Friday, July 26, 2013

Morning Glories: All Will Be Free Volume 2 by Nick Spencer




Genre: Sci-fi Fantasy
Year Published: 2011
Year Read: 2013
Series: Morning Glories #2
Publisher: Image Comics



Introduction:

After reading the first volume of “Morning Glories Volume One: For a Better Future” by Nick Spencer along with artwork by Joe Eisma, I was curious to see how the characters would get out of the nightmarish Morning Glory Academy while keeping their sanities in check.  Now, I finally got around to reading the second volume of this series “Morning Glories Volume Two:  All Will be Free” and I am proud to say that the stories are starting to progress a bit more with these characters!

What is this story about?

In this volume, the six Glories Zoe, Hunter, Jun, Jade, Ike and Casey continue to try and solve the dark mysteries surrounding the school Morning Glory Academy.  But this time, we are treated to hearing the back stories of each character as they confront their dark pasts which could have an affect on their futures.

What I loved about this story:

Nick Spencer’s writing: After reading the first volume, I was wondering about where each of these characters came from and why they seem to be so troubled.  Well, Nick Spencer has finally given us the back stories of each of these characters and I really loved how the back stories really fleshed the characters out!  Nick Spencer really made each characters’ back stories dark and tragic, which really made me feel so much for the characters and it makes me hope that each of the characters would confront their dark pasts and try to benefit themselves in the future.  I also started to connect a bit more with the characters now that their back stories are revealed because in the first volume, I could not get into the characters since I did not know much about their backgrounds. Nick Spencer did a brilliant job at telling the story from the perspectives of all six of the Glory students as it helps gave each character a purpose in the story. I also loved the way that Nick Spencer continues to build up the suspense and mystery of Morning Glory Academy as I was yearning to find out the mysteries of the academy and what the staff wants with the chosen students.

Joe Eisma’s artwork:  Joe Eisma’s artwork as usual is truly beautiful and is probably the best aspect of this series.  I loved the way that Joe Eisma made all the characters realistic and gorgeous as it really brings so much clarity to the story and it makes this series stand out in its creativity.  I also loved the scenes with the flashbacks of each character as the coloring is done in brown as it really helps set the flashback sequences apart from the present stories being told.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

The reason why I gave this volume a four star rating, even though I loved the fact that the characters’ back stories are now told, is because there were times where the story got a bit confusing and it was a bit difficult to understand the story.  There also seems to be too many events going on in this book as the actions of the characters are rushed through a bit too quickly and I sort of wish that more time was spent on trying to explain the actions of the characters.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Morning Glories Volume Two: All Will be Free” is a great continuation to the first volume and I definitely cannot wait to see if the Glories will escape from this school and what the school really wants with these students!





Nekane, the Lamina, and the Bear by Frank P. Araujo, PhD





Genre: Fantasy / Folktale / Drama / Animal


Year Published: 1993


Year Read: 2003

Publisher: Rayve Productions



Whew, it has been many years since I last read this obscure children’s book that came from the Basque Pyrenees!  “Nekane, the Lamina, and the Bear” is a Basque Pyrenees folktale written by Frank P. Araujo, PhD along with illustrations by Xiao Jun Li and this story basically contains trickery, drama and pure wits that will have children sitting on the edge of their seats!

Nekane, a young Basque girl of the Pyrenees Mountains, was asked by her mother to bring olive oil and fish to her Uncle Kepa, but she must be careful of the lamina, a forest spirit who would try to steal her olive oil and fish.  As Nekane goes through the forest, she notices that the Lamina was trying to trick her in to stealing her basket, but it did not succeed.  Then, Nekane meets up with a large and frightening bear who threatened to eat her and her fish.  Nekane then thinks quickly by convincing the bear to follow her to her Uncle Kepa’s house so that she could give the bear some honey.  But, when Nekane finally gets to her Uncle Kepa’s house…

What happens when Nekane gets inside her Uncle Kepa’s house?

