Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ballad

We got our books! Yay! But while I was waiting I couldn't help reading something else. 

Ballad by Blexbolex

This is such an interesting little book. I picked it up at the library knowing nothing about it and brought it home with me. It is small, about as tall as my hand is long, but it is thick and the illustrations are fascinating. The text is spare, and a brief explanation begins the book:

"This story is about a child who goes home from school along the same road every day and how his small world suddenly becomes enormous.
It's a story as old as the world a story that begins all over again each day."
Thereafter the book is mostly illustration, with one word on each page. The same basic journey is depicted several times, but each time more illustrations, words, and layers of detail are added. Reading the summary on Goodreads, I found out that the story is told 7 times, and each time the number of images doubles. So the first pass is just beginning, middle, end. The second pass at the story has six pictures, and so on and so forth. I  mean, I knew that was sort of happening but I hadn't put my finger on the doubling thing.

Reading Ballad is kind of like watching a silent film: it requires more effort from you and more close engagement with the visual medium than the typical graphic novel experience (which might be like watching a typical movie).  A word draws your attention to something specific on the page, and the story is largely left up to your imagination. For instance, we're walking along, going home from school, if we believe the introduction above, and then all of a sudden there are bandits! Bandits?! How did they get there? Are they the comical type or the nefarious kind? We sort of get to decide these things. Some things are decided for us as the story progresses.

It was interesting trying to read this with Levi, my 3-year-old. (I haven't tried it on Benjamin yet.) I found it absolutely impossible not to elaborate on the text, because that is what my mind was doing. He and I read it about halfway through before he moved on to something else, and I came back and re-read and finished it later.  

The art is totally awesome. It's characterized by flat, blocky shapes but turns out to be progressively complex and deceptively detailed.

Aha! Jacob has read it while I was writing this. It was so fun to listen to his exclamations. His final thought: "It does a good job of setting things up, making you wonder where it could even go, and then subverting your expectations quite drastically. I like it!"



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Waiting for a pre-order: Dangerous

Do you know what is killing me right now? Waiting for Dangerous by Shannon Hale to arrive in my mailbox! I have found that pre-ordering a book is sometimes NOT the fastest way to get it.

This happened to Jacob and I with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We were on vacation (a family reunion in Michigan) when the book was released and subsequently delivered to our doorstep (in Utah). My brother, who was living upstairs of us at the time, got a hold of me and was like, "Hey . . . Can I open this package that looks a lot like the last Harry Potter book and read it?" To which we said, "Yes, of course!" And we saw copies of Deathly Hallows everywhere we went in Michigan and just decided (tough though it was) to wait until we got home to the copy we already bought. Thankfully, we had brought along some good vacation reading: The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman if I remember correctly.

Anyway, we pre-ordered knowing full well that pre-ordered books are sometimes delayed if they are part of a larger order (or, the rest of the order is sometimes delayed!).  But this time Jacob and I ordered only two books that released on the same day -- Dangerous by Shannon Hale and Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (the sequel to The Way of Kings). We thought that since they came out the same day it would be smooth sailing, but no. Release day came and went without a shipping notification (Jacob updating me on the shipping status of our books frequently, since he is dying to read his book. It is HUGE and has so many chapters that several "teaser chapters" etc. have been released and now he is just slavering in anticipation.) and when the books didn't ship the next day either Ursula took matters into her own tentacles Jacob called the Barnes and Noble customer service number. He called at night and the next evening he was gearing up to call again when he got the shipping email.

We picked Barnes and Noble because they have actual physical bookstores, unlike Amazon. And we are fans of bookstores. Also it irks me that the "free super saver shipping" minimum has gone up. (Don't even think about telling me to join Prime!) Why did we not pick our local independent bookseller? (We DO have a couple independent bookstores that are much more "local" to us than ever before.) Well, they don't have online shopping, either of them, and let's be honest this was a late-night, just-finished-the-budget, we-should-probably-be-more-responsible, impulse purchase. Like Erasmus said, "When I get a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes."

So, we are waiting for our books. I'm getting more excited for mine, the more I read Shannon Hale's blog posts about it {one, two, three}. I take care not to read too much about a book before I begin it (I usually skip the back cover and the front flap) because too often I've had my eyes opened to a twist or a plot point too soon. Interestingly, though, if I'm currently reading a book and not loving it, sometimes reading the jacket helps me get invested. This was the case with Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.

Have you ever not gotten your pre-ordered book soon enough?
Have you ever been horribly spoiled by a book jacket? Which book?
Do you remember where you were when HP&TDH came out?

Talk to me, friends. Because my book isn't here yet. Quick, before I resort to taking more selfies to pass the time.


Update: Here is my review of Dangerous!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Steelheart


In a post-apocalyptic USA, the world is ruled by the superhero class -- the Epics. Chicago's not-so benevolent dictator is Steelheart. He is strong. He can fly. He has legions of super-henchmen. He is impervious to harm, and so his rule might last forever. But our hero happens to be the only person alive who has seen Steelheart bleed.

This was fast paced and fun. Apparently that's what I'm enjoying these days. I read it in single day. This was only possible because it was a snow day (so nobody was goin' nowhere) and Jacob enabled me since he had just finished it himself. :) It is so fun to read books and have a smart, handsome honey to talk about them with.

This is the first book in a trilogy, and I like where it ended. Sanderson is known for great magic systems and awesome plot twits, and didn't disappoint us here.  It was lighter on the romance side than most of the YA dystopian novels I've read, but Sanderson keeps you wondering. If we're comparing it to other YA dystopia, I'd say it is less violent than the Hunger Games, though violence is still inextricable from the plot. You won't find foul language, since today's curse words are obsolete in this version of the future.

My favorite thing about this book is David, the narrator. He is just too much fun to follow along with. He is a total nerd, but he likes to go with his gut and that keeps the plot interesting. Five stars for characters, pacing, and plot. Also the imagery was great, making it easy to visualize everything, including fight scenes which sometimes lose me in other books.

I will definitely read the next book! And thanks, Micah for getting Jacob this one for Christmas. Love ya, bro.

_______

Edited to add: I've reviewed the second book in this series as well, Firefight. It's also great! And that's saying something because second books, man, they're usually the pits. Anyway, if you'd like to get started on the series (and I think you would) here is an affiliate link to book one, Steelheart! If you shop through this link I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Happy reading!
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