The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book

‘Face your life
Its pain, its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken’
~ p306

Having read raving reviews from various bloggers and known that The Graveyard Book had won this year’s Newbery award, I couldn’t help but pick it up. Also I needed to read more Neil Gaiman’s because people can’t seem to stop talking about him.

The Graveyard Book tells the story of Bod (short for Nobody Owens) who was adopted by the graveyard folks soon after his family got killed when he was a baby. That’s the gist of it. I didn’t realize until the end, when I read Gaiman’s acknowledgments that the book could very well be a riff of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.

The book started out very strong, then it felt a bit like a collection of short stories for a while, then picked up the pace again near the end. The parts where it was like a bunch of short stories were nice, but I felt like I didn’t get the point. But luckily the characters appeared again at the end, justifying the short stories’ existence at the least. So there goes my criticism. Now on to the good parts.

I thought the storyline wasn’t very strong, in a sense that it’s sort of predictable and characters are neatly divided between good and evil. But that’s probably what you’d expect out of a YA book, I’m not sure. (Or is it children book?) I haven’t read a lot of YAs. Having said that, I love the characters. I care about Bod, his parents, the graveyard folks, and Silas (Bod’s guardian). Now Silas is cool. I wish there could be more stories about him, how he came to be (especially when there’s that hint at the end of the book), what he does outside of the graveyard, and so on. A spin-off about Silas would be great :)

The ending is great too. I almost teared a bit. Nice closure. It’s a unique book in terms of setting and atmosphere. So yes I’d recommend it for people who are looking for an enjoyable book that is safe with just the right amount of adventure, mystery, fantasy, and cuteness.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (I’m kinda torn between 4 and 4.5. Some parts of the book I rated 4 and some 4.5.)
Pages: 307
Publication year: 2008

Award
2009 Newbery Medal

First line
There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

Last line
But between now and then, there was Life; and Bod walked into it with his eyes and his heart wide open.

Quotes

“You’re alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you’re dead, it’s gone. Over. You’ve made what you’ve made, dreamed your dream, written yor name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished.” ~ Silas, p179

[‘Do you know what you’re going to do now?’ she asked.]
‘See the world,’ said Bod. ‘Get into trouble. Get out of trouble again. Visit jungles and volcanoes and deserts and islands. And people. I want to meet an awful lot of people.’ ~ p306

Also reviewed by

The raving reviews: The Hidden Side of Leaf | Becky’s Book Reviews | Stainless Steel Droppings | Stuff As Dreams Are Made On | The Written World | Melody’s Reading Corner | Nothing of Importance | Bold. Blue. Adventure. | Things Mean A Lot | Rhinoa’s Ramblings | Books and Other Thoughts | A High and Hidden Place | Geekgirl Unveiled | Hello, My Name is Alice | Tip of the Iceberg | The Novel World | Fashionista Piranha | You Can Never Have Too Many Books | Bart’s Bookshelf | Flying the Stone Kite | Rob Around Books | 1morechapter | Lesa’s Book Critiques | Em’s Bookshelf | Renay | Books and Movies | Devourer of Books | Book Nut | A Life in Books | Ticket to Anywhere | It’s All About Books | Kelly Vision | Stitches by the Sea | From My Bookshelf | Lazy’s Library | Bibliophile Stalker | Flying Teapot | BiblioAddict | In Spring it is the Dawn

The less-than-excellent reviews (the book not the reviews): The Bluestocking Society (probably the closest to my own thoughts) | Fyrefly’s Book Blog | Worducopia (this one’s so funny!) | Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review | Maw Books Blog | The Fickle Hand of Fate | Bookshelves of Doom | Ready When You Are, C.B.

You know, I’m sure there are many more reviews out there for this book. But I need to sleep. And find a job, whatever. Meanwhile, Fyrefly has this really cool book blogs search engine, which is great if you’d like to search people’s reviews and link theirs to yours. I did that for the Graveyard Book and realized my linking task was far from end. Yes yes it’s a popular book. If you have a book blog and hasn’t been listed there, please leave her a message so she can include your blog too.

