Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Real Ghostbusters Omnibus: I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost!

A Review By: Amelia

If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS! If there’s something weird and it don’t look good, who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS! So goes the immortal words of the Ghostbusters–my favourite thing of all time. Seriously, my favourite thing of all time. The movies, the cartoons, the soundtracks, the videogame, and nowadays, The Real Ghostbusters comic book omnibuses.

So, what are the comics all about? Well, forget Egon's rules–the streams have been crossed, the dead have risen, and a free-roaming apparition is part of the gang! It’s The Real Ghostbusters, ladies and gentlemen, the comic series based on the cartoon of the same name, and in this first volume omnibus collection the issues #1–14 of the classic NOW Comics series are featured as they were published back in the 1980s in their 32 page, monthly colour comic format! Some comics are one-shots (their stories are told from start to finish in one issue) and others are an over-arching story that covers several issues but it’s always a classic Ghostbusters storyline!

The characters in the comic are the Ghostbusters–duh! Plus, Janine and Slimer make reoccurring appearances and each storyline of course has a cast of ghosts and villains that the Ghostbusters go up against. You don’t get much character development within the comics but I went in knowing everything about the characters already, so it didn’t bother me. Although since the comics follow the cartoon Ghostbusters and not the movie Ghostbusters if you’ve never seen the cartoon it might be tough goings for you. You know, just something to keep in consideration.

The art style in The Real Ghostbusters Omnibus is very 1980s–which is appropriate because that’s when the series was first published. It’s really bright and colourful with lots of neon colours and opposing colours all used within a single panel of the comic–it might sound overbearing but it was actually a nice change of pace from the gritty, shadowy, dark comics I usually read. Sure, they aren’t the prettiest characters, or the most realistic, but it’s in the style of the classic cartoon and that’s enough for me!

So how do the comics stand up? Personally, I’d say really well. They aren’t going to be winning any awards for writing or illustrations, but it’s fun nonetheless! It’s a total blast from the past and, c’mon, who doesn’t love this classic franchise?

My final thoughts on The Real Ghostbusters Omnibus are that it’s pretty amazing! I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan–especially of the cartoon–so having all of the comics collected into one, big, handy omnibus is amazing! Not to mention that it’s all just so deliciously eighties: the colours, the plotlines, the jokes, the drawings–everything! It’s a comic series that really will appeal to everyone, well, at least everyone who ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Mommie Dearest: The Origin of the Exposé

A Review By: Amelia
What is it about celebrities that are just so damn fun to read about? Tabloid magazines are filled with hokey stories that just can’t possibly be true, yet people keep eating them up and demanding more… and I’m a little ashamed to say it, but I’m one of those people! I know, I know, but I just can’t help myself–celebrities salacious lifestyles are just plain entertaining! Mommie Dearest, being the first, is probably the most tantalizing of them all!

Mommie Dearest, as mentioned above, was the first ever Hollywood exposé and it took the world by storm as Christina Crawford wrote about her life growing up with Hollywood starlet and diva Joan Crawford as her mother. By Christina’s accounts, which she claims all true, life with the rich and famous Joan Crawford was not all it was cracked up to be!

The writer of Mommie Dearest, as mentioned above, is Christina Crawford–the eldest adoptive child of Joan Crawford. She was one of four adopted children and a first hand witness of Joan Crawford’s personal and private life. Her account of her family life has been under heavy fire since it was first published with the two youngest children of Joan (among others) denying the stories of abuse but others, including Joan’s second child Chris, confirming everything that his eldest sister has to say.

In the book, Christina tells many stories of childhood abuse at the hands of her mother. She tells stories of how her mother would come into her room at night and tear it apart only to have her clean it up again, or how she was constantly battling with alcoholism and engaging in affairs with men Christina and her siblings were forced to call Uncle and, she claims, even secret affairs with women. Christina even goes so far as to suggest that she and her three siblings may have been adopted for publicity purposes as Joan’s career went down the drain in the thirties. It’s a book that shows a dark side of Joan Crawford–perhaps a dark side of most Hollywood parents at the time–but, because it’s a book written from childhood memories and long burning grudges and emotions, some of it might be highly exaggerated.

Some people have claimed that everything in the book is a lie, but others confirm it. I, personally, believe
most of what Christina has to say, I mean, why write it if not to earn some feeling of having taken revenge? Her mother wasn’t fit to raise a child–let alone four–and if Christina needed this book to make herself feel better, I say why stop her? Of course what you believe after reading it might be something else entirely.

My final thoughts on Mommie Dearest are that it’s a good book: whether or not it’s all true. There’s just something about seeing the dark side of people that appeals to me and Joan Crawford–or, at the very least, Christina Crawford’s vision of her mother–is as dark as they come. 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild: A Wild Good Time!

