The Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens. After his family is murdered by the man Jack, Bod, still a toddler, innocently wanders fromThe Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens. After his family is murdered by the man Jack, Bod, still a toddler, innocently wanders from his home and into a graveyard. Here he is taken in by a pair of ghost, and raised by all of the dead. The story then follows him as he grows from a baby to a young man. The biggest charm of The Graveyard Book comes in the many characters that Bod encounters in The Graveyard, which include ghosts, witches, werewolves and ghouls. The way that Gaiman creates a feeling of normalcy and friendship in such an unusual place as a graveyard is quite impressive. Bod is also an interesting protagonist, and children and adults alike should enjoy watching him grow form an innocent child to a more complicated young man. The book itself is divided into eight chapters that tell stories about the adventures Bod encounters over the years. Most of the chapters have the added bonus as being able to stand alone as short stories. The stories are relatively lighthearted but become darker as Bod grows older and learns about the man who killed his parents.
With elements of The Jungle Book, Rhoad Dahl, and Tim Burton, The Graveyard Book is a satisfying, and surprisingly friendly tale about life and death and everything in between. It deserves all of the attention and awards it has been getting over the past year or so. Recommended Grade Level- 3-5 (This review was written for a class)...more
For the longest time, Flycatcher (aka The Frog Prince) was simply the janitor for the Woodland Building. But before that, he lived in the Homelands asFor the longest time, Flycatcher (aka The Frog Prince) was simply the janitor for the Woodland Building. But before that, he lived in the Homelands as Prince Ambrose, a man who lost both his wife and children to the Adversary. Flycatcher has lived for years with these memories erased from his mind, but now he has been given them back, and finds himself overwhelmed with grief. That is until a gallant knight emerges and shows Flycatcher how he can strike back at the Adversary.
The Good Prince is the tenth volume in the Fables trade paperbacks, and I found it to be the most satisfying volume in the series since March of the Wooden Soldiers. The Good Prince marks Fables as it's most epic, most heroic, and dare I say optimistic, as it follows Ambrose on his quest to cripple the Adversary without shedding any blood. There are definitely shades of classic Arthurian Legends in this tale, so it makes sense that one of the new characters to be featured in this arc would be a classic Arthurian figure. To be honest, I don't want to spoil too much about the direction of this volume, because I really enjoyed getting surprised at some of the places it went. What I can tell you is we visit someplace completely new, and revisit old characters that we'd thought we'd never see again.
I've always enjoyed Mark Buckingham's art style but where it really shines is when it needs to show something on a grand scale. Fortunately for Buckingham, this volume features several epic battle sequences where he can show off these talents. There were a handful of large, double pages spreads where Buckingham really did a good job of showing the grad scope of Ambrose's surroundings, or the the terrifying spectacle that is the Adversary's armies. The Good Prince has a bit of an intermission, a single issue story called The Birthday Secret that focuses on the cubs back on the Farm. This art style (drawn by Aaron Alexovich) is much more cutesy and does a good job of setting the tone for this more lighthearted tale.
Final Thoughts: The Good Prince is Fables at it's best. We're neck deep into the Adversary storyline now and the developments here will certainly change the world of Fables in major ways. I really enjoyed at how Bill Willingham took Flycatcher, whom most people would just see as a throwaway character, and really developed him into someone worth caring about, giving him one of the best arcs of the series. The fantastic story combined with the fantastic art certainly makes The Good Price a worthwhile read for Fables fans....more
When Katie's parents receive new jobs, their family is forced to move from their home in Iowa to Georgia. One of the few Japanese-Americans in town duWhen Katie's parents receive new jobs, their family is forced to move from their home in Iowa to Georgia. One of the few Japanese-Americans in town during the 1950s, they struggle at first to fit in. The largest challenge of all comes when Lynn, Katie's older sister and idol, becomes gravely ill. Kira-Kira is a sometimes bright, sometimes sad book about sisterhood and family. The reader will quickly warm up to the likable Takeshima family, especially Kaite and Lynn's humorous uncle. Katie herself is a complex heroine, who admits that she has a habit for being “bad” but still deeply cares about her family. Kira-Kira touches on many issues of the time, such as racism and labor disputes at the factories where Katie's parents work, but the crux of the story is Katie's relationship with Lynn. When the book opens, young Katie views her older sister with a kind of hero worship, and even as things come between them, whether that be boys or disease, nothing can break Katie's devotion to her sister. When it comes to Lynn's disease, the book is not afraid to descend to some darker territory that parents may not feel that their children are ready to encounter. For all of the sad moments of story, the novel does end of a note of hope. Kira-kira is a beautifully written story about family, poverty and loss that will make the reader laugh and cry.
