Thursday, August 29, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] Morning Glories: Truants Volume 4 by Nick Spencer



Title:  Morning Glories: Truants Volume 4

Author: Nick Spencer

Artist: Joe Eisma


Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy

Year Published: 2013

Year Read: 2013

Series: Morning Glories #4

Publisher: Image Comics

Source:  Library

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




Introduction:

After reading the previous three volumes of Nick Spencer’s “Morning Glories” series, I was surprised to find myself actually wanting to read more adventures from the Morning Glories students and I finally managed to pick up the fourth volume “Morning Glories: Truants,” which introduces the next generation of the Morning Glories students!

What is this story about?

After the events that happened in the third volume, the Morning Glory students find themselves face to face with a group of students called the “Truants” (which includes Akiko, Fortunato, Ian, Guillaume, Irina and Vanessa) who happened to be on a mission to kill the creator of Morning Glory Academy.  But, will the Truants end up saving the Morning Glory students from the school itself or will they be a much bigger threat to the school and the students?

What I loved about this story:

Nick Spencer’s writing:  Nick Spencer’s writing is once again full of intensity and excitement!  I loved the fact that in this volume, we actually have a better background story of the teachers Georgina Darmount and Lara Hodge as I was wondering what their relationship with each other was really like and how they felt about obeying their “father” about dealing with the students.  Now, even though I would have been happier to see why the school wanted these particular students and what they are going to do to them, I am glad to actually get a good background story on Lara and Georgina since I could better understand their characters.  I also loved the fact that Nick Spencer introduced the Truants into this story as I was interested in seeing how they would deal with the strange and scary situations going on at Morning Glory Academy while colliding with the Morning Glory students.  I also loved the little nods to Marvel Comics, such as some of the references to “X-Men” sneaking up in this story, like this little exchange:

“How do you even do that?  You’re half my size.  You’re a girl.”

“So sexist.  It’s my special mutant power. Like Colossus!”

Joe Eisma’s artwork:  Joe Eisma’s artwork is once again extremely gorgeous in this volume as the characters look truly realistic and the violent scenes are done so well.  Call me a huge fan of gory violence, but I loved the way that Joe Eisma drew the gory scenes, such as people’s insides being ripped out, as they look so detailed that I was literally blown away by the horrific situation of those scenes.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

Just like the previous three volumes of this series, I often had trouble keeping up with the narration of the story.  As much as I like seeing the flashback sequences for the characters’ back stories, they often get in the way of telling the stories in the present day since they keep interrupting the flow of the stories.   Also, for anyone who does not like strong language and gory violence, this volume has tons of gory scenes of characters having their insides ripped out and a bit of strong language such as the use of the “f” word.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Morning Glories Volume Four: Truants” is a great volume that “Morning Glories” fans should definitely check out!  Now that Season One is done with, I cannot wait to see what will happen to these students in the future volumes!





 

[BOOK REVIEW] Invincible: Ultimate Collection Volume 3 by Robert Kirkman




Title:  Invincible:  Ultimate Collection Volume 3

Author: Robert Kirkman

Artist: Ryan Ottley


Genre: Superhero / Action / Adventure

Year Published: 2008

Year Read: 2013

Series: Invincible #3

Publisher: Image Comics

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 16+ (Gory Violence)
 



Introduction:

After reading the first two volumes of Robert Kirkman’s fantastic superhero series “Invincible,” I was dying to read more from this brilliant series and I finally managed to get my hands on the third volume of the “Invincible: Ultimate Collection” and man, did this volume really blew me away!

What is this story about?

After the tragic events of the second volume, Mark Grayson has been trying to move on with his life which includes dating his loving girlfriend Amber and still saving the world on a day to day basis.  One day, however, Mark gets a call from an alien planet that needs his help and he realizes that his father (you know, the guy who beat him up in the first volume) is ruling the planet and he wants Mark to help him defeat his own alien race, the Viltrumites, who are coming to the alien planet to take care of Mark’s father!

Will Mark help his father stop the Viltrumites or will he let the alien planet die out of spite?

Also, this volume contains the fourth issue of “The Pact” with artwork by Jason Howard, which contains the adventures of Invincible, Shadowhawk, Zephyr and Duncan fighting lava monsters that are terrorizing the world!

