Thursday, May 31, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt

Title:  The Spider and the Fly

Author:  Mary Howitt

Artist:  Tony DiTerlizzi

Genre: Horror / Animal

Year Published: 2002

Year Read: 2004

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 6+ (Death)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

 “The Spider and the Fly” is a beatifully haunting tale based on a poem by Mary Howitt and with gloomy illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi.  The story won a Caldecott Honor Award and is about how a creepy Vincent Price look-alike spider tries to entice an innocent looking female fly to come to his parlor and the book also explains the consequences of falling for the flattering words of strangers who are a threat to you.  “The Spider and the Fly” is a great story that the whole family will enjoy, although small children might be creeped out by this book.

Mary Howitt writes a dazzling cautionary tale about how flattering words from a dangerous stranger can cause problems for the person who falls victim to the stranger’s elegant compliments.  Mary Howitt displays this gothic story in a lyrical prose, same style as you would see in a Vincent Price movie.  Tony DiTerlizzi’s illustrations are haunting and beautiful at the same time.  The highlighted illustrations are the images of the past victims of the Spider as they are shown as transparent ghosts and they also foreshadow what might happen to the female Fly if she is not cautious about the Spider’s mysterious intentions about inviting her to his parlor.

Parents should know that the ending might worry small children.  I will not reveal what happens at the end, but if you know about the spider and the fly food chain scenario, then you might have a clue about what happens at the end of the book.  Parents should reassure their children that what happens at the end of the book is apart of the natural food chain of insects and even the Spider gives an afterword at the end of the book explaining about various spiders’ instincts and he even quotes about Charlotte being a predator in “Charlotte’s Web” when she captures various insects for her meal.

“The Spider and the Fly” is a great story about how a tricky stranger’s flattering words can be a downfall for young people who do not know the dangers of going near strangers that might have bad intentions, even though they are not aware of it.  The book also points out that it is good to be extremely cautious around people you do not know for you cannot tell their true intentions until it is too late.  This book will surely capitivate hearts of many children, but it is more suitable for children ages six and older due to the vocabulary being a bit advanced for a younger child and due to the unfortunate ending that will scare off many young children.

2003 Caldecott Honor

[BOOK REVIEW] Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft Volume 1 by Joe Hill

Title:  Locke and Key:  Welcome to Lovecraft Volume 1

Author: Joe Hill

Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez 

Genre: Supernatural / Horror / Fantasy

Year Published: 2008

Year Read: 2012

Series: Locke and Key #1

Publisher: IDW Comics

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 16+ (Strong Language, Murder and Mature Themes)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

After reading Neil Gaiman’s fantastic “Sandman” series, I never would have thought that there would be another graphic novel that blends horror and mystery perfectly together.  But I was wrong as I soon discovered a new graphic novel that does just that called “Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft!”  “Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft” is an Eisner Award nominated graphic novel superbly written by Joe Hill along with dramatic artwork by Gabriel Rodriguez and it is definitely a horror/mystery story that is definitely worth checking out!

The story starts off with three siblings named Tyler, the oldest son, Kinsey, the middle daughter, and Bode, the youngest son and how when they were spending the summer at their family’s home, their father was brutally murdered by two strangers right before their very eyes.  After their father’s funeral, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode had a hard time coping with life after their father was killed and they along with their mother who managed to survive the tragedy, decided to move to the city of Lovecraft to leave their old life behind.  However, it turns out that the home that Tyler, Bode and Kinsey all moved into is no ordinary home as Bode soon discovers that the house has dark secrets that only he knows about and those secrets will soon change all three siblings’ lives forever!

