Monthly Archives: October 2012

Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Under Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles,…Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Age: 10+ up
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Library
Publisher: Harper Collins Childrens, 2012
ISBN: 97800062024718 / 559 pages
Find this book at your local library

After having safely returned her baby brother out of the Impassable Wilderness, Prue is having trouble getting back into her normal life in Portland. Curtis stayed behind in the woods, and Prue keeps daydreaming and skipping class to go revisit the woods. She does, until she is attacked by a kitsune (a wolf who can transform into any other creature). Saved by her friends from the Woods, Prue is swiftly taken into hiding in the woods as she tries to solve the mystery of a series of assassinations and the reanimation of a once famous heir.

Underwood, the first in the trilogy, I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a breath of fresh air in children’s literature. Well written, with a unique point of view and full interesting characters. As much as I want to, I can’t say the same for Under Wildwood. It is the second book in the trilogy, so I think it fell victim to being a transitional book. I still have every intention of reading the third book in the series though. It wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t as captivating as the first. There are also a number of loose ends at the end of the book, which I am hoping will be resolved in the third.

Prue’s journey is quite boring in this novel. There were many times when I wish chapters were cropped. Not enough attention was given to the thinly written Mr. Unthank and his orphanage/child labor camp. The villans, although amusing, weren’t the most original. There is bland Unthank, the mechanical industrialist and him Ukrainian former-actress girlfriend. My standard for evil in children’s literature is Lemony Snicket’s Count Olaf, and its pretty tough to beat him. Unthank is not nearly as threatening, as evil or as manipulative as the Dowager Empress from the first Underwood book.

The storylines throughout this novel were not very original either. Much of the middling section didn’t really further along the story, but it did let Meloy further enhance the setting of Wildwood, particularly its underground roads and inhabitants. Prue was more annoying than adventurous in this novel, and I wish that Meloy spent more time focusing on Elsie and Rachel (Curtis’ sisters who fall into the hands of Mr. Unthank). Although their unfortunate series of events were also predictable.

Meloy infuses these books with a lot of contemporary issues. Touch economic times through the Woods, the wealthy, consumerist society trying to take over, Unthank’s 1% Journal and meeting of the titans of industry. Meloy also injects a bit more of Portland into this second novel, which local residents will appreciate.

For all its faults, I did actually enjoy this book, and I think most kids will probably overlook, or just not care for the faults that I found.

Rainy Days by Ida Pearle

Waiting patiently for rainy days to show up in the Bay Area. We had rain 2 weeks ago, and I loved every minute of it. But then we had super warm weather this past week, and I was blue. I really do belong in Portland, or Seattle or something. Maybe even Daly City with frequent trips to the Peninsula.

Until I have my winter rain, I will contemplate purchasing this gorgeous piece of wall art by Ida Pearle. I think it’ll go quite nicely in the nursery.

2012IdaPearle2.jpg

Rainy Day by Ida Pearle

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe – Review

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe
Age: YA-Adult
Genre: Nonfiction / Comic Books
Source: Publisher
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2012
Publication Date: 10/09/2012
Find this book at your local library
 

Sean Howe does an amazing job of providing an in-depth, yet subjective look at the history of Marvel Comics. For comic book rookies, Marvel is the force behind The Hulk, Spiderman, The Avengers, and The X-Men, among others.

I’ve never been a huge comic book fan, although I do enjoy the movies based on the comics. Sacrilege to the true-blue fans, I’m sure. Despite my lack of knowledge of even the base comic book industry, I still found this book enjoyable and incredibly well researched. Howe did something that most non-fiction often fail to do. He stayed on point. Not once did he tangent into a side story, or a side-rant that took away from the Marvel Comics company. His writing style was chatty, but informative. The chapters were just the right length. I never felt like he spent too much or too little time on any single aspect.

A lot of things were alarming to me about the comic book industry. Namely the blatant sexism in comic books as well as the mistreatment of the comic creators, ie Jack Kirby. Even Stan Lee was left out to dry after the company sold out to a giant corporate entity that had neither understanding nor any appreciation for comics.

What started initially as Timely Comics and went through a number of ups and downs as part of a burgeoning new entity in publishing. Despite a huge drop in sales in the 1960’s that resulted in massive layoffs, the founder’s wife’s cousin, Stan Lee, managed to keep his head afloat, as well as help revitalize and rejuvenate the fledgling company as a rival to DC comics. The entire history of Marvel Comics is a great example of how creativity, and enthusiasm for a topic can bloom, and how it can be shuffled, taken advantage of and ultimately destroyed when put into the wrong hands, ie Jim Shooter.

This is all from a superficial comic book fan. If you want to get a sense of this book from an avid comic book reader, go to Hardly Written for that review.

Guinea Pig Speaks Out – Ricky Gervais

Because guinea pigs are really the most awesome creature in the entire world.

