Nonfiction November: My list of potentials

nonfiction_november_2014

It’s back! Lu (Regular Rumination) and Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness), along with two new co-hosts are bringing back one of my favorite blogging events, Nonfiction November! I’ve been getting ready for this event for the past month. While a slim majority of the books in my stack are written by men, I tried to make my reads almost even when it came to including minorities either as the subject or author.

My stack of potential reads:

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Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince
Take This Man by Brando Skyhorse
Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans by Gary Krist
Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson

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The Little Red Guard: A Family Memoir by Wenguang Huag
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs
Multiplication is For White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit
Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion by Gary Webb

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Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow
All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
It’ll probably take me until December to read it all.

What are you planning on reading for Nonfiction November?

Graphic Novels Review: Fables Vol. 19 Snow White, Tommysaurus Rex, and The Lost Islands

17290285Explorer: The Lost Islands

Edited by Kazu Kibuishi

128 pages

Published in 2013 by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams

Source: Public Library

Audience: Middle Grade

Explorer: The Lost Islands is an anthology of graphic shorts (short stories in graphic format) from new artists like Chrystin Garland and old favorites like Raina Telgemeir. Every story explores the theme of island in vastly different ways.

Like many anthologies, some stories were a hit and others a miss. Some of my favorite stories include “Radio Adrift” by Katie and Steven Shanahan about a witch-in-training and a floating radio station was cute and left me wanting more. Out of the seven stories, there were more that I didn’t care for than I did. The majority fell short. My rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

16100974Tommysaurus Rex

Doug TenNapel

142 pages

Published in 2013 by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic

Source: Public Library

Audience: Middle Grade

I’ve read every one of Doug TenNapel’s books and enjoyed them for the most part. Tommysaurus Rex is no exception. Ely is a young boy whose best friend is his dog Tommy. When Tommy is hit and killed by a car, Ely is sent to his grandfather’s farm to cope. There he discovers a Tyrannosaurus Rex, names it Tommy after his dog, and becomes friends with it. When news stations start covering Ely and his pet, it brings much-needed revenue to the town. As with any strange and ancient creature, not everyone likes the fact that a dinosaur is roaming their town openly. Randy, the town bully, decides he’s going to do everything he can to destroy Ely and his pet.

As an adult reading a book geared toward the elementary and middle school set, I had to suspend my disbelief several times while reading Tommysaurus Rex. Like the fact that Tommy the dinosaur has been alive and buried deep in a cave all these years after dinosaurs became extinct. Randy, the bully, is a child who would have had been in an altercation with any decent parent after what he did to Ely the first time he met him. There would be no story after that. Seriously. Also the fact that no one thought it was crazy that the dinosaur was alive and walking around with everyone. Tommysaurus Rex is a good book but not the author’s best.  My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

17704953Fables Vol. 19: Snow White

Bill Willingham

168 pages

Published in 2013 by Vertigo Comics

Source: Public Library

Audience: Adult

Guys, I want a do-over with this volume. The previous volume, Cubs in Toyland, was a fantastic read, one of the best volumes in the Fables series. It was so good that I gave it a rating of 5 stars.  This volume’s rating is nowhere near 5. I don’t want to buy this. I want the authors to rewrite this. What really kills me is that Kelly heard a rumor that the series is ending next year.

Throughout the series, readers have learned a lot about Snow’s past like her relationship with her sister Red, her mother’s magical powers, and the curse that landed her with the seven dwarves (so tragic). In this volume, the prince that Snow was once promised to as a young girl returns, refusing to accept Snow’s marriage to Bigby. Tragedy ensues and I would have thrown this book across the room, but I needed to know what happens next. Nothing good happens. I’m still trying to figure out what was the purpose of this book. It adds to the story but not in any way that makes sense. I can’t go into detail because it would be nothing but spoilers. My rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Graphic Novel February, Part One

It’s the middle of the month, so it’s time for posted about the graphic novels I’ve read. Graphic Novel February has been a wonderful idea. If it wasn’t for graphic novels and children’s books, I wouldn’t have any books finished this month.

21326Fables vol. 1 – Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham

Source: Public Library

Imagine that the fairy tales characters most of us grew up with were not only real but still alive and residing secretly in New York. That’s the basis of Fables but the series creator, Bill Willingham, does so much more. Snow White and Prince Charming have been divorced for centuries now and the Big Bad Wolf (now called Bigby) is the sheriff of Fabletown. Those fables who are human live in Fabletown while their non-human counterparts, like the pig brothers from The Three Little Pigs, live on The Farm.  When Rose Red, Snow White’s little sister, comes up missing, it’s up to Bigby and Snow to find out what happened.

This was a reread for me.  I got the idea to reread the series after talking to Kelly (The Written Word). I haven’t read the first volume in years and it was a delight to be reintroduced to the characters at the very beginning of the series.  My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

A17591893 Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown

Published in 2013 by Top Shelf

Source: Public Library

I’ve seen this book on many of the GNF participants’ tbr list last month, so I decided to add it to my list too. I went into reading it with no expectations but that didn’t help.  A Matter of Life is a graphic meditation/memoir on Brown’s life growing up as the son of a minister and being a dad. As a high-schooler, Brown comes to the realization that he doesn’t believe in God. Brown experiences pressure from his family as well as members of his father’s church to go back to church to no avail. Instead, he chooses to find wonder and gratitude in other ways. The later end of the book is about Brown’s new roles as father and husband.

I thought the book was okay and fairly interesting. Other participants (Lu and Debi) have talked about the book being disjointed and I have to agree. Sadly, when I finished reading the book, I wondered about its purpose. There was nothing “lasting” about it; no scenes or reflections to really take away from it. My rating: 2-3 stars.

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Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (Olympians Vol. 6) by George O’Connor

Published in 2013 by First Second Books

Source: Public Library

George O’Connor’s The Olympians series is a must-read for anyone who loves mythology. The series covers the Olympians of Greek mythology with one book being dedicated solely to each deity. So far, readers can read the stories of Zeus, Athena, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, and the latest one, Aphrodite. I’ve read the whole series and any favorites I have are based on my own biases because all six volumes are wonderful

The book covers the goddess’s first moments of being as a presence to her birth and later her role in the Trojan War. Aphrodite is different from the other Olympians since she’s not a child of Zeus and she’s much older than the rest. Readers see Aphrodite as she influences some of the most well-known characters of Greek mythology like Pygmalion, a sculptor who fell in love with his sculpture of the goddess.  When Eris, goddess of discord, throws a golden apple into a crowd of gods claiming it’s for the most beautiful, a powerful struggle ensues between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. It’s a struggle that will affect later generations.

I love how not only does O’Connor brings these volumes to life by using ancient sources with his writing, but he also makes these stories a little modern. Being the goddess of love, Aphrodite is the most beautiful of the goddesses (though Athena is GORGEOUS to me). O’Connor gives her brown skin which I loved and readers will too. If you haven’t read this series yet, it’s time to start. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Short review: Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks

ottavianiPrimates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas

Written by Jim Ottaviani

Illustrated by Maris Wicks

Published in 2013 by First Second Books

139 pages

Source: Public Library

In Primates, Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks tell the stories of researchers Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas; three women whose obsessions with primates lead them to famed anthropologist Louis Leakey and their life’s work. The book starts with Goodall’s childhood fascination with Africa and nature before detailing the lives of Fossey and Galdikas along with some background information on Leakey.

