Monday, February 25, 2013

A Texan's Luck by Jodi Thomas



Genre: Historical Romance
Year Published: 2004
Number of Pages: 512 pages
Date Read: 2/25/2013
Series: Wife Lottery #3
Publisher:  Jove


After reading the first two books in Jodi Thomas’ fantastic “Wife Lottery” series, “The Texan’s Wager” and “When a Texan Gambles,” I was definitely looking forward to reading the third book in this series called “A Texan’s Luck” and man, was I in for an enjoyable ride!

The story starts off when Captain Walker Larson discovers a shocking revelation when a young and beautiful woman named Lacy Larson walks into his office and tells him that she is his wife.  Unfortunately, Walker has no intentions of having a wife and he sends Lacy away back to Cedar Point.  Three years later however, when Lacy thought that she got over her disappointment in meeting Walker Larson, Walker ends up back in her life again when he received word that Zeb Whitaker might be after her and he was stationed to protect her at all costs.  Unfortunately, Lacy, still upset over Walker shunning her years ago, wants nothing to do with Walker and wants him to leave in the next few days.  However, both Walker and Lacy will soon discover that they might have some feelings for each other despite their differences.

Wow!  I never thought that Jodi Thomas’ “Wife Lottery” series could possibly get even better over time!  Jodi Thomas’s writing in this book was so beautiful and emotional that I found myself really sympathizing with all of the characters’ ordeals.  I loved the way that Jodi Thomas portrayed the relationships between the characters, especially between Lacy and Walker themselves, who are my favorite characters in the entire book!  Lacy Larson was such an independent and kind hearted heroine who refuses to let anyone run her life.  I actually sympathized with Lacy at the beginning of the novel since she was scorned by Walker Larson and it was pretty understandable about why she hated Walker throughout most of the book since I probably would have held a little grudge myself if I was scorned like that.  I also loved the way that Lacy helped Walker understand more about how love works and the fact that she too was new at the whole “husband and wife” situation really brought out so much chemistry between her and Walker.  Probably the best character in this book was Walker Larson himself as he is unlike any other romantic hero I had ever read about before!  Walker Larson is shown to be a gruff, secretive and yet tortured character as he felt sorry for what he done to Lacy years ago and tries to make amends for it.  It was interesting seeing that Walker had trouble trying to sort out his feelings for Lacy due to him being in the army all the time and I loved the way that he tries hard to please Lacy and protect her at all times, despite his somewhat “cold” attitude.  Even though there were not enough sexual scenes to satisfy my romantic urges, the scenes where Walker and Lacy try to get to know each other by taking each other out to dinners and spending some quality “quiet” time together were probably the best scenes in this book and I really loved their witty banters with each other, especially this little gem:

“This day was endless not seeing you.  I want to get you alone.  I don’t feel like sharing you with the world right now.”

“I know.”

“I thought of being here with you like this all day.”

“I know.”

“I ached to hold you.  Half the time I didn’t even bother to listen to what others were saying.”

“I know.”

For anyone who does not like reading about sex scenes, this book has some sex scenes, however, it is not quite as explicit as the other sex scenes I have read in other romance novels.  Also, there is some brief language in this novel, however the language only showed up once or twice in this novel and it is not quite strong enough to be offensive.

Overall, “A Texan’s Luck” is easily one of the most memorable books out of Jodi Thomas’ “Wife Lottery” series and anyone who is a huge fan of western romances should definitely give this novel a whirl!




Saturday, February 23, 2013

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans




Genre: Family / School / Sickness / France


Year Published: 1939

Year Read:  1996

Series: Madeline #1

Publisher: London: Hippo


 “Madeline” is the first book created by Ludwig Bemelmans for his “Madeline” series and has won the Caldecott Honor Book Award.  This book basically details Madeline’s earliest adventures from standing up bravely to a ferioucious tiger to having a bad case of appendicitis.

