The Great Passage

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The Great Passage by Shion Miura has been made into a movie and an anime, and now the original novel has been translated into English by Juliet Winters Carpenter. Here is the blurb:

A charmingly warm and hopeful story of love, friendship, and the power of human connection, award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura’s novel is a reminder that a life dedicated to passion is a life well lived.

Inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, Kohei Araki is devoted to the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years creating them at Gembu Books, it’s time for him to retire and find his replacement.

He discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime—a young, disheveled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics—whom he swipes from his company’s sales department.

Led by his new mentor and joined by an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. On his journey, Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work, inspired by the bond that connects us all: words.

The Great Passage is the story of a young man, Majime, finishing growing up and finding his place in the world. It is the story of the power of words and the value of perseverance in projects that don’t see their fulfillment for years if not decades. It is the story of the people who intersect our lives and leave an influence, usually for good. There is little action, but there is plenty of drama, both in personal and professional lives. This is also a very interesting characters. Some find it harder to fit into the world of dictionary creation and editing than others, but in the end all find a niche and leave their mark. If you enjoyed the anime, this book is well worth reading. If you enjoy slow stories that take their time to develop, this book might be worth checking out. If you are looking for a novel from a different country, consider this one. If you love words, you will probably fit right in with Majime and his co-workers.

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The Dark Prophecy

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The Dark Prophecy is the second book in The Trials of Apollo series by Rick Riordan. Here is the blurb:

Zeus has punished his son Apollo–god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more–by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark. What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo/Lester do anything about them without his powers? After experiencing a series of dangerous–and frankly, humiliating–trials at Camp Half-Blood, Lester must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Fortunately, what he lacks in godly graces he’s gaining in new friendships–with heroes who will be very familiar to fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series. Come along for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride. . . .

Where to start? Each chapter begins with a haiku by our favorite god turned mortal Lester, aka Apollo. Let’s just say that Lester may currently be mortal but he hasn’t lost his touch with haiku^^; This time, Apollo has Leo and Calypso as traveling companions as they search for the next Oracle. The bad news? The Roman emperors are still after Apollo, and have some evil plans that still must be stopped. The good news? Our heroes meet some unexpected new allies along the way. Oh, and Lester is still quite worried about his master Meg…

The new characters have an interesting story, Leo and Calypso make good teammates (and don’t give Lester much slack), and we deal with a different evil Roman emperor. Lester isn’t quite so whiny this time around, which is all to the good. He has actually learned a few lessons, though it is clear he has a ways to go yet. Also, this time when we learn his backstory and why this particular emperor hates Apollo, we really do have to feel for the sun god. In this case, at least, he really was between a rock and a hard place with no good choices. If you liked the first book, you will enjoy this one too.

 

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Wonder Woman

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I finally had a chance to see Wonder Woman last weekend. Short version, I loved it.

Okay, now for the long version.

Prefaced by some context.

I don’t really like dark stories. Yes, I saw and enjoyed Batman Begins, but have yet to see Dark Knight, and it took some persuading to finally see Dark Knight Rising. I tried Arrow, but found it too dark. The tone of The Flash was much more to my tastes.

Man of Steel had its problems, but overall I quite enjoyed it. Then we got Batman v. Superman. I heard about how dark it was and how violent it was, and didn’t bother seeing it. I had even less interest in seeing Suicide Squad.

And now we get to the wonder that is Wonder Woman.

First, the tone was perfect. Do tragic things happen? Sure. Themyscria is attacked. Then Diana is thrown into the horrors of World War I. But over all, Diana is a hope filled person, and this was maintained through the entire movie.

Second, this is a colorful movie. Themyscria is particularly vibrant and gorgeous, but even London and the front lines find ways to add color.

The humor compliments the tone and the visuals perfectly. There are plenty of opportunities for humor too, as Diana and Steve Trevor often misunderstand each other as they come from completely different backgrounds. And the secretary is hilarious.

All the characters are interesting. The crew that Diana and Steve end up with to go into Belgium is quite a collection, each with their own backstory that is subtly hinted at. Amazon society indeed feels like it has been going on for centuries or millennia, with undercurrents only hinted at.

The music is amazing. Where an edge is needed, such as in battle scenes, there is an edge to it. Lyrical scenes are lyrically rendered in music. It all fits together.

Speaking of battle scenes. I actually loved the trench scene. And I am happy to report that, unlike Man of Steel, nothing felt over the top or over done.

Diana leaves Themyscria with Steve Trevor because she believes Ares, god of war, is the one causing the Great War (what World War I was known as at the time). And let’s just say Diana is right, but not in the way she thinks she is. And we get a chance to see her full power.

Is Wonder Woman a perfect superhero movie? Perhaps not. But to date, it is DCs best modern offering yet, and with it DC has reinvigorated the franchise and is back on track. Okay, okay, when you make your version of a Batman movie, it probably should be dark, but more like this please!

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Guardians of the Whills

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Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka is the latest Star Wars  book I have finished. Here is the blurb:

An exciting adventure about two of the brave heroes from the smash hit movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story! On the desert world of Jedha, in the Holy City, friends Baze and Chirrut used to be Guardians of the Whills, who looked after the Kyber Temple and the devoted pilgrims who worshipped there. Then the Empire came and took over the planet. The temple was destroyed and the people scattered. Now Baze and Chirrut do what they can to resist the Empire and protect the people of Jedha, but it never seems to be enough. Then a man named Saw Gerrera arrives, with a militia of his own and grand plans to take down the Empire. It seems like the perfect way for Baze and Chirrut to make a real difference and help the people of Jedha live better lives. But will it come at too great a cost?