Words just cannot describe my feelings and my love for this graphic novel!  I have never read a comic series that really knows how to blend horror, loss and mystery all into one glorious story that will remain to be an all-time favorite among comic fans!  Joe Hill has certainly done a brilliant job at writing this story as it is full of suspense and mystery that will keep you wanting more from the story!  I loved the way that Joe Hill focused on how the three siblings Tyler, Kinsey and Bode all deal with the murder of their father and how they all reacted differently to the situation such as Tyler blaming himself for his father’s death, Kinsey not knowing about what to do with her life without her father and Bode, being extremely young, not quite understanding the seriousness of the situation.  I felt that knowing what these characters are going through after the tragedy that has taken place really gave them so much depth in their characters and I actually felt sad for Tyler, Kinsey, Bode and their mother as they had to deal with the loss of the person they love so dearly.  I also loved the way that Joe Hill brought the supernatural themes into the story without really interrupting the tragedy that the characters were going through as I was practically on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how the keys provide a sort of alternative dimension portable for the characters and I want to see how collecting all the keys to the house would change events for the characters.  Gabriel Rodriguez’s artwork is brilliant as the artwork has dark coloring that fits the gloomy mood of this story extremely well.  I also loved the way that Gabriel Rodriguez drew the images of the supernatural activities taken place such as the images of characters turning into ghosts and you can see the blue wisps of the characters themselves floating towards the reader. 

Probably the only issues with this book is that it surprisingly has some really strong language that you would not find in mainstream comic books and that makes it more difficult for younger readers to get to read this story.  Also, there are some disturbing moments in this book that not only involves the brutal murder of Tyler, Kinsey and Bode’s father, but also has many scenes of innocent people being killed throughout the book.  Also, the supernatural elements such as the characters becoming ghosts might be a bit disturbing.

Overall, “Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft” is a brilliant introduction to the “Locke and Key” series and now that this volume has ended on a huge cliffhanger, I am now looking forward to reading more adventures of Tyler, Bode and Kinsey and will soon be picking up the second volume “Head Games” pretty soon!

Friday, May 25, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Title:  Scandal in Spring

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Genre: Historical Romance

Year Published: 2006

Number of Pages: 435 pages

Date Read: 5/5/2011

Series: Wallflowers #4

Publisher:  Avon

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 18+ (Sex Scenes)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

I have been reading Lisa Kleypas’ “Wallflowers” series for a long time and now, I have finally read the fourth book in the “Wallflowers” series, “Scandal in Spring!”  This time, the fans are introduced to Daisy Bowman, the last of the Wallflowers, who seems to have a love/hate relationship with ruthless yet gentle Matthew Swift!  “Scandal in Spring” is one romance novel that is so full of drama, exciting and pure sizzling romance that will have every romance fan boiling with pure pleasure!

Daisy Bowman, younger sister of Lillian Bowman and the last of the Wallflowers to not be married, has yet to find a suitable suitor and her father demanded that if she does not find a suitor by the end of the season, she will have to marry the man that her father has chosen for her…Matthew Swift!  Daisy apparently cannot stand Matthew Swift, but at the same time, she finds Matthew totally irresistible!  When Matthew and Daisy start to develop feelings for each other, Daisy will soon discover a dark secret about Matthew that might destroy her relationship with him!

Oh my goodness!  This novel was fantastic! Spectacular! Amazing! Uplifting! Excellent! I could go on and on about how brilliant this novel was, but I would be here all day listing how wonderful this novel really was to me!  Lisa Kleypas has definitely done an excellent job at writing this wonderful love story about lies and trust and it has all come perfectly in place!  What I loved the most about this novel were the characters as I practically loved all the characters in this novel, but the characters that truly stood out for me were Daisy Bowman and Matthew Swift! 

