In this graphic novel memoir, Alison Bechdel explores her relationship with her father, who later admitted to being homosexual; his suicide; her child...moreIn this graphic novel memoir, Alison Bechdel explores her relationship with her father, who later admitted to being homosexual; his suicide; her childhood; and her early years after coming out as a lesbian.
I really kind of hate reviewing these kinds of books. They're so intensely personal. Who am I to judge the work of someone who has effectively bled his or her heart out on the page? Any negative comments feel like personal attacks when I write them. So here's the best I can do.
Let me first get what I didn't care for out of the way. The tone of the book is so very earnest and introspective and intellectual, ultimately drawing parallels between Joyce's Ulysses and her relationship with her father. Holy smokes. I only think that way in lit class. It's appropriate and relevant, I get that. It's just not my way of dealing with crap and so I don't really relate to it.
At the same time, I admire Bechdel for her bravery in putting her story out there. I'm sure it's a form of therapy for her, getting what she feels out on paper and working it out for herself. But it also help others who may be going through something similar.
I liked the artwork a lot. The stark black and whites matched the somber tone of the book perfectly. Some of them will be too graphic for some readers though.
I think that the summary alone will tell you whether this is a book for you or not. If you're interested, I do recommend it. (less)
Young Mickey hears a noise deep in the night and finds himself falling into the Night Kitchen, where he has to help the cooks get the milk into the ba...moreYoung Mickey hears a noise deep in the night and finds himself falling into the Night Kitchen, where he has to help the cooks get the milk into the batter.
What a fun little book! I never read much Sendak when I was little for some reason, so this was completely new to me. The illustrations were tons of fun, of course. The kitchen is set against a "skyline" of boxes of cake mix, tall salt shakers, and an elevated bread train. They're perfectly whimsical for this book. I imagine children would love the story of little Mickey saving the day. I know I did! How much fun is it to imagine that only you can accomplish something important while the world, including your parents, is sleeping? It should also be a great book to read aloud. It's short and to the point and rhymes just enough to roll off the tongue.
I highly recommend this one to parents with young children as a fun little bedtime story. (less)
Will Robie is a sanctioned assassin for the US government. Needless to say, if he screws up he's officially on his own. He gets an odd assignment amid...moreWill Robie is a sanctioned assassin for the US government. Needless to say, if he screws up he's officially on his own. He gets an odd assignment amidst the cartel bosses and terrorists that are his usual hits. He's assigned to take out a woman who works for the Department of Defense. The official story is, she's got terrorist ties. He walks into her apartment and realizes something isn't right. He freezes and re-evaluates as her child wakes up and starts to panic, just in time for a second sniper to kill both him and his mom. Robie goes underground to find out what's going on. He climbs on a bus and watches a teen girl board as well. Shortly behind her is a man who looks like a professional. Robie watches as the man prepares to kill the girl, ready to act if he needs to. It turns out, she's capable of taking care of herself but now she's on the run with Robie.
I wanted something pretty exciting and fun to listen to and I have to say this did fit the bill. It took me by surprise when the sound effects started though. I can't recall having sound effects in many other audio books and I'm not sure if I like them. Mostly they just yank me out of the story as I look around, wondering where the gunshots are coming from. (I live kind of in the country in the South. It's not unusual for neighbors to indulge in some target practice.) I liked David McLarty's narration quite a bit. He has a gruff kind of voice that I thought suited the story perfectly. I also liked that Orlagh Cassidy read the female dialog but I occasionally felt too much like she was actually reading to me. I know, it's an audiobook and she is reading to me but I don't want it to sound that way. Mostly I enjoyed her narration too though.
While the book itself was exciting and I never did figure out exactly what was going on until the end, I saw too much of it coming from way too far away. There were a couple of times where I caught myself thinking, "Heaven help us if this is the best and brightest our country has to offer" and rolling my eyes. I might not have put all the pieces together but I did at least know what the pieces were. I'm pretty sure the whole thing was supposed to be a big surprise.
