Today, I thought I’d lessen my review backlog by a bit with some mini-reviews:
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
2008. Viking. Hardcover. 372 pages.
For the challenge: 2nd Reading
I had enjoyed Brooks’ Year of Wonders (except for the ending), and when one of my cousins suggesting reading People of the Book as part of a Facebook book club, I got on board. As with Year of Wonders, Brooks’ level of historical detail is fascinating. The book follows the history of a beautiful illuminated book, starting with its rescue in 1994 Sarajevo and going back to 15th century Spain. My favorite section was that of Ruti Ben Shoushah in Tarragona 1492.
While the book’s survival is a story of triumph, the stories of the “people of the book” are fairly grim. The clash of religions is in the foreground, and the persecution of Jews throughout European history. The framing story is that of an Australian conservator who has been called in to analyze and delicately repair the beautiful book.
People of the Book is pleasing in an intellectual way, with its careful renderings of times past. The main ‘character’ is the book and it’s the people who are transient, briefly illuminated by their contact with the book and then fading out of view.
Fables: The Deluxe Edition Book One by Bill Willingham
Includes: Legends in Exile (2002) and Animal Farm (2003)
2009. DC Comics. Hardcover. 264 pages.
My brother-in-law, who reads graphic novels more than I do, recommended this series to me a long time ago. I’ve since seen the Fables series and spinoffs reviewed around the blogosphere. This deluxe edition is a compilation of two volumes, each with five chapters: Legends in Exile and Animal Farm. The concept is immediately intriguing: characters from fables and fairytales have fled their homelands and set up a community (Fabletown) in New York City. Old King Cole is presiding mayor of the community, with a steely Snow White doing most of the work behind-the-scenes. Some of the animal-characters have changed into human form, such as the Big Bad Wolf, and those who can’t must live upstate out of the view of normal humans (the “mundanes”).
Fables uses this concept for all its worth. It’s a lot of fun seeing familiar characters transformed by their new setting, and also seeing how their lives have played out since the happy-ever-after. Snow White and Prince Charming have long since divorced. Goldilocks is a militant gun-toting radical. Jack (of the Beanstalk) is still making foolish gambles with money.
The story panels offer a good mix of humor and tension, as well as complexity. I loved the illustrations by James Jean that started off each new chapter. I’ve already requested Volume #3 Storybook Love through interlibrary loan.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
2009. Scholastic. Hardcover. 391 pages.
For the challenge: 2nd Reading
I raced through Hunger Games‘ sequel almost as fast as I’d read through that first book. Collins knows how to ratchet up the tension and raise the stakes. Also, I love how distinct even the minor characters are. I’m a big fan of Cinna, Katniss’ subversive and masterful designer from the Capitol. Collins also knows how to leave you on a cliff-hanger! I am regrettably number 200-something on the waiting list for the last of the trilogy, Mockingjay. I’m banking on the other library patrons reading through it as fast as I’ve read these first two books.
(All books reviewed above were borrowed from the public library.)
8 responses to “Mini-review time!”
So glad you’ve been enjoying Fables! It’s one of my favourite comics series.
Wonderful mini-reviews, Christy! When I first got started in graphic novels a few years back, I asked one of my friends who was a connoisseur of it to give me a few recommendations. One of the first books she recommended was ‘Fables’. But for some reason or other, I haven’t been able to read it yet. Your review makes me want to get it now and read it.
Hope you are able to get ‘Mockingjay’ soon. Maybe your library computer will ‘accidentally’ move your name to the top of the waiting list 🙂
I’ve had People of the Book on my wishlist for some time now. It sounds really good so I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it!!
I’m glad you liked People of the Book – I’ve been wanting to read that one for awhile now.
Nymeth – I’m excited to continue in the series (and the spinoffs). It’s nice to start a series, knowing that there are many more left to read.
Vishy – I don’t know why I delayed either – the book is so much fun! And yes, here’s hoping for a fluke in the Mockingjay waiting list.
Samantha and Kim – Regarding People of the Book, I really loved that the times and places chosen for the historical segments were not your usual historical fiction locations. I don’t think I see much out there, for instance, that is set in the excesses of 19th century Vienna.
i really enjoyed the ‘catching fire’ trilogy–it was my favorite group of ya books in the last few years. i wasn’t thrilled with mockingjay but the first two were solid gold–kept me glued to my chair with my nose in the book.
Glad you’re liking Fables! But do be prepared for it to get quite grim. Not that the first two volumes are a barrel of laughs, but the story gets very, very dark a little way down the line. Still good though. 🙂
Aah. I’m glad you like Catching Fire, and, yes, the cliffhanger almost drove me crazy, too. Get ready for a lot of bloodshed in Mockingjay. 🙂