Firmin by Sam Savage

Firmin is a lovely little book I first heard of from Michael Kindness. They’re sure called booksellers for something! I have read two books and bought one book since I started listening to their podcasts not so long ago.

I read Firmin soon after reading I Am a Cat, which is kinda cute because they’re both narrated by animals. I had the two books in front of me that time and was pondering which one I should read next: the cat in Japan or the rat in Boston, USA. I picked the cat first because of the read-along, but soon read Firmin anyway.

Firmin is a rat born in the basement of an old bookshop, located in Scollay Square, Boston. Upon chewing pages of books he acquires the miraculous ability to read and to be aware of the world surrounding him. The publisher took extra effort to add (subtract?) bitten mark of the book (as you can see on the image above). Cute!

“‘Good to eat is good to read’ became my motto.” ~ p40

My expectation was slightly a bit off, in that I was sort of expecting funny, while the rat is more melancholy. There were a couple of parts where I literally laughed out loud, but for most of the time he’s quite a sad rat. (The expectation was probably the one that took the star out of my rating, but you know what to expect now.)

“As you have probably guessed by now, I am a pretty depressive character myself and know all about the seventeen kinds of despair…” ~ p121

“He had no inkling of my true character, that I was in fact grossly cynical, moderately vicious, and a melancholy genius, or that I had read more books that he had.” ~ p143

But he’s thoughtful and has personality. He’s like a piece of intelligence trapped in a rat’s body, and he has problems with his own kind. You would feel for him, poor little thing.

“The only literature I cannot abide is rat literature, including mouse literature. I despise good-natured old Ratty in The Wind in the Willows. I piss down the throats of Mickey Mouse and Stuart Little. Affable, shuffling, cute, they stick in my craw like fish bones.” ~ p44

“And dreams of food are just like other dreams — you can live on them till you die.” ~ p17

I loved the description of the old second-hand bookshop and the owner. I liked how I also got a glimpse of old Boston, before the abolition of Scollay Square in particular. I’ve never been to the city, but it got me interested.

“Sometimes the books were arranged under signs, but sometimes they were just anywhere and everywhere. After I understood people better, I realized that this incredible disorder was one of the things that they loved about Pembroke Books. They did not come there just to buy a book, plunk down some cash and scram. They hung around. they called it browsing, but it was more like excavation or mining. I was surprised they didn’t come in with shovels. thy dug for treasures with bare hands, up to their armpits sometimes, and when they hauled some literary nugget from a mound of dross, they were much happier than if they had just walked in and bought it.” ~ p29

Firmin is a nice piece of quirky light fiction. It’s also a great book about books, like we all love.


2006, 181 pp

First line
I had always imagined that my life story, if and when I wrote it, would have a great first line: something lyric like Nabokov’s ‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins’; or if I could not do lyric, then something sweeping like Tolstoy’s ‘All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’

Also reviewed by
Caribousmom | Asylum (nice copy!) | Fizzy ThoughtsBibliolatry | My Cozy Book Nook | books i done read

I have one more book to review for 2009, and will post my year wrap-up after that. I was out of town for the past 3 days so my schedule is a bit off. It was a great break though. I may post a couple of pictures later, just for you :).

End of Dream King, Start of Pratchett

Before year 2009 I had never read any Neil Gaiman’s. With the encouragement of The Dream King Challenge I managed to read three books and watched one movie based on his book:

  1. The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
  2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  3. The Sandman Vol 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman

Movie: Coraline

I accomplished the second level: Acolyte, which requires you to read three works and watch one movie.

I’m still not quite sure if I like the Sandman series, but I’d love to continue a couple more before making my decision as a lot of people say it gets better after the third volume. The Graveyard Book and Coraline the movie were simply fun. I’d love to read more of Gaiman’s in the future for sure. My next one hopefully would be American Gods, or Good Omens, which is a perfect cue for this next challenge I’m joining next year.

Marg@ReadingAdventures is hosting Terry Pratchett Challenge in 2010 (1 December 2009 – 30 November 2010). I have never read any Pratchett’s before and this year would be the year! I already have a few books from the Discworld series on my shelf, so I’m good to go.

There are 5 levels of participation and I’m aiming for the first level:

1-3 books – Cashier at Ankh-Morpork Mint
4-5 books – Guard of the City Watch
6-8 books – Academic at the Unseen University
9-10 books – Member of Granny Weatherwax’s Coven
10-12 books – Death’s Apprentice

For those of you who missed The Dream King Challenge in 2009, may want to check out Neil Gaiman Reading Challenge in 2010 (hosted by a different host). I’m still going to read Gaiman’s once in a while, but I’m not setting myself up for a challenge anymore as I have accomplished my goal to read some of his works.

