Friday, February 06, 2009

Mini Reviews

I forced myself out of bed this morning. OK, admittedly, it was afternoon. Anyway, I forced myself out of bed because I had to grade some stuff and post some new content for students. And send enrollment verifications. And look over some stuff for library class. Yadda yadda. Anyway, I haven't had time to read today, but I'm about to give up my post at the computer and head for the couch with a big glass of ice water or Diet Coke (or orange juice or whiskey) and settle in with a book.

Yesterday was a stellar reading day. I finished Susan Hill's novella, The Man in the Picture, and I zipped through Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel, by C.M. Butzer. Let's start the mini reviews with The Man in the Picture.

Premise: Oliver goes back to Cambridge to visit an aged professor. The prof ends up telling him a creepy story about a wicked painting that hangs in his quarters and all the havock it's wreaked over the years. It's a nested tale--Oliver's, Dr. Parmitter's, the old woman described below, and finally Oliver's young wife, Anne.

Loved: The atmosphere is creeptaculous, the writing is lush, the story is creepy-wonderful. It was a good book for an afternoon curled on the couch feeling like crap because it pulled me right in. As you'll see in the passage I've included below, the description was lengthy but not overwhelming. Hill allowed me to step into her world with the use of her vivid imagery.

Didn't love: It's not that original. I thought of The Picture of Dorian Grey (even though I haven't read it) and Stephen King's Rose Madder (have read that one) and any other old tale involving a wicked, soul-stealing painting. Given, Hill puts her own twist on it, but if you've read a bunch of books with similar premises you might be bored or underwhelmed. I was pleasantly satisfied in spite of all this.

Favorite passage:

There was nothing decaying, dilapidated or chilling about such a drawing room. But the woman who sat on an upright chair with her face turned away from the fire did not match the room in warmth and welcome. She was extremely old, with the pale-parchment textured skin that goes with great age, a skin like the paper petals of dried Honesty. Her hair was white and thin, but elaborately combed up onto her head and set with a couple of glittering ornaments. She wore a long frock of some green material on which a splendid diamond brooch was set, and there were diamonds about her long, sinewy neck. Her eyes were deep set but not the washed-out eyes of an old woman. They were a piercing, unnerving blue.

And feel free to enjoy the book trailer for this one. It's fun.

You can also visit Susan Hill's website.

Next up: C.M. Butzer's Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel. The premise doesn't need much explaining. It's a brief backstory on the Gettysburg Address with the Address included.

I loved: The illustrations! Butzer draws everything in tones of black, white, and bluish grey. It has a very somber look to it, which is entirely fitting given the subject matter. I was especially fond of how dynamic his drawings were. In the scenes of Civil War fighting the frames were angular and askew, while moments of calm were more straightforward. It has a very dramatic feel given the color (or lack thereof) in the drawings, and he's very "filmic" in his depictions of Lincoln. There are a lot of wordless frames for emphasis and purely emotional purposes. Really nicely drawn.

I didn't love: It's kinda dull for an adult! In all fairness, this is most definitely a children's text, and as such I think it would be wildly effective. It would be an excellent enhancement to a history lesson. Aside from the story, there's also an appendix in the back that expands upon choice illustrations and explains the history behind them. For example, there's a piece on Civil War era medicine and explains how many men were injured, the shortage in doctors, etc.

I would LOVE to be able to scan a few choice images, but my scanner is dead at the moment. If you happen to run upon this one at the library, give it a quick glance. I don't think you'll be sorry!

This is my first or second book for this year's Graphic Novels Challenge. I'll update it correctly on the sidebar. Gotta look back through my records!

Happy Friday everyone! Enjoy your weekend! I'll probably be back with some Short Story Shots and a Sunday Salon. See you then!


  1. You know, I loved The Picture of Dorian Grey and I never even thought of it when reading The Man in the Picture. Duh.

    You really should read Dorian.

    And I'm glad you liked Hill's book. It really is a creepy little book.

    I hope you are feeling better! I am sunshine and daisies better! lol

  2. I enjoyed this book, but I thought it was too short! And The Woman in Black is much, much better.

  3. Dorian Grey is one of my all-time favorites!! Oscar Wilde was just so smart and witty. The Man in the Picture still sounds like a good read.

  4. Great minireviews! I need to expand on my graphic novel readings. Before I started blogging I had no idea there was so much variety to them!

  5. The Lincoln book does look good for an 8th grade history class, which I might be teaching next year.

  6. Happy Friday, Saturday and Sunday! Last night I was channel surfing and there was a young guys in Hollywood real estate show and someone said to the 30 year old something like 'you look so young, like Dorian Gray' and he said 'who's this Dorian Gray?'. Man!

  7. I just checked out The Picture of Dorian Grey from the library. I'm really looking forward to reading. Hope you feel better soon!

  8. Hope you are feeling much better now!

    I will definitely be looking for Hill's book. I loved her other creepy tale The Woman in Black so think I'll enjoy this one.

  9. Glad to hear you enjoyed The Man in the Picture!

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