Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

"Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious, and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena's vivacious cousin enters their household as a "hired girl", Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent. 

In one of American fiction's finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio toward their tragic destinies. Different in both tone and theme from Wharton's other works, Ethan Frome has become perhaps her most enduring and most widely read novel."

Well. If you're looking for a feel-good Thanksgiving break book, this isn't it. Part of the main theme is bringing out harsh winters that suck the happiness and life out of people, so that's fun. It's a bit of a confounding book, all the way through. That's not to say that it's uninteresting, just definitely needing some extra patience and consideration. It's got a mine of literary angles to it, what with ironic twists and kinda depressing character flaws and such. And there's a definitely ironic ending, so if you like those this may appeal to you. Keep in mind, though: it isn't the type of "karma via irony" where everyone gets what's due to them and lives happily ever after or meets justice or whatever. There isn't much black and white in this book, and there definitely aren't any happy endings. That said, I'll remind you that it's a very literary book and has a lot of depth and thoughtfulness to it. It wasn't exactly a book I was tripping over myself to keep reading, but I'm glad I did. Honestly, I think you kind of have to decide for yourself on this one. It's a bit polarizing. There's a copy at SHS, MEHS, and Kettleson.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

"Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. 

Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. 

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning - and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge."

I will admit, when I first picked this book up, I was very skeptical, simply because rip-roaring action/adventure is not my typical reading choice. After reading the first few pages though, I was utterly hooked; the fighting is described in a way that reads like a good heist movie, the concept is a captivating twist on superheroes, and the motivation of the main character is believable and interesting to follow. The characters who fight alongside David all have their own quirks that make them fun to read about and easy to cheer for, as well. 
There is a dry humor throughout the dialogue and in David's narrative, and the friendship he has with the main female character really is quite amusing. 

To be completely honest, my favorite part of the book was the ending--the entire book was an extremely well done, fast-paced build-up to what was a truly satisfying ending, and I highly recommend that if you spot this book on a shelf you should snatch it up and immerse yourself in a world of steel, action, and superheroes gone wrong. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Outcasts United by Warren St. John

"This young people's version of the adult bestseller, Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference, is a complex and inspirational story about the Fugees, a youth soccer team made up of diverse refugees from around the world, and their formidable female coach, Luma Mufleh. Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical southern town until it became a refugee resettlement center. The author explores how the community changed with the influx of refugees and how the dedication of Lumah Mufleh and the entire Fugees soccer team inspired an entire community."

Hmm. Well, it was a true story, which is always nice, and the subject matter was pretty interesting--the background of all the boys and everything touched on different issues that you don't normally read about--but the writing. I'm sorry, but it was not enjoyable to read because it's literally a 200-page news article. That's what it is, and it's going to give you the facts. It gives play-by-plays of the soccer games, way more than I needed personally, but hey. If you're into soccer, might be your thing. And I mean, I didn't hate it; like I said earlier, the story in general was super interesting and all the characters had an incredibly rich background. The story was good all on its own, and I'd suggest it if solely for that. You could try it, I s'pose. There's copies at SHS and MEHS.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne's concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale, trapped by the rules of society, stands as a classic study of a self divided."

Yes, I know. A classic. Shudder. Before you start lobbing the holy water, though, hear this one out: it won't kill you.  In fact, you may actually end up learning something. There are two main points people bring up if they're arguing against or for this book. On the positive side, the story and material are incredibly thought-provoking and compelling. Characters are strong in their attributes, themes are clear and present, and people can get invested in the things happening. On the critical side, Hawthorne's writing is a bit painful at times. He has a fondness for sentences that take three left turns before arriving at his point; commas and semicolons are his addiction. Additionally, some argue that his symbolism is wrought into everything and the reader is too blatantly hit over the head by it. 

So, my opinion? I think the positive's definitely worth considering. It's one of those books that's very worth it to have read and thought about, not just for the sake of being able to say you've read it. It's very true, though, that the criticism of the writing has some true basis. Some sentences need to be read several times to figure out the original point, and the language on a whole doesn't exactly make for a fluid read. Still, I've read worse, and I think the interest of the characters and themes wins out for me. (Especially Hester. She's pretty incredible). I think I'd recommend it--granted you have a bit of tolerance for exposition. There's copies at Kettleson, Sitka High, and MEHS.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Queen of the Tearling by Erica Johansen

"Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother - Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid - was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea's uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighboring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea's 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother's guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding...

And so begins her journey back to her kingdom's heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother's legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive..."

Hello, all! My name is Valerie, and I am the latest addition to this fabulous blog. My reading interests are all over the place, but I mostly stick with fiction, epic fantasy being my weakness. I hope that the reviews I will be posting on here will be of interest to you!

