Sunday, October 25, 2015

Courtney Crumrin's Monstrous Holiday (Courtney Crumrin, #4) by Ted Naifeh

Courtney Crumrin's Monstrous Holiday (Courtney Crumrin, #4)Courtney Crumrin's Monstrous Holiday by Ted Naifeh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Courtney goes with her great-uncle Aloysius on a trip to Eastern Europe. Of course, she manages to get herself in trouble, fighting for the underdog, including a patch of Gypsy werewolves, one of which is in love with a landowner's daughter. Oh, did I mention that Courtney has a boyfriend! But it's not as good as it sounds. Because her boyfriend is a vampire, and he's draining Courtney of her lifeforce and humanity. Courtney feels so disconnected and apathetic, this isn't sounding so bad to her. But her uncle loves her deeply, and he's not about to lose her to a creature of eternal darkness.

I think this might be my favorite in the series. I hope I am able to continue reading. I think my library is all out of these. Darn!

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Baltimore, Vol. 5: The Apostle and the Witch of Harju by Mike Mignola, Ben Stenbeck (Illustrations), Christopher Golden (Goodreads Author), Peter Bergting

Baltimore, Vol. 5: The Apostle and the Witch of HarjuBaltimore, Vol. 5: The Apostle and the Witch of Harju by Mike Mignola
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This volume has a super high creep factor. Anything with secret/demonic cults I find very disturbing. We meet an order of Christian knights who are trying to do what Baltimore does, but they are quite in over their heads. We also learn the fate of one of Baltimore's greatest adversaries (not the Vampire he hunts, mind you). There's some werewolf thrown in and not a little bit of blood and gore. Definitely one of the darkest volumes in a series that ain't exactly light reading. It was very good, despite all that. I hope Mignola keeps writing about Baltimore.

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Baltimore, Vol 4: Chapel of Bones by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden (Goodreads Author), Ben Stenbeck (Illustrations), Dave Stewart (Illustrations)

Baltimore, Vol 4: Chapel of BonesBaltimore, Vol 4: Chapel of Bones by Mike Mignola
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series definitely takes me to that classic horror mood that I enjoy. To me, classic horror is the best horror there is. The modern-style stuff doesn't do it for me. I think Mignola and I have a meeting of minds on that. It's evident in his work. Baltimore is a man on a mission, and nothing will divert him from it. There are revelations about Baltimore and this story takes us full circle as it revisits a crucial scene from Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire. Again, it's an opportunity to see Baltimore through the eyes of others, and to try to understand his motivations. These books are very dark, but very fascinating. The artwork is excellent, even with the limited color palette.

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Nightmares! by Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller (Goodreads Author), Karl Kwasny (Illustrations)

Nightmares! (Nightmares!, #1)Nightmares! by Jason Segel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a neat little audiobook. I know Jason Segel as an actor, but he's a pretty good writer as well. It was a nice bonus that he narrated the story. I only gave it three stars because it wasn't ground-breaking for me. I thought it was a cute idea, and I liked the message about conquering your deepest fears, and dealing with grief. I felt bad for Charlie's step-mother, whom he treated really awfully, because of the fact that she wasn't his mother and his dad and brother seemed to be moving on and he wasn't. I actually thought stepmom Charlotte was pretty interesting. I would have liked more interactions between her and Charlie, especially more positive when he dealt with his issues towards her. Ultimately, this never got to the point that I didn't want to turn it off when I had something else to do.

The nightmare world was a bit creepy. The descriptions and the characterizations of the the nightmare realm were on point. I think for a young reader, it might be genuinely scary. Some of the nightmare characters were actually the real draw of this book, like Meduso and his mother (you know who). And who would have thought a clown would be a good guy (yes I do have a bit of coulrophobia).

I think this is one you definitely want to get the audiobook for. I think it's the best way to experience this book.

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The Valiant by Matt Kindt (Goodreads Author) (Writer), Jeff Lemire (Writer), Paolo Rivera (Illustrator)

The ValiantThe Valiant by Matt Kindt
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I liked this more than I thought I would. The storyline is pretty complicated and dark, with an immortal warrior facing an invincible enemy of darkness, seeing countless people dying. This time, he has formidable team mates working on his side, for reasons of their own.

Of course, my favorite character is the nanobite infected, anmesiac soldier, cause that's how I roll.

