Thursday, August 23, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] The Lorax by Dr. Seuss



Title:  The Lorax

Author:  Dr. Seuss


Genre: Environment / Satire / Animal


Year Published: 1971


Year Read:  1992

Publisher:  Random House Books for Young Readers

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+  (Some Suggestive Themes and Intense Scenes)


“The Lorax” is one of Dr. Seuss’ most memorable books as it is about the importance of taking care of all of the trees in the world.  “The Lorax” may have some controversial issues, but it is still a great book for both children and adults to treasure for many years.

Dr. Seuss’ story about how chopping down too many trees can destroy the Earth’s environment is truly powerful and moving as it realistically portrays what can happen to the environment when trees are cut down through Dr. Seuss’ childish world.  Dr. Seuss’ illustrations as always are extremely creative and inventive especially when we are first introduced to the land of the Truffula trees, the land is colourful and peaceful looking, but when the once-ler starts cutting down all the Truffula trees, the land looks dark and bleak, representing the pollution that is caused from cutting down the trees.

Parents should know that even though I personally do not see anything wrong with this book, this book was considered extremely controversial due to the fact that many people believed that the book was trying to promote the idea that industrialization is a bad thing.  Personally, I think that this book was just trying to discuss about the issues of environmentalism and that cutting down too many trees can cause pollution on the earth.

“The Lorax” is one of the greatest books about the issues of environmentalism that kids will understand perfectly and will definitely be evolved into one of the greatest cult classics to ever come to the world of children’s books.  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up due to the controversial material about whether or not industrialization is a good or bad thing for the world that small children might not understand.  



REASON FOR BEING BANNED: For portraying the foresting industry in a negative way and some people felt it persuaded children to be against logging.



[BOOK REVIEW] Fear Agent Volume One: Re-Ignition by Rick Remender



Title:  Fear Agent Volume 1: Re-Ignition

Author:  Rick Remender

Artist: Tony Moore


Genre: Sci-Fi / Adventure / Horror / Action


Year Published: 2006


Year Read: 2012


Series: Fear Agent #1


Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Source:  Library

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



Prepare for some serious space action!

Brief Introduction:

To be honest, I had never heard of “Fear Agent” until I had heard so many good things about Rick Remender’s run on “Uncanny X-Force” (which I have not read as of now).  After hearing the praise that Rick Remender got on his work with “Uncanny X-Force,” I had decided to pick up a comic book by him and lo and behold, I came across his work called “Fear Agent Volume One: Re-Ignition” which also had artwork by Tony Moore.  “Fear Agent Volume One: Re-Ignition” is a great introduction to the “Fear Agent” series that fans of “Fear Agent” will enjoy!

What is the story?

The story starts off with alien exterminator and the last of the Fear Agents, Heath Huston (not Heath Ledger!) fighting off unknown aliens on a faraway planet.  However, later on, Heath soon realizes that there is an extraterrestrial plot where the aliens are plotting to destroy all the humans on Earth when he meets a woman named Mara and they see the aliens shipping off feeders to Earth.  Now, Heath Huston must stop this plot from coming true before it is too late!

What I loved about this comic:

Rick Remender’s writing:   I must admit that when I heard that this book was about a guy fighting off aliens, I was thinking to myself that I have seen this formula used before and was prepared to be bored by this premise.  However, when I actually started reading this comic, I was really amazed at how Rick Remender wrote this story in an extremely creative and interesting way!  Rick Remender really made Heath Huston into an interesting character as he is portrayed as an alcoholic who fights off aliens on a day to day basis and it was great seeing him fight off all of the aliens using his futuristic weapons which were extremely interesting in seeing.  I also loved the way that Rick Remender tells the story through Heath Huston’s point of view as we are able to gain a clear understanding of his character and everything that he has been through over the years.  It was also interesting that we get another lead character who often gruff and condescending (Wolverine, anyone?), but it is clear that Heath truly does have a heart of gold and is willing to do whatever it takes to save the people he cares about.  I also loved the world that Rick Remender introduces us to as it is dark and gritty as the aliens have over taken the planets and are torturing the people inhabiting them, hence why Heath Huston is needed for the job!

