Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham




Genre: Fantasy / Supernatural / Suspense / Crime

Year Published: 2002

Year Read: 2012

Series: Fables #1

Publisher: Vertigo Comics
 

 
Characters of Fairy Tale land, meet the crew from CSI!

At least, the plot of this volume seems like something you would see out of an episode of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation!” 

Brief Introduction:

After I have been hearing so many good things about the “Fable” series, I just had to check this series out for myself!  So, I picked up the first volume of “Fables” called “Fables: Legends in Exile” and I must admit that this volume did have me interested in reading more from the “Fables” series, so we will have to see what will happen next in the fantastic “Fables” series!

What is the story?

In Fabletown, where all the fairy tale characters lived alongside normal human beings in New York, a murder case is afoot when Snow White’s sister, Rose Red is brutally murdered and only Bigby, a detective formally known as the Big Bad Wolf, is on the case to find her murderer!

What I loved about this comic:

Fairy tales, Fairy tales, Fairy tales and Bill Willingham’s writing!: If there is one thing I love so much about reading books, is that I have the opportunity to read about fairy tales!  I just love reading about fairy tales and folktales in general and after I heard about a comic book series that was going to dedicate most of their characters to famous fairy tale characters such as Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf and Bluebeard, I just had to pick this series up to see for myself!  I loved the way that Bill Willingham made the fairy tale characters adapt to the modern day world of New York City and I especially loved seeing the fairy tale characters take on jobs in the real world that you would never expect them to do such as the Big Bad Wolf being a detective or Snow White working as the mayor’s deputy, which the mayor happens to be Old King Cole!  I also loved the way that Bill Willingham set up the crime scenes in this book as it helped create a sort of suspense to the story and the plot is set up where readers have to find the clues to the murder of Rose Red either through the clues set up in the story or through the Big Bad Wolf who is on the case!

The artwork:  Lan Medina’s drawing of the characters is so brilliantly done as all the characters look extremely realistic and sort of echo the comics that you would normally see in detective comics.  I also loved the coloring done by Sherilyn van Valkenburgh as the colorings in the artwork made the artwork truly effective, especially when there were moments where the characters were in dark areas and the colors just darken to reflect the nighttime during those scenes.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this book:

The reason why I gave this volume a four star rating was because I felt that the story dragged on a bit too long in some scenes and I was wishing that there was more action in the story.  Also, there were several mentions in this volume about why the fairy tale characters ended up in New York since they were exiled from their homeland by an evil being called the Adversary and I wanted to know more about the Adversary and how the fairy tale characters will get their homeland back. I will admit, it was a little jarring to suddenly be thrown into a murder case without really getting to know the characters first, but I guess we might learn more about the characters in the future, so we will have to see.  Also, for anyone who does not like strong language, this volume has got plenty of strong language that you cannot even imagine, even though I am used to this kind of strong language after reading Neil Gaiman’s fantastic “Sandman” series.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Fables: Legends in Exile” is a good start to learning more about the fairy tale characters that were introduced in this volume and hopefully, the other volumes after wards would explain more about the Adversary and how the fairy tale characters will get their homeland back.  Now, I am definitely looking forward to reading the next volumes in this series!

AWARDS:

* Winner: 2003 Eisner Award for Best Serialized Story


  



Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Napping House by Audrey Wood




Genre: Bedtime / Family / Humor



Year Published: 1984



Year Read: 1993

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers



“The Napping House” is one of Audrey Wood’s and Don Wood’s earlier children’s books and is probably one of their most peaceful books ever written.  “The Napping House” was extremely popular back in the 80s for its numerous awards that it won which includes:  the 1984 New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book, the 1984 Golden Kite Award from Society of Children’s Book Writers and the 1984 American Library Association Notable Book for Children.

Audrey Wood’s lyrical writing is at its best as she narrates how all the family members are sleeping in the house only to be awakened by a wakeful flea.  Don Wood’s illustrations are colorful and beautiful beyond all reason, especially when he draws the rain shower at the beginning of the book and he makes the sky look gray, which is extremely effective on the realism of this story as the characters look like real people.  Another advantage to Don Wood’s illustrations is that his illustrations are humorous especially of the scenes where each family member bump into each other and their eyes popped out of their heads as they are surprised at being awakened by each other.