Read this story to find out!

Frank P. Araujo, PhD really made this book come alive as it is full of excitement and tension that will get many readers interested in this strange and unique folktale!  I also loved the fact that Frank P. Araujo, PhD retold this story from his childhood, which I found extremely endearing as it brought a more personal touch to the story.  I really loved the Basque glossary at the end of the book as it helped me understand more about the Basque language. I loved the heroine Nekane as she is shown to be a clever and resourceful girl who is able to get herself out of trouble by using her wits and her knowledge about the Lamina’s various forms.  Xiao Jun Li’s illustrations are truly creative as it captures the dramatic spirit of this story.  I loved the way that Xiao Jun Li done the water coloring for the illustrations as they are colorful and vivid to look at.  I really loved the illustrations of the bear as the bear is shown to be extremely huge and frightening as it has red eyes that make it truly menacing.  I also loved the way that the bear’s form filled up the entire page giving it such a brooding presence in the story.

Parents should know that the images of the bear and the lamina might scare smaller children since they look extremely frightening and menacing.  Also, the fact that both the lamina and the bear threatened Nekane, who is a young girl, might also disturb smaller children.

Overall, “Nekane, the Lamina, and the Bear” is a truly wonderful book for anyone who is interested in reading folktales from Basque Pyrenees.  I would recommend this book to children ages six and up since the bear and the lamina might frighten smaller children and the Basque terms might be difficult for smaller children to understand.




Friday, July 19, 2013

Saga Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan




Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy
Year Published: 2013
Year Read: 2013
Series: Saga #2
Publisher: Image Comics
 




Introduction:

Can Brian K. Vaughan’s highly acclaimed “Saga” series get any better than this?  YES, OF COURSE IT CAN!  I just recently picked up the second volume to Brian K. Vaughan’s “Saga” series and man, was I in for the ride of my life!

What is this story about?

In this volume, Alana and Marko ended up getting a surprised visit from none other than Marko’s parents!  As Marko’s parents and Alana and Marko try to find another planet to land on, trouble is brewing as the freelancer, the Will, continues his mission to go after Alana and Marko, along with Marko’s ex-fiancĂ©e, Gwendolyn who aims to make Marko pay for leaving her! To make matters worse, Prince Robot IV is getting closer to finding Marko and Alana!

Can life be any tougher for these two lovebirds?

What I loved about this story:

Brian K. Vaughan’s writing: Brian K. Vaughan has once again proven that he can make a brilliant story about two star-crossed lovers trying to find a new home to raise their baby in a time of war.  I loved that Brian K. Vaughan introduced Marko’s parents into this story, since I had been wondering about how both Alana and Marko’s parents would feel about their children being on the run from the government while protecting their baby.  I also enjoyed the fact that even though Marko’s parents distrusted Alana at first because she came from the planet Landfall, they started to bond with each other due to all of them wanting to protect Hazel and I found that to be extremely touching.  I also enjoyed the scenes with the Will and Gwendolyn as it was exciting to see them try to free the young girl from the first volume who was imprisoned on the planet Sextillion (yes, you heard that right).  I also loved the flashbacks briefly shown of Marko and Alana’s past lives before they had Hazel as it gave more depth into their characters.  I was impressed with the way that Brian K. Vaughan was able to balance both the action and the humor of this volume as it made the story so unique and interesting to read through and I loved the back and forth banter of Alana and Marko as it really made them stand out as a true couple!

