December 30, 2016

It lives in the deep

Every year at the New York Public Library a list of the Best Books for Kids is crafted. I had a peek at this year's list and grabbed a few to read and review for the blog. The next couple of posts are going to be covering those. :-)

Giant Squid written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann is a nonfiction book about (no surprise here) giant squid. This is categorized as a children's picture book but after reading it myself I would say that this would be more appropriate as a middle grade (or advance reader) picture book. It might be good for those curious children in your life who you read aloud to but I don't recommend reading this before bedtime. Note: If you have a phobia of the ocean or deep waters then this will only serve to scare you further. (I'm putting all of these warnings upfront because I went into this one completely blind.) The only thing I knew going into this book was that the artwork on the cover looked intriguing and it looked to be an interesting read. It turns out that pretty much everyone is ignorant about giant squid because they're so elusive. The book is packed with the facts that scientists do know as well as eerily beautiful illustrations of different aspects of squid anatomy. At the back of the book is a detailed drawing of the squid with the different parts labeled as well as additional notes and suggested reading. As I said, this would be really great for children (or adults) who are interested in marine life and want to learn more about a fascinating and mysterious creature. Personally, I think it was written a tad too dramatically which made the imagery and the facts scarier than they would ordinarily seem. If I judged this based on educational merit and artwork alone I'd give it a 10/10 but all combined it's a 7/10 for me.

A few examples of the artwork as well as the text:

Source: theclassroombookshelf.com

Source: kidlitfrenzy.com

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 23, 2016

To love...with warts and all

Today's book came into my life by chance. For those of you who aren't aware, I recently started a new job as a Children's Librarian (hence why there are a TON of picture books about to be reviewed in the coming weeks). Well, we have a listserv where we communicate about programming, crafts, and books that may or may not be circulating in our branches. That is how I came to find Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I don't) written by Barbara Bottner and illustrated by Michael Emberley. From the title and cover alone, I knew this was going to be a winner. When it came to me it was a bit the worse for wear (there was some minor surgery needed) but after I read it through I knew this would be the perfect readaloud book. AND I WAS RIGHT. The story revolves around a little girl who is the antithesis of Miss Brooks who is a very enthusiastic Children's Librarian. This little girl has absolutely no interest in reading or in participating in any of the activities (costuming, poetry, etc.) that Miss Brooks organizes for the other children. As the reader follows along, we continue to see Miss Brooks trying everything in her power to make this little reluctant reader a lover of literature. The illustrations are an absolutely perfect addition as they are humorous, colorful, and accompany the text brilliantly. (Kids find lots to point out and discuss as you're reading.) If you have any reluctant readers in your life this might be just the book to show them that there is a book for everyone. I am so excited that this came into my life when it did and that I can not only share it with the kids but also with all of you. XD 10/10

Source: michaelemberley.com

And since I won't be posting until the 27th...MERRY CHRISTMAS!

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 20, 2016

I wasn't even that surprised

I have to be honest...Carrie Fisher's The Princess Diarist was a bit of a letdown. When I saw that she'd come out with a book with excerpts from her diaries written during the making of Star Wars I was SO excited. The punny title, the front cover with that iconic hair, and the premise had me immediately adding it to my library hold list. It turns out that this is not a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat or makes you feel as if you've learned something monumental about the person who is writing the book. The book focuses on one subject and sticks to that ad nauseum throughout. And the worst thing was that it wasn't even that earth-shattering. For me, the best part was when Fisher talked about her relationship with the Star Wars franchise after so many years and how she's had to navigate the world of fandom. I always find that so interesting because for celebs it has to be like moving through an alien landscape. (Now that is a book I'd like to read.) Strangely enough, this experience hasn't deterred me from adding her other book, Wishful Drinking, to my TRL. Hopefully, that one will be on the blog in 2017. XD This one gets a 4/10.

I'd also like to add two things: 1. The next couple of reviews will be of picture books because that is what I am living right now. and 2. My end of year book list will also include books I've read in 2016 but haven't got around to reviewing on here yet (there's a fair few of those).

Thanks for visiting the blog and I hope you're having a super week!

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 16, 2016

This was listed as a picture book but I consider it a graphic novel

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan is another example of how he uses his keen insight into the human condition to tell a beautiful story. I love when he uses entire two page spreads to illustrate his stories without any words whatsoever. In this book, he does this several times and it is breathtaking. Once again, I want to put his work up on my walls and just stare at it all the time. This is the story of two little boys who are basically listing out all of the things one cannot do during the summer months. You know basic preventative aids in case giant monsters attack planet earth. Normal stuff. It's an extremely quick read but honestly it's one that I pondered over for quite some time because it's just so visually stunning. If anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas you could just get me the set of Tan's books and I'd be eternally grateful. Kidding! (Not really. Family, if you're reading this you know what to do. Hahahaha now I'm kidding. My family doesn't read this.) All in all, this was a winner which came as no surprise to you guys I'm sure. 10/10

I didn't want to spoil the story for you guys but I did want to show you what I meant about his use of the entire two pages for his art.

Absolutely amazing!