It was weird, but the art was good, and the story was interesting. I would read more of these, of there are more.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Irredeemable, Vol.8 by Mark Waid

Irredeemable, Vol. 8Irredeemable, Vol. 8 by Mark Waid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh man. Waid is without limits. I can't believe that some of the things are happening in this book. It's like a superhero fiction reader's worse nightmare. Some major comic book storylines have flirted with the idea of absolute power corrupting absolutely, but Plutonian is relentlessly evil and corrupt, both morally and mentally/morally. Unfortunately, there seems to be no contenders who can really take him on, because of their own issues or limitations. I had hoped that Plutonian would turn out to be his own worst enemy, but it seems as though he's found his feet after the last volumes. If something doesn't change, this may turn out to be one of the most tragic graphic novel series I've ever read. It's really hard to process this story, and it makes writing a review rather hard.

I'll take a bit of a break before I read Volume 9.

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Velvet, Vol.2: The Secret Lives of Dead Men by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting (Illustrator), Elizabeth Breitweiser (Illustrator)

Velvet, Vol. 2: The Secret Lives of Dead MenVelvet, Vol. 2: The Secret Lives of Dead Men by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This second volume steps up the intensity by a big leap. Velvet is back in the game, and she has her former employees on her tail, not to mention the traitor who is trying to frame her. "The Secret Lives of Dead Men" delves deeper in Velvet Templeton's past, and her secret hurts. The reader learns that she has more than one reason to take her betrayal personal, and also we see how she embarks on the life of a spy at a young age. While Velvet can hold her own, the reader sees that she has vulnerabilities just like any other human being, despite her formidable skills.

This is fine storytelling with excellent art. I think this would be an awesome movie or limited tv series. Velvet is an excellent role for an older (fortyish actress), and she'd not only get to show some real dramatic acting, but also plenty of buttkicking.

This book has a heck of a cliffhanger that has me waiting with baited breath for the next installment.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dark Dream by Christine Feehan

Dark Dream (Dark, #7)Dark Dream by Christine Feehan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a meaty little short story. It definitely has an insta-love vibe, I think most out of all the Carpathian novels. But the story has a lot to offer despite that. Falcon is one of the original Carpathian warriors sent out by the previous Prince Vladimir, which means he's at least a thousand years old. It's amazing that he's held onto his honor and Carpathian sense of ethics and not turned vampire. I like to think that the fact that Sara was out there in the future was one of the reasons he didn't give in, but he's very, very close to turning when he senses his Lifemate. Sara has been stalked by a vampire who killed her whole family for fifteen years. She's stayed one step ahead of him, traveling the globe and helping orphaned children. She meets Falcon and he realizes that she's his lifemate. She realizes that he's the male she's been in love with since she found his journal on one of her archaeologist parent's digs. The romance part is the easy part. The difficult part is keeping Sara safe from the vampire.

This book is full of action and some horror elements with the despicable vampire and his zombie-like human servants. While I like the romance aspects, I find the whole Carpathian culture thing very interesting. It was great to touch base with with Mikhail and Raven and Jacques and Shea. Jacques is a lot more stable than he once was. He's definitely benefited from having a lifemate in Shea. I read this after reading Dark Descent, out of the Dark Nights book. Feehan is developing the whole storyline about the Carpathians trying to find a reason for their infertility and infant mortality, and slowly but surely recruiting assets in their cause. Gary shows up briefly, and it's making me excited to read Dark Promises.

I have no issues with this book. It was a solid read.

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Velvet, Vol. 1: Before the Living End by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting (Illustrator), Bettie Breitweiser (Illustrator)

Velvet, Vol. 1: Before the Living EndVelvet, Vol. 1: Before the Living End by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Velvet is the Real Deal!!!

I picked this up because I have enjoyed other volumes by Brubaker. He definitely has the noir, crime story vibe down. This book is about a woman who everyone has been overlooked because she's the Moneypenny (as in Miss Moneypenny from the James Bond series). Nice to flirt with, make travel arrangements, and take notes in the meetings for her Director. She holds the keys to the kingdom in that way that Executive Assistants often do, but not who you would consider a field agent. Well, they learn quite to their surprise that still waters run deep. This woman is a serious bad*ss! When one of the field agents get killed and the frame starts to fit Velvet Templeton, she goes off the reservation and puts herself back into active service. It turns out she's one of the most lethal agents her agency ever ran.

