Saturday, 15 October 2016

Book Review--Tales of the Peculiar

Riggs has done it again!  

Tales of the Peculiar is a singular achievement in that it supports the Miss Peregrine's series (you can read my previous reviews of  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Hollow City, and Library of Souls) but can also stand alone as a set of fairy tales that can be enjoyed in their own right, independent of the Peregrine epoch.
Each tale introduces a character, many of them the first peculiar of their respective homes. It records their awakening to their own abilities as well as the realization that a mark of distinction such as this is not always understood, valued or even tolerated by the broader world.  While some are heartbreaking others show a glimmer of hope and even acceptance.

There are several footnotes by the 'author' Millard Nullings and a few of his notes at the ends of the fables to lend credence to the fictional author's knowledge and authority. The stories themselves have an ominous, creepy feel to them but, like the rest of the series, do not glory in the grotesque just for the sake of fright (anybody read Goosebumps?  Those are gross just to be scary with no other intention or redeeming intellectual value). Additionally, the wood engraved illustrations are wonderful and match the tone of the stories.  Andrew Davidson's precision and delicacy with the medium is awe-inspiring.

I knew it was going to be a good book when I perused the publication data page and saw that it was "Printed in a nomad's tent in the desert of Lop, known to some as the Great Lop Depression..." and "Bound at great expense in a facility deep underground, the entrance to which ... you should not attempt to locate, for your own safety."  And the final plea, "Please don't read the third story in this collection aloud backward. The publisher cannot be held responsible for what may occur."

If you enjoyed the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series, you will find this a satisfying addition.  If you haven't read it (and you should) but enjoy fables and fairy tales, you will also find this enjoyable!

p.s. since I was a loyal library patron, I borrowed all of these from my local public library but if anyone wants to know what a good Christmas gift might be for me... (hint hint hint)

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Non-Book Review--Magnificent 7

Magnificent 7 is the best cowboy movie I've seen in ages!

The cinematography is excellent, the scenery is fantastic (a little biased here since some of it was shot here in New Mexico) and the action is paced incredibly well.

The actors were superb and it blended the old spaghetti westerns with modern Hollywood action. Very, very satisfying!

I admit, I wasn't expecting much from Chris Pratt, he just seemed too comic an actor but I was surprised, they wrote him well as a bit of a jokester but with enough depth to avoid ridiculousness. Denzel Washington was spectacular in his role, intense but not unfeeling; sympathetic but not pitiable. Vincent D'Onofrio was a revelation.  I've loved him since I saw him as a 'god' in Adventures in Babysitting and this role showed his range.

Ethan Hawke was fabulous.  I've seen several of his films and admired his ability but I have since begun to respect him even more after reading his newest book Indeh.  I didn't realize I'd seen several of Byung-hun Lee's movies until I check IMDb which explained why he looked so familiar.  His character here was a good contrast with Hawke's and they complemented each other very well.

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo  was both charming and unmannered; attractive and oddly repulsive (mainly while eating) which made him fascinating to watch. I adored Martin Sensmeier's taciturn character especially because he's a dead-ringer for one of my good friends (celebrity look alikes are fun to find!).

Peter Sarsgaard played the bad guy well, never over-done.  And Haley Bennett was both strong and sensitive exhibiting an authentic blend of what a woman of that time may have felt over the sequence of events.  And she did her best to overcome the classic Hollywood trope of having everyone else dressed accurately in period except for her swooping bodice which would have relegated her to the ranks of the saloon girls in the real world.

As I said, the sweeping landscapes were fantastic, they captured the wild beauty of New Mexico and, as an adopted local to the state, I appreciated it. The music was a great accompaniment with an energetic and majestic score.

All-in-all this was a wonderful story of good vs. evil, and how heroism can rise in even the most unlikely of individuals.

I'll stop fangirling now; it's just that it was such a great movie. And now I have to re-watch the original; it's just been a few decades.

Monday, 10 October 2016

ORD--On the Reference Desk

Sometimes the patrons are I are both talking in English but we are not speaking the same language.

Consider this interaction, which is not isolated.  I've had the same difficulty with others.

"How do I get these papers scanned?"
"Let me check your library card and I can put you on the computer with the scanner and talk you through it."
--we walk to the scanning computer and I ask her the same questions I ask everyone.--
"How many pages to you have to scan?  If it's more than one do you want them in one file?  Are you going to email the file or save it to a flash drive?"
"No, I don't need to email it or anything."
"Oh, so you have a flash drive with you?"
"No.  I just need to scan them."
"What are you going to do with the file once you've scanned them to take with you?"
"Just the papers.  You know, the extra ones, the copies."
"Oh.  You need to copy the papers, not scan them"
"Oh.  Then I guess I just need to make copies.  Can I do that here?"
"Yes, right this way, that's a different machine."

How about this dialog which is also not unique.

A flustered patron angrily asked me,
"Why can't I get to My Documents?  I don't see any of my stuff!"
"Did you download anything onto this computer?"
"No, I thought if I logged into my email it would see everything from my computer at home."
"No, I'm sorry, computers don't talk to each other like that."

Or trying to make sense out of nonsense.

I need a book about atoms. I've read a lot of books about how alcohol works and distilling and I don't believe what I've read.  I need a book about atoms.
Let's look at organic chemistry and see if that helps.
Well, I want to know why water is H20 and not something else.  And do atoms have a base they can sit on?
We might need to take a look at quantum mechanics for that one.
But what about books on alcohol?  The structure of the atoms.
Here are books on organic chemistry, quantum physics and home distilling.  I can't help you beyond that.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Book Review--The Book of Speculation

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler is a tale about finding yourself through your history and overcoming the distant past.  It was thoughtful, well-rounded and excellently written.

The characters take on depth as the story unfolds and the reader is drawn into the history as the scenes flash back to previous generations, intertwining the past and the present.  The writing has just enough flowery detail to live in the moment but not so overdone as to be distasteful.  The historical portions are rendered with an eye to the details of the reality of living and don't romanticize the age of wagons and traveling shows. It delves into a little-understood lifestyle of traveling carnivals complete with tarot readers, mermaids and a wild boy.

I was drawn to check out this book because the main character is a librarian and so I felt some kinship and share his stated love of books and all things printed.  There are some twists and turns along the road before the characters end up at their ultimate destination. There is just enough question as to whether or not the incidences in the book are mere coincidence and superstition or actual mysticism that it kept me guessing.

The only fault I found with the writing was actually in the plot resolution/epilogue (I was listening to this on audio and Ari Fliakos once again does a nice job presenting the story but sometimes I miss if I'm in a chapter or the prologue/epilogue).  The entire present-tense aspect of the story is told from Simon's viewpoint but the last points are made through Alice which was a bit jarring but not enough to detract from the essence of the story.

Unfortunately, I didn't like it but that is a matter of personal taste and not due to the strong writing.   I know the darkness and despair of the characters is what gave it depth and moved the story along but it was just a bit too much for me to let myself be free to coast with the story; I was ever-tense for the next bout of darkness. 

As always, though, you read and you decide!