What makes all three women so fascinating is their determination to do their research despite the challenges. Goodall’s mother was her chaperone when she first arrived at Nigeria in the 60s while Fossey had her appendix removed before her trip to the Condo. The hut that Galdikas and her husband lived in while she did her research on orangutans was in such bad condition, it would probably been better to just live in a tent. I loved this type of detail about the women. Readers see that their research wasn’t easy but the women managed.

I do have a few issues with the book. I was confused a few times about who I was reading about. Being a graphic novel, the women were drawn differently but still similarly enough for me to be lost. Goodall being a blonde helped but with Galdikas and Fossey as brunettes, I had to look at them really closely. Since this is a book aimed at middle grade readers, there isn’t any detail about Fossey’s death just a panel explaining that her life was tragic in ways and an illustration of her headstone. If you don’t know, Fossey is famous for her research on gorillas and her book Gorillas in the Mist which was adapted into a movie. She was murdered in 1985 and her case is still open.

Even with those issues, Primates is a fantastic book to read. It’s also a great introduction into the lives of these three women for readers young and old.  My rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars.

Thoughts: Fables Vol. 18 Cubs in Toyland

willingham fables 18Fables Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland

Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Gene Ha

192 pages

Published in January 2013 by DC Comics

Source: Public Library

Guys, if you haven’t started reading Bill Willingham’s fantastic Fables series, you need to start now. Just when I think that the series can’t get any better, a volume is published that just blows that opinion out the water. Like most Fables readers, I have a few favorite volumes but the last two published volumes of the series, are among the best so far.

In the previous volume, Inherit the Wind, Ozama shared the prophecy of Snow and Bigby’s children.

The first child will be a king.

The second child a pauper.

The third will do an evil thing.

The fourth will die to stop her.

The fifth will be a hero bold.

The sixth will judge the rest.

The seventh lives to ages old, and is by heaven blessed.

Some of that prophecy comes true with Winter becoming the new North Wind after the demise of her grandfather.  In Cubs in Toyland, we see more of the prophecy coming to life.

The toy boat that Therese received in the previous volume speaks to her. It tells her of a wonderful adventure the two can have together. Therese sneaks away and arrives at a new land, Toyland, but it’s not what the young girl thought it would be. At home the wolf pack, lead by oldest child Darien is searching for Therese. But can they find her before too much damage is done?

What a ride. This latest volume is one of the most heartbreaking books of the series. I don’t know where to start with this one. While writing this review, just re-reading it made me cry. So I will make this short. This is a story of sacrifice, of love, of courage, of redemption even when you are not worthy of it. Fables reminds readers that fairy tales aren’t what we see in Disney movies: the hero doesn’t always win, villains aren’t all bad, and these stories were never meant for children. I also like that Willingham intertwines various tales to give us this interconnected story. I usually need to look up new-to-me fairy tales after reading a volume.

If you haven’t read this series, it’s time to start. Take out your library card or call your local bookstore and see if they have this series in stock. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Graphic Novel Review: Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite by Barry Deutsch

Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite

Barry Deutsch

128 pages

Published in October 2012 by Abrams Books

Source: Publisher

Mirka is at it again in Barry Deutsch’s latest Hereville book, How Mirka Met a Meteorite. In the first book, Mirka wants to fight a dragon. But after many twists and turns, including a duel with a troll, it didn’t happen. Now she just wishes that she had a villain to fight. When a troll sends a meteorite to the witch’s house, Mirka saves the day (and Hereville) by warning the witch just in time. Unfortunately, the witch transformed the meteorite into Mirka’s double. The new Mirka is faster and better at just about everything than Mirka. Sharing Mirka’s life isn’t good enough. One of them has to go.  Will it be Mirka?

Mirka is definitely one of my favorite middle grade characters. In case you haven’t read the first book, Hereville is a village of Orthodox Jews. Readers see Mirka and her family celebrating the Sabbath, find out rules about non-relatives touching, and more in a way that never bogs down the story but enlightens it. Hereville fills a space in literature. Before reading the first book, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with an Orthodox Jewish girl as the main character especially not in a graphic novel. The emphasis is never on the religion but on Mirka. She’s an average girl who dreams of being of hero and doesn’t find it out of the ordinary when she finds herself talking to trolls, fighting a talking pig, or seeing magic performed by the witch who lives on the outskirts of the village. In her view, anything is better than learning how to knit.

Sometimes when you read a fantastic first book in a series, you often wonder how the next book will stand up.  How Mirka Met a Meteorite was just as good as the first book though I do have to say that I miss the talking pig. The book starts out with Mirka still being grounded after her last adventure with the troll. After getting off of punishment, Mirka’s stepmother Fruma tells her that whenever she needs to make a decision, she should imagine the person that she wants to become and ask “what would that person do?”. That advice is one of the reasons why I really love the Fruma character. She’s one of the many strong and opinionated female characters in the book.

Since I had an advance reading copy, the artwork and coloring wasn’t finished but it didn’t take away at all from the story. The story stands on its own. Not every graphic novel can say that.

How Mirka Met a Meteorite is a fantastic book with a spunky protagonist. I waited a year for this book. I hope the next story in the series comes out soon. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

You can find a preview of the book on the author’s site here.

If you’re still unsure about the series, you can find my review of the first book here.

Graphic Novel Review: Saga Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga:  Volume 1

Written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples

160 pages

Published in October 2012 by Image Comics

Source: Publisher

“This is how an idea becomes real. . . but ideas are fragile things.”

An intergalactic war has been going on for longer than anyone can remember between the people of Landfall and the inhabitants of Landfall’s moon, Wreath. The war between the two lands is no longer contained and has reached the rest of the galaxy. It doesn’t matter if a planet doesn’t want to be a part of the war; choose a side or it will be chosen for you.

Marko and Alana are soldiers on opposing sides who want nothing more to do with the war. Their story would probably end there if it wasn’t for the fact that they’re also lovers. Now the governments of both planets want them dead and their relationship to remain a secret. With their newborn daughter, the couple try to race to safety while encountering soldiers from both sides and freelance assassins.  Will their efforts be enough to keep their daughter safe?

What a ride! I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this up. Honestly, I decided to read Saga because of the beautiful cover. I’ve heard of the author, Brian K. Vaughan, before since I’ve read the first volume of his other series, Y: The Last Man, and it’s also a favorite among book bloggers I’ve talked to.

Marko and Alana are such a fun couple to read about. When readers meet them, Alana is giving birth to their daughter in the back of an auto body shop as Marko urges her on. Alana is really sarcastic and ready to shoot anyone who comes around while Marko tries his best to honor his promise to himself, never to lift his sword against another person. Throughout the book, readers learn how the couple met and a little bit about why they’ve decided not to fight in the war through the people who’ve been hired or commanded to hunt them down. We also see the dynamics of their relationship from their encounters with soldiers and ghosts.

Vaughan and Staples do an amazing job with the world-building. The inhabitants of Wreath all have horns of some type and magical abilities while the people of Landfall have wings. There are people who look like half-human and half-spiders, along with some who have televisions for heads. This galaxy is intertwined in this war and you see it. There’s something different and special about all the worlds that are come across in this first volume that makes readers want to know what happens next. The illustrations were gritty but nice to look at plus they help to keep the story moving along.

The one thing I didn’t like was that the story is too short! I wouldn’t have cared if the first volume of this new series was 300 pages long.

