Friday, November 23, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Amphigorey by Edward Gorey



Title:  Amphigorey

Author: Edward Gorey


Genre: Horror / Fantasy


Year Published: 1972


Year Read: 2012


Series: Amphigorey #1

Publisher: Perigee Trade

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 10+ (Death, Violence, Disturbing Imagery and Sexual Situations)



EDWARD GOREY’S BEST WORKS JAM-PACKED INTO ONE VOLUME!

After reading Edward Gorey’s morbid classic “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” (which is also surprisingly in this volume), I just had to read more of Edward Gorey’s works and I managed to pick up a volume of his works called “Amphigorey” and boy, was I amazed at the stories in this collection!

In this volume, there is a collection of fifteen stories written by Edward Gorey and they include:

1)      The Unstrung Harp
2)      The Listing Attic
3)      The Doubtful Guest
4)      The Object-Lesson
5)      The Bug Book
6)      The Fatal Lozenge
7)      The Hapless Child
8)      The Curious Sofa
9)      The Willowdale Handcar
10)  The Gashlycrumb Tinies
11)  The Insect God
12)  The West Wing
13)  The Wuggly Ump
14)  The Sinking Spell
15)  The Remembered Visit

Wow! I never would have thought that I would find part of the complete collection of Edward Gorey’s works since he noted at the introduction that most of his works were expensive and hard to find, so he made this compilation of all of his works, which was fine with me!  After reading most of his works in this volume, I have a greater appreciation for Edward Gorey’s writing style as the majority of stories he had written were truly morbid and gruesome to read through!  Just reading about murders and people dying of unnatural causes was just a treat for me to read since I love reading really morbid stories with effective illustrations!  Edward Gorey’s illustrations clearly compliment the dark and spooky mood of the stories as the colorings are all in black and white, which seems like something that came out of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies.  Some of my favorite stories in this volume were “The Fatal Lozenge,” “The Hapless Child,” “The Gashlycrumb Tinies,” “The Insect God” and “The Wuggly Ump.”

~A Little Warning~

THIS BOOK IS NOT EXACTLY FOR CHILDREN!

As I mentioned before, there are many images of characters being killed or dying of unnatural causes and also, there are many stories where children are killed or are being mistreated that could be disturbing for young children.  There is also a story called “The Curious Sofa” that implies that sexual activities between several characters are present.  Also, the reason why I took off half a point from this book was because I felt that some of the stories in this volume were a bit boring (“The Unstrung Harp” was my least favorite story) and some stories were a bit difficult to understand since the language is a bit old-fashioned for the modern audience.

Overall, “Amphigorey” is a great collection of stories for fans of Edward Gorey’s works and anyone who loves reading about morbid stories would definitely enjoy this collection!  I would recommend this volume to older children and teenagers since there are many disturbing moments in this collection and some young readers might not understand the sexual themes in “The Curious Sofa.”


   


[BOOK REVIEW] American Vampire Volume 2 by Scott Snyder



Title:  American Vampire Volume 2

Author: Scott Snyder

Artists:  Rafael Albuquerque’s and Mateus Santolouco


Genre: Horror / Action / Adventure


Year Published: 2011


Year Read:  2012


Series: American Vampire #2


Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Source:  Library

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




Brief Introduction:

After reading the first volume of Scott Snyder’s classic graphic novel, “American Vampire,” I just had to check out the second volume to see more adventures from Pearl and Skinner!  So, I finally read “American Vampire: Volume Two” by Scott Snyder (Stephen King is not writing this volume this time) and I was even more amazed at how well this story is getting developed and now I cannot wait to see what will happen to these characters next!

What is the story?

In this volume, there are two stories being told regarding Pearl and Skinner.  In the first story, police chief Cash McCogan starts investigating the murders of the four consortiums who are trying to make money off of building the Hoover Dam and Cash starts to suspect that Skinner might have something to do with the murders.  In the second story, Pearl is married to her sweetheart Henry Preston and while she is worried about being a vampire and how it might affect her relationship with Henry, she will soon discover that her former nemesis is still alive devising a way to get her vengeance on Pearl!

