, so close to finishing. I just couldn’t stomach it anymore.

No, I’m not talking about gorey details or facing the implications of humanity raised by its authors.

Unfortunately, I’m talking about the inaccessibility of this collections of essays to the common reader.

The cover, the title, and even perhaps the synopsis made me think that I was in for another one of my strange enjoyments of learning more about a series that I enjoy and discussing the various issues and wider implications that can be made by it. What does it mean to be zombie? Are the zombies in the series really zombies? What does it mean to say that we’re all infected?

And while, yes, it’s safe to say that I -think- these questions were answered this anthology of academic essays on AMC’s The Walking Dead seris, I cannot tell you for certain. I literally have no idea what most of the essays were about, despite taking my time with them. I had to use the comment feature of Goodreads just to document what each essay was sort of about so I could understand that I was making some amount of progress.

I am in my first semester of graduate studies. Okay, it’s no PHD program and I’m no genius. But I’d like to think that I am fairly smart and well-read and can understand most things. But I had the hardest time with this book, as each essay went into theories and philosophical depths of thought that I simply could not follow. Perhaps if I had more of a background in some of the theories that were mentioned I would have had an easier time reaching the same conclusions as the authors. Instead, I found myself locked out.

Perhaps I wasn’t the intended audience for this anthology. But I’m disappointed because I really would like to debate some of the larger issues presented in The Walking Dead.

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: Sensibility and the American Revolution by Sarah Knott

Christina’s Review: Sensibility and the American Revolution by Sarah KnottSensibility and the American Revolution by Sarah Knott
Published by Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia on 2009
Genres: Colonial Period (1600-1775), History, Revolutionary Period (1775-1800), United States
Pages: 338
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
In the wake of American independence, it was clear that the new United States required novel political forms. Less obvious but no less revolutionary was the idea that the American people needed a new understanding of the self. Sensibility was a cultural movement that celebrated the human capacity for sympathy and sensitivity to the world. For individuals, it offered a means of self-transformation. For a nation lacking a monarch, state religion, or standing army, sensibility provided a means of cohesion. National independence and social interdependence facilitated one another. What Sarah Knott calls "the sentimental project" helped a new kind of citizen create a new kind of government.
Knott paints sensibility as a political project whose fortunes rose and fell with the broader tides of the Revolutionary Atlantic world. Moving beyond traditional accounts of social unrest, republican and liberal ideology, and the rise of the autonomous individual, she offers an original interpretation of the American Revolution as a transformation of self and society.

In Sarah Knott’s words, sensibility was perceived “as a distinctive mode of self” that takes into account feelings and sympathy to connect the self with society. (5) This definition helped to understand Knott’s use of the word in her cultural history, Sensibility and the American Revolution. According to Knott, sensibility was “the fundamental link to self and society.” (1) She followed the transformation of sensibility through the period surrounding the American Revolution and the writing of the Constitution in her “sentimental project.” This term consisted of the transformation of sensibility as the self and society were reconstructed together during this period. (2-3) Looking at this sentimental project, Knott argued the American Revolution was not just about the fight for independence from British tyranny; the Revolution was also part of a key period in the development of the American people, society and politics together. (4) The American colonists had the opportunity to transform society and their selves into a utopian form through social revolution as they fought to separate themselves from British control and write their own Constitution.

To support her argument, Knott focused primarily on the latter half of the eighteenth century in the cosmopolitan city of Philadelphia. While Knott had a number of strengths in her research through her unique use of sources and approach to the period not typically taken by other historians (particularly her research on booksellers and physicians) there were weaknesses that could have used further elaboration: She focused on nervous disease and mentioned the disease did not arrive in the colonies until the decades prior to the Revolution, and when it did arrive, “it flooded.” (92) The reader was left to presume there may have been an influx of British at this time and the monarch asserting control or perhaps the effects of the Seven Year’s War may have led to the arrival of nervous disease. Knott also touched on the use of cognomens. She focused on the private use of cognomens and their significance in journals, but she did not explain the difference in these private cognomens and public aliases found in the Federalist Papers or other political pieces published for mass audiences. These aliases were covered by historians more often than Knott’s journal cognomens. It would have been helpful to understand the difference of the more popular use of masking names over the private use and why these had a stronger effect and reflection on sensibility. Finally, at times Knott presented some cynical assumptions that read more like her opinion than supported her argument. For example, in her depiction of Peggy Arnold following the capture of Benedict Arnold as a traitor, Knott described the theatrical performance put on by Peggy as the officers visited her, noting “she needed to ensure” her innocence through a public display.(177) Perhaps it was theatrics that prompted Peggy to behave the way she did, however, Knott’s mentioning of this event read more cynical and assumptious and was more of a distraction than support for her argument and understanding of sensibility. (92, 110, 177)