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham

Fables 1001 Nights of Snowfall

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall is a prequel to the Fables series written by Bill Willingham. Now I’ve been really really wanting to read Fables series, but just can’t get my hands on the books from my library (long story). So when I saw 1001 Nights, and read the introduction which says that I can read this part without having to read the main series beforehand, I grabbed it, and finished it in half a day.

In 1001 Nights of Snowfall, Snow White visited the Arab Sultan (the one in 1001 Arabian Nights, the one who marries a virgin every single day and kills her in the morning that follows) to seek alliance between Fabletown and the Sultan’s Kingdom. Instead of Scheherazade, Snow was in the company of the Sultan and tell him stories after stories about the past and tales of the Fables. From what happened to Snow White after she got married, how the Big Bad Wolf got to be, the devastating life events of the Frog Prince, the history of the witch who lived in the candy chocolate house (who trapped Hansel and Gretel), and some minor stories.

What can I say? I LOVE it! The art is amazingly good. For this particular book, there are a bunch of illustrators, who each illustrates one story. So you can see a big difference of style between one story to another, but equally great. It’s so good that I couldn’t stop flipping back and forth, indulging in the beauty of the illustrations. Gorgeous. Wonderful. (insert more words for “very good” here)

bill willingham

I don’t think this Fables is appropriate for young children. What with naked Snow White and more adult themes around some stories. To this day I can’t stop wondering why graphic novels are always placed near/at the “Children/Picture Book” section in the libraries. Having read some graphic novels, I can assure you I wouldn’t want my kids to read them in their early age. When would all adults realize that not all books with pictures are kiddies?

Anyway, this book is perfect for adults who enjoy fairy tales retellings. I can’t praise it high enough. Great cover too! I’d definitely chase after the rest of the Fables series. To be honest, if 1001 Nights is a representation of the series, I’d like Fables much more than the Sandman series (I realize I just read the first in the Sandman series and you all have said it’s not a good representation of the whole series).

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Pages: 140
Publication year: 2006

First line
Once upon a time, as all stories of this type must begin, a lovely woman traveled to a far-off demon-haunted land of magnificent jeweled cities, cast adrift in a sea of wind-tossed desert.

Last line
“He likes stories,” Snow said.

Award
2007 Will Eisner Award for Best Anthology, Best Short Story (Bill Willingham and James Jean, for A Frog’s Eye View), Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (Jill Thomson, for “Fair Division”), and Best Cover Artist (James Jean) [source] [source2]

Also reviewed by

everyday reads | Blogging for a Good Book | Fyrefly’s Book Blog | Tripping Toward Lucidity | things mean a lot

Mailbox Monday: A Book and A Poster

Mailbox Monday! Again, it’s Tuesday here in Australia, but let’s just pretend it’s still Monday…

Got a book and a poster from Joethepublicist of Penguin. It’s actually my first time to get a book from a publisher! Yay I’m excited!

godsowncountry

It’s God’s Own Country by Ross Raisin. It’s shortlisted for a bunch of awards, and winner of The Guildford Book Festival First Novel Award and A Betty Trask Award. So I might read it for the Book Awards Challenge. Neat cover! Love it!

Along with the book, came a poster, also from Penguin.

poster

It’s a complementary poster of Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report by Iain Sinclair, a book on which, to be honest, even after roughly reading reviews from the Amazon, I still have no idea what it is about. But hey, a nifty poster by itself! I’d find out more about it when I get the time.

Thanks Joe! Thanks Penguin!

Once Upon a Time III

Once Upon a Time III

Saturday, 21 March 2009 – Friday, 20 June 2009

Carl from Stainless Steel Dropping is hosting Once Upon a Time challenge III. I missed the first two, so I’m not missing this one!

fan⋅ta⋅sy: a genre that uses magic and other supernatural forms as a primary element of plot, theme, and/or setting.(Wiki)

fairy tale: a fictional story that may feature folkloric characters such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, giants, and talking animals, and usually enchantments, often involving a far-fetched sequence of events. (Wiki)

folk⋅lore: the traditional beliefs, legends, customs, etc., of a people; lore of a people; The traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people, transmitted orally. (Dictionary dot com)

my⋅thol⋅o⋅gy: a body of myths, as that of a particular people or that relating to a particular person; a set of stories, traditions, or beliefs associated with a particular group or the history of an event, arising naturally or deliberately fostered. (Dictionary dot com)

Fantasy, fairy tale, folklore and mythology. The definitions above are a jumping off point, but those of us who have unabashedly reveled in between the pages of these genres know that each is so much more.

