Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fables: Animal Farm

Author: Bill Willingham
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Year: 2003

In this novel of the Fables collection, there has been a murder at the Farm (the place where the fairy creatures that can't pass as human live) - one of the three little pigs has been killed. As Snow White investigates, she learns of a revolution planned by the fairy creatures on the farm against the city fairy creatures led by Goldilocks (I always knew she was trouble). I couldn't believe all the characters from favorite stories Willingham managed to bring into this story. It was like playing a game with myself to see if I could remember what role each one of the characters had been in literature. What fun. One note about these comics: I would be careful about letting younger children read them. They can be quite graphic and some of the material is most definitely for adults.

Fables: Legends in Exile

Author: Bill Willingham
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Year: 2002

This group of graphic novels came highly recommended to me. They're kind of an addition to all the favorite fairy tales that we heard (or read) growing up. In short, Willingham takes the fairy tale characters and places them in modern times. There has been a hostile takeover of the fairy lands and the characters were forced out of their homelands by the Adversary and are living in the New York area. Being immortal, they've been living in America for centuries. They've adapted and have their own underground society. 

In this first novel, Snow White's sister, Rose Red, has disappeared and the only trace is a lot of blood in her apartment building. The Big Bad Wolf (who is now human and goes by the name "Bigby") plays the lead detective with Snow White (who is divorced from Prince Charming) as his sidekick. 

This novel was very imaginative and fun. I can't wait to see where Willingham goes with the story. 

Interpreter of Maladies

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Year: 1999

Years ago in college I read Jhumpa Lahiri's short story, "A Temporary Matter." The story enchanted me. I found the story jumping to the forefront of my mind any time someone asked what my favorite short story is. The characters are memorable and the story is heart-breaking. It's one of those stories where the situation that the characters are placed in pulls on the reader and makes you wonder what you would do in their situation. I immediately placed on the entire collection, Interpreter of Maladies, on my to be read list; however, I never have got around to it. Well, I finally got it on inter-library loan. And I wasn't disappointed. Not only did I love the title story, but I enjoyed almost every other story in the collection. Most notably, my favorites are: aww, shucks, all of them.

Lahiri writes achingly beautiful stories. You can feel the atmosphere and the little touches that creates the Indian background and heritage of her characters. The characters are easy to identify with and unique in literature. Yet their struggles to succeed and simply fit in are universal to everyone no matter their race or religion. I am very glad I finally got around to reading this book. I recommend this book for anyone that wants to expand their horizons on other cultures or just enjoys stories about human nature.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Baking Cakes in Kigali

Author: Gaile Parkin
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Year: 2009

This book centers on Angel Tungaraza. Angel runs a thriving cake baking business in Rwanda. From her kitchen, Angel seems to be involved in everybody's life. People come in, order cakes, drink tea and tell Angel stories. The stories that Angel hears are beautiful stories of love, loss, grief and hope. The people that live in Angel's neighborhood come from all over the world and they're in Kigali to help Rwanda rebuild after the war and genocide that has destroyed so much of the country and killed so many. They come from different backgrounds and their stories vary as much as the people.

I read this book slowly because I wanted to enjoy it. Parkin does a wonderful job of bringing Kigali and the people in it to life. She also weaves in a story of hope through a wedding in the novel of hope and unity. If you're a person that likes reading about other cultures, then I definitely recommend you give this novel a try. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside The Harry Potter Phenomenon

Author: Melissa Anelli
Publishers: Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Year: 2008

I picked this book up right after it came out because I listen to (and love) Pottercast and wanted to read the book written by one of its hosts. The book went directly into my TBR stack and got lost amid the pile of ignored books. Then, last week, I was going through my TBR stack picking out books to read while in Orlando this week, stumbled across this forgotten purchase and decided this would be the perfect book to read while I was visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which was awesome by the way). For those who don't know, Melissa Anelli is first and foremost a Harry Potter fan. She also helps run The Leaky Cauldron, a Harry Potter website, and hosts Pottercast, a Harry Potter podcast. Her book is about the Harry Potter fandom: how it came to be, what it means to the Harry Potter fans and how it is different than most any fandom that existed before or after it. She touches on how the internet influenced the popularity of the Harry Potter books and connected fans all around the world. Oh and we can't forget Wizard Rock.

I loved this book. Of course, I am a fan of both of Anelli's website and podcast. I found Pottercast at a very difficult time in my life. I listened to the first fifty podcasts non-stop. By the time I was "caught up," I felt like the whole crew were friends. Reading Harry, A History reminded just how much I love their show and just how much being a Harry Potter fan has meant to me. I enjoyed seeing how some of the stories and interviews that I'd read about on Leaky or heard about on Pottercast came to be. I also loved reading about the friendships and connections that were made through the love of the Harry Potter books. I've experienced that feeling of belonging to something again first hand this week while at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I saw other fans like myself that were just teeming over with excitement at being there and seeing the world they had imagined in real life. We squirmed with excitement over Ollivander's wand shop, reveled in the sweets at Honeydukes and laughed at the products at Zonkos but the most exciting part was walking through Hogwarts itself. I talked to fans from all over their world that had made their way to Orlando, Florida for this chance to live in the Harry Potter world. Oh, wait, I'm getting off topic. This is supposed to be about Melissa Anelli's book, not The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But, if you're a Harry Potter fan, then you should definitely read this book. 

View of Hogwarts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Nightingale's Lament

Author:  Simon R. Green
Narrator: Marc Vietor
Year: 2008

This is the third book in Simon R. Green's Nightside series. In this book, John Taylor has been hired to check in on the Nightside's newest singing sensation, nicknamed Nightingale, and find out why so many of her fans are committing suicide after hearing her sing. In doing so, Taylor stumbles into a case that might be just a little bit more than he can handle.

I really like this series a lot. There's nothing outstanding about them but they're good, easy entertainment and make the daily commute a lot easier and quicker. Marc Vietor narrates the books very well.

The Magicians

Author: Lev Grossman
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Year:  2009

Quentin Coldwater is a genius. He's pretty much guaranteed admission to any college he chooses; yet, he's miserable and unhappy with his life. The only time he's really happy is when he's rereading his favorite childhood books set in a magical kingdom called Fillory. One day Quentin finds himself being admitted to a very secret college of magic in upstate New York and his entire life changes. Not only does he learn that magic is real but he also learns that Fillory just might be real also. But will Fillory provide Quentin with the happiness he's been seeking? Or will it end up being a nightmare?

I'm a little bit at a loss as to exactly how I feel about this book. It's obvious that Lev Grossman borrowed ideas from J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis and other fantasy greats; however, he does openly acknowledge his influences and even makes direct references to them inside the story. My problem is not with the basic storyline. I can accept the borrowing (in all honesty, I think it would be very difficult to write an original storyline in the fantasy genre). I was put off a bit by the language, drinking and very adult lifestyles the characters lead. Also, the hero wasn't very heroic. I kept waiting for him to find that inner strength and become the hero of his story but it never came. That bothered me a lot (although that was an original turn in the story). I would tell people to approach the book with an open mind but if you're sensitive to adult themes stay away from it.