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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Review: Final Crisis by Grant Morrison, J.G. Jones, Doug Mahnke (L)

Synopsis: What happens when Evil Triumphs? The Anti-Life Equation. The ultimate weapon. A mathematical formula created by the lord of evil Darkseid that will overthrow reality and dispel the very concept of free will by enslaving all those exposed to it.
Following the final battle of the New Gods, Darkseid tumbles through time, coming to rest on Earth where he gathers together a cast army of super villains tasked to eliminate the greatest threats to his plan. Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Batman, Superman, and many more of the universe’s greatest heroes will be drawn into the most important battle they will ever face, as time and space is sucked out of existence and the very fabric of reality is fading away. (from the back of the comic book) 

Review: The end is nigh and all the Heroes of the Universe must stand against Darkseid. Told with bright, splashy art, complex lines, and creative use of panels, this fast-paced action-heavy story takes us with all the Heroes (and Villains) as they battle to save the very fabric of reality.

The story was a bit confusing at times. It felt large leaps where made that left the reader attempting to fill in the gabs. But that aside, this is a terrifying story of ultimate control and what it will cost to free the world. Heroes die. Those that should fight, don't. Betrayal and death abound. It's a tense story and worth reading, with depth and complexity. But has a lack of cohesion that detracts from what could have been THE story in the DC Universe.

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-40124-5177
Year Published: 2014 (Collects Stories from 2008, 2009, 2012)
Date Finished: 5-10-2017
Pages: 312

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review: Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits by Matt Fraction (Author),David Aja (Illustrator) etc,

Synopsis: Artist David Aja returns to the most critically acclaimed comic of 2012, as ace archer Clint Barton faces the digital doomsday of - DVR-Mageddon! Then: Cherry's got a gun. And she looks good in it. And Hawkeye gets very, very distracted. Plus: Valentine's Day with the heartthrob of the Marvel Universe? This will be...confusing. Marvel architect Matt Fraction continues his exciting, adventurous reinvention of the arrowed Avenger! (from the online description)

Review: I admit, I didn’t enjoy this as much as Volume One. I found the story confusing, jumping back and forth, with a hard to follow line.
The art was fine, but it didn’t help sort the story. Same with the dialogue. A few hilarious lines and panels, but with the jumping back and forth from the story, it didn't help the reader stay with the story.
Over all, disappointing. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0785165637
Year Published: 2013
Date Read : 5-8-2017
Pages: 138

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review: Ida B by Katherine Hannigan

Synopsis: Ida B. Applewood believes there is never enough time for fun. That's why she's so happy to be homeschooled and to spend every free second outside with the trees and the brook. Then some not-so-great things happen in her world. Ida B has to go back to that Place of Slow but Sure Body-Cramping, Mind-Numbing, Fun-Killing Torture—school. She feels her heart getting smaller and smaller and hardening into a sharp, black stone. How can things go from righter than right to a million miles beyond wrong? Can Ida B put together a plan to get things back to just-about perfect again? (from the online description)

Review:  Ida B. is a precocious, imaginative, 9-year-old, living the “Righter than Right” life, homeschooled, on her parents farm. But when Bad Things happen, she is sent to school. Feeling betrayed by her parents, Ida B. shuts herself off from others, stuffing her heart “behind her left knee” and refusing to let anyone in – not Mrs. W, her new teacher, not Ronnie , a classmate, or Claire, a girl who offers her friendship, or even the brook or the trees or the mountain she called friends.
Told in simple, lyrical prose, Hannigan lets us walk with Ida B. as she struggles with a heart “going hard and black” as Ida B. puts it. Despite Ida B.’s age, it was easy to identify with her. Every one of us has been in a place of hurt and confusion, were it feels easier to lock away our heart, to be mean, to push others away, then to face the hurt and forgive. Hannigan does an exceptional job of captureing that experience exactly and leading Ida B. (and the reader) to the only true conclusion.
My only qualm with this book is Ida B. is rather self-aware for a fourth-grader. Smart, yes, and well-read, and given plenty of time to think might do it, but it still felt as if an adult inhabitant that small frame.
This is an excellent book for kids dealing with life-changing events in their family, or who struggle with forgiveness (both forgiving others and asking for it). This is a sweet, easy-to-read book that handles a complex subject well. Worth Reading. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-06-073024-2
Year Published: 2004
Date Finished: 5-3-2017
Pages: 246

Review: Pretty Deadly, Volume Two: The Bear by Kelly Sue De Connick (Author), Emma Ríos (Artist)

Synopsis: Having assumed Death's mantel, Sissy, along with Death's daughter Ginny, must seek out errant Reapers, long left scattered and wild, and return them to the fold. In the mortal realm, the children of a dying Sarah Fields beg Death for one more full moon so she may see her youngest son and say goodbye. Little do they know, young Cyrus is far away, caught up with the Reaper of War, who threatens to conquer the world.

