Sunday, August 23, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Pitch Black, a slender & short graphic novel, tells the true story of how Youme (an artist & author) met Anthony (an artist who lives in the NYC subway). The artwork is beautifully rendered in black watercolor which highlights the underground setting as gritty and dark, but also bright. Anthony writes about how he came to be living in the subway and Youme provides the illustrations.
The first page opens with a white box in an all black page with the black lettering "Just cause you can't see don't mean aint nothing there." It perfectly sets the tone for this story of seeing the invisible - and in the case of this book - that's Anthony. Uneducated and unwanted as a child, Anthony winds up in a shelter, which he describes as "Hell" and "I saw things no kid should ever see." These pages show drug abuse, sex solicitation, and other despairs of homelessness. Anthony flees to the subway and then while running from police discovers that others live in the dark passages of the subway tunnels. Anthony describes how he learned to survive there (selling things he found in the trash, waiting for rainy days before moving in to make sure your spot won't leak) and the people (and 1 dog) who came to his aid. This is an excellent addition to nonfiction graphic novels and teen collections.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Regardless, I did know the basic premise before going starting the graphic novel. I knew that this was a dystopian future where books were banned, where firemen start fires instead of putting them out, where people are much more interested in their giant wall sized TVs and entertainment than anything else. From what I’ve read, the GN stays very close to the story with all the major points being covered. Even so, I couldn’t help feel that even though the GN is intense, it probably lacked some of the emotional suspense of the original text. I enjoyed the story, but the characters lacked depth (or rather they had depth, but the reader needed to bring that depth with them – they needed background knowledge of the book to fully appreciate the motivations, the inner turmoil of Montag and others).
I was somewhat confused as to why books are banned, what the government and those in power gained (other than the obvious gains from a dimwitted populace). How this tied into the ever-present and very real threat of war. Or if it did at all – things that I’m sure were more obvious in the novel. What was obvious, to the GN’s credit, was how disconnected and depressed the people were – even though they didn’t have the tools to express this dissatisfaction or even recognize their feelings for what they were. Giant TV screens are fun! Life is fun! Life is nice, but you know what? Wouldn’t everything be nicer if I was dead?!?
I liked the art which is all muted tones with limited color palettes. Things appear dreary, dark, faces often appear in shadow. There are only two things that appear bright. The first is Clarisse McClennan – the young girl that is Montag’s trigger to change. The second is, the fire. Of the two, the fire is the much brighter and more visibly powerful force, of course, it isn’t necessarily the most powerful thing…
I enjoyed this, I think it is a great supplement, but I don’t think it’ll replace the original any time soon. For schools teaching this title, I think comparing and contrasting the two would be a very interesting and thought provoking lesson.
Book Source: Publisher review copy (committee)
And I have to say, it’s a strange little book. Our heroine, Elaine, is sort of like a 60 year old woman trapped in a high school girl’s body. She has always loved to cook. Always. She especially loves to cook French food ala Julia Child’s recipe books. From age six on she’s written letters to Ms. Child detailing her difficulties mastering the techniques needed to properly prepare food, but has never mailed a single one of them. Because besides being an incredible cook, Elaine is also an incredible coward. She is shy, she lacks confidence in all areas outside of the kitchen, and she has been told from day one that cooking is not what her life will be about (regardless of the fact that it is so obviously her passion).
Elaine’s mother, a frontrunner in the feminist movement and now the holder of a high ranking government position wishes her only daughter to aspire to something other than a life "slaving" away in a kitchen. She looks down upon traditional feminine roles, ignoring the fact that the job of Chef (which is what Elaine would like to be) has actually been a male dominated profession. I found this an incredibly interesting choice made by the author who essentially uses the mother's strongly ingrained feminist beliefs to thwart the goals of our female protagonist. Of course, I should clarify that this is not an anti-feminist book at all. The mother's application is flawed, but not her feminist beliefs. There were several other humorous plays on feminism. The househusband/dad who does little other than sample Elaine's cooking and practice yoga in the basement. Elaine's five brothers whom are all named rather femininely: Robyn, Leslie, Lynn, Francis, and Chris. Elaine's friend's lesbian lawyer mothers who can't cook to save their lives.
