Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Florent Chavouet - Tokyo on Foot

Title: Tokyo on Foot: Travels in the City's Most Colorful Neighborhoods
Author: Florent Chavouet
Pub. year: 2011
Pages: 208
Editor: Tuttle Publishing

Summary: Florent Chavouet, a young graphic artist, spent six months exploring Tokyo while his girlfriend interned at a company there. Each day he would set forth, with a pouch full of colored pencils and a sketchpad, to visit different neighborhoods. This stunning book records the city that he got to know during his adventures, a gritty, vibrant place, full of ordinary people going about their daily lives. Realistically rendered city views or posters of pop stars contrast with cartoon sketches of iconic objects or droll vignettes, like a housewife walking her pet pig and a Godzilla statue in a local park.
With wit, a playful sense of humor, and the colored pencils of his kit, Florent Chavouet sets aside the question of urban ugliness or beauty and captures the Japanese essence of a great city.

I think it's high time we present you some of the French goodies, dear little English readers. You probably know some classics already, as if the French were only good so many years ago... but not at all ! For once, here is a young French guy with amazing ideas and a book translated into English, that you absolutely cannot miss.

This book kind of looks like another tourist guide, at first. Or maybe like a kid illustration book. Well, it is neither one nor the other. Florent Chavouet has spent six months in Tokyo, living among its inhabitants, looking at the small details which the city is full of and that no tourist ever see. Here, you can discover Tokyo through new eyes, curious and baffled by all those exotic things that Japanese take for granted. An excursion into the unknown, or a bunch of souvenirs for those who already set foot there.

The drawings may look funny in the beginning but you quickly get used to them. Sometimes scenery, sometimes people, sometimes weird anecdotes, they take you along the ride without ever getting bored. The small comments written all over the pages are full of humor and jokes, and if you are like me, you will spend hours looking at the amazingly detailed maps of the neighborhoods. Even though the book is quite long, there's never enough... for your eyes at least ! Pray for your arms that will carry it and turn it around to read the small lines... time for a good massage after that !

And if you liked it, his second book, Manabe Shima, is already out in French. Time to take a trip on a small island and live the life of the locals there...

Monday, 20 June 2011

Madeleine L’Engle - A Wrinkle in Time

Title: A Wrinkle in Time (A Wrinkle in Time, book 1)
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Pub. year: 1962
Pages: 232
Editor: Square Fish

Summary: Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure - one that will threaten their lives and our universe.

An American friend of mine told me about that book a while ago, saying that it was rather famous in the USA. Never heard of it before, so I bought it to see what it was about and maybe promote it in France at the same time.

The good thing about not knowing anything about a story is that you read it without any prejudice. You just take it as it comes, nothing comes spoiling your reading. And that’s how I discovered the story of these children, the magic it contains, the strange characters they meet. I think it’s a perfect adventure to read to kids, but it doesn’t keep me from liking it (since anyway I like to feel a bit like a child sometimes, especially when I read).

This book introduce us Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin, three young children who found themselves trapped in some wrinkle in space and time, looking for their father vanished years ago.

Despite the strangeness of some things (like Charles Wallace behaviour for a kid of his age), I found the stoy well directed with some obvious truth but also a lot of stuff that you don't see often in youth litterature. For a book this old, it's pretty amazing.

This book is the first of a series of five, all about the O’Keefe and Murray families, so you'll probably hear of it again around here sooner or later.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Marcus Sedgwick - The Raven Mysteries

Title of the series: The Raven Mysteries
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Pub. year: 2009 - 2012
Pages: 256 (or so)
Editor: Orion Publishing

Summary: Meet the wonderfully weird Otherhand family and their faithful guardian, Edgar the raven, and discover the dark secrets of Castle Otherhand.
Edgar is alarmed when he sees a nasty looking black tail slinking under the castle walls. But his warnings to the inhabitants of the castle go unheeded: Lord Valevine Otherhand is too busy trying to invent the unthinkable and discover the unknowable; his wife, Minty, is too absorbed in her latest obsession - baking; and ten-year-old Cudweed is running riot with his infernal pet monkey. Only Solstice, the black-haired, poetry-writing Otherhand daughter, seems to pay any attention. As the lower storeys of the castle begin mysteriously to flood, and kitchen maids continue to go missing, the family come ever closer to the owner of the black tail...

Flood and Fang is the first in a brand new six book series of tales of mystery (with a touch of goth-froth) from bestselling author, Marcus Sedgwick, with quirky black and white line illustrations from new talent, Pete Williamson.

