“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick

I watched and enjoyed the 2011 movie adaptation by Martin Scorsese and have just gotten around to reading the actual book. I’ve heard many high praises for Selznick’s illustrations and stories, but have never read anything by him until this book. I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed what I read, but I appreciated that the illustrations are as integral to the story as the words.

Quick summary:

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is an illustrated middle-grade historical-fiction novel about a 12-year-old orphan boy named Hugo who maintains the clocks at a busy Paris train station. Hugo’s father, a clock maker, died in a fire, leaving Hugo with a notebook and a broken automaton to remember him by.

Hugo was sent to stay with his uncle, a drunk who managed the clocks at the train station. However, Hugo’s uncle disappeared some time ago leaving Hugo in charge of the station’s clocks and fending for himself. Since Hugo is unable to cash his uncle’s checks, he has resorted to theft to get food and as well as supplies for the automaton, which he hopes will give him a message from his father once fixed.

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“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith

My reading experience with Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was one of the best I’ve ever had. While reading the book, I went on a guided bus tour of Washington, D.C., and was told facts that confirmed some of the passages from the story.

I also visited an old train museum and read the book while sitting in its café area, which was restored to maintain how it looked back in the late 1800s. Doing so also helped to cement the novel’s worldbuilding in my mind making it easier for me to imagine the setting. I felt as if I was looking out on history while reading a story that called to it.

Goodreads summary:

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation. (Goodreads)

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“Anna and the Swallow Man” by Gavriel Savit

Toward the end of last year, I requested this book from the publisher because the summary sounded interesting. What do they mean by a man who can speak to birds? I was curious and thought that I’d get a wonderful, fantastical tale. What I got instead was a profound story that hints at magical realism and focuses on a girl growing up in the midst of World War II with only a mysterious man to protect her.

Quick summary:

The story begins when Anna is seven living in Poland with her father, a linguistics professor. Due to her father’s influence, Anna is well versed in several languages at that age. Anna loves her father and spends much of her time with him and visiting his friends. One day, her father does not return from work and Anna finds herself alone on the street when she meets a most unusual man, who she calls the Swallow Man because he can speak to the birds.

The Swallow Man cares for Anna and protects her from the war that surrounds them. They spend much of the war walking in forests, only visiting towns and speaking to others when they need to. The Swallow Man also has a knack for languages like Anna, and is skilled at blending in with whomever he is around, a skill he teaches Anna to help them survive the war. He tries to preserve her innocence for as long as he can, but he can’t shield her from everything. And as the war continues and the Swallow Man begins to change, it falls to Anna to protect and provide for them both.

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“A Long Day’s Evening” by Bilge Karasu

A Long Day's EveningNote: I started writing this on Saturday, June 13. Got lazy and stopped, then procrastinated.

It’s a contemplative Saturday. A day spent in deep thoughts as I consider this crazy world I live in. Even the sky is moody with storm clouds rolling in, blocking the brilliant sun. I woke early this morning because all last night I felt like writing but was unable to because I was tired. I was excited to be up early before the noise and tension that would come as my day progressed and my family woke with a clash and bang that would reverberate through my thoughts preventing me from thinking. For now, they are quiet. They are asleep.

My writing morning began with my Weekend Reads meme, which was on diversity in young-adult novels. It threw me into a deeper pensive mood. I sometimes hopped over to Facebook, which is rife with posts on the Rachel Dolezal fiasco and it tore my mind in two. I find the entire thing hilarious and I’m shocked that this White woman successfully posed as a Black person for 31 years, even becoming president of a NAACP chapter, but I’m also upset with her because part of me thinks—feels—that she took my culture and history for puppetry. Maybe that wasn’t her intention. Maybe she loves the Black culture so much that she wished she was Black and made herself so. After all, she did advocate for Blacks. I am confused. I don’t know how to feel.

I guess that’s why I see this time—this mood—fitting for writing about Bilge Karasu’s novel A Long Day’s Evening. One of the protagonists is also upset and confused by the changes in his society.

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