Saturday, April 14, 2012

Parasol Protectorate: Book the Fifth: Timeless

by Gail Carriger, 386 pages

Persons of significance express suspicious interest in the infant inconvenience and send Alexia and crew off to Egypt.

In this final volume of the paranormal-steampunk series, secrets and lies are exposed, bathing is vehemently opposed, and the unnatural world order changes with the times, though fought--somewhat literally--tooth-and-nail. I'm sad it's done! But I'm happy to hear she may be working on a companion book / series featuring the infant inconvenience's exploits. Woot!

Bakuman: Volume 6: Recklessness and Guts

by Tsugumi Ohba (story) and Takeshi Obata (art), 171 pages

Just before an important deadline, Mashiro collapses! How will the change in circumstances effect the future of the series, just when it is taking off?!

You get so caught up in the woo-hoo of success (just like the boys) that unexpected setbacks throw you about as much as they do the characters. As they argue back and forth, you can't decide who's argument holds the most water: Mashiro should rest! no, he should work! Who's right? I'm so glad I'm not in a position to have to be one of those decision-makers. This world may be idealized for the sake of narrative, but it's realistic enough that the boys go from moment to moment, having to deal with the issues at-hand and never able to sit on their laurels and relax for long.

Sweet Tooth: volume 3: Animal Armies

by Jeff Lemire, 143 pages

Dr. Singh searches for the truth behind the plague, desperately hopeful that Gus is the key. Meanwhile, Jepperd and the others set out to launch a possibly suicidal rescue mission.


There are some whacked out, unpleasant, and yet momentarily useful (at least until they decide you're not useful) people out there. Everybody's so wounded! Even some of the horrible-seeming characters have sympathetic motives. Some are still just plain bad, though, and you can't help but breathe a sigh of temporary relief when they're out of the picture.

Sweet Tooth: Volume 2: In Captivity

by Jeff Lemire, 140 pages

Gus meets some other kids in the same boat and sees more of the horror the outside world is willing to inflict on its own kind in the name of self-preservation. Meanwhile, we see Jepperd's backstory and learn what was so important about the contents of that duffle bag that he'd sell Gus away for it.

Sympathy, violence, fear, and despising fill these pages. I think I'm going to have to start following each volume of this series with an immediate chaser of sunshine and bunnies.

The Tiger Saga: Book 1: Tiger's Curse

by Colleen Houck, 405 pages

Kels just wants a summer job when she accepts a temp position as an extra pair of hands for a small circus while it's in town. Ticket collection? Check. Cleaning up the bleachers after the show? Sure. Bonding with the troupe's oddly domesticated tiger, flying off to India on a private jet, traipsing Indiana-Jones-style through jungles and temples in search of mystical clues, and falling in love with a 300-plus-year-old prince? Not so much mentioned in the original job description. But Kels is an adaptable 17-year-old and throws herself into her "other duties as assigned" with conviction. What she does worry about, however, is what will happen when her mission is accomplished.

Oh, angsty youth. I wanted to smack Kels for being such a self-defeater in emotional matters when she's so willing to take on angry monkeys, murderous trees, and personal snake-spirits. This series has a nifty premise and offers a wealth of fascinating details regarding Indian culture, history, and religion. It feels a little too hokey-convenient and Indiana-Jones-like now and then, and the language has an odd, staid rhythm to it (mostly Kels's voice, as everyone else has an excuse to sound formal and mature--she's a teen from Oregon, but her dialogue could lose the quotation marks and first person indicators and easily blend in with the narration), but it's still a fun adventure-romance with a mystical heart. Also, I am a sucker for cats, large and small, and Houck knows her kitties. (I once cried from a Siberian tiger's facial expression on a PBS program. Like I said, sucker.) The attractive cover design and physical feel of the book are professional quality, so I didn't realize until partway through the novel that it was originally self-published. Knowing that, I cut the imaginative author some slack about the language, which is very "subject-verb, subject-verb" without as much switching-up of the order (for example, with lead-in prepositional phrases and other clauses) as one would normally expect. I think that's just her style, though, and I got used to it by the end, though I do wish Kels would talk a little more like the native speaker she is and let the natural verbal shortcuts fly. It may not be perfect (I have additional quibbles regarding the "translation" of rhyming texts related to the titular curse), but nevertheless I like these characters (teen angst aside) and the big story well enough to wonder what's next and look forward to the entrance of the big bad in book 2.