On her first day of becoming Lady Saren’s maid, Dashti learns that her new mistress has refused to marry a powerful man. For punishment, both Saran anOn her first day of becoming Lady Saren’s maid, Dashti learns that her new mistress has refused to marry a powerful man. For punishment, both Saran and Dashti are to be locked in a tower for seven years. Saren immediately falls into depression, and later, madness, but Dashti, who grew up in poverty cannot help but rejoice in the fact that she will be able to eat three whole meals a day for seven years. But as time passes, their food storage is depleted well before it’s time due to a rat infestation and Saren’s hungry stomach. Even the ever positive Dashti cannot keep her spirits up. She knows that if they don’t find a way out soon, both of them will die.
I’ve always enjoyed Shannon Hale’s book. She has a wonderful, beautiful way of writing that is simple yet elegant, much like the fairy tales which her books are often based on. Book of a Thousand Days is roughly based on Maid Maleen, a little known brother’s Grimm tale about a noble woman and her maid who are locked in a tower for seven years. Shannon Hale diverges a lot from the original tale, first by choosing to tell the story from the maid’s point of view. This is a very good decision. Dashti is an amazingly likable character. One can’t help but admire her for her courage and ability to see the best in every situation. It’s a joy to watch her develop from a very innocent peasant girl, to, by the books end, a hero. The diary format in which she tells her tale is quite intimate, and draws the reader in right away. I typically don’t cry during books, but I got quite teary eyed when Dashti reflected on how she felt when she lost her mother.
Another thing I enjoyed about this book was its unique setting. The Eight Realms is based on Mongolia. I have never seen a fantasy book based here before. The author gives us plenty of details about its history, food, folklore, and other aspects of its culture, and she does so without bogging down the narrative with details. One thing I liked was the mucker healer songs, which are simple, almost nonsensical songs that have the ability to help heal physical or mental pain. Shannon Hale has used songs in her past book, the Princess Academy, as well. One has to wonder if she has an interest in music, or the power of songs.
I highly recommend Book of a Thousand Days to those who are looking for a well written fantasy tale, set in a unique setting, with a satisfying ending. ...more
At the age of sixteen, Grace Marks, a maid, was convicted of murdering her employer and his mistress. She was sentenced to live the rest of her life bAt the age of sixteen, Grace Marks, a maid, was convicted of murdering her employer and his mistress. She was sentenced to live the rest of her life behind bars, but retains no memory of the actual event. Years later, Dr. Simon Jordan enters her life, and is determined to discover if Grace is sane or insane, and if there is any way that he can help her break through her wall of amnesia to recover her lost memories. At his bidding, Grace begins to tell the story of her life, from her childhood in Ireland, to her immigration to Canada, to her eventual employment and the murders that came after.
Alias Grace is the third novel that I have read by Margaret Atwood (the first two being The Handmaid's Tale, and The Blind Assassin). It is the first that I have read not to feature any science fiction elements. The result is a stunning work of historical fiction, a creepy Gothic novel based on the life of a real person (Grace Marks) convicted of murder in 1843. Although it's a very different story than The Handmaid's Tale or The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace touches on many similar themes. For one, it is very focused on the lives of women and the challenges they face due to their specific time frame. Reading Alias Grace made me feel very fortunate that I didn't happen to be born anytime close to 1843, given the limited opportunities for women like Grace, the harsh punishments delivered for honest mistakes, and the poor treatment from most of the men. Grace Marks is a great protagonist that you cannot help but feel for during her journey, as are many of the others characters you meet along the way.