Speaking of reviews, I cannot say enough about The Queen of the Tearling. This was a book that I happened to grab on my way out of the library one day this summer, and I have no regrets in finishing it in one very long sitting. Kelsea, the main character, goes through a truly wonderful character development throughout the book, and the entire time I was reading I was cheering for her. She does not fall into the trap of an angst-filled love triangle while fighting to keep her life; instead, Kelsea takes ahold of the massive job that is handed to her and she runs with it. Immediately upon arriving at what is apparently her new castle, the young queen starts overturning and disrupting every single way of life that had been allowed to become stagnate and foul while she was coming of age. Reading about this scared young woman stepping far out of her comfort zone and seizing the chance to make things better even though she is sacrificing everything is really an incredible read. The fact that there is an attractive bandit hiding out in the woods and loads of fascinating new magic thrown around in the story definitely helps, too. 

Also, one thing that made me want to start over again at page one when I finished the book was a little nugget of information near the end that hinted that the entire storyline that was just read is not entirely what you thought it I don't want to divulge any of the books tantalizing secrets, I will leave off by telling you, dear readers, to go and devour this book. Well, not literally. But I do hope you grab a copy of The Queen of the Tearling and read it if you get the chance, as it is a swashbuckling, adventurous, and magical book that I would easily give a sound five stars to.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Change in the Wind...

Hi! Soo, you might have seen this coming or not, I have an announcement that I think is gonna change things but maybe have an upside! Just hear me out.

Essentially, my free time is at an all-time low. I need to have a serious talk with whoever said junior year was going to be the hardest--yeah, no. Senior year is the year of ten million things and I'm going crazy. The book-a-week thing, while incredibly fun and I love doing it, I have no time for. To that end, I've enlisted my wonderful and gorgeous friend Valerie Chinalski to help me tag-team this blog. At this point we're each going to post one a month, so you'll get a review every two weeks. I know, slower and everything, but trust me, this is gonna work a lot better for us and I'm super excited to have Valerie help me. She's awesome, trust me. And if you, dear reader, love to read and would love to give your quick opinion on a book every month, talk to me! I'm always open to more people!

Alright, that's it for now! Thanks for bearing with me!

Monday, September 15, 2014


I know, I didn't upload yesterday. I succumbed to one of those freaking viruses floating around, and right now I need to sleep and catch up on the homework that was just loaded on me. Sorry, I think that week's kind of a lost cause. I'll have one up for this coming week, though. I hope. Feeling awful can't last forever, right?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins

"Still Life with Woodpecker is a sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. It also deals with the problem of redheads."

So, this was recommended by a friend (incidentally, the same one who gave me Good Omens, so I tend to trust her judgment. This one did pretty well, too). Remember when I said Kurt Vonnegut required a certain type of person to enjoy his stuff? Yeah, that's what's going on here, too. Even more so, if possible. That's not to say it wasn't good--it was. It was pretty unexpected, from every angle, but funny and with some spot-on themes presented very uniquely. The characters were all very colorful, though admittedly none were really completely sympathetic. The problem was just that their choices and actions were, every once in a while, a bit strange or not understandable. The friend who lent me this explained it perfectly: something about a Tom Robbins book just gives you a faint suspicion that you might not like the author very much if you met in person. That's the best way I can find to form it into words. But that's not to say that it was an unenjoyable book, on the whole. He has an interesting relationship with the English language and metaphors/similes that captures things unexpectedly and perfectly (it only occasionally strays into weird nonsense) and there are some really priceless themes in it. Overall, it's a book about a redheaded princess living in Seattle, the redheaded bomber she falls in love with, and the central question of how to make love stay. If you're into Kurt Vonnegut or surrealism, this might be a hit. I think it's one that you kind of just have to form your own opinion about... it's at Kettleson in the fiction section. Try it!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams

"Arthur Dent hadn't had a day as bad as this since the Earth had been blown up.

Depressed and alone, Arthur finally settles on the small planet Lamuella and becomes a sandwich maker. Looking forward to a quiet life, his plans are thrown awry by the unexpected arrival of his daughter.

There’s nothing worse than a frustrated teenager with a copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in their hands. When she runs away – Arthur goes after her determined to save her from the horrors of the universe.

After all – he’s encountered most of them before…"

If I ever give a Douglas Adams book a bad review, please alert a medical professional as it's a very good indicator that I've gone off the deep end. Of course, your mileage may vary with it, because it's a very... interesting niche he's cornered, but honestly these are some of the most enjoyable books I've read. This one was no different--true, I do still think So Long and Thanks for All the Fish might trump it slightly, but it still has the minimum Adams requirements, such as: one fit of unexpected and uncontrollable laughter, two inconveniently timed public giggling spells, and at least a dozen other amazing quotes worthy of marking. Held with the formula, was brilliant as always, and I was quite happy. True, in the lineup of his books it might fall around the middle ranking, but there was nothing actually a problem. A good, solid, pretty-hilarious book. Four stars from me, and as always, if I could personally buy the series for you I would. But I'm cheap and I have no idea who you are, so that's on you. I can offer my undying affection, that's about it. Anyway, go get a copy of this at Sitka High or Kettleson. Ciao!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

"In Breakfast of Champions, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s  most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth."

