Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Nanny for Christmas by Sara Craven

A Nanny for ChristmasA Nanny for Christmas by Sara Craven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a cute Christmas book. It seemed a little lighter than usual for Sara Craven, until the evil ex shows up and it gets real. And that woman was wretched! I can't imagine how much Dominic regrets marrying her, except for his daughter. When it's just Phoebe, Dominic and Tara, this almost has a sweet feel, a family oriented holiday romance. It's nicely steamy in parts, but appropriate to the subject matter. Phoebe is perfectly likable, an orphan with a bit of a Cinderellaesque feel. Dominic is a hot dad who is on the intense side. And Tara seems troubled, missing the love of a mother. It works perfectly well for a reader looking for a holiday themed contemporary romance including children. Enough said.

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Don't Ask Me Now by Emma Darcy

Don't Ask Me NowDon't Ask Me Now by Emma Darcy
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This is a bonafide love triangle book. Not all that common in Harlequin Presentslandia. Usually the hero is undeniably one man and there's no question that another could claim the heroine's affections. It was kind of a cool twist, actually. The real hero is one that you might not expect at first. Darcy seems to have read plenty of HPs where the heroine moves from the dangerously sexy, irresistible man who broke her heart to a safe, nice man. But something was missing. And her heart seemed to call her back to the 'bad boy' and away from 'safe.' She turns that on its head with this book.

Disclaimer: What I'm going to say in this review isn't quite a spoiler, but it might be!

I'm glad. I couldn't stand Cathy's ex. He was a jerk and user. He was so smug and arrogant and had no respect for boundaries. He was touching the heroine sexually in public, knowing it would cause her discomfort. That's not cool. I was so glad that she came to her senses and realized that sometimes a compulsive attraction to someone isn't always the same thing as true, sustainable love. She realizes it almost too late. I was glad that this point she realizes that Thomas isn't just the safe guy who helped her get back on her feet, but he's a man that is truly worthy of her love.

The descriptions of Cathy's relationship with Anthony are pretty detailed and it's kind of twisted for an older Harlequin Presents. I suppose it's par for the course with an Emma Darcy book. They seemed to be more daring for the time.

This was pretty good, but I don't much care for love triangles, to be honest. And the fact that there was a slight question who the heroine was going to end up with makes it not quite my taste. Others may appreciate it more than I did. I can't deny it's well written though.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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The Winter Bride by Lynne Graham

The Winter Bride (Harlequin Presents, #1989)The Winter Bride by Lynne Graham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is classic Lynne Graham. The heroine is sweet and downtrodden, desperately in love with the hero. The hero had some unexpected depth. He's a tycoon, but has angst from the loss of his wife. It seems like Leo used and dumped her, but he was actually in love with her as well, although he felt guilty that she was barely of age. When they meet again, Angie doesn't want to be bothered with this man who dumped her so callously. She doesn't think he would care that she had his child, especially when she was told he didn't care about her back in the day. Leo actually thinks she had his cousin's child instead, which is ridiculous, considering that she's blond and so is the cousin. But his jealousy clouds his mind. Their reunion is complicated by the fact that his grandfather and her father's employer wants to see her, and her troubled relationship with her estranged father.

This one has a lot of family drama and the angst level is good. As always, the heroine is likable, and the hero seems jerky at first, but turns out to be a good guy, so you root for their happy ending together.

No reason at all to give this less than four stars.

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Secret Avengers, Vol. 2: Iliad by Nick Spencer (Text), Butch Guice (Illustrations)

Secret Avengers, Vol. 2: IliadSecret Avengers, Vol. 2: Iliad by Nick Spencer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gosh, I find this series incomprehensible. I don't know if it's just me or if it's the script not being that well-written. I don't mind a few twists and turns in a storyline, but there are so many that this book doesn't make much sense to me. I don't think this is a good choice for people who are new to the Avengers comics diving in. I would probably try to track down some older Avengers titles instead of this. There is a lot of assumed knowledge that I feel I only have picked up because of random Marvel title reading I've been doing this year. Other aspects slip over my head and I have to rely on the Marvel Wikia to get more information.

I would give this barely three stars.

This is a preliminary review. I may revise it over time.

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Spider-Woman, Agent of S.W.O.R.D. by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev (Illustrator)

Spider-Woman, Agent of S.W.O.R.D.Spider-Woman, Agent of S.W.O.R.D. by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I don't know anything about Spider-Woman, and this was my first exposure. It doesn't delve much into her backstory, although there is a foreword. I think that if one wants to learn the most about Jessica Drew, it's better to start with an origin story. I admit the main reason I checked this out was because it has SWORD in the storyline and I became acquainted with this agency through reading/watching the motion comic for Astonishing X-Men, and there is a storyline that features SWORD and the tough as nails, naturally green-haired commander of SWORD, Abigail Brand. She is in this, but as a supporting character.

Overall, this was pretty good. It's practically non-stop action, which is of course, great! Drew can hold her own with the bad guys, even some Super-Skrulls, and that's saying something. She's a very good athlete, and has some enhancements. Although unlike Peter Parker, she can't cling to objects and doesn't use webshooters.

The artwork is very good. Apparently Alex Maleev does it all digitally. It looks hand-drawn and painted, and very lifelike. The use of shadow is spectacular. Although I do feel that some scenes were a bit too dark, and the detail suffered.

I'd give this about 3.5/5.0 stars, because it didn't blow me away. I think I would have benefited from having more backstory on this character before I read this. This is basically a one-shot, but I hope to see more of her in other Marvel titles.

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Suicide Risk, Vol.1 by Mike Carey (Goodreads Author), Elena Casagrande (Artist)

Suicide Risk Vol. 1Suicide Risk Vol. 1 by Mike Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't like this as much as I expected. I like the idea of normal people getting powers and becoming superheroes and villains, but the storyline just got weirder and less coherent as it went along. I love the concept of super-powered individuals, and it was interesting how Carey taps into the dark side of that. Similar to what Brandon Sanderson did with Steelheart and Mark Waid with Irredeemable, Vol. 1. It's a scary thought when people have super powers and they are mentally unstable or just plain evil. The damage they can do is incalculable. So I could understand the lead character's motivations on that score, but over time, the story just made less and less sense, and it took a right turn that I didn't like towards the end. The artwork was pretty good, but I didn't find much to enthrall me about the story overall. I'm not sure if I will continue reading this series.

This is a preliminary review. I may add more later.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Married by Christmas by Carole Mortimer

Married by ChristmasMarried by Christmas by Carole Mortimer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a cute book. Mortimer kept us guessing on the hero and the heroine until near the end. The reveal on the truth about Lilli's parents' marriage and the true nature of his new love, was surprising.

I was a bit surprised at the beginning and I'm glad that things turned out more innocent than it seemed. Patrick was a nice mix of alpha and beta. He would come on as tough, but he had a marshmallow heart. I liked that about him.

I kept thinking about Lizzy Bennet from Pride and Prejudice because the heroine's name is also Elizabeth Bennet. I don't know if that was on purpose or not.

Not my favorite book by Mortimer, but a pleasant read and nice for a Christmastime read, with its focus on family and how complicated and rich they can make one's life.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Fairest, Vol. 1: Wide Awake by Bill Willingham (Goodreads Author), Phil Jimenez (Illustrator)

Fairest, Vol. 1: Wide AwakeFairest, Vol. 1: Wide Awake by Bill Willingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I fear for when I finish the Fables series. I love it that much. I am glad there are some spin-off series that I can enjoy, although I'm not too in love with Jack as a character, so I probably won't read that one until I'm desperate. However, when I looked on Bill Willingham's website, I saw that he has a reading order and I was cool to start the Fairest series even though I haven't finished Fables yet. So I read this one on Saturday.

Overall, I really liked it. I'm having trouble concentrating on books right now, so it took me a bit to get into this. However, I did enjoy it a lot. I like that he does something different and deeper with the Snow Queen. Something I was not expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised. I also like the twist on the "True Love's Kiss" rule. I liked the match-making Bottle Imp, and the fact that Ali Baba was the hero. In this book we actually have two heroines, so that was cool as well.

