[Review] Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham

5 Jun

(Part of this post was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Theo Boone, the son of a real estate lawyer and a divorce lawyer, loves the courthouse and the thrill of a good trial. However, things get complicated when he is the only one who knows the truth about a high-profile murder case in his small town.

In Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, Grisham shows that he can write for kids without dumbing things down in the clear explanations that flow naturally in the text and help younger readers understand complex subjects, like foreclosures and how a trial works. The main storyline is dotted with scenes from Theo’s ordinary middle school life, with cheerleaders and popularity contests. Theo himself comes from an upper middle class family, but there is an effort made to realistically depict the lives and emotions of illegal immigrants, although other efforts to inject multiculturalism into the book are shallow.

I actually started the second book in the series in between semesters, but I was disappointed that the story did not continue where things left off at the end of the first book. Maybe if I’d had time to read the whole thing before the eBook expired, there might’ve been something about the characters from the case he took on in the first book, but it was hard for me to get into it after I realized that this was a completely different case. I think now that I know what to expect, I could try again and be more motivated to finish the book, though.

Download the student guide and other extras at the Theodore Boone website.

[Review] The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

29 May

(This post was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Prosper and Bo run away to Venice to escape their aunt and uncle who want to separate them. Unable to survive on their own, they join a street gang led by the Thief Lord, Scipio, who is really only a child himself. As the gang tries to steal a wooden lion’s wing for a wealthy customer, Victor Getz, a detective hired by Prosper and Bo’s aunt and uncle, is hot on their trail.

This is a fun romp that injects a touch of fantasy into an almost realistic modern-day orphan story. The fantasy bits come as a pleasant surprise at the end, but not in a deus ex machina type of way.

A discussion guide is available on Scholastic’s book page.

[Review] Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

22 May

(Part of this post was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

Eleven-year-old Jack is a farmer’s son who works hard while his father lavishes attention on Jack’s five-year-old sister, Lucy. Just when Jack is apprenticed to Bard and starts to learn magic, Vikings attack their village and kidnap Jack and his sister. This leads to an adventure filled with action, magic, and of course, trolls that will change Jack’s life forever.

In Sea of Trolls, Farmer creates a setting that mixes history, mythology, and magic for her story of a boy who has to take on adult responsibilities too soon. Vivid characters fill the pages with their flaws and their heart as the reader follows Jack on his quest. The appendix includes notes about the Anglo-Saxons and Old Norse, pronunciation of the Icelandic words used in the book, and the origins of some of the creatures and characters from the book. The book also includes a list of sources.

A reading group guide with discussion questions and activities can be found on the publisher’s website.

I liked this book enough to buy the rest of the trilogy, which is at the top of my to-read pile. :)

[Review] Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

15 May

(Welcome to the first of my weekly scheduled reviews! I chose Thursday arbitrarily because May started on a Thursday. This post was first written for my Materials for Tweens class.)

The first in a series of eight books, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer introduces readers to Artemis Fowl II, who is twelve years old, the son of a crime lord, and an evil genius. Artemis tracks down a holy Fairy book that reveals the secrets of the fairies–secrets not meant for human eyes. Armed with the knowledge inside the book, Artemis hatches a plan to rebuild the family fortune and make his wishes come true.

The fast-paced adventure filled with fantasy and technology shines when Colfer takes the time to show Artemis in moments of humanity, allowing the reader to relate to him and his desire to be loved. A wonderful combination of fantasy with technology.

 

[Info] Stuff I’ve Translated

8 May

So for my first post-A to Z post, I thought I’d write about something a little different. For those of you who just started following from my posts during the A to Z challenge, one of my jobs is translating Japanese to English. I have worked on a number of projects ever since returning to the States from Japan in 2008 and interpret at a couple of conventions every year, but now that I’m translating simulcasts, I also have a regular assignment pretty much every week.

With all the NDAs and such, I’m never sure what I can share, but here are a couple things I’ve worked on/am working on that I’m officially credited on already elsewhere on the Internets:

Wolf Children

“Wolf Children” is about a mother taking care of her half-wolf, half-human children. It highlights struggles she goes through that are both unique to her situation and that are universal for all mothers.