Overall, this new series is too good to miss. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday Salon: A More Diverse Universe Reading Pool and Suggestions

I know that there’s a ton of blogging events that are going on in September but I wanted to remind everyone that the deadline to sign up for Aarti’s blog tour, A More Diverse Universe is coming up. September 12th , which is this Wednesday, is the last day to sign up. There’s almost 70 bloggers signed up for the event and I just want to say thank you for doing so. But maybe there are a few people who are having a hard time coming up with a fantasy book that they want to read by a person of color. That’s understandable. I don’t read much fantasy myself and I had to really search my tbr piles, virtual and not, along with several reading lists to come up with a reading pool. Aarti posted a list of suggested reads earlier last week and I thought I should do the same but also share which books I might read. If you’re thinking about joining, I hope this list helps.

Novels

Blindness by José Saramago. I’m probably the only person who would put this book in the fantasy category so I might be crossing the line just a little.  But seriously?  This book is just too good to pass up. In Blindness, over a matter of months, the citizens of an unnamed country go blind. At first, people think it’s an epidemic that will surely go away until the blind outnumber those with sight. What happens next is chaotic, maddening, and at times, beautiful. If you want to read fantasy that doesn’t include witches or dragons, I recommend Blindness.  Saramago’s writing is so good that it wasn’t surprising to find out that the Portuguese writer won the Nobel Prize in Literature soon after the publication of this book.

Note: After reading Ana’s comment below, I’ve decided to just recommend this book for the R.I.P. Challenge instead of both the tour and challenge.

Half World by Hiromi Goto. This book was first brought to my attention by the lovely M of Buried in Print. Half World is one of her favorite books and she recommended to me wholeheartedly. The book’s protagonist, Melanie, is an outsider. She’s poor, has no friends, and lives with her sickly mother. When her mother disappears, it’s up to Melanie to find her and bring her back to our world. I’ve just started reading this a few days ago. It’s a novel with very unusual characters.

Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith by Gina B. Nahai. If fantasy had a chick-lit sub-genre, this book would be on the list. I first read this book years ago and I can still remember images of it like the streets of Tehran and Roxanna, a character who sprouted wings one fateful night and flew out of her daughter’s life. If I owned a copy of this, it would sit next to Chocolat and Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate. This isn’t a book about food but it’s such a feel-good book that it reminds me of the previous two.

Short reads: Short stories and Novellas

Maybe you’re swamped with blog obligations, memes, and the like so you don’t have a lot of time to squeeze in one more novel. I’ve found a few stories that I’ve really enjoyed and you can read in less than an hour.

Lucretia and the Kroons by Victor Lavalle. I read this novella about the friendship between two young girls, one of whom is dying, a few weeks ago. No review yet.  Lucretia knows that Lily is sick but she hopes that one day her friend will get better. When Lily goes missing, it’s up to Lucretia to bring her back from the underworld. Lavalle takes less than a hundred pages and gives readers a sweet story about childhood friendships, love, and death. Note: this book is only available as an e-book and it’s priced at $ 0.99 at most ebook retailers.

“Pishaach” by Sweta Marayan. This story was featured in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s The Beastly Bride, an anthology of stories about shape-shifters. When her grandmother disappears, only Shruti knows her secret: that her grandmother is a shape-shifter who went back to her own world. Shruti is an outsider among her own family and longs to be with her grandmother. But will Shruti ever get the chance to? This story was nominated for the Nebula Award in 2010. Also featured in the anthology is Hiromi Goto’s  short story, “The Hikikomori”.

Collected Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Marquez is one of those writers whose stories are anthologized so much that you can’t help but run into his stories. If you only read one story from this collection, make it “The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”. It’s a story about a small village that discovers a man with enormous wings and what happens once he’s there. You could probably find this story posted online.

Graphic Novels

So maybe you don’t have time to read a full novel or you’re not a short story kind of person. There’s still hope. Here are four graphic novels you could try.

Ichiro by Ryan Izanama. You know how you read a book and then you’re basically a disciple afterwards, harassing asking people to read it, telling them how awesome it is? Ichiro is that book for me this year. Ichiro is the story of a young boy who’s obsessed with war. His father, a soldier, recently died in Iraq, and Ichiro’s clings to his father’s army things. It’s only after a move to Japan from New York that Ichiro learns about the country’s history. But it’s during a fateful encounter with several Shinto gods and a shape-shifting fox, that Ichiro realizes maybe war isn’t as simple as he thought.

Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory. 2011 was the year that I wanted everyone to read Chew, though I knew it’s not for anyone with a weak stomach. Detective Tony Chu is a cibopathic, a person who gets psychic (and very graphic) impressions from the food he’s eating. If Tony eats one bite of a hamburger, he can tell you where each ingredient came from and even the type of life the animal lived.  When Tony finds a human finger in his dinner, he goes on the hunt for a murderer and his secret is leaked. Now Tony’s working for the government and has to deal with Russian spies, double agents, and cyborg co-workers. Did I mention that Tony lives in a time where owning and eating chickens is illegal?

Bayou series by Jeremy Love. I’m going to describe this book in the same way that I’ve always described it. Bayou is an amazing Southern Alice in Wonderland. Unlike Alice, readers are plunged into Southern folklore and characters like Brier Rabbit. It’s a dark and fantastic read.

Shaun Tan. Noticed that I didn’t put any titles in front of Tan’s name? That’s because pretty much everything by Tan is perfect for this blog tour. But if you want me to, I’ll give you the names of a few titles that I really enjoyed: Tales from Outer Suburbia, The Arrival, and Lost & Found. I’m not going to tell you what they’re about because it doesn’t matter. They’re all good. I do have to warn you though, if you buy a book by Tan, you need to buy two copies. One copy is to read and the other to tear out the pages and frame them for your walls. Seriously.

I hope this post helps you find something to read for the blog tour or even Carl’s R.I.P. Challenge. If you’re joining the blog tour or the challenge, what will you be reading?

Mini-reviews: Alcestis, Forgotten Country, and The Sigh

 I’ve read a lot of books so far this year but because of school and my own laziness, I haven’t reviewed most of them. So here’s a few short reviews on what I’ve read in 2012.

Alcestis by Katharine Beutner. Published in 2010 by Soho Press. Source: Personal library.

 The more that I read novels based on Greek tales, the more I realize that I really need to read The Iliad and The Odyssey. When ancient Greeks thought of the ideal wife, Alcestis came to mind. She was a woman, who took her husband’s place when Hermes came to claim his life. The book was an interesting read that took some fantastic turns once Alcestis was in the underworld. I love the imagery of Hades (the place and the god) and the interactions between Persephone and Alcestis. The ending was fantastic. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until the second half of the book for the action to pick up. My rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars.

 

Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung. Published in 2012 by Riverhead. Source: Publisher.

Since childhood it’s been Janie’s job to make sure nothing happens to Hannah, her younger sister. It’s not an easy job as the two sisters are opposites. Protecting Hannah becomes even harder once she goes off to college and disappears. The girls’ parents blame Janie and it’s her job to find Hannah and close the rift between the two sisters once and for all. This is Chung’s first book but you couldn’t tell reading Forgotten Country. I found the language to be beautiful while the descriptions of Korea breathtaking. There were many passages that I read aloud to myself just to hear them. The family’s issues and the revealed secret from the past were believable. I’m glad that this was a family who wasn’t dysfunctional but more like they misunderstood each other. Forgotten County is a book that I didn’t want to end. I won’t hesitate to pick up Chung’s next book. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

 

The Sigh by Marjane Satrapi. Published in 2011 by Archaia. Source: Library

The Sigh is the fairy tale-like story of Rose, the daughter of a rich merchant who wishes for the seed of a blue bean. When her father is unable to find one, a mysterious creature has exactly what Rose wants but it’s comes at a price. What I think: The Sigh is a cute book. That’s it. It’s more like something that you give to your kid as a present and less like something you publish. The Sigh doesn’t have any of the strength or purpose of Persepolis or Embroideries. My rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Graphic Novel Mini-reviews: Anya’s Ghost, Cinderella, and Hera

Anya’s Ghost

Vera Brosgol

224 pages

Publication Year: 2011

Publisher: FirstSecond Books

Source: Won it.