What I loved about this comic:

Scott Snyder’s writing:   What I loved so much about the first volume of “American Vampire” was that Scott Snyder introduced a really creative idea about a vampire being created in America instead of Europe, which really put a huge twist on the mythology of vampires.  In this volume, Scott Snyder has once again woven two brilliant stories about two characters that are vampires and actually goes deep into the characters’ inner feelings about the situations they are thrown in.  I loved the way that Scott Snyder portrayed Skinner Sweet as being a truly threatening villain as he is not shown as your typical tough guy villain, but is shown to be really calculating and tricking anyone to get what he wants, which is what I love to see in any villain.  Scott Snyder’s portrayal of Pearl Preston is wonderfully done as he really shows how Pearl struggles with being a vampire and how it might affect her relationship with Henry, which I really enjoyed seeing the love she shows for Henry and how concern she was for him as she worries about hurting Henry because she is a vampire now.  I also loved the stark difference between Pearl and Skinner’s personalities as Skinner uses his vampire powers to get what he wants while Pearl uses her vampire powers to protect people she cares about and I am thinking that this might be a great set up if Pearl and Skinner decided to fight each other someday.

Rafael Albuquerque’s and Mateus Santolouco’s artwork:  I really enjoyed both Rafael Albuquerque’s and Mateus Santolouco’s artwork as they both brings so much creativity to the stories.  Rafael Albuquerque’s artwork is as usual dark and gritty as the characters are drawn in a scratchy way that really brings out the gritty situations they are thrown in and I also loved the angry and serious expressions on the character’s faces as they are drawn effectively.  Mateus Santolouco’s artwork has a much different feel from Rafael Albuquerque’s artwork as the artwork is much smoother and lighter in color tones whenever they are used in the flashback sequences of the characters talking about their past lives.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this book:

Just like the first volume, this volume has plenty of gory violence (characters being ripped apart and blood gushing out) that might make some readers feel uncomfortable about reading about such violence.  Also, there is some strong language in this volume such as the use of the “f” word that might offend some readers.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “American Vampire: Volume Two” is a fantastic follow up to the first volume and actually has more development on the characters and more unexpected twists for the characters that definitely has me wanting to see more from this series!






Sunday, November 18, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] American Gods by Neil Gaiman




Title:  American Gods

Author:  Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fantasy

Year Published: 2001

Number of Pages: 465 pages

Date Read: 11/18/2012

Publisher:  Headline Review

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 18+ (Strong Language, Violence and Murder)


 “There are many Gods in America.  It is just that many people either do not believe in them or see them anymore.  Are they real or not? Only you could decide on that.”


I have been a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s works for many years and some of my favorite works done by Neil Gaiman included “Coraline” and the “Sandman” series.  So, when I heard that Neil Gaiman was writing some books for older teens and adults, I just had to check them out and that is where I found “American Gods!”  “American Gods” has won many awards including the Bram Stoker Award, the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and is a World Fantasy award nominee and it definitely deserved all of those awards! “American Gods” is definitely one of the most intense and creative stories I have ever read from the master of storytelling!

The book starts off with a mild mannered man named Shadow, who spent three years in prison for beating up some people.  One day however, when Shadow mysteriously gets an early release from prison, he decided to go home to his wife Laura.  But, when Shadow discovered that Laura was killed in a car accident, his life turned upside down and he did not know what to do with his life without Laura.  It was not until afterwards that Shadow meets a mysterious old man named Wednesday, who wanted Shadow to work for him and Shadow agreed to work for him.  However, as soon as Shadow starts working for Wednesday, he will soon discover that there are many dark secrets abound, which includes not only the people’s faith in Gods, but the fact that there is an upcoming war between the old Gods and the new Gods!

OH…MY…GODS!