The artwork was gorgeous as usual. I loved the detail that the artist put into drawing and painting the characters. I studied the artists' lines and use of color to draw and paint the characters, and it inspires me to develop my own artwork to a deeper level.

The story at the end about the Lamia was dark. I was really shocked at how it ties into well-known Fables' characters ongoing storyline. It's something that will make me think harder about these secondary characters.

I honestly cannot get enough of these graphic novels. Looking forward to reading more in this series, in addition to the main Fables series.

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The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer

The SupernaturalistThe Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 3.25 of 5 stars

The Supernaturalist is intriguing dystopian science fiction that would appeal to a younger reader or even older readers who aren't looking for a story that's highly sophisticated. Overall, I liked it, although I was dissatisfied with some elements.

British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (one of my actor crushes) narrates this book very capably, using diverse accents for the characters. I am glad I chose to listen to this even though I have a paper copy. I liked hearing it, which stimulated my imagination in a way that I don't think reading would have done. I have an issue with science fiction in that I can't visualize technical things very well. In the auditory form, I found it a little easier to conceptualize the content.

The story is interesting. Cosmo Hill, young orphan who grew up in a group home that was nothing if not rampant neglect, victimization and abuse, has a near death experience, and he starts to see creatures that seem to sap the life force from people. He also comes into contact with a group who works to kill these creatures, which they have called 'parasites.' Throw in a deeper conspiracy and other elements from your standard dystopian world and you have a pretty good science fiction novel.

However, I found the end unsatisfying. I think that the twist that Colfer gives us in the story called for a richer ending than the one we got. I also think more thought could have gone into the world-building and the story plotting as far as the science fiction elements. It felt a bit superficial. On the other hand, I will say that Colfer is excellent at writing tense action scenes and his fast-paced writing style keeps a reader's interest.

The characters could have been better developed. I liked the secondary characters of Mona, Stefan and Ditto, but I wanted more from them. I feel as though their characterization barely scratched the surface. I realize that I'm being a bit hard on this book. Probably because I am huge fan of this author's Artemis Fowl books and I've read dystopian teen young adult books this year that went deeper in a way that was more satisfying.

Overall rating: 3.25/5.0 stars.

I think this could make a pretty good movie. I'd definitely watch it!

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Author/Illustrator), Richard Howard (Translator)

The Little PrinceThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to this as an audiobook with Richard Gere and Haley Joel Osment, and it was a very good listen. This book is like a dream. You can't expect it to make sense literally. It seems as though it is primarily metaphor and symbolism. I can imagine that a person stuck in the desert might imagine something like this, as his brain is fevered by the heat and lack of water. I haven't been near death, but I imagine that one does go to a different place when one is directly confronted with their mortality.

It's very sad, and I think that it makes me deal with my feelings about death. Right now, I'm having to do that a lot with the recent losses I've suffered. The angst hit me head on, but I can also see the beauty in this short and dreamy story.

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Pulse by Jeremy Robinson

Pulse (Chess Team Adventure, #1)Pulse by Jeremy Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book I've read by Robinson, and I can say I like his style. In Secondworld, he had neo-Nazis who have a sinister plan to destroy the world except for 'their kind'. In Pulse, he deals with an amoral billionaire whose plan is to live forever, and make money on the medical technology by selling it to the highest bidder. Throw in some Greek mythology and it's golden. Pulse is a good combination of high octane action and monster thriller.

I had no idea what to expect, and I honestly liked the tension as the story unfolded. It was a pleasant surprise at how things culminate, although this book has a seriously high body count and plenty of violent deaths.

I rooted for liked the Chess team, including its leader, 'King', Jack Sigler. Each member has something different to add to the team. I did wish there was more character development, but with the rapid pace of this novel, that would be pretty challenging. What I did get of the characters I did like. I especially liked Bishop, a team member with a tragic past and a serious anger problem, but deep at the heart, a true hero.

The villains were a bit underdeveloped for my tastes. I would have liked more viewpoint of Ridley and Reinhart. Ridley just came off as a very evil, self-absorbed guy with too much money. I think it would have been nice to see a flashback that revealed why he was so afraid of dying and was going to such extremes not to die. Reinhart just seemed like the bully type who started off abusing nerds on the playgrounds and who graduates to more heinous acts of bullying and villany. It would be interesting to see a flashback of the event that got him booted from the SEALs as well.

Overall, this was very good. The greek mythology foundation was fun and I loved where the author took it (minus the gory descriptions of the creatures rampages--could have done without that). I couldn't give it more than four stars just because I wish the author gave me more depth in the characters. But I tell you, this was a book that I didn't want to put down. It took me a while to read it because I'm really busy this month, not because of boredom. I'm looking forward to getting the Chess Team member ebook novellas and the other full length books in this series.

I'd recommend this book to fans of Matthew Reilly and James Rollins books.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Year One: Batman/Ra's al Ghul by Devin Grayson, Paul Gulacy (Illustrator), Jimmy Palmiotti (Illustrator), Laurie Kronenberg (Illustrator)

Year One: Batman/Ra's al GhulYear One: Batman/Ra's al Ghul by Devin Grayson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think the connection to Ra's al Ghul was a bit tenuous. Oh, yeah, he was the mastermind of the troubles that Batman and Gotham faces in this book, but it wasn't about Ra's al Ghul. Bottom line: Don't read this as an origin story about Ra's al Ghul. You'll be disappointed. I admit I kinda was. Overall, this was interesting. More or less Batman versus the zombies. If you go into it to read about Batman kicking butt, you'll probably be okay.

Nothing too exciting, but not bad.

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Batman and Son by Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert (Illustrator), John Van Fleet (Illustrator), Jesse Delperdang (Illustrator)

I'm just lately diving deeply into the Batman comics, although I read them a long time ago, and I am a big fan of him as an iconic figure. To my surprise, I found out late last year that he had an actual son. Luckily, my library has a few of these books about Batman and his son, and this is one of them. When Damian shows up, he's a fait accompli, and Batman has to deal with the pathology the boy has due to be raised to be an emotionless killer who believes he's destined to rule the world by Talia in the League of Assassins, and as the grandson of R'as al Ghul. The boy is already a killer and his moral compass is seriously skewed. Batman takes the boy under his wing, knowing that he's a loose cannon. Damian has a twisted daddy complex, and feels the need to prove himself to his father. He sees the current Robin, Tim Drake as competition, and deals with him brutally, as he also treats a somewhat harmless masked villain. It all adds up to one serious complication for Batman. But he knows he has a duty to his son. Overall, I did like this, but I didn't like the prose story stuck in the middle of the graphic novel. To be honest, I stopped reading it. The gleeful brutality of the Joker grotesquely described by Grant Morrison's prose writing was stomach-churning. I had a sensitivity when it comes to that kind of subject matter, so I knew it was time to throw in the towel as the Joker begins his murderous rampage through Arkham. I really like the character of Harley Quinn (as she is portrayed in the Suicide Squad). While I know she's no innocent, it seems as though Joker brings out the very worse in her. Their relationship is the very definition of a toxic romantic relationship. I'm glad she later kicks him to the curve. So the prose story brought down my rating a lot. Also, I felt the ending was too abrupt and a bit confusing. I think that one should try to figure out the chronology of the Damian Wayne story and have the next books handy after they read this.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Curse of the Bane (The Last Apprentice / Wardstone Chronicles, Book 2) by Joseph Delaney, Christopher Evan Welch (Narrator)

Curse of the Bane (The Last Apprentice / Wardstone Chronicles, Book 2)Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I started this series years ago, and I was impressed that this is genuinely scary horror fiction for younger readers. Finally, I was able to pick this series up with the second book. I actually own this in Kindle and Paperback, but I wanted a scary book to listen to on audio for Halloween. Needless to say, I didn't finish it until November.