Dear God, this man is not afraid of anything. He doesn't care whose feelings he hurts or who he offends, and for me, it's awesome. Because, honestly, every single possibly offensive thing laid out in this book is something that's been believed, said, or done by Americans at one point or another. No lie. He just says it in the simplest forms possible, and if people somehow find it more offensive than the way they'd been rationalizing the issue, that's kind of the point. The book's written as if trying to educate an alien race about America, finding simplistic and surprising ways to explain things about us. A lot of them are funny, most are fairly ridiculous, and all are eye-opening. I liked it a lot (disclaimer: I was raised by reformed hippies, so I have a healthy dose of cynicism about America, and that might tell you a little about whether you might like this book). This little gem popped up in the first chapter:

“1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them.” 
So yeah, that's a good gauge of his sense of humor. It's not for some, granted.
Now, I'd like to touch on the point that there's a reason this is in the adult fiction section.It's mature, in the very literal sense that you need to have a good measure of maturity for it to get its point across. If you start uncontrollably giggling at suggestive situations, maybe read this in a couple years. It's satire. It's got a message. And it was amazing. Anyway, there's a copy at Kettleson. If this looked appealing to you, I super highly suggest it. 4.5 stars.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

"Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket.

In envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.

The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.

Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/ bloke–about–town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous–though utterly romantic–results. But will she ever see him again?

Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it's all because of the 13 little blue envelopes."

Taking a break from the sloggy classics, here's a pure fluff piece that you can get through in a couple of days and stay entertained. And honestly, it isn't quite as flat-out cheesy as you may be thinking. Well, just a little bit. But in a fun way. The summary kinda deceives you, too, I should mention: the Scotland trip's just a shortish bit near the beginning, before she keeps following the envelopes and all sorts of other interesting things happen. So thankfully the romance isn't the end-all. It's more about Ginny processing the circumstances around the person that wrote the letters, her aunt. There's a fair bit of processing and character development and all that--again, only slightly stereotypical--set against a whole slew of pretty European backgrounds and tasks. Plus, Ginny's narrative is slightly quirky and funny, which is kinda nice. It's not Great American Literature or anything, but it's fun and involving to read. I started and finished it with definitely time to spare in a single eight-hour leg of our road trip, so it goes fast. Maybe four stars. There'll be a copy at Kettleson.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

"Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins,
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them."

His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation."

I'll just come out and say it: this was not an enjoyable book for me. It seems like it might not be incredibly joyous for anyone, but I think the key factor between someone loving and hating this book is whether or not they identify with Holden. I didn't, personally. I couldn't stand him. From someone who's stubborn and determined to the point of insanity, the slacking, apathetic boy who throws away every opportunity and resource just doesn't appeal to me. He's kind of pretentious and obnoxious, and he's exactly the kind of hypocrite he hates. I get that it's part of the theme and the point, but when he goes around calling every single person a phony and gets offended by taking enjoyment from anything mainstream, I get a little tired. I'll point out that it isn't all bad; there are spots where some insightful and human comments sneak out from the cynicism, which are valuable, but overall it's not quite enough to make it enjoyable. Partly it's because of the plot, which never really climaxes and is very repetitive. The one plotline that I really wanted to see followed through, gets left hanging. And partly it's because there's a total of one sympathetic/likable character out of the dozens in the book (Holden's younger sister). Most are actually incredibly grating and awful; I don't find them comical or whatever, it just gets me irritated. It might be very affecting to those who relate, who feel like Salinger "gets" them, but I wasn't one of those people. Sorry for the letdown, Salinger fans. We're just not gonna see eye to eye. The copies are at Kettleson, SHS, BMS, and MEHS. I'm not going to recommend it, but I'll let you form your own opinion.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

"Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts."

Hmm. This was very easy to get through, given that it was a fable and written in a deceptively simplistic style. It reminded me a lot of The Little Prince, actually, which is a very good thing. It had a huge amount of themes going on, almost more well-explored than The Little Prince--or at least more expounded upon. It was incredibly deep, and really applicable to anyone. I kind of liked reading it. It's only 160 pages, so it goes fast. The writing did just enough to give a really vibrant picture--nothing too sparse or wordy. One thing that I noticed was that the author says the boy's name in the first sentence and then never again. I got through halfway reading about "the boy" thinking it was just a fable-type trope, before going back and realizing that he actually had a name. So that was a little weird. But eh, I guess it just adds to the metaphor/fable vibe. This was very well-written, too; things were exceedingly symbolic in all ways, there were a lot of subtle layers, and I never got bored. It introduced me to a lot of interesting ideas. I still like The Little Prince probably better because it's just the coolest and cutest thing ever, but this one gave it a run for its money. I give four stars. And it's at Kettleson, Sitka High, and MEHS in the adult fiction section. Yay! Except all of them are closed, so eh. Anyway.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani

"In the epic sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel, The School for Good and Evil, Sophie and Agatha are home, living out their Ever After. But life isn’t quite the fairy tale they expected. 

When Agatha secretly wishes she’d chosen a different happy ending, she reopens the gates to the School for Good and Evil. But the world she and Sophie once knew has changed.

Witches and princesses, warlocks and princes are no longer enemies. New bonds are forming; old bonds are being shattered. But underneath this uneasy arrangement, a war is brewing and a dangerous enemy rises. As Agatha and Sophie battle to restore peace, an unexpected threat could destroy everything, and everyone, they love—and this time, it comes from within."

