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Review: Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi

in a sentence or so: Marji leaves behind her family, her country, and her friends to begin a new life in Europe. while Marji does discover a whole new experience, she has an excruciating time discovering herself in a world of strangers.

Marji arrives in Vienna and has a few obstacles to overcome immediately.  first, the family she is supposed to stay with bumps her out, due to lack of space (and obvious relational conflicts).  she bounces from place to place, fitting in marginally here and there, trying to balance who she is and who she wants to become.

as she begins to grow older, she tries to assimilate into her surroundings.  this prompts a guilty conscience and a challenging existence while she is away from Iran.  in addition to attempts of fitting in socially, Marji is confronted with all the other joys of awkward adolescence without her family support system, or friends who truly care about her.

Marji consistently sells herself short during her time in Vienna.  she left at age 14 to a country she didn't know, leaving behind her entire family and social system, and has a difficult time adjusting.  in addition to the cultural shifts, she's dealing with body issues and searching for meaning.

something i loved about Persepolis 2 was reading about Marji's relationships with boys.  her first heartbreak was something i could easily relate to, but ultimately i appreciated her reflections after the fact.  i wish that girls could be self aware and take care of themselves first...but it's so easy to see how Marji (and the rest of us) fall in love and forget ourselves.

ultimately, Persepolis 2 asks the question 'where and how do we find attachment and meaning while being totally authentic to who we are'?  Marji was stuck in a cycle of associating self worth with her identity.  if she could only know who she really is, she would feel happy about herself.  however, she doesn't feel worthy of who she was raised to be, and so is trying to find a new identity.  the cycle stews her in confusion, shame, and a strong desire to become happy and whole.

staying true to herself was always at the core of Marji's struggle.  while it's painful at times to read her journey through her confusion and frustration and heartbreak, i loved Marji's voice and her honesty with everything. you really get a sense of who she becomes by reading about who she was before she got there.  i typically detest memoirs and try to avoid them...but this one slipped through. probably because i'd seen the movie first, i figured i'd at least enjoy the read. and while i did enjoy the movie, i loved reading about Marjane so much more than i expected.

fave quote: "The harder I tried to assimilate, the more I had the feeling that I was distancing myself from my culture, betraying my parents and my origins, that I was playing a game by somebody else's rules" (193)

fix er up: i would like to know what happens to Marjane after the conclusion of the read...but i suppose there's the internet for that sort of thing.  Persepolis was more about her childhood and growth into adulthood, and not so much her confidence in adulthood.

title: Persepolis 2 (read from The Complete Persepolis)
author: Marjane Satrapi
genre: Coming of Age, Memoir, Graphic Novel

Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

in a sentence or so: Nailer knows what's expected of him on light crew. crawl in, get the quota of copper wire, get out. oh yeah, and if you're too big (which Nailer is getting dangerously close to being by the way), you'll get replaced. good luck with that.

Nailer is on light crew. which essentially means Nailer is responsible for stripping the copper wiring off of old tankers in the Gulf of Mexico and getting them to his boss, who then sells them off.  the good thing about being on a crew, however, is the loyalty.  you take an oath to be there for each other and protect each other in the metal hulk of a death chamber you're crawling around in blindly.  the only problem is, not everyone is able to keep that oath. especially over the temptation of the biggest chance at wealth they've ever seen.

the Fates smile upon Nailer by dropping him into an oil pit inside of a tanker. okay, so it might not seem like such a great thing, but he COULD have made a ton of cash off of the deal if he had been able to get it out secretly.  as it was, he almost died. he lives, however, just in time for a city-killer (monster hurricane) to come right towards his beach and wipe out just about everything he owns...which isn't saying much really.  it does provide Nailer the opportunity to realize that he's beginning to outgrow his purpose.  he knows he's getting close to being too big for light crew, but is still too small for heavy crew.  he's also beginning to feel a stirring in his gut that there is something out there, waiting for him to act.  he's outgrown his purpose on light crew, and he's beginning to outgrow his life on the beach.

the city-killer does provide a much needed respite from the light crew grind, and an excellent opportunity for fresh scavenge.  while he's out with Pima, the loyal tomboy, they discover a clipper ship. now - this is a big deal in terms of potential scavenge, but an even bigger deal given Nailer's downright obsession with the sea beauties.  Nailer and Pima are thanking the Fates for their good fortune, yet again, when they stumble upon a dead swank (rich girl) in their plundering. but the worst part is...she's not actually dead.

