Three great graphic novels – The Alchemist, The Good Earth, The Kite Runner

Title: The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel, Author: Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Finished 9-21-18, rating 4/5, graphic novel, 208 pages, pub. 1996

Graphic novel adapted by Derek Ruiz and illustrated by Daniel Sampere.

Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found.

The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories can, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.  from Goodreads

I’ve always wanted to read The Alchemist and decided to give the graphic novel a try first. I was concerned when I saw the depictions of women in the first few pages.

Some questionably sexual panels from The Alchemist graphic novel

But I soldiered on and luckily the illustrator’s dream girls didn’t last past a few pages.  Still…  Anyway, I liked this parable adventure story and enjoyed it for what it was.  It didn’t change my life or world-view, but it was a quick enjoyable story of a boy who was told that dreams can become reality if you believe.  I probably won’t read the original, but am glad I know the story of this modern classic.


The Good EarthThe Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. Finished 9-27-18, 4/5 stars, graphic novel, 144 pages, pub. 2017

Graphic novel adapted and illustrated by Nick Bertozzi

Pearl Buck’s 1931 Pulitzer Prize–winning classic about the rise and fall of Chinese villagers before World War I comes to life in this graphic novel by Nick Bertozzi.

In The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck paints an indelible portrait of China in the 1920s, when the last emperor reigned and the vast political and social upheavals of the twentieth century were but distant rumblings. This story of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife O-Lan is must reading to fully appreciate the sweeping changes that have occurred in the lives of the Chinese people during the last century.  from Goodreads

I was never all that interested in reading the classic novel, but I’m so glad I gave this a chance because I really enjoyed it.  The monochromatic illustrations (pinks and blues with the occasional red) worked and set a mood.  I liked Wang Lung, until I didn’t and then I really didn’t.  His tireless wife, O-Lan, one of the more sympathetic characters I’ve come across in a while.  My biggest complaint was that nowhere did it say that this was part one of a trilogy, so there was no ending. I will most likely pick up the next book to see what happens.


Title: The Kite Runner Graphic Novel, Author: Khaled HosseiniThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Finished 9-26-18, 4/5, graphic novel, 132 pages, pub. 2011

Illustrated by Fabio Celoni and Mirka Andolfo. Adapted by Tommaso Valsecchi

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.   from Goodreads

This book was heartbreaking and I can only imagine that the novel is so much more so.  I don’t think I could willingly bring that much pain into my life right now, so I’m glad that I read the graphic novel. Children exposed to horrors they can’t understand.  Ultimately, it is a story friendship with the lesson of not waiting to mend your fences.

 

 

 

Two memoirs you could safely skip – Everything Happens For a Reason & Pedigree

Title: Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved, Author: Kate BowlerEverything Happens For A Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. Finished 9-15-18, rating 3/5, memoir, 178 pages, pub. 2018

Thirty-five-year-old Kate Bowler was a professor at the school of divinity at Duke, and had finally had a baby with her childhood sweetheart after years of trying, when she began to feel jabbing pains in her stomach. She lost thirty pounds, chugged antacid, and visited doctors for three months before she was finally diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.

As she navigates the aftermath of her diagnosis, Kate pulls the reader deeply into her life, which is populated with a colorful, often hilarious collection of friends, pastors, parents, and doctors, and shares her laser-sharp reflections on faith, friendship, love, and death. She wonders why suffering makes her feel like a loser and explores the burden of positivity. Trying to relish the time she still has with her son and husband, she realizes she must change her habit of skipping to the end and planning the next move. A historian of the “American prosperity gospel”–the creed of the mega-churches that promises believers a cure for tragedy, if they just want it badly enough–Bowler finds that, in the wake of her diagnosis, she craves these same “outrageous certainties.” She wants to know why it’s so hard to surrender control over that which you have no control. She contends with the terrifying fact that, even for her husband and child, she is not the lynchpin of existence, and that even without her, life will go on.   from Goodreads

I won’t waste too much time with a description of the book because you can read that above.  What I will say is that I’m surprised that this slim memoir was nominated for a Goodreads award this year.  I don’t really get it.  I thought the book was all over the place touching on one thing and then flitting on to something else, leaving me with questions (although they were few because I just didn’t care that much).  I’m glad she survived Stage IV cancer, because as a mother of a young child I cry when I read stories of mothers who have died way too early and leave children behind.