There are a few quests that you can choose to follow. I’m going for either Quest the First or Quest the Second.

Quest the First requires you to “read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time III criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.”

Quest the Second requires you to “read at least one book from each of the four categories. In this quest you will be reading 4 books total: one fantasy, one folklore, one fairy tale, and one mythology. This proves to be one of the more difficult quests each year merely because of the need to classify each read and determine which books fit into which category. I am not a stickler, fear not, but I am endlessly fascinated watching how folks work to find books for each category.”

I’m not going to make a list of books in advance since that wasn’t working very well for me. So I’m going to choose books at whim and see where they take me next. (This is really my strategy for all my challenges now)

It will be 3 months of good fun! ;)

Review site here for everybody to list their reviews.

Books I’ve read:

  1. Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham (reviewed 26/03/09, rating 4.5/5, fairy tale)
  2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (reviewed 29/03/09, rating 4/5, fantasy)
  3. Fables Vol 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham (reviewed 12/04/09, rating 4/5, fairy tale)
  4. Clockwork Girl by Sean O’Reilly and Kevin Hanna (reviewed 17/04/09, rating 3.5/5, fantasy)
  5. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (reviewed 27/04/09, rating 4.5/5, fairy tale)
  6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (reviewed 01/05/09, rating 4.5/5, fantasy)
  7. Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (reviewed 20/05/09, rating 5/5, fantasy)
  8. Bone Vol 3: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith (reviewed 03/06/09, rating 4.5/5, fantasy)
  9. Bone Vol 4: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith (reviewed 04/06/09, rating 4/5, fantasy)
  10. Bone Vol 5: Rock Jaw Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith (reviewed 05/06/09, rating 5/5, fantasy)
  11. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (reviewed 13/06/09, rating 5/5, fantasy)
  12. The Sandman Vol 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman (reviewed 21/06/09, rating 3.5/5, fantasy)

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

71hh0xvgryl_sl160_

The Complete Maus is a memoir presented as a graphic novel. The complete story was published in 2 volumes: Part I: My Father Bleeds History in 1986 and Part II: And Here My Troubles Began in 1991. It recounts the struggle of Spiegelman’s father to survive the holocaust and also the troubled relationships between the author and his father. It draws largely based on the father’s recollections of his experiences.

The characters were drawn as half-animals (with animal head and some characteristics, but with human body). The jews are depicted as mice (hence the title, which is “mouse” in German), the Germans as cats, the Poles as pigs, Americans as dogs, and other minor animals. This choice feels so surprisingly natural that I can’t imagine it be done in any other way. The very few simple lines show the expressions very well. Even though all the (same) animals look pretty much similar apart from their clothes, I never lost track of who is whom. Love love love the arts. Spiegelman must be a genious.

I’m also very fond of the parts that show Spiegelman’s relationship with his father. How the war had affected so much, even to generations after the direct victim. How I wish to hear his mother’s side of the story. I found it completely ironic that the mother committed suicide after surviving a holocaust with no note. It was soo very very sad when at the end of the book, upon finding each other again, the father said “We were both very happy, and lived happy, happy ever after.” What an irony :(

