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 ...?’

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review: The Gendarme

The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian
Putnam Adult (2010), Hardcover, 304 pages

A woman with ‘mismatched eyes, one dark, the other light’ and a man following these eyes for almost one hundred years. Meantime history follows its path changing the life of these two people. In all these events memory plays one of its best game: memories. dreams, yesterday, today are playing in a turbulent back and forth.
Emmett Conn is a ninety-two-year-old man, ex-gendarme, when he was young he escorted Armenians from Turkey before the World War I. During this perilous journey he met Araxie.

The book starts with a question: ‘Ninety-two years have passed - for what? For what?’ (p.5) And after this question follow several dreams of an old man, or are these dreams only memories?
Emmett and Araxie met the first time as in a dream, without contact: ‘What is your name? She does not respond, or if she does, her name is lost in the leaves.’ (p.12)
As Atom Egoyan has written in advance praise for The Gendarme: ‘Ahmet Khan’s spiritual transition to Emmett Cann is emotionally resonant’; I’d say also Emmett's transition to Ahmet. At the end of the book Ahmet and Emmett become one person, the ends of all stories become just one end.

After Ahmet becomes Emmett in America and the old man what happened? Why did Emmett choose Carol instead of rescuing Araxie? Could the following be some of the answers?
‘Race and division and circumstance - these surmountable, all! ... I should speak, I should offer support for rebirth, transformation, but instead I am frozen, my tongue stilled and thick. What is my direction? My offer? ... I could blame the heavens, blame fate or luck or inheritance, but it is all to no gain. My shame is boundless, my guilt so heavy it overweight even truth!’ (p. 198)
‘I am from Turkey. I fought in the war. I was injured, then rescued. An immigrant. A father ... I was a gendarme, a ... murderer. That this is my shame.’ (p. 208)
Could shame affect a whole life? Maybe not, there is an answer at the end: ‘Things weave in and out. I am there, I am here. At the end the past is so great it intrudes like an army!’ (p. 274)
The past could be dangerous, but it’s great.

Until the last chapters I had many doubts about The Gendarme: Is this book too ‘cold’? I mean, written as a lecture about elderly people and old history.
Although the passages from one story (old Emmett) to another (young Ahmet) seems to be relief of the pain of remembering or dreaming; I preferred the narration of the old Emmett: point of view of an old man like a camera that watches, records, and discarded.
Mustian telling the deportation’s story on Turkey border is lacking of ‘spice’: the deportation is narrated as a summary from history books, so I would have preferred the smell of horses, carpets full of sand, sounds of small bells from running horses, shouting, etc.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review: Mushishi, Volume 4

Mushishi, Volume 4
by Yuki Urushibara
Del Rey (2008), Paperback, 256 pages

Mushishi (蟲師) is a manga series written and illustrated by Yuki Urushibara.

Mushi are dangerous beings existing in the unseen, between life or death. They are in touch with the essence of life in a manner more pure than human beings. Most humans are incapable to perceiving Mushi, apart from few people and among these people there is Ginko (ギンコ), the main character of Mushishi. Ginko is a Mushishi: a Mushi Master who wanders Japan.

The contents of Mushishi volume 4: Picking the Empty Cocoon; One-Night Bridge; Spring and Falsehoods; In the Cage; and The Sound of Trodden Grass.

Picking the Empty Cocoon or Pickers of Empty Cocoons (虚繭取り): Ginko is angry with the girl who handles the cocoons used by Mushishi as mailboxes, because she’s still looking for her sister disappeared in an empty cocoon.
‘How long are you going to obsess on what’s lost? - The old man won’t be able to rest in peace!’ (p. 9) *See note at the end.