Nailer, Pima, and Nita (swank girl) are forced to make collective decisions that will impact their immediate future and safety.  they have only each other to rely on, surrounded by a thick cloud of greed and lies.  Nita promises Nailer and Pima a way out of this life...but can she actually deliver?  If Nailer and Pima killed Nita right now, they'd have enough scavenge to buy their way out of the ship breaking business forever...but could they live with their consciences?  as they struggle with what to do, the decision is ripped out of their hands by the scariest, meanest, most drug-rattled man they know - Nailer's dad.

the adventure that ensues from the discovery is pretty darn exciting. i won't give away any spoilers by going into detail, but the author does a nice job of balancing the internal conflict within Nailer with the ongoing fast paced plot.  the characters are forced into making tough decisions over and over and over, without there ever being a clear good option for them.  they must take risks to survive.  Nailer leaves his microcosm of the beach to branch out into the world and to patiently wait for whatever comes next.  living the adventure through Nailer's voice was thoughtful, exciting, and quaint.  i loved his voice, and his dialog was sometimes hilarious, but always sincere and authentic.

there was an ongoing theme of wealth vs. worth.  set in a dystopian future, wealth is hard to come by for Nailer and a majority of the people living in the Gulf Coast area.  wealth is the way out of the slums. wealth is the way to power and respect. slowly but surely, the idea of worth starts to come to focus in Nailer's mind. those he can count on, and those he can't. those who act from what they believe is best, and those who act out of greed.  it's an ugly world that Nailer's living in, and he's in the center of a most ugly mess.

fave quote: "Why did they give up?" Nailer asked. "Sometimes people learn," Tool said. (page 203) (by the way, Tool is a halfman, which means he's part dog, part lion, and part human. they were genetically engineered to protect people or something and they are SO COOL...and scary).

fix er up: the ending, while solid, did feel a bit rushed to me.  i don't mean the events leading up to the ultimate conclusion...but the conclusion itself left me feeling "...oh."

title: Ship Breaker (#1)
author: Paolo Bacigalupi
genre: Dystopian, Coming of Age

Review: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

in a sentence or so: a smart, thoughtful, witty, and quite imaginative young girl growing up in Iran in the early 80s faces the challenges of growing up in an oppressive, confusing regime...and growing up a smart, thoughtful, and witty girl in general.

the comic opens with a short history on Iran, and then launches into meeting young Marji being forced to wear a veil at school. at first, the idea is laughable and the girls make light of the imposed restriction.  over time, however, it becomes clear that Iran is in a huge transition period that will result in many more changes coming their way - even as 8 year olds.

the read balances a narrative of what's going on in Iran at the time through her personal experiences (uncles, friends of family, etc) with her growth from childhood to adolescence.  Marji's exposer to violence through familial experience and stories initially breeds confusion, misinformation, and fear.  as a child, we can see her reacting as a child might - with repeating information verbatim to appear expert on the subject. however, even at a young age she is fearful and confused of the life spinning around her.

there are times that Marji mentions friends, but the core of the narrative centers around her family or close family friends (friends of her parents).  it's clear that she holds her family on a higher level of importance and sees the world through them as her lens.  specifically, her uncle Anoosh, makes an immediate and lasting impact on her personally as well as how she views the events happening around her.

the themes of death and forgiveness were highlighted for me.  her talk of death is genuine and sincere, but not romanticized in any way.  similar to those who experience death on a more frequent basis than most, there is almost an acceptance that it will happen - but that does not lessen the pain or significance of the loss.

as for forgiveness, this is an idea that Marji constantly comes back to.  her mother and father seem flippant or resistant to the idea of forgiveness (as they are more world-wise), but as a child Marji was taught to forgive, and so she struggles with this idea as she sees the shift in power, nationally and locally, and the abuse of that power to hurt those she loves.  the frustration of events in her life, and how she is supposed to react to these events, is a constant internal monologue for her.

it was fun to watch Marji grow from an 8 year old to a 14 year old girl in the book. both with her self developments and intra-personal relationships as well as the physical depiction of herself.  the story in itself is incredible and thoughtful, and the comic illustrations add another layer for the reader to connect and identify with.  sometimes she will state that she was sad or frustrated, and other times you look at the frame to gain insight as to her emotion...i like that a lot.  i appreciated her depiction of herself growing up and her different stages.  she doesn't discount or dismiss any emotions or experiences as insignificant, but allows them to stack up and shape her story.

having seen the movie already, i knew much of what to expect (but not all).  i am excited to continue the journey with Marji in Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return.

fave quote: "In life, you'll meet a lot of jerks. If they hurt you, tell yourself that it's because they're stupid.  That will help you from reacting to their cruelty.  Because there is nothing worse than bitterness and vengence...always keep your dignity and be true to yourself." (150)

fix er up: the pace of the book was quick, and at times i felt like the emotional behind some events bordered on nonchalance due to how fast we were moving.

title: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
author: Marjane Satrapi
genre: Coming of Age, Memoir, Graphic Novel/Comic

Review: Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking Trilogy, Book Three) by Patrick Ness

in a sentence or so: War is here.  War with the Spackle, war with each other, and ultimately war with one's self.

the first book in this trilogy featured only Todd’s voice.  the second had Todd and Viola's voices.  and fittingly so, the third has three voices. i won't spoil anything by saying who the third voice is, only that it's very fitting and symmetrical. don't worry - no spoilers here (okay from books 1 and 2 but if you haven't read those yet i don't know what you've been doing with your life).