Some personal notes: This was a dense book. Knott defined sensibility in Jane Austin’s terms… at times, I am not going to lie (and this is harsh), I felt like I was reading gibberish. My brain was mush and I had to go back and read, and re-read paragraphs and still could not grasp the full content. In addition, I recommend keeping a dictionary close by. This book was a unique turn from the usual Revolutionary histories typically published. I had to read this book for my Revolutionary era class and appreciated the discussion that followed with the group to help iron out the content in relation to the argument and this significance for the time period.

Overall, I felt Knott took a unique approach to the transformation of self and society and its contributions to the historical studies that further the understanding of the period around the American Revolution. However, I would not recommend this book to someone looking for a casual read or for a book to help further their understanding about the revolutionary period in America without further background and in-depth knowledge of the subject. This book was more for those who have a background in literature studies or for those interested in cultural histories and a deeper intellectual understanding of the Revolution. If you do decide to read, I recommend reading with another so you can talk it out and discuss the thesis.

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night by Barbara J. Taylor

I received this book for free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night by Barbara J. TaylorSing in the Morning, Cry at Night by Barbara Taylor
Published by Akashic Books on 2014-07-01
Genres: Family Life, Fiction, Historical, Literary
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: LibraryThing
Almost everyone in town blames eight-year-old Violet Morgan for the death of her nine-year-old sister, Daisy. Sing in the Morning, Cry at Nightopens on September 4, 1913, two months after the Fourth of July tragedy. Owen, the girls' father, "turns to drink" and abandons his family. Their mother Grace falls victim to the seductive powers of Grief, an imagined figure who has seduced her off-and-on since childhood. Violet forms an unlikely friendship with Stanley Adamski, a motherless outcast who works in the mines as a breaker boy. During an unexpected blizzard, Grace goes into premature labor at home and is forced to rely on Violet, while Owen is "off being saved" at a Billy Sunday Revival. Inspired by a haunting family story, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night blends real life incidents with fiction to show how grace can be found in the midst of tragedy.

Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night treaded water to avoid becoming too dark but never broke the surface of being completely happy. True to its title, it remained balanced precariously above that water level that makes a sad symphony into complete darkness. Yes, I am calling this book a sad symphony.

And I mean that in a good way! The book follows a family that is surely being plagued by some bad luck, between the recent loss of their eldest daughter, the mother descending not just into a depression, but what could easily be called more than a little mentally disturbed, the father taking to the drink, which essentially leaves the remaining daughter an orphan. I don’t even have to try to defend how this book could be sad.

But what I can state is how the book stopped itself from descending too far down that depressive hole and instead managed to tell a story about the resiliency of people and the town. There were a lot of delicate layers in this book: the town’s preparations for Billy Sunday and religion in general, the mining industry, addiction, mental health, and family. These were all layered in such a way that it at no point felt preachy, or overdone. I think it benefited from a third person narrative with different chapters or sections from different characters’ perspectives.

So yes, the title could not have been a better fit for this book.

pj - michelle

One Month’s End is Another Month’s Beginning: September/October 2014


It’s officially the Halloween season! Right? I’m sporting some awesome Halloween Jamberry nails:

Pretty cool, right? I am still learning exactly how to put them on, but I’ve got a few more sheets to try out.