Like the previous works I have read by Atwood, Alias Grace is written with an impressive amount of skill. I had to pause several times and just linger over the beauty of her words. Another aspect that I ended up enjoying about the novel is that Atwood wasn't afraid to keep things vague when they needed to be. Not everything is spelled out for us. At the beginning of the book there's a satisfying amount of mystery. Is Grace a murderer? Is she insane? Can we trust what she tells Simon? Over the book, Atwood does an impressive job of slowly building a fascinating story, filled with a twist or two that had me gasping aloud (much to the amusement of my fiance). I enjoyed the fact that by the end of the book, that Atwood wasn't afraid to still keep a few things vague. Instead of feeling unfinished, it was surprisingly satisfying, as if she left it up to the readers to make up their own minds.
Alias Grace is a beautifully written work of historical fiction by a talented author. Although it doesn't have any of the science fiction aspects of The Handmaid's Tale or The Blind Assassin, that doesn't make it any less insightful or entertaining. I happy that I decided to pick up this novel, and am planning on reading more works by her in the future....more
The second volume of Sex Criminals (Two Worlds, One Cop) may start off a little more serious than volume one, but I found it to be an even stronger reThe second volume of Sex Criminals (Two Worlds, One Cop) may start off a little more serious than volume one, but I found it to be an even stronger read. The plot points may sound a little ridiculous (really? Sex Police), but the wackiness is well counterbalanced by wonderful characters and an achingly honest glimpse into sex, depression, and just life in general. Matt Fraction keeps the pages flipping fast due to the book's fabulous dialogue and fun story lines, and Chip Zdarsky is able to handle everything thrown at him. If you're looking for a comic that's aggressively adult, and just as aggressively awesome, look not further than Sex Criminals. ...more
One thing should be obvious to fans of the Dresden Files by the time they get to Small Favor: Harry does not get any time to relax. In this book, theOne thing should be obvious to fans of the Dresden Files by the time they get to Small Favor: Harry does not get any time to relax. In this book, the tenth in the series, Harry doesn’t even get five pages of calm before he’s attacked by strange creatures from faerie. Harry does a little digging and discovers that he’s been targeted by the summer court, and the Summer Queen has sent out none other than the Billy Goats Gruff to take him down (note: they’re a lot tougher than that sounds). Harry’s life is further complicated when the Winter Queen, Mab, calls in the second favor he owes her. His new task is to find and rescue kidnapped gangster Johnnie Marcone. As Harry digs deeper into this new case, he finds that things are more difficult than he suspects when he learns that he’s not only up against the Gruff but Fallen Angels as well.
The best way to describe Small Favor would be fast paced. We get thrown into the action right in the beginning and the story does not let up much for its 400+ page length. The thing I enjoyed the most about this particular volume was the fact that so many of my favorite characters return. We get to see Sanya, the Russian Knight of the Cross, Kincaid the Mercenary, and Ivy the Archive among many others. We also get satisfying development on certain underlying plotlines (one, as you can probably tell from above, Harry paying off the second favor he owes Mab). One thing I did not expect was a small romantic subplot involving Harry and a particular female character. This added a nice spice to the novel. Still, Small Favor is not all fun and games. With Harry up against some of the biggest bads of the series, a few characters that have seemed untouchable up until now get hit very hard. I’ll be interested to see how these developments impact future books in the series.
Small Favor is probably one of my favorite of the Dresden Files, with only Summer Knight and Blood Rites ranking above it. I eagerly look forward to Turn Coat, the eleventh book in the series, which is set to be released this April....more
Peony is a fifteen-year-old girl living in seventeenth century China. Like many young women of the time, she becomes interested in the romantic operaPeony is a fifteen-year-old girl living in seventeenth century China. Like many young women of the time, she becomes interested in the romantic opera The Peony Pavilion. She’s is thrilled when her father decides to stage a performance of the opera for her birthday. During a particularly emotional scene, Peony has to step away from the production. It’s here that she happens to run into a young poet. In a society where women are scene as commodities and a burden, Peony is touched and surprised when he values her for both her beauty and her mind. The two fall in love at first sight. The only problem is Peony is already arranged to marry someone else. As her mother prepares her for her wedding day, drilling female duties such as embroidery and foot binding into her head, Peony finds solace in The Peony Pavilion, her interest during into a dangerous obsession. Turning away food and water, her body grows thin and frail and she eventually passes away.