Wow. Seriously, this was better than the first one. This went into topics that I've never seen handled in this setting, and it was brilliant. Just like how the first book poked fun at the idiotic fairy-tale "good/evil" tropes--animal conversation class for the Evers, uglification for the Nevers--the second one went even further, exploring the balance between the genders and all possible imbalances that have or could occur. It was fantastic, honestly. I felt like the plot was intricate and there weren't really any blah, flat plot devices. Everything fit in, everything made sense, and the plot twists were unexpected but fit perfectly in with everything. I loved the way the characters were handled, too: there were insane levels of complexity without really making me feel like anything was out-of-character. Each one was put through different circumstances and had to deal with them, some characters were pitted against one another by manipulation but still had their own struggles, and all of them were allowed to show more of their character than the first book. The ending made me start desperately needing to read the third one, which is a shame since it's not out yet. I think this series is highly enjoyable and well worth the read. I recommend it really highly. 4.5 to 5 stars. There's not a copy at the libraries yet, but you should try and find it if you can.

Monday, July 21, 2014

SuperFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

"Four years in the making, SuperFreakonomics asks not only the tough questions, but the unexpected ones: What's more dangerous, driving drunk or walking drunk? Why is chemotherapy prescribed so often if it's so ineffective? Can a sex change boost your salary?

SuperFreakonomics challenges the way we think all over again, exploring the hidden side of everything with such questions as:

How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?
Why are doctors so bad at washing their hands?
How much good do car seats do?
What's the best way to catch a terrorist?
Did TV cause a rise in crime?
What do hurricanes, heart attacks, and highway deaths have in common?
Are people hard-wired for altruism or selfishness?
Can eating kangaroo save the planet?
Which adds more value: a pimp or a Realtor?

Levitt and Dubner mix smart thinking and great storytelling like no one else, whether investigating a solution to global warming or explaining why the price of oral sex has fallen so drastically. By examining how people respond to incentives, they show the world for what it really is – good, bad, ugly, and, in the final analysis, super freaky.

Freakonomics has been imitated many times over – but only now, with SuperFreakonomics, has it met its match."

I couldn't resist reading the sequel to Freakonomics, and this doesn't need you to read the first one because both are a completely jumbled analysis of random things. I don't feel like this one was quite as good as the first one--a little more random, a little less organized, a tiny bit more out there. I feel like it could have benefitted even from more broken-down chapters or headers; as is, the random interjections were just a bit hard to keep track of. And don't get me wrong, there was still a lot of really interesting stuff in there, but there were also a couple parts that had me skeptical. I get that most of their job is essentially turning conventional knowledge on its head, but a few cases--notably the global warming and chemo chapters--had me really wanting to get some second opinions and extra sources. For the most part, though, the subjects were as entertaining and thought-provoking as ever. I'd probably recommend reading it, and even if you don't want to read the whole thing, read the epilogue. It's one of the truly greatest things about the book. I'm serious: cappuccian capitalism. It's worth it, dude. Anyway, the book's at Kettleson but you'll have to pick it up in a month when they reopen. Ah well. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that. Ciao!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

'The first kidnappings happened two hundred years before. Some years it was two boys taken, some years two girls, sometimes one of each. But if at first the choices seemed random, soon the pattern became clear. One was always beautiful and good, the child every parent wanted as their own. The other was homely and odd, an outcast from birth. An opposing pair, plucked from youth and spirited away.
This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.
But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?
The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one."

I've been wanting to read this book forever, ever since I saw the advance copy and somebody else got to it first. They finally lent it to me, so I promptly finished all five hundred pages in about two days. I think my opinion of each character changed quite a bit over the course of the book, because there was a lot of character development and change. A few of the more major and general points were pretty easily anticipated, but there was a lot going on in the plot that was unexpected or interesting. Though talking about the character evolution, at times I didn't really feel like investing or believing quite so heavily in the redemption path that some took. In other words, there were a couple characters that acted so rampantly... uhhh... self-centered or nasty or shallow (to use the polite phrases) that by the end when they'd stepped into their "new light," I still had a little dislike and skepticism nagging at the back of my mind. But that was just a few cases. For the most part I loved the changes and twists that essentially all the characters went through, working with the central questioning of the black-and-white categories of Good and Evil. And what had hooked me in was the premise, something really interesting that I don't think I've ever seen before. It was a really cool story to read, and I think overall it was done justice. The plot got really surprisingly complicated, in ways I didn't expect. It was a nice surprise to see more layers to it. I definitely enjoyed it a lot, and I know a lot of others have too. I'd very much recommend this if you're into fairy tales, or even any kind of fantasy. Four and a half stars. There's a copy at Blatchley.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

"Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?
These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.
Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: freakonomics.
Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of . . . well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Klu Klux Klan.
What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.
Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world."

