Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Composer Is Dead


The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket

The moment I saw Lemony Snicket's name on the cover of The Composer Is Dead at the library the other day, I knew I had to read it. I knew it would be funny; what I wasn't expecting was this musical masterpiece.

The story is somewhat basic: a composer has been murdered, and the detective must sound out the man, er, instrument who committed the crime. The text, however, isn't what makes this book so amazing.

This isn't just a picture book, nor is it just an audio book or just a soundtrack; it is an experience. The book is funny enough on its own, but play the accompanying cd with soundtrack, and it's even greater. The experience, however, doesn't reach fever pitch until you add in Snicket's exceptional narration (also included on the cd).

Daniel Handler, the man behind the Snicket, must have played in an orchestra at some point in his life. It's the only way to explain how all of the humor in The Composer Is Dead is spot on.

While marketed as a children's picture book, young children won't get most of the jokes. Instead, the musically inclined adult reading (or listening) to the book will be laughing to the point of hyperventilating. 

Don't believe me? See the book trailer, below, which demonstrates a bit of what I'm talking about.

I played this book for my stepmom, a concert cellist cum cello instructor. She laughed and nodded at all the jokes and one-liners, and then immediately went out to purchase a copy to share with her students.

I highly recommend this book as a gift for the music major/orchestra teacher/flautist in your life. If they've played in an orchestra, even just in high school, they will be rolling by the time the experience ends. Then buy a copy for yourself.

*Because this book deserves much more than 5 stars.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

We at Libri Ago: Book Lives hope all is well and good with each of you, and as we enjoy our own feasts and familial communion we'll be wishing the same love and gratitude in yours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

From Amethyst and Michelle

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

MUSH!: Sled Dogs with Issues

Glenn Eichler and Joe Infurnari either have a whole lot of time on their hands, or really, really well-developed senses of anthropomorphic intuition because MUSH!: Sled Dogs with Issues is a graphic novel that--if you could read it with your eyes closed--comes off kind of like The Office: ALASKA!, with a little of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH thrown in.

Reading the description on IndieBound, it's clear why this might be a no-brainer. Eichler is a writer for the Colbert Report, while illustrator Infurnari does more than draw dogs; as a dog-channeler he also draws forth dogs' thoughts. (I confess I'm not sure what this means, but I don't think it involves Scooby Snacks and animal print turbans).

While MUSH! didn't strike right every chord, it hit enough of them properly for my half hour in the heads of snow-bound running dogs to be mostly pleasant. Eichler packs each narrative (Guy's resentment, Dolly's insecurities, Venus's bitterness, and Fiddler's ennui, plus a couple others) a little two tightly into the snow, but aside from a bit of over-analysis each problem entertains and creates realistic and sympathetic personalities. Infurnari's sketches (as may be seen from the cover) achieve the same sort of character with an amount of sparseness other, more detailed illustrations do not, and while again, not my preference in style, get the job done!

I'm not sure what the humans were doing in the story, as the only thing I can assume their flat plot line is meant to accomplish is providing a mini-breather--a kind of palate cleanser--between each transition from one doggie drama to the next. Or perhaps the creators wanted them as a foil against which to compare and contrasts the beasts humanity to that of actual humans. I could have done without it, or with some alternative mechanism.

At any rate, I doubt readers will be able to simply Borrow an indie title like MUSH! from smaller libraries, and at around thirteen bucks for 128 pages it's difficult to think all but graphic novel afficianados will consider the purchase price a "deal". Still, if you're lucky enough to live within a reasonable distance of a library or friend in possession of MUSH!, and you're a fan, by all means, get your paws on it for the time allotted.

MUSH!: Sled Dogs with Issues is available for purchase as of December 6th, 2011, and is currently available in pre-order at multiple book retailers, including IndieBound.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Professor's Daughter


The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar & Emmanuel Guibert

Before the paranormal romance craze, the concept of this book would have seemed utterly bizarre: in Victorian England, the daughter of an Egyptologist and one of the mummies he brought back from Egypt fall in love. (Plus accidental murder, kidnappings, and Queen Victoria being tossed in the Thames River.)

Now, there are other zombie love stories floating around, but when The Professor's Daughter was originally published in France in 1997, it was a completely novel idea. The reason it works? The simply gorgeous illustrations by Guibert convey so much emotion, especially the beginning, when the pages were illustrated in Sepia tones.

The colors actually shift as the book progresses. The changes have meaning within the story, so I won't describe it here, but Elizabeth Bird shared an excellent review (much better than mine, actually) that explains why.

