A vindicating, comical tale of reversed roles. Told as a farcical guide for kids, this delightful picture book offers a twist on the age-old parental struggle with their children’s bedtime cooperation. The story opens with a young girl resisting bedtime, but quickly morphs into a lesson in empathy and (as a winsome side effect) irony.
Adventures are out there waiting. But have you looked at your parents? Poor things. Just between you and me, they are not looking their best.
This is a very quick read; suitable for children ages 4-8 and any parent with a sense of humor. The word density is pretty sparse—sometimes with only a few words or a sentence per page, but well varied in font and placement. The playful watercolor-ish illustrations feature prominently as a result, with both a stylistic and tonal air that is vaguely reminiscent of the Farside comics.
I’ll happily admit I laughed aloud over this book numerous times. My 5 and 6 year old seemed to grasp the humor in some of it—particularly the part where the unnamed little girl in the story attempts to drag her sleeping father across their living room. The full brunt of the hilarity may be lost on them, but the therapeutic parental qualities are well worth it.
My only regret is that the book wasn’t a bit longer for the price. (If the author requires any additional stall-tactic content for future editions, this reader/parent could eagerly supply a few suggestions.) ...more
This mashup of tried and true concepts makes for an accessible sci-fi experience, and is likely to appeal to fans of Battlestar Galactica. The plotline is notably similar, featuring a hodgepodge space-caravan of civilian refugees and myopic military personnel fleeing for their lives across vast distances—being pursued by a force committed to their eradication. Now throw in a crazed Artificial Intelligence with a god complex (a la Hal from 2001 A Space Odyssey), the horror elements of a mutating virus that turns people into high-functioning zombies (a la the Reavers from Firefly), a dash of angst-ridden teenage romance conveyed almost exclusively over text-based communication, and you have Illuminae.
The story is set 560 years into a future where starships have the ability to generate wormholes and humans have expanded throughout the galaxy, if not the entire Universe. We open straight into a survivor interview with a computer savvy 17-year-old girl named Kady, the day after her tiny mining colony was attacked by a competing corporation and she was forced to flee—making it out along with her mother and her very recently ex-boyfriend, Ezra. Their three evacuation ships are damaged, undermanned, and closely pursued--facing many months worth of travel in an attempt to reach a “jumpgate” they all hope will take them back to civilization and a chance at justice. But with the threat of a shipboard contaminant and a malfunctioning A.I. system added to their trials, their odds are steadily dwindling.
What I Liked:
Illuminae deserves the ‘Most Interesting Cover of the Year’ award—hands down. The unusual formatting and texture proves to be reasonable preparation for the book’s actual layout. Despite the daunting size of this eclectic tome, the beak-up of media types and simplicity of the YA-targeted writing makes for a fairly readable venture.
The wide array of literary material used to convey this story is impressive, allowing a sundry dynamic and sometimes frenetic ambiance. Mediums include: diary entries, typography, interview transcripts, instant messenger conversations, briefing notes, emails, casualty lists, personnel photos, classified documents, status reports, surveillance footage summaries, ship maps and diagrams, ASCII art, and disjointed pseudo-poetical A.I. commentary.
On the up side, the visual diversity does wonders to stave off eye and attention fatigue.
What Didn’t Work For Me:
On the down side, the visual diversity sometimes makes for a twitchy flow with jarring transitions.
For this reader, the incredibly modern (i.e. non-futuristic) feeling text speak was grueling to get through. While on the one hand the poor grammar, lack of capitalization/punctuation, and degraded leetspeak makes some degree of sense on the hacker side of authenticity, it also makes for rough reading that—combined with the relative immaturity of the main characters—impeded emotional connectivity. As a result, the dialogue between Ezra and Kady rarely felt natural. (Fortunately, such communications comprise a mercifully small fraction of the book’s total contents.)
Unfortunately, nothing about the second-chance distance romance actually endeared me into caring about what happened to the main characters. Kady (handle name: ByteMe) is staunch enough as a hacker-type character—brimming with scathing sarcasm and emotional constipation. But Ezra came off as dim, crude, and uninteresting. Readers may find more reason to form attachment to his semi-crazy marine friend, Sargent McNulty, than they do toward the intended hero.
Sadly, there are little by way of memorable quotes. And though it’s well-paced, few things outside of the formatting come off as particularly surprising or original. For this reader, the impulse to keep reading was driven by the desire to find out if the evil BeiTech would ever be held accountable for their genocidal act of corporate warfare.