Fiona Staples’ artwork:  Fiona Staples’ artwork as usual was brilliant to look at as the characters seem to glow right off the pages, especially during the scenes where explosions give off this bright glow off the pages.  I also loved the images of the characters themselves as they look truly bizarre (there are some creatures that look half animal and Prince Robot IV having a television set for a head) and yet, they bring a vast creativity to the story.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

Just like the first volume, there is strong language in this volume that might not go over well with anyone who does not reading strong language in a story.  Also, there is some gory violence in this volume as there are images of characters being cut in half or exploding in a gush of blood.  This volume also has some really graphic imagery, mainly graphic depictions of nudity and sexual scenes, which I will admit I cringed a bit when I saw these scenes.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Saga: Volume Two” is a truly brilliant follow up to Brian K. Vaughan’s legendary “Saga” series and now that I have finally read the second volume to this fantastic series, I am just dying to have volume three come up!



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn










Genre: Historical Romance
Year Published: 2000
Number of Pages: 371 pages
Date Read: 7/17/2013
Series: Bridgertons #1   
Publisher: Avon

My first exposure into Julia Quinn’s romance novels was through a recent book “Just Like Heaven.” But, after I heard so many good things about the first book in Julia Quinn’s legendary “Bridgertons” series “The Duke and I,” I just had to give this book a shot and goodness, was I blown away by this brilliant romance novel!

Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, had a troubled childhood as his father, the former Duke of Hastings, had rejected him as a child due to Simon’s speech impediment.  Years later however, Simon Basset becomes a proper and well made man and the mothers of London are dying for him to marry their daughters.  However, Simon meets a spunky and independent young woman named Daphne Bridgerton who comes from a large family and it becomes apparent that these two have fallen madly in love with each other.  But, will Simon tell Daphne his deepest and darkest secret about his father or will their relationship be ruined by this secret?

Julia Quinn has woven a brilliant tale about letting go of the past and focusing on the future.  I loved the way that Julia Quinn wrote each character as each character had a spunky and independent personality that really made me care about them.  I really loved the fact that the Bridgerton family is so close to each other as they are willing to protect each other through hard times, especially Anthony, Colin and Benedict as they are EXTREMELY OVERPROTECTIVE of Daphne!  But the characters I really loved in this entire novel were Simon Basset and Daphne Bridgerton as they were truly interesting and complex characters.  Simon Basset is probably one of my favorite romance heroes as he has a tragic past that I can really sympathize with and yet, he was able to try to become a better person despite his tragic past.  I loved the fact that Simon is so intelligent and is able to talk smoothly with absolutely anybody (especially DAPHNE) and I also loved the fact that Simon has to battle with his inner demons at discovering who he truly is and letting go of his father’s scorn for him as it provides great character development for his character.  I really liked Daphne Bridgerton as she was a strong and independent woman and every time I see her punch someone, I was practically cheering for her!  I also liked the fact that she tries to get through Simon and make him see how he is a better person than his father, which really made her into a caring character.  I really loved the banter between Daphne and Simon as it is hilarious and witty to read.  One of my most favorite quotes from Daphne and Simon was this quote:

“You’re mad.”

“Quite possibly,” he agreed, “but I have excellent taste.  And you” – he leaned down quite suddenly and nipped at her mouth- “taste quite good.”

Daphne giggle, quite unable to help herself.

Simon wiggled his brows, “Dare you mock me?”

“Normally I would,” she replied, “but not when you’ve got both my arms pinned over my head.”

For anyone who does not like language and sex scenes, there are some sex scenes in this novel, although they happens a bit towards the end.  There is also some language, but it is not strong as the only words really muttered are the “d” word, the “h” word and the “b” word.  

*****SPOILER ALERT!!!!*****

Also, the scene where Daphne seemed to force herself on Simon when Simon was drunk did unsettled me a bit since it made her look manipulative since she was so desperate in wanting a baby.  What was so problematic about this scene was that the rest of the book seemed to go through this like it did not happen and I cannot help but wonder why this scene was not taken more seriously.  I probably would have taken a point off this book if it did not go over so quickly and was forgotten about later on. 

*****SPOILER ENDED!!!!*****

Overall, “The Duke and I” is a truly brilliant romance novel that I think that every fan of Julia Quinn’s works or romance fans in general should definitely check out!  Now, I am about to read the second book in the “Bridgerton” series called “The Viscount Who Loved Me!”