So, it may look a little daunting and non-fiction-y, but this one's honestly pretty short (like 200 pages) and very quick to get through. The topics are, as professed, a bit random, but all of the information was hugely interesting to hear about. I really liked in particular the analysis of factors determining success/change in children, versus the surprisingly ineffective factors. It gave me a lot of new information and opened up a lot of questions in my mind, which is exactly what I think the authors were going for. I got a lot out of reading it, and in my opinion it was really, really good. It was on the same level as the Bill Bryson book I reviewed last week or so. I think it's extremely worth reading. I'm gonna end it there because I caught the SFAC sickness and feel not-so-great at the moment, but rest assured that I give this 4.5 stars. There are copies at Kettleson, Sitka High, and MEHS.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

"Bill Bryson is one of the world’s most beloved and bestselling writers. In A Short History of Nearly Everything, he takes his ultimate journey–into the most intriguing and consequential questions that science seeks to answer. It’s a dazzling quest, the intellectual odyssey of a lifetime, as this insatiably curious writer attempts to understand everything that has transpired from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization. Or, as the author puts it, “…how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something, and then how a little of that something turned into us, and also what happened in between and since.” This is, in short, a tall order.
To that end, Bill Bryson apprenticed himself to a host of the world’s most profound scientific minds, living and dead. His challenge is to take subjects like geology, chemistry, paleontology, astronomy, and particle physics and see if there isn’t some way to render them comprehensible to people, like himself, made bored (or scared) stiff of science by school. His interest is not simply to discover what we know but to find out how we know it. How do we know what is in the center of the earth, thousands of miles beneath the surface? How can we know the extent and the composition of the universe, or what a black hole is? How can we know where the continents were 600 million years ago? How did anyone ever figure these things out?
On his travels through space and time, Bill Bryson encounters a splendid gallery of the most fascinating, eccentric, competitive, and foolish personalities ever to ask a hard question. In their company, he undertakes a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only this superb writer can render it. Science has never been more involving, and the world we inhabit has never been fuller of wonder and delight."

I cannot quite convey how good this book is. Yes, it's around 500 pages, and it's information-dense, but the information is presented in an incredibly interesting and entertaining manner. It's matter-of-fact but maintains a huge amount of dry humor and good storytelling. It got me quietly giggling to myself in public a couple times, which I'm afraid to say earned some strange glances. Yes, it takes a bit of time to read because there's just so much to take in, but it's definitely not boring. Above all, just the process of learning the basics of geology and the beginning of the universe and the earth and atoms and so much more (and all the little fascinating stories that go along with them) feels awesome. I got a lot of perspective from reading it, seeing it all outlined in terms of eons and evolution and light-years. It's like a high-speed, high-interest, all-inclusive course for anyone who's ever been curious about astronomy/biology/physics/geology/science in general. The book very well lives up to its name. And like I mentioned earlier, the anecdotes are occasionally the highlight of the book, like the geologist with a penchant for doing fieldwork naked, or the painfully shy Henry Cavendish, who once fled from an admiring house-caller and had to be coaxed back into his house hours later. There's some lively stuff in the book, I'm telling you. If you like learning, if you have any ounce of curiosity in you, I think you'll like it. I certainly did, and I'm giving it five stars. I can't recommend this book highly enough. There's a copy at Kettleson and Mt. Edgecumbe.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams

"Back on Earth with nothing more to show for his long, strange trip through time and space than a ratty towel and a plastic shopping bag, Arthur Dent is ready to believe that the past eight years were all just a figment of his stressed-out imagination. But a gift-wrapped fishbowl with a cryptic inscription, the mysterious disappearance of Earth's dolphins, and the discovery of his battered copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy all conspire to give Arthur the sneaking suspicion that something otherworldly is indeed going on....

God only knows what it all means. And fortunately, He left behind a Final Message of explanation. But since it's light-years away from Earth, on a star surrounded by souvenir booths, finding out what it is will mean hitching a ride to the far reaches of space aboard a UFO with a giant robot. But what else is new?"

So this took a bit of a more relaxed track with its plot than the others; it was set just on Earth, no alien wars or anything. And I have to say it was one of my favorites. It was just simple Douglas Adams at his best. The dialogue was sharp, the observations were relevant, and the end was absolutely priceless. I think I went through this one quicker than the others, too. There were still some plot twists, slightly less out-of-the-blue than Life, the Universe, and Everything, but still enough to keep things interesting. Not much really to say other than that, so I'll leave you to decide. Five stars, by the way. There's a copy at Sitka High.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams

"The unhappy inhabitants of planet Krikkit are sick of looking at the night sky above their heads--so they plan to destroy it. The universe, that is. Now only five individuals stand between the killer robots of Krikkit and their goal of total annihilation.

They are Arthur Dent, a mild-mannered space and time traveler who tries to learn how to fly by throwing himself at the ground and missing; Ford Prefect, his best friend, who decides to go insane to see if he likes it; Slartibartfast, the indomitable vice president of the Campaign for Real Time, who travels in a ship powered by irrational behavior; Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed ex-president of the galaxy; and Trillian, the sexy space cadet who is torn between a persistent Thunder God and a very depressed Beeblebrox.

How will it all end? Will it end? Only this stalwart crew knows as they try to avert universal Armageddon and save life as we know it--and don't know it!"

