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 RĂ­os (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.


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