Title: Pedigree: A Memoir, Author: Patrick ModianoPedigree: A Memoir. Finished 9-29-18, rating 3.25/5, memoir, 130 pages, pub. 2015

In this rare glimpse into the life of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano, the author takes up his pen to tell his personal story. He addresses his early years—shadowy times in postwar Paris that haunt his memory and have inspired his world-cherished body of fiction. In the spare, absorbing, and sometimes dreamlike prose that translator Mark Polizzotti captures unerringly, Modiano offers a memoir of his first twenty-one years.  a personal exploration and a luminous portrait of a world gone by.

Pedigree sheds light on the childhood and adolescence that Modiano explores in Suspended Sentences, Dora Bruder, and other novels. In this work he re-creates the louche, unstable, colorful world of his parents under the German Occupation; his childhood in a household of circus performers and gangsters; and his formative friendship with the writer Raymond Queneau. While acknowledging that memory is never assured, Modiano recalls with painful clarity the most haunting moments of his early life, such as the death of his ten-year-old brother.    from Goodreads

I chose to read this not because I knew the author, but because it was short and I knew I could finish it in a day.  I’m not going to lie, if it hadn’t been so short there is no way I would have finished it.  It was both fascinating and tedious.  His parents were…colorful makes their neglect too superficial, as humans they were colorful, as parents they were just awful.  But somehow their self absorption made for great fodder for Modiano in his work and his memoir.

 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Title: A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet Series #1), Author: Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time.  Finished 9-10-18, rating 3.5/5, children’s classic, 218 pages, pub, 1962

 It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract”.

Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?   from Goodreads

I chose this childhood favorite for a reread because I needed to finish a book in a day and it fit in with my classics club challenge.  I am also interested in the movie but wanted to reacquaint myself with the book again.  I found that I barely remembered a thing.  Truly.  Charles Wallace felt familiar to me as did Meg, but the actual story?  I had no recollection.

First, I should say from the outset that this book felt very dated.  That’s not necessarily bad, but I have to set that aside to really address the story. Meg’s father has been missing for years and everyone in town assumed he ran off with someone, leaving his wife and kids to fend for themselves.  But Meg, of the impatient temper, learns that he’s really stuck in another dimension and only she and her brother and new friend Calvin have any hope of saving him.  Mrs. Wotsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which whisk the three off to save not only Meg’s father, but the whole world.  No pressure.  A classic good vs. evil story with lots of magic thrown in.  It was exciting.

It’s a great first introduction into the sci-fi/dystopia world and best suited for a child.  I think this would be fun to read with Gage.  I know I read more in this series, but I remember just as little as I did with this one.  Maybe if Gage likes it we’ll continue on together.  I’m glad I reread it and am looking forward to seeing how the movie modernized it.

This was my 24th selection for the Classics Club challenge.  I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.

October’s Movies, $ for charity & house happenings

Our house is not done, but on Saturday we plan on moving back in to at least part of it.  It’s going to be like camping in 3 rooms for a month, but I’m just looking forward to being back in so we can put the house together.

Add your 5 words (or less!) to mine in a comment and earn $1 for charity.  Once we get to $100 the person with the most reviews will choose the charity.  Click here to see the past winners, the charities they chose and the other reviews you can add to.  Anyone is welcome to join in at any time.

We’re at $97 right now.

Smallfoot (film).pngSmallfoot, 2018 (Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Danny DeVito)                           Grade B

Yetis learn some harsh truths.


Halloween (1978) theatrical poster.jpgHalloween, 1978 (Jamie Lee Curtis, PJ Soles, Nancy Loomis, Donald Pleasence)       Grade B

Fun spookfest, worthy horror classic.

Scared the pants off me!   Kathy

Jamie Lee screams a lot!   Kay 

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Title: Number the Stars 25th Anniversary, Author: Lois LowryNumber the Stars. Finished 9-26-18, 5/5 stars, YA, 137 pages, pub. 1989

Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated,” Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.  from Goodreads

I adored this 1990 Newbery Medal winner.  I really had no idea what this was about and I’m not sure why I added it to my Classics Club reading list (must have been one of you bloggers gushing about it!).  What a joy it was to discover a children’s book that could entertain, engage and educate.  I was hooked from the get go.

Ann-Marie and her best friend Ellen are making the best of growing up with Nazis on every corner of their town, until one night the unthinkable happens at the local Jewish synagogue and now the Nazis have a list of Jews.  Ellen’s parents leave her with Ann-Marie’s family as they flee and what happens next is so emotional and horrifying that I became attached very quickly.  Ann-Marie and her family take extraordinary risks to do the right thing.