Content Note: While there’s a fair bit of innuendo, there is no actual sex depicted at any point in this book. Coarse language is frequently implied but censored out, for cleverly explained reasons. The degree of horror/graphic violence does seem to be stabbing for shock value, following along the same disquieting lines as Event Horizon.
(i.e. If you’re looking for an experimentally artsy zombie apocalypse in space, you’ve come to the right place.) ...more
A bright and whimsical tale about a boy, a big sister, and a hungry feline of make-believe proportions.
An unnamed boy and his older sister are home alone and left to their own devices in terms of entertaining themselves. The boy wants his sister to read him a book about a tiger, but she is too absorbed in her own book to humor him. The more she turns him down, the more the boy’s imagination runs wild—literally!
Tiger In My Soup is a simple, quick read presented with large text in variable interest-holding arrangements. The sibling relationship is endearingly realistic, with a good deal of hesitation and disinterest on the sister’s side—which is gradually overcome by responsibilities and fondness for her charge. The boy’s fantastical perspective is enhanced by the vibrantly expressive artwork, and flavored with a hint of Indian influence.
At 32 pages in length, the book feels well suited for ages 4-8. ...more
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets the wrong side of Hellboy in this steampunky twist on historical fiction.
I’ll admit that, in this reader’s
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets the wrong side of Hellboy in this steampunky twist on historical fiction.
I’ll admit that, in this reader’s mind, the premise alone started things out on a 5-Star note. Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain—real life friends and historical dynamos of brilliance in their own distinct ways, joining their forces of guile and wit in the name of world peace? Bring it.
This graphic novel starts out strong with a curious setup spanning multiple continents, and a dose of political intrigue. The above-par artwork and addition of aged concept sketches all add an appealing charm and grit to the whole ambiance. Mark Twain may be out of money and out of his element, but he’s not lacking in gumption or the cunning to seize upon an opportunity. And what Nikola Tesla lacks in social skills he more than makes up for in mechanical genius and vigilante justice. And then… things took a sharp turn down Dark Magic crazy lane. The resulting narrative is frequently disjointed, and it can take a moment to reorient from one page turn to the next.
The characterization of both Tesla and Twain felt spot on most of the time (as far as I can discern from personal research) -- from Twain’s cynical pragmatism to Tesla’s regimented personality quirks. I can’t speak to the Baroness Bertha von Suttner as a character, as I hadn’t heard of her until coming across this graphic novel. But I can’t say I cared much for the portrayal of her—as she seemed like more of a token female than a necessary contributor to the team. Not to mention the moments of flagrant objectification, which is vaguely ridiculous considering she would have been 56 years old.
Note: The authors do at least admit in the ‘Our Character’ profile at the beginning that they took “great liberties” with the Baroness’ age and appearance, for which they “should probably apologize.” Yes, yes they should. (While they’re considering that, they might also want to apologize for depicting her as willing to prostitute herself. Just a thought.) I do highly recommend giving the character profiles a solid look before proceeding, as it does something to help separate the plausible from the fantastically convenient.
While somewhat satisfying, the ending carried a lack of resolution that felt like more of a plot lapse than an intentional setup for any continuation. (view spoiler)[ Seriously, what the heck happened to the Yeti!? One can only assume it’s loose in the middle of 1899 Manhattan… which would be interesting, but only if utilized in future installments. (hide spoiler)] In the final analysis, I wished the story could have aspired to more. Because the greatness of Tesla and Twain deserves it—even in fiction.
I think this reader was hoping for a little less preternatural weirdness and a little more this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ1Mz... ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A classic, allegorical work of children’s fiction—one which may be more aimed at a jaded, unimaginative adult audience more so than at children. Over A classic, allegorical work of children’s fiction—one which may be more aimed at a jaded, unimaginative adult audience more so than at children. Over and over it points out the absurdities in many an adult endeavor or priority, whilst weaving a sojourning tale around the “Little Prince” of a tiny planet who has come to Earth in search of friends. It seems blatantly meant to encourage adults to stop and wonder why they don’t stop and wonder.
The softly hued, watery artwork is something of a highlight—breaking up dense chunks of text now and then with curious, dreamy imagery. The style successfully conveyed both scope and emotion, while also reinforcing a charmingly dated feel.
I regret I lack the sentimentality that seems so common to those who read and loved this book as a child. I somehow made it to my mid-20’s before I’d ever heard of it at all. (I like to think that gives me a more objective perception of it, but I also sadly recognize I’ve missed the chance at being impressed with child-like awe as well.) I personally felt the translation from French to English sometimes left the sentence structuring a bit awkward. Granted, I might not have noticed as much if I hadn’t been reading it aloud to my children.