Ludwig Bemelmans’ writing is creative and sweet as he writes the story in a rhyming text that efficiently narrates the story.  The story of how Madeline suffers from appendicitis and how Miss Clavel and the other girls cared enough to visit her in her feeble condition is both intense as we see Madeline crying and heartwarming as Miss Clavel and the girls worry about her conditon.   This scene reminds me of a true mother to daughter scene as Miss Clavel acts like a protective mother over Madeline and the girls and tries everything she could to make sure that Madeline’s condition does not worsen before she could get her to the hospital, something a mother would do for her child if her child suffered an illness.  Ludwig Bemelmans’ illustrations are simplistic and creative, especially of the images of the landscape of Paris including the Eiffel Tower being colorful while the regular situations between the girls and Miss Clavel are in yellow, white, and black colors.

“Madeline” is one of Ludwig Bemelmans’ finest book yet since it led to “Madeline” having many sequels and even a television series that was popular during the mid 90’s.  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since some of the French language in the text would be a bit difficult for younger children to understand.
* 1940 Caldecott Honor
* 2010 Indies Choice Book Award for Picture Book Hall of Fame





The Firebird by Demi





Genre: Fantasy / Folktale / Romance / Animal / Magic


Year Published: 1994


Year Read:  2011

Publisher:  Owlet Paperbacks
 


I have actually first heard of this tale from Rabbit Ears’ version of "The Firebird," which was narrated by Susan Sarandon, but now I have finally stumbled upon Demi’s version of the classic Russian folktale, “The Firebird.”  “The Firebird” is about a young archer named Dimitri who finds a firebird feather and goes on an adventure of a lifetime in fulfilling the Tsar’s greedy needs!  “The Firebird” is a truly wonderful classic folktale that children everywhere will love for many years!!

I am a huge fan of various folktales around the world and reading this version of the classic Russian folktale is definitely no exception!  Demi has done an excellent job at both illustrating and writing this fantastic folktale about the importance of not throwing caution to the wind.  What I really loved about Demi’s writing is how she based this version on Arthur Ransome’s popular book “Old Peter’s Russian Tales,” which is extremely interesting to know since I have heard about “Old Peter’s Russian Tales” so much from other reviewers.  I also loved the way that Demi made the book extremely dramatic and exciting at the same time as I was literally drawn into how Dimitri would be able to get out of the troubling situation he has thrown himself into and I also loved how Demi made the Tsar’s greed for power into something that can make a person corruptive, which is true.  It was also interesting seeing how Dimitri and Princess Vassilissa met each other through a sea of flames, which is an interesting way to meet your true love since it is not everyday that you get to meet the person you love at the edge of the world! Demi’s illustrations are extremely beautiful and creative as Demi uses traditional Chinese paints, inks and brushes and watercolor paints and paper to create the illustrations for this book.  My favorite illustration in this book was of Dimitri jumping into the cauldron of boiling water and I loved how the fire was drawn as the fire seems like it is literally licking at Dimitri and has golden, orange and yellow colors that truly show how effective this scene really is.

Parents should know that there are some threatening situations in this book which includes Dimitri being threatened with death numerous times throughout the book and that might scare smaller children.  Parents might want to talk to their children about being bullied into doing something they do not want to do before they read them this book.

All in all, “The Firebird” is a truly brilliant classic that children who love reading Russian folktales will definitely get a kick out for many years!  I would recommend this book to children ages six and up due to the length of this book and because the threatening situations might scare smaller children.





Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco




Genre: Friendship / Family

Year Published: 1992

Year Read: 2011

Publisher: Dragonfly Books



Patricia Polacco has written so many children’s books that show the true meaning of friendship and “Mrs. Katz and Tush” is no exception!  “Mrs. Katz and Tush” is a children’s book by Patricia Polacco which is about an old Jewish woman named Mrs. Katz whose husband had died recently and she ends up making friends with a young African-American boy named Larnel and a stray cat named Tush.  “Mrs. Katz and Tush” is a truly wonderful tale about the importance of true friendship that children will enjoy for many years to come!