Anya Borzakovskaya is your typical teenager: she would rather be anywhere else instead of school or church, her mother embarrasses her, and she thinks no one understands her. One day while ditching school, Anya falls down an old well and meets Emily Reilly, the ghost whose bones lie at the bottom of the well for the past ninety years. Anya may have thought her life was dull before, but after meeting Emily, things will never be the same again.

Any adult who reads this book remembers what it’s like to be a teenager who doesn’t fit in. As the daughter of a Russian immigrant, Anya does all that she can to fit in better with her peers: learns English, loses her accent, smokes, and ditches school. What Anya forgets is that being yourself is better than fitting in any day.

Anya’s Ghost is a book that was perfect for the R.I.P. Challenge and this autumn weather. The black/white/purple illustrations blend well with the content of this story. I love how Brosgol starts this story off so simple and normal before the creepiness of Emily the ghost inches slowly through the storyline, scaring both Anya and the reader. Anya’s Ghost is a book that’s great for middle school readers and their parents alike. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love

Chris Roberson and Shawn McManus

114 pages

Publication Year: 2010

Publisher: Vertigo

Source: Public Library

I’ve been a reader of Bill Willingham’s Fables series for years, so when I saw that there was a spin-off of the series featuring Cinderella, it was a no-brainer for me to read this.

 Though many in Fabletown think Cinderella is just some dumb blonde who spends as much money as she can, she’s really a super spy who sabotages Fabletown’s enemies at every turn. When someone starts smuggling magical items from the Homelands into the real world, it’s up to Cinderella and Aladdin to put a stop to it.

Cinderella is a character that you don’t see much of in the Fables series, so giving her a spin-off was a great idea. She’s smart, not scared to get in a fight, and has some baggage of her own to deal with. The writers did a great job with keeping the same style as the Fables series while giving readers something different.  My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory

George O’Connor

80 pages

Publication Year: 2011

Publisher: FirstSecond Books

Source: Public Library

Author George O’Connor is on fire with his Olympians series. The first two books in the series were Zeus and Athena. Hera is the third volume. The problem with dedicating a whole book to Hera, the Greek goddess whose story is intertwined with the infidelities of Zeus and the hero Hercules, is that not much of her story is hers. There’s not a lot known about the goddess outside of her role of wife which is the reason why most of Hera is about Hercules and Zeus. Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory was a great read but not finding out more about the goddess left me disappointed. My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Mini- Reviews: Emily Alone, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, and Lost at Sea

Emily, Alone

Stewart O’Nan

Publication Year: 2010

Source: Gift from Kai

I picked up Emily, Alone because it’s not often that I read a book that features an elderly main character, which is something that I didn’t realize until I was halfway through the book. After her sister-in-law has a small stroke, Emily has to face life and do things for herself again. What comes next is an interesting

What I like about the book is that O’Nan does a great job of having Emily look back on certain aspects of her life with regret, joy, or even a new sense of wonder. Emily has never gotten along with her daughter Margaret and wishes she was closer to both Margaret and Margaret’s adult children. Her husband, parents, and best friend are all gone, and there aren’t many people Emily would call part of her inner circle.  You see the day-to-day details of someone who is almost on her own. While reading the book, I often wondered how I would look back on my life if and when I become elderly.

More than halfway through the book Emily has a rant or two about politics and our current president. There were also a few lines about his race. I could look at it as someone who is looking at a newer generation and not understanding it but by the end of Emily’s rant on what she felt was wrong with American politics, I was turned off to reading more about Emily. So instead of getting a rating of 4 or 5 out of 5, Emily, Alone gets a rating of 2 ½ out of 5 stars.

Hard Times Require Furious Dancing

Alice Walker

210 pages

Publication Year: 2010

Publisher: New World Library

Source: Public Library

I first fell in love with Alice Walker’s poetry more than a decade ago when I discovered her poetry collection, Her Blue Body Everything We Know. It’s a wonderful volume of poetry so when I saw that Walker recently published a new collection, I didn’t hesitate to check this out from my public library. I was less than one hundred pages into the book, when I decided to just make it a DNF (do not finish). Among the subjects that Walker writes about includes stopping wars, holding on to anger, and learning lessons which sound somewhat passionate but this collection lacks emotion for me. I couldn’t find a reason to keep reading so I stopped. Out of all the pages I read, I only found two poems worth mentioning: “Sometimes” and “Watching You Hold Your Hatred”.

Lost At Sea

Bryan Lee O’Malley

172 pages

Publisher: Oni Press

Publication Year: 2005

Source: Public Library

 I have a lot on my mind and not a lot to do so it’s going to come out, all of it, and then, then , it may begin to make a sort of sense. . .

I love love love the work of Bryan Lee O’Malley. He’s the genius behind one of my favorite new-to-me graphic novel series, Scott Pilgrim. I had no idea that he wrote anything else so I was ecstatic to find more of his work. Lost at Sea is the story of Raleigh, an eighteen year old who thinks she doesn’t have a soul. It sounds weird, right? But it’s not. She’s the only child of divorced parents, friendless, and with no clue on what to do with herself or her life. By chance she ends up going on a cross-country road trip with three classmates. Raleigh’s already a loner and kind of awkward around other people, but maybe these three can get her out of her shell.

Lost at Sea perfectly captures the loneliness and confusion of life. This is a book I can see myself handing to a teenager or an adult. O’Malley’s black and white drawings compliment the story nicely while taking a back seat to let everything develop. I think Craig Thompson’s brilliant and beautiful graphic novel, Blankets, would go nicely with this book. Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday Salon: Mini-reviews: Stitches, Horoscopes for the Dead, and The Violets of March

I have a confession to make: I read faster than I review. So I have a stack of books sitting on my desk, just waiting to be reviewed. I rather read than write so I’m posting mini-reviews to assuage some of the blogger guilt that I’m feeling.

Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems

Billy Collins

128 pages

April 5, 2011

Publisher: Random House

Source: Library

I picked up Horoscopes for the Dead for several reasons: a) I’m a judge in the poetry selection of the Indie Lit Awards, b) I enjoy poetry, and c) who can ever get enough of Billy Collins? Sadly this newest volume disappoints. Though several of the poems featured are memorable, many weren’t. I even skimmed a few towards the end. I don’t expect every poem Collins writes to be another “Litany” or “Forgetfulness” but damn; I don’t expect every poem he writes to be published either. If you’re someone who doesn’t read poetry often, I would say this book may not be for you though it’s still accessible. If you’re a fan of Collins (I still am), I think you could still enjoy the gems this volume holds. One of my favorite poems in Horoscopes for the Dead was Feedback:

The woman who wrote from Phoenix

after my reading there

to tell me they were still talking about it

just wrote again

to tell me that they had stopped.