Note: I read this book originally with my 5 and 6 year old, and both seemed more interested in the roman numerals that marked the beginning of each chapter than they did in the story itself. It became a bit like a long literary road trip, in which they were both slumped over, fidgeting and continually asking “Is it over yet?” For this reason (and the word choices) I suspect it would be better suited for 7-8 year old readers—closer to early middle-grade comprehension.
Though it takes the scenic route to get its points across, one can see the enduring wisdom in a handful of quotes that are repeated throughout. One of which being the assertion that “grown ups are so strange.” The other being, of course, the most famous quote I so often encountered before I’d ever heard of the book itself. It rings true because it is a form of a proverb that hold universal appeal:
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ...more
Set in the early 1990’s, this book is strongly reminiscent of The Wonder Years—but lacking the more hopeful undertones and genuine no Almost 2.5 Stars
Set in the early 1990’s, this book is strongly reminiscent of The Wonder Years—but lacking the more hopeful undertones and genuine nostalgia.
The epistolary narrative style carries the unfortunate problem of limited or non-existent setting and physical descriptions, as readers are relegated to the pinhole perspective of the main character and sole POV, Charlie. (If not for the existence of the movie adaptation, this reader would have little to go on by way of imagery.) As Charlie puts his thoughts into letter form, it quickly becomes apparent that he is neurologically atypical. Everything about his characterization screams Asperger’s autism, but as the story takes place a decade before the spectrum became more widely recognized, readers are left to wonder over the actual cause of his social impairments.
Charlie is a generally sympathetic character who sometimes borders on pitiable. He’s a 15-year-old supposedly “gifted” freshman who has great difficulty connecting with people. (I say ‘supposedly’ because his written voice sounds more like a semi-organized 11 or 12-year-old, at about the same maturity level.) Charlie happens to fall into the good graces of a pack of party-crowd hipster seniors, who take him under their tattered and broadminded wings. Each of them is a questionably functional mess in their own way, and they are happy to draw the painfully naive Charlie into their version of reality.
Ultimately this isn't just an "issues" book, it is the kitchen sink of issues books.
I can't recall seeing so many traumas, negative coping mechanisms, and destructive behavioral patterns crammed (somewhat casually) into one plotline. Suicide, rape, domestic abuse, child molestation, depression, abortion, bullying, vehicular death, crippling anxiety, substance abuse, repressed memories, psychological breaks, anonymous gay sex, and ...*drumroll* … incest. >.> I’m pretty sure all it lacked was a terminal ailment.
The problem isn’t so much the content itself as the handling. That is to say, none of these issues end up feeling satisfactorily addressed or explored to any meaningful extent.
As far as the writing itself goes, the characterization falls a bit flat—especially in the adults. (Although one could argue this is in part due to Charlie’s perceptions, as he’s something of an unreliable narrator.) The pacing is sedate, the dialogue is unmemorable, and there isn’t much by way of an evident goal/endgame to build anticipation.
Two vaguely redeeming qualities include the fact that Charlie is actually receiving some psychological help… And toward the end, he is finally called out for simply being present to watch one of his “friends” self-destruct while passively failing to intervene in any way. But on the whole, it’s a sizable time investment that yields too little substance for this reader to be able to recommend it in good conscience. ...more
This book is essentially a 40 page illustrated biography, suitable for children ages 6 and up. Offering a bit of childhood background to help set the stage, it brings to life the true story of how the estranged daughter of a famous (and infamous) poet became a mathematical visionary—not to mention one of the founding influences to modern computer programming. The obvious female-empowerment potential aside, the story also contains an inspiring emphasis on persevering in the midst of physical disability.
With no orienting date given for Ada’s birth, parents may feel the need to expand on parts of this book with a bit of independent research. The transitions toward the beginning are somewhat choppy, but successfully convey the passion Ada felt for the idea of a flying machine just before her debilitating bout with measles. But the childhood background isn’t accompanied by her specific age during various events. The first mention of her age occurs halfway through when, at 17, she is introduced to the inventor Charles Babbage. Her collaboration with him is certainly the highlight of the story—relaying not only a friendship built on a mutual understanding of the numerical, but the fact that their significant generational gap made her thoughts no less respectable to him.
The book mentions that Charles Babbage never finished building his “Analytical Engine,” and so Ada never got to see her program run. Unfortunately it isn’t explained why Babbage didn’t finish, and the way it wraps up so quickly after divulging this may feel a bit unsatisfying to some readers.
