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Friday, September 26, 2008

74. Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland as retold by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Mary Blair



Title: Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland
Author: retold by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Mary Blair
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 64
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 9-25-08

This was an enjoyable find for someone who loves animation and Disney history as much as I do. It is a retelling by Jon Scieszka of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, following the animated film version of the story. What delighted me most about this book is the accompanying illustrations by Mary Blair. Blair's preliminary storyboard sketches are used to illustrate Scieszka's retelling of the story. I love Disney animation, and to be able to see some of these earlier sketches is a real treat for me.

Blair was one of the most important artists of her time with Disney, influencing the look of such films as Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella and Peter Pan, in addition to numerous other projects including some of the theme park attractions at Disneyland (most notably the It's a Small World ride).

The retelling of the story is very simple, and based entirely on the Disney animated film version of the story. It's a simplistic retelling, geared towards kids, but still a fun little read. Accompanied by Blair's illustration, this is a real gem of a little book!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book Trailer - Aberrations by Penelope Przekop

Here is a book trailer for Penelope Przekop's Aberrations. I read this earlier in the summer, and it is probably going to be in my top 10 for the year; it is an excellent book.

73. Owly, Vol 1: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton


Title: Owly, Vol 1: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer
Series: Owly
Author: Andy Runton
Copyright: 2004
Pages: 160
Format: Paperback from library
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 9-22-08

OK, this was just a really quick read, but it was absolutely adorable! Owly lives in the forest where he tries to make friends, but most of the forest animals are scared of him because he is an owl. The first story in this collection, "The Way Home," Owly helps a small worm find his way home after he was separated from his parents and in the second story, "The Bittersweet Summer," Owly befriends 2 hummingbirds.

There is almost no text whatsoever in the story, but Runton does an amazing job conveying the emotions of his characters through their expressions and simple illustrated idea thought bubbles. The artwork is simply black and white line drawings, and the sequential art is easy to follow and understand. This would be an excellent book for younger kids who are interested in the graphic novel form.

This was a pleasant surprise of a book and I think I'm going to have to check out the other editions from my library!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Salon 21 September 2008

Good morning, fellow Salon Members! Can it really have been almost a month since I last posted a Salon entry? Time does seem to be flying by these days! I spent the last week in Walt Disney World with 2 friends that I made back when we all worked for The Disney Store here in Lansing. Here is a photo of us taken with Cinderella at the castle before breakfast one morning - I think that Cinderella was a little annoyed that we were stealing the show! I'm on the left - and yes, we did all wear princess jewels to the Princess breakfast at the castle. In fact we wore them all day at the park and fun was had by all!!


We had a fantastic time! We went to each of the parks there, rode almost every ride (some favorites more than once!), saw all the night time fireworks displays that each park has and even got to see the resident Cirque du Soleil show, La Nouba.

I didn't have much time for reading while we were there, but over the course of the week I was able to read Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild for an online reading group co-hosted by my friend Gail. Into the Wild is the story of Chris McCandless, who after graduating from college decided to give away his savings and travel cross country by any means possible and at the age of 24 wandered into the Alaskan wilderness to live in a state of solitude for awhile but died of starvation nearly 5 months later. There is much speculation as to the reasons for McCandless' decision to travel, and I don't know that anyone other than McCandless will know his reasons, but the story that Krakauer tells is a very powerful one and gives what seem like very plausible explanations for his actions and subsequent death.

I received my first Postcrossing postcard while I was gone! It came from Kara who lives in Florida and it's a recipe for Southern Pecan Pie. Yum! Kara writes:
My name is Kara and I live in Florida. Welcome to Postcrossing! It is very fun, the different cards you receive make checking the mail a lot more exciting than just finding bills! Since this is the South, I thought this card was cute/delicious! Hope you like pie!
Pecan pie is one of my favorites, but I've never made it before. I guess I have no excuse not to now! I'll let you all know how the recipe turns out next week as I think I'll try making the pie later this week.

