The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs, by Cylin Busby

The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs, by Cylin Busby
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher
via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review
Jacob Tibbs is the runt of his litter. He watches as, one-by-one, sailors buy and bear away his brothers and sisters to be ship cats on other ships – leaving only him and his mother. The captain’s daughter begs her father to save Jacob despite his small size and his white paws (that are glow-in-the-dark beacons to the ship rats). And it’s a good thing the captain saves Jacob, because he has his mother’s talent for predicting weather…and a huge storm is brewing. 

I know I bragged about how awesome my last NetGalley book was, but this book was equally awesome for different reasons. This was just an adorable and fun book to read. I actually learned some interesting tidbits about ships from this book – Busby must have done a lot of research. I’m a cat person, and I loved the way Jacob always explained his actions with cat-like anthropomorphic reasoning (instead of just sounding like a human mind in a cat). I was surprised at how much action could be packed into a book this short. There was always something going on that made me want to read the next chapter. This book was so sweet and fun! I wish I had an appropriately-aged kid to read it to. 

I highly recommend this book for middle grade readers starting with precocious third graders. While you’re getting it for your child, read it yourself. You won’t regret it. 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Written by J. K. Rowling, Narrated by Jim Dale

Reason for Reading: Re-reading the Harry Potter series in audio format. 


Review

(Contains spoilers from earlier books in series)

The Ministry of Magic has finally admitted that Voldemort has returned, and Dumbledore has returned as Hogwarts Headmaster. Furthermore, Dumbledore has realized that it was a huge mistake to leave Harry in the dark for so long. He and Harry become much closer in Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts, as Dumbledore reveals much of what he knows of Voldemort’s history and motivations to Harry. Harry is also kept busy with his new obsession that Draco Malfoy is up to new levels of “no good.” Ron and Hermione poo-poo his suspicions and keep themselves busy with escalating romantic tension. 

Altogether, this book has a LOT going on, yet it’s more compact than the previous two books. Overall, I think this is Rowling’s best written book in the series, even if my favorites are the first four. I really enjoyed this re-read of the 6th book in the Harry Potter series – it’s only my second time reading this book, and I had forgotten a lot of it. The romantic tension between Ron and Hermione is my favorite part of the book, since it’d been building for SO long and was finally let loose terrifically. 🙂 

Jim Dale’s reading, as usual, is excellent. It took some getting used to, but after the first or second book it really grew on me. I know all his voices for the characters, and that really ads to my enjoyment of the story. 

Chi’s Sweet Home, by Kanata Konami

Chi’s Sweet Home (Volume 1), by Kanata Konami 

Reason for Reading: I’m trying to encourage my 9-year-old reluctant-reader nephew to enjoy books more. I thought he might appreciate a graphic novel, and this one is appropriate for young ages. Plus, he’s been bonding with my young cat recently, so I thought he’d be able to empathize with Chi. 🙂 So far, he hasn’t read it – but he says that he will.





Review
Chi is a “newborn” kitten who gets lost in the big, scary world. She is rescued by the Yamada family, who aren’t allowed to have cats in their apartment. They search in vain for someone to adopt her, but eventually they fall in love with with Chi and decide to keep her. Chi’s thoughts, dreams, and fears are all displayed with adorable big-eyed drawings. I’d read this book within an hour of its arrival on my doorstep. I was sucked right in to Chi’s story because she reminds me so much of my own rescued kitten (both in appearance and attitude). Even if my nephew doesn’t ever read this book, I’m SO glad I discovered it. 😀

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Written by J. K. Rowling, Narrated by Jim Dale

Reason for Reading: I’ve been going through the Harry Potter books by audio now. This is my first time reading straight through the entire series, and by “straight” I mean I finish one every one or two months. 😉

Review (WARNING: Contains unavoidable spoilers from earlier novels!!!)
Voldemort has recently returned, and Harry Potter has spent the entire summer listening to the muggle news for some sign of terror. But it turns out that most people don’t believe Harry and Dumbledore that Voldemort has risen, and Voldemort is using that ignorance to his advantage.  Furthermore, the Ministry of Magic has decided that Dumbledore isn’t stable, and they’re interfering at Hogwarts with the addition of a new teacher – the throttle-worthy Dolores Umbridge. *Yes. I wanted to throttle her EVERY time she entered the narrative. That shows excellent caricaturization by Rowling.* This year, Harry must battle the disciplinary hand of the Ministry and skepticism from his fellow students, without losing focus on his upcoming OWL exams. Will he pass Potions?!

This is one of the more complex books in the series (which wins it bonus points with me), but it is also the angstiest book. Harry spends the entire book angry at his friends, angry at Dumbledore, angry at the Ministry, angry at Umbridge, and just plain pissed off in general. His confusion is compounded by his interest in Cho, who is still mourning the death of her dead boyfriend Cedric. Overall, it’s a good book because it advances the story and develops character, but I got a bit tired of angsty Harry. This is my least favorite (though still highly enjoyable) of the Harry Potter books.

Jim Dale’s narration is quite enjoyable now that I’ve gotten used to it. He has recognizable voices for each of the characters, and his voice is entertaining and engrossing.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J. K. Rowling

2012 Book 162: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Written by J. K. Rowling, Narrated by Jim Dale

Reason for Reading: Harry Potter Read-along hosted by Lost Generation Reader.





