Storm Fairy by Osamu Tezuka

Storm Fairy by Osamu Tezuka

Storm Fairy by Osamu Tezuka

Storm Fairy by Osamu Tezuka

Storm Fairy by Osamu Tezuka

Title: Storm Fairy
Scored a: B+
Status: Read the first story.

 

Gosh! What a lovely little fairytale. .

Little backstory: I got this book via a kickstarter run by Digital Manga/Emanga.com as part of their ongoing project to publish tons of Tezuka’s work. My copy came with a collection of bookmarks and postcards as well as a cute lil’ Unico pin.

Anyway, here’s the summary of Storm Fairy:

Once upon a time, an Empress flees her burning castle to the nearby forest where she encounters a forest fairy. A deal is struck where in exchange for the fairy’s favor, the Empress must give up the face of her next born child. Thus, two girls’ lives become entwined: one has to wear a mask to hide her disfigured face, the other born with the face of the first. One night, a malcontent discovered Princess Ruri’s curse and steals her mask to put his own daughter on the throne. Ruri, now on the run, meets a samurai Tonosuke who decides to care for her. Hakobe, the fairy born with Ruri’s face, finds out the princess is on the run and decides to help her win back her kingdom, but little does she know, she wears the face of the one she’s trying to save…

I really liked this! Sometimes I’m not too sure with Osamu Tezuka’s work, it can become unexpectedly gory but this was the kind of fairytale story that I was used to as a kid before I was allowed into the old translations. Princess Ruri, Hakobe the fairy, Tonosuke the ronin, this was the sort of story I wish was as old as it felt so I could share it with everyone. It would have fit in perfectly with my shelves of fairytale books when I was a child.

The story is fast paced – it’s not what I’d call short and it felt like there was a new exciting development on every page. Osamu Tezuka’s art is unique, a fun cartoony style (part of why it’s so disorienting when it gets gory) that gets across the action with ease. Some of the scenes are downright adorable, like when Hakobe is thrown to the snakes. Really, it’s cute.

There is also a hot air balloon battle.

The reason I didn’t give it a full A is because I think it was just missing a tiny thing I can’t put my finger on to make it exceptional. But it’s definitely worth your time and money to get a copy. There’s some references in here I didn’t get as usual with Tezuka (keep that in mind when you read), but that’s not why I dinged him. These comics are old and I am young plus the whole cultural divide so it’s very likely it’s just something out of my personal experience.

I hope to read the next two stories, one about a girl detective and another about magic clouds, soon.

 

Other titles by Osamu Tezuka you may know:

Buddha
Astro Boy
Unico
Princess Knight

Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales by Valerie Paradiz

Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales by Valerie Paradiz

Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales by Valerie Paradiz

Title: Clever Maids: The Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales by Valerie Paradiz
Scored a: A
Status: Finished!

A bit of non-fiction this time! This took me a while to get through and held up the book backlog, which ended in two books being read in the same night once I finished, but it wasn’t because it was a bad book. In fact, I found it eminently readable and interesting.

Summary: This book focuses on the women that the Brothers Grimm collected the stories for their famous collections from.

It was fascinating. A history of the Brothers, a history of the women who crossed into their lives to work as story think tanks (not peasants like it’s often implied they went around collecting the stories from) and even the history of Germany during their time.

Valerie Paradiz has an engaging writing style, and I found the book moved swiftly when I had a moment to read. She’d toss in all sorts of trivia while she was at it (such as the explanation during Jacob’s letters to Wilhelm that they should remain together and eschew all else that some scholars thought they might be incestuous) to the discoveries of new sources of stories. I got excited every time they discovered a new treasure trove of story-telling sisters.

It’s a damned shame these women didn’t get the credit they deserved, and I’m glad Valerie Paradiz brought them to light for me to learn about. She even tied some of it into the fairy-tales that made the brothers famous which was a pretty nice touch.

And I’m still incredibly curious to find out what it was Ferdinand Grimm did.

Definitely worth a purchase if you’re interested in this slice of history.

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright

Title: The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright
Scored a: B+
Status: Finished!

