Saturday, 28 March 2015

Traci Lords Underneath It All: Salacious Lives Are Just More Interesting!

A Review By: Amelia
Any veteran readers of this blog know that I love reading the most salacious autobiographies I can find. Jenna Jameson’s porn star epic How To Make Love Like A Porn Star, The Last Living Slut about a legendary Iranian groupie, Party Monster for crazy club kids, Mommie Dearest about the abuse Joan Crawford put her adopted kids through–it’s all just so fascinating! It’s actually surprising I didn’t get around to Underneath It All by Traci Lords sooner!

Traci Lords, born Nora Kuzma, was a girl that developed early and suffered years of sexual abuse because of it. Older men took advantage of her, the time period was rife with cheap and easy drugs, and in her young mind, she was the one at fault, she deserved all the bad things that happened to her. Hence began her slid into pornography where she filmed twenty hardcore films all before her eighteenth birthday.

Lords was born in Steubenville Ohio to two parents who, in very different ways, were abusive. Her mother was more concerned with herself than her four young daughters while her father was a heaving drinker who was loose with his fists and hurtful words to try and keep the women in his life in order. She lost contact with her father when her mother and her boyfriend Roger moved the four girls to California but soon Roger took over as resident male abuser by harassing the young Lords in her sleep and then encouraging her to become a nude model at age fifteen. From there on, Lords life took a downward spiral of drugs, booze, abusive relationships, porn, and self-loathing.

Underneath It All is an autobiography that covers all of Lords life. Her early life, which included parental abuse, bullying, and rape sculpted a lost, angry girl that didn’t believe she had any worth. She ended up running away from her mother’s house and turned to her abusive step-father Roger for help. He lead her down the path of nude modelling and after being featured in the September 1984 issue of Penthouse she ventured (although hesitantly) into porn. Years of further abuse mixed with a drug and drinking problem as she took out her rage sexually in around twenty hardcore movies. Come May 1986 the authorities arrested her for her underage porn career having known about her for the last three years. No charges were pressed against her but she was served over and over again to appear in court and harassed constantly by the media. Distributors were also ordered to destroy her material to avoid prosecution for trafficking in child pornography that cost millions of dollars and lead to many death threats as the porn industry made her out to be a mastermind who did all this on purpose instead of an abused young girl (there’s rape culture for you folks, but to avoid a rant on my part, that’s the only thing I’ll say about it).
Lords in Cry-Baby

After being arrested for her child porn days, Lords decided to turn her life around and become an actual actress. The going was rough as the porn industry and media continued to harass and producers in actual Hollywood didn’t want the stigma of having an ex-porn girl in their productions. Her break didn’t come until she was cast in the teenage comedy Cry-Baby. After that she was able to slowly build up her legitimate acting resume with more small movie parts and television series. She even had a music career with a techno-dance album and a couple of tours as a DJ.

It was a long and very difficult road for Lords to separate herself from her porn days but she was able to. It took years and years of hard work and devastating rejections, but she pulled herself out of the stigma that so many porn stars find themselves in. Her story is honest to a brutal degree about her history and thoughts and feelings and her look into the porn world (and what lies after it) is a completely unglamorous one that a lot of other people don’t tend to go into.

My final thoughts on Underneath It All are that it’s a good read. It’s not the best autobiography I’ve ever read in terms of scandalous details (Jenna Jameson’s set too high a bar for crazy porn lifestyles) but Lords prose is pretty and it’s clear she’s an intelligent woman. It’s an interesting memoir and definitely worth checking out to see Lords side of the events that went down in her very public, very shocking life.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Frankenstein The Graphic Novel: The Creature Lives Once More!

A Review By: Amelia
Who doesn’t know about Frankenstein? The classic horror story is the second most adapted piece of media (behind Dracula) ever! That’s quite an achievement if you ask me! But of course with all the work that’s flooded the media it’s often hard to know where to start. While I was looking for a graphic novel to read, I literally couldn’t decide between the dozens of options that were presented to me. I ended up randomly choosing one and, surprisingly, I’m pleased as punch at my random selection!