There was just so much about this novel that made this a truly electrifying and awesome experience for me!  Neil Gaiman has definitely created a brilliant story that not only revolves around the mysteries of mythical beings, but also plays on the theme about how people’s beliefs in these Gods affected the Gods themselves.  I really enjoyed the characters in this story, especially Shadow as he is shown to be an extremely mild mannered man who does not seem to know what he has gotten himself into.  Shadow may seem a bit awkward at the beginning since he does not seem fazed by the surreal activities that happen around him, but once you get deep into the book; his character arc becomes full of surprises that really shocked me!  I also loved the way that Neil Gaiman wrapped the mythology about Gods into a more modern day setting that begs the question about whether or not people in current times still believe in the old Gods, which helped gave this book a more creative flair.  I really enjoyed how Neil Gaiman was able to make the famous gods like Odin, Czernobog, Anansi and Easter seem like ordinary people as it made guessing which characters are which Gods the more interesting!  I also loved the theme that this book sort of poses for readers as the war in this book is supposed to be between the old Gods (Odin, Czernobog and Anansi) and the new Gods as the old Gods were afraid of being forgotten once the New Gods, who are more up to date with the modern society, become more believable to the people.  To me, it seems like the book was trying to point out about what happens when a society encounters new things that are interesting, like iPads or cell phones, and whether or not, they would forget the old things that they enjoyed in the past like board games and I wonder if the book was stating that you can have both the old and the new things in life as society changes over the years since they are both important your lifestyles (the old things in society helping people remember where they came from and the new things in society letting people see how society has changed over the years).  Now, since I had already read Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series, I am already accustomed to his dark storytelling for adults, so the fact that this was my first adult book by Neil Gaiman, I was not really shocked by the dark content presented in this book and it made me really enjoy the book even further!

For anyone who does not like strong language in a novel, this novel definitely has some strong language such as dropping the “f” bomb several times and using the “s” word several times.  Also, this novel has so much disturbing content which includes dead bodies being revived and characters being murdered in a brutal way.  While I did find most of the dialogue to be interesting and amusing, I cannot help but feel that some of the dialogue in this book is a bit too lengthy and they take up so much space in the book that it feels like the book could have been shorter if the dialogue did not go on forever.

Overall, “American Gods” was dark, disturbing and amazing at the same time!  It may have taken me a long time to read through this book (this book has nearly five hundred pages), but it was definitely worth the experience in reading this unique little masterpiece and I would highly recommend this book to any fan of Neil Gaiman’s works!

* 2001 International Horror Guild Award Nominee for Best Novel
* 2001 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel
* 2002 Hugo Award for Best Novel
* 2002 Nebula Award for Best Novel
* 2002 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel
* 2002 World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel
* 2002 SFX Award for Best Novel 
* 2002 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Adult Literature
* 2003 Geffen Award
* 2003 Prix Bob Morane for roman traduit




Saturday, November 10, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Fear Agent Volume 4: Hatchet Job by Rick Remender



Title:  Fear Agent Volume 4: Hatchet Job

Author: Rick Remender

Artist: Jerome Opena

Genre: Sci-Fi / Action / Adventure / Horror


Year Published: 2008


Year Read: 2012


Series: Fear Agent #4


Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 16+ (Gory Violence)
 




Brief Introduction:

After reading the last volume, “Fear Agent: The Last Goodbye,” I was more than excited to find out what would become of Heath Huston after his tragic past was revealed.  Now, that I have finally picked up the fourth volume, “Fear Agent: Hatchet Job,” things become more interesting to me at discovering more about Heath Huston!

What is the story?

In this volume, Heath and the other Fear Agents try to find a new home for humanity after the feeders destroyed their planet.  Once the Fear Agents split up to different planets, Heath will realize that they got trouble on their hands when he goes on the planet Kipferi to fight in a battle against Charlotte’s new husband, while the other Fear Agents face a betrayal amongst them!