So I guess I should talk about my thoughts on the book. Frankly, I didn't like this as much as Book One. I guess I liked the evil witch villain more than I liked the Bane (and the weak humans he manipulated and used to do his evil).

The storyline touches in uncomfortable ways how the church may have done more harm than good in the fight against evil. Witches are being persecuted and burned (and many aren't even witches) in the name of God. Yeah, that can definitely lead to trouble when you use God as an excuse to hurt others or to manipulate things to your advantage over others. That doesn't speak to God's character at all, but many who don't know God can sometimes believe in the evil acts of people more than they believe in who God really is. The truth is that God is represented through a believer's actions than anything else.

The book shows that sometimes the worse evil is human evil. That's not to say that there is not an obvious supernatural component to this book. But frankly, if the Bane was not able to find humans to use and manipulate, he probably wouldn't have done as much harm in this book as he did.

One thing I can say about Delaney is that he taps into the complexity of human nature. Alice is a young woman who is on the edge. She tiptoes into the dark in the name of doing what is right, and young Thomas feels sympathy and loyalty for her that conflicts with his loyalty to his master, the Spook, John Gregory. Even though he knows and fears the worst about Alice, he can't abandon her without trying to help her. Ultimately, it turns out that his instincts are right in many ways, and he has to stand by them even when things look most dire.

I really liked the backstory on Thomas' parents. That was very, very cool. Another look at the complexity of good and evil in this context of this story. But Delaney also stresses that it involves the choices that we make. If you're going to be a good person, you have to choose to do what is right, and if you take the step in the other direction, it's because of choices you make. Even in the contest of Christian belief, while we believe in salvation through faith, a person still has to choose to believe and to live a life that reflects that belief with the help of God's spirit living in them.

The Bane was a scary bad guy, and the story has some genuine chills and thrills. However, I didn't find it as magnetic as the first book. I think the Bane was too one-dimensional as a villain. Having said that, I still enjoy this series and I'm eager to see what the next book has to offer this reader.

I definitely wouldn't recommend this to any readers younger than a mature twelve. It's scary and it shows some really dark aspects of human nature. As far as parental oversight, reading this book would have some very important discussion points about what faith really represents and how the church has a responsibility to the community and others. This book does not show the church in a positive light at all.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Fables, Volume 11: War and Pieces by by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham (Illustrator), Steve Leialoha (Illustrator), Niko Henrichon (Illustrator), Andrew Pepoy (Illustrator)

Fables, Vol. 11: War and Pieces (Fables, #11)Fables, Vol. 11: War and Pieces by Bill Willingham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have mad love for this series. I tried to stay away, take a long break, but it pulled me back. I'm a fairy tale addict and Willingham gets fairy tales and how to take them and give them a modern update without destroying the essence of what makes fairy tales so appealing.

I like that while Bigby and Snow are much loved and favored characters in this series, they take a back seat and we see the heroism and the complexity of other Fables. I love how the backstories of the characters come into play through their actions in this book. It's a happy surprise to see which ones come to the forefront as heroes. Boy Blue is a standout character, and that's a very nice development in the story. Cinderella, though not even close to being my favorite fairy tale, is rocking the spy thing. I like it very much. Even Prince Charming shows that he does have some hero down deep.

Fundamentally, this book is about war and its cost. The author handles this subject with the integrity it deserves, and shows that fairy tales are fundamentally moral and allegorical tales that teach the reader something about humanity. So Fables as a series stays very true to the heart of fairy tales, and I love that about this series.

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Catwoman, Vol. 1: The GameCatwoman, Vol. 1: The Game by Judd Winick
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm working my way through my library's graphic novel collection and availing myself of the New 52 titles. I would be remiss if I didn't check out Catwoman. I did start reading an earlier run (single issues) with Ed Brubaker several moons ago (still have a stack I never got around to reading). I thought, why not try this?

Catwoman isn't always my favorite. On one level, I like that she's morally ambiguous, sometimes on the good side, sometimes on the bad side. I like strong women who can fight and hold their own, but her selfishness and how it leads to others being hurt is hard to handle. I couldn't stand her in the last Nolan Batman movie. I didn't like her with Bruce/Bats, but I did like them together in this book. I can see why some ship Batwoman and Catwoman so avidly. I think they understand each other, even though they are on the opposite side of the line more than not.

I didn't like the artwork. Catwoman looks harsh and rather scary. Her features don't have the catlike beauty or appeal that I would associate with her. The colors were too washed out for my tastes as well.

I like Judd Winick's writing. I didn't find that much fault with the storytelling in this one. He shows Catwoman as a morally conflicted person who has made poor choices out of a damaged psyche. I can get that about her.

Overall, this was pretty good. The biggest issue for me was the artwork. Otherwise, I'll keep reading this title. Batman showing up drove my rating up a lot (I can't even lie). My library also has Brubaker's run, so I may grab those to read next year (which is only two months away now).

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Batman: The Night of the Owls by Scott Snyder, Judd Winick, Justin Gray, David Finch, Peter J. Tomasi, Pat Gleason, Tony S. Daniel, Scott Lobdell , Duane Swierczynski, J.H. Williams III, Jimmy Palmiotti

Batman: The Night of the OwlsBatman: The Night of the Owls by Scott Snyder
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This graphic novel gives you your money's worth and then some. It takes the Court of the Owls/Talon storyline to the razor edge. You see how profound the war of the Owls is on those who oppose their agenda for Gotham.

Batman and his family of crimefighters and their associates all find themselves in mortal danger and taking on these formidable and superhuman warriors that serve the the Court of Owls, the Talons. I liked how the story crosses generations in the telling. I finished reading all the All Star Westerns my library has and I was pining for more, but I got a bit of that when the story goes back to Jonah Hex and his comrades dealing with the Talon. Also, we get to see how Dick Grayson's family became intertwined in the history of the Talon.

There are some excellent cameos by Red Hood, Arsenal (Red Arrow), Starfire, Batwoman, Young Robin (Damien Wayne), Nightwing, Catwoman, and many others. We even see how Alfred's own father ran afoul of the Court of Owls.

To me, this is a really excellent graphic novel collection. The artwork is beautiful and the storytelling is compelling. Batman is the king of awesome, but he's against a force that makes him the dark horse in this race (not something you see that often). This took me a while to read, but it's one that you want to spend a lot of time with, because the content is truly good stuff.

Definitely recommend this to fans of Batman and his associates!

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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Superman, Vol. 1: What Price Tomorrow? by George Pérez, Jesús Merino (Illustrations)

Superman, Vol. 1: What Price Tomorrow?Superman, Vol. 1: What Price Tomorrow? by George Pérez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one is barely three stars from me. I didn't like the storyline and I thought it was confusing the way it was written. The explanation of what was going on barely made sense. Also, Superman and Clark Kent just don't have any standout character. The tendency is to see Supes as a boring Boy Scout. I admit I did feel a bit like that about him, compared to Batman, who I totally adore (faults and all). However, when Superman's character is explored with the depth and the insight that he deserves, you can see why he is such an enduring icon of comic books and superherodom. This book doesn't add to the story of Superman for me at all. His inner life is not delved into, and one merely sees him going from calamity to calamity and not what his instincts, head and heart tell him about those experiences. What drives him to do what he does, as apposed to lip service to "Truth, Justice, and The American Way." The artwork is okay. It's not profound, but neither is it poorly drawn and inked.

I'm not a huge fan of Lois Lane, and I certainly didn't like her in this either. At this point, if I wasn't shipping Batman and Wonder Woman so hard, I'd totally want Superman to get with Wonder Woman based on this book.

