Saturday, July 28, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick


Title:  The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Author: Brian Selznick


Genre: France / Machines / Family / Traveling



Year Published: 2007



Year Read: 2010

Publisher: Scholastic

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 7+ (Death)


Words cannot describe how much I loved this book! “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” is one of the first chapter books to win a Caldecott Medal and is cleverly written and illustrated by Brian Selznick and it is about how an orphaned boy named Hugo finds out the secrets contained in his most prized possession…a mechanical man from his dead father. “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” is clearly one of the most exciting and amazing books ever created for children!

Brian Selznick has created a book that goes beyond what any children’s book has gone before. Brian Selznick has made this story extremely dramatic and exciting at the same time as it details the adventures of an orphaned boy in Paris and how he tries to uncover the mystery of the mechanical man. Brian Selznick makes the characters in this book extremely memorable, especially the main character Hugo Cabret as Hugo is shown as a boy who has a huge ambition and yet he always feels lonely and insecure when he is around other people, since he spent most of his life alone and children will easily sympathize with his situation as any child might feel a bit secluded from other people whenever they lose a loved one. Another memorable character is Isabelle, the toy maker’s daughter who is shown as being a strong heroine and she is always shown yearning for more information about life that she will not let anyone get in her way, including Hugo. Brian Selznick also makes the story extremely creative as the book is set up as two pages are filled with writing while the next few pages are full of illustrations only. Brian Selznick’s illustrations are amazingly beautiful as they are mainly in black and white colors, but the characters look so realistic that they make this book extremely beautiful to look at. The illustrations also help move the story along as there are two pages full of writing while the next four or five pages are full of illustrations that detail what happens in the story and the next few pages are full of writing again while continuing the story. Brian Selznick illustrates the characters’ expressions in such a realistic manner that ranges from shock to happiness that children will easily relate to the characters.



“The Invention of Hugo Cabret” is a truly distinguished children’s book that is ahead of its time and it will always remain to be one of the best books ever created! I would recommend this book to children ages seven and up since the length of this book might bored smaller children.




* 2007 NAIBA Book of the Year for Children's Literature 
* 2008 Caldecott Medal
* 2008 Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children's Literature
* 2008 Boston Author's Club Young Reader Award
* 2008 ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
* 2009 Flicker Tale Children's Book Award
* 2009 Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award Nominee
* 2009 Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis Nominee for Kinderbuch
* 2010 Iowa Children's Choice Award 




[BOOK REVIEW] The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo



Title:  The Korean Cinderella

Author:  Shirley Climo

Artist:  Ruth Heller


Genre: Fairy Tale / Folktale / Korea


Year Published: 1993


Year Read: 2012

Publisher:  HarperCollins

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (Child Mistreatment)




For many years, I have read so many different interpretations of “Cinderella,” but I have never come across a Korean version of this classic tale!  “The Korean Cinderella” is a glorious retelling of the classic “Cinderella” written by Shirley Climo along with illustrations by Ruth Heller and it will surely be an instant hit with children who love reading stories from other cultures!


In the land of Korea, where magical creatures existed, there lived a young girl named Pear Blossom who was extremely beautiful.  One tragic day however, her mother died and her father ended up marrying a mean and spiteful woman named Omoni, who also has a daughter named Peony and they were both cruel to Pear Blossom and made her do all the work around the house.  Even though Omoni forces Pear Blossom to do so many chores, Pear Blossom is helped by many magical creatures such as a magical frog, magical sparrows and a magical ox.  One day however, a festival is held and Pear Blossom notices the handsome magistrate, but she accidentally leaves behind one of her sandals, which the magistrate ends up finding.

I will admit that I have read so many different versions of Cinderella that the story itself becomes familiar to me, no matter how different the versions are.  Shirley Climo has done a brilliant job at writing this Korean retelling of the classic fairy tale as the story is truly breathtaking and marvelous to read about.  I loved the way that Shirley Climo portrayed the magical creatures that eventually help Pear Blossom on her chores as regular animals such as a frog, a pack of sparrows and an ox as that really brought out the beauty of Korean folktales.  I also loved the Korean phrases that were shown in this book such as Omoni, which means ‘Mother’ and ‘tokgabi’ which means ‘goblin.’ Ruth Heller’s illustrations are truly beautiful in this book as they were inspired by the patterns painted on the eaves of Korean temples, which truly brings out the true spirit of Korea.  Probably my favorite illustrations in this book were of the characters themselves, as they show realistic facial expressions whenever they are unhappy or whenever they are mad, such as the image of Peony having her hair be pulled by the sparrows and you can see the anguish look on her face as her hair is being pulled.