What I loved about this comic:

Rick Remender’s writing:   As usual, Rick Remender has done a brilliant job at really developing the characters and showing more emotional moments around the characters.  I loved the way that Rick Remender portrayed the relationship troubles that Heath Huston has with both Charlotte and Mara as he ponders about whether he should stay with Charlotte or move on with his life with Mara and it was heartbreaking seeing this type of choice that Heath has to make after he just found his first love Charlotte.  I also loved the surprising twists that Rick Remender throws into this story as we see a betrayal in the team that revealed a shocking past on one of the characters that I felt was extremely tragic to read about and it really brings out the dark nature of this sci-fi thriller series!  I really enjoyed Heath Huston’s character in this volume as he is shown as being a sympathetic character who has gone through so much tragedy in his life as he tries to make up for his past mistakes while defeating various aliens along the way!

Jerome Opena’s artwork: Ever since I started reading the “Fear Agent” series, I have often found Jerome Opena’s artwork to be much more beautiful to look at as it contrasts Tony Moore’s more gritty style.  Jerome Opena’s artwork is extremely gorgeous to look at as the characters seem to glow and the details to the alien world that Heath lives in are extremely vivid and creative to look at!

What made me feel uncomfortable about this book:

For one thing, anyone who does not like gory violence might have trouble getting through this volume since this volume has plenty of gory violence including scenes of people getting their faces ripped off and people’s guts being ripped out (your typical alien horror show). Also, the reason why I gave this volume a four star rating was because the plot did move a bit too fast for me to keep up with as there were too many things going on (the betrayal, Heath’s fight with Charlotte’s husband, the space pirates), although that is not too bad, but in this case, it was difficult to keep up with the story at this pace.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Fear Agent: Hatchet Job” is a great follow up to Heath’s adventures and hopefully, I will be able to see more of Heath Huston’s adventures in the alien world in the future!



 

[BOOK REVIEW] More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz


Title:  More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Author:  Alvin Schwartz

Artist: Stephen Gammell


Genre: Horror / Short Story



Year Published: 1984



Year Read: 2012



Series: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark #2

Publisher: HarperCollins

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 8+ (Scary Situations and Frightening Imagery)
 




SCARY STORIES PART TWO!

After reading the first book “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” I just had to read up on the sequel, “More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” which is also written by Alvin Schwartz along with illustrations by Stephen Gammell. “More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is a continuation of the first book and we are introduced to more spine-tingling tales from this fantastic series as you will definitely be sitting on the edge of your seats after you read this collection of scary stories!

Just like the first book, this book basically contains a collection of scary stories to tell in the dark and they include:

One Sunday Morning

A young woman named Ida decided to go to church on Sunday morning and when she made it to the church, she started to realize that the people at the church were not normal as she saw one of her friends, Josephine Kerr, attend the service, even though she died a month ago…

The Little Black Dog

Billy Mansfield was fighting a man named Silas Burton, who was an enemy of his family and when Billy knocked Silas off his horse, he ended up killing Silas along with his black dog when the dog started barking at Billy.  Unfortunately after that incident, Billy starts noticing a strange black dog following him around…

The Bride

A minister’s daughter just got married and after the wedding ceremony, she decided to play hide and seek and she hid inside a trunk in the attic.  Unfortunately, the lid of the trunk dropped on the daughter and locked her inside the trunk and everyone at the wedding ceremony did not even know that she is missing!

Once again, I was blown away by this collection of scary stories from the creative retellings of Alvin Schwartz!  Alvin Schwartz has done a brilliant job at retelling these ancient scary folktales as each story is just as creepy and intense as the last story and the twist endings are enough to make you scream!  I loved the way that Alvin Schwartz provided an eerie atmosphere to each story as it makes the audience feel scare for the characters and the supernatural activities that surround them and it really brought out the creativity of this book.  I also loved the fact that Alvin Schwartz took the time to research the various folktales dealing with horror and I loved the fact that Alvin Schwartz provided a bibliography section at the end of the book so that way you would be able to go back and check the original sources of these tales!  I enjoyed most of the stories in this collection, but my most favorite stories would have to be “The Bride,” “The Little Black Dog,” “One Sunday Morning,” “Wonderful Sausage” and “The Cat in a Shopping Bag.” Stephen Gammell’s illustrations are as usual, eerily and brilliantly done as the artwork is truly frightening to look at and the black and white colorings of the illustrations really bring out the creepy feel to the stories.  There is much creepy imagery in this book, but probably the scariest image in this book was of the skeletal bride in “The Bride.” 

