Comics Briefly: Age of X: Universe #1, American Vampire #13, Dollhouse, Jimmy Olsen, Wonder Woman #609

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Favorite Book This Week: Jimmy Olsen

All books new in stores on 3/30/11

Age of X: Universe #1
Avengers Writer: Simon Spurrier, Pencils: Khoi Pham, Inks: Tom Palmer, Colors: Sonia Oback
Spider-Man Writer: Jim McCann, Artist: Paul Davidson, Colors: Antonio Fabela

Neat idea: this issue (one of two) follows other Marvel Universe characters in the alt-world of Age of X. The Avengers are broken, evil and/or deranged. Sue Storm's story is particularly fractured and interesting. I look forward to the second half. It will hopefully link up with the intro frame from this, which implies nasty things for the Avengers' fate next time. The Spiderman-story is complete in this issue, and it's short, sweet, sad and satisfying.

American Vampire #13 (Ghost War Part One)
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Rafel Albuquerque
Colors: Dave McCaig

Oooh, I like this new story arc. The focus is on Pearl's husband Henry, and his story is poignant and complex. My only complaint is that I want to know what happens next now!

Dollhouse One-Shot: Epitaphs
Story by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen
Art: Cliff Richards, Colors: Michelle Madsen

(This is a prequel to Epitaph One.) Overall this was a really solid little piece of story. I did feel a bit like I should go watch the episode to be clear on the characters, though. (Except Felicia Day's Maggie. I remember her.) I really enjoyed the various characters trying to deal with the sudden new reality. And the end/hook for the ongoing series was great. (Side note: there's going to be an ongoing?)

Jimmy Olsen One-Shot (Jimmy Olsen's Big Week)
Writer: Nick Spencer, Artist: RB Silva, Inker: Dym

Oh man, I've been waiting for the end of this storyline ever since DC booted Jimmy Olsen as the backup feature on Action Comics (and I therefore quit collecting Action Comics). If you missed the feature last fall, this issue collects the entire arc in one triple-size book! It's so much fun: I love the writing, I love the art, the book just makes me happy. There are a couple of missteps in the art, which I only mention because a couple pages right at the climax were really jarring, and otherwise the art is so amazing that any flaw is really noticeable. I still highly recommend this as a sweet, funny romp and the best modern age/silver age mash-up I've read.

Wonder Woman #609
Writers: JM Straczynski and Phil Hester, Penciller: Don Kramer
Inkers: Sean Parsons and Wayne Faucher

I...didn't hate this. Eight issues of suck so far, but this one... was actually kinda good! I know, I'm shocked too. They're making progress towards restoring Wonder Woman's timeline/history, there were some neat comic-ish multiple-world ideas thrown around, and a kick-ass ending sequence. Dr. Psycho (revealed in the final panel last issue) isn't a villain I'm familiar with, but it looks like this is a really interesting take on him. At least alter the ugliest parts of that costume (maybe the often-hideous bicep garters), and we could be in business!

Top Ten Tuesday - Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This weeks list: Top Ten Authors That Deserve More Recognition

Okay, there are a few possible directions to take this. First I'll cover a couple folks who deserve more credit for how influential they were, then some semi-obscure to obscure authors I'm fond of, and finally I'll move on to some up-and-comers. Onward!

1. Lord Dunsany
One of the granddaddies of all genre, who has somewhat fallen out of common reading. If you're a fan of fantasy, and you haven't read The King of Elfland's Daughter, you have some homework to get to. (Also see my review here)

2. Raymond Chandler
Nothing simple about his brooding pulp detective novels; this is prose so sharp you could cut yourself, and he deserves more readers from all corners of the reading world.

3. Peter S. Beagle
I've seen enough copies of the recent collection of his short fiction (review here) at the library to think that people are reading it, but I'm sometimes surprised by how many haven't tried his inventive fantasies.

4. Octavia E. Butler
I'm ashamed I hadn't read anything by her until just recently. Amazing work, my review of Dawn here.

5. R. A. MacAvoy
I remember loving her books years back, but she's barely written anything recently, so she's fallen off the radar. If you have a yen for medieval fantasy with unique magic, a good historical setting and angels that are fascinating, track down her Trio For Lute series, it starts with Damiano.