“The Napping House” is truly a masterpiece and because of Audrey Wood’s creative verses and Don Wood’s beautiful illustrations, this book is surely to capture the hearts of many young children.  I recommend this book to children ages three and up since it is simple to read and the situation is extremely simple to understand.

* 1984 New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book
* 1984 Golden Kite Award from Society of Children's Book Writers
* 1984 American Library Association Notable Book for Children 



  

Golem by David Wisniewski




Genre: Folktale / Jewish / Monsters



Year Published: 1996



Year Read: 2010

Publisher: Clarion Books


“Golem” is a Caldecott Medal award winning book by David Wisniewski which is about how the Jews are being persecuted because of the “blood lie” and how Rabbi Loew tries to figure out a way to save the Jews by building a Golem! “Golem” is a great and dark story that might please older children and adults, but it will definitely scare smaller children who do not understand the book’s mature content.

David Wisniewski has done a brilliant job at writing and illustrating this book. David Wisniewski’s writing is extremely dramatic and intense as it discusses the persecution of the Jews and his description of the Golem as being a frightening yet obedient being makes the story intense and somewhat heartwarming at the same time. David Wisniewski’s illustrations are frightening yet beautiful at the same time especially whenever David Wisniewski illustrates the lightning during the resurrection of the Golem and the lightning would spread across the whole page and look both frightening and fascinating at the same time. Also, David Wisniewski uses cardboard figures including the characters to illustrate the story and therefore, makes this story extremely captivating and realistic at the same time.

Parents should know that this book is too scary for smaller children since the story is too dark as it describes the persecution of the Jews in such vivid detail that it will scare small children. Also, the images in this book are extremely intense, especially of the image of Rabbi Loew resurrecting the Golem and there is lightning all over the page while the Golem’s expression looks extremely terrifying as it has a surprised and painful expression on its face as lightning shoots out of its eyes and mouth while it is being resurrected. Parents might want to steer young children away from this book until they are old enough to learn more about the persecution of the Jews and can handle the frightening images.

“Golem” is a truly brilliant yet frightening book about the persecution of the Jews and their savior that older children will love because of the amount of excitement and drama involved in the story. I would recommend this book to children ages eight and up because of the themes of the persecution of the Jews and the frightening images will frighten small children who do not understand about the persecution of the Jews and can not handle the frightening images in the book.

* 1997 Caldecott Medal




Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Sandman: Worlds' End Volume 8 by Neil Gaiman




Genre: Supernatural / Fantasy / Adventure


Year Published: 1993


Year Read: 2012


Series: The Sandman #8


Publisher: Vertigo Comics



Now just looking at the title of this volume “The Sandman: Worlds’ End,” you might be thinking that this might be the last volume of Neil Gaiman’s fantastic “Sandman” series, but it is not the final volume!  “The Sandman: Worlds’ End” is actually a series of stories woven by several characters in this volume who are stuck at an inn called Worlds’ End.  Be prepared for some engaging storytelling from the great Neil Gaiman in this classic volume!

In the eighth volume of the “Sandman” series which is called “Worlds’ End,” a young man named Brant Tucker and his friend Charlene Mooney ended up in a strange inn called “Worlds’ End” after they both get in a car crash during a snowstorm and tried to find shelter from the storm.  It turns out that the inhabitants of the strange inn are all characters from mythical tales and all the characters ended up telling their stories that are either about their actual lives or dreams they would like to have come true.  There are a total of seven stories in this volume and they are:

Worlds’ End: Sequences at the Inn – illustrated by Bryan Talbot and Mark Buckingham

A Tale of Two Cities – illustrated by Alec Stevens

Cluracan’s Tale – illustrated by John Watkiss

Hob’s Leviathan – illustrated by Michael Zulli and Dick Giordano

The Golden Boy – illustrated by Michael Allred

Cerements – illustrated by Shea Anton Pensa and Vince Locke

Worlds’ End – illustrated by Bryan Talbot, Mark Buckingham, Dick Giordano, Steve Leialoha, Gary Amaro and Tony Harris