I don't know that I'll be running out to read or listen to more books by this author but if the mood strikes for another thriller-ish read, I'd give him another try, either in print or audio.(less)
Linda, an overweight girl in fifth grade, gives a report about whales one day. Someone passes around a note that "Blubber is a good name for her" and...moreLinda, an overweight girl in fifth grade, gives a report about whales one day. Someone passes around a note that "Blubber is a good name for her" and Linda has a new nickname. The other kids start to tease and harass her and just generally make her life miserable. Our narrator, Jill, watches all this and even takes part in it.
Holy cow, what mean little kids these are! This was hard to read, even as an adult. Or maybe it's because I'm an adult and unconsciously prefer to look back at childhood with rose-colored glasses. We definitely had a pecking order in our class and the kids at the bottom of it were picked on but I don't remember it being this bad! The sad thing is that it all feels real though. I tended to keep to myself so there could have been mean girls cornering other girls in the bathroom and stripping them off and making fun of them mercilessly for all I know. And even if my class wasn't that mean, just the act of avoiding someone or always choosing him or her last for teams was damaging enough. There may be degrees but bullying is still bullying.
The beauty of the book is that the reader first has enough distance to see how cruelly the other kids treat Linda and then, when the tables are turned, learn how it feels to be tormented. It definitely teaches a lesson about how destructive bullying is without being too preachy.
I don't know if there are better books about bullying out there but this one has become a classic. Children should have to read it or something like it so that they can learn how hurtful their actions can be. And if a child is being picked on, it lets them know that he or she is not alone.(less)
Anytime kids gather together in the dark, scary stories are inevitably told. Alvin Schwartz gathered a good selection of the most popular and publishe...moreAnytime kids gather together in the dark, scary stories are inevitably told. Alvin Schwartz gathered a good selection of the most popular and published them in this anthology.
I kind of think this scared me when I was little but I don't actually remember ever checking it out from the library. My theory is that I knew it would scare me so I steered clear. I do remember all my little classmates rushing to check out the one copy we had in our school library though.
Reading this now, the stories aren't particularly scary. The author chose to divide the book into sections, with the first being "Jump" stories, where the teller gets to the climax and gives out a blood-curdling scream to scare the wits out of the listeners. I can see that they would be scary in person but on the page they were actually a little silly. The others were a little more fulfilling if you're looking for a frightening read. There are sections about ghosts and urban legends and even a few songs. (How's this for a coincidence? I read "The Hearse Song" here, "The worms crawl in, The worms crawl out, The worms play pinochle on your snout" and then came across it again in my very next read, Blubber.) It was interesting to me as an older reader to recognize basic elements here that I've come across in other books that were published later. I can't help but wonder if the later books got the idea from this one or if they are all just referencing the same old folktales and legends.
The illustrations by Stephen Gammell are downright creepy and perfect for the book.
Young readers who like a good fright should find what they're looking for in this collection.(less)
Our young British protagonist and his Norwegian grandmother know something that we don't: Witches are real and they live among us. They look like swee...moreOur young British protagonist and his Norwegian grandmother know something that we don't: Witches are real and they live among us. They look like sweet neighbor ladies but they're keeping a lot of secrets. Chief among them? They want to wipe out the children of the world.
When Grandmamma and Grandson (do we ever learn his name?) go on vacation to the coast of England, they stumble on the annual witches' meeting, led by The Grand High Witch herself. The witches have a plan to eliminate all the children of England at once! That won't happen if Grandmamma and Grandson have anything to say about it.
Confession: I remember starting to watch this movie when I was little and spending the night at my grandmother's house but it scared me to death. We had to turn it off. I told my husband this and he asked, "How old were you?" I looked up the release date of The Witches. It came out when I was 12. 12! And I was probably 13 by the time it came out on video or on tv or however I happened to catch it! What can I say? I was sheltered. And Anjelica Huston intimidates me to this day. I can just imagine facing her as a tween, on a screen or not. *shudder*
Now that I'm firmly in my 30s, I'm brave enough to read the source. It was so much fun! It was (obviously) scary and suspenseful enough to satisfy most children but it had an element of silliness and impossibility that captures the imagination. There's really no such thing as a bald witch with claws, no toes, blue spit, and a removable face. But what if there were? *shiver*
I enjoyed Grandson's bravery and Grandmamma's willingness to let him take risks for his own well-being and that of others. How often do adults trust children with things like that? Probably not often enough if you're looking through the eyes of a child. I also liked that Grandson turns what could be a disability into a strength. He never lets anything hold him back. In fact, he embraces the changes that come his way.