At that point, the book gets really interesting.
Peony in Love is a deceptive book. When you begin to read the story and immerse yourself into its beautiful writing, you expect to read a love story. In truth, the love story aspect as only one small piece of this at times rather dark novel. Much like Lisa See’s previous novel Snow Flower in the Secret Fan, Peony in Love is a book about what it means to be a woman living in China, the importance of writing (especially women’s writing), and relationships between woman. Unlike Snow Flower in the Secret Fan, Peony in Love also has a supernatural twist, as Peony narrates the majority of it as a ghost. This gives the reader a unique look into what the Chinese believed about death and the afterlife. All of these threads, combined with the setting of China during a difficult regime change, make the novel rather complex at time. This complexity has gained it quite a few mediocre reviews, but I could not disagree more. Peony in Love is a fascinating book and I loved it just as much as I love Snow Flower and Secret Fan. I recently discovered that Lisa See has another historical fiction novel set in China, called Shanghai Girls, which takes place in the 1930s. This will be coming up next month. I hope to be able to read it....more
**spoiler alert** The third Harry Potter adventure begins when Harry accidentally blows up his aunt. Fearing expulsion, Harry panics and runs away fro**spoiler alert** The third Harry Potter adventure begins when Harry accidentally blows up his aunt. Fearing expulsion, Harry panics and runs away from home. When he’s found, instead of snapping his wand to pieces, everyone seems happy to see him alive. Harry finds out why when he hears that Sirius Black, one of Voldemort’s followers, has escaped from the wizard prison Azkaban, and is planning on taking down the one responsible for his master’s downfall, Harry Potter. Harry thus begins his third year of Hogwarts Achool of Witchcraft and Wizardry ready to learn magic, and play Quidditch, all with the knowledge that a madman is coming to kill him.
You can tell that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is an old favorite of mine. The dusk jacket is ripped, and the binding is starting to come apart. One thing I enjoy the most about this volume is the fact that it feels much more personal than books one and two. Here, Harry isn’t trying to find a mysterious magic object, or face down a school legend. He’s dealing with the knowledge that someone’s coming to Hogwarts just to kill him. This is made even more personal when we hear that Sirius Black was an old friend of Harry’s father, and is responsible for the death of Harry’s parents. Harry learns a lot about his parents in this volume. When approached by the dementors, he hears his mother and father’s last words. He meets an old friend of his father in Remus Lupin, the new defense against the dark arts teacher, and learns a little more about what James Potter was like in school. Even though Harry has always been the central character of the series, in this book, everything seems more closely connected to him, and the Potter family.
Harry also shows signs of growing up in this volume. In the first two volumes, when he meets Voldemort, the wizard who killed his parents, he is scared and shocked. In this book, when he overhears that Sirius is responsible for his parents death, he reacts with anger. When he meets up with Sirius at the end, he acts aggressively, holding him responsible for his parentless childhood. Granted, standing up to a half starved, half-crazed wizard is a bit different that standing up to the most powerful dark wizard of all time, but I do think this indicates that Harry is growing up and able to take a more assertive stance. Another sign that Harry is entering adolescence is his reaction on first meeting the pretty Cho Chang, something that is explored more in book four and five, which shows Harry plunging headfirst into adolescence.
The dementors, the Azkaban guards who roam Hogwarts in this volume, prove to be Rowling’s scariest creation. Drawing on images of the grim reaper, the dementors, are terrifying for two reason, the known and the unknown. We fear them from what we can see (or in this case, read about): the eerie way they move, and their ability to suck all of the happiness and joy out of an individual. We also fear what is under the cloak, what we can’t see. We feel it must be even more horrible that the terrifying things that we can see, because it has to be covered up.