The Violets of March

Sarah Jio

304 pages

April 26, 2011

Publisher: Penguin

Source: Publisher

I read The Violets of March last month and I’m still at a loss of what to say about it. The gist: I loved it. The main character is Emily, a writer whose life is a mess: her last book sold millions and now she has a chronic case of writer’s block plus she’s getting a divorce. On a whim, she decides to visit her great-aunt on Bainbridge Island in Washington. While there she discovers a sixty-year-old diary of a woman named Esther whose own life at the time of the diary’s writing was getting even messier than Emily’s by the minute. Emily has no idea who Esther is or what happens to her. The result is a mystery that twists and turns, leaving the reader guessing all the way until the end. I didn’t want this book to end. If you’re looking for a great read this summer, you can’t go wrong with The Violets of March.

Stitches: A Memoir

David Small

329 pages

September 8, 2009

Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.

Source: Personal Library

I have a tug-of-war relationship with this book. I bought when it was first published in 2009 because the author happens to be one of my favorite children’s book illustrators. I devoured this graphic memoir of Small’s childhood in 1950s Detroit. The author’s father was a radiologist, his mother a stay-at-home mom. His family was a family of silence and secrets. David and his brother had no idea what their parents were ever thinking. The author was a sickly child at a time when the medical profession thought that radiation could cure sinus problems. As a teenager David ended up with a huge cancerous mass on his vocal cords and the resulting surgery rendered him speechless for years. David was an outsider in a family filled with outsiders who acted as though they fit in with the world around them.

So the tug-of-war relationship with this book started the first time I read it. There was so much hype around this book that I had huge expectations and the book disappointed a little. After the first reading I gave this book to my library and ended up buying it back from them because I couldn’t bear for someone else to buy it. What? Yes, I know. It sounds weird but that’s the truth. I read Stitches again for the third time earlier this month and I’ve come to see how good this memoir is. Small’s black-and-white drawings are sparse but powerful. The drawings and words come together to convey this perfect story about childhood and loss, psychological damage and family dysfunction. It’s a pretty perfect graphic novel.

The book trailer of Stitches

Thoughts: Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa

Three Shadows

Cyril Pedrosa

Translated from the French by Edward Gauvin

272 pages

Pub year: 2008

Publisher: First Second

Source: Personal Library

Back then, life was simple and sweet. The taste of cherries, the cool shade, the fresh smell of the river. . . That wads how we lived, in a vale among the hills – sheltered from the storms, ignorant of the world, as though on an island, peaceful and untroubled.

And then . . . everything changed.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books that I would describe as being gentle. Stories that quietly unfold as I read them but yet still leaves me stunned after I have read the last page. Cyril Pedrosa’s Three Shadows is that kind of read.

Louis leads a simple life with his wife Lise and their young son, Joachim. It’s a life where the three can easily forget that the rest of the world even exists. But one night Joachim notices three hooded horsemen that loom on a nearby hill, shadows that watch the family. It’s during a fateful night when the horsemen call out to Joachim that Lise and Louis start to realize the danger their son may be in.  Louis decides to do everything in his power to keep his son away from the horsemen so he flees in the middle of the night with Joachim and some rations, vowing not to come back until they have outran the shadows. Lise is left behind to grieve for the lost time she has with her son in hopes that her husband will one day make peace with what’s ahead.

My description may sound odd but I’m letting you know just the basics. I think the less you know about this book in terms of plot- the better your reaction to it will be. When I bought Three Shadows earlier this year, I thought its vague description was interesting enough to buy. I was so amazed about this book that I had to read this book twice before I could write a review on it. The story of this small family against these three mysterious beings and the ensuing race to get Joachim as far away as possible from them was interesting enough that I had to read to the end. The art, done in black and white, helps to keep the pictures as part of the story and not a distraction.

click on the picture to enlarge

There are scenes that are so beautiful that I held my breath as I read. These were scenes that revealed the motives, emotions, and acts of bravery of everyday people and villains. The front flap of this book asked “What price would you pay to save your child?” Louis is a great example of a parent who’s willing to sacrifice everything for their child. In the end,  Three Shadows is the fable that it sets out to be.

You can see a much longer excerpt from the book here.

Review: Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi

Embroideries

Marjane Satrapi

Translated from the French by Anjali Singh

144 pages

2005

Pantheon Books

Source: Library copy

I love Marjane Satrapi’s work. Her first book, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood is a masterpiece.  Whether she’s talking about her childhood or about an uncle who was determined to die after the loss of a beloved instrument (Chicken with Plums), Satrapi’s subject matter is always one that really doesn’t disappoint. In Embroideries, the author writes about the lives of women, their thoughts, and dreams.

It’s only after an afternoon meal and once the men go off for their naps, that the women of Satrapi’s family along with various neighbors get together to talk. Gossip about other neighbors and friends is mixed in with tears and laughter as the women discuss arranged marriages versus marriages of love, the cultural pressure that’s placed on a woman to stay a virgin until marriage, and more.

Click on the picture to enlarge.

This is a book of woman’s stories. It’s not a book about war or death. It’s not about living in a conservation society or oppression. It’s more than that. This book is about the everyday lives of women and how they navigate around the things that happen to them. Satrapi’s grandmother was married three times, a cousin was married off to an elderly general at the age of thirteen while a neighbor’s husband ran off with their wedding gifts right after they were married. These stories aren’t any less important than the stories that we consider to be the stories of men who set off to change the world and such.

The author really knows what she’s doing because the close atmosphere that, as a reader, I felt as I read about these women’s lives.  I didn’t feel like a reader but like someone who was sitting in the same room as the characters and listening to all the stories. This is a book that deserves a place in my permanent library collection.

Review: Hereville by Barry Deutsch

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

Barry Deutsch

144 pages

Publication Date: November 2010

Amulet Books

Source: Library

I love this book! Love love love! I love it so much that I checked it out of the library on Thursday, read it Thursday night, reread it Friday morning, and then bought it right afterwards. Enough gushing for now. I should at least tell you what this great book is about.

click on the picture to enlarge

Mirka Hirschberg is a spunky eleven-year-old who dreams of fighting dragons. The problem though is her family has other plans for her. As Orthodox Jews her slightly older sister Gittel wants her to start thinking about marriage, her stepmother Fruma wants her to become a better knitter while her younger brother Zindel thinks fighting dragons is for grown men. Mirka will not be deterred. She has no idea how she’s going to find or fight a dragon until she happens to find a witch’s home deep in the local woods of her town. When she steals a grape from the garden of the witch’s pig, that’s when the real adventure starts.

I don’t think there can ever be enough strong female characters in literature and Mirka is a great addition.  She’s a girl who’s true to herself while understanding the obligations she has in her family and community. The town she lives in, Hereville, is populated mostly by Hasidic Jews and Deutsch doesn’t shy away from showing us how religion and culture are intertwine in Mirka’s life. Readers don’t need to have any knowledge of Judaism to read this book.

For young readers who enjoy fantasy, Hereville is a book to add to their permanent collections. The witch in the story is unnamed and believable. She’s not a villain but a recluse who lives on the outskirts on the tiny town. I have so many questions about the witch, her background, and how does she know Fruma which is revealed in the story. The witch’s pig is another character I would love to know more about. It talks, grows a vegetable garden, and swears revenge on all who angers it.

I could keep going on and on about this story but that’s enough blabbering from me. Just go out and buy the book. You won’t regret it.