This is a lovely movie for all ages by Mamoru Hosoda, sometimes called the “spiritual heir to Hayao Miyazaki.” I know I worked on the movie, but honestly, I enjoyed it more than some of the recent Studio Ghibli offerings…

One of the highlights of my trip to Japan last year was visiting the house that the house in the movie is based on:

Just watch it–but don’t forget the tissues! ;)

Available on DVD or Blu-ray/DVD combo or to stream on Amazon Instant Video (English dub, I think) to buy or rent.

Space Dandy

Space Dandy is… a dandy in space… Or so the tagline goes. It’s an irreverent space comedy by the creator of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. There are zombies, penguins, giant robots, and references to Dr. Who, Office Space, and Groundhog Day, and a ton of other pop culture.

There’s a lot of mature content in this show, and it’s kind of a hit or miss depending on how high your tolerance is for fanservice and episodic comedies. (Warning: There’s a restaurant shaped like a boob that’s a Hooters parody in the first episode and a boob monster in the third, so if that’s not your thing, you might want to skip this.)

You can watch it dubbed in English on Cartoon Network on Saturdays (check your local listings for showtimes), or watch it subtitled for free on Funimation, Animax (Asia), Madman (AU), and Wakanim (UK). The first season is currently being rebroadcast before the second season starts in July.

[A to Z] Reflections Post 2014

1 May

Whew, I made it. I almost missed “Y” this year because I had gotten so used to scheduling a week’s worth of posts at a time that I forgot that I hadn’t actually done the posts for the last week, and then work got busy and I didn’t remember until the next day (which was the actual “Y” day since I usually post around midnight before I go to sleep).

I seem to always fail at visiting blogs of other A to Z participants, but I decided this year that I wouldn’t stress too much about it because after writing over 50 reviews for my class last semester (not to mention about 20 last spring), my goal was mainly to get more reviews up. I wish I could’ve replied to more comments, though. :/ I decided that I wouldn’t be able to survive the month if I replied to every comment, but I did read and appreciate every one! ♥ And hopefully now that the pace has slowed down, I can reply to more from now on.

It was really helpful to have prewritten posts for almost everything because then all I had to do was copy and paste for the most part. Formatting the posts took some time, but if I did them in batches, it wasn’t as bad. This gave me time to do reflection posts each week, so I was actually able to post something every day of April. (Despite having to blog at least once a week for the class I was taking this semester.)

The relative ease of posting things by copying and pasting from class assignments has also inspired me to put more of these reviews up. I especially want to share the great books I discovered while taking those classes with you guys! My plan is to schedule weekly posts once a month so that I don’t have to think about it too often. I host a writing group for National Novel Writing Month once a month, so I’m thinking that I’ll schedule my posts then, but I’ll try to have one before that for May because my writing group meets the second Saturday of each month…

My other goal for this year is to finally get an index together of all the reviews I’ve written. I’ve been looking into it, and it looks like kind of a pain since I’m hosted on wordpress, not just powered by wordpress. Which means I’ll probably have to do everything manually, adding an extra step each time I post a new review… >_< (If anyone knows a better way to do it, let me know!)

Along the same lines, I’m also playing with the idea of changing the blog theme so that I can fit more into the menu at the top to include the index. This would be a major overhaul, though, so it might have to be my project over the summer when I don’t have classwork (which will be soon, since I only have one assignment left for this semester, yay~). And possibly in between translating things. (More on that later, now that A to Z is done.)

Anyway, congrats to everyone who made it to Z! (and to those of you who tried!) And thanks to all the new readers that are following and liking and commenting~♥ It makes me smile every time I get a notification about you guys. :D Hope you stick around for a while~

[Z] Zoo’s Who by Douglas Florian

30 Apr

Zoo’s Who is a book of poems and paintings about animals by Douglas Florian. (Linking to Amazon because the author’s website links to Amazon…) The paintings are mixed media with stamps and pieces of magazines and parts of the poems themselves incorporated into the paintings. The poems are short and sweet. While some hit the mark better than others, they are great for getting alliteration, rhythm, and puns into children’s ears before they decide poetry is hard and inaccessible. There are also nice examples of concrete poems, and it is obvious thought was put into the design of each poem and painting. (This is probably why I like poetry books by designers so much.)