Patricia Polacco has done it again in creating a book where multicultural friendships are shown in a positive light. What I really loved about Patricia Polacco’s writing is how she truly shows Mrs. Katz’s pain when she lost her husband and I truly felt sad for her since I have lost many loved ones during my lifetime and I felt the pain that Mrs. Katz felt.  I also loved the connection that Mrs. Katz has towards both Tush and Larnel as with Tush the cat, Mrs. Katz did not care how odd Tush looked without its tail, she still loved Tush for just being her true companion.  I really loved the relationship that Mrs. Katz has with Larnel and what I loved about their relationship is that they both extremely different from each other (Mrs. Katz is Jewish and Larnel is African-American) but they formed such a strong friendship with each other and that made me feel all warm inside!  My favorite part of Larnel and Mrs. Katz’s relationship is when they started relating to each other about their family history and it was a truly powerful moment in the book when Mrs. Katz told Larnel that they are alike from each other since both their ancestors were faced with racism and prejudice during their times and it was that moment that brought Larnel and Mrs. Katz much closer towards each other.  I also enjoyed seeing Mrs. Katz show Larnel the Jewish traditions that she enjoyed doing such as celebrating Passover which truly shows how much she trusts Larnel.  Patricia Polacco’s illustrations are just as beautiful as ever as the images of both Mrs. Katz and Larnel are truly brilliant and memorable!  I especially loved the appearance of Mrs. Katz herself as she has white hair, is always wearing a colorful dress, and has a wise expression on her face, especially when she is relating her experiences in Poland with Larnel.  I also loved the appearance of Tush as he is a gray and black stripped cat that has no tail, but he still looks beautiful in my eyes!

Overall, “Mrs. Katz and Tush” is a lovely tale about true friendship that every child who love reading about multicultural friendships will enjoy for many years! I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the length of this tale might be too much for smaller children and some of the Jewish phrases such as “bubeleh” and “kugel” might be too difficult for smaller children to understand.




Friday, February 15, 2013

Chew: Taster's Choice Volume 1 by John Layman




Genre: Crime / Humor

Year Published: 2010

Year Read: 2013

Series: Chew #1

Publisher: Image Comics



Introduction:

Alright, now when I first saw the title of this comic “Chew,” I was thinking to myself about what was so interesting about a comic book that was all about food?  Well, I WAS WRONG!  “Chew: Taster’s Choice” which was written by John Layman along with artwork by Rob Guillory and received an Eisner Award for Best New Series and a Harvey Award Winner, was one comic that really knew how to create a plot that not only involves food but also involves a really intriguing crime drama that will shock readers at the very end!

What is this story about?

Meet Tony Chu who is a detective, but also has a bizarre secret.  You see, Tony Chu is known as a Cibopathic, meaning that he can get psychic impressions from whatever he eats, even going as far as tasting dead bodies to find out who murdered the victim and why they murdered that victim.  Because of this special ability, Tony Chu gets accepted to the Special Crimes Division of the FDA, which is known as the most powerful law enforcement division in the world and has a new partner named Mason Savoy, who also is a Cibopathic!  Now join the adventures of Tony Chu and Mason Savoy as they uncover various crimes that happens in America while using their special talents to solve the cases!

What I loved about this story:

John Layman’s writing: Wow! Just wow…I had mentioned that when I first saw the title of this book, I actually thought that it was going to be all about food.  Well, while John Layman does provide food as a major theme of this comic, the plot of the story is basically a crime drama that involves the murders of many people who are involved in the food market.  I loved the way that John Layman created a mysterious and dark atmosphere for this comic as I am a huge fan of crime stories and I loved the fact that Tony Chu uses his special gift as a way to solve crimes.  Having Tony use his special gift to solve murders really created an interesting and creative atmosphere for this story as I never would have thought that a person tasting dead bodies to find out more about the murder scenes would actually create intriguing stories about the characters trying to solve crimes.  Now, I will admit that I am not a huge fan of gross out scenes and this comic definitely has many gross out scenes, but somehow, John Layman made this experience for me truly worth it!  John Layman’s writing was so exciting and creative that I just could not put this book down no matter how disgusting it got and I was drawn into the surreal and dark world of “Chew” and the plot twists that this comic so easily provided.

