Friday, March 30, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Batman: Year One by Frank Miller

Title:  Batman: Year One

Author:  Frank Miller

Artists:  David Mazzucchelli and Richmond Lewis

Genre: Superheroes / Action / Adventure

Year Published: 1987

Year Read: 2012

Series: Batman

Publisher: DC Comics

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 15+ (Some Language and Violence)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

Brief History:

To be honest, I have actually first heard about Batman through the 90s cartoon series “Batman: The Animated Series,” which apparently, I have actually had my first exposure to the world of comics through so many animated series throughout the 90s.  Since I have been reading a lot of comics lately, especially the “X-Men” comics, I wanted to try a different comic book series and that is where I started reading up on “Batman.”  So, the first “Batman” comic I have actually came upon recently is a little gem that I have just noticed lately and that is “Batman: Year One” by Frank Miller along with artwork by David Mazzucchelli along with coloring by Richmond Lewis.  “Batman: Year One” is truly a brilliant comic book that newer fans of “Batman” can easily get into!

What is this story about?

This story basically retells the origins of Bruce Wayne as Batman as it details Bruce Wayne’s first year as Batman and all the struggles he overcomes in his new role as Batman.  This story also details about Commissioner James Gordon’s first year as a lieutenant of the police force before he became a commissioner.

What I loved about this story:

Frank Miller’s writing: Frank Miller’s writing was so amazing and simple to read through, especially if you are new to the “Batman” comics and you need a good place to jump right in the series.  Frank Miller has created a more modern spin on the origins of Batman without changing the original history of Batman (his parents are killed before him when he was a child and he decides to become the famous caped crusader he is today) and I especially loved the way that Frank Miller details Batman’s first year fighting crime as being difficult since Bruce Wayne had difficulties in becoming the crime fighting caped crusader since the public viewed him as a menace the moment he started fighting crime. I also loved the way that Frank Miller shown the months that all of this was taking place from January fourth to December third which gave an extremely detailed timeline of this story.  What really interested me about this story was learning about the origins of Commissioner James Gordon since I have not really been exposed to his origins and it was interesting to see how James Gordon actually started out as a lieutenant of a police force that was corrupted by the crimes of Gotham City and how he tried to do his best to protect the citizens of Gotham City from such criminal activities.

David Mazzucchelli and Richmond Lewis’ artwork: David Mazzucchelli and Richmond Lewis’ artwork is simplistic yet gives a dramatic feel to the story, especially during the scenes where the characters are in shadows and they give out an eerie feel to the scene they are associated with, like during the scene where James Gordon is attacked by hit men and Richmond Lewis’ red coloring that flashes on the characters’ faces makes this scene extremely intense as you can see the pain and sorrow on James Gordon’s face.  I also loved the shadowing that Richmond Lewis applies to Batman as Batman is usually shown in the dark and the dark shadowing makes him look menacing.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

The only problem with this comic book novel is that there is some blood in some scenes, especially during the scenes where some of the characters are shot.  Also, there is some language in this book that might offend some readers, so if you do not like dark themed books that deal with crimes in the cities, then this graphic novel might be hard to read through.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Batman: Year One” is not only a brilliant read for “Batman” fans everywhere, but it is also a great place to get into the “Batman” comic series, especially for new fans who are just getting into the “Batman” comics and want to know how Batman’s origins came about!

[BOOK REVIEW] King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood

Title:  King Bidgood's in the Bathtub

Author:  Audrey Wood

Artist:  Don Wood

Genre: Humor / Medieval Ages / Royalty

Year Published: 1985

Year Read: 1993

Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 4+ (Nothing Objectionable)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

“King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub” is a wonderfully humorous story from the creative mind of Audrey Wood, along with beautiful illustrations from Don Wood. This book also won a Caldecott Honor Book Award, which it richly deserves this honor as the book is a great humorous experience that many children would enjoy for many years to come. 

Audrey Wood’s comical storytelling of this book makes it an instant classic to read as it is full of witty humor and clever verses. The scenes that I really enjoyed were the scenes where King Bidgood does every activity that his upper class officials suggest to him inside the bathtub, which is a humorous sight to see. Don Wood’s illustrations are all beautiful and humorous as he delightfully illustrates the King enjoying every activity suggested in the bathtub such as the image of King Bidgood eating lunch inside the tub and all the food being place between him and the Queen. Also, the characters themselves look aristocratic and lively as they all dress in Victorian Era clothing and their facial expressions are hilarious as they have worried expressions on their faces as they pondered how to get the King out of the bathtub.