Review: The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

The Night Bookmobile

Audrey Niffenegger

40 pages

Publication Date: September 1, 2010

Publisher: Abrams ComicArt

Source: Library copy

After a fight with her boyfriend, Alexandria is walking the streets of Chicago when she finds a bookmobile and Mr. Openshaw. Mr. Openshaw is the librarian of this particular bookmobile which is housed in an old ratty Winnebago. During her first visit, Alexandria realizes that what’s so special about the bookmobile is that it exclusively houses everything she has ever read: from Pat the Bunny which she read as a child to The Complete Stories of H.G. Wells. Over the years, the bookmobile changes with each visit just as Alexandria changes. Now she’s single and a librarian herself but the real job that she desires is to be a librarian for the bookmobile.

I really enjoyed reading this. The Night Bookmobile contains some beautiful passages about reading and being readers.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

After reading this book I wondered how my own bookmobile would look like, what books would fill the shelves. Just the thought of it makes me want to read more, to fill those shelves with more books. I love the imagery that Niffenegger uses and also the questions she ask. In the afterword the author asks “what is it we desire from the hours, weeks, lifetimes we devote to books? ” Alexandria gave up human companionship for books, looking for something that could only be found between pages. I think for each reader the answer is different.

Review: Flight Vol. 7

Flight Vol. 7

edited by Kazu Kibuishi

284 pages

Publication Date: July 20, 2010

Publisher: Villard

I’ve read the previous six volumes in the Flight series, so it was a no-brainer to check out volume seven from the library. Flight 7 is one of the better volumes in the series but it’s still not better than my favorite which is volume 3. This volume included stories from series veterans like Kean Soo who returned with another “Jellaby” story and Michel Gagné with “The Saga of Rex”, an intergalactic story of a lovable puppy.

One of the great things about the series is that most of the volumes are suitable for young kids to read and entertaining for adults to pick up too. I found this true for volume 7 also. It’s a volume that my kids can easily read and I won’t feel uneasy about it.

Another great thing about the series is the beautiful artwork with each story. I don’t think I’ve ever read one story from this series and hated the artwork. The stories match the artwork beautifully. Some of my favorite stories in this volume include “Premium Cargo” by Kostas Kiriakakis about an airman who steals a very special package and realizes that it’s time to send it back. It’s definitely a tear-jerker that left me wanting to know more about the characters.

Click to enlarge the image.

Cory Godbey’s “Onere and Piccola” is a mythology story about love that is so beautiful.

Click to enlarge picture.

So if you haven’t read any of the volumes from this series, what are you waiting for? Each volume is a stand-alone so you don’t have to worry about reading them in order. The Flight series is one of the best graphic anthologies you can read. Highly recommended.

Review: Bookhunter by Jason Shiga

  • Bookhunter
  • Jason Shiga
  • 144 pages
  • Publication Date: May 2007
  • Publisher: Sparkplug Comics
  • Source: Library

 

 

The year: 1973.

The place: Oakland, California.

Special Agent Bay is a detective for the Library Police. Chasing down bad guys, finding priceless books, and arresting people who steal library books is all just part of the job. But when he’s called to the scene of a thief at Oakland Main Library, the case may be too hard even for him to solve.

I really enjoyed this book. Bookhunter is definitely a book geared toward librarians and anyone’s interested in libraries. There’s a lot of technical terms in the book about bookmaking, cataloging and other things. I wasn’t used to the terms and became a little bogged down in them, but they’re pretty important for the story.

(click on the picture to enlarge)

I loved the concept of a library police that’s dedicated to book thief and other book-related crimes, especially now as libraries all over the country are dealing with budget cuts. For a graphic novel about libraries, there’s a lot of action and it was so much fun to read.

I highly recommend this book.

Mini-Reviews: I Kill Giants, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Life of Pi, and Read Remember Recommend

Life of Pi

Yann Martel

Publisher: Harcourt

Source: Personal library

I picked this up because it’s required reading for my Philosophy of Religion class. This is a wonderful story about a young boy, Pi Patel, who’s stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger named Richard Parker after the ship he was on with his family sunk. There’s a lot in the book about religion, life, and God which was a perfect fit for my class. It’s not a book for everyone but I thought it was a great read.
 
 
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Aimee Bender
Publisher: Doubleday
Source: Personal library
 
What if you had the ability to know what people felt by tasting the food they made? That’s the question behind the story of Rose and her amazing ability. Rose is nine years old when she discovers her gift but at the time it doesn’t feel that way. With an emotionally detached father, an unhappy mother, and a older brother named Joseph who prefers not to have any part in the world, Rose doesn’t know what to do or how to cope with this new abilities. Bender gives readers a great coming-of-age tale about love and loss. I highly recommend this book for readers who love magical realism. It’s also a great companion read to Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, which features a protagonist with a similar ability.
 
Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens: A Reading Journal for Book Lovers
Rachelle Rogers Knight
Publisher: Source Books
Source: Publisher
 
I thought this was a great book for teens who really love to read. Read, Remember, Recommend is divided into several parts featuring awards and notable lists, a place to write down recommendations and tbr lists along with everything you’ve read. My favorite part of the book was the awards and notable lists because it featured the lists of winners from such diverse awards like the Eisner Award to the American Indian Youth Services Literature Award.
 
 
I Kill Giants
Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura
Publisher: Image Comics
Source: Personal Library
 
I Kill Giants is probably my favorite graphic novel of the year. Barbara is a young teen girl obsessed with killing giants. A girl who’s practically friendless, Barbara spends her time playing fantasy games and ignoring the growing dysfunction in her home. But when a new girl named Sophia wants to be friends with Barbara, it starts a chain of events that change everyone involved. What I love about this book is how it deals with grief and love. I highly recommend it.

Review: Bone: Tall Tales by Jeff Smith

Bone: Tall Tales

Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegeski

128 pages

Publication Date: August 1, 2010

Publisher: Scholastic

Source: Personal Library

 

Bone: Tall Tales is a collection of tales about a larger than life ancestor of the Bone cousins from the Bone series. Big Johnson Bone is a guy who isn’t afraid of anything but sitting still. In the stories Big Johnson goes on one adventure after another fighting the personification of winter, rat creatures and more. The tales are humorous with plenty of outrageous twists to keep readers entertained. Any specific details about the plot and I’ll just spoil the stories.

Bone: Tall Tales is not another volume in the Bone series but a companion book. These stories don’t have any of the darkness that the series has, so I think it’s a perfect read for children who haven’t read the series yet. I also think that fans of the series will enjoy this book though it’s not as great the series.

Readers of the Bone series shouldn’t pass this companion book up.

 

Review: The Heartbreak Diet by Thorina Rose

The Heartbreak Diet: A Story of Family, Fidelity, and Starting Over
Thorina Rose
176 pages
Publication Date: April 2, 2008
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Source: Personal library

The Heartbreak Diet is Thorina Rose’s graphic memoir that details the author’s dissolving marriage and how she starts her life over as a single mom to two young boys. The beginning of the book starts with Rose’s husband always leaving to go running with his “running partner”. What once was boring to him is now so interesting that he’s constantly gone. Rose illustrates this beautifully by consistently showing readers his back. It’s when her brother runs into Rose’s husband and his running partner holding hands that Rose starts to suspect something and learns the truth: her husband is having an affair and isn’t sorry at all about it. That doesn’t stop Rose from trying to win her husband back or meeting the other woman for coffee. When she realizes that she’s lost her husband, Rose starts to put the pieces of her life back together.

I enjoyed reading about Rose’s journey to become a different but better person after her husband’s affair is revealed. That’s where the strength of this book is at. Readers see why the author spent twenty years with the same person and also watch as she changes. She starts going to therapy and  becomes a better mother while also going back to the passion she had years before as an illustrator.