I absolutely loved the introduction, "A Note About Witches." "In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES." And in a suitably alarming tone, the facts about witches are laid out.
I loved the illustrations by Quentin Blake as well. They were silly but scary enough to match the story.
There's a group of sheltered kids, like me, who this won't be appropriate for. But if you and/or your child like a fun little fright, give this one a try. I'm glad I finally gave the book a chance. Now maybe I'll be brave enough to try the movie again for Halloween...(less)
Chronicling the lives of Japanese brides coming to America, Buddha in the Attic is deceptively slim. Almost every sentence begins a new story that is...moreChronicling the lives of Japanese brides coming to America, Buddha in the Attic is deceptively slim. Almost every sentence begins a new story that is only hinted at, yet I saw at least the broad strokes of an entire life in just those few words. There is no main character and the book is told collectively. (NOT a direct quote) "We came from Japan. We left our remote farms. We left our lives in Tokyo. We left our fishing villages. We cried as we left our families. We left happily, vowing to never look back." Listening to this on audio, the style bothered me a bit at first. It's so freaking repetitive! I do not do well with anything repetitive. Once I did settle into the narrative, I saw the beauty of it. In about four hours, I was a part of the lives of what felt like hundreds of Japanese women, each with her own story.
The book starts with the young women on the boat, uncertain of their futures and their husbands. They've never even met the men they're traveling halfway around the world to marry. Then there's early married life, children, life as an immigrant, and, in the early years of WWII, life as a "traitor." It was sometimes heart-breaking but always thought-provoking.
Samantha Quan narrates beautifully. I've not been a big fan of Carrington MacDuffie's straightforward narration in the past but it worked very well for her small part in this book.
I might have rated this higher in print, despite the excellent narration, simply because I could have skimmed over the seemingly endless, "We came from"s and "We gave birth in"s. In whatever format you choose, this is an excellent little book and I do recommend it.(less)
Ceony Twill has put herself through magic school in only a year when most people take two. She's a smart girl and she's hoping that her magic will be...moreCeony Twill has put herself through magic school in only a year when most people take two. She's a smart girl and she's hoping that her magic will be based on metal. She wants to design weapons and machines and things that matter. Instead, she gets paper. Boring old, get-it-wet-and-it-falls-apart paper. She's crushed. She hopes there's been a mistake. But the powers-that-be say that a balance must be kept so they assign a certain number of students to paper because, let's face it, no one is volunteering for it. Ceony resignedly sets out for her apprenticeship with Magician Emery Thane.
Once she gets there, she settles in well enough. Thane is a kind teacher and a talented magician. So when his ex-wife shows up and literally steals the beating heart from his chest, Ceony decides she has to save him. She sets out with her few learned paper magic skills to face the ex-wife, an Excisioner whose magic is based on manipulating flesh.
This sounded promising but it also sounded like it could go very wrong. One of my friends loaned it to me, saying, "You'll love it, I promise." For two people who are confirmed bibliophiles, our tastes don't overlap very much so I was still a tad worried. I should have had more faith. I enjoyed this immensely.
I was a little unsure of Ceony at first. She seemed to think that she was just too good to be a paper magician. But honestly, I would feel the same way. What can you do with paper? Fold it into an airplane and hope to poke someone in the eye? It turns out there's much more to humble paper than I thought. Once Ceony settled in and set out on her quest, she slowly grew on me and I was firmly in her corner by the end.
I liked Emery from the start. He has a paper skeleton as a butler. He gives Ceony an unimaginably thoughtful gift after her first day as his apprentice. There are glimmers of a sense of humor. As Ceony literally navigates the chambers of his heart in her effort to save him, we are shown his good moments, his bad moments, his strong moments, and his weak moments. He really comes to life on the page. And I really, really liked him.
The plot is pretty tightly focused on Ceony and Emery, but the glimpses I caught of this larger world were fascinating. I've shelved the book as steampunk even though I can't point to any specific steampunk elements. It just had that feeling.
I'll definitely read further books in the series. If you enjoy fantasy or steampunk at all, give this one a try.(less)