I loved Daisy in the previous “Wallflower” novels, but I loved her even more in this novel!  Daisy Bowman was clearly shown as an innocent and kindhearted heroine of this novel as she was clearly so accepting of Matthew’s faults and she also stood by Matthew through all kinds of tough situations he gets himself into, which truly shows how dependent and trusting Daisy really is and it was that aspect of her character that I really enjoyed seeing!  Now, Matthew Swift is really something else entirely! You can say that Matthew Swift is somewhat like the previous hero Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent as he seems like a difficult person to approach at first, but as the novel goes on, Matthew Swift has become one of my most favorite heroes in the “Wallflowers” series next to Marcus, Lord Westcliff and Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent!  I loved the way that Matthew Swift seems to have two different personalities when he approached Daisy many times throughout this book as he seems to be a snobby follower of Mr. Bowman at one point and then another point, he seems to be an extremely gentle and trustworthy person and the gentle personality was the one that win me over his character!  But what I really loved about Matthew Swift was the description of his muscular body! Lisa Kleypas did an awesome job putting so much detail at how huge and strong Matthew is, which really made me love his character even more! I always loved reading about muscular and lean men in my romance novels!  I also loved Daisy’s close relationship with her friends, the Wallflowers Annabelle, Evie, and Lillian as she is clearly close to all of them, especially her older sister, Lillian. Even though Lillian seemed a bit overprotective of Daisy in this novel, I always thought that she did it out of love for Daisy and that made me admire Lillian’s loyalty to Daisy.  I just loved Matthew and Daisy’s love/hate relationship with each other as it was really cute and when the two of them started their “lovemaking” oh man, things started to get really hot and sizzling and I was literally reading with anticipation every time I read the lovemaking scenes between Matthew and Daisy!

There was one thing that I have often wondered about when I read this book and that was Daisy’s relationship with Cam Rohan from "Devil in Winter." I will not go into much detail about their relationship since I do not want to spoil much for those who have not read “Devil in Winter,” but it felt like not much was discussed about Daisy and Cam’s relationship with each other in this book and it seemed like they just forgot about Daisy and Cam altogether in this novel.

For those of you who have problems with sex scenes, this book is littered with sex scenes, so it might be better to read over those scenes if it makes people who do not like reading sex scenes feel uncomfortable.

Overall, “Scandal in Spring” is a truly brilliant and one of a kind romance novel that every romance and Lisa Kleypas fan should read! Now, I will go on and read the final book in the “Wallflowers” series, "A Wallflower Christmas."

[BOOK REVIEW] Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas

Title:  Mine Till Midnight

Author:  Lisa Kleypas

Genre: Historical Romance

Year Published: 2007

Number of Pages: 398 pages

Date Read: 9/27/2010

Series: The Hathaways #1

Publisher:  St. Martin's Paperbacks

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 18+ (Sex Scenes)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

 When I started reading Teresa Medeiros’ romance novels, I started to really get into romance novels.  I finally heard about another romance author and her name was Lisa Kleypas!  “Mine Till Midnight” is the first book I have read from Lisa Kleypas and it is also the first book of the Hathaway family series.  If you have not read a romance novel full of sexual tension, drama and mystery, “Mine Till Midnight” is definitely a romance novel that is worth checking out!

The Hathaway family (Leo, Amelia, Winnifred, Poppy and Beatrix) all had a stroke of bad luck ever since their parents died, even living in an impoverished home in London.  One day, however, the Hathaways inherited a rich estate in Hampshire and it seems that their lives would turn for the better…well, not exactly.  The Hathaways are still unprepared for the high class life since Leo started drinking ever since his finance, Laura, had died and her sister, Winnifred is still weak from contracting the dreaded scarlet fever along with her brother Leo.  However, while Amelia stays at Hampshire, she also meets a dashing half Gypsy man named Cam Rohan, who not only helps Amelia support her family, but also satisfies Amelia’s “sexual desires.”  With Cam wanting freedom from the high class society and Amelia trying to become apart of the high class society, will the two lovers ever be together?  Read this book to find out!

