Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chew Volume One: Taster's Choice

Tony Chu is a cibopath, someone who can take a bite of something and determine it's history. An apple will tell him the tree in the orchard it grew from. A piece of bacon will show the horrible living conditions the pig suffered through before it's brutal murder. A bit of human blood can show a person's past crimes. All except for beets for some reason. Tony eats a lot of beets. He also works for the FDA in a special crimes unit. These are his stories.

Taster's Choice is the first 5 comics in the series, just a little taste of what's to come in the series. (See what I did there. Hehe.) Anyway, it was given to my son and he handed it to me with a "read this mom, it's really weird and cool." He was right. I like the artwork, it's unique and perfect for the weird nature of the story. The events of Tony's life are completely random and sometimes completely out there. But hey, that means you never know what is going to happen next.

For those looking for something completely new, this is your thing. If you are looking for a tame comic to introduce your kid to the world of graphic reading. No! This is not it. This guy gets readings from food. So that dog corpse vacuum dried in the evidence room for a week, yup, he's going to take a chunk out of it. And then he is going to cuss up a storm about having to do it. Of course as a bad parent that let's her nine year old watch The Walking Dead, I have approved it for Jareth's reading list. But if you don't want to see the blood, violence, foul language, and one very suggestive water-color vision, don't pick this one up. If you don't mind all that, give this one a try. It's actually kinda funny, a lot weird, and a little promising. I'll be getting the next one soon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sleeping In Eden

There are two stories to tell here. Dr. Lucas Hudson is a small town doctor trying hard to hold onto a failing marriage. And he definitely regrets answering the phone when his friend Alex called, because he did not like the thought of acting as coroner with the body of the town's most reclusive alcoholic hanging from the rafters. But it's too late to change the past and things are about to get far too complicated for Lucas to pull back now.

Meg Painter is a young girl just trying to figure life out, which seems like the usual fair for any fourteen year old. And wouldn't things just be more fun if she was being tossed between the ups and downs of first love, first heartbreak, best friends, and boyfriends, all with two boys in the mix? No. No, it wouldn't be fun. But Meg has been given these circumstances and she is trying to untangle it all.

Slowly these two stories unfold and grow closer together in this wonderfully woven tale by Nicola Baart. At first I hated the alternating chapters, bouncing from one character's story to the next. As soon as I would feel invested in one plot line, she would throw me into the other. But as the stories got closer to intersecting, I found that I was deeply invested in both, needing to know how they came to meet, how things could possibly be resolved, how things had happened. Due to the nature of the story, I was kinda expecting the ending, just a little. I didn't know the finer points, and I was unprepared for the heartbreak that would accompany the details. I tweeted the author when I finished: "Thanks @NicoleLynnBaart for ripping my heart to pieces and stitching it back together with a fine thread. SLEEPING IN EDEN was wonderful." And that is the best way I can say how the ending affected me.

I really recommend this book. To the lovers of mystery, twists and turns, love, and heartbreak, and Hope. This is a great read by a talented author. I look forward to reading more of her work!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Whale Rider

Apparently I have decided to read all the books on my available to be read shelf that were made into movies. I had seen this movie back when it came out and thought it was good, so when I saw this in a used book store, of course I was interested. Well, that was years ago, and the shine has faded. I don't know what I was expecting when I picked up the book, maybe I was looking for something quick to read and decided that I needed to finally read it!

It is an interesting story, told by a man Rawiri about his niece Kahu. From the time she was born and her mother asked that the afterbirth be placed on the island the girl's father was from, insuring that Kahu would one day return there. Sure enough, every summer the little girl goes back, learning more about the culture she was born from. Although the poor girl is loved by a lot of people, the one she wants to please and be closest to the most, her great-grandfather, has no use for her as she is a girl. Rawiri watches as Kahu grows into an amazing child, and at the tender age of seven, she becomes something grand to her people, showing them a way back to their culture.