Friday, April 13, 2012


by John Marks
385 pages

This is about a news show called The Hour, which appears to be a fictional version of 60 Minutes.  An associate producer, Evangeline Harker, travels to Romania to vet Ian Torgu, an Eastern European crime lord, for a possible interview.  Torgu kidnaps her, and she turns up several months later in a monastery, very different than she was when she left.  In the meantime, strange things start to happen at The Hour.  Strange voices start to appear on digitized videos, and many employees start to act strange.

I wasn't a big fan of this book.  Though some of the ideas in this book are intriguing, like vampirism being spread through words instead of through direct physical contact, I feel like the author attempted to do too much.  He tried to make it too "literary."  I just didn't get it.  I also thought that Evangeline was really stupid in the beginning.  None of this would have happened if she had just used a tiny bit of common sense.

A Bride's Story, Vol. 2

by Kaoru Mori
194 pages

This continues the story of Amir and Karluk as they are settling into their arranged marriage.  Amir's family reappears to steal Amir away and give her to another, more brutal groom.  However, Karluk's family and townspeople fight back and are able to prevent Amir from being taken.  More of the Central Asian culture is shared in this book as Mori describes embroidery and women's dowries.

I'm still intrigued by this series.  I keep waiting for Amir and Karluk to actually become a "married" couple.  I know it's bound to happen one of these days...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Library Wars, Vol. 2

by Kiiro Yumi
192 pages

Volume 2 starts right where Volume 1 leaves off.  Kasahara is the first female member of the elite Library Task Force.  She is still very much a rookie who is struggling to keep her temper in check, learn her job, and keep herself from getting killed.  The action ramps up in this volume as the library experiences an MBC raid, and a patron's right to privacy is questioned.  The romantic tension between Kasahara and Lt. Dojo is also ramping up.

I liked this volume.  There is enough action, drama, and romance to keep my interest.  Aside from that, this volume poses dilemmas that many librarians struggle with.

Library Wars, Vol. 1

by Kiiro Yumi
200 pages

Library Wars is a manga series about censorship.  The national government has declared that censorship is necessary and has created the Media Betterment Committee to sniff out inappropriate materials and remove them from bookstores, schools, etc.  The local governments disagree with the national government and have made laws opposing censorship.  The local governments give libraries the ability to collect and check out all types of materials in order to prevent censorship.  The Library Defense Force is an armed group that has been created to help ensure that the library can carry out its mission.  The main character, Iku Kasahara, is in training to become a member of the Library Defense Force due to an encounter she experienced with a brave DF member who protected a book she wanted from being confiscated by the MBC.  This volume follows her as she goes through training and shows her conflict with Instructor Dojo.

This was a very interesting premise for a manga.  I think Kasahara is a bit dense because it is obvious to the reader early on that Dojo is not as awful as she makes him out to be.  This series does use more of the traditional manga conventions, like different types of type and art to depict emotion, thoughts, etc.  Therefore, it may take some time for a manga beginner, like myself, to fully grasp the content.  However, the plot intrigues me.

"Dead to You" by Lisa McMann

243 pages

We begin this story with what is supposed to be a happy ending. Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was seven. Now he's sixteen, and he's just been reunited with his family: his parents; his brother, Blake, who is two years younger and witnessed the kidnapping all those years ago; and Gracie, the six-year-old sister he's never met. As happy as the reunion is, Ethan is struggling. He can't remember anything about his life before he was taken, so everything feels foreign. He feels like he doesn't fit in and wonders if he's been gone too long to become part of the family again. As time goes on, he becomes more and more troubled by missing memories, from both before and after the abduction. What terrible thing is his mind blocking?