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 13, 2016

Take a minute and hug the cranky folks in your life

I had to wait what felt like a decade but I finally got to see what all the hype was about when I read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. This is a Swedish to English translation so I went into this one fairly confident I was going to love it based on my track record. (For example, I read The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared last year.) And I was right! The story centers on Ove who everyone sees as a cranky old man completely set in his own ways aka a total curmudgeon. However, the reader gets to see what goes on behind closed doors and so from the very start we know that all Ove wants is to kill himself. (This is a very funny book, trust me.) Yes, he wants to commit suicide except that every time he turns around someone in the neighborhood is approaching him with a problem. He's Mr. Fix-It in a pair of clogs. A man born of routines and logic is soon forced into a group of people who use those dreaded things called feelings to inform all of their decisions. We get to discover who Ove really is through flashbacks as well as his reactions to those around him. For a man that doesn't seem to hold much stock in that feeling malarkey it's soon readily apparent that he's not some automaton obsessed with Saab automobiles. (Although he really is obsessed with Saab vehicles.) It's a reminder that surface impressions are generally completely erroneous and that still waters truly run deep. This is such a beautifully wrought story bursting at the seams with heart and humor. If you're looking for a great character study with a lot of biting wit then I think this one is for you. 10/10

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 9, 2016

Lightning struck twice

I'm not entirely sure why it's taken my so long to read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. As I mentioned in the post where I reviewed Let's Pretend This Never Happened, I freaking LOVE Jenny Lawson and her writing. I actually picked this book up last year shortly after it came out but as with many things I was distracted and I only now got around to it. I adored it. Her debut novel is much like her blog where it's snippets of stories from her life (which is nothing short of eccentric and bizarre like her which is why I love her so much) mixed in with colorful anecdotes. Furiously Happy is a completely different kettle of fish. There are still tales of her life which are off-the-wall but the main focus of this book is Jenny's struggles with mental and physical illness and how she's decided to view it. Instead of seeing it as a dark cloud that obliterates all the joy from her life she has instead chosen to embrace all of the happy moments in between and LIVE THEM UP. Her joyousness and love of life is felt on every page. It's a fantastic pick me up. She takes the stigma of mental illness and throws it completely out of the window (making sure that it's wearing a funny sombrero on its way out). There's more taxidermy and of course arguments with Victor but the overarching theme is shining rays of light into the darkness of mental illness. I've already gotten one of my co-workers reading it and she said that from the first page she was hooked. That's two ringing endorsements, ya'll! This one is a 10/10 for sure and if you don't read it you'll surely regret it.

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 6, 2016

I've been trying to encourage strangers to read this so I must love it.

It happened again. I fell in love with another book by Shaun Tan. The book I'm talking about is Lost & Found and it's absolutely fabulous. There are 3 short stories collected in this book: The Red Tree, Lost & Found, and The Rabbits. As with the other books by Tan, there is a fabulous mix of fantasy and reality. The fantastic elements are used to tell stories that are all too true and real. He hits at the heart of a person with stories of depression (The Red Tree), disenfranchisement (The Rabbits), and loneliness/otherness (Lost & Found). His ability to create elaborate stories through gorgeously drawn images astounds me. I understand now the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" because many times the illustrations themselves are all that are needed to convey the real emotions of his characters. The settings are a character in their own right and the urge to leap into the book and visit those places is virtually impossible to ignore. The Red Tree follows someone who is battling against their own mind and spiraling deeper and deeper into depression. However, there's something following her that she can't see (but the keen-eyed reader will) and the end result is uplifting and powerful. Lost & Found was probably my favorite. It's about a man who comes across something just a wee bit odd and out-of-place. He decides it must be lost and there follows a journey to take this thing back to where it 'belongs'. (It's also a short animated film which I am definitely going to watch.) The third was actually written by John Marsden with the illustrations by Tan. If you replace rabbits with basically any group of people who come into an already established area and claim it for their own you'll totally get what they're trying to convey with this one. And so another Shaun Tan book added to the list 'must own for life'. 10/10

See what I mean about utilizing the entire two pages?

This guy didn't get a name but I think he's a Herb.

*sigh*


**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 2, 2016

Weak stomachs steer clear from here!

Not too long ago, I reviewed The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian which is the first book in the Gower Street Detective series. Today's post is about the second book in the series which is titled The Curse of the House of Foskett. The sequel delves a bit deeper into March Middleton's past and hints at Sidney Grice's past as well (and possibly why he stepped forward as her guardian). As the prologue attests the case covered in this book shows a definite shift in their relationship and partnership. I enjoyed that most of all I think. The story starts out with our detective and his wannabe assistant cooped up in Gower Street because after the results of his last disastrous case (from the first book) he is being derided by the public and press at every turn. When he is approached by a member of the Final Death Society to make sure that if anything untoward happens to the members their deaths will be investigated everything spirals out of control. Grisly doesn't begin to cover the actions in this book so if you have a sensitive stomach this isn't one for you. However, if you enjoyed The Mangle Street Murders then I think you'll thoroughly enjoy this as you can really feel Kasasian is hitting his stride with characterization. (Also, the wit and sarcasm are to die for!) There are mysteries within mysteries within mysteries in this book. I can see that he's setting up a rather shocking revelation to be delivered most likely many books down the line. (That's smart marketing right there!). As it is, there is another book already out and a fourth is slated to come out next year I believe. I'd give this one an 8/10.

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

November 29, 2016

Peter Petrack on writing for a modern audience

Sorry for the late posting but I've just started a new job and I'm all over the place. :-P As a result, today's post has not been written by me but is instead a guest post by Peter Petrack. It's all about his new book Wayfarers Highway. If you're looking for an epic story about a seemingly normal character then I think you've landed in the right place. Enjoy!


A camper travels the back roads of America, but it is not what it seems. Pursued by powerful forces: a master-mind, a maniac, and a terrorist, its crew wonders if they'll ever reach Journey's end.

