"Take no heed of her...She reads a lot of books."
~Jasper Fforde

Sunday, May 24, 2015

English as She is Spoke (Pedro Carolino)

I'm learning Japanese.  (私 は 少し 日本語 を はなします).  I'm no expert, and don't consider myself to be one.  Mostly, I can say basic sentences, and spout out some vocab.  Even that does not make a ton of sense.  I can say that I speak Japanese or English ( は にほんご を はなします; は 英語 を はなします), words like awesome, apple, and rice (すごい; りんご; ご飯) and make simple sentences that make little sense (私 は おいしです ご飯)--> I am delicious rice.

Sometimes, things get lost in translation.  And even while using online translators, such as Google translate (which helped form the Japanese characters for me) things often get screwed up. How many of you (and I'm sure it's most of you) have tried putting something into Google translate, filter it through a few languages, and set it back to English?  Usually what comes out is somewhat garbled, but generally intelligible.  I had tried it myself a few years ago, and posted the results on this blog.  It makes for an interesting way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Of course, because of its shortcomings, people generally use Google Translate knowing that this is not going to be a perfect translation.  And we certainly don't think that this is good and proper English.  But, what if someone had really butchered a translation and people believed that it was legitimate?  Well, that's what happened with my most recent read: English as She is Spoke.  What happened was a well-intentioned Portuguese man wanted to create an Portuguese to English phrasebook.  But, he didn't know any English and didn't have a Portuguese to English dictionary.  Rather, he had a Portuguese to French dictionary and a French to English phrasebook.  English as She is Spoke is the results of his careful translations.  Some of it makes sense, most is pretty garbled, and there are passages that mean nothing at all: "After the paunch comes the dance" or "To craunch the marmoset".

I felt bad for laughing, since it was obvious someone put a lot of time and effort into writing this book.  But, in all honesty, there is only one reason its still being published over 100 years later.  And that's because it is so funny!  As a textbook, it is no longer valid.  But, as a piece of entertainment, it's a real hoot!  If you're interested in language, then you should check this out.  But, also, you should check it out just because it's fun to read.

I have an additional treat for all you, too.  If you are interested in reading this book right away, you can check it out online at this link here.  This is a pretty fancy digital copy of the text, so it should be a lot of fun to explore!  I wish I had known it was online, so I wouldn't have had to use the library copy (which was mysteriously sticky--ewwww).

As always, happy reading!

Boxers and Saints (Gene Luen Yang)

So, this post is actually covering two books by Gene Luen Yang: Boxers and Saints.  As I'm writing this, I have just finished Saints, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about things.  This duo of books presents a story from two opposing viewpoints, leaving the reader to determine for themselves which side is right.  See, the story takes place during China's Boxer Rebellion, when the native Chinese rebelled against foreign invaders, including Christian missionaries.  Boxers is told by the young man who leads the rebellion.  Saints is told by a Chinese girl who converts to Christianity.

I'm very open about being Catholic.  I don't run around telling people for no good reason, but
if someone asks, or it comes up in conversation, I'm happy to tell people about my faith.  But, even so, I found this a difficult book series to read, not because I hated it, but because I was not sure who to side with.  When you read Boxers, it is obviously painting the Christians as evil, "foreign devils".  But, at the same time, Saints redeems the Christian image.  It was a very powerful read.

I liked each book for different reasons.  Boxers, hands down, had the cooler storyline.  I mean, with their homeland being invaded and their culture destroyed, a group of Chinese nobodies join forces and under the influence of a sacred ritual, become the living embodiment of their gods.  The art style was amazing, and each god's costume was beautifully and intricately designed.  The battle scenes drew you in and left you breathless as you waited to see what the outcome would be.  Saints was a story of faith and second chances.  While Bao was confident in his gods and his rituals, Vibiana struggles with her faith.  It's not a preachy "I'll be Christian!" story, but it shows the real struggles of being a religious minority in a time of persecution.  While Saints was not as visually pleasing as Boxers, the story was, in my opinion, deeper and richer.  I wish that it was a little bit longer.

All in all, this was a great series.  And I highly recommend it to any of you with an interest in history, religion, or China.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Anya's Ghost (Vera Brosgol)

I'm actually reading at a pretty steady clip right now.  I'm happy to report that Summer Reading 2015 is off to a good start.  At least until classes get underway.  Then we'll see how I'm doing, I suppose.