The catalyst in the book is one Lucida Sans, and no, not the computer font.
Meanwhile, growing up on the very same town at the very same time, and attending the very same high school as Elaine Hamilton, there lived a girl named Isadora Wilhelminetta Fischburger, a name that was so terrible she changed it to Lucida Sans, which is the name of a font on the computer (a font that Isadora, or Lucida, as we shall now call her, thought was the most beautiful name in the entire world).
When Elaine meets Lucida, things begin to change…as they undoubtedly must when one meets someone who names themself after a computer font.
There is a very breezy, easygoing, not terribly realistic tone in this book. And it really works. It is incredibly funny. I laughed out loud several times. This is one of those books where you pretty much know the ending - you just know that it will have a happily resolved finish. Because of this, all is dependant on the journey and the author does a bang up job taking you on several pleasant and humorous twists and turns.
What this book does not do (or at least did not do for me) is make you hungry for the cooking of Julia Child – which seems strangely dependant on duck. Blech!
Book Source: Library Copy
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Night of the Beasts by Chika Shiomi
Aria is a strong girl with a no-nonsense attitude. When strange killings begin to take place in her town, apparently by wild dogs, she soon discovers that they have something to do with her family and with the handsome guy she just met, Sakura. Can her ability to calm the beasts prevent the murder of 4,000 people? And save the man she is falling in love with?
This one is by the same manga-ka as Canon and the artwork is very much her style, kind of retro 80s with sharp chins and impossibly wide shoulders. Night of the Beasts is a lot darker, though. Aria and Sakura are much more likeable, too. After just one volume, you are so rooting for them to succeed and get together. I can't wait to see what happens!
This one is just plain fun. Night and Riiko are a cute couple, especially when Riiko is trying to teach Night about the real world. However, Soshi is such a good guy, you can't help but root for him, too. And Riiko's debt and her constant attempts to pay it off are so funny! In the end, Riiko learns a lot about romantic relationships and Night learns a lot about the world; Soshi learns to share his emotions. The ending is bittersweet, but perfect.
I really do love that Haruna and Macharu don't match. And, that for once in shojo, it is not the girl who is strange, silly, and funny. While Macharu may seem kind of one-dimensional at the beginning of the story, slowly you begin to realize that he is human and complex, even if he smiles all the time. He gets angry, despressed, and confused like all teens do. And he wants Haruna to see him as a man....
And thus, the tension. While Haruna obviously loves Macharu, she has a lot of trouble seeing him as a man. She loves his childish nature, but he isn't going to stay a child; he is already becoming a man. The biggest angst moments come when Haruan and Macharu get into misunderstandings or when Macharu wants to move their relationship on to the next logical level. Will they ever move beyond kissing? Do we want them to?
Ann and her mother move to the small village of Shimane from Tokyo after her parents divorce. At first, Ann hates it, but slowly she makes friends with Daigo, Fuji, and Shika. When her mother commits suicide, Daigo and her friends are the only thing that keep Ann together. But when Ann decides to move back to Tokyo to live with her Dad, will Daigo's and her relationship survive? Oh, and Fuji will be in Tokyo too, and he obviously has a thing for Ann...
This manga is so much fun! It is populated with famous Japanese figures from the Tensho era, but is pure ninja romantic situational comedy! The boys are beautiful; the girls are gorgeous and strong; and Usagi is a complete mess. I laugh on nearly every page...
Well, I guess that's all for today. I'll keep you posted on the newest manga and graphic novels I get my hands on!