When Eloise Corwin - a longtime patient in her desert hometown's infirmary - finds a wounded young traveler sharing her sick room; she insists that he tell her about his adventures. The young man, Orson Gregory, tells her how he found and stole a glowing gemstone, hidden for decades beneath the government-built factory beside his family farm. He tells her how he's been chased ever since - by mercenaries, by terrorists, and by other, stranger enemies. He tells her how he threw in his lot with a real adventurer, a mythology professor, an innkeeper, and a duo of hired guns on a cross-country journey to clear his name and return home - something he's currently failing to do. To reach safety, the motley travelers will first have to deal with each other, evade the foes that follow their every move, and tangle with other forces both strange and powerful, their fellow travelers on the Wayfarers Highway.
About the Author:
In addition to writing the Wayfarers Highway novels, Peter Petrack is also a composer and performing trombonist. In recent years, he has found growing success as a writer of Jazz, as well as Orchestral, Choral, and Band Works. Between these two artistic businesses, Peter has frequently been forced to write in the third person. He lives in Pennsylvania, where he is constantly surrounded by pieces of paper.
In the Author’s own words:
Wayfarers Highway is a story for today. We live in a really weird time. A lot of people are confused and frightened. Naturally, readers and writers turn to strange stories in these kinds of times. The difference now is that a lot of the bizarre things in the story can come directly from real life. I wanted to write that kind of story, a legend for today – that’s something I’ve been calling it for a while. I wanted all of the adventure of the big legends set in the modern world, with modern themes, and modern characters.
I like that timeliness. It also made the book difficult to write. I would never want to write something blatantly for 2016, for example, something that a year from now would be obsolete. But achieving the general early 21st Century setting was worth the balancing act.
Wayfarers Highway is the end result of nearly eight years of that kind of thinking. It’s a story about an ordinary young man, named Orson Gregory, who steals a glowing rock that he finds under a factory that was built decades ago on farmland his family sold to the government. This ends Orson’s life as he knew it. People want the rock he stole - strange people, and dangerous. Powerful enemies – mercenaries, terrorists, and maniacs chase him across America. Orson’s only help comes from a motley bunch of his fellow travelers, a hippie, an innkeeper, a mythology professor, and hired guns. On the road, trying and failing to find a way to return home, Orson is forced to face the truth that the world is stranger, more complicated, and more dangerous than he ever imagined.
Here are the purchase links:


You can find Peter on Twitter: https://twitter.com/peterpetrack  or @PeterPetrack

November 25, 2016

Fear of death

You may have noticed (or maybe it didn't even register) that I didn't make my regular Tuesday posting. I traveled for Thanksgiving and honestly I'm surprised I got last Friday's post and today's post up (even if it is super late). It's been a busy week! However, on the flight I was able to read a graphic novel that I've had on my radar for quite some time. Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa is a tension-filled story of just how far a father will go to keep his son safe. The story begins with a depiction of a nearly idyllic family complete with mother, father, and son who are living off the land in perfect bliss until...the three shadows appear. It is a story of fear, determination, and the lengths a father will go to when he feels his son is threatened. It's also about grief and the inevitability of death. I think this is an important book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if there is someone in your life who is currently struggling with a loss it could provide a measure of comfort that they are not alone. Secondly, if a parent is trying to explain life and death to their child then this might be the way to go. I know there are other children's picture books that touch on this topic but this definitely discusses not only the sadness but the fear of death which I think adults relate to even more so than children. Thirdly, the artwork really complements the story. It's without color, straightforward, and charming. I'm giving this one a 7/10.

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

November 18, 2016

Connecting through letters

Over a year ago, I stumbled across a website entitled Slightly Foxed and was immediately intrigued. It's a quarterly magazine full of book reviews except these books aren't new releases. In fact, a large number of the books mentioned in the magazine are out of print and the authors aren't necessarily well-known. As with most things that I adore, Slightly Foxed originates in England and the book reviews (not to mention the books themselves) definitely reflect the English mentality. They're heartfelt, sardonic, thoughtful, and intelligent. Besides the quarterly magazines, you can also order from a limited selection of cloth bound novels. These are classic memoirs which have been reviewed by the magazine. By the way, they did not ask me to write this post. I've been trying to figure out for a while how I was going to plug them and I've finally gotten around to it.

Last year, I ordered the entire year's worth of magazines and the book 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Firstly, the magazines themselves are superb. Lovers of literature and those that might be looking for a new read that is unlikely to be stumbled upon in a chain bookstore will love Slightly Foxed. Secondly, if you haven't read 84, Charing Cross Road then you MUST GO READ IT IMMEDIATELY. I had never even heard of this book or this author until I read the review of it in SF where my interest was piqued. The book consists of letters sent between Helene who lived in New York and a man named Frank Doel who worked at an antiquarian bookstore called Marks and Co in London. The first letter was sent by Helene in 1949 and their correspondence continued for 20 years. Eventually, other coworkers from the store would start writing letters to Helene and she would develop a friendship with Frank's wife and daughters. I was so moved by these letters. They were real and beautiful. Helene is hilarious and crotchety. Frank comes across as uptight and somewhat aloof (until Helene breaks him of that). The second half of this book which was not a part of the original print...well I don't want to spoil it for you. Let's just say that it was extraordinarily easy for me to see myself in Helene's place. This is a woman that wrote from the heart and it's like...gosh. Ya'll I can't find the words to describe just how much I loved this book. I want to start right back at the beginning and I just closed the back cover. This has high rereadability. (Google tells me that isn't a real word but I refuse to believe that.) Go forth, readers. You won't regret it. 11/10

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

November 16, 2016

Bonus post: Spreading the word about Inkitt

A little over a month ago, the guys over at Inkitt reached out to me to let me know about their website and about some of the novels being published there. The basic premise behind Inkitt is that anyone is welcome to submit their writing. Inkitt is a readers-driven publisher which means that once on the website readers (that's us!) are able to take a look at a wide variety of books and based on reading behavior (there are some mathematical calculations involved) Inkitt will decide if the novel is worth publishing. This means that tons of new and emerging writers are getting an opportunity to get their work out there and we're getting to see some new talent. Here are the Community Guidelines if you're interested in submitting something of your very own or you want to know how it all works. If, like me, you're not only interested in the mainstream publishing industry but also self-publishing then this is a really unique idea.

