V for Vendetta

Deliciously dark and thoroughly thoughtful, I was loath to put this book down for necessary life things like eating or working. (If I am completely honest, I did work while I read a couple days. That is the best thing about the hour warm up and cool down periods the test cell requires.) Everything you have heard about Alan Moore is true; he is a mastermind, a genius, and a spectacular storyteller.

I went into this story knowing a good deal about the movie. Which is to say, I did not love the story and felt it had the potential to be so much better. As I read, I realised that the movie shares only a title and a smile with the book. I was grateful to find this was an entirely different story filled with much, much more tragedy and thoughtfulness. There were panels that struck a cord with me as incredibly important for us to understand and really grasp. As with the one below:

There were so many moments where I stopped reading in order to properly absorb what I had read. I think I get it all, but let me just let it set in. Then, I would pick it back up and realise that it settled into my mind completely differently than I thought it would. I was shocked by how engaging this story is.

If you are one of many, many people who believe that graphic novels are just a picture book for adults, I urge you to start here with this tale. It is philosophical and engaging and most definitely not for children.

-A Bookish Girl

I had to look up synonyms for amazing so when I told my friends and spouse about it I would be less obnoxiously repetitive.

The Lie Tree

Francis Hardinge sunk her hook into me with Fly by Night and Twilight Robbery (Fly Trap). Her descriptions were enchanting, the story line was unpredictable and intriguing, and I simply loved her strong, trouble-making female heroine. Upon finishing this series, I added every Hardinge book to my wish list and bought The Lie Tree. The descriptions in this novel were not as magical, rather they were prim and proper but not lacking in any way. Her writing style in this book seemed to fit more naturally into the Victorian era, which is when the story takes place.

I felt torn halfway through this novel. I wanted to devour the story. I was captivated and wanted to know all the secrets Hardinge had hidden in this story. Yet, I was aware of a part of my mind that hesitated to finish the story because of the realisation that the mysteries and secrets were going to be revealed and they could only surprise me and leave me hanging once. If I were to reread this novel, I would not have the sense of wonder, urgency, and mystery that I have this first time around. I did not wish to lose the company of these emotions for you so rarely experience them. (It seems every show is fairly predictable and even books provide enough foreshadowing or follow enough of a pattern that you can typically see where the story is headed prior to the author fully revealing the path to you.) I did, finally, stop dragging my feet and finish the book Saturday evening.

I did, finally, stop dragging my feet and finish the book Saturday evening outside with my puppy on a potty walk. I really enjoyed the tale and the ending left me smiling.

I envy you the experience of this story for the first time.

-A Bookish Girl

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

This collection of short stories is hit and miss, but shouldn’t every collection be as such? There is a story for everyone in this collection, but not all of them will please everyone. However, every reader should be able to appreciate the manner in which Gaiman attacks and masters so many different styles. No two stories feel alike and none are written for the same readers and yet they all work together somehow – perhaps because you can feel Gaiman sitting in a cabin somewhere cold writing  these stories.

-A Bookish Girl

Jingo

“I am supposed to keep the peace, I am! If I kill people to do it, I’m reading the wrong manual.” -Capt. Vimes

It seems very fitting that in the light of the events that occurred last week in America, I would read a novel about the City Watch. This tale of an island that appears and causes a war is perhaps one of my favourite Discworld stories to-date. (I have only read three Discworld books thus far, so take that with a grain of salt.) What is there not to enjoy about a book about a war that doesn’t take itself seriously? That looks at the ridiculousness of war and prejudice with a scathing smattering of sarcasm and wit that makes you laugh but also realise how ridiculous it really is.

The political satire is, as always, entertaining and en pointe – as we say in ballet. There are so very many comments and one-liners that make you stop reading to say, “EXACTLY! Everyone should read this and hear this bit!” Then, when you try to share them, you realise that context is needed and difficult to give someone not acquainted with Discworld. (No, he is a zombie but that is not the point. The skeleton… no, the skeleton is not the zombie. Oh! Nevermind.) 

I enjoyed this book, immensely.

-A Bookish Girl

A Blink of the Screen: Collected Short Fiction

I found this book on my bookshelf. I am not sure how it got there; however, I am quite glad that it did. Interrupting another fantasy series, this collection of Pratchett stories caused a great disturbance in my reading queue. (I have put The Malazan Book of the Fallen series even further on delay because I am picking up all the Pratchett novels I can.) This collection contains writing from all the stages of Pratchett’s career. At thirteen, Pratchett already had the biting wit and satire that makes you stop and reconsider your mental models. This collection is entertaining, clever, and thought-provoking…some stories much more than others.

The ability Pratchett has of looking at the world and making it magical, silly, and/or engaging in a completely new way makes the adult world a bit easier to navigate. I think that subliminally I hope reading everything Pratchett has written will open my eyes to the magic and excitement in the everyday. Whatever it is, Pratchett brings a bit of joy and wonder into my world and I cannot seem to get enough of him.

