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.