As of today, November 16th, you can access Inkitt through an app on iPhones and iPadds. Huzzah! You can download it through the App Store by going to this link. I highly encourage you guys to check them out (I'm not being paid to say any of this by the way. I just really like what they're doing and want to help them out.).

Just in case I missed anything or I didn't do their site justice you can watch a video all about what they're about here:



As always, thanks for visiting the blog and I hope to see you back here at the end of the week. Happy reading!

November 15, 2016

Andrew Joyce on the importance of thorough research

Psst today's post wasn't written by me but was instead written by a debut novelist, Andrew Joyce. The topic is historical research and how important it is to be as thorough as possible when writing anything with a basis in fact (like his book Yellow Hair which you can check out here.) Enjoy! :-)


My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. I would like to thank Alicea for allowing me to be here today to promote my latest, Yellow Hair, which documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage I write about actually took place. The historical figures that play a role in my fact-based tale of fiction were real people and I use their real names. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century.
Through no fault of his own, a young man is thrust into a new culture just at the time that culture is undergoing massive changes. It is losing its identity, its lands, and its dignity. He not only adapts, he perseveres and, over time, becomes a leader—and on occasion, the hand of vengeance against those who would destroy his adopted people.
Now that the commercial is out of the way, we can get down to what I really came here to talk about: the research that goes into writing an historical novel or an action/adventure novel that uses an historical event as a backdrop.

I want to say that I learned the hard way how important proper research is. But it wasn’t really that hard of a lesson. In my first book, which takes place in the last half of the 19th century, I made two mistakes. I had the date of an event off by one year and I had my hero loading the wrong caliber cartridge into his Winchester rifle. I would have gone blissfully throughout life not knowing how I had erred if not for my astute fans. Both mistakes were quickly pointed out to me in reviews of the book. One guy said he would have given me five stars if not for the wrong caliber bullet mistake. I had to settle for only four stars. Lesson learned!

Before I get into telling you about the year-long research I did for Yellow Hair, I’d like to tell you how I researched my second and third books and describe what that research entailed. My second book was a western and the protagonist was a woman. The research took about three months. I had to know everything from women’s undergarments of the late 19th century to prison conditions for women in those days. (I sent my heroine to jail.) That kind of research was easy. Thank God for the internet. But then I had to do some real research. Molly (my protagonist) built up her cattle ranch to one of the largest in Montana, but she and her neighbors had nowhere to sell their beef. So Molly decided to drive her and her neighbors’ cattle to Abilene where she could get a good price. She put together the second largest herd on record (12,000 head) and took off for Abilene. That’s when I had to really go to work. I wanted my readers to taste the dust on the trail. I wanted them to feel the cold water at river crossing. I wanted them to know about the dangers of the trail, from rustlers to Indians to cattle stampedes. This is how I learned about all those things and more. 

First of all, I found old movies that were authentic in nature. I watched them to get a feel for the trail. Then I read books by great authors who had written about cattle drives to soak up even more of the atmosphere of a cattle drive. That was all well and good, but it still did not put me in the long days of breathing dust and being always fearful of a stampede. That’s when I went looking for diaries written by real cowboys while they were on the trail. After that, I found obscure self-published books written by those cowboys. Then it was onto newspaper articles written at the time about large cattle drives. That’s how I had Molly herd the second largest cattle drive. I discovered that the largest was 15,000 head, driven from Texas to California in 1882.

My next book took place in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. Here new elements were added such as wolves and the extreme weather as adversaries. Dogsledding was also involved. I have seen snow only three times in my life and I have never dogsledded. I knew even less about wolves. I had to learn about those things. I had no idea what it was like to travel across a wilderness on a dogsled at seventy degrees below zero. I also had to acquire knowledge about the dogs themselves, especially the lead dog. I learned about all that by doing the same things I did for my second book. The old diaries were the most helpful. As to the gold rush, there was plenty of material in the form of self-published books by some of the participants. Some were never even published, but I found copies of them in the archives of universities and historical societies. Again, newspaper stories printed at the time were very useful. Concerning wolves . . . I read everything I could get my hands on about wolves—their habits, the pack hierarchy, the alpha male, and the different jobs or tasks the males and females have while hunting.

Now we come to Yellow Hair. As I mentioned above, the book is about the Sioux Nation from 1805 to 1890. I had to know both points of view, the white man’s and the Sioux’s. Getting to know the whites’ take on things was easy. There are many, many books (non-fiction) that were written at the time. I even found a book written by Custer detailing his strategy for wiping out the Sioux entirely. That was hard reading. And, again, there were universities and historical societies whose archives were a great help.

