Friday, December 31, 2010

Review: The Mystery of Marie Rogêt and The Purloined Letter

Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe:
by Edgar Allan Poe
Doubleday (1966), Hardcover, 832 pages

The Mystery of Marie Rogêt is a short story written in 1842, and follow The Murders in the Rue Morgue. The main character in both stories is C. Auguste Dupin, an ‘ancestor’ of Sherlock Homes and Hercule Poirot.
Dupin and his unnamed mate also narrator of the story, undertake the murder of Marie Rogêt in Paris. Marie Rogêt is a perfume shop employee; she is killed and her body is found in the Seine River.
The story is based upon the murder of Mary Cecilia Rogers. Edgar Allan Poe writing The Mystery of Marie Rogêt gives birth to the first murder mystery based on a real crime.
Dupin’s ‘ratiocination’ takes most of the story, and it seems too long and not very interesting.

The Purloined Letter is the third of Poe’s detective stories. He wrote this story in 1844.
Police’s Prefect of Paris has a case he would like to discuss with C. Auguste Dupin. Minister D. steals a letter from a room of an unnamed woman. The letter could contain compromising information. The Prefect tells Dupin that he has searched the Minister’s room but did not find anything.
A month later the Prefect tells Dupin about the reward upon the letter’s return. Dupin asks to the Prefect to sign a check because he has already found the letter.

Among these three detective stories I preferred the first one: The Murders in the Rue Morgue. In this story the narration of the events and Dupin’s ‘ratiocination’ are balanced, so the reader can enjoy reading.

Around the same period another writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky, based his books on real crimes reading Moscow’s newspapers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review: The Poison Tree

The Poison Tree: A Novel
by Erin Kelly
Pamela Dorman Books (2010), Hardcover, 336 pages


Karen lives in a flat with her mates, she has a boyfriend, good grades at school, parents not too boring, what else? Could Karen be angry with them?
Casually Karen meets Biba, and later her overprotective brother, Rex. A hot London summer begins: are they Karen’s foe?


A child gives birth, Alice. Meanwhile two people die, and one person goes to jail.


Finally Karen takes out her wrath.

Start again
Karen bears ‘... a life lived in translation’, so when she meets Biba and her brother, a new world is before her. A first Karen’s impression: ‘I felt as though I were being read and interpreted for the first time, unfolded and examined like a map left in a drawer for so long that it creates and pleats come permanently to describe their own topography.’ (p.29) But the compass of this undiscovered map points towards drugs, alcohol, and homicides.

The Poison Tree is narrated from the point of view of Karen, jumping between events in the present and in the past. The author of the book, Erin Kelly, during the narration often suggests that something has to happen, creating an atmosphere of waiting for a catastrophe. Almost twenty chapters of the book (there are twenty-nine chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue) are surrounded by this atmosphere, but this is also the weak part of the book. Kelly, every a while, uses some ‘post it’ to remind to the reader about the events to come; but these reminders are not enough for a psychological thriller.
Another weak part is the character of Biba: why is she so special? Is Biba special because of her pseudo-bohemian way of life? Is Biba surrounded by an aura, air of mystery? and which is this aura? Karen and Biba friendship doesn’t suggest anything extraordinary.
The Poison Tree sometimes seems Karen’s journal indicating only a cathartic objective, so the reader is an outsider in this contest.

On overall I liked the characters, especially Karen’s descriptions of other people: accents (maybe inspired by George Bernard Shaw), and idiosyncrasies.

Ending with the poet:
‘A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees’ (William Blake)
Every review is a different translation of the same book.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review: The Outsider

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

The Outsider is a short story written between March and August 1921.

‘Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness.’ (p. 43)

A man who has been living alone in a castle decides to search human contact. The narrator knows the world outside only from his reading of antique books.
He finds a way out of the castle and tries to join a party, but the people are terrified before him and run away.
The man detects a presence: ‘It was the ghoulish shade of decay, antiquity, and desolation.’ (p. 48)

Conscious of his figure:
‘Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile. …
Yet in my new wildness and freedom I almost welcome the bitterness of alienage.’ (p.49)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: The Picture in the House

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

The Picture in the House was written on December, 1920.

‘They climb to the moonlit towers of ruined Rhine castles, and falters down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten cities in Asia. …
Most horrible of all sights are the little unpainted wooden houses remote from travelled ways, …
In such houses have dwelt generations of strange people, whose like the world has never seen.’ (p.34)

A traveller in rural New England seeks shelter from a thunderstorm in a house. Although there is nobody in the house, as first impression, the man finds a strange book. The book tells Pigafetta’s account of the Congo region; the volume tends to fall open on a specific page: a butcher’s shop of the cannibal Anziques.
Some noises from the upstairs suggest that the house is occupied.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review: Nyarlathotep

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

Nyarlathotep appeared in 1920 (the story).
Nyarlathotep or the Crawling Chaos is a malign deity in the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft.

Nyarlathotep walks the Earth in the appearance of a human being, although he has thousand other forms. Nyarlathotep as messenger of the outer gods will destroy the human race and the earth as well.

‘A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land …
There was a daemoniac alteration in the sequence of the seasons …
And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt …
He said … that he had heard messages from places not on this planet …’ (p.31)

‘Beyond the worlds vague ghosts of monstrous things;
half-seen columns of unsanctified temples that rest on nameless rocks beneath space and reach up to dizzy vacua above the spheres of light and darkness.
And through this revolting graveyard of the universe …’ (p.33)

Maybe there has been a meeting between Batty (Blade Runner) and Nyarlathotep:
- I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die. -

Review: Shredni Vashtar and The Open Window

The Short Stories of Saki:
by Saki
Modern Library (1977), Hardcover

Sredni Vashtar is a short story written between 1900 and 1914 by Saki (Hector Hugh Munro).

This story is collected in this volume and also in an audiobook: Classic Chiiling Tales.

A 10-year-old boy called Conradin lives with his guardian Mrs. De Ropp. Conradin’s is very hard because of his guardian, so he invents a new religion for himself. The idol of this religion is a palecat-ferret. Conradin named it Sredni Vashtar.

‘Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar.’: this is the Conradin’s prayer and the idol obeys to him.

******************** *********************** ************************************

The Open Window was collected with other short stories in 1914.

A girl of fifteen tells to a visitor about her weird family.

Girl: ‘Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her (= girl’s aunt) husband and her two young brothers went off for their day’s shooting.
They never came back.’ (p.289)

Girl: - Here they are at last (she cried)

- In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window. … A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels.

The ghost: - Who was that who bolted out as we came up?

The aunt: - A most extraordinary man … and dashed off without a word of good-bye …
One would think he had seen a ghost.

The girl: - I expect it was the spaniel.
He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere … by a pack of pariah dogs. (p.291)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Review: The Masque of the Red Death

Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe:
by Edgar Allan Poe
Doubleday (1966), Hardcover, 832 pages

The Masque of the Red Death is a short story written in 1842.

Prince Prospero attempts to avoid a plague known as the Red Death. The Prince is hiding inside his castle together with other friends.
They have a masquerade ball when a mysterious figure meets Prince Prospero. After that meeting the Prince dies.

This story reminds another setting: The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, where some people fled from the Black Death in a villa outside Florence.

According to some critics, this book does not suggests an allegorical reading. In my opinion it’s because The Masque of the Red Death suggests so many allegorical readings, that an unique interpretation is impossible The most important thing: many words put together by Edgar Allan Poe to create suspense.

Review: Timber

Timber by John Galsworthy

‘And, suddenly, he saw himself slowly freezing out here, in the snowy night, among this cursed timber.’

Timber is a classic tale of horror written by Montague Rhodes James (M.R. James).

Sir Arthur Hirries decides to sell his timber, and before that he walks in the wood.

A wood becomes a trap crowded by ghosts … but they are only trees.

Review: The Monkey's Paw

Ghost Stories:
Peter Washington (editor)
Everyman's Library (2008), Hardcover, 416 pages

‘It had a spell put on it (the monkey’s paw) … He wanted to show that fate ruled people’s lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow.’ (p. 107)

The Monkey’s Paw is a horror short story written in 1902 by William Wymark Jacobs.

The paw of a dead monkey is a talisman that grants its possessors three wishes. But the wishes, of course, come with a price to pay.

The White family becomes the owner of this monkey’s paw, a ‘gift’ from their friend Sergeant-Major Morris (just arrived from India).
Mr White’s first wish is 200 pounds. The price is very high: the life of his son.