I feel like I am bashing this pretty hard. I think it's disappointment. I had finally worked myself up to reading a Superman title and to find myself wanting more is a crushing experience. Will I keep trying? I think so, but right now, I'm not a big fan of the New 52 Superman run thus far.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Justice League: Cry for Justice by James Robinson, Sterling Gates, Len Wein, Mark Waid, Mauro Cascioli (Illustrator), Scott Clark (Illustrator), Federico Dallocchio (Illustrator), Mark Bagley (Illustrator) , Don Kramer (Illustrator), Ardian Syaf (Illustrator), Scott McDaniel (Illustrator)

Justice League: Cry for JusticeJustice League: Cry for Justice by James Robinson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This was nearly a four star read for me on the strength of the story with Roy Harper and the Justice League and the truly despicable villain Prometheus. He is not only a formidable supervillain but he is also maliciously psychopathic but in a very methodical way. The Justice League underestimated him to their detriment, and he wreaks serious havoc as a result. I read Justice League: Rise and Fall first, so I'm glad I ended up finding this and getting some background on the events in "Rise and Fall." I'm really surprised that Prometheus doesn't get more buzz in the comic book world. He's like a dark Batman and he's super, duper evil. Yet I hadn't even heard of the guy until I read about him on DC Wikia a few months ago.

The reason why I couldn't give this four stars right out is because some parts are a bit hokey and confusing. I didn't like how each person who experiences personal loss due to Prometheus ( and some that are having some misgivings about how non-lethal the Justice League's approach to villains is) issue a 'cry for justice', well it just seemed a bit cheesy to me. Also, Congorilla? What a strange superhero. I was thinking, are you for real? Your mileage may vary.

I have a huge crush on Green Arrow (definitely top five favorite comic book characters), and he's in this a lot, so yay. He shows a lot of loyalty to his friend and co-Leaguer Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), based on their very strong friendship. In the end, he also becomes even more pivotal to this story because of what happens with Prometheus and Roy Harper (his sidekick Red Arrow aka Arsenal aka Speedy).

I also admit to having some confusion about some aspects of the story. I went to my trusty DC Wikia to get some clarification, and that definitely helps.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the artwork. I felt the characters were excellently rendered, and the colors were beautiful. Graphic Novels are inherently visual, and that is such a crucial component that I definitely grade hard on the art. The art in this one stands up very well overall.

Ultimately, this is one of those books that ends up with a half star review, due to the positives and negatives. 3.5/5.0 stars is my rating for "Cry for Justice."

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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Teen Titans, Vol. 3: Beast Boys and Girls by Geoff Johns, Ben Raab, Justiniano (Illustrator), Chris Ivy (Illustrator), Tom Grummett (Illustrator), Lary Stucker (Illustrator)

Teen Titans, Vol. 3: Beast Boys and Girls Teen Titans, Vol. 3: Beast Boys and Girls by Geoff Johns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I will confess that I have gotten into watching Teen Titans Go! on Cartoon Network, and I really like the character of Beast Boy. I decided to give these graphic novels a spin and this is the first one I grabbed.

My Observations:

Beast Boy on the cartoon is a lot more wacky than in the book. He looks more childish as well and is of diminutive height. In the books, he's movie star handsome. While not tragic, you can see that he has suffered a lot. Part of Beast Boy's story is one of loss--his birth parents initially and later his adopted family, the Doom Patrol. Ultimately he triumphs over his circumstances and tragedy and manages to maintain sense of good humor and a joy of life. That's infectious.

I wasn't that drawn into the storyline, honestly. It was more mildly interesting than unputdownable. I enjoyed seeing the Teen Titans dynamic on paper, and there is a bit of a crossover with some of the characters of the Young Justice tv show. I've done some research into Teen Titans on the DC Wikia and apparently the teams did sort of blend together throughout the history of the groups. It made me want for the 2nd Season of Young Justice to make it to Netflix (hint, hint). Anyway, I went off on a tangent.

Overall, this is pretty good. More of a cool adjunct to my tv explorations of Teen Titans.

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Swamp Thing, Vol. 3: Rotworld: The Green Kingdom by Scott Snyder (Goodreads Author), Jeff Lemire, Yanick Paquette (Illustrations)

This book was a very intense close to an arc in this series. Man, the imagery is really disturbing. This storyline really gets under my skin in the aspect of decay being a force of evil. One of the good things is I got to see Animal Man with a different artist. I really didn't like the art in the New 52 Animal Man volume I read. The storyline is inherently disturbing, so creepy, squiggly artwork made it worse for me. With this, that barrier wasn't there. There is a hanging thread with the Animal Man story, but I don't know if I will keep reading those. We'll see. As far as this book. It was really epic. It features a very dark future that's enough to give one nightmares, especially if zombies and animated, rotten dead things makes one feel icky. Definitely yes for me. I really liked that they delve into the starcrossed love affair between Alec/Swamp Thing and Abigail, who has a secret legacy to the Rot. Things have a real bittersweet feel, but it's also satisfying. I was having a lot of wincey feelings when I read this, but it's a four star read, because it's well-written and the artwork is both nightmarish and grotesque but very artistic at the same time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Secret Avengers, Vol. 1: Reverie by Nick Spencer (writer)

Secret Avengers, Vol. 1: ReverieSecret Avengers, Vol. 1: Reverie by Nick Spencer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Words to describe this: interesting, confusing, complicated, obsfuscating. That's a good start. I agree that readers who have come to the Avengers from the movie might like this. It also has some gems for long-term readers, characters that you won't know who they are unless you have followed the comic book storylines. I think the biggest strength of this novel is that you get to visit with characters you may have become fond of in the movie and who might not have gotten as much screentime. The downside is the story is pretty confusing. I will pick up the next volume and see if I feel like I have a clue about what's going on better in that one.

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Resurrection Man, Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and Life by Dan Abnett , Andy Lanning, Jackson Guice (Illustrations)

Resurrection Man, Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and LifeResurrection Man, Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and Life by Dan Abnett
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This volume piggy backs onto the second Suicide Squad volume Suicide Squad, Vol. 2: Basilisk Rising, which is kind of cool. I can see Mitch's side of things in this book, and the more I read about his powers, the more they intrigue me.

Mitch's origin is very strange and not quite what I thought. I'm glad that he is not like he used to be, because he used to be a real tool, and that's putting it lightly. There is tons of action in this book, and I could see it as a pretty cool tv show or movie adaptation, although they'd have to turn down the violence a tad.

The ending is one what gives you a 'huh' moment and makes you wonder what's going to happen next. And I see there's only two volumes. That's too bad!

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wolverine: Origins Vol. 1: Born in Blood by Daniel Way, Steve Dillon (Artist)

Wolverine: Origins Vol. 1: Born in BloodWolverine: Origins Vol. 1: Born in Blood by Daniel Way
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I'm delving deep into Wolverine's origin stories and finding some dark places in his past. Wolverine has done plenty of his share of dirty deeds, and he has his share of regret. He wants to make things right. He created a killer for the US government, and realized that it wasn't too different from the forces that shaped him.

It was really dark seeing what Wolverine did in this part of his past, and the repercussions. I think that this tragic and dark past is part and parcel of what makes him the unique hero that he is, so I find that reading this saddens me, but it also makes me understand why the Wolverine of the present is so determined to fight for justice in his own way.

Not for the faint of the heart, but integral to the story of Wolverine. Some pretty cool cameos by others in the Marvel Universe.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Justice League of America, Vol. 1: World's Most Dangerous by Geoff Johns

Justice League of America, Vol. 1: World's Most DangerousJustice League of America, Vol. 1: World's Most Dangerous by Geoff Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was pretty good, once I got beyond the misconception that JL and JLA was the same. That Amanda Waller is a master schemer and manipulator. I feel that Steve Trevor is in a tough spot. I don't think he's completely against the Justice League (he still has feelings for Diana), but Waller is playing on his concern for Diana and his jealousy over her being involved with Superman, and the fact that Steve isn't a super and therefore couldn't work out with Diana in the long run.

The team that they put together is interesting. I hope my library continues to carry this so I can see where the story goes next. I actually liked Catwoman in this book, so I am convinced to try her New 52 series.

I was a bit confused on some aspects. It's hard with these action and character-packed stories to keep up with everyone. But overall, I felt the story was cohesive, and I liked how it continued the arc from Justice League, Vol. 4: The Grid and showed the JLA side (and dealt with some of my confusion over JL versus JLA).