I would advise reading the Author’s note at the end. Though the text there is dense and unfortunately doesn’t offer any imagery, it does better round out Ada’s life and offers more sense for when and how her contributions were eventually recognized post-humorously. Also there it mentions that Lovelace had to use a pen name to hide her gender, as was common in those times. All things I wish could have made it into the book itself.
The artwork is nothing short of stunning. April Chu illustrates Ada’s life and experiences with warm use of color and exquisitely high detail. She manages to capture both a feel for the era, and a lively range of human emotion.
“I am never really satisfied that I understand anything, because, understand it as well as I may, my comprehension can only be an infinitesimal fraction of all I want to understand.” – Ada Lovelace ...more
An enchantingly quirky jaunt of a story—ideal for fans of Roald Dahl or Lemony Snicket.
The Doldrums is a tale about a lonely, overprotected eleven-year-old boy named Archer B. Helmsley. Though he is the grandson of two famous explorers and lives in their fantastical house of curiosities (alongside exotic examples of taxidermy), he is in serious want of both friendship and adventure.
"Did Ralph and Rachel march to the beat of a different drum? Perhaps. You could even say they ditched the marching and the drums and danced a jig to a xylophone instead."
It’s been two years since Ralph and Rachel Helmsley went missing in an unfortunate iceberg incident. Though Archer knows little about his grandparents and hasn’t seen them since he was a baby, his interest is piqued when trunks containing some of their belongings arrive on his doorstep. He convinces himself that his grandparents aren’t dead, and begins planning his own expedition to Antarctica in the far-fetched hope of retrieving them. But he knows he can’t do it alone.
Friendship is a strong and pervasive theme running throughout this book. It isn’t until Archer joins forces with Oliver—his somewhat cowardly but well-meaning neighbor, and Adelaide—his new French classmate with a wooden leg and a wild story about how she got it, that the story really picks up steam. Adelaide outshines Oliver with quiet prominence, thanks to several chapters dedicated solely to her unique backstory. Her confident poise and improvisational skills lend a cohesive balance to the dynamic between the boys, as well as a curious point of tension with Archer as her presence poses a challenge to the hazy nuisance of fast-approaching puberty.
On the whole, the prose has the feel of a classic. Eloquently written and languidly paced, The Doldrums does require a bit of patience to finally deliver on the promise of adventure and intrigue. (Even then, it’s more misadventure than not.) But the descriptions, combined with emotional depth, cunning humor, and competent dialogue, makes for a charming literary experience.
"And who said anything about dying? I don't plan on dying."
"Nobody plans on dying," said Oliver.
"I nearly died," said Adelaide.
"That's why you're not afraid," Oliver replied. "I've only had far-death experiences and I prefer to keep it that way."
On the downside, nearly all of the adults in this book felt disappointingly one-dimensional—either flatly horrible, or so passive and appeasing they enable the horrible ones with their negligence. The exception, of course, being Archer’s grandparents. (Although, they end up being more mythos than characters in this particular installment.) In a way, this book felt like a lengthy prologue—an intricately detailed preamble to Archer and his cohorts, along with the idea of “The Society,” which seems sure to come into play in later books.
I feel the need to add: the illustrations in this book are FANTASTIC. A few elaborate black-and-white snippets here and there to break up heavier chapters, and regularly interspersed with full-page color artwork that offers warm sienna leanings—which fittingly invokes a vaguely 1950’s air. The quality of the imagery is both a compliment and an irrefutable enhancement to Gannon’s writing. The fact he is both author AND illustrator is exceedingly impressive, epitomizing the phrase “labor of love”.
This is definitely a budding middle-grade series (and author) worth keeping an eye on! ...more
The adventures of a boy and his pet raccoon, set to the backdrop of rural Wisconsin. Having grown up in rural Minnesota, I foundSweet and memorable.
The adventures of a boy and his pet raccoon, set to the backdrop of rural Wisconsin. Having grown up in rural Minnesota, I found the entire thing both relatable and enthralling. So much so, I was ecstatic when my father one day brought home a chicken-cage full of orphaned baby raccoons. Perhaps having over-idealized the entire concept, I very deliberately tamed one of them and named it Rascal.
I think it's safe to say the story left an impact on my developing mind. ...more
“It is exhausting being me. Pretending to be normal is draining and requires amazing amounts of energy and Xanax.”
Indisputably entertain 3.5 Stars
“It is exhausting being me. Pretending to be normal is draining and requires amazing amounts of energy and Xanax.”