Victor Frankenstein becomes obsessed with creating life after he watches his beloved mother die. He scours graveyards and works by candlelight for months, but when his creature stirs, he realizes he was insane to think he could create a human: he’d created a monster. Abandoned by its maker and shunned by humanity, the monster turns on its creator and haunts Frankenstein to the ends of the earth.

Mary Shelley is the original author of Frankenstein and more or less the mother of the whole horror genre. The adaptors of her classic tale of horror are Gary Reed (for text) and Frazer Irving for the art. Reed is a prolific comic book writer and publisher. He was formerly the publisher of Caliber Comics and Vice President of McFarlane Toys. His other graphic novel titles include (but are not limited too) Dracula, Deadwood, and Sherlock Holmes. Irving is a British comic book artist known for the 2000 AD series Necronauts. Since breaking into the American market he has worked on a number of superhero titles, including Batman and X-Men.

The best part of this retelling of Frankenstein is by far the artwork. It’s very dark and shadowy. It’s presented in a very cinematic way that is completely striking: really quite memorizing. It’s not a very pretty style but that hardly matters since it works so well with the story and tone. It was very much the highlight of this particular graphic novel.

Frankenstein is such a distressing novel when it comes to its themes of rejection and hatred and the art of this graphic novel really conveys the themes brilliantly. The facial expressions of the monster captured his tortured life so well: it truly was heartbreaking–and I’m not just saying that because the empathy centre of my brain is a hundred times as large as everyone else’s on Earth!

With so many adaptations of Frankenstein out there (and there are a lot–it’s second only to Dracula when it comes to adaptations) it’s often hard to imagine any of them bringing anything new or fresh to the doctor and his creation, but Reed and Irving have done just that. The art is highly stylized and suit the themes and mood amazingly well, and just enough of the text is present to get the story across without confusion.

My final thoughts on Frankenstein The Graphic Novel are that it’s a great piece. If you’re a fan of the novel or a fan of graphic novels, it’ll appeal to you and you should definitely take an hour out of your day to sink into the first (and arguably the greatest) gothic horror ever created!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Two Princesses of Bamarre: Fantasy For Beginners

A Review By: Amelia
Fantasy has always been a weird genre for me in that I’d never given it a chance before declaring that I didn’t like it. It’s the only genre I’ve ever done that with. I suppose it’s because I’d given science-fiction a big chance to win me over but it never did so I just assumed that fantasy couldn’t either. Well, I was wrong. Recently I’ve gotten into fantasy in a huge way and all it took was watching the first Lord of the Rings movie! Who would have thought it? Anyways, before my sudden and unexpected passion for fantasy I read The Two Princesses of Bamarre, a fantasy novel aimed at pre/young teenagers (I did read it in that age group) and surprisingly, I really liked it!

Princess Meryl is brave and adventurous and dreams of fighting dragons and protecting her kingdom Bamarre. Her sister, Princess Addie, is the complete opposite and is shy and fearful and content to stay within the safety of the castle walls. The one thing the sisters have in common is their unwavering love for each other. Bamarre is a safe place for the sisters to play their games of imagination but an illness that no one is immune to stalks the hallways and alleys of the kingdom and, one day not unlike all the other days in the castle, Meryl catches the Gray Death and is left fatally ill. To save her sister, meek Princess Addie must find the courage within herself and set out on a dangerous quest to save her sister’s life. Addie’s journey is filled with dragons, magic, danger, and possibly even death, but time will run out soon enough and she must overcome it all.

The author of this epic fantasy tale is Gail Carson Levine. Levine grew up in New York City and began writing seriously in 1987. Her first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a 1998 Newbery Honor Book. Levine's other books include Fairest; Dave at Night, (an ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults), The Wish, and the six Princess Tales books. She is also the author of the nonfiction book Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly and the picture book Betsy Who Cried Wolf, illustrated by Scott Nash. She’s a fantasy writer and she definitely knows her stuff.

