Review: The Atlas of Beauty by Mihaela Noroc

This collection seemed like the perfect blend between Strong Is the New Pretty by Kate T. Parker and Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York. So the wait to get approved for this ARC was nearly excruciating with me checking my emails every day for a week. But I’m glad to say that it lived up to the hype I created in my mind.

Since 2013 photographer Mihaela Noroc has traveled the world with her backpack and camera taking photos of everyday women to showcase the diversity of beauty all around us. The Atlas of Beauty is a collection of her photographs celebrating women from all corners of the world, revealing that beauty is everywhere, and that it comes in many different sizes and colors. Noroc’s colorful and moving portraits feature women in their local communities, ranging from the Amazon rainforest to London city streets, and from markets in India to parks in Harlem, visually juxtaposing the varied physical and social worlds these women inhabit. Packaged as a gift-worthy, hardcover book, The Atlas of Beauty presents a fresh perspective on the global lives of women today.

I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for the women featured in here. They bring dignity, strength, and inner beauty that shines from page to page. From each of them I learned or was reminded of something new, whether that be tolerance, kindness, resilience, natural and authentic beauty, serenity, strength, and generosity. Plus, the vibrant and colorful photographs really brought something new to the table.

However, as captivating as the images were, I feel like the words that accompanied them, save for a few, failed to move me. In comparison to the collections I mentioned at the start of my review, it was difficult to ignore how bland the text is. I wanted to see what lies beneath the surface, to feel like we’re getting to know the person in front of us… But again, save for a few, I rarely encountered it in this collection. Also: I’m low-key sad that the utterly powerful cover picture wasn’t included in here.

On a brighter note, I’d love to share the photographs of the enthralling women that captivated me:

The Atlas of Beauty 1-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 2-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 4-- bookspoils

Pokhara, Nepal:The Atlas of Beauty 3-- bookspoils

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan:The Atlas of Beauty 5-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 6-- bookspoilsThe Atlas of Beauty 7-- bookspoils

New York, USA:The Atlas of Beauty 8-- bookspoils

Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan:The Atlas of Beauty 9-- bookspoils

Tehran, Iran:The Atlas of Beauty 10-- bookspoils

Nampan, Myanmar:The Atlas of Beauty 11-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 12-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 13-- bookspoils

 

Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador:The Atlas of Beauty 14-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 15-- bookspoils

I was truly surprised to see Eden Saban in the above, since she’s quite well-known in Israel, thanks to being on the last season of Big Brother. So now I’m quite eager to find out if the author randomly stumbled upon her and asked for a picture, or if they set this up….

The Atlas of Beauty 16-- bookspoils

 

The Atlas of Beauty 17-- bookspoils

On that bitter-sweet note, the sharp women and girls featured in The Atlas of Beauty have made a new fan out of me. I’m definitely interested in keeping up with Mihaela Noroc’s photography works next in the making.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: September 26th, 2017

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Atlas of Beauty, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

I went into this graphic novel a bit wary, since I had read Telgemeier’s Smile and wasn’t the biggest fan… But with this newest addition I was ecstatic to find that Drama was nothing like I’d anticipated.Drama 8-- bookspoilsCallie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can’t really sing. Instead she’s the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

The characters in this comic seemed a lot more mature to me than the ones in Smile, so I was surprised to find that they were mostly just 7th and 8th graders. On a totally separate note, Drama had a number of enjoyable moments that left me grinning from ear to ear. The tons of laugh-out-loud moments, plus the cast of characters being a bunch of loving and dedicated kids kept me satisfied from start to finish.Drama 4-- bookspoils

Also:

  • The color schemes and palettes in Drama were vibrant, spellbinding, and incredibly fitting to the ongoing theme.