“King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub” is a wonderful book that is full of creativity and good humor about the King’s obsession with staying inside the bathtub and is certainly suitable for children of all ages since there is nothing inappropriate about this book. 

1986 Caldecott Honor

[BOOK REVIEW] Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood

Title:  Heckedy Peg

Author:  Audrey Wood

Artist:  Don Wood

Genre: Horror / Family / Food / Magic

Year Published: 1987

Year Read: 2009

Publisher:  HMH Books for Young Readers

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 6+ (Some Scary Scenes and Child Kidnapping)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

“Heckedy Peg” is another early book of Audrey Wood and Don Wood and is the winner of the Irma Simonton Black Award.  With Audrey Wood’s masterful storytelling and Don Wood’s exotic illustrations, “Heckedy Peg” is sure to be an instant classic.

Audrey Wood’s masterful storytelling is both exciting and intense as she narrates the story of a mother who risks her life to find her seven children before Heckedy Peg eats them up.  The scene that really stood out the most in this book was the scene where the mother knew which food item was her child by remembering what they had requested before she went to the market.  I always thought that while reading this book, whether or not the mother had an excellent memory of what her children wanted or that it was the power of love that broke the spell over the children, but I believe that the power of love is a good theme in this book because the reader can easily see that the mother was distraught when her children were kidnapped and she had the courage to go rescue her children even after they were transformed into food.  Don Wood’s illustrations are beautiful and haunting at the same time especially of the scene of Heckedy Peg’s hut being gloomy and frightening as the colors are mainly gray and blue and the trees twist in a monstrous way.

Parents should know that Heckedy Peg, the evil witch, might scare small due to her wanting to eat the mother’s seven children.  Also, some parents might be upset by the use of witchcraft in this story as Heckedy Peg uses dark magic to transform the children into various food items and they might want to talk to their children about the controversial topic about witchcraft.  Also, Heckedy Peg looks extremely frightening as she dresses in a tattered old dress and has a twisted and insane looking expression on her face.  The scene that will probably frighten children the most would be the scene where Heckedy Peg transforms the seven children into different food items and you can see the malicious grin on Heckedy Peg’s face as the children seem like ghostly apparitions of themselves when they transform into food.  Parents may want to comfort their children that a mother’s love for their children usually conquers any frightful situation and also discuss about the dangers of letting in strangers that they do not know that well.

“Heckedy Peg” is one of Audrey Wood’s and Don Wood’s most dramatic books and is also the most beautiful book from their collection, other than “The Napping House.”  Children who love books filled with adventure and tension will definitely enjoy this book and the mother’s clever resolution in finding out which child is hers.  I would strongly recommend this book to children ages six and older since it does deal with the subject matter of witchcraft and small children might be frighten by Heckedy Peg’s desire to eat the seven children.

*  Irma Simonton Black Award

Monday, March 26, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Title:  The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Year Published: 2008

Number of Pages: 374 pages

Date Read: 12/19/2010

Series: The Hunger Games #1

Publisher:  Scholastic Press

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 16+ (Gory Violence and Mature Themes)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 


Imagine living in a post- apocalyptic world where keeping your life is your main priority in life.  Well, I got that experience when I read this book called “The Hunger Games” and believe me this book took me on one dark and intense ride.  “The Hunger Games” is an intense book by Suzanne Collins which details how a sixteen-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen is thrown into the dreaded Hunger Games when she tries to save her sister, Prim from entering it.  “The Hunger Games” may be too violent and intense for some readers to handle, but it is truly one of the most engaging books ever written!

In the ruins of North America, there is a nation called Panem where it is ruled by the Capitol, which is full of cruel and ruthless people ruling the city.  Every year, the Capitol would send in a boy and a girl from each district to compete in the dreaded Hunger Games, where competitors fight to the death to survive.  When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen realizes that her sister Prim is about to compete in the Hunger Games, she decides to take her sister’s place to save her life and now she is competing in the Hunger Games where she has to use all of her wits and strength to survive!