What sometimes got in the way of my enjoyment with this book is the illustrations and the author’s almost obsessive focus on her husband. Like all graphic novels, the illustrations are either a hit or miss with some readers. Rose’s illustrations were done in black and white and sometimes took the focus away from the words (for me) but the further along I got into the story, the more I could see how the illustrations and the words were perfect together. When I look back on the author’s obsessive focus on her husband, I could see many of the reasons behind it. You see the author losing herself slowly but surely over time after she marries her husband and they start a family. The passion she has for illustration is replaced by late night feeding and being a single (but married) mother. There was just a handful of panels that showed Rose’s husband being emotionally involved with their family. By the time he admits to Rose about the affair, Rose is basically just a shadow of her old self, so seeing her navigate the world on her own and become this new person was so great to see.

Sorry about the quality of the above panels. I had to use my scanner since I couldn’t find any panels online.

The “Words of Wise Women” panels was a great transition between the past and present and also the author’s emotional state.

This graphic memoir has its flaws but I would recommend it to readers.

Other reviews:
Marie at Boston Bibliophile
Alea over at Pop Culture Junkie

Review: Flight Volume 5

Flight Volume 5
Edited by Kazu Kibuishi
368 pages
Publication Year: 2008
Publisher: Villard, an imprint of  Random House
Source: Library

If you ask me pretty much every project that artist Kazu Kibuishi touches turns to gold. Kibuishi is the editor of the Flight series, an anthology of comics from artists around the world. One of the great things about the series is that the volumes are stand-alone and can be read in any order without the reader feeling like they’re missing something. So far there are seven volumes in the series.

I first started reading the series a few years ago and every volume has been pretty satisfying. Volume five is no exception. Just like the other volumes, there’s about twenty different stories each with a different contributor. The subject matter varies but each story is fantasy.

Artist Michel Gagné starts the series off once again with another tale about Rex, a small dog who has many adventures through space as he travels to different worlds and meet a variety of creatures. Tony Cliff is becoming a favorite artist of mine who has been featured in previous volumes before. His story “Delilah Dirk and the Aqueduct” has bits of steampunk and leaves readers satisfied once they reach the end of the story. I found Sarah Mensinga’s “The Changeling” to be one of the best stories in the volume. “The Changeling” is almost a modern-day fairy tale about an unmarried girl who is sent to an orphanage to give birth and give up her child. There’s such a difference in style and tone with each story, that  I wanted to show you  a few panels. This is the opening panel of “The Changeling”:

There’s a beauty to many of the stories in the series as a whole, that makes me wish I could hang up a few of the panels in my home.

“Voyage” by Kness and Made is a tale of an unexpected voyage that a polar bear takes around the world. I always need to stop and look closer at the panels to see every detail.

There were two or three stories in the book that I didn’t care for that I saw other reviewers loving. The thing I really like about volume five is that kids, tweens, teens, and even adults can read the book and enjoy it. Highly recommended.

Sunday Salon: Devouring books and a few mini-reviews

Good morning! It’s been so long since I’ve participated in Sunday Salon, that  I knew it was time for me to start again. July started off as a month where I couldn’t read as much as I wanted to since I was taking two classes that occupied a lot of my time. After dropping my math class (yay!), I have more time to read and my reading life is back! I’m pretty behind in reviewing books, so I’ll just tell you about a few of the books I’ve read lately instead of trying to review them all.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I read this book back in June but I still wanted to write something about it. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is the story of two teens with the same name who meet unexpectedly one day and who are changed by the meeting. Told from the viewpoints of both boys, readers learn the characters’ flaws and also what makes them so special. I really liked some of the diversity of the characters like Tiny, best friend to the first Will and a very talented teenager who puts on a school play about his life. Tiny is gay and there’s no bits about coming out or struggling with his sexuality. Tiny is who he is and he’s not afraid to be emotionally vulnerable. He’s a very caring guy who puts his neck out too much for other people. Some of the secondary characters were just as interesting as the main characters. This book is filled with humor and also had a few scenes that brought tears to my eyes. If you haven’t read it already, you should.

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes. This summer like every summer, I participate in my library’s summer reading program for adults. When you review three books, you can pick a free book to take home and Ghost World was my pick. Enid and Rebecca are teenage girls with a complex friendship. Like most teenagers, both girls are trying to figure out who they are while planning their futures. Enid walks around in these ridiculous costumes while Rebecca plays the role of Enid’s sidekick. It’s not until almost the end of the book that the roles are reversed and we get to see the characters for who they really are.

This is definitely a book that once you finish reading, you have to reread it for all the subtle things you miss.  This was my first time reading a book by Clowes but I don’t think it’ll be my last.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Maree from Just Add Books decided to host a read-along for American Gods and since I’ve already read several of Gaiman’s books, I  joined in.

Shadow is an ordinary man, counting down to the end of his 3-year prison sentence, so he can finally be with his wife Laura. When Laura is killed in a car accident Shadow is released early to find the mysterious Wednesday, ready to pay Shadow a decent amount of money to take a job as his “helper”. Shadow soon learns that this isn’t an ordinary job. Both men travel across America, finding the Gods of Old: Anansi, Kali, Czernobog, Eostre, and others who are willing to go to battle with the Gods of New like technology, media, and tv for the soul of America.

I love this book! Love love love! Gaiman uses American Gods as a way to ask and answer the question: what happens to the gods of certain cultures when its followers die off or assimilate into a different culture? The gods are personified and you see how they have suffered from the loss of belief. The gods can be obnoxious, funny, or dangerous. They come from a variety of cultures and lands. In the book they are like everyday people: fortune-tellers, cab drivers, even addicts. One of my favorite things about the book was reading the lives of different believers and how their beliefs are incorporated into their everyday lives.  The book is funny but tragic and also beautiful. I listened to the audio book while also reading a print copy and enjoyed the dual way of reading. Out of the many books I’ve read by Gaiman, American Gods is probably my favorite.

A passage from the book:

People believe, thought Shadow. It’s what people do. They believe. And then they do not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjurations. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe: and it is that belief, that rock-solid belief, that makes things happen.

So that’s only a tiny bit of the books I’ve read lately. What are you reading today?

Read-a-thon Pile

dreamstime_readathong

Okay so we all know that I have a tendency to go overboard when it comes to books. Whether it’s my library loot, buying binges, or signing up for reading challenges, it always seems to be all or nothing. My current reading pool for the read-a-thon encompasses almost every genre and ranges from a mere 32 pages for many of my picture books to almost 500 pages for Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels. Maybe instead of thinking of this stack as just my read-a-thon picks, we should also think of it as my October/November even possibly December reads.

Plays I started reading plays during last year’s read-a-thon. I found so many wonderful playwrights that I’ve started slowly reading as many as I can especially Pulitzer prize-winning plays. Plays are usually no more than a hundred pages long and contain memorable characters and great settings. For the upcoming read-a-thon, here are a few plays I plan on reading that won the Pulitzer for Drama.

play row

I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright. 2004 Pulitzer.
Wit by Margaret Edson. 1999 Pulitzer.
Angels in America by Tony Kushner. 1993 Pulitzer

not shown: August: Osage County by Tracy Letts.

Short Stories The great thing about reading short stories during the read-a-thon is that you can dip in and out of collections and still feel as though you’re accomplishing something.

row 2 short stories

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie.
Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros. I read this collection years ago and I think it’s really time for a re-read.
Dedicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff.