Review:

Note: May Contain Spoilers

We open shortly after the first volume. Sissy, having taken over the mantle of death, sends Alice and Ginny to capture errant Reapers, who have long run wild without the careful attention of Death.
One reaper, in particular, The Reaper of War, who rides the Reaper of Fear, has started the War to End All Wars.  And young Cyrus, the son of Sarah Fields, is trapped in a trench; face the brutal world created by the Reaper of War.
In particular, what I enjoyed about this story was the idea of Reaper. Each Reaper has a particular type or kind of Reaping. Ginny is the Reaper of Vengeance, Alice the Reaper of Cruelty. But another, he is the Reaper of Grace. The idea that each reaper is give task to reap a certain type of person and to reap in a certain way – it’s so brilliant it hurts!
Told with stark reds and blacks, stylized lines, and creative use of the panels, this story is dark, bloody, full of terror – and hope. There is a beauty to the death, to the madness, a sense of right and order, even in the midst to the pain. To read it, is like reading poetry about death.
Excellent, worth reading.
This is suitable for high school age children and up. There is limited language and sexual content, but extensive violence and blood. This is not a happy book. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-63215-694-5
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 5-2-2017
Pages: 98


Review: Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

Synopsis: Gender Roles have bee debated for centuries, and now Sarah Bessey offers a clarion freedom call for all who want to realize their giftedness and potential in the kingdom of God. Through a thoughtful review of biblical teaching and church practices, Bessey shares how following Jesus made a feminist out of her. (from the back of the book)

Review: I find this book complicated to review. My own experience with books of this sort is often disappointment and anger. This has made me wary and cynical of Christian books written for the Western Middle-Class White Christian Female.
Bessey is tackling an issue discussed ad nauseum in the Christina world. And honestly, she added no new insight to the argument. That isn’t to say her words aren’t good or true. But they are weaker versions to arguments already posed in stronger and better supported words than hers.
She spends more time than needed speaking about the emotions of women – a pet peeve of mine. Most Christian Women’s books are emotion-based and rarely (if at all) does one find a book written for Christian women with an intellectual or logical base. It’s frustrating and more than a little damaging, in my mind. And yet, in some ways, she speaks out against the typical Christian women’s route – speaking about how we often simply “churchify” things of the world. I appreciate her remarks on this. She encourages women to seek out places to serve other women – in homes for teen moms, pregnancy resource centers, and medical missions’ trips. This is a good thing and worth writing.
This book affirms women as beloved by God and for some, may offer healing from hurt caused by prideful men in the Church. There is nothing heretical about her assertions; indeed, her arguments for women serving as leaders in the church is too weak to offend. But she offers no new angle or evidence for women in the church. This book will help some and for that, I would recommend it. But if you are looking for strong declarations of women’s place in the church, other books might be more suitable. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1725-8
Year Published: 2013
Date Finished: 5-9-2017
Pages: 236

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Volume Two by Kyle Higgins (Author), Hendry Prasetya (Illustrator)

Synopsis: As Rita enacts her plans for world domination, the Rangers are left powerless and without Zordon to call on. This is the greatest threat they have ever faced and the world hangs in the Balance.

Review: I’m late to the Power Ranger fandom, having only started watching the show as an adult (thanks to my marriage to a hardcore PR fan). Over all, I always found it a fun idea, but the execution on the TV show dumped it down, made it cheesy, and removed all the best parts.
Enter the comic. Here the Power Rangers are everything I wanted them to be in the show: strong, smartass, teens dealing with conflicts between themselves and the burden of saving the world. Rita is actually a bit scary.
With classic art, suitable coloring, and creative use of the panels, this comic draws you into a darker world of Power Rangers than the white-washed TV show. Here, Power Rangers fail. Here, Power Rangers can die.
This is the second volume in the series and maintains the darker tone, action, and personal conflicts introduced in the first. Worth reading, particularly for any Power Ranger fan.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-60886-92-8
Year Published: 2017
Date Finished: 5-2-2017
Pages: 98

Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (L)

Synopsis: Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are. But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.(from the online description)