A Review By: Amelia 
I’ve recently become enamoured with children’s books. I think it comes from me being a nanny and having many children’s books at my finger tips. Or perhaps children’s books have just gotten better and I’d read them whether or not I worked with children! Probably, it’s the latter considering how Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is a children’s book I picked up at the library one day and took back to my own house and not the kid’s house! And am I ever glad I did because it is a fantastic story!

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, despite being a children’s picture book, asks some very important questions. Are you bored with being so proper? Do you want to have more fun? Mr. Tiger knows exactly how you feel. So he decided to go wild. But does he go too far?

Peter Brown, the writer and illustrator of Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, grew up in New Jersey and spent his time imagining and drawing silly characters. After he earned his B.F.A. in Illustration he moved to Brooklyn and spent several years painting backgrounds for animated TV shows. In 2003 he received a book deal and made his first picture book Flight of the Dodo (which is a story that involves bird poop… in case you’re into that kind of thing), and since then has written/illustrated several other books which have been adapted into plays and animated shorts, been translated into a dozen languages, and have won numerous awards.

How can you not love dapper animals?
The characters of the piece are a society of animals. Not just any kind of society though, oh no, it’s a Victorian animal society. It’s all very prim, all very proper, and all very adorable! Seriously, Mr. Tiger in his suit and top hat is the best thing you’ll ever see–I guarantee it. Mr. Tiger though, does not like his stuffy clothing and that’s where his personality comes through. He’s a tiger that craves something more from life than what he sees around himself. He’s a character that pretty much anyone can relate to and that’s always a pleasure to read.

The art in Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is very stylized. It’s very blocky, very neat, and very minimalistic in the colours, and shading. To me it felt very textured and alive even though it is very minimalistic. For a children’s book it is incredibly subtle but it’s still eye-catching and vibrant and shows a lot of life and character.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is a story that teaches the lesson that it’s okay to be a little strange, a little different from all those around you. It’s a story that teaches you to be passionate about the things that make you happy no matter what anybody else tells you or thinks about you. Personally I think that’s a great lesson to be teaching kids–I mean, if you have to cram a lesson into a children’s book, make it a good one!

My final thoughts on Mr. Tiger Goes Wild are that it is such a great little book: for children and adults alike. And it’s all the better if you read it aloud with a haughty British accent for all the characters like I did. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is a truly entertaining book that teaches that there is a time and place for everything–including going wild!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

I Luv Halloween: You’ll Be Hard-Pressed to Find Anything You Luv in this Manga

A Review By: Amelia
I’m always looking for new and twisted manga in which to fall in love with. I’ve discovered some amazing gems like Princess Resurrection and Corpse Delivery Service and I’ve discovered some I haven’t liked quite as much: Parasyte I’m looking at you, and honestly, I didn’t think any manga interesting enough to grab my attention on the library shelf could fail as spectacularly as Parasyte did… then I read I Luv Halloween and guess what? I’ve found a new series to loathe entirely!

I Luv Halloween has an incredibly simple premise: it’s always set on Halloween and focuses on a group of trick-or-treaters as they go about doing disgusting and disturbing things in the name of Halloween.

Two guys worked on I Luv Halloween: Benjamin Roman did the illustrations and Keith Giffen was the writer. Roman made his professional debut with I Luv Halloween after having spent years trying to break into the comic book industry. Giffen is an American comic illustrator/writer who had previously adapted the Battle Royale and Battle Vixens manga series. Together, the duo were given complete artistic control over their project and spent around four years working on the I Luv Halloween series. Personally, I feel like with four years spent on the project, Roman and Giffen really should have come up with something better than what they did.

These are the 'bortion aliens
Now, the characters of the series are a group of children: horrible, demented, disgusting, grotesque children. There’s Finch, the leader. Moochie, his homicidal, seemingly retarded younger sister. Devil Lad, who only appears on Halloween to join the group in their trick-or-treating. Pig Pig, a simple-minded boy. Mr. Kitty, the pervert always looking to see tits; and his mostly silent younger brother Spike. This group of children spend the bulk of each volume talking about boobs (Nips being the name of the character with said boobs), horribly murdering people, and talking about abortion. Yeah, you read that right. The third volume of the series has a complete sub-plot about Moochie torturing and killing people trying to find out about ‘bortion. And yes, that is without the A–apparently the authors thought abortion without the A is somehow… less offensive? Less terrible? More appropriate for a full sub-plot in a manga series? Whatever the reason it’s there–along with all the upsetting pictures of ‘bortions happening–it’s still horrifying.

So, now that you know the story is the most offensive shit you’ll ever read, is there anything else that could possibly redeem the series? Well, the art style in I Luv Halloween was the highlight of this three volume manga series for me. It was original and I can confidently say I’ve never seen it in any manga before. It fits the tone and compliments the writing (well, if you can consider what was in the series writing) so yay for the art (although it’s still boo for everything else).

