Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Black Dog Reviews’ First Annual Gift Guide

December 11th, 2011    Posted in Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Literary Fiction, Middle Grade, Mystery, Non-Fiction, Other Genre, Pop Culture, Popular Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Uncategorized, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Looking for gift ideas this Christmas? How about giving a book? Here’s some gift recommendations based on books or series we read during 2011.

Literary Fiction
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
About: Effortless novel from one of our favorites.
Best for: Fans of The Virgin Suicides or Middlesex; people who enjoy character studies; Fans of Jane Austen, and also of Victorian writers.
Also consider: Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.


Short Story Collection
20 Under 40: Stories from the New Yorker
About: Sampling of the hottest short-story authors under 40 years old. Great way to find your favorite new literary author.
Great for: fans of short stories, literary fiction.
Also consider: St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell, Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman.


Adult Dystopian, Sci-Fi, or Fantasy
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
About: Game of Thrones is a layered high-fantasy novel with high stakes.
Great for: fans of high fantasy, people who like epic sagas.
Also consider: Greywalker by Cat Richardson


Southern Gothic
Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite.
Why: Five different female narrators tell the story of Nellie’s unfortunate marriage to Hobbs Pritchard.
Great for: fans of Southern gothic novels, literary ghost stories.
Also consider: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt


Beach Read
Soulless by Gail Carriger
About: Victorian steampunk with supernatural creatures. Mixes romance and humor with a mystery. Absolutely brillant fun read.
Best for: readers with a sense of humor.
Also consider: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon


Young Adult Dystopian, Sci-Fi, or Fantasy
Feed by M. T. Anderson
About: Ecological and technology issues, sci-fi, and dystopian blend in this YA novel perfect for boys and girls. Also has one of the best first lines ever: “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”
Best for: fans of dystopian or sci-fi.
Also consider: Divergent by Veronica Roth, Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor, and Witchlanders by Lena Coakley.


Young Adult, Contemporary
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
About: Vera’s journey as grieving high school student with broken family has heart, and her journey rings true.
Best for: YA contemporary fiction.
Also consider: Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan


Pop culture
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
About: excellent analysis and insight into the “girly-girl” culture invading US society. Go check out the pink toy aisle at your local Target if you don’t believe me.
Good for: parents of daughters, people who deal with children, anyone concerned with the way girls are taught to value themselves.
Also Consider: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell


For Writers

On Writing by Stephen King
About: Great advice and insight into King’s journey.
Best for: writers.
Also consider: Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder


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It’s a girl, it’s a woman, it’s a comic book heroine

June 14th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Kelly, Non-Fiction, Pop Culture

I’ve always found comic books interesting as a reflection of the time period they were published in. Looking at heroines like Supergirl or Batgirl—and their roles within the comic books—brings up interesting insight into American culture and the role of women.

Supergirls focuses on well-known heroines like Wonder Woman, Invisible Woman, etc, while also looking at lesser known characters like the Phantom Lady, Black Cat, the Blonde Phantom, and the Black Canary, and more. It looks at various factors that affected female characters. For example, the Comic Code Authority greatly changed the way female characters were drawn and portrayed, leading to comics like Sheena, Queen of the Jungle ceasing production since the character was too racy for children.

I enjoyed Supergirls and would recommend it anyone interested in comic books, heroes and heroines, and the portrayal of women throughout the 20th century. I enjoyed learning the history of various characters. For example, I knew about Superman and Batman’s foundations, but knew very little about Wonder Woman’s Amazon/Greek Gods background. (And the background changed over time depending upon what was considered palatable to the general public.)

Illustrations would have been a helpful addition to this book, as I ended up googling some of the lesser known characters to see what they looked like. (Madrid did a good job explaining their appearance and costumes, but there’s no substitute for seeing the illustrations.) He maybe could have gone deeper into the cultural impact of the characters. But I thoroughly enjoyed this book for what it is: a history of superheroines.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Supergirls: Fashion, feminism, fantasy, and the history of comic book heroines
Author: Mike Madrid
Souce: Public Library
Read: June 2011




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The Darker Side of Being a Princess

June 9th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Kelly, Non-Fiction, Pop Culture

Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture is a must-read for parents. Orenstein looks at the long-term effect of different cultural influences on children, especially girls.

For example, in 2001 a Disney executive went to a Disney on Ice Show and noticed that little girls were wearing homemade princess costumes. As a good businessman, he saw a market . . . and the Disney Princess line was born. In 2009 sales of the line exceeded four billion dollars.

Is there anything wrong with girls pretending to be princesses? Not inherently. But if girls are only shunted towards certain toys—specifically “girls” toys—and as toys become less creative and don’t encourage imagination and free play, what’s the long-term impact? Princesses might seem like idealistic and safe role models for children, but is it healthy to focus so much on being pretty? And is so much advertising directed towards children and so many branded products healthy? Are we training our daughters to be the evil stepsister in stories like Cinderella?

Orenstein discusses the concept—and risk—of focusing too much on being pretty in her book. As children’s older and their ‘princesses’ (e.g. Miley Cyrus and other actresses/TV shows marketed to children) get older, girls are taught to act sexy without understanding the consequences, or actually feeling the emotions they’re portraying.

I feel like I’m giving short shrift to Orenstein’s well-written and witty argument and book. Each chapter focuses on different topic relating to the girly-girl culture, from childhood beauty pageants to the online world to toys. Each chapter brings up interesting questions and backs the questions up with research and anecdotes.

If you like books on social issues this is a great book for you. And I’d definitely recommend it to the parents of small children, especially girls.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture
Author: Peggy Orenstein
Source: Public Library
Read: June 2011




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