Tony Moore’s artwork:  Tony Moore’s artwork is truly amazing to look at as the action sequences are extremely well done, making this comic exciting to look at.  I loved the way that Tony Moore drew the aliens in this comic as they look truly menacing and the images of the aliens using their tentacles to attack Heath looked extremely fascinating as the tentacles are curly and look squid-like.  It was also interesting at how Tony Moore illustrated Heath’s custom as Heath looks like one of the Ghostbusters as he is wearing an orange jumpsuit with a huge golden belt that has the state of Texas branded in the middle and he also has various machinery strapped all over his body, which shows that he is prepared for anything that comes at him.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this book:

Even though I really enjoyed the action packed sci-fi thriller theme that this comic offered me, I gave this comic a four star rating because there were too many plot holes in this story.  For one thing, the story mentions that Heath is the last of the Fear Agents, but we were never told why that is the case.  Also, the second half of the story has Heath and Mara traveling through time and Heath brings up certain points that I felt was not really explored enough in the first half of the story, such as the matter concerning what became of his family.  Also, for anyone who does not like violence or strong language, this comic definitely has some graphic violence that involves gore and lots of strong language which includes using the “s” word many times throughout the story.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, despite the fact that there were many plot holes in this volume, “Fear Agent Volume One: Re-Ignition” is definitely a great read for anyone who either loves crazy action packed alien storylines or who wants to get introduced to Rick Remender’s works.  I got to say that after reading this volume of “Fear Agent,” I am definitely looking forward to reading more of Rick Remender’s works!



[BOOK REVIEW] The Pleasure of Your Kiss by Teresa Medeiros





Title:  The Pleasure of Your Kiss

Author: Teresa Medeiros

Genre: Historical Romance

Year Published: 2011

Number of Pages: 506 pages

Date Read: 8/23/2012

Series: Burke Brothers #1 

Publisher: Pocket Star

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 16+ (Sex Scenes)


After hearing that Teresa Medeiros has a new romance novel being released, being the big romance novel fan that I am, I just had to pick up this book!  Well, Teresa Medeiros’ newest book “The Pleasure of Your Kiss” really took me on a wild and sensual ride that I had never been on when reading other romance novels and has now gotten me looking forward to other new romance novels from Teresa Medeiros!

Clarinda Cardew was on her way to England to marry the rich and powerful duke Maximillian Burke, but then she and her friend Penelope Montmorency (Poppy) are ambushed by pirates and she ends up in the arms of a rich and powerful sultan of Morocco called Zin al-Farouk (Farouk) who happens to own a luminous harem!  At the same time, legendary adventurer Ashton Burke is summoned by his brother Maximillian Burke to go and retrieve Clarinda from the sultan’s clutches.  Unfortunately, Ashton Burke used to have a blossoming romance with Clarinda Cardew years ago until he broke her heart by leaving her for unknown reasons and when he actually goes on the quest to retrieve Clarinda from the sultan, he will soon realize that his romance with Clarinda will soon blossomed again in a shocking way that could change their world forever!

Again, after I had heard that Teresa Medeiros was making another romance novel, my inner fan-girl soul was kicked up into high gear and I just had to get this book!  Well, after reading this book, I was impressed that Teresa Medeiros’ writing is better than ever as this romance novel was clearly more unusual than the usual romance novels I usually pick up!  For one thing, this romance novel takes place in a harem, which I did find a bit unusual to put into a romance novel since the story would usually focus on the two romantic interests in the story.  However, I felt that having the story take place in a harem added a nice touch to the story and provided so much uniqueness from the standard romance novel.  I just loved almost all of the characters involved in this novel as Teresa Medeiros made each character truly stand out from each other.  Clarinda Cardew was a truly inspiring heroine as she is shown to be a strong willed woman who refuses to let anyone run her life.  Also, just hearing about how she was struggling in trying to move on with her life when Ashton Burke left her years ago was a truly heartbreaking aspect of her character that made me really feel sorry for her and I usually wished her the best during this story.  Ashton Burke was a truly unique type of hero as he is known as an adventurer and I loved the way that he can outsmart any enemy he comes across and gets what he wants.  I also loved his devil-may-care attitude that he has become so famous for and it was interesting in seeing how he wanted to rekindled the love that he and Clarinda had lost when he left her years ago.  But the relationship I was more invested in was between Farouk and Poppy since Ashton and Clarinda were spending the majority of the book trying to rekindle their relationship.  Farouk and Poppy’s relationship with each other was more interesting because it was set up more like the two of them gaining interest in each other rather than regain their lost love and it was interesting in seeing how Poppy is able to break down Farouk’s serious nature by offering him sweets most of the time.

