This is only the third Jodi Picoult book I've read, after Salem Falls and My Sister's Keeper, and it's not as good as those two. That said, there are...moreThis is only the third Jodi Picoult book I've read, after Salem Falls and My Sister's Keeper, and it's not as good as those two. That said, there are some great things about this book.
It's not the first book to deal with themes of rape and death - I read the Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold a couple of months before and could quickly see how Picoult handles the issues better, in, it felt, a more mature way. Her characters seem more realistic, for a start, and what they go through less contrived.
Trixie (named after Beatrice in Dante's Inferno) is 14 and in love with 17-year-old Jason Underhill, the star of Bethel's ice hockey team. When he dumps her she is distraught, and follows her best friend Zephyr's advice on how to make him jealous and take her back. The plan backfires when, at Zephyr's party, Jason rapes Trixie.
Her father, Daniel Stone, is a comic book artist originally from the wilds of Alaska. As the police investigation into the incident progresses, as Jason is stunned and the town turns on Trixie as a slut and a fake, Daniel feels his violent, wild-side, long-suppressed past seek release against the reliable, responsible, doting stay-at-home dad and artist he became. He is the real main character of the book.
Trixie's mother, Laura, is a university professor specialising in Dante's Divine Comedies; she's also been having an affair with a PhD student, Seth (the mother is an interesting character when taken in comparison with the mother in The Lovely Bones, who does all this after the act). Because of her self-absorption, and despite breaking up with Seth on the night of the rape but before learning of it, Laura feels incredible guilt for not being there for Trixie.
Trixie is an annoying girl, true to her age and therefore very frustrating. Unlike the girl in My Sister's Keeper, Trixie is not a strong enough character to carry the novel. This opens the way for Daniel to take centre stage.
One of the most interesting things about this book is the comic art throughout. The parallel story that Daniel is working on shows a man called Wild Claw follow his abducted daughter, Tracy, into Hell. He thinks of himself as a beast, apt to change into gorilla, hawk, monster, at provocation. In Hell he encounters Virgil who guides him through Dantes' nine levels, or circles. The title of the book, The Tenth Circle, is in reference to an idea Laura has that there should be a tenth level for people who lie to themselves. Daniel, and his ulter-ego WildClaw, lies to himself about his own true nature, and fears it too.
I found the Alaska sequence at the end a bit flat and the pacing slow. The novel moved along well up until Jason's suicide-that-turns-out-to-be-murder and Trixie flees. The characters are interesting, but I couldn't help wanting more of a town dynamic, I wanted to know more about the other people in the community and their (mostly negative) reaction to what Trixie did to Jason - that is, get him in trouble for something they never believed he did. Daniel, too, for all that I loved him as a character, was a little cliched and soap-opera-like. Laura, perhaps fittingly, gets a little left out in the cold (that's a pun). I loved the artwork, and there's even a puzzle to figure out when you've finished reading the book.
While not her best, The Tenth Circle is still very enjoyable.(less)
Originally published in France in four separate volumes, and later in the US in two, The Complete Persepolis brings them all together for the first ti...moreOriginally published in France in four separate volumes, and later in the US in two, The Complete Persepolis brings them all together for the first time. It is the story of the author's youth, growing up in revolutionary Iran before moving to Austria at 14, and then later returning to Iran before escaping again, this time to France, where she still lives.
Her story is both familiar and alien - a story of being a child enjoying her childhood during the revolution of '79, and how it impacted on her life; learning about the history of her country, the religious hypocrisy, the regime; being a teenager in the 80s in Europe, delving into pot and nihilism, trying to find a place in the world but never really fitting in.
The story is often funny, and the method of telling it in comic-strip style suits it perfectly. There's not a wasted panel, and the illustrations add layers to the dialogue and exposition captions. While it's also a very controlling method - in that, because graphics are supplied, you're not really able to imagine it freely on your own - there's so much in the details, and so much feeling in the illustrations, that I'm reminded of that saying, "a picture speaks a thousand words".