Graphic Novels

row 3 graphic novels

Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry.
Amulet 2: The Stonkeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kabuishi.
Maus by Art Spiegelman

Not shown: The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert

Fantasy

row 4

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Tigerheart by Peter David
The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Other Notables

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Peter and Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliot

Books not shown:

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
B.P.R.D. series by Mike Mignola
Sprout by Dale Peck
Uglies by Scott Westerfield
The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Little Brother by Cory Doctrow

You see how crazy I went? This is why I’m calling this pile my October-November-and-possibly-December pile. I have a ton of books on hold at the library that will be coming in sometime next week. I can’t wait for the read-a-thon to start but I’m not going to wait to start reading some of these great books.

Have you read any of these graet books? Which ones do you think I should save for the read-a-thon? Are there any that you think I should move to the top of the pile? Have you thought about what books you’re going to read for the big event?

Graphic Novels Challenge

In the midst of reading as much as I could today, I also signed up for Laza’s Graphic Novel Challenge. The challenge starts January 1st and ends December 31st. The challenge is really flexible with participants choosing their level of involvement:

Doctorate – read 24 books
Masters – read 18 books
Major – read 12 books
Minor – read 6 books

I’m going to participate on the Doctorate level. I already plan on reading as many graphic novels as I can next year, so I know this will be a great way to make more blogging friends. I probably won’t make a list though I know at the very least the Fables series by Bill Willingham will be on my list.

The Art of Graphic Novels

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1993)
Scott McCloud
216 pages
5/5
I should have read this book before starting my new obsession with graphic novels. I’ve learned so much about comics and art reading including: that comics started thousands of years ago, the differences between Western comics and comics from Japan, closure, and the importance of color and line. Though only 216 pages, it took me three days to read because there is so much information packed on each page. Well-written, funny, and very interesting, I’m going to have to read this book over and over again to learn everything Scott is explaining.

Bone Vols. 1-9 by Jeff Smith (1990-2003)
Winner of the 2005 Eisner Award for Best Reprint
5/5 rating
I read every single issue of this series in the last week. Bone is funny, witty, and addictive. Bone is about the three Bone cousins and their adventures in The Valley. They meet Grandma Ben and her granddaughter Thorn, Ms. Opossums and her babies, Lucius and so many others. They also run into rat creatures and a friendly dragon. The series is for kids and adults.

Fables Vols. 1-6 by Bill Willingham (2002-present)
Winner of 12 Eisner awards
5/5 rating
Fables is about what happens after happily ever after: Snow White and Prince Charming divorce after she caught him cheating, Beauty and the Beast are still together, and the big bad wolf is now a man. When an enemy called the Adversary destroys and kills everything in his path, the fables of old leave for America. They incorporate a city called Fabletown in modern-day New York and try to live as normal people. This series is not for kids with sexual humor and a lot of violence. Volumes one through six include Briar Rose’s murder, Bluebeard’s lust for death, getting revenge on the Adversary, and Snow White’s pregnancy.
Fun Home – Alison Bechdel (2007)
232 pages
4 out of 5 rating
I can’t say enough about this book, so I won’t say too much. Fun Home is one of the newest addictions to the genre graphic novel/memoirs. Bechdel writes of growing up with her married father who is gay. Bechdel shows the reader her relationship with him and also her gradual coming out as a lesbian. A great story that’s told with humor, thoughtfulness, and also a tinge of sadness.

Fables: Legends in Exile

Fables: Legends in Exile (2002)
Bill Willingham
128 pages
Winner of the 2003 Eisner Award for Best New Series

I am becoming the newest biggest fan of graphic novels. This was a genre, that until recently, I didn’t pay any attention to. I’m glad things have changed so much.

Fables: Legends in Exile is the first book in a series created by Bill Willingham. The characters from various fairy tales have been exiled from their homelands by an enemy called The Adversary and now have to live among humans in America. The characters that can pass for humans live in New York City while those that can’t live upstate at a place called “The Farm.” All the characters hope to one day defeat The Adversary and go back home.

Book 1 features Bigby Wolf a.k.a. The Big Bad Wolf trying to solve the murder of Rose Red. Also feature is Snow White, her ex-husband Prince Charming, Cinderella, Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk, The Frog Prince, Bluebeard, Beauty and her husband, the Beast and many more. The story is so funny and realistic. I started reading the novel and didn’t put it down until I was finished. It deserves my 5 out of 5 rating.

With that said, I just realized this was my last book for the Once Upon a Time 2 Challenge. I have to thank Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting this great challenge. I had so much fun reading books I usually don’t read. So it’s official: I’m hooked on the strange and the unusual.
I read:
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1 – Alan Moore
The Stolen Child – Keith Donahue
Fables
The Sandman Vol. 1 – Neil Gaiman
The Resurrectionist – Jack O’Connell
My favorite reads for this challenge: Fables and The Stolen Child.
My least favorite: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol 1. Maybe it’s the feminist in me, but I couldn’t understand why Mina Murray couldn’t kick ass herself.

The Arrival

The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2007)
128 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5
I didn’t know what to expect when I put this book on hold at my local library. I just heard that it was a pretty good book to read. What an understatement.
The Arrival is a wordless story about an migrant’s journey from his country to the new world, leaving behind his wife and child. In the new world armed with just a handful of money and a suitcase, the man finds various jobs, a place to live, and also food to eat. You watch as he struggles to learn the language, the customs, and find his way around. Along the way our main character meets others who tell him their journeys to the new world. Soon he learns how to belong in this strange new world he now lives in and how to make it a home. Tan captures perfectly what a migrant probably goes through coming to a new country and trying to learn the customs. You see the main character learning to eat unfamiliar food, trying to tell time a new way, and even how to mail a letter.
The pages of this book are so stunning, so beautiful. I guarantee you haven’t seen beauty like this before. Though it is a graphic novel, I think it’s best appreciated by anyone nine and over. This is my first encounter with Shaun Tan and it won’t be my last.

Persepolis: The story of a childhood

Persepolis: The story of a childhood – Marjane Satrapi
Published in 2000
pages 156
Rating: 5 out of 5

I read Persepolis: The story of a childhood for the Graphic Novel Challenge. Persepolis is Satrapi’s memoir on growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The book is engaging, entertaining, and funny. Satrapi teachs the reader the history of Iran while showing her childhood. You learn of Satrapi’s childhood relationship with God, how the father of the Shah came onto the throne, her beloved uncle Anoosh, and the many Iranian causalities of the Islamic Revoltion.

Personally I know almost nothing about Iran. A couple of years ago I learned that Iran was more than fundamentalists and black veils. The 2003 Nobel Laureate was Shirin Ebadi, who was featured in O magazine and showed many Americans a face and a voice for Iranian women. After reading the article about Ebadi, I didn’t really give Iran and its women another serious thought. But thanks to Satrapi’s memoir, that has changed. I think this is a book that people should really read. I’m not someone who reads graphic novels, but this book is so much more than that. I think anyone will enjoy it.

Graphic Novel Challenge

I spent yesterday on the web, finding more reading challenges and I came across this one. Dewey is hosting the Graphic Novel Challenge. The challenge runs from January 2008 to December 2008. The rules are that you read 6 graphic novels. The books can overlap with your other challenges. My picks are:

1. Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

2. The Contract with God – Will Eisner

3. Jimmy Corrigan, the smartest kid on earth – Chris Ware

4. Good-bye, Chunky Rice – Craig Thompson

5. Fun home: a family tragicomic – Alison Bechdel

6. ?