What I loved about this story:

Robert Kirkman’s writing: Once again, Robert Kirkman has proven that he can write a brilliant superhero series that not only contains full throttle action, but plenty of character development!  I loved the way that Robert Kirkman wrote each character; especially Mark Grayson who is shown to be an extremely optimistic yet slightly tortured character. I actually felt sorrow for Mark’s predicament for his father as he felt a betrayal like no other and I can relate to Mark’s confused feelings about his father as he still loved him, but he cannot forgive his horrible actions in the past.  I also loved Mark’s relationship with Amber as he is extremely honest with her about his superhero antics and it was a bit interesting seeing a strain in their relationship as Mark is having a difficult time trying to maintain his relationship with Amber as he is always out saving the world.  I also loved the various different stories going throughout this volume as we have storylines that involve Mark meeting up with his father and the return of Angstrom Levy and they all managed to tie up into one storyline that affects Mark!

Ryan Ottley’s artwork:  Ryan Ottley’s artwork is truly brilliant in this volume as the artwork is a cross between being realistic and being a bit scratchy, which really brought out the gritty nature of this story while at the same time, bringing out some humor to the story.  I also loved the way that Ryan Ottley drew Invincible’s costume as it is shown in blue, yellow and black colorings, which I think made Invincible really stand out as a superhero in this series!

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

For anyone who does not like gory violence in graphic novels, this volume definitely has plenty of bloody violence that involves characters getting ripped apart and being punched to death and that might be a bit discomforting for some readers.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Invincible: Ultimate Collection: Volume Three” is a fantastic volume of the “Invincible” series and I am definitely looking forward to reading the next volume of this awesome series that caught my eye from the beginning!



[BOOK REVIEW] Kick-Ass by Mark Millar




Title:  Kick-Ass

Author: Mark Millar

Artist: John Romita Jr.


Genre: Superhero / Action / Adventure

Year Published: 2008

Year Read: 2013

Series: Kick-Ass #1

Publisher: Icon Comics

Source:  Library

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




Introduction:

Now, I will admit that I honestly have not heard about Mark Millar’s famous series “Kick-Ass” until I heard about the movie that came out.  Even though I have not seen the movie yet as of this review, I was interested in checking out the comic book it was based off of before watching the movie and I must admit; I was TOTALLY blown away by this really creative concept of a comic book!

What is this story about?

Dave Lizewski was your average high school teenage boy who is not that popular, but is not that unpopular either.  He also happens to be a huge fan of comic books in general and he loved the fact that the superheroes in the comic books would always save the day in the end.  So, when Dave decided that he would like to become a superhero himself, he became the legendary crime fighter “Kick-Ass” and would go out into the city to save the citizens from the various criminals that pop up.  Unfortunately, Dave will soon learn the hard way that being a superhero is not all that easy when he becomes famous and he ends up meeting with other masked vigilantes who may or may not be a threat to him.

What I loved about this story:

Mark Millar’s writing: I have read Mark Millar’s works before (his run on “Ultimate X-Men” and “Old Man Logan”) and so far, I had enjoyed most of his work. Now that I finally read “Kick-Ass,” I really appreciate Mark Millar’s unique storytelling even more! I loved the way that Mark Millar wrote Dave Lizewski as being a teenage boy who is genre savvy enough to learn that being a superhero can be a dangerous and risky job, but he goes through with it anyway since he has a strong desire to become a superhero.  I also loved the fact that Dave Lizewski became a superhero, not because he was affected by some kind of radiation that gave him powers or because he came from another planet, but because he was bored and he just wanted to be a superhero.  This motivation really gave a more creative spin on the superhero genre and I loved the way that Dave mentioned so many fictional superheroes that inspired him to become a superhero.  I also loved the way that Mark Millar mentioned so many Marvel superheroes in this story, especially Spider-Man and Wolverine. My favorite mention of the Marvel superheroes was when Dave mentions about how Joss Whedon’s run on “Astonishing X-Men” managed to surpass “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which he happens to be a big fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer!”  I also really loved the character Hit-Girl, who Dave meets later on in the book as she seems to be the opposite of Dave, as she would kill anyone in an extremely gruesome manner while Dave, still trying to get used to being a superhero, refuses to kill people (not only that, but Hit-Girl is only TEN YEARS OLD and yet she is able to kill absolutely anyone with ease)!