book two leaves us off with an impending Spackle attack.  which of course presents many interesting problems for New Prentisstown (who is already fighting a civil war with the terrorist women who call themselves The Answer"), the most challenging of which is will they fight a two front war, or unite against a common enemy?  who can be trusted? surely not the Mayor after his repeated lies and deceit...but he is clearly the most skilled leader in battle. surely not Mistress Coyle after she sent Viola on a suicide mission without her knowledge...but she is clearly the most skilled at peacemaking.  more tough decisions present themselves for Todd and Viola, and none of them have a clear answer.

the narrators alternate quickly and with cliffhangers like you wouldn't believe.  this crreats an abrupt and slightly disjointed reading style, which would of course mimic the tone and plot of the book - overwhelming and uncertain.  because war is so much of the focus, it makes sense that Ness creates a non-stop pace where the narrators are constantly rotating while so much remains unknown. Ness takes elements of war and translates that directly to the reader's experience of the events.

perhaps more directly referenced in this book than the other two is the commentary on religion vs. spirituality. many of Todd and Viola's most painful moments were inside the walls of a church, or due to a preacher.  Aaron (the horrid-face-eaten-off-crazy-man from book 1) was a preacher, and was ultimately killed inside of a church where HE was trying to push Todd to kill him.  there are no religious leaders left in the New World that we encounter, which seems a bit counterintuitive since rural areas tend to be more open to organized religion.  however, while organized religion seems to be something manipulated for the worst in the New World, the ultimate connection to each other and to the earth is Noise.  the way for individuals to get in tune with the Noise (spirituality) is to NOT control it, but to simply BE a part of it.  when leaders try to harness that power, or try to interpret that power for their own gain is when it is twisted and hurtful.

redemption is a theme explored throughout the series, but receives special emphasis in this book.  Mistress Coyle, the Mayor, and also Todd and Viola each have their own personal journeys to make, and ultimately it will be the choices they make that redeem them or lose them forever.

the ultimate conclusion of the story was fulfilling.  so much was left for the imagination, but enough of the loose ends were tied up so that it didn’t feel like a cop out.  Ness creates a world that is full of chaos, but also full of absolute beauty.  it is truly incredible to me that, through three significantly different voices, he is able to portray the awe and wonder of Noise and the world of Todd and Viola. i would be lying if i said i wasn't totally emotionally exhausted after reading the entire series, but it is the best kind of emotional exhaustion.  i was so invested in Todd and Viola, and in the world that Ness created.  this is, hands down, one of my favorite reads of all time. 

fave quote: "And I see how black the eyes of the Mayor are, how echoey his voice is becoming - 'The world is eating me alive, Todd', he says. 'This world and the information in it. It's too much. Too much to control.'" (558)

fix er up: nothing. this was heartbreaking, beautiful, exciting, thoughtful, insightful, funny and clever though and through. 

title: Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking Trilogy: Book III)
author: Patrick Ness
genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Lisa's Faves

re-read of The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer

The Knife of Never Letting Go - re-read thoughts:
Fell in love with the characters easier than before, but watching their evolution and growth was even more intense and meaningful. The slow, patient, development was clearly intentional and pays off in a huge way to sustain the interest of the reader.
Even with the sad parts I KNEW were coming…I couldn’t help but bawl. In fact, perhaps even more so because I knew the implications and the way the characters would internalize, but also grow, from that pain. I think experiencing the hope and disappointment with them all over again gave me – if possible – an even greater appreciation for the writing.
Something new to me this time was all the emphasis on becoming a man/being a man. Now, as a woman I am not inherently aware of this being a big issue, but the author certainly drives that point home as a major issue for Todd.  So more so than just a coming-of-age, it’s a becoming-a-man tale…which is something I think probably appeals strongly to male readers as something they can relate to/remember. 
I had forgotten, perhaps because of all of the other glowing memories of this read, the insightful musings of Todd. How he verbalizes life lessons, self awareness, and the way in which he processes is absolutely fascinating while being totally endearing. It’s not just that he’s experiencing “truth” for the first time, but it‘s how his personality interacts with that experience that take reading about him from enjoyable to downright incredible.

The Ask and the Answer - re-read thoughts:
I’ve heard that the Achilles heel of the middle book of a trilogy is that it often presents a problem that is resolved purely to keep the focus on ultimate resolution for book three, and doesn’t really impact any of the major plot points or character development.  While I will need to read book 3 to verify if the plot aspects are true, I definitely feel that the character development was crucial in book 2.  We find out more of who the Mayor (president) is, who Davy is, and truly who Todd and Viola are. 
I love that TAatA mirrors the holocaust or other similar events in history. Ness cleverly weaves a story that is so reflective of history, while immersing you inside it all.  The leaders are varying shades of gray, there are no clear decisions, and there is so much pain and frustration for those who just want it all to go back to what it was like before.
There are characters that act how you expect them to just as there are those you wish would act differently, and I really like that. I like being frustrated with the characters because it makes them so much  more real and the story so much richer.
The relationship between Todd and Viola becomes more mature, not merely romantic, but more developed and adult than in book 1.  Their thoughts on each other and their need for each other is beautiful to read about and to be a part of.