Overall, “The Korean Cinderella” is a brilliant adaptation of a classic fairy tale that fans of the “Cinderella” stories will surely love to read over and over again!  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since some of the Korean phrases like “Omoni” and “Tokgabi” might be hard for younger children to understand.



[BOOK REVIEW] Feelings by Aliki





Title:  Feelings

Author:  Aliki


Genre: Manners / Emotions / Humor / Information


Year Published: 1984


Year Read: 1997

Publisher:  Greenwillow Books

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (Some Mild Threats)



I am a huge fan of “Reading Rainbow” as my bookshelf is stock full of “Reading Rainbow” books!  One of my favorite stories to ever come out of “Reading Rainbow” was a children’s book called “Feelings” by Aliki!  “Feelings” is definitely a brilliant book about describing different types of feelings from everyone that children will love for many years!


Basically, this book is just showcasing all different types of feelings such as anger, sadness, embarrassment and jealousy through illustrations and brief dialogue.


After reading this book as a child, I have always enjoyed the simple storytelling of detailing different emotions shown by many different children and even years later, I still loved this book to death!  Aliki has done a brilliant job at both illustrating and writing this book as she details the different feelings shown by the many children shown in this book in a simple and vivid manner.  Probably one of my most favorite feelings sections she had done in this book was called “Your Attention, Please,” which goes like this:

Parent: Look at Adam Run.
Girl: I can run faster.
Parent: Look at Adam Build.
Girl: I can build higher.
Parent: Listen to Adam.
Girl: Listen to me.
Parent: Adam can read.
Girl: I can read more.
Parent: Ha, ha, ha, ha! Adam is Funny!
Girl: Ha, ha, ha, ha! I am funny, too!
Parent: Where is Adam?
Girl: Where Am I?
Parent: Adam is Hurt!
Girl: I’m hurt, too.
Parent: Look at Adam!
Girl: Look at me!
Parent: I see you, dear. You’re wonderful

I loved the way that Aliki made the writing so simple yet effective enough for small children to grasp how each character feels about a particular situation and how they are able to handle it whether their parents help them through the situation or they figure it out for themselves.  I also loved the brief little sessions that each character would have with each other such as in the short story “How do you Feel?” where a girl and a boy were showing each other about the different feelings that are expressed.  Aliki’s illustrations are truly marvelous to look at as the characters look extremely simplistic yet cute at the same and the colorings may seem a bit washed out but it really brings out the cuteness of this book.

Even though overall this is a really cute story that portrays the different emotions felt by each child, some parents might seem a bit disturbed at this one story where a girl named Elizabeth compliments Alicia’s beautiful curly hair, but her other friend Kate gets jealous and states, “Curly Hair? I’d…I’d…like to choke Alicia.”  Some parents might get a bit disturbed at the idea about a child stating she wanted to choke another child, but luckily, she is never shown actually choking anyone and this was just showing the feelings of jealously and rage.

Overall, “Feelings” is a truly cute and thought-provoking children’s book about showing the different feelings of children that children will easily enjoy for many years!  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since some parents might be a bit upset at how the feelings “jealousy” and “rage” are portrayed.



Friday, July 20, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill




Title:  Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom

Author:  Joe Hill

Artist:  Gabriel Rodriguez


Genre: Supernatural / Horror / Family


Year Published: 2011


Year Read: 2012


Series: Locke and Key #4


Publisher: IDW Comics

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 16+ (Strong Language and Gory Violence)


 
I have been reading Joe Hill’s fantastic “Locke and Key” series for awhile and so far, this series has been nothing but brilliant so far and I am enjoying every single story coming out of this series!  The fourth volume “Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom” is an Eisner nominated book by Joe Hill that proves to be the huge turning point for this series as Zack Wells, who turns out to be Lucas Don Caravaggio in a new body, starts showing his true colors!  “Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom” is a brilliant volume that will definitely turn the tides for this series!

There are a total of five chapters in this volume and here are the chapters:

Chapter One: Sparrow:

In this chapter, Joe Hill makes a tribute to Bill Watterson’s famous comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes” by detailing a story where Bode tries to make new friends but there appears to be a key that can turn anyone into a wolf and Zack happens to obtain the key to transform himself into a wolf and attack Tyler and Kinsey! Meanwhile, Bode is able to transform himself into a bird and has crazy adventures in his bird form!