Saturday, July 13, 2013

Morning Glories: For a Better Future Volume 1 by Nick Spencer



Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy
Year Published: 2011
Year Read: 2013
Series: Morning Glories #1
Publisher: Image Comics



Introduction:

I have read so many comics from Image Comics and I have been enjoying many of them so far!  So, I stumbled upon this new series written by Nick Spencer called “Morning Glories Volume One: For a Better Future” and this is honestly my first comic book that I had read by Nick Spencer.  Now, when I first saw this comic book, I actually thought that this series was something similar to the premise of “X-Men” where the main characters have special powers and learn how to control them.  However, I was quite surprised to see a different set up in this comic than what I would normally expect from a comic book that has high school aged teenagers attending a special school!

What is this story about?

Morning Glory Academy is known as one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country and six students are chosen to attend the academy which includes Casey Blevins, Fukayama Jun, Hunter, Jade, Ike, and Zoe.  Unfortunately, the six students will soon discover that there is a dark secret lurking around the school and they must find a way to escape the school before it is too late!

What I loved about this story:

Nick Spencer’s writing: Nick Spencer did a great job at providing us a story that dealt with six students trying to find out the dark secrets of Morning Glory Academy and how they will escape their torturous sessions (it is practically “Lost” a la mode, since it focuses on the mystery segments and the constant use of flashbacks). I really liked the way that Nick Spencer built up the mystery surrounding Morning Glory Academy and I was wondering about what the staff wanted from the six students and what their ultimate plan for the students is. I also really loved the character Casey Blevins of this story as she is a strong female protagonist who is willing to help out the other students escape the academy and I loved the way she used her intelligence to trick the school system into not figuring out her plans.

Joe Eisma’s artwork:  Joe Eisma’s artwork is just fantastic in this graphic novel as the characters look truly realistic (kind of reminded me of the characters from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”).  The colorings really glowed off the pages and it made the characters look so fluid. I really loved the school uniforms that the students had to wear as it really brought out a unique spin on academy focused stories and it brought a more authoritative air to the story.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

One of the main problems I had with this graphic novel was that the pacing for the second half of the story started slowing down as some of the heavy dialogues started becoming more apparent.  I often found myself getting bored with the heavy dialogues of the teachers as it really slowed the pace down and it threw the story into another direction that was different from the main story.  Another problem I had with the story was that the plot tended to jump all over the place such as one moment, we are in the present day and then the next moment, we have a flashback from one of the characters. It made me wonder sometimes about what was really happening in the story and what did the flashbacks have to do with the main story at hand.  Also, for anyone who does not like strong language or violence, this volume has plenty of language and scenes of characters getting murdered in bloody and graphic ways, so it might be best to skim over these scenes if they are too squeamish for you.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Morning Glories Volume One:  For a Better Future” is a great introductory volume into Nick Spencer’s “Morning Glories” series and I will try to check out the rest of this series to find out more about the mysterious and frightening Morning Glory Academy!








Friday, July 5, 2013

Madeline's Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans







Genre: Family / Christmas / Drama / Humor

Year Published: 1956

Year Read: 2013

Series: Madeline #4

Publisher:  The Viking Press, Inc.
 



If you have noticed, I am a huge fan of Ludwig Bemelmans’ classic children’s series “Madeline” and I had basically read almost every book from the “Madeline” series!  Well, I finally stumbled upon another “Madeline” book called “Madeline’s Christmas” and boy, was it a true holiday treat to read!

In this story, when all the little girls and Miss Clavel ended up being sick on Christmas Eve, it is up to Madeline to take care of everyone.  But during that same night, a mysterious rug merchant comes and pays Madeline a visit and even though he gives Madeline his rugs, it turns out that the rug merchant is much more than he seems.

