Dec 6, 2007

3 Mini-Reviews

I am so behind on my reviews! This did not use to happen. But the last few weeks have been crazy busy, and plus, after spending the whole day writing assignments, I just don’t have the energy to write about books, even if it is something I enjoy doing. So, I’m going to do this the lazy way and just write a few paragraphs about the last three books I read: When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke, Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson, and The Dark Horse Book of the Dead.


I got When Santa Fell to Earth thanks to Debi's recommendation, and let me tell you, she finds the best holiday books! First The Halloween Tree, and now this. This book tells the story of Niklas Goodfellow, the last of the real Santas. He might be young, thin and not have a beard, but he IS a real Santa, and his mission is to save the true meaning of Christmas from some Santas gone bad and their evil-Nutcracker minions. He has the help of his angels Matilda and Emmanuel, an invisible reindeer called Twinklestar, and a bunch of grumpy elves. Niklas makes friends with two children named Ben and Charlotte who, in the middle of helping him, learn to overcome their awkwardness and loneliness. I found this a very sweet and heart-warming little book, whose charm is considerably increased by Paul Howard’s gorgeous pencil illustrations. For another opinion, read Chris' review.


I read Monkey Beach for my Native Literature class. I normally don’t review books I have to read for classes here because, well, I try to save the urge I have to write about a book after I finish it for the essays I actually have to write. It’s silly, but I get afraid that if I write about it here, then forcing myself to go back to it later will be harder. But anyway, I am making an exception in this case because I want to recommend Monkey Beach to everyone. This is quite possibly one of my favourite reads of the year. It is the beautifully written story of LisaMarie, a girl aged nineteen who has felt different from those who surround her all her life. LisaMarie can see ghosts, has occasional visions, and, before anything tragic happens in her family, is warned by a leprechaun-like man who visits her at night. The book opens with a family crisis: the fishing boat where her brother Jimmy was disappeared, and LisaMarie decides to take a motorboat and go look for him herself. Her quest is intertwined with flashbacks that tell the story of her upbringing in the Native village of Kitamaat. This book would be a great pick for the folklore section of the next Once Upon a Time Challenge, as it is full of Haisla (a Native-Canadian community from the coast of British Columbia) lore, traditions and beliefs. The book’s supernatural elements are perfectly interwoven with the poignant story of a girl growing up, trying to find her place, and constantly having to deal with loss.

For other opinions, see Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic and Page 247.

Finally, The Dark Horse Book of the Dead is a horror anthology edited by Scott Allie. It contains Nine Cautionary Tales of the Risen and Hungry Dead, Told in Words and Pictures, by writers and artists like Mike Mignola, Jill Thompson, Kelley Jones, and Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian. As often happens with anthologies, I liked some stories better than others, but all in all I thought this was a worthwhile read. My favourite stories were “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie” by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompsons, a story involving zombie dogs and a cat-witch; “Kago No Tori” by Jamie S. Rich and Guy Davis, a beautiful Japanese tale of love and spirits of the sea; and “The Hungry Ghosts” by Kelley Jones, a tale of haunted woods with a chilling and surprising ending.

11 comments:

  1. I really enjoy all those Dark Horse anthologies. You are correct, some stories are always better than others, but I always find that the ones I enjoy far outweigh the ones I don't and make owning and reading the books worthwhile. I'm just sorry they decided to stop doing them.

    Monkey Beach...don't know why, but that is a great title! Maybe its the image I get of Chimpanzee's running around in bathing suits, snapping each other with wet beach towels...

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  2. I enjoyed your three mini-reviews - keep 'em coming! And believe me, I know how you feel. I'm at the end of my semester right now, and it was hard to find time to breathe for a few weeks there. It's good to be back, though! Thanks for the titles - I haven't read any of them, and they all sound very good. On the looooong list they go. Good luck with your class work!

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  3. I enjoyed reading your mini reviews, Nymeth!

    I wonder if my husband would like the Dark Horse Book of the Dead. I know I'm interested!

    Monkey Beach also sounds intriguing. More books to add to my wish list. :-)

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  4. Oh, I'm definitely adding Monkey Beach to my wish list. Despite the fact that thanks to Carl, I'll now have to laugh every time I read the title!

    Glad you enjoyed When Santa Fell to Earth. We're still plugging away through it...youngest needs some help in the attention span department so we're only getting through about a chapter a night.

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  5. I really like Cornelia Funke's writing.. at least those I've read which are the 2 Inkeart books, The Thief Lord, and Dragon Rider. I wish I could buy all her books, even though this one you read and her Ghost series is for even younger kids than Inkheart and I don't know if they'd keep my "old" attention.. but I she's an author worth keeping watch on for YA books.. after reading Inkheart I have no doubts she could write "adult" books too..

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  6. oh, that santa one sounds like great fun!!

    and "monkey beach" sounds good too. i can totally understand why you don't usually review them, its not silly at all!

    the graphic novel anthology sounds very cool too - particularly as a nice introduction to artists and writers one hasn't read yet...

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  7. Monkey Beach sounds really good, especially the Native folklore appeals to me. Adding it to my list.

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  8. Carl: I didn't know they had stopped doing them. That's too bad. But ah well, I still have the others to read. I want to pick up the Book of Witches next. And lol! The title Monkey Beach does sound funny at first glance. But not after reading the book, as it turns out to be quite a dark and ominous place.

    Darla: Thank you! The end of the semester does drive me crazy - especially this semester. It's not quite as bad in the Spring, because then I don't have to try and finish a hundred things AND make Christmas preparations at the same time.

    Literary Feline: Thank you! I think that as a comic books fan your husband would probably like the anthology, yes.

    Debi: Reading this book to your children must be quite an experience. It's a perfect one to slowly enjoy as Christmas approaches! Thanks again for the recommendation.

    Deslily: You can definitely tell that this book is aimed at young children, but I think it's still fun for adults. The story is a simple one, but it's so sweet and heart warming. It made me smile so often. I have Inkheart here to read for the YA challenge and I can't wait to get to it!

    Jean Pierre: I'm glad someone understands :P And yes, the anthology definitely made me want to read all those writers and artists whose work I haven't read before!

    Tanabata: I think you'd like it. I loved the Native lore elements, and also the way she describes the landscapes of B.C. They sound absolutely beautiful in a haunted sort of way.

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  9. They all sound really interesting but I am not adding any more books to my list at the moment as things are getting abit out of hand here book wise...!

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  10. Dang! You've just helped add another to my growing wish list. Monkey Beach sounds like a good read that I could also share with my neice when I'm finshed. I lived in Alaska for a time as a child, so am really interested in this one set in B.C. and with the Native folklore. Thanks for a great mini-review!

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  11. Rhinoa: I know how you feel. I'm starting to think I'd need 3 lifetimes to get to all the books on my list.

    Paula: It is a great read. I hope both you and your neice enjoy it!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.