{Book Review} Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things (Courtney Crumrin, #1)

Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things (Courtney Crumrin, #1)

*Review copy provided by the publisher

Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things is filled with dark humor and wild characters that I did not expect from a series that seemed to be aimed to a younger audience. I liked it, however, and for a first volume, it kept me engaged and wanting more. 

Courtney Crumrin, its titular heroine, just moved with her parents to her Uncle Aloysius’s house. I think mansion would fit better, but it is obvious that it has seen better days. It is now dark, spooky, and had all the looks of a haunted house. Courtney finds herself having a hard time fitting in anywhere for the days and weeks that follow, even in her own home. However, she finds out more about herself – she is in fact a witch. Uncle Aloysius is considered an oddball by many, and Courtney soon finds his strange but interesting collection of magic books. From here, she discovers a world far from anything she has ever imagined. Here she meets goblins, changelings, talking animals, faery queens, and a whole lot more. 

I am extremely fond of stories based on folk tales and paranormal mythology, and this is no exception. I really liked how writer/artist Ted Naifeh illustrated everything, and I enjoyed both the colored and black and white panes. Courtney Crumrin is filled with dark humor and wild characters – it is not unusual for children to be eaten by goblins, or mortal babies sold in the underworld market while a changeling cries for milk in its place. The fact that the author is unapologetic for these horrible occurrences, as if it really is a fact of life for the characters (and indeed it is, whether they are aware of it or not) made me love this.

For a first volume in a series, it did not fail to engage me, and I would not pass up a chance to read more of Courtney Crumrin. This series is especially recommended for people who love fairy tales and myths. People who love paranormal/supernatural cases in a graphic novel would find this fun to read. Despite looking like something suited for middle grade readers, I think this would suit young adults better.

The full color hardcover edition of Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things will be released on April 11, 2012.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 3.5/5
Full color hardcover, 144 pages
Writer/Artist: Ted Naifeh
Colorist: Warren Wucinich
Publisher: Oni Press
To be published on: April 11, 2012
Language: English
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure


{Book Review} First Date by Krista McGee

Addy Davidson is the last girl in the country who wants to be on the new reality TV show to win a date to prom with the President’s son. She’s focused on her schoolwork so she can get a scholarship to an Ivy League college, uncomfortable in the spotlight, never been on a date, and didn’t even audition for it.

But she got selected anyway.

So she does her best to get eliminated on the very first show… right before she realizes that the President’s son is possibly the most attractive guy she has ever seen in person, surprisingly nice, and seemingly unimpressed by the 99 other girls who are throwing themselves at him.

Addy’s totally out of her comfort zone—but that may be right where God can show her the most about who she is . . . and who she was meant to be. -NetGalley

*Review copy from publisher

I really liked this book, hence the four stars. Even though the plot is sort of cliche and predictable, I liked how cute it was and how Krista McGee incorporated Christian belief into it through Addy, the book’s protagonist. Despite the simplicity of the plot, the characterization was well-thought out, and each one has a distinct personality. It was easy to relate to them, especially Addy, and why they did what they did in the story was understandable. Also, I loved how this book, despite initially seeming to be a cute love story at first sight, managed to make me return to my faith with a renewed vigor and understanding. It is also admirable how the insertion of things related to religion is not stifling; in fact, it was just right. Not too much to alienate people of other religions, for instance, and not too little that it did not make any effect.

I admit, I am a sucker for well-known/nobody pairings, which is partly why I chose to read this from my ever-mounting TBR pile. It’s an interesting dynamic, don’t you think? A reality TV show to be the prom date of the president’s son? It was partly intriguing, partly preposterous for me. I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Wow, what a guy. A reality TV show just to pick a date? Really?’ and believe me, I thought that throughout the first parts of the book, but Jonathon (not a typo, that’s really how it’s spelled) proved to be endearing, so no problem.