This story has a very interesting premise, but I was disappointed. I wanted more character development. This is such a complicated issue, but I felt like I didn't know any of the characters enough to really get invested in the story like I could have. Also, Ethan's family's reaction seemed totally unrealistic to me in many ways. Ethan returns out of the blue after being gone for almost a decade, missing most of his childhood, leaving his parents thinking that he was dead, and yet the family basically goes about their business as usual immediately after he returns. They go to work and take Gracie to soccer or whatever the very next day and even make Ethan go to school the Monday following his Friday homecoming. It just didn't ring true. Yeah, I know I'm nitpicking, but I reserve the right to complain about whatever bugs me in my reviews :). There's some decent enough suspense leading up to the end, but it's ultimately pretty predictable due to clues throughout the story. It's too bad, because this could have been a really good story.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Quiet Strength" by Tony Dungy

256 pages

In 2007, Tony Dungy became a household name after he became the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl. In a league of angry, hotheaded coaches, Dungy's quiet demeanor stood out almost as much as his skin color. Though he had often been accused of being too soft, in winning the Super Bowl he showed that his calmer approach could get the job done. In this memoir, Dungy shares the story of his rise to the top, including the Christian faith that defines his life, the winning philosophy and strategies he has developed, and the people who helped him make his way.

I've always been a casual fan of Dungy's because to me he seems humble and sincere in his faith (unlike some other NFL stars..*cough* Tebow *cough*). The Dungy presented in Quiet Strength is consistent with my previous impression. I like Dungy even more after learning more about him. He is proud of his accomplishments, but he gives all the credit for them to God, his parents, and his wife. On the other hand, I thought he could be a bit preachy at times--it got kind of repetitive. He talks a lot about following God's will but doesn't offer much in the way of practical ways to do that. However, I will say that humble preachy is about 100 times better than self-righteous preachy, and Dungy comes across as sincerely humble. Also, from a simple biographical standpoint, I was interested in his story and the inner workings of the NFL so I enjoyed the story itself. In sum, I don't think I got as much personal inspiration out of it as I expected to, but I did enjoy reading the book and learning more about Dungy's interesting life.

P.S. I'm mostly joking with the Tebow comment and don't mean to offend any of his fans. I am certainly in no place to judge his sincerity, and I'm sure he's a good Christian. I have nothing against him, but I'm not his biggest fan because something about him rubs me the wrong way...

Monday, April 9, 2012

"The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman

320 pages

Nobody Owens--"Bod" to his friends--is, in many ways, a normal little boy. He's curious, loves to play outside, and sometimes gets in trouble with his parents. On the other hand, he's grown up in a graveyard. When he was a toddler, a mysterious man named Jack murdered his family. Bod was the real target, but he escaped and wandered into a nearby graveyard. A couple of elderly ghosts, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, fell in love with him and took him in as their own, giving him the magical protection of the graveyard. This means Bod is safe within the cemetery's walls, but all bets are off when he leaves. As he grows older, the outside world begins to beckon...

This is the first children's book of Neil Gaiman's that I've read, and it turns out that he's just as awesome writing for kids as adults (no surprise here). He has some special way of creating an atmosphere that's creepy and appealing all at once. Somehow, "The Graveyard Book" gave me both the chills and the warm fuzzies, almost at the same time. Here's a kid who is living in an environment that most children would consider horrifying, and yet for him, it's home. Ghosts are his friends instead of something scary. In fact, it's the outside world that's to be feared. He is loved and he knows it, but because he's alive and everyone around him is dead, he never quite feels like he fits in. Bod loves his family, but he's not sure if he's meant to stay in the graveyard and hide from Jack for his entire life. The world is frightening, but he knows he's got to face it. What we end up with is a story about a boy who's often insecure and lonely, a boy who loves his home but realizes that he's got to go out in the big scary world in order to meet his destiny. Who can't relate to that? Not to mention that it's just a plain old entertaining story!

A Game of Thrones

A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1
by George R.R. Martin
674 pages

This novel is set in a fantasy world where the seasons are messed up.  Seasons last for several years instead of a few months.  Fifteen years ago before this book takes place, a war was fought, and the Targaryen king was slain.  The king's heir was slain, and the king's remaining children were exiled.  One of the victors, Robert Baratheon, took the throne.  However, that did not quite settle things.  Robert Baratheon, though an excellent warrior, is a less than perfect king.  Baratheon's wife is a Lannister, and her family has designs on the throne.  Baratheon's Hand, or chief advisor, has recently died under suspicious circumstances, and King Robert wants Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell to take his place.  Ned dreads this task and does not want to leave his home, but he knows that Robert needs him.  Ned must quickly learn the rules of the "Game of Thrones."

