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sKatie (Liverpool)

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Enigma (Vertigo)
Enigma (Vertigo)
by Peter Milligan
Edition: Paperback

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mini series collected, 30 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Enigma (Vertigo) (Paperback)
Michael Smith's life is nothing out of the ordinary. On tuesdays he wears his blue socks and grey underwear, he counts his bath towels and has sex with his girlfriend Sandra. One tuesday however, his life changes forever when supervillian "The Head" appears and starts sucking peoples brains out of their nose. To further astonishment, his childhood comic book superhero Enigma appears to track down The Head and stop the killings. Things don't stop after The Head as supervillian The Truth appears to cause even more chaos and provide an even bigger challenge to Enigma.

An extremely surreal adventure where Michael tries to figure out his connection with Enigma. He ends up enlisting the help of the comic book writer who originally created Enigma, Titus Bird. Enigma only ran for 3 issues and Enigma soon starts to follow new paths seperate from the original comic and new supervillians appear. Titus also has to fend off the "Enigmatics" who treat him like a prophet and belive his comics to be complete truth with hidden messages.

It was a very sexual graphic novel without being explicit (I am guessing the author is gay?). I did enjoy it, but ultimately found it a little too pretentious playing up to comic book cliches. It was also a little overly confusing although I did like the twists it took for the most part. I am usually very good at guessing who and what is going on, but this time I was dead wrong which made for a nice change.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.78

5.0 out of 5 stars Magic, Mystery, Fairy, 27 Nov. 2007
Mr Norrell is on a quest to be the only magician in England and to being back English magic. He is sick of all the theoretical magicians with no other practical magicians besides him, that is until magical prodigee Jonathan Strange enters the scene. At first Strange becomes the pupil to Norrell's master, but things change after he does a stint with the Duke of Wellington in Portugal and Spain in the war. Both men seem subject to a prophecy told by a street sorcerer from London called Vinculus and they have an unseen enemy, a man with thistle-down hair and no name.

A world of fairies and magic set mostly in England in the 1800's against a backdrop of the war with Napoleon, the mad King George and famous poet Bryon. The differences between the two magicians is pronounced, but separate they are not as strong and have no one else to share their interests with.

The supporting characters (especially Stephen Black and Childermass) are what really made this book for me. The other was Clarke's incredible attention to detail. The book is set in a real period of history, yet she works in many foot notes citing events that did and didn't occur as well as books that do and don't exist. Don't be put off by the length, once you start reading it, it becomes impossible to put down again.

Indian Folk Tales and Legends (Myths & Legends)
Indian Folk Tales and Legends (Myths & Legends)
by J. E. B. Gray
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun introduction to Indian tales, 23 Nov. 2007
This is a collection of Indian myths and folktales retold by Gray. It includes a section on the famour Indian myth, The Ramayana about Rama and his wife Sita The stories were mostly short focusing on morals and moral judgements which seem to be the focal point for a good upbringing. In these tales the good usually(not always!) won and the wicked were punnished for succuming to greed, counting their blessings before they had them in their hands and being false.

My favourite tale was a very short one called Mousey the Merchant which was about a merchant who began a very prosperous business by selling a dead mouse and it snow balling from there! I also really enjoyed the final series of tales The Vetala's Stories which was three stories within a larger one. It had some interesting challenges which made the reader think along with the King in the tale.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, especially all the animal tales. The animals were not the usual Western animals and included vultures and a mongoose which made it a little different. I also enjoyed the involvement of the gods in the tales as well as demons and fairies and some wicked people being able to find redemption mixed in amongst those who deserved their fates.

Metamorphoses: A New Verse Translation (Penguin Classics)
Metamorphoses: A New Verse Translation (Penguin Classics)
by Ovid
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.18

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent poetry and mythology, 18 Nov. 2007
Roman poet Ovid was born in central Italy in 43BC. In AD 8 he was exiled to the Black Sea by Emperor Augustus for reasons that have never been made clear. He died around Ad 17/18, never having returned to Rome despite constant petitioning.

Metamorphoses is his epic poem on change. It covers many metamorphoses, mostly humans being turned into animals, plants, birds etc by the gods. The most unlucky name seemed to be Cycnus as you are likely to be turned into a swan at some point! It shows how it never pays to scorn the gods as you will get turned into a spider, horse, stag to be hunted by your own hounds, raven etc... The other key transforming factor was grief. People weeping were liable to turn into birds or plants/trees mostly and Hecuba even turned into a dog.

Lots of famous tales and people were included in this poem. Everyone from Icarus to Theseus, the Minatour, Narcissus and Echo, Arachne, Hercules and Aeneas. The tales ranged from very gory to very irreverent via erotic, Ovid had a very interesting sense of humour which came across in most of his tales (this possibly caused the trouble with Augustus). His treatment of the gods is interesting, he focuses on their human aspects of pride, revenge and their tendency to be quick to anger. Yes the poem is very long, but I really enjoyed it and would recommend it. It was interesting as well to read something from a roman perspective after trying out some of the greek classics.