Oh my goodness!  Lisa Kleypas is a true genius in writing this inspirational romance novel!  Okay, let me first talk about the characters and their personalities that I really enjoyed!  I just love how Lisa Kleypas created the characters to be likable and relatable as each character, mainly the Hathaways, have many issues corrupting their lives, but they are always able to overcome any obstacle that comes their way through courage and kindness among themselves.  The characters I loved the most in this book are Amelia Hathaway and Cam Rohan, since this book is all about these two lovers!  I loved Amelia Hathaway because she is such a strong and independent woman especially during the hardships that she and family had endured throughout this book.  I loved the fact that Amelia was always willing to help out her family anyway she can even if society has looked down on her family’s “eccentric” nature and that is the aspect that I came to love about Amelia since it showed that Amelia really cares about her family and she is always putting her family first before her own needs.  Another character that I just totally flipped for was Cam Rohan!  Cam Rohan literally conveys the true meaning of a “handsome devil” as he is perceived as a handsome yet mischievous character.  Not only did I like the handsome and mischievous side of Cam Rohan, but I also loved his caring and independent nature!  Cam Rohan cares deeply for Amelia and he was willing to help her out in her disastrous situations no matter how many times that other people tried to put down his efforts to help the Hathaway family.  What I really loved about Cam Rohan’s character is that he truly respects his Gypsy blood, even though society has shown prejudice towards his Gypsy blood and it shows that Cam is a truly independent person who never let prejudice towards his Gypsy blood discourages his spirit.

Now onto the juicy parts of the story!

For romance fans everywhere, there are plenty of love-making scenes between Amelia and Cam that would make your hair stand up on ends with a burning desire!  The love-making scenes between Amelia and Cam are truly HOT and DELICIOUS and you would just die with passion in reading the juicy details that Lisa Kleypas puts into these scenes!

For people who are not fond of sex scenes, this book has many sex scenes that might offend some people who do not like reading any sex scenes in any book.

All in all, “Mine Till Midnight” not only has hot and sensual love scenes, but it also has a true depth about the importance of family that is uncommon in many romance novels.  I will admit that I was a bit confused at the beginning when I first read this book, but that was probably because I have not read the Wallflower series yet, but this fact never bothered me and this book definitely got me into Lisa Kleypas’ works and I am definitely looking forward to reading more of the Hathaway series and Lisa Kleypas’ works in the future!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Little Lit: Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies edited by Art Spiegelman

Title:  Little Lit:  Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies

Editor: Art Spiegelman

Artists:  Daniel Clowes,  Kaz, and Barbara McClintock

Genre: Fantasy / Humor

Year Published: 2000

Year Read: 2004

Publisher:  Joanna Cotler Books

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (Some Rude Behavior)

Buy or Add on:  Amazon  //  Goodreads

Did you ever think that fairy tale stories can be converted into comic strips?  Well, it seems like they can since there is a brilliant collection of fairy tales stories being told through comic strips called “Little Lit: Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies!”  “Little Lit: Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies” is a collection of various fairy tales that are shown in comic book strips and it is edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly.  For anyone who loves reading fairy tales and comic books, this graphic novel is a fantastic read for children of all ages!

Basically, there are a total of eleven fairy tale stories and five puzzle pages and the fairy tale stories in this collection includes:

Prince Rooster by Art Spiegelman

In this tale, a young prince believes that he is a rooster and his father, the king, tried to find a physician that would cure him of his delusions.  When it seems that no one can cure the prince, an old man comes by the palace claiming that he can cure the prince.  Can the old man cure the prince?

The Sleeping Beauty by Daniel Clowes

This tale is told after the events of “Sleeping Beauty” and in this tale, the young prince kept his marriage to Sleeping Beauty a secret from his parents since his mother is of a race of ogres and could not be trusted.  One day however, the young prince soon became king and told the kingdom about his marriage to Sleeping Beauty and his two children and his ogre of a mother was upset.  So when the prince goes to war, the prince’s mother decided to eat Sleeping Beauty and her children.  Will the ogre Queen eat Sleeping Beauty and her children?