What to say about this book? Like many Star Wars books by Disney for a MG audience, this book has illustrations, which add to the experience. As for the story itself, it is rather small, the action being confined to the Holy City or nearby locations. We learn nothing galaxy shattering, nothing galaxy shattering happens. We don’t even get very many answers about Baze and Chirrut. What makes this book work is the fact that we get the character of Baze and Chirrut on full display, with each other and with those around them. Mixing it up with Saw Gerrera only enhances this. And without spoiling the ending, I will say that I particularly enjoyed the results of the ending, and am glad this happened before the events of Rogue One. For fans of Rogue One, and fans of Baze and Chirrut especially, this is a must read.

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Mythmoot IV

Mythmoot IV was amazing.

I did a presentation on my thesis, “The Political Philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien”, for one of the panels. You can watch it here:

I start at about the 23 minute mark.

I also graduated from Signum University with a Masters of Arts in Tolkien and Medieval Studies!!!DBevCHAXkAEJKz3

My contribution was the Signum school song, a rift on one of Tolkien’s poems^^;

There were amazing talks by Michael Drout, Verlyn Flieger, Sørina Higgins, and the Tolkien Professor himself, Cory Olsen. The theme was invoking wonder, and we had some impressive discussions on this topic. I had a wonderful time. I just wish I could have participated in more activities. Maybe next time!

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Impyrium

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Impyrium is the start of a new series by Henry H. Neff centuries later in the same world he created in The Tapestry series. Here is the blurb:

In this critically acclaimed high-stakes fantasy from Henry H. Neff, two unlikely allies—the magical prodigy and Faeregine princess Hazel and the secret genius and servant-boy Hob—confront a conspiracy that will shake the ancient world of Impyrium to its foundations.

Hazel Faeregine has always been good at magic. It is common knowledge that all Faeregines are good at magic (they are royals, after all), but it seems Hazel’s powers are something more. To preserve her family’s power and legacy as well as the realm, Hazel must leave the comfort of the sheltered world she knows and take on the new role of powerful mystic. At least there is Hob, a commoner boy who becomes an unlikely friend when she needs one the most. But you don’t have to be a princess or a mystic to have a secret, and Hob’s might be the one that destroys them all.

Henry Neff delivers an impressive start to this fresh fantasy trilogy. Entertainment Weekly gave Impyrium an A grade, saying, “Neff expertly crafts a world that is both stunning in its detail and impressive in scope…one readers will be eager to return to.”

It is interesting to see what the world we left from The Tapestry series by Henry H. Neff has become thousands of years later. I don’t think it is exactly what Max, David, and Mina (the First) thought it would be. On the other hand, things have happened that they could not have envisioned. Specifically, Mina the Fourth. Also, as much as normal people might rightly be frustrated by the restrictions placed on them by magic rulers, it is more complicated than that. It would be rather discouraging for a magic user to keep explaining to a non-magic user what the world used to be like with all its technology – only to have them forget it all.

The two main characters are Hazel and Hob. Hazel is the youngest triplet in possible line for the throne, and her relationship with her two sisters is quite interesting. She starts out quite naive. Events and her growing friendship with Hob slowly change that. She realizes the importance of her position as the potentially most powerful magic user in centuries, and she realizes just how complicated the world outside the palace is and that even inside the palace not everything is as it seems.

Hob is no magic user, but he is quite impressive. From a frontier province, he has already passed the test of manhood practiced by his mothers people, qualified as the best scholastically from his district, and the only reason he is not at the equivalent of a university is because he had to go work at a mine to support his widowed mother and younger sister. He starts out with a lot of frustrations, but as he interacts with Hazel, he learns that things are far more complicated than he thought, and not everything – or everyone – is what they seem.

By the end of the book, the current crises has been survived, but the underlying causes are still at large. There is plenty of story left to be told, and I look forward to it.

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Guardians of the Galaxy 2

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What to say about this movie? Is it better than the first one? It really is an unfair comparison since when the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie came out, we had never seen anything like it before.

The good: Our heroes are back. We get plenty of needed growth for Peter Quill, who gets some answers about his heritage. There are some very poignant scenes between Gamora and Nebula. Rocket too is forced be honest with himself. Baby Groot is very cute. Yandu gets a chance to shine. We get some new characters. The interaction between new character Mantis and Drax is great. We get more with the Ravagers, with several stand out parts. We meet the Sovereign people. And we meet Peter Quill’s father, Ego the living planet.

The visuals are if anything even more spectacular than the first movie. The soundtrack once again makes excellent use of 1980’s music.

In the end, this is a story about family, what family means, how family can be complicated, and what family does for each other. This makes it, if anything even more emotionally poignant than the first movie, and the ending is well deserved. And it won’t spoil anything to say that yes, the Guardians do manage to save the galaxy once again.

The bad: If anything, there are even more jokes of a low or sexual nature, though to be fair some of them are clearly meant to show the contrast between various characters and their perspectives. This tapers off the farther into the movie you get.

Over all, a worthy worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I cannot recommend for young children, but teenagers and adults will likely enjoy this movie if they enjoyed the first Guardians of the Galaxy.

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