It was an interesting story, really. Although it was mildly distracting that so many of the words were in a native tongue so that I had a little trouble muddling my way through some of the bits. Despite that one flaw, I found the book to be entertaining. Give it a chance, it's not long of a read, and you might be surprised by the story.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Forever Odd

I don't know why I thought that the solution to sinking into a depression after the news of David Bowie and Alan Rickman would be starting a book in which the main character is dealing with the overwhelming loss of someone so close to him, but I am sure glad I stuck through to the end of the novel.

Forever Odd begins not long after the events of the first book. Odd is dealing with the loss of Stormy when all too soon someone else close to him is thrown into the storm that often accompanies his supernatural gifts. This time, it's his best friend Danny and he is already in the thick of trouble as Odd uses his gift to find and help his friend.

I don't know what it was about this book that made me like the series more than the first although I think I have it narrowed down to two points. 1) I didn't have a movie to spoil anything in this book. I was all new and I was along for the ride without being shown every detail before starting. OR 2) Due to his grief, Odd is a bit more serious in this book. He still has a wit and sense of humor that nad me randomly shouting out a laugh amidst the tension, but there was just a little more worry, a little more directness to his thoughts. He was trying to hold onto his levity but couldn't help the more frequent lapses into stern territory.

I think the book helped a little too for me to deal with the grief I had under estimated due to the loss of two men I had looked up to and loved from a distance. As Odd pushed his way through his own sorrow to help his friend, I rode along and took from his determination my own sort of strength. I still feel a little heavy and am looking forward to soon getting the next book to further distract me, but I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. Once more books have kept me moving, given me a safe place to distract my soul, and this time I have Dean Koontz to thank.

So, be looking for my review of the next book in this series, because it will no doubt be coming soon!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Odd Thomas

Jan. - Books turned into movies.

Odd Thomas is a man who can see dead people. Because of this strange ability he feels compelled to do something about it all. So when a man comes across his path surrounded by bodachs, invisible creatures akin to evil spirits in Odd's opinion, the young man is determined to do something about it. What follows is a complex mystery steeped in the supernatural. The story is told from Odd's point of view, and I found his narrative voice to be great. I think Koontz did a great job of giving Odd a personality unlike any other. Although I have to say that I sometimes with he would take a conversation seriously instead of answering everything with a quip. In fact I can only recall a handful of times in the whole novel when he gave serious answers to situations. I love a quick wit as much as the next person, but sometimes I just need some seriousness.

This is my first Koontz novel, and let me say, I am definitely going to be coming back for more of his work after this entertaining review.

That all being said, I have already seen the movie, that was after all what drew me to buy the book. I am, however, rereading it now that I have reread the book. There are plenty of differences from book to movie. The more I take a closer look at adaptations I am coming to better understand reasons for cutting things out, changing details, tweaking scenes. So I get the reason Odd's mother was cut out of the movie, placed in a mental institute when he was younger rather than having her be someone he turned to in a rather lengthy, disturbing, unnecessary scene. Despite these minor differences, I think the movie does a good job of doing justice to the book.

So I will probably pick up the second in this series, since I happened to buy it with the first, and read it very soon. Suddenly I feel bad about not picking up any of Koontz's work sooner.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Memoirs of a Geisha

Jan. - Books turned into movies.

Nine year old Chiyo and her older sister are taken from their home and sold to an Okiya in the Gion district of Tokyo while their mother is ill and their father realizes he can't take care of them. Well, Chiyo is sold to the house, her sister is taken across town to become a mere prostitute. Because whatever you may have heard, geisha are not simply prostitutes, although Chiyo (later known as Sayori) does confide that sometimes that is part of the job. No, geisha are entertainers. Trained from a young age in music, dance, tea ceremonies, and lavished in beautiful kimonos and face paints, these women are hired by men to brighten up a party, serve drinks, offer amusement, lend to the conversations. They are escorts in the classiest sense of the term. But that doesn't mean they have great lives.

As Sayori struggles through hardships, she tells her story as honestly as possible. Through loosing her sister and parents, trying to run away, nearly ruining her chances at becoming anything more than a made, discovered that she needed to be a geisha more than anything, and pushing her way through the process of becoming a successful geisha, all in a time of war, Sayori tells it all.