6. Michael Scott Rohan
I do hope I'm not leading you astray with the previous and this one; I haven't read either author for years. I remember very good things about Rohan's Winter of the World fantasy trilogy, but it's been out of print for a while.

7-10: I'm lucky enough to have a collection of friends who have written some awesome books. So hell yes, I think they should get more recognition! Browse away:

Erin L. Snyder
I edited these books; I should know how good they are. I think they're damn good.
Facsimile (near future SF novel about social networking, artificial intelligence and the future of society. Has awesome characters, dark humor, and an intricate and intelligent setting.)
For Love of Children (dark fantasy novel with lovely stylized prose, which takes Santa Claus and other modern myth figures as serious characters. It's incredibly moving.)
A Man of Snow and Other Seasonal Stories (THIS ONE IS SHORT AND FREE!)

Chris Braak
The Translated Man (noir/detective novel set in an incredibly inventive world, similar to steampunk only more intriguing and unique)
Mr. Stitch (Sequel to the above!)

Joseph Laycock
Vampires Today: The Truth About Modern Vampirism (scholarly work about the modern subculture, it's really interesting)

Gabriel McKee
The Gospel According to Science Fiction (academic work, great survey and analysis of religious themes in SF)

Happy Reading!

Before the Storm

Monday, March 28, 2011

Before the Storm: Eden Trilogy, Book 1
Marian Perera, ebook 2010

Premise: Alex is a concubine in the stronghold of Stephen Garnath, who is trying to bring the scattered baronies under his military might. That is, until she's given away to Robert, possibly the only man who might stand up to Stephen's armies. Alex and Robert have to decide whether they can trust each other long enough to figure out why she was placed with him, before his province is overrun.

I found this a fascinating book because of how willing it is to live in the margins. At times it's like a romance, but it has a strong action plot-line. It toys with steam-based technology in a magic/medieval setting without ever stepping into steampunk cliches. I really liked that.

Alex is great fun to read, Robert solid and well developed, and I loved the wide range of the supporting cast, especially the other women.

The plot is fast-paced and fun, the romance convincing and sexy, the politics intriguing, the magic unique... It was a very good book.

I'm not surprised, of course. I bought it for my Kindle because I enjoy Marian's blog (Flights of Fantasy), so I know she's smart and careful about her worldbuilding.

I liked that there wasn't an immediate hook for the sequel. The strong climax means the book can be complete in itself, but I can see plenty of threads she could follow up.

If this is before the storm, I'm quite interested to see what else the author has up her sleeve.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Buy Before the Storm at

Follow Friday Mar 25

Friday, March 25, 2011

Before I get to the Blog Hop, a bit of history. Today (3/25/11) is the 100 year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. Out of that tragedy came many of the fire safety, work safety and child labor laws that many of us now take for granted. Honor the 146 women and girls who died: remember their story.

(And now to change tone entirely...)

This is Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View

Today's Question is:

Q. Inspired by the inane twitter trend of #100FACTSABOUTME, give us five BOOK RELATED silly facts about you.

1. My taste in media is somewhat diverse, but universally geeky. For example: my two absolute favorite comic book series that I'm collecting right now are Darkwing Duck (kid-friendly action comedy based on the cartoon) and American Vampire (suggested for mature readers, full of violence, blood and nudity)

2. I am a compulsive library goer. I've been a card-carrying member of at least 7 different library systems in four states over the years, possibly more which I'm forgetting.

3. In the summer of 2003 I was broke and bored, and didn't have access to a library for once, so I read the first 5 Harry Potter books (for the first time) over many trips to a Barnes and Noble.

4. The first book I ever read was The Cat in the Hat. I was very young, such that my parents were rather surprised to discover I could read.

5. I have an odd amount of affection for 4.5" by 7" paperback books. I know they can look clunky on the shelves, but they are light and small, which is handy for reading on the train. So many of my memories of reading are bound up in mass market paperbacks, that at this point I just like them as a format.

Happy Hopping, readers!