Mrs White asks to his husband to express their second wish: Herbert (their son) back to life. Mr White has seen the mutilated corpse of his son and disagrees with his wife about this second wish.

But at the end, and after expressing the wish to the monkey’s paw ... the Whites hear knocking at the door …
‘A third knock sounded through the house.
- What’s that?, cried the old woman.
- A rat, said the old man in shaking tones, a rat. It passed me on the stairs.’ (p.117)

Review: Celephais

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

Fantasy story written in November 1920.

‘Where the sea meets the sky’

Celephais is the name of a fictional city. Kuranes slowly slips away to the dream-world and creates Celephais.
In Celephais there is no perception of time: time doesn’t influence the life in this city.

‘But some of us awake in the night with strange phantasms of enchanted hills and gardens, of fountains that sing in the sun, of golden cliffs overhanging murmuring seas, … and then we know that we have looked back through the ivory gates into the world of wonder which was ours before we were wise and unhappy.’ (p.24-5)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: The Tomb

The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories:
by H. P. Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (2001), Paperback, 464 pages

An horror short story written in June 1917.

‘All things appear as they do only by virtue of the delicate individual physical and mental media through which we are made conscious of them.’ (p. 1)

Jervas Dudley discovered the entrance to a mausoleum belonging to the Hyde family , whose house had burnt many years before.
Jervas attempts to enter in the tomb, but he is unable; so, inspired by an example of Plutarch’s Lives, he decides to wait until it is his time to gain entrance to the tomb.

After several years, while Jervas is sleeping beside the mausoleum, he believes to see a light from inside the tomb. He finds the key to the tomb and inside the mausoleum Jervas discovers an empty coffin with the name of Jervas Hyde upon the plate.

Following again the example of Plutarch he starts to sleep inside the coffin, so to gain the name upon it.

Jervas is awoken by his father and discovers that he has never been inside the tomb.

A desire becomes dream, or nightmare: every person change with his consciousness the appearances of the things.

Review: The Friends of the Friends

Ghost Stories:
Peter Washington (editor)
Everyman's Library (2008), Hardcover, 416 pages

‘What was her nervousness therefore but a presentiment? She had been hitherto the victim of interference, but it was quite possible she would henceforth be the source of it. The victim in that case would be my simple self.’ (p.82)

A woman is narrating a weird story of another woman. Every person who meet this strange woman after a while dies, but also reappear as a ghost.
At the end the woman follows the same fate.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Review: Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

Short story written in 1920.

In the first part of The Late Arthur Jermyn, Lovecraft describes the ancestors of Sir Arthur Jermyn. They are all explorers and they are fascinated especially by the Congo region.

In the second part Lovecraft tells about Arthur Jermyn and his journey in Congo on a research expedition. Arthur heard stories from his ancestors of a stone city of white apes and the mummified body of a white ape goddess.
Could the mummified white ape be anyone of his ancestors?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: White Raven

White Raven
by Deborah Cannon
Trafford Publishing (2006), Paperback, 256 pages

White Raven tells about three themes:
a man, Jake Lalonde, searching for his Haida heritage and parents;
the fight between loggers and environmentalists;
the legend of the Seawolf.

Jake Lalonde was abandoned in foster houses when he was a child, now as an adult is searching for his parents. Jake has just one clue: a photo of a totem pole that bonds him to the Haida heritage.
Jake’s searches open the Pandora’s Box in a small village on Pacific Coast.

In this village loggers and environmentalists fight each other: ‘It’s a complicated situation. Some people, Native and White, want logging under provincial legislation. Others want Native autonomy, the right to do with the forests as they will, to log or not lo log, … Environmentalists want to halt the industry altogether. Each has good reasons depending on whose viewpoint you take …’ (p.233)

The novel is surrounded by an atmosphere of myth: the Haida’s legend of the Seawolf.
Haida is an indigenous nation of the Northwest Coast of North America. I liked the Haida’s description of Diamond Jenness: Haida as the Indian Viking of the North West Coast.
Seawolf legend: a man found two wolf pups on the beach. When the pups had grown they would swim in the ocean and kill a whale for the man to eat. But the wolves killed so many whales and the meat began to rot. The Great Above Person saw this waste meat and punished the wolves, so they had to remain at sea and became Sea Wolf (Killer Whale or Orca or Grampus). ‘A great white wolf transformed itself into a killer whale while retaining its white markings and the habit of traveling in packs.’ (p.32)

From the beginning of the novel Deborah Cannon describes to the reader the atmosphere of the Pacific Coast scenery: ocean’s smell, noises of lorries carrying logs, and the omnipresent magical world of ancient myths.
‘The smell of wet cedar filled the air … Jake imagined the village as it might have once been: smoke spiralling out of the roofs of the houses, fires ablaze on the beach to light the fishermen’s return journey, and a captain who called the island home,’ (p.50)

All together White Raven is a good book, although I preferred more descriptions of the Haida’s world and their legends. In the last chapters of the novel, the hideous Thomas MacPherson prevails and the book becomes a thriller losing the original idea.
‘Be patient. A dance is just a dance and spirit masks are spirit masks. You can’t absorb a hundred years of Haida heritage in one night …’ (p. 2)

A brief guide of the characters:
- Jack Lalonde and his girlfriend Angeline, and his friend Damon Spencer (both archaeologists).
- Thomas MacPherson (the logger), and his wife Susan (Susie), and their daughter Lucy.
- Jimmy Sky (the Sgua-ay) was married with Tilley.
- Henry Moon and his wife Leona, and his mother-in-law Flora.

Friday, December 17, 2010


The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories:
by Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

‘The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.’ (from the Call of Cthhulhu)

This short story was written December 1919.

Randolph Carter represents the double of Lovecraft telling about his dreams.

Carter has been found wandering through swamps in a state of shock, this story is his statement to the police. Carter has to explain the disappearance of his friend Harley Warren.
Warren has received from India a book where he learns about a door between the surface world and the underworld.
Warren discovers the location of such portal and invites Carter …

No monsters, no blood, just the atmosphere by the master Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

‘I watched amorphous, necrophagous shadows dance beneath an accursed waning moon.’ (p.13)

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe: THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE
Edgar Allan Poe
Doubleday (1966), Hardcover, 832 pages

‘The necessary knowledge is that of what to observe.’ (p.3)

The Murders in the Rue Morgue is a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1841. It has been claimed the first detective story.
C. Auguste Dupin and his friend, the last is also the narrator of the story, solve the mysterious massacre of two women.
‘What to observe’ in this omicide is a hair that does not appear to be human.

‘De nier ce qui est, et d’expliquer ce qui n’est pas.’ (p.26)
‘To deny what exists, and to explain what doesn’t.’

Review: Dagon

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories: DAGON
Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Penguin Classics (1999), Paperback, 448 pages

‘Lovecraft’s pseudo mythology brutally shows that man is not the center of the universe, that the - gods - care nothing for him, and that the earth and all its inhabitants are but a momentary incident in the unending cyclical chaos of the universe.’ (p.xvii, from the introduction by S.T. Joshi)

Dagon is the testament, or last letter of a tortured man who plans to commit suicide. The narrator thinks he is destined to die because of the knowledge he has gained.
The narrator is a merchant-marine officer, and during a voyage on the Atlantic Ocean his cargo is captured by a German sea-rider. He manages to escape, but he is stranded on what seems to be a volcanic island. He sees a gigantic white stone covered by hieroglyphs, and when he is watching them … a creature emerges from the sea: Dagon …

This short story introduces Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos: Dagon, the fish-god.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: tHE hORLA

THE HORLA by Guy de Maupassant
Peter Washington (editor)
Everyman's Library (2008), Hardcover, 416 pages

‘But what is this being, this invisible being who is ruling me?
This unknowable creature, this wanderer from a supernatural race.’ (p.57)

The word Horla means - out there - (from the French ‘hors’ meaning out, and ‘la’ meaning there).

The Horla is a short story by Guy de Maupassant, written in 1887 and tells how an invisible being influences the mind of the narrator.
The narrator writes in his journal the progressive domination of the Horla on his thoughts and actions.

Akaky wants to be another person buying a new cloak: The Cloak by Gogol (1842).
Golyadkin thinks that another person has stolen his identity, and this second person step by step replaces Golyadkin’s life: The Double: a Petersburg Poem by Dostoevsky (1846).
A person discovers another side of himself: Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Stevenson (1886).
At the end Gregor Samsa becomes a beast: The Metamorphosis by Kafka (1915).