Review

In this fourth installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry is thrust against his will into the Triwizard Tournament – a competition for which he is his underaged and underqualified. Is someone trying to get him killed? Furthermore, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are experiencing the first pangs of teenaged angst. They all feel misunderstood and a bit angry at times. Will they be able to overcome their emotions in order to quash the rising power of Lord Voldemort? Well, at least they’ll have a lot of adventure while they’re trying. One of the highlights of this book is meeting the students of the two other large wizarding schools in Europe: The dark and broody students from Durmstrang and the too-formal sissies from Beauxbatons. (Ok, maybe they’re not ALL sissies.) 😉 This is my favorite book of the series because it has *swoon* Viktor Krum. It is also the first book in the series with “mature” content. It’s longer, moodier, and more dangerous than the first three. And, it’s the first book in the series to leave significant strings untied – leaving room for more plot development. I’m SO glad Rowling knew what to tie up and what to leave open though. She’s managed to leave a reasonable opening without cliffhangers. I really appreciate that. Thank you Ms. Rowling!


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J. K. Rowling

2012 Book 155: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Written by J. K. Rowling, Narrated by Jim Dale

Reason for Reading: I read this for Lost Generation Reader’s Harry Potter Readalong. On which I’m falling catastrophically behind. But at least I’ll get some of them read before the end of the readalong.


My Review *****
Harry Potter thinks he’s in big trouble when he accidentally blows up his aunt, but luckily for him the powers-that-be are distracted by the shocking escape of Sirius Black from the wizard’s prison Azkaban. Black is purported to be “You-Know-Who’s biggest supporter.” (Though I’m not certain what made everyone decide that Black was the most dedicated supporter, rather than the one who’d made the biggest bang? But let’s not question the Rowling.) With the dementors out in force – ready to snatch Black up the moment he rears his unkempt head, Harry, Ron, and Hermione don’t have much chance to misbehave. Will they catch Black before Black kills again? I loved this book more this time around than I did the first time. (Mainly because I have a fondness for the entire story now, whereas when I read it, I was just continuing a series that I’d started.) I DID notice, however, a few snafus that made me chuckle. Just little inconsistencies here and there. I didn’t notice anything like that in the first two books. Usually I ignore little inconsistencies in YA lit, but these surprised me because I’d always thought Rowling had done an amazing job tying up all the loose ends. I suppose inconsistencies are almost impossible to avoid this TIME around though. 😉 I remember reading some comments a while back that said that Rowling’s writing developed from a bit amateurish to more skilled as the series progressed. Now I see what they mean. I’ll keep an eye out for loopholes in the future, now that I know she has them. :p I’m curious if she gets a lot better at avoiding them in the later books. Overall, though, excellent stuff. I’m enjoying Dale’s narrations more and more now that I’m getting used to his style. 


Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami

2012 Book 137: Kafka on the Shore

Written by Haruki Murakami; Narrated by Sean Barrett and Oliver Le Sueur

Reason for Reading: In order to increase awareness of speculative fiction authors-of-color for A More Diverse Universe blog tour, I have read and reviewed Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami, which is Japanese magical realism / surrealism. This is one of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, and it won “best novel” for the World Fantasy Award in 2006.

My Review

Kafka on the Shore follows two seemingly unrelated characters whose stories collide in surreality. The first character is a 15-year-old runaway boy who has renamed himself Kafka Tamura. Kafka runs away from his father for reasons that slowly reveal themselves as the plot thickens. He ends up in an obscure library, where he must overcome a dark curse. The second character is Nakata, an old man who suffered an injury as a child and lives as on a stipend for the mentally disabled. Nakata may not be very smart, but he can talk to cats, and he has an uncanny ability to accept surreal events at face value, thus providing a unique perspective to the strange plot twists. Kafka on the Shore highlights the extreme effects alienation can have on a person’s psyche. It had some VERY dark undercurrents (and even one scene of brutality that was quite shocking). It was a fascinating story, but after thinking about it for several days, I’m still unable to figure out quite what it meant. Perhaps it was only an expression of dark loneliness and nothing more? Whether I’m missing the deeper meaning or not, I greatly enjoyed reading my first Murakami book, and look forward to reading many more of these fascinating works. 


About the Author

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1949 to parents who taught Japanese literature. Murakami was greatly influenced by Western culture. His “modernist” books invoke an interesting mixture of classical music, Western literature, and Japanese culture. Like many surreal / modernist writers, his novels depict alienation, loneliness, and trauma.






Final Comments

It’s interesting that I followed up The Blind Owl with Kafka on the Shore. Both are Asian surrealism (which I haven’t read too very much of) and both have explicit use of the Oedipus complex. Is the Oedipus complex a common characteristic of surreal literature? Or a common characteristic of Asian modernist fiction? Or maybe the Oedipus complex is a defining characteristic of alienated characters? Maybe it was just a coincidence. I guess I’ll see as I read more of these types of books. 🙂 I have decided to include Kafka on the Shore in the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII challenge because of the unexpected dark undercurrents.