As to the Sioux’s point of view, there are a few books that were dictated to newspapermen years later by the Indians that took part in the various battles that I weave into my story. I found a lot of material from Native American participants of the Little Big Horn, written twenty to thirty years after the fact.
But I wanted to immerse myself in the Sioux culture and I wanted to give them dignity by using their language wherever possible. I also wanted to introduce them by their Sioux names. So, I had to learn the Lakota language. And that wasn’t easy. There is a consortium that will teach you, but they wanted only serious students. You have to know a smattering of the language before they will even deign to let you in. I had to take a test to prove that I knew some Lakota. I failed the first time and had to go back to my Lakota dictionary and do some more studying. I got in on my second try.

I’m running out of space, so I reckon I’ll wrap it up. I hope I’ve given you a little insight into the research process. It’s time-consuming and sometimes frustrating. But it is also a blast. Every new discovery is like finding the motherlode.

I’d like to sign off with another commercial. The three books I alluded to above are:
·       Molly Lee

I would like to thank Alicea once again for having me over and you good folks for tuning in. - Andrew 

About the Author
Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until decades later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books, including a two-volume collection of one hundred and fifty short stories comprised of his hitching adventures called Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups (as yet unpublished), and his latest novel, Yellow Hair. He now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, Mick Reilly.


The man himself
Thanks, dear readers! I'll see you back for a regularly scheduled review on Friday. XD

November 11, 2016

Fairytales and sculptures are a great combo

As I've mentioned in two other posts (here and here), I'm a fan of Shaun Tan's works. What's better than a book written and illustrated by Shaun Tan? A book of Grimm's Fairytales illustrated with sculptures by Shaun Tan with an introduction by Neil Gaiman! If you've ready anything by Gaiman then you know his wheelhouse is dark, creepy fantasy. The Singing Bones definitely qualifies to enter that wheelhouse (why do they call it a wheelhouse by the way?). Each of Tan's sculptures are accompanied by a short passage from one of the Brothers Grimm fairytales. It's all about the emotion that the stories evoke and how they can be interpreted through art. Despair, fear, and hope are just a few of the feelings elicited within the pages of this book. If you're familiar with Tan's illustrations then you know the kind of artwork he creates tends to be eerie and full of emotion. This is no exception. I know that most people are familiar with the sweet illustrations and the happily ever after versions of these tales but Tan used the original text to create his art which makes it much more raw. I took my time with it much as you would with a large storybook. I personally think it would make an excellent coffee table book. I'd give it a 8/10 only because I would have liked the full versions of the stories and more art because I'm super greedy like that.

A bit of a peek inside...

The Frog King aka probably my mom's favorite (Source: Booktopia)
Rapunzel (Source: The Galaxial Word)
**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **


November 8, 2016

Going beyond an author's famous work

Sometimes you come across a lesser known work by a famous author (especially if they're famous for one work only) and it's astonishing just how different it is from their crowning achievement. This is what happened when I came across two books by Bram Stoker which were collected into one volume. Bram Stoker's name is nearly synonymous with vampire because of Dracula but that was not the only book that he wrote. The introduction to the two books discusses how Dracula eclipsed his later (and earlier) writings and he goes on at length about Stoker's merits as a writer. I give all of this background because if I hadn't already read Dracula then I would be very hard-pressed to do so after reading The Lair of the White Worm and The Lady of the Shroud. It's not that they were the worst books I had ever read but there wasn't anything noteworthy about them and truly it took me far longer to plod through them than I would have liked.

In brief, The Lair of the White Worm focuses on a young man named Adam Salton who discovers that he has a relative outside of his native Australia who very much wants to meet him. After arriving, he is drawn into a supernatural melodrama which concerns virtually everyone in the neighborhood. As the title of the book suggests, there is a myth concerning a giant white worm which was thought to once be a dragon that terrorized the land. Myth states that the lair may still house the creature but by this time it may have evolved into a more human shape. Adam and his co-conspirators are charged with discovering if the myth is indeed factual and if so then to destroy the creature before it causes irreversible damage. There's romance (much sped up), intrigue, racial slurs (addressed in the introduction which didn't help), and Drama. Yes, I said Drama. If this was supposed to leave me quaking in my boots then it utterly failed. I didn't find this in the least frightening. However, I did find it incredibly predictable. I'd give it a 4/10 and that's probably being generous.

The second book in the collection, The Lady of the Shroud, was somewhat better. For one thing, it was slightly less predictable than The Lair of the White Worm. There were definitely more twists and turns so the danger that the characters faced seemed more ramped up and exciting. There were a few things working against it though. For example, the two main characters were completely without flaws which kept me from fully immersing myself in the story. A giant of a man who is good at every single thing that he does? A woman with stars in her eyes (I am not paraphrasing. This was the description of her eyes every single time.) who merely by a look conveys every emotion that imparts grace and goodness? Besides that, it was most definitely too long. I am convinced that the story could have been told in a much more concise manner. By dragging things out, my interest was eventually strained and I was looking ahead to see how many pages I had left until the end. And that was not in the "oh no I'm nearly finished whatever will I do with my time now?!" kind of way either. I'd say this was probably a 5.5/10.

As always, I encourage you to take a look at the book(s) and form your own opinions. It could be that I was expecting too much because Dracula created a precedent of excellence. Ah well!

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

November 4, 2016

Complaining creatures

As you can imagine, I'm signed up to quite a few newsletters from various publishing houses and booksellers. A few weeks ago I got an email about newly published children's literature from Random House. I gave it a quick glance and one book in particular seemed to leap off of the screen at me. Penguin Problems is written by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith. The book is written in first person and the main character is a penguin with a lot of problems. He's cold, he doesn't like the snow, he looks like all the other penguins...you get the drift. I think my favorite thing about the book (and the reason I wanted to read it) are the illustrations. (Note: Lane Smith also illustrated The Stinky Cheese Man.) I felt like the space on each page was utilized and the minimal use of color really worked for the story. There are some chuckle-worthy moments in this book but I wouldn't go out on a limb and say it's a standout. It's not one that I'm itching to run out and add to my personal collection at any rate. However, if you get the chance to check it out of your local library then I suggest you do so. It's a quick, fun read that your little ones will probably enjoy. For me it was a 4/10.