American in Paris 1900-1930s

This sounds exciting! Apparently its an era of American Francophilia that hasn’t been written about before.  Historian and author David McCullough (The “master of narrative history” announced  the subject of of his next book:  Americans in Paris from the early 1900’s to 1930, focusing particularly on how the new technology of aviation influenced the lives of Americans and Parisiennes.

McCullough broke the news when speaking at the annual meeting of the Federation of Alliances Francaises in Providence, where he was accepting the Prix Charbonnier for his most recent work on Americans in Paris, The Greater Journey,

When taping for 60 minutes in Paris,  he said that he knew his next book also had to be about  Americans in Paris in the 20th century.  I copied this next quote from Polly-Vous Francais? where I first learned about his new book.

“But,” he said, “I was faced with the problem of ‘How can I make it different from so much that has been written?  I cannot go down the same old path about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, etc. etc.’   I knew it could be done and I knew that there were so many more people than those clichés that they had become, alas.  But what would make it work?  And inform?  What was the perspective or lens through which I could look at this period that would be different?  And then, one day, came one of those moments where suddenly it hit me.  And, honestly, it just lifted me out of my chair.  And that is: aviation.  The advent of flight.  The advent of the airplane.  The most emblematic development of the 20th century.”

I think this will be a neat little insight into American-French history. It’ll be a breath of fresh air from what is quickly becoming staid memoirs about how France is so much better than the US in regards to everything, except maybe indoor plumbing and kitchen space. I don’t think I can handle reading anymore of those.

The Innocents by Lili Peloquin – Review

The innocentsThe Innocents by Lili Peloquin
Age: 15+
Genre: Fiction / Gothic-esque
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: 10/16/2012
Find this book at your local library 

This debut novel by YA author Lili Peloquin traces the path of two sisters suddenly shifted into a higher  social strata of New York elite life when their mother marries a widowed rich-man after a brief dating spree.

Peloquin tries her best to infuse the novel with Gothic undertones, trying to give it a Rebecca type of feel. For all her best efforts, I felt like this book needed a very serious dose of editing. Peloquin is a fan of run-on sentences, and it was easy to lose pace with the novel getting muddled mid-sentence. The characters are somewhat stunted and 2-dimensional in regards to originality. The building suspense and mystery fizzled towards the end of the novel, and the multiple love-triangles in the novel seemed too easily resolved.

The sisters are relatable with their all their faults and positives.I think most teens will enjoy this novel. I am concerned that this book is listed for kids aged 12 and up. There is a lot of foul language, underage drinking & drug age as well as sexual tones and scenes that may not be age appropriate. As an adult, it doesn’t have carry over appeal, unlike Libba Bray’s Gothic novel: A Great & Terrible Beauty. For what its worth, I hope that teens reading this novel will be inspired to pick up the great works of literature that Peloquin notes throughout the Innocents: The Great Gatsby, Rebecca, Ominvore’s Dilemma, and a few others. Although I’d advise everyone to avoid reading Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. That book is just plain horrible.

Most of these literary books have themes that overlap with The Innocents and help frame the characters and their personalities. I felt like this book has a lot of potential. With a good editing eye to trim sentences and reduce redundancies, I think this could make for a fun Gothic series for teens. My copy is an ARC, so there were also a number of grammatical errors as well as typos. Hopefully it will all be corrected by the time this book is published.

Review Preview

A look into what I read, am currently reading and what I plan to read next.

Read

Marvel Comics : the untold story Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe
Quick thoughts: An engaging history of Marvel comics and its evolution over the decades. Howe did an amazing job of staying on point, never straying from his narrative of the transformations of Marvel comics, the controversial treatment of the artists and creators, and its overall role in helping shape the comic book industry in the US.  It is a well done history that comic book fans and pseudo-comic book fans (me) can enjoy.

Reading

The Casual VacancyThe Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
Quick thoughts: It’s strikingly similar to Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. A quiet novel about a quiet English town with lots of dysfunctional relationships and small-town bickering and gossip. I’m enjoying it thus far. The characters are complicated, different from each other, and are incredibly amusing.
 The innocents The Innocents by Lili Peloquin
Quick thoughts: This debut novel by YA author Lili Peloquin traces the path of two sisters suddenly shifted into a higher  social strata of New York elite life when their mother marries a widowed rich-man after a brief dating spree. Gothic undertones permeate through the novel, giving it a Rebecca type of feel. The characters are somewhat stunted and 2-dimensional in regards to originality. I am curious to see how the novel plays out. It is the first in a series. Its Gossip Girl, but slightly darker.

Waiting to read

Under Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles, #2)Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Quick thoughts: The sequel to Wildwood is finally out! I am beyond excited to get my hands on this novel. I loved the first in the trilogy. It was a fantastic mix of Labyrinth meets The Lion, The With & the Wardrobe. The first book wrapped up pretty neatly, so I’m wonder where this sequel will go.

Mon coeur est dans Paris

Via: Reasons To Breathe