I wasn't too excited about the first JL titles I read, but I am starting to like these graphic novels more and more.

I'd recommend this title.

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The Hawk and the Lamb (Harlequin Presents,  #1616)The Hawk and the Lamb by Susan Napier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked how the whole set up builds suspense, but it's in a lighter, humorous way. I'm a sucker for that spy vibe, so I enjoyed it. Elizabeth is clearly way out of her depth as a spy, but she's clearly good enough to keep the hero guessing. I agree with one of my friends that the description of the hero in a tight swimming briefs didn't sound that appealing to me, and he sounds kind of skeevy with the earring and the abundant chest hair. However, I felt the chemistry was well done, and it was nice touch the the heroine feared being too passionate because of her first and last lover making her feel bad that her libido was much stronger than his (he was older). I felt the way that Elizabeth wigged out near the near was kind of weird and melodramatic. It was tension the story really didn't need.

Not my favorite by this wonderful author, but still a four star read.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Suspect by Robert Crais

SuspectSuspect by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book that you need to read if you're an animal lover! I loved the whole aspect of the bond that formed between Scott and Maggie. They are both wounded warriors, grieving their lost love ones, and somewhat rejected because of their emotional/physical wounds. Maggie was so awesome, I felt my heart fill with love for this wonderful German Shepherd. I am a huge fan of this breed, and Crais presents their wonderful natures in the most truthful and vibrant way.

Crais fills in some interesting tidbits on the training of police dogs and their holders and what military dogs do. That aspect of Maggie in the frontlines with her handler just about tore my heart out. I cheer on military people who do that important and dangerous job, and it squeezes my heart as an animal lover how equally dangerous it is for their working dogs. Police dogs also serve a crucial role and they can face some very dangerous situations in the line of duty. Scott's boss reminded me of my dad who was a country boy who loved dogs. He had his down to earth manner and sense of connection to dogs that was almost spiritual.

Scott is a good character, but honestly, I needed more of his inner world. I feel that this was a function of this book being too short. I would have liked a longer, more expansive story that took place over a longer time period. While the bond between Scott and Maggie totally sells this book, I would have found it more believable had it taken place over a longer period of time. Such as it was, I loved it. Maggie is such a wonderful companion, and I liked that not only does she help Scott heal, he helps her as well. While I am a cat lady, I also love dogs, and this book made me long to bring home my very own German Shepherd Dog one day soon. Crais shows how important the human animal bond is in society and how therapeutic animals and people can be to each other. Sorry to go on my soapbox. I can't help it because this book really touches on this issue which is so dear to my heart.

The mystery part felt undeveloped, honestly. Crais is an excellent mystery writer, so I don't mean to put him down, but it was a bit simplistic compared to some of his other works. I was surprised at the culprits and the look Ta police corruption is sobering. The secondary characters add texture to the story, but some of their parts felt under-represented.

Man, I hate to put this book down in my review! I have so much love for the whole aspect of Maggie and Scott as partners, and I am truly in love with Maggie. She's up there with Einstein from Watchers for me, which is really saying something. This book has something so powerful to say about the love between people and their pets/animals that it earns a special place in my heart. And honestly, I still feel it deserves four stars despite some of my issues with its brevity affecting the execution of the overall storyline.

Definitely check this out. The audiobook is really good and the narrator is excellent.

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Animal Man, Volume 1: The Hunt by Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman (Illustrator), John Paul Leon (illustrator), Steve Pugh (Illustrator)

Animal Man, Vol. 1: The HuntAnimal Man, Vol. 1: The Hunt by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this up because I've been reading Swamp Thing and the story seems to cross over--the war is between the Green and Red versus the Rot. Honestly, I didn't like the artwork at all. It made an already gruesome and disturbing story moreso. The drawings were so squiggly and unappealing, and the colors were too muted for my tastes. If the creators were going for a horror tale, they achieved their goal. I love animals, so I like the idea of Buddy (and his daughter) having a connection to the animal web of life, but I hated how the Rot distorts this.

I am on the fence about continuing this series. I think I prefer the Swamp Thing execution. I'm hoping that Buddy and his family will show on that side and I can get a different and in my mind better perception of the Animal Man concept.

Unfortunately, the artwork was such a turnoff, I had to give this one 2.5/5.0 stars.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Suicide Squad, Vol. 4: Discipline and Punish by Ales Kot, Patrick Zircher (Illustrations)

Suicide Squad, Vol. 4: Discipline and PunishSuicide Squad, Vol. 4: Discipline and Punish by Ales Kot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This felt different from the last books, but then the writer is different. Still loving this series. Still lots of craziness, and violence. Not too gratuitous, thankfully. Some thoughtful stories, one with Deadshot as a young man who is driven by revenge, and another with Harley Quinn reflecting on her life. Both come to realize that they need the Suicide Squad to give them balance. For Harley, it keeps her off the edge of chaos, and for Deadshot, it's a challenge that means more than getting paid.

I am indifferent toward Cheetah as a member. She adds nothing to the team. The Unknown Soldier comes off as a bit of a Waller toady. The addition of Commissioner Gordon's serial killer son is intriguing. He's developed a fixation on Miss Waller.

As usual, you don't get all the story or all the answers. It makes me eager to read the next volume.

My favorites are still Harley Quinn and Deadshot, both conflicted characters who leave you feeling sympathetic, but also kind of guilty that you like them so much.

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Justice League Dark, Volume 3: The Death of Magic by Jeff Lemire

Justice League Dark, Vol. 3: The Death of MagicJustice League Dark, Vol. 3: The Death of Magic by Jeff Lemire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A disappointing follow up to The Books of Magic. I didn't like the storyline much in this one. I felt the story built up to an exciting plateau, but to me, the conclusion wasn't that well done. I feel like that was a nod to Harry Potter, which is kind of fun. And all the magic creatures looking to young Andrew as their lost leader.

I kind of liked the "What If" when the team lands in the anti-magic kingdom, where their powers don't work. Even Constantine can't lie or dissemble. That was funny, since Constantine is the most honest and forthright you'll ever see him in his life. Kind of felt bad for Deadman and Madame Xanadu since being in the place was particularly bad on them both.

Yeah, I don't remember much else because it's been so long since I read this. Just that it wasn't as good as the last volume. I'll keep reading though.

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The Punisher, Volume 3 by Greg Rucka (Text), Mirko Colak (Illustrations), Marco Checchetto (Illustrations), Mico Suayan (Illustrations)

The Punisher, Vol. 3The Punisher, Vol. 3 by Greg Rucka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the darkest volume, and that's saying something. Rachel Cole-Alves really has to count the cost of her mission to punish criminals. Castle doesn't take it easy on her. He treats her like the soldier she is. Lays it out on the line for her. The storyline building up from the first books culminates in a way that is very intense. I can't say anything more without spoiling it.

This is a riveting read. I love this series, even when it's hard to read.

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All Star Western, Vol. 4 by Jimmy Palmiotti All Star Western, Vol. 4: Gold Standard by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray (Goodreads Author), Moritat (Illustrations)

All Star Western, Vol. 4: Gold StandardAll Star Western, Vol. 4: Gold Standard by Jimmy Palmiotti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like that this series keeps it interesting. Mixes up the stories. The tone varies with each volume. This one has an interesting mix of humor and twisted borderline horror. Hex teams up with crime fight from the future, Booster Gold. Booster Gold is ineffectual, let's be honest. He ends up being the sheriff for a town, a hapless one that is preyed on by a gang of sociopaths/psychopaths led by a voodoo/human sacrificing couple. Yeah, Hex and Booster Gold make quite an odd couple. Hex is a real rascal, but I like him more and more. I have to say, some of the drawings here of Hex were really quite ugly (poor guy). However, it doesn't serve as a hindrance in getting ladies. This one ends on a very interesting cliffhanger. I hope this isn't the last one in the volume!