Whew!  I am definitely out of breath after I read this book!  When I first heard about this book, I was trying to figure out what all the hype was all about on this book, but now I know!  Suzanne Collins has certainly done an awesome job at writing this book that is full of intensity and suspense!  What I loved the most about this book was how Suzanne Collins had perfectly built up the pace of the action in this book so that the readers do not have to feel like they do not know the characters that well since it might cause the plot of the story to move quickly.  I will admit that when I first read this book, it started out really slow, but as soon as the Hunger Games begins, the action quickly picks up and I found myself being mesmerized by Suzanne Collins’ intensive writing and exciting plot that I could not put the book down!  I also loved the characters in this book, especially Katniss Everdeen herself!  Katniss is the pure strong heroine in this book as she struggles to survive in the Hunger Games and I loved the way that Katniss uses her knowledge of the forest and her wit to help her get through the Hunger Games.  I also admired Katniss’ courage in this book as she was able to handle any obstacle that came at her and I loved the relationship between her and Peeta.  Katniss' and Peeta's relationship with each other is not your average romantic couple since they are too busy trying to survive in the Hunger Games, but there are some cute moments between the two of them.  Another thing I loved about this book was how the idea of “The Hunger Games” was thought up as I never would have thought that I would read a book that takes place in a post – apocalyptic world or in this case, after the destruction of North America and that idea easily intrigues me since you wonder to yourself about how can you create another civilization after the destruction of another civilization.  I also think that this book reminded me of the gladiator tournaments that were held during Ancient Rome and even some of the characters’ names in this book seem to reflect the Roman names.

There are many gory and violent scenes in this book, which includes many people dying in horrific ways.  So, anyone who does not like gore or violence might feel a bit squeamish when reading this book.  Also, the whole theme about how the Capitol toys with innocent people’s lives and views it as a sport is deeply disturbing.

Overall, “The Hunger Games” is a truly worthy book to read over and over again and I will definitely be checking out the next two books in this fantastic series!

REASON FOR BEING BANNED:  For having anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitivity, offensive language, occult/satanic, violence, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

*Winner: 2008 Cybils Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction
*Winner: 2008 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
*Winner: 2008 Horn Book Fanfare Best Book
*Winner: 2008 New York Times Notable Children's Book
*Winner: 2009 Georgia Peach Book Award
*Winner: 2009 Amelia Bloomer List
*Winner: 2009 ALA Notable Children's Book for Older Readers
*Winner: 2009 ALA Teens' Top Ten
*Winner: 2009 Teen Buckeye Book Award
*Winner: 2009 The Inky Awards for Silver Inky
*Winner: 2009 Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award
*Winner: 2009 ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
*Winner: 2009 Florida Teens Read
*Winner: 2010 West Australian Young Readers' Book Award (WAYRBA) for Older Readers
*Winner: 2010 Red House Children's Book Award for Older Readers & Overall
*Winner: 2010 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award
*Winner: 2010 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award
*Nominee: 2010 Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Nominee
*Winner: 2010 Rhode Island Teen Book Award
*Winner: 2010 Sakura Medal for Middle School Book
*Winner: 2010 Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis
*Winner: 2010 - 2011 Eliot Rosenwater Indiana High School Book Award
*Nominee: 2011 Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award Nominee
*Winner: 2011 Iowa High School Book Award
*Winner: 2011 Abraham Lincoln Award
*Winner: 2011 South Carolina Book Award for Junior and Young Adult Book Awards
*Winner: Publisher's Weekly's Best Books of the Year

[BOOK REVIEW] The Sandman: A Game of You Volume 5 by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Sandman: A Game of You Volume 5

Author: Neil Gaiman

Artists: Shawn McManus, Colleen Doran, Bryan Talbot, George Pratt, Stan Woch, and Dick Giordano

Genre: Supernatural / Horror / Fantasy

Year Published: 1992

Year Read: 2012

Series: The Sandman #5

Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating: Ages 16+ (Death and Graphic Violence)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series just keeps getting better and better every time I read them and the fifth volume “A Game of You” definitely does not disappoint me!  This time, Dream (Morpheus) is dealing with a world that may look cute on the outside but on the inside, a sinister force is at work here and it is up to Dream to save the day!