For anyone who does not like sex scenes, there are a couple of explicit sex scenes in this book, so it would be best to skim over these scenes.  Also, just a brief nitpick, but I wanted to see more romance scenes between Clarinda and Ashton since the majority of the book is spent on Ashton trying to rescue Clarinda from the sultan.  Now, I did not mind too much about the part where Ashton is trying to rescue Clarinda, but I wanted to hear more “sexy” talk between the two characters so I could actually melt away in ecstasy whenever I hear these two characters flirting with each other.

Overall, even though I wanted more romance between Clarinda and Ashton, “The Pleasure of Your Kiss” is a truly unique and brilliant book that romance novels fans will eat up for many years to come!



Thursday, August 16, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Look-Alikes by Henrik Drescher


Title:  Look-Alikes

Author:  Henrik Drescher


Genre: Fantasy / Humor / Surreal / Toys

Year Published: 1985

Year Read: 2008

Publisher:  Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (Some Bizarre Imagery)
 

 Alright, you have read “Alice in Wonderland” and “Coraline” before and both stories involve a character going to a strange world that is different from their own world. Well, if you had read any of Henrik Drescher’s books, then you already think that his illustrations are out of this world! “Look-alikes” is a children’s book by Henrik Drescher that literally takes two characters out into another world as Rudy and his pet monkey Buster go into a world called “Look-alikes!” “Look-alikes” is a great book that children will read over and over again!

Wow, what a strange and unusual book I have just read and I thought that "Simon's Book" was surreal! That is just what I love about Henrik Drescher’s work and I just really love this little gem of a book! Henrik Drescher done an excellent job at both writing and illustrating this book about imaginative adventures and I loved the way that this book was written in a simplistic yet creative manner since the writing mainly contained exclamations from Rudy and Buster such as “Help!” and “Yikes!” and I loved how the story started off as a normal narrative when we are introduced to the Pearson family and how the writing becomes somewhat disconnected when Rudy and Buster’s look-alikes come into their crazy world. Henrik Drescher also did an excellent job at illustrating this book, which I am just so into his surreal illustrations, and I loved the way that Buster and Rudy both have similar red and white striped glasses even though Rudy is a human boy and Buster is a brown monkey and it just made them look like a pair of friends that are inseparable. But my most favorite part of the illustrations were the images of the strange creatures that Rudy and Buster’s look-alike encounter when they enter the strange world within the clubhouse and some of the creatures that stayed with me for a long time when I read this book was one creature that has two faces and has fountain pens for feet and another creature that was half goldfish and half ostrich when Rudy and Buster’s look-alikes were trending through the water. I also loved the way that Henrik Drescher made Rudy and Buster’s actual world so calm and beautiful looking while in the world of the look-alikes, the world is chaotic and wild.


The only problem with this book is that the plot might be a bit confusing to younger children there is not really a particular plot to the story as it is mainly about two toys’ adventures in a secret clubhouse. Also, younger children might not understand about the whole story within a story scenario that this story has as there is an outside story which features Rudy and Buster enjoying their family time in the real world and an inside story where Rudy and Buster’s look-alike toys enter another world and have wild adventures there. Parents might want to explain to their children that the book was trying to promote the benefits of imagination within children and how it is wonderful to be creative with your imaginations.


Overall, “Look-alikes” is a truly memorable book for children who love surreal worlds and surreal characters and just love using their imaginations to create the worlds they want to be in! I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the plot might be a bit confusing for smaller children and some of the images might either scare or interest your child, depending on what your child enjoys reading.





[BOOK REVIEW] Runaway Opposites by Richard Wilbur


Title:  Runaway Opposites

Author:  Richard Wilbur

Artist:  Henrik Drescher


Genre: Poetry / Surreal / Humor


Year Published: 1995


Year Read: 2008

Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 6+  (Some Bizarre and Scary Imagery)



When I was browsing through the library for more books by Henrik Drescher, I stumbled upon this extremely unique little book! “Runaway Opposites” is an odd children's book with poems by Richard Wilbur along with illustrations by Henrik Drescher and this book basically have poems that detail various opposite words presented in a wacky way. “Runaway Opposites” is truly a unique book that every child should read!

Alright, here is a little information about illustrator Henrik Drescher’s involvement with previous books about poetry.

