Book Review: The Giver

The Giver

by Lois Lowry

GiverGoodreads Synopsis:

Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back

 

My Review: 

Short and direct, Lowry reveals the stark hideousness of Sameness. Jonas, who at age eleven would today still be considered a child, is eager to receive his Assignment – that is, what he will be doing with the rest of his life. Except Jonas isn’t Assigned, he is Selected. And from here, the tumultuous plot transpires.

It might be bold of me to say this, but I think every child and adult  entertains the idea of a world with no war, no pain, no bullies, etc. at least once in his or her life. This isn’t an original idea, but Lowry is prepared to display the cost of such a world. The sacrifices made are known only to a few, but to the child who has to suffer them all, how does he cope?

What if you had to follow the same routine each day, everything was assigned and predetermined. You’d hate it, right? What if you never knew another way? Would you hate it then? Chances are you wouldn’t even know what Hate is. This is the idea that Lowry explores. While on somewhat of a forced, obvious agenda, The Giver explores humanity. While some critics debate the propaganda of Lowry’s novel, I can’t say I entirely agree. True, The Giver is not far from anti-socialist works, but it barely covers the surface. The novel is much too ambiguous to be sufficient in this purpose. In interviews, Lowry openly admits to not having imagined the mechanics of the society of The Giver. The beginning and cause to each aspect of the society is extremely vague; the plot mainly driven by how the citizens react to the society that exists.

The Giver, in the hands of both children and adults, evokes imagination of Utopia. And then Lowry challenges that notion by questioning if the sacrifices are truly beneficial to the outcome. I think it is a good story for all readers. I remember reading it as a child and it is certainly a different read so many years later. Due to the character’s predictable conscious, it was a bit difficult to empathize with Mother, Father, Lilly, Asher, and Fiona. Not until Jonas and Giver began to experience emotion was I, as a reader, more able to engage the mind of the character. This is where the emotional tugging occurred. It’s worth reading to the second half of the novel. It’s a short novel though, so readers shouldn’t have too much difficulty working through the monotony of the society until Jonas receives his first memories.

 

I give The Giver four out of five stars.

 4 stars (2)

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I Kill Giants; issue 1

Comic Book Review:

I Kill Giants

Issue: 1 of 7

by: Joe Kelly + JM Ken Niimura

IMAGE Comics, Inc.

I_Kill_Giants_01_cover

 

No Synopsis available. Read the series information here.

My Review:

Luckily, I got my hands on the Image Firsts edition of I Kill Giants. Unluckily, there is anniversary edition of the graphic novel out there, which I don’t yet have.

The story of Barbara Thorson, fifth grader and giant slayer, was the everything and more I wanted from a comic. Are all comics this good? Why have I just started reading them?

Joe Kelly writes a brutal story of young Barbara. Stuck in the fifth grade dealing with motivational speakers when she already has a job (killing giants) is only the start of her problems. Thorson doesn’t exactly fit in. She spends her time with her nose in a book or playing Dungeons and Dragons. Her imagination gets her in to trouble, and Principal Marx is all too familiar with her misbehaviors. Readers share a mix of sympathy and empathy for Barbara, even though it seems she brings some of her problems on herself. A peek into her home life proves that all is not well in the Thorson household, and it becomes evident that Barbara’s pain envelopes her.

It’s not an easy read. There is something disturbing about Barbara’s obsession and her willingness to create enemies. But there is something fascinating about her bravery as well. There is some swearing which may seem mature content, but it hardly seems fair that these portrayals of reality should be disguised for youthful readers. Kelly is honest and insightful in his writing. I Kill Giants #1 is moving, inspiring, and heartbreaking. I can’t wait to read the rest and see just what Barbara does.

Niimura’s pictures are stunning as well. They accentuate the story Kelly writes through rough lines and misplaced frame. The black and white images seem harshly drawn or even difficult to understand what is taking place in the image. In one instance, a frame is placed oddly through the center of another character’s head – seemingly trying to sever they boy from Barbara. I really enjoyed the graphics because in many ways they seemed to define Barbara beyond the typical misfit. I Kill Giants goes above and beyond the stereotype of misfits and their woes. Barbara is flawed, and we wouldn’t want her any other way. She’s the young hero, come to save the world one giant demon at a time. Whether it is a fantasy or not, we’re rooting for Barabara.

 

I give I Kill Giants  #1 by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura a 5/5 stars!

