Saturday, January 29, 2011

Britten and Brülightly

Britten and Brülightly
Hannah Berry, author and illustrator
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Metropolitan Books (March 17, 2009)
5/5 stars

Britten and Brülightly is a well written, fantastically illustrated noir mystery. Britten is a private detective who, for years, has specialized so in the tawdry love triangle cases that he has been publicly nicknamed "the Heartbreaker". Despite the encouraging words of his much more upbeat partner, Brülightly, Britten has become tired of both his job and his life. "I don't get out of bed for less than a murder," he said, and it potential murder that persuaded him to crawl out of bed into the public again.

Britten has been contacted by Charlotte Maughan after the apparent suicide of her fiance. To her, the pieces don't fit; she feels it must be a murder made to look like a suicide and hires him to investigate.

Britten and Brülightly is film noir in a graphic novel; it is by far the best written noir I have encountered. It contains the classic elements of great noir : a fractured and down main character; a beautiful lady needing assistance; a complex mystery; realistic (leaning toward the unhappy) ending and leaves the reader or viewer sitting silent in amazement.

Berry's amazing art fits and adds to the story and to the noir feel perfectly. The predominant rain and gray days, the angles and corners, and the nearly monochrome color scheme enhance the feel of the story tremendously. The composition and "film angle", if you will, of the panels is that of a well done movie. They are not the common waist up, front on panels that are so predominant in the average graphic novel. From above, from below, half faces, close-ups: all are used to make an enormous contribution to both plot and ambiance. Berry's particular attention to hands is fantastic.

I had one small complaint: the story is hand written in a font that was, only at times, hard to interpret certain words. Oddly enough, though I had to squint and struggle, I found that in the end this rather added to the story, to the feel of uncertainty, mystery and confusion that were so prevalent in the story.

Britten and Brülightly simply awed me. It's a dark tale, and not a particularly happy one, but totally engrossing and simply stunning--text and image--from the first line ("As it did every morning with spiteful inevitability, the sun rose.") to that last breathtaking scene.

~~Read for the Graphic Novel Challenge.~~

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Calamity Jack

Calamity Jack 
Dean and Shannon Hale, authors
Nathan Hale, illustrator
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books; First Edition edition (January 5, 2010)
3/5 stars

Calamity Jack  picks up the adventures of Rapunzel and Jack where Rapunzel's Revenge left off, but this time the story is told from Jack's point of view.

Jack had bungled his last job in his hometown, Shyport, with disastrous results for his mother. He returns with Rapunzel with the intention of setting things right, but finds Shyport under the control of an evil giant and much more at stake than he realized.

Calamity Jack takes place in a town and has none of the Wild West charm of Rapunzel's Revenge. While it's an amusing story, especially if reading it as a sequel to Rapunzel's Revenge, it's sadly lacking anything particularly special.

I found it disconcerting that while Rapunzel's Revenge had only a Wild West tall tale type of fantasy, all the sudden in Calamity Jack  there are pixies and giants and talking animals. . . If the two books didn't contain the same principle characters, it would be hard to see how they belonged together.

The art, as with Rapunzel's Revenge, is serviceable but there are no "Wow!" moments revealed through it. The art illustrates the story, rather than advancing and enhancing the storyline.

On the whole, if I hadn't enjoyed Rapunzel's Revenge and been interested in those characters, I probably wouldn't have found Calamity Jack to be worth three stars. As a furtherance of characters looked on with fondness, I enjoyed it; as a graphic novel, it was merely okay.

~~Read for the Graphic Novels Challenge.~~

Note: This is my opinion; on Amazon, it received 5 star reviews 67% of the time.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rapunzel's Revenge

Rapunzel's Revenge
Dean and Shannon Hale, authors
Nathan Hale, illustrator
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books; First Edition edition (August 5, 2008)
4/5 stars

Rapunzel's Revenge is a very enjoyable retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale which moves the setting to the Old Wild West. Rapunzel has been raised to believe that Mother Gothel is her natural mother, but an act of rebellion on her twelfth birthday leads to the truth and Mother Gothel's retribution.