In other news, I’m officially more than a month through my first month of graduate school. It’s a mixed bag of a lot of work, a lot of non-work, and definitely a lot of time in class (5.5 hours every Wednesday after a full day of work). It’s definitely reiterated that I am not destined for a life in academia forever. Maybe when I’m older, my mind will change…

We posted the following reviews in September:

And we posted the following non-reviews:

That said, I did pretty good with reading this month, until I started reading Disunion, the anthology of articles on the Civil War. It’s very good, but it’s not exactly a book you can speed through. Of the books I had wanted to read for September:

  • I finished: Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night and Wonder Show. I definitely enjoyed both and they took place within 30 years of each other, so that was sort of fun to have that type of continuity.
  • I finally gave up on We’re All Infected: Essays on AMC’s The Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human. I just couldn’t stomach anymore of it, particularly when dealing with scholarly essays for school.
  • As I mentioned above, I’m in the thick of Disunion. It’s definitely very interesting and I am enjoying it. But despite being made up of lots of digestible essays on various aspects of the Civil War, it isn’t something that I can race through.
  • I haven’t even started Lucky Us or Salt & Storm. Both of those are books from Netgalley for review, so those are definitely next on my queue!

I posted earlier in September that I was craving a good series. I highlighted some ways that I hope to start satiating that craving. So I’m going to switching up a bit my TBR for October.

  • I will finish Disunion…eventually.
  • As listed above, Lucky Us and Salt & Storm need to be read next.
  • The Walled City is yet another Netgalley book that I need to read. I always feel so guilty when I get excited about a book, request it, and then let it sit for too long. One day I’ll get on top of that.
  • The Swap is another review copy I received, this time from Goodreads. Once I knock out these review copies, I think I’ll be happier in my reading life.
  • As a non-series book that has been on my Goodreads’ TBR the longest (yes, that’s a lot of qualifiers), September Girls is the final book on my month’s TBR. I bought it and had it signed over a year ago. It is probably a more appropriate pick for this past month, but oh well!

I keep listing fewer and fewer books for a month, but I’m okay with that. So for October, my goal is 6 books. I keep getting ahead, being on track and falling behind on my annual reading goal. I have a feeling that I will be making that goal by just an inch!

What are you planning on reading this month? Do you have anything exciting happening?

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Captain Alatriste by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Michelle’s Review: Captain Alatriste by Arturo Pérez-ReverteCaptain Alatriste by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Published by Penguin Group on 2005
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 284
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
The novels of Arturo Pérez-Reverte have captivated readers around the world and earned him a reputation as “the master of the intellectual thriller” (Chicago Tribune). His books have been published in fifty countries. Now, beginning with Captain Alatriste, comes Pérez-Reverte's most stunning creation to date: a riveting series featuring the adventures of an iconic hero. Captain Alatriste is the story of a fictional seventeenth-century Spanish soldier who lives as a swordsman-for-hire in Madrid. Needing gold to pay off his debts, Alatriste and another hired blade are paid to ambush two travelers, stage a robbery, and give the travelers a fright. “No blood,” they are told. Then a mysterious stranger enters to clarify the job: he increases the pay, and tells Alatriste that, instead, he must murder the two travelers. When the attack unfolds, Alatriste realizes that these aren't ordinary travelers, and what happens next is only the first in a riveting series of twists and turns, with implications that will reverberate throughout the courts of Europe.

Another from my days of browsing the shelves of a used bookstore, Captain Alatriste tells the story of an ex-soldier mercenary in seventeenth century Spain. Translated from its original form of Spanish, Captain Alatriste tells the story of its title character through the eyes of his protégé and of the state of Spain through snippets of action and pieces of literature.

I didn’t enjoy this book though. I was under the impression that I was in for some swashbuckling tale and high adventure. Or perhaps a story that serves as an allegory for the state of Spain then and now. Instead, I found my translation a bit rough at times (I had a hard time getting into the flow of the language) and too much introspection woven into what was just a ludicrous action plot.

I wanted to like it. I liked the idea of reading something that was popular in Spain. But I fear that I am part of that audience that it just didn’t translate into a hit for. If it had just stuck to the action parts, I would have liked it a lot more. Even if it had stuck to the introspection, the pessimism about the state of Spain and the national pride of its people, I would have at least known what I was reading. Instead I got pieces of both that ended up making the book not feel very cohesive or maintain enough enthusiasm for me.

It’s a real shame because I think there is promise here. But it just wasn’t realized for me.

