Read Awakening legally and for free here courtesy of the publisher. But please keep adequate amounts of brain bleach on hand. What can I say? I read thRead Awakening legally and for free here courtesy of the publisher. But please keep adequate amounts of brain bleach on hand. What can I say? I read this on the usually-safe assumption that the book would be better than its adaptation. Differences are usually in the book's favor, but for once this is not the case. The TV series is a dramatically revised and very loose adaptation of the book, and a HUGE IMPROVEMENT. I'd give the TV series 4 stars, but this book is among the most worthless I have ever read. I was shocked to realize just how bad the book is: atrocious dialogue, Elena is arrogant from the start and does not improve on acquaintance (all the characters are pretty shallow, actually), the romance is woefully artificial, and the plot... what a mess. I was hoping Breaking Dawn would last longer as my "most horrible book of all time." I started this book out of curiosity, kept going for the laughs, got depressed, and finished it for integrity's sake so that I can honestly say I have read and evaluated the whole thing. But there is no way I'm reading Book II....more
This is a review of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels, volumes 1-7. I'd give the first few only 3 stars because they aren't as involved as the later onThis is a review of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels, volumes 1-7. I'd give the first few only 3 stars because they aren't as involved as the later ones: you reach the best parts as the puzzle pieces add up and create a bigger and bigger picture. The reason I didn't give the series five stars is that some stylistic choices don't translate well into English. Kyon is an extremely introspective narrator; metaphors are frequently bloated by English standards; the plot unravels so slowly that you don't know where you are until you're practically tripping over the solution, i.e., each chapter has a long period of rising action, a confusing climax, and a rapid dénouement. Another feature of the novels is how details are purposefully left out to add mystery and suspense (beyond the nickname "Kyon," we are completely ignorant of the narrator's real name, the sequence of events in which the story is told is jumbled even without time travel, and who could North High's back-up esper possibly be?). These elements of Tanigawa's style distinguish it from science fiction series where action is more important than story. (Ironically, the SOS Brigade is out to avoid an excessively action-packed world precisely because Haruhi gets inspired by this type of fiction.) The lull of mundane moments gives the supernatural elements an edge and keeps them fresh when they come into play. Over time I got used to the pattern, and grew to enjoy each segment of the series more than the last. The pattern of a meandering story that crystallizes into a tightly-knit problem is crucial because the struggle between the supernatural with the mundane might be the very biggest overarching theme the series contains. I've come to enjoy Kyon's stream-of-consciousness narration (though Asahina's praises get old), the diverse allusions to everything from books (Hyperion) to mathematical equations (the Euler characteristic) to candy mascots (Peko-chan of Fujiya), the way climaxes unfold like a detective story, and best of all, the character development. Tanigawa can create inscrutable characters as well as bewildering plots. I was wary of amusingly-arranged stock characters until I was well out of the chapters covered in the anime. I have been pleasantly surprised, but the reader runs the risk of falling into the trap of superficiality they set for Haruhi. Every moment that wipes the smile off Koizumi's face, gets Nagato to show a spark of emotion, or allows Asahina to drop the ditz act is very rewarding. Instead of merely knowing what they are, what is most relevant is how their identity within the SOS Brigade will shape their choices when Haruhi's not looking. Getting to know this third, most realistic dimension of their personality, beyond their masks and mission objectives, is part of why it is so effective to tell the tale from Kyon's perspective and not Haruhi's. Her antics are only half the show: the other half is observing how the rest of the SOS Brigade deals with it....more
I can only hope this will one day be translated into English. I thought Mimus by Lilli Thal was great and would love to read something else by her. BeI can only hope this will one day be translated into English. I thought Mimus by Lilli Thal was great and would love to read something else by her. Besides, the cover art is awesome! Seriously, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/imag......more
Ah, anthologies! For the most part, this one was not my cup of tea. If you like this flavor of weird, I'd recommend Sam Alden's Wicked Chicken Queen.Ah, anthologies! For the most part, this one was not my cup of tea. If you like this flavor of weird, I'd recommend Sam Alden's Wicked Chicken Queen. My favorites were: 1) "The Teacup Tree" by Angie Wang (the only story that was right up my alley) 2) "Piss Knife: The Death of Rikidozan" by Box Brown (predictably--BB is wonderful) 3) "Wearing the Black Horns" by Luke Pearson (like a steamy version of Cortázar's "Axolotl") The excerpt from Masahiko Matsumoto's Cigarette Girl was also strong, but I'm not especially inclined to read it in full. The other stories did not meet my expectations either in terms of art or depth of story. On a production level, not all the artists took care to respect the gutter, sometimes even obscuring text. Nevertheless, I am madly in love with the back cover, extra art from Angie Wang's "The Teacup Tree." If I owned the copy I read I would be tempted to disembowel and frame it....more