Rob Guillory’s artwork:  Rob Guillory’s artwork may be a bit bizarre looking, but it fits perfectly with this type of story as the characters have odd shaped heads and have disproportioned bodies.  I also loved the way that Rob Guillory drew the blood scenes in this book as the blood usually squirts out of the characters in weird ways, making the murder scenes look a bit cartoonish yet still have the effect that it wanted to go for (PURE SHOCK VALUE)!

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

The biggest issue I did have with this comic was that there were many disgusting scenes including scenes of characters vomiting all over the pages and characters biting dead bodies to get a clue on the murders.  Most of the time, I do not like disgusting scenes in any story, even though this comic made the gross out scenes seem a bit irrelevant to the story.  Also, since this comic focuses on murder scenes, there are many bloody scenes of characters getting chopped up and that might be a bit upsetting for anyone who does not like reading about bloody scenes.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Chew: Taster’s Choice Volume One” definitely exceeded my expectations as I would have never thought that I would read a comic that actually intertwines food and crime into one story and actually create an interesting story that caught my attention from the very beginning!  I will definitely be checking out the next volume of this book and see where the characters are going after this first volume!  BON APPETITE…IF YOU DARE!



Joker by Brian Azzarello




Genre: Horror / Action / Adventure

Year Published: 2008

Year Read: 2013

Publisher: DC Comics




Introduction:

After reading the classic “Batman” tale, “Batman: The Killing Joke,” I wanted to read more stories about one of Batman’s most infamous villains, the Joker! So, I went ahead and picked up Brian Azzarello’s take on the Joker “Joker” and while it has many slow scenes, it was a truly interesting take on the psychotic mind of the Joker in a more dark and gritty way that I would have never imagined possible!

What is this story about?

This story is being told from the viewpoint of one of the Joker’s newest henchmen, Jonny Frost and in this story; the Joker was just released from Arkham Asylum and he is NOT HAPPY!  The Joker just realized that while he was gone, his fellow villains, the Penguin, Killer Croc, The Riddler and Two-Face had sold off his properties and the Joker is planning on getting them back!  Be prepared for one violent and nightmare ride as we see how scary the Joker can be when he is really angry!

What I loved about this story:

Brian Azzarello’s writing: Since this is the first time I had read any of Brian Azzarello’s works, I was actually impressed with how dark and gritty this story is and the fact that it fits so perfectly with the Joker’s insane nature.  I loved the fact that this story has a bit of crime noir in it as I am a huge fan of crime stories and it was interesting seeing the story being played out from a villain’s point of view.  What was so intriguing about this story was the fact that Brian Azzarello really showed the dark side of the Joker as the Joker spends most of this story committing horrible crimes and torturing his fellow criminals and yet, gets away with everything until the very end of the story.  I enjoyed the dark and gritty take on the Joker and he seems to remind me heavily of Heath Ledger’s version of the Joker in “The Dark Knight” movie as both characters were dark and were trying to prove a point to other people.  It was also interesting that we actually get a good look at the Joker from the perspective of his henchman since it added more dimension on how the Joker’s own henchman feels about the Joker himself.

Lee Bermejo’s artwork:  Lee Bermejo’s artwork may seem a bit scratchy in some panels, but in doing the close up images of the Joker looking so crazed and dramatic, it was truly beautiful!  I loved the way that Lee Bermejo painted the images of the Joker’s face close up as it truly looks disturbing since it seems like the Joker had cut his mouth open to make it look like an actual smile and that was truly disturbing to see!

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

The reason why I gave this comic a four star rating is that there were many slow scenes in this comic as most of the scenes basically dealt with the Joker just discussing with the other rogues gallery about how he wants to split the profits with them.  Also, there is some language and gory violence in this book, where the violence includes people getting shot and blood spurting out of the wounds and there is one REALLY DISTURBING scene that I cannot really say, but let us just say that it involves some SKIN RIPPING!

Final Thoughts:

Now, even though I liked reading “Joker,” I still preferred “Batman: The Killing Joke” over this story since I felt that “The Killing Joke” was one of the best “Joker” stories I had ever read.  “The Killing Joke” was trying to define the different ideologies between both Batman and the Joker while “Joker” was just showing the more violent and dark side of the Joker.  However, I did enjoy both books for different reasons and if you want to read a “Joker” story that shows the Joker’s violent side, then “Joker” is a great book to read!




Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fantastic Four Volume 1 by Jonathan Hickman




Genre: Superheroes / Action / Adventure

Year Published: 2010

Year Read: 2013

Series: Fantastic Four #1

Publisher: Marvel Comics

 




Brief Introduction:

I have heard of the Fantastic Four for many years and I had seen most of the movies and the TV shows that was based on them.  However, I never picked up a comic of the “Fantastic Four” until recently, since I am a huge “X-Men” fan and I have been constantly reading their comics for years now.  After hearing so many good things about Jonathan Hickman’s run on “Fantastic Four,” I just had to give this series a shot and see if it was worth checking out.  Well, I was really amazed by how well this volume came out to be and now I am more interested in seeing more of Jonathan Hickman’s run on “Fantastic Four!”

What is the story?

The story starts off with Reed Richards going to an alternative universe where he meets several different versions of himself so that he can figure out the answer to his question “Solve everything.” However, when Reed discovers that he must give up something that is so precious to him to be able to solve everything; will he go through with joining the other Reeds to obtain what he truly wanted?  Also, in this volume, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm travel to the Nu-World for a hard earned vacation, but realize that terrible things are happening in the Nu-World.  Also, Franklin Richards gets a special guest for his birthday party!

What I loved about this comic:

Jonathan Hickman’s writing: Since this is the first comic book I had ever read from Jonathan Hickman (and the first “Fantastic Four” comic I had read), I was actually impressed with how well he has written the Fantastic Four characters.  The big thing that I look for in the “Fantastic Four” franchise is the fact that they are known as the first superhero family and I loved the way that Jonathan Hickman brought this to the forefront of this volume as Reed Richards has to struggle with supporting his family and obtaining the desire to solve everything in the world.  It really brought so much depth to this storyline and I loved the way that Jonathan Hickman really explored inside Reed Richards’ mind and why he feels the need to solve everything in the world.  I loved the way that Jonathan Hickman introduced some humorous moments into this volume, especially with the banter between Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm (The Thing) as they treat each other like brothers, arguing yet getting along at the same time.  I really liked the story about Franklin Richards, Reed and Sue’s son, having a birthday party since it made the characters so relatable and it was really cute seeing the members of the Power Pack come back together for Franklin’s birthday party!

Dale Eaglesham and Neil Edwards’artwork: I just loved Dale Eaglesham’s artwork for the first three issues of this volume (issues 570-572) as the artwork made the Fantastic Four look realistic and I loved the way that the colorings made the characters glow. Neil Edwards artwork for issues 573-574 were pretty decent, although I had an issue with the way that the characters’ mouths just open wide on every page and the characters looked much older for some reason.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this book:

The reason why I gave this volume a four star rating was because I felt that there were too many plot points going on in this volume and I got really confused by what was happening in some of the story arcs.  It is probably because this is my first read of the “Fantastic Four” and I am not used to the crazy adventures they have, so I was kind of left in the dust when reading about Reed’s adventures in the other dimension.  Also, even though this volume was supposedly meant to build up the big adventure that is in store for the Fantastic Four, there were many slow scenes in this volume and I wish that there was a bit more action in this volume to keep my interest going.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Fantastic Four Volume One” is a pretty good read for anyone who is a huge fan of the “Fantastic Four” comics and it definitely has me geared up for the next adventures of the “Fantastic Four!”



 

Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems




Genre: Animal / Humor / Bedtime

Year Published: 2006

Year Read: 2013


Series: Pigeon

Publisher:  Disney-Hyperion





“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus,” “The Duckling Gets a Cookie,” and “The Pigeon Wants a Puppy.”  These are all the books I had read so far from Mo Willems’ popular “Pigeon” series!  Recently, I had read another book from Mo Willems’ fantastic “Pigeon” series and it is called “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay up Late!”  With witty dialogue and cute illustrations, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay up Late!” is a fantastic read for children who are fans of the “Pigeon” series!