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Christina’s Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian FlynnSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Published by Crown Publishing Group on 2006-09-26
Genres: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
FROM THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF GONE GIRLFresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

I read Gone Girl with the book club about a year ago, and let’s just say I slammed the book down when I reached the end and went into a huffy fit for a little while. It was sick, twisted, but good…real good. The book kept me thinking long after I finished it and carried the book club through such a great discussion. Because of this, I decided to nominate Gillian Flynn’s debut book Sharp Objects for our October read a year later.

First, I must say I was unexpectedly surprised when this book was not checked out from my library, so there was no wait, and I was able to dive right in! I started the book on a Sunday and finished it by Monday evening… once I got going, knowing how hooked I was with Gone Girl, I kept reading and was not disappointed. Sharp Objects follows a reporter, Camille, who travels back to her small, quiet home town to write a story on the murder of one little girl and a missing second. Flynn does a beautiful job allowing the reader to understand the emotions going through the reporter as she is forced to revisit the past she left behind and the family she had not been home to see in years. Diving deeper into the book, the reader learns the reporter has her own secrets from her past she still hides. From the outside looking in, what can appear to be the perfect family – millionaire factory owners in a big house, with beautiful daughters, a pristinely dressed and regarded mother, and a quiet father-figure – can have their secrets that will leave one squirming in their seats.

The way Flynn laid out Sharp Objects was brilliant to me. She gradually introduced new turns in events and insights into Camille’s past and relationship with her parents and self. She left breadcrumbs that built up suspense and anticipation throughout the book. The characters all seemed to have their own secrets waiting to be uncovered… In my opinion, Camille’s sister was a piece of work, as was her mother. Her father was a mysterious character..a man of few words. I kept wondering if they would have a roll in the turn of events. Reading, I was filled with hate, disgust, sorrow, skepticism, hope… I was cheering for some characters (Camille and her potential romantic encounters) and I was hoping others would “get what they deserved”…

I am excited to talk about this book with the book club and learn their reactions. I found these discussion questions online through Gillian Flynn’s site to review: And this is the perfect time to read Sharp Objects and Gone Girl as we anticipate the release of the Gone Girl movie coming out in early October!

I recommend diving into this twisted world of Gillian Flynn, starting with Sharp Objects… her writing-style is unique, captivating, and leaves the reader cringing amongst a slew of emotions in the end. Her style is unique and gives the brain and heart a good workout!

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Michelle’s Review: Landline by Rainbow RowellLandline by Rainbow Rowell
Published by Macmillan on 2014-07-08
Genres: Contemporary Women, Family Life, Fiction, General, Science Fiction
Pages: 320
Format: Audiobook
From New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell, comes a hilarious, heart-wrenching take on love, marriage, and magic phones. Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply—but that almost seems beside the point now.Maybe that was always beside the point.Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her—Neal is always a little upset with Georgie—but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go without her.When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. . . .Is that what she’s supposed to do?Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Everyone and their mother raves about Rainbow Rowell’s books. I have only ever read (or in this case, listened to) Landline, but even I can name more Rowell titles than I could for other authors (Attachments, Eleanor and Park, and Fangirl, right?).

Landline was perhaps both a scary and a relatable read for someone who has just gotten engaged in the past year. Marital boredom and disintegration is perhaps a theme most commonly seen on television, but Landline made it very real. The dialogue was very realistic and done well. Georgie decides not to go to Omaha for Christmas to work on a potential big break for her television idea. While separated from her family, she reflects on the beginning of her relationship with Neal and how they got to where they are today.

And then of course, there’s the magical phone.

That’s not a spoiler. The book is called Landline, there’s a picture of the phone, and the synopsis says that there is a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.

Was it an effective narrative tool? Perhaps. It was good that it made Georgie realize some things and remember some things. It definitely throws your mind through the time travel/continuum loop. But I think for me, it seemed just a little out of place. Everything else about the book was so realistic that something paranormal asked for a suspension of disbelief.

I appreciated its realism, despite the paranormal aspect. And while the end has bothered some, it didn’t bother me. It did just sort of end, but I was okay with that. By that point, I was glad that there was a conclusion. It was enjoyable and I understand both the negative and the positive reviews. My opinion is somewhere in the middle.