Princess Ai Manga: Destitution: v. 1
Princess Ai Manga: Destitution: v. 1
by Misaho Kujiradou
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lovely artwork, shame about the story, 5 Nov. 2007
This is a manga tale following Princess Ai. She first awakens on earth with no memory of her past besides her name. She has in her possession a heart-shaped box which she knows is important, she just isn't sure why. She has no money and no place to stay, she is abandoned in Tokyo.

She meets Kent and they discover a strong coneection between them. He helps her to look at illustrated books to try and jog her memory in the university library. There she finds a mysterious blank book apart from a faded picture of a family crest. She also finds a street singer who helps her to rekindle her passion for music and singing. It allows her to take a job in a strip club as a singer (not a stripper). Not everyone is happy about her new job however... Another problem is someone is following her trying to find her, someone in a war with her forgotten home-land.

I really liked the artwork and it was interesting finding all the references to Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, Hole and Courtney Love (who Ai is clearly based on). The problem was the story seemed overcomplicated and jumpy. Sometimes I felt like a page was missing when there wasn't as it jumped to a different setting with the same characters. I will read volume 2 though as it did pique my interest.

The Outlaw Varjak Paw
The Outlaw Varjak Paw
by SF Said
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great follow- up to Varjak Paw, 29 Oct. 2007
This review is from: The Outlaw Varjak Paw (Paperback)
Rating : 4.0/5
Number in Series : #2 in Varjak Paw series
Raeson for Reading : Four-Legged Friends Challenge, to complete the series

It follows on directly from Varjak Paw with the Mesopotamian Blue cat now living on the streets with Tam, Holly and Cludge. They are hungry and finding it very difficult to find food in the winter months. To make matters worse in the quest for food, Sally Bones' gang are claiming all the best food by law even in the neutral areas of the city. If you aren't in Sally Bones' gang, you don't get any food.

Varjak and his friends go to the wise Mrs Moggs for advice on how to deal with Sally Bones. Like Varjak, Sally Bones knows the Way taught to him by his distance ancestor Jalal and she is the best fighter in town. Mrs Moggs isn't a great help only passing on childhood tales and legends. As a result of Varjak causing trouble for her gang, Sally Bones declares him and anyone helping him outlaws to face her terrible punnishment.

A really good follow up to the first book. The illustrations were beautiful again and the new characters fitted in well. It was again very dark in places and I wouldn't recommend it for younger readers (maybe save it for teenagers). I liked that Jalal was in it again offering more wisdom to Varjak when he sleeps and it was interesting to find out how Sally Bones knew the way and her place in the scheme of things.

The Giver
The Giver
by Lois Lowry
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Utopia/Dystopia story, 16 Oct. 2007
This review is from: The Giver (Paperback)
The story is set in a society filled with rules, no real feelings and an emphasis on interdependence. Jonas is an Eleven about to become to Tweleve. Each age group recieves something new when they collectively move up a level and are all one year older. Twelve is where they recieve their Assignments (jobs) after being carefully monitored through their earlier life so a mistake is not made. Jonas is nervous about what he will be Assigned as he has no idea what he will get. Nothing called to him specifically during his voluntary work hours and he tried a lot of different things out.

At the ceremony something special happens to him that will change his life forever. A whole new world of pain, anger, love and colour are opened up to him along with different climates and the concept of hills. The community made a decision some time ago to opt for sameness and only now does Jonas realise that that took away all of their choices and freedoms in life.

A really interesting look at a utopian/dystopian society. Quite creepy in places, you know when they take about the old being "Released" that it isn't as pleasant as it sounds. Learning about the society and the different stages growing up was fascinating. For example until a certain age children have jackets that fasten at the back to learn to rely on others. Later on they get their first front fastening coat and then later one with pockets as they can now be trusted to be responsible for their own small personal items. The family unit idea and surpressing "Stirrings" was another interesting idea. I will definately be reading the next two in the series to see what happens to Jonas next...

Waifs and Strays
Waifs and Strays
by Charles De Lint
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.97

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful collection of short stories, 10 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Waifs and Strays (Paperback)
A collection of short stories by the wonderful Charles de Lint. The stories all involve teenagers as main characters although it isn't specically aimed at teenagers. It is billed as the perfect primer to his writing and I would have to agree. I haven't read much of his work yet, but I definately plan on doing so (he has now been added as the final author in my top five list of all time). It covers some of the different cities and worlds many of his stories as set in.

