33/40: Persepolis (by Marjane Satrapi)

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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood  

by Marjane Satrapi

Published on 2012 by Pantheon

Marjane Satrapi recounts her childhood in Iran during a fourteen year period that included the overthrow of the Shah, the Islamic Revolution (1979) and the war with Iraq (1980-88.) Politically savvy by virtue of being related to an imperial line and the daughter of Marxists, Marjane Satrapi tells her story through intense black-and-white panels with a highly stylized look nearly abstract in form. Readers unfamiliar with Middle Eastern history may need help to put things in context (google is your friend) but it’s worth the effort. The story is powerful both for it’s brutal telling and for it’s emotional punch. I cringed at her friends and families’ bewilderment at the Iraqis’ sudden upgrade in missile ordinance and was actually surprised that there were no recriminating fingers pointed at the U.S. for its military aid to the Iraqis at this time. Still, Persepolis is an amazing work of reportage, memoir and art.

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OTHER:  I borrowed a paperback edition of Persepolis (by Marjane Satrapi) from the Jackson County Library System (Southern Oregon.) 

I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post. 

I challenged myself to read forty books this summer and made it! Reviews, however, have been slower in coming. I had thought to post the rest of my reviews by the end of September; but earlier this month I was in a car accident. I walked away without serious injury but I’ve had a difficult time focusing on some stuff like writing/posting reviews. So, I’ve decided to extend my self-imposed deadline to the end of October 🙂

32/40: A Greyhound of a Girl (by Roddy Doyle)

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A Greyhound of a Girl

by Roddy Doyle

Published in 2012 by Marion Lloyd

Mary O’Hara, a twelve-year old whose grandmother is dying, meets a ghost in Dublin, Ireland in the current time and about a hundred years after Mara’s great-grandmother had passed away.The ghost appears in order to help Mara’s grandmother through the transition from this life to the after-life by providing assurance/easing the dying woman’s fears. This is a YA book that will most likely appeal more to girls in the 8-12 age group: It’s deals with four generations of women and the legacy of eternal, maternal love. A Greyhound of a Girl doesn’t have the humor or zing that The Barrytown Trilogy books do; but Roddy Doyle is still amazing with his ability to create scenes and mood with a deft artistry that also allows the reader’s imagination to go to work.  

OTHER:  I borrowed a hardback edition of A Greyhound of a Girl (by Roddy Doyle) from the Jackson County LIbrary System (Southern Oregon.) 

I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post. 

I challenged myself to read forty books this summer and made it! Reviews, however, have been slower in coming. I had thought to post the rest of my reviews by the end of September; but earlier this month I was in a car accident. I walked away without serious injury but I’ve had a difficult time focusing on some stuff like writing/posting reviews. So, I’ve decided to extend my self-imposed deadline to the end of October 🙂

A Beautiful Truth (by Colin McAdam)

A Beautiful Truth
by Colin McAdam
Published by SOHO Press, September 17, 2013

SUMMARY
WHO: Louee, a chimpanzee…
WHAT: is adopted by a childless couple…
WHERE: in Vermont…
WHEN: in the early 1970s…
WHY: as a sort of surrogate son.
HOW: The couple anthropomorphize the primate and inadvertently inculcate a dual nature within Louee.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE THIS BOOK:
+ Stylistically, A Beautiful Truth is interesting in its use of and reference to language: Dialogue is stripped of quotes and; Pronouns are not necessarily tethered to the subject in the topic sentence of a paragraph. The reader needs to linger a little over each sentence to catch the current of mood that will take him/her to the next point.
+ The novel raises some intriguing questions about the nature of primates and the fine line that may exist between humans and apes. The whole of the novel is cut with chapters from various chimps’ points of view, which are written in short truncated sentences; and while the humans’ chapters are more fully developed, the sentence structures themselves are not complex. The near stream of consciousness from both the human and the apes emphasizes the similarities between the primates.
+ Humans tend to project human meaning into other orders of animals, and Judy and Walt (the adopting couple) are no different. However, the actions described by the very words that emphasize commonalities, throw into sharp relief the wild nature of non-human animals. 
WHY YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE THIS BOOK:
 The reader needs to work a little to negotiate and hopscotch the atolls of mood and thought as presented as a result of the writing style, making the novel as a whole semantically challenging.

