Wednesday, November 17, 2010

REVIEW: The Poison Diaries

 The Poison Diaries
by The Duchess of Northumberland
Illustrations by Colin Stimpson

Weed is an orphan, taken in by the local Apothocary and taught the ways of medicine. One day, a world of poison plants is revealed to him... but... what's this? The plants can talk... and boy-oh-boy do they have things to say.

Character Likability:
Weed: Weed is... a bit... er, touched in the head. He's not quite right, and as the book progresses, you see as much. He's an interesting, dark character.
The Plants: Wicked, evil and with one track minds... and yet, not wicked and evil because all they are truly doing is utilizing their own defense mechanisms. Truly they are hellbent against humans though... and truly revel in the demise of them.
The Apothocary: Awful man. He's meant to be, though, so he's a good character.
Marigold: An Innocent, and pretty vague... she shows up in passing and is what roots Weed to a life of non-evil.

Quality of Writing:
Very interesting story... at times, I felt the story was a little jumpy... the main character waffling between good and bad without any really good reason... but overall it was cohesive and fast flowing.

A very dark, disturbing ending. I enjoy dark and disturbing, so I liked it, but I'm not sure this ending, or this book would be something everyone can handle. If you are disturbed by gore, horrible deaths, and them being both described and illustrated... I would recommend you pass on this book all together.

Essentially, this is the story of a young boy slowly going mad. It's dark, disturbing, filled with awful deaths, horrible murders and the worst side of humanity. *I* found it fascinating... I especially found it fascinating that I found this book in the Children's section. It has detailed diagrams of VERY poisonous plants... diagrams that proceed to point out which parts are the poisonous ones, and how to use them to kill people. It also has vivid descriptions of how the poisons act on the body, and in what horrible ways they will make you die. Interestingly, it also tells you how they are used medicinally.
In this story, Weed (the boy) talks to the plants, and the book itself is broken down into short stories based on which plant he's talking to. Each plant is hilarious, and has it's own distinct personality... and tells Weed some terrible story of how it helped kill someone. Often it is accompanied by very graphic illustrations (I bought the book because I opened up to this page randomly:

 and wondering just what kind of kids book this was!!)  Turns out, its a book I'm not sure I'd ever give to an actual child... and a book that might possibly be rather dangerous in the hands of most adults. I personally think this book is dark, twisted, and fantastic... but it most certainly isn't for those with weak stomachs or low tolerance for *really* horrible things happening.

Believability of World:
It seems to be set in 'olden days' ... and I'm not sure how hard it is today to track some of these poisons.

This book is beautiful. Hands down one of the prettiest books I've seen in a while, despite its content. The illustrator is a Disney artist who has worked on things like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Emperor's New Groove and Tinkerbell. The illustrations are top-notch and seriously beautiful, even when they're absolutely disturbing.

Overall Grade: A (SERIOUSLY, if you don't like graphic violence, don't read this book. It depicts, as you can see, vomiting and horrible death, and describes them vividly in the text) 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gratitude Giveaway... November 17th through November 28th

 Join me for November's Gratitude Giveaway! 
There are over 175 blogs participating!

Here is what I'm giving away!
A hardcover copy of... 

And here are the RULES:

1. You MUST be a follower
2. You MUST Fill out this FORM

Please take time to stop by the other wonderful giveaways!


This little happy gnome is here to let you know that I'm still around... still reading, albeit slower than usual... due to moving!

In about a week... expect things to resume as per usual :) OH!  But there will be a giveaway starting on November 17th (That's tomorrow!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

REVIEW: The Clarence Principle by Fehed Said, art by Shari Chankhamma

  The Clarence Principle
by Fehed Said, art by Shari Chankhamma

Clarence is a suicide, and finds himself in a strange, Wonderland-like afterlife where he's still seeking answers and looking for closure to the events that caused  him to end his real life.

Character Likability:
Some of the characters in this story were downright cute in a very goofy, stupid sort of way. The main character was ok, but not my favorite... and most of the women in this story just annoyed me.

Quality of Writing:
It flowed easily, but because of the nature of the story, and the fact that the afterlife is supposed to appear strange and perhaps a bit disjointed, the story itself didn't always flow together easily... and you found yourself jumping from one scene to another, often rather abruptly.