But, for right now, let's talk about my next read: Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol.  This is a graphic novel story of a high school girl (Anya) who is struggling to fit in with her classmates because her Russian immigrant mother keeps pulling her back into her heritage, encouraging her to attend Russian Orthodox mass and become friends with nerdy little Dima, who is also from Russia.  But, instead, she's something of a loner, smoking cigarettes behind the principal's back with her friend Siobhan, and wishing the cute guy in her class would notice her.  All this changes when she finds herself taking an alternate route home from school and ends up tumbling into a well.  She's not the only one there, either.  There are the skeletal remains of a young girl, about her age.  And the ghost of that girl is still down there.  Ninety years is a long time to be alone, and she's eager to
have found a new friend, although Anya's not so keen on being pals.  Still, when Anya leaves the well, she finds that this ghost is going to be a bit harder to lose.  But, that might not be a bad thing...or is it?

This is a sort of spooky tale.  It's a ghost story, after all.  And of course, this is one of those stories that I really can't say much about for fear of spoilers, so I ask that you bear with my vague descriptions.  But, if you're interested in paranormal stories, ghosts, mysteries, or comics, this is something you might enjoy.  Also, I recommend this to anyone who has ever felt like the outsider or been unlucky in love.

Since this was a graphic novel, I did want to comment on the art style.  I really liked the character design, and I thought the art was wonderful!  The characters were emotional and expressive and popped off the page.  The art actually reminded me somewhat of the art of Bryan Lee O'Malley, who writes the Scott Pilgrim books.  Obviously not the same, but it made me think of it.

Well, I have a whole stack of books lined up for continued reading.  I hope you'll stop in again to see what else I'm reading this summer.  In the meantime, I'm reading about management for a Library Science class....Bleah.
But, still, there is a lot of good stuff out there.  I'm looking forward to sharing my samplings of it with all of you.  And tell me what you're reading to!  As always, Happy Reading! ~em

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The House With a Clock in Its Walls (John Bellairs)

This is a book that I've been meaning to read for about ten years now.  Back when I was in grade school, Sarah had suggested that I pick up this series she had been reading.  I was told to read anything by John Bellairs or Brad Strickland (the series was started by the former, and continued by the latter after his death).  I'm not entirely sure why I never actually read any of them.  But, I do know fantasy was not my thing at the time.  It is now.  I mean, I love fantasy.  And I know that Sarah enjoyed it as a kid.  But, at the time, it just seemed rather silly to me, and I just was not interested.

I had been thinking about the series on and off for years
though.  It was one of those things that I thought could actually have been really interesting if I had given it half a chance.  Since I started working at the library, I've read some children's literature (know your collection!) and I started thinking that if I'm reading Timmy Failure and Howl's Moving Castle, the least I could do was give John Bellairs a shot.

I should pause my review at this point to say that John Bellairs has written three different series.  And I just happened to pick the Lewis Barnavelt books because I could only remember the title of one book by Bellairs: The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge, which according to Goodreads is Book #8 in the series.

But, of course all series must be read in order.  Book #1, The House With a Clock in Its Walls tells the story of Lewis, an orphan who is sent to live with his uncle Jonathan after his parents die in a car crash.  (On a side note, it has always interested me that these characters are perfectly peachy after the crushing death of a loved one if they meet a cool relative or make some good friends right afterwards).  Lewis finds himself fitting in perfectly with Uncle Jonathan and his friend Mrs. Zimmerman.  And to his great surprise, he learns that they are both wizards!  Not only that, but there is some crazy magic afoot.  In the silence of the night, you can hear a clock ticking away within the walls of the house.  And no matter where you are, you can hear it as though it were on the other side of the wall.  The clock serves a sinister purpose, but no one knows what it does.   Perhaps it has something to do with the previous inhabitants of the house: an evil warlock and his wife.

This is essentially your classic Gothic novel watered down for children.  Like a virgin margarita, this is a treat that can be enjoyed by both adults and children.  I certainly found it fun.  It was atmospheric, suspenseful, and like all good children's fiction, leaves the reader with the satisfaction that no matter what happens during the beginning and middle, all will be right in the end.  Of course, there are still signs that this was written for children.  Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman like to insult each other, and their nicknames border on the childish.  The story never gets too scary, either.  This is just right for a kid who wants to get into the more Gothic aspects of fantasy, without diving into The Phantom of the Opera or Jane Eyre.