Where do I even begin with this manga? The artwork: alright. The premise of the series: intriguing. The way the premise was executed–also known as–the story: shit. The story is horrible, trashy, poorly thought out shit. Nothing makes sense. Why is there a zombie outbreak in the second volume and an alien invasion in the third? How do characters we watched die in the first keep coming back? Why are these children so freaky and homicidal? None of it fits together and none of it is ever explained! Seriously, if you’re going to have such an outrageous, off-kilter story and you don’t have at least a few panels of blatant exposition of what the hell is going on, your editor didn’t do their job! So it hardly matters that the artwork is good or that it really does have an interesting idea at the centre of it because all the stuff that doesn’t make sense really, really doesn’t make any sense–it’s enough to drive a person crazy!

My final thoughts on I Luv Halloween are to avoid this manga like the plague. It’s the worst kind of manga in that it’s trying so hard to be original/ edgy/ unforgettable/ insert-any-other-adjective-you-like-here that it’s nothing it sets out to be! I mean, the abortion sub-plot in the third book of the series will leave everyone upset. It’s disturbing in a way that’s not even slightly entertaining (trust me when I say I know entertaining disturbing, Corpse Delivery Service is one of my all time favourite mangas). Seriously, I Luv Halloween is the worst and should you ever come upon it, just keep going because this manga series is enough to make you hate Halloween and all those who luv it.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Enticing the Earl: A Surprisingly Enticing Romance Novel

A Review By: Amelia
Don’t hate/judge me for this but, yes, this is a review for a romance novel. And yes, I know, I know, romance novels are far from the best literature available, but sometimes one just needs a light read that can just be picked up and breezed through in a few days, and for me, a random romance novel fits that niche. Sometimes the books only just pass as being readable, but other times (wonderful, magical, and completely unexpected times) I find a romance novel that’s good! Shocked? You should be–because I, myself, always am!

The romance novel that managed to capture my attention is Enticing the Earl by Nicole Byrd. The premise of this book is one that’s been done many times before: a beautiful, childless widow forms a romantic attachment with an aristocrat that has a scandalous background for the purpose of redeeming a lost family heirloom. In the last year alone there have probably been a hundred romance novels with this exact plot, but Enticing the Earl also throws in a rousing mystery concerning a sunken ship, possible family betrayals, and the dangers of the opium trade.

Nicole Byrd is a prominent historical romance fiction writer who has studied English history for many years. She’s written two historical romance series: The Sinclair Family Saga and The Applegate Sisters (Enticing the Earl is the final book of The Applegate Sisters series). She’s also written magazine articles, children’s books, and has published a few young adult novels under the pseudonym of Jennifer Cole.

There are two main characters of the piece (makes sense since it’s a romance novel). Marcus Sutton is the male lead and is a rather scandalous Earl who is very intelligent, albeit a little cold and intimidating, and is rumoured to spend his time with less than reputable women. Lauryn Harris is the female lead and a grieving widow who selflessly offers herself as the Earl’s mistress in order to retrieve the deed to her father-in-laws estate (which he, of course, lost while gambling with the Earl). The two of them start from rather low and stereotypical beginnings but they actually manage to grow into well-rounded characters that you cheer for. Sure their relationship starts on nothing more than sex but it quickly develops into a mutual and respectful relationship: surprising or what?

Even the secondary characters all fit in very nicely with their surroundings. There’s an ex-lover of Marcus’ that hopes to get him back but (surprisingly) doesn’t sink to any cruel or unusual tricks in order to do it and actually ends up becoming something of a friend to Lauryn. Then there’s Marcus’ younger brother Carter who slacks off and blows all his money on gambling and drinks, but he’s a sincere man and does try (even if he fails most of the time) to impress his older brother. They’re sweet, genuine characters and add life and texture to a novel that so easily could have been so flat and boring.

Like all good historical romance novels, Enticing the Earl takes place in England in the 19th century. Alright, alright, I’m sure there’s lots of other places where a good historical romance can take place, but a vast majority of them (and you have to agree with me here) take place in England in the 18th–19th century. I guess that’s just where all the sexy times happen, right? Will all the tiny buttons to undo, corsets to unweave, horse drawn carriages, country manors, and social constructs/female modesty/family honour etc etc, I guess sexy times in the 1800s are just better.

Of all the romance novels I’ve ever casually picked up Enticing the Earl is in the top five. It’s a clever book–a book that’s more than the sum of its parts: its parts being sex, 1800s England, and more sex. Of course, the sex becomes something like a second thought as Marcus and Lauryn become fuller, more satisfyingly human characters and the mysteries surrounding Marcus’ sunken ship lead to some dangerous situations and possible family drama. All in all, what’s not to like?   

My final thoughts on Enticing the Earl are that it’s a good romance novel. The history was solid, as were the plot and characters. Honestly, I think what makes this book so good is that it’s a romance novel where the romance is a second thought to the plot. The sex scenes felt like they were just tacked in afterwards and I really liked how that made it more than your regular trashy/light/fluffy (whatever adjective you want to insert there) romance novel. I can’t speak for the rest of the books in The Applegate Sisters series, but Enticing the Earl is a solid novel whether you like romance or not.