Souce: Amazon.com

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

November 1, 2016

Solving crimes with magic

A couple of months back I was perusing a website that sells books (as you do) when I saw a book cover that made me instantly take notice. That book was Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch and it had to be mine. I bought a used copy and while I had every intention of reading it as soon as it arrived I was in the middle of some pre-scheduled reviews and it didn't happen...until now! Rivers of London is the first book in the Peter Grant series which chronicles the experiences that a police constable in London has while investigating a gruesome beheading. This book initially comes across as a contemporary crime novel but quite quickly it's established that in this reality magic, ghosts, and vampires are real (among other mythical phenomena). However, all of these entities are strictly governed by a special branch of the Metropolitan Police Service which up now consisted of one man. The narrative takes off once Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in London, decides to take on Peter as his apprentice. There's romance, suspense, magic, and good old-fashioned detecting. With London as the backdrop it was bound to be a winner. If you didn't guess already, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I've already ordered the next in the series, Moon Over Soho. XD One tagline by Diana Gabaldon might sum it up even more succinctly: What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz. If that doesn't win you over then I don't know what will.

Source: Amazon.co.uk

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

October 28, 2016

The parodied detective

A self-obsessed, aloof, personal detective who occasionally wears an eye patch and lives in the heart of London at the end of the 19th century. A young woman with surgical experience and a determination to be treated the same as a man. A bloody murder with an obvious suspect who acts as if he's completely innocent. Where can you find all of these things in the same place? In The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian. This is the first book in the Gower Street Detective series and it really sets the scene for the kind of rude, sarcastic sleuthing that would have amused Arthur Conan Doyle to no end. This book often parodies Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories (there's even mention of the author himself) as well as the mystery genre in general. Sidney Grice is not a nice man. I didn't find him to be a likeable character in the slightest. His motivation for solving crimes is made somewhat less honorable by his greediness and priggishness. His ward, March Middleton, is somewhat of a caricature of what it means to be a feminist from the 19th century. She is continuously frustrated with Grice's narcissism in regards to the central case of this novel. The prime suspect displays all the indications of innocence while Grice refuses to budge from his position that the suspect is guilty. If you can't handle descriptions of gore then you might find certain passages of The Mangle Street Murders quite difficult to read. However, if you think the idea of a fussy detective who treats everyone with as little consideration as he can get away with sounds like a good time then this is the book for you. I plan on continuing this series (at least through the second book) so I guess we'll find out together what kind of trouble Grice will find himself in next. For this one, I give it an 8/10.


**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

October 25, 2016

Natasha Murray on the possibility of alien life on Earth

Hi, readers! Today's post is going to be a little different because I'm not the one who wrote it. :-) Instead of telling you why you should check out Natasha's books, why not find out about the inspiration for them from the author herself? Terrified of what might happen to humanity in a century? Look no further than 3004 and 3006!





Synopsis
London covers the whole of England and is protected by an invisible shield.  The shield is there as protection from terrorists and from criminals.  Lawbreakers are cast out of the cities and into the wilderness.  The Isle of Wight hosts ‘lifers’, A-class criminals, murderers, and the insane, who are left there to fend for themselves.  Thieves and anarchists, ‘wasters’, are sent to the wilderness around London to live a feral lifestyle.

London is run by a secret underground society who created software named the “Think Tank Program”, which, over time, has orchestrated a communistic life style due to the lack of resources, the rise of the Aids II virus, and the decline of man.  Love and sexual relationships are banned. It’s rumoured that women have hideous bodies beneath their clothes.  Only mentor partnerships are permitted, with one child and occasionally two lab reared children allocated to them.
   
At the age of sixteen, boys become ‘taskers’. They are taken into the wilderness and have to find their own way home.  This story is about two taskers, Kayleb Heinz and Rowan Gellpen, and their struggle to return to London. It is about their emotional journey as well as all the challenges they face. As they battle to get home, they meet David, leader of the Veenans, who has come to Earth seeking sanctuary for his people. Is this our future? What will become of us?


Author Bio
My name is Natasha Murray and I am a West Sussex author and artist. I am a diverse writer and as well as writing and illustrating children’s books, I write for adults and teenagers too. 3004 and 3006 are dystopian adventure stories for 12+ set in London and Paris a thousand years from now.

I have always looked up at the sky and wondered if we have ever had visitors from outer space and if they came from another planet similar to ours and discretely integrated. We are now able to look at our blood and DNA and work out what part of the world our ancestors originated from. I am quite sure there will be a few anomalies.

We have always feared being attacked by aliens. What if a population of another planet came to us seeking sanctuary as their planet was dying. Would we turn them away? So this is the idea behind 3004 and 3006. These dystopian novels look at life when we have become overpopulated. World population is increasing at 1.13% per year so unless we throw ourselves off cliffs like lemmings, then by 3004 we will be overpopulated and all be battling to survive. I do not believe that we will perish. Thankfully, despite acting barbarically at times, humans are resourceful, inventive, and the majority show kindness. Good will always conquer evil.



You can learn more about Natasha and her books by visiting her website at www.nmurray.moonfruit.com.


October 21, 2016

Never Google chicken hatcheries. Trust me.