I had to pick the summary from the book one of the series, Flood and Fang, in order for you to get a glimpse of what to expect from this lovely series. The fifth volume is already out in hardcover but if like me, you enjoy those nice monochromatic paperback covers, only thefirst three are currently available.

So, what's it about this Otherhand family? Well, one thing I can tell you, you'll have great fun with them. I don't know if you watched The Addams Family or Beetlejuice series on TV when you were kids, but these are pretty much the same kind of stories: funky goth characters, lots of silly jokes, adventurous kids, weird parents and extraordinary events occurring in an old strange mansion full of ghosts. Goth-Froth, they say. Yeah, whatever.

In this series, you will find a lot of pointless things (like Minty's many passions for cake tins, knitting, pottery...), a lot of complaining, some frighteningly-funny creatures tagging along and a couple of animal squabble. Because let's not forget who's the hero of these books : Edgar the raven! Yes, a raven is telling the story, and I must say he is one of the most delightful and entertaining creature I have encountered so far. And like my favorite pirate, he hates monkeys-especially Cudweed's Monkey, Fellah. Nasty little fellah, if you hear me.

I don't know if you've been following me at all, but if you have, I think there's a chance that you might have picked up on the fact that I have, how should I put it... a very bad opinion of monkeys.
I mean, to put it plainly, what are monkeys for? Really?
It's a question I suspect you will struggle to answer because I have wrestled with it myself ever since the arrival of Fellah at castle Otherhand, and I have found no satifactory answer.
Are they useful? No.
Do they look nice? Definitely not.
Do they sound nice? They do not.
Do they smell nice? Quite the opposite!
And furtermore, if the pickle-brained specimen we have to live with is anything to go by, they seem to be masters at being loud, irritating, smelly, ugly and rude.

Even though this is intended for kids, I fully enjoyed the first three books (or was it the kid in me?) and I recommend it to anyone at any age. The illustrations by Pete Williamson are pretty much awesome and fit very nicely with the story. These are some of the most funny books I've read so far, written in a simple but elegant style, and I am simply dying to read the next three.
I could kill a monkey for a it, can you believe that?!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Brandon Sanderson - Warbreaker

Title: Warbreaker
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Pub. year: 2009
Pages: 654
Editor: Tor Books

Summary: T'Telir, capital of Hallandren, is a colorful city by the sea where gaily dressed crowds bustle through sunny streets and worship heroes who have been reborn as gods. Ruled by the silent, mysterious God King, the pantheon is nourished by offerings of Breath, the life force that keeps them alive and youthful.

Exiled in Idris, the former royal family reluctantly betrothed a princess to the God King. Arriving in T'Telir, she finds both the city and the marriage are not at all what she expected. Her only ally is Lightsong, a god who is skeptical of his own divinity, who fears that war with Idris is inevitable.

Meanwhile, another new arrival in T'Telir, one who bears the sentient sword Nightblood, makes cunning plans based on the unique magic of Hallandren, which uses color to focus the power of Breath - plans that could change the world.

I got this book as a gift from my fellow Muffin a few weeks ago and I was really willing to read it as soon as I held it in my hands. I don't know.. I must have been absorbed by the cover, or maybe the color ? :D
Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t wait long to open it because it was a very amazing story. You can feel the background behind the whole thing: the characters, the plot, the world, the magic.. nothing is left aside by the author. He even made me enjoy the politic part in it, which is really not something that I’m interested in! Add to all that a certain touch of humor, and you get this perfect story!
I really felt that my way of seing things was somewhat reflected in the book. Sanderson sure knows how to lead his stories.

And as you can see, colors have a really important place in this world.
Knowing that people could only see them if they had enough power made me feel weird but astonished at the same time. Characters are interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes weak, sometimes strong... I could easily feel the story behind each of them, and I couldn't help but being curious about them.
Even though it’s quite a long book (it took me almost two weeks to read it), it really is a story I most certainly will remember for a while. It’s probably something like one of the ten best books I’ve ever read so far!

Quotes :

"That is a good sign, surely. An outright refusal would have meant war for certain."
"And whoever Certain is, I doubt we should have a war for him," Lightsong said idly, inspecting a grape. "War, in my divine opinion, is even worse than politics"
"Some say the two are the same, Your Grace."
"Nonsense. War is far worse. At least, where politics is going on, there are usually nice hors d'oeuvres."

"I try to avoid having thoughts. They lead to other thoughts, and -if you're not careful- those lead to actions. Actions make you tired. I have this on rather good authority from someone who once read it in a book."
Blushweaver sighed. "You avoid thinking, you avoid me, you avoid effort... Is there anything you don't avoid?"