Edit: I was contacted by Macmillan Audio with the chance to give you a clip from the audiobook! This was how I read Landline, so it’s perfect for you to listen to! 

pj - michelle

Calvert’s Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Calvert’s Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo BacigalupiThe Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Published by Night Shade Books on 2009
Genres: Fiction, Hard Science Fiction, Science Fiction
Pages: 359
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

If I had to sum up the Windup Girl in one word it would be ‘disappointing.’ There is so much potential in the post-Contraction world that Bacigalupi created, but the story itself just falls so flat. The idea of a world destroyed by GMOs and mindless energy consumption having to fight for new strains of produce in order to feed itself, of genetically engineered plants, animals, and people becoming necessary for human survival but considered abominations is just so fascinating. I wanted to know more about how the end started, who thought to create seedbanks in the first place, what happened in the cryptically referenced incidents in other countries. I wanted to see Emiko, the genetically engineered New Person [derogatorily referred to as Windups and Heechy Keechy] become something: a revolutionary, a martyr, a messiah, an independent person. Instead I got 350+ pages of politics, wheeling and dealing, corporate machinations and greed, and rape.

Unfortunately, what promised great post-apocalyptic science fiction centered around a female POC instead delivered political fiction with slight fantasy flavoring focusing mainly on middle-aged white men [a feat given the setting of future closed bordered Thailand]. I am no stranger to slogging through politics heavy novels [I’m looking at you A Dance With Dragons], but I do like to know to expect that, and to have intervals of pretty much anything else to break the monotony. With the Windup Girl, not only did the titular character not appear until about a third of the way through, but she did not play a particularly important role either. In fact, the entire concept of the New People could have been removed from the novel with almost no effect.

I kept wanting the book to get more interesting. I wanted to love this book. But it just wasn’t what was promised, took too long to get any type of interesting [two thirds of the way through], and was simply all around disappointing. There are dozens of things I could pick apart and criticize, but I don’t want to write that and I’m sure you don’t want to read it.

pj - calvert

Michelle’s Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Michelle’s Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie PerkinsAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Published by Usborne Publishing on 2014-01-01
Genres: Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 380
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Anna has everything figured out - she was about to start senior year with her best friend, she had a great weekend job, and her huge work crush looked as if it might finally be going somewhere... Until her dad decides to send her 4383 miles away to Paris. On her own.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna finds herself making new friends, including Etienne, the smart, beautiful boy from the floor above. But he’s taken – and Anna might be too. Will a year of romantic near-missed end with the French kiss she’s been waiting for?

During many blogger events, both online and in person, it became abundantly clear to me that the fans of this series are many and passionate. In fact, if the bloggers online hadn’t been as polite and nice during the 2014 Book Blogger Love-a-thon, I would have felt completely on the outside for not having read this book.

I was introduced to this book by attending a local author event that just so happened to feature Stephanie Perkins as well as three other authors. I was drawn to the event by one of those other three, but the crowd had completely taken me aback. As it turned out during the autograph session, the line for Stephanie was insane, snaking through the shelves of the independent bookstore. Isla and the Happily Ever After had not yet been released (or I believe the set release date set) and still the fans of this series could barely contain themselves! I grabbed the paperback version of Anna and got it signed.

I say all this because it is not a book that I would have picked up without all the hype. I have become a lot more educated on my own taste in books. I know what books have a higher chance of hitting a home run for me than others. Typically, contemporary (young adult) romance is not one of those. But I have been surprised before and am always up to expanding my bookish horizons.

And this is where I now say that I liked it. It was cute and fun. However, it did not leave me gasping for more, or moving me to go pick up Lola and the Boy Next Door or Isla. I appreciate this book for what it is; a well-written and quirky romance told in first person in a fun setting. I brought this book with me on vacation, and had I had more time to read on that particular vacation it would have made the perfect poolside read.

I won’t go into the plot. You either already know it or can read the professional one created. In many ways, there was no suspense for me. The title, the buzz, the synopsis all give away any type of surprise that there might be. For some, it didn’t matter because the build-up was enough for them. For me, it made the book just a three-star read for me. Regardless, I can foresee myself recommending this book to those that are looking for something in particular. It has such a proven reputation and if you’re looking for a nice, simple romance, then this would definitely be like finding your favorite movie in an old cinema.

pj - michelle