Review: Black Bird, Vol. 1

Black Bird, Vol. 1
by Kanoko Sakurakoji
VIZ Media LLC (2009), Edition: Original, Paperback, 194 pages

‘There is a world of myth and magic that intersects ours, and only a special few can see it.’ (back cover)

A silly sixteen-year-old girl, Misao Harada, could be a special person because she imagines demons around herself. But apart from a tempting statement on the back cover, nothing more of the book is tempting.

Go back to the real vampires’ stories.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Review: tHE tELL-tALE hEART

The Tell-Tale Heart
from Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
Doubleday (1966), Hardcover, 832 pages

An eye, a heart, and a drum.
The Tell-Tale Heart is the most famous short story by Edgar Allan Poe.
Some unnamed person kills a man with a ‘vulture eye’. The police knock at the door called by a neighbour because of a scream in the middle of the night.
The unnamed person is calm … but a beat from the floor like a heartbeat becomes every moment louder … louder …
‘It was the beating of the old man’s heart.’
‘... as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.’ (p.123)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: The Isle of Voices by Robert Louis Stevenson


The Isle of Voices or a bad dream.
Keola is married with Lehua, daughter of Kalamake (a sorcerer) .
This short novel is set in some Pacific Ocean ’s island.
The bad dream starts with the first spell of Kalamake: leaves become shining dollars, so Keola plans to stop working and share Kalamake’s riches.
The sorcerer disagrees and with the second spell abandons Keola in the ocean. Keola is rescued by a ship and left in an island called the Isle of Voices.
In the Isle of Voices, invisible devils ‘day and night you heard them talking with one another in strange tongues.’ (p.670) ‘All tongues of the earth were spoken there … whatever land knew sorcery, there were some of its people whispering in Keola’s ear.’ (p.673)
Eventually Keola is rescued again, this time by his wife.
Sorcery or bad dream?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: The Waif Woman

The Waif Woman by Robert Louis Stevenson

‘This is a tale of Iceland, the isle of stories, and of a thing that befell in the year of the coming there of Christianity.’ (p.1)

The Waif Woman is a short story suppressed by Stevenson and published twenty years after his death. Many editors prefer not to include this story in their selections because The Waif Woman is unfinished.

Thorgunna, a woman wearing beautiful clothes, a ‘chests of clothes beyond comparison … fine coloured stuffs, finely woven’, takes accommodation in a inn where the innkeepers are Finnward and his wife, Aud.
Aud cannot help herself thinking about these clothes.
But there is a rule: the ‘voice of Thorgunna sounded in her (Aud) ear: "The things are for no use
but to be shown," it said. "Aud, Aud, have you shown them once? No, not once!" (p.11)

‘At last she got to bed in the smooth sheets … she shook awhile … and a grue took hold upon her flesh, and the cold of the grave upon her belly, and the terror of death upon her soul. With that a voice was in her ear: - It was so Thorgunna sickened -’ (p.11)

Sometimes is not necessary an explanation of the meaning of the book, Stevenson suggests the setting and feeling a reader might feel reading The Waif Woman.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: The Ice Child

The Ice Child
Andrea Heyser
Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc. (2003), Paperback, 224 pages

‘The Neander are doomed, our land is changing, we die of Human diseases, … Before we disappear from under the moon, we must know that the Neander gods are preserved in the land of the Humans.’ (p. 91)

The Ice Child tells about The People Who Live With The Wolfs, a clan of Neander, and the early Humans. A sacrifice becomes a beginning religion of the Neander, and it is adopted by the Humans.

I liked the first chapters describing the Neander and their surrounding. Heyser suggests the idea of wolf’s pack: a group of Neander and their cave, it seems a bird’s-eye view in the past.
I also liked the sacrifice’s description when the Neander start to believe in god, especially because they will earn protection and a lucky hunting. The sacrifice unified all Neander, rooting the idea of brotherhood among them.
In the last chapters is narrated the friendship between a child, Heiler, and a cub bear, Bruna. I liked also this chapters because Heyser shows us a world where all species can live together.

I feel perplexed and disagree with Heyser about the narration of Neander and Human’s feeling, and self-conscience. In my opinion they are more appropriate lately in Homo Sapiens’s evolution.

The Ice Child is a good start reading about prehistoric people, also with these following reading: Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd, and Jean M. Auel’s books.

Nera, the wolf, is dying: ‘The mother spirit was calling her to follow … before she knew it she was running ahead toward a light, the moon. As she run, faster and stronger, she saw shapes materialize around her, they were her children, an old mate, and her mother.’ (p.95)
I received a complimentary copy of The Ice Child as a member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

Review: Mushishi, Volume 6

Mushishi, Volume 6
Yuki Urushibara
Del Rey (2008), Paperback, 256 pages

Heaven’s Thread or String from the Sky
A girl was taken by a white string from the sky and disappeared. After a while the girl returns and strange things start to happen to her.
The girl: ‘I just … pulled on this thread that came out of the sky … then everything around me went black …’ (p. 24)
A mushi called Tenpengusa nests in the sky, and ‘They’re born from the shadows … and they haunt the border between sunlight and darkness.’ (p. 29)
Ginko found the girl and they return to the village. The girl is infested by the mushi so she floats in the air. Only the man who wants to marry her tries to understand and ‘... no matter what awful thing happens during the daylight, the stars are always there unchanged.’ (p. 42)

The Chirping Shell
A man and his daughter live outside the village because he thinks the villagers are responsible of his wife’s death. A mushi and Ginko seem to fix the problem.
‘When I say the song in the shell … what’s really singing is a mushi that nests inside of shells. Some call them Yodokaridori. Others call them Sezurikai.’ (p. 62)
‘People who put the shells up to their ears to hear them … forget how to use their own voices.’ (p. 63)
The girl has lost her voice and Ginko thinks that she and her father have to go back to the village, so the girl can learn to talk again.

The Hand that Pets the Night
A man can easily capture animals with the power coming from an eye depicted on his palm. The man’s palm is infected by a mushi called Fuki. ‘ Your hand forces your prey to do whatever you want.’ (p. 106) ‘Fuki is … Koki, the source of life, that has gone to rot.’ (p. 107)

Under the Snow
‘They’re a class of being called Yukimushi. If you unravel a snowflake, sometimes you’ll find them inside.’ (p. 150)
Toki is a boy infested by mushi: he does not feel the cold and he can’t touch anything warm.
‘In a land where white snow blankets the ground for the better part of the year … there are more odd things found in the snow … than one could ever find in the water or earth.’ (p. 189)
Toki rescuing a girl has to carry her on his shoulders, so he has to bear the warmth of another body. Bearing the girl’s warm , although Toki feels it hot, he has to accept his condition and heal.

Banquet in the Farthest Field
Brewing sake, instead of yeast, a man uses a mushi called Suimitsu-to; drinking this strange sake the man see things ‘that looked like red and black hairs.’ (p. 229), but ‘those weren’t hallucinations. They’re mushi called Shojo-no-hige. Mushishi use them as guides to mushishi gatherings.’ (p. 230)
‘... when we can’t make a good batch of sake … I’d drink just a little of that leftover sake.’ (p. 237)
‘Then I’d be able to see the distinct shapes of living things …’ (p. 238)

Many episodes of this sixth volume tells about Ginko helping people who have to accept what they usually refused.

Mushi could be similar to spirits in western culture, and they have to be accepted as they are. Ginko as Mushishi can understand the meaning of mushi in the world, so he helps people to live with mushi, to avoid mushi, etc., but Ginko never kills mushi.
Mushishi episodes are set in rural Japan, during the Edo and Meiji eras (1600 / 1800).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Review: Alichino, Volume 3

Alichino, Volume 3 by Shurei, Kouyu
Kouyu Shurei
TokyoPop (2005), Paperback, 160 pages

‘The dark beauty … of insanity and suffering … lurked so deep … in your marrow … that you lost sight of … who you are.’ (p. 10-1)

Ryoko and Myobi are looking for Tsugiri and Enju. During the search they meet Matsurika, and finally the mysterious connection between Ryoko, Myobi, Hibiki, and Matsurika is revealed.
Hibiki is a Ryoko’s friend and when Matsurika catches Hibiki’s soul, Ryoko can save his friend only signing a ‘contract’ with Myobi (a beautiful owl or girl or Alichino).
Only Kusabi can destroy Alichino / Matsurika’s soul; and only Tsugiri is the Kusabi.

