Monday, November 14, 2011

Neil Gaiman, Holly Thompson, George O'Connor and Faith Erin Hicks

I know it hasn't been that long since I last did a book review, but I've decided that I will post them more frequently. Since I started with Netgalley, I've read/reviewed three books. So far they've been pretty good, so I am very excited about getting to read more books. As always, the books are rated on a scale of 1-5 stars. 

Instructions: Everything You Need to Know on Your Journey by Neil Gaiman
This book features instructions (in poetry form), and some good advice, about having adventures in a fairy tale. Absolutely loved the illustrations, and the storyline and I would love to own a copy! Here is aYouTube video of the book by the author.  Recommended for ages 5+, 5 stars. 

Children & YA
Hades by George O'Connor
This was an advanced copy that I got from Netgalley. I thought it was a well-done and well-researched graphic novel on the underworld, Hades, Persephone, and Demeter.  The story shows what happens to a person when they die, according to Greek mythology, and then continues with the myth about Persephone (originally called Kore) and how she ended up as Queen of the Underworld after she was abducted by Hades. I liked that the author used multiple viewpoints of all three characters (especially Persephone) and not just that of the men in the story, as myths have a tendency to do. I liked that it would appeal to both boys and girls.

For me, it was the little things in this graphic novel that made it great. It was the way the author describes the punishments of certain Greeks in Tartaros, the fact that he includes Hercules mortal half of his soul is in the underworld while his immortal part is in Olympus, the way Kore and her mother Demeter argue like they would nowadays (which makes the myth more modern and easier for kids/teens to understand), how Hades created violets especially for Kore, and how Kore decided that being the Queen of the Underworld isn't such a bad gig and changes her name and reinvents herself. I had no idea that Zeus had sanctioned Hades to take Kore. I enjoyed the interaction between Hermes and Hekate, and didn't know that in some stories, they were married. I liked the profiles of the gods and goddesses, and the Greek notes at the end of the book, as well as the recommended reading lists.

Now I can't wait to read the other graphic novels in the author's Olympian series! Recommended for ages 10+, 5 stars.

Young Adult
Orchards by Holly Thompson
One of the reasons I like free-verse is that it gives the opportunity for the reader/writer to discuss topics that would otherwise be difficult to put across in a normal fiction novel, like the Holocaust and teenage suicide. Orchards is about an eighth grade girl named Kana (half Jewish/half Japanese)and her friends who unwittingly caused the suicide of a classmate by being mean. Kana is sent away to Japan, to her mother's family to work in their orchard for the summer. Kana learns that working at the farm isn't really so bad and that she actually enjoys it, even though her grandmother still doesn't approve of her because of her mother's decision to move to New York and marry her father, a Russian Jew. While adapting to life with her extended family, she tells the story to Ruth, the girl who killed herself, and tries to figure out what caused Ruth to do what she did. Her world is turned upside down again, when another classmate commits suicide at the end of the summer. Kana decides create a monument to them both by expanding on a Japanese idea to honor the dead. Recommended for ages 13+, 4 stars.

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

I received this advanced copy from Netgalley. I really loved this coming-of-age story about a girl entering high school, and more importantly public school, for the very first time. She has three gregarious brothers and her dad has just become the chief of police. Maggie spends most of the book trying to find her place in the family and in the greater world, after her mom's disappearance a little bit before the story begins. Maggie gets her first female friend and learns that people aren't always as they seem. A 19th century ghost follows her everywhere, but she can't figure out what it wants.

There were some really hilarious moments in the graphic novel, that I could identify with and I think teenage girls would like as well. For example on page 75, where Lucy is talking about never being able to be homeschooled by her mother because they are always having these "Raarg, You are my daughter, Obey! fights. Someone would die eventually." Later, on page 91, Maggie is hanging out again with Lucy and Al and they have just seen the movie "Alien" and Al makes a comment about enjoying the sight of Sigourney Weaver in her underwear. Then when the girls give him the death look, he says "I retract the previous statement. I did not look lustfully upon the kickass lady in her underoos." There is also the extreme but cute nerd factor on page 185 where one of Maggie's brothers mentions that he's seen "Raiders of the Lost Ark three hundred and fourteen times."

My only gripe with the book was that the images from pages 111-112 were missing entirely. You could follow the storyline as the speech bubbles were there, but I would've liked to see the illustrations as they were in the middle of the story. Recommended for ages 13+, 5 stars.

Mighty Spice Cookbook: Fast, Fresh and Vibrant Dishes Using No More Than 5 Spices For Each Recipe by John Gregory Smith

I received an advanced copy from Netgalley.

In the introduction to the cookbook, the author gives us a very vivid description about how he came about his love of cooking and the trip around the world he made, which awakened his love for spices. This sets the stage for his lovely cookbook, which thankfully has color pictures with each dish. The recipes are easy to understand, and most include a paragraph before the recipe itself which explains what the dish is like and what to serve it with (I only wish he had done this for every recipe as I was curious to know more about them). I appreciated the Spice Directory, a nice reference section for those who may not know about all the spices they mention throughout the book.

I would personally love to try the Mango Orange Nutmeg Cheesecake, Gobi Masala, Stir-Fried Squid with Chili and Coriander, Al Pastor Pork and Pineapple Salad, and the Indian Chicken, Pomegranate and Herb Salad, just to name a few.

No comments:

Post a Comment