The characters of The Two Princesses of Bamarre are written well, but since it is a book meant for twelve year olds, they’re written very plainly – but not plain as in boring. I use plain in the sense that Meryl is the strong sister and Addie is the weak sister but then as the story develops you see the roles flip. It’s very black and white with all the shades of grey tucked away. That’s not to say that they’re not well written characters, they’re just very visible in their intents and how they’re going to evolve as characters.

The best part of any fantasy story has got to be the location and The Two Princesses of Bamarre is no different. Bamarre is a vast realm covered by plains and mountains and dragons’ caves. It’s also plagued by a disease called the Gray Death, specters (which lure travelers to their deaths unless exposed), sorcerers, ogres, dwarves, elves, gryphons, dragons, and fairies, although the latter haven’t been seen since the realms greatest hero Drualt disappear. It’s all pretty standard fantasy stuff but we’re living in a post-Tolkien world so it’s bound to happen. I still found the land enchanting and exciting and just right for the characters and the history that was introduced as the novel went on.

So where do I stand on The Two Princess of Bamarre? Well, since I recently discovered my crazy strong love for fantasy I say it’s great! Am I biased? Absolutely. But back when I read this book, I didn’t declare myself a big fantasy fan, so considering that it still kept my attention back then (several times actually since I reread it a few times in grade school) I’d say it’s still pretty damn enjoyable!

My final thoughts on The Two Princess of Bamarre are that it’s a good little adventure book. It’s very well thought out and evenly balanced and every time I  reread it, it sparks my imagination and leaves me longing for more stories with dragons and castles and swords. It might seem a little dull or predictable for an older reader or one that’s well acquainted with fantasy, but for a middle school kid or someone wanting to just dip their toes into fantasy, it’s a great place to start.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Let’s Go, Hugo!: Let’s Go With This Adorable Book!

A Review By: Amelia

When it comes to children’s stories birds are a great subject to feature on. They can teach stories about overcoming fear and adversity, about reaching for the sky at every turn, about trust and freedom. Birds are just a great avatar for kids to see through in kid’s books and Let’s Go, Hugo is a wonderful example of this.

Hugo is a little yellow bird with an excellent sense of style who lives in the heart of Paris in a beautiful little park. He adores his view of the Eiffel Tower but has never gone to it in person because he doesn’t know how to fly! When he meets a little pink bird named Lulu, Hugo becomes determined to change from a grounded bird, to one who’s free to fly where ever he chooses!

Angela Dominguez is a Mexican-American who has lived in Texas, San Fransico, and Brooklyn, has always loved creating artwork, and who is a teacher at the Academy of Art University in the Illustration Department (which honoured her with their Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013). She made her debut into children’s books with Let’s Go, Hugo. Her other works include Maria Had a Little Llama (which she received the Pura Belpré Illustration Honour from the American Library Association for) and Santiago Stays. Her works have also been featured in publications including Creative Quarterly, 3X3 Magazine, and numerous galleries.

The characters of this book are Hugo, the timid bird who doesn’t know how to fly, and Lulu, the adventurous bird who encourages Hugo. There’s not much to say about them besides what I said above: they’re standard children’s books characters. I can say that Hugo is a good avatar for the reader to see through. He’s timid and scared but also willing to overcome his fears. He betters himself through trial and error and although he hasn’t perfected what he’s set out to learn, he doesn’t become discouraged.

Let’s Go, Hugo takes place in a park in Paris. I think that’s enough said to sell you on the location of this children’s book! Combine this with the adorable art style that’s part minimalistic doodle, part beautiful water colours and you have a story that will make you pine for Paris if you’ve never been or fall in love with it all over again if you have!

My final thoughts on Let’s Go, Hugo are that it’s an adorable little story about the joy of learning and determination. The art style is adorable, the story adorable, and the themes adorable. All in all, I have to say that this book is just plain adorable!