‘When you forge a contract with an Alichino, your two life forces merge. You will remain alive, for as long as that Alichino takes breath … and you will be infused with that Alichino’s power. But in exchange, you will completely loose sense of who once were.’ (p. 43).

The characters are solitary (uninhabited cities), with the feeling that nothing matters, kneeling in front of Fate.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: Nebador: The Test

NEBADOR Book One: The Test
J. Z. Colby
Nebador Archives (2010), Paperback, 306 pages

Received from the Goodreads Firstreads Program.

‘And someday, perhaps a story will be written about our adventures, and students will pay two great silver pieces to purchase a copy to learn to read.’ (p. 263)

A young man arrives in a medieval city seeking for crew to hire for his ship. Ilika from Satamia in the region of Nebador as captain of the ship finally found ten young boys and girls suitable for his purposes.
‘I have been training to be a ship’s captain … Now I have my own small ship, and for my final test, I have to find and train my own crew.’ (p. 82)

The narrative proceeds slowly as the growth of a tree, but Colby keeps high the mysterious plot and the reader never puts down the book until the end.

Nebador falls under the genre of young adult books, maybe the old fashioned word Bildungsroman (Formation Novel) could explain what this books are about: usually they tell of psychological growth from youth to adulthood, and teenager are their target.
I recommend Nebador for young adult readers, but I’d like to advise a complementary reading: The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse.

P.S. A brief guide:
Girls: Kibi (16 years old), Buna (14), Mati (13), Neti (15), Sata (11);
Boys: Rini (13), Kodi (12), Toli (19), Miko (16), Boro (14).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review: Berlin Book Two: City of Smoke

Berlin Book Two: City of Smoke (Bk. 2)
Jason Lutes
Drawn and Quarterly (2008), Paperback, 200 pages

‘And what a dirty, dirty city - the soot, the automobile fumes, the smoke from the factories.’
(p. 152)

The May Day demonstration of 1929 doesn’t solve the tensions between Communist and National Socialist, Jews and Gentiles. Jason Lutes in book two following various threads tells about people living in Berlin: the main problem is which idea / party is better than another to solve the deep economic crisis.

Marthe Müller follows Kurt Severing while he interviews survivors of the May Day. People struggle to keep their goods, other people struggle to gain food.
An American jazz band holds concerts in Berlin, and this music helps people to avoid the Berlin’s smoky words.

Berlin a city without rules, moral, only words spread everywhere like smoke.
‘The world outside is filled with different sorts of words. Thanks to the emergency election, the rhetoric has come in thick, like smoke downwind of a burning building.’ (p. 206)

Review: The Body-Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson

Ghost Stories (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets):
The Body-Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson
Peter Washington
Everyman's Library (2008), Hardcover, 416 pages

When the past rings two times.

First time: a group of friends, Fettes among them, are reunited talking and drinking. A sick man in the village needs a doctor, so they are waiting for this doctor to show up. Eventually the doctor rings at the door and Fetter is shocked: MacFarlane enters, he is an old Fetter’s companion from the time of medical school. Fetter and MacFarlane pick up corpses for the school of anatomy; sometimes when dead corpses lack, MacFarlane, in disagreement with Fetter, kills someone.

Second time: Fetter and MacFarlane after resuming a woman’s corpse from the grave and returning to the city from the graveyard, when rain is pouring and every light is (also) dead … they become aware that they are carrying a different corpse: a man who Fetter and MacFarlane have already dissected in the past …

Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket
Edgar Allan Poe
Doubleday (1966), Edition: Book Club (BCE/BOMC), Hardcover, 832 pages

A narrative of two voyages and three ships.
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket tells the sea adventures of Pym from Nantucket (famous ships whaling harbour).

The first voyage and ship: Pym and his friend Augustus go to sea with the Ariel, but a terrible storm hits the boat and they are saved by the crew of another ship.

The second voyage and ship: Pym is hidden in the Grampus, a ship of Augustus’ father. Several members of the crew mutiny and Pym risks to die because Augustus cannot help him.
This is the best part of the book, where Poe show why he is the master of suspense, horror, and mystery books.
For instance, chapter three: a man (Pym) in darkness with a piece of paper in his hands. Who could write two pages like these ones instead of Poe?

The second voyage and third ship: Pym is one of the last survivors of the Grampus, he is starving, finally he is rescued by the Jane Guy’s crew. This last part of The Narrative is different from the previous telling the voyage of the Jane Guy toward the south pole; and describe sceneries, people living in this remote countries. The Narrative becomes a travel journal and the main character (Pym) only a witness of the voyage.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale
Ian M Cron
NavPress (2006), Paperback, 256 pages

St. Francis of Assisi has always fascinated lots of people, and many books have been written about his life. Chasing Francis is not another biography about Francis, but tells the story of Chase Falson, founding pastor of an evangelical church in New England, and his ‘meetings’ with Francis..
Aftter a terrible event, an ‘earthquake’ that hits the foundation of his beliefs, Chase decides to go on a pilgrimage in Italy. This pilgrimage is a journey following the spiritual path of Francis.
Two worlds meet each other in Assisi: the first, Chase with his background (American way of life): churches managed like companies, consumerism, or paraphrasing Descartes (Cogito ergo sum): ‘I shop, therefore I am’ (p. 195) the second ‘... amidst the simple beauty of nature.’ (p. 83) as Chase quotes Anne Frank, a journey to the first days of Christianity, where simplicity is a buzzword.
The first feeling of Chase is skepticism: ‘I wonder what Francis would say if he were the main speaker at a church-growth conference.
Would anyone take him seriously?’ (p. 100)
But Chase with the help of his uncle, a Franciscan friar and other brothers, like some industrious brown ants, discovers a world with ‘new colors’ (p. 121), a new path to follow. Every day the friars have a surprise for Chase: they pick up small colored pieces of stone so to build a mosaic with the image of St. Francis, or out of metaphor they ‘restore’ Chase.

Time is running: Chase has to go back home: ‘Where would I go when my pilgrimage was over? Francis was teaching me … How would I apply all this new knowledge?’ (p. 139)

At the end ‘we again beheld the stars.’ (p. 208)

This book was written in a genre called wisdom literature, a balance of fiction and non-fiction: in my opinion it has been a good choice; resulting a readable book from different point of views: an historical book (St. Francis and his age); travels’ book , also suggesting the idea of journey as redemption.

I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review: Alichino, Volume 2

Alichino Vol. 2
Kouyu Shurei
TokyoPop (2005), Edition: 1ST, Paperback, 164 pages

Ryoko: ‘No matter what demons you face outside … don’t fight them with the ones you have inside.’ (p. 58)

Matsurika, a female alichino, kidnapped Enju because she wants to kill those close to Tsugiri.
Tsugiri with the power of Kusabi could destroy the alichino’s race.

Artworks: a strong and dangerous liaison with a decay world (gothic?): Venice, Greece … Buildings, clothes, are part of the past; today nothing happens. Alichino and souls fight each other, but almost they just show themselves in a mirror, waiting ...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: Mushishi, Volume 5

Mushishi, Volume 5
Yuki Urushibara
Del Rey (2008), Paperback, 272 pages

The thread of Mushishi, volume 5 is mushi who destroy, also mushi who give birth new life. But mushi is a creator imperfect.

The Sea Palace or Shrine in the Sea
A shrine in the sea gives people another life. Ginko visits this place searching for mushi.
‘Below the rock ... is a trench they call the Dragon’s Palace. People who lose their lives there ... are -born again-; looking exactly the same as before.’ (p. 12)
‘The things in the water (some kind of mushi) are the embryos of several different types of living things. They are the animal in its earliest form.’ (p. 30)
Mushi is an original form of life, who shows itself in a multitude of appearances. Mushi gives people another life, although this people look the same as in the previous life.

