Tag Archives: travel

The Grand Tour: of The Purloined Coronation Regalia

Authors: Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

Cecelia and Kate, vol. 2

My rating: 4 of 5

Following their weddings, cousins Kate and Cecy–along with their husbands Thomas and James and Thomas’s mother Lady Sylvia–embark on a grand tour of the Continent, a honeymoon to be remembered. Or, well, that’s what it was supposed to be. And it certainly is. Memorable, that is. Nearly from the start, the party find themselves confronted with strange happenings–mysterious visitors, falling ceilings, magical illness, secret messages, and strange magical rituals performed in ancient ruins, among others. Certain that something odd is going on, they begin investigating, because really, could these people ever leave something that intriguing alone?

The Grand Tour proved a solid follow-up for Wrede and Stevermer’s first volume, Sorcery & Cecelia, although with some marked differences. If I could compare the first volume to Howl’s Moving Castle, then The Grand Tour could better be compared to one of Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody stories, just with magic. The dates are completely off, of course, as is the location, but the whole well-to-do British travelers in foreign parts getting involved in mysteries and intrigue involving some antiquity or the other? Definitely fits here. As for the writing, this volume is told more as journals or memoirs as opposed to letters, so the tone is a bit different–actually quite a bit, really. There’s a touch of dissonance at first, to be honest, like the authors are figuring out who their characters are all over again when seen in this different light. After that first bit, though, you get to see more of the characters’ individualities coming through, you get more facets to them than might have been seen if this were also told as correspondence. And the characters are, well, quite the characters. Without the decorum demanded by Regency-era society, they might be quite shocking, and even while attempting to exercise decorum, they push the bounds at times. But in a very enjoyable sort of way. On the whole, I quite enjoyed The Grand Tour and would recommend it to those who enjoy Regency-era stories, historical fantasy, and intrigue.

 

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The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe

Author: Romain Puértolas/Translator: Sam Taylorextraordinary-journey-of-the-fakir-who-got-trapped-in-an-ikea-wardrobe

My rating: 3 of 5

This is the story of one Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod (pronounced any number of ways, depending on who you ask), a fakir or professional con artist by trade. For years, Ajatashatru has convinced his community–even those closest to him–that he is a holy man. Now he is in the midst of his greatest con yet, convincing his followers to send him to Paris to buy a bed of nails from the IKEA store there. Things begin to go astray from his plans though as Ajatashatru 1) cons the wrong taxi driver, 2) encounters an extraordinary woman who may just be the love of his life, and 3) gets himself locked in a wardrobe on the way to England while hiding away in the IKEA overnight (to avoid paying for a hotel room). And so, this fakir begins a journey that will take him immense distances, both globally and within himself.

I found The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe after enjoying The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (to be reviewed later). This book is similar, although I think I enjoyed Jonasson’s story a bit more. Puértolas’s story is a bit more openly satirical and just generally further from what I typically read, which made it harder for me to get into. Still, I found the story amusing and interesting. It’s an intriguing journey–both in the pinball-esque trip Ajatashatru takes across Europe, Asia, and Africa and in the internal transformative journey he takes. Probably the most interesting and enjoyable part of the book for me personally was the interactions of Ajatashatru with all sorts of people, including the variety of people he encounters and the influence they have on his perceptions of the world. The biggest negative (other than that this just isn’t so much what I typically read, which isn’t the author’s fault) is that sometimes the author seems to be trying too hard, which is partly just the book’s style, but still. For those who enjoy picaresque, satirical contemporary novels, I think The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe would be an amusing and enjoyable book to try.

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Kieli: The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness

Author: Yukako Kabeikieli

Illustrator: Shunsuke Taue

Kieli, vol. 1

My rating: 4 of 5

The world Kieli inhabits is cold and dilapidated, a godless people ruled by a militant Church that knows nothing of grace or mercy, whatever they may say. Small wonder then, that Kieli prefers the company of ghosts over that of the living around her. Something begins to change, though, when she encounters a young man sitting alone in the train station, looking like the dead–especially when she finds he is able, like herself, to see the spirits of the dead. Unable to resist, or unable to lose the one person who shares her abilities, Kieli sneaks out of the Church-run boarding school where she lives and follows this unusual man who goes by the name Harvey. Together, the two proceed on Harvey’s purposed journey by train to deliver an old radio inhabited by a ghost to an abandoned mine, little guessing that someone else is also following. Because Harvey isn’t just an ordinary young man; he’s an ageless, deathless soldier created nearly a century before to end the War, one of the legendary Undying . . . and now the Church is ruthlessly hunting down their own creations.

I had heard good things about this light novel before, so I was excited to read Kieli. I have to be honest, it was mostly those expectations that kept me reading beyond the first half of the first chapter; there’s a lot about Kieli’s past, the War, and the emptiness of the Church that is really important background information but was hard to get into. But once I got past that to the part where Harvey enters the story and they’re traveling together, I really enjoyed the story. It would be a difficult story to really categorize: paranormal, science fiction, steampunk, dystopian, and several other things kind of meshed together. But it really works, feeling like its own unique genre rather than a mish-mash of multiple other genres. The majority of the story is a train journey, so you get the experience of the country they’re traveling through and the people they meet. And of course, the adventure of their being pursued and trying to evade capture. But most of all, the story is the development of the characters and the relationships between them: Kieli, Harvey, the Corporal who haunts the ghost radio. I’ve heard the book described (on the back cover, no less) as a romance, but I really don’t quite see it, although I can definitely see it developing into a romance in future volumes. For now, Kieli’s too young, and she and Harvey are really still just building a trust and friendship with each other. In any case, I truly enjoyed reading Kieli: The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness, and I look forward to reading further in the series.

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Sisters

Author/Illustrator: Raina Telgemeiersisters

Coloring: Braden Lamb

Companion to Smile

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Funny isn’t it, how road trips can bring out the best in relationships . . . and the worst, especially between siblings. Raina and her little sister Amara find this out the hard way as they, their mom, and their little brother Will set out from their home in California all the way to Colorado for a family reunion–taking in the sites as they go to make it a properly educational experience, naturally. All that time stuck with each other in close quarters just makes all those annoying quirks stand out even more! But it’s time these two sisters set aside their differences and band together . . . they’re going to need each other.

I love the way Telgemeier weaves her own experiences together into delightful, approachable graphic novels. I loved this in Smile and found it to be consistently the case in Sisters as well. The story is enjoyable, funny, practical, and (perhaps most importantly) transparently human. I’ve had exactly those sorts of problems with my own siblings when we were younger. The people and circumstances are believable, highly individual yet also, in a sense, universal. And did I mention, the story is very funny? Of course, Telgemeier’s art is perfect for the story as well–definitely an American graphic novel style, full of expression and humor. Also a plus, Sisters is really written for the middle-grade demographic (a group that until recently had been largely ignored by those writing graphic novels) but at the same time, it’s a fun read for all ages. Definitely recommended.

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The Red Book

The Red Book

Author/Illustrator: Barbara Lehman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A girl finds a red book buried in a snowdrift and takes it along with her to school. When she opens it, she finds this red book is magic. It shows people and places across the world. Even better, it opens the doors to a delightful new friendship.

The Red Book was a delightful find. It’s completely wordless, yet is exquisitely expressive, living on the borderline between a graphic novel and a children’s picture book. The bold, dark outlines are reminiscent of graphic novels, solid and dynamic. But the coloring is done in a soft watercolor, and the pictures themselves are really cute. I love Lehman’s art style and color palette! The story itself is surprising but fun, simple yet imaginative. I would definitely recommend The Red Book, especially for imaginative kids who enjoy books with lots of pictures.

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