John Romita Jr.’s artwork:  Now, I am a little fifty-fifty with John Romita Jr’s artwork in this comic as I have seen his artwork before in the 1980s issues of “Uncanny X-Men” and they were pretty stellar in those issues.  However, there were some problems I had with the artwork in this book, which I will explain in the cons section.  But, what I did like about John Romita Jr.’s artwork in this comic is that the action scenes where the characters get bloodied up are extremely vivid in detail and I actually cringed whenever the characters are getting killed or tortured.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

For anyone who does not like gory violence and strong language, this comic definitely has lots of gore and language that might offend anyone who does not like reading such material.  Also, one of the issues I had with John Romita Jr’s artwork was that the characters look a bit too noodle-like in appearance and it distracted me a bit from the story.  Since this is a dark and gritty story, I would have expected to see the characters look a bit more realistic to really convey the darkness of this story.  Also, I felt that the characters look a bit too old for their respective ages, such as Hit-Girl being only ten years old, but yet, she looks to be close to twelve or thirteen years old.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Kick-Ass” is a truly brilliant graphic novel that really details the realistic side of being a superhero and I am definitely looking forward to the second volume of this series!




Sunday, August 25, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola


Title:  The Clown of God

Author:  Tomie dePaola


Genre: Religion / Drama


Year Published: 1978


Year Read: 2010

Publisher:  HMH Books for Young Readers

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (Depiction of Death)


“The Clown of God” is an Italian folktale retold by Tomie dePaola, famous for his “Strega Nona” books.  This book is about how a young boy named Giovanni becomes a famous juggler all around Italy while learning the true meaning of spreading happiness around the world.  “The Clown of God” is a truly touching story that children will love for many years.

Tomie dePaola has done an excellent job at both illustrating and writing this book about the true meaning of spreading happiness.  Tomie dePaola’s writing is much more serious and dramatic in this book than in his “Strega Nona” series as he discusses the matter of religion and about the poverty that Giovanni has to go through in his life.  Tomie dePaola has done an excellent job at creating sympathy for the main character Giovanni as he goes through poverty after his parents’ death and suddenly becomes a famous juggler after his special abilities are discovered and Giovanni’s touching story will help many children realize that everyone has a special ability that can bring happiness to other people if they care about the impact that their special abilities will have on the world.  Tomie dePaola’s illustrations are much more beautiful than in his “Strega Nona” series, especially as he draws the characters’ expressions in a realistic way and the characters are drawn in a more fluid manner as the characters appearances are so smooth.

Parents should know that the ending of this book is a bit sad as it deals with the death of a person.  I will not reveal who dies at the end of the book, but the idea of death presented in this book might frightened smaller children and parents should explain to their children about the issues of death before they read them this book.

“The Clown of God” is a truly heartwarming and touching story about the importance of spreading happiness around the world and many children will enjoy this book’s message about true happiness.  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up due to the sad ending and the religious theme might confuse smaller children.




[BOOK REVIEW] Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback


Title:  Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

Author:  Simms Taback


Genre: Humor / Folk Song/ Jewish


Year Published: 1999


Year Read: 2011

Publisher:  Viking Juvenile

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 4+  (Nothing Objectionable)

 After reading Simms Taback’s version of “There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” I thought that there would never be another die-cut formatted folk song book, but I have just recently read another folk song book called “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat.”  “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat” is a Caldecott Medal award-winning book by Simms Taback and it is about how a man named Joseph had an old overcoat and decided to make it into something new.  “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat” is definitely a children’s book worth reading to children everywhere!

Since this book is told in a folk verse, I will just recite part of the verse:

“Joseph had a little overcoat.  It was old and worn.  So he made a jacket out of it and went to the fair.

Joseph had a little jacket.  It got old and worn.  So he made a vest out of it and danced at his nephew’s wedding.”

Wow! This book was so amazing that I had to read this book so many times!  Simms Taback has done a great job at both illustrating and writing this book as both the folk verse and the illustrations are creative at the same time!  Simms Taback’s retelling of this classic Yiddish folk song is creative and inventive as every time Joseph has old clothing, he turns it into something new, which shows what a resourceful and creative character he is.  I really loved the message of this book as it convinces readers that you can always make something new out of something old, which also shows children the importance of preserving old items to use for good use.  Simms Taback’s illustrations are extremely colorful and creative, especially the die-cut format of the story, which is where Simms Taback cuts out shapes of Joseph’s clothing on the right side of the page and when the reader turns the page, the die-cut portion of the page reveals new clothing that Joseph made from his old clothing on the previous page.  I also loved the way that Simms Taback pasted various realistic photos on his drawings as they made the illustrations in this book somewhat surreal yet creative at the same time, since it is not every day that you see real-life photos collide with cartoonish illustrations.  My most favorite image in this book was the image of Joseph himself as he has the same appearance of the author himself and he is always shown in a shaggy short beard, blue patched up pants and a yellow shirt.