 

This was a book that was around in my childhood (I even chose to represent it with the cover I knew it by) that I never read and often conflated with another story where a little girl finds an old dollhouse with dolls that move on their own. In the one I mixed it up with, the girl refurbishes their dollhouse and gave me an untrue expectation of wallpaper sample availability. Still can’t remember its name.

In this one? There’s murder and screaming. Perfect late night read.

Plot: Amy is having a hard time at home, so she temporarily moves in with her Aunt Clare. When she finds her Aunt Clare’s old dollhouse, she’s enchanted. Until the dolls begin acting out the brutal murder of her great-grandparents. With her little sister Louann and her friend Ellen’s help, she sets to find out what the dollhouse is telling her. Even if Aunt Clare wants them to leave well enough alone.

Ah, I loved this. It had me leaning in to read more, and I could almost hear the thunderstorm raging around in the scariest moment of the book.

Amy is 12 (turning 13 over the course of the book) and life isn’t easy for her. Her little sister Louann has brain damage and taking care of her is wearing Amy down, especially since she blames her sister for how other children avoid her after meeting Louann. This was something I’d seen myself in person – in this case an extremely frustrated little brother with his older low-functioning autistic brother, so it rang pretty true to me.

If you’re worried, Louann does okay for herself. She has her own interests and her own life going on, and is pretty essential to how the book plays out and not in a magical savant way. The only problem with her part of the story I had is where Aunt Clare suddenly knows better than everyone else to help the niece that she just met. It felt unfair, narratively.

That said, gosh, I like this book. Amy realizing she has friends, Amy discovering things, Amy being brave, the creepiness of the dolls. All of it.

If you want a ghost story with a lot of atmosphere (but remember it’s aimed at middle grade), definitely check this one out.

I purchased another book by the author, Christina’s Ghost. Looking forward to it.

All The Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn

All The Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn

All The Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn

Title: All The Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn
Scored a: C+
Status: Finished!

 

Found this book as a recommended other when I was purchasing The Dollhouse Murders. And while I don’t regret buying this book, and would still do it if I knew what I know now about it, I couldn’t give it a very high score.

Plot: A brother and sister are staying at their grandmother’s B&B for the summer. They decide to pretend to be ghosts to bring more business and in the process wake up the real ghosts.

The problems with this book was one minor thing and one major thing.

The minor was whenever it would delve into referencing real things, like Harry Potter, or the Murder at the Vicarage it stood out like a sore thumb. In fact, the Murder at the Vicarage scene, where a woman purchases the book, is overly long and makes no sense in the context of the story to even be there for that amount of space. I mean, I’m a big fan of that book, but it was odd. Coupled with the fact that previously in the same scene there was a heavy bit of foreshadowing that is immediately forgotten by the rest of the book and never comes to pass, bits like that were just out of place.

The big problem? The conflict and suspense runs out two thirds in, when it’s announced exactly what’s going on and how they’ll solve it and after that it’s just a by the numbers conclusion. There’s a final fight, but it’s not an unexpected one in the slightest.

I did like the characters, and for the most part the writing was an easy read. I don’t regret buying this, that’s for certain. It was good for a little ghost story to read at three am.

There’s a lot of children ghosts in this story who met very bad ends, so if you dislike the deaths of children, give this a pass. If you don’t mind ghost children and a very wicked villain, give it a go.

Warning: A teddybear dies. But it is sufficiently mourned.

To Sketch a Thief by Sharon Pape

To Sketch a Thief by Sharon Pape

To Sketch a Thief by Sharon Pape

Title: To Sketch a Thief by Sharon Pape
Scored a: B+
Status: Finished!

 

I was just trying to download my kindle library onto my new ipad when I got sick of babysitting the little bars and I clicked on a book at random. Later I surfaced, having read the entirety of To Sketch a Thief.

It’s the sequel to ‘Sketch Me If You Can‘ and the adventures of Rory, no longer a sketch artist but a PI, and her ghost Zeke.

In this one we delve more into why Zeke’s dead (not just being killed, there’s details), and a new character is added to the cast: Hobo the Dog. Seen on the cover. Hobo is a nice dog. I like Hobo.