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SAVE THE CHIMPS: Half of the net profits from the book’s sales will benefit Save the Chimps, the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world, providing home and care for 300+ chimps.

OTHER: I received a paperback ARC of A Beautiful Truth (by Colin McAdam) from a publishing industry professional and friend. The ARC was unsolicited but highly recommended by my friend. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post. 

31/40: Falling Upwards (by Richard Holmes)

Falling Upwards

by Richard Holmes

To be Published October 29, 2013 by Pantheon

WHO: A lot of Frenchmen, starting with Montgolfier…

WHAT: pursue the dream of flight…

WHERE: in Europe, England and America…

WHEN: from the eighteenth century through the present…

WHY: for the sake of adventure, egos and science…

HOW: through ballon aeronautics

NO COMMENTS

OTHER: I received a galley copy of Falling Upwards (by Richard Holmes) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. for the express purpose of research: I vetted the manuscript for words and phrases that the narrator might have questions as to how to pronounce and; looked up the pronunciations. I will receive financial renumeration for looking up the pronunciations of the aforementioned words and phrases. As this title is work-related, I will not review this title. 

I challenged myself to read forty books this summer and made it! Reviews, however, have been slower in coming. I expect that it may take me the rest of September to catch up on that score! 

30/40: New Tricks (Andy Carpenter #7 by David Rosenfelt; narrated by Grover Gardner)


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New Tricks

Andy Carpenter #7

by David Rosenfelt

narrated by Grover Gardner

Published in 2009 by Listen & Live Audio

7.50 hours

WHO: Andy Carpenter, a defense attorney…

WHAT: is assigned a pro-bono case in which he must decide who gets the custody of a potential show dog. Unfortunately one of the contenders is blown up and the other contender is indicted for the murder.  

WHERE: New Jersey

WHEN: circa 2007-2008

WHY: Andy has a predilection for canines and those who are truly dog people. 

HOW: Andy proceeds to become the defense attorney for the man accused of two counts of homicide and investigates what-the-heck-is-really going on.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST STATEMENT: Though I have opinions about this title, both as to why you might love this book and as to why you might not, both in terms of the writing and narration, it would be in bad form for me to review this book as my husband worked on it. If you have read or listened to this book and would like to express an opinion in comments though, it’s all good 🙂

You can check out other review(s) of this audiobook at AudiobookJukebox

OTHER:  Listen & Live Audio supplied a professional courtesy copy (CD edition) of New Tricks (by David Rosenfelt; narrated by Grover Gardner) to my husband and I grabbed it off the shelf in our living room.

I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post. Though I will admit that by not reviewing the title, I’m not being slapped on the literal or metaphorical wrists, which is a good thing.

I challenged myself to read forty books this summer and made it! Reviews, however, have been slower in coming. I expect that it may take me the rest of September to catch up on that score! 

29/40: The Bunner Sisters (by Edith Wharton)

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The Bunner Sisters

by Edith Wharton

Originally published in Scribner’s Magazine 60 (October 1916): 439-458 and; Scribner’s Magazine 60 (November 1916): 575-596

Reprint 2007 by Alan Rogders Books, Ægypan Press

WHO: Evelina and Ann Eliza are two spinster sisters who develop an affection for the same German clock-maker, Mr. Ramy.

WHAT: One of the sisters, the younger, marginally prettier Evelina, marries Mr. Ramy and disappears from her sister’s life…

WHERE: which continues on in destitution at their shop near Stuyvesant Square in New York City (far from the rich milieus that Edith Wharton usually sets her stories…)

WHEN: “[i]n the days when New York’s traffic moved at the pace of the drooping horse-car, when society applauded Christine Nilsson at the Academy of Music…” (early 1870s.)

