Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: The Book Jumper

The Book Jumper The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alexis had Amy when she was a teenager and immediately left home to make her own way and told Amy very little about her past. So when they arrive at Alexis’ family home, Amy is very surprised to learn how wealthy her family is. If this sounds a bit like Gilmore Girls, well it does, but with fewer quips and a lot less coffee. The names Alexis and Amy also seem to be a nod to the TV show (Alexis Bledel played Rory Gilmore and Amy Sherman-Pallidino created Gilmore Girls.) So the premise is: What if Rory had the ability to jump into books and interact with the characters. Alexis and Amy are of the Lennox family who shares the Scottish island of Stormsay with the Macalister clan. There is quite a lot of tension between the two clans, but they both take their ability to enter the book world very seriously, for it is their job to protect it. So when Sherlock Homes goes missing for The Hound of the Baskervilles and the Alice fails to meet the White Rabbit, Amy and the other book jumpers Betsy and Will know that something has truly gone wrong in the book world.

I love the concept of the story. As an avid reader, I would relish the opportunity to visit the worlds I read about. Who wouldn’t want to spend a day auditing classes at Hogwarts, or taking in the sights of the Emerald City with Dorothy? I wasn’t too happy with how the ending played out in this book, but on the whole it was fun and excited my imagination.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Omar Khayyám
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Omar Khayyám was a twelfth-century scientist and poet in Persia. This slim volume contains seventy-five quatrains (rubáiyát) each accompanied by an illustration by Sullivan. The text was translated by Fitzgerald in the late nineteenth century. The central theme of the poetry presented her seems to be drink and be merry, but especially drink. Khayyám is very fond of the daughter of the vine, as he calls it. Some of the poems also reveal a personal philosophy that no one knows why we are here on this earth and we never will learn, so live for today because yesterday has passed and tomorrow never really comes. I enjoyed the poetry, though it was sometimes difficult to understand. (That probably owes to the date of the translation and to my own unfamiliarity with poetry in general.) Each drawing coincides with a quatrain of the poem. The artwork is truly wonderful, line and ink drawings with expressive faces and lithe bodies. I quite liked this book and would like to read another edition, with a more modern translation.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review: Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first in series starring the titular Maisie Dobbs as a detective in mid-late 1920s London. World War I is still fresh on everyone's minds and plays a large role in the narrative, both in a chunky flash-back section and in the ongoing effect that war has on those involved. Maisie's first case involves following a young married woman to see if she's been unfaithful. What Maisie learns about the young woman leads her to look into what happened to certain men after the war and how they coped with disfiguring injuries.

Books which are the first in the series always have so much work to do in terms of world-building ad character introduction. This book is no exception. The flash-back section to Maisie's experiences during the war took up so much space as to almost make the reader forget that the main mystery was not terribly elaborate. She had it nearly solved in the first quarter of the book, then there was the flashback, then the final quarter of the book to finish the investigation and wrap things up. This isn't to say that the flash-back isn't necessary--It is, in order to establish Maisie's background in her particular brand of detective work and how she fared during the war. Maisie is an interesting character, as are many of the supporting characters. I enjoyed the book and would like to read more in the series.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: The Fuse, Vol. 1: The Russia Shift

The Fuse, Vol. 1: The Russia Shift The Fuse, Vol. 1: The Russia Shift by Antony Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This graphic novel is set on an earth-orbiting satellite and starts off with the murder of a homeless person (called a “cabler” because the homeless tend to live in among the cables and pipes of the station). Dietrich, a newly arrived cop from Earth meets his partner on the so-called Russia Shift and they investigate the murder which quickly turns into more than one murder and involves some serious political intrigue.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book. While Klem and Dietrich are at odds (as cops in mystery stories so often are) at times, they work well together. Dietrich mostly accepts what Klem says about what to do and how things work, but he also does some research on his own. He’s working to understand his new environment and through him, the audience learns about it too. This story doesn’t go into great detail when it comes to world-building, focusing mainly on the mystery instead, but that’s not to suggest that there is no world-building whatever. It’s just subtle. As far as the mystery goes, I didn’t have the guilty party pegged so the story definitely kept me on my toes. The artwork is also pretty great, with unique character design and backgrounds. This is where much of the world-building is done actually, like the level where the rich folks live is full of such detail on the housing and how it’s made to look like a sunny day on Earth. There’s definitely more story to tell and so far there are four volumes, so I have some catching up to do.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: All Our Wrong Todays