Drama 2-- bookspoils

Drama 9-- bookspoils

Drama 5-- bookspoils

  • I loved getting an inside look to what happens behind the theatre stage. It reminded me a lot of this incredible video I watched awhile back but still think about:
  • The exploration of sexuality and coming out. I’m sad we didn’t get to see it from the character’s perspective, but still… I loved the turn of events that lead to this iconic moment:

Drama 6-- bookspoilsDream big, kids.

  • This iconic clap-back:

Drama 11-- bookspoilsThis Callie girl is bold, like the time she auditioned for fun in front of everybody to calm down Jesse’s nerves. I love her. Drama 10-- bookspoils

On that note, I’ll wrap up my review to say one last thing: Drama is a noteworthy graphic novel jam-packed with kids full of talent, courage, and dedication. I’m excited to check out more works by Raina Telgemeier in the near future.

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Drama, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

“A place is not really a place without a bookstore.”

tumblr_omegnlbzpf1vyjupno10_400The beginning of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry was the most fun I had reading a fiction book since the start of this year. What compelled me to give it a go was seeing this next quote shared online:

“People tell boring lies about politics, God, and love. You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?”

And I’m forevermore grateful because what followed was something I couldn’t have possibly foreseen: I laughed, teared up, cackled, and became super invested in the lives of this incredible cast of characters, both supporting and leading, from Alice Island. The blurb does an excellent job of capturing their defining moments:

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, I was drawn to the beginning of this book a lot thanks to the numerous laugh-out-loud moments when the main character kept breaking the fourth wall left and right.

“My wife and I,” A.J. replied without thinking. “Oh Christ, I just did that stupid thing where the character forgets that the spouse has died and he accidentally uses ‘we.’ That’s such a cliché. Officer”—he paused to read the cop’s badge—“Lambiase, you and I are characters in a bad novel. Do you know that? How the heck did we end up here? You’re probably thinking to yourself, Poor bastard, and tonight you’ll hug your kids extra tight because that’s what characters in these kinds of novels do. You know the kind of book I’m talking about, right? The kind of hotshot literary fiction that, like, follows some unimportant supporting character for a bit so it looks all Faulkneresque and expansive. Look how the author cares for the little people! The common man! How broad-minded he or she must be! Even your name. Officer Lambiase is the perfect name for a clichéd Massachusetts cop. Are you racist, Lambiase? Because your kind of character ought to be racist.”

This made me throw my head back with laughter. INCREDIBLE.

I went into this book so hesitant because I thought it would read exactly like what the author was making fun of in the above paragraph… But needless to say, I was more than mislead. The last time I felt this same amount of surprise was when I finally caved in to watch the film Deadpool (which is the last thing I thought I’d be comparing this book with), and was utterly blown away with its crass and precise humor.

And the same type of wit is being used by our main character, the snarky and grumpy A. J. Fikry.

Aside from appreciating the more comical moments, I also enjoyed Gabrielle Zevin’s swift novel for making each chapter feel like a short story. Similar to how the Netflix tv series, Master of None uses each episode to explore a different theme (which I’ll talk about extensively in my May Wrap Up, coming in the next couple of days on my blog), this book dived into the notions of fatherhood, grief, love, friendship, book people and lovers, and so much more.

Plus, A. J. Fikry’s short reviews to his “dear little nerds” interspersed at the start of a new chapter made reading the book that more enjoyable. A. J. had always something noteworthy written down that would make me think for days to come.

“My life is in these books, he wants to tell her. Read these and know my heart.”

This standout of a novel was full of eclectic, charming, mismatched characters with the addition of memorable quotes to ponder (I nearly underlined every other line), and twists and turns at each corner, promising to really do a number on your mind. But at the heart of it all, there’s a quiet allure to this world Zevin created that held me glued to the pages, completely rapt, till I reached that dreaded last page. And to conclude, reading about these lovely nerds, who perfectly get my love for reading, was a comfort for my soul. I feel like this next quote sums up my chance encounter with this read pretty well: “the necessity of encountering stories at precisely the right time in our lives.” I’m beyond grateful that I had the joy to discover The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry.

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!