For the past few days, I have been reading most of the volumes from Neil Gaiman’s popular “Sandman” series and I have enjoyed every single one!  I have also read the other volumes in the “Sandman” series that mainly contained short stories of the Endless’ adventures in exploring other people’s dreams which included “Dream Country” and “Fables and Reflections.” Even though both “Dream Country” and “Fables and Reflections” were enjoyable reads, I felt that “Worlds’ End” was the best out of all of the short story collections in the “Sandman” series!  I loved the way that Neil Gaiman had woven each of the stories told by each character in the story into one story that involves the secrets of the inn that all the characters ended up at and how the stories that each character told reflected the dreams that everyone wished were to happen.  My favorite stories in this volume were probably “A Tale of Two Cities,” “Cerements,” and “Cluracan’s Tale.”  I loved the idea that Neil Gaiman presented in the story “A Tale of Two Cities” as the story implies that the cities can dream of what they want too and it was a bit interesting and a bit frightening hearing about what would happen if the cities wake up, although we were never told what would happen and it is that sense of mystery and yearning to know the answer that really grasped my attention in this story.  I also loved both “Cluracan’s Tale” and “Cerements” because they were really creepy stories that dealt with the dead, especially in “Cerements” as the main characters actually dig up dead bodies!  Michael Allred, Gary Amaro, Mark Buckingham, Dick Giordano, Tony Harris, Steve Leialoha, vince Locke, Shea Anton Pensa, Alec Stevens, Bryan Talbot, John Watkiss, and Michael Zulli’s artwork were true works of masterpieces as each artist contributed dramatic artwork that flows nicely with each story.  I especially loved the artwork done by Alec Stevens in the story “A Tale of Two Cities” as the artwork resembles an 80s artwork vibe as the characters look a bit blocky and there are only mainly black, white, yellow and blue colorings in the artwork, which gives the story a distinct feel.

Like the other volumes in the “Sandman” series, there is some disturbing content in this volume, especially in the story “Cerements” where there is a scene where a young man named Petrefax witnesses an air burial where birds peck at the innards of a dead man while Master Hermas, the man performing the burial, takes out the dead man’s innards and lay it out for the birds to feed on.  This scene and the other scenes that deal with death might be a bit morbid for some readers to handle, so if you do not like scenes with blood and gore, then you might want to skim over these scenes.

Overall, “The Sandman: Worlds’ End” is easily one of the best short story collections to ever come out of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series and it is definitely worth reading over and over again!




Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Monster Mama by Liz Rosenberg




Genre: Monsters / Family / Bullying



Year Published: 1993



Year Read: 1996

Publisher:  Puffin




Imagine that your mother was actually a terrifying monster that scares anyone who comes across her, but you still love your mother anyway because, she is your mother!  That is what happens in this story called “Monster Mama” which was written by Liz Rosenberg along with illustrations by Stephen Gammell and children everywhere will definitely enjoy reading this book about loving your parents for who they are.

Patrick Edward was a young boy who was extremely wonderful, but his mother is a monster and she lived in a cave at the back of their house.  Even though his mother was a monster, she truly cared for her son Patrick Edward as she tended to him when he was sick and taught him magic spells that could put anyone to sleep.  One day, Monster Mama, whom Patrick Edward affection ally calls her, wanted Patrick Edward to pick up some strawberries for a dessert she wants to make.  So, Patrick Edward decides to go to the new market across town and buy some strawberry tarts.  Unfortunately, Patrick Edward meets up with some bullies who start torturing him.

“Monster Mama” is one children’s book that I hold dearly to my heart ever since I was child and not only did it have some really awesome illustrations and a really creative story, but the message about loving your parents for who they are is one that stayed with me for a long time.  Liz Rosenberg has done an excellent job at writing this story as I loved the main character Patrick Edward as he is shown to be a tough yet friendly little boy who dearly loves his mother, even though she is a monster.  I loved the message that Liz Rosenberg was sending out to the audience about the importance of loving your parents no matter what they look like or act like and it was great seeing Patrick Edward show so much love for his mother and I really loved the way that Monster Mama loved Patrick Edward so much.  Stephen Gammell’s illustrations are perfectly suited for this story as there are splatters of paint littered all over the pages, giving the story a chaotic feel.  I also loved the appearance of Monster Mama herself as she is always wearing a white dress, but her hair is so messy, she has sharp claws and she has sharp teeth that makes her look so menacing. 