Indisputably entertaining, despite feeling pretty direct blog-to-book in structure.
Told as a semi-chronological collection of unlikely-yet-believable stories, this book is chock full of irreverent absurdities and breezy, tangential sarcasm. (Not recommended for skittish animal lovers, those with an aversion to profanity, nor the generally faint of heart.)
I say “unlikely-yet-believable” because I found that an unsettling amount of Jenny’s childhood mirrored my own. Growing up on iffy well-water? Check. Bow-hunting dad who regularly brought home wild animals to butcher in-house? Check. Raising a litter of baby raccoons because Dad killed the mom before realizing she had babies? Check. ... >.> I found myself vaguely hopeful she’d admit to her family having made casual consumptive work out of fresh roadkill, but alas, I may actually have her beat in one or two
The whole “my childhood was weirder and more traumatizing than your childhood” contest air did become a touch tedious at certain intervals. While the delightfully morbid humor carries well throughout, also impedes things a bit on the soul-bearing memoir side. When we get to the point of multiple miscarriages and a (hopefully brief but unspecified) slide into suicidal depression, the author acknowledges that there’s simply no feasible way of making any of said content funny. But rather than opening up, her vulnerability feels fleeting—rushed along as an unfortunate bump in the road with little exploration. Here we really had a chance to get to know the author, and it was glossed over.
Note: Lawson does have poignant acknowledging and encouraging words for those struggling with depression. For that, I appreciate and applaud her.
I was glad the version I read contained an extra portion at the end—one which actually raised the star rating in my personal estimation, because it showed Jenny in a cheeky-yet-compassionate light that was so appealingly humanizing, I wished it had been included closer to the beginning. (As it involved her first job at a snow cone stand, it probably would have better fit in an early chapter.)
“...I just want to clarify that I don't mean 'without my vagina' like I didn't have it with me at the time. I just mean that I wasn't, you know...displaying it while I was at Starbucks. That's probably understood, but I thought I should clarify, since it's the first chapter and you don't know that much about me. So just to clarify, I always have my vagina with me. It's like my American Express card. (In that I don't leave home without it. Not that I use it to buy stuff with.” ...more
A refreshing and diverse collection of poetic verse—pleasingly varied in length, structure, linguistic roots, country origins, religious influence, an A refreshing and diverse collection of poetic verse—pleasingly varied in length, structure, linguistic roots, country origins, religious influence, and author obscurity.
This reader tends to view poetry as a meditative exercise as well as a sort of literary palette cleanser. To that end, this book was largely effective. I felt it expanded my exposure, and reaffirmed my impression that certain forms agree with me. (i.e. the cadence of many ancient Chinese poems, the impactful word choices of Walt Whitman (whom the collector seems to favor) the pragmatism of May Swenson, and the acumen of Emily Dickenson.)
The details of whom, when, and in what language, aids in the orienting of each piece. But occasionally Milosz’s additional commentary—which is given prior to each and every poem—seemed to overwhelm the work itself, and perhaps delve too deeply into the realm of supposition.
Topical categories include: Epiphany, Nature, The Secret Of A Thing, Travel, Places, The Moment, Woman’s Skin, Situations, Nonattachment, and History. This reader’s personal favorite of all sections would be Nonattachment. It also contains my favorite poem in the entire anthology:
CONTRABAND, by Denise Levertov (circa 1923)
’The tree of knowledge was the tree of reason. That's why the taste of it drove us from Eden. That fruit was meant to be dried and milled to a fine powder for use a pinch at a time, a condiment. God had probably planned to tell us later about this new pleasure. We stuffed our mouths full of it, gorged on but and if and how and again but, knowing no better. It's toxic in large quantities; fumes swirled in our heads and around us to form a dense cloud that hardened to steel, a wall between us and God, Who was Paradise. Not that God is unreasonable – but reason in such excess was tyranny and locked us into its own limits, a polished cell reflecting our own faces. God lives on the other side of that mirror, but through the slit where the barrier doesn't quite touch ground, manages still to squeeze in – as filtered light, splinters of fire, a strain of music heard then lost, then heard again.’
The shortest piece I came across was called ‘I CAN’T HELP YOU’—translated from Polish and dense with profundity.
“Poor moth, I can’t help you, I can only turn out the light.” ...more
Considering it was written in the late 1800’s, this book truly is a marvel of imaginative speculation. It’s little wonder why H. G. Wells i 3.5 Stars
Considering it was written in the late 1800’s, this book truly is a marvel of imaginative speculation. It’s little wonder why H. G. Wells is considered one of the fathers of science fiction.