So, you may or may not know about my absolute fondness for Douglas Adams books. On the trip I was determined to finish the Hitchhiker series, which I did, so I figured I'd give a little feedback on the two ones I read. I'd seriously missed reading stuff like this, so it made me so happy to get back into them. They're written by a man who's undeniably ridiculously smart, as well as somewhat sassy and slightly insane (which, in my opinion, is the best kind of person). Everything from the Thor cameo, to the random immortal alien bent on systematically insulting every member of the universe, was weird in the awesomest possible way. Things made simultaneously no sense and perfect sense, in the way that happens when Douglas Adams spends the entire duration of writing a science fiction book with his tongue in his cheek. I really loved it; the parallels were intelligent and funny, the characters were strange, and the plot was twisty and had some completely unexpected developments that I didn't see coming. Five stars. I would barely stop short of force to get you to start reading this series; this book's at Kettleson and Sitka High, and the first book is at Kettleson, Mt. Edgecumbe, Blatchley, and Sitka High.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

"Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try."

So here's one that I read on the plane and finished in the first couple days in Guatemala, and while I wasn't glued to it every free second, I really enjoyed reading it. It's a really interesting portrait of a relationship, and it's also pretty freaking powerful too--it handles some intense topics, both good and bad. It's mature at times, I guess slightly from the relationship but mostly with the depiction of certain unhealthy situations orbiting the characters. 
It was set in the 80s but the only marker of the time period was the use of cassettes--everything else could have been set in any time, which I kind of liked. (For some reason my enjoyment of books set in the past tends to be more iffy). But anyway, this one could just as easily have read like modern teens as anything else.
The story was a bit of a slow burn for me; I warmed up to the characters and the story as they warmed up to each other, which was a bit fitting. By the end I was completely into it--the story got sweeter and more in-depth as their relationship progressed. It was unconventional but felt familiar somehow, which was really nice. The way the plot played out, and the ending (which was previewed in a prologue) was powerful, realistic, and devastating to read, coming not too long after I'd fallen completely in love with the characters. I think this is a book definitely worth reading: sweet, and different, with no bland romanticism or airbrushed plot. 4.5 stars. There's a copy at Kettleson and Mt. Edgecumbe.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


So, it's with a not-so-heavy heart that I have to report that I'll be posting extremely sporadically over the next couple of weeks. I'm going to Guatemala, and the books that I could review are basically the ones that get finished on the plane or some such--I might upload something if I get internet, but odds are you'll just get a couple reviews when I get back, all in one fell swoop.

And my packing and studying-for-SAT frenzy has left me zero time this week to read, so I'll owe you three reviews when I come back. But I don't feel bad, 'cause I'll be in Guatemala!

Okay, sorry. Not to rub it in your face or anything.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston

"I'm Valkyrie White. I’m fifteen. Your government killed my family.
Ever since Mabby died while picking beans in their garden--with the pock-a-pock of a helicopter overhead--Valkyrie knows what her job is: hide in the underground den with her brother, Bo, while Da is working, because Those People will kill them like coyotes.
One Year Ago:
Those People have come. It has to be them, because when Valkyrie and Bo return from a lesson of alert and ready, everything is on fire and Da is gone. But they've been trained by their Da for this: It's time to wait. Time to prepare. Time to be invisible. 
Last Fall: 
Maybe Da's not coming back. Maybe. So Bo and Valkyrie must enter the outside world--a not-so-smart place where little boys wear their names on their backpacks and young men don't pat down strangers before offering a lift. People should be more careful. 
This Afternoon: 
Valkyrie finds herself in a twisted game of life and death where winning is all that matters. And in a final, trigger-tense moment of when and where and who, it all comes down to . . . 

Well. I'd like to open this review with a cursory statement, and sorry if it's not quite censored, but this deserves it: this book is creepy as hell. There's really no other way to put it, I'm sorry. I'd like to lay out a few more points of the story than the summary gave, if you don't terribly mind not finding them out for yourself. I just want to elaborate on what you're getting into if you decide to read this: this is about a teenage suicide bomber. I honestly didn't quite get that from the blurb--I couldn't figure out if it was just a post-apocalyptic storyline, or conspiracy plot, or what. The story is also structured to put the actual pieces together slowly, interspersing bare current-time scenes with events that happened in the past. I finally got an idea of the complete picture around page 50. 
That isn't to say, though, that it's badly written--quite the opposite. I have no problem saying that this is very well written and carefully structured. The "present" scenes span about a day, and between them the "past" scenes start ten years before and work up to months or weeks before, showing the life she's led that leads her to that present. Things are still developing up until the end. You get an unsettling idea early on that the narrator--Valley--is, if not unhinged, at least not a fully reliable narrator. Threads of rage, detachment, and deep-rooted paranoia run through her account, and crafted chess parallels run through the entire book. 
It's, overall, a deeply unsettling thing to read. It's not dystopian or post-apocalyptic either, really; it exists in some gray area that Valkyrie's state of mind doesn't allow us to fully pin down, but it's not overly futuristic. That bit adds to the unsettling nature, and I'm sure has a lot of literary weight. Finally, untangling whether there's truth in Valkyrie's conditioned beliefs about the black helicopters and Those People is nearly impossible. Overall, it's dark, bleak, and pulls no punches. For a 170-ish page book, it's incredibly intense and I'm sure would be conducive to re-reading to pull together more facets of the story.
I'll just say this: I didn't enjoy it--not that I think you're really supposed to, but I won't be re-reading this. It's incredibly intense, mature at times, and not recommendable for anyone under about 10th grade. I will say that it's very well-executed for what it is, and leave you to decide whether you want to try it. There's a copy at Kettleson.
Just be prepared.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Parallel by Lauren Miller