I think my reading this week will be very light, as my roomie and I are still in the process of packing for our move at the end of the month. I received 2 books from the library this week: Douglas Adams' Last Chance to See (this sounded like an interesting book - it's Adams' account of traveling around the world in search of animals and birds that are on the brink of extinction in their natural habitats) and Agatha Christie's Come, Tell Me How You Live (my aunt told me about this one - it's a journal that Christie kept while living in Syria while her husband was overseeing an archaeological dig). I also picked up the first of the the 39 Clues books, just to see what the premise was all about. I thought it was an interesting idea, that all the books will be written by different YA authors. I found a copy of the 10th anniversary edition of HP and the Sorcerer's Stone today, and I'm trying to decide if I should get it or not. I have to admit that I'm slightly annoyed by the fact that the original edition goes for $22 and the new 10th anniversary edition is going for $30, and all it has going for it is a new cover by Mary GrandPré.

Well, I think that will be it for today. I'm heading off to a baby shower soon. My gift, of course, is books; Dr. Seuss' Sleep Book, my favorite bedtime story as a child and Berkeley Breathed's Goodnight Opus, my favorite bedtime story as an adult.

Happy reading, everyone!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

72. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer



Title: Into the Wild
Author: Jon Krakauer
Copyright: 1996
Pages: 203
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3/5 stars
Finished: 9-20-08

I read Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild for an online book club. I haven't seen the movie, and didn't know much else about the story other than I knew a movie had been made about it. Into the Wild is Krakauer's account of Chris McCandless' decision to remove himself from society and go into the Alaskan wilderness, only to die of starvation a few months later.

I thought Krakauer researched his book well enough, but there were a couple of things that annoyed me about it. I liked the comparisons he made with other adventurous souls who seemed to share McCandless' passions, but the 2 chapters that he devoted to his own mountain climbing adventure seemed a little self serving, and to be honest, I skimmed right over them. I wanted to read about McCandless, not Krakauer.

The other bit that I thought could have been done better was the inclusion of pictures. It is mentioned several times in the book about the rolls of film that were found with McCandless' remains, but the only photo shown is the one of McCandless at the very front of the book. Of course, this could have had something to do with the family wanting privacy and all that, but a very cursory search on Google found several of them online. I think that the inclusion of some of these photos would have been a good idea. Maybe I'm wrong about that and maybe others would see it in bad taste, but I think the photos would have really driven home what he was going through.

Realistically, I think it's going to be impossible to ever really know what was going through McCandless' head and quite a bit of the book ends up being speculation on Krakauer's part. Part of me wants to think that he was a seriously troubled young man, and the other part of me thinks he really just wanted to step away from his life for awhile. I've often thought that I'd like to step away and become someone else, if only for a little while, so I think I can relate to that idea, but to take it to the extremes that he did? I don't think that would ever happen.

I think this was a great choice for a book for our book club, but I don't know that I'd be recommending it to anyone unless this is the type of book someone is looking for. At the same time, I'm glad that I did read it, and I wouldn't have read this otherwise, so thanks for choosing this one first off!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Book Release - Farworld: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage

Just a reminder, J. Scott Savage's Farworld: Water Keep is released today! I really enjoyed this book (you can read my review here) and I'd recommend picking it up. I think it's a great read for both kids and adults.

You can also visit his website here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

71. 300 by Frank Miller & Lynn Varley


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Title: 300
Author: Frank Miller & Lynn Varley
Copyright: 1999
Pages: 88
Format: Hardcover from library
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Finished: 9-11-08

Frank Miller's retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae, 300 was originally published as a limited series and later collected as a graphic novel. I'm fairly sure without further research of my own that Miller was rather liberal in his retelling. The story is quickly paced, leading from the events that sparked the battle to the defeat of Leonidas by Xerxes which prompts the Spartans to take arms against Xerxes and the Persian Empire.

300 is illustrated in Frank Miller's typical, graphically strong style. Lynn Varley's colors help set off Miller's artwork appropriately, and overall the artwork compliments the story well.

This is a very quick read, and if your only experience with 300 is the film version, you may be disappointed in this original print version, but it is still worth reading if you are interested in the graphic novel.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

70. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro


Title: Never Let Me Go
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Copyright: 2005
Pages: 304
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 9-10-08

I have been waiting on this writing this review for some time now as I have tried to come up with a proper way to write about Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. I don't want to give anything away about the story, because I think it's important that the reader experience this story with no prior knowledge whatsoever of what is to come in the story. I believe that this is the only way to fully appreciate the impact of this story, so I'll just talk about my feelings about the book after letting it sink in for a couple of weeks, because this story has been a part of my thinking since I finished it.

Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go is such a complex and involved story, due to not only the story itself but the implications of the issues brought forth in the story, that I had to pause on several occasions while listening to the audiobook to ponder what was being presented to me. The book is split into three separate sections, each narrated by Kathie H., a 31 year old woman recounting her years at the boarding school, Hailsham, and her subsequent early years after leaving Hailsham. The children of Hailsham are educated and readied for society and their role in society while in school, and until it is made clear to the reader what that role is, nothing seems out of place. It is only when the children's role is fully realized that the implications of that role and what it means to them, to their society and to the reader will really hit home.

At the start, the characters seem so disconnected about what is going on around them that they act almost as spectators to their own stories. Eventually, their story and actions begin to shift, and it becomes a story of individualism and identity and about trying to not lose oneself, even when your destiny seems to be leading you away from who you are or want to be. I'm not ashamed to say that I cried at the end, when there doesn't seem much hope at all left for Kathie H., and yet she perseveres in her life and won't lose herself entirely.

I can't say that I was shocked when I discovered what was happening and the children's role in their society, but it still took me by surprise and made me stop listening for awhile to take it all in. I love books that can do this; force me step away from the book for awhile to really think about what is happening in the story. Ishiguro challenges his readers with this story; taking us a little out of our comfort zones and showing us our true selves. I can relate to both the children and their society as a whole when viewing the children. I'd like to think that I would take the higher road, but if presented with the same issues that Ishiguro presents to his readers, I don't know what I would honestly say if I were in the same need.

Never Let Me Go is a powerful and lasting book. Kazuo Ishiguro has deftly handled so many issues, the consequences of these issues and the emotional backlash of dealing with these issues that the book is almost too much to take in with just one reading. I originally listened to this as an audiobook, but I think I want to go buy a copy of my own so that I can read through it again at my own pace and really take in all that this story has to offer.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti


Title: The Good Thief
Author: Hannah Tinti
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 336 pages (only read about 150ish)
Format: Paperback from publisher for review
Rating: DNF
Finished: Quit 9-7-08

I received Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief as an ARC sometime back, and I admit that it took me awhile to get around to reading it. However, I have been working on reading this book for the better part of a month now, and as of 150 or so pages, am giving up on it for the time being.

It is the story of Ren, an orphan who only has one hand. He has no memory of how he lost his hand, nor do the priests have any idea how he came to be at the orphanage, where he has lived his whole life. Ren is beginning to despair that he will never be adopted, and at a certain age the boys are sent off to the army if they aren't adopted. One day, a man named Benjamin comes to the orphange, proclaiming to be Ren's older brother and wants to take him home. Soon after leaving the orphanage, Ren begins to realize that Benjamin is not a relation at all, and it seems that Benjamin was simply looking for a young boy to help he and his friend Tom with their various money making schemes.

At 150 pages into the book, the plot hasn't changed much than that. Benjamin and Tom have gone from selling opium-laced elixirs to robbing the jewelry from fresh graves to removing bodies from graves to sell. The book isn't poorly written, it just isn't moving at all. I don't care what happens to Ren, Benjamin or Tom, I don't care about what the next money making scheme is going to be, and the other characters who populate the story are just barely believable.

I think I would like to finish this at a later date, but right now, I'm tired of plodding through this book. Like I say, this isn't a poorly written book, it's just not moving fast enough.

Book Trailer - Brad Meltzer's The Book of Lies

I think this ad is hysterical and actually makes me want to go read this myself now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

69. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher



Title: Fool Moon
Series: The Dresden Files, Book 2
Author: Jim Butcher
Copyright: 2001
Pages: 342
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5 stars
Finished: 9-3-08

Werewolves and lycanthropes and loup-garou, oh my!

The full moon is bringing some grisly murders to Chicago, and the only one who can do anything about it is Harry Dresden! The second book in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, Fool Moon really doesn't let up on the thrills for the entire book. I found myself having to put the book down simply because of the amount of nonstop action. A good follow up to Storm Front, I'm really hoping the next book is just as well written, but paced a little slower.