Just like the first book, this book might be too scary for small children since there are stories about characters being killed and haunted by supernatural forces.  Also, what always made this series so scary for small children is the fact that the illustrations are truly scary and small children might not be able to get through this book because of the scary illustration.  As for why I took off half a point from the rating, I felt that this book was using the same structure that was used in the first book such as in stories like “Cemetery Soup” where the character always steal something from the dead and something haunts them at the end.

Overall, “More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is just another addition to your “Horror Books for Children” shelf that you just got to check out!  I would recommend this book to children ages eight and up since the often spooky content in this book is too scary for small children.




REASON FOR BEING BANNED: Unsuited for age group, violence




[BOOK REVIEW] American Vampire Volume 1 by Scott Snyder and Stephen King




Title:  American Vampire Volume 1

Authors:  Scott Snyder and Stephen King

Artist:  Rafael Albuquerque


Genre: Horror / Action / Adventure


Year Published: 2010


Year Read: 2012


Series: American Vampire #1


Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Source:  Library

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




Brief Introduction:

Now, it is rare that I often read many vampire comics (with the exception of “Fray”), so when I heard so many good things about Scott Snyder and Stephen King’s graphic novel, “American Vampire,” I just had to check it out and boy, was I amazed at how creative and intense this story really was!

What is the story?

In this volume, we are introduced to two separate stories that feature a ruthless outlaw, Skinner Sweet and a young and beautiful actress, Pearl Jones.  Skinner Sweet’s side of the story takes place during the 1880s as we are told about how he became the first American Vampire while Pearl Jones’ side of the story takes place during the 1920s and how she becomes a victim of a vampire attack.

What I loved about this comic:

Scott Snyder and Stephen King’s writing:   Wow! I never thought I would see the day where Scott Snyder and Stephen King was writing the same book together!  Now, I have been a huge fan of Stephen King’s works for many years (enjoying books like “Carrie,” “Pet Sementary” and “The Shining”), but this was the first time that I had ever read a graphic novel written by Stephen King (even though this is technically the first graphic novel written by Stephen King) and boy, was I blown away by the exciting and consistent writing in this volume!  I loved the way that both Scott Snyder and Stephen King created exciting and intense situations for the characters as Scott Snyder writes Pearl Jones’ side of the story while Stephen King writes Skinner Sweet’s side of the story.  Even though Scott Snyder and Stephen King are writing two different stories, the stories just flow so well together as they weave in each other as we are not only hearing about Pearl’s side of the story which takes place in current times, but we are also hearing Skinner’s side of the story since his story takes place in the past and explains the back story about the American Vampire.  This story was so interesting and creative to me because it is rare that I would read a vampire book where the vampire originates in America instead of Europe since most vampire stories originated from Europe.  I really loved the way that Scott Snyder portrayed Pearl Jones as being a strong and independent character that went through a traumatic experience and vows for revenge against her tormentors.  I also loved the way that Stephen King portrayed Skinner Sweet as being a truly ruthless yet mysterious character that was known for killing innocent people with no mercy while going through a frightening transformation that really made him into a deadly foe.