Rapunzel is imprisoned in a bewitched tree tower for four years, during which time her hair grows extremely long, she exercises and finds new uses for her hair out of boredom, and she continues to displease Mother Gothel on her yearly visit. She finally escapes, meets up with Jack, and the adventure really begins as they plot Mother Gothel's downfall.

This was a delightful story, both whimsical and warm, and the Wild West setting gave it a completely unique flavor. A strong female character, a good friendship and humor all the way through round it off to a very nicely done tale.

The art is pleasing, while not exceptional. It rarely does anything to advance the storyline, but does illustrate it nicely and fully brings out the "tall tale" feel to the story.

I'm surprised at the recommended age range, 9-12, and feel that a somewhat older age would appreciate it and understand it better.

Overall, this is an unusual and delightful retelling of a classic story that should please young adult readers, graphic novel fans and lovers of fairy tale retellings.

~~Read for the Graphic Novels Challenge.~~

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale
Carolyn Turgeon
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Broadway (March 1, 2011)
(ARC courtesy of Amazon Vine program.)
2/5 stars

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale is touted as a dark, gothic retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale, The Little Mermaid. It centers around the mermaid princess, Lenia, and the prince of the Southern Kingdom (Christopher) that she rescued, and the princess of the Northern Kingdom (Margrethe) who found the rescued prince. Lenia falls in love with Christopher immediately, and Margrethe feels that Christopher was brought to her for a reason, namely to bring peace to their warring kingdoms.

Neither particularly dark or gothic, Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale is a quick and somewhat light read. It's less cheerful than most light reads, as it sticks rather close to Anderson's sad tale, but the overall "everyone gets a good finish" ending keeps it from reading like a gothic novel.

I wasn't particularly impressed with this novel. The characters were rather two dimensional and their actions easy to predict (even in instances that didn't mirror the fairy tale). Conversations between characters were also often flat.

While I found the setting interesting, and several of the few descriptions given were quite lovely (the mermaid castle for instance), on the whole descriptions of the place and time were rare, leaving the novel feeling sparse and drab.

Unoriginality bordered on the bizarrely mundane: the kingdoms were called the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom, for goodness sake. Given this and the lack of details, I wondered if the novel had been rushed at the end and only the outline published.

The element of time was another problem issue: a mermaid year (between Lenia's birthday) passed abnormally fast; also, she was supposedly completely human and yet gestated a human infant within a few months. The need to make the novel hurry, with few descriptions and conversations and cheats on time, was to the detriment. It's rare that I say a novel would have been better longer, but if more attention had been paid to fleshing out details, this one could have been quite good.

I'm giving it two stars instead of one for the few original ideas and descriptions, but I simply can't recommend this novel, for adults or young adults, as I don't feel it is quality work, even for a light read.

Note: This is my opinion; on Amazon, this book received a 5 star rating 39% of the time.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Mystery of a Hansom Cab

The Mystery of a Hansom Cab
Fergus Hume
published c.1889
3/5 stars

I was eager to read The Mystery of a Hansom Cab as it was supposedly one of the most popular (if not the most popular) mysteries of that century and is also, according to legend, what gave Doyle the interest in writing mysteries himself.

The actual mystery in The Mystery of a Hansom Cab is a good one: two gentleman get into a cab, one gets out and the other proceeds. When the cab stops for the second gentleman, the cab driver discovers that he is dead. There are no identifying papers or paraphernalia on the deceased and no one comes forward to identify him.

At first, like the detective in charge thinks, it seems a rather cut and dried case. Find the first gentleman and you have the murderer. The success of this novel though, hinges on the depth of the mystery. As the lawyer and detectives begin to peel away at it, they find layer after layer.