I sought this out because of Skim, and find it even more ambitious. One of the most intriguing things about it is that it's printed using multiple shaI sought this out because of Skim, and find it even more ambitious. One of the most intriguing things about it is that it's printed using multiple shades of the same blue ink. It's an usual move, but effective in lending the book a certain vibe. Story-wise, it is full of feelings. Don't read it if you mind subtle, amorphous, stream-of-consciousness feelings. But there is power hidden in them. The Tamaki cousins picked a fantastic age for a protagonist. Rose still has a child's status, but is gradually become aware of difficult, difficult realities. One of the moments I found most poignant is when she is criticized for using the word "slut," and lashes out. It really demonstrated how easy it is to adopt hurtful behaviors, even in a loving environment. To be fueled by your own pain and turn your back on what you know is the right thing. I am so glad Windy is more than a funny sidekick--when Rose is tempted to withdraw, Windy's friendship keeps her grounded. The thought of what Rose's summer would be like without Windy is lonely--even frightening--but as it is, somehow she'll get through....more
A very mixed bag, as far as I'm concerned. I like superheroes in general, and this seemed like an original assortment. However, the story felt reallyA very mixed bag, as far as I'm concerned. I like superheroes in general, and this seemed like an original assortment. However, the story felt really sloppily handled. I especially enjoy webcomics and full-length graphic novels like V for Vendetta, which allow the writer to flesh out the story to the fullest. Although the chapters of Battle Hymn were seemingly first published all together, it had the rushed, choppy feel of a serialized comic, except that the chapter endings and perspective changes aren't even graceful, they're jarringly abrupt. There were a lot of narrative choices that I found very questionable, both in terms of taste (can we at least acknowledge that sexual exploitation is a bad thing?), plausibility (is that really how an organization would set up its squad?), and plotting. A lot happened really fast, and while this can be thrilling, I wish it had taken its time to delve into the world and let me savor the action. Where did the story need so desperately to rush off to, anyway? The conclusion pretty much rammed it into a wall as far as I can tell, damaging its own chances for a sequel. All the same, it was fairly entertaining, even if the storytelling valued means less than ends, and poorly chosen ends at that. The art was fine--more than fine, flat out great--it contributes hugely to the tone, and some of the panels are exceptional. That is why this book gets three stars instead of two. A pity the writing couldn't keep up when the premise gave this book room enough scope to be worthy of 5....more
I was given the chapter sample of this book and was quite intrigued by it. What a concept! But the reality, at least in those first chapters, let me dI was given the chapter sample of this book and was quite intrigued by it. What a concept! But the reality, at least in those first chapters, let me down. The writing was only ok, the protagonist not much more than a Mary Sue, and the concept's execution was the greatest disappointment of all-- I had such high hopes! (Kind of like the movie In Time.) What went right: Price effectively conveyed the horror of the protagonist's situation, the desperation, the grime, the unimaginably luxurious alternative. But when I started tugging at the edges of these ideas, it all fell apart. Whatever happened to inheritance laws? Price briefly notes that children have no political rights, property, or jobs. This kind of widespread treatment of children has major implications for a society, and from the direction it seemed to be going, I doubt there is going to be much time spent on generational political rights or the new financial system when there are makeovers to be described. Are there no bonds between young and old people whatsoever? No grandparents who care for their grandchildren, or want to "adopt?" Apparently old people are never lonely or care about anyone other than their peers. Creepy as "renting your body" may be, I am far more horrified by the vision of a world where all elders covet and exploit the surviving generation. Ageism is already on the rise, and we do not need the influence of nightmares like this one to help it gain any more ground. Perhaps--perhaps--if later on she encounters an elderly ally, it might be possible to turn around the stereotype I was hearing at full blast. But it would have to be an extremely powerful relationship overcome the impression left by the greedy--even malevolent--narcissists I've met so far....more
