I've taken to just picking up Sarah Vowell's latest book and listening to it, without regard for content or review. All I knew about Unfamiliar FishesI've taken to just picking up Sarah Vowell's latest book and listening to it, without regard for content or review. All I knew about Unfamiliar Fishes was that it was about Hawaii's history. It made for an interesting read (actually, I listened to it) and I learned a lot about Hawaii's past and the influence of the missionaries.
Like The Wordy Shipmates, I miss Vowell's ability to mix her own travels and reflections with the history of her subject matter. Yes, there are the occasional mentions of her nephew Owen (I loved his statement that he would marry Hawaii if he could), but they're far too few. Still, if you enjoy Vowell's other books, you'll most likely enjoy this one.
If you'd like to know more about a major turning point in the United States' history, this is an excellent book. I grew up taking Hawaii's statehood for granted. This will give you an entirely different perspective on it....more
Amber Appleton is an unyielding optimist. Even though she, her mom, and her dog - Bobby Big Boy - live on a school bus, and her mom sort of sucks at bAmber Appleton is an unyielding optimist. Even though she, her mom, and her dog - Bobby Big Boy - live on a school bus, and her mom sort of sucks at being a mom, and Amber's starting to feel like the walls are closing in, she still maintains a positive outlook on life. Amber volunteers at a local nursing home, helps teaching English at a nearby Korean church, and fights to keep her favorite teacher from losing his job. But when a fatal tragedy destroys Amber's life, she loses it. She is just a shell of her former self, and it's up to the people she's always cared for to help Amber.
It's almost impossible not to like Amber. As a character, her voice is strong, unique, and realistic. Great attention is paid to the surrounding cast of characters, making everyone - even the jerky jocks - realistic. Quick weaves together a story that involves poetry, religion, disability, and depression, without it ever becoming too overwhelming or preachy. I highly recommend this book!...more
I really enjoyed the first collection of Matt Wagner's Madame Xanadu. This one didn't do it for me though. The story follows Madame Xanadu as she doesI really enjoyed the first collection of Matt Wagner's Madame Xanadu. This one didn't do it for me though. The story follows Madame Xanadu as she does some old-fashioned detective work in 1940, following a series of mysterious deaths and reliving memories of her life in Spain during the Spanish Inquisition.
I thought the plot dragged on, with occasional highlights, such as cameos from Dian Belmont and Wesley Dodds. The storyline following her time in Spain was fairly predictable - no big revelations when Nimue's nature causes problems with the Inquisition! The dialogue is also pretty bad - particularly the scene with the showgirl and Richard Miller.
Most of all, I didn't like the artwork. It felt very messy and busy, particularly compared to Amy Reeder Hadley's gorgeous work in the previous volume. Some of the characters' expressions were hilarious given the context of the scenes. For example, when Nimue's lover has been taken by the Inquisition and a neighbor confronts her with this news, her expression reads as... sleepy.
This mysterious killer releasing his demon dog to kill a man... cross-eyed? Detecting a bad smell?
And good old Tomas de Torquemada... Indiana Jones-style face melt? Look at those teeth, they're horrifying!
With a subpar story, dialogue, and artwork, I'd say this one is skipable. I'm hoping the next collection is better than this one. I like the Madame Xanadu character, but it felt like she didn't have to make much effort here to solve the mystery and defeat the villain... because who doesn't have mummified shards from the brain of a kraken lying around? Seriously. I feel that Wesley Dodd's and Dian Belmont's perspectives would've been much more intriguing than what we get here....more
If you had told me that Creature Tech would combine a man's search for his faith in God, space eels, ghosts, aliens (including an alien Jesus!), demonIf you had told me that Creature Tech would combine a man's search for his faith in God, space eels, ghosts, aliens (including an alien Jesus!), demon cats, giant praying mantis heaven, romance, and a heavy dose of sass, I would've tell you that it's not possible. You just cannot fit that much stuff into one graphic novel and have it make any sense! Well, for the most part, Creature Tech makes sense and is a moving, fun exploration of Dr. Michael Ong's journey through life.
Dr. Ong is the lead researcher/director of Creature Tech, an institute dedicated to cataloging hundreds of crates of alien, paranormal, and just plain weird stuff. Think of the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Creature Tech exists in the tiny town of Turlock (ah, alliteration), a place full of hillbillies, church picnics, and museums devoted to the campy and mysterious. When Creature Tech opens a crate containing the "Shroud of Turlock," a vengeful ghost (are there ever other kinds?) named Jameson uses it to bring himself back from the dead, complete with his demon hand, and sets his plan in motion to resurrect the alien that killed him... a giant space eel! Yeah, see what I mean?
This book seems like it should be shaky. It's covering a fairly wild story mixing sci-fi and horror. To complicate matters even more, Dr. Ong struggles with his father, a pastor, and his own lack of faith. Science has become all-important to him, though what he sees at Creature Tech often defines explanation through science. Ong himself is transformed during the examination of the Shroud, when an alien destroys his heart and attaches itself to him. He and symbiote must work together and this unexpectedly brings up his lost faith.
