Monday, August 30, 2010

Wow -- graphic novel on YouTube

I just had to share this, it's so fascinating. The first part of a graphic novel has been turned into a video and placed on YouTube. In just seven minutes it tells more of the story than the audio book sample from my last post did in ten minutes. I guess that that visuals really do make a difference in story telling.

The story is Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.

Nathaniel Parker: a review

I'm doing something new. Rather than reviewing a book, I am reviewing someone who narrates an audio book.

I first encountered Nathaniel Parker's narration several years ago. I think that was also when I discovered Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer.

However I first discovered Parker, I have come to associate his voice with the Artemis Fowl series because he tells the story so well. Parker uses a different voice and appropriate accents for each character. I don't consider him the best, but he is certainly very good.

...and even though I am enthusiastic, I'm not sure what else to say on the matter, other than perhaps I cannot stand to listen to the audio book of the most recent Artemis Fowl because it has a different narrator. It is too strange to hear someone other than Parker telling the story. I'm so used to Parker's voice.

Below is a YouTube clip of the first ten minutes of the first Artemis Fowl book. If you're interested, you can see (or rather, hear) for yourself what Nathaniel Parker is like.

Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pride and Prejudice: the graphic novel

I found this by chance at my local library, and picked it up because I have read and enjoyed Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I'm not quite sure what to make of it, though. I have complaints about it, but I also have praise for it. I think I'll share the praise first.

This graphic novel portrays Austen's Pride and Prejudice very beautifully. Of course they had to do major editing to turn a 320 page novel into a 120 page graphic novel, but they didn't lose much in the editing. Nancy Butler and Hugo Petrus, the two who adapted Pride and Prejudice to a graphic novel, obviously used great care when sorting through what is absolutely necessary to the story.

The graphic novel is of course faster paced than the original novel, which would be an upside for anyone who is curious to read Pride and Prejudice but who get bogged down in Austen's writing. I don't mean to suggest that reading the graphic novel is the same as reading Austen's own Pride and Prejudice, but if someone just wants to know the meat of the story and/or wants some lighter reading than Austen's writing, this graphic novel is an excellent choice.

As I said, I do have some complaints: the artwork and the cover. Just looking at the cover of the book I took it for a book about Austen's Pride and Prejudice, rather than a retelling. The artwork is not the same as that in the book, which I found to be further misleading.

To begin with I did not like the artwork inside the book. It distracted me from the story, and I briefly considered returning the book without finishing it. I'm glad I stuck with it, however, because it grew on me. I still think that another style of drawing might be better suited to portray Pride and Prejudice (please don't ask me to expound), but I've decided that this isn't so bad after all.

Despite my complaints, this is a good graphic novel. Whether you've already read Austen's Pride and Prejudice, I recommend it. :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Green Rider"

Green Rider, by Kristen Britain, is a very good read.

The young woman Karigan is traveling alone, on her way home after having been permanently suspended from her school. Her plan is to give her version of the events leading up to her suspension to her father before he receives the dean's letter about her suspension.

Her plans change when she meets a young man with two arrows in his back, who tells her he is carrying an important message that is matter of life or death. He requests that she deliver the message to their king, and Karigan quickly finds herself taking an oath to do just that, despite the obvious danger. To make things even more ominous, the dying messenger's final words are "Beware the shadow man."

Karigan immediately sets forth, carrying a message whose contents she can only guess at, and pursued by people who haven't heard the phrase Don't shoot the messenger. Along the way she makes friends, makes enemies, encounters trouble, gets out of trouble, and eventually makes it to the king's castle. Then the real fun begins.

As I said, this is a good book. It's the first in a trilogy, and I plan to read the second one. However, it does have its flaws. It's not the best written book, and I kept finding sentences that were a little too vague. There were also one or two places that reminded me too much of J.R.R. Tolkien. On the other hand, this is Britain's debut novel, and these flaws didn't prevent me from thoroughly enjoying it. I look forward to seeing what the next book is like.

It's one that I definitely recommend. :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What I'm reading

by James Clavell
Historical fiction

Pretty neat, I'm enjoying it. It's going to take me quite a while to finish it, though. It's a couple inches thick in paperback. And the audio book of it is 48 1/2 hours long. I think that's even longer than the Harry Potter books. :)

I would like to mention that I think I'll need to reread this book before I really understand it. I'm having trouble figuring out what the heck is going on! Reading the plot on wikipedia might help, but I'd rather muddle through it.

Green Rider
by Kristen Britain

Yes, I read a lot of fantasy.