I'm a huge spy fan. I especially love action-oriented spy stories. While I will occasionally sit down and watch a movie like "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (admittedly for Benedict Cumberbatch), I prefer spy stories with lots and lots of action. This one doesn't disappoint. And I love that the beginning is a bit of a misdirection. You think this is about the boys, but nope. This woman gives the boys a run for their number. Keep reading and you realize exactly why this is called "Velvet."

I loved this book. It's violent and has some sexual content, but nothing I couldn't handle. I'm giving Velvet a high-five. She's definitely a Grade A Kickbutt Artist, and she knows her spycraft just as well as James Bond. If things had went differently, perhaps Sydney Bristow might have ended up like Velvet. I'm reading Volume 2 right now and it's probably even better!

This so needs to be a movie one day!

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's been a long while since I read this, but I remembered absolutely loving it. My memories were correct. In fact, I read every book by Diana Wynne Jones I could get my hands on growing up. I've finally gotten a chance to reread this, and I'm glad I choose the audiobook format. Jenny Sterlin was brilliant. She utilizes her voice distinctly for the varied characters. She even makes a distinction between Old Sophie and New Sophie very well. I recommend listening to the audio if you have a chance.

Howl is a real character. He's what you would rightly call an amiable rogue. Howl's imperfections are very much part of his charm. I liked how Sophie spent most of the book annoyed with Howl, but you could tell that she had fallen in love with him. She was awful jealous."I think she doth protest too much." Howl will admit that he's a coward, and he's extremely vain. He's not above manipulating people. But Sophie is a perfect match for him. She doesn't put up with his bull, but at the same time, she's good for him and both Michael, his apprentice.

I love Sophie. She's an awesome character. What pluck despite her timidity and low self-esteem. I liked how as she was under the old age spell, she came into her own and it's understandable. She was freed from the fears and restrictions that had ruled her life as the Oldest Daughter. The older you get, the less you have to lose, and the more you are willing to call it like it is, but also you realize that life is valuable and each moment could be your last. Sophie comes into her own and realizes that she has a unique ability to create magic of her own.

Calcifer is a character. He's a fire demon who has made a pact with Howl. He pretty much runs the castle, and he's incredibly grumpy about it. You could tell that Sophie and Calcifer grew quite fond of each other.

One of the things I love about fantasy most is the world-building and the way that the imagination has free reign. The descriptions of things that are completely imaginary and even from our normal lives, but with an interesting twist. Ms. Wynne Jones knew her fantasy and I could see how influential she was to Neil Gaiman as an author. That twisted convergence of fantasy and the lightest edge of the horrific. The Witch of the Waste is on the periphery of this novel, but she's a disturbing presence. Also, she's a cautionary tale to those who are corrupted by magic.

There's nothing to complex about this story. But simplicity can be gorgeous, and a well-told story outweighs author tricks that pad a novel unnecessarily. I consider this a fantasy classic.

**A note about the movie:

I do so much love the Anime version of this. It's gorgeous, and I can watch it again and again! There are some changes between it and the novel, but it's a great adjunct and exploration of the novel in a visual format. Definitely recommend it, but the source material is where you want to start. Read this book!

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Sunday, October 04, 2015

Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom by Ted Naifeh

Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom (Courtney Crumrin, #3)Courtney Crumrin in the Twilight Kingdom by Ted Naifeh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book essentially about being an outsider and being misunderstood by everyone. That's the story of Courtney Crumrin's life. Her parents don't understand her at all. She's considered the weird kid at school. When she goes back to visit her parents, she reconnects with her former best friend, and they have grown apart. He's fallen in with a bad crowd, and though Courtney tries to save him, she can't save their friendship.

I could intensely identify with Courtney in the sense I was not a popular kid. I was picked on a lot growing up. One thing that I feel was a real blessing about it, was I learned to embrace the fact that you are your own person and you can make decisions for yourself and do your own thing. Like Courtney, it made me feel lonely at time, but there were consolations.

When Courtney gets back to her Uncle Aloyisus' house, she has to deal with the popular kids of the warlock families. They take bullying to a new level when they cast a spell of one of them's younger brothers. While Courtney would rather not get involved, she knows that she has to do something to help the kid, who was turned into a Night Thing. As since she has personal experience with the Twilight Kingdom, of course she has to lead the expedition to get him back.

This book is also about making good choices. Doing the right thing even when it's hard and the rewards seem nebulous. Courtney is not what I'd call a girl scout, and she did something really bad to get revenge (or in her mind, so see justice done), she hasn't completely lost her moral compass. I liked that about this book. And of course, the Faerie elements.