So, while I enjoyed this book, it took some getting into. While Chiyo/Sayori has plenty of things happen to her, most of it is rather boring before she becomes a geisha. It's a real Cinderella story, let me say. And there were plenty of times I wish I could just tell the young girl to suck it up. After she finally puts on the robes of a geisha and makes her debut I want to tell her to suck it up and be happy with what she gets. Because she sure gets a  hell of a better deal than a lot of the other girls in the district, but she is always wanting more.  See Sayori has her eye on one man. One perfect prince of a man that she devotes everything in her power to try to get his attention. I get that she likes him, has some sort of savior complex for him because he was nice to her when she was a sad child. But to overlook the kindness of one man who gives everything to make sure she is taken care of and happy, just because he isn't the one she has her eye on. It made me very upset with Sayori through the later half of the book.

I am sorry to say I wasn't thrilled with the book like I wanted to be. And unfortunately I can't tell you if I liked the movie better because I haven't seen it in some years and barely remember it. Hopefully soon I will get a chance to rewatch it and can give a comparison for you, but until then I am just going to say that this one just wasn't my cup of tea. Have you read it? Did you like it? Let me know!


So I finally got a chance to rewatch the movie. There were very few differences between the two, but somehow those subtle differences made the movie a little less grand than the book, I think. They tried so hard to stay true to the story, making the movie into a brutal 2 and 1/2 hour affair, that I almost feel bad for saying it, but I really did like the book so much more.
But that's just my opinion. What do you think?

2016 Reading Plan

A new year, a new challenge for myself in the world of books. 

This year I am rejoining a book club that my sister and mother started a few years back. We have moved it to Goodreads since I am rarely able to join them for discussions. I love being able to talk books with people, especially these two since they are not only fellow avid readers, but they are writers as well. These traits, along with our diverse taste in books, always leads to some very interesting conversations. I am really looking forward to the year ahead!

So there have been some rule changes for the group since I left and they made the group honestly more appealing for me. 1) We each read 2 book that fit the monthly theme. 2) They don't have to be the same book as the other members, although they have been known to lend the book to the other after finishing. 3) They are books they already own. 

With me having a very wide selection of books, including some random ones neither of the other two would think of adding to their own shelves, and having too many that I haven't yet had the chance to read, these new rules were the best thing! 

This all means that this year I plan on reading at least 24 books. A much more manageable number since I tend to set the bar too high and never reach the number. I went ahead and added a few more books to the number making it an even 30. That's only an extra book every two months. I can do that!

So here it goes! A new year and a new list of books to read and review!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Shannara Chronicles

Back in 1977 Terry Brooks published The Sword of Shannara, something he later confessed was a bit of a surprise to him and he was even more astonished when called with the news of just how well the book was doing. Just shy of 20 years ago I picked up one of Brooks' other books, The Black Unicorn, and after reading the series it was a part of, I moved to the Shannara series. My life was changed. It may sound cliche, but that is exactly what had happened. Reading Brooks's work I realized that I wanted to tell stories like him, wanted to be a writer. Some of my first works were based off Brooks' characters that had become so much a part of me. Since then I have collected every book Brooks has written, met the man himself and had him autograph many of my books, and followed any and all news of him. This was why when I saw that they were making a television show based on his prominent fantasy series, I was too excited for words. That silence was broken the closer we got to the release date and I started bugging all my friends with my near constant updates on about the premiere. This morning I thanked them all for being patient enough with me not to yell at each new status post. Because last night was the series premiere on MTV!

So, since I had read all the books and waited so long to see the show, I thought I would give a little word on what I thought of it. It was EPIC!

After all the fear behind MTV being the ones to adapt the show, I was reassured every time Terry Brooks made an update about how happy he was with what had been done with the show. See, Terry has always been protective of his work, going so far as to turn down people that had wanted to adapt it when he saw what they wanted to do with his work. So with each new bit of information, I grew more and more confident that the show would be done right. And last night that was proven correct.