In this volume, “A Game of You,” a young woman named Barbie (think of Ken and Barbie, the dolls that every little girl used to play with) who starts suffering dreamless nights after she broke up with her boyfriend Ken.  One night however, Barbie is put into a coma of sorts and her friends Hazel and Foxglove, two lesbian couples, Wanda, a drag queen and Thessaly, a quiet and mysterious woman try to enter Barbie’s dream world in order to rescue her from the forces of the Cuckoo, an evil being that is invading her dreams!  There are a total of six chapters in this volume and they are:

Chapter 1: Slaughter on Fifth Avenue
Chapter 2: Lullabies of Broadway
Chapter 3: Bad Moon Rising
Chapter 4: Beginning to See the Light
Chapter 5: Over the Sea to Sky
Chapter 6: I Wake Up and One of Us Was Crying

Wow! This volume was beyond fantastic and is probably the best volume I have read so far out of Neil Gaiman’s famous “Sandman” series!  Neil Gaiman has definitely done a brilliant job at weaving a truly frightening and exciting story about how Barbie is swept away in a dream world where she is a princess and the evil forces of the Cuckoo tries to kidnap her while her real body is in a comatose state in the real world.  I loved seeing the stark differences between Barbie’s dream world and the real world as the real world is dark and dreary while Barbie’s world seems to resemble a world similar to Narnia as she travels with talking animal companions and goes on an epic adventure to escape the evil forces of the Cuckoo.  I also loved how Neil Gaiman made this volume so dark and gory, since I am a huge fan of anything that has blood and gore in it and this volume definitely has tons of blood and gore that is shown in the most disturbing way possible!  The artwork by Shawn McManus, Colleen Doran, Bryan Talbot, George Pratt, Stan Woch, and Dick Giordano is truly amazing, especially with the scenes of Barbie being in her dream world as her dream world is set up as a world similar to Narnia as there are green trees and endless landscapes covering each page.  Also, I loved the details being put into the gory scenes that occur in the stories as they look truly gruesome and terrifying at the same time.

As with the other volumes in the “Sandman” series, this volume contains some extremely gory and bloody scenes that might make many readers’ stomachs turn.  One of the most disturbing moments in this book was when a character peels another person’s face off and then rips out the person’s eyeballs and their tongue out and nails the other person’s peeled face, eyeballs and tongue to the wall to talk to it.  This is definitely a truly disturbing scene that might make some readers feel really uncomfortable if they do not like seeing gory scenes in a novel.  Also, there is so much killing in this volume that might be too disturbing for readers who do not like reading about murders in novels.

Overall, “The Sandman: A Game of You” is easily the most disturbing yet the most exciting of Neil Gaiman’s fantastic “Sandman” series and it is definitely a favorite of mine that fans should definitely check out! I would recommend this book to readers ages sixteen up since there is so much disturbing content in this volume that would be too terrifying for younger readers.  Now I am off to read the next volume in the “Sandman” series, “Fables and Reflections.”

[BOOK REVIEW] The Sandman: Season of Mists Volume 4 by Neil Gaiman

Title:  The Sandman: Season of Mists Volume 4

Author:  Neil Gaiman

Artists:  Kelley Jones, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Matt Wagner, Dick Giordano, George Pratt and P. Craig Russell

Genre: Supernatural / Fantasy / Adventure

Year Published: 1991

Year Read: 2012

Series: The Sandman #4

Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 16+ (Graphic Violence, Mature Themes and Some Nudity)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

After reading more of Neil Gaiman’s classic “Sandman” series, I never would have thought that the stories would get better and better and the fourth volume “Season of Mists” certainly did not disappoint me!  Dream (Morpheus) definitely got his hands full in this volume that will reveal many shocking surprises for the fans of the fantastic “Sandman” series!

In this volume “Season of Mists,” when a family meeting between the Endless ends up revealing Dream’s past horrible deed of condemning the woman he loved, Nada, to the Underworld, Dream decides to go down to the Underworld to rescue Nada.  Unfortunately, Lucifer Morningstar, who vowed to destroy Dream after Dream humiliated him in the first volume, has plans for Dream that might end up turning Dream’s world into a nightmare!  Instead of having separate stories in this volume, this volume is broken up in chapters and it has a total of six chapters along with a prologue and an epilogue.

Neil Gaiman has once again created a story from the popular “Sandman” series that will continue to stand the test of time to many generations!  The fourth volume of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series is just as enjoyable as the first two volumes as it details Dream’s efforts to rescue his former lover Nada from the depths of the Underworld.  I loved the way that Neil Gaiman made the atmosphere of this story extremely dark yet adventurous at the same time as the majority of this volume takes place in the Underworld and I was so shocked at seeing the horrible activities that takes place in the Underworld.  I also loved the religious references that Neil Gaiman brings to this volume as there are many references about the balance between Heaven and Hell and I loved how it was explained through this story.  The character Lucifer Morningstar proved to be an interesting antagonist in this volume as Neil Gaiman did a brilliant job of laying out his plot against Dream step by step and the burden that he placed on Dream was cleverly plotted and as I keep on reading more about Lucifer’s plan throughout this volume, I wanted to know how Dream was going to beat Lucifer at his own game.  Kelley Jones, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Matt Wagner, Dick Giordano, George Pratt and P. Craig Russell’s artwork were brilliant in this volume as they each brought their own unique flair to the story.  I loved the illustrations of the Underworld that each artist brought because the images of the Underworld were brilliant and disturbing at the same time and it really brought out the intensity in this story.