Let me know if you’re joining any of the new challenges!

Update

I read Equal Rites for the challenge.

Bayou by Jeremy Love (Vol 1)

Bayou

Bayou is an online comic by Jeremy Love, which first appeared at Zuda Comics, and later out in print as the first printed book format work to be released by the online website.

The story is a mixed of fantasy and reality, reality which is based on the oppressed era for Black people (1930s America). Our heroine, a little girl named Lee, has her world turned upside down when her white girl friend is missing and her father is accused of kidnapping her. Trying to find her friend to save her father, she goes on a journey, meeting many colorful characters and facing lots of dangers.

I first heard of the comic from Nymeth and had been thinking about it, since I fell in love with the art straight away. Somehow I missed her saying that you can read the comic online (doh!). Luckily she mentioned it again during the last Dewey’s read-a-thon and I quickly went to the website to read it.

I’m so happy that it’s available online so I could satisfy my curiosity for a bit. The artwork is fabulous. Great great stuff. Unfortunately with the speed of my Internet connection, I needed to wait for a few seconds to load each page. Not the best way to read a graphic novel, for sure. I forced my way through, but with some extra effort on my part. It did diminish my full enjoyment of the comic, so I’m hoping that I can get my hands on the physical copy for the next volumes.

If you have excellent Internet connection, please, go for it! Unlike normal comics, Bayou was made to fit into computer screen, so you don’t have to drag the picture up and down like if it follows the traditional vertically longer book format. Make it full screen to get the full-blown excellent artwork :)

I struggled a bit with the Southern accent at times, but that’s probably just me. All in all, Bayou is a fantastic graphic novel. It’s heart-wrenching at times because you know some bits were true in real world, yet the fantasy elements make it such a great adventure story in itself.


Before you get all disappointed because you expect giant bunnies roaming around the world (I know I did), the bunny appears only once in dream. But what a fantastic bunny :)


2009, 256 pp

Challenges: Graphic Novels (book #20)

Also reviewed by
Things Mean A Lot | Stuff As Dreams Are Made On |  A Striped Armchair | Jenny’s Books | Libri Touches

Bayou

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The story of this funny named book revolves around Guernsey the island that was occupied during WWII by the Germans, its residents, and Juliet, our heroine, a column writer turned book writer from London. By turn of fate, Juliet was first contacted by Dawsey, a resident of Guernsey, about a book that was found. Their written conversations lead to stories about Guernsey Literary Society and more correspondents with other residents of Guernsey who fascinate Juliet.

I’m not usually drawn to feel-good books, which I classified this as (before and after reading), nor anything to do with war. At the end I picked it up because I was looking for a good audiobook. I thought the epistolary format was just perfect for audiobook, it won The Audie award for Fiction (2009), and of course, it has been read widely around the blogosphere. The last straw was when Michael Kindness gushed about it several times.

I had mixed feelings about the narrators. Juliette’s narrator was really good, but the rest of the women sounded very old (like a bunch of grandmas when the characters are not!) and the male narrators sounded a bit stiff (might be just because I have listened to Andrew Sachs reading and he’s so awesome), and again, old. It’s probably just me but I had some difficulties to distinguish the voice of the large number of characters.

Since the story revolves around a literary society (or book club, if you may), there are many references to books and reading, which I found enjoyable. I was more attached to the heartbreaking stories rather than the fairy-tale like, both in which the book contains. Recommended for people who are interested about minor occupation in gentle non-dark way and those who love conversations about books and reading (don’t you all?).


2008, 8 hours

Delicious alternate covers: (Right is Australian cover. Left?)

Challenges
Women Unbound–reason: a few strong main female characters (book #2), Herding Cats II (book #2), Reading the World

Also reviewed by
Dolce Bellezza | Rebecca Reads | Farm Lane Books Blog | kiss a cloudSuko’s Notebook | Serendipity | Sarah Miller: Reading, Writing, MusingRipple Effects | One Swede ReadThe Reading Life | Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? | A Guy’s Moleskin NotebookBending Bookshelf | Maw Books Blog

I’m sure I missed tons of you!