I will stop summarizing here.  This is a huge book, and it is hard to know how much to say.  Let's just say that it's a book full of political intrigue, treachery, honor, duty, and devotion with some magical and horrific elements thrown in for good measure.  This book is written differently than many books.  Each chapter focuses on a different character, with a total of eight (if I counted right) characters being followed through the whole book.  Most of the action is seen through the eyes of members of the Stark family.  Some characters depict what is happening at Winterfell while Ned and others are gone.  One character depicts what is happening north of Winterfell at the Wall, where strange things are brewing.  Some characters, including Ned, help depict what is happening at King's Landing and in the regions south of Winterfell.  The final character is one of the Targaryen exiles outside of the Seven Kingdoms.  Most of the action is intertwined, but it's not yet clear exactly what part the Targaryen exile is going to play in the story.

I definitely enjoyed this novel, though there are a lot of characters and relationships to keep track of.  There are a lot of loose ends at the end of this novel, so don't expect to be satisfied when you are finished with this one.  I'm going to have to read the next book, just to figure out what happens.  (I'm definitely hoping Martin answers some questions about the past as well.  He could definitely write a prequel.)  I'm totally invested in some of these characters, but I know I shouldn't get too attached because "winter is coming."


Mockingjay (Hunger Games #3)
by Suzanne Collins
390 pages

In book three of "The Hunger Games" trilogy, Katniss Everdeen, "The Girl On Fire", has survived the Quarter Quell.  Katniss is now the "Mockingjay" aka the face of the rebellion against the Capitol.  Her main goal (unbeknownst to her superiors) is to kill President Snow.  Having relocated to District 13 (which exists after all) when District 12 was bombed, Katniss is now a soldier hoping to be with the unit that gets sent to the Capitol.  There, she will kill Snow or die trying. 

People weren't kidding when they say that this is the worst book of the three. It just kind of dragged on and on, and there may have been a couple of times when I wanted to punch Katniss in the face.  I get that she's only seventeen so she's supposed to be kind of whiny and "woe is me" like most teenagers, but still. Katniss takes it to the next level. Definitely not my favorite.

Catching Fire

Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2)
by Suzanne Collins
391 pages

"Catching Fire" is the second book in Suzanne Collins's "Hunger Games" trilogy.  In "Catching Fire", Katniss and Peeta are on their Victory Tour through all of the districts, having won "The Hunger Games" in Book 1.  Katniss is trying to convince President Snow that she is, indeed, in love with Peeta, so that Snow doesn't go kill Gale.  She is also trying to suppress the Districts because some have started a rebellion and are using her as their spokesperson.  She fails to do both.  Having a slight hope that President Snow will leave her and Peeta alone after the Victory Tour, Katniss is utterly surprised when it is learned that the participants for the 75th Hunger Games (aka the Quarter Quell) will be drawn from the victors of each district--one boy and one girl. 
Since Katniss is the only girl victor from District 12, she automatically goes back into the games.

The Games almost broke her once. Can she survive them a second time?

Most people thought that "The Hunger Games" is the best book in the series, but I think I actually liked "Catching Fire" better.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
by Mindy Kaling
222 pages

Mindy Kaling is a writer and actress on the critically acclaimed NBC show "The Office".  This is her first book. It's pretty much her just writing about her life growing up, how she got to be where she is in life and her opinion on things.  I loved it.  I was literally LOL'ing towards the end of the book.  This woman knows how to be funny.  Reading it is like going to coffee with your funniest friend and that friend sharing a funny anecdote from her day.

March statistics

Hi everyone,

Thanks for turning in your statistics! Here are the totals for last month:

Jenny: 28
Tysha: 14
Heather: 13

Jenny: 5808
Tysha: 5040
Heather: 4053

Participation points
Tysha: 35
Jenny: 28
Meggan: 16

Books: 115
Pages: 38,298
Participants: 11

Don't forget: since this is the Big Read month, you get extra participation points this month if you read The Maltese Falcon or any book by Ridley Pearson or Bruce Hale. Thanks for sharing your reviews!