Comics Briefly: New Mutants #23 (Age of X Chapter 4), Supergirl #62

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Favorite Issue this week: New Mutants #23

All books new in stores on 3/23/11

New Mutants #23 (Age of X Chapter 4)
Writer: Mike Carey, Pencils: Steve Kurth
Inker: Allen Martinez, Colors: Brian Reber

I enjoyed this issue: decent pace of new revelations, good character beats, pretty artwork. I'm continuing to like this alt-world plot and all the character tweaks. I thought the minor characters' reactions to Magneto apparently killing Rogue and Gambit (at the end of the previous issue) were really good. I like Legacy/Rogue a lot. Between teaming her up with Gambit, and using Kitty as another focus character, this event is hitting a lot of my favorite X-Men soft spots.

Supergirl #62
Writer: James Peaty, Artist: Bernard Chang
Colorist: Blond

I had to read this issue twice just to understand what was going on. That's never a good sign. For all the running around the characters did, I felt like very little happened. Not much in the way of new info this issue, and Supergirl put together a team just to lose them all again. Blah.

Also considered:
Red Sonja Oneshot
The first story looked like fairly decent writing, but I wasn't about to plunk down 5 dollars for an issue that was half re-print. In the end, I just couldn't support silly-looking chain-mail bikinis.

Top Ten Tuesday - Pet Peeves

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish

This Week's Prompt: Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves (all those things that annoy you in a story, with book covers, bookstores...)

Ranting is fun! In no particular order:

1: Perspective Switching

This drives me up the walls. If the author is writing in Close Third Person, and switches which character the reader is following, there had better be a chapter break, or at least a section break. And if it switches, worst of all, in the middle of a scene, there had better be a darn good reason. I sometimes think that authors who do this have problems conveying what a character is thinking without being 'in their head', and that's just lazy writing. Every so often there will be an author who can pull it off, but mostly I hate it.

2: Confusing Names

You can check out my entire post on naming for details.

I should add that I understand. Names are hard, and creating names that work together, that sound like they're from the same world (if you're creating a new world) is even harder. However, even "real" names can be problematic. If you introduce a character named Katherine briefly in one chapter, and then a chapter and a half later there is a female character whose name starts with a K, and I have to flip back to check to see whether this is the same character, you have a problem.

3: People who make up new labels (Magical Realism, looking at you) when they mean that a book is "genre, but good, so it can't really be genre"

You are not helping.

4: Typos

PROOFREAD, PEOPLE. I can overlook a typo here and there, but more than a few and it starts to make me crazy. The worst kind for me are the homophones that the spellchecker won't catch. Simple misspelling or a doubled word my eyes can skip over, but few things throw me out of a story faster than seeing loose when the author obviously means lose, week for weak, pitcher for picture, etc.

5: Poor E-book Formatting

I will overlook some of this if I got the book for free, and I'll overlook quite a few things even for paid titles, but it has to be legible. (I am not insensitive to the difficulty, but I have formatted e-books, so I notice all the little things that I fixed in mine.) An e-book should be in a font size that's not completely different from every other one, should have paragraph indents that are a sensible size, shouldn't have paragraph breaks in the middle of paragraphs, etc.. The first letter of every chapter shouldn't disappear because the print version had drop caps. Especially awkward: un-necessary hy-phens left o-ver from an OCR ver-sion of the text.

6: Boring or Knock-off Book Covers

This is really only a little peeve, mostly centered on covers that turn me off books that I find out later that I would like. I don't really have much a solution for this one, as I am personally fond of simple graphic covers, or highly detailed paintings, both of which are easy to do badly, and have themselves lead me astray to mediocre books. This, on the other hand, is fun: Orbit's Chart of Fantasy Art: Part One, Two, Three, Four

7: Repetitive Description

Some authors use the same one or two descriptions, or key phrases, to describe a character over and over again. It's less noticeable for those who use the same phrase or the same passage in subsequent books - until I go back to re-read them. Romance-themed books are particularly prone to this destroying the tone. The more times I read about the character's "piercing blue eyes" (or whatever), the funnier it becomes.

8: Anachronistic Terminology

I hate it when authors either use language that's too modern for a historical setting, or worse, mixed up temporally. If there are thees and thous, they had better be used correctly, and not mashed up with modern phrasing. (I can imagine this being done well, but that would be a surprising exception.)

9: Overuse of Brands as a Substitute for Description

This is why I don't read much 'chick lit'. Describing a character or a space by using brand name merchandise makes me crazy. Like most things, a little is okay, but too much is nasty.

10: E-Book Price War

It's a mess out there right now. I'm irritated with publishers trying to justify charging more for new