My first Murakami novel! (Aside from a couple bewildering short stories.) Only belatedly did I realize it might have been helpful to read A Wild SheepMy first Murakami novel! (Aside from a couple bewildering short stories.) Only belatedly did I realize it might have been helpful to read A Wild Sheep Chase beforehand. Oh well, I managed. More than managed--it began to haunt me. To cry for me when I put it down, so to speak. So there you go, finished in under a week. I think the best way to categorize it is, as another reviewer put it, metaphysical pulp fiction--and it's hard to imagine it getting any better. Though Havana Red comes to mind. Kind of reminded me of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Considering the much later pub date, Murakami was almost certainly an influence. I love that kind of otherworldliness....more
I came across a spiral-bound first edition of this cookbook and fell in love. Words cannot express how darling the 1950's blue and pink illustrationsI came across a spiral-bound first edition of this cookbook and fell in love. Words cannot express how darling the 1950's blue and pink illustrations are, and there are old-timey photographs as well. Only The Winnie-the-Pooh Cookbook could beat it for cuteness, and I am pretty determined to never let either of them go. Although my copy's spiral binding is kind of falling apart, this cookbook was clearly meant to be practical. The recipes mostly consist of traditional American dishes for family-style meals. None of the dishes are too outlandish or complicated. The way it's slightly outdated is endearing more than inconvenient. It seems to capture the era just before premade foods came into vogue. Everything is made from scratch, and the most artificial ingredient it calls for is packets of gelatin. There's even an index to help you whip up that malted milkshake as quickly as possible!...more
As a twenty-year-old who read Bridget Jones's Diary not too many months ago, Rose in Bloom contained some serious culture shock. It’s been ages sinceAs a twenty-year-old who read Bridget Jones's Diary not too many months ago, Rose in Bloom contained some serious culture shock. It’s been ages since I read Little Women or Eight Cousins, and I had completely forgotten how Alcott is so very… pure. The narrator’s moral judgment is unassailable. Though Alcott’s forward claims “there is no moral to this story,” the moral just can’t help itself: Alcott’s views on morality, education, and character soak through every fiber of the story. She has very firm, dare I say, old-fashioned ideas about women: nearly every time a female character does a good deed, it is straightaway expounded upon as a virtue “common to womankind.” Get used to a bouquet of words like “pleasant,” “honest,” and “wise” every few pages. While the sentiment is innocent (and there is plenty of it), there are a number of generalizations I disagree with. But I can’t fault Alcott for what she is: her assumptions are perfectly natural for a woman writing after the Civil War, when women were idealized as angelic helpmeets. Alcott’s older female characters are somewhat L. M. Montgomery-esque in their foibles, but as far as Rose goes, Alcott is far from anachronistic. Although I put the book down in consternation more than once, I kept going because the straightforward emphasis on principles was kind of refreshing. (That and the love triangle, of course—who does Alcott decide is worthy of Rose?). If this isn’t your cup of tea, save yourself from infuriation and stay clear. As for the book’s eventual effect on me… I honestly do feel like going to live my life honestly and cheerfully....more
The best book on muffins ever. Seriously, this is my muffin Bible. From the moment I met it, I knew I was in love. The apple streusel muffins? A smashThe best book on muffins ever. Seriously, this is my muffin Bible. From the moment I met it, I knew I was in love. The apple streusel muffins? A smash hit. The pumpkin chocolate chip muffins? Divine. There are English muffins, health-conscious muffins (whole wheat, low-calorie, low-sodium, low cholesterol), even a couple wheat free muffins. They range from classic to unheard-of, with helpful notes for just about every recipe. The 60 recipes Alston includes cover breakfast, tea, and dinner muffins, which may not be much compared to glossy newer books, but it's really the introduction and "muffin basics" sections that contain invaluable information I've never found anywhere else: the difference between creamed muffins and stirred muffins, butter vs. vegetable oil, pan sizes, and multiple advance preparation strategies. I do wish the recipes were listed in a table of contents, but the index is comprehensive. Plus, the illustrations are charming. Why would anyone resist?...more
Josh Sundquist is kind of a ridiculous person. I don't think this memoir is for everyone, but I definitely got enough out of it to make it worthwhileJosh Sundquist is kind of a ridiculous person. I don't think this memoir is for everyone, but I definitely got enough out of it to make it worthwhile for me. I suppose I can't vouch for it in its entirety, since I only listened to the free audiobook of the first half (found here), but I enjoyed Josh's narration and combination of sorrow with rambunctious childhood stories. I'd like to finish it at some point.