Chapter Two: White

When an elderly woman named Erin Voss started acting crazy every time she is near something white, Kinsey encounters the subject of racism, while she is curious about how Erin Voss knows about her father Rendell.  So to approach Erin Voss, Kinsey finds a key that allows her to change the color of her skin.  But what secrets is Erin Voss hiding?

Chapter Three: February

During this month, the Locke kids go through so many supernatural activities where they are attacked by various monsters.  Meanwhile, the kids try to tell their friends about the keys, but they end up facing the consequences of their actions.

Chapter Four: Casualties

When Rufus, Coach Whedon’s son is visited by the ghost of Sam Lesser, he finds out that Zack Wells is not all he is cracked up to be and Rufus must find a way to warn the Locke kids about Zack.

Chapter Five: Detectives

When Tyler discovers something foul about Zack Wells, he goes to find out more about Zack Wells and his connection with the murders in the town.  Unfortunately, Tyler will soon realize that Zack might be up to some sinister tricks that could endanger his family!

Oh my goodness!  Did I mention before that this series just keeps getting better and better every time I read them?  The fourth volume in the “Locke and Key” series is definitely no exception to this as it serves to be a huge turning point for our favorite Locke kids!  Joe Hill has once again done an excellent job at balancing the supernatural nature of this story with the everyday problems that the Locke kids have to face after the death of their father.  I loved the way that Joe Hill portrayed the relationships between Tyler, Kinsey and Bode as they all care about each other and it was great seeing them protect each other from any danger that comes towards them.  I also loved seeing the relationships that the Locke kids have with their friends, especially Kinsey with Jamal and Scot as they are extremely close with each other and I loved the dialogues that Joe Hill sets up between the three of them as they are extremely funny and thought-provoking to read.  I also loved the tension that Joe Hill builds up with Zack Wells as it seems that his true nature is beginning the show in the most terrifying way possible (there was one scene where Zack seems to do something to a person that made me really cringe – you have to read it for yourself!)  Gabriel Rodriguez’s artwork is as always truly dramatic and gorgeous to look at as all the coloring is dark which fits the gloomy feel of this story and I loved the way that the characters look semi-realistic which really gives the story a more mature feel.  I also loved the way that Gabriel Rodriguez was able to portray the Locke kids as characters from “Calvin and Hobbes” in the first chapter “Sparrow” and the artwork in that chapter truly portrayed the spirit and humor that came from the “Calvin and Hobbes” comics.

As with the majority of the “Locke and Key” series, this volume has extremely strong language and many violent and disturbing scenes that would cause anyone who is not used to gory images to feel uncomfortable.  I have mentioned before that there was a little scene where Zack does something horrible to another character and it might disturb many readers (it definitely disturbed me a bit, although the artwork was fantastic for that scene).

Overall, “Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom” is a brilliant volume that really turns this series to a new direction and I cannot wait to see what will become of the Locke kids at this point!  Now, I am definitely excited for the fifth volume “Clockworks!”



Thursday, July 19, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Kiss An Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips


Title:  Kiss An Angel

Author:  Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Year Published: 1996

Number of Pages: 373 pages

Date Read: 7/19/2012

Publisher: Avon

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 18+ (Strong Language and Sex Scenes)



After reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ book “It Had to Be You,” I just had to pick up another book from Susan Elizabeth Phillips!  The next book I ended up picking up from her was “Kiss An Angel” and after hearing so many good reviews on this book, I just had to give this book a shot!  Oh my goodness, I was definitely blown away by this fantastic romance novel that will make me view the circus as a magical adventure of a lifetime!


Daisy Devreaux was a spoiled rich girl who was forced into marrying a rough and humorless Russian man named Alex Markov in order to avoid going to jail.  However, when Daisy goes to live with her new husband, who happens to run a circus, she will soon discover some dark secrets about Alex that might make her love this mysterious man or hate him even more.