Review: Nimona follows the adventures of the title character as she joins the designation villain of the Country as his sidekick. It seems a simple story but as it continues, it grows in depth and complexity. Who, after all, is the real villain? Who – or what- is Nimona, and why is she with Blackheart?
While the plot is fast-paced and intriguing, with action and humor, it is the characters and their relationships that make this graphic novel so brilliant. From the first, Stevenson subverts the tropes and gives the characters a depth of personality that makes you hang on every frame. I desperately wanted a happy ending for them.
Stevenson’s art is crisp and clear and I grew to appreciate the choice of colors. It’s highly stylized and has a pleasing simplistic to it. The focus is on the characters and dialogue, not splashy colors or complex designs.
A fantastic read, all around.
It is suitable for middle-age children and above, although younger readers may benefit from guidance from an older reader due to the serious nature of some of the plot. There is no overt gore or sexual content.  

Bookmarks:  4 of 5

Awards: National Book Award, Finalist

ISBN: 978-0-06-22782-7
Year Published: 2015
Date Finished: 4-30-2017
Pages: 320

Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff (Author, Illustrator)

Synopsis: Lovable ne'er-do-well Delilah Dirk is an adventurer for the 19th century. She has traveled to Japan, Indonesia, France, and even the New World. Using the skills she's picked up on the way, Delilah's adventures continue as she plots to rob a rich and corrupt Sultan in Constantinople. With the aid of her flying boat and her newfound friend, Selim, she evades the Sultan's guards, leaves angry pirates in the dust, and fights her way through the countryside. For Delilah, one adventure leads to the next in this thrilling and funny installment in her exciting life. (from the online description)

Review: With bright drawings, fun dialogue, and excellent action, Tony Cliff takes the reader on the mad-capped adventures of Miss Delilah Dirk. Set in the early 19th century, Miss Dirk travels through exotic cities among strange people – and often, steals their shit. It’s hilarious. In the first mad adventure, she meets Selim. Together, they travel far and help each other escape certain death.
This is a humorous adventure story, fast-paced, with lots of imagination. But this doesn’t mean it lacks depth or heart. It has both a plenty. Dirk is a fun, reckless, caring young woman, fearless and bold, whose troubles are often caused by her desire to help others. Selim is a timid man, just trying to survive, when Dirk cashes (literally) into his life and he finds something he didn’t know he needed. I was grateful their relationship stayed platonic.
This is suitable of elementary age kids and up. There is no sexual content and the violence is of the Saturday Morning Cartoon variety, with little or no blood or other graphic content.
This is the first in a series and I’m eager to join Ms. Dirk and Selim on more of their wild adventures!

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards:  A Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book of 2013 / A Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book of 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59643-813-2
Year Published: 2013
Date Finished: 4-27-2017
Pages: 189

Review: Shadowman, Volume One: Birth Rites by Justin Jordan (Writer), Patrick Zircher (Ilustrator), Brian Reber (Color) (L)

Synopsis: There's a million dreams in the Big Easy. But now its worst nightmare is about to come true. As the forces of darkness prepare to claim New Orleans as their own, Jack Boniface must embrace the legacy he was born to uphold. As Shadowman, Jack is about to become the only thing that stands between his city and an army of unspeakable monstrosities from beyond the night. But is the mantle of Shadowman a blessing, or a curse? And what is the true cost of his otherworldly power? (from the online description)

Review: A fellow bookstagramer (redstarreviews) recommend Valiant comics to me and I was immediately drawn to Shadowman. The idea of a voodoo gods and heroics together sounded intriguing. I was not disappointed.
There is a mystery surrounding Jack Boniface, a mix of terror and blood, lost amulets, dead parents and the legacy of the Shadowman. Not all gets explained in this story but enough so you aren’t left bereft and unfulfilled.
The art was crisp and clear, and the colors were vibrant, blood so red it seems wet on the page. The subtle swirls of black, grey, and purples made the other world chilling and horrific. The artists and colorists captured New Orleans well – I could almost smell it. The story was fast-paced, tense, and dark. I actually worried for the good guys. All around, an enjoyable graphic novel, with one hell of a central character. I will most defiantly be ready more of this story.  

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-9393-4600-1
Year Published: 2012
Date Finished: 4-29-2017
Pages: 115

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Review: Batman: Year One by Frank Miller (Writer), David Mazzucchelli (Illustrator), Richmond Lewis (Colorist)

Synopsis: Batman: Year One originally appeared in issues #404 to #407 of the comic book title Batman in 1987. As well as recounting Batman's early crime fighting career, the story simultaneously examines the life of recently transferred officer James Gordon - eventually building towards their partnership.