Book(s) source: Public library
Monday, August 10, 2009
The dual storyline is continued. We get Hahp’s and Sadima’s stories in alternating chapters. There is much going on in both and the story progresses quite a bit. We learn more about the foundation of the school and more – hopefully hopefully – about its upcoming demise. We learn more about the wizards, their friendships, their anger, their individual stories, but very little about where their loyalties actually lie. Readers may read into the subtext regarding the wizards, but I expect Duey has some surprises up her sleeve to reveal in the last book.
The character that frustrated me the most was Franklin. I think in the first book he was much more of a sympathetic character. In this one I found him much more of a co-dependent enabler with a smidgen of Stockholm Syndrome and I kind of wanted to shake him and maybe slap him up a bit. I actually came to hate him. Sadima, on the other hand I grew to love more and more. She is clearly the heroine to Hahp’s hero.
Hahp also comes more into his own. He grows in skill, he grows in self-awareness, and he becomes stronger and better for it. Gerrard is still very much a mystery, who he is and how he comes by his knowledge of magic is something that I strongly suspect will be resolved in the third book. And I have theories – oh yes I do.
Both storylines are extremely compelling – it would be impossible to pick out which one I enjoyed more. They complement each other well.
I strongly recommend this series and am on tenterhooks waiting for the third installment.
Book Source: Tayshas review copy
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I have served on a Texas Library Association committee for several years in one role or another and I get books sent from the publisher due to this. Rarely, although it has happened on occasion, has a publisher contacted us via the blog to send us a book to review.
I get arcs of books I'm interested in when I go to the TLA conference every year. I'm pretty selective, I really don't take it unless I want to read it. And I have co-workers who attend ALA. We all share our books with each other. Especially when we get one that is really popular.
Our library also gets review copies sent to it. All of our staff are able to review these books.
The rest of my books come from the public library. I check them out. I'm not a big buyer of books. Strange and unusual, I know, since most library people tend to be book collectors. I'll usually only buy books after I've read them and like them enough to think I'll read them again. I tend to like to buy books as gifts. I buy my kiddo lots of books too. I also buy books for the library I work at. So really, if you look at it that way, I spend a hell of a lot of money on books.
Anyhow, I think I'll put a little blurb at the end of my reviews like I've been seeing out there on other blogs just in the interest of full disclosure.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
“There’s the name I was given as a baby, but that’s a dronky name, so I never use it. Then there’s the names I make up. I got garbage bags of those. Different names for different people. Depends on where I am and who I’m with.”
Lately he’s been known as Slicky, but when men start throwing their weight around and chasing after him, his best known name is back. Blade. A name he’d hoped to have escaped, nevertheless, a name given to him for good reason.
This book is practically one long non-stop chase scene. Seriously, it is chase to chase to chase - it is a breathless pace. And there are big holes in our understanding. Like why are these men so intent on capturing Blade? What happened to make Blade into what he is? That’s because Blade’s telling us the story and he’s deliberately leaving things out. He’s street-smart, he’s a survivor, he’s certainly not an innocent and has violence in his past. He is observant and self-reliant, and is able to handle himself, although perhaps not as much as he’d have us believe.
The book was written by a British author and even though I read a fair amount of British books, I didn’t recognize some of the slang. I understood what he was getting at from context clues, but couldn’t figure out the origin of the slang on my own. I was all set to say it was great that they didn’t Americanize it, but interestingly enough, I got halfway through and then he/they/someone chose to use the word flashlight instead of torch.
There are some very exciting plot twists. Honestly, I was almost entranced, I never knew what would come next. And then that ending…um…how can I say this…I found it incredibly irritating. No answers. Not. A. One. Just more twists that lead to more questions. I was frustrated (to say the least). Turns out this is the first in a series. A rather long series of eight books actually! I wonder if they are all as breathless as this one. Our vendor has the second to be released in early 2010. I am officially less irritated.
It is a great book for boys. I would even say this would be good for reluctant readers. I think the action and the constant threat of danger would appeal enough even though they’d have to work harder to understand the slang.