This is not the first book about poems that Henrik Drescher illustrated as he first collaborated with Jack Prelutsky with the book "Poems of A. Nonny Mouse" which also featured poems about wacky characters.

Alright now that I have explained a bit about the illustrator, I would like to talk about what I loved about this book! Richard Wilbur’s writing is a wacky as Henrik Drescher’s illustrations and together they perfectly complement the wackiness of this book of poems! I loved the way that Richard Wilbur allows you to think outside the box whenever you are trying to figure out which words are being compared as opposites to each other, such as in this poem:

“What is the opposite of nuts?
It’s soup! Let’s have no ifs or buts.
In any suitable repast
The soup comes first, the nuts come last.
Or that is what sane folks advise;
You’re nuts if you think otherwise.”


So in this poem, the opposite of nuts can either be soup or sane, which proves how crazy the poems really are and how far you have to think outside the box to figure out what words Richard Wilbur is trying to compare together. Henrik Drescher’s illustrations are even crazier in this book than in any other book he has created! The illustrations are filled with bizarre creatures that override the pages such as images of humans with bird beaks and creatures that have many limbs attached to their bodies. I also loved the way that Henrik Drescher pasted cut out photos of realistic looking faces on his illustrations and then he draws wacky expressions on the realistic photos such as drawing a beak on a realistic photo of a human and this tactic truly makes the illustrations seem to jump out at you.


Parents should know that this book might be a bit difficult for younger children to get through. What I mean is that, as was said in another review I have read about this book, the text looks like something that you would read out of “RANSOM” notes, meaning that it looks likes pieces of letters were cut out of magazines and pasted together to create words to tell the poetry. Yeah, it sounds pretty creative, but when you actually try to read it, the words seem jumbled and you cannot read out what the sentence is trying to say. Another problem that parents might have with this book is the images. Now, I am a huge fan of surreal art and I did think that these images are extremely creative, but I will admit that there were some images in this book that did scared me out a bit. Here is a list of some of the images that scared me out a little bit:

In the poem about the opposite of doctor, there is an image of a green man who has tentacles sprouting from his face and each tentacle has some kind of green ooze leaking out of them (some of the green ooze also lands on the green man’s tongue!)

In the poem about the opposite of a weeping tree, there is an image of a large wild beast that is multicolored and when it is laughing, it has sharp teeth and its mouth looks like it is nearly cleaved in two.


Overall, “Runaway Opposites” is definitely an odd poetic book that every child should definitely check out! I would recommend this book to children ages six and up due to the text being difficult for smaller children to read and because some of the images might scare smaller children.






[BOOK REVIEW] Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller



Title:  Batman:  The Dark Knight Returns

Author:  Frank Miller

Artists:  Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley


Genre: Action / Adventure / Superheroes


Year Published: 1986


Year Read: 2012


Series: Batman


Publisher: DC Comics

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 12+ (Violence, Mature Themes and Themes of War)
 



It is 1960s “Batman” vs. 1980s “Batman!” Guess which one will win!

Introduction:

For many years, I have actually grown up with the darker version of Batman when I was little, thanks to the animated TV series that came out of the 90s.  But a few years back, I have realized that there was a 1960s TV series where Batman seems a bit campy, but I had enjoyed it for what it was.  Now, I had heard of a particular “Batman” story that was the one that really changed Batman’s character over the years and that story happened to be “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” written by Frank Miller along with artwork by Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley.  This is easily one of the most influential stories I have ever read from the “Batman” comics!

What is this story about?

Basically, this story is broken up into four different books detailing Batman’s adventures in Gotham City:

Book 1: The Dark Knight Returns: When Batman (who is now much older) retires, he then realizes that after all of the years he had retired, there is still crime rampaging in Gotham City. So, Batman decides to come out of retirement and save Gotham City, surprising the citizens of Gotham City.

Book 2: The Dark Knight Triumphant: When the mutant gang threatens Gotham City, it is up to Batman to stop the leader of the mutant gang, putting an end to their terror.

Book 3: Hunt the Dark Knight: When the citizens of Gotham City saw Batman as more of a threat then as a hero, they send out the new Commissioner, Commissioner Yindel, and she decides to go out of her way to arrest Batman.

Book 4: The Dark Knight Falls: When the Soviets start attacking Corto Maltese and Superman takes the job to stop them, this leads to a huge showdown between Superman and Batman to decide about their ideologies about protecting the world.