One-Night Bridge (一夜橋): Ginko arrives in a village where there is a bridge that you can cross only in one direction, otherwise if you go back the bridge destroys itself causing your fall. In this village there is a girl’s fallen from the bridge but still alive as a vegetable; she is not the person she used to be anymore. ‘ They fall into the valley and come back, but ... their hearts have been eaten.’ (p. 60)
Ginko finds out that the bridge is ‘possessed’ by Mushi called Nisekazura, who make their home in the tops of the tree; also ‘the Nisekazura of this valley ... come to control the bodies of ... animals ... and store up the sunlight.’ (p. 64)

Spring and Falsehoods or Pretense to Spring (春と嘯く): winter is coming, so Ginko gets shelter in a cabin where already lives a boy. The boy tells Ginko a story about a place where Spring blooms early and every time he goes there he falls asleep for days. In this story the Mushi is called Usobuki. ‘They have the same form as blooms on flowering trees. I hear that they’re a Mushi called Usobuki. Its main effect is the odor it gives off. They say the odor awakens activity in hibernating animals and plants in the middle of winter. ‘ (p. 103)
‘And the houses along the snow-filled road display their illuminations. Their promise of warm shelter is nearly inescapable ... to animals, insects ... and humans alike.’ (p. 138)

In the Cage or Inside the Cage (籠のなか): Inside a bamboo forest lives a man with his wife and child, they can’t leave the forest, when they try to escape from the forest, always they return to the same place. The Mushi is called Magaridake and means bamboo that has taken up residence, so Magaridake lives in a white bamboo with the power to give birth to children half-Mushi half-Human.

The Sound of Trodden Grass or The Sound of Footsteps on the Grass (草を踏む音): as a child Ginko wander Japan with other nomads, and every year they visited a special mountain.
‘Something about how a certain blueness means that the mountain’s calm, and we can go on. And if it’s red, we can’t ... If it’s gold, that’s when the mountain is in its best mood, and we can go in peace.’ (p. 207)
‘Even now, when I hear someone treading in the mountain’s grass, I feel relieved ...’ (p. 229)

Could be a paradox: a tale told and drawn about an unseen beings (Mushi), but in Mushishi everything flows like a quiet stream, and nobody is worried about this paradox. The black and white drawings are impressive: among the others I recall the cat-fish in the river; also impressive the various landscapes, in this case I recall that one with the rain. (p. 211)

* A note for the whispers: ‘According to Japanese and Buddhist tradition, at death a person has the opportunity to move on to the next life. This is called jobutsu. If the spirits have worries still connected to the earth, they are trapped and are unable to move on.’ (p. 241)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review: Hellboy Animated: The Black Wedding

Hellboy Animated 1: The Black Wedding
Jim Pascoe

Hellboy fights against the celebration of the Black Wedding. The character of Hellboy has historical origins: brought to earth by Nazi occultists and nowadays wants to destroy every kind of evil. This suggests a double-sided super-hero.
Ron Perlman having played as Hellboy and as Salvatore in The Name of the Rose, seems more diabolical in this second movie than in the first one.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review: Swamp Thing Vol. 4: A Murder of Crows

Swamp Thing Vol. 4: A Murder of Crows
Alan Moore
Vertigo (2001), Paperback, 192 pages

‘The man who started me upon this dark path promised me answers ... but the answers are black and unbearable.’ (from the back cover)

This time the Swamp Thing fights against an evil’s desire: destroying the Heaven.

The Swamp Thing wants answers, but the Parliament Tree where he searches these answers could just give him other questions.
‘Aphid eats leaf. Ladybug eats aphid. Soil absorbs dead ladybug. Plants feed upon soil ... Is aphid evil? Is ladybug evil? Is soil evil? Where is evil, in all the wood?’ (p. 113)
Or maybe just an answer: ‘Flesh ... speaks ... wood ... listens.’ (p. 108)

In this game of answers and questions, Evil also asks a question: ‘Tell me, little thing what is evil? ...’ (p. 185)
‘Evil is a quagmire of ignorance that would drag us back as we climb towards the immortal light.’ (p. 185) But this is not enough, so intervene in this game the Swamp Thing: who fight the evil perishes; who, as the Swamp, choice only to know the evil can leave freely from the evil.
The last answer: ‘Nothing happened. Every thing has happened.’ (p. 201)

Sharing the front cover: the Swamp Thing as the Mouth of Truth. According to popular belief it was said that anyone putting his hand in this mouth and swearing falsely, could not withdraw it. The Mouth of Truth is an image carved from marble located in Rome.