The only problem that young children might have with this book is that the illustrations do look a bit scary.  Since Stephen Gammell’s illustrations have splatters of paint all over the pages and the characters having wild looking hair and faces, they might scare smaller children.  The appearance of Monster Mama herself might scare younger children since she does look menacing, especially whenever she is angry as her eyes glow read and her sharp teeth really shows.

Overall, “Monster Mama” is a truly brilliant story for children who love monster stories and who love reading stories about the importance of loving your parents no matter what they look like.  I would recommend this book to children’s ages five and up since the illustrations might scare smaller children.



Saturday, April 14, 2012

X-Men Powerless! by Alan Davis, Joe Pruett, Joseph Harris, and Erik Larsen






Genre: Superheroes / Action / Adventure

Year Published: 2000

Year Read: 2012

Series: X-Men

Publisher: Marvel Comics
 



Introduction:

Imagine what would happen if the X-Men actually lost their powers.  What would the X-Men do now that they no longer have their mutant powers at their disposal?  Well, that is what happens in this graphic novel called “X-Men: Powerless!” where a strange occurrence causes the X-Men to lose their powers and deal with the fact that they might never fight evil again.

What is this story about?

After the death of Cyclops, Professor Xavier decides to leave the X-Men to help the skrulls find a place to live and the X-Men are left to decide what they should do now.  Suddenly, the High Evolutionary comes by and tells the X-Men that he is taking away their powers because he wanted peace on earth since he thought that there would be no more fighting between the humans and the mutants if the mutants are like the humans.  Unknown to both the High Evolutionary and the X-Men, there is a darker force behind here that is pulling the strings of this plan and the X-Men may have to stop this menace without the help of their powers!  There are a total of five comic book series in this volume and they include:

Uncanny X-Men – Issues #379 (What Dreams May Come…)-#380 (Heaven’s Shadow): written by Alan Davis along with artwork by Tom Raney and coloring by Brian Haberlin

Cable – Issue #78 (I Still Believe I Cannot be Saved): written by Joe Pruett along with artwork by Juan Santacruz and coloring by Gloria Vasquez

X-Force – Issue #101 (Learning to Fly): written by Joseph Harris along with artwork by Steven Harris and coloring by Matt Hicks Harris

Wolverine – Issue #149 (Resurrection): written by Erik Larsen along with artwork by Graham Nolan and coloring by Marie Javins

X-Men – Issue #99: written by Alan Davis along with artwork by Terry Kavanagh and coloring by Hi-Fi Design

What I loved about this story:

Interesting concept: When I first picked up this graphic novel, I was thinking to myself about what would the X-Men do if they lost their mutant abilities? Would they try to go back to their normal lives if they do not have to fight anymore enemies now that their powers are gone?  I must admit that this concept did pique my interest and I was willing to give this comic a shot.  Since there are five separate comic series in this volume, there are many different perspectives on how the characters deal with the issue of losing their powers and I enjoyed seeing those different perspectives, especially with the X-Force team and the X-Men themselves as they are shocked about what happened and even though they tried to go back to their normal lives, they found out that their mutant abilities have become apart of who they are.  I loved how each writer (Alan Davis, Erik Larsen, Joseph Harris, and Joe Pruett) all put their own input on how the mutants have to deal with the situation about them losing their powers as it brought creativity to this volume and so many different perspectives on the situation that I enjoyed with great relish!

Tom Raney and Graham Nolan’s artwork: I really enjoyed Tom Raney and Graham Nolan’s artwork in both “Uncanny X-Men” and “Wolverine” as they both bring a really interesting and “classic nostalgia” spin to the volume!  Tom Raney’s artwork in “Uncanny X-Men” really takes me back to the older X-Men comics as the characters body proportions are appropriately drawn and the characters’ facial expressions are drawn beautifully as you can see the shock and anger on the characters’ faces.  I also loved the coloring done by Brian Haberlin as it made the characters truly stand out and I loved the details being put into Iceman’s ice armor as it literally shines making his ice form truly dazzling to look at.  In the “Wolverine” comic, I loved the way that Graham Nolan gives the story a more crime-noir feel as the artwork is slightly scratchy, but it is in that old-style comic book feel from the 1990s that just makes me feel so nostalgic right now.  My favorite image was at the beginning of the story when Wolverine enters a diner and he is wearing a dirty looking jacket and blue jeans while having a dark and mysterious look on his face that looks like he is having a rough time dealing with the loss of his powers.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