The Princess and the Pea by Barbara McClintock

The classic tale is retold in Barbara McClintock’s wonderful illustrations as all the characters are animals and it once again relates the story about how a princess who looked like a peasant when she first came to a king’s palace for shelter has to prove to the King and Queen that she is truly a princess when the Queen tests the princess by making her sleep on twenty seven mattresses with a small pea hidden underneath all of those mattresses.

Wow! When I read this graphic novel a couple of years ago, I was so amazed at how well the fairy tales in this novel were able to transcend to comic book format!  So many of the tales in this graphic novel were like modern retakes on classic fairy tales and it was awesome reading these stories that are so full of creativity and spark!  All of the artwork in this collection were extremely well done and were extremely creative to look at as there were different kinds of illustrations being put forth into each story and therefore, gave this collection such variety that I found myself being interested in what this collection has to offer in the stories.  My favorite stories from this collection were “The Sleeping Beauty,” “The Hungry Horse” and “The Princess and the Pea.”  In “The Sleeping Beauty,” I loved Daniel Clowes’ artwork since they were detailed and most of the characters have small eyes that really made me laugh every time I saw them!  I also loved the appearance of the old Queen herself as she has blond and curly hair, has large red lips and has small droopy eyes that made her look shifty and it was interesting that even though she is considered an ogre, she never looked that ugly and looked like a normal person.  The story itself was pretty entertaining for me since I wanted to know what happened to Sleeping Beauty after she got married to the prince and it would have been scary about the idea of the old Queen trying to eat Sleeping Beauty and her children if only the artwork did not look so exaggerated and the tone of the story seemed a bit light tone.  “The Hungry Horse” was a brilliantly haunting story by Kaz and was an awesome read! Kaz’s illustrations were wonderfully surreal as all the characters had large noses and were drawn out of proportion and while the story itself was a bit serious, the illustrations made the story hilarious to look at.  “The Princess and the Pea” was wonderfully done by Barbara McClintock and I loved how all the characters in the story were portrayed as animals, especially with the King, the Queen, the young son Lionel and the princess Leotine, being portrayed as lions which greatly brought out their royalty (at least that is how I view lions). Barbara McClintock’s illustrations were just so beautiful and I loved the tiny details she put into each character, especially with the characters wearing royal clothing that truly matched their royalty.

Parents should know that some of the tales in this collection such as “The Hungry Horse” by Kaz have endings that are rather abrupt and sometimes sad and that might upset younger children who do not like sad endings or want to know what happens at the end of the story.  Parents should probably read this collection first to see if their child can handle the endings in some of these stories.

Overall, “Little Lit: Folklore and Fairy Tale Funnies” is a brilliant graphic novel that fans of both fairy tales and comics will easily love for many years to come! I would recommend this collection to children ages five and up since there might be some stories whose sad and abrupt endings might upset smaller children.

Friday, May 18, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

Title:  Strega Nona

Author:  Tomie dePaola

Genre: Italy / Food / Humor / Drama

Year Published: 1975

Year Read: 1993

Series: Strega Nona #1

Publisher:  Everest Publishing

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (One Intense Scene)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

“Strega Nona” created in 1975 by Tomie dePaola, was the author’s first book about the kind and elderly “grandma witch.” This book has since been a popular favorite among children and has won the Caldecott Honor Book Award for its excellence in writing and in its drawing. Strega Nona is sure to be a hit with both children and adults.

Tomie dePaola does an awesome job at creating a story that is humorous and exciting at the same time. Big Anthony humorously plays the role of a tragic hero as he at first was able to feed the townspeople all the pasta they desired, but then ends up nearly destroying the town when he did not listen to Strega Nona’s warnings about the pasta pot. Strega Nona also acted as a savior to the people when she saved the town from the pasta and therefore saving their lives. Tomie dePaola’s illustrations are simply delightful as he illustrates Strega Nona as a helpful and intelligent old woman with an old-fashioned apron around her and Big Anthony as a big and klutzy man who seems to have wild blond hair.