Part of this book is about coming from a context of conservative Christianity, but it's far from obnoxious about it--in fact, I found some very interesting insight into his family's church's particular culture that allows the reader to genuinely weigh the good and the bad. I saw something on his Twitter about an ashram, but haven't been following him closely enough to be quite sure what the deal is there. But whatever. Go watch his silly Youtube videos....more
I think being warned that The Hunger Games only gets darker and more brutal with each volume did me a favor. Suspecting what I was in for enabled me tI think being warned that The Hunger Games only gets darker and more brutal with each volume did me a favor. Suspecting what I was in for enabled me to love this book for what it is, because at the same time Collins made me hate everything, I would dismiss this book if it were uncalculated, or petty, or needless. It was simply deliberately merciless, and expert at making you wince with every drop of blood down the drain. Intense focus and astonishing skill make this a gloriously terrible meditation.
Perhaps above all else in this novel, I love how Katniss struggles with the media's mediation of her public image. Everything and everyone is a threat to the self-determination of her identity. It did get on my nerves how it seemed like just about every time the cameras were rolling, Katniss knew just what to say. But then, if she hadn't been, the footage simply wouldn't air. So, again, she's trapped. Struggling with being trapped is what this trilogy is all about. ...more
Looked forward to this combo ever since reading American Born Chinese and hearing his next project was set in an intriguing historical context. More tLooked forward to this combo ever since reading American Born Chinese and hearing his next project was set in an intriguing historical context. More than anything I was hoping for rich, even-handed intertwining stories that felt faithful to the period, and I got that and more--Gene Luen Yang even taps into his characters' perception of spiritual reality in a similar way to what made American Born Chinese so unique, and no one else could have done it in quite the same way. I deeply enjoyed this nuanced storytelling. For me, the weakest point is the art. I'm used to more textured, "splashy" comics, and this level of spare simplicity makes everything feels like it's been pared down for a child audience. But maybe I'm just spoiled....more
How does Frontier #5 compare to Alden's It Never Happened Again: Two Stories? - only one story - better art--very cool use of two-color printing - storyHow does Frontier #5 compare to Alden's It Never Happened Again: Two Stories? - only one story - better art--very cool use of two-color printing - story feels less complete... probably because it's linked to a project currently in progress, Hollow A neat sneak peek, but not quite strong enough to stand on its own. An interview near the back offers some interesting perspective on Alden's process. Can I just exclaim on his use of storytelling devices? The hollow concept, using the color as an identifying feature over the course of a character's change in appearance, the very panel structure revealing both action and its impact--Alden instinctively demonstrates a keen visual intelligence you scarcely seen anywhere else. That is why you should jump on the bandwagon immediately. This is your chance....more
After looking forward to reading Forster for some time, I decided to try this free recording by Elizabeth Klett.
It was somehow both more and less thanAfter looking forward to reading Forster for some time, I decided to try this free recording by Elizabeth Klett.
It was somehow both more and less than I expected it to be: a little more Elizabeth Gaskell, a little less George Elliot. I wish it had utterly hooked me, but no, not quite. Some parts would have been actually boring if I hadn't been feeling patient (how the rich have time to philosophize!), but there were definitely moments of real tension that made me realize how much I had invested in those silly girls from whom I have not always been so very different. "Only connect" really resonated with me. I loved Mrs. Wilcox: I feel like if she had been in Brideshead Revisited instead of Lady Marchmain she would have saved the day, though not that the Marchmain kids were much better than the Wilcox brood.