Unfortunately for the modern reader, the prose is just plain awful. This was Hume's first novel and it is stupefyingly boring at points as he goes into detail about his opinion of his fellow Australians, for instance, or makes one reference after another to contemporary mystery writers, or recounts everything the reader has just witnessed via a detailed newspaper account. Oh, and Hume's attempts at rendering lower class speech, with dropped letters and a plethora of apostrophes. .. dreadful, simply dreadful. I finally had to just start skimming over that and trust that any important information from these scenes would be recapped in another conversation later. A fourth of the book, of verbiage and descriptions and opinions that didn't contribute at all to the plot, could easily have been removed and it would have been a pretty good read.

If a modern reader is willing to take the time to wade through the chaff to get to the wheat, the mystery itself is a good one. Plus, from an historical point of view, this is a rather important novel in the solidifying of the mystery genre. It's tough going at times, though, so be forewarned.

~~Read for the Victorian Literature Challenge~~

Note: This is just my opinion; on Amazon, 41%  of the reviews were 5 stars.

The Sunday Salon: Why I Don't Care for Romance Novels

Yesterday I reviewed a book of paranormal romance short stories. The reviews I had read stated they were light on romance and I thought it was a good way to find new paranormal authors. For me, the stories were the epitome of the romance genre and I was wholly unimpressed.

Which brought up the question: what do you have against romance novels?

Well, I'll tell you.

As a genre, romance tends to focus on perfection. The perfectly beautiful woman meets the perfectly handsome man and they have a perfect relationship and live happily ever after. Yes, I know, there is usually some rockiness in the courtship, but in the end, it's the dream come true romance.

I say, from experience with various friends, that this genre teaches unrealistic expectations to the naive and vulnerable. When he isn't Prince Charming, they won't date him, never realizing that there really isn't a Prince Charming. Life just isn't like that. PEOPLE aren't like that.

When the romance fades, when the sex stops being earth shattering, they assume that this wasn't real love after all, because in the movies and books it lasts forever.

Do they actually voice those thoughts? Not always. But the standards these women (my experience has only been with women friends; I'm sure there are men out there that feel the same way) base their relationships on are created from the unrealistic and unobtainable standards they read about in the romance genre.

So, that's one reason I don't care for the genre. Oh, it's not the fault of the authors. They're writing what people want to read, rarely (if ever) knowing that they are setting up relationships to fail by showing these so-called perfect lives. They can't help that the vulnerable and naive see it as truth. No, I don't think that everyone that reads romance fiction falls victim to that. But I have seen it, more than once, and I have seen the damage it does.

The other reason I don't like the romance genre is, well, I don't like it. I don't like a perfect heroine or a perfect hero. I don't like a blatantly contrived meeting or love at first sight. To me, it's just hokey. This genre doesn't fill any emotional needs for me. I prefer a different kind of fantasy.

~the Sunday Salon~

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance

The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance
Trisha Telep, editor
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Running Press (March 10, 2009)
2/5 stars

Why yes, I AM embarrassed by the cover and the title and quite nearly chose not to review this. . .

Having read many reviews that noted that this collection was not particularly heavy with romance and gave a good idea of the style of these 24 paranormal writers, I decided to set aside my dislike of the romance genre and give it a try. I'm a fan of paranormal fantasy and am always looking for more authors to read; I thought this would be the perfect way to find some.

What I found instead were 24 tales of sappy romance or lust, with our hero and heroine thrown together in blatantly contrived ways that, even for paranormal fiction, simply didn't feel believable. On the whole, the writing was poor, the characters shallow and the settings loosely constructed.

I did enjoy "Paranormal Romance Blues" by Kelley Armstrong, though. Her heroine had personality and a mind of her own. Unlike the rest, it didn't have the romance genre's general attitude toward partners and romance (and my reason for not caring for the genre), i.e. that to have a real romance, one must be perfect physically and that romance and passion is always incredible, mind-shattering and lasts forever. Ms. Armstrong's story had average characters who seemed real. While it was no five star story, I enjoyed it enough that I will look up more of her work. (This one is also the reason for a two star rating, instead of a one star.)