What I wished I could have seen more of was Addy’s relationship with the other contestants. I mean, she had her roommate (trailer-mate?) Kara as her buddy throughout the duration of the show, and it was finely established that the other girls hated everything about her, but I felt bad at the lack of closure. Much as Addy wished to help change people for the better, she was able to do that with only a few people – which is really remarkable, I’m not complaining – but I wonder what would have happened if the other girls finally softened
and were ready to be friends with Addy. Still, I guess that lack of that made this a bit more realistic, so it’s okay.

I really enjoyed First Date. I haven’t read much Christian fiction, and I hardly knew this was one before reading it, but I have no regrets! This is Krista McGee’s first novel, and I like it. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for more of her work in the future if I were you!

PS By the way, this counts if you’re joining the 2012 Debut Author Challenge

In a nutshell…
Paperback, 336 pages
Rating: 4/5
Author: Krista McGee
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Published: January 10, 2012
Language: English

Genre: YA, Christian Fiction, Contemporary Romance

{Book Review} Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants

“Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. 
She has seen both these dreams come true. 

At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. 

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.”* 

Before I go on to my review, let me insert a little disclaimer: I don’t know much about Tina Fey. I am serious. Her name is familiar, I know her face, she looks like she has a funny bone, but I haven’t really watched anything of hers. I haven’t seen an episode of 30 Rock or Saturday Night Live, or watched her movie Date Night, so I was initially just content to let it sit quietly in my iTunes as an audio book, forgotten. The only thing I know about her is in a .gif  file uploaded by someone in Tumblr where she was waving a plastic bag, saying she will put other plastic bags in it so that it is committing cannibalism, or something. I forget these important quotes. Even in that 10 second gif loop, I found her funny, so when I saw that audiobook, I decided to just listen. Heck, why stop yourself from reading a book anyway?

Not once during those 5 and a half hours did I regret this decision. Turns out you don’t need to have background information on Tina Fey after all – this book talks about the most important moments of her life. Bossypants also includes a tour through her mind, with various essays on her opinions of Photoshop, Sarah Palin, office hygiene, and several other things. All throughout the book, I could not stop laughing at her witty and sarcastic remarks. If you know Tina Fey (more than the little I know of her, anyway) and love her type of humor, you will definitely enjoy this book.

I expected this to be a sort of autobiographical tell-all, but it is not. Well, she does talk about various points in her life (like her college romances, less than normal honeymoon cruise, working in SNL and 30 Rock), but she also raises points on topics like sexism and ideal beauty that could serve as food for thought if you let it. For example, she highlights people’s perception of beautiful as something based on a “laundry list” of features women must have to be considered one:

Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, …, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.

That part was really spot on for me. And just before you think it’s beginning to sound serious, Tina ends the list with the punch line: “The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.” So there you go.

In addition to that, she also makes a good job of teaching how to be a good boss. I really listened for that because the book must be called Bossypants for a reason. True enough, there are stories of her working with other people in the business, with her trying her best to excel in her field despite the discriminating idea that “Women aren’t funny!”. I find it admirable how she has handled it well, and seeing where she is now, I think she deserves it.

My absolute favorite part of the book was when she read aloud a prayer she made for her baby daughter. It’s almost as long as this blog post, but the subliminal message is so heartwarming and touching despite the jokes. It almost drove me to tears. Mother’s prayers do that to me sometimes. 

It helps that Tina Fey herself narrated the audio book. As I am new to this audio book listening thing, I very much appreciated listening to the book in the author’s voice – feelings are much easily interpreted, and there’s nothing quite like hearing something from the original source herself. If I had read Bossypants instead of listened to it, I doubt I would have enjoyed it as much. There’s something about listening to Tina saying her own jokes and narrating her life that makes listening to audio books a wholly different experience.

I recommend this book for anyone who loves a hilarious book with meat in it. And, of course, people who love Tina Fey. I am now very much intrigued about her shows and want to watch them. I suspect this was part of the plan, but who cares?!

In a nutshell…

Audio CD

Rating: 3.5/5
Author/Narrator: Tina Fey
Original Language: English
Published: 5 April 2011 by Hachette Audio
Genre: Autobiographical > Memoir, Nonfiction, Humor

{Book Review} Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry by Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse

“Sam was brushing her hair when the girl in the mirror put down the hairbrush, smiled, and said, “We don’t love you anymore.” So began the Twitter Audio project, with a dazzling first line penned by New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman. What followed was an epic tale of imaginary lands, magical objects, haunting melodies, plucky sidekicks, menacing villains, and much more. 

From mystical blue roses to enchanted mirrors to pesky puppets, this classic fable was born from the collective creativity of more than one hundred contributors via the social network Twitter.com in a groundbreaking literary experiment. Together, virtual strangers crafted a rollicking story of a young girl’s journey with love, forgiveness, and acceptance.”*

This is the first audio book I actually finished so this will always have a special place in my heart. Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry is a the result of a collaborative effort by Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse, wherein the famous author gets the ball rolling by tweeting the first sentence, and the rest of the world pitches in. The result was then turned by BBC into a script for an audiobook. 

I admit I was at first doubtful at the resulting quality of the story. Many a time have I tried playing that game where a person writes a sentence, and then another one continues it, and so on, and the resulting plot almost always turned out to be messy. Because of this, I steeled myself for what the outcome might be. After almost two hours, I resurfaced quite reluctantly into the normal world. Needless to say, I really loved it. Everyone who contributed managed to spin a beautiful tale of adventure and redemption, and I couldn’t help but root for Sam all throughout. I was very pleased at the resulting twists and revelations. Imagine all the contributors reading every tweet as they came and figuring out the best course of action to take for Sam and the other characters! It was brilliant, and I’m so happy for everyone who contributed to the story. I also commend Katherine Kellgren for her wonderful job on narrating. I was quite scared of listening to an audio book for fear that it would not be able to retain my attention, but her skill in adapting the best voice for each character and the emotions they felt were not lost to me. I really enjoyed the whole listening experience. 

This is indeed a very good starting audio book for those who want to try listening to them. You can download the audio books here. Enjoy!

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5

Audiobook from Audible

Authors: Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse

Original Language: English

Published: Feb. 8, 2010 by BBC Audiobooks America

{Book Review} Trese #4 – Last Seen After Midnight

Last Seen After Midnight (Trese, #4)“Foul play. Magic spells. Supernatural criminals. When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese

This graphic novel contains the following cases: 

CADENA DE AMOR 
In a neglected area of Luneta Park, where the grass grows untended, a man is found strangled by vines; which have started to grow outwards, killing anyone that gets in its path. 

A PRIVATE COLLECTION 
A manananggal has been found, tortured and murdered. The Manananggal Clan declares war on the Aswang Clan. Trese must find the real murderer before more blood is shed, before Manila gets in the crossfire of a supernatural gang war. 

WANTED: BEDSPACER 
A strange illness has affected the students living along Katipunan Avenue. The doctors are clueless on what’s driving these people mad with despair. Can Trese trace the source of this growing paranormal epidemic? 

FIGHT OF THE YEAR 
Once a year, in General Santos City, the demons and creatures of the underworld converge to watch a most awaited event, where the country’s greatest boxer fights for his very soul.”*

Last Seen After Midnight is the fourth in the series of highly successful komiks by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo. I was very much excited to read this after the impact of the third Trese book, Mass Murders, because even though I said last time that it answers much of my questions, admittedly, I can never get enough Trese. Unlike its predecessor, Last Seen After Midnight has taken after the first two volumes, wherein the cases are stand-alone. There is no story arc that connect the four cases, but that’s fine by me since each case proved to be interesting in its own right.

I wasn’t too keen on the first case since I felt that it was over too soon, just when it was really starting to build up, but I loved how they used the popular OPM song “Ang Huling El Bimbo” by the Eraserheads as a peg for the relationship between Florabelle and her plants. At any rate, I couldn’t help imagining actual plants singing this song, and I give Cadena de Amor bonus points for making me think such ridiculous things.

Fight of the Year obviously parodies world-class boxer Manny Pacquiao. I thoroughly enjoyed how the plot explained why Manuel, the boxer, trains so hard for his fights despite him not needing any more monetary prizes offered by each fight. It’s more than just the honor, but what that “more” is, you’ll just have to read and see. I laughed out loud at the explanation for why the crime rate is zilch whenever Manuel has a fight, but based on the context of the story it is entirely plausible. What that explanation is, you have to read to find out as well. Another thing that I’ve noticed most of the reviews never fail to mention – it is in this case where you get to see Trese in a dress. Yup. That’s right. Better savor that page because I don’t think we’ll see her in a dress anytime soon again. She really looked stunning!

The second case, A Private Collection, is where things got really tricky – and sticky – for Trese. There is only one other time where I was not entirely sure what would happen in the story, and that was in Mass Murders. Because of this, I loved the plot. The antagonist in the story is such a creeper, eurgh.

Last but not the least is my favorite, Wanted: Bedspacer. Usually I automatically get interested in a case if it’s set in a place where I frequent, and this is no exception. Since my school is along Katipunan, I felt a sort of connection to the setting. This time, though, my love for the plot exceeded my affinity for the location. This case includes the infamous bangungot, but this time, Budjette Tan used a different angle and a new perception that explains this phenomenon in a way that I thought was creative and original, if not heartwrenchingly beautiful. 

In this volume, I could not help but notice how different Alexandra Trese looks compared to the three previous books. KaJo Baldisimo has created an edgier, sharper version of Trese in this book, resulting in cleaner drawings compared to the sketch-like quality of Murder on Balete Drive and the others. I think what really marks the difference are Trese’s eyes. They seem more open now, anyway.

I will never stop loving Trese. I know, I’m such a fangirl, but still. I cannot express enough how I impatient I am for the next installment!

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
140 pages
Writer: Budjette Tan
Illustrator: Kajo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visual Print Enterprises
Published: October 2009
Genre: Paranormal, Horror, Crime
Related Posts:

{Review} Batman: Prey

The front cover of Batman: Year One. I love how creepy and awesome it looks!
 

“Set in the Year One time frame, Batman must confront the sinister Dr Hugo Strange, a man with a deadly secret, out to stop and, if necessary, kill the Dark Knight. Who is the bloodthirsty Night Scourge, how does he link in with the police department, and where exactly does the mysterious Catwoman fit into all this?” *

I have been meaning to follow the Batman chronology for a while now, but I’ve only really come round to doing it fairly recently (this year, in fact). I love how, with every Batman story I read, I learn something new about him! Reading chronologically really helps, but I’ve been using this as my guide. As far as I know, there are no official DC listings for a Batman chronology, despite the wealth of comics about the Dark Knight that have been around for more than seventy years (Batman was first introducted in 1939). It suggested that after Batman: Year One (review here), I read Batman: Prey, so I dutifully obeyed.

Prey is estimated to occur shortly after Year One, so it is no surprise that we still see Batman as the dark, brooding hero coming to terms with his new mission as protector of Gotham City. Despite his best efforts to prove that he is actually one of the good guys, he is still a highly targeted vigilante for many of its citizens, particularly the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD). At the moment, his only friends (and the only ones who know his real identity as Bruce Wayne) are the ever-loyal butler,  Alfred, and the detective-turned-captain James Gordon.

Prey begins with a police sting operation designed to catch a drug dealer who could reveal the syndicate behind it all. Before the GCPD could close in on the guy, though, Batman has shaken the guy and disrupted the whole operation. One of the officers, Max Cort, gets thoroughly infuriated by this and reports to an indifferent Gordon, who defends Batman by insisting that he is actually good for morale. In the next scene, Gordon is shown at a television show, being interviewed along with Gotham City Mayor Kauss and Dr. Hugo Strange, a well-known psychiatrist. Dr. Strange offers some insight against Batman, analyzing why he wears a costume, etc. The Mayor is very much impressed with him that he hires the man for his services in a newly-enforced “Task Force Vigilante” against Batman, unbeknownst to anyone in GCPD prior to Kauss’s announcement on-air. Against Gordon’s wishes, the Mayor assigns him as the head of said task force. As the story unravels, we get to see different sides of this Hugo Strange, as well as Max Cort, and even glimpses of Catwoman in between.

Even though I did not finish Prey in a day as planned, it stuck with me long enough for me to really get a kick out of it. I especially liked the latter parts, where the climax of the story is. The characters seemed very real, and were very convincing in their roles. Dr. Strange was, well, really strange, but more than that, he was downright creepy with his obsession and, to say the least, he was insane in the worst sense of the word. Max Cort proved to be as idiotic as Gordon thought he would be, all brawn with little brain, believing he could actually beat Batman! Tsk. As if. A thing that I would have liked to see more of was Catherine, the Mayor’s daughter. She was established at the beginning to be a very opinionated woman, but later on she just served as a pawn in the power play between Dr. Strange and Batman. Her faith in the Dark Knight was pleasantly unexpected, which naturally made me want to see more of her in a setting that gave her freedom to do whatever she liked. 

On the other hand, the art was, for me, exquisite. The illustrations by Paul Gulacy and Terry Austin and the coloring by Steve Oliff were brilliantly done, and the fact that it was made in the 90’s made it even more impressive. I was rereading some parts of Prey for this review earlier and I thought, ‘This is what comics should look like’. Probably part of what made me gush about the art was how I really love vintage style comics, especially from genuinely vintage comics. They just look so fine! Anyway, I really loved Prey. I was already dead set on loving Batman anyway, but reading stories like this made me remember why I love him so much. Really. 

In a nutshell…
Rating: 4/5
Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Paul Gulacy, Terry Austin
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: John Costanza
Publisher: DC Comics
Published: 1990, New York 
Genre: Superhero, Crime
 
 

{Book Review} Trese #2: Unreported Murders

Unreported Murders (Trese, #2)

 

“When dusk arrives in the city of Manila, that’s when you become the most likely prey of the criminal underworld. 

Kidnappers and thieves will be the least of your worries. 

Beware the criminals that can’t be bound with handcuffs nor harmed with bullets. 

Beware the ones that crave for your blood, those who hold your heart ransom, and the ones that come to steal your soul. 

When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.”*

The second volume in the Trese series, Unreported Murders delves deeper into the world of the paranormal, much to my delight and horror. I have revived my old high school habit of reading during the thin sliver of time between studying and sleeping, and reading about monsters that could probably be a-creepin’ around my room at the moment doesn’t really help in the sleeping part. Nevertheless, I was able to revel more in the interesting aspect of this volume rather than the scare factor, which leads me to mention my thoughts after finishing the last case.

There are four cases featured in Unreported Murders. I was very much amused to find so many references to things that exist in our collective consciousness, parodies of well-known people and places, and urban legends that get passed on from generation to generation. Exhibit A: In A Little Known Murder in Studio 4, ABC-ZNN sounds very much like ABS-CBN, a real-life Philippine TV network that is presently located along Mother Ignacia Street, and Heather Evangelista, the victim, clearly references Heart Evangelista. Exhibit B:  Embrace of the Unwanted. This case clearly plays on the infamous Robinsons malls urban legend about a snake that kidnaps and eats women in dressing rooms. There are much more, and finding these Easter eggs definitely adds to the fun of reading this volume, and every volume in the Trese series.

So far, this is the more graphic of the first two Trese books. Because one of the cases involves zombies, and another involves a horde of the creatures, there are naturally more fight scenes between the monsters and Alexandra with her kambal. If you enjoy that sort of thing, you will definitely enjoy this volume.

I still like the first book more, but this volume doesn’t trail too far behind. I liked Unreported Murders, and it’s doing a really good job of keeping the next books hyped up and keeping my interest. There are still things about Alexandra Trese and the other characters that I wished to be explored ever since the first book, but since this is part of a series, I am not without hope that the next book will explain the mystery of their identities.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
140 pages
Writer: Budjette Tan
Illustrator: Kajo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visual Print Enterprises
Published: July 2008
Genre: Paranormal, Horror, Crime

Related Posts:

Trese #1: Murder on Balete Drive

Trese #3: Mass Murders

Trese #4: Last Seen After Midnight