Thursday, October 25, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Invincible: Ultimate Collection Volume 2 by Robert Kirkman

Title:  Invincible: Ultimate Collection Volume 2

Author:  Robert Kirkman

Artists: Ryan Ottley and Bill Crabtree

Genre: Superheroes / Action / Adventure

Year Published: 2006

Year Read: 2012

Series: Invincible #2

Publisher: Image Comics

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 16+ (Gory Violence)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository


Brief Introduction:

After reading the first volume of Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker’s classic superhero comic “Invincible,” I just had to read the second volume of this fantastic series and see more of Mark Grayson and his family after the explosive and tragic revealation at the end of the first volume!  “Invincible: Ultimate Collection Volume Two” is definitely one volume you do not want to put down!

What is the story?

After the tragic events in the first volume, Mark Grayson is starting to look at life in a different light now and must take over his father’s job of protecting Earth from villains.  Throughout this volume, Mark will have to face various foes that he has never faced before, while trying to graduate from high school and make it to college!

What I loved about this comic:

Robert Kirkman’s writing!:  As with the first volume, Robert Kirkman’s writing is just fantastic as not only are we shown more action scenes than we were shown in the first volume, but we also get so many emotional moments from the characters themselves.  I loved the way that Robert Kirkman actually explored the turmoil that Mark and his mother suffered after what happened in the first volume (I really do not want to spoil the ending of the first volume since I want everyone to check this series out, but let me tell you, it truly was a shocker).  Just seeing both Mark and his mother become so upset after the events of the first volume and trying to cope with the situation the best they can truly shows that these are characters who strongly relate to any person.  Even though most superhero comics do deal with your typical super heroic action scenes, this was one of the few times I have actually read a superhero comic that actually explores a character’s emotions on a certain situation (okay, I actually read emotional content from some of the X-Men comics) and it was a truly sad experience to sit through when I was reading this comic and I often found myself sympathizing with Mark and his mother.  I also loved the way that Robert Kirkman created many action scenes in this volume so that way you can stay interested in the storylines and enjoy the constant action scenes being shown in this volume!  Again, I loved the way that Robert Kirkman wrote Mark Grayson’s character as Mark is shown to be an average teenage boy trying to juggle his time with high school and being a superhero and I love how he shows enthusiasm in being a superhero while trying to stay close to his friends despite his constant superhero duties.

Ryan Ottley and Bill Crabtree’s artwork: Done in about the same style as Cory Walker’s artwork in the first volume, Ryan Ottley has done a brilliant job at doing the artwork for this volume as the characters look a bit realistic and the facial expressions that shows whenever a character is upset or shocked is extremely well done.  Bill Crabtree’s coloring is just as brilliant as before as the characters are brightly colored and I also loved the dark coloring being done whenever the characters are shown during the night time.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this book:

Like the first volume, there are many scenes of blood and gore, especially with various killings in this volume where characters are ripped apart and their insides are showing.  Also, one small nitpick I had with this volume was that there were so many different stories being shown all at one time.  In the first volume, we had one storyline that had several small events happening to the characters while each event led up to a bigger storyline that was unfolding.  In the second volume, there are so many storylines going on at the same time such as Mark and his mother dealing with the tragic events of the last volume, Mark almost being married to the Queen of the Underwater Kingdom, and a time traveler named Angstrom Levy trying to save his timeline from a catastrophe.  All of these events happening in one volume is often confusing and sometimes, half of the storylines do not really wrap up, which is irritating if you want to see the storyline all the way through.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Invincible: Ultimate Collection Volume Two” is a truly brilliant follow up to the first volume and anyone who is a huge fan of Robert Kirkman’s works or is a huge fan of superhero comics will definitely get a kick out of this series!

[BOOK REVIEW] Fear Agent Volume 3: The Last Goodbye by Rick Remender

Title:  Fear Agent Volume 3: The Last Goodbye

Author: Rick Remender

Artist: Tony Moore

Genre: Sci-Fi / Action / Adventure / Horror

Year Published: 2007

Year Read: 2012

Series: Fear Agent #3

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Source:  Library

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

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository

Brief Introduction:

Ever since I started reading Rick Remender’s “Fear Agent” series, I had always wanted to know more about Heath Huston’s origin tale about how he became a Fear Agent and about why the aliens were attacking the planet Earth.  Well, we finally get Heath Huston’s origin tale in the third volume, “Fear Agent: The Last Goodbye” and man, is it an emotional joyride that you cannot miss!

What is the story?

In this volume, we are finally introduced to the origin tale of Heath Huston and his everlasting battle with both the Tetaldian Race and the Dressite Empire!  Heath Huston was just your average trucker who was married to Charlotte and had a son named Kent and they lived happily together until a tragic day when an alien bomb blows up Heath’s Ranch, taking the lives of his father and son with it!  With only his wife Charlotte surviving with him, Heath must find a way to defeat the invading aliens while soon discovering his destiny in becoming a Fear Agent!

What I loved about this comic:

Rick Remender’s writing:   After reading the first two volumes of the “Fear Agent” series, I was always so interested in the dark yet exciting world that Rick Remender had crafted throughout this series!  I was actually happy that this was the volume that explained Heath Huston’s back story about how he became a Fear Agent and when the aliens started attacking the planet Earth.  Rick Remender has once again proven how effective he is with the storytelling of this series and this volume was not only the most action packed of this series, but it was also the most emotionally scarring volume I had ever read!  I actually felt so much pain and sympathy for all the characters in this volume as Heath and Charlotte had to bear witness to the destruction that the alien race had done to the planet Earth and seeing so many people that they cared about die in the hands of both the Tetaldian Race and the Dressite Empire was a truly tragic experience for me.  I also loved the way that Rick Remender portrayed the relationship between Heath and Charlotte as they truly care for each other and I loved seeing the scenes where Heath would go out of his way of protecting not only Charlotte, but the survivors of the human race.  Rick Remender has done a fantastic job at providing the dramatic twists in this story as there were many moments where I was in shock about how this event was pulled off.

Tony Moore’s artwork: Usually, the artwork of the “Fear Agent” series change within every volume so this time, it is Tony Moore who is the artist of this volume!  Tony Moore’s artwork is truly effective in this volume (even though there were a few scratchy artworks going on in some scenes that made it hard to see what was going on).  I loved the way that Tony Moore did the characters’ expressions as their expressions of shock and terror were truly dramatic to see and I also loved the little details that Tony Moore did with the fighting scenes between the Fear Agents and the aliens as they look truly exciting and intense at the same time.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this book:

Even though I was excited that I finally come across a volume in the “Fear Agent” series that actually explains Heath Huston’s origin story, I have to wonder myself about why this was not done in the first volume?  What I love about origin stories is that you are able to get to know the character on a much deeper level and it makes the events that they are going through much easier to understand.  So, after I read this volume, I actually felt more sympathy for Heath’s character, but I wished that this was introduced in the first volume so I would have understood Heath’s character a bit better.  Also, for anyone who does not like gory violence and strong language, this volume has plenty of strong language and the violence is raised up a notch as there are many images of people being killed and having their guts being ripped out of their bodies.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Fear Agent: The Last Goodbye” is a great read that really delves into Heath Huston’s character and even though it took about three volumes to finally get Heath’s full back story, it was worth it as now I am looking forward to reading the fourth volume in the “Fear Agent” series to see what will now become of Heath Huston!

[BOOK REVIEW] Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

Title:  Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Author:  Alvin Schwartz

Artist:  Stephen Gammell

Genre: Horror / Short Stories

Year Published: 1981

Year Read: 2012

Series: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark #1

Publisher:  Scholastic, Inc.

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 8+ (Frightening Imagery and Scary Situations)

Buy or Add on:  Amazon  //  Goodreads 


I have always loved reading banned books because even though I am usually curious about the reasons why they were banned in the first place, it just makes me really want to read the books even more!  Well, I just picked up this spooky book for children called “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” by Alvin Schwartz along with illustrations by Stephen Gammell and it basically has several horror folktales collected over the years.  “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is definitely one horror collection that you just have to read during Halloween!

Basically, this book has a collection of scary stories that you can tell in the dark and they include:

The Big Toe:

In this tale, a young boy finds a large toe in the ground and digs it up and he and his family decided to eat the toe.  But, the young boy will soon realize that you should never pull anything out of the ground as something scary starts happening during the night!

Cold as Clay:

A farmer has a daughter who fell in love with a man named Jim, but the farmer did not like having Jim be around his daughter.  So, the farmer decided to send his daughter to live with her uncle to keep her and Jim apart.  Unfortunately, Jim dies of being heartbroken and the farmer feels guilty about it.  Then, a strange thing happens to the farmer’s daughter after Jim dies…

The White Wolf:

When wolves started attacking the cattle and sheep in French Creek, the state decides to post up a reward for anyone who can kill the wolves.  One man named Bill Williams ends up killing the wolves, but he will soon realize the folly of his wolf killing ways.

Wow! After so many years of reading books that have collections of horror stories that will chill you to the bone (and I have read plenty of books like that), this was one of the few horror books that actually chilled me to the bone!  Alvin Schwartz has done an excellent job at retelling these ancient horror folktales and each story was scary and intense at the same time as the characters involved in each story are either murdered or tortured to death by the dead.  I also loved the way that Alvin Schwartz provided some helpful hints in scaring anyone if you are telling these stories to other people in the dark such as in the “Aaaaaah!” section of the book, Alvin Schwartz provides various moments where the narrator can scream at the audience to give a dramatic effect to the stories.  Some of my favorite stories in this book were “The Big Toe,” “Cold as Clay,” “The White Wolf,” “A New Horse,” and “The Ghost With the Bloody Fingers.” Stephen Gammell’s illustrations were truly haunting yet effective at the same time as the monster images were truly frightening to look at.  Probably the most frightening image in this book was the image of the horse in “A New Horse” as the horse has a misshapen head and you can see a woman’s legs attached to the horse’s back legs.

After looking over the banned books list, I have often seen this book on the list a couple of times and I wondered to myself about why this book was banned in some states?  Well, even though this book is basically retelling scary stories, this book is surprisingly too dark and violent for small children.  There were many stories in this book where characters were killed and dead beings haunt the characters and to add to that, the illustrations are often frightening as there are images of dead beings being covered in blood and having sunken eyes.  Parents might want to read this book first before they read it to their children in order to prevent children from having nightmares if they cannot handle the morbid content of this book.

Overall, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is a brilliant collection of scary tales that you can tell in the dark while scaring people during storytelling time! I would strongly recommend this book for children ages eight and up since the morbid content is extremely scary for smaller children.

REASON FOR BEING BANNED: Unsuited for age group, violence

* 1987 Grand Canyon Reader Award

Friday, October 19, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

Title:  Jumanji

Author:  Chris Van Allsburg

Genre: Animal / Drama / Suspense / Toys / Magic

Year Published: 1981

Year Read: 1998

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 6+ (Some Scary Situations)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

“Jumanji” is a Caldecott Award- winning book by Chris Van Allsburg and is the most popular children’s book out of all of his books.  In this story, two children, Peter and Judy, discover a strange looking board game and they soon realize that this board game is more dangerous then they thought.  “Jumanji” is clearly one of the most inventive and intense children’s book that will surely make children read it for a long time.

Chris Van Allsburg is excellent at illustrating and writing this classic children’s story.  Chris Van Allsburg makes the story intense and exciting at the same time when he makes the animals come to life and terrorize the children.  I like the idea that Chris Van Allsburg uses a child’s fear about games coming to life as a story arc for this story because I enjoy anything that is often surreal and “Jumanji” is certainly a surreal book to read since it involves a game making everything come to life.  Chris Van Allsburg’s illustrations are beautiful and intense, especially of the images of the animals wrecking havoc on the children’s house.  The image that probably stood out the most was the image of the lion on the piano as you can only see the lion’s mouth full of sharp teeth as its eyes are shadowed, which brings out the mysteriousness of that scene as the lion looks like it just magically appeared on the piano (which is exactly what happened).

Parents should know that there are some scary scenes in this book mainly involving the animals terrorizing the children.  The scene that will probably scare most children would be the scene where the lion is sitting on the piano and starts chasing Peter around the house.  Young children would be scared about the lion chasing Peter and they might worry about whether or not Peter can escape from the lion’s clutches.  Also, the overall atmosphere of this book will scare young children as it involves a game making everything come to life and children might be frightened about the idea that their board games might make everything come to life, such as those “Clue” games.  Parents might want to assure their children that everything that happens in this book is all made up and that such things would never happen to them.  Parents might also want to discuss the difference between reality and fantasy with their children before they read them this book.

“Jumanji” is probably one of Chris Van Allsburg’s best children’s books since it has everything that a child would want in a book- drama, fantasy, thriller, and mystery.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves adventure and excitement in a children’s book.  This book would be suitable for children ages six and up since younger children might not understand the fantasy elements in this book and therefore, will become frighten by the scenes where the animals terrorize the children.

* 1981 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Nominee for Picture Book - Honor Book
* 1982 Caldecott Medal
* 1983 Kentucky Bluegrass Award
* 1984 Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award
* 1996 Golden Archer Award for Primary

[BOOK REVIEW] Perfect the Pig by Susan Jeschke

Title:  Perfect the Pig

Author:  Susan Jeschke

Genre: Animal / Friendship / Surrealism / Drama / Adventure

Year Published:  1970

Year Read:  1993

Publisher:  Square Fish

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 5+ (Depictions of Bullying and Kidnapping)

Buy or Add on:  Amazon  //  Goodreads

As you know, I have seen many children’s books through a brilliant and memorable television series called “Reading Rainbow” and this must be the one thousandth book that I have seen from “Reading Rainbow” which is called “Perfect the Pig.” “Perfect the Pig” is a children’s book by Susan Jeschke which is about an unusual pig named Perfect who has sprouted wings and he finds a friend in a woman named Olive. “Perfect the Pig” is a wonderful tale about true friendship that children will read over and over again!

Amazing! Simply amazing! I never would have thought that I would have read a book that truly defines the true meaning of friendship in such a dramatic way! Susan Jeschke has certainly done an excellent job at both writing and illustrating this book about true friendship and I loved the way that Susan Jeschke has made this story extremely heartwarming and intense at the same time as it vividly details the adventures that Perfect the pig has on his journey to the city. The scene that I was almost literally crying at was when Perfect is lost in the fog and he is taken in by a man who mistreats him badly and I was literally screaming for Perfect to get back home to Olive. I was also near to tears about the scene where Perfect the pig is kicked out of his home because of his wings and it reminded me of the movie “Dumbo” where Dumbo was mistreated by the other elephants because of his large ears. Susan Jeschke’s illustrations are extremely beautiful and dramatic and I really loved the image of Perfect the pig himself as he has beautiful wings, which makes him look like a character that came out of a mythological book and I also loved the way that the black and white colors complement to the dramatic tone of this book.

For those of you who have seen this book on “Reading Rainbow,” you might be a little disappointed that this book is not in color and the illustrations are in black and white. Even though I loved the illustrations, I will admit that I was a little disappointed that this book was not in color like I seen on “Reading Rainbow” however the story was still enjoyable to read and it did not completely set me off from the main story.

Overall, “Perfect the Pig” is a brilliant book about the power of true friendship and just being yourself no matter what other people think. I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since smaller children might be worried about the kidnapping scene.

[BOOK REVIEW] Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Title:  Anya's Ghost

Author:  Vera Brosgol

Genre: Horror / Supernatural / Humor

Year Published: 2011

Year Read: 2012

Publisher: First Second Comics

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 12+ (Some Language and Scary Moments)

Brief Introduction:

After reading so many graphic novels that dealt with superheroes and electrifying bloody action scenes, I finally came across a graphic novel that is aimed at young adults, but actually deals with the more mundane aspects of our lives (or should I say, the more spooky and supernatural aspects of our lives).  “Anya’s Ghost” is a young adult graphic novel by Russian born author Vera Brosgol and is also Vera Brosgol’s debut book and it has everything that you would enjoy from any young adult novel detailing a teenager’s angst of going through high school (boys, popularity and GHOSTS!)

What is the story?

Anya Borzakovskaya is not like the other kids at her new private school as she comes from a Russian family and is known as an outsider at her new school.  Anya is also embarrassed by her family and tries so desperately to fit in her new school.  One day however, Anya accidentally falls down a well and there, she meets a young ghost girl named Emily Reilly who had died centuries ago.  At first, Anya and Emily become fast friends, but then Anya will soon realize that having a ghost for a friend is not all sunshine and roses as it seems!

What I loved about this comic:

The story: Wow!  This was one unique and spooky story that really made me have a greater appreciation for horror stories (although I already had a huge obsession with those types of stories!)  Vera Brosgol has done an excellent job at writing this story as the characters’ dialogues are full of snarky comments which made each character so relatable to the readers.  I especially loved the ever sarcastic main character Anya as she is always making comments about how miserable her life is and how she is so embarrassed by her Russian family. Probably my favorite scene in this graphic novel was when Anya has to do the dreaded “Bleep Test” which is where you have to run across the gym and make it to the edge of the gym while a beep sound goes off.  This scene strongly related to me because I remembered I had to do the dreaded “Bleep Test” when I was in middle school and it was not fun at all!  But what I really loved about Vera Brosgol’s writing is the mystery and the horror elements in this story.  I loved the fact that instead of having your everyday story about a teenage boy or girl trying to make it through high school; you have a ghost story that strongly wraps with Anya’s struggles in fitting in school while Anya herself is trying to solve the mystery of the ghost girl Emily Reilly and her “mysterious” murder many years ago.  I loved the idea that Anya actually has a ghost for a friend and it was interesting seeing Anya interact with the ghost girl without being scared.  I also loved the way that Vera Brosgol provided so much mystery surrounding the ghost girl as you have to wonder to yourself about why she is with Anya in the first place and what her purpose is for being with Anya?

The artwork:  Vera Brosgol’s artwork is truly creative to look at as the coloring of the artwork is mainly in black and white, which truly gives the appropriate spooky feel to the story.  The only problem I have with the artwork is that it looks too cartoony for this type of story, which is a horror story and usually when I think about horror stories, I think about realistic imagery.  However, I do think that the cartoony artwork really worked well with some of the story’s humor, so it was a good deal for me.  I also loved the images of Anya herself as she has long black hair, a chubby figure and freckles on her face that really makes her stand out from the other characters in this graphic novel.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this book:

A little warning: there is some language in this graphic novel, although the language is not really strong and it only appears a few times in this novel, so this graphic novel should be appropriate enough for the young adult audience.  Also, the theme about a possible murder in this story might be a bit frightening for readers who do not like reading about death.

~Small Nitpick~

Concerning the ending of this story, I was a bit annoyed at how the book ended since I wanted to see more from the characters in Anya’s world.  I will not tell you what happened at the end, but let us just say that the book sort of ended on an abrupt note and you are wondering if there will be another book detailing Anya’s adventures.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Anya’s Ghost” is a fantastic book about dealing with peer pressure and the importance of being yourself no matter how different you are from other people.  I would strongly recommend this book to any fan of young adult graphic novels and fans who love a good ghost story!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Title:  Saving Francesca

Author:  Melina Marchetta

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Year Published: 2003

Number of Pages: 243 pages

Date Read: 10/13/2012

Series: Saving Francesca #1

Publisher:  Knopf Books for Young Readers

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 16+ (Strong Language and Themes of Depression)

Buy on:  Amazon  //  Book Depository 

“If you are one of the few girls attending an all male school, then it is a dream come true, right?  Well…”

After reading so many great reviews on Melina Marchetta’s classic novel, “Saving Francesca,” I just had to give this book a shot and man, was I blown away by how awesome this book really is!  “Saving Francesca” is author Melina Marchetta’s second book and the first book I had read from author Melina Marchetta and after reading this book, I definitely am looking forward to reading more of Melina Marchetta’s works!

Francesca Spinelli was your average teenage girl who actually attends an unusual school called St. Sebastian’s where the student body is predominately male, but as much as that sounds like a dream come true for any female, to Francesca it is anything but a dream come true.  Francesca has to deal with school bullies and being in a totally different environment that she was so used to at her old school St. Stella’s Academy that was predominately an all female school.  Not only that, but Francesca’s mother, Mia Spinelli had suddenly succumbed to depression and Francesca is left wondering who she really is and how she will survive her life without her mother to guide her.

Wow! I was just so blown away by the writing and the characters of this unique little novel that I wish I had discovered years ago!  Melina Marchetta has done a brilliant job at writing this story as it HILARIOUS, EMOTIONAL and INTERESTING all at the same time!  I loved the character of Francesca Spinelli herself as she is shown to be extremely feisty, caring and independent at the same time and I loved the relationship that she shares with her mother Mia.  There were many moments in this book where I actually felt sympathy for Francesca because of her mother going through depression and even though there were moments where she seems to lash out at other people who were trying to comfort her, I can actually understand what she is going through as she does not quite understand about why her mother is so depressed and why she refuses to get out of bed.  This is a topic that can scare children, especially if they do not understand about why their parents are depressed and Melina Marchetta had done an awesome job at exploring this topic without ever going too overboard with Francesca’s feelings on this matter. I also loved the fact that Melina Marchetta made this story be told from Francesca’s point of view as we truly get inside her head about how she feels about attending a school where the student body is predominantly male and how she felt about her mother’s sudden depression and the toll it took on her emotions.  Probably the best part about this book was Francesca’s relationship with her friends Siobhan Sullivan, Tara Finke, Justine Kalinsky, Thomas Mackee and Jimmy Hailler as they are all misfits (Tara Finke is an ultra-feminist, Justine Kalinsky is the school nerd and Thomas Mackee is the burping champion) and I loved the way that Francesca just connected with each of them.  Francesca’s relationship with her friends sort of reminds me of the friendship that Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer share in “Seinfeld” (“Seinfeld,” yeah I know) as they do argue with each other, but they remain close friends with each other through good and bad times (not to mention the random dialogues such as school parties and politics that usually pop up between these six friends).

The only problem that some readers might have with this book is that the language is pretty strong for a young adult book (although it has happened many times before). There are various uses of strong language used in this book such as the “s” word and dropping the “f” bomb and it might be best to skim over these words if it is uncomfortable reading these words.  Also, this book deals with a parent having depression, so if anyone has ever gone through this experience before, then it might be a bit uncomfortable to read through.

Overall, “Saving Francesca” is a truly brilliant novel about how a teenage girl has to deal with the stresses in her life while trying to find out who she truly is.  This is definitely one novel that anyone who is a fan of Melina Marchetta’s works will easily enjoy for many years!  Now, I am off to find some more novels by Melina Marchetta!

* 2004 Children's Book Council of Australia Award for Book of the Year for Older Readers
* 2004 Canberra's Own Outstanding List (COOL) Award Nominee for Older Readers
* 2004 Kids Own Australian Literature Awards (KOALA) Nominee for Older Readers
* 2004 Young Australians' Best Book Award (YABBA) Nominee for Older Readers
* 2004 West Australian Young Readers' Book Award (WAYRBA) for Older Readers
* 2004 Parents' Choice Gold Award
* 2004 S.A. Festival National Children's Book Award Nominee for Young Adult
* 2004 W.A. Young Readers Book Award (WAYRA) for Older Readers