As for the rest, it could simply be that these authors were not able to write a good short story. It is an art, quite unlike that of writing a novel, and just may not be their strength. None the less, the plots of these stories give an idea of the interests and abilities of the author, and having read them I know I wouldn't be interested in a novel-length plot by any of them.

Note: This is just my opinion; on Amazon, 44% of the reviews were 5 stars.

Fables Vol. 2: Animal Farm

Fables Vol. 2: Animal Farm
Bill Willingham, author
Mark Buckingham, illustrator
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Vertigo (August 1, 2003)
3/5 stars

Animal Farm picks up right where left off. Snow goes to upstate New York to visit The Farm (where the Fables that can't blend in with humans live) and takes Red with her to work off community service hours.

They arrive at The Farm earlier than is normal for Snow's biannual visit, and find the Farm Fables in the midst of revolutionary unrest. Rose joins with the revolutionists and Snow is left scrambling to find allies.

This story line wasn't nearly as interesting to me as the first Fables volume, despite there being more serious elements. I think this is due, in part, to much of the action being told after the fact. All the real action was over in the first four issues (chapters) and the fifth felt contrived and filled out to make a full issue. Again, there were some memorable lines, and the characters are memorable as well.

Again, I was disappointed in the art. There was nothing original or unusual, or even particularly memorable, to the illustrations. It merely illustrates the story and doesn't seem to give any extra dimension to the story at all. The art is certainly not used as a vehicle to further the story, as it is in other, finer graphic novels.

Despite my interest in the characters, despite the huge following this series has, despite reading that it gets better as it goes on, I'm not sure I'm willing to read a third volume.

~~Read for the Graphic Novels Challenge~~

Note: This is just my opinion;  on Amazon, 61%  of the reviews were 5 stars.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile

Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile
Bill Willingham, author
Lan Medina, illustrator
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Vertigo (December 1, 2002)
3/5 stars

The Fables graphic novel series begins with this volume, Legends in Exile. It manages to incorporate both background story as to who the Fables are and a mystery.

The "Fables" are just that: the characters from legends, fables and fairy tales. Their Homelands were invaded and those that had the means to do so escaped into New York City and upstate New York. These refugees form a small Fable Town community, with King Cole presiding and Snow White as second in command.

Jack (of the Tales) discovers his girlfriend Rose Red's trashed and bloody apartment and comes to the one law enforcer of Fable Town, Bigby Wolf (as in The Big Bad). Bigby, with unwanted help from Snow (it's her sister that's missing, after all) questions suspects and unravels the mystery. He delivers the answer in a tongue in cheek, classic mystery "parlor room" setting.

The mystery is interesting and has a good ending. There are some truly witty lines in the dialogue. The characters are generally quite engaging. Bigby is charming in a rough, uncertain way; Snow is arrogant and vulnerable; Bluebeard is appealing and frightening. The twist on their lives and characters is just plain fun fantasy. It's not awe-inspiring, but it is fun.

A short story becomes a graphic novel through the addition of good artwork. The art for this is average. Facial expressions are well done and costumes and fantasy elements are clever. Unfortunately, there were no "Wow" moments, as there are in other graphic novels. The panels don't carry the story forward or add to the story, they are simply illustrations. The one excellent panel was showing Bigby's shadow as a wolf. Other than that. . . well, it felt like any ol' comic book.

That said, and despite my average 3 star rating, I became interested enough in Fable Town to want to read more. I just hope that the illustrations become more of a vehicle to tell the story as the series continues.

