The monstrous narrative of an evil book, with all the techno-medieval flair you’d expect from LEGO NEXO Knights.
This is a sort of exceedingly and unabashedly non-objective guide to the NEXO Knights universe—depicted almost entirely from the primary bad guy(er…book?)’s point of view. Its primary function is to introduce readers to the wide range of monsters that are at the command of The Book of Monsters. Each receives a two-page tongue-in-cheek spread including art, descriptions, job title, likes, dislikes, favorite quote, and little known facts (when applicable).
The artwork is abundant and gorgeous. Rather than using still shots from the show or of the toy figures themselves, the book contains a wide array of detailed hand-drawn sketches, playful “notes,” and watercolor-esque scenes—all giving both the sense of concept art and vivid depictions on the order of a D&D handbook. At 96 pages, this hardback is of exceptional quality.
My only hesitation with this book is the overwhelmingly negative tone. Of course that’s to be expected, given the POV and subject matter. My 6 and 7-year-old read it with me in 4 sessions; and while some of the monsters really sparked their interest, the mocking of good guys and overall orneriness of the narration didn’t seem to sit well with them over time. (They weren’t scared of it, but they weren’t excited about it either.) Margin notations quoting Merlock 2.0 provided some relief—as did various diagrams and bonus info meant to add variety to the overall content.
A clever reference for kids who already love NEXO Knights, LEGOS, or genre-fused artwork. ...more
I was a little surprised at how well I liked this book, given the languidness of the pacing and lack of answeWindily intriguing and pleasantly eerie.
I was a little surprised at how well I liked this book, given the languidness of the pacing and lack of answers delivered by the ending. (I should preface this by saying I listened to the audio book, and Patton does a phenomenal job with bringing the voices and characters to life. Also, Stiefvater went the impressive and spot-on impactful extra mile by creating an original musical composition piece exclusively for the audio book. I HIGHLY recommend this method of ingestion.)
This book is a series set-up, told from multiple 3rd-person POVs. The setting is a rural and vaguely mystical town in Virginia called Henrietta. Our primary characters are a 16-year-old girl named Blue--the eccentric-yet-sensible old-soul daughter of the town psychic. Fairly early on in the story she becomes caught up (almost against her will) with a tetrad of exclusive private school boys: Richard "Gansey", their old-soul history/mystery-obsessed leader; Ronan, the grief-torn rage monster; Adam, the meek and abused grease monkey; and Noah, the forgettable tag-along.
The urban fantasy elements are strong initially, but peter off for much of this particular book. And while the characters hold more depth and dimension than I typically see in mainstream YA, I didn't become particularly attached to any of them. It was the lyrical meandering of the prose and the novelty of the plot itself that kept this reader engaged. Despite the tension remaining low a vast majority of the time, the intrigue held on. All while presenting a small Southern town with something closer to realism than the condescension common in contemporary lit.
I picked up book #2 immediately, and that says a lot for the writing itself.
Content Note: To those parents and teens who it may concern, this book leaned somewhat heavily into -actual- (i.e. borrowed, not invented) occult elements. (Tarot card readings, scrying, astral projection, and what I would assume is possession.) The instructional how-to of which is sparse and primarily limited to tarot cards--at least in this book. ...more
Disclaimer: Unfortunately I was issued only a one-chapter sample of the book (15 pages) rather than the book in its 256 page entirety. As such, my impressions are woefully limited in some respects—for which I apologize.
I absolutely loved the idea of this book. As huge fans of Alton Brown’s famously cerebral cooking show, Good Eats, my kids have long enjoyed the marriage of recipes and ingenious explanations for the scientific concepts behind them. My hope was that Science Experiments You Can Eat would provide them with a similar merger of visual, whimsical, and interactive.
The book’s recommended age range is 8-12 year olds, but due to minimal illustrations and lots of dense text making use of more advanced vocabulary, I would recommend it as better suited for ages 10 and up. The meringue experiment (exploring the properties of egg whites) felt like an interesting and age-appropriate choice—given appropriate adult supervision. The explanations for why protein molecules behave the way they do under various conditions was clear and concise, albeit a bit dry in presentation.
I regret that, due to the sample size, I can’t comment on the efficiency of the overarching buildup in lessons and concepts. I also wish I could offer a rundown of my favorite section and experiment. (The chapter I was given was actually chapter 5 out of 11, and so I’m not certain how much more I might have appreciated the progression if I’d been able to read what led up to it.)
According to the table of contents, the chapters are labeled as follows: Food For Thought; Solutions; Suspensions, Colloids, And Emulsions; Carbohydrates And Fats; Proteins; Kitchen Chemistry; Plants We Eat; Microwave Cooking; Microbes; Enzymes And Hormones; and Science Experiments We Do Eat. Additional tools listed include: Measuring Calories, How To Read A Nutrition Facts Label, Cooking Terms And Instructions, Equivalent Measures, and Scientific Glossary.