I will say that there were a few differences from the book, things that bothered me for a moment but then I could understand why they made the changes they did. After all, you want to keep some things a little bit of a surprise, a moment to catch people that think they know everything about what is going on off guard. Gotta keep them on their toes. I only had issue with one detail that kept getting mentioned, and I am sure will be brought up more in the future, that had been changed from the books. It would have been a very big, very compromising detail if they had started with the book before Elfstones, but since they started where they did in the story, I can almost see why they made the change. That being said I am sure I will forever cringe every time they mention it. Oh well, it is a small price to pay.

At other times I could only marvel at the amazingness of it all. The actors were wonderfully chosen, the sets were beautifully made, and the costumes were so skillfully put together. There was one scene, in which Allanon makes his appearance int the court of the Elven King Eventine, and every little detail of the scene was just so perfect. A shiver ran down my spine, I literally squealed, and I will probably rewatch the scene a dozen times between this week and next.

Have I made my point about this being a great success? I'll say just once more in case you missed it. This show took an already incredible series and made it great again for all of us. I truly hope that as I witnessed my son getting so excited over it, wowing at each new scene, and asking for a chance to read the books with me when I revisit the series, others out there that have not had a chance to read the books will discover the world I so cherish.

So thank you, MTV and Jon Favreau for bringing this incredible series to life for all of us. Thank you Terry for imagining such a world and inviting us all to join you there. And thank you to anyone else who gives the show a chance, falls in love with it all over again, and hopefully makes it possible for the series to continue on in the future. I have always believed the Shannara series was meant for great things, and I think I am being proved right.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Jim Henson

A nonfiction book.

This book was a gift to me from my mother for Christmas. She gave me a wry smile and said, it has a chapter about him making Labyrinth, as if that was the only part of the book I would read, but she knew the truth. I would pick it up and discover this guy who had brought so much joy and creativity to the world, and I would love him a little more. Throughout my life I have caught glimpses of Jim Henson, but as more of a 3rd generation geek than a normal kid, I never really watched his work with Sesame Street. It wasn't until I was introduced to Labyrinth that I discovered the amazing talent that was Jim Henson. After having my son, aptly named after the goblin king himself, Jareth, I began to see a little more of Henson's work. Labyrinth remains my all time favorite with my 9 year old son having seen it about 20 times and owning his own copy since he kept having to borrow mine, and my husband will always prefer The Dark Crystal to nearly any other film from his childhood, but we are gaining a new respect for Henson's other works. A part of this I have to thank this book for, since I tried to find each work of his as I read about Henson's work on them. With reading this book, therefore, I have come to see both sides of the man behind the widely known Muppets, and it was a very interesting trip to see.

Brian Jay Jones does an excellent job of capturing the quiet, creative, loving nature of Henson. Through interviews with the family, numerous friends, and a great many co-workers, he shows the reader the Jim Henson as everyone had come to know him. And with how little time along Henson seemed to have, the view is nearly all encompassing. What little gaps were left, were filled in with notes from Henson's personal journals. Many times I found myself laughing, smiling, and nodding my head as if I had known Henson personally and could attest to how "Jim" that one thing was. Countless times I found myself rushing from my seat to go tell someone else in the house this amazing little tidbit about Jim, his antics, his process, his life. I was constantly fascinated by him. And Jones does a great job of pulling the reader into the Henson's life, making sure you get just as excited about this amazing man as I am sure Jones is.

My only complaint throughout the whole book (just shy of 500 pages or it would have knocked that one off the list) was the long-winded family descriptions at the beginning. For a while i was afraid that everyone Henson met would be given a complete family history going back a few generations. Turned out those genealogy reports were reserved for Jim and Jane. After they had been given and Jones began to delve into Henson's personal history, things picked up and I grew increasingly fascinated with the story unfolding.

Outside of that, I think everyone should give this book a try. Jim Henson was a fascinating man with such a wonderful personality crammed into his tall, lanky frame. He is someone everyone should get to know a little better. Then come back here and tell me what your favorite thing about Henson is. I love his creative vision. As a writer that sees worlds in my mind, I can relate to him in that aspect, and the products of his creativity fascinate and leave me in awe.