Ludwig Bemelmans has done it again with writing a heartwarming and magical story that involves our favorite cute little red-haired heroine!  I loved the way that Ludwig Bemelmans wrote Madeline in this story as Madeline was truly helpful in trying to take care of the other girls and Miss Clavel when they were ill.  It really showed Madeline in a positive light as she truly cared about Miss Clavel and the other girls and it showed how responsible she was in handling the chores around the house.  I also loved the mystery surrounding the rug merchant who visits Madeline as I was wondering to myself about the ulterior motives of the rug merchant (be mindful that the ulterior motives of the rug merchant is not malicious or anything, but still I was curious about why he just showed up on the doorsteps of Miss Clavel’s boarding house). Ludwig Bemelmans’ artwork is truly creative and colorful at the same time as the character designs look simplistic, but are so adorable to look at that I just could not take my eyes off of the artwork!  I also loved the imagery of Madeline herself as she has short red hair and a cute little yellow hat on her head that really defined her appearance.

Overall, “Madeline’s Christmas” is a truly beautiful and heartwarming story about the importance of kindness and learning the true meaning of Christmas that I am sure that “Madeline” fans will enjoy reading during Christmas time!  I would recommend this book to children ages three and up since the story is easy enough for small children to get a grasp on.  




Monday, July 1, 2013

I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly




Genre: Fantasy
Year Published: 2009
Year Read: 2013
Publisher: Image Comics
 




Introduction:

I have read so many Image Comics over time (Saga, Invincible, Chew) and I have been enjoying every one of them!  Now, I had stumbled upon this unique little comic called “I Kill Giants” which is written by Joe Kelly along with artwork by JM Ken Niimura and it was seriously one of the most creative and intense comics I had ever read!

What is this story about?

Barbara Thorson was just your average fifth-grade student…alright maybe not so average student.  Barbara’s big secret is that she kills giants for a living, using her trusty hammer Coveleski!  Unfortunately, everyone at school thinks that she is a freak and she seems to have so many personal problems at home.  Can Barbara overcome her biggest fear that will allow her to get through life?

What I loved about this story:

Joe Kelly’s writing: Wow!  I was just so blown away by Joe Kelly’s emotional yet exciting writing!  Honestly, this was the first time I had read any of Joe Kelly’s works and after reading this comic, I am definitely looking forward to reading more of his works!  Joe Kelly has done a brilliant job at tying in Barbara’s personal problems with her obsessions with giants as it really brought a true depth to the story.  I really wish I could tell you about what Barbara’s personal problems are, but that would pretty much give away the entire plot of this comic, but I will say that you will start tearing up once you hear about Barbara’s fears.  I also loved the way that Joe Kelly really delve into why Barbara has such a terrible attitude towards people and why fighting giants has become an obsession to her since even though there were times where I just wanted to yell at Barbara for acting so coldly towards other people, I can actually sympathize with her because she is dealing with a trauma that frightens her.  I also loved the mythical references to giants and fairies in this comic, even though they are not too major to the story as they added a fantasy atmosphere to the story.

JM Ken Niimura’s artwork:  JM Ken Niimura’s artwork is truly creative and unique to look at, even though there were times where the artwork was a bit scratchy and it was a bit difficult to see what the characters were actually doing in the panels. However, I really loved the way that the characters look slightly cartoonish as it lessens the dark atmosphere of the story a bit.  I also loved the black and white colorings of this comic as it really brought in a more serious tone to the story.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

For anyone who does not like language in comics, this comic does have a bit of language in it, although it is not as strong as some of the more mature comics.  Also, this comic is a bit dark, especially with the scenes of Barbara trying to deal with her personal problems.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “I Kill Giants” is definitely one comic book that really surprised me!  When I looked at the title, I actually thought that this book was going to be a blood fest of the main character slaying giants, but read this comic and the story is much deeper than that and that is what I really loved about this comic!  I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND this comic book to absolutely anyone!