My favorite of the illustrations is on page 11. For some reason, the composition and colors strike me as being near perfect, even if there is a mummy wearing a suit in it. I would honestly hang a print of it on my wall, I find it so fascinating. It might require some explanation for visitors, though.

The storyline itself is rather bizarre, but combined with the illustrations—and a good dose of suspended disbelief—it transcends the stereotypical comic or graphic novel to become a piece of literature. I heartily recommend buying The Professor's Daughter, even if only to gaze at the lovely images.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dearly, Departed

NetGalley has the author of Dearly, Departed as LISA Habel, but I'll go out on a limb and bet the novel's lovely and dark cover has the right of it with LIA. You with me?

Mulitple author identities aside, I greatly enjoyed my first encounter with a Habel work. Released just this month, Dearly, Departed (yes, comma intentional)  encompasses the stories of a group of people, chaptered through their individual viewpoints, which range from disenfranchised post-apocalyptic "New Victorian" misses who miss natural propriety by a wide margin, all the way to military-approved and maintained undead with more heart (even if its entirely static) than the average high-class NV resident, with several types of character between.

So what happens if the world goes to hell in a natural-disaster-fiber-woven basket? It seems people regroup in more southerly climes, and a couple centuries later nothing really changes . . . well, except for The Lazarus  (or Laz) virus. The world still experiences class disparity, disagreements in political strategy,  and disputes regarding the place of technology. The world is the world.

At least, until Miss Nora Dearly--daughter of famed medical scientist Victor Dearly, deceased for the past year--becomes the Winner's prize between two contestants: First, the folks who know about the Lazarus virus, which reanimates a dead body to varying degrees of sanity and retained humanity, and want the government and someday the world to differentiate between the slobbering masses of undead only concerned seeing to their cannibalistic drives and the undead perfectly capable of controlling themselves, possessed of their "living days" personalities and restraints.

Secondly, the folks who know of the Laz, and want every single body infected with it torched in the nearest available fashion, regardless of mental or moral state.

Nora is important to both factions. Nora is a key piece of flesh in the fight.

In a time when the Laz rages from person to person via bodily fluids, threatening all humanity, Nora Dearly, brave, feisty, hot-tempered, and open-minded, and much-loved--eventually by the dead and alive alike . . . 

Nora Dearly is immune.

I had some minor gripes with this YA novel (somewhat slow, clunky beginning; somewhat rushed, abrupt end--though being the first of a trilogy, that must be given some leeway; and a couple too-close-to-the-line Twilight-esque moments), but all-in-all the book engaged me enough, I didn't mind. I truly enjoyed reading the book. I connected with the characters, which I feel were well-developed and 3D, including the secondary characters. The bonds between the love interests rang true, as did the familial bonds, and the bonds between close friends. I totally bonded with their bonds, and that's reason for high praise from me.

Was Dearly, Departed perfect? No. Was it worth buying (even though I was lucky enough to have access to free copy)? Yes. If you don't have the cash right now, get it from your library. It's a nice escape, without being too fluffy. Not a beach read, take it with white chocolate cocoa and your Snuggie.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner

The winner for the final prize pack, with a signed copy of Lisa Yee's Absolutely Maybe and other fab swag, is . . .

Matt Childress!

Congrats, Matt!

That's the last giveaway we have—for now—but we hope you'll poke around some of our reviews to find a great book for a snowy day.*

*If you're Michelle, who has already received more than enough snow, thank you, though there's undoubtedly more to come.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Enchanted Destiny


Enchanted Destiny by Rayka Mennen

The premise sounds good: 24-year-old Kat, a massage therapist who also happens to be a witch, has only three weeks to find and marry her soulmate, or she loses her magic forever. In her family, the women have special powers, but also a destiny that includes saving the life of the man they'll marry. Convincing Jake that he's her soul mate and they have to get married in a matter of weeks is a completely different matter.

While the light tone of this story is enjoyable, I didn't ever get fully drawn into The world just wasn't developed enough for me to really get into the story. There's so much about her family that wasn't explored, about Jake's life and friends, about how an extended family of witches coped in a world that largely doesn't believe in destiny, fate, or magic. Because of that many of the secondary characters feel flat. 

Despite all that, I did feel pangs of worry near the end of the book that things wouldn't magically work out at the end. The ending won't be much of a surprise to frequent readers of romances, as it follows the well-worn path of contemporary romances.

Honestly, Enchanted Destiny is a nice, enjoyable book, but it didn't grab me enough, nor was the delivery original enough to make it memorable. For those looking to while away an afternoon with a pleasant story, this is a good choice.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of the book.