Even though the concept of this volume was extremely interesting, it feels like the story is not really filling in the gaps with some of the characters mentioned and the plot moves a bit too slowly for my tastes.  I am always obsessive when it comes to having good character development in stories in general and even though we get a good glimpse at how the X-Men felt about losing their powers and trying to live a normal life again, there is not really a lot action in this volume and I felt like just skimming through this volume just to get to the action scenes.  I usually like a good balance between action and character development in the stories I read and if there are too many scenes where characters are just talking, then it will get boring but if there are too many action scenes in a story, then we would not be able to understand about what the purpose of the action scenes are for.  That is why writers like Joss Whedon and Chris Claremont have a good grip on balancing character development and action scenes so that way we would not be too bored with the story.  Also, in this volume, I felt that Cable’s and Wolverine’s comic issues were not really important to the main plot since it feels like I am reading two different comics whenever I am reading Cable’s comic and Wolverine’s comic in this volume and even though both comics dealt with how the main characters lost their powers, it still feels too different to the main story of all the mutants losing their powers and trying to get to the High Evolutionary to get their powers back.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “X-Men: Powerless” was an above average reading that would be enjoyable if you want to see how the X-Men deal with the idea of losing their powers.  The concept is really enjoyable, but the story could have been better if there was more action and more involvement from the other mutants besides the main X-Men, hence the three and a half rating I gave this volume.




      

The Sandman: Brief Lives Volume 7 by Neil Gaiman




Genre: Supernatural / Adventure / Fantasy


Year Published: 1993


Year Read: 2012


Series: The Sandman #7


Publisher: Vertigo Comics
 



After reading the sixth volume of Neil Gaiman’s famous “Sandman” series, I just had to keep reading more and more of this fantastic series! For the past six volumes of the “Sandman” series, we have been reading about mainly Dream’s (Morpheus’) side of the story, but now in the seventh volume, “Brief Lives,” we are finally reading about Dream’s other siblings, mainly the youngest sibling of the Endless, Delirium, and how she tries to convince Dream to help her find their missing brother, Destruction.  This volume “Brief Lives,” is full of drama, surreal fantasy moments and heartbreaking moments that will set any “Sandman” fans ablaze with excitement!

In the seventh volume, “Brief Lives,” the youngest sibling of the Endless who is known as Delirium decides to drag Dream into a journey in finding their missing brother, Destruction who disappeared from the Endless many years ago.  Even though the two siblings go through so many tragedies along their way, they will soon discover a startling revelation about Destruction that might change the lives of the Endless forever!  There are a total of nine chapters in this volume that details the story of Dream and Delirium’s journey to find their missing brother.

Wow!  This volume was just so amazing beyond all reason! I will admit that even though there is not that much action in this volume as there was for the past few volumes, this volume clearly shows that you do not really need a lot of action to make an extremely interesting story!  Neil Gaiman has done an excellent job at writing this volume as it was not only intense, but it provided a good insight on the relationship shared between the Endless siblings.  For a long time now, we keep seeing the close relationship shared between Death and Dream, but now we see another close relationship between Dream and Delirium and it was nice seeing how Dream was willing to help out Delirium through her quest in finding their missing brother Destruction, even though Dream was hesitant about helping Delirium in the first place.  I also loved the way that Neil Gaiman gave this story a dark fantasy feel as we see Dream and Delirium traveling through the real world while mysterious and frightening accidents keep happening whenever they are around.  Jill Thompson and Vince Locke’s artwork is gorgeous and dark at the same time as the images of the Endless siblings are truly unique to look at.  I especially love the appearance of Delirium herself as she has multicolored hair and her hair constantly changes appearances every time she is in a different world.  I also enjoyed the disturbing images in this volume, especially of the image of Orpheus’s severed head sitting on a desk.