What I loved about this story:

Frank Miller’s writing: Frank Miller has once again proven that he is definitely a force to be reckoned with whenever he was writing for Batman!  After reading his work in “Batman: Year One,” I just had to read more of his work on “Batman” and behold, this story was beyond anything fantastic I have read about Batman!  I loved the way that Frank Miller portrayed Batman in this story as Batman seems darker and grittier than ever before and this really helped revolutionized the dark character that Batman would soon become in the future “Batman” stories.  At first glance, there does seem to be so many events going on in this book (Batman’s return, Batman fighting the Mutant Gang, Batman’s battle with Superman) so, it was a bit hard to keep up with all of the events going on in this book (I was even confused at the beginning when I found out that Batman was much older than he was early on, only to realize this story takes place several years in the future).  But the best thing about all of these events taking place in this book was that we were able to get so many amazing stories centered on Batman and his struggles in coming back out of retirement to fight the bad guys.  I also loved the dark and gritty feel of this book as the Batman in this book is not afraid of hurting enemies to get what he wants and even recruits a young girl named Carrie Kelley, who is dressed up like Robin, to be his sidekick.  Now there is one thing that I wanted to get out of my chest and it is this:

I DO NOT LIKE POLITICAL TIE INS IN THE STORIES I WANT TO READ!

I am getting this off my chest because of the Cold War themed story in “The Dark Knight Falls” and most of the time, I do not like reading about any kind of political wars in these stories because it is either the “us against them” mentality in these stories or sometimes they tend to interrupt the flow of the story.  However, this is the one case that I did accept the political themed story in “The Dark Knight Falls” because it was using the Cold War theme to bring out a message about how Superman and Batman have different views on how to handle the situation in saving people’s lives as Batman seems to be anti-government while Superman seems to support the government and I loved the way that their views on the government was brought out through their actions and ultimately their showdown with each other.  I also loved the way that Frank Miller presented some news media segments in this story as we are able to gain a great insight on how the people of Gotham view Batman and how he is affecting the American society as a whole as it brought great depth to the story.

Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley’s artwork: Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley’s artwork is very well done in this story as the artwork has a dark and gritty feel to them.  I loved the images of Batman being large and muscular and how he usually looks threatening to all the criminals.  The colorings may seem a bit washed out and some of the artwork was a bit sloppy, but the artwork has that 80s feel that I really enjoyed and so, I really enjoyed the dark artwork being portrayed in this story.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

Some of the problems that some “Batman” fans might have with this story are that it is a bit too lengthy.  There are a total of four volumes contained into one book and since so much is happening in this book, it might be a bit too much for some fans to take in.  Also, this is probably one of the darkest “Batman” books I have ever read since Batman is shown to actually torture some of his enemies and there is some gore in this story as characters are punched and several scenes of characters being cut up.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” is a fantastic take on everyone’s favorite dark knight vigilante and with its many running themes about taking the law into your own hands, it will remain a classic in many “Batman” fans’ eyes! 



Thursday, August 9, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale




Title:  Rapunzel's Revenge

Authors:  Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Artist: Nathan Hale

Genre: Fantasy / Adventure / Western



Year Published: 2008



Year Read: 2010



Series: Rapunzel's Revenge #1

Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 6+ (Some Fighting Scenes)


“Rapunzel’s Revenge” is an awesome retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm tale “Rapunzel” by Shannon and Dean Hale along with illustrations by Nathan Hale (no relation). “Rapunzel’s Revenge” is a brilliant tale of adventure and romance that both children and adults will enjoy for centuries!

Shannon and Dean Hale has done a great job with writing their first graphic novel together and they make the story both exciting and dramatic at the same time. Shannon and Dean Hale had brilliantly retold the story in a western spoof of the classic Brothers Grimm tale as Rapunzel seems to be more of a western heroine than the typical damsel in distress than she was in the original Brothers Grimm story. Nathan Hale’s illustrations are realistic and rough looking as Rapunzel and Jack look like they have rough looking faces but are still attractive to look at. Nathan Hale’s illustrations of the buildings in the town are brilliantly creative as they look like something that comes out western shows like “The Rifleman” as they look a bit old fashioned but beautiful at the same time.


“Rapunzel’s Revenge” is one of the greatest fairy tale retellings of all time as it is full of action and adventure that both adults and children will enjoy immensely. I would recommend this book to children ages six and up since smaller children might not understand about the fairy tale parody theme of this story.