Review: This was written as part of a DC reboot in the mid-2000s. While most of the other superheros got full-rewrites, DC felt that Batman's origin story didn't need much changing. But they did want something gritty and dark - enter Frank Miller. Miller brought his trademark dark noir to Batman and it made for excellent reading.
We’re used to a Batman with experience – but here, we see a Bruce Wayne, still finding his place as Batman. Here we see Gordon, a street-cop, working his way through the corruption around him. We see Batman make mistakes. We see Gordon do the same. We see two men, both wanting to change the world, but unsure of the right path. It’s everything you want from a Batman comic – blood, danger, dark people, darker deeds. I enjoyed it immensely and highly recommend it as must-read for any Batman fan. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: IGN Comics, Number 2 of 25 Greatest Batman Graphic Novels

ISBN: 978-1-4012-0752-6
Year Published: 2005
Date Finished: 4-25-2017
Pages: 119

Acquisition: April Book Haul

I did not do as well this month as April. In fact, I did not do well at all.

But I regret nothing! Muaahahahah

I spent $31.45 for a total of 16 books.

This is what I bought:

Kris Longknife: Unrelenting by Mike Shephard

The Baker's Daughter by D. H. Lawrence

An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist by Richard Dawkins

Documents of the Christian Church by Henry Scowcroft Bettenson

We Few by David Weber and John Ringo

Mission of Honor by David Weber

Path of the Fury by David Weber

At All Costs by David Weber

War of Honor by David Weber

A Rising Thunder by David Weber

The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson

Pretty Deadly, Volume Two: The Bear by Kelly Sue De Connick (Author) and Emma Rios (Artist)

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Serpant's Shadow (The Kane Chronicles, Book Three) by Rick Riordan

The Sword of Summer (Magus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book One) by Rick Riordan

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (L)

Synopsis: Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon. The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They'll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She'll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she'll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free. In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery - and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu. But Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full. (from the back of the book)

Review: This book. I was not prepared for how intense this book is. It starts with the methodical and sinister conquering of Baru’s homeland, not by military might, but by money. Brilliant and bold, she determines to avenge her family and home by gaining power. And gain she does. Using her mind, she masters the financial aspects of the conquering Empire and is appointed a powerful spot over another conquered land. But there, there she encounters forbidden love, rebellion, treachery, and worst of all – her own weakness.
It’s hard to review without spoiling the story. The beginning, telling of her rise to power, mostly covers political maneuverings and the economics of the new land. Dickinson’s world building here is fantastic – complex, intriguing, detailed, rich, and vibrant – and disturbing. The Cold Cellar and the Masks and the Eugenics and the Hygiene. There is almost a touch of horror to the prose.  It is a fantasy world with touches of steampunk. In this world, instead of magic, there is science. And those that control science use it to horrible ends. As Baru becomes entangled in the politics, the story picks up. And what happens from there is thrilling, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, and terrifying. 

Worth reading, but not for the faint of heart. The end left me devastated; my mind a torrent of emotions. Excellent story-telling. Read it!

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7653-8072-2
Year Published: 2015
Date Finished: 4-24-2017
Pages: 399

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Review: Batman: Gothic by Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson

Synopsis: Collection of Batman: Legends of the Dark Night, #6-#10.

Review: A single story, this follows Batman as he confront a strange evil from his past, and his own darkness within. It has an 80s feel to it (being that is was published in 1990), with garish colors, big hair, roughly drawn art, and the occasional cheesy dialogue. This doesn't distract from the story or the art, and both are entertaining and engaging. Excellent for any Batman fan, and a classic comic book, worth reading.

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4352-1000-4
Year Published: 1990 (Collected in 2007)
Date Finished: 4-24-2017
Pages; 98


Review: Serenity, Volumes 1-4 (Those Left Behind / Better Days and Other Stories / The Shepherd's Tale / Leaves on the Wind) by Joss Whedon et al.

Synopsis: A collection of stories, both before and after Serenity (movie), and bridging between the show and the movie.

Review: After the cruel and heart-wrecking cancelation of Firefly, many of us were left desperate to know about how our anti-heroes fared in the ‘verse. Thankfully, Whedon and Co. stepped in to tell us. These four volumes, spanning the time before Firefly to long after Serenity, are extensions of the bigger story. From the Shepherd’s background, to general mayhem, to what happened after Serenity, these stories carry us back to that world and those people whom we loved so much.
Most reviews are meant to either deter would-be readers or entice – but truthfully, I seek to do neither. If you are a Firefly fan, you’ll read these, because they are cannon. They are the stories we would have seen on TV and didn’t get to because FOX is an asshole. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 9789-1-59582-914-6 / 978-1-59582-739-5 / 978-1-59582-561-2 / 978-1-61655-489-7
Year Published: 2005-2014
Date Finished: 4-24-2017
Pages: 350 (Total)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Review: Hawkeye, Volume One: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction (Writer), David Aja, Javier Pulido (L)

Synopsis: The breakout star of this summer's blockbuster Avengers film, Clint Barton - aka the self-made hero Hawkeye - fights for justice! With ex-Young Avenger Kate Bishop by his side, he's out to prove himself as one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes! SHIELD recruits Clint to intercept a packet of incriminating evidence - before he becomes the most wanted man in the world. You won't believe what is on The Tape! What is the Vagabond Code? Matt Fraction pens a Hawkeye thriller that spans the globe...and the darkest parts of Hawkeye's mind. Barton and Bishop mean double the Hawkeye and double the trouble...and stealing from the rich never looked so good. (from the online description)

Review: After seeing several panels from this comic, I wanted to read the entire story. I was not disappointed. Hilarious, with simple, expressive art and coloring, and a action-based plot. It’s perfect – exactly how I imagine Hawkeye. Fraction brilliantly captured Clint Barton. With a story balanced between humor and suspense, action, romance, and a pizza dog – this is a perfect comic. I enjoyed it immensely and will definitely read the rest.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7851-6562-0
Year Published: 2014
Date Finished: 4-21-2017
Pages: 70

Review: Justice League, Volume One: Origin by Geoff Johns (Author), Jim Lee (Illustrator), Scott Williams (Illustrator) (L)

Synopsis: In a world where inexperienced superheroes operate under a cloud of suspicion from the public, loner vigilante Batman has stumbled upon a dark evil that threatens to destroy the earth as we know it. Now, faced with a threat far beyond anything he can handle on his own, the Dark Knight must trust an alien, a scarlet speedster, an accidental teenage hero, a space cop, an Amazon Princess and an undersea monarch. Will this combination of Superman, The Flash, Cyborg, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Aquaman be able to put aside their differences and come together to save the world? Or will they destroy each other first?

Review:  Having seen the movie (Justice League: War), I wanted to read the source material. With bright colors and detailed action shots, this is a fantastic comic. I enjoyed the witty dialogue, the action, the plot, and the art. The authors and artists capture the personalities and responses of each superhero accurately and I enjoyed reading this. I will definitely read the next in the series.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4012-3461-4
Year Published: 2012
Date Finished: 4-20-2017
Pages: 192

Friday, April 28, 2017

Review: Pretty Deadly, Volume One: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos

Synopsis: Death's daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father. Her origin story is a tale of retribution as beautifully lush as it is unflinchingly savage.

Review: I knew this was dark going in, but holy schmoly! With vivid reds, fire-burnt oranges, and smoky blacks, with a poet’s words and a vindictive hand, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos, give the reader a bloody, gut-wrenching tale about Death and the Mason and the Woman and the Daughter. Part western, part folktale, part gothic story, with the same creepy taste as Poe and Lovecraft, we follow the Mason as he travels the wide west, his companion a small girl wearing the Vulture Crown. Who she is and why she matters, and why the lady in white with the habit of dying wants her dead and the lady with the scull painted on her face wants her alive - well, read the tale to find out!
Perfect for anyone who enjoys Macabre or Gothic tales, the Grimdark or the Bloody, this is the book for you. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards:  Eisner Awards in 2014: DeConnick for Best Writer, Rios for Best Penciller/Inker and Best Cover Artist, and Jordie Bellaire for Best Coloring.

ISBN: 978-1607069621
Year Published: 2014
Date Finished: 4-21-2017
Pages: 120

Review: Bronze and Sunflower by Wenxuan Cao (Author), Meilo So (Illustrator), Helen Wang (Translator)

Synopsis: When Sunflower, a young city girl, moves to the countryside, she grows to love the reed marsh lands - the endlessly flowing river, the friendly buffalo with their strong backs and shiny round heads, the sky that stretches on and on in its vastness. However, the days are long, and the little girl is lonely. Then she meets Bronze, who, unable to speak, is ostracized by the other village boys. Soon the pair are inseparable, and when Bronze's family agree to take Sunflower in, it seems that fate has brought him the sister he has always longed for. But life in Damaidi is hard, and Bronze's family can barely afford to feed themselves. Will the city girl be able to stay in this place where she has finally found happiness? (from the back of the book)

Review: This is a sweet and lyrical tale, part folktale, part myth, part historical fiction, part children’s adventure. With simple prose, the author takes the reader through the history of Sunflower, as she follows her father to the Cadre School. During the Cultural Revolution in China, her father, an artist, is sent to the country to be “educated” in the ways of the simply farmer. His named his sweet and shy daughter for his favorite flower. When he dies, she is sent to live with a nearby country family, who’s only child, a boy named Bronze, is mute. There, through the seasons and cycles of the village, Sunflower and Bronze, brother and sister, face with courage, wisdom, and love the many trials that come upon them.
I would highly recommend this for children. It is an honest book. It doesn’t pretend that life on a farm wasn’t hard, that starvation and death aren’t real. But it does show that family and love are what helps us survive. In addition, the exposure, in a colorful, honest way, to the life in China during this time is perfect for young minds. Enough explanation is given to open up understanding but not overwhelm with useless facts. The story deftly weaves bits of Chinese culture into the narrative and it is excellently done, gibing a clear picture of the wonderful and fascinating world.
Worth reading. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: Hans Christian Andersen Award


ISBN: 978-1406348460
Year Published: Chinese (2015) / English (2017)
Date Finished: 4-18-2017
Pages: 400

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Synopsis: Twenty-five years have passed since humanity quarantined the mysterious aliens known as Moties within the confines of their own solar system. They have spent a quarter century analyzing and agonizing over the deadly threat posed by the only aliens mankind has ever encountered-- a race divided into distinct biological forms, each serving a different function. Master, Mediator, Engineer. Warrior. Each supremely adapted to its task, yet doomed by millions of years of evolution to an inescapable fate. For the Moties must breed-- or die. And now the fragile wall separating them and the galaxy beyond is beginning to crumble. (from the online description)

Review:  As the sequel to the Mote in God’s Eye, I was excited to return to this universe. Mote was a fine book, a little slow, but fantastic, easy to see what it won all those awards. This one – not as much. First, it starts very slow, a rounding up of all the previous characters. The main character this time isn’t Lord Blaine, but Bury, the merchant, magnet, and now, spy to the Empire. His PTSD from his time with the Moties leads to strong paranoia about them – and it serve the Empire well. The Moties are close to breaking the blockage and it is up to Bury to use all his power to convince the right people to prepare before it is too late.
We get to meet Lord and Lady Blaine’s children and a few other new characters, and revisit old ones too. However, the story moves slowly. So much time spent on the characters speaking yet very little development or action. The action takes place at the end, and will intriguing, by the time I got there, I just wanted the story over. There are some tense parts (being the very real dangers the Moties present) but those don’t make up for the tedious back and forth of nothing.
Sadly, this doesn’t live up to the first novel, although it is part of the series and worth reading if you enjoy hard science fiction with strong conflict and real moral dilemmas. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN:0-671-79574-0
Year Published: 1993
Date Finished: 4-17-2017
Pages: 413

Friday, April 21, 2017

Review: Bound by Blood and Sand by Becky Allen (L)

Synopsis: Jae is a slave in a dying desert world. Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free. Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well. But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn. Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the realm’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever. (from the online description)

Review: I picked this from the Library, after reading the first few pages as a sample. I was intriguing by the premise and expected it to be interesting, but your typical YA angst.
It was a bit more. Allen delves deeper into slavery and elitism, oppression and rebellion. She very much demonstrates the idea that Winners Write History, and what that means for the Losers of the conflict. The character developed is solid, and the romance isn’t obnoxious or overshadowing of conflict. And the Jae, she isn’t perfect or all-powerful. She isn’t always good. She is a hurt, abused, slave who finds herself in possession of unheard of power – and finds herself tempted to use it for revenge. The plot is fast-paced and well-done, despite relying on a few forced spots or coincidences to move things forward. The world building is complex enough to enjoy, but not so convoluted as to lose the reader.
It must be noted this is Allen’s first published book. It lacks the polish and finesse of more experience writers. However, her second book comes out in December, and I am certain as time goes and she gains experience, we will seem fantastic stories come from her mind. I look forward to reading them. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-101-93214-8
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 3-30-2017
Pages: 320