Like the previous “Sandman” volumes, this volume does have some blood and gore, although it is not as explicit as the first few volumes and there is few in between.  Probably some of the gory images that might disturb some readers are an image of Despair, one of the Endless, cutting herself up and you can see the blood spurt from her cuts and another image where a Cat goddess bites off the head of a rat and you can see the bloody insides of the rat.

Overall, “The Sandman: Brief Lives” is a truly wonderful volume about sibling love that fans of the “Sandman” series will easily enjoy for many years!



Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes



 Genre: Contemporary Romance
Year Published: 2001
 Number of Pages: 217 pages
Date Read: 4/13/2012
Publisher:  Greenwillow Books



I have been reading many works by Kevin Henkes ever since I was a child, but they were all children’s books like “Chrysanthemum,” “Sheila Rae the Brave” and “Owen” and I had enjoyed every one!  Now, this is the first time I have read one of Kevin Henkes’ works that is actually aimed at teens and the first book I have read from Kevin Henkes’ teen reads collection is “Olive’s Ocean!”  “Olive’s Ocean” is a Newbery Honor book by Kevin Henkes and it details the turbulent life of Martha Boyle after the death of a schoolmate Olive Barstow.  “Olive’s Ocean” may have some slow scenes, but it is truly a heartwarming experience for people who have lost their loved ones.

Martha Boyle was a normal 12-year-old girl until one day, a classmate named Olive Barstow was killed by a car while she was riding her bicycle on Monroe Street.  Olive’s death has truly affected Martha, even though she never really knew Olive and so, to get Olive’s death off of Martha’s mind, Martha and her family (her father, her mother, her brother Vince and her baby sister Lucy) all decided to spend their summer vacation on Cape Cod where Martha’s grandmother, Godbee resided.  However, Martha will soon realize that her life might change forever when she meets up with the Manning boys (Jimmy, Tate, Todd, Luke and Leo).

For a long while now, I have been reading many young adult books that ranged from young adult books dealing with a scary and freaky dystopian future like “The Hunger Games” or young adult books that deal with teenagers that have supernatural powers like “Vampire Academy” and “Harry Potter.”  Now finally, I have come across a young adult book that is all about the dark yet realistic life of a normal teenager (or a preteen in this case) and how she deals with a troubling issue.  I have always loved Kevin Henkes’ writing in his children’s books as they depict real-life situations in a cute and funny way, but his writing in “Olive’s Ocean” depicts real life in a brooding yet realistic way, which was quite a surprising turn for my reading experience!  Kevin Henkes’ writing is truly sad yet beautiful at the same time as we truly feel for Martha Boyles’s situation about dealing with the death of a classmate that she barely know.  I actually have that same experience that Martha had as many of my classmates in high school had died and even though I never knew any of them, their deaths really left a huge impact on me since I was upset that they would die at such a young age.  What was so unusual about this book is that even though Olive Barstow’s name is in the title, the story really revolves around Martha Boyle and how she deals with Olive’s death and it is rare for me to see a book that has a character’s name in the title, but the book does not really revolve around that person, but about how their deaths affected the person who knew them.  I also loved the way that this book was set up as the pages look like something that came out of a journal and each chapter details the daily activities that Martha does during her stay at Cape Cod.  I really loved the relationship that Martha shares with her grandmother Godbee as it reminds me of my relationship with my grandmother and it was great that Kevin Henkes was able to showcase this relationship extremely beautifully.

The reason why I gave this book a four star rating is because there are some slow scenes in the story that made me feel a little bored about the direction that the story was taking.  Sometimes the narrative would drone on a bit before it got to the interesting parts of the story.  Also, I kind of wish there was more romance in this novel since I am a huge romance buff, but I felt that the romance in this book was not really needed since the main theme of this book was of Martha dealing with the death of Olive.  Also, one of the reasons why this book was often on the banned books list is that it contains some strong language that is a bit strong for a young adult book, even though this would not bother me and it was only like one or two mild curse words.

Overall, “Olive’s Ocean” is a great story about dealing with the death of a loved one and how you have to enjoy life while you are still alive.  




REASON FOR BEING BANNED:  For having sexually explicit content and offensive language.

* Winner: 2004 Newbery Honor
* Nominee: 2005 Bluebonnet Award Nominee