Overall, “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat” is one creative and hilarious book that children will sing along with for many, many years to come!  I would recommend this book to children ages four and up since there is nothing inappropriate in this book for smaller children.

* 2000 Caldecott Medal




[BOOK REVIEW] My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco


Title:  My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother

Author:  Patricia Polacco


Genre: Family / Humor / Rivalry


Year Published: 1994


Year Read: 2011

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 4+  (Some Mischievous Behavior)
 

This is like my tenth book I have read by Patricia Polacco and it is called “My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother.”  In this book, a young Patricia tells the audience about her annoying older brother, Richard, who outdoes everything she does and she wished to do something better than her brother!  “My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother” is a brilliant book that children who also have problems with their siblings will enjoy for many years!

This book was so brilliant and will easily relate to any child who has older or younger siblings who pick on them!  Patricia Polacco has done an excellent job at both writing and illustrations her life with her older brother Richard and I loved how Patricia Polacco’s writing is so sweet natured that I was seriously feeling all cuddly inside whenever I read this book.  I also loved the love/hate relationship between Patricia and Richard (which is what I always see in every book that describes your typical sibling rivalry) and I also loved what Richard does for Patricia at the very end of the book (I will not tell you what happened) for it showed that no matter how much Patricia and Richard argue with each other, they still love each other!  I also loved seeing some the family traditions that was shown in Patricia’s family, such as when Patricia and her grandmother saw a shooting star in the sky, Patricia’s grandmother spitted twice between her fingers and then slapped her chest whenever she is making a wish and that was the part of the story I truly favored.  Patricia Polacco’s illustrations are extremely beautiful, especially of the images of Patricia and Richard themselves as Patricia is always seen wearing pigtails throughout the book, while her brother Richard has red hair, wears glasses and has freckles on his face.  I also loved the way that Patricia Polacco illustrated the facial expressions on each character as they look realistic and hilarious at the same time.  I really loved the smug looks that Patricia shows whenever her brother teases her about not being able to do things that he can and I also loved Richard’s goofy grins on his face every time he beats Patricia at something.  But my favorite images from this book were on the endpapers of this book as the endpapers show real life photos of Patricia Polacco’s family and her older brother Richard.

Overall, “My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother” is a really cute story about sibling rivalry that every child will easily relate to and also love for the rest of their lives!  I would recommend this book to children ages four and up since there is nothing inappropriate in this book.




Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips




Title:  Heaven, Texas

Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Year Published:1995

Number of Pages: 371 pages

Date Read: 8/18/2013

Series: Chicago Stars #2   

Publisher: Avon

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 18+ (Strong Language and Sex Scenes)


After reading “It Had to Be You,” I was definitely interested in checking out the rest of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ fantastic “Chicago Stars” series!  Lo and behold, I managed to pick up the second book in the “Chicago Stars” series, “Heaven Texas” and I loved it!

Bobby Tom Denton was once a legendary football player for the Chicago Stars until a knee injury cost him his career!  Even though Bobby Tom is no longer playing football, he is still well-loved by the people of Texas.  However, Bobby Tom’s life changes forever when plain wallflower Gracie Snow comes by to bring him back to his hometown Heaven, Texas to begin shooting his movie and yet, Bobby Tom just cannot understand Gracie Snow’s proper and prim ways.  But then, after Bobby Tom gives Gracie a makeover and they spend quality time with each other, both Bobby Tom and Gracie will soon realize the importance of true love (but not without some struggles along the way)!