Eye’s Fortune, Eye’s Misfortune or Eye of Fortune, Eye of Misfortune
A mushi entered a woman’s eyes: she can see again, but her sight improves day by day, until ...
Mushi helps a blind woman to see again, although ‘It seemed as though when I closed my eyes, I could see the past or future of those close to me.’ (p. 79)
Mushi is imperfect and goes beyond creation.
‘After the eyes fell from me ... they were buried beneath the earth.
Eventually a face came up from the ground.
And suddenly there was a beautiful flower reflected in the beast’s eyes.’ (p. 101)

The Coat that Holds a Mountain or Clothes that Embrace the Mountain
A coat is infested by a mushi. Ginko is looking for the coat’s first owner, who is also the painter of the mountain on the coat.
‘... I was trying to find out about the mushi living in the short coat. So I went looking for the mountain pictured in the painting.’ (p. 146)
This mushi is called Ubusuma, it means to give birth earth. The short coat’s fabric is made with thread and dye found in the mountain; the coat and its owner are linked because both come from the same mountain.
When the coat’s owner has to sell the coat, the mushi Ubusuma forces the man to return to the mountain, there he finds again strength and determination to draw again.

Flames of the Fields or The Journey to the Field of Fire
A mushi threatens a village. The mushishi of the village decides to burn the mountain, so to kill the mushi. Ginko doesn’t agree with the mushishi.
Mushishi of the village: ‘ Tomorrow we plan ... to burn everything on the mountain.’ (p. 167)
‘All of the ground we had just cleared ... was totally covered with that grass. And ... no matter how much we cut it or pulled it out, it would all soon grow back ...’ (p. 171)
‘That grass … is the larval form of Hidane. huh?’ (p. 188)
Fire give birth and death. ‘After it’s sucked enough heat … it gives off a grass seed from its corpse.’ (p. 195) This grass seed is called Hidane, a mushi who ‘... suck out the heat from humans to live’ (p.187)
‘... inside each Kagebi (little balls of flame) (there) is a mushi called Hidane (fire grass seed)’ (p. 186-7)
At the end Kagebi can kill mushi/Hidane with its fire. All that is born from fire, dies in the fire.

The Snake of Dawn or Sunrise Serpent
A woman is forgetting her memories. Her son is helped by Gynko to solve this problem.
‘A mushi … that eats memory … ? Yes. It’s called Kagedama (soul’s shadow). (p. 231)
‘... (mushi) enters the ear and goes into the brain. … the host hardly ever sleeps afterward. And it slowly starts to forget things.’ (p. 232)
‘We only know of one weak point for the Kagedama, and that’s the sun.’ (p. 233)
‘... keep recalling the things that you don’t want to forget.’ (p. 236)

Best artworks:
- Kai (the coat’s owner) watching at his native village after the landslide (p. 127);
- Ginko and an eagle (?) (p. 161).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review: The Journey (Guardians of Ga'Hoole, Book 2)

The Journey (Guardians of Ga'hoole, Book 2)
Kathryn Lasky
Scholastic (2003), Paperback, 256 pages

‘In the twilight hour
We are home in our tree
We are owls, we are free’ (p. 139)

Guardians of Ga’Hoole’s second book tells about Soren and his band (Twilight, Digger, Gylfie and Mrs. Plithiver) when they finally arrive at the Great Ga’Hoole Tree.

At the Tree they meet other owls:
Boron and Barran, king and queen of Hoole;
Bubo, the blacksmith;
Madame Plonk, the singer;
Otulissa, the never ending talking owl, she is a bookworm;
and Ezylryb, (picture) (so far, my favourite character), he is a Whiskered Screech Owl,

the wise weather interpretation teacher, and Soren’s mentor.

The Great Ga’Hoole Tree is home for many owls, there is also a school. Every owl has to improve its skills following a chaw.

Soren begins to discover his own flying powers, so his mentor Ezylryb says: ‘There are many ways to learn - through books, through practice, and through gizzuition (from the word gizzard, a digestive organ behind the stomach of birds). They are all good ways, but few of us have gizzuition (intuition).’ (p. 198)

At the end of the book a surprise: between several owlets grounded and wounded, there is ...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: Wild Birds of Prey - Owls

Wild Birds of Prey - Owls
Deborah Kops
Blackbirch Press (2000), Edition: 1, Library Binding, 24 pages

Reading Guardian of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky, Owls by Deborah Kops is a useful book to understand owls’ life.

Some curiosities:
- ‘An owl can tell the height that a sound is coming from as well as its direction. This ability is partly a result of the unusual placement of its ears - one ear is higher than the other.’ (p. 13)

- ‘A great horned owl living in the North may store its uneaten prey in the snow during winter. Later, it can thaw out its frozen dinner by sitting on it.’ (p. 17)

- ‘Owls are not nest builders ... Some times, a hawk and an owl occupy a nest in alternate years.’ (p. 19)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: Alichino, Volume 1

Alichino Volume 1
Kouyu Shurei
TokyoPop (2005), Edition: illustrated edition, Paperback, 164 pages

‘Beautiful creatures called Alichino grant wishes to those in need - but at a price!’ (back cover)

Alichino (Harlequin, Arlecchino) is one of the devils in the Hell (Inferno) by Dante Alighieri.

Alichino’s main characters:
- Tsugiri, with the power of kusabi
- Enju, Tsugiri’s guardian.
- Ryoko, Tsugiri’s master and Myobi’s lover.
- Myobi, usually in the form of a owl. otherwise a beautiful girl.
- Hyura, protected Tsugiri when he was a child.
- onihcilA, many.

Selling your soul to devil makes your wishes into reality. ‘They say alichino can take many different forms ... and possess a beauty beyond compare.’ (p. 18) Beauty arises desire especially when you are a soul in sorrow. ‘Their wings are as light as gossamer, and their souls as lily white as winter’s first snow.’ (p. 18)
‘... the sorrowful beating of a human’s heart will always draw an alichino near.’ (p. 40)

As well black exists because of white, or death because of life, Enju say: ‘ The kusabi and the alichino exist for each other.’ (p. 105)
Tsugiri is ‘someone with the power of kusabi ... (and) can bring death to an alichino’s soul.’ (p. 102)

Best artworks: alichino’s reborn (p. 101); and Myobi talking to Tsugiri (p. 119): turmoil in the sky (clouds, moon, dark, light) reflects as well that of Tsugiri’s soul.

A last question/joke: Who is Alichino’s characters’ hairdresser?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: The Capture (Guardians of Ga'Hoole, Book 1)

The Capture (Guardians of Ga'hoole, Book 1)
Kathryn Lasky
Scholastic (2003), Paperback, 240 pages

‘Good light, Soren, Gylfie said
Good light, Soren and Gylfie, Twilight said
Good light, Twilight, Soren, and Gylfie both said together.’ (p. 183)

The first book of the series Guardian of Ga’Hoole, tells the adventures of Soren, a barn owl.

The Capture could be subdivided in three parts:
the first one tells about Soren and his family, living happily in a nest. The most important event is the birth of Eglantine, Soren’s sister.

The second part tells a dramatic event: Soren is pushed out of the nest by Kludd, his brother. Follows Soren’s capture by a patrol of the evil owls from the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls.
Living in St. Aggie’s is terrible: most of the time is spent forgetting the past life, and every owl has to learn his new name: a number. A mystery surrounds St. Aggie: owls have to pick up tiny particles (flecks) so the Academy gain power and control over all owls’ world.
At St. Aegolius Academy Soren meets enemies and friends: Gylfie, a female elf owl (one of the smallest owl) befriend Soren and together they learn to fly.
‘... this is not humble, this is where owls belong - high near the wind, near the sky, close to the heartbeat of the night.’ (p. 117)

The third part tells about Soren’s and Gylfie’s escape from St. Aggie: flying toward nowhere they meet Twilight, a great grey owl and they also meet Digger, a burrowing owl.

The first and third part are the best ones of The Capture: at the beginning we know about owls’ world, and it is not strange for the readers to learn that they read the psalms.
When Soren, and Gylfie, become free from St. Aggie they fly toward some sad news about their parents, but also no one stop them to seek the truth about the legend of Ga’Hoole so to protect the world from the evil.

The second part reminds about other brainwashing’s camps ...

‘- But where is it you’re going? he asked
- To the Great Ga’Hoole Tree.
- What? said Digger, but before Twilight could answer, Streak (an eagle) broke in,
- I’ve heard of that place, but isn’t it just a story, a legend?
- To some it might be, Twilight said, and blinked at the eagle.
- But not to owls, thought Soren. To owls, he thought, it is a real place.’ (p. 215-6)

‘And, indeed, Soren knew still another true:
Legends were not only for the desperate.
Legends were for the brave.’ (p. 218)

Soren: Barn Owls (Tyto Alba), (Barbagianni): it is widely distributed in the world; it measures 10–18 inch in overall length, with a wingspan of 30–43 inch.