Oh my goodness! This book was just simply…HEAVENLY! Susan Elizabeth Phillips has done a brilliant job at writing this unique, one of a kind romance story about two lovers who are extremely different from each other, but are able to find the true love that will hold them together!  I also loved the fact that this book takes place at a circus since it is rare that I read a romance novel that takes place in the circus and it was awesome seeing all the different dynamics of how the circus works and what the workers at the circus have to go through to make their shows perfect.  Susan Elizabeth Phillips has also done an excellent job at portraying each character in this story, but my most favorite characters in this book are none other than the main characters Daisy Devreaux and Alex Markov!  I just loved Daisy Devreaux as the undisputed heroine of this story since her transformation from a spoiled rich girl to a brave and mature woman by the end of this book was truly fantastic to see and I loved her personality as Daisy may seem naïve at certain points of the book, but she truly has a big heart and is willing to help anyone in need.  I also loved her relationship with Heather, a young teenager who was introduced in this book (although Heather did annoyed me a bit at the beginning of the book) and I loved how Daisy was able to connect so much with Heather despite Heather’s bad attitude at first.  Now, onto the best character in this book and that happens to be Alex Markov!  I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Alex Markov to death as there are so many layers to his character that makes him extremely mysterious and yet engaging to read about!  Since I am a huge fan of bad boy heroes, Alex Markov definitely tops the list of my top favorite bad boy heroes in romance novels since he has a tough and brooding attitude and yet, he is so seductive and caring at the same time once people get to know him better.  I also loved the fact that Alex Markov participates in the circus and I especially loved his Cossack play act that resonates with his Russian roots where he dances so erotically with his whip.  It was also interesting seeing the more mysterious side of Alex that he refuses to tell Daisy about since it brought so much mystery to the story and I really wanted to learn more about this mysterious handsome Russian man!  The relationship between Daisy and Alex is what many romance fans would consider “unusual” since they both have different personalities (Daisy is flighty and kind while Alex is brooding and mysterious) but when their love for each other shows, sparks fly like nothing else and their romance with each other is just so sizzling hot!

For anyone who does not like sex scenes, this book has many sex scenes that are extremely explicit and they might want to skim over these scenes.  Also, this book has extremely strong language, although the language was never frequent and only shows up sparingly throughout the book.

Overall, “Kiss An Angel” is clearly one of the best contemporary romance novels around and has one of the best bad boy heroes ever around, Alex Markov!  I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book to any hardcore romance fan who is looking for a wonderful romance novel to read!



Sunday, July 15, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Turbulence: A Log Book by Henrik Drescher


Title:  Turbulence:  A Log Book

Author: Henrik Drescher

Genre: Fantasy / Graphic Novel

Year Published: 2001

Date Read: 6/26/2008

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 18+ (Sexual Imagery and Frightening Imagery)
  

*Original Rating: 5 stars*
*Rating Now: 4 stars*

Now, you are probably wondering why I have changed the rating of Henrik Drescher’s log book, “Turbulence: A Log Book,” but before I get into that, I like to give out my opinion on this book.  “Turbulence: A Log Book” is a graphic novel book written and illustrated by Henrik Drescher and it details the adventures of a man who goes through a mythical journey that reflects his life.  “Turbulence: A Log Book” may have some really creative illustrations, but the story is a bit too confusing for many readers to understand.

Alright, so I practically have to go search all over the internet just to figure out what this book is all about and so here is the summary I have gathered from the internet:

The book starts off with a bespectacled man who is boarding a cruise ship and he brings an unknown valise with him on the ship.  When the man opens the case, it turns out that a smaller version of the boat that he is on is in the case and the man starts taking a bath with the ship near him.  The next few pages details the man’s strange journey through the eyes of the boat as the man’s adventures is portrayed through frightening visions that echoes Hindu mythology.

Now I have been reading Henrik Drescher’s works for many years now, but I have never read anything so DISTURBING, CONFUSING and dare I say it, SEXUAL from his work!  This book was definitely different from any other book I have read from Henrik Drescher and I really did enjoy the darker shift that this book had since I love reading books that have a different style of their own.  Henrik Drescher had done an excellent job at illustrating this book as he uses a mixture of both hand drawings and collage to tell the story and I loved the way that Henrik Drescher’s illustrations are so dark and disturbing and ADULT ORIENTED! The illustrations give this book a truly dark twist to what we perceive of Hindu mythology and I also loved the surreal feel of the illustrations, especially of the images of a man with another smaller head on his head and an image of a man with a cage full of skulls on his head.  I loved the way that Henrik Drescher had woven Hindu mythology into the story, which helped give the story an extremely creative flair.

Just a little warning to anyone interested in reading this book…

THIS IS NOT A BOOK FOR CHILDREN!