If you haven’t yet picked up a Pratchett novel, I urge you to do so now. I think you will find it brightens your day a bit and makes you think differently.

-A Bookish Girl

The Hedge Knight (Vol. 1)

I gave up on A Song of Ice and Fire after the fourth book. It was like a middle school romance, one day I woke up and was out of love with the story. I walked away and never reconsidered my position. After all, there are millions upon millions of books out there, no reason to waste my life on a series that just didn’t feel the same as it used to, you know back in the beginning…

When I found myself in the small, terrifying area that was the graphic novel section of the library, I hunted for familiar names. They had only second volumes of Gaiman pieces, so I was left with George R.R. Martin. Finding comfort in a familiar friend in a sea of uncertainty is the most human of acts. So, I gratefully grabbed this novel.

It was an enjoyable read. The storyline lacked the magical imagination that I felt with my first graphic novel, but Martin’s magic is in his ability to create a story that is believable, realistic to a painful degree. Reading this first instalment in The Hedge Knight novels felt like reading a historical novel. Or seeing a movie based on real events. I found that I gain an appreciation for Martin’s ability to hold a mirror to human nature and tell a story that one easily believes and accepts as fact. However, I did not find the spark that would make me run back into the arms of the Westeros world.

-A Bookish Girl

Personal Demons (Hopeless, Maine. Vol. 1)

I went to the library and looked at the graphic novel section. A section I have never paid much attention to previously. I would even say, I avoided it. Comics were for teenage boys and a select group of oddball girls. I could not clarify what I meant by oddball, I mostly just meant not me. After reading the majority of The View from the Cheap Seats by Gaiman, I could no longer hold on to this mental model. I was hungry for a good graphic novel. New to this genre, section, entire form of media, I didn’t know what good meant. I just knew there was a very clear distinction. Armed with this very unclear distinction I went to the library and sat in front of the two shelves of graphic novels. I ignored the full shelf of Superman and Spiderman collections. I looked for the unique and artistic books. If I was going to try this media, I would try it my way… look for art, Gaiman, and familiar titles. I happened across Hopeless, Maine.

The artwork was truly magnificent. It was dark and magical. I was sold. I took it home and devoured the story that night. Somehow, I managed across a graphic novel with a heroine. A strong, sweet, and courageous heroine. And after this first volume, I am seeking the rest of the tale. (Which should tell you that although the art called to me, the story caught me in its intricate web.)

Whatever drew me to this short novel, I am thankful. I will no longer avoid this section of the library or bookstore. If I am truly honest, I looked up the closest comic book store near me. I am grateful to this little, sweet tale for drawing me in and exposing me to a magical and delightful new media.

Take it from me, comics are not just for kids. They are not just for teenagers. They are not just for that miscellaneous category of oddball in your subconscious. They are for all of us and we should not avoid them.

-A Bookish Girl (A Comic Reader Too)

The World of Poo

There is no author like Terry Pratchett. He spins wonderful, humorous, thought-provoking stories. Even when the subject matter is poo. “A thought-provoking short novel about poo?” you ask.

“Here read for yourself,” I answer defensively.

I enjoyed this short bit of story more than I thought I would. Having read Pratchett’s collection of non-fiction, I learned one of his favourite stories is a very short novel about building the perfect outhouse. The humour from that book seems to be the evident inspiration for this piece of literature, and I would venture to say that Pratchett carries it out better than the original author did. I cannot pinpoint what it is that is so charming about this story; the single-minded passion only a child can have, the very supportive mentors he meets along the way, or the simple fact Pratchett wrote this for Pratchett. Although I cannot pinpoint it, there is something charming about this short story.

– A Bookish Girl

How the Marquis Got His Coat Back

Neverwhere ended and you were left in the real world. The emotional whiplash left you grasping, why did this story end? A few months later it hits you, what about the Marquis and his coat? The coat he so loved and adored?

Gaiman – the ever giving author demigod – answers your pleas for more. Even better yet, this story details and explains more of your favourite character (you cannot tell me that perfectly average Richard was the character that stands out in this novel). What is there to stop you from picking up this short, short tale? Nothing! It won’t even take your entire lunch break to read.

I rather enjoyed this story and am immensely grateful to Gaiman for revisiting the London Underground. The magic and twists of Neverwhere come back to the reader like a sorely missed old friend. Even though less than fifty pages (perhaps less than forty?), the story is filled with adventure and action. It is definitely a stand-alone, strong story. It is definitely a natural extension to the Neverwhere story.

And in understanding those contradictions, you are beginning to see the magic of Gaiman world-building. The it-factor that makes him my favourite living writer.

-A Bookish Girl