WHY: The sisters are poor, in a world of inelegant language and limited hopes. Evelina pursued the opportunity to find love, happiness and, a future away from the confines of a basement shop & apartment by becoming Mrs. Ramy.

HOW: Evelina and Anna Eliza had a co-dependent relationship that enabled the events of the book to take place. Evelina was more of the egotist while Anna Eliza was more of the sacrificer. As Evelina continued flirting with Mr. Ramy, Anna Eliza ceded more of her own aspirations for the sake of her sister’s happiness.

+ This is something different from Edith Wharton: a story not about high society, or the tensions between old money and the nouveau riche; but a microcosm of life amongst the poor. For all that Edith Wharton never experienced such a life herself, she nonetheless depicts this world without condescension and with concentrated detail that brings the scenes into vivid life.

+ I wouldn’t go so far to say that the Bunner sisters themselves and the people they interact with are ennobled by their experiences; but there is something to be said for the stubbornness and fortitude they exercise that puts Lily Bart (cf The House of Mirth) to shame.

There is a rather melodramatic scene near the end of Part II that seems nearly a parody of a morality play. While its lack of sophistication may be representative of a theatrical style popular at the time and, the commonness of it reflective of the atmosphere of the story, its crudeness stands out sharply against Wharton’s other more finely wrought scenes of melodrama (again, see The House of Mirth.)

OTHER: I bought a paperback trade edition of The Bunner Sisters (by Edith Wharton) from The Book Nook CT via Alibris.com. 

This is a reprint edition. On page 58, the narrative is interrupted by a copy editor’s note:

“NOTE: *** A Summary of Part I of “Bunner Sisters” appears on page 4 of the advertising pages.”

I do not know the provenance of the note, but it is disconcerting :-/

I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

I challenged myself to read forty books this summer and made it! Reviews, however, have been slower in coming. I expect that it may take me the rest of September to catch up on that score! 

28/40: The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity (by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross)

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The Unwritten

by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross

Published in 2010 by DC Comics

LAF (Literature-based fantasy + Animal fantasy + Fairytale fantasy) – a term coined by Bill Wallingham (creator of Fables) in the introduction to The Unwritten

WHO: Tommy Taylor, the son of a famous author who wrote a series of books based upon his son, 

WHAT: finds that his fictional life and his “real” life colliding…

WHERE: as he escapes the mob scenes in the U.S  to a Swiss villa…

WHEN: years after his father has disappeared.

WHY: To lay claim to his father’s wealth,…

HOW: did Tommy Taylor kill his father?

+ Mike Carey creates a really cool premise: What if fiction was just another reality, i.e. What happens if the fictional world was actually manifested in tangible ways beyond the pages of a book? What would happen if the fictional world manifested itself in our “real” lives? How intense, how important and how prevalent would those manifestations be? And who knows about it?

– The Unwritten is not a stand-alone. It raises a lot of questions and implies conspiracies, but does not answer or resolve them. Readers need to move onto sequel editions to see how The Unwritten universe and plot develops. So, yeah, a cliffhanger :-/

ARTWORK:

The art work breaks down into four categories and are rendered by two different artists:

  • The first category is the work of Yuko Shimizu (cover (see above) and sketches laid out on full pages) 

The other three categories are rendered by Peter Gross:

  • The story that Tommy Taylor father created (blue-grey washes and subdued colors (see first sample below))
  • Tommy Taylor’s “real” life (highly saturated colors (see second sample below)) and;
  • The historical flashbacks/expositional set-ups (low saturation colors (not shown here)) 

+ The distinctive colors and fonts clearly separate the action lines and the realities. The general layout of this volume creates  a reading rhythm: issue cover, sketch, fictional story page(s) and then Tommy’s real world depictions. The historical sections cap the storyline.

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OTHER: I bought a paperback trade edition of The Unwritten: Tommy taylor and the Bogus Identity (by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross) from More Fun, a comic book store in Ashland, OR, on Free Comic Book Day (#fcbd2012.)