“Strega Nona” is a wonderful story about the consequences of not listening to certain warnings that could endanger people’s lives. Also, this book shows the importance of respecting one’s elders as the villagers respect Strega Nona’s wisdom on cures and life. “Strega Nona” is surely an excellent book for learning about folktales around the world, since the story is supposedly from Italy and will enchant adults and children five years or older for many generations.

* 1976 Caldecott Honor

[BOOK REVIEW] Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart by Sarah MacLean

Title:  Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart

Author:  Sarah MacLean

Genre: Historical Romance

Year Published: 2011

Number of Pages: 367 pages

Date Read: 6/6/2011

Series: Love By Numbers #3

Publisher: Avon

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 18+ (Sex Scenes)

After reading "Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake" and "Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord" I was excited to hear about the third book in Sarah MacLean’s “Love By Numbers” series called “Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart” and man was I totally blown away by this awesome romance novel! Full of excitement, forbidden pleasures and pure love making scenes, this novel will definitely stand the test of time!

Juliana Fiori, the Italian half sister of Nick and Gabriel Ralston, is a strong and independent woman who refuses to follow the strict rules of London society and therefore has become a huge topic of gossip for all the gossipmongers of London.  Things get even more complicated when Juliana meets up with the disdainful Duke of Leighton, Simon Pearson and she eventually tries to prove to the duke about what true passion is all about!

After reading the second book, "Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord," I will admit that I was a little skeptical in reading the third of the “Love by Numbers” series, but after seeing my friends’ reviews on this book and how many positive compliments I keep hearing about this book, I decided to give this book a shot anyway.  Lo and behold, I found myself loving this book every second and I was a little upset that this book came to an end. Sarah MacLean has done an excellent job at writing this brilliant story about a forbidden love between two lovers who came from two different worlds, but would do anything to be together!  What I really loved about Sarah MacLean’s writing is how she develops the characters in this book and my favorite characters out of this entire book would have to be the main couple Juliana Fiori and Simon Pearson, along with some returning characters that I had previously loved in previous books!  At this point, Juliana Fiori is my absolute favorite heroine in any historical romance novel!  I just loved the way that Juliana stood up for what she believed in, even when society is against her and I really loved how devoted she was to having passion in her life, especially when it concerns Simon Pearson, which I will now get to!  Simon Pearson, the Duke of Leighton, was first introduced in the second book of the “Love by Numbers” series and at first, I did not like him because of his arrogant and disdainful nature, but after I read this book, I really came to love Simon!  What I really loved about Simon is that he always get so tongued tied whenever he is around Juliana and when he is being romantic around Juliana, whew he is something else entirely!  I also loved that fact that he is described as being muscular and large, which really got my hero senses tingling and after I heard of Simon’s tragic story about how he had to keep up with society’s expectations of him, it truly showed a caring side to Simon that we were never exposed to before.  I loved how Sarah MacLean brought back some of the older characters shown in previous books which includes Gabriel and Nick Ralston, Callie, and Isabel and it was nice seeing them with their loved ones and enjoying each other’s company.  I also loved the plot of the story as it sort of has a “Romeo and Juliet” feel since Juliana and Simon are held back from seeing each other because of their families and how they tried to get back together despite all the consequences they would suffer if they remained together and let us not forget the love making scenes between Juliana and Simon as they are hot and sizzling and will set your soul on fire!

For those of you who do not like sex scenes, there are plenty of sex scenes in this book, so it would be best to skim over these scenes.

Overall out of all the books I have read in Sarah MacLean’s popular “Love by Numbers” series, “Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart” is my absolute favorite and I definitely think that romance novel fans will definitely get a huge kick out of this book!  Also, I hope that there is a fourth book in the series, because I want to see what becomes of Georgiana and Callie’s brother!