Twilight: Great Gray Owls (Strix nebulosa), (Allocco di Lapponia): they belong to the Wood Owls group; are residents of Canada and Alaska; It is the largest owl species with a wingspan of 5-foot.

Gylfie: Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi), (Civetta?): is the smallest owl, only 5.5-inch.

Digger: Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia), (Civetta delle tane): they nest in burrows.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Review: Mushishi, Volume 3

Mushishi, Volume 3
Yuki Urushibara
Del Rey (2008), Paperback, 256 pages

The Cry of Rust or The Sound of Rust
Ginko has to find out why a strange rust afflicts people and houses in a village. The village’s people think a girl is the cause of the rust.
The girl, Shige: ‘Whenever my voice was heard, the people around me would get patches of rust.’ (p. 17) But ‘This isn’t rust. It’s a Mushi called Yasabi.’ (p. 20)
‘Shige ... acted like a normal kid ... But her voice ... had a quality that attracted the things (Mushi) that caused the illness (the rust).’ (p. 34)
Ginko: ‘I wanted your voice to echo in the mountains surrounding the town. The Yasabi that gathered in the town wiil be dispersed into the mountains.’ (p. 45)
A voice could be heard in the village and the sea across a pass in the mountains.
‘But even now, they say ... that the people of the town ... can still hear a broken, husky voice with an odd beauty to it ... echoing softly through the mountains.’ (p. 48)

From the Ocean Edge or Where Sea Meets Man
Ginko is traveling along a beach where he meets a man looking for his wife (Michichi).
‘You’ve heard the term Umi-sen, Yama-sen, haven’t you? It refers to the belief that if a serpent lives for a thousand years in the sea and another thousand years in the mountains, it becomes a dragon.’ (p. 73) Mushi ‘there seems to be no difference between them and snakes. (p. 73) Mushi are linked to ancient beliefs (dragons).
Ginko decides to take a boat and with the boatman they go on the sea looking for Michichi, eventually they find her, but suddenly Michichi disappears.
When people are far from the shore, snakes (Mushi) and mist don’t allow them to return to the land, they cannot see the shore. Inside mist time is different from real time, when you look at what you wanted to see it disappears. Being (Sein) is linked with Time (Zeit): Michichi can live only living in the same time of her husband
One of the best episodes!

The Heavy Seed
In a village there are unusual harvests. Before harvests strange events happen: a natural disaster and the death of one of the village’s people.
‘The field of this village ... have always had a big harvest during natural disaster.’
‘On that year somebody always ... grow an extra tooth that autumn. When autumn comes to an end, the tooth falls out. And that person ... dies ...’ (p. 97)
‘Mushi are creatures so weak they can be carried by light.’ (p. 105) ‘They are closed to Koki, the liquid origin of Mushi. The light flow is the vein in which the Koki flows. You could call it - life - itself.’ (p. 106)
Mushi, light, Koki, life, and the heavy seed: manipulating Koki and seed ‘there are even ways to achieve immortality or resurrection.’ (p. 106)

White Living in the Inkstone or The White which Lives within the Ink Stone
Adashino is a collector of Mushi-related items. Some kids get themselves in trouble when they take one of Adashino’s Mushi.
‘So when ink was rubbed on it (inkstone), the Mushi came back to life ...’
‘It entered their bodies ... and is chilling them from the inside.’ (p. 148)
‘What is inside the inkstone ... is a Mushi called Kumohami (cloud eaters).’ and ‘... like clouds, they eat the water or ice, and give off snow or hail.’ (p. 165)

The Fish Gaze or One-Eyed Fish
This episode reveals Ginko’s origin: he is an orphan adopted by Nui.
Mushi ‘exist differently, but ... they aren’t completely estranged from us.’ (p. 193)
‘There are two types of darkness. One type is when you close your eyes, ... the other is ... endless darkness.’ (p. 196) ‘The ones (Mushi) that take the shape of darkness are called Tokoyami (eternal darkness). (p.; 198)
‘But if you ... can’t remember your name or your past ... that means that Tokoyami is near you. They say that if you remember, you can get away from it. And if it turns out that you can’t remember? Then find a name for yourself. It doesn’t matter what.’ (p. 202)
Darkness is where you don’t exist, ‘Fright ... and rage ... are things that blind one’s eyes.’ ‘Everything ... simply ... lives as it lives, that’s all.’ (p.230)
Ginko has to become a Mushishi and has to know darkness, so he must lose one eye.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: Berlin: City of Stones: Book One

Berlin: City of Stones: Book One (Part 1)
Jason Lutes
Drawn and Quarterly (2000), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 209 pages

Berlin: City of Stones, according to the magazine Time, is one of the best graphic novel ever written.

Berlin: City of Stones by Jason Lutes is supposed to be a graphic novel series describing life in Berlin between WWI and WWII. The main characters of book one are an art student (Marthe Mueller) and a journalist (Kurt Severing), a second story line tells about a family who decides to follow the main political streams: mother and daughter join the communist party, while father and son join the Nazis.

In Germany, following World War First, a new government called Weimar Republic is established ; this new parliamentary republic has to face many problems: economic, extremism on the left and right political parties. Weimar Republic ends with the beginning of Hitler’s Third Reich.

Back to Berlin: City of Stones, the drawings of this graphic novel are very impressive, black and white shows and tells brilliantly the History of these years.

A last thought / question: Is Kurt Severing the double of Walter Benjamin (without mustache)?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: The Life and Adventures of Kit Long Wolf

The Life and Adventures of Kit Long Wolf
John W. Carter
Dorrance Publishing Co. Inc. (2006), Paperback, 70 pages

‘One morning at daybreak his warriors were all around our village. He said to my father, I want all the furs and yellow stones you have I claim this land for Spain. Everything you have now belongs to Spain.
My father said, this land belongs to the Great Spirit. We only live in it. ‘ (p. 16)

John W. Carter was born in 1932 in Tennessee.

The Life and Adventures of Kit Long Wolf tells four decades of the life of an Irish immigrant to the new world in 1563 when he was a teenager.
Kit is the main character and narrator of the book. After escaping from the ship during harboring in the new world, he lives alone for a while befriending a wolf. When is captured by a native tribe he’s called Kit Long Wolf. Trusted for his wisdom he becomes Medicine Man of the tribe.

Dorrance Publishing has published two books linked to each other: Mayflower Maid by Raleigh Bruce Barlowe and The Life and Adventures of Kit Long Wolf by John W. Carter. These books are linked by the settlement in the new world between 15th and 16th century. The events are narrated from different points of view: Mayflower Maid tells the view of the English settlers while in Kit Long Wolf is narrated the point of view of the first nation. So is very interesting to read both books and learn something more about the first years in this new world.

Carter is a good writer although in Kit Long Wolf, only 70 pages, many events are narrated quickly and superficially.


I received a complimentary copy of (The Life and Adventures of Kit Long Wolf) as a
member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit
to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: Mushishi, Volume 2

Mushishi, Volume 2
Yuki Urushibara
Del Rey (2007), Paperback, 240 pages

The Mountain Sleeps or The Sleeping Mountain
In this first novel of volume 2, an old Mushishi tells to Ginko the story how he became the guardian of the mountain.
The mushi is called Mugura and ‘are like the nervous system of the mountain.’ (p. 13) The old Mushishi cannot leave the mountain because of the dangerous mushi, and Ginko cannot help him.

The Sea of Brushstrokes or A Sea of Writing
A curse afflicts a family for generations: a birthmark the color of an ink stain means a new writer of mushi’s stories.
‘In the future ... we animal and plant life must live in concert with the mushi.’ (p. 59) In the past after a great calamity mushi’s separated from the other animal and plant, so started the curse of the ink birthmark.