Even the image of a green skinned man on the front of the cover is enough to warn children that this book is definitely not for them.  The reason why this book is not geared towards children is because there are many sexual images in this book, including images of characters being naked and performing explicit sexual activities.  Also, the illustrations are truly disturbing and nightmarish and even I had trouble trying to get through this book because of the nightmarish imagery, so small children might never be able to get through this book because of the imagery.  Also, this book is difficult to understand since the story seems to be disjointed a bit on every page, which is why I moved the rating down from a five star rating to a four star rating. Also, anyone who does not have a clear understanding of Hindu mythology might be a bit confused by the premise of this book.  I often had a difficult time understanding this book because the words were also written in a way that was making it difficult to read as they seem littered all over the pages and I could not see the text very well when it was set up like that.

Overall, “Turbulence: A Log Book” is a good read for adults who enjoy reading books that have disturbing and surreal imagery, but the story itself might be a bit too confusing for any reader to get through.  However, I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Henrik Drescher’s work and just want to look at the artwork.





Tuesday, July 10, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore



Title:  Batman:  The Killing Joke

Author:  Alan Moore

Artist:  Brian Bolland


Genre: Superheroes / Action / Adventure / Horror


Year Published: 1988


Year Read: 2012


Series: Batman


Publisher: DC Comics

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 15+  (Some Intense Scenes and One Near Rape Scene)


 
OH…MY…GOD…

I thought I knew everything there was to know about the Joker, one of Batman’s greatest foes.  But after reading “Batman: The Killing Joke” and how the Joker was portrayed in this book, the Joker has officially become one of the most VILE, TWISTED, DARK and most DISTURBING villain I have ever come face to face with…AND I LOVED IT!  Being brilliantly written by Alan Moore and being masterfully illustrated by Brian Bolland, “Batman: The Killing Joke” has remained to be one of the greatest and most disturbing “Batman” stories to ever be created!

What is the story?

When it turns out that the Joker, one of Batman’s greatest foes, breaks out of Arkham Asylum, Batman must stop this evil doer at all costs.  Unfortunately, the Joker then comes after Commissioner Gordon and his daughter Barbara and performs some of the most vile and disturbing acts in his villainous career (starts by shooting Barbara Gordon, paralyzing her and then twisting Commissioner Gordon’s mind to make him crazy) and Batman must stop the Joker before it is too late.  Also, we are introduced to the back story of the Joker and how he became the villain he is known as today.

What I loved about this comic:

Alan Moore’s writing:  WOW! I mean, I thought that I have read some of the best Batman stories around (“Batman: Year One” for starters), but I think that “Batman: The Killing Joke” has nearly beaten some of the best “Batman” stories I had read!  I had read some of Alan Moore’s works (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), but I can easily say that this graphic novel is easily one of his best works!  I loved the way that Alan Moore made this story extremely disturbing and dark and I was actually cringing during the scene where Barbara Gordon is shot and then tortured, which proved how demented the Joker really is.  I also loved the way that Alan Moore portrayed the relationship between Batman and the Joker since it is rare that I see a hero and a villain have a sort of understandable relationship seeing as how they both had lost people dear to them, but viewed life in a different life.  I enjoyed the psychological message that Alan Moore was presenting in this story as the Joker sees life as being a huge awful joke (meaning that life is miserable) while Batman is truly trying to see the reality of the situations in life.  I really enjoyed seeing the back story of the Joker as we learn what he was like before he became the villain he is known today and that really added so much depth to the story and to the character of the Joker.  The ending of this story was truly terrifying yet amazing to see at the same time (I will not spoil it for you, but let us just say it is the confrontation between Batman and the Joker).

Brian Bolland’s artwork:  Brian Bolland had done a truly amazing job at providing the artwork of this story as all the characters look truly realistic and colorful.  I loved the attention in details that Brian Bolland gives to the characters’ facial expressions, especially the Joker as he is seen smiling dementedly, which makes him a truly menacing character to look at.  My favorite artwork in this graphic novel was of the images of the rain drops making small circles in the ground, as they look truly beautiful and yet give this story a truly ominous feel as these images appear at the beginning of the book towards the end of the book.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this book:

The only issue with this graphic novel that some readers would have problems with is the fact that the story is extremely dark and disturbing for your average “Batman” story.  For one thing, there is a scene where Barbara Gordon is shot and then tortured which would disturb many readers (it definitely disturbed me a bit).  Also, as in many “Batman” stories, the atmosphere of this story is extremely dark and brooding and that might be a bit uncomfortable for many readers who are not used to reading dark stories to handle.

Final Thoughts:

So what is my final verdict on this story?  “Batman: The Killing Joke” is easily one of the most disturbing yet most amazing stories I have ever read and I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND this story to “Batman” fans everywhere who love a good dark and intelligent story about the follies of life.