There is a side story with an 18th century version of Stormwatch. That was kind of cool. I liked how they take on vampires and other creatures of the night. It would make a fun movie idea.

I wish I had written my review sooner. I forgot part of the story. I do remember liking it a lot.

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Batwoman, Volume 1: Hydrology by J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman

Batwoman, Vol. 1: HydrologyBatwoman, Vol. 1: Hydrology by J.H. Williams III
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this. It was different and really artistic, but I wasn't that enamored with the story and Kate as a main character. I'm not familiar with Batwoman, so this is a very new character for me. I think that people interested in GLBT characters will really appreciate it. It's a favorable profile of a strong, empowered lesbian woman. However, at the same time, Kate has some issues. She's got major survival guilt and an anger problem. She's dealing with her angst in some ways that aren't healthy.

I picked this up because I saw the La Llorona storyline. As a folklore enthusiast, I'm familiar with the Latin urban legend of a woman who comes back as a ghost and haunts and lures men/sometimes children to their death due to her need for vengeance on a lover leaving her and her subsequent drowning of her children and suicide by drowning. It was an interesting take on the legend. There is a twist at the end that sets up a continued story. I'm not sure right now if I will continue this. I'm not that in love with Kate as a lead character.

The artwork is interesting and visually arresting. The characters are drawn in a very distinctive way. I liked that about it. It's a dark story, so you have to be in the mood for it. Pretty good. We'll see if I get back to this series.

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The Justice League (New 52), Volume 4: The Grid by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis (Illustrations)

Justice League, Vol. 4: The GridJustice League, Vol. 4: The Grid by Geoff Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stuff gets real in this graphic novel! It was a bit hard to keep track of the story at times, with so many characters. But heck, it's the Justice League. I like that there is a fresh sort of look at the characters and the story. If you don't ship Wonder Woman and Superman, you won't be a happy camper. I'm more of a Wonder Woman/Batman girl (a girl can hope), but it makes sense the way they write it here. There is a crazy twist at the end that I really liked, although I was kind of like, "Oh, Crud!" I sincerely hope my library gets the next volume.

I really liked this one. So four stars.

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Justice League: Rise and Fall by J.T. Krul (Goodreads Author), Fabrizio Fiorentino (Illustrator)

Justice League: Rise and Fall Justice League: Rise and Fall by J.T. Krul
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a riveting, emotional read. It's heartbreaking what Roy Harper (the first Speedy) goes through. I wish that things were different. That Roy didn't have to go through the grief of losing a child. Unfortunately, he goes on a downward spiral, and he's not alone. Oliver Queen, his mentor (and foster father) goes over the line, seeking vengeance instead of the justice his membership in the League represents.

This book had me feeling very uncomfortable. I have a problem with drug abuse, and it was hard to see Roy going down that road. I could understand the pain he was trying to kill with drugs, but I hated seeing him go down that road. His decision to pursue a more violent personage is iffy as well. The combination is a very scary proposition.

Ollie is a character I just love. I can't explain why. He's very flawed, but he's one of my favorites from the graphic novel series. I felt bad for him for what happens between him and Dinah, but I can understand her reasoning. The writing is complex here, you can feel all the angst and the complicated actions and feelings of characters. I think that this is really good writing for a graphic novel. The writer doesn't take it easy on you. You go through all the pain with the characters, feel their horror, and the impact of the poor and not-so poor decisions they make. You also flinch when you see how they treat each other, for valid or not reasons.

I don't want to revisit Roy's loss head on, but I'm interesting in continuing his story.

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Thursday, October 02, 2014

Salvation Run by Matthew Sturges (Goodreads Author), Bill Willingham (Goodreads Author), Sean Chen (Illustrator), Walden Wong (Illustrator)

Salvation RunSalvation Run by Matthew Sturges
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Salvation Run is definitely a book from the villain viewpoint. It's interesting to see that vantage point, if well done. I think this was mostly well done, although I never felt much sympathy for the villains (except for when they threw the mortally wounded guy to the ravenous predators, which was just wrong!). I really, really despise the Joker, and this story gave me much reason to dislike him. He is completely malevolent and utterly psychopathic. I can't find a single redeeming trait in him. Lex Luthor has got to have the biggest ego in the multiverse. He is completely narcissistic and a huge megalomaniac. It sucks that his massive intellect feeds into his grandiose view of himself and his overweening self-confidence. I think I might have liked this more if their roles weren't the biggest. I could see some of the less objectionable villains as more antiheroes but not so much these two.

It was an interesting idea with good execution. I don't care as much for this as the Suicide Squad, although they are also quite villainous in some ways. Although Harley Quinn started out as an acolyte of the Joker, I quite like her. I'm glad she's moved on from the Joker. At any rate, this was kind of fun to see the various villains from the DC Comics universe. And there were some interesting surprises and quite a commentary on human nature and the way that people react to crises, in mostly the worst ways.

I've rate this at about 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Batman: Arkham Unhinged, Vol. 4 by Karen Traviss (Goodreads Author), Derek Fridolfs, Various (Illustrations)

Batman: Arkham Unhinged, Vol. 4Batman: Arkham Unhinged, Vol. 4 by Karen Traviss
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I had no idea this was the fourth book in the series. I grabbed it off the shelf, thinking it was the follow up to Batman: Arkham City. It does seems like it does pick up soon after that book ended.

Overall, I was bored with this graphic novel. Not very much happened. It was more of a mystery/police procedural, which isn't bad in itself. However, there was no real excitement or build in the story. I found myself just trying to finish it.

For those who ship Batman and Catwoman, there were some interesting flirting bits. Bats is different with her. I don't know if indulgent is the right word. He seems more emotive than usual, at any rate.

My verdict is I didn't care that much for this book. It wasn't terrible, although I wasn't that fond of the way Bats is drawn. Just kind of middle of the road for me.

Overall rating: 2.5/5.0 stars

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Woman Woman: Down to Earth by Greg Rucka, Drew Johnson (Illustrator), Ray Snyder (Illustrator), Steve Rude (Illustrator), Stuart Immonen (Illustrator), Eduardo Risso (Illustrator), Eric Shanower (Goodreads Author) (Illustrator), Brian Stelfreeze (Illustrator)

Wonder Woman: Down to EarthWonder Woman: Down to Earth by Greg Rucka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As much as I appreciate Greg Rucka's writing, I wasn't too fond of this graphic novel. Not an auspicious start to my Wonder Woman graphic novel reading career. I thought it was way too mired in politics. I hate politics. I don't see Wonder Woman as a woman of rhetoric, but a woman of actions which show the principles she holds dearly. This book made me almost like Wonder Woman less. It seemed as though she was cast in the role of politician/representative, and my trust factor seems to diminish greatly when I see someone in this role. She seemed to be trying to juggling both roles, as representative to her people and mouthpiece and fighter and protector for justice. Also, the artwork was dated. I think I am sensitive to that when I read graphic novels. I like the newer artwork and style. So when I read a book that is over ten years old, I almost have to brace myself that I won't be as attracted by the artwork.

It's hard to say much about the storyline, because I feel that this is part of a series and maybe I dropped in when things had already gotten started. As such, I didn't know the major players well, or what was going on. I don't know if it's worth tracking down the other parts of the series, honestly.

This could be an "It's not you, It's me" kind of scenario, seeing as how I am not a big fan of political storylines, and as mentioned, I prefer the newer graphic novels' art styles.

You might like this more than I did.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sword and Sorcery, Volume 1: Amethyst by Christy Marx, Aaron Lopresti (Illustrations), Various (Illustrations)

Sword of Sorcery, Vol. 1: AmethystSword of Sorcery, Vol. 1: Amethyst by Christy Marx
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have to admit that the cover made me pass this by a few times because the cover looks like a Barbie-theme graphic novel. Don't get me wrong. I went through a huge Barbie doll phase. I still have a collection of Barbie dolls. But I never got into the Barbie merchandise and have no desire to read a Barbie graphic novel or watch a Barbie movie. I really wish the cover wasn't so bubble gum-looking.