Rafael Albuquerque’s artwork:  Rafael Albuquerque’s artwork may be a bit scratchy and sometimes hard to see, but it fits extremely well with the dark and gritty tone of this story.  I loved the images of the vampires themselves as they have large mouths with pointed teeth that really make them look as frightening as they attack their victims.  I also loved the coloring done by Dave McCaig as the images are colorful and I really loved the scenes of the characters being inside lighted caves as the shadowing of the characters’ forms whenever they are near a fire are extremely dramatic to look at.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this book:

For anyone who does not like strong bloody violence, this volume has plenty scenes of characters being ripped apart and blood gushing everywhere.  Also, there is some strong language in this volume such as the “s” word and the “f” word that might offend some readers who do not like strong language.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “American Vampire: Volume One” is a truly brilliant graphic novel that really deserved all of the praise it got and probably the most creative vampire graphic novel I have ever read since it was rare to read a vampire novel where the vampire actually originated in America instead of Europe.  Fans of vampire stories will definitely enjoy this volume as it cleverly weaves ancient vampire folklore with current situations and now after reading this volume, I am off to read the next volume!  



Saturday, November 3, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver




Title:  Liesl and Po

Author:  Lauren Oliver

Artist:  Kei Acedera

Genre: Fantasy / Friendship



Year Published: 2011



Year Read: 2012

Publisher:  Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 8+ (Supernatural Themes)




“A Tale about a mix-up that changes several characters’ lives forever!”

For many years now, I have been reading the “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling and I really enjoyed every single one of them!  Now, I have found this quite unusual book (thanks to my friends!) called “Liesl and Po” by Lauren Oliver along with illustrations by Kei Acedera and boy, was it an enjoyable ride that I would not mind reading about again!

The story starts off with a young orphaned girl named Liesl being able to see a ghost named Po along with its cat/dog companion Bundle and how she became fast friends with the ghost.  As the story unfolds, we are also introduced to a young orphaned boy named Will who is an apprentice to a well-known alchemist and how he was sent on retrieving an important box that contained great magic made by the alchemist.  Unfortunately, Will accidentally mixed up the box containing the great magic with another box that had Liesl’s father’s ashes in it!  To further add to the mix-up, after Po tells Liesl that her father, who had died years ago, wanted Liesl to put his ashes near the old willow tree at their old home, Liesl decided to go on a journey to her old home to put her father’s ashes near the willow tree, when in reality, she had the box containing the magic created by the alchemist!

Understanding the story so far?  Do not worry; it will start making sense when you read this book!

The reason why I mentioned “Harry Potter” earlier was because this book was really similar to “Harry Potter” as both books have fantasy elements, an intense story and gorgeous illustrations that accompany the story.  Probably the best thing about this book was Lauren Oliver’s writing style for this story as each chapter focuses on a different character, but each character arc slowly builds up to a larger story towards the end.  Lauren Oliver has done a brilliant job at developing each character in this story as we feel sympathy for both Liesl and Will as not only are they orphans, but they are hunted just because they were carrying a box that supposedly has great magic in it and they did not know about how important the box was.  I also loved the supernatural elements in this book as there are ghosts and magic galore and it really brings a creative streak to the story (especially for me since I love reading about supernatural elements!) and having a ghost as a best friend was a truly unique way of telling a ghost story where the ghost actually helps the main character!  Kei Acedera’s illustrations are reminiscent of the illustrations in the “Harry Potter” books and they are extremely beautiful to look at.  I always loved the two page panels of the illustrations done by Kei Acedera, especially the image of Liesl’s old home as you can see a gorgeous looking willow tree near a pond on the left side of the page and then an old moss covered house on the right side of the page.  The black and white colorings of the illustrations really bring out the dramatic tensions shown in the story and make the story even more effective to read through.

The reason why I gave this book a four star rating is because I felt that there were many scenes where the book moved too slowly in pace.  The beginning started off really slow and I was waiting for something exciting to really happen to the characters.  It was not until the second half of the book that the story really started to pick up and even though I loved the second half of the book, I wished that there were more dramatic scenes regarding the characters.

Overall, “Liesl and Po” is definitely one book to check out if you are a huge fan of the “Harry Potter” books and you also love children’s books that deal with supernatural themes!  Since this is my first book by Lauren Oliver, I am definitely looking forward to reading more of her works in the future!