It's a really interesting book. Karigan is a young woman who has been expelled from school, and she's traveling home to give her father her version of what happened. But her plans change when she meets a servant of the king who requests that she carry a message for him. Next thing Karigan knows, she's taking an oath to deliver a message to the king. As a result of this oath she is pursued by the people who killed the former messenger, and who would like to kill the new messenger -- that is, her. On top of that, she has to cope with the former messenger's horse, who has a mind of his own.

Oh yeah, and all this happens before page thirty.

It's a really neat book, but I find that my mind keeps wondering, and that I often have trouble focusing on it. I'm not sure if that's because of the writing style, or if it's my ADHD acting up. Hmm.

"The Dragon Book"

I absolutely love this book. It is a must read for all dragon lovers.

It contains nineteen short stories, each by different authors. They're all fantasy, and they all contain at least one dragon. But of course each author has their own voice and a different story to tell, so there is a story for everyone in this book.

You'll find everything in these pages -- from a dragon appearing in our every day world who would like to have it out with a writer who cut him from a short story (Oakland Dragon Blues by Peter S. Beagle), to a hotel owner who calls in an exterminator to deal with an infestation of dragons (Are You Afflicted with Dragons? by Kage Baker).

Here are reviews I've written about two of the short stories in this book:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ramblings about Sappho.

Sappho is one of my favorite poets. About all that's known for sure about her is that she lived in Greece, and had quite a reputation even in her own day and age...which without the internet to spread the word about new great poets, is really saying something. She was famous in her own day and age, and her poetry is still alive today. And, forgive me if this is blasphemy, but I for one prefer her poetry over Shakespeare's.

Of course, one problem with reading her poetry is that she wrote it in Greek. Not a lot of people read Greek these days. So unless we want to learn a whole new language, we have to read translated versions of her poems.

Ah, the joys of translated literature! There will always be subtleties in the original language that you can't quite portray in translation. Furthermore, translations can differ depending on how the different translators interpret this word or that word, or even how they interpret the entire poem.


I mention this because I picked up three books of Sappho's poetry today. I've already read one of them, and am getting a little over excited over Sappho's poems. I'm remembering why she's one of my two top favorite poets.

Who's your favorite poet? Can you read his/her poetry in its original language, or do you have to read a translation?

Friday, August 13, 2010

"Will of the Empress" -- my thoughts

I finished reading Tamora Pierce's Will of the Empress about a half hour ago. I might write a proper review of it later, but right now I just want to share my thoughts on it...after I give some details behind the story, so that people can follow what I'm talking about if they haven't read the books before.

This is a story about Tris, Briar, Sandry, and Daja. They met when they were ten year olds (in the Circle of Magic quartet) and became like brother and sisters. When they were fourteen they parted ways -- three of them traveling in different directions, one staying put. (The Circle Opens quartet tells about their adventures during this time.) In The Will of the Empress they are eighteen, and the three traveling return home.

So they are now young adults, and have gone four years without seeing each other. Naturally, they've changed. Due to their time spent apart and the ways they've changed, they aren't as close as they used to be, and there's some tension between them.

Spoilers after this point

In the beginning of the book all they do is squabble. As I mentioned in a previous post where I talked briefly about this book, I found it extremely tiresome. And the reasons behind being irritable with each other don't seem like good enough reasons to argue with each other so much. They continue squabbling for perhaps the first quarter of the book. It continues some after that, but the four begin to calm down. Of course, it helps that they find a common foe. (The empress, who's used to getting what she wants.)

I've got to say, Pierce is lucky that I kept on reading. The squabbling between four young adults was so annoying that I was just short of considering putting the book down. I'm sure other of Pierce's fans did put the book down, and never picked it up again.

Once the four youngsters did start to get along with each other, I started to really enjoy the book. The old and familiar characters were fun to read about (once they started behaving like adults), and the new onces were interesting. It was also nice to see the four become a "circle" again, and use their "circle of magic" in concert to thwart a foreign empress who wants them to become her pet mages.

On a different note...

Making certain characters homosexual. In particular, two adults, Rosethorn and Lark. I don't mind the fact that Pierce announced in this book that those two are lesbians (truthfully I've wondered if those two were romantically involved with each other in earlier books, something that still isn't clarified), but rather how she did it.

When you're going to reveal a new aspect of old and familiar characters, there are ways to do it, and ways not to do it. For example, a good way to do it would be for one of their friends to catch Rosethorn and/or Lark kissing another female. Or maybe one of these two could be talking to the young adults about relationships, and mention one of their own female lovers, and it come out that way. There are plenty of other ways to bring the subject up, and show reader this aspect of Rosethorn and Lark.