Susan Elizabeth Phillips has done it again with her stellar writing about the next character in the “Chicago Stars” series, Bobby Tom Denton!  I loved the way that Susan Elizabeth Phillips wrote this story as the story is truly intense and yet heartwarming at the same time!  I loved the cute little bantering between Bobby Tom Denton and Gracie Snow as it is so humorous to listen to them bickering with each other, while clearly showing how much they really care about each other.  I also loved the sexual scenes between Bobby Tom and Gracie as I was clearly fanning myself with anticipation at these steamy scenes between these two unlikely lovers!  But, probably the best part about this book were the characters themselves as they all brought something unique and charming to the story!  I can proudly say that Bobby Tom Denton is on the list of my top favorite contemporary romance heroes as he is cocky, but also has a pure heart on the inside.  It was pretty emotional for me to see Bobby Tom struggle with trying to figure out the true meaning of love while dealing with not being able to play football again due to his injured knee and I was definitely hoping to see Bobby Tom actually try to figure out the true meaning of love.  Also, just reading about Bobby Tom having a muscular physique really made me giddy with anticipation!  Gracie Snow was a truly amazing heroine as she went from being a plain wallflower to being a spunky and gorgeous woman!  I loved the fact that Gracie is never afraid to speak her mind and that she tries so hard to make Bobby Tom see what true love really is.  It is the fact that Gracie is such a determined and optimistic woman that made me fall in love with her character!  I also loved the romance between Suzy Denton (Bobby Tom’s mother) and Way Sawyer (the town’s most feared businessman) as it serves to be a side story to Bobby Tom and Gracie’s romance story and I loved the way that Suzy and Way’s romance with each other sort of serves as an inspiration for Bobby Tom and Gracie’s relationship with each other.

For anyone who does not like strong language and sex scenes, this novel has some graphic sex scenes that anyone could skim over if they are offended by them.  Also, this novel has some strong language like the “f” word and the “s” word being uttered a dozen times throughout the book.

Overall, “Heaven, Texas” is a fantastic novel from Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ famous “Chicago Stars” series and anyone who is a huge fan of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ works or just loves contemporary romance novels in general, will definitely enjoy this novel!





Sunday, August 11, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] Morning Glories: P.E. Volume 3 by Nick Spencer



Title:  Morning Glories: P.E. Volume 3

Author: Nick Spencer

Artist: Joe Eisma


Genre: Sci-fi Fantasy

Year Published: 2012

Year Read: 2013

Series: Morning Glories #3

Publisher: Image Comics

Source:  Library

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




Introduction:

After reading the first two volumes of Nick Spencer’s current comic book series “Morning Glories,” I was interested in seeing what kind of strange and nightmarish adventures our main protagonists are getting themselves into this time.  Well, it turns out that there are even more twists and turns for the characters in this volume than ever before!

What is this story about?

In this volume, the faculty at Morning Glory Academy decided to cancel classes for the rest of the day just so the students could play a game called Woodrun.  Unfortunately, as the students start playing this mysterious game, things start getting really crazy when time travel and various flashbacks of the characters’ past lives start surfacing during the games!

What I loved about this story:

Nick Spencer’s writing:  Once again, Nick Spencer manages to weave in mystery and thrills into this volume as we see the Morning Glories go through various surreal situations during the mysterious game called Woodrun.  I enjoyed the way that Nick Spencer still manages to add more to the characters’ back stories such as Casey’s father being in the military, how the death of Jade’s mother affected Jade deeply and Zoe’s dark past with a teacher at her former school.  It added more dimensions to the characters and I would like to see whether or not these characters would overcome their dark pasts in order to survive in a school that is out to kill them.  I also loved the fact that this volume focuses more on the interpersonal relationships between the characters and how they are trying to get to know each other since it brought more depth to their personalities and it would be interesting to see in future volumes about whether or not they will try working better with each other to escape Morning Glories academy.

Joe Eisma’s artwork:  Once again, Joe Eisma’s artwork is just so gorgeous to look at as the characters glow right off the pages and the action sequences were drawn extremely well.  I also loved how Joe Eisma made the characters’ facial expressions look so realistic and effective as I really took in emotions that the characters were experiencing and I felt myself sympathizing with the majority of them.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

The main problem I been having with this series so far was that the stories continue to switch back and forth from the characters’ flashbacks to what is currently happening to them (and some awkward scenes where the characters time travel to different eras). Even though there is a clear story here, I felt that the constant switching of the narratives between the past and the present were a bit too frustrating to go through since I am one of those readers who prefers to read stories that take place in the present  and have flashback sequences happen in certain points of the story.  It is not that I hate flashback stories, it is just that in this case, the flashback stories of each character kind of slowed down the story for me and I was more interested in what was happening to the characters in the present rather than having more flashbacks of the characters’ past lives.  Also, for anyone who does not like strong language and gory violence, this volume contains quite of bit of both and it would best to skim over these scenes if they prove to be uncomfortable for the reader.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Morning Glories Volume Three: P.E.” is a pretty good volume that really explores the inner relationships of each character and reveals much more about each character and their journey in escaping from the nightmarish Morning Glory Academy!