They That Breathe Ephemeral Life or Those who Inhale the Dew
Mushi in called Biku and live in Akoya’s sinus cavity because she inhaled it from a flower. Akoya in a girl revered as a god and a boy asks to Ginko to investigate the case.
‘Once again today, the sun rises and sets again. The flowers that bloomed this morning begin to bow their heads.
Once again today, the sun will set and rise again. And when the sun hits it, the flower blooms, but it is a different flower from yesterday’s.’ (p. 93)

Rain Comes and a Rainbow Is Born or Raindrops and Rainbows
The fourth novel is the best of this second volume.
A boy travels looking for rainbows: ‘I’ve heard that treasures are buried at the ends of rainbows, but ...’ (p. 147)
Mushi is called Koda and means rainbow and snake. ‘The Koda ... are light ... and rain that has some Koki in it. ... (the Koki are) the stuff that is the basis of a mushi’s life force. ... they may have sources that cause them to start. But they have no goal. They live only to flow. They don’t let anything interfere.’ (p. 178)
Like Ginko’s travelling is without goal so Koda is not dangerous, they live only to show themselves.
‘In an area to the west where there’s a river famous for its flooding ... word is spread about a bridge that can withstand the floods.
When the river rises, they remove certain planks ... and they let the water flow as it well.
When the water level falls, they return it to normal.’ (p. 181)

The Veil Spore or Cotton Changeling
Ginko helps a family with strange children.
Mushi is called Watahaki: ‘they have the form of green cotton that floats on the air.’ (p. 195) Watahaki give birth baby with a short life span. Ginko has to burn the house with these mushi/children, but he keeps one for himself. ‘You are an inscrutable being.’ (p. 226)

Review: Martian Time-Slip

Five novels of the 1960s & 70s - Martian Time-Slip
Philip K. Dick
New York : Library of America : Distributed to the trade in the U.S. by Penguin Putnam, c2008.

Arnie Kott: ‘... we got the future, and where else do you think things happen except in the future?’ (p. 115)

Martian Time-Slip refers to living in different times instead of present, also past or future.

This novel by Philip K. Dick is set in a colony on Mars and tells the story of Manfred Steiner, an autistic boy who can help other people to live in the past or in the future.
Arnie Kott, leader of the water worker’s union, becomes interested in Manfred because he wants to use Manfred’s skill to predict future in his business ventures.

Martian Time-Slip is a speculative science-fiction novel because Dick doesn’t tell about space ships or other futuristic electronic devices; so who remembers Blade Runner (or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) is crowded out by reading this novel.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: Saga of the Swamp Thing: Volume 1

Saga of the Swamp Thing: Volume 1
Alan Moore
DC Comics, Inc. (1987), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 176 pages

‘You shouldn’t have come here.’ (from the back cover)

The first four chapters are the best of this volume; the last three tell events improved in the next volumes of the saga of Swamp Thing.

‘He isn’t Alec Holland. He never will be Alec Holland. He never was Alec Holland. He’s just a ghost. A ghost dressed in weeds.’ (p. 33)
The Swamp Thing becomes aware of his nature: in a previous life he was an human being called Alec Holland, now in this new form he is only weeds and mud.
‘Woodrue ... he took ... my humanity ... away from me ... caused so much agony ... and when I thought the agony was ... over, that I found ... peace ... he tainted that as well ... Woodrue.’ (p. 72)
The Swamp Thing refuses to live as half man / half tree and he / it rooted in the swamp, becoming a vegetable.

Jason Woodrue becomes part of the swamp, and grows like a plant. Woodrue: ‘I am come to announce the Green Millennium.’ (p. 79) But this Green Millennium means destruction, so the Swamp Thing wake up to put order, aware that he is not anymore Alec Holland.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Review: The Book of Human Skin

The Book of Human Skin
Michelle Lovric
Bloomsbury Publishing (2010), Hardcover, 512 pages

‘Hic Liber Cute Compactus Est’ (p. 143)

‘Why are we all doing our best to become angels? It is perhaps because we shall always have something shadowy in our consciences ...’ ( p. 459)

Books with the cover made of human skin, and behind this Gothic library there is Minguillo Fasan. Against this project of books of human skin there is an obstacle: Marcella, Minguillo’s sister.

The Book of Human Skin is narrated from five main characters’ points of view: Minguillo and his sister Marcella Fasan (a noble family of Venice), Gianni delle Boccole (House Fasan’s butler), Sor Loreta (nun in Arequipa’s convent, Peru`), and Doctor Santo Aldobrandini.
Although this book could be categorized as historical fiction, we can find other genres: horror, romance, and especially Gothic fiction.
In the background Michelle Lovric’s passion for Venice: ‘marbled water cradled in the shadow of a bridge, a palazzo seeming to sway in a web of fretwork, ...’ (p. 181) or ‘ the play of water reflections under bridges and the cries of seagulls at dawn.’ (p. 438)
And from this Venetian’s water reflections towards the old wet brick’s walls in the calle (an alley of water) the destiny follows a path of magic; so when Minguillo’s father writes to his wife about the insanity of their son, Minguillo intercepts the letter and ‘I (Minguillo) had barely finished scanning it (the letter) when a fictitious gust of wind carried it out of the window and away down the Grand Canal before any inquisitive monkey might count his toes.’ (p. 78) Randomness and magic change everything and give birth to a new story.

Minguillo Fasan talking about his books: ‘When I say I loved books, I mean that I loved not just the souls of my books but their bodies.’ (p. 39) or ‘Late at night, did Minguillo books of human leather talk among themselves?’ (p. 285) Minguillo a sadistic man remind the first pages of Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautréamont: ‘One should let one’s fingernails grow for fifteen days. etc etc’ His dreams are collecting books of human skin and living for ever in Palazzo Espagnol.

Marcella Fasan is a patient sister whose Kafkian life goes from a tormented cohabitation in Palazzo Espagnol in Venice, to the hospital for lunatics, and finally in a convent in Peru`. She waits until her enemy (her brother) collapses; and again the human skin intervenes to correct imperfections: the small pox.

Gianni delle Boccole is depicted speaking a Celinian argot; an example: ‘so as not to draw saucespishon (= suspicion)’ (p. 393) He is the butler in Palazzo Espagnol and loves Marcella like a father.

Doctor Santo Aldobrandini explains why the human skin is so important: ‘Perhaps this is why I have always loved the skin: because it is both the story and the storyteller.’ (p. 21)

Sor Loreta hates her skin and body. She thinks to reach sainthood because of her behavior: drinking only vinegar and fighting every way of life outside the strict monastic rules. This character is surprising for her frankness and seemingly funny logical thinking.

A final note / quote: ‘Dio ha manda` l’om per (par) castigar l’om’; in my opinion a better translation could be: God created man to torment man. instead of God created man to shame man. (last page)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review: Mayflower Maid

Mayflower Maid
Raleigh Bruce Barlowe
Dorrance Publishing Co. Inc. (2006), Paperback, 242 pages

Raleigh Bruce Barlowe, a bachelor’s degree in history, is the author of several historical novels, his books are competent describing events really happened.

The historical events: the Mayflower ship sailed in 1620 from England to Plymouth (Massachusetts, United States) with a hundred of English Separatists, known as Pilgrims.
Bet Tilley, the Mayflower Maid, as old woman remembers and tells the story of the founding of the Plymouth colony from the exile in Holland and the perilous voyage across the Atlantic.

In many parts of this book, history seems glued to the characters’ life, so nobody emerges as a full personality. Bet and her friend / brother John meet each other on the Mayflower and what could be the thread of the novel is forgotten for most parts of the book.

A fast read book remembering the first settlers of a new world.

Buy this book:

I received a complimentary copy of Mayflower Maid as a member of the
Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit
to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Review: Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park (Everyman's Library (Cloth))
Jane Austen
Everyman's Library (1992), Hardcover, 528 pages
Mansfield Park (The Complete Classics)
by Jane Austen
Naxos Audiobooks (2007), Edition: Unabridged, Audio CD, 14 pages

Par délicatesse J’ai perdu ma vie (from Chanson de la plus haute tour by Arthur Rimbaud)

Two becomes one; and after, two becomes three.
Jane Austen’s first book, Sense and Sensibility tells the story of two sisters with different feelings about how to become woman. The contrast of personality between Elinor and Marianne is the contrast between sense and sensibility as well.
The following book Pride and Prejudice, although the title was chosen by the publisher, shows another contrast between two kind of judgments: pride and prejudice.
In the next novel, Mansfield Park with Fanny Price as main character, Jane Austen elects only one character, who with her sensitivity (délicatesse) contains all the roughness of feelings read in the previous books.
Mansfield Park has also a bound with the number three. Jane Austen writes a book in three volumes, she wants to write a comedy in three acts. The novel also tells how the party at Mansfield Park try to arrange a comedy (although there is only the rehearsals).
The number three is the structure of Mansfield Park because we find in it how the desire of someone or something is never direct, but always follows an indirect path.

