December 8, 2014

Recent Reads

170. A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories (The Contract With God Trilogy #1)
This is the first book in The Contract With God Trilogy, and is considered to be the first graphic novel. I am reading a wonderful edition, one that collects the entire trilogy, with an introduction by the author, and some new art.

A Contract with God contains four short stories, all examining various characters and life on Dropsie Avenue in the Bronx, a primarily Jewish neighborhood. In the title story a young Russian Jew escaping the progroms finds heartbreak in his new country, and in his grief rejects his contract with God. This poignant story is based on the death of the author's child.

The three other stories all deal with other people in the hood. There is the street singer who serenades the people in the tenements. There are people who go away on vacation in search of love, or if not love, at least a match with someone of better circumstances. And there is the story of the building superintendent, which unfurled in an unexpected manner.

Ordinary people with complicated lives wonderfully captured. Originally published in 1978, the beautiful art, and stories of a place and time still resonate today. Rating: 4 stars.

171. Quest
This wordless picture book is a sequel to JOURNEY, and I'd recommend "reading" that one first.

In this story, a boy and a a girl are sheltering under a bridge, when a door bursts open. A king emerges, hands them some a map, and other artifacts, then he is immediately hauled away by soldiers before they can talk to him. What happens next is a flight of fantasy, and while the art is lovely, I did not like this story as much. There was not the sense of magic, mystery, and adventure as in the first book.  Rating: 2 stars.

Book blurb: In 1804, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark set out on an expedition to explore the uncharted American frontier. This is the story of the monsters they discovered lurking in the wilds... Collects MANIFEST DESTINY #1-6.

I love travel and adventure stories, and had fun reading this alternative version of the Lewis and Clark expedition. There be monsters indeed. This series has great potential, and my complaint about this volume is that it does not quite live up to it. The art is fantastic, but the characters are rather one dimensional, the dialogue rather stilted, and it is actually hard to tell the men apart. Thanks goodness for the appearance of Sacagawea - though she kinda has a Xena Warrior Princess vibe. Still, I enjoyed the read, and the clever premise, and will keep my fingers crossed for better writing in future installments. Rating: 3 stars.

Book blurb: On a Halloween night, eight boys are led on an incredible journey into the past by the mysterious "spirit" Moundshroud. Riding a dark autumn wind from ancient Egypt to the land of the Celtic druids, from Mexico to a cathedral in Paris, they will witness the haunting beginnings of the holiday called Halloween.

I listened to the audiobook book wonderfully narrated by Bronson Pinchot. Is this my first Bradbury (I heard that gasp), yes I do believe it is. This novel is targeted at a young adult audience, and is a fun read for the season. Traditions are often touted as oh so important, when in reality most people have no idea about the history/reason for those cherished traditions. This story explores the traditions and stories that surround Halloween. The writing is good and often poetic. This is a fun romp through time, history and culture. Trick or treat baby! Rating: 3 stars.

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