I'm not sure how I feel, or what I think of the ending. In the end, essentially, he ends up following someone else's heart... and I'm not sure how I feel about the treatment of the afterlife... I mean, the kid is surrounded by demons, I can only assume he's in some sort of version of Hell... and yet, it seems like he's passing through, not about to be a resident. The story ends up leaving almost all of its questions unanswered, except for the one, "Can the dead die?".

The story asks questions like "Can the dead die?" and makes me think that the author spends a lot of time dwelling on being forgotten, and being able to forget. This is essentially the aftermath of a tragic love story that we really get to see no part of. Things obviously didn't go well for Clarence... and yet he gets a chance, in this demonic afterlife, to redeem himself to a degree. He helps those he comes across, and in the end, helps himself. There is a reoccurring theme of pink water flowing throughout this world, and I think at one point it's tied in to Clarence realizing what he'd done to himself... but seeing as how its a black and white comic... the pink water was perhaps not quite as prevalent as it could have been. I think it would have been something much better seen and not always spoken about.

Illustration Quality:
I actually really liked the dark, gritty, smudged illustrations in here. They reminded me of the old Nightmares and Fairytales comics... which I miss dearly... and admittedly, it was the art style that made me pick this one up. My only complaint would be the strange, ram horn style ears that the characters have.

Believability of World:
I struggled constantly trying to balance this afterlife with what I know of Dante's Inferno. The story hinted just enough at Dante's for me to be annoyed by the inconsistencies. That, and you don't really get a good feel for how the world works. Things seem to happen solely to benefit the character without really adhering to any over-arcing plan for the world itself.

Overall Grade: C

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

REVIEW: St. Lunatic High School, Volume 1

   St. Lunatic High School
by Majiko!
** I find this 2 manga series to be adorable and funny, and usually like to
pick it up for a reread around Halloween**

Niko's brother, Atchan, gets a real job teaching a night class at a school called St. Lunatic (why doesn't that raise suspicion?!) They are promised a home with a bathroom and garden... only to find out that what was meant was the house (if you can call it that) is on school grounds, and they are allowed to use the restroom in the school.

Sadly, though, after fleeing their last abode without paying, this is the best these siblings have got. However, what Niko didn't realize... what her brother might have forgotten to mention, was that the night class at St. Lunatic was filled with monsters.

Character Likability:
The characters in this manga are goofy, quirky, cute and endearing. At times, I suspect if I were watching the anime version (if there even is one) they might be terribly annoying... but being written on paper, their over-reactions and disbelief are really quite endearing.

Quality of Writing:
There is nothing in the manga that seems strange or out of place, the translator did an excellent job.

This is a 2 manga series that, in and of itself, is a bit episodic even within the short volume of one manga. The manga did end on a humorous note, dealing with the poor situation of Niko and Atchan... and how they can never quite catch a break. It was a closed enough ending that the series could have stopped there without anyone feeling too dissatisfied, but thankfully there is another volume... and I truly wish this quirky manga was more than just two volumes long.

The main plot here is that Niko has to adapt to her new life at St. Lunatic. She makes the effort, despite being constantly razzed by her rather bizarre classmates, for the sake of her brother, who has never held a job longer than a week (thus their issue with having no money). Oh sure, she still thinks her fellow classmates are weird as heck, but she finds ways to relate and cope with their bad behavior.
There are other things going on here as well, such as a strained father/son relationship between one of Niko's classmates and his dad, the reoccuring issue of hunger, starvation, and this interesting, Boxeresque notion that if you just work harder then everything will be ok.

Illustration Quality:
I LOVE the illustrations in this book. The characters are adorable, and the artist really has expressions down well... Niko goes through such a constantly changing array of facial expressions that it is endlessly entertaining. Proportions are well done, line quality is lovely, and detail is amazing.

Believability of World:
Despite the fantastic nature of the creatures and things going on around Niko, her world is believable because it remains consistently against her and her brother, lol!

Overall Grade: B+

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Go on over to Breaking The Spine to add yourself to Waiting on Wednesday!

This week I am waiting on:

Slice of Cherry 
by Dia Reeves

This book looks devious, delicious and all around interesting!

