Saturday, November 18, 2017

Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Synopsis: Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear. It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do. But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself. (from the online description)

Review: With a deft hand, Sabaa Tahir plunges the reader into a strange, harsh, and unforgiving world, where the mighty Martial Empire swept over the Scholar’s country and took them captive. Now, 500 years later, the Scholars live in poverty, as menial labors, or slaves, to the dominate Martial. But the Scholars haven’t forgotten their roots and seek to rise against their oppressors and free themselves.
Laia, born in a Scholar family, knows all too well the might of Martial law. Her family has suffered much under them. But her family was strong, courageous – and she is not. But she will need to be if she is to save the last member.
Elias is a Golden Son of the Martial Empire, seemingly the brightest and best – but he has a dark secret. One that will get him killed if he isn’t careful.
Through twisted circumstances, Laia and Elias cross paths, each changing the other irrevocably.
World-Building: Tahir’s world reminds the reader of Roman, if Rome had guns and magical creatures like Djinn. Without being heavy-handed, the author pulls the reader in and gives clear picture of the culture and customs.
Characters: Each character goes through realistic growth, albeit with the normal angst and if-you-just-talked-the-problem-would-be-solved issues normally found in your YA novels. The PoV shifts between Laia and Elias and Tahir did an excellent job of making them sound different.
Plot: Fast-paced, never a dull-moment. Several times things happened that were mildly unrealistic, obviously used to move the plot forward, but nothing egregious. It certainly didn’t hinder my read-it-all-in-one sitting drive.
Overall, this is a better example of the YA novels available and worth reading. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: People's Choice Awards: Best Fantasy, 2016 /  Amazon's Best Young Adult Books, 2015 / Indigo Best Books of 2015 / Suspense Magazine, Best Books of 2015 / NYPL Best Books for Teens, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-804-9
Year Published: 2015
Date Finished: 11-3-2017
Pages: 446

Friday, November 17, 2017

Review: Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde

Synopsis: So you think you know the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl with the unfortunate name and the inability to tell the difference between her grandmother and a member of a different species? Well, then, try your hand at answering these questions: Which character (not including Little Red herself) is the most fashion challenged? Who (not including the wolf) is the scariest? Who (not including Granny) is the most easily scared? Who is the strangest? (Notice we’re not “not including” anyone, because they’re all a little off.) Who (no fair saying “the author”) has stuffing for brains? Vivian Vande Velde has taken eight new looks at one of the world’s most beloved (and mixed-up) stories. You may never look at fairy tales in quite the same way again. (from the online description)

Review: This is a collection of 8 version of Little Red Riding Hood, all written by the author.  In subject and plot, the stories have marked differences. But in prose and syntax, they are drearily similar. It is simple, suitable for a reader of the elementary level.
The Red Cloak: The main character learns to have a bit of courage. Cute and sweet.
The Red Riding Hood Doll: Weird. I have no idea what the point was.
Little Red Riding Hood's Family: My favorite! Lots of fairy tale and paranormal characters show up. It’s entertaining.
Granny and the Wolf: The wolf is more like a puppy dog and I’m a sucker for a puppy dog!
Deems the Wood Gatherer: Strange and disturbing and not in a good way.
Why Willy and His Brother Won't Ever Amount to Anything: Amusing , particular if you like other fairy tale. The “twist” at the end was good.
The Little Red Headache: The wolf tries to help, only to have much trouble for his pains.
Little Red Riding Hood's Little Red Riding Hood: This one has the cloak at the main character, and the ending was witty.
Overall, the good stories weren’t enough to make this collection more than just a bland collection. Sad, really, as her similar treatment of Rumplestiltskin was excellent. 

Bookmarks: 

The Red Cloak: 3.5/5
The Red Riding Hood Doll: 2/5
Little Red Riding Hood's Family: 4/5
Granny and the Wolf: 4/5
Deems the Wood Gatherer: 3/5
Why Willy and His Brother Won't Ever Amount to Anything: 3/5
The Little Red Headache: 3/5
Little Red Riding Hood's Little Red Riding Hood: 3/5

Over All: 3 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7614-5793-0
Year Published: 2010
Date Finished: 11-1-2017
Pages: 127

Review: The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker

Synopsis: In the early hours of the morning a young lawyer is called to the home of a beautiful woman he has just met, where her archaeologist father lies in a coma, the victim of a mysterious attack. The injured man is discovered to be dabbling in ritual magic in an attempt to raise an ancient Egyptian queen from the dead. As the hour of his great experiment approaches, a deadly supernatural struggle begins. (from the online descriptions)

Review: Considered the bases for the classical Mummy myth, this short novella by Bram Stoker takes advantage of the Egypt-mania that swarmed the Western world in the later parts of the 1800s. Told from the view point of the young lawyer, Malcolm Ross, it concerns the collection of the rich but eccentric Abel Trelawny and his daughter, Margaret – and the mummy of an Egyptian Queen…..
This has all the proper themes of a Victorian Gothic story – the morally-pure virgin, the stalwart young man, the mad scientists, the doctor, the creepy house, the blood in the night, shadows and ghosts, and mysteries of the past coming to haunt the present.
Stoker gave much detail about Egypt, and it was clear he did his research before adding in his own fantastical elements. It also contains Stoker’s trademark foreboding imagery and gothic prose. It’s a fine tale for a dark and creepy night.
But, it’s also a bit slow at times, some of the action or events are never really explained, and the ending – well, my big issue is the ending. It’s ambiguous exactly what went wrong and why the Great Experiment ended in death. Perhaps is it my modern mind, but I would have preferred a bit more explanation

Bookmarks: 3 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-486-47469-7
Year Published: 1904 (Mine is a 2009 Edition)
Date Finished: 10-31-2017
Pages: 188

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Review: IT by Stephen King

Synopsis: Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real. They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers. (from the online description) 

Review: Thanks to this book, I now cast a wary eye towards drains and sewers, and I never ever go near clowns. Seriously, scary AF.

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: TBD

ISBN: 978-1-5011-4297
Year Published: 1980
Date Finished: 10-25-2017
Pages: 1156

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Review: Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

Synopsis: In Ban This Book by Alan Gratz, a fourth grader fights back when From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is challenged by a well-meaning parent and taken off the shelves of her school library. Amy Anne is shy and soft-spoken, but don’t mess with her when it comes to her favorite book in the whole world. Amy Anne and her lieutenants wage a battle for the books that will make you laugh and pump your fists as they start a secret banned books locker library, make up ridiculous reasons to ban every single book in the library to make a point, and take a stand against censorship. Ban This Book is a stirring defense against censorship that’s perfect for middle grade readers. Let kids know that they can make a difference in their schools, communities, and lives! (from the online description)

Review: This book! This book! Oh heavens – okay, so told from the first person pov of Amy Anne, an avid 9-year-old bibliophile, this books explores what makes us ourselves, where we find courage, and mostly, what censorship is and how it works.
When her favorite book (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg) is banned from her school library, Amy Anne is cut to the heart. Why would someone ban her favorite book?
With a little digging and some help from her friends, Amy Anne learns than many books are banned, books that she loves, that others love. And she makes a choice – she’s going to run a Banned Book Library from her locker, freely giving out books, sharing her love of reading, with her classmates.
But this takes courage – what if she gets caught? And as more books disappear from the library shelves, Amy Anne has to decide if she can overcome her fear to speak out against this wrong.
Although meant for late-elementary, early middle-school reader, this book will appeal to all ages. If you are looking to explain censorship to young readers, this book is an excellent way to help them understand.
Note for Parents: Sex is mentioned (in relationship to why some books are banned, in particular, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume). While censorship is explained, the book also encourage parental involvement and activie engagement in the reading life of their kids, essentially saying that parents should be the one to guide their child’s reading.
I will recommend this book to kids and adults alike. 

Note: As part of LibraryThing's Early Review Program, I received this book free in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None (Yet)

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8556-7
Year Published: 2017
Date Finished: 10-9-2017
Pages: 255

Monday, November 13, 2017

Review: Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell by G. M. Berrow (A My Little Pony Book)

Synopsis: Twilight Sparkle is a very special Pony and a loyal apprentice of Princess Celestia. Twilight Sparkle's life has been turned upside down by recent exciting events in Ponyville, so she sets off for the Crystal Empire to get advice from her former foalsitter, Princess Cadance. Join Twilight Sparkle in this original and brand-new adventure!
Don't miss the special purple activity pages in the back of the book! (from the online description)

Review: This book is written with a young reader (K-4th, maybe) in mind, not for an adult such as myself. But, I’ve been a MLP fan since I was young enough to read this, and T-Spark is my favorite.
This reads just like an episode of the show – cute, sweet, with a dash of adventure and mystery, and of course, Friendship is always the answer. I felt this was nearly direct re-hash of at least one episode of the show (evil object turns pony against others) which was disappointing.
The real reason to read it is the backstory for Princess Cadence. Not sure if these books are considered Canon or not, but if so, it is worth it for that alone. However, it raised more questions than it answers about the origins of Alicorns, particularly consider that Cadence’s daughter, Flurry Heart, was born one.
While I will eventually want the entire collection, I’m not running out this moment to buy the rest of the series. This is a good easy read, suited for young MLP fans to practice their reading skills with. But for older collectors, this book might disappoint as far as substance. 

Bookmarks: 3 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-316-22819-0
Year Published: 2013
Date Finished: 10-7-2017
Pages: 131

Friday, November 10, 2017

Review: The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Synopsis: Aleksia, Queen of the Northern Lights, is mysterious, beautiful and widely known to have a heart of ice. No one would seek her wisdom except as a last resort. But when she's falsely accused of unleashing evil on nearby villages, she realizes there's an impostor out there far more heartless than she could ever be. And when a young warrior following the Tradition disappears, leaving his sweetheart and mother to fear the worst, Aleksia's powers are needed as never before.  Now, on a journey through a realm of perpetual winter, it will take all her skills, a mother's faith and a little magic to face down an enemy more formidable than any she has ever known.… (from the online description)

Review: Once again, I was enchanted and delighted to read Lackey’s retold fairy tales, set in the Five Hundred Kingdoms. This one, in particular, involve three women who must gather their wits, find courage, and trust friendship, all to save the people they love and the people they are sworn to protect.
With a lovely Russian tone, Lackey gives us strong, well-developed characters, living in a world of rare and dangerous magic, and sets them on a journey in a fast-paced plot with lots of action and suspense.  Our Fairy Godmother, Aleksia, who often plays the “Snow Queen” in the Tradition (usually to the benefit of those she encounters) must leave her Ice Palace and trek across the frozen tundra to find the person who is  killing entire villages in her name. She will cross paths with heroes and witches, good-hearted girls, and frozen gods, and she will be forced to face her inner trials even as she struggles to turn the magic from evil to good.
For anyone with a love of fairy tales, particularly those of Russian origins, and who wants to read a story with strong female characters, this is your book!

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-373-80294-4
Year Published: 2008
Date Finished: 9-30-2017
Pages: 408

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review: The Magic of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt

Synopsis: Young Lerris is dissatisfied with his life and trade, and yearns to find a place in the world better suited to his skills and temperament. But in Recluce a change in circumstances means taking one of two options: permanent exile from Recluce or the dangergeld, a complex, rule-laden wanderjahr in the lands beyond Recluce, with the aim of learning how the world works and what his place in it might be. Many do not survive. Lerris chooses dangergeld. When Lerris is sent into intensive training for his quest, it soon becomes clear that he has a natural talent for magic. And he will need magic in the lands beyond, where the power of the Chaos Wizards reigns unchecked. Though it goes against all of his instincts, Lerris must learn to use his powers in an orderly way before his wanderjahr, or fall prey to Chaos. L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s bestselling fantasy novels set in the magical world of Recluce are among the most popular in contemporary fantasy. Each novel tells an independent story that nevertheless reverberates though all the other books in the series, to deepen and enhance the reading experience. Rich in detail, the Recluce books are a feast of wondrous marvels. (from the online description)

Review: This is not the normal sort of book I’d read, as I’m not a huge fan of High Fantasy. But I read this as park of GroupRead on Instragram and I’m glad I did.
Modesitt has a talented for character and world-building. When we start, the main character Lerris is a bored whiny directionless boy. You know, a teenager. But in Recluse, his home country, a world of Order, his attitude creates Chaos. So he is sent on away, to find out if he wants to live by the rules of Recluse (Order) or if he wants to live in the Chaos that the rest of the world resides in.
Through this, Lerris learns and here is where Modesitt’s talent with character development because apparent. Lerris goes from a whiny child to an adult with courage and wisdom. It’s fantastic.
As for the world building – the idea of Order and Chaos as magic, the history of the planet, the dark and light, it’s intriguing. In particular, the idea that Chaos magic can help people (food and warmth) but too much causes problems, while Order seems cold and heartless, but in the end, in can bring balance. I want to read more of this world, to learn more about the difference between the magic.
If you enjoy well-developed characters, intriguing world-building, and epic fantasy stories, read this!

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-8125-0518-4
Year Published: 1991
Date Finished: 9-15-2017
Pages: 501

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Review: Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

Synopsis: A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms. They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters. Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again. Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons. It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart. (from the online description)

Review: This was book was described to me as “Pride and Prejudice, where Darcy is a Dragon rider” and I was like, uh, say no more. I’m in.
I’ve read my share of P&P adaptions, some good (Bride and Prejudice) and some hideous (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) – but this, this one is my favorite.
“Elizabeth” called Aliza in this, lives in a world were monsters are real. Her father works for the Lord Merybourne, who, when faced with Gryphon attacks, hires Riders to free his land. Darcy, one of the great dragon lords, arrives, and as expected, is appalled at the backwater hillbilly-invested land he’s been hired to protect.
The story faithfully follows the P&P narrative, with enough fresh twists (and dragons) to make it a stay-up-late-too-see-what-happens sort of read. Yes, we know Aliza and Darcy get together in the end – but how? That’s what matters – that and, does she ever get to rid the Dragon?
If you enjoy fantasy worlds and/or P&P, this is the book for you!

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN:978-0-06-245194-1
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 8-20-2017
Pages: 336

Monday, November 6, 2017

Review: Watership Down by Richard Adams

Synopsis: A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for more than forty years, Richard Adams's Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England's Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society. (from the online description)

Review:  I read this is as part of a GroupRead on Instagram. I’d never read the book, only seen (and be traumatized) by the cartoon.
This book is magical. Part folk tale, part adventure, a bit grimdark, realistic but not gritty, it has both sunlight and shadow. It’s hard to classify, to pin to a genre. I’m not sure I would let kids read it and yet, it is just the sort of books kids ought to read.
Hazel, and his friend Fiver, leave their warren after Fiver has a vision of death and danger. They travel across the wide Downs, in search of a place to live. Along the way, they face hardship, adventure, and find other rabbits who also wish to live in safety and peace.
Their story is interspersed with Rabbit folktales, about their mythology and gods, their beliefs and faith. It’s fantastic and gives their culture so much life.
I recommend this book. Older kids and teens will enjoy  it, but I would say for young kids (elementary age) that a parent should read-a-long. There is death and blood and terror at some parts that might require a parent’s guidance. But there is light and wonder and magic and love as well, and it is worth the time.  

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-380-000293-0
Year Published: 1972
Date Finished: 8-21-2017
Pages: 478

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Review: Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold (Vorkosigan Series, Book 2)

Synopsis: Sick of combat and betrayal, Cordelia Vorkosigan is ready to settle down to a quiet life. But when the Emperor dies, her husband Aral becomes guardian of the infant heir to the imperial throne of Barrayar and the target of high-tech assassins in a dynastic civil war. But neither Aral nor Cordelia can guess the part that their cell-damaged unborn will play in Barrayar's bloody legacy. (from the online description)

Review: Cordelia Vorkosigan, now married to the Regent of Barrayar, is thrust into the politics of a culture and country that is still foreign to her. In the midst of this, Cordelia discovers she is pregnant.
Bujold created in Cordelia, a complex character, fierce but fair, mother and solider, intelligent and kind, uncompromising but gentle, logical but not cold. Watching her navigate the unfolding events in the story made me wish she was real!
The story itself was face-paced – within a few pages, Bad Things happen and challenges arise that threaten the stability of her new home and her family – and endanger the life of her child. The plot was plausible, action-packed, with just the right amount of suspense, and a healthy dose of humor.
And the ending (which I won’t spoil) – Gah! I cheered out loud! Cordelia was so freaking bad-ass!
Read this – particular if you enjoy stories with well-rounded female characters. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: Hugo Award for Best Novel, 1992; Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, 1992; Nominated for Nebula Award for Best Novel, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-72083-X
Year Published: 1991
Date Finished: 8-10-2017
Pages: 389

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Review: The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains by Dr. Robert Lustig

Synopsis: While researching the toxic and addictive properties of sugar for his New York Times bestseller Fat Chance, Robert Lustig made an alarming discovery—our pursuit of happiness is being subverted by a culture of addiction and depression from which we may never recover.         
Dopamine is the “reward” neurotransmitter that tells our brains we want more; yet every substance or behavior that releases dopamine in the extreme leads to addiction. Serotonin is the “contentment” neurotransmitter that tells our brains we don’t need any more; yet its deficiency leads to depression. Ideally, both are in optimal supply. Yet dopamine evolved to overwhelm serotonin—because our ancestors were more likely to survive if they were constantly motivated—with the result that constant desire can chemically destroy our ability to feel happiness, while sending us down the slippery slope to addiction. In the last forty years, government legislation and subsidies have promoted ever-available temptation (sugar, drugs, social media, porn) combined with constant stress (work, home, money, Internet), with the end result of an unprecedented epidemic of addiction, anxiety, depression, and chronic disease. And with the advent of neuromarketing, corporate America has successfully imprisoned us in an endless loop of desire and consumption from which there is no obvious escape.           
With his customary wit and incisiveness, Lustig not only reveals the science that drives these states of mind, he points his finger directly at the corporations that helped create this mess, and the government actors who facilitated it, and he offers solutions we can all use in the pursuit of happiness, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. Always fearless and provocative, Lustig marshals a call to action, with seminal implications for our health, our well-being, and our culture.

Review: I was eager to read this book after listening to Lustig’s lecture, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, given ad part of the Series: UCSF Mini Medical School for the Public, in 2009. I found his work intriguing and enlightening.
This book further explored the issue of sugar in our diet, but tied it to the larger issue – how corporations use our brain chemistry to modify our behaviors and entice us to buy their products. Lustig takes us through the two separate pathways in our brain – Dopamine (Pleasure) and Serotonin (Happiness), explaining how each is vital to our life, but can also be used to make us want things that aren’t good for us.
It’s a convoluted subject, making the narrative seem repetitive at time – but it’s required to explain the topic properly. The text has more pop-culture slang and jargon than one usually finds in science texts. It was a bit distracting, as if Lustig was trying to make it “down-to-earth”. But it didn’t.  Despite this, I have recommended this book to several people and will continue. It’s an important idea to consider! 

Note: I received this free as part of the Early Reviewers Program on LibaryThing, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-101-98258-7
Year Published: September 2017
Date Finished: 7-31-2017
Pages:332

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Review: Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Synopsis: There hadn't been any trouble out at the lake in years. Sunshine just needed a spot where she could be alone with her thoughts for a minute. But then the vampires found her . . . Now, chained and imprisoned in a once-beautiful decaying mansion, alone but for the vampire, Constantine, shackled next to her, Sunshine realizes that she must call on her own hidden strength if she is to survive. But Constantine is not what she expected of a vampire, and soon Sunshine discovers that it is he who needs her, more than either of them know. (From the online description)

Review: A vampire book unlike any I've read. This work is an intoxicating swirl macabre romance, sweet baked goods, family, magic, horror, and love. Sunshine, a baker for a local coffee house, is content with her life, elbows deep in cinnamon buns, lying in sunshine, and time with her family and boyfriend. But when she meets Con, the magic inside her explodes and she must find a place in her old world for the new her.

McKinley, once again, pulls the reader into a world that is both strange and familiar. She doesn’t baby the reader, tossing out slang (for this world) and mentioning events that seem recognizable to all but the reader. It’s a bit frustrating at first but once you slip into the world, it because easy.

This is a must-read for any Vampire affectionaido, one of the great modern classics of the genre.
I am desperate to return to this world, to her the story of Sunshine’s father, to see where she goes after these events. Hopefully, McKinley will have pity on us all and write a sequel. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature in 2004.

ISBN: 978-0-425-22401-4
Year Published: 2003
Date Finished: 7-3-2016
Pages: 405

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

Synopsis: When Cordelia Naismith and her survey crew are attacked by a renegade group from Barrayar, she is taken prisoner by Aral Vorkosigan, commander of the Barrayan ship that has been taken over by an ambitious and ruthless crew member. Aral and Cordelia survive countless mishaps while their mutual admiration and even stronger feelings emerge. (from the online description)

Note: This edition contains the short story Aftermaths.

Review:  With a feisty, complex heroine and a stalwart hero, this book is fun and engaging. It read more like a sci-fi romance, which I found amusing, consider I didn’t realize the genre stretched by to the late 80s/early 90s. As for the story, it’s lovely, with just the write about of romance, science, action, and adventure. It was a bit darker than I anticipated, in particular how it did not shy away from the realities of war. The only part the was hard for me what the romance, actually – it happened too quickly for my taste, but that’s my only true complete about the story

As for the short story included, it was superb. One of the best I’ve read in a long time. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5 / 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-671-7287-2
Year Published: 1986
Date Finished: 6-24-2017
Pages: 313

Monday, August 7, 2017

Review: Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Synopsis: On the world called Hyperion, beyond the reach of galactic law, waits a creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope—and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands. (from the online description)

Review: I had a hard time getting into this. Divided into several shorter stories, each told from a different character,  helped a bit, but the description of technology, or lack of, muddled me horrible. I often got lost trying to figure out the jargon and missed the story. Still, once I got into it, I was hooked and enjoyed the complex world-building, the mystery, the creepiness of the Shrike, and the character. However, the ending was not acceptable. It just...ended! Only after I discovered that the author actually wrote this and the Fall of Hyperion as ONE STORY but the publisher released it as two stories. I understand as the single volume would have been enormous but still - not cool, man.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: Hugo Award Winner, 1990

ISBN: 0-553-28368-5
Year Published: 1989
Date Finished: 6-13-2017
Pages: 482

Review: The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House Books by Marta McDowell

Synopsis: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House series is a classic coming-of-age story based on Wilder’s own family and the pioneer spirit of the time. Deeply rooted in the natural world, Wilder describes the plants, animals, and landscapes in such detail, they are practically their own characters. The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by New York Times bestselling author Marta McDowell, explores Wilder’s deep relationship with the landscape. Follow the Wilder’s wagon trail starting in the Wisconsin setting of Little House in the Big Woods, through the Dakotas, and finally to Missouri. You’ll learn details about Wilder’s life and inspirations, discover how to visit the real places today, and even learn to grow the plants and vegetables featured in the series. The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a must-have treasure celebrating the American landscape through Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beautiful and wild life with original illustrations by Helen Sewell and Garth Williams and lush historical and contemporary photographs. (from the online description)

Review: With simple prose and lovely pictures, author Marta McDowell takes the reader through the ecology, botany, and agriculture that formed the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. From the sloughs of South Dakota to the apple orchard of Missouri, McDowell shows us the world Laura saw and loved. Laura loved farm life – planting, growing, raising chickens, harvest. She found great beauty and peace in the slow cycle of seasons. McDowell does an excellent job of comparing Laura’s real life to her books, and showing the reader where real life made the books richer and fuller. She also focuses heavily on the farm Laura and Almanzo create in the Ozarks, and uses detailed record kept by the Wilder’s to demonstrate their love of the earth and all growing things.
As a want-to-be Gardener and an avid Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, I found this book a delightful read. It intrigued me to read about her life, her garden, her farm, and the things she loved – what flowers and plants and vegetables she grew. I highly recommend as a must for any Wilder-lovers library and an enjoyable read for any historical gardener. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-60469-727-8
Year Published: 2017
Date Finished: 6-18-2017
Pages: 376

Acquistions: August Book Haul

I ONLY SPENT $2.00! Mostly because I got several books free. FREEEEEE!!!

River Town: Two Years on the Yanztee by Peter Hessler

Hank Zipzer: Day of the Iguana by Henry Wrinkler

The Hacking of the American Mind by Robert Lustig (Library Thing Early Review)


The Twilight Saga (Box Set) by Stephanie Meyer (Someone left this bitch in the TRASH! Whaaaa?)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Acquisition: June Book Haul

Most of these were purchased early in the month, at a book sale. I have no regrets.

Total: $34.38

The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

Devils and Demons: A Treasure of Fiendish Tales Old and New ed. by Marvin Kaye

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Giant Days Volume 1 by Allison, Treiman, Cogar, et al

The Black Company by Glen Cook

The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Battletech: The Warrior Trilogy, Vol. 2, Riposte by Michael A. Stackpole


The Powers That Be by Anne McCaffrey

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: Giant Days, Volume 1 by John Allison, Whitney Cogar, Lissa Treiman

Synopsis: Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of hand-wringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery-mold, nu-chauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive. Going off to university is always a time of change and growth, but for Esther, Susan, and Daisy, things are about to get a little weird. (from the online description)

Review: Advertised as a “slice-of-life” comic (so, no superheroes, aliens, or strange mystical beings), this story follows three young women as the go to University. And as you would expect, things go awry.
With warmth, humor, and a keen eye for the details of a first semester at college, the author draws the reader into a world both familiar and new. He accurately captures the uncertainty, the bravado, and the wonder of being a new at college. I particularly enjoyed the complexity of the characters and their relationships, the situations they find themselves, and how they solve the problems they often encounter.
The art is bright, bold, and expressive, and is as much a part of the story as the words. Entertaining and thought-provoking, with flawed, endearing characters and engaging stories, this is worth reading.  
Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: Two Eisner Awards and Four Harvey Awards (2016)

ISBN: 978-1-60886-789-9
Year Published: 2015
Date Finished: 6-10-2017
Pages: 56

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Birthmarked by Carah O'Brien (Birthmarked Trilogy, Book One)

Synopsis: In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the wall and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife, Gaia Stone, who live outside. Gaia has always believed it is her duty, with her mother, to hand over a small quota of babies to the Enclave. But when Gaia's mother and father are arrested by the very people they so dutifully serve, Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught to believe. Gaia's choice is now simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying. (from the online description)

Review: Set in a future earth, where water is scarce and supplies limited, Gaia lives on the outside of the Enclave. As a midwife, she is bound to take a quota of the babies she delivers and give them as tribute to the people inside. But it isn’t until her parents disappear and she goes searching for them, that she learns why.
I won’t spoil the story here, but I will say, this was a decent read, neither bad nor good. The world-building is an intriguing blend of science fiction, with some living in primitive style and some living in high tech wonder. The idea of women forced to surrender their children gives the story an emotional edge. But the characters lacked depth, often one-dimensional, and the plot seemed contrived and forced at points.
I finished the book and it end feeds directly into the next in the trilogy. But I wasn’t hooked enough to read the next of the series.
Readers of Young Adult fiction will enjoy this, as it has a similar premise (strong female protagonist fighting evil to save family) as many of the most popular YA books. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-312-67472-4
Year Published: 2010
Date Finished: 6-4-2017
Pages: 361

Monday, June 5, 2017

Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Synopsis: By 2021, the World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remain covet any living creature, and for people who can’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, birds, cats, sheep. They’ve even built humans. Immigrants to Mars receive androids so sophisticated they are indistinguishable from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans can wreak, the government bans them from Earth. Driven into hiding, unauthorized androids live among human beings, undetected. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and “retire” them. But when cornered, androids fight back—with lethal force. (from the online description)

Review: I watched Bladerunner recently, and figured it was about time I read the story it was based on. All I have to say is – WTF? The book and movie, aside from sharing androids and Deckard, are NOTHING alike!
The book is a confusing mash of philosophy, angst-ridden introspection, and reflections on a religion/cult of empathy that makes very little sense to me, yet seemed integral to the story. I never did understand Rachel’s connection to the escaped androids, or what the Rosen family had to do with them. 
In the end, I gathered one of the more obvious points of the story – Deckard felt sympathy for electric sheep, but not the androids he “retired”. As the story progresses, he sees this hypocrisy in his life along with the realization that he can’t continue as a bounty hunter if he feels empathy for his quarry.
But as for the philosophy points of the story, I didn’t understand them. Some of the story was confusing and made no sense, and the whole Mercer thing was weird. It all, it was a depressing view of the future, but not an unlikely one, sadly. 

Bookmarks: 3 of 5

Awards:  1968 – Nebula Award nominee, 1998 – Locus Poll Award, All-Time Best SF Novel before 1990 (Place: 51)

ISBN: 978-0-07-756623-4
Year Published: 1968
Date Finished: 5-31-2017
Pages: 244

Review: Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World by Karen Ehman

Synopsis: Our culture is self-obsessed – in our schedules, relationships, and especially online. (Can you say selfie?) But in this near-narcissism, people are less content than in decades past. Why? Because we forgot the joy that comes from putting others first. Doing so requires us to live alert, listening for “heart drops,” hints from those in our lives who need a helping hand or a generous dose of encouragement. Living alert lifts our own spirits, showing us that blessing others blesses us even more. Listen, Love, Repeat offers biblical teaching and suggests doable actions that are simple, heart-tugging, sentimental, even sneaky and hilarious. This message:
 • Presents scriptural examples of those who lived alert, including Jesus, who noticed those who least expected to be seen.
 • Explains the role of good works for followers of Christ. They aren’t our ticket to heaven but they are our marching orders on earth.
 • Gives creative ideas for showing love to friends and family, and suggests practical ways to reach out to the lonely, the marginalized, the outcast, and the odd duck. Additionally, it helps you comfort the grieving, showing what you can do when you don’t know what to say.
• Provides inspiration for blessing the “necessary people” in your life, those often-overlooked souls who help you get life done every day, and teaches you how to hug a porcupine by genuinely loving the hard-to-love.
 As we scatter love, we create a safe space where we can openly share the gospel. We get to see lives changed right before our eyes. Most importantly, Listen, Love, Repeat will enable you to live a life that is full of kind deeds, not to selfishly shout, “Hey! Look at me!” but to humbly implore, “Will you look at Him?” (from the online description)

Review: This was recommended to me by a woman at church.
I found Erhman’s advice well-stated and important. We do live in a self-centric society and as Christians, this is opposite from how Christ instructs us to live. Erhman’s advice to listen to others, intentionally listen, to learn how to love that person in specific ways, excellent to hear. Her examples should the positive impact we can have just doing small things. Her admonition to not worry about a perfect home but to create  welcoming space is important in the day and age of pinterest and Martha Stewart. Her chapter on loving those who grieve offered important advice and should be heeded by all.
But again, I have the same problem with her work as with most books aimed at Christian women. This book felt like it was only for the White Upper-Class Women in an Emergent Christian Church. Many of her idea cost money, and women with low-incomes are worried just about feeding their own families and keeping a roof over their heads, not whether their towels all match. This felt very rich white American to me, and while that particular demographic will benefit from hearing this advice, it unsettled me.
My other concern is that many of these ideas are highly suitable for Extroverts or Social Butterflies (she admits she is one) but for the Introvert or Socially Shy, many of us would rather crawl across the desert on glass than engage in so much social interaction. Thankfully, she doesn’t condemn those who may not feel comfortable being so social, and even those of us who may quake inside at the idea of speaking to strangers will find good advice here about being intentional towards other people. We don’t need to host large parties, but writing cards, leaving secret gifts and other behind-the-scenes actions are there for us as well.
In the end, there is nothing heretical or untrue, no egregious deviation from the Gospel, and her genuine desire to encourage other to love those around them in evident. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-310-33967-0
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 5-28-2017
Pages: 251

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Review: Pirates: From Blackbeard to Walking the Plank by David Pickering

Synopsis: A quick, easy-to-read guide about real Pirates, their history, ships, methods, and eventual demise.

Review: With thick glossy pages and bright illustrations, this reads more like an encyclopedia of Pirates than a textbook. The pages are color-coded according to subject, making it easy to find the precise bit of information one wants. It starts with the history of Pirates (going back to before the Pyramids) and ending with modern piracy in the waters around Africa and South Asia. The book covers many of the most well-known Pirates, their ships, hide-outs, and methods. The information is not in-depth nor is the prose complex, making it perfect for elementary age children interested in Pirates. Adults may use this as a starting point for further reading.

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-06-124172-7
Year Published: 2006
Date Finished: 5-28-2017
Pages: 254

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Acquisition: May Book Haul

This month was moderate. I managed to purge 50+ books from my collection. But it was also, Free Comic Book Day and there was a Library Book Sale ($6 a Bag), so, yea....

In all, I purchased 42 books, although several of them were single issue comic books. And not included in this list is the pile of free comic books I picked up in our loot-quest on Free Comic Book day.

I spent a total of $33.38

The Reality Matrix by John Dalmas

Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

The Last Argument of Kinds by Joe Abercrombie

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest

ShipBreaker by Paulo Bacigalupi

The Mammoth Book of Black Magic ed. by Mike Ashley

Aladdin and Other Tales for the Arabian Knights by Aon.

Hammer's Slammer by David Drake

Ligh Brigade, Volume One by Peter J. Tomasi and Peter Snejbjerg

Teen Titans: A Kid's Game by Geoff Johns and Mike McKone

Can't You Sleep, Little Bear by Martin Waddell

Anne and The Old One by Miska Miles

Complete Tales and Poems  by Edgar Allan Poe

Hellbent  by Cherie Priest

A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski

Two Years Before the Mast by R. H. Dana

The Thousand and One Nights by Aon.

Wolf Pack (Battletech) by Robert Charrette

D.A. by Connie Willis

The Girl with the Golden Eyes by Honore de Balzac

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan

Does Christianity Teach Male Headship: The Equal-Regard Mariage and Its Critics by David
Blankenhorn, Don Browning, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen

A Thousand Signs, A Thousand Revolts by Christiane Bird

Schott's Original Miscellany by Ben Schott

The Town Beyond the Wall by Elie Wiesel

This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti

Piercing The Darkness by Frank E. Peretti

Irredeemable, Volume One by Mark Waid, et al

Irredeemable, Volume Two by Mark Waid, et al

Irredeemable, Volume Three by Mark Waid, et al

Irredeemable, Volume Four by Mark Waid, et al

Irredeemable, Volume Five by Mark Waid, et al

Irredeemable, Volume Six by Mark Waid, et al

Archer and Armstrong, Volume One: The Michaelangelo Code by Fred Van Lente  (Author), Clayton Henry (Illustrator), Pere Perez (Illustrator), Matt Milla (Illustrator). 

Review: Sherlock, Lupin, & Me: The Dark Lady by Irene Adler

Synopsis: While on summer vacation, little Irene Adler meets a young William Sherlock Holmes. The two share stories of pirates and have battles of wit while running wild on the sunny streets and rooftops. When Sherlock's friend, Lupin, joins in on the fun, they all become fast friends. But the good times end abruptly when a dead body floats ashore on the nearby beach. The young detective trio will have to put all three of their heads together to solve this mystery. (from the online description)

Review: As a Sherlock junky, I excitedly picked this up when I found it at a used bookshop. Sadly, it was trite, boring, and not well researched.
The story plodded on and on, with all the action happening in the last chapter. It took forever to get to some of the clues and then – bam! – all the mystery solved in about three pages. And it was easy – no big reveal, no unmasking the culprit, just a very, “oh and, you’re the bad guy.” The mystery itself (who killed the dead guy) was boring and I honestly wasn’t very interested in the outcome.
In addition, the characters often used modern slang or syntax; there was a lack of attention to historical details or the social conventions of the time, and even the correct food! It was frustrating to someone who values historical accuracy in a novel.
If you are looking for mystery stories for kids, this is not the book for you. There are far better ones out there. 

Bookmarks: 2.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4342-6526-5
Year Published: 2011 (2014 in English)
Date Finished: 5-25-2017
Pages: 238

Friday, June 2, 2017

Review: Can't You Sleep, Little Bear by Martin Waddell and Barbara Firth

Synopsis: It's Little Bear's bedtime and he can't sleep because the bear cave is too dark! Will Big Bear find a way to help Little Bear sleep?

Review: These books are too adorable, sweet, and fun. This particular story is perfect for bedtime. Little Bear is afraid of the dark, but with Big Bear's help, he finds the light and safety enough to sleep soundly. With Firth's adorable and perfect illustrations, this story is a must for any child's collection.

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-56402-262-5
Year Published: 1988 (U.S. Version, 1994)
Date Finished: 5-25-2017
Pages: 32

Review: The Girl with the Golden Eyes by Honore Balzac

Synopsis: The story follows the decadent heir Henri de Marsay, who becomes enamored of the titular beauty, Paquita Valdes, and plots to seduce her. He succeeds but becomes disillusioned when he discovers she is also involved with another lover and so plots to murder her. When he arrives to kill her, he discovers that she is already dead by the hand of her lover, his half-sister. She declares that Paquita came from a land where women are no more than chattels, able to be bought and used in any way. In the last lines of the story, de Marsay tells a friend that the girl has died of "something to do with the heart." (from the wikipedia page)

Review:  After reading Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie, I determined to read Honore Balzac myself. It seemed prudent to begin with a slim volume, or I might be compelled to finish a book I loathed. I’m thankful I did. Balzac writes in style similar to Salman Rushdie (bleck) or Tolstoy, where I’m certain they are saying Very Important Thing About Life, but even should my breath depend on it, I cannot comprehend the word
This story was composed entirely of tedious prose interspaced by the occasional bright flash of violence or lust, only to drop immediately back into excessive verbiage. Only by reading an outside synopsis was I able to pick out the plot of the story. Most of the book was devoted to a dull, pretentious, philosophical expose of the people who inhabit Paris.
Per my rule, I shall give Balzac on more try. I own a large novel of his and will eventually read it. But I am reluctant to waste time on a writer whose style I already know I do not enjoy. 

Note: I have chosen a picture of an original illustration for the first printing of the book instead of the cover. There are many covers, ad the story has long by out of copyright. 

Bookmarks: 2.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-7867-0561-2
Year Published: 1835 (Trans. in 1998 by Carol Cosman)
Date Finished: 5-23-2017
Pages: 119

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: D.A. by Connie Willis

Synopsis: Theodora Baumgarten has just been selected as an IASA space cadet, and therein lies the problem. She didn't apply for the ultra-coveted posting, and doesn't relish spending years aboard the ship to which she is assigned. But the plucky young heroine, in true Heinlein fashion, has no plans to go along with the program. Aided by her hacker best friend Kimkim, in a screwball comedy that has become Connie Willis's trademark, Theodora will stop at nothing to uncover the conspiracy that has her shanghaied. (from the inside flap of the book)

Review: More of short story or novella than a full novel, this is an amusing sci-fi tale. Theodora Baumgarten is hilarious. Smart and snarky, she has no interest in the IASA, unlike nearly everyone else she knows. So when she is chosen, having not even applied, she is furious. Using her mind and sheer stubbornness, she sets about to get herself kicked out. But her quest leads her to a conspiracy – a conspiracy that just might be the best thing to ever happen to her.
Although it started a bit slow, the story picked up quickly by the middle. Theodora’s antic made me laugh several times, in particular her snarky mouth towards the IASA students and faculty. And her brilliance at discovering the “secret” was exciting and humorous. I very much enjoyed the big reveal at the end, and found it a satisfying end to this light, enjoyable story. Perfect for a quick read and the content is suitable for elementary kids and up. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-59606-120-0
Year Published: 2007
Date Finished: 5-22-2017
Pages:




Saturday, May 27, 2017

Review: The Arrangement by Mary Balogh

Synopsis: Desperate to escape his mother’s matchmaking, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, flees to a remote country village. But even there, another marital trap is sprung. So when Miss Sophia Fry’s intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian’s home, Vincent is compelled to act. He may have been blinded in battle, but he can see a solution to both their problems: marriage. At first, quiet, unassuming Sophia rejects Vincent’s proposal. But when such a gloriously handsome man persuades her that he needs a wife of his own choosing as much as she needs protection from destitution, she agrees. Her alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. But how can an all-consuming fire burn from such a cold arrangement? As friendship and camaraderie lead to sweet seduction and erotic pleasure, dare they believe a bargain born of desperation might lead them both to a love destined to be? (from the online description)

Review:  Intrigued by a romance novel with a blind hero, I picked this up with interest. It was typical of your Regency Romance novel, with only a few things that lifted above mediocrity.
I commend Balogh on how she wrote her hero. Vincent is blinded in battle at 17, and spends three years recovering at the home of his friend, a Duke, who opened his home to wounded officers after the death of his own son in the Napoleonic Wars. Balogh captures the nature of suddenly going blind well – the PTSD, the panic attacks, the reactions of others to his sudden disability, and his own character growth. It was well done and at points his reactions elicited strong emotions from me.
But sadly, this excellence didn’t bring the story much above ordinariness. Too many titled people, bland sex scenes, and slightly unbelievable actions on the part of the hero and heroine. Some of Balogh’s secondary characters had more complexity than one normally finds in romance novels (not surprising given that most of them star in their own stories later), but others were like stock romance novel characters.
Overall, this is a mindless read, fun and relaxing, without anything to sway it towards either good or bad. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-345-53587-0
Year Published: 2013
Date Finished: 5-22-2017
Pages: 380

Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: Archer and Armstrong, Volume One: The Michelangelo Code by Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry, Matt Milla

Synopsis: It's history in the breaking! After years of meditation and training, 18-year-old Obadiah Archer has been dispatched to New York City to carry out the sacred mission of his family’s sect — locate and kill the fun-loving, hard-drinking immortal known as Armstrong! But as this naive teenage assassin stalks his prey, he’ll soon find that both hunter and hunted are just pawns in a centuries-old conspiracy that stretches from the catacombs beneath Wall Street to the heights of the Himalayas. And Archer & Armstrong will have to work together if the future is to stand any chance of surviving the past’s greatest threat! (from the online description)

Review: Another title by Valiant comics recommended by RedStarReviews, I wasn’t sure what to expect, knowing nothing about this particular title.
What I got was a fantastic story, with humor, mystery, romance, and action galore.
We start with Obadiah Archer, raised in a fantastic culture-like family, who sets out a Righteous Quest, bestowed by his Parents, to kill the harbinger of doom. A harbinger who happens to be a licentious, hard-drinking, hard-partying immortal named Armstrong. The interaction between the uptight, self-righteous, trained assassin Archer and the foul-mouthed, fornicating, Armstrong is hilarious – and endearing.
Events twist to force them to work together and they form a formidable duo. And it is a good thing too, as the world is about to end in fire and blood, caused by some nasty villains.
With strong lines and bold colors, the art enhanced the story in a positive way. Adding in witty dialogue and lots of good fight scenes and you get a highly enjoyable story all around.
Excellent read, worth the time. I’m eager for the next volume. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: IGN People's Choice Award for Best New Comic Series (2012), 2014 Harvey Award Nominations [Most Promising New Talent: Pere Perez, Best Continuing or Limited Series, Special Award for Humor in Comics

ISBN: 978-0-979-6409-88
Year Published: 2013 (Collects Archer and Armstrong, #1-4, 2012)
Date Finished: 5-18-17
Pages: 98

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: Archer and Armstrong, Volume Two: The Wrath of the Eternal Warrior by Fred Van Lente, Emanuela Lupacchino, Guillermo Ortego (L)

Synopsis: Not even time itself can escape the Eternal Warrior! No one in the Valiant Universe is more terrifying, more dangerous, or more experienced in the art of war than the undying Eternal Warrior. After thousands of years on the battlefield, he's a master of strategy and weaponry, an unrelenting force of nature capable of dismantling entire armies with little effort and less conscience. His brother Armstrong, on the other hand, likes to read poetry and drink beer. Maybe that's why they had such a bad falling out? But now — after years apart — the Eternal Warrior has a new mission: destroy young Obadiah Archer, Armstrong's best-est new buddy and teammate in the war against The Sect. And, like it or not, Valiant's history-smashing adventure duo is about to feel the wrath of the Eternal Warrior's fist and steel. (from the online version)

Review: The crazy opposite-attracts duo is back! In the last volume, Archer and Armstrong saved the world – but may have gotten themselves into even more hot-water when they accidentally kill a VIP – a VIP with an immortal solider for a guardian. With said warrior hunting them, bound by revenge, they have no choice but to search the globe for the one person who can stop the solider. But that person may not be who they think – and may not be ready to wield the power she will need to stop the world from ending. Again.
In this story, we get to see more of the relationship between Archer and Armstrong. Armstrong, having lost what he cared for most, lived a life of detachment, never forming relationships. In Archer, he seems to have found some redemption for that, being like a father or older brother to the young assassin. As for Archer, his sheltered life left him ill-prepared for the world. He relies are Armstrong to help navigate. It’s a fantastic relationship.
As for the new characters, they both are wonderfully complex and entertaining. I won’t explain them to prevent spoilers, but I enjoyed the action and dialogue immensely. Witty, sarcastic, hilarious, lots of fights and big reveals, saving-the-world-at-the-last-moment. Such a fun story!
Highly recommend. You won’t be sorry!

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978193946049
Year Published: 2013 (Collects Archer and Armstrong #5-9, 2012)
Date Finished: 5-18-2017
Pages: 125

Review: Witchblade, Volume One: The Witch Hunt by Ron Marz and Mike Choi (L)

Synopsis: Sara Pezzini awakens from a coma and begins anew with a new partner, new precinct, and a new understanding of the Witchblade.

Review: I've been a fan of Witchblade since I first watched the TV show, and the anime is my most favorite of all time. But this is the first of the comic books I've been able to get my hands on.
Told with strong lines and dark colors, this has the perfect feel for the story. As a wielder of the Witchblade, Sara Pezzini is sarcastic, bold, and brave. In particular, I was thankful she didn’t “whine” about having the blade, but neither did she glory in it. She accepted it as part of her life and used it as she needed to, to save the world. The relationship between her and her partners had a distinct tone of equality. I was particular glad no Love Triangle developed, but it remained a professional relationship through the entire story. Fast paced, with actions, demons, and smart-ass quips, this was a fun read. I most certainly plan on reading more.

If you are interested in a thought discourse on the assumed misogyny in Witchblade, I recommend this article by Dr. Brad Hawley, of Emory University.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-58240-906-1
Year Published: 2008
Date Finished: 5-17-2017
Pages: 198

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: Captain Marvel, Volume One: Higher, Further, Faster, More by Kelly Sue DeConnick, David Lopez, et al. (L)

Synopsis: Hero! Pilot! Avenger! Captain Marvel, Earth's Mightiest Hero with an attitude to match, is back and launching headfirst into an all-new ongoing adventure! As Captain Marvel, a.k.a. Carol Danvers, comes to a crossroads with a new life and new romance, she makes a dramatic decision that will alter the course of her life - and the entire Marvel Universe - in the months to come. But as Carol takes on a mission to return an alien girl to her homeworld, she lands in the middle of an uprising against the Galactic Alliance! Investigating the forced resettlement of Rocket Girl's people, Carol discovers that she has a history with the man behind the plot. But when the bad guy tries to blackmail Carol and turn the Avengers against her, it's payback time! Guest-starring the Guardians of the Galaxy! (from the online description)

Review: What a fun, fantastic read! This is my first exposure to Carol Danvers and it will not be the last. She is just my sort of superhero – snarky, bad-ass, brash, and brave. I enjoyed this story immensely, in part because of DeConnick excellent writing. The art was strong and bold, suiting the action and dialogue perfectly.
What I enjoyed most about the story was Danvers’ imperfections. DeConnick wrote her as one who is still sorting out what it means to be a hero, whose personal life is a bit tangled, who makes bad choices like we all do, and who hasn’t found her clear direction yet. This gave Danvers a complexity and endearment I don’t normally see in comic books. I like the idea of not every hero being the perfect diplomat, or person, or fighter – but a human, with all our nonsense and mistakes and imperfections.
Worth reading, for the appearance of the Guardians alone, but more so for Carol Danvers and her adventures. With humor, emotion, and action, DeConnick writes us a fantastic story. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7851-9013-4
Year Published: 2015 (Collected Captain Marvel, #1-6, 2014)
Date Finished: 5-16-2017
Pages: 98

Review: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, The Deluxe Edition by Grant Morrison (L)

Synopsis: A time-spanning graphic novel featuring Bruce Wayne's return to Gotham City to take back the mantle of Batman written byaward-winning writer Grant Morrison and illustrated by a stable to today's hottest artists including Chris Sprouse, Frazer Irvingand Yannick Paquette. This is the final chapter of the epic storyline that began in the best-selling graphic novels, BATMAN:R.I.P. and FINAL CRISIS where the original Batman was lost in time after being bombarded with the omega beams of evil Des-pot,Darkseid and continued in BATMAN & ROBIN: BATMAN REBORN where Dick Grayson, the original Robin, tookover wearing the cape and cowl of the Dark Knight after the world's heroes believed his mentor to have died. (from the online description)

Review: In Morrison’s Batman and Robin Arc, we get one side of the story – Alfred, Dick, and Damien following the clues left through history. In this story, we get how the clues were left – but Bruce Wayne. Tossed through time by Darkseid, Bruce is speeding towards the end of time. When he gets there, he will have accumulated enough energy to blow reality to pieces. From the end of time, the Justice League works to stop him, and as he moves through history, Bruce leaves clues, clues intended to lead his friends and colleagues to the answer.
While I enjoyed the story, in particular, how we once again see the genius of Bruce Wayne, I found some parts of it hard to follow. I think the story leads itself to repeated readings, with layers and twists and turned intended to grab the attention of the reader. After reading the Batman and Robin arc, it was intriguing to see how Bruce left the clues that Alfred, Dick, and Damien found. And the ending was truly excellent, fitting a story about Batman.
Excellent story, worth reading. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4012-2968-9
Year Published: 2011 (Collected from Stories Published in 2010)
Date Finished: 5-14-2017
Pages: 98

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: Batman & Robin Arc by Grant Morrison et al. (Batman Reborn, Batman vs. Robin, Batman and Robin Must Die)

Synopsis: With Batman dead, Richard Grayson sets aside the mantle of Nightwing and becomes Batman, with Damien Wayne, Bruce's heir, as Robin. Still shocked by the loss of their father and mentor, Dick and Damien take on the challenge of maintaining Batman's presences in Gotham, even as the tide of crime rises and those once cowed by Batman rise up. Will Dick be able to fill the place of Bruce? Will Damien choose to stay instead of returning to his mother, the assassin Talia Al’Gul?  And what about the clues left in the Wayne manor – clues that point to a very much alive Bruce Wayne?

This arc is comprised of three volumes, Batman Reborn, Batman vs. Robin, Batman and Robin Must Die

Review: Over all, this is a fantastic arc. We get to see Dick try to be Batman and Damien dealing with the death of his father in the only way he knows how – through violence. The story focuses somewhat on the relationship between Dick and Damien, as they navigate how to relate as family and as crime fighting partners. They don’t have much time to work this out as, the criminal element of the world has flooded into Gotham, filling to vacuum that Batman left. With addictive drugs, crazed butchers, and the Joker loose, Dick and Damien find out being Batman isn’t as easy as Bruce made it look.
Woven through all of this is the mystery of Wayne Manor – clues and symbols woven through time that lead Alfred, Dick, and Damien to believe that perhaps – Bruce isn’t dead after all. But is it Bruce, or some demon summoned by the Wayne Ancestors.
The reason the last volume gets a lower rating is the art. The style seemed off, boxy and Avant Garde, instead of dynamic. It was jarring to the eye and it detracted from the story instead of enhanced it. But overall, the art brought the story to life, using clear lines and dark tones – fitting for a Batman story.
An enjoyable read and one vital to the story of Batman. 

Bookmarks:   4 of 5 / 4 of 5 / 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4012-2987-0 /  978-1-4012-3217-9 / 978-1-4012-3508-6
Year Published: 2010-2012 (Collecting Issues from 2009-2012)
Date Finished: 5-11-2017 / 5-14-2017 / 5-14-2017

Pages: 105 / 98 / 98

Review: Batman R.I.P. by Grant Morrison, Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea, Lee Garbett, Trevor Scott (L)

Synopsis: The troubled life of Bruce Wayne seems to spin out of control when his relationship with the mysterious Jezebel Jet deepens. Soon Bruce Wayne drops out completely, having seemingly become the victim of mental illness and abandoning his Batman identity for a life on the streets of Gotham City. Capitalizing on the fall of their greatest foe, the Club of Villains begins a crime spree through the streets of Gotham that threatens to bring the city to its knees. (from the online description)

Review: I enjoy Grant Morrison's Batman stories. He seems, more than most, to understand the depth of the darkness in Batman, and how Bruce and Batman are actually two different people. In this, however, he takes that darkness further. And once again, we see why Batman is the most powerful hero of them all. Not because of his strength or money - but because of his mind. Batman’s ability to out-think his enemies will always be the reason he triumphs.
With dark tones and shadowy lines, the art in this comic complimented the story well. In particular, I enjoyed the change we see come over Bruce as his mind shifts from Bruce to Batman and back. Excellently done.
This is a vital part of the story arc and well worth reading

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4012-2090-7
Year Published: 2009
Date Finished: 5-10-2017
Pages: 189