Oh, and did I mention the illustrations are done by Edward Gorey?  Because they are--and that is AWESOME!

The rest of the series has awesome titles and covers.  Even this book has multiple covers and they all look great.  I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series, and books 2-3 are in my room right now.  So, stay tuned for more reviews!  And as always, happy reading :)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Yotsuba&! (Kiyohiko Azuma)

Perhaps the hardest part about being a reader is when you finally finish a good book or series.  As all good things must come to an end, so too must this one.  Sure, rereading is a thing, but it's not the same as experiencing something for the first time.  Recently, I completed the manga series Yotsuba&!, and had that experiences, so, today, I'm going to tell you a little about it.
So, Yotsuba&! tells the story of a little girl named Yotsuba, her father, and their friends.  It's a slice of life manga that is part seeing the world through the eyes of a child, and part watching a child experience all these things for the first time--but from the perspective of a parent.  It's incredibly cute and sentimental.  Also, it's laugh out loud hilarious.  I was constantly cracking up!

So, what makes Yotsuba&! so great?  Well, the stories and adventures are never anything too crazy.  If you're not a fan of fantasy, and want a more realistic story, than this is good for that.  Adventures include riding bikes, getting a camera for the first time, and picking chestnuts.  If that sounds dull, then never fear!  Yotsuba's crazy antics are enough to turn any simple story into something much, much more.

Confession time: I really didn't want kids.  For years, I was pretty content with the fact that I don't get kids and kids don't get me.  Mostly, too, I don't think they like me.  I'm not doing anything wrong, but I think they can sense that I'm too serious or that I just don't know what to do around them.  This makes all of us uncomfortable.   But, sometimes, little things start to change my mind.  Reading Library Wars: Love and War, for example, has started to change how I think about romance.  I'm not a huge romantic, but there are a few anime and manga series that are making me reconsider.  When it comes to having children, Yotsuba&! makes me think that perhaps it wouldn't be all that bad.  In fact, it could be a lot of fun.

So, I suppose most of what I've been saying doesn't tell you too much about the series.  And I guess that's because this is one of those series that is hard to explain and do it justice.  It's a slice of life manga.  Okay.  It's about friendship and discovery, but mostly I think about love and family.  It takes everyday things and makes them absolutely hilarious and amazing and fun!

Oh, and the faces.  Oh, the faces.

I have not enjoyed a manga this much in quite a while.  Also, I will say, the first book might start off a bit slow, so give it time.  Soon, you won't be able to stop reading!  Sadly, there is no anime, at least not that I can find.  And I'm not sure if there will be one or not.  But, still...you should totally read this and tell me what you think!  If you have any specific questions, please feel free to post them in the comments, and I will try to answer as best as I can :)

Until next time, dear readers!  ~Emmy

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

So You've Been Publicly Shamed (Jon Ronson)

As many of my readers (who are bloggers themselves) might know, the world of the internet is a great way to share your thoughts and opinions.  But, it is also a great soul-sucking void where your life can be ruined in an instant if you do something stupid.  I'm thinking about the people who post drunk party picks on Facebook and then can't get a job, or anyone who gets majorly shamed by the internet for posting something disrespectful or rude.  I've had my friends shame me for comments (mostly political stuff on FB about something they did not agree with).

But, that's what this book is about.  What happens when you're the person who posts that inappropriate comment online?  And everyone freaks out on you?  I mean, we believe that we're being noble.  By calling out that person who claimed that we should [insert terrible thing here], we are standing up for truth, justice, and human rights.  Right?  I mean, we're the good guys here... right?

Of course, it's not all that clear cut.  But, when it comes to public shaming, there is a fine line between telling someone they're wrong and completely destroying them.  That's the topic explored in Jon Ronson's newest book So You've Been Publicly Shamed.  Now, this was a legitimately good book.  It brought up a concept that we don't normally think about, and forced us to sit back and reconsider our actions.  This is especially important online, since we are often anonymous, and we are legion.  We have the safety of the crowd.