Nevertheless, I decided to check this out. It's actually not bad. It's definitely sword and sorcery. I like the genre, and I think it was done quite well. The whole idea of Amethyst as a seventeen-year-old who comes into her heritage as a powerful princess of another kingdom is pretty cool. I like that each kingdom represents a different precious gem. However, one of my issues with the way Amethyst is drawn is Amy looks like just her mother and aunt. It was only possible to tell them apart based on what they were wearing. I think there was more variation in the other kingdoms, thankfully. While I wasn't loving the whole Barbie verisimilitude, the action and magic was actually pretty cool.

Talking about strange bedfellows. Amethyst is paired with Beowulf and Stalker, which are both very violent and more male-oriented sword and sorcery tales. It was a bit of a rough transition, probably moreso for readers who don't jump back and forth between male and female-oriented fiction.

Beowulf was kind of a cool update on the old tale. Instead of it being the original Beowulf, it's about a genetically engineered warrior of the same name, created by the Basilisk (who I know about from reading The Suicide Squad series). There is a link between Grendel and Beowulf because of Basilisk. Beowulf isn't strictly likable, but he definitely is good at killing monsters. I would read more of these stories.

Stalker is about an ancient warrior king who makes an unwise deal with Lucifer that comes back to bite him in the rear. He goes on a mission to get revenge in return. It was the darkest story. Readers who like horror action will enjoy it.

Overall, pretty good. If the cover makes you want to avoid it, I say give this a try.

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Irredeemable Vol.6 by Mark Waid, Peter Krause

Irredeemable, Vol. 6Irredeemable, Vol. 6 by Mark Waid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is it fair to review this when I accidentally read these out of order? I figured I probably should before I forget what I read.

I thought I had read volume five, but I was wrong, and I realized it fairly soon after I started reading it.

Waid is a tricky fellow. He has some moments where you feel just as delusional as Plutonian does. I couldn't figure out what was really happening. The other lowdown thing he does is have me feeling kinda sorry for Plutonian. Yeah, I wish I didn't. He's a really bad guy. But at the same time, he has some pathology that makes you a softhearted person which things had gone differently for him.

Although this was weird as all get out, and it has quite a few sexual deviants in it, I ended liking this volume more than I previously expected. It was freaky weird, and gave me a different vantage point. I needed it though, because I thought I had maxed out on how much I could despise Plutonian, and I wondered where it could go next. It looks like it can go very far.

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I, Vampire, Vol. 2: Rise of the VampiresI, Vampire, Vol. 2: Rise of the Vampires by Joshua Hale Fialkov
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

How can a vampire insurrection get any worse? Add zombies to the equation. I like vampire fiction. Zombie fiction? Not so much. Well, it depends on how it's done. This, well it was creepy and exciting and freaky. Add in some fundamentalist vampire hunters, then it's a party.

On the downside, the Gothic atmosphere I enjoyed so much in the first book isn't as evident. I missed it. On the good side, lots of action and some serious plot twists. Enemies become friends and friends become enemies. And bad guys become good guys (sort of), and maybe vice versa.

Stormwatch comes to lend a hand in the situation. Andrew could honestly use the help. But let's remember the cardinal rule: Andrew Barnett is not to be underestimated.

I'm going to take a break on this series, but I'll be back eventually.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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Wolverine: Japan's Most Wanted by Jason Latour (Text), Jason Aaron (Text), Yves Bigerel (Illustrations), Paco Diaz (Illustrations)

Wolverine: Japan's Most WantedWolverine: Japan's Most Wanted by Jason Latour
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was trying to figure out why I didn't like this more. With some distance, I realized I wasn't that fond of the artwork or the lettering. Wolverine is such an intense fellow, and his story is visceral and real. I like the art to reflect this. While bright colors don't come amiss to this art lover, I felt that the style of artwork was too cartoonish. Is that a thing when it comes to graphic novels? I guess it is, because it felt that way when I was reading this.

I am such an unbelievable sucker for anything martial arts and swordplay, and I have this bizarre obsession with the movie "The Wolverine". I've watched it quite a bit. I wonder if that movie was loosely (and I do mean loosely) based on this graphic novel, or does this go back to the older Wolverine series? Anyway, I saw some scenes that seemed echoed in the movie. I would have loved to see the movie mirror this story a bit more, but with the artwork that is so endearing to me in the X-Force run by Craig Kyle. I would have been blown away by this if it had that sort of visual style. Because the story itself was pretty good.

One of my favorite parts in this was when Logan gets in touch with his inner samurai. I really ate that part up. As of late, I have become quite the Wolverine fan. And my friend who is a Wolverine acolyte isn't even returning my calls, so he doesn't know how much his obsession has rubbed off on me. (*heavy sigh*)

At any rate, I feel myself rambling. Let's get back on point. That Sabertooth is so revolting to me in every way. I think this book really captures that about his character, and how he's like a bad case of retroviral latent infection. He always comes back, often worse than ever. Poor Logan. At times, it seems a mercy that his memory is spotty in great parts.

I picked this up because it's really hard to figure out where to dive in to start reading Wolverine's series. I did read Weapon X back in the day. It's been a while. And because this is set in Japan. I figure I couldn't go wrong. Overall, it was okay. Not a bad start. I am looking forward to reading more Wolverine in the near future.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stormwatch, Vol. 1: The Dark SideStormwatch, Vol. 1: The Dark Side by Paul Cornell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this up because of the mention of Stormwatch in another graphic novel I had finished, and partially because Martian Manhunter is in it. I thought it might be an interesting story. I had no previous information about this book going into it, and I feel that newbies might be confused with this first book. It's a reboot of the series, since DC Comics absorbed Wildstorm, and as a result of the New 52, DC Comics-wide reboot.

It's pretty good, but I was left pretty confused about what was going on. The cast is intriguing, and it sort of reminded me of the BBC show Torchwood a little, although it's not exactly like it.

Things I liked:

*I liked the idea of a motley crew hanging out in hyperspace and going on missions to protect the galaxy and more specifically Planet Earth.

*There is a pretty diverse group of folks in the group.

*Since I am a bit of a sucker for swordsmanship, I liked that one of the crew was the Eminence of Blades, pretty much the Master of all Swordmasters.

*For those who like a little bit of GLBT, there is a love at first sight scenario between Apollo and Midnighter.

*Apollo's power of absorbing solar energy and using it to give himself super strength was pretty cool.

*Jack Hawskmoor can essentially communicate with the spirit of all cities. That was kind of neat.

What I Didn't Care For:

*I was confused about what going on. The writing essential drops you in the story in media res, with no background and limited revelation on characters as the story goes along. The sketches at the end told me more about the characters than I learned reading it. I don't think that's a good strategy since the whole New 52 is about introducing new readers to tried and true imprints.

*The layout was awkward and contributed to my feeling of confusion about what was going on. The artwork didn't speak to my soul very much. It wasn't bad, with the colors being bright and appealing, but not really that impressive. As a side note, I couldn't tell if Midnighter was supposed to be black and that Jenny Quantum was Asian.

**As an aside, I looked this up on New 52 and I think they took a pretty different direction with the story from what it was in the Wildside comics. It seems much less edgy that it once was. That's neither here nor there.

Overall, this was okay. Not bad, but not that impressive. I might pick up later volumes, but it's not a huge priority at this point.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Swamp Thing, Volume 2: Family Tree by Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette (Artist), Marco Rudy (Artist), Francesco Francavilla (Artist), Kano (Artist), Becky Cloonan (Artist)

Swamp Thing, Vol. 2: Family TreeSwamp Thing, Vol. 2: Family Tree by Scott Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this one better than the first. I don't know if it's because it gives us some background on Alec and in particular how his fate became entangled with Abigail. The battle between the Green and the Rot feels epic. In this book, we see that the battle also involves the other vital force, the Red, which is the animal primal nature.