5 Stars

Musing Monday (July 14)

Musing Monday is a weekly meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. If you haven’t already, you should check it out!

musingmondays51

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…

• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! 
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!  
My Musing: 
Reading action/adventure non-fiction is just SO good! Why haven’t I come across this before? I mean, I adore fiction (especially a good science fiction), but A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson has been a serious reading journey. I just keep thinking, all of this is real and I can have this adventure too. My new Camelbak is itching to be worn. Maybe my next non-fiction will be something titled like The Trails of Michigan.
While my non-fiction pursuit is ongoing, I also got some comics from this amazing new comic store where I live. Shopping at Vault of Midnight was an adventure in itself, but I’m new to the world of comics, so it was a particularly fascinating experience. Stay posted to read my comic book reviews coming up!

Book Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

By Neil Gaiman

Harper Collins, 2009

GB

Goodreads Synopsis:

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . . 

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

 

My Review:

Well, I loved it. As a fan of Gaiman’s works, this did not disappoint.

The story of Nobody Owens, while flecked with spine-chilling terrors, is a Romantic story of adventure and bravery. Not to be presumptuous here, but I think that every child dreams of a life in the wild; Gaiman’s approach is a delightful little twist on that imagination. Bod is raised in a nature preserve, one that happens to be a long forgotten graveyard. The home of the dead becomes Bod’s life and protection. From  a toddler tumbling through the overgrowth to a teenager protecting a land he memorized in his youth, Bod’s life is anything but ordinary to readers, yet he is an ordinary boy. Gaiman tells of a whole new adventure, one I’ve never even fathomed.

The premise of the book is fascinating with old devils and myths retold. Bod’s strange friends make the book exciting on every page, but his encounters with some pretty nasty men and the supernatural (beyond ghosts, of course)are absolutely captivating. I hated putting this book down. You know, one of those books that’s so good you become so anti-social your friends and family begin to murmur concerns about your well-being. It’s a quick read though, unless you have to keep putting it down for work.

Bod faced new struggles everyday- learning which of his neighbors whom not to disturb to having to deal with lessons and homework when there was so much exploring to do. In so few pages, all of Bod’s youth was covered. And in doing so, much of time was completely passed. One chapter Bod would be five years and the next chapter he was eight. It could get difficult to follow. Along with that, some scenes seemed to have been written early and didn’t quite match the flow of the novel. Entire chapters took a complete turn from the previous one with little to no transition, it made the story seem like it might take a new turn, only to end up back on the same storyline as before. The story itself never falters to engage readers, but it does include some scenes that don’t seem to fit the entirety of the novel. Not to say they were distracting, they were great, just a bit curious is all.

The Graveyard Book is a great read, another Gaiman classic. It intrigues the imagination while covering important coming-of-age issues. It is a story of a boy raised in a graveyard, but it is a story for boys and girls alike. If you have children, I recommend this one as  read-aloud. It is a great story to share with the family. It has supernatural elements, romance, growing up sympathies, adventure and danger.

 

I give The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman a four and a half out of five stars!

4.5 Stars

 

Book Review: The Peculiar

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann

TP

Goodreads Synopsis:

Don’t get yourself noticed and you won’t get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings–Peculiars–and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley–Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he’s noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish . . . and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

Part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy, part steampunk adventure, The Peculiar is Stefan Bachmann’s riveting, inventive, and unforgettable debut novel.

My Review:

The Peculiar is a quick, fun read. I loved the various genres coming together seamlessly. This is  a novel to suit all types of readers.

It is an easy 376 page read, but despite action on nearly every page, I didn’t quite get an overwhelming sense of an adventure. Between the two stories taking place, that of Bartholomew and Mr. Jelliby, the villainous characters moved about in each of their separate story lines. It wasn’t difficult to perceive the roles of each of the antagonists, and the ultimate end of the novel. I think perhaps the element of surprise was lacking, taking away from the adventure. Then again, as a more seasoned YA reader, I do make a habit of making premature conclusions about novels. Take that as you will.

The climax of the story, in which Jelliby and Bartholomew take on the Lady in Plum and Mr. Lickerish, seemed to have some loose ends, which I can’t mention without giving away the story. This is a series though, so there was certainly some compelling reasons to pick up the next in the series.

While I personally got a touch bored in the reading, I can’t deny that the author really did draw the action out from beginning to end. Not only was this a tale of many adventures and misadventures, but it blends many styles of fiction together – Steampunk, Paranormal, Coming of Age, and a sprinkling of some more. This seemed like a successful experimentation with crossing genres and I really enjoyed the book for this reason.

 

I give The Peculiar 3/5 Stars

3 Stars