Monday, November 17, 2014

Review-itas: The Not-Quite-Hits Edition

Cairo by G Willow Wilson
I really want to read G. Willow Wilson's Miss Marvel comic book series.  While looking for it on the library website, I came across this other graphic novel by her, Cairo, and decided to give that one a try while I waited.

I read Wilson's Alif the Unseen about a year ago and had mixed feelings about it.  While I liked the lead female character and the genie, and the way Wilson weaved modern religion into her story, I thought the details of the plot were pretty difficult to follow.

My feelings about Cairo are pretty much the same, even down to the genie.  Wilson converted to Islam in college, and I really appreciate the way she uses her stories to educate readers about the religion.  She shares an Islam that is respectful, peaceful, and kind.  In a world that often portrays the religion in a very negative, extreme light, I can't speak highly enough of stories that show it as progressive and welcoming.

Cairo panelThe plot, though, was still hard to follow.  Wilson seems unwilling to write "conventional" fantasy stories, which is fine, but she also seems to have trouble translating what is in her mind to paper, and so readers are left a little confused.  Or at least this reader is left confused.  Perhaps because religion is such a strong component of her stories, the aspirations are much more high-level than what I am used to and such nebulous descriptions of key components to the story make it hard to understand what's going on.

Still, I cannot wait to read Miss Marvel!

Liar Temptress Soldier Spy
One book I started but did not finish was Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, by Karen Abbott, a historical account of four women who participated in different ways in the American Civil War.

I had a vague recollection of the author's name, and when I realized that she was the author of Sin in the Second City, I had a feeling that I wouldn't love this book.  I really enjoy non-fiction, particularly history, but I feel like the events and the people are fascinating enough.  Authors don't need to add a lot of fluff to make the stories interesting.  Abbott, in my opinion, sensationalizes history a little too much.  It's very difficult to tell with her writing where the facts stop and her own hypotheses begin.  She attributes thoughts and feelings to historical figures without really providing any footnotes as to whether those are real or not.

The four women she includes in this book were spies on both sides of the war, and I'm sure they were all fascinating in their own right.  I loved that they were not limited by their sex but were willing to use other people's preconceived notions and beliefs about women to get ahead.  I would love to learn more about all four of these women, but I don't think Abbott's book is quite the right way for me to do so.  This book is much more a light beach read on the non-fiction scale, which has a lot of value in its own right, but just isn't right for me.

Also, seriously - the book is about women who did underground activities during the American Civil War.  I feel like she could have featured at least one woman of color here!  There are a couple of loyal slaves and servants mentioned who have parts to play, but I think Abbott could have put the spotlight on someone if she really wanted to.


  1. Ms Marvel is awesome and very accessible even to a MCU newbie like me! I've been wondering about the rest of her work - shame it doesn't seem as good.

  2. The 2nd seemed interesting but maybe not

  3. It's very uncommon for me not to finish a non-fiction, but when I do it's also usually because of a tendency to sensationalism. It must be so tempting for an author to just add one tiny bit of fiction...

  4. You aren't the only reader I've seen who wasn't sold on Alif the Unseen, so I've stuck with Ms. Marvel. It seems like the best of Wilson without the problems some people have had with her. Of course, Ms. Marvel isn't finished yet, so I shouldn't speak too soon. So far it's excellent!

  5. The ascribing thoughts to people without evidence or footnotes - that's a no go for me in a non-fiction, so I'm glad I read your review otherwise I might've read the book; it sounds interesting otherwise. I haven't read Alif but I want to so I read your notes on Cairo with much interest. Confusing or not it looks a fair read.


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