It was fascinating to learn about what Iran's been through from someone who's lived through it - I used to read a lot of those books written by women in Iran and Saudi Arabia, but they lacked a broader scope of understanding, and exposure to foreign political ideology and perspective. Satrapi read a lot of philosophers etc., and while some of her youthful ideologies are captured with a degree of irony, she still had a clear understanding of the situation - aided by her free-thinking parents and her wonderful grandmother.
While I had trouble in the beginning keeping up with the history of Iran's political leaders, which I found confusing, the story is easy to follow and is a great way to introduce people to the reality of Iran - up to the mid-1990s anyway. The hypocrisies, contrasts, day-to-day living, life-style, dreams and ambitions are all rendered in clear, distinctive black-and-white illustrations and laced with irony. There were many moments were I laughed myself silly, and other moments that were poignant and sad, but always, always, Satrapi is brutally honest with herself and her readers. Highly recommended. (less)
Fone Bone's wealthy and arrogant cousin, Phoney Bone, has been run out of Boneville by the angry residents and Fone Bone agrees to help him, along wit...moreFone Bone's wealthy and arrogant cousin, Phoney Bone, has been run out of Boneville by the angry residents and Fone Bone agrees to help him, along with their other cousin, Smiley Bone. But they get lost in the desert and have used up all their water and tempers are running high. When a swarm of locusts sweeps through the valley they run for their lives - and suddenly Fone Bone is falling. Separated from the others and lost, he has only an old map that Smiley found that leads him through the mountains and into a paradise land wherein lurk some monstrous creatures.
Fone needs to find his cousins, but there are rat creatures after him and a little bug called Ted thinks someone called Thorn can help him - only Ted has disappeared and Bone doesn't know where this Thorn is. Then he encounters her unexpectedly - a beautiful human girl - and falls in love! Together they make plans for finding Phoney and Smiley - before the rat creatures get them first.
Beautifully drawn and presented, Out From Boneville is a delightful, imaginative, funny trip through a vivid landscape of chain-smoking dragons, talking possums, cow-racing grannies and scary monsters. Bone is an endearing hero, good-hearted and resourceful, vulnerable and sympathetic.
It has something of a "to be continued" ending, with an unsolved mystery behind the scenes that really gets you curious. Aside from that, Out From Boneville is self-contained and a wonderful introduction to the series - and witty too. The panels are cleverly drawn to show what cannot be included in dialogue, and it makes full use of the medium (graphic novel) in which it's presented. As an adult, this was fun to read - better than watching a cartoon on telly, that's for sure.(less)
With a title like this, how could I possibly resist reading How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You? I'd never heard of The Oatmeal (Matthew I...moreWith a title like this, how could I possibly resist reading How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You? I'd never heard of The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman) before or his website, but I can easily see the popularity and I love when they take this kind of thing from a website and make it into a book, which I've always found much more accessible (to read, not to access - arguably websites are easier to access!).
I've lived with cats all my life, except for three years in Japan, one year in Melbourne, and now (we had to find homes for our three cats after Hugh was born - long story). I'm very much a cat person, even though I'm now allergic to them. They have so much personality, and if they only had opposable thumbs they'd take over the world. We've definitely had cats who had that "I'm coming for you" look in their eyes at times - or sure, it's just my imagination. OR IS IT??!! ;)
This book is a gathering-up of individual cartoon drawings, stand-alone sketches if you will (I can't think what the word is for them, if there is one), and The Bobcats, from Monday to Saturday. The Bobcats are two cats called Bob who work in an office and really, they fit right in:
The rest is a mix of one-offs, funny graphs and charts, and series of cartoons like the one showing how desperate for attention a cat can get when their human is glued to the internet:
A quick read that will have you giggling, I found it a mix of witty insights into cat (and human) behaviour, and some more ordinary, less clever jokes that were only mildly entertaining for being a bit too obvious. Overall - and the Bobcats carry the greater weight - it was a good chuckle-fest, and a handy book to have on-hand when you need a light distraction or a quick pick-me-up (of the good cheer kind, not the alcoholic variety).(less)