Despite their awfulness, the dementors are tolerated at Hogwarts. Why? Because of the terrifying Sirius Black. It’s interesting at the end when we look at what’s feared, and what’s tolerated. Sirius is feared, but turns out to be an innocent man. Professor Lupin is feared because he is a werewolf, and is forced to leave because he knows that a werewolf will not be accepted as a professor. This is after he has proved himself to be an exemplary teacher. His class is always excited to learn, and he has an uncanny ability to see just what students need. This can be seen when he encourages Neville to face the boggart, giving the normally timid student courage. Despite all this, even Ron rejects him initially when learning that he’s a werewolf.
Harry Potter in the Prisoner of Azkaban is my second favorite Harry Potter book. It features great character development, and introduces one of my favorite characters (Lupin). I was very happy to read this again....more
In the future, earth has been attacked twice by aliens called “buggers.” The military is bracing themselves for a third war and are in need of abrilliIn the future, earth has been attacked twice by aliens called “buggers.” The military is bracing themselves for a third war and are in need of abrilliant military commander. They think they may have found one in the gifted six-year-old Ender Wiggin. Ender is separated from his family, including his beloved sister Valentine, and trained in the arts of war, training that takes the form of games. Will Ender be able to reach his full potential in time, or will his young mind break under the stress of the games?
I first read Ender's Game after it was recommended when I was a senior in high school. Having little experience in the science fiction genre beyond classic dystopias (Rand's Anthem, Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451) and books that mixed sci-fi with fantasy (Diane Duane's Young Wizards Series), it was a really new type of book for me, and I immediately feel in love with it. One thing I had a hard time wrapping my mind around at the time was the age of the protagonist. Ender begins the novel as a six year old and isn't even twelve by the time the main story resolves. While reading the first time, I couldn't help but mentally add a few years onto his actual age. This time around, perhaps because I am better acquainted with the story, I didn't have this problem and was in turn horrified by the mental tortures Ender was put through. I understand it was all done with a very important reason in mind (saving the world) but I spent the entire book with this bizarre maternal desire to snatch Ender away from the responsibility he was emotionally too young to take on. This did not diminish my enjoyment from the book. In fact I think it enhanced my bond with the main character. Despite being seven years older, I quickly found myself falling in love with this book as much as I had the first time.
There appears to be three important story lines going on in Ender's Game. There's the larger storyline involving the bugger war and politics. There's the main storyline involving Ender's journey through military school and the games. Then there's a much smaller storyline which deals with Ender's struggle to remain a good person, despite the fact that he's constantly put into situations that require him to become monstrous. I though this final storyline was the most interesting. Ender is by all means an innocent and good person, but when pushed, he becomes someone dangerous. I also enjoyed the relationship between Ender and his sister Valentine, and felt their very pure affection for each other contrasted nicely with the books darker undertones. As far as the games themselves go, I found them very exciting to read, and was always curious about how Ender would find a way to win them. I feel the ending is very effective, even if you see the “twist” coming (which I did my first time, and obviously knew about this time), and found the final chapter to be quite moving.
Ender's Game is a powerful sci-fi novel that examines innocence and brutality. Although the novel is meant for adults, Card's young characters and straightforward style of writing will appeal to young adult readers as well. I'm very happy that I decided to pick this book up again, and as I have more of an interest in sci-fi now, I do plan on continuing the series beyond the first book....more
In the near future, scientists have discovered how to genetically engineer babies not to require sleep, resulting in highly intelligent, rational chilIn the near future, scientists have discovered how to genetically engineer babies not to require sleep, resulting in highly intelligent, rational children called “Sleepless.” Leisha is one of the Sleepless. Although she has a happy childhood, as she begins to mature she realizes that her place in the world is much more complex than she expects. “Sleepers” unable to compete, treat Leisha and her kind with jealousy, and disgust. Is there a way for the Sleepers and Sleepless to find peace? How can you create a society based on equality when all people are not, technically, created equal?
Beggars in Spain is the September selection for calico_reaction's bookclub on livejournal. I was a little skeptical about it first, but I'm glad that I picked it up, because I ended up falling in love with Leisha's story. Beggars in Spain is an intelligent novel about a woman struggling to find equality in a world of genetically engineered inequality. It's about judging people on their individual productivity, while still paying attention to the “beggars in Spain” or people that cannot be productive. Throughout the book as Leisha shapes and reshapes her personal philosophies, the reader is right there with her, trying to find answers in an increasingly complex world.