~~Read for the Graphic Novels Challenge~~

Note: This is just my opinion; on Amazon 55% of the reviews were 5 stars.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

We Need to Talk about Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin: a novel
Lionel Shriver
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial (July 3, 2006)
2/5 stars

One of the reading challenges I'm doing this year is the Take a Chance Challenge. Number ten had several options and I chose this one:
Random Book Selection. Go to the library. Position yourself in a section such as Fiction, Non-Fiction, Mystery, Children (whatever section you want). Then write down random directions for yourself (for example, third row, second shelf, fifth book from right). Follow your directions and see what book you find. Check that book out of the library, read it and then write about it. (If you prefer, you can do the same at a bookstore and buy the book!)

With that in mind, the last time I went to our local used bookstore, I went with this written down:
Fiction aisle
Left hand side
20th column
4th row
7th book

We Need to Talk About Kevinis what my hand landed on, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't consider moving one over either direction. Sure, it was sandwiched in between chick lit, which I don't read, but. . . This just didn't look all that good. But, a commitment is a commitment and We Need to Talk About Kevin it was.

In We Need to Talk About Kevin, Ms. Shriver attempts to tell the story of events, reasons, undercurrents leading up to a school massacre. The story is told from the point of view of Eva, the mother of the murderer, in the form of letters Eva is writing to her husband.

This is a very large undertaking and the premise is great. Ms. Shriver has an excellent story to tell, and at times it is well told and even gripping.

Unfortunately, the very style of the story (letters describing events to a person who was there) was a draw back. It made for very awkward language as Eva told Franklin what he already knew (with such phrases as "You told me. . . ", "You gave me. . . ") and gave a very egocentric feel to the novel from the first page, as Eva describes her her life to one who knows it intimately. I suppose this was to set up for surprises later in the book, but it simply didn't work.

The story of Eva's relationship with her husband and son would have made for interesting reading, but it was so hard to get past the fact that I was reading a novel, due to the self-important (and unrealistic) style and language. This is "a novel", and the reader is not going to forget it. There were times, though, that the story was interesting enough for me to over look this (hence the 2 stars instead of 1), but those instances were few.

In addition, We Need to Talk About Kevin is simply too long. Ms. Shriver spends too much time on details and issues that don't add to the story and that could easily have been pared. Other school shooting incidents discussed in detail, the 2000 election fiasco in Florida referred to again and again, feelings examined in minutiae. . . This book weighs in at 400 pages in oversized paperback, and would probably have been a good novel if 1/4 of that had been left out.

Another difficulty I had with We Need to Talk About Kevin was the discussions (generally arguments) between Eva and Franklin (recounted in detail by Eva to Franklin despite the fact he was there) about their son. These conversations were not realistic, read like how a young person might imagine adults talk, and certainly did not read like adults talking about their own children. Perhaps Ms. Shriver intended this, used it show the difficulty between Eva and Franklin. Perhaps, but to this reader it did have any purposeful use, and made reading even more difficult.

Due to the over-scrutiny, the self-importance and the length, by the time the book ended, the "surprise" was no surprise and the ending was simply a relief. If Ms. Shriver had kept with just the basic story, and had Eva give it in a different format, this could have been a stellar read. As it is, I advise you give it a miss.

Note: This is just my opinion; 52% of the reviews on Amazon were 5 stars.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Frank Miller and Lynn Varley
Hardcover: 88 pages
Publisher: Dark Horse; 1098 edition (December 15, 1999)
5/5 stars

Wow! This graphic novel is a simply stunningly rendered telling of the Battle of Thermopylae. Is it "historical"? Not entirely, no, but then it never makes that claim. The Battle of Thermopylae has become as much legend as history and that is the treatment given in 300: legendary.

300 follows the Spartan King Leonidas as he takes his 300 warriors to stop the Persians. Leonidas is shown as a true Spartan hero and his wit and arrogance toward Xerxes along with his unflinching bravery make the reader (this one anyway) want to take up shield and spear and stand along side of him.

The art is so fitting for the story. Heavy lines, silhouettes, and much red spattering create the atmosphere needed for each frame. The eye is drawn forward--no pulled forward--and eagerly follows. The art tells as much of the story as does the words.