220px-art_spiegelman_2007

At first I found the way they talked was kinda funny, and thought it was a translation mistake. I think it was done on purpose to show the way the father talk English (which is of course not his first language). After a while I started to find it adorable and I could really imagine a real person talking like that. The father was really smart. He survived by being smart. Of course there was a whole lot of luck involved. But he was first resourceful and strong, pysically and mentally. I found all of his little ‘survival techniques’ very interesting.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. This is not just ‘another’ Holocaust story (which I kinda thought at the beginning). It’s not. It shows things from different views. It’s detailed but not graphically violent. It’s simple but it really strikes you all on the right spots. It’s personal, it’s heartbreaking, and but not overly melancholy. The book is a masterpiece. Nuff said.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Pages: 296
Publication year: 1986 (part I: My Father Bleeds History), 1991 (part II: And Here My Troubles Began)

Awards
1992 Pulitzer Prize, Special Awards and Citations – Letters
1992 Eisner Award Best Graphic Album: Reprint (Maus II)
1992 Harvey Award – Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work (Maus II)

Also reviewed by

Maw Books Blog | Caribousmom | Rebecca Reads | Educating Petunia | Things Mean A Lot | The Hidden Side of Leaf | Nothing of Importance | Bold. Blue. Adventure. | Rhinoa’s Ramblings | In Spring it is the Dawn | 1morechapter Maus I Maus II | A Life in Books | An Adventure in Reading | Thoughts of Joy Maus I Maus II | Book Nut | Books I Done Read (the only negative review :) | Out of the Blue | The Indextrious Reader | Cynical Optimism | Booknotes by Lisa | A Fondness for Reading (Maus I) | Historical Tapestry | where troubles melt like lemon drops | Regular Rumination (Maus I)

(Another) 1% Well-Read Challenge

1percentwellread

Michelle from 1morechapter is hosting another 1% well-read challenge. I didn’t join last year, because at the same time I had my own 1001 books related reading challenge: 10 out of 100 out of 1001 Books. I’m thinking not to continue my challenge, because it felt too restrictive, but I still have my personal goal to read more books from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. So this year I’m joining 1% well-read challenge because it coincides nicely with my perpetual challenge.

Rules

  1. Read 10 titles from the original list from March 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009.
  2. Read 10 titles from the new list from March 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009.
  3. Read 13 titles from the combined list (of almost 1300 titles) from March 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010. In other words, “What were they thinking dropping titles from Dostoevsky and Jane Austen?”

I’m going with option 1, because I’ve been following the original list for some time, and keeping track of the 2nd list too would just be a pain for now.

I may not be able to complete this challenge, but I’d die trying. (You know that’s just a figure of speech right?) I promise myself that this is the last challenge I’m joining for this year!

I’d keep track of the books I read here.

1) The Color Purple by Alice Walker (no. 272,  finished 04/09, 4.5 stars)
2) Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee (no. 77, finished 06/09, 4.5 stars)
3) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (no. 301, finished 07/09, 4.5 stars)
4) Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (no. 33, finished 08/09, 5 stars)
5) Silk by Alessandro Baricco (no. 101, finished 09/09, 4 stars)
6) Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (no. 467, finished 09/09, 4 stars)
7) A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (no. 913, finished 09/09, 3.5 stars)
8) Dracula by Bram Stoker (no. 784, finished 10/09, 3 stars)
9) If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino (no. 300, finished 11/09, 3.5 stars)
10) The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (no. 880, finished 12/09, 4.5 stars)

Lost in Translation Challenge

Lost in Translation

1 January – 31 December 2009

Rule: read six books in translation by the end of 2009

It does sound like an easy rule :). We can read books translated from the same languages (it doesn’t have to be 6 books from 6 original languages). And I totally love the image above! Also, Lost in Translation is one of my favorite movie ;)

Go to the challenge post here, and the dedicated page for the challenge here.

I’m gonna keep track on the books I’ve read here:

  1. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (translated from Japanese, finished 04/09, 3 stars)
  2. Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara (translated from Japanese, finished 08/09, 3 stars)
  3. Silk by Alessandro Baricco (translated from Italian, finished 09/09, 4 stars)
  4. Strangers by Taichi Yamada (translated from Japanese, finished 09/09, 2.5 stars)
  5. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino (translated from Italian, finished 11/09, 3.5 stars)
  6. I Am a Cat (Volume One) by Sōseki Natsume (translated from Japanese, finished 12/09, 4 stars)
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