But what Pierce does is just mention in passing that these two are homosexual, as though it were a detail from a previous book that her readers should already know. That got me a little irritated, because it's not something that is ever said (or even implied) in the prior books, despite my speculation about the two being lovers.

And then there's Daja, who at age eighteen finally figures out that she's lesbian. Her own romantic sub-plot is rather sweet, and I liked it. But... it realistic for someone to not figure out their sexuality until they're eighteen years old? I keep asking myself this question, and I honestly don't know. I would love to hear other people's thoughts on this point.

Overall, I give this book three out of five stars. It's pretty much an ok book, but the squabbling between the four young adults was too annoying. I also dislike how Pierce revealed a new side of old characters without working up to it. Don't get me wrong, the book does have its good points. They're just overshadowed by these annoying points.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What I'm reading

What are you reading? Here's what I'm reading:

by James Clavell
Historical fiction

It's really fascinating. Blackthorn is an English man who navigates a Dutch ship that gets blown off course and winds up in Japan. Only the Spanish and Portuguese have found a rout to Japan before Blackthorn's ship shows up, so everyone is shocked. Things get interesting as Blackthorn tries to figure out who these people are and how to survive among them, the Japanese are trying to figure out what this new "barbarian" is like, and the Spanish and Portuguese together are afraid that they may not have a monopoly on Japan for much longer.

Also interesting is the religious aspect of things. The Catholic church has gotten a foot hold in Japan, despite some trouble. At the time when this book is set in there is a lot of tension between the Catholics and the Protestants, so so naturally the fact that Blackthorn is Protestant doesn't go over really well with the Catholic priests...who are frequently the people translating for Blackthorn, and who Blackthorn doesn't trust. He doesn't like them, and they worry that more Protestants might follow Blackthorn to Japan, and that they might lose converts to the Protestant version of Christianity.

Some of the Japanese are looking at the Catholics and the Protestant Blackthorn, and can't figure out what's wrong. They're both Christian, and the main tenant of Christianity is love. So why do they hate each other?

It's really fascinating. And it's not light reading, either. I think I might actually get bogged down in it if I weren't listening to it.

The Will of the Empress
by Tamora Pierce

Four young adults who had been really close when they were younger, but then went their separate ways when three of the four left to travel. The last time they met was when they were fourteen, and very close. (That was in Pierce's quartet Circle of Magic) Now they are eighteen, and they finally see each other again at long last. But they've changed, and they don't all get along the way they used to. They keep squabbling, and honestly it's getting tiresome.

I love Pierce's books about Tortall, but I'm finding that I just don't like her other books as much.

Beka Cooper
by Tamora Pierce

Another Pierce book that I AM enjoying. I've read it before, and I'm just listening to it as I go to sleep at night...and at other odd times.

It's about Beka Cooper, who is a law enforcement officer in training. The book is written in diary style, and it starts with Beka's first day on the streets, patrolling. On her very first evening (she's doing the evening shift) she is eager to prove how good she is, with embarrassing consequences that are actually rather amusing.

Beka is no stranger to the streets (her family used to live in poverty) but patrolling them with her trainers gives her a new perspective on life.

It's a really good book, and I've read it I don't know how many times. At least three times before, I'd say. I highly recommend it..after you've read Pierce's other Tortall books. :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Naomi Novik's short story tells a story about Mark Antony -- with a dragon added into the picture. Two dragons, actually. A big one and a little one. But the little one doesn't stay little for very long.

When Antony meets the big dragon he's lucky to live to tell the tale. But he does survive the encounter, and thanks to the dragon's hoard of treasure becomes very rich very quickly. Oh yes, and he also takes an egg that he finds. An egg that wasn't supposed to hatch.

But the egg does hatch, and fortunately for Antony the young dragon is friendly. They become fast friends, and everything is going well...aside from the fact that Vici (as he named the young dragon) has a better taste in poetry than Antony. Oh, and except for the fact that together they get kicked out of the city: there hadn't been a law against keeping a pet dragon before, but one was instated pretty darn quickly after Vici's hatching.

I won't tell exactly where the story goes after they are run out of town, but I assure you that it only gets better.

It's a really fun read, and I highly recommend it. It will have you laughing, and is well written.


Novik's story Vici is one of many short stories in The Dragon Book. I'm roughly halfway through the book, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I have to return it to the library tomorrow, but I definitely plan to get ahold of it again in the future to finish reading it.


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