I didn’t know anything about the Danish Resistance that smuggled almost their entire Jewish population (7,000) across the sea to Sweden under the noses of the Nazis.  I was fascinated and in awe of the great things that ordinary people did to fight the good fight, even if the fight wasn’t theirs.  After this week’s shooting in the Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh I was struck with the parallels when I sat down to write my thoughts about this book.  We must all stand up to hate. This is a perfect example of ordinary people doing the best that they can to do the right thing.  If you have a child in your life and you are struggling to explain what happened, reading this book together might be a good starting point.  And as a bonus you’ll probably learn something new.

This was my 23rd selection for the Classics Club challenge.  I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.

 

The Night Bookmobile, Night Shift, Herding Cats – 3 graphic books worth reading

Title: The Night Bookmobile, Author: Audrey NiffeneggerThe Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger. Finished 9-28-18, rating 4/5, graphic short story, 40 pages, pub. 2010

First serialised in the Guardian, The Night Bookmobile tells the story of a young woman who one night encounters a mysterious disappearing mobile library that happens to stock every book she has ever read. Seeing her history and her most intimate self in this library, she embarks on a search for the bookmobile. Over time, her search turns into an obsession as she longs to be reunited with her own collection and her memories.  from Goodreads

I loved this sad, odd little tale of a woman who loves her books.  One night she discovers a bookmobile on a darkened street and walks in to discover everything she’s ever read in her life.  Dazzled and amazed she dedicates her life to reading more books to fill the bookmobile and searching for the magical library on wheels.  What a fun concept!  It was too short and the illustrations were just okay, but I loved it.  Just the right mix of fairy tale and cautionary tale.


Title: Night Shift, Author: Debi GlioriNight Shift by Debi Gliori. Finished 9-28-18, rating 4.5/5, graphic book about depression, 32 pages, pub. 2017

With stunning black and white illustration and deceptively simple text, author and illustrator Debi Gliori examines how depression affects one’s whole outlook upon life, and shows that there can be an escape – it may not be easy to find, but it is there. Drawn from Debi’s own experiences and with a moving testimony at the end of the book explaining how depression has affected her and how she continues to cope, Debi hopes that by sharing her own experience she can help others who suffer from depression, and to find that subtle shift that will show the way out.    from Goodreads

I was so moved by this powerful book about depression.  In only 32 pages of images I felt the crushing weight of depression.  I understood it in a new way.  This is a must read for anyone who loves someone who is suffering or for those who feel alone and don’t know where to turn.


Title: Herding Cats: A Sarah's Scribbles Collection, Author: Sarah AndersenHerding Cats by Sarah Anderson. Finished 9-28-18, 4/5 stars, graphic nonfiction, 108 pages, pub. 2018

With characteristic wit and charm, Sarah Andersen’s third collection of comics and illustrated personal essays offers a survival guide for frantic modern life: from the importance of avoiding morning people, to Internet troll defense 101, to the not-so-life-changing futility of tidying up. But when all else fails and the world around you is collapsing, make a hot chocolate, count the days until Halloween, and snuggle up next to your furry beacon of hope.    from Goodreads

This the third collection, but I’m not familiar with the author or the first two and this book was so quirky and fresh that I had a smile on my face the whole time.  Lots of the reviews on Goodreads include some of the panels and you should definitely take a look.  I plan on checking out her earlier books.

The Breakdown by BA Paris

Title: The Breakdown: A Novel, Author: B. A. Paris The Breakdown. Finished audio 9-2-18, rating 3/5, thriller, pub. 2017

Unabridged audio narrated by Georgia Maguire

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

from Goodreads

It didn’t take me long to become annoyed with Cass.  She was such a weak character that it was hard to be sympathetic, even when the occasion called for it.  The story itself was okay.  Lots of coincidences, but none were too much.  Is Cass going crazy, suffering from dementia or is someone truly trying to shake her up?  I figured it out by halfway through but don’t want to spoil it for you.