All Our Wrong Todays All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tom Barren is not from the future. He is from another 2016: A 2016 where everyone has flying cars, people take day-trips to the Moon, and teleportation is commonplace. However, that 2016 doesn't exist anymore and it's all his fault. Now we're stuck with this 2016 and he doesn't know how to fix it. Look, I love a good time travel story and this one is terrific. I love that he's not actually from the future, just a better present. I love that there's a couple of points in the story when I begin to wonder if Tom really did travel back in time or if he is experiencing a psychotic break and just imagined it. The fun is in finding out. This book is funny and irreverent and really great sci-fi and I can't wait to get everyone else to read it so we can talk about it together.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Review: Jerusalem

Jerusalem Jerusalem by Alan Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moore is more commonly known as a writer of graphic novels such as V for Vendetta and Watchmen. This novel is almost 1500 pages long, which makes it a bit of commitment to read. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Jerusalem is one of the top 20 longest books ever written. The entire story takes place in the UK town of Northampton, specifically the neighborhood called The Boroughs. This is Moore’s hometown, and as such, he fills it with a lot of local color. One could argue that The Boroughs is the true protagonist of the novel, since all other characters wander in and out of the story sporadically over the course of centuries, though most of the story takes place in the 20th Century, so our characters meet and interact now and then. The book is divided into three parts, the first introduces pretty much all of the characters via slice of life chapters. These vignettes show us their lives in their particular time and place in The Boroughs. Some of the characters are mad and some are ghosts. Some are wistful in their reminisces and others are just trying to get by. There is a focus on how things change throughout the neighborhood, yet through their myriad stories we see how much has remained the same, such as street names and Doddridge Church with its curious door halfway up on side of the building. (Many characters wonder at this, but none offer an answer.) The second section, Mansoul, is a little more linear, detailing the events Michael Warren experiences when he was dead. (As a 3 year old, he choked on a cough drop, and was revived at hospital a few minutes later. It was a very long few minutes.) Here he meets a group of ghost children who call themselves the Dead Dead Gang. Like little grubby Virgils, they give Michael a tour of the afterlife. It’s important that he see all that he can because as an adult he will suffer a head injury that will cause him to remember bits of this excursion through Mansoul and he’ll relate it to his artist sister Alma who will create a huge exhibition based on his visions. In the final section of the book, we return to the slice of life model only they seem to all connect to the exhibition, mostly taking place the day before the show.

I feel like I’ll never fully understand the book even if I read it a dozen times. It’s so epic in scope and proportion and contains so much information that it’s a bit overwhelming. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. There were characters absolutely loved, like Freddy Allen and Black Charley. I enjoyed how Moore played with language, writing one chapter in verse and another in play format. It held my interest, certainly, though I took several breaks to read other things (gotta keep up with the book club, after all). I fully understand if the length of the book is a deterrent, but I still think it’s a good read. If you’re a fan of Alan Moore, this is worth checking out. If you’re interested in Northampton history, give it a shot.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Review: Love Is Love: a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting

Love Is Love: a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting Love Is Love: a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting by Marc Andreyko
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After the shooting at Pulse, an LGBTQIA night club in Orlando, comics creators came together to create this anthology that responds to the attack and celebrates love in its various forms. Each creative team got a page (or occasionally two) for their comic. Some chose to use the space for a more traditional comic layout, others opted for a full-page print. The shooting was in June of 2016 and I didn't have a chance to read this book until just now in March 2017, three months after its publication. As a result, the event that sparked the book was no longer in the forefront of my mind (soooooo much has happened in the world since then), so the comics that were a direct response to the attack didn't have the emotional impact for me that they would have had I read them closer to June. That's on me, of course (and perhaps the world in general for being so crazy these last several months). The comics I liked best were personal stories, not the ones featuring superheroes. Batman musing while walking through the crime scene felt weird to me, rather than reverent. On the other hand, the comics that featured canonically queer characters like Poison Ivy and Batwoman were pretty good. I especially liked an image of Batwoman holding an American flag that is also a LGBTQIA Pride flag, drawn by Rafael Albuquerque. A purchase of this book sends funds directly to survivors and their families via Equality Florida, so it's obviously for a good cause, but more than that it's a testament to the power of comics to make a positive difference in the world.

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