Friday, October 14, 2011
I really enjoy this series. It's rooted in old folklore and mythology, reasonably scary and well-written. I've been a fan since the first book, The Spook's Apprentice. If you have older elementary kids who are looking for a scary series, you might recommend this. The vocabulary is challenging but it's an engaging series.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Heather is taking over the QuickWitLitniks and I've got to warn you...she rules with an iron fist and y'all better get to reading and logging your books cause we FAILED miserably in September.
Total books read: 55 (gasp)
Total pages read: 15,206 (teeth gnashing)
Total participants: 8 (hair pulling)
The winners in all three categories (books, pages & participation) were identical:
1. Jenny 19-4262-21
2. Heather 14-4226-14
3. Aleah 8-2586-13
It has been a pleasure reading with all of you! But seriously, watch out, Heather scares me a little.
I really liked this graphic novel (and I'm not a big reader of graphic novels) about a young girl of Russian heritage who feels sort of alienated from both her family and the other students at her private school. Then she falls into a hole and meets a ghost named Emily, who befriends her....or does she? You'll find out if you read Anya's Ghost.
Monday, October 10, 2011
At the end of the 19th century, a very special circus travels around the world. This show is special, not only because it is open only when the sun is down but also because it is sustained by real magic. In fact, the Night Circus is the stadium for a fierce competition between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who must use their powers of illusion to out-do each other. Their fates were sealed by their guardians when they were children, and they don't even understand all of the implications of the contest. When Celia and Marco fall in love, they realize that the forces driving them apart might be more than they can handle.
I loved this book for two primary reasons: the atmosphere it creates and the fascinating characters. Morgenstern's writing has a way of making it seems like you're at the circus yourself, and it feels incredibly full of magic. The sense of wonder it created for me felt like a grown-up version of Harry Potter. The characters, like real people, are complicated and I like that it took me a while to figure them out. I can't decided whether or not I like the crazy back-and-forth chronology. On one hand, it made the book a bit difficult to follow. I often found myself flipping back through the pages to remind myself when a particular part of the story was taking place, and that was annoying. On the other hand, it was interesting to try to put the story together as I went along and I liked the way that the timeline came together near the end. Bottom line: I think this is going to be a really big hit, especially for book clubs. "The Night Circus" creates a really cool world and also gives readers a lot to think about. Side note: Summit Entertainment has already bought the rights for a Night Circus film, and I can hardly wait to see the story come to life on the screen.
I enjoy reading "food" books and this one was interesting for a number of reasons. Grant Achatz is a James Beard Award winning chef who shared a lot of "inside the kitchen" information along with a compelling story of his life, including his battle with squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue. Imagine a chef who can't taste anything. Now imagine that all the doctors you saw said that to save your life, they'd have to cut out your tongue and a large portion of your jaw and neck and if you ever wanted to talk again, they'd have to make a tongue out of skin from your leg. Achatz just about gave up then one doctor said, "Wait, we can try chemo and radiation to shrink the tumor." I'll let you find out if it worked. If you are a "foodie" you will enjoy this book. Even if you aren't, it's a good story about having a dream and following it to fruition.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Fujimoto admits to himself that his faith in the National Welfare system has been shaken, though he's willing to be reconciled to it, given the chance. But as internal affairs inspectors begin to "observe" department staff on the job and conduct "thought exams" in the wake of the Kubo incident, he finds it harder and harder to accept the system as it is and keep his niggling doubts under wraps. As he dutifully delivers two more ikigami, the pressure from the exacting inspector mounts and puts Fujimoto's already frayed nerves to the test.
This time around, one of the unfortunate recipients is a talented photographer torn between the time-consuming art of analogue and the business-friendly convenience of digital photography. The other is a gifted dancer who loses site of his dreams under the weight of parental expectations. Both young men struggle in the gap between generations, only finding the right balance when fate gives them no other choice but to act or be idle.
Once again, I've sniffled my way through one of these. I don't want Fujimoto to get in trouble, but I don't know how else he (or the status quo) is going to change. As much as he'd like to believe in the system, I don't see him able to be the National Welfare cheerleader the scary inspector wants. Happily, he's finally as aware of this as the reader. The series so far has pretty much kept to a structure of two ikigami deliveries and a glimpse of Fujimoto's stubborn but subtly shifting mindset. It works, but the deeper in we get, the more I'd like to see the bigger picture, as well. I can only hope that the sudden scrutiny on the department is a reaction to increased instability in the system, but as we're usually (but not always) limited to the Chosen's and Fujimoto's perspectives, it's hard to know what's going on elsewhere in the government or in the hearts and minds of the people.