My favorite poem is “The Eagle”:

I’m not a seagull.
I’m royal.
I’m regal.
All birds are not
Created eagle.

Okay, so maybe I just really like the last line. But isn’t it good? :P

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter Z.

[Y] Yucky Worms by Vivian French

29 Apr

Yucky Worms by Vivian French and illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg is a picture book that teaches kids about worms. But not about how they’re yucky, like the title might suggest. Instead, the book uses the story of a boy exploring the garden with his grandmother to tell about worms and how they live.

The drawings are pretty scientifically correct from what I can remember from dissecting a worm in biology class, except that the aortic arches are called hearts (but what five- or six-year-old needs to know what an aortic arch is?). There are also great ideas to encourage further exploration in the back of the book, along with a short index that lets the reader look up specific information about worms.

Fun and educational, and highly recommended, even if you don’t like worms (like me).

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter Y.

[X] X-men: Misfits #1 by Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman

28 Apr

I’m shaky on X-men canon*, so I can’t speak for how closely this version follows it, but what was surprising for me was how well it adapted into a manga. If it hadn’t been for the names and the setting, I would have thought that it was just another regular reverse harem (one girl with a lot of guys) manga.

In fact, I kept trying to read from right to left and getting confused because since this is an original English-language manga, it reads from left to right. There were also a lot of Japanese sound effects mixed in with English sound effects. I’m used to the Japanese ones, but it’s definitely made for people who are used to reading manga, not traditional American comic books.

I actually didn’t realize it was a reverse harem when I picked it up (since I mainly got it to fill the “X” spot for the A to Z challenge), but with there generally being more male superheroes than females, it kind of makes sense. I’ve just never seen anyone else work that angle before, so that was interesting for me.

I think I liked it as a retelling of a familiar story (like how I like fairy tale retellings), but as a story, the main character annoyed me about as much as other reverse harem main characters (a lot). It’s obvious who the good guys and bad boys are, and of course the main character has to go for the bad boys before she can settle down with the good guys, but I just don’t have much patience for those kinds of stories.

There was potential for the second volume as (according to the preview) it starts to stray from the reverse harem story into a more typical daily life at school story with the introduction of another girl to the cast, but that wasn’t enough to make me want to read it. Which is unfortunate because I really enjoyed Raina Telgemeier’s original graphic novels, Smile (which I almost used for “S”) and Drama. So, I’m not surprised that the second volume was cancelled, but it sounds like the cancellation had less to do with the content and more to do with Marvel asking for a lot of money for their franchise and people pirating the book.

Although critics seemed to enjoy it for its “newness,” for me, it just felt like another typical shojo-esque story. Overall, it was an interesting addition to the world of X-men, but not really my cup of tea.

X-Men: Misfits #1 is written by Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman with illustrations by ANZU.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter X.

 

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*I’ve watched all the movies and a lot of the animated series when it was on TV, but for someone who likes to read as much as I do, I’m very auditory and do much better with TV and movies than with comics. (See my note above about how I get easily confused with comic book layout.) This is true for both English and Japanese, although I read tons of webcomics back in college and like to collect comics and manga for series that I like… I tend to treat manga as tools for language learning rather than reading material. (Also, looking at my notes from that post, I seem to always be doing the “X” posts last minute. ^^;)

 

 

[A to Z] Week 4 Thoughts

27 Apr

I got a late start to this week, and I don’t have any more pre-scheduled posts. For my last three books, I have a comic book and two pictures books, so they don’t require as much time to read as a full-length novel. However, I’m also coming on the end of my school semester, so school is pretty busy, too…

Anyway, good luck to those of you still in the game, and here’s to the last three letters of the alphabet!

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