"Abby Barnes had a plan. The Plan. She'd go to Northwestern, major in journalism, and land a job at a national newspaper, all before she turned twenty-two. But one tiny choice—taking a drama class her senior year of high school—changed all that. Now, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Abby is stuck on a Hollywood movie set, miles from where she wants to be, wishing she could rewind her life. The next morning, she's in a dorm room at Yale, with no memory of how she got there. Overnight, it's as if her past has been rewritten.

With the help of Caitlin, her science-savvy BFF, Abby discovers that this new reality is the result of a cosmic collision of parallel universes that has Abby living an alternate version of her life. And not only that: Abby's life changes every time her parallel self makes a new choice. Meanwhile, her parallel is living out Abby's senior year of high school and falling for someone Abby's never even met.

As she struggles to navigate her ever-shifting existence, forced to live out the consequences of a path she didn't choose, Abby must let go of the Plan and learn to focus on the present, without losing sight of who she is, the boy who might just be her soul mate, and the destiny that's finally within reach."

I think I could give this one a pretty favorable review. I wasn't completely sure about it at some bits, but overall I can give props to the author for using a different type of concept. That was what actually hooked me in--the diverging options. The concept seemed a little half-baked to me in execution at first, but as I started to think more about what was happening and wrap my head around it, it got more complex. Overall, I think the premise was done well, and would benefit from a second reading. 
As for the characters and the plot, it was a bit of a mix but generally good feedback. It was kind of interesting to explore the diverging possibilities, but the challenges the characters face are purely high school drama-type stuff--friend fights, mean girls, complicated love triangles, etc. That may have cheapened it a teeny bit for me, going for the well-used situations, but I think the way the author wrote it could have been a lot worse; she managed to get me to mostly enjoy what was going on, with only slight wincing  at the teen drama. Overall I think it was an enjoyable book and maybe worth a re-read someday. Four stars. There's a copy at Kettleson (or at least there will be once I turn it in).

Friday, May 16, 2014

Gentlehands by M.E. Kerr

"Buddy Boyle lives year-round with his family in unfashionable Seaville, New York, in a cramped little house on the bay. Skye Pennington spends the summers nearby on lavish estate complete with ocean view and a butler named Peacock.But Skye and Buddy fall in love anyway. And every once in a while they visit Buddy's estranged grandfather, who makes them forget they're from opposite sides of town. Then a reporter appears, searching for a man known as Gentlehands, a man with a horrifying past. Who is Gentlehands? And what is his connection to Buddy's handsome, aristocratic grandfather? The mystery threatens to shatter Buddy and Skye's relationship, and change their lives forever."

Well... so... eh. This was assigned reading for a class, and I hate to admit, I doubt I would have finished it if I'd picked it up on my own. I doubt I'd have gotten past page fifteen. It just wasn't, for all its purported literary merits, enjoyable to read. I really don't think there were any sympathetic characters. And this might be a realistic track to take, but it doesn't make for much investment on the behalf of the characters. Buddy is infatuated with Skye and her glittering lifestyle and routinely drops everything to run to her when she has a whim. He ignores his little brother and generally acts awful and dismissive to his family. If anything, his grandfather the former Nazi (sorry to spoil the big plot twist, but you can easily figure it out from the blurb and the first fifteen pages) was the most likable character. And yes, the point of the book was essentially the thematic elements--the questions of human nature and loyalty and things like that, with an ambiguous ending--but I think the execution thereof wasn't done well or interestingly at all. I didn't care for it. I feel like it dragged out the vapid romance too long and left things maddeningly unresolved. Yes, there are a million ways you could analyze the book, but there wasn't much that made me want to keep reading. I'd give maybe three stars. There are copies at Mt. Edgecumbe, Blatchley, and Sitka High if you want to decide for yourself.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Wish List by Eoin Colfer

"Meg Finn is in trouble-unearthly trouble. Cast out of her home by her stepfather after her mother's death, Meg is a wanderer, a troublemaker. But after her latest stunt, finding a place to sleep is the least of her worries. Belch, her partner in crime, has gotten her involved in the attempted robbery of an elderly man, Lowrie McCall. And things go horribly wrong. After an accidental explosion, Meg's spirit is flung into limbo, and a race begins between the demonic and the divine to win her soul. Irreverent, hilarious, and touchingly hopeful, The Wish List takes readers on a journey of second chances, where joy is found in the most unexpected places."