If you're interested in sociology, or what happens when a comment is made online, what the end results of our actions can be, then I suggest checking out this book.  It was very informative, and I enjoyed reading it.  Of course, fair warning: some of the stories are hard to read, not because they are graphic, but because it can be depressing to see someone put through the wringer like that.  Still, I gave it a three of five on Goodreads, so I suppose that's a start!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Her Death of Cold (Ralph McInerny)

Hello, all!  As promised, here is the first of what I hope will be a very productive summer of books.  To get the ball rolling, let's start with my first official summer read: Her Death of Cold by Ralph McInerny.  

This is the first book of The Father Dowling mysteries.  This is a series of books that follows the adventures of a Catholic priest, Fr. Dowling, who is pastor of a sleepy little town in the Midwest.  It starts off with a call in the middle of the night.  One of Fr. Dowling's elderly parishioners calls him in a panic, saying that she's afraid that her children are going to murder her.  They hate her and are only interested in her vast family fortune.  She concludes by telling him that she's afraid to live alone, afraid of death and of dying, and of what comes after that.  He advises her to pray and get some rest.  She does, and appears better afterwards.  Then, she disappears.  Her family is concerned and they try to figure out where she went.  Then, she turns up back in her house.  The doors are unlocked, she has a fatal wound on the back of her head, and her body appears to be thawed, as though someone had frozen her and then warmed her up again.  The police are at a loss as to what happened, and as the chief detective shares his frustrations with his friend (who just happens to be Fr. Dowling), more and more clues crop up.  And the mystery just gets stranger and stranger.

This was a good read.  Four out of five stars on Goodreads and a high expectation for the rest
of the series.  I liked that it was not just a cut and dry answer.  The mystery took a bit of unpacking, but once it did, it wasn't so convoluted that it was unreasonable.  It made pretty good sense to me.  That's what I want in a mystery: a solution that I couldn't guess, but that still makes perfect sense.  My only complaint was that there were a few dry patches, or too many characters were introduced at once and I had trouble recalling names.  But, that's more of my issue than the author's.

Since the central character is a priest, there is going to be some dogma, but like the Father Brown books by GK Chesterton, it never felt forced.  I actually really liked how the concepts of sin and crime were approached when viewed through a Catholic lens, and how even though he should be the poster boy for good Catholic behavior, we see that Father Dowling is not perfect.  Of course, he's no schmuck, but he's not a holier-than-thou saintly figure.  He's a man, just like anyone else.  He has his positive traits and flaws.  It made him feel more real to me.

I picked up the second book in the series (The Seventh Station) at the library, so be on the lookout for that review in the coming weeks!  Oh, and there was a TV series, so I'll be looking into that as well!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Summer Reading 2015!

Hello, everyone!  I'm super-excited to announce that my summer is finally here!  I had a paper due yesterday at noon, so I am officially done with classes, now!  And of course, the end of classes means the start of summer, so it is time to start posting my summer reading titles!

I haven't gotten any feedback about summer reading suggestions this year, so I'm going to be super-boring and use my Goodreads reading list as the basis of my selections.  My theme is called: To Read or Not to Read (as a reference to the "To Read" list on Goodreads and other sites).  It might sound a bit lame, but it's going to give me a great chance to start catching up on the huge list of books I've been wanting to read!  (Don't believe me?  While I may be prone to exaggeration, I think even the most skeptical would agree that 1,238 books counts as a pretty sizable amount!)

So, that's where I'm starting right now.  This summer, you're going to get a dose of everything.  A little of this, and a little of that.  To start with, I'll let you in on what I'm reading right now: Her Death of Cold: A Father Dowling Mystery by Ralph McInerny.  An old woman dies under mysterious circumstances and is found in her large storage freezer in the basement.  Everyone is a suspect, including her children.  The local parish priest, Father Dowling is curious to discover what is going on, and teams up with the town's head detective to find out the truth.

Looking forward to reading with you this summer!  Tell me about what you're reading, too!

Monday, May 4, 2015

I Kill Giants (Joe Kelly)

Confession time: when I was a kid, I sort of lived in my head.  I was imaginative, quiet, and always working up a new story or some adventure to daydream about.  I was that kid who would get called out by the teacher not for talking too much or acting out, but because I was staring out the window, thinking about what Pokemon I would want to take with me on my quest to become the Pokemon master, or what it would be like if I, like so many of the books I read as a kid, could go to some fantasy world and find all manner of strange and wonderful creatures and new friends.