‘Don’t worry yourself about it.’ (p. 203)

P.S. Thanks Greg, actually Swamp Thing's mouth is closed and not open as Bocca della Verita'.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Review: The Queensford Family

The Queensford Family by Shelley M. Hollenbeck
Dorrance Publishing Co (2003), Paperback, 152 pages

‘In the endless waiting that has consumed my soul over the centuries, I have come to an understanding of the nature of man. I have come to know that it is easier for the waters to the seas to be swallowed up by a whale than it is for mankind to change habit ... each of the seven was wed to habit ... the habit of the mind and soul that had caused them to commit the crime against the Queensford in the first place.’ (p. 140)

Queensford Castle’s owner opens his proprieties to the public, but what are the real reasons? The first time he accepts only seven tourists: they are happy to be chosen but they don’t know that this could be their last vacation.

The book could be divided in three parts: the first one goes until the first murder; the second part is the telling of the murderers; and the third part starts with the investigations of two detectives (Tristen and Jed).

The narration of the first part follows a not original scheme, it reminds me of Agatha Christie’s plots where a net slowly surrounds the characters leading toward something unexpected. Although the lack of originality, in my opinion this is the best part of the book.
The second part, where all the murderers happen is very fast and I’d preferred a slow step.
The third part and conclusion also tells the investigations in a hurry until the genealogical list, that could explain the meaning of the book.

I’ve found another lack of originality in the bond between the Queensford’s book and the murderers: it reminds me of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco; where people mysteriously die and every murder follow the order of the Book of Revelation of John (or Apocalypse).

Sharing a curiosity: the number seven is the number of the universe, it includes the soul (number 3) and the body (number 4).

Buy this book:

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

Friday, August 6, 2010

Review: Daniel X: Alien Hunter

Daniel X: Alien Hunter: A Graphic Novel
James Patterson
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2008), Paperback, 128 pages

‘The greatest superpower ... is the power to create.’ (from the cover)

Daniel X assumes the role of Alien Hunter after his parents’ death. Daniel also inherited a list of Aliens Outlaws to fight. The next target is Number 7, chief of the Game Consortium. The objective of this Consortium is to takeover of Earth.

Daniel X is a teenager with the ability to shape-shift and eventually defeats the Outlaws. The members of the Game Consortium have the ability to shape-shift and they selfbuild themselves from billion of ants; they also have learnt the chemical abilities of the ants, so they use the scents as a chemical GPS.

Apart from the fighting, there are some original ideas:
The Pleionids: ‘These beauties are the Pleionids. Peaceful, beautiful, intelligent flowers. Their culture was based entirely on color. They had over seven thousand different words for the concept - white - . (p. 55)
The errors of clonation: ‘We created the colony you call - Kildare - ... He was supposed to be the ultimate warrior. His intelligence, creativity, problem-solving, were all off the charts. But something went wrong. All he wanted was to read books - to smell flowers. A disgrace !’ (p. 84)

(tomorrow) Today we're younger than we're ever gonna be.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: Winter's Passage

Winter's Passage
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen (2010), Kindle Edition

I received this e-book for free by NetGalley.

Julie Kagawa was born in California and when she was a child moved with her parents to Hawaii. Julie has worked in a bookstore (or better, she read the bookstore’s books), after that started a new job as dog trainer, and finally as a writer.

Winter’s Passage is a short novel in the Iron Fey series, although is advisable to read first The Iron King; It’s fatal to fall in love with this writer (her books!) just reading this novel in the middle and half of the series.

Winter’s Passage tells the journey of Meghan (a half-faery) and Ash (a princess of the Winter Court). Meghan has promised to return to the Winter Court, but first at all she wants to meet Puck who was injured defending Meghan
... but it’s not important the story, there is a feeling among the words like a music, that you can listen to instead of read. A faery’s music meaning a reminder for your fantastic desires.

The Wolf of the cover: ‘I’m the Wolf ... I was in stories long before the humans knew my name ... My stories outnumber all the tales ever told, and you cannot kill me.’ (p. 34)

Eventually is fair to reread William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Review: Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Love and Death

Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Love and Death
Alan Moore
Vertigo (1995), Paperback, 207 pages

‘How deep ...? How deep ... do you ... need ... to bury ... the past ... before it will stay ... dead?’ (p. 15)
‘The mind vanished ... and the flesh vanished ... but the bones ... remained ...’ (p. 29)

This volume starts with an overture: Neil Gaiman introduces the Swamp Thing with his ‘deliciuos’ comments and summary of the stories.
The Bible is the leitmotif of Love and Death: Creation of the world - Hell (or better Inferno), where the Swamp Thing takes a Dante’s journey - Otherworld (also like aliens, with a funny new language: for instance they called the Swamp Thing also The Mudster=the muddy monster).