Dewey’s Books Challenge Wrap-Up

medium

It’s near the end of year and I have a bunch of challenges need wrapping up. I’ll start with Dewey’s Books Reading Challenge since it’s probably the first that I completed a long time ago, and Chris has called for a wrap-up post on the challenge blog.

It wasn’t a big challenge for me because a lot of things I read seemed to be read and reviewed by Dewey, being a fierce reader that she was. The challenge required us to read 5 books reviewed by Dewey. I read 12, and probably more, since her site was down soon after and it made it harder to track what was posted on her blog.

The books I read: (Note that Dewey’s links are down. I got the links from her blog feed.)

  1. The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot [my review] [Dewey’s review (2008)]
  2. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett [my review] [Dewey’s review (2008)]
  3. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly [my review] [Dewey’s review (2008)]
  4. The Sandman Vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman [my review] [Dewey’s review (2008)]
  5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling [my review] [Dewey’s review (2007)]
  6. The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman [my review] [Dewey’s review (2008)]
  7. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman [my review] [Dewey’s review (2008)]
  8. The Color Purple by Alice Walker [my review] [Dewey’s review (2008)]
  9. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini [my review] [Dewey’s review (2008)]
  10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling [my review] [Dewey’s review (2007)]
  11. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [my review] [Dewey’s review (2008)]
  12. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang [my review] [Dewey’s review (2008)]

I don’t recall for sure, but I think the ones in blue are books that I read because of Dewey. She was definitely one of people that introduced me to the world of Western graphic novels (which I previously thought were only about super-heroes).

The challenge won’t continue, but I make my personal challenge next year to read The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, which was the last book that Dewey read, probably unfinished. I remember vividly that I had a slight thought when I saw the book posted on her “Reading” section a couple of days before she passed away: Why is she reading that? The title and cover doesn’t sound and look interesting.

Of course that was before the book took blogosphere by storm and everybody seems to be reading it. Dewey was often a pioneer that way.


To Dewey.

Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith and Andrew Sachs (Audiobook/Podcasts)

Corduroy MansionsCorduroy Mansions is officially my first audiobook, and podcast! What a whole new world I had discovered when I discovered both! Can’t believe what I’d been missing all this time!

To trace back a little, I am never a good listener. As in I often miss what people say in general, even in my first language (not that I’m not patient to listen people talking — I’m good that way). Studying English in school, I scored lowest for Listening, in comparison to Grammar, Reading, and Speaking. If only I found audiobook when I was in high school!

I approached the podcasts with apprehension, but I was hooked since the first episode! Andrew Sachs is such a fantastic reader! It’s so wonderful that I found him as my first narrator. The down side of it is that after I listened to more audiobooks, all the readers (especially male readers) are pale in comparison. With Andrew Sachs, it doesn’t feel like he’s reading text. It feels like he’s talking to you out of his head.

Andrew Sachs
Andrew Sachs, my new love <3

Corduroy Mansions is I’d say typical of Alexander McCall Smith’s: cozy, safe, adorable, lightly humoured. We are presented with a quite large number of characters that live in the mansion, some their friends or family members who live somewhere else. There is very little plot. It’s mostly the musings and interaction of the characters.

The podcast is only about 6-7 minutes each, going for 100 episodes. It’s just perfect for me to listen to walking from the bus stop to my office. I listened to only a couple of episodes each day, which seemed to work very well. It’s not plot heavy, so you don’t want to rush through it, and allow to characters gradually sip in. With my listening problem, I even listened to each podcast twice until about halfway through the 100 episodes. After that I had started to build up my listening stamina, and only needed to listen once (most of the time :).

To be honest I don’t know if I would like the book if I read it instead of listening to it. But as audiobook, it’s almost perfect! Not to mention that it’s free! Thanks to Jackie @ Farm Lane Books Blog who I first knew about the podcasts from!

Have you read/listened to the book? Who’s your favorite character and who you liked the least? I actually liked a lot of the characters, even the supposedly least likeable one like MP Snark (he amused me). My least favorite is Terence Moongrove, the air-headed old man who just sounds impossible that he has lived that long in the world. My favorite characters are probably (unavoidably) Freddie de la Hay the dog and his owner William French. They’re both just so adorable.

4.5 stars
2008, 13 hours

The second book is now available, titled The Dog who Came in from the Cold. It’s up to chapter 77 now, so you can still catch up! I just started the second season a few days ago and am at chapter 8 now. Podcasts of the first book is no longer officially available, but there’s this telegraph xml link from where you can download them (get them quick before they put it down :).

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