The story centers on an alien invasion of England, and is told almost entirely from the first-person perspective of an unnamed protagonist—an academic fellow who lives with his wife south of London. During a particular alignment of the Sun, Earth, and Mars, a “falling star” is reported to have made impact in an area of sand pits, and a mysterious celestial cylinder is found by the locals. The narrator witnesses the opening of the non-terrestrial object, and the subsequent massacre of many of the people who’d come to observe and/or attempt to communicate with the “men from Mars.” We are looking back at the narrator’s eye-witness experience, and so have the benefit of knowing that he, at least, is among the survivors of what is to come. We have no such assurances about any other character mentioned or encountered during the narrator’s frantic survivalist journey.
"Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon group of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to greater gravitational energy of the earth--above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes--were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous."
Initially I wasn’t sure I would care for this book as much as I did The Time Machine (the premise of which I loved, but hated the ending.) It did take a while to pick up steam. Granted, the initial tone was more curious than ominous—highlighting the naivete of humanity. But once we hit the 3/4ths mark, the telling drives compellingly to its conclusion.
At one point the author takes what feels like a bit of a needless rabbit trail to recount the flight of the narrator’s brother from a besieged London—presumably for the purpose of going into more detail about the “black dust” used by the Martians to wipe out large portions of the population. I’m afraid the effect caused more of a lag than he intended, but not so much that readers ought to lose interest.
While the effort toward scientific plausibility goes deeper than I’d expected—both in terms of the alien tech and anatomy—it never crosses the line into the pretentious or incomprehensible. The intense sociological and psychological introspection is not only realistic, but well worth pondering. There’s no banding together of humanity to triumph against a common foe… no massively satisfying explosions that would appease the expectations of current pop culture. It’s even clarified that the conflict was never truly a “war” at all, given the stupendous superiority of the invaders. And there’s some meaningful attempt at ecological and social commentary thinly veiled therein:
“We must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its own inferior races. The Tasmanians . . . were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?”
The ending is, on the whole, anticlimactic. But personally, I found the way it concluded to be cautionary, comfortably complete, and meekly hopeful in a way that fiction rarely strives for in modern literature.
"But he was one of those weak creatures, void of pride, timorous, anemic, hateful souls, full of shifty cunning, who face neither God nor man, who face not even themselves." ...more
There once was a boy named Tim—whose fantastical imagination kept getting him in trouble. Whenever unfortunate things happen, Tim defers blame to an amusing cast of mischievous and unlikely characters. But his family isn’t buying the stories he weaves…
Readers expecting a modern retelling of The Boy Who Cried Wolf may be a touch perplexed by the route the author takes. The ultimate takeaway lesson seems to be more about refraining from bad behavior in general, rather than telling the truth least no one believe you when you truly need them to. But while I as a parent might have preferred a clearer-cut moral to the story, my 6-year-old son ADORED this book from the first read--not only asking for nightly re-reading, but imitating the simplistic art style in his drawing time.
The artwork is whimsical and effective—the cover offering an accurate sampling of what’s to come. The wording is rarely dense, with only one or two sentences per page on average. And there’s an abundance of onomatopoeia that will likely appeal to a wide range of children in this target age audience (3-7).
The book is 32 pages—a relatively thin paperback with a matte and gloss cover finish that may not stand up well to children under the age of 5. ...more
Disclaimer: This book does not technically contain characters of a Young Adult age (unless one counts the relative maturity state of a certain artificial intelligence.) The hope was that there could be some crossover appeal, but that is for the individual reader to decide.
While this is indeed a sci-fi, it’s a specific type of speculative fiction. The book is best described as a “locked in spaceship” mystery. The cast of characters is small—the entire story isolated to a single (albeit massive) ship and centered around its skeleton crew of 3 plus a captured fugitive and an inquisitor. Our main 3rd-person POV characters are the ship’s engineer/programmer, Althea, the inquisitor, Ida Stays, and with great eventuality, a certain ship’s A.I. program. There is the understanding that humanity has established colonies all over the solar system, but the concept tends more toward the abstract.
What I Liked:
The book offers an incredibly accurate depiction of sociopathy, via one of the main point-of-view characters. The thirst for power and control, the focused drive to ‘win’, and the absence of key emotional capacities all ring eerily true from a psychological standpoint. The inhumanity of the trait adds significantly more weight to the antagonist. It also compliments the government she serves—one that can so callously refer to vengeful mass murder as “depopulation.”
