Wednesday, October 31, 2012


by Brian Selznick

Grade: 3 stars
Story summary: After Ben is struck by lightning and goes deaf in his good ear as well, the subsequent trip to the hospital gives him a chance to run away and look for his father. Meanwhile in the past, a girl also runs away to find a parent.

Thoughts: Written in the same unique style as The Invention of Hugo Cabret, with half the story being told through pictures. In this case, however, the pictures tell a separate story than the text--but related plot-wise and thematically

And just like Hugo Cabret, this book has a lovely soft--and slightly sad--storyline (how's that for alliteration?) and the pictures tie in perfectly.

Another thing both Selznick books have going for them (besides the gorgeous pictures and prose) is unusual areas of research. In this case, the resource list at the back included books on lightning, deafness, and museums. I was especially interested in the stuff about Deaf culture (apparently, "deaf" refers to the condition and "Deaf" refers to the culture, which I didn't know).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Death Note: Another Note

by Nisioisin

Grade: 2 1/2 stars
Story summary: An FBI agent on suspension, Naomi Misora, is called upon by the great detective "L" to help solve an unusual series of murders. A prequel of sorts to the manga series Death Note.

Thoughts: The worst thing about this book was the stupid names. Perhaps Nisiosin is not familiar with American culture? Because the majority of the people had names like "Beyond Birthday" and "Quarter Queen" and one of the worst: "Backyard Bottomslash". This was supposed to be a mostly serious story, but every time someone's name was mentioned, it completely took me out of the story.

Otherwise it was quite good, I suppose. It was interesting to get more insight into L's past and character. The mystery was not bad--I didn't actually guess the answer. Most reviews I've read seem to have praised it fairly highly, so it's hard to tell whether my lack of great interest is purely a result of the terrible distraction caused by the names.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Death Note

written by Tsugumi Ohba
illustrated by Takeshi Obata

Grade: 5 stars

For reasons that are still rather vague and unformed in my mind, I do not count graphic novels/manga/comic books when numbering the books I read each year. But it occurred to me for the first time the other day that this wouldn't necessarily stop me from reviewing them. So here goes.

Death Note is one of the coolest series I've read in a long time, and I'm including non-graphic series as well. It contains many of my favourite tropes: young, evil geniuses; Machiavellian characters; long battles of wits. What more could I ask for?

It's basically about a long series of mind games between Light Yagami, a boy who obtains the power to kill people by writing their names in a notebook (the Death Note of the title), and a young genius detective called simply "L". Light slowly gets more corrupted by the power of the Death Note, and L slowly closes in on him. And just when you think you might understand someone's plan, it turns out there was a whole other level going on above that the whole time. Awesome stuff.

Special praise also goes to the artist, Takeshi Obata. He's what got me into manga in the first place, with Hikaru no Go. His style is not as frantically busy as some manga tend to be, and a series as dark as this needs some realism in its art.

My main criticism is a lack of interesting girls. Any girls that did appear tended to be rather stupid, and have no purposes other than being in love with Light, and thus getting rather horribly used by him. The lack of good female characters did mean that there was no hackneyed Romance, which was nice. But I would also very much like some girls to add to my Evil Child Geniuses list someday.

It also gets into slightly weird philosophy by the end of it. Mostly this wasn't the focus of the story, though, so I was able to ignore it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


by Conor Kostick

Grade: 3 stars
Story summary: Erik lives on a world where disputes/economy/practically everything is decided through a huge multiplayer game called "Epic". In frustration after his mother's "death" (character death), he decides to challenge the authorities through a new female character with all her points wasted on beauty. Then follows shenanigans and adventure.

Thoughts: Speaking as someone who enjoys computer games quite a lot, this was quite a lot of fun. Battles and armour and dragons and treasure and strange NPC's.

But also, speaking as someone who enjoys computer games quite a lot, I wish he'd gone into more detail. The idea of a character with max beauty points and almost nothing else was quite fascinating. But then it seemed he just got a few perks, like that special ring, and that was all there was to it. I montages! And long descriptions on the inner workings of the game! And comparisons of each character's strengths and weaknesses! And training montages! (I love training montages. I don't care that they're probably overdone. I think every movie should have one. It was my favourite part of X-Men: First Class. It's one of the main reasons why I love Poison Study so much--there isn't exactly a montage, but there's lots of training. And it's awesome.)

In general, there was just not enough. The group of kids went from ordinary players to super-players without much explanation. There were fascinating hints of artificial intelligence, but it never got into it properly.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Mark of Athena

by Rick Riordan

Grade: 3 stars
Story summary: All the demigods from the past two books meet up in one big quest. Tensions between Romans and Greeks mount. Gaea's menace grows. Teenagers have a tricky time trying to sort out all their relationships. Plots thicken.
Sequel to The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune, all three of which are part of a sequel series to the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series.

Thoughts: Though the viewpoints in this book changed around quite a lot, Annabeth was a lot more prominent than usual, as might be deduced from the title. And Annabeth isn't nearly as hilarious as Percy, and doesn't have some of the cool powers that the other main demigods have.

But the middle books in Riordan's series are never quite as good as the beginning and ending books. Though I look back on the first Greek series with immense fondness, I actually kind of skimmed through a couple of the middle books. So considering that I read this quickly and completely, this series is looking good so far.

Best thing of all: the next book in the series, announced in the back of this book, is called "The House of Hades"! Maybe we'll finally get some more Nico di Angelo.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ender's Shadow

by Orson Scott Card

Grade: 4 stars (maybe 4 1/2?)
Story summary: Basically Ender's Game from Bean's point of view. The book starts with Bean's background, goes on to his life in Battle School, and ends with the same climax as Ender's Game. If you haven't read Ender's Game, you should. And I don't want to spoil both books by describing it in too much detail. Suffice it to say that Ender was on my list of Top Ten (Or So): Evil Child Geniuses (despite being not exactly evil), and that Bean has certain significant similarities to Ender.
Also see the sequels: Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Giant.

Thoughts: Stories about super-intelligent prodigies--I love 'em. Also stories about people who get people, and know how to use this knowledge/intuition. Also stories with battles (albeit non-killing ones). Also stories about a group of random people who become close through adventures/trials/something really difficult.

Buuuuut...I still like Ender better and I still like Ender's Game better. The comparison is inevitable--I suppose that's to be expected. When first reading Ender's Game, everything is new and exciting and surprising. Ender's Shadow is not quite so surprising. In fact, Bean figures out basically everything so far ahead of time that plot events wouldn't be too surprising even if you had read Ender's Game.

Although this book had one attribute that not only was not found in Ender's Game, but is not found in many other books either: a Catholic nun who is good and orthodox, but also definitely not perfect. So yay! for rarely seen not-too-clichéd Catholics in literature!

So now all I have to decide is whether to read the Ender sequels or the Bean sequels or no sequels at all. I believe in the Ender sequels he goes off on his own hundreds of years in the future (due to the time weirdness of space travel), while the Bean/Shadow books take place on Earth, are more about politics, and feature many of the other children from Battle School. That sounds more promising to me, even though I like Ender better than Bean. But then I've heard from some sources that Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow are the only ones that are any good at all. EDIT: As you can see by the links after the story summary, I decided to read the Shadow series. And I think it was definitely worth it. The geo-political maneuverings were pretty cool, and I loved Peter Wiggin's development.