Plot: Rory finds an errant dog and takes him home. Unfortunately his owner’s been murdered, and her other dog, a show-quality maltese, is also missing. Rory is hired by the woman’s friend not to solve the murder (that’s police business now) but to crack a dognapping ring that may have stolen the dead woman’s dog and her friend’s.

I liked it! Enough that I entered into a timewarp when I meant to just glance at it. The murder mystery part was satisfying and well plotted, I enjoyed the look into Zeke’s life. The characters were fleshed out and the interactions were good readin’.

The parts I didn’t like so much is that Rory and Zeke fought overly much so that every morning scene was ‘the rift between us from last night’ to the point of overuse, and I didn’t feel quite satisfied with how the dognapping case tied up.

That said, this is a pretty good mystery and I’ll be buying the next in the series.

The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones

Cover of Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones

Cover of Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones

Title: The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
Scored a: A-
Status: Finished!

 

The Homeward Bounders! I’ve been wanting to reread this for ages, but was unable to because it was region locked for sale. So during a trip to the USA my billing address magically changed to match my current IP and I got a lot of books I’ve been wanting for a while.

The plot of the book is Jamie sees something he shouldn’t – what appears to be two hooded figures standing over a map of the world in a strange room. As punishment, he is sent into other worlds with the promise that one day he may be allowed ‘back into play’ if he finds his way home. Until then no one can interfere with his journey, but there’s nowhere for him that he can belong. For every time one of the mysterious Them make a move, Jamie is forced into a new world.

Along the way he picks up two very important allies.

I really like this book and my only disappointment is that Adam (he shows up later) is never set on fire.

If I had to compare it to something, I’d say DnD and Sliders.

On the cover I chose, incidentally, the character most prominent is not Jamie. It’s a girl (one of the allies I mentioned) named Helen who has a very special gift and is coded as Pakistani, if that sweetens the pot for any potential readers.

What I really liked is how they managed to fit a preteen and an old man’s world-weary perspective into one character with Jamie. The story ends with the trademark DWJ ‘DONE NOW’ so don’t get your hopes up for anything lingering.

If  you’re into fanfic, this book crosses over with anything. Anything.

Its genre is that mix of sci-fantasy that DWJ does sometimes that I’m a big fan of.

A Skeleton In The Family by Leigh Perry

Title: A Skeleton In The Family by Leigh Perry
Scored a: C+
Status: Finished!

Cover of A Skeleton In The Family by Leigh Perry

Cover of A Skeleton In The Family by Leigh Perry. Don’t let the oddly photoshopped cover fool you, the akito doesn’t solve any crimes.

Plot: Georgia Thackery’s family has a skeleton. He’s named Sid and he can walk and talk. And it turns out he might have been murdered.

I’m going to start off with what I didn’t like, so I can end this review on what I did like.

I didn’t like how with the exception of her daughter, every lady character was presented as very adversarial to the main character, or just straight up jerks. One redeemed herself near the end, but the the lack of sympathetic lady characters made this book a very hostile read. It got to the point where I wasn’t even surprised when it was a man and a woman with the same goal in a scene, the woman was almost cartoonishly harsh while the man written as reasonable, despite what the narration said he was like after.

This and the final playout of the mystery knocked this down to a C+, but if these aren’t a problem for you I fully recommend this book. It has a lot going for it.

I hear she has another book coming out soon, and I hope the same issue isn’t present in it because I do plan to get it.

It was especially on my mind, as (look down a post to here) I had read If These Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell where the trend I’d noticed in her book of sympathetic women continued.

Now, for what I liked! I liked the main character (Georgia) loads, I really liked her relationship with her daughter, and Sid was great. I enjoyed the unraveling of the mystery (the ways they came up with for finding out clues were ingenious) and the story moved along at a healthy pace.

Sid and Georgia’s interactions were fun. I could see why the two were so attached to each other, and the things they noticed about their lives were nice touches.

As I said above, I’m planning on buying the next one because I wanna see what happens next to the characters.

Thus continues me reading through all the haunted cozies.

If Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell

Title: If Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell
Scored a: A-
Status: Finished!

Cover of If Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell

Cover of If Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell

I recently reviewed another book by Juliet Blackwell, Secondhand Spirits, that I did not realize was by the same author when I picked this up. Couldn’t figure out why I was getting the wrong book results when I searched for this one because I was very very tired after a long plane trip.

Juliet Blackwell’s strength, to my eyes, is how well she writes side characters. They come right to life. And there were a lot in this book, but not to its detriment.

Okay, so the plot is thus: Mel Turner has taken over her father’s historical home renovation business, even though all she wants to do is go to Paris and be wan. Things aren’t going her way towards that goal, especially when someone dies at her friend’s home renovation/demolition party and his ghost starts appearing to her asking for help solving his murder.

It’s a fun story! Mel has neat friends, she’s fun to watch interact with people and solve clues, and her supporting family cast (including her step-son from her ex-marriage and her father and his live-in friend Stan) is fun to watch and not overpowering. The romance wasn’t half bad, either. Romances seem to be de rigeur in cozies I’ve noticed and a dickish one can ruin a book fast for me.

The final confrontation was, best of all, very satisfying after all the things that happened during the course of the story. And the solution was foreshadowed pretty well, I thought. However, some ways the mystery played out knocked this down to an A- from an A+, mostly regarding a subplot that seemed overly garbled.

I’ve already bought the sequel.

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

Title: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
Scored a: A+
Status: Finished!

Cover of The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

Cover of The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

I previously posted about this book before I finished it, I loved it so much. And now I’m done it! And I loved it! And it’s also being made into a movie called Home by Dreamworks that has really pretty animation! For some reason they ditched Gratuity’s puff hairdo, but the new one is nice too. It’s just that puffs are possibly the cutest hairdo in the world.

This book is illustrated! And the illustrations are excellent and in the previous post. There’s way more in the book than in the post. Including explanatory comics, to make exposition fun.

This book starts out as Gratuity’s road trip across America to get where the aliens are relocating all the ‘noble savages of Earth’ (Florida) (and she taught herself to drive as good as Nascar. She just has to wear cans tied to her feet to reach the pedals), the alien she reluctantly teams up with, her very catlike cat, and finding her mom again. And then perhaps the world gets saved.

It’s an expository story, told through essays and eventually a diary by Gratuity, and I confess I really enjoy that kind of story. See: Frankenstein.

The book is full of great lines, much of them coming from Gratuity’s brain or mouth, and it managed to make J.Lo, a member of the invading aliens, perfectly sympathetic without making him act like he wasn’t even part of his people.

That said, this book has some good claws in it. If you know anything about First Nations history, you’ll get a good idea of what I mean. Plus the way Gratuity gets perceived by those around her.

Anyway, great book, very funny, smart, and a great heroine. Aces. Good work.

A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones

Title: A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
Scored a: A
Status: Finished

 

 

A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones

A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones (this is the cover I grew up with)

The other time travel book I described! Through a series of mishaps, a little girl (Vivian) is kidnapped from a train station during WW2 when she’s on her way to the country and brought to a city that exists outside of time itself.

And that city is collapsing in on itself.

She teams up with a pair of boys native to the city (also her kidnappers) to save it.

There’s a lot of ‘oh wait, so THAT’S what that scene meant’ during this book, which is preceded by a lot of guessing about which bit meant which, as things get a little… timey wimey.

Why did I like this book so much? Lots of reasons, but the little details are probably what did it. The dessert that they all have a mad passion for,  42nd century butter-pie which sounds absolutely delicious when described in the book, and the time ghosts. The time ghosts are throughout the city. They’re important things that happened, emotional things that happened, repeated things that happened. And the whole concept was really appealing to me.

Also? There’s an android manservant to the family with atrocious taste and the clothes he helps pick out for Vivian were excellent.

The city itself is a brilliant creation. People from stabilized time periods with time travel (it seems to get discovered and outlawed off and on) come to study in the city, they have tourists, you can apply for citizenship, it’s just a really neat idea. A time country. I love this book.