Sunday, January 22, 2012

Laura Lee Gulledge, Vera Brosgol, Trevor Marriot and Hiromu Arakawa

Jan 22 Book Reviews, Part II: 

Young Adult
Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge
I picked this up by accident at the library while browsing the last time, as I was feeling like some new graphic novels and it looked interesting. This journal style graphic novel is about Paige, a shy 16 yr old girl from Charlottesville, Virginia who moves with her writer parents to New York City. It is a huge change for her, not only because she moved in the middle of her junior year of high school but because she doesn't know anyone and it feeling rather lonely. She decides to reinvent herself by keeping this journal sketchbook and making new friends, who she in turn helps out with their creative adventures. I thought it was really well done at showing what it is like to be a very introspective quiet girl who wants so desperately to fit in but doesn't want to do the wrong thing (I know I have definitely felt this way, more so in college than high school, but I also moved the middle of high school so I know how she feels). She ends up publishing her own mini magazine of drawings, which she calls Pages by Paige. Recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars.

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
I've been wanting to read this one forever but never had the time until now. It was well worth the wait, although I thought the story was a little slow at times. Anya's Ghost is about a high school Americanized Russian teenager named Anya. She seems constantly annoyed/embarrassed at her mother and brother, only has one friend and never quite seems to fit in anywhere. One day while cutting through a park, she falls down an abandoned well and meets a ghost named Emily who follows her to school. At first they get along and Emily helps her out with schoolwork and flirting with Sean, the boy that Anya likes. This is until Anya finds out what Sean is really like, a humongous jerk, and that the only reason that Emily is helping her out is to live through her, as she never got the chance. Anya decides to investigate Emily's murder and turns out that things are not as they seem and suddenly everything starts going pear-shaped. What is Emily's real story? Will Emily and Anya ever really be happy? To find out, read this intriguing graphic novel. Recommended for ages 12+, 4 stars.

Emma, Volume 2 by Kaoru Mori
I liked this volume better than the first because of the character development. In Volume 2, Emma finally get to go on an outing with William, to the Crystal Palace to look at the exhibits and their relationship finally begins. Her employer Kelly dies and she decides to leave town, and tries to meet up with William but they miss each other. We get to meet William's brothers and sisters, and they are scandalized when they learn about Emma (esp his youngest sister). Meanwhile Evelyn, the girl that William's father wants him to marry, has become friends with William's older sister and is starting to fall in love with William. I can't wait to see what happens in Volume 3! Recommended for ages 12+, 5 stars.

Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 1 (Fullmetal Alchemist, #1) by Hiromu Arakawa
This manga version of Fullmetal Alchemist is pretty much exactly like the beginning of the anime series. I had watched the original version of the anime but was told by manga fans that reading the manga version or seeing "Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood" was better because it gave the actual story. Volume 1 explains how the Elric brothers, Edward the eldest who is the State Alchemist and his younger brother Alphonse whose soul is trapped in a suit of armor. This occurred when the brothers tried to use alchemy to bring back their dead mother and forgot the rule of equivalent exchange, so Al lost all but his soul and Ed lost his right arm and left leg. He is called "fullmetal" because he has all metal appendages to replace the ones he lost. They have two adventures in this volume, the first to a town where a man claiming to be a priest who performs miracles supposedly possesses a piece of the Philosopher's Stone. The second is about a mining town owned by a tyrant military man who taxes the occupants nearly to death. Recommended for ages 14+, 3 stars.

Master Chef Tom's Burns Night by Tom Bridge
A e-book guide to doing your own Burns night (usually celebrated around Robert Burns' birthday, Jan 25), it gives you a basic introduction of what the event is and includes recipes you can use to create your own menu.
3 stars. 

Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation by Trevor Marriot

I would like to preface this review by saying that if you do not like very graphic and detailed descriptions, with some pictures, of crimes, then this is not the book for you. I first became interested in Jack the Ripper in high school after I read a book about the subject. I was fascinated and horrified by what happen, and I guess part of the appeal is wondering why in the heck someone would do something like this. I've seen the Patricia Cornwell special that she did in the late 90s, and while it was interesting, I don't believe the mystery could be tied up in that complete a package like she made it out to be.

In this book the author, a former Detective in London, breaks down the murders into manageable chunks that makes everything easier to understand. The five "canonical" murders as he calls them, are discussed in detail which includes the actual court proceedings, along with four additional murders which may or may not be attributed to the Ripper. The second part describes the possible motives for the killer, the evidence, the Ripper letters (which the author basically says were all manufactured by journalists of the day), a list of eleven suspects that the author doesn't believe did the murders and a final suspect that he believes committed not only the 5 canonical murders, but also at least 6 others all over the world. I thought it was a very well done book. 4 stars.

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