I like the way Courtney is drawn. She's sassy, with her little bat barrette and Gothesque outfits. She's kind of like Daria in the way she expresses herself.

I'm really starting to like this series more. It's not an upbeat read, mind you, but it's atmospheric, and you can't help but like Courtney.

This is all in black and white, but it shows how much you can really do with chiaroscuro (light and dark shading). I'm sort of lazy when it comes to it, but it challenges me to work on this technique.

I would exercise caution if I was a parent of a prospective child reader. You might want to read this first. Some subject matter and themes are not appropriate for younger readers. I would say this is 11 and older.

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Rock Hard by Nalini Singh

Rock Hard (Rock Kiss, #2)Rock Hard by Nalini Singh
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Finally have time to write this review. I was skeptical about Nalini Singh's re-embarkation into contemporary romance, especially since I am not into the rock star sub-genre. I heard such awesome things about this book, and I admit I find office romance a guilty pleasure. I hate business, but an office background in a romance makes it seem a whole lot more interesting. I have to say this was a pleasure to read.

The Characters:

It's always a joy when you truly like the main characters in a book. I definitely loved both Charlotte and Gabriel. I think that they had phenomenal chemistry. I loved how patient Gabriel was in wooing Charlotte. I am ever captivated by a hero in pursuit who shows genuine love for his heroine. It was clear that Gabriel wasn't just trying to conquer Charlotte. He wanted all of her. And Charlotte is one of those heroines who I could definitely be good friends in real life. She's adorable. I think most of us women can admit crushing on someone who is downright unattainable. And to think her crush is crushing on her. Charlotte's down to earth and a lovely person. Her shyness is certainly understandable, and I understand how being hurt that way could make a person withdraw from life. I liked how pivotal Charlotte's friendship with Molly is to the book. It definitely feels authentic the way she would call Molly or Skype with her about what was going on in their lives.

The Storyline:

Charlotte's past is definitely dark. I feel that it's handled sensitively and Charlotte's recovery is realistic. Seeing Gabriel gently work through her issues and understanding that certain things were a trigger for her just made me love him more. I was a bit disappointed with the love scenes. they didn't quite have the impact I wanted considering the long buildup. However the proposal was lovely! I found the narrative device of email memos fun and a great way to advance the plot and set the tone and the evolution of Charlotte and Gabriel's relationship. Gabriel was scrumptious. I wouldn't say I'm into hugely muscular guys typically, but this man is ultra fine! I loved the fact that he's not merely defined by his physicality. He's also fiercely intelligent.

Overall, this is a great book. I can't give it five stars because it didn't have the strong impact that I expect from a five star romance book. However, I was immersed and drawn into this story. Just the kind of book that you want to dive into, take a few hours out of your own life and enjoy. Rather like a book version of dessert. Speaking of dessert, that was a big part of this book, and I'm all for it. When Gabriel was being beastly, he would buy Charlotte sweet treats. Charlotte is a keen baker and she also baked for Gabriel. Dessert will always be my favorite meal, so it was like two for the price of one.

Not five stars, but definitely 4.5/5.0 stars!

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Constantine, Volume 2: Blight by Ray Fawkes, Renato Guedes (Illustrator)

Constantine, Vol. 2: BlightConstantine, Vol. 2: Blight by Ray Fawkes
My rating: 3.25 of 5 stars

I liked this better than the first volume. I felt it was chaotic and at times difficult to follow. The resolution of the Cold Flame arc felt a tad anticlimactic to me. I did like how it tied into the Justice League and Forever Evil arcs. It was nothing to shout about, although it gets some brownie points with the Zatanna cameo (I love her)! And it was good to get closure on Necro Nick.

I'm wishing I had written my review sooner! But maybe I didn't have much to say anyway.

I'd probably give it 3.25/5.0 stars.

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Constantine , Vol. 3: The Voice in the Fire by Ray Fawkes, ACO (Illustrations)

Constantine, Vol. 3: The Voice in the FireConstantine, Vol. 3: The Voice in the Fire by Ray Fawkes
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I still find the writing in these books confusing, but the stories kept my interest more than Blight, and I wasn't quite as lost. Constantine encounters some real characters in the magical underworld, which I always find fun in a rubbernecker sort of way.

Each story seemed better to me, and the Doctor Fate story packs a pretty good punch. Perhaps this series is finding its feet. I've been watching the NBC Constantine series on DVR, and it's a nice combo to do it this way. I definitely hold a grudge against NBC for canceling it. I don't have much more to say than that.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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