Beggars in Spain is divided into four sections that take place over eighty years of time. During this time you encounter a large variety of characters, watch them grow from birth to old age, and are able to see their impact on the world. This allows us to cover a lot of territory in one book. Under a lesser writer, covering so many characters and concepts could result in the entire cast feeling undeveloped, playing second fiddle to the author's big ideas. I did not find that this was the case here in Beggars in Spain, as I really enjoyed getting to know the characters. Outside of Leisha, the character that fascinated me the most was actually the main villain. As the book continues, she ends up doing some pretty awful things, but she is so rational about it in her thought process, that you can almost see where she's coming from. I also enjoyed the character Alice, who is Leisha's Sleeper twin sister, and watching the different paths their lives took as a result of their differing statues.
Beggars in Spain is a fascinating sci-fi book that will really get you thinking. It is also the first book in a trilogy. I am very curious as to where the series will go next, as the author has already covered so much ground in book one. I will pick up the second book, Beggars and Choosers, soon. ...more
Liga is an innocent girl who has suffered from more cruelty in her short existence than many due during their entire life time. Isolated from the nearLiga is an innocent girl who has suffered from more cruelty in her short existence than many due during their entire life time. Isolated from the nearby village, Liga is sexually abused by her father, which results in several aborted fetuses and one baby girl. After the death of her father, Liga receives no respite. Looked down upon by everyone in town, she finds herself friendless and alone. When she is gang raped by five local boys, she finally snaps and prepares to kill herself and her daughter. Before she can, a celestial being takes pity on her and transports her to a world very much like her own. Only here, the bed where her father abused her in is vanished and her damaged cottage is in perfect shape. When she travels to town, she finds that those who were cold and distant to her before are welcoming and kind. Those who she disliked or feared no longer appear to exist. Liga grows to treasure this small, safe world and begins to raise her two daughters (the second a result of the rape), sweet Branza, and curious Urdda. But the real world cannot remain separate forever. Thanks to the magic of a witch, Liga, Branza, and Urdda find strange creatures visiting their world, such as angry dwarf looking for treasure, and large bears that are really men.
Tender Morsels is a retelling of the little known fairy tale “Snow White and Rose Red,” which tells about two very different sisters. Nearly all of the elements of the original fairytale can be found in this story, but the author has built up a fascinating story around it. As you can probably tell from the summary above, the story is often quite dark, so dark sometimes that I had a hard time listening to the audiobook. It's impossible not to feel sorry for little Liga during her perils, and happy when she finally finds some peace in the personal heaven she discovers. Despite it's darkness, there also exists moments of great sweetness and happiness, and the book is, for the most part, rather positive. The author, Margo Lanagan, deals with these two opposing elements with the utmost skill, the two often appearing side by side. In fact one of the biggest messages of the book is how these two forces must exist together. Yes the world can be impossibly cruel, and it's people evil beyond belief, but it also has the opportunity to exhibit great joy. To give up the deepest of the darks, would result in the discarding of the brightest of the lights.
But I'm getting off track. Tender Morsels is a beautiful and terrifying fairy tale retelling. The book is mostly written in third person as it follows the story of Liga, Branza, and Urdda (the audiobook for this section was narrated by a woman), but often branches off into third person as it goes into the minds of some of the men of the book such as the Doubt (the dwarf from the fairytale) and Ramstrong (the bear). As a result the book feels less like a novel than it does a collection of many stories that are interwoven into one beautiful whole. The way that Lanagan weaves in supernatural elements makes it feel like a fairytale. This may sound obvious, but many of the fairy tale retellings I've read simply read like fantasy books. Tender Morsels on the other hand, has elements of wonder and beauty that threw me back to being little and being exposed to fairy tales for the first time. Although I was thrown off a bit by some negative reviews (most from people who found the book too disturbing for them, or protest to it being on the young adult shelf) I am so happy that I did pick this book up. I loved the characters and the story really made me think. Without a doubt it's one of the best books I've read in 2009....more