Jason listened to this one too and he wasn’t as irked by Cass as I was, but he also didn’t have any problem figuring it out pretty early.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Title: Austenland, Author: Shannon HaleAustenland. Finished 9-14-18, rating 3.5/5, fiction, 197 pages, pub. 2007

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?       from Goodreads

Jane’s obsession with Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy is a secret shame of hers but I can’t imagine why.  Everyone knows that Colin Firth will forever melt the hearts of all women (and some men) who have seen the BBC miniseries.  For some reason Jane tries to hide her fangirl crush but her astute aunt wills her a trip to an English estate that caters to the Austen crazies among us who are wealthy enough to play lady to Austen’s heroes.  Jane immerses herself in the experience, but knows, or thinks she knows, that it’s all a game and when her two weeks are up she must go back to New York City without her Darcy.

I thought this was light and fun, but having seen the movie first this lacked a little of the spark that the cast provided it.  All it really did was make me want to track down the movie and watch it again!  That being said, I’d be interested in giving the sequel a shot, if only for my love of the movie.

 

Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Title: Our Town, Author: Thornton Wilder

Our Town. Finished 9-17-18, 4.5/5 stars, classic play, 181 pages, pub. 1938

Our Town was first produced and published in 1938 to wide acclaim. This Pulitzer Prize-winning drama of life in the small village of Grover’s Corners, an allegorical representation of all life, has become a classic. It is Thornton Wilder’s most renowned and most frequently performed play.     from Goodreads

It’s Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire (population 2,642), early 20th century, and the Stage Manager leads us (the audience) through the years.  We follow two families, the Gibbs and the Webbs as the doctor and the newspaperman and their families lead their lives in the small New England town.  The three acts, years apart, see Emily as a child, a teen and a young bride.

I had forgotten how much fun it can be to read a play. First performed in 1938 on a stage devoid of props this play is simplicity at its deepest. The lives of the townspeople weren’t particularly interesting which made the ending such a punch in the gut (of the gentle and not hurtful variety) for me.  That third act was brilliant.  I loved it.

“That’s what it was like to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those…of those about you. To spend and waste time as though you had a million years. To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another. Now you know- that’s the happy existence you wanted to go back to. Ignorance and blindness.”

This won the Pulitzer Prize and  my 23rd selection for the Classics Club and I have until January 1, 2020 to get to 50.

The Battle For Paradise:Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists by Naomi Klein

Title: The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists, Author: Naomi  Klein The Battle for Paradise. Finished 9-16-18, rating 5/5, non-fiction, 80 pages, pub 2018

In the rubble of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans and ultrarich “Puertopians” are locked in a pitched struggle over how to remake the island. In this vital and startling investigation, bestselling author and activist Naomi Klein uncovers how the forces of shock politics and disaster capitalism seek to undermine the nation’s radical, resilient vision for a “just recovery.”  from Goodreads

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that taught me so much in just 80 pages.  Admittedly, I knew very little about Puerto Rico, but this book isn’t just about the small US territory, it’s also about how capitalism can be and is at odds with humane aid when disaster strikes.  Thankfully, Trump is mentioned toward the end only, and as you can imagine, not favorably, so for the most part this is about what’s actually happening there, starting before the hurricane hit through today, where so many are still living without electricity.

First, let’s start with the term neoliberalism.  Sounds like a word that Mitch McConnell would spit out when talking about Democrats, but that definition didn’t fit with what I was reading so I had to do a small bit of research since the word came up a few times. A concise explanation for those interested…

Liberalism vs. Neoliberalism

“Although the terms share some similarities, the two are distinct. Both are rooted in 19th-century classical liberalism, which supported laissez-fare economics and the freedom of people against an overpowering government. Liberalism is more of a political philosophy that holds liberty to a high standard. It defines all social, economic and political aspects of society, such as the role of government, toleration, freedom to act, etc. Conversely, neoliberalism focuses more on the markets, meaning it supports deregulation, ending protectionism and freeing up the markets. Therefore, it is based on economics.”   From Investopedia

Even my investment hubby wasn’t up-to-date with the term. The Republicans passed a number of tax breaks for businesses and businesses to make Puerto Rico a paradise.  This takeover of the rich was happening before Hurricane Maria.  Now, as the devastation still continues there is a real divide between the native Puerto Ricans and the monied Silicon Valley millionaires wanting to change the landscape of the land.

This book led to some great discussion with Jason and I can now say that I understand the bitcoin phenomena a bit better.  Also of interest is how some of the things that happened after Hurricane Katrina are happening here.  It’s sad and scary.

I don’t know the answer for Puerto Rico but they are engaged and I hope that the heart of of the territory prevails.

I recommend this for everyone.