For those like me that had the misfortune to see the movie version first, never fear: the crappy wife subplot is NOT in this book! Huzzah! Nor is the blatantly off-putting, totally not Spartan image of the child Leonidas crying as he was being taken away from his mother for his trials.

Breathtaking and rousing from beginning to end, 300 is a nearly hero-worshipful retelling of a legend, not a historical thesis--and there is nothing wrong with that! Read it, enjoy it and find it haunting the memory for days to come.

~~Read for the Graphic Novels Challenge~~

Star Island: my first "did not finish" of the year.

Star Island
Carl Hiaasen
Publisher: Knopf; 1St Edition edition (July 27, 2010)
Did Not Finish

I enjoy Carl Hiaasen; have been reading his novels for years. Back in August, when I saw he had a new one published, I added myself to the library waiting list. Number 102 of 102 waiting. And I waited. And waited. And waited.

Last week, my turn finally came. I opened it eagerly and began to read. About two chapters in, I thought, "I'm really not into this!"

The story, as far as I got, is about a young pop star starting to spin out of control, her undercover double, and an icky paparazzi stalker. Skink, my favorite returning character is in it as well.

I read for an evening, dutifully, and made it 113 pages. As I turned out the light my thoughts were on how I dreaded picking it back up the next night. I'd waited so long for it. . .

Then it hit me. D'oh! Just because I've waited five months to read it doesn't mean I have to read it! I can admit defeat and go on; I've done it before, I can do it now!

I don't know that the book is really all that terrible, maybe it just isn't the season for me to be reading it. I don't remember Hiassen being so vulgar, crass and tawdry, though, so I'm thinking it's the subject matter that is my problem, and the reason for Hiaasen's more brash and unappealing writing style this go 'round.

Then, it could be that his novels have always been like that and my utter absorption of late into the world of gentler Victorian novels has made my tolerance for such way lower.

Either reason, or both, is good enough. The fact is, while I have enjoyed Hiassen in the past, I could not work up one grain of sympathy for any of the characters this time (including Skink). This one will go back to the library and the other fifty or so in line after me can have their chance at it.

(Hmmm. . . I just looked at Amazon. Out of 173 reviews, this book has a 3.5 star rating. Could be I'm not far off the mark in saying it isn't up to his standard.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Leavenworth Case

The Leavenworth Case
Anna Katharine Green
originally published 1878
5/5 stars

(Project Gutenberg has a free eBook version.)

Anna Katharine Green (November 11, 1846 – April 11, 1935) was one of the first Americans to write mysteries that featured a detective, and is also credited with shaping the genre into more legally accurate fiction, as well as inventing both the (new stereotypical) meddling busybody sleuth and girl detective.

The Leavenworth Case (her first novel), is a complex mystery with a well penned and well planned plot. It takes many twists and turns, but none unbelievable or contrived, and arrives at a solution at once surprising, satisfying, and obvious from the beginning if the read had been looking in the right direction.

Loosely, the plot of The Leavenworth Case is that Horace Leavenworth is found murdered in his locked library. Naturally, his household is suspected, and evidence points to one of his nieces, Eleanor.

The narrator is a young lawyer, Mr. Raymond, who has no experience is mysteries or murders. The police detective, Mr. Gryce, enlists Raymond's help because he is a gentleman, and as such will be welcome in places that Gryce would not be. While Raymond hates the thoughts of playing spy, he has become extremely interested in protecting Eleanor's reputation, so agrees. All the clues and information the reader sees are what Raymond sees, so at times, the reader is deducing (like Raymond) without all the facts. As new information comes to light, Raymond has to fit that into his hypotheses, or scrap it all together and form a new one--and so does the reader.

from wikipedia
Anna Katharine Green
The Leavenworth Case was a most satisfying mystery, and kept me guessing til the end. I was certain I knew who the guilty party was time and time again. Time and time again I had to reform my ideas around new information. The clues and misinformation did not feel contrived at all, rather it came about very naturally, as one would expect during the course of a police investigation.