Rin, Manji, and the Mugai-Ryû keep vigil over the roads out of Edo in order to spot Anotsu before he leaves the area. But since only Rin's ever met the man, and he may be in...disguise...picking him out of the crowd won't be easy. As she watches out for their target, Rin also observes her mysterious new comrades and mulls over her feelings regarding their sudden alliance.
I suspected as much last volume, but I now officially hate Shira. Hate, hate, hate him. He's not some cold, untouchable machine, but conscienceless, cruel, and terrifying in the most horribly human way. Everything he does or says is filled with unchecked malice. More than just a misogynist, Shira's a sadistic misanthrope, and I don't think his jaded world view lets him truly enjoy anything, however much he may cackle over his own sick jokes (disturbing precisely because he's not joking) and the misery he so readily inflicts on others. His motley Mugai-Ryû colleagues are just doing their jobs--some of them are funny, some cool, some both--and, as with the Ittô-Ryû, I find myself having a hard time deciding whom to root for when the conflicts come down to individual human beings. Everybody's got their own motives, their own pain, their own ideals and uncertainties, and I feel a little for all of them, even if I don't think what they're doing is right. But I spare no such thought for Shira. He just needs to die. *swears she's a pacifist* :)
Until he's dealt with, I'll be fantasizing about Manji, Rin, and Magatsu (my favorite unhateable Ittô-Ryû) putting aside their differences and taking Shira out permanently. Clearly, Samura's got me wrapped around his skilled, Eisner Award-winning finger, since I've bought into these characters enough to be afraid for them (or afraid of them, as the case may be). However much I may worry about what happens next, I still want to know....
When Zita's curiosity about a mysterious gadget with a red button gets her friend Joseph sucked into another world, she only frets a few moments before she bravely dives in after him.
Sweet and funny and even a little moving, Zita's rescue mission is filled with danger, interesting characters, fun dialogue, and a handful of unpredictable twists. The odd assortment of characters (humans, aliens, robots, giant mice, pipe cleaners [hairy, Henson-esque beings that live in the pipes and compulsively pop out to do repairs whenever they hear a leak--hee!]) with individual personalities is particularly refreshing. There are a few issues of panel continuity (e.g., she's got the gadget in her hand, then she doesn't, then she does again), but kids aren't likely to be too bothered by them when there's so much other fun stuff to latch onto.
Young Emily, a newly awakened stonekeeper, has come to the fabled city of Cielis to seek the help of the powerful Guardian Council in her fight against the evil Elf King. But as she's shuffled around, separated from her friends and family, and forced to compete against other stonekeepers just to get an audience with the Council, she begins to fear that helping her is the farthest thing from their minds.
Amulet may be a little dark for a children's comic, but it's still cool. There are houses on mechanical legs, flying ships, loyal robot companions, family bonds, enemies who become friends, kiddos with courage, and lots of magic. The more realistic approach--people die, betrayal happens, relationships are inherently complex--just means the story appeals to grown-ups as much as it does to older / mature kids. Kibuishi's art is clear and colorful, and while his characters may be a little on the cartoonish side, his fantastical backgrounds are especially detailed and lovely, making for an interesting, not unappealing contrast. I've grown to like this series quite well, though I do think it would be a more satisfying read published as one complete story instead of installments, given the way the plot generally runs from one volume to the next. This one, in particular, ends on a bit of a somber (though hopeful) note, so I'll just have to think of it as a series of chapters rather than discreet books and wait as patiently as I can for the next one.
Incidentally, Warner Brothers has a film adaptation in the works, so it'll be fun to see how it compares to the original.
Subaru has gone missing as the other Seals try to keep it together and keep one another alive.
Both sides in this conflict are learning (or will be learning soon) to better appreciate the bonds (some stronger, some weaker, than expected) that unite them. Yay for Sorata and Arashi's mutual understanding, but I worry that now they'll be prime targets for tragedy. And I don't know what's going to happen to poor, untethered Subaru....