I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

I challenged myself to read forty books this summer and made it! Reviews, however, have been slower in coming. I expect that it may take me the rest of September to catch up on that score! 

Night Film Decoder

Night Film Decoder

Released August, 2013 by Random House, LLC

Random House has released an app to go along with the book, Night Film (by Marisha Pessl.) When you scan certain images in the book, extra material appears on your iPad/iPhone. Extra material that works off of image scans include movie posters from Stan Cordova’s films, taped (audio) notes from Ashley’s treating psychiatrist, a found diary from an actress who was at The Peak and a movie trailer for one of the films. There is also extra material in the app including surveillance footage of what may be Cordova, book trailers, photos of Marisha Pessl’s book journal… There is a lot of created content for Night Film

+ The idea of expanding the reading experience beyond the printed page, incorporating mixed media and technology is very novel. 
– The scans are ostensibly supposed to work off of images in the book that feature a red painted bird; but 1) the images are black & white and; 2) there are images without the painted bird that trigger the added content. 
– Some of the extra info (not triggered by scanned images) are simply PR pushes, e.g. featuring the author.
– This might have been better had it been integrated into one whole eBook for an truly immersive experience. Pulling the reader out of the physical copy of the book to access the extras pulls the reader out the story.

OTHER: I dnloaded the Night Film app from iTunes and used it from my second generation iPad. The app is free.

27/40: Anya’s Ghost (by Vera Brosgol)

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Anya’s Ghost

by Vera Brosgol

Published 2011 by First Second

Graphic Novel; Horror

WHO: Anya, a newly adolescent girl, Russian immigrant to the U.S., and outsider at her private school… 

WHAT: falls into an abandoned shaft…

WHERE: on park grounds…

WHEN: a hundred years after another girl had fallen into the same well.

WHY: The dead girl’s ghost seeks to escape the confines of the well…

HOW: by befriending Anya.

+ Anya’s Ghost deftly portrays the basic dynamics of seemingly complex relationships in the adolescent years: The desire for independence from your parent(s), the desire to disassociate oneself from loser friends, the confusion of friends who seem to be one thing at the start, but turn out to be something else altogether in the end… As such, this is a great YA selection for girls in particular.

Though the themes are common amongst both boys and girls, male readers may unfortunately dismiss this as a girl’s story. Also, this may not have much traction, as far as the story goes, beyond the YA level. The horror story itself doesn’t transcend the relationship themes.

ARTWORK:

+ The panels are rendered in a limited pallet of grey, blue and, purple washes with  black and white contrasts. The artwork uses just enough detail to provide the idea of texture and basic perspective. The illustrations are not realistic, but rather highly stylized and are nonetheless effective in conveying the characters’ moods.

+ One of the things that intrigues me about graphic novels is the way the artists can break free from the constructs of depicting time in a linear manner. In a book, one sentence must follow another and the only way to indicate that something else may be happening at or near the same time is to use words like “meanwhile.” Still, the author has to decide which event will be presented first.

In a graphic novel, simultaneous or near-simultaneous events can be splashed on the same page and convey the real-time of the story. In Watchmen (by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons,) two story lines were present on the same page by use of alternating panels and crossover captioning. In Anya’s Ghost, the moments before Anya falls into the abandoned well are inset on the full page, allowing the reading to intuitively understand that it all happened ***so fast***…

The first panel below (full page with insets) demonstrate the seeming simultaneousness of events that occur in the moment(s) before the fall into the shaft:

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+ The second panel (below) shows the slowed down sequence events after Anya falls. The layout places events in a fairly straightforward, chronological way.

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OTHER: I borrowed a paperback edition of Anya’s Ghost (by Vera Bosgol) from the Jackson County Library System, Central Library branch in Medford, OR.

I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

I challenged myself to read forty books this summer and made it! Reviews, however, have been slower in coming. I expect that it may take me the rest of September to catch up on that score!