Not only does The Leavenworth Case provide a meaty mystery; in it, one sees a very clear picture of life among certain classes in the U.S. in the late nineteenth century.

Given both the quality of the mystery, and the slice of history it gave, I look forward to reading many more of Green's mysteries.

~~Read for the Victorian Literature Challenge.~~

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Eyes of the Dragon

The Eyes of the Dragon
Stephen King
Publisher: Signet (April 10, 2001)
4/5 stars

When I joined the Take a Chance Challenge, I knew exactly which book I'd read for the "Loved One’s Choice" book. Years ago, Bryan handed me The Eyes of the Dragon to read. I put it on my to-be-read shelf and apparently forgot all about it. He mentioned it again a few months ago and after a search, I located it and placed it in a prominent spot so I wouldn't pass it over this time.

Unlike King's usual novels, The Eyes of the Dragon is not full of horror or gore or even profanity. It is an almost gentle story; a fairy tale told with restraint by an unknown narrator who often speaks to the reader personally, as though the tale were being told by a storyteller to a breath-baited audience.

The story is that of a weak king, his evil magician adviser and his two sons. I really don't wish to tell any of the plot; I'd rather you read it yourself. Suffice it to say that bad things happen, worse things are thwarted, heroes show themselves stalwart and dangerous situations make even the weakest strong when it counts.

The Eyes of the Dragon is not a quick read, the language is too rich and reminiscent of vintage fairy tales to allow for that. Instead, it's a book to read slowly, savor and enjoy the experience of being in a fairy tale world.

My complaints were minor, if any, because now that the book is finished I can't remember them. Instead, I remember only that I loved the hero with great devotion, hated the villain with pure hatred, and was sorry when my visit to the land of Delain was over.

(I must add that I thoroughly enjoyed King's quiet nod to the master of the horror story, H. P. Lovecraft. Very amusing for Lovecraft fans, non-intrusive for those not in the know. Well played!)

Graphic Novels Challenge

Okay, just one more challenge. . . . Ever since I started the Sandman series in December I have fallen in love with the medium of the graphic novel. I don't know if it's just Gaiman's writing that makes it so fabulous, or it is really is a great medium, but my intent is to read more and find out. Then, I stumbled across this challenge, the Graphic Novels Challenge 2011. Perfect way to encourage me to do what I was going to do anyway: read! :D

The level of participation:
Beginner (3 comics or graphic novels)
Intermediate (3-10 books)
Expert (10+)

I'm going for the Intermediate. I think I can easily read four new-to-me graphic novels, and possibly more. I'd like to eventually review one of the Sandman novels so that I can show how simply fantastic they are, and rereads are okay for this challenge, so I might easily make ten. Look forward to trying though!

*a post on my view of graphic novels

Graphic Novels Read:
1. 300 by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. (my review here)
2. Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham and Lan Medina. (my review here)
3. Fables Vol. 2: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham. (my review here)
4.Rapunzel's Revenge by Dean and Shannon Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale. Read 25 January 2011. (my review here)

Woot! Beginner level completed 25 January 2010! On to Intermediate!

5. Calamity Jack by Dean and Shannon Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale. Read 26 January 2011. (my review here)
6. Britten and Brülightly by Hannah Berry. Read 27 January 2011. (my review here)
7. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1 by Alan More, author and Kevin O'Neill, illustrator. Read 30 January 2011. (my review here)
8. Locke & Key Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft  by Joe Hill, author and Gabriel Rodriguez, illustrator.  Read 25 February 2011. (my review here)
9. Locke & Key Volume 2: Head Games by Joe Hill, author and Gabriel Rodriguez, illustrator.  Read 8 March 2011.(my review here)
10. Veils by Pat McGreal.  Read 16 March 2011. (review)
Intermediate level completed 16 March 2011!

11.  American Vampire, Volume One by Scott Snyder and Stephen King, illustrated by Rafael Albuquereque. Read 24 March 2011.  (review)