Even now, at 24, I can still appreciate that part of child me.  Sure, I don't think that I'll be able to walk through a closet and end up in Narnia, but sometimes, I still think about what it would be like to go on an adventure, meet all manner of strange and wonderful creatures, and together fight off some great evil and save the world.  Or, more realistically, I would love to go backpacking across New Zealand, and meet some wonderful people who would remain close friends for the rest of our lives.

When I first picked up this book, I was looking for a simple fantasy story, but instead I found a deep and touching tale of growing up, coming of age, and dealing with the pain and suffering of life.  Let's be honest here: life is not always easy, but some of us have it easier than others.  For me, childhood had a lot of ups and down.  As a kid, I was very happy.  I was active, got along well with boys, and had a lot of fun.  When I got to be about 10 or so, I started having friend troubles, as girls do, because my classmates were getting into cliches.  And by the time I was in seventh or eighth grade, it had graduated from cliches to bullying.  There were years that I struggled because I was bullied to the point where I had no self-esteem.  For those of you who have never experienced it, there is no way to explain it.  It is the worst thing I have ever experienced, and I would never wish it on anyone.
Anyways, on to the book.  I think what attracted me to this book once I stared reading was the fact that I could see so much of myself in Barbara.  Here, we have a young girl who certainly stands out in her class.  She's quirky, she's odd, and she doesn't care.  When questioned, she claims that she kills giants, but this is all just a cover for coping with issues at home.  She's a smart kid, but you can see that she is struggling through something.  But, instead of making this an obviously mopey piece, in the hands of Joe Kelly, this becomes an amazing story full of heart and imagination.  It was incredibly engaging and difficult to put down.  We want to cheer on Barbara through her struggles, even though she makes herself somewhat unlikable.  But, she's a kid with a lot of emotions all bottled up inside, and like all of us, just wants to be loved and accepted.

The start is a bit slow, so make sure you give it some time to get involved.  And then, toward the end, there is some shocking stuff.  I'm not going to say anything more, but you don't want to miss out on this!  A great collaboration of drama, magical realism, and fantasy, this book is sure to blow you away!  Not gonna lie: there were a few parts where I got pretty choked up.  Which is saying something, since I generally try to be as emotionless as Mr. Spock, haha!  But, seriously--go and read this!  You'll be so glad you did!  And once you read it, come back and tell me what you thought about it!

A Bookish Update and Summer Reading

Hello, all!

So, I'm not sure how many of you actually read my blog anymore (and that's okay--I haven't been the best about posting anyway...) but in case you are still reading, I wanted to talk a bit about books and my summer reading plans.  Every year since I started this blog, I've had some form of summer reading plan set up.  But, this year, I'm pretty stumped.  Usually, I can think of something clever and creative to read about, but right now, I have nothing.  Zip.  Nada.  Zilch.  So, I'm in a bit of a rut while I try to figure out what to read next.

So, if there is anyone still reading, I would really appreciate some suggestions for new books to read.  I mean, not so much new books as a new book topic.  Those of you who are my friends on Goodreads know just how many books I have on my to-read list!  So, how can I parcel these titles out?  Part of me is thinking that my summer reading theme should just be to read as much as I can off my Goodreads account, or from this little notebook I keep that has even more suggestions.  But, I'm not entirely sure yet.

As for the rest of this post, I wanted to say that I'll be making a real effort to start posting book reviews on here again.  I know most of my reviews have been on Goodreads, and that not all of you (if there are any of you) follow me on Goodreads.  So, I'll be trying to post them here instead, so that you can keep up with the good, the bad, and the ugly of the books I've been reading.

Summer is almost here.  I'm just struggling through one last class.  The sad part is that the class isn't even that hard.  I just have one paper left, and that's not even that hard.  But, I've been working on this freakishly easy paper for over two weeks now, and I just can't write anything.  My writer's block has been terrible.  I almost want to cry.  The saddest thing is that I've had ideas spouting out of my ears for every other writing assignment you could think of.  I've been jotting down ideas for a novel I've been wanting to write, and even if I do say so myself, these ideas are pretty good!  But, when it comes to writing for this stupid paper, I just sort of gape at it blankly, like a caveman who has just discovered television and can't figure out what to do about it.  So, I'll be muddling through that over the next few days.  It's due on Wednesday at noon, so I want to be done by tomorrow night.  Wish me luck.  Hope to write again soon.