On the whole, it was good, but I'm not left with a desire to own it or re-read this particular work. But more E. M. Forster, yeah, sure: A Room with a View? A Passage to India? Maurice? See you there....more
Excellent! Wonderful stories in a number of styles. I particularly enjoyed how Curbstone Press made the edition bilingual: every left page has the oriExcellent! Wonderful stories in a number of styles. I particularly enjoyed how Curbstone Press made the edition bilingual: every left page has the original Spanish and every right page has the English translation. I wasn't always on board with particular word choices, but this is the only way I would ever have been able to discover the subtle nuances they masked. A very handy way to improve your Spanish!...more
I was looking for a good introduction to Kierkegaard, and this slim volume didn't look too intimidating. But then I couldn't remember what "ressentimeI was looking for a good introduction to Kierkegaard, and this slim volume didn't look too intimidating. But then I couldn't remember what "ressentiment" is and I wasn't sure this was the diatribe I was looking for after all. Though I can easily believe that The Present Age was once a much-needed indictment, it felt somewhat dated. It still seems accurate today to an extent, but I know too many people who work for nonprofits to feel like it's completely spot-on. Still, while society may have changed, human beings don't, and I think it must certainly be useful to analyze one's own priorities. However, I'd like to believe that a smoother introduction to Kierkegaard is possible. My resident expert has recommended Fear and Trembling as an ideal place to start, and so, The Present Age, adieu for the nonce....more
Despite my doubts when reading the synopsis, my determination to read everything by Elizabeth Wein ever still stands. Maybe "A Coalition of Lions" wasDespite my doubts when reading the synopsis, my determination to read everything by Elizabeth Wein ever still stands. Maybe "A Coalition of Lions" wasn't as gloriously dazzling as "The Winter Prince," but it wasn't as dark, either. Just enough hints of terrible things to keep things interesting, and I'm not one to complain about an extra dose of political tension. But the excellent psychological portraits and eloquent writing remain. While TWP had me wondering, "What's the deal with Aksum?," ACoL raised the question of why it was necessary, apart from continuity, to relate the story to Arthurian legend at all. But since what I love most about Wein's writing is its vividness, making any historical background leap to life as characters display the struggles and nobility of the human soul, well, since she does that--I'm happy for her to do whatever she wants....more
Apparently this short story was originally published in Extras section of The King of Attolia's paperback edition. I wonder if it can be found anywherApparently this short story was originally published in Extras section of The King of Attolia's paperback edition. I wonder if it can be found anywhere online......more
I finally got the chance to start Song of the Lioness. The title--and the rave reviews of many nostalgic friends--make me surprised it didn't happen sI finally got the chance to start Song of the Lioness. The title--and the rave reviews of many nostalgic friends--make me surprised it didn't happen sooner. I imagine this book is typically read when the reader's age coincidences with the heroine's (11-13--actually she might be 15 by the end), and Alanna is a delightful character for a tween to identify with. That said, I'm coming at the book from an adult (or at least college-educated) perspective now, and while it's easy to see why Tamora Pierce is such a favorite, I found the writing a little rough-hewn. Maybe I've been spoiled by the gracious prose and intricate plotting of Diana Wynne Jones or Megan Whalen Turner. Still, this series is an important and positive landmark in many women's lives, and finding out why was well worth this quick read....more
I was afraid it would be woefully outdated and racist, and while there are a few uncomfortable traces of the time and culture from which it came, it'sI was afraid it would be woefully outdated and racist, and while there are a few uncomfortable traces of the time and culture from which it came, it's an interesting snapshot that contains some pretty solid advice and encouragement....more
I was disappointed with Fledgling, but after a friend tried Bloodchild and Other Stories at my recommendation and came back with rave reviews, I rememI was disappointed with Fledgling, but after a friend tried Bloodchild and Other Stories at my recommendation and came back with rave reviews, I remembered to give Butler another try. Her work is uneven, but sometimes she is genius. I was hoping to run into Kindred or Parable of the Sower, but it was Imago that I found in a used bookstore. I didn't realize it was part of a series, or I might have held off for Lilith's Brood. Imago had points of interest, but I think it would have held more power as part of a series....more
This one came to me highly recommended specifically because of the "literary" writing, but I had a lot of trouble warming up the style. However, she'sThis one came to me highly recommended specifically because of the "literary" writing, but I had a lot of trouble warming up the style. However, she's definitely pointing to something our culture desperately needs....more
My all-time favorite manga series. Why I love it: *a huge assortment of colorful, many-layered characters *deep emotions *uplifting themes *"D'awww!"s galoMy all-time favorite manga series. Why I love it: *a huge assortment of colorful, many-layered characters *deep emotions *uplifting themes *"D'awww!"s galore Its flaws: *belying its depth *ignoring characters for chapters on end (maybe more an annoyance to me than a flaw, since they are ALL favorite characters) *often using a framing device that makes it hard to tell who the speaker is (though it's neat to hear one character's thoughts as different characters silently act out a parallel scenario. Talk about sophisticated storytelling). In short: I wish I could spare $230 to buy this entire series and keep it forever....more