December 5, 2016

Recent Reads

171. Lester's Dreadful Sweaters
"Cousin Clara's cottage was consumed by a crocodile. Luckily, Cousin Clara wasn't in it."

When a picture book for young readers starts that way, you know that you are in for a fun ride. The only problem, as far as Lester is concerned, is that Cousin Clara comes to live with them, and brings along her knitting needles and is determined to knit him sweaters. Adults are often guilty of giving hideous gifts to kids, and Cousin Clara is no exception. What is poor Lester to do?

This is a cute, quick read with lovely art. I especially loved the expressions the dog had on his face throughout this story. As an Aunt myself, I was rather fond of Cousin Clara. Elementary school aged kids, who need to obey seemingly random decrees by adults, will empathize with Lester I think. Rating: 3 stars.

172. The Only Child
I'm not an only child, so while I did not experience that particular type of loneliness, every child surely feels lonely from time to time.

This wordless picture book is a lovely story of a lonely little girl who gets lost on her way to her Grandma's house, and a magical friend who helps her in her time of need. The black and white pencil drawings wonderfully evoke the dreamscape of childhood.

If you have yet to read this ode to childhood and imagination, move it up your TBR pile. Rating: 4 stars.

173. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye
I cannot summarize it better than Kenny Mah of the The Malay Mail, so will simply quote him:

“Part graphic novel, part art book, part narrative essay, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Malaysian-born, Eisner Award nominated comic artist and illustrator Sonny Liew is a look at Singapore unlike any other before. By reflecting on the life and work of a comic creator whose career spanned half a century, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye comments wryly on Singapore’s past and present while honoring comics as a storytelling medium.”

This is a staggering work from an incredibly talented author/artist, and I often forgot that Charlie Chan Hock Chye was not a real person in history, but an artist that the author created as a device to document Singapore's turbulent history. The versatility and range of artistic styles in this graphic novel are in of themselves worth the price of admission, and I learned some history along the way.

An NPR review:

The only reason I docked a star is due to my own shortcoming. I do not know much of the history described here, so there were moments of confusion as I tried to make sense of it all. With this graphic novel, Sonny Liew has raised the bar of what can be expected from this genre. Highly recommended. Rating: 4 stars.

174: Royal Assassin (Farseer Trilogy #2)
This, the second book in the Farseer Trilogy, should be subtitled "Boy Who Runs With Wolf." This is a very long book in which not much happens. I could summarize the plot in about ten sentences, the rest is just filler. The writing is good, and it's an easy read, but honestly why does it take so long for anything to happen? There are some really fun sections at the start and end, but almost the entire middle could have been condensed to about a hundred or so pages. Blah, Blah, Blah. And don't get me started on that ending. I'm all for strange magical systems, but honestly?!

Based on reviews, the final book in this trilogy is even worse. So here's my quandary. This is the first trilogy in the Elderings series of sixteen books, and I've heard that they get so much better as the series progresses. And yet the thought of another thirty of so hours to complete this first trilogy seems to be a heavy price to pay. So am thinking that I'll skip to the next trilogy in the set, and read the Wiki page to learn what I need to know. Yes, I heard that loud gasp, but honestly people, life is too dang short to waste time, so if anyone can sum up Assassin's Quest in a dozen or so sentences for me it'd be much appreciated. I'm moving on to Ship of Magic.

PS. I listened to the audiobook (almost 30 hours), narrated by Paul Boehmer. Rating: 2 stars.

175. Azores, 5th
"This is the only guide in English that provides details of travel and activities alongside in-depth background information."

That statement is true. I looked far and wide for a good travel guide for a recent trip to the Azores, and could not find anything. This one though is rather quirky, and the author is either a non-native speaker, or it was translated by one, because some of the way the it is written is unintentionally humorous. The in-depth background information seemed to overshadow the what to actually see and do portions of this book, and there is no sense of what is a must see/do, versus skip this one recommendation. Still, this was all I could get my hands on, and I did find it helpful in parts. Rating: 2 stars.

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