I felt like this book could've been divided into a few volumes and really taken the time to explore some of the heavier issues TenNapel brings up. The one-liners spouted by Ong and Jameson are funny but lighten the mood too much. The artwork is excellent, particularly anything involving Blue, the praying mantis sidekick. While I don't think this is the greatest graphic novel of all time, it's one I would happily recommend....more
Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown and, in one month, he will be a man. But Prentisstown isn't like other towns. First, there are no women inTodd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown and, in one month, he will be a man. But Prentisstown isn't like other towns. First, there are no women in Prentisstown - they all died years ago, when the aliens called Spackle released a germ that created Noise. And that's the second thing... the Noise. Every one can hear everyone else's thoughts, from the tiniest squirrel to the loudest man. It's an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise that cannot be ignored. There is no quiet, no privacy, and no room for secrets.
Or is there? When Todd and his dog, Manchee, are exploring the swamp one day, they discover a pocket of silence, where there is no Noise. And the source of the quiet is a girl, something that Todd never expected to see. Todd does his best to keep the girl a secret from the rest of Prentisstown. But Todd isn't the only one keeping secrets - the men of the town have been hiding something from him, something about their past and the legacy that belongs to each boy that becomes a man there. Soon Todd finds himself running for his life, trying to escape a past he didn't know existed. But how can you run when those chasing you can hear your every thought?
The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first in the Chaos Walking series. I thought it was a little slow to start with - this is a world that feels recognizable when you see the settler life that Prentisstown is leading, and you think you know where things are going when the rug gets pulled out from under you. Todd knows almost nothing about his town's dark history or the surrounding world, so you are constantly having to revise the way you understand Todd's world. This got to be a little bit overwhelming, which is how it should be for Todd, but wore on me as I was reading.
The concept of Noise, of trying to keep your thoughts private or calm or layering them so that you can keep something to yourself, as really intriguing, and I liked the connection the author made between the way we're bombarded with all kinds of information today. The way Noise is expressed in the book is very powerful, and I would've liked to have seen that appear a bit more throughout. You also got a strong sense of the desperation that Todd and Viola must feel and the hopelessness of their journey, which can be a bit crushing to the reader... particularly when it comes to Chapter 31. I had a good cry at the end of that chapter.
This book does have one of my all-time favorite openings: "The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say. About anything." With such a great opening, it can feel like a bit of a slog to continue those first few chapters. However, this book is worth it!...more
With the help of some famous first lines, Julia tells the story of her best friend Ruth's pregnancy, from the confession that Ruth "did it" at a partyWith the help of some famous first lines, Julia tells the story of her best friend Ruth's pregnancy, from the confession that Ruth "did it" at a party to the summer that Ruth gives birth to a baby girl, all while keeping the pregnancy a secret. Julia is a planner and a researcher, and as a devoted best friend, she does everything she can to help the sometimes volatile Ruth make it through their junior year of high school without anyone, particularly her Bible-thumping parents, know that she's pregnant. It helps that Julia's stepmother is also giving birth during the year, with the assistance of a midwife. As the year quickly goes by, Ruth and Julia begin to change, each adapting new roles that neither girl ever planned.
This is one of those strange novels that has an awesome main character - Julia is well-developed, clever, and funny - and a somewhat mediocre plot. Ruth's pregnancy is treated somewhat lightly, though there are several spots where the author seems to warn readers that it's probably not a good idea to help your teenage friend give birth without the aid of a trained doctor or any sort of medical facility. This point just doesn't ever sink in. The story also deals with post-partum depression, probably an uncommon element in young adult novels. It was nice to see this issue brought up. It was hard to understand why Ruth and Julia were friends, considering Ruth was downright abusive during most of the story. I also lost track of several other plot elements, such as Julia losing a ton of weight, the romance between Julia and Ruth's brother, or the developing relationship between Julia and her stepmother. Parts of the story work very well, but other pieces are just garbled; for example, Julia's mother just doesn't seem to be the same character as she was at the start of the book (I get that Julia gains appreciation for her mother's strength). The characters are also very anti-Christian, which I imagine could turn off a lot of readers. However, the story-telling device of using first-lines is a great one.
I'm curious to see more from this author, because it's a well-written story and can be enjoyable. I'd just like to see it tidied up a bit more. This reminded me a lot of Chris Crutcher's books....more
So I picked this up because I love Sarah Vowell, but I completely forgot to see what the book was about. That's sad. I popped in the first CD and feltSo I picked this up because I love Sarah Vowell, but I completely forgot to see what the book was about. That's sad. I popped in the first CD and felt myself dumped back in my junior year of high school, where my U.S. History class took up the chant of the previous AP U.S. History class... damn the Puritans! We hated learning about Puritans and we made sure that our teacher hated teaching us about the Puritans (poor Mr. Zeiner!). I had fairly low expectations for this book once I realized I would be listening to six CDs of history on the Massachusetts Bay colony. But Sarah Vowell has yet to disappoint. She is passionate about these Puritans, about the citizens and speeches, the diaries, the way of life, all of it. And it rubs off on the reader. I actually found myself wanting to discuss with friends about the way that we misuse the word "puritan." Seriously. Or ithe state in the U.S. that has had the least amount of war in it.