Fanny wants to be desired by the others of the party when she is retreat in her rooms: ‘She alone was sad and insignificant; she had no share in any thing; she might go or stay, she might be in the midst of their noise, or retreat from it to the solitude of the east room, without being seen or missed!’ (p. 162) In the novel The Eternal Husband Dostoevsky wrote about the same idea: ‘might go or stay ... without being seen or missed.’ Fanny (number one) and the party (number two): they need the absence of Fanny (number three) so the party knows about Fanny.

The choice of Maria to marry Rushworth is, as always, an indirect choice (the third path). ‘Henry Crawford had destroyed her (Maria’s) happiness, but he should not know that he had done it; he should not destroy her credit, her appearance, her prosperity too. He should not have to think of her as pining in the retirement of Mansfield for him ...’ (p. 206) The third choice means resentment: Maria marries Rushworth only because Henry leaves her.

Mimetic desire needs jealousy and a third person. Mary talking to Fanny: ‘There is a daughter of Mr.Fraser by a first wife, whom she is wild to get married and wants Henry to take.’ (p. 371) Mary thinks that Fanny could desire to marry Henry only because another woman wants to marry him.

Fanny marries Edmund at the end. But it’s really happened? Austen suggests that happened ‘exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so.’ p. (484)

Jane Austen with Mansfield Park tells about a world never narrated before. Apart from some sporadic descriptions of servants, Austen this time widens her view telling about poor people. Fanny unfortunately has to know her parents, and Austen takes the time to describe this world where they live.
The first encounter: William, Fanny’s brother, introduces their father to her: ‘But here is my sister, Sir, here is Fanny; turning and leading her forward’; - ‘it is so dark you do not see her.’ (p. 391) The dark room is not only lack of candles, Austen in a few words tells parental feelings, past story of a family, suffocating world, etc.
‘There was neither health nor gaiety in sun-shine in a town. She (Fanny) sat in a blaze of oppressive heat, in a cloud of moving dust; and her eyes could only wander from the walls marked by her father’s head, to the table cut and knotched by her brothers, where stood the tea-board never thoroughly cleaned, the cups and saucers wiped in streaks, ...’ (p. 452)

‘Here`s harmony! - said she (Fanny) - Here’s repose! There’s what may leave all painting and all music behind, and what poetry only can attempt to describe. Here`s what may tranquillize every care, and lift the heart to rapture! When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world; and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity of Nature were more attended to, and people were carried more out of themselves by contemplating such a scene.’ (p. 116)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Review: Judgment and Wrath

Judgment and Wrath
Matt Hilton
William Morrow (2010), Hardcover, 352 pages

Joe Hunter is hired by Richard Dean who wants to keep his daughter safe from her abusive boyfriend, but the truth is different and to complicate the story a fallen angel, Dantalion, intervenes.

The narration follows an usual action plot with gun fires, car chasing, and all still alive, with a lot of scratches, until the end.
The best parts of the book are the changing of point of views between Joe Hunter and Dantalion, when the same action is viewed from different angles.
The characters are just sketched and the dialogs between actions don’t keep suspense high.
I preferred less textbook’s descriptions of guns, knifes, helicopters, or how to spy other people.
Although these lacks in the book, action sequences keep the reader clinging to the page and the book is readable.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review: Dark Entries

Dark Entries (Vertigo Crime)
Ian Rankin
Vertigo (2009), Hardcover, 216 pages

John Constantine becomes part of a reality show (Big Brother) in order to investigate the supernatural events that happen in this haunted house.
The first impression of Constantine: ‘Maybe we all screwed up our lives somewhere and this is the punishment. The punishment ... or the cure.’ (p. 106) Could it be so easy? No, the border of the drawings changes color: from white to black, so Evil tells the truth of the story.

The black and white drawings by Werther Dell’Edera follow the narration and convey the Dark Entries’ main idea of Ian Rankin: black and white, shade and light, good and evil, death and life

Altogether I prefer the John Constantine smoker and thoughtful than this of Dark Entries where he seems a sort of super-hero with all the answers; for instance a John Constantine acting as Inspector Rebus.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Review: Mushishi, Volume 1

Mushishi 1
by Yuki Urushibara
Del Rey (2007), Paperback, 240 pages

Mushi ‘have existed since the dawn of time’ (from the cover)

The Green Gathering or The Green Seat: Ginko investigates the case of a boy whose drawings, because of Mushi, come to life. Since ancient times Mushi have induced fear among humans. Mushi are called Green Things and ‘they’re very close to the original forms of life ... it was after them that the life we see began to branch out.’ (p. 20)

The Soft Horns or Tender Horns: Ginko has to cure a boy with growing horns, otherwise he will die. This time Mushi are called Un, and they eat sounds. ‘When the snow falls at night and the sounds disappear ... you must either talk to someone or cover your ears. If you don’t, your ears will be eaten.’ (p. 63)
But it’s not enough: Mushi called ‘A’ ‘eat the silence that the Un create.’ (p. 72)
In this episode there is the most beautiful drawing in all the volume: a drawing of the deer’s back who is looking at the forest (p. 76). Another beautiful drawing is on page 193: a girl looking at a pool in the mountains.

The Pillow Path or The Pillow Pathway: a farmer’s dreams become reality, so he asks help to Ginko. ‘There are Mushi that live in dreams.’ (p. 102) These Mushi don’t give premonitions, but make dreams come true.
Mushi are hiding inside the pillow, ‘the Japanese word for pillow ‘makura’ is made from combining the words for ‘storage place’ and soul’ (p. 141) So the pillow ‘becomes the path between dreams and reality.’ (p. 142) We have to follow the Pillow Pathway to see the world beyond.

The Light in the Eyelids or The Light of the Eyelid: Ginko is helping a girl because she can’t bear sunlight. ‘Behind your eyelid ... there’s another eyelid. And behind that other eyelid is a place where absolutely no light can get in. That’s where the Mushi are.’ (p. 150)
These Mushi are called Manakonoyamimushi and ‘they use the darkness to breed.’ (p. 164) Only ‘the light of the moon lures the mushi out.’ (p. 168)
‘When humanity managed to enter the light, they forgot how to close their second eyelid.’ (p. 175) In this second eyelid there is the ‘true darkness ... the different kind of light’ (p. 175)

The Traveling Bog or The Traveling Swamp: a mysterious girl is seen in a swamp and Ginko wants to know who she is. A dying swamp is moving toward the sea.
This ‘traveling’ swamp is followed by a girl whose ‘hair was an odd shade of blue-green.’ (p. 186)
Suiko a liquid Mushi are colorless and translucent, although they are alive and can travel. ‘And when this small, life-giving universe nears its end ... it finds its legs and it starts to move.’ (p. 222)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Review: Thieves & Kings

Thieves & Kings Volume One, The Red Book
by Mark Oakley
I Box Pub (1998), Edition: 2, Paperback, 154 pages

Thieves & Kings volume one contains the first six issues of the series.
The events are set in a land called Oceansend, the capital city is Highborn, I suppose during the sixteenth century.
Rubel, the main character, is a young thief escaping from soldiers and other elder people. Thief with the meaning also as paladin of some important ideal.
Rubel has a friend and companion: his imp, a small devil. At the beginning of the third chapter they explain what an imp is.
The other characters are: Katara, the princess; Kangar, her brother; and the Shadow Lady of the Sleeping Wood.

Rubel helps Katara to find the crown, the king had hidden it previously, and so begins the friendship between a thief and a princess.
After four years of navigation, Rubel comes back wanting to meet again the princess. Is Rubel willing to meet the princess at the end? Maybe after a lot of troubled events, and many runs on the roofs.

This graphic novel is different from the usual because there are traditional drawings and many parts of prose; the best of the novel are the last one.
The drawings about buildings, ships, and general surroundings are very well done. I liked one in chapter three illustrating a street with the port in the background. Faces’s drawings are less accurate.

‘At the time when they are small and struggle to please their parents and older brothers and older sisters and all the elders in the worlds that they trust or fear ... At that time when they are very young, all mortal souls seek to be pure and good, and by this way they so perceive imperfections upon the world, and they learn to despise that which causes hurt and illness of body and soul. ... with noble heart they go.’ (almost at the end of the novel)

At the end of volume one: Katara meets a Bridge Troll. Who knows the answer of the Troll’s riddle?
‘What glides over water, and rolls over stone, What sits on its haunches and ...?’