March 16, 2015

Recent Reads

22. The Children Act
Those of you who know me are probably wondering why I decided to read another book by an author whose work I tend not to like. I blame my local book group.

I listened to the audiobook, wonderfully narrated by Lindsay Duncan. This slim book tackles some big questions: What is in the best welfare of a child? How does one handle the news that your husband needs one last passionate fling with someone else? How does work and the decisions we make at work - especially if they involve life and death - affect our personal lives? Can we really be objective when it comes to the lives of others?

I quite loved the start of this book - the court cases and the dynamics between Fiona and her husband - but as the book went along, I found my attention wandering, and by the end I simply wanted the book to be over. Cut out some of the rambling, and things that matter not one whit to this story, and this would have gotten a higher rating from me. Also, did not love the bullet form/summary manner of storytelling - that style of writing pops me right out of the story and I become a mere spectator of something I can only view remotely. Nevertheless, this book had me thinking about the questions mentioned above, and it made for a good discussion. Rating: 2 stars.

23. Ant Colony
I found this graphic novel surreal, dark, and gross in parts, and yet I could not look away. It's the story of a civilization writ small: war, corruption, sex, angst, ennui, the search for meaning, them versus us, gender politics, murder, etc. all set in an ant colony. The art is creepily good - I especially loved the spiders, and was more than a little disturbed by the queen illustrations. My fave parts include an ode to the Lion King, the 300 style battle scenes, and the final bucket list. There are multiple narrators in this story, and I found it rather male-centric, but it is an interesting and colorful read nonetheless. Rating: 3 stars.

24. Flowers of Evil, Volume 1
I've said this before and I'll say it again: Adults who want to be young again must not remember how hard growing up can be.

This graphic novel series is a semi-autobiographical story about Takao Kasuga. He is in middle school, an avid reader, failing a class or two, and puberty comes knocking. Nakagawa, the class bully and all around strange girl, sees Takao do something that he is deeply ashamed of, and uses this power to make his life hell. Nanako Saeki is the beautiful and smart girl Takao has a crush on.

On the surface, this is a simple coming of age story, about a boy, a crush, a bully, and peer pressure. What I loved is the honesty with which the story is told. Like most of us, Takao is neither a hero nor a villain. He is just an average kid, who loves books, especially one by Baudelaire, and cannot find anyone in his little town who understands his passion, which makes him feel trapped and lonely. The tsunami of emotions he experiences in this first volume are those that can only be felt by the very young - the highest highs and lowest lows. 
I really liked the art, and this black and white manga needs to be read back to front, and each panel reads right to left, which takes a little getting used to, but is quite fun. I'm not sure if this series is targeted at middle school kids, but this volume would certainly stir up some great conversation with kids that age. There are ten volumes in this series, and I've already got the next two in the series on hold at my library. Rating: 4 stars. 

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