I will say that I really enjoy the way that Vowell goes off on tangents in her other books, and it just doesn't happen as much in this one. She spends a lot of time focused on the Massachusetts Bay colony and less bringing us to the present, making connections that make these people a bit more tangible. I would've liked to see more moments like her family vacation to Puritan tourist traps. Overall, though, this is a great book. If you like her voice (like I do), I'd recommend the audio version. You learn so much and it makes you feel a little more sorry for your history teachers....more
After reading the rest of the series, my opinion of this book has gone up quite a bit. It really sets the stage for the story of Cathan and Beldyn. IfAfter reading the rest of the series, my opinion of this book has gone up quite a bit. It really sets the stage for the story of Cathan and Beldyn. If you've ever read any of the Dragonlance series, you've most likely heard about the Kingpriest and the fiery mountain that was dropped onto Istar as punishment for his demands upon the gods. Well, this is the series that fleshes that out and its probably one of the best crafted of the Dragonlance series.
Chris Pierson incorporates elements of gaming into his stories while also reconciling those elements with the DL folklore (which sometimes varies a great deal from traditional D&D). He also breathes life into characters that have become almost goofy caricatures... Fistandantilus and Beldinas, the Kingpriest. Here we see why Beldinas was so awe-inspiring - and you wonder how it all goes so wrong. We also see that Fistandantilus was cruel, powerful, and calculating wizard... Pierson doesn't shy away from gore that you normally don't find in DL books. But the best character, by far, is Cathan, a young man who throws away his faith when his family is almost completely wiped out by disease and he must resort to life as a bandit. Cathan's role in the story of Istar is much larger than you would ever suspect.
I really enjoyed this series and was actually a little surprised at it. The opening is definitely dry... maybe a little too much description of the opulence of Istar and the fabulous feasts for me. But as things get moving and we see how Beldyn came into power, the story will start to grab you. This was, for me, the weakest of the trilogy, but it was still a good book....more
**spoiler alert** Craig Thompson tells his own story in this graphic novel. As a youth, he grew up with heavily religious parents in a midwestern town**spoiler alert** Craig Thompson tells his own story in this graphic novel. As a youth, he grew up with heavily religious parents in a midwestern town. Thompson is a social outcast, with questions and thoughts that don’t fit in with his classmates or fellow worshippers. As he grows up, he separates himself from his artwork and daydreams, until he meets Raina at church camp. Raina inspires Crutcher in both his artwork and to become an adult. Their relationship blossoms on the page as Thompson embraces his artwork again. Gradually he comes to realize that he must move out of his stifling environment and beyond the constraints of his family’s religion and beliefs. Though the story line with Thompson and his brother takes a backseat to the romance with Raina, it is touching and Thompson ends with it.
Thompson’s graphic novel has a plot that is powerful enough to stand on its own. However, the artwork really brings the story to life. The coming of age story is beautifully told and Thompson’s painful transitions are more evident through the medium. Thompson’s relationship with his brother does fade away for the majority of the story and, though he returns to it at the end, the reader misses the presence. We wonder what happened to change the relationship between the two boys. The depiction of the surrounding characters, from the hairy jocks to the devout teens, says more to the reader about Thompson and his life than he could spend an entire novel explaining. ...more
Jerry Renault is a nobody; he’s a freshman at Trinity High School, his mother is dead, and he barely makes a blip in the world. Trinity is a place wheJerry Renault is a nobody; he’s a freshman at Trinity High School, his mother is dead, and he barely makes a blip in the world. Trinity is a place where guys like Jerry keep out of sight, where guys like the Vigils run the show. So when Jerry refuses to sell chocolates for Trinity, everyone takes notice. Some say that Jerry’s a hero, fighting against the injustices of the school. Others think that Jerry’s refusal may have something to do with Archie and the rest of the Vigils. Whatever the cause, Jerry has finally disturbed the world. And the world won’t let him forget it.
Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War forces readers to ask if they are brave enough to say no and keep saying no. Despite its age, Jerry’s story is incredibly powerful and it stays with the reader long afterwards. Cormier explores issues of violence, individuality, conformity, and bullying. Though the ending is gritty and savage, I did not find the book ultimately depressing; Jerry does disturb the universe and makes a stand. However, the book is very open to interpretation and it is impossible to come away from it without an emotional response....more
Okay, I'm a Neil Gaiman nut, but it took me ages to read American Gods. And I think the book was overhyped to me. It really didn't have the same appeaOkay, I'm a Neil Gaiman nut, but it took me ages to read American Gods. And I think the book was overhyped to me. It really didn't have the same appeal that Sandman did. Maybe part of my problem was listening to the audio version, which did not have great sound quality and the narrator was really awkward. He sounded like he should be reading with a corncob pipe in his mouth, which is fine for characters like Wednesday, Czernobog, and Hinzelmann, but terrible for Laura and makes it sound like your grandfather is reading you a lot of strange sex scenes. Blerg! On top of that, I really didn't care for Shadow or for the in-between stories about how the gods came to inhabit America. The pace was just too slow and ponderous for me. Perhaps that's what comes from reading too many comic books? :P...more