Like the first three volumes of the “Sandman” series, there is some disturbing content in this volume, especially with the scenes of the Underworld.  In the Underworld sequences, there are many images of people being tortured such as an image of a man who has nails imbedded in his body and chains that pulled at his skin and some images of people being impaled by sharp staffs.  Also, there are some images of nudity in this volume that might offend some people who do not like seeing nudity in images. 

Overall, “The Sandman: Season of Mists” is a truly brilliant and haunting volume for fans of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series and will surely be a pure delight to read for many years.  I would recommend this volume to readers ages sixteen and up since there are many disturbing images and some nudity that some people might not enjoy reading.  Now I am off to read the fifth volume in the “Sandman” series, “A Game of You.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] The Sandman: Dream Country Volume 3 by Neil Gaiman

Title:  The Sandman:  Dream Country Volume 3

Author: Neil Gaiman

Artists: Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, and Malcolm Jones III

Genre: Supernatural / Fantasy / Suspense

Year Published: 1990

Year Read: 2012

Series: The Sandman #3

Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 14+ (Some Violence)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

The more I read from Neil Gaiman’s popular “Sandman” series, the more interested I get in reading more about Dream and the other Endless characters!  In the third volume of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series, “Dream Country,” we are introduced to more stories regarding Dream and his sister Death and we also get to read the World Fantasy Award-winning story, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

In this volume “Dream Country,” there are four stories that continue the adventures of Dream (or Morpheus) and his presence in the dream world:

Calliope – In this tale, a beautiful muse named Calliope is imprisoned by an author who wants to use her to get ideas for his novels.

A Dream of a Thousand Cats – In this tale, a cat relates her tragic tale about how humanity has treated her cruelly and how in her dreams, she discovers that cats were originally the rulers of the world and not mankind and how mankind later on came to power in the world.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – In this tale, Dream travels back in time to witness William Shakespeare’s famous play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” while inviting some “special” guests to the play.

Façade – In this tale, a young immortal woman who has a frightening appearance wishes to die and gets a special visit from Death herself!

Neil Gaiman clearly has a great handle on telling interesting stories set in surreal worlds.  I love how in the “Sandman” series, the worlds are surreal and dark at the same time which provides for some really intriguing stories.  My favorite stories in this volume are “Calliope” and “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” as the characters in both stories is interesting and the plots were truly fleshed out.  I will admit that when I read “Calliope,” I was actually shocked at how the author in the story was willing to keep an innocent human being (or in this case a muse) locked up just to be famous for his inspirations in his writing and this story is a bit creepy to me also because of the idea of a human being locked up against their will.  I really enjoyed “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” because it provided an interesting insight about how cats viewed humanity and how they wished that they were rulers of the world once again.  The artwork of Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, and Malcolm Jones III is brilliant and I loved the surreal and creepy qualities that each artist put into each story as it made the stories even more interesting.  I also loved seeing the different styles that each artist put into each story as it matches with the surreal quality of this volume.

Like the first two “Sandman” stories, this volume does have some disturbing moments such as in the story “Calliope” where a muse is being locked up against her will and there is some violence in this volume such as in the story “A Dream of a Thousand Cats.”  Also, the reason why I gave this book a four star rating is because even though I loved the first two stories in this volume, I felt that the last two stories in this volume “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Façade” were lacking action.  I think that fans of William Shakespeare’s works would appreciate “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” but I could never understand the language that goes into William Shakespeare’s works.  Oh well, maybe I might understand his works in the future if I start reading his work for the pleasure of it.  With the last story “Façade” I felt that this story was a bit too short and I wish that it went on longer since I was interested in the main character’s problem.

Overall, “The Sandman: Dream Country” is a great volume for fans who want to read a graphic novel interpretation on William Shakespeare’s works and who love reading Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series, but the last two stories might bore readers who want more action.

*Winner: World Fantasy Award for "A Midsummer Night's Dream"