When the Bus Driver tells the readers that they have to make sure that the Pigeon does not stay up late, the Pigeon comes in and starts trying to persuade the readers to let him stay up late.

Once again, Mo Willems has amazed me with his witty dialogues and humorous illustrations in his popular “Pigeon” series!  I loved the way that Mo Willems made the dialogue simplistic enough for small children to get a grasp on what is going on with Pigeon and yet is able to make the dialogue from the Pigeon hilarious enough for adults to enjoy.  I loved the way that the Pigeon tries to persuade the readers to let him stay up late as many hilarious dialogues pop up whenever he is trying to convince everyone that he should stay up late.  One of my most favorite quotes from the Pigeon was this:

“How about five more minutes?  Come on! What’s five minutes in the grand scheme of things!?”

Mo Willems also did a fantastic job at exploring a parent’s frustrations at getting their own children to go to bed and having the Pigeon trying to persuade the readers to let him stay up late is really something that many parents would enjoy reading over and over again!  I also loved Mo Willems’ illustrations as they were hilarious to look at and I also loved the simplistic drawings of the illustrations as they were extremely cute to look at!  I really loved the image of the Pigeon himself as he has blue fur and constantly has crazy expressions on his face whenever he desperately wants events to go his way.

Overall, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late” is a fantastic book for anyone who is a huge fan of the “Pigeon” series and for parents who also had trouble getting their children to go to bed!  I would recommend this book to children ages three and up since the writing is simple enough for younger children to understand.



Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco




Genre: Family / Immigration  

Year Published: 1988

Year Read:  2011

Publisher:  Aladdin



Speechless… I am just totally blown away by this recent book I have read by Patricia Polacco!  “The Keeping Quilt” is a beautiful picture book by Patricia Polacco that details the life story of Patricia Polacco’s family that has emigrated from Russia and how her Great Gramma Anna passed down her precious quilt to her children for four generations and has remained to be a wonderful treasure to her entire family.  “The Keeping Quilt” is truly one of the best books written by Patricia Polacco ever written!

Patricia Polacco’s Great-Gramma Anna emigrated from Russia many years ago and when she went to school, she took her blue dress and her babushka (even though I am sure that “babushka” means “grandmother” in Russian).  Soon afterwards, when Anna’s dress and babushka got old and Anna’s mother made her a new dress, her mother decided to make a quilt out of Anna’s old dress and babushka so that way it would remind them of their home in Russia.  When Anna grew up, she got married to Patricia Polacco’s Great-Grandpa Sasha and Anna’s quilt was used as a huppa for her and Sasha’s wedding.  Later on, Patricia Polacco’s grandmother Carle was born and Anna wrapped her quilt around her new born daughter.

What can I say?  This is clearly Patricia Polacco’s most memorable and greatest work ever written!  Patricia Polacco has done an excellent job at both writing and illustrating this book as it details the story about how important Great-Gramma Anna’s quilt was to the family.  What was so inspiring about this book is that it details Patricia Polacco’s family history and I loved the way that she put so much emphasis on how the keeping quilt was such an important family heirloom and I loved how her family used the quilt for their family traditions such as using it as a huppa for each family member’s weddings.  I can easily relate to the importance of family heritage in this book as my family has special heirlooms that were passed down from generation to generation and we get the opportunity to learn more about our heritages through our family heirlooms.  It was also interesting learning about Russian traditions within Patricia Polacco’s family since I am always interested in learning about different traditions from other countries.  Patricia Polacco’s illustrations are extremely beautiful and creative as the illustrations are shown in mainly black and white colors, however the quilt is the only image in the book that is colored and it helps signify the importance of the quilt to the entire family.  I also loved the way that Patricia Polacco made her family look extremely realistic and heartwarming as they have realistic facial expressions that range from sadness to happiness, which truly made me feel so much emotion from the characters.

Overall, “The Keeping Quilt” is a truly beautiful and inspiring book about the importance of celebrating your family traditions and the importance of being a true family that many children will easily enjoy for many years!  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since some of the Russian terms like “babushka” and “huppa” might be too difficult for smaller children to understand.