I really like the concept of plantlife being powerful and sentient. I think it's because I love plants and I am a keen gardener. I feel like that part of me that loves plants connects to Alec as a hero. And the part of me that is a healer instinctively rejects the Rot. I like that Abigail's fate isn't predetermined. That Alec fights for her and she fights against it herself. I feel that bad her brother had chosen the darker path.

This series is definitely more horror than anything else. Lots of disturbing imagery, but the artwork is in its own way very beautiful. I think this one has earned four stars from me. I will keep reading!

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Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Steelheart" is a should read for fans of 'superhero' fiction. This is a different vantage point of superheroes though. In this world, they are the villains. Called "Epics", they are humans who manifest powers after a comet called "Calamity" arrives. These guys are just plain mean, and above that, they are also murderous psychopaths if not sociopaths who believe that their abilities make them above the rules and also human ethics and right and wrong.

Sanderson is a great writer. He sucks the reader right into this story from the first page. David has a very personal reason to hate the Epics, and makes it his mission to bring down the Epic who murdered his father. You see first hand how terrible the Epics can be in action. If you're like me, you have to reorient yourself to understand that the Epics can't ever be the heroes of this story. But then, you also know to keep reading, because it's not as cut and dried as you think.

This whole story felt new and unique to me. Some elements are tried and true, but the execution is unique. I can see this making a great movie. The art direction for Newcago would be fantastic. Having been born in the shadow of this great Midwestern city, it was really compelling to see how Steelheart had distorted this city and remade it in his own image. Seeing the Epics in action as well. The way Sanderson writes, it does feel very vivid and lifelike in my mind.

I didn't give this more than four stars, because it still has that young adult superficiality that I regret when I read Young Adult books. I feel like the publishers must make the authors and editors trim down the books in some way, in this mistaken belief that younger readers can't handle a deeper read. Having read Mistborn by Sanderson, I know he is capable of going deep, and I would love to see more that in this series. The idea is great and the story itself is well done. I just want to feel like I'm reading a more finished/complex work. I refuse to believe that younger readers can't handle it. After all, this story does go to some dark places.

I also wasn't that fond of the relationship between David and Megan. I felt like it was checking of the list for young adult books nowadays--obligatory young adult elements. Don't get me wrong, I really love romance. But romance has to feel real and integral to the story, and Megan and David's relationship wasn't deep enough to get to that point. Megan wasn't likable as a character (or as well developed), and I had trouble believing David would fall for her. Out of the members of the Reckoners, she was the least appealing character to me. I though the Professor, Abraham, Cody and Tia were all really cool. And of course, I liked David. I loved how he was a real geek, a compiler of facts about the Epics to an exhaustive degree. And he had developed the skills in himself to accomplish the goals he needed to have to get his revenge on Steelheart.

Despite the fact that this wasn't a perfect book, I still recommend it readers of superhero fiction. It takes the familiar concepts of the genre and makes you think about it hard. I could almost see Steelheart as a dark version of Superman, much like Plutonian from Irredeemable, Vol. 1 , and that's a very scary thought. I will definitely keep reading this series.

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Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

Kiss of Snow (Psy-Changeling, #10)Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fans of this series have waited a long time to see the Alpha Wolf and the Cardinal Psy get together.  It was well worth the wait.  These are some of my impressions of this book.

Hawke made it as hard as possible for Sienna. He inadvertently played a lot of emotional games, pushing her away, but then acting so territorial towards her.  He made it hard for Sienna to be happy apart from him, even though he was resisting the idea of them together.  There were times I wanted to pull out my shovel that I reserve for braining annoying heroes and give him a wallop or two.  Don't get me wrong, Hawke is still one of my favorites.  He just jumped on my nerves a bit in this book. I was glad he finally got a clue that he wasn't going to be happy if he wasn't going to be happy with Sienna.

Honestly, I struggle with the sexual values of the Changelings.  I can't see how the pack members sleeping with each other before they find their mates doesn't lead to friction with their future mates. I guess I'm too jealous. I don't like the idea of interacting with my future husband's past sexual partners.  That would definitely give me heartburn.  While I understand the concept of the importance of touch and affection, I don't get how they can be so cavalier about sexual intimacy. I don't buy Hawke's insistence to Sienna that he wasn't using Rosalie. Um, he kind of was, even if she was okay with it.   I can't suspend my personal sexual ethics enough to be okay with all that.  And the fact that Hawke was so jealous of Sienna spending time with Kit but not understanding how Sienna wouldn't like the fact that he was sleeping with another wolf felt like a huge double standard.  Maybe that was a very obvious symptom to the both of them that Hawke was seeing his mate but not "seeing" her.  The man had a head like a vibranium/adamantium alloy. In other words, really, really hard!

Normally, I am all over changeling/werewolf romance freak, but the Psy aspect of this story wins my affection, hands down. I freaking love the Psy. They are super duper kickbutt awesome.  To me, the Psy storyline drives the story.  I'm ever so excited to read and discover who The Ghost is. No, I don't know yet, so no spoilers please.  Now that I have my Hawke/Sienna book under my belt, it's all about the Psy for me.  Yeah, I'll read the Changeling stories, but gimme my Psy!

Was Sienna crazy awesome or what? I had no idea she had those kinds of powers. Singh did a great job revealing that as the story went along.  Her abilities are crucial to protect the SnowDancer pack especially with the future conflicts on the horizon.  I'm glad that she has a mate who realizes how special she is and will do just about anything to keep her safe and knows how much she is loved.

I also loved the Walker/Lara subplot.  Walker is the old adage "still waters run deep."  He fits shadows Hawke's "playing hard to get" behavior.  I think in the case of Walker, he believes he's incapable of feeling deeply for Lara, but why does he treat her like the woman he loves?  You have to read the book to find out how that goes, but I was very satisfied with their courtship.

Even outside of seeing Hawke and Sienna get together, this whole story was satisfying.  Singh writes great romance, but she also has fantastic world-building and a great story overall. And the tension and excitement of the ongoing war building up in this world of Psy versus Changeling (and the aspect that it's not as cut and dried as it seems) makes for compelling reading.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm one of the few fans of this series who has gotten around to reading this so late. But I finally did!  I'm a happy camper.

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Seducing the Spy by Celeste Bradley

Seducing the Spy (Royal Four, #4)Seducing the Spy by Celeste Bradley

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It reminds me why I love this author. I believe she is criminally underrated among the historical romance authors.  She writes very sexy historical romance that also has substance and wit. Her characters are appealingly quirky and flawed.  This book is so in that vein.

Lady Alicia is Ruined, with a capable R.  It wasn't her fault, but that doesn't make it right.  My heart hurt for Alicia.  I tend to like my heroines virginal, but I also like a heroine who has had a bit of life experience under her belt, and she is a survivor. In other words, I don't think possessing a "V" card is enough to make a successful heroine.   A heroine should be three-dimensional and she should have substance and character. That was so Alicia.  I loved her.  I rooted for her to get her happy ending, and I really wanted it to be with Wyndham!

Now Wyndham is more of the Darcy type hero. Cold, composed and remote.  His reasons for being so make a lot of sense. You see, Wyndham always knows when someone is lying to him. Except for Alicia.  It drives him crazy that he can't read Alicia. Especially since he has began falling for her shortly after they met.  I liked how Alicia brought out the wilder, emotional side in Wyndham.  But how he fought it. At times, I felt his behavior towards her was very unkind, and I wanted him to realize what a gem she was. At the same time, I loved how Alicia demanded respect. She didn't lay down to be abused by him. Even with her diminished circumstances, Alicia stayed true to herself and was her own person. She won her hero fair and square.

Even though it's taken me years to finish this series, I felt like the ending was perfect.  This book is a great combination of light humor and wit, sexy and emotional romance, and a nice dose of suspense and intrigue.  It's an excellent conclusion to the Liar's Club series and its crossover The Royal Four.  I enjoyed catching up with the other characters from The Royal Four, and they made me nostalgic from my days of reading The Liar's Club.

This book is several years old, but I think it's worth tracking down.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars.

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