Ah, yes, the happy trotting-out of every single heaven/hell trope. Ever. But no, seriously, I wouldn't exactly call this great literature--but then again, I really doubt it was meant to be. It's wholeheartedly simple, easy, read-in-a-day-or-two, fluff. Not to say that it's super light material, but the writing is very straightforward and the text is medium sized and it's insanely easy to finish quickly. But that may even be a bonus point for it, managing to hook me in and get me to plow right through it. Anyway, Meg was mostly likable and Lowrie was... well, you warm up to him. There are bits that managed a faint flutter at the heartstrings, and even though they could have been done a bit more subtly and powerfully, they mostly did their job of making me connect with the characters. As for the heaven/hell stuff I mentioned earlier, yes, total suspension of disbelief is required. There are some semi-groan-worthy plot devices, like magical stones that are given at the beginning and subsequently ignored until they become crucial on the second-to-last page, and the whole "tunnel of light" thing. But overall, just looking at the parts of the whole, it's a fairly enjoyable book to go through. The difficulty level is definitely middle school/low high school, but from that vantage point I think it would be pretty funny, interesting, and suspenseful. All depends on your outlook. So yeah, recommended for people mid-high school down. I honestly think you'd enjoy this if you picked it up, give it a spin. There's a copy at Kettleson and Mt. Edgecumbe.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley

"Scott Pilgrim's life is totally sweet. He's 23 years old, he's in a rockband, he's "between jobs," and he's dating a cute high school girl. Nothing could possibly go wrong, unless a seriously mind-blowing, dangerously fashionable, rollerblading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts cruising through his dreams and sailing by him at parties. Will Scott's awesome life getturned upside-down? Will he have to face Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends inbattle? The short answer is yes. The long answer is Scott Pilgrim, Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life."

Soo... I haven't actually seen the movie for this, but I shelved it the other day and it got me wondering. This book actually surprised me; I wasn't expecting that much, but it went above some of my expectations. The dialogue was the main standout bit--it had this perfect kind of dry, unapologetic humor that I kind of liked. And yes, Scott was sweet and generally pathetic but managed to mostly clear the endearing bar. The self-deprecating element was part of the humor, too. So yeah, not a bad half hour spent. It was pretty unconventional and the tongue-in-cheek element helped. I'd give it a fine four stars. I think I might get the next ones, too. Go pick this one up at Kettleson or Sitka High.
(Up next week: an actual book, hopefully. Sorry this one was short; school plus testing plus recital has been systematically massacring me, and there's not much end in sight).

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Night by Elie Wiesel

"A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family...the death of his innocence...and the death of his God. Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary Of Anne FrankNight awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again."

Yeah. This book was incredibly powerful. The prose was incredible at times, but I think mostly the power came from the intensely personal standpoint it was written from. It affected you a lot because of the absolute truthfulness Eli used; he detailed every bit of his experiences. He showed the cruel soldiers along with the prisoners that slowly lost their humanity, and the terrified Jewish heads of the bunkers trying to give the prisoners under their care the best chance of survival possible. There were things in there that were absolutely horrifying, and showing the actions of the plain German civilians as well as the Nazis was kind of sickening. I can't even... this book was as phenomenal as it was awful. I really recommend reading it; it's short, but has a huge effect. There's copies at Blatchley, Mt. Edgecumbe, Kettleson, and Sitka High.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

"Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called "Gobblers"—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person's inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved."

If you haven't been living under a rock, you probably know about this book/series. This was a re-read for me, and since it's been a few years I was interested to see how I'd like it now. The answer? Very much. It actually was pretty similar to my memories: engaging, well-told, with a bit of steampunk/fantasy in for color. It also confirmed that it's really not the lightest of books; the story is very good, but it's generally serious and never too optimistic. Quite a bit of adult corruption-type stuff going on too. It's very well-written, though, which makes up for it. I don't think I would enjoy this nearly as much without that, seeing as how I gravitate toward usually lighter moods. But at any rate, very fantastic series. I highly recommend reading. There's a copy at Kettleson, Keet, Sitka High, and Mt. Edgecumbe.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bizenghast by M. Alice Legrow

"When a young girl moves to the forgotten town of Bizenghast, she uncovers a terrifying collection of lost souls that leads her to the brink of insanity. One thing becomes painfully clear: The residents of Bizenghast are just dying to come home.

A finalist in TOKYOPOP's Rising Stars of Manga competition, M. Alice Legrow has crafted an unforgettable Gothic drama that will leave readers haunted long after the last page is turned."

So this is a short book, but seeing as how I got my wisdom teeth taken out this weekend I think it's justified. I'm also working my way through a 500-page book, which hopefully will be done soonish. Anyway, I'm not really usually a manga person, but I have a weird soft spot for gothic stuff so I was cool with the book. And it was blatantly gothic: realism was enthusiastically thrown aside to favor the traditional gothic storyline. Along with that came the pretty cool illustrations: elaborate costumes, creepy and/or spooky characters, traditionally derelict mausoleums, et cetera. Eyelashes, weird keys, and ethereal fairy-like people were heavily favored too. The story wasn't exactly inspired (though I'm only into the first one, so who knows), but the interesting style was enough to keep me reading through the short novel. I might just get the next couple, who knows. I think I'd recommend it to a manga reader; have a look at Kettleson, in that section.