Human and Inhuman:
‘Dearest Abigail, your grasp of the inhuman is so limited and shallow.’ (p. 63)

Soul and Afterworld:
‘I ripped her soul from her and it pulsed in my hands, milk white and translucent ... and then I hurled it down into the deepest sewers of the afterworld ... just to hear it screams.’ (p. 84)

People and Stories and World (Who is the creator?):
‘There are people. There are stories. The people think they shape the stories, but the reverse is often closer to the truth.
Stories shape the world. They exist independently of people, ...
The glaciers have their legends. The ocean bed entertains its own romance.’ (p. 101)

‘Misteries are wonders that you can ponder and share. Secrets are a burden to carry alone!’ (p. 166)

Review: The River Between

The River Between
Jacquelyn Cook
Bell Bridge Books (1985), Paperback, 162 pages

I received this free e-book from Jacquelyn Cook on Librarything's Early Reviewers.

Uhmmmm! Uhmmmm! This is the sound between the banks, it’s the steamboat’s whistle.

Restart the engine steam and the wheel turns: The River Between by Jacquelyn Cook describes Eufala, a port town in the East Alabama during the nineteenth century (1850). This book was first published in 1985, and the main themes are romance and history.
Lily falls in love with a steamboat captain, but, as always in love affairs, she’s facing a lot of rules such as parental authority and social rank.

The River Between starts very slowly maybe the river’s flow is contrary, and becomes more interesting around page 75 when Cook tells the duel of the two Lily’s lovers. After that, the story and the characters become more interesting, so less plain.

This book falls under the genre Historical Romance, after reading this book I understand that this is not my favourite one.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Review: I Am Hutterite

I Am Hutterite: The Fascinating True Story of a Young Woman’s Journey to Reclaim Her Heritage
Mary-Ann Kirkby
Thomas Nelson (2010), Hardcover, 224 pages

‘Levi, - I begin, searching for the right words, - there is a little boy buried here. His name is Renie, and he is my brother.’ (p. xxii)

Levi is the son of Mary-Ann Kirkby, the author of I Am Hutterite, who asks his mother ‘Are you a Hutterite?’, and as all the questions of every child arrives without notice, so starts Mary-Ann’s journey in the past. This book recounts her Hutterite family story.
The Hutterite way of life and faith was born in the sixteenth century among several refugees from Switzerland, Germany, and Tirol. During the nineteenth century Hutterite people emigrates to the United States and Canada.
Dornns family follows all the ‘iron’ rules of the colony where they live, but something happened to change everything. After several squabbles between the chief of the colony and Mary-Ann‘s father, the Dornns escaped from the colony toward an unknown world.

Everybody has seen the movie ‘Witness’ a 1985 American thriller movie directed by Peter Weir and main character played by Harrison Ford. I think from this movie started all the curiosity about these communities. From Witness we know about Amish people, but almost everything is similar to the Hutterite colonies.
Everybody has also studied at school the reformation movements of sixteenth century,
but while reading this book we get to know the private life of a Hutterite colony, especially the feelings of these people, the meaning of their way of life, and their

‘way of looking at the world, and unmistakable candor’

(p. 234)

So I Am Hutterite enlightens about a world not included in the general globalization; it keeps you thinking about progress: Do we really need progress? Although Mary-Ann Kirkby admits and writes the inevitable call of the progress. About this ideas I’d like to quote a passage:

’She wore neither makeup nor jewelry; both were forbidden. In a culture that stressed an inner adornment of the heart, her smile would be enough.’ (p. 20)

We have always thought about our world (the ‘mainstream’) full of freedom, but Mary-Ann surprisingly wrote:

‘I was the happy Hutterite girl, free from dress code and protocol of the English world.’ (p. 175)

The best parts: Chapter 5 Renie (pages 69-86) and the pages were Mary-Ann and her siblings play baseball against all the other classmates (p. 185).

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publisher as part of their book review blogger 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 Commission's 16 CFR, part 255.