For the last couple of years, I haven't eaten beef or pork. Part of this was dietary but the larger portion was due to my distaste with the way these animals are dealt with in the food industry. After reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind I have decided to stop eating all meats for good. I'd be quite surprised if others reading this book didn't feel the same way. (This will make sense later.) This book covers exactly what the title says. Yuval Noah Harari touches on almost every aspect of what it means to be human. I can see why this book could be contentious in some circles as he is of the belief that consumerism, imperialism, and communism are religions instead of merely ideologies. He has a no holds barred attitude about the way in which humans have ravaged the planet and taken advantage of others of our species as well as flora and fauna. (Remember the no eating chicken thing?) What was most intriguing about Sapiens were the questions that he raised about the nature of happiness. There have been many books about how to be happy but no research into how happiness is measured and its trends throughout the years. (Maybe he has an upcoming novel in the works.) If you're interested in culture, human evolution, and a unique perspective of the world then you're likely to enjoy this book. I will say that a lot of this was common knowledge and/or already known to me as an Anthropology major. The second half of the book is where it got really interesting. I love a good thought experiment and trying to figure out answers to seemingly unsolvable problems is my idea of a good time. :-) I'd give this book a solid 8/10.

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

October 18, 2016

Sci-fi MEGA post

Today's post is going to be quite ambitious and it's been a good long while in the making. I'm going to attempt to review 9 novels that were compiled into 3 volumes. O_O As you all know, I'm a big fan of Star Trek (I just remembered that my last post was Trek related as well. Oops?) and the recently rebooted original (created through an alternate reality timeline) is what got me hooked. These books are in a similar vein in that they feature some of our favorite characters but in reimagined universes. it's been an interesting experience to say the least so I'm quite excited to share my reviews of them. Let's go!

Star Trek: Myriad Universes #1: Infinity's Prism

A Less Perfect Union by William Leisner explores a world where Christopher Pike remains the captain of the Enterprise while James T. Kirk is at his side as First Officer. Where's Spock? Well, Vulcans are not a member of the Federation of Planets...in fact, Earth is at odds with the Vulcans due to an incident many years earlier which devastated San Francisco. Kirk has his own bone to pick with the Vulcan people and it all comes to a head when the Enterprise picks up T'Pol for a diplomatic mission to try to repair relations with their alien neighbors. Stranger still, McCoy has joined the crew and he and Kirk immediately butt heads over what McCoy perceives is Kirk's racist feelings toward the Vulcans. Of course, longtime fans of TOS will find this humorously ironic. It's politically and racially charged with tons of action just like all the great Trek episodes. 9/10

Maybe my favorite of the entire lot was Places of Exile by Christopher L. Bennett. I've never seen any episodes of Voyager (I know, I know) so I found this one extremely easy to accept as canon. I guess it might have been harder if you already knew the "real" events of this universe. For those unfamiliar, the crew of Voyager is stranded in the Delta Quadrant and are trying to find their way back to planet Earth while navigating the unknown (and dangerous) stretch of space in-between. In this version, their ship is crippled and they must make an emergency landing on a planet where they are essentially refugees forced to make new lives for themselves. It delves into how each member of the crew reacts to the knowledge that they will most likely never reach their homes in their lifetimes. I love character studies so this one was right up my alley. 10/10

What would happen if Khan had actually succeeded in his quest to rule Earth and create a dominant race of superhumans? Well, Seeds of Dissent by James Swallow has a truly terrifying answer. After Khan's victory, augmented humans become the norm and Khan is viewed as a deity. Princeps Julian Bashir (from Deep Space Nine) is in command of the Defiant and he comes across a most unusual ship named Botany Bay. (If you're a Trekkie, then you most certainly heard ominous music playing just then.) When fictionalized history clashes with the harsh truth of reality the world crafted under Khan's descendants begins to fragment. (This book was the push I needed to continue my Trek tutelage by beginning DS9 by the way.) 9/10

Star Trek: Myriad Universes #2: Echoes and Refractions

I was mostly unfamiliar with Andorians except beyond knowing they were blue, hairy, and had antennae. The Chimes at Midnight by Geoff Trowbridge gave a most thorough background into this alien race. The reader follows two separate characters: Thelin (an Andorian) and David Marcus (James T. Kirk's estranged son). Thelin is Kirk's closest friend and First Officer of the Enterprise. David is a scientist who creates the Genesis Project in the hopes of making uninhabitable worlds fertile and livable for those looking to colonize new areas of space. When the secret of this innovation is leaked to the Klingons war is threatened. (Note: There's a rather explicit scene of torture in this book so if you're squeamish be aware.) Most troubling of all in this universe, Spock never lived beyond childhood. :'-(  7/10

War, war, war. A Gutted World by Keith R.A. DeCandido is chock full of violence and destruction as war rages across the galaxy. The Cardassians still occupy Terok Nor (DS9 reference for the uninitiated) and the Klingons and Romulans are at each other's throats. The Federation is pulled into the fray and devastating losses are piling up on all sides. Kira Nerys with the aid of Garak and Odo are trying to convince the Federation that all is not as it seems. I don't want to give too much away because it's pretty spoiler-y for Deep Space Nine even though it's an alternate reality timeline. 7/10

Brave New World written by Chris Roberson was absolutely brilliant. In this iteration, Data is not the only Soong-type android in existence. In fact, he's one of the earliest of many. When the Federation decides to limit their rights to full citizenship Data and many of his fellows resign their Starfleet commissions and drop off of the grid entirely. The story picks up 10 years later when Data inexplicably returns with a request for assistance from the Enterprise. Many familiar faces are still onboard including Chief Engineer Wesley Crusher and First Officer Geordi La Forge. (They've also perfected brain uploads in this universe which is frankly terrifying.) I so badly want to tell you the big shocker of this book but that would really kill it for you. Just read it! 10/10

Star Trek: Myriad Universes #3: Shattered Light

One of my favorite episodes of The Next Generation was the one where Data created a daughter named Lal. Unfortunately, that episode ended rather sadly for the android but in David R. George III's The Embrace of Cold Architects this has been rectified. However, there have been other casualties due to the Borg and now Will Riker is captain of the Enterprise. This book continues the questions raised by the episode The Offspring mentioned above such as 'Do androids have rights or are they property of Starfleet?'. Full of moral dilemmas and governmental obfuscation, this story will have you shaking your fist at 'the man' in no time. 9/10

I'm going to be honest and say that The Tears of Eridanus by Steve Mollmann and Michael Schuster was probably my least favorite book from all 3 volumes. This universe's central power is controlled by the Andorians and Sulu is the captain of one of their ships. As mentioned previously, I had little to no knowledge of this alien species but from what I read they aren't going to be one of my favorites. Sulu is tasked with visiting a planet where the residents have captured a science team tasked with observing the native peoples. The inhabitants are viewed as primitive and dangerous with little chance of their being admitted into the Interstellar Union. Sulu has a vested interest as his daughter is one of the members of the captured team. This book ended without any kind of real conclusion and with a barely discernible plotline. It was pretty meh in my opinion. 5/10

And finally there's Honor in the Night written by Scott Pearson. This covers the events of Tarsus and the conflict between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. Dr. McCoy (yay Bones!) is a minor player in this book but it's really Nilz Baris who steals the show...and a certain man named Arne Darvin. A reporter is trying to piece together the story of Nilz Baris and his role in the Klingon-Federation alliance by interviewing key players in his past. There are a lot of flashback scenes and many, many secrets are revealed. It read just like an episode of Trek and felt totally believable as canon to me. 9/10

And there you have it. I hope you all enjoyed those mini reviews and if you do decide to read any or all of these please let me know by writing a comment down below. Happy reading! :-)

**If you're interested in buying these books or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

October 14, 2016

Exploring a new universe

Until quite recently, I was very much a Star Trek: The Original Series kinda gal. I never investigated the other realms of the Trek universe and I had no real desire to...and then Netflix recommended I watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. After that it was kind of a given that I was going to fall head over heels in love with that particular cast of characters. (If you're wondering, I'm torn between Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Data as my favorite.) This of course meant that I had never really explored the literature of ST unless it revolved around my boys Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. My first foray into worlds unknown was the movie tie-in for First Contact by J.M. Dillard. I'm going to be up front and tell you that I still haven't seen this film but I'm going to be rectifying this at my earliest opportunity. This book features the ST:TNG cast as they come face-to-face with their old enemies the Borg Collective. dun dun DUN There's a time travel element to this book which I found a bit squidgy but honestly anytime Trek goes down the time travel route it's questionably done. They're not going back to just any era, however. They end up going back to the time of Zefram Cochrane and to Earth's first glimpse of another planet's inhabitants. The Borg aren't just going back to witness history in the making. (Wouldn't that be a funny concept for a movie? And here's the Borg kicking back in recliners with buckets of popcorn to watch the human race exploring the vast unknown for the first time.) So the crew of the Enterprise must pull out all of the stops to try and defeat this formidable foe. This is a Picard/Data heavy storyline so I was definitely on board with it. It wasn't the most fantastically written Trek novel that I've ever read but it was probably the quickest. I read it in between panels at Star Trek: Mission New York to give you an idea of its length (276 pages). If you're a fan of ST:TNG then you've most likely read this before but if you're a Trek noob then you'll most likely find this an interesting tie-in to the film version. If you're not a Trekkie then you're probably going to pass on this one although honestly why isn't everyone a Trekkie at this point? ;-)

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

October 11, 2016

Poignant artistry

As promised in my post on Tales From Outer Suburbia, I have continued my quest to read more of Shaun Tan's works. I managed to get my hands on The Arrival and The Bird King: An Artist's Notebook. I love how diverse Tan is and these two books definitely showcase his range of abilities. The Bird King features his art in a variety of formats from half-formed doodles to pastels. He explains that by continuously working on his art he is able to improve his craft. It's a way to brainstorm ideas which he may or may not use in future books. He also uses it as an exercise for drawing realistic portraits. It's really minimal text-wise but very informative for students of art which is really his intended audience I think. It's difficult to explain just how powerful The Arrival is because it felt deeply personal to me. Tan manages to tell this deeply moving story without any words whatsoever. The Arrival is the story of a man who leaves his family behind to travel to a new country where he hopes to establish himself and send for his family. Everything seems alien and surreal and Tan depicts this by using fantasy elements such as tentacled animals for pets, giants sharing the skies with skyscrapers, and huge men in hazmat suits who spray poison at the unsuspecting people scurrying below. It's the wordless story of fear of the unknown and the desire to find a better place to escape the troubles of home. It struck me right in the solar plexus. The art is beautiful, the story is stirring, and the delivery is spot-on. If you want to learn what it's like start over and feel like you've entered an unfamiliar landscape then I highly recommend this book. 10/10

From The Bird King: A haunting portrait of solitude.

Reminds me of Tales From Outer Suburbia.

From The Arrival: The fear of crossing into the great unknown.
Clinging to the familiar.
**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **