Explorer: The Lost Islands Review

explorer_2Explorer: The Lost Islands (Explorer #2) edited by Kazu Kibuishi

Harry N. Abrams, 2013. 978-1-4197-0883-1

Synopsis: Take a journey out onto the ocean to visit one of seven strange, fantastic, mysterious islands created by seven amazing graphic artists. Whether you are there because it is home or because of a shipwreak, this collection is sure to inspire an island adventure of one’s own.

Why I picked it up: I wanted something short and quick to read between longer novels.

Why I finished it: The second installment in the Explorer series doesn’t fail to leave the reader in awe. Fish, rabbits, and humans alike populate the seven graphic stories that take on a wide variety of topics on the same subject of islands. My favorites were “The Mask Dance” by Chrystin Garland and “Loah” by Michael Gagné. I loved Garland’s story because it reminded me of an island festival or a Day of the Dead celebration that takes a somewhat frightening turn. Gagné’s story was both visually stunning and compelling, telling a story that is a version of “The Rainbow Fish” but where the titular fish is less selfish. This collection still has the same elements of the fantastic as the previous book and even manages to up the bar. There truly is something for everyone in these collections and I excited to read more!

Other related materials: The Lost Islands (Explorer #2) edited by Kazu Kibuishi; The Hidden Doors (Explorer #3) edited by Kazu Kibuishi; Flight Explorer edited by Kazu Kibuishi Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Copper by Kazu Kibuishi; The Legend of Korra graphic novels  by Michael Dante DiMartino, illustrated Irene Koh; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; Mighty Jack series by Ben Hatke; Missle Mouse books by Jake Parker; Bad Island by Doug TenNapel; Cardboard by Doug TenNapel; Bone series by Jeff Smith

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

The Burning Maze Review

the_burning_mazeThe Burning Maze (The Trials of Apollo, Book 3) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2018. 978-1484746431

Synopsis: With the help of some demigod friends, Lester managed to survive his first two trials, one at Camp Half-Blood, and one in Indianapolis, where Meg received the Dark Prophecy. The words she uttered while seated on the Throne of Memory revealed that an evil triumvirate of Roman emperors plans to attack Camp Jupiter. While Leo flies ahead on Festus to warn the Roman camp, Lester and Meg must go through the Labyrinth to find the third emperor–and an Oracle who speaks in word puzzles–somewhere in the American Southwest. There is one glimmer of hope in the gloom-filled prophecy: The cloven guide alone the way does know. They will have a satyr companion, and Meg knows just who to call upon. . . . – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I’ve been coming around on this series and I’m a sucker for Riordan, apparently.

Why I finished it: As annoying as Apollo has been in the first two books of the series, he seems to have developed a little bit of a change of heart by the time the beginning of the third volume of his adventures begins. This time around as a mortal, he seems to be developing a truer sense of the notion of mortality and many of the deaths from his time at the waystation in Indianapolis are still weighing on him. He is still somewhat of the opinion that he can get heroes to do some of the work for him, but he has also warmed up to the idea of working with heroes and not having them work for him. Jason Grace and Piper McLean are back to give aid to Apollo, though it appears that their help will come at the cost of one of their lives. There is a rather poignant scene in which Jason and Apollo are talking and Jason encourages him to remember the true meaning of mortality when Apollo rejoins the Olympian ranks, to consider the fragility of human lives compared to his own Godly one. It’s a point that has yet to fully hit Apollo, I think, but he’s certainly seeming to grasp the notion more and more. Everyone’s favorite satyr from the Percy Jackson books reappears as the guide through the maze, and it appears that even Grover has become older and wiser as well. Meg also gets some more backstory as the reader finds out what happened to her biological father and how she came to end up in New York. The book is full of the usual puzzles, perils, and adventures, but there again is also the continuing subtle message about how important our lives are and the need to value life. Fans of the series will likely appreciate, as I do, that Riordan is continuing to flesh out his characters and grows them in a way that helps them learn important life lessons. Well, maybe…We will likely have to wait until the next book to find out if the lessons are going to stick.

Other related materials:The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, Book 2) by Rick Riordan Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan; Demigods and Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis, illustrated by Torstein Norstrand; Five Kingdoms series by Brandon Mull; The Blackwell Pages series by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh; The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh; Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger; Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson; The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann; Seven Realms novels by Cinda Williams Chima

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

The Reptile Room Review

ASOUE_2The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrations by Brett Helquist

HarperCollins, 1999. 978-0062796035

Synopsis: Now that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are no longer living with Count Olaf, they feel like things are looking up. But their happiness is short-lived when they discover that Uncle Monty’s new assistant Stephano is Count Olaf in disguise – and he is still as determined as ever to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune!

Why I picked it up: It makes me somewhat uncomfortable, but I’m somehow invested in finding out about the fates of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny.

Why I finished it: It seems natural to feel badly for the Baudelaires, since all of these terrible things keep happening to them and they appear to have little or no control over any of it. It’s a very literal case of the question of why bad things happen to good people. Sure, it is a thing that happens, but the Baudelaire children are truly getting the rough end of this whole orphan deal. And yet, the trio seems to persevere through the terrible circumstances that take place over the course of the plot. Like its predecessor, it has an ending that could be interpreted as somewhat happy, but since there are eleven more books to go that are all filled with equally horrible and harried adventures, the reader knows that there is still a long way to go. It may be true that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny can never really find a happy ending, especially with their hopes constantly hanging by a thread. I think what really keeps me reading is the fact that the reader can’t help but root for the orphans. They are intelligent and likable characters that somehow find the strength to keep going just one more step forward. Helquist’s art is a delightful mix of gothic and steampunk-ish, evoking images of a somewhat Carnie nature. The sketches throughout each chapter provide a nice break from the text and help to illustrate the people and places in which the Baudelaires find themselves. It’s a great mystery-horror novel that will no doubt captivate readers of all backgrounds.

Other related materials: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Austere Acedemy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 8) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Brett Helquist; Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket; All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket; The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Caron Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey; The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis

 

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Review

simon_vs_the_homo_sapiens_agendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Balzer + Bray, 2015. 978-0062348678

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: It was a selection for one of my book clubs that thought it prudent to read it before the movie hit theaters.

Why I finished it: The romance was definitely cute, but what really stuck with me was the underlying commentary about judging by appearances. Simon’s continual frustration (among other things) is regarding defaults, how we make assumptions based on a personal or societal norm and how the assumptions are not always true. To put this a little bit more in perspective, we do this as readers. We envision characters to be a certain way –  for example, white and straight – unless we are first given some sort of description or qualifier about the character. Simon and his classmates make default assumptions about each other as well, and the point Simon (and I) seems to be driving at is that we can’t judge people based on what feels comfortable to us. We should be able to embrace people for who they really are rather than what we want them to be. We can’t make assumptions based on appearances. Simon has chances to open up about his sexuality, but he’s constantly worried about how it will impact his relationships and whether or not the situation feels right. He has to play up the appearance his friends and classmates have of him, and yet, he knows that being out comes with its own problems with which he isn’t quite ready to deal. Albertalli is sending a message of cautious tolerance to her readers, something that is a big deal in today’s society. Think differently about people and be open to change, be open to being honest about yourself and your beliefs because things can get better.

Other related materials: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli; Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli; What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera; More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera; Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz; Every Day by David Levithan; Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan; Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan; Autoboyography by Christina Lauren; A Boy Worth Knowing by Jennifer Cosgrove; The Dangerous Art of Blending In  by Angelo Surmelis; Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall; Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg; Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

Feature Presentation: Love, Simon

love-simon-114713l-600x0-w-1e95bb68Love, Simon starring Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Logan Miller, Keiynan Lonsdale, Talitha Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Tony Hale, Natasha Rothwell, Miles Heizer, Joey Pollari, Clark Moore, and Drew Starkey

Fox 2000 Pictures/Temple Hill Entertainment, 2018. Rated PG-13

Synopsis: Simon Spier keeps a huge secret from his friends, family, and all of his classmates: he’s gay. When that secret is threatened, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with his identity. – from IMDB

As a book worm, I’m understandably skeptical when it comes to movie adaptations of novels, but I appreciated the depth of the plot and that it conveys the same main premise of the novel without diverging off in a completely different direction. I’ll refrain from waxing poetic about the differences between the book and the movie, but I will say that some of the truncated events made the story somewhat easier to follow. I liked that the movie shows how Simon and Blue’s email exchange begins and some of their earlier emails to each other, the latter of which isn’t included in the earlier editions of the book. I was a little disappointed that the talent show at the end of the book wasn’t included in the movie, but I appreciated the alternative ending since it takes you to the same climactic moment. I also had to have a little bit of a laugh at the fact that the high school musical was ‘Cabaret’ since the story deals with issues of racism and sexism and is really quite dark in contrast to Simon. I was a little confused by the addition of Mr. Worth (even though I love Tony Hale), but I suppose they needed another adult to fill out the screenplay. The cast themselves is nothing short of fun and I liked seeing the new faces of other up and coming thespians. Robinson is a delightful mix of confident and awkward as the titular Simon, and for me, perfectly conveyed the excitement of being in a new relationship and having an inner battle with who he really wants to be. The movie stand alone well on its own, so if you haven’t read the book before seeing the movie, you needn’t worry. It’s a high school drama love story about coming out that will be enjoyed by romantics and non-romantics alike.

Leave a comment

Filed under Media: Movies, reviews

The Bad Beginning Review

ASOUE_1The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket, illustrations by Brett Helquist

HarperCollins, 1999. 978-0064407663

Synopsis: When Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are suddenly orphaned when their parents are killed in a house fire, they are sent to live with their next living relative: a mysterious and cruel man named Count Olaf. The Count is intent upon stealing the children’s substantial fortune and has made no secret of wanting to do away with the children after he has acquired their money.

Why I picked it up: I wanted some context before I dove into the Neflix series, which I have been told by friends is pretty good.

Why I finished it: As promised on the cover, this is indeed not a happy tale or even a tale with a happy ending. Then again, a series entitled A Series of Unfortunate Events can’t necessarily have a terrible lot of positive things happening to the characters. The Baudelaire siblings seem to be heading down a path of obvious troubles and yet, the children can only rely on their wits, cunning, and each other if they are going to be able to escape from Count Olaf. The Count is clearly unfamiliar with child-rearing in any way, shape, or form, as is evidenced by the fact that the three siblings are given only one bed and a pile of rocks to play with. He also has a somewhat villan-ish appearance and manner, evidenced by the numerous references to his shiny eyes, greasy hair, and his house full of unsettling eyes. I was also somewhat disturbed by the lengths to which the Count is willing to go in order to keep the children living in fear, at one point leaving baby Sunny locked in a cage at the top tower of the house. Snicket has a rather unsettling gift for the macabre, and I have to admit that I was a little bit creeped out; yet, that’s part of the idea. We read about the unfortunate orphans and perhaps begin to think that our lives are not so bad, being as most readers’ parents are still living and they live in a nice house with a clean bed and lots of toys to play with. But as I said before, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are extremely clever children and so we have to hope that they will be able to find a better life away from Count Olaf and that despite the unfortunate things that happen to them, they have each other. I’d probably give it to a reluctant reader, those who are fans of a good ghost story, or readers that enjoy a mystery.

Other related materials: The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Austere Acedemy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 8) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Brett Helquist; Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket; All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket; The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Caron Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey; The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

Feature Presentation: The Secret Life of Pets

the_secret_life_of_petsThe Secret Life of Pets starring the voices of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Chris Renaud, Steve Coogan, Michael Beattie, and Sandra Echeverria

Universal Entertainment/Illumination Pictures, 2016. Rated PG

Synopsis: Max has the perfect life with his owner Emily until one day she brings home Duke, a dog from the pound. When the two dogs get lost in the city and are on the run from animal control and a homicidal former magician’s rabbit named Snowball and his army of abandoned pets, they are going to have to rely on each other if they are going to get home to their owner.

Having grown up with pets (dogs, to be specific), I won’t deny there were times when I wondered what they did while I was at school or at work. I don’t think my dogs did anything nearly as epic as getting recruited by a gang of former pets dwelling in the city sewers or breaking into a sausage factory to find food. But that isn’t to say that pets don’t have adventures while their humans are away. What I liked about the film is the realistic personalities of each animal, especially the dogs. I also loved the blasé attitude of Chole the cat, who unwittingly gets dragged along on a mission to rescue Max and Duke. I was thoroughly amused by the fact that in almost every scene when she is in an apartment, she is sitting in some container – a box, a bowl, etc. I also appreciated the initial rivalry between Max and Duke, the former of whom feels threatened when Emily first brings home Duke. Max is so used to being the only dog in the house and the notion of having to share his space, his toys, and his human is absurd. But what Max learns over the course of his adventures with Duke is that the larger dog has also had his share of difficulties that have left an impression on him. The compassion the dogs eventually develop for each other and for Snowball and his gang leave the viewer with a warm fuzzy feeling that will have them wanting to give their own pets some love. It’s a fun family film that will delight pet lovers of all ages.

Leave a comment

Filed under Media: Movies, reviews