Kit and Fancy Cordelle are sisters of the best kind: best friends, best confidantes, and best accomplices. The daughters of the infamous Bonesaw Killer, Kit and Fancy are used to feeling like outsiders, and that’s just the way they like it. But in Portero, where the weird and wild run rampant, the Cordelle sisters are hardly the oddest or most dangerous creatures around.
It’s no surprise when Kit and Fancy start to give in to their deepest desire—the desire to kill. What starts as a fascination with slicing open and stitching up quickly spirals into a gratifying murder spree. Of course, the sisters aren’t killing just anyone, only the people who truly deserve it. But the girls have learned from the mistakes of their father, and know that a shred of evidence could get them caught. So when Fancy stumbles upon a mysterious and invisible doorway to another world, she opens a door to endless possibilities….

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

REVIEW: Matched

by Ally Condie

Cassia is happy and content with her life in the Society... and she's ready to be Matched to the man she will marry... and when her best friend Xander shows up as her match, she thinks everything has fallen into place... but really, that's just when everything starts to fall apart. Everyone who is Matched gets a media card with information about their match to take home... but when Cassia tries to read hers, another face appears, one that isn't Xander's... one of another boy she knows... and then, on top of that, Cassia's Grandfather leaves her with more questions than she's ever had before when he passes... and he leaves her with another gift too... a forbidden one. Now Cassia needs to figure out what she wants from life... does she want to let the Society dictate everything, or will she listen to her Grandfather and her heart?

Character Likability:
Cassia: She's a strong, willful, intelligent girl who knows what she wants. I enjoyed her character because following her was akin to watching someone wake up from a deep sleep... there were things around her that she'd turned a blind eye to without thinking about it... because that's what everyone did... but when her eyes are opened by her Grandfather... she realizes how strong she is, and how much there is to be done.
Xander: Cassia's best friend and official Match, Xander seems like he would be a very one-dimensional character, but he's not. The boy has secrets and strong feelings, he knows things and as the story progresses, you get more and more of a sense of that. I feel like as this story continues in the other two books, we will see Xander become quite complex.
Ky: A quiet, guarded boy... Ky offers the most telling, interesting bits about himself while still remaining silent, through drawings. He's obviously brilliant... but I still want to hear more of Ky... I felt like he was the love interest... but for the time being, not much else was expected of him. He was there to reveal to Cassia a world she didn't know existed... but as for him on his own, he hasn't existed much outside of supporting Cassia's discoveries. I'm very interested in seeing more of his story, and learning more about his motives.
Grandfather: Pretty much the catalyst for everything else that happens, he makes Cassia start to question.
Cassia's Parents: Interesting characters in themselves, it seems Cassia's entire family is prone to sticking out in one way or another... I can see her parents playing a bigger role in future books as well... and there is great potential in them for deeper, well constructed characters.

Quality of Writing:
I had two problems with the writing in this book. One was the repetition of the word "I"... they jumped out at you, assaulting you from almost every sentence. The repeated over-use of the word "I" actually began pulling me out of the story it appeared so often. My second problem was with sentence structure. I know that Cassia comes from a society where they were supposed to cut out the frillery and stick to what was needed... and with that concept the short sentences would have worked well, had that been what they actually did. They didn't though, instead you just ended up with all that frillery broken down into really short little sentences. It too pulled me out of the story, as I sat there wondering why it was necessary. Other than those two things, the story was well paced and the plot flowed easily, making this a quick read.

Nothing really shocking or unexpected happened at the end of this book. It was still dramatic and made me want to read the next book, but it wasn't mind blowing. That's not at all a bad thing... especially since this is a trilogy and I suspect that the biggest punch will come in the last book in the series.

While this book was fun and interesting to read, it was a plot any avid reader will have seen before. If you've read The Giver by Lois Lowry or 1984 by George Orwell or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, then you've read Matched. It is the story of a world where decisions are made for the people, and the people are encouraged not to think about them. It is a world of mindless following and strict control.
Now, while the prose aren't quite as skillful as the books I compared it to, I think that another telling of this type of story, in this format, is a wonderful idea.
Putting such powerful concepts in the hands of today's youth, making them think about the world around them, and hopefully getting them interested in books like 1984... and why those books were written, I think is a really important thing, and Matched may be able to generate such a spark.
Now, I've heard this book also compared, a lot, to another recently released series, The Hunger Games... which I have not yet read... but now hearing that it is, in fact, a dystopian series much like Matched, I think it's time to pick The Hunger Games up... and then I can make a more informed comparison between those and Matched.

Believability of World:
It's not just a believable world, it's a world that, to a degree has already happened over and over here on this planet... and it's the sort of story that warns "This could be happening to you right now"

Overall Grade: B