Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Weekly Read: 30

I feel like I'm finally starting to get back to normal with my reading, at least a little bit. I don't know why the summer always does this to me. Maybe it's too pretty outside to focus, or there's too much to do?

READ: Meanwhile | Jason Shiga
One of my only purchases at Comic-Con was this awesome choose-your-own-adventure graphic novel. My friend Anne picked this book up one day, and I was so fascinated by it, I had to go get one for myself! And we lucked out, because the day we went back to the booth to get me one was the day Jason Shiga was there, signed his books and chatting. He is a cool, friendly guy, with a crazy-smart brain in his head. He has my new favorite collection - vintage choose-your-own-adventure books! This collection was clearly his inspiration for this book, which just so happens to be coolest choose-your-own-adventure book I've ever seen. What sets this book apart from others is not only the clever and seemingly infinite plots, but the mind-bendingly complicated and awesome style. I love the tabs on each page, and the way you follow pipes through the tabs to continue your story, sometimes only pausing on a page for a quick pipe loop before moving onto another tab. This is a book you don't just sit down and read once. This is a book you buy, leave in a high traffic area of your home, and read through a different story every time you pass it. It's definitely not to be missed! :) Plus, contemplating the ramifications of time travel is always fun.

READ: Belle: a Retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" | Cameron Dokey
I love fairy tale retellings, and this Once Upon a Time series is one of my particular favorites. I enjoy the light-hearted happiness of this series because it is so easy and unstressful to read. The characters in this particular book, Belle and the Beast, were both likable, and had good chemistry together. The support cast was interesting and fully developed as well. My only complaint is I felt like the author spent a lot of time building up interesting characters, and getting them in the same location, and then the pace suddenly sped up and it was "happily ever after" before you could blink. I wish there had been more time with Belle and the Beast at the castle, and I wish more time was spent with the interesting side characters as well. I feel like Belle's sisters were what set this story apart from other retellings of the same tale, and it would have been nice to have more consideration given them at the end. To be honest, though, I feel like this complaint cannot be directed at the author, Dokey, but at the publishing company to an extent. It seems like they give a standard number of pages to the books in this series, and the books have to fit into that number. If instead they were allowed to develop to whatever length they needed to be, then yes, you would have some longer books, but they would be more full and complete.

READ: Wild Orchid: a Retelling of "The Ballad of Mulan" | Cameron Dokey
Much like Belle, this was a fun, feel-good tale that is comfortable to read. Mulan is one of my favorite Disney characters, so I found it really fascinating to get a different glimpse of her story. I liked Mulan's strength and courage, her determination to protect her family. Her relationship with Jian developed rather quickly, but that is not surprising in a book like this. They did truly feel connected, and I was happy to see their story end the way it did: happy. I just wish these books were longer, because I am always left wanting to know more of the story, of their continued adventures together. Because of this, I would really rate this one 4.5 stars. Altogether enjoyable, though.

READ: Stargirl | Jerry Spinelli
I was a big fan of Jerry Spinelli when I was growing up, specifically of his books Maniac McGee and There's a Girl in My Hammerlock, which came out when I was 9 and 10 respectively. Because of this, I've been wanting to read some of his later books for a while. Stargirl was hard to read at times. Kids can be mean. I think all of us know this, regardless of whether we grew up in a small town like Mica or a big city. The high school that I went to in the suburbs of Seattle was certainly more diverse than Mica, but that doesn't mean that kids didn't get picked on in similar ways. Stargirl is a unique person and to see people trying to change her was painful. The traits that the others kids shun her for will eventually be celebrated as she gets older. I had mixed feelings about Leo - he was endearing and likable, but I resented that he made Stargirl feel like she had to change, and then, when she reverted to her true self, abandoned her. Though I did like the open-ended ending, I'm still not sure if he really deserves a second chance with her. Overall, though, it was entertaining, and I plan to read the sequel, eventually. I am looking forward to reading Stargirl's perspective of the whole situation.

STARTED: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America | Erik Larson
I picked this book up at least 6 or 7 years ago because it sounded so interesting. I love fairs, and true stories, and it seemed like an interesting mix of fair history and true crime. For some reason or another, though, it kept being shunted to the bottom of the read pile. I finally picked it up to read this week. So far, it's going really slow. There are three stories going on, one involving the planning of the World's Fair, one involving a murderous psychopath, and one involving another guy, though I'm not sure how he fits in. Hopefully this one will pick up steam, because so far, it's slow going.

Up next week: keeping on track with my reading goals, and hopefully finishing some books up.

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