Science Experiments You Can Eat is inspired in concept and strong on the technical front. I would have liked to see more illustrative engagement in what small portion of it I was shown, but I do suspect the complete product would be a useful learning tool for kids in more of a Middle Grade range. ...more
“I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape.”
An expansive narrative, but with no useless filler characters or glaringl3.5 Stars
“I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape.”
An expansive narrative, but with no useless filler characters or glaringly frayed ends left unkempt by the end. The book is as much of a blatant moral lesson as Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, but covering a much broader timeframe and with a far surpassing glut of descriptive wordiness.
Our POV character comes in the form of young Pip, an impoverished orphan who was raised by his malignant older sister and her simple but kindhearted blacksmith husband, Joe. As a young child, Pip encounters an escaped convict and treats him with compassion—despite the man’s surliness and threats. The convict is eventually recaptured. Shortly thereafter, Pip falls in love with the beautiful and heartless young Estella—who is the charge of reclusive, vengeful, and well-to-do Miss Havisham—and has been raised to be a vile sort of man-eater. Pip is poor, and so has no “expectations” for his future… which naturally means he has no chance of winning the heart he insists on believing Estalla must have.
When a mystery benefactor offers Pip a fortune, Pip sets about becoming a gentleman. His sights firmly fixed on Estella, he moves to the city--neglecting Joe and the young woman who made an initial attempt at teaching him to read and write before he ever had such great expectations.
“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.”
Pip and Joe’s relationship is a consistent highlight. Theirs is an amalgamation of father/son, mentor/mentee, and fellow sufferers under the reign of Pip’s sister’s verbal and physical abuse. Joe’s love for Pip is steady and self-sacrificing, while Pip’s is regularly reassessed and circumvented by his ambitions and embarrassment over Joe’s utter lack of education and breeding.
“In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.”
Miss Havisham is a hauntingly acrid embodiment of bitterness. Hell hath no impotent fury like a woman spurned at the alter, who then dedicates herself to isolation and the brainwashing of an adoptive child. (I’ve created a self-destructive sociopath as my only legacy—take THAT lousy men everywhere!) To the very end, I hoped that plot thread might resolve with more satisfaction than I was actually granted.
Overall, I enjoyed this read more than Oliver Twist, but less than A Christmas Carol or A Tale of Two Cities. ...more
A sweet romance featuring a showy villain, a troublesome language barrier, a vengeful hero (who may be impaired in more ways than just his fashion sense), and a heroine who isn’t afraid to wield blunt objects in defense of those she loves.
Running almost concurrent with the timeline of another book in the series (The Golden Braid), this book remains true to the germanic-flavored historical fairytale retelling of the rest of the Hagenheim series. The book can stand alone, but those who’ve read other books in the series will have the benefit of seeing what’s become of some favored past characters.
Margaretha, the eldest daughter of Duke Wilhelm and Lady Rose, recognizes it is her duty to marry advantageously. She had been holding out hope for a love match--stalling to the point that her younger sister is now of marriageable age. She’s in the middle of allowing a gaudy English Lord to court her when a severely injured foreigner arrives at Hagenheim castle. While she assists in his care and recovery, the man raves incoherently in English. Margaretha then finds it difficult to believe him when he recovers his wits only to accuse her current suitor of a heinous murder…
Note: The fairytale connection is a bit more tenuous than in any of Dickerson’s other books in the series, at least in this reader’s opinion. I made it all the way through without connecting that it was loosely based on The Princess and the Frog. But then again, other books have had more blatant tip-offs in either the title or the names of characters. I doubt most readers will find this bothersome.
What I Liked:
-I ended up liking Margaretha far more than I’d anticipated. The blurb had me braced for a naïve chatterbox with delusions of romantic idealism, but what I got was considerably more complex. I LOVED that reader’s first glimpse into her mind was a scene with her being thoroughly distracted by her would-be suitor’s kitschy hat fixation. (I may or may not have then spent the rest of the book mentally referring to Claybrook as: Lord Fancy Hats.) While there’s no attempt to deny Margaretha’s lack of experience with the world outside of Hagenheim castle, her limited exposure doesn’t make her entitled, self-important, or otherwise irritating. She is believably intuitive and quick to adapt, while exuding a bit more exuberance than most of Dickerson’s previous heroines.
-Despite the relatively condensed timeline, the romance is slow-burn and believably impeded by a number of factors—not the least of which is a language barrier.
-This book continues Dickerson’s trend of accessible historical nuance. Most germanic and medieval terms were either explained or were easy to puzzle out from their context. Although, the word ‘solar’ was frequently used but never explained. (It is an upper chamber in a medieval house. You’re welcome.)
What Didn’t Work For Me:
-The prologue felt rushed—almost an afterthought. While it gave some idea of the motives and situation for Colin, it didn’t quite engage me emotionally or connect me to any of the characters. It took me a lot longer to feel any kind of way about Colin than I would have liked. Even when I did start to care, I never quite felt connected to his backstory.
-From the blurb, I would have thought that Margaretha was a lot more enthralled with the idea of a grand romance with Lord Claybrook than proved actual. From the get go she wasn’t meshing well with the man, and seems well aware. The trouble is more her age and cultural/familial expectations—combined with the fact that she’s already turned down several suitors. She’s considering settling for a man she sees as eccentrically vain but well-intended, when a strange Englishman with a head injury interrupts her efforts. Also, from the title I was expecting a bit more spying going on. But Margaretha’s actual spying amounted to just a scene or two.
-I do wish there had been a more memorable example of Margaretha failing to keep a secret, as that might have helped explain her insecurities in that area. It was repeatedly insinuated that she talked too much, but the spats in which she did so felt a bit forced for emphasis rather than true to her nature. (External chattiness was more of a nervous response and didn’t seem to match her internal monologue.) Her spiritual life also didn’t seem to bear much distinction from other heroines in this same series.
-The prose throughout contained a bit of unnecessary recapping and repetitious facts that felt as though they could have been trimmed out. (Most of these instances centered around Margaretha’s “prattling” or the rehashing of how Colin’s sister’s best friend was murdered.)
In the final analysis, I’d place this one right at about the same enjoyment level as The Merchant’s Daughter--if that means anything to existing followers of the Hagenheim series. Readable, but not quite as strong as others. ...more
Pace yourself! Reading this primer is a bit like taking a college-level literature class. Or perhaps an entire semester worth of literature classes…
Acknowledging that storytelling is as old as humanity itself, The Literature Book takes on the daunting challenge of giving readers a historical and functional overview of literary works and their progression through the ages. The book starts with 4,600-year-old Sumerian texts and carries all the way up to select contemporary works as recent as 2013—encompassing novels, plays, and poetry. Its presentation style is sometimes dry, but orderly in format and highly informative.
-------- What I Liked:
There was a solid effort made to present a diverse array of works outside of the classical European variety—inclusive of cultural sub-genres such as Sanskrit Epics, Imperial Chinese Poetry, Early Arabic Lit, Slave Narratives, Inianismo, Baihua Lit, The Harlem Renaissance, The Latin American Boom, Caribbean, and Indian English.
Personal Note: Page 93 conveyed an excellent, concise explanation of early Japanese theater forms. This reader didn't previously grasp the difference between Kabuki(theatrical song/dance/mime) and Bunraku(musical puppet theater) until it was so clearly laid out in this book.
The Literature Book claims it “cuts through the literary jargon” and is “packed with witty illustrations.” I don’t know about cutting through, but it does explain literary terms with textbook thoroughness. And although there is certainly an abundance of illustrations to break up the sometimes dense visual field, I wouldn’t personally refer to said imagery as “witty.” The diagrams, visual-aid images, excised quotes, and timelines are simplistic—mono and duo-chromatic. Effectively breaking up dense swaths of text and enhancing to the overall comprehension potential without becoming a distraction. Full-color pictures and artwork appear more sporadically and offer a stronger sense of place and/or ambiance to the subjects they pertain to.
What Didn’t Work For Me:
Chosen works may receive only a sentence of passing mention, or as much as 6 analytical pages (i.e. Moby-Dick). The authors receive anything from cursory reference, to a mini-bio, to a full biography including a picture. How it was decided which authors, genres, and works were worthy of how much recognition remains a point of confusion for this reader. Sci-fi and Fantasy seemed to receive disproportionately minimal attention, and the Romance genre—along with its representative authors—received no address at all.
Unfortunately, a number of prolific and influential authors were all but passed over. I was personally disappointed the book didn't offer a bio for either C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. Their works seemed mentioned only in passing when the fantasy genre is touched on. Lewis is only referred to once very briefly, and there's no allusion to his sci-fi works at all. Jules Verne receives the most mention of any sci-fi author (page 184), but no bio. And H.G. Wells is allotted only a single sentence—though he could arguably be considered one of the pioneering fathers of science fiction.
Conversely, TWO of the three Bronte sisters (Emily and Charlotte) have full bios with pictures included, though Emily wrote just one novel. That’s not to say I don’t approve of their inclusion and highlighted significance—only to point out the disparity in emphasis. -----
While I wouldn’t call this book an exhaustive authority, it certainly has the potential to be a valuable and semi-encyclopedic tool in the pursuit of a more advanced literary education. Studious readers are likely to come away with both factual knowledge, as well as a fresh list of works they may be interested in experiencing at length.
College-bound Young Adults perusing a major in literature might consider this book a preparatory framework for their degree, and perhaps a leg-up on their future. ...more
A captivating gem of a story—an absolute treasure. I hated having to put it down to attend to ‘real life,’ and relished the joy of picking it back up again.
“I could feel the beginning of the story gathering in her throat. Stories are that way, like storms. If you pay attention, you can sense them in the air.”
Fire Horse Girl is a highly accessible (and subtly informative) YA historical, steeped in 1920’s Chinese culture, integrated folklore, deft wit, and poignantly beautiful prose.
The tale is told entirely from the 3rd person perspective Jade Moon, a 17-year-old girl whose gender and birth year (according to the Chinese zodiac) leaves her shunned by her village and family—a pariah in a culture that openly considers her “cursed.” When a family business arrangement gives her the opportunity to go to America, Jade Moon is enchanted by the hope of a fresh start in a country where people seem free to make their own luck. But immigration proves difficult and dangerous. Jade Moon’s hopes run aground on the obstinate will of her both her father and Sterling Promise—the young man she’s grown to care for but cannot trust. And her only remaining option may be to defy everything she knows to carve out a place for herself in a world she doesn’t yet understand.
The Characters: This reader connected with Jade Moon almost immediately. She is what Americans would generally deem a classic ‘Tomboy’—an innately willful, indelicate, opinionated, big-dreaming, and brash young woman. In short, a force of personality to be reckoned with. And of course, none of these traits were considered desirable of a female in Chinese culture at the time. But though she is hurt and isolated by her immediate world’s inability to accept her, her spirit isn’t completely crushed—and she grabs fiercely at hope for change the moment it comes near.
Jade Moon’s personality in an internal monologue nutshell: "Auntie Wu took special pride in two of her accomplishments--the sons she bore and the flowers she grew. They were equally useless, but the flowers smelled better."
While some readers may not have as much sympathy for a more aggressive female character, I understood her so deeply it hurt. Jade Moon is every girl who has ever felt like they were too much for anyone to handle. She is every girl who knows they are too bold or temperamental, yet can’t seem to help it. She is every girl who would rather risk the consequences of breaking the socio-cultural mold than to allow the mold to break them.
Obviously, one needn’t be Chinese to be a Fire Horse kind of girl.
Then there’s Sterling Promise… whose name couldn’t be more fitting. While his personality is nothing like Jade Moon’s, his hopes and goals are very much the same. He is an orphan, forced to grow up working in a sweatshop before being adopted by a man who’d estranged himself from his own family. Like Jade, he belongs nowhere and to no one. Like Jade, he sees America as his chance to start life anew. He’s a level-headed, silver-tongued survivalist—skilled at talking his way in and out of situations.
And while he comes to care for Jade, he remains an enigma for much of the story—a wild card. Both Jade and readers are never quite sure if will do the right thing in the end… or if he’ll go no further than doing what is right for himself.
The Plot: The first sixty or so pages take place in a small village in Guangzhou, China—where readers are given a vivid look at the rural life of our heroine. Jade Moon’s oppressed state is palpable, but her story unfolds with no easy answers. For every constraint she attempts to shed by leaving China, she is confronted with a new obstacle or artifice in an unwelcoming America. All the while, readers are treated to a matter-of-fact look at events and policies that seem largely overlooked in most U.S. History textbooks: An in-depth look at the prison-like conditions on Angel Island, the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and the subsequent fire that destroyed citizenship records, the concept of “paper children,” the infamous “Hatchet Men,” and non-graphic yet plain-faced look at prostitution in 1920’s Chinatown…
This book hit literary happiness buttons I didn’t even know I had. I’m always excited about a strong female MC and cultural/historical insight that’s done well enough I don’t notice how much I’m learning… but I’d forgotten how much I appreciate co-experiencing the challenges of a female who is compelled to cross-dress (for survival, not fun), or a romance that initially doesn’t work because one or both parties realizes that, while the other does love them, they don’t love them enough.
Though there is a thread of hate-to-love romance, it takes a far backseat to the greater storyline. The ending is balanced and satisfying. While the book stands perfectly on its own, it also leaves open the possibility for more of Jade Moon’s story at some later date.
Thank you, Kay Honeyman, for such a remarkable work of heart. Books like this remind me why I love to read.
"You can love someone as many ways as water falls from the sky. Sometimes it falls with thunder and lightning; other times it falls silently. Sometimes it falls as cool snow, and other times hard balls of ice beat down. If you want the water, you don't get to choose how it falls." ...more
This book isn't so much about the title character--or at least, it is much less so than the first three primary books in this sci-fantasy ser2.5 Stars
This book isn't so much about the title character--or at least, it is much less so than the first three primary books in this sci-fantasy series of fairy tale retellings.
Unfortunately princess Winter is just kind of… there. All helpless and victimized—partially by her own refusal to exercise her "gift," despite there not being a strong moral argument against it. In essence, she could have avoided her clearly detrimental and ally-endangering “madness” by using her Lunar gift to, say, innocuously make people think her nail polish was blue instead of red. But she’s such a legalistic stickler for her I-don’t-want-to-be-like-my-stepmother principals, she would rather be a mentally ill liability than in any way accommodate the biological needs she can’t help having.
The romance is kind of a given with little development—as it utilizes the 'childhood-friends-turned-lovers' trope. Ordinarily I like that kind of pre-establish familiarity, but due to Winter’s self-imposed “condition,” the romantic angle was made complicated and questionable by the caretaker/mentally-compromised patient relationship.
Also, it felt like a LOT of issues could have been avoided and lives saved if Cinder had just spent her copious amount of time in hidden orbit programming Iko to be a sharp-shooter assassin droid. Iko proves to be a decent fighter, but given she and Cress are the only ones who aren't affected by Lunar mind control... stuff... it would have made perfect tactical sense to weaponize her.
I’m fairly certain our heroes would have had no chance at all if Levana didn't keep violating so many Evil Overlord rules.
(Yes, I actually kept track of them. No, I don’t consider the following to be spoilers. If you do—feel free to skip!)
#4. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
#6. I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them.
#39. If I absolutely must ride into battle, I will certainly not ride at the forefront of my Legions of Terror, nor will I seek out my opposite number among his army."
#48. I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.
#61. If my advisors ask "Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?", I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.
#64. I will see a competent psychiatrist and get cured of all extremely unusual phobias and bizarre compulsive habits which could prove to be a disadvantage.
#67. No matter how many shorts we have in the system, my guards will be instructed to treat every surveillance camera malfunction as a full-scale emergency.
#71. If I decide to test a lieutenant's loyalty and see if he/she should be made a trusted lieutenant, I will have a crack squad of marksmen standing by in case the answer is no.
#103. I will make it clear that I do know the meaning of the word "mercy"; I simply choose not show them any.
#104. My undercover agents will not have tattoos identifying them as members of my organization, nor will they be required to wear military boots or adhere to any other dress codes.
#106. If my supreme command center comes under attack, I will immediately flee to safety in my prepared escape pod and direct the defenses from there. I will not wait until the troops break into my inner sanctum to attempt this.
#151. If I make a zombie out of one of the heroes, rather than killing him, I will not put him in a position where he will make ANY contact with his friends, lest he remember them and turn against me.
Personally, it drove this reader up a wall to keep hearing terms like "intergalactic," yet having no indication that humans in this book's world have expanded out beyond even their own moon in colonization. No other part of even the immediate solar system is mentioned in any of the books, as far as I can recall... (Please correct me if I missed something.)
I don’t doubt this was a difficult book to pull together. I have to applaud the effort that went into tying up long established storylines and juggling the romantic arc of four significantly different couples. (It was particularly nice to see Cress’ story receive a little more attention and closure.) The characterization remained consistent—as did the upper middle-grade tone. It just felt like the overall work suffered from too much going on and a conveniently dragged out conflict. ...more
An excellent resource for children who may be interested in getting a better sense for how characters, places, and things fit into the DC universe—cleverly depicted via LEGO’s highly accessible style and age-appropriate adaptations.
This 144 page guide is impressively extensive, without being overwhelming to its target audience. (The Handbook is aimed at ages 4-8, but in this reviewer’s opinion, it should still hold the interest of children up to 10 years.) The content is divided into four sections: Superheroes, Villains, Vehicles, and Locations. The entire Justice League is covered, along with some non-super side characters, and all noteworthy bad guys.
Each character, vehicle, or location receives at least 2 pages (up to 2 2-page spreads, in the case of Superman and Batman) of biographical information and LEGO-based poses/imagery. In addition to a brief look at character origins, the bios list their aliases, abilities/powers, and the equipment they typically carry. LEGO’s illustrative tributes to the spirit of comic books are both pleasing and consistent throughout.
A worthy addition to any library—particularly for young fans of LEGO and DC. Parents may be surprised over how much enjoyment they’ll glean by introducing this guide into their child’s literary diet. ...more
I was honestly surprised at how much I've ended up liking this book so much. It's a simple concept--each page or spread depicts a scene or situation tI was honestly surprised at how much I've ended up liking this book so much. It's a simple concept--each page or spread depicts a scene or situation that's missing a major element, which it leaves up to the child's imagination. Much like a book of writing prompts, but meant to stimulate artwork in children.
Examples: Invent a robot Finish the Castle What's under the bed? Design their superhero costumes What are the lions hunting? Build them a space city... Draw a dreadful dragon Finish the treasure map Make his hair look cool
This being a young male-targeted version, the subject material centers heavily on adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, and the slightly "scary." But there are plenty of scenes that could be considered gender-interest-neutral (pirates, fairy-tales, vacations, animals)--depending on the child and according to parental discernment. I'm not one for segregating genders or their interests, but for my 7-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl the creator's guess was pretty spot-on. My son (who cares nothing for standard coloring books and never has) skips around and fills in a page every few days or so--so he's been at it consistently for nearly 6 months.
The most surprising and delightful aspect for me, the parent, is seeing my child's imagination at work with only a small nudge in a certain direction. He takes great liberties with his interpretation of each scene and request. The results are often fascinating, and occasionally hilarious. ...more
“Undoubtedly, philosophers are in the right when they tell us that nothing is great or little otherwise than by comparison.”
This classic is essential“Undoubtedly, philosophers are in the right when they tell us that nothing is great or little otherwise than by comparison.”
This classic is essentially a satirical (and ham-handedly political) travelogue, divided into four sections—each of which depict the narrator’s experience in a different fantastical country. The most famous (and arguably most subtle) of these scenarios being the first—the tiny-person-inhabited island kingdom of Lilliput.
Jonathan Swift’s book is told in first-person, following the exploits of Lemuel Gulliver (a surgeon and later captain) over the course of 17+ years and for the duration of his stay and/or captivity within 4 fantastical countries: Lilliput (where the residents are tiny), Brobdingnag (where the residents are giants), Balnibarbi (ruled from a floating island called Laputa, where everyone is obsessed with the most impractical forms of art and mathematics), and the Country of the Houyhnhnms (where horses are the only sentient beings.)
Despite disappearing for years at a time and his family presuming him dead, Gulliver continuously falls prey to his love of travel—often mere weeks or months after his latest return. While technically held captive in two of the four counties he visits, he repeatedly becomes so absorbed in learning new languages and customs that he shows little cognition for any desire or duty to return home to his wife and children. After his final return home, the affects of living elsewhere seem to have left him permanently averse to any close human contact… including the company of his own wife.
Lemuel Gulliver: Intrepid 18th century adventurer, detailed recorder of his travels, stickler for “facts,” snide socio-political commentator… indisputably terrible husband. >.>
I’d have to say my favorite portion of the book is the first 1/4th. It begins with a humorous preamble in which the narrator expresses vexation over the ways in which his previous accounts have been modified by those who may have found some of his claims unbelievable, and progresses with great detail into the tale of how he became marooned on the island of Lilliput. From there on the repeated fantastical adventures of Gulliver become increasingly tedious, as the author seemed intent on beating a dead horse. Or perhaps more accurately, beating a dead Yahoo. (Spoilers?!?) The main character also slides downward on the likeability scale—beginning as a daft optimist and ending as a sanctimonious cynic.
Swifts prose is sometimes crude, oft long-winded, and always impeccably sardonic. It’s clear early on that his aim is to mock, and he does so ruthlessly. Governments, monarchies, religion, sexism, war, outdated customs, social divisions, historical figures, human nature… Not even science is safe from his scathing appraisal of its particular absurdities. Which leads into one of my favorite example quotes:
“He has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor’s gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate.
I regret I don’t know more about the precise time period in which Swift was writing, and consequently addressing. That context would have likely added more satisfying layers to my comprehension. This is certainly a recommendable read in my mind—though, how wearying readers may find the later 3/4ths of the book will depend on one’s tolerance and inclinations. ...more
Candid, brutal, and entrancingly descriptive. This book is an absolute must for anyone seeking a better understanding of the “institution” of slaveryCandid, brutal, and entrancingly descriptive. This book is an absolute must for anyone seeking a better understanding of the “institution” of slavery in America.
Douglass' prose is the literary equivalent of a velvet-sheathed hammer—smoothly elegant, yet incredibly powerful. He had a real gift for drawing analogies and eliciting deeper comprehension. This very personal account is difficult to ingest, but even more difficult to put down.
It’s somewhat tempting to compare Douglass’ narrative to Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, but their experiences and timeframes are as individual as the men themselves. Both were sired by white men who they never knew as any form of father. But aside from that similar point of origin, their paths diverge for obvious reasons. -Fredrick Douglass became a runaway slave when he was 19 years old—slavery was abolished while Booker T. was still in his elementary years. Fredrick was separated from his mother at a year old (as a part of the most abject cruelty devised by some slaveholders of the time) and hardly knew her before she died—Booker was raised by his mother, and his desire to care for her became part of his academic drive early on. Douglass saw literacy and education as the key to freeing the soul and breaking the cycle of slavery—Washington saw education as an imperative for the survival and ultimate thriving of newly-freed slaves.
Interestingly enough, both Douglass and Washington were imbued with an enduring sense of Christian faith—which came through strong in their perspectives and writing. And both adamantly agreed on the soul-deep corruption slavery had on the white slaveholders--as though it were nearly as toxic to them as to those they enslaved, but on a more insidious level.
Note: They died 20 years apart; the reconstruction era striking them at different stages in their lives. (Their historical influence is immense, and so it’s well worth taking the time to consider the context of their motives and experiences.)
It's funny… I was a little critical of Booker T. Washington for not going into much emotions-wise regarding his domestic life, but the same turned out to be true of Frederick Douglass. Perhaps it's an avoidance that is more true to the era and gender than I first supposed. (Or, perhaps my hopes are just unreasonably sentimental.) ...more
An uncommonly thoughtful contemporary YA romance--presented in the charming graphic style of continuous-scrolling manga. It's a little bit angsty, a little bit sensual, and a lot of sweetness wrapped in a 40-episode package of vibrant webcomic artistry.
Where Tangent’s Meet is a sweet love story between an unlikely pair of high school Juniors, set at a prestigious academy with a near-college feel. The cynical and broody “bad-boy” son of a famous model, Landon is tired of life in the spotlight—and all of the phony attentions that come with it. On his first day at school he meets a girl who he initially presumes is as fake and disappointing as he perceives the rest of the world to be. Rachelle is the optimistic, rule-following, and painfully naïve pet of the Academy’s benignly gang-like student council. Rumors and exclusion follow her odd behavior and child-like sensibilities. As Landon gets to know her and realizes there may be a tragic reason behind her uniqueness, he also begins to realize that he’s bound to make things worse on her reputation. But will it help to keep her at arm’s length, or is it possible they may be a better match for each other than he could guess?
Kaitlyn Narvaza (or Instantmiso, as the author has dubbed herself,) proves an exceptional storyteller—both in the soft-yet-bright artwork and the steady timing of dialogue execution. I was a bit concerned at first over the mental age of the heroine, but her situation is ultimately handled with tactful depth and care. The author also clearly grasps the difference between insta-love and insta-attraction, and doesn’t force an unnatural feel to the romantic progression. (Nor does she confuse lust with love—which is also refreshing—particularly considering her YA audience.) The drama never runs unrealistically high for the genre, leaving much of the focus on relational interaction and romance.
This reader particularly liked the social and internal revelations that resulted as biases and motives were confronted. The most character growth is seen in Landon, but there’s a little something to note in several of the side characters. I personally would have liked to see a little more of the interactions--and basis for interacting--between Taiga and Landon’s sister Rosalie. Readers aren’t given more than a vague idea of their relational arc. Although, that does leave open the possibility of a spinoff comic, or perhaps a few bonus side episodes the author might choose to divulge one day.
Starting at episode/chapter 17, piano-based soundtrack music is added to the background—an experiment that recurs from that point on every few episodes (which are marked with musical notes on the index page and alert readers to have their sound on.) The effect is beyond enchanting—emotionally amplifying rather than distracting. It was almost a blending of all the things this reader likes about graphic novels mixed with the liltingly moody ambiance of a classic RPG videogame.
*cue the halleluiah chorus*
A handful of minor linguistic slips sometimes made the comic feel as though it was translated into English: “accounting” instead of “counting”…”ourself” instead of “ourselves”… “persecutor” instead of “perpetrator”… but this didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the story. (If anything, it added an air of manga authenticity.)
This debut webcomic is not only well worth the read, it’s a charming introduction to the talent of its creator. I look forward to seeing much more of Instantmiso’s work in the near future.
“I can’t be fixed, you know.” “Nonsense. You were never broken to begin with.”
Based on the TV specials, Star Wars gets a child-friendlier facelift—LEGO style.
In this abbreviated made-for-kids version of episodes 1 through 3, C-3P-O acts as our cybernetic bard. This combination comic and young reader chapter book is initially set at what would be the very end of Return of the Jedi, and alternates back and forth from the “present” to 30 and 20 years past. Everyone’s favorite golden droid recounts some of the more relevant scenes from the movies in true storyteller fashion, while having a “present” day adventure with Admiral Ackbar at the same time.
There is significant effort to mitigate the book’s original PG material down to more of a hard G rating. (i.e. Instead of Qui-Gon being bloodlessly stabbed through the torso by one end of Darth Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber, he is instead buried under a pile of LEGO bricks.)
This reader had mixed feelings over the presenting of young Anakin (Ani) as already battling with the dark side for control over his thought process. Some parents may get a chuckle out of the liberties taken with these manic evil mood-swings, but kids may find the deviation confusing. There is a lot of effort put into humor and sarcasm, but this reader is afraid it doesn’t always hit quite the right note.
Although, they pretty well nailed the teen-angst version of Anakin and his egocentric tantrums. “You seem troubled,” Padme said. “Is something wrong?” Anakin shook his head. “No, just the usual rage at Obi-Wan and Yoda for not seeing my awesomeness.”
At 96 pages, this book offers a significant amount of readable content and advanced vocabulary exposure for the intended 7-to-10 age range. With this entertaining media layout, young LEGO and Star Wars fans likely won’t need convincing to get in their daily reading! ...more
"Our creators designed our bodies. Our faces are theirs--these scars are the only things we can truly call our own."
In the first book the so-called “Birthday Children” awoke—twelve-year-old minds in the bodies of 18 to 20-year-olds—unsure of who they were, what they were, or where they were. Much of that book was a Lord Of The Flies-styled journey of world-building discovery and sci-fi survival. In Alight, readers remain in the first-person present-tense perspective of M. Savage—contested-yet-fierce leader of the Birthday Children—as they land on the planet Omeyocan and start yet another race for their continued existence. Each of them begins regaining memories from their progenitors, which proves both an advantage and a looming hazard. It also repeatedly begs the question of just how different the cloned landing party can actually be from the ones who created them as “empty” vessels. In a matter of a few days, the group faces food shortages, biological toxins, the threat of the orbiting vessel they fled, mysterious creatures within the city and the possibility of intelligent and/or angry natives in the jungles beyond. As if things couldn’t get any worse… thanks to a religious fanatic in their ranks, Em may soon have a coup on her hands.
What I Liked:
Sigler does a surprisingly good job of recapping the events of Alive upfront—without falling into the trap of info-dumping. I still wouldn’t recommend starting with this book if you haven’t read the first in the series, but if for some reason you do, you’ll get the gist of what’s going on pretty quickly. It’s been nearly a year since this reviewer read the first book, and I had no trouble recalling where we’d left off. It was also a bit of a mercy that the minds of the central characters matured so rapidly, taking out most of the Middle Grade feel. The prose was notably less choppy than book 1 as a result.
Much more so than in the first book, Alight provides a subtle-yet-poignant analysis of concepts like identity, empathy, individuality, misjudgment, sentient (human?) rights, the value of the next generation/unborn life, and leadership accountability. The “sins of the father” is also a running theme that successfully provokes thought. The added element of an alien species proved both intriguing and ethically stimulating.
Characterization remains a high point. Em continues to be a strong character—almost to the point of masculine. She is flawed enough that readers will likely waffle between rooting for her to remain in-charge, and questioning her judgment. Her determination to not repeat the mistakes of her genetic code source is by far her most admirable trait—and perhaps will provide some opportunity for meaningful reader introspection.
What Didn’t Work For Me:
Unfortunately, the patience this reader had for the first book did not extend as well into this, the second book. The reveals were slow in coming up until right at the halfway point, and 200 pages is a long wait. (In this reader’s opinion, a lot changed for the better at the halfway mark—which I can’t really go into without dropping spoilers.) Up until the second half, it was difficult to sympathize with most of the kid/clones—as they continuously made poor decisions and regularly drove the question of whether or not they might be just as horrible as their creators. This reader spent a little too much time wondering if it wouldn’t be better for this tiny attempted colony to –not- survive.
The general feel of the book remains more on the fantasy end of light sci-fi fantasy, as there is little or no attempt to explain how or why any of the abundant technology works. What kind of power source is running most of this tech? (Guesstimated answer: Space magic!) There also remains a huge slew of historic background questions. Why all the Aztec architecture and imagery? What happened to Earth? Why the seemingly arbitrary caste system? What’s with the ritualistic murder obsession?
Unfortunately, the romance arcs often felt like needless over-complication that should have been put completely on hold—given the logical mindset of the MC and the constant crash of crisis situations. There was an allusion to scientific tinkering and raging hormones, and fortunately the rapid mental maturation made a degree of sense. But that didn’t quite justify all the rushed and rabbit-trailing talk of “love” among youth who’ve only had a week or two to form attachments. Due largely to the extremely crunched timeline, this reader simply couldn’t buy Em’s love-triangle or feel invested in her ultimate choice.
Content Note: The cussing is turned up significantly compared to the first book, and it’s indicated there was off-screen sexual relations (between two of the characters who may or may not have at the time presented as 12-year-olds on a mental level. The confusion there may either bother or placate certain readers and/or concerned parents. I won’t presume to guess which.)
As advertised, this series is likely to sit well with fans of Maze Runner. High adventure, strung along on mystery and copious amounts of withheld information. ...more
From the international street artist whose single piece of interactive artwork sparked a global campaign, this heartening and hopeful coloring book strives to be as motivating as it is lovely.
In the first few pages the author/artist, Montague, goes into detail about the origins of her upbeat #whatliftsyou campaign—its origins and progress since first conceived in 2014—and essentially issues a call to action, inviting users to join in the communal creativity and share their own experiences. But beyond the initial introduction and glowing acknowledgements, the book becomes all about you the user and your unique, expressive interpretations.
What Lifts You is made up of 96 pages worth of intricate, organic designs meant to inspire creativity and elevate the human spirit. Wings and concepts of flight feature heavily (and fittingly, considering the original bit of graffiti art that started this entire concept was a large scale set of angel wings.) The book also has a section of colorable works titled ‘Share Your Dreams,’ which include questions for users to ask of themselves regarding their health, emotions, celebrations, and inspirations. Additional personalization options include a ‘What’s Missing?’ section that encourages you to finish each individual drawing in your own way, and a 3D art section that urges you to cut out the piece and take it out into the world with you.
For those riding the wave of adult coloring books, this is an option well worth checking out. I would particularly recommend it for existing artists of all kinds—if you happen to be in need of a creative exercise. ...more