The extensive interrogation scenes provided an interesting mode for revealing the mysterious Ivan’s backstory. While there is ever-present suspicion over the accuracy of his tales, his storytelling-under-duress is one of the stronger highlights of the plot. As is the ambiguity over who’s side he may be on. Is he a mercurial rogue out for himself and nothing more, or does he have strategic sympathies with an anti-government movement?
What Didn’t Work For Me:
There is an unfortunate excess of people and things with ‘A’ names for readers to keep track of. There’s Ananke, the super secret experimental ship on which the entire story takes place… Althea, the ship’s engineer/programmer and one of our main POV characters… Annwn, the name of the invading mercenary ship… Annie, the name of the Annwn’s spastic A.I. program… and Aletheia, the truth-serum the evil Orwellian central government for some reason hesitates to utilize (in spite of the fact that they have little problem justifying the genocide of entire planetoids as a means of maintaining absolute control over the solar system’s populace.)
Throughout nearly all of this story, Althea comes across as a disappointingly weak character—almost constantly depicted as shaking, frustrated, trembling, crying, or fleeing. This reader may have started out with my hopes for her set too high, but this was almost entirely due to the expectation set up by the ‘Dear Reader’ note (located at the front of the ARC version of this book.) In it, we are told we will watch Althea “transform from a bright but introverted girl into the true heroine of the story, from Firefly’s Kaylee Frye to Alien’s Ripley.” In actuality, Althea doesn’t resemble either of those characters in the slightest at any point in the story—unless the qualifications for this claim don’t extend beyond gender, base job function, and being on a spaceship.
It would have helped tremendously if we would have been shown Althea at some point succeeding and thriving in her element. Instead we find her in a pattern of bafflement and failure from the onset, with no evidence of her alleged competency presented or even suggested until well after page 200—when the Ananke’s captain, Domition, mentions that Althea has been working on the ship’s computer for the last decade. Up until then, this reader had the impression that the ship was recently commissioned. (And perhaps it was, the computer being a separate element not added until a later date. As far as I could tell, this wasn’t ever clarified.)
Sympathizing with Althea and her plight is impeded in several ways, not the least of which was a perplexing lack of backstory. We learn that she is from the Luna colony, but unfortunately, little else ever comes to light. No subtle sprinklings of upbringing, family history, hobbies, formative relationships or traumas that may help explain her motivations, awkwardness, and social ineptitude. Althea had great potential to be a sympathetic character—possibly the only sympathetic character. But that potential wasn’t quite realized. Her maternal attachment to her ship’s computer system was a compelling component, to be sure, but one that would have greatly benefited from more in-depth justification.
The prose itself showed a lot of potential, a distinct voice and an ambitious scope of imagining. But on the whole, the story itself felt a bit imbalanced—overwritten in some places and underwritten in others. Passive voice and repetition showed up enough to sometimes encumber momentum and pacing. (Example: “Down the hall she walked, down the winding hall, toward the white room.”)
I would recommend this story more for readers who enjoy psychological-based mystery. ...more
The Doctor and Martha find themselves trapped in a museum filled with artifacts from his past nine incarnations, and a mysterious someone who is clear The Doctor and Martha find themselves trapped in a museum filled with artifacts from his past nine incarnations, and a mysterious someone who is clearly trying to kill off his current body. Flushing out his foe proves particularly challenging, as The Doctor experiences a terrible bout of memory loss. His only hope is that Martha might be able to use the artifacts to jog his recollection.
This graphic novel serves as a sort of recap episode to end all recap episodes. Readers are taken back through a singular escapade from each successive version of The Doctor in “chronological order.” (Haha! Okay, so that sounds rightly ridiculous given the wibbly-wobbliness of his jaunts across his own timelines… so let’s just say it’s in the order of the incarnations as known to the fans.) As a bonus, the rotation includes glimpses of many of his past companions.
The art style is above adequate in conveying the wide array of scenes, facial expressions, and time periods. Color is played with in a pleasingly atmosphere-setting manner for each memory/flashback, seeming set to fit both the situation and the Doctor himself (himselves? Never mind). There was a bit of inconsistency at times, however. There were a few instances where #10’s face resembled a pug dog… and at about the halfway point, Martha is almost unrecognizable for several pages. But overall I have to give kudos to the illustrators for handling the variables and managing to capture so many iconic faces.
The tenth Doctor is my personal favorite, so I may be a touch bias.
