Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Vol. 1 by Philip K. Dick, Tony Parker

Rating: *** (3 out of 5)

Review: A graphic adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, the novel that served as an inspiration for the movie Blade Runner. However, I wouldn’t call it a graphic novel exactly; it feels more like an illustration in the style of a graphic novel. The difference is that there’s a lot more text that appears to be lifted exactly from the book (I didn’t check this, but it felt like everything was there, included the “He responded absently” after the dialog balloons). It’s a bit distracting.

This adaptation seems to be particularly directed at those who have seen and loved the movie but who aren’t aware of the original material. For me, having seen the movie and read the book, this adaptation didn’t bring anything new. The artwork is ok, but very straightforward – I was expecting something more experimental and daring. The cover gallery at the end, however, is gorgeous, and I fell in love with the Collector’s Paradise Exclusive by Scott Keating.

Overall, this is a nice read, but not unmissable if you’ve read the original novel.

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Review: Coraline is a girl who loves exploring, and spends the days in her vacations trying to fill her time with interesting things, and failing. Her parents never seem to have time or patience to play with her, and she is baffled by the way adults never seem to really hear what she has to say. One day she finds a door that opens into a brick wall, and when she goes back to explore it, the brick wall has disappeared and in its place is a tunnel, and in the other side of the tunnel, her other mother waits for her, with black buttons instead of eyes…

This is a short and lovely story, with creepy undertones, which is very much what I expected from Neil Gaiman (and that’s a good thing). Once again, it had me wishing his children’s book had been available when I was growing up. I’m sure I would have loved Coraline even more.

Recommended for both adults and children.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Review: It’s sometime after the war, and U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels has arrived on Shutter Island, to investigate the disappearance of one of the patients in the psychiatric hospital there. But there’s something strange about the institution and the situation…

I’ll admit, I wish I read this book before I saw the movie. As it is, I already knew everything that was going to happen, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more if I had been able to be surprised… But still, this is a pretty good story, and the writing is gripping.

Recommended, specially if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

A Sociedade Literária da Tarte da Casca de Batata by Mary Ann Schaffer

Rating: *** (3 out of 5)

Review: I came across this book a year ago, in a meeting with fellow readers – not exactly a book club, just a community of readers and friends who get together for their love of fantasy and literature – in which we exchanged books with one another. I had never heard of this book and had no idea what it was about, and I have to admit, its title didn’t help (whatever a potato peel pie is, it must be dreadful). Now, more than a year later, I decided to give it a go, and it’s nice that a book about the power of books to pull people together should have reached my hands this way.

I knew little about the occupation of Guernsey during WWII, and in my opinion one can never know enough about these things. Humanity seems to forget easily, and those of us who didn’t live through the war should know what it was like. The stories about the survivors and the history of the place were easily the best part of the book, together with all the literary references.

Other parts I didn’t like so much. The writing style didn’t convince me as 1946 writing, but then again, I’m not exceptionally savant in those things and may be wrong. But the fact that it was written in epistolary form, although fun at times, didn’t convince me, as all the letters sounded like they were written by the same person. At least they weren’t ridiculously long, like I’ve seen in other epistolary novels.

Still, this was an entertaining read, with some funny and touching moments.

Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur

Rating: *** (3 out of 5)

Review: A book on business model innovation and how important that is for businesses n today’s economic and technological climate.

I was torn between giving this book 3 or 4 stars. On one hand, it’s a visually beautiful book which introduces some thought-provoking and useful tools, like the Business Model Canvas. On the other hand, for most subsequent chapters I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again, with slight changes in the details. In the end, it was useful but not as informative as I would like it to be.

Still, it’s a good book for beginners, and a gorgeous one at that, and one can’t help getting caught up in the genuine excitement the authors seem to have for business model innovation.

Moab is My Washpot by Stephen Fry

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Review: I am ambivalent about this book. On one hand it is an extremely well-written account of Mr. Fry’s early life and old-style English education, that manages to be both extremely funny and tragic in its sincerity. On the other hand, the author goes off on tangents a lot, and his love for words meant that his writing was either beautiful and poignant or rather painful to read.

Still, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an honest and spot-on account of what it feels like to be a child, or rather, how it felt to be a child for me. Of course my life was completely different from Mr. Fry’s (being a girl, from another country and thirty years younger) but I recognized the feelings of shame, humiliation, inadequacy, fierce love, confusion, the need to be brilliant and at the same time wanting to fit in… The looking back at our former selves and to try and understand the completely different person I was. It’s amazing how absolutely honest he manages to be, and how he finds the right words to translate highly complex situations and feelings to paper.

I look forward to reading “The Fry Chronicles”, as I’m pretty sure the best part is still to come.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Rating: ***** (5 out of 5)

Review: Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.

I admit, this book surprised me. It didn’t leave me feeling pleasant, or hopeful, or happy. It’s by no means a happy ending, and I understand now all those bad reviews I’d seen on Goodreads (I didn’t read them before to avoid spoilers, but couldn’t help looking at the number of stars). Honestly, the only complaint you can have about this book is that it’s too realistic. In real life, not everyone who is important to you gets away unhurt. Wonderful, talented and special people die everyday in the most useless, worthless kinds of ways. People try to control you, and succeed, in a myriad of ways, specially if you happen to be important or famous. Sometimes there is no way to break free without causing even more damage to others and yourself. And in real life, war never leads to happy endings. That’s just the way it is. It’s complicated, this life thing.

And Katniss? I admit she annoyed me in the other books, but on this one, she is so fleshed out that she becomes one of the most realistic characters I’ve ever read about. I’ve seen people complain she is whiny and can’t seem to do anything without being pushed to do it. But let’s face it. She’s a sixteen year-old girl. A teenager. She’s still growing up and hasn’t had time to learn how to deal with anything she’s been through. And she goes through a lot. It’s all very nice and well to complain about her, but how many of you would go even through a fraction of what she did and come out ok? Make an effort to imagine it, to feel it. What kind of person would you be if you had lost a parent and gone hungry with a depressed mother at the age of 11? If you had been forced to kill other teenagers at the age of 16 for the pleasure of others? If you had seen your city reduced to rubble? If you had had your body burned by acid, pierced by arrows, etc.? If you had seen your friends beaten to a pulp while trying to protect you? If you had seen all your efforts to wrestle back control of your life thwarted by people with more power than you, who seem to control the fate of everyone around you? I could go on, but really? At sixteen, there’s no way you can deal with it and come out unscathed. Hell, maybe not even as an adult, but definitely not while you’re still trying to figure out who you are.

So even though this book was rather painful to read, it was one of the most honest and raw accounts of first-hand war (even a futuristic one) I’ve read in fiction. Highly recommended.