It contains 16 stories in all and a brief summary of them all is:

Merlin dreams in the mondream wood - Sara as a child sleeps in the wood under an oak tree when she suffers from night terrors. She meets the Green Man, an old man in the guise of a red-haired boy who lives in the tree. His name is Merlin.
There's no such thing - A tale about a teenage vampire and child abuse involving sisters Apples (Appoline) and Cassis (Cassandra).
Sisters - More about teen vampires with a bit more about his take on their mythology and origins. This is the only original tale for this anthology.
Fairy dust - What happens when a fairy is caught in a jar by two children.
A wish named Arnold - A girl called Marguerite keeps a wish called Arnold (shaped like a crow made of coal) in a brass egg she found in an antique shop. She is granted only one wish.
Wooden bones - Liz is a city girl who is sent to stay with her relatives in the country. She keeps a lot bottled up inside and when she starts to be haunted by fiddle music and a strange creature things get out of hand.
The graceless child - about a trow (Shetland troll) who gets tricked into getting involved in the battle between Gaedrian (Dream) and Nallorn (Nightmare).
A tattoo on her heart - an interesting dystopian world with a look at the nature of humanity.
Stick - a strange tale about gang warfare between humans, elves and halfbloods. Stick (human) helps those in need but accepts none himself until Manda (halfblood) turns up. The Horn Dance morris side (human) join in with their power of good luck and music.
May this be your last sorrow - a sad poignant tale about a runaway girl who seemed like she had everything back at home.
One chance - Like Susanna, Billy gets beaten up by other kids but he also faces his drunk father. When he finds a way to the Other World, will Susanna have the courage to go with him.
Alone - Susanna gets caught up in the mystery of how Peter Reid (a kid at school) died. He was found at the bottom of a ravine, but did he jump or was he pushed...
But for the grace go I - a sad story about runaway Maisie Flood who lives in a squat with her adopted family of stray dogs and retarded boy Tommy.
Ghosts of wind and shadow - Again fairy and music intertwine as a teenage girl who can see fairies runs away from home falling prey to human waste to escape those who don't believe her.
Waifs and strays - More from Maisie and her family after ghosts (emotional and physical) start to haunt her. She is trying to get her life back on track for the sake of looking after her family, but some things just don't seem to want to let her.
Somewhere in my mind there is a painting box - from a series of stories written in collaboration with artist Charles Vess about Lily. Twenty years ago a painter and his mentee went missing in the woods. LIly finds an old paintbox with his name on it and then a strange man appears near by.

Themes of teenagers from single parent families or who have lost a grandparent as well as music, mythology, folklore and fairy tale abound. My favourite was easily "The graceless child", but I enjoyed each and every one. I am looking forward to reading lots more by de Lint in the future and expanding my collection of his books. They truely transport you to another time and place.

Bridge to Terabithia Movie Tie-in Edition
Bridge to Terabithia Movie Tie-in Edition
by Katherine Paterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful story and fear and friendship, 7 Oct. 2007
The story of Jesse Oliver Aarons Jr and Leslie Burke. Jesse doesn't have many friends in school. He loves to draw and dreams of being the fastest kid in the fifth grade. The only boy in a poor family with four sisters, his life is forever changed when Leslie and her family move in next door.

She is very different from him. She is educated, comes from a family with no money troubles, is an only child and doesn't have a television. She teaches him to open his imagination and invites him to join her in their own private place, Terabithia. There they reign as king and queen and can leave their lonely lives behind them.

It's a beautiful story about the nature of friendship and overcoming your fears. The recent film was a great adaptaion of the book and fleshed out some of the central ideas, but it wasn't quite able to convey the internal struggles that the book does. I really liked his young sister May Bell as well as the puppy Leslie gets called Prince Terrien (P.T for short). I cried a little at the end, even though I knew what was coming. It definately deserved to win the Newberry Medal.

Genome: The Autobiography Of Species In 23 Chapters: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
Genome: The Autobiography Of Species In 23 Chapters: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
by Matt Ridley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.20

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great overview of chromosomes and the genome, 7 Oct. 2007
A popular science book subtitled "The autobiography of a species in 23 chapters". It goes through the 23 pairs of chromosomes of the human body (including the sex chromosomes X and Y) and discusses one or two of the genes found on each. Topics covered include Life (where human DNA came from and its discovery by Watson and Crick), Intelligence, Disease (although he frequently reminds us that genes do not cause disease), Stress, Memory and Death (programmed cell death called "apoptosis" and it's relation to cancer).

The chapter on Eugenics was perhaps my favourite talking about chromosome 21 and Down symdrome (found when a person has 3 copies of the chromosome compared to the usual 2). It also discussed the idea of sterilising mentally retarded people and criminals which went on in America and Germany, but interestingly not the UK although Winton Churchill was a big fan. Interestingly the chromosomes on the front cover are a photograph of the authors which I didn't realise until I read the note after finishing the book.

You definately need a basic understanding of genetics to appreciate this book. The author does try to explain things without too much terminology, but it's pretty impossible in some places. I really enjoyed it and was surprised to find it is the first science book I have read voluntarily since graduating in 2004. It was a lot to take in and I will definately be reading it again in the future. I am really pleased I finally got around to reading it and although some of it is already out of date (it was published in 2000 and genetics has made so many advances in the last few years) I definately recommend it.

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