It was good to see his personality shine through with distinction. For fans like me who are less familiar with the Doctors prior to the millennial reboot, this book also serves as a bit of an Cliff’s Notes education on his previous incarnations and companions. ...more
I was slightly less fond of this graphic adaptation than I was of The Telltale Heart. It may be a simple matter of the greenish cast in the artwork an I was slightly less fond of this graphic adaptation than I was of The Telltale Heart. It may be a simple matter of the greenish cast in the artwork and the story itself holding less appeal. But on the whole, there was less tension and more confusion, culminating in an inexplicable end that new readers are unlikely to see coming.
The book has the added benefit of asking questions at the end that directly relate to the chosen artistic depictions. I could see this graphic novel as a strong tactical resource in breaking down Poe's work for teenagers. ...more
An interesting visualization of the classic short story. The heavy use of cool coloration (blues to blacks) establishes an eerie and sufficiently chil An interesting visualization of the classic short story. The heavy use of cool coloration (blues to blacks) establishes an eerie and sufficiently chilling atmosphere for conveying madness--and a conscience that refuses to go quietly into the night.
The use of an isolating beam of light over the main character at certain points left the distinct feel of an interrogation, though no one but the highly unreliable narrator is conducting any sort of examination. The book has the added benefit of asking questions at the end that directly relate to the chosen artistic depictions.
I could see this graphic novel as a strong tactical resource in breaking down Poe's work for teenagers. ...more
With this collection as an introduction to Tennessee Williams, it was interesting for this reader to discover that, while I generally find his writing With this collection as an introduction to Tennessee Williams, it was interesting for this reader to discover that, while I generally find his writing style likeable, I connected remarkably well with his lilting poetry.
The included short story, The Yellow Bird, was perhaps my least favorite of this assortment. I didn't find the point of it readily discernible. ...more
Charming in execution, rhythmic in wording, and valuable in its many potential lessons. This may be Carle's best children's book.
A ladybug with an ove Charming in execution, rhythmic in wording, and valuable in its many potential lessons. This may be Carle's best children's book.
A ladybug with an over-sized ego (and an attitude problem to match) faces off against increasingly larger opponents. His threats are met calmly by a colorful array of animals, each with their own unique traits and obvious advantages over the mouthy little aggressor. Each creature is politely but firmly prepared to stand up for itself against this pint-sized bully.
In the end the grouchy ladybug wastes an entire day looking for someone to fight, and comes full circle in a state of humility.
Interwoven with the plot and its understated-yet-teachable repetitions is the idea of time. A tiny clock appears in the corner of nearly every page, displaying the passage of each hour up until the climax, when the concept is broken down into 15 minute segments.
The hard board book is durable, beautifully illustrated in a vivid pastel/watercolor style, and more dense with words and interactive segments than most comparable works. All in all, this is one kids ages 3-7 will wear out, and parents have a longer shot at enduring.
“Time is the longest distance between two places.”
A short, highly psychological play—one that explores mental health issues and emotional abuse duri“Time is the longest distance between two places.”
A short, highly psychological play—one that explores mental health issues and emotional abuse during a time when such things were poorly understood and rarely discussed.
The story is something of a passive tragedy narrated by Tom, a disillusioned would-be poet trapped in a dead-end job and tied down by the dependency of his controlling mother and shy, disabled sister. Tom longs to travel the world like his father; who long ago abandoned his family and left him with his mother’s narcissistic expectations. His mother, Amanda, is overly invested in both of her children, whom she’s handicapped in various ways with her nitpicking, manipulation, and verbal abuse. His sister, Laura, is a weak and daydreamy creature, broken under the stress of her mother’s demands and her own low self-esteem.
This was my first real introduction to Tennessee Williams, and I found his strong and silvery writing voice agreed with me. More so than this particular play and its desperate, dismal subject matter—so open-endedly concluded with inconclusiveness.
I look forward to exploring more of William’s works.
Favorite quote: “Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” ...more
In the same vein as Killustrated (which I didn't care much for), minus the kitschy literary theme and (mercifully) with a touch more humo 2 1/2 Stars
In the same vein as Killustrated (which I didn't care much for), minus the kitschy literary theme and (mercifully) with a touch more humor. Still not as much perverse whimsy or wisecracking as I prefer from my Deadpool reading. I suspect this just may be Bunn's particular envisioning at work.
For this reader, the abundant body count got tedious after a while. Every Deadpool across the multiverse being systematically un-alived by...well...other Deadpools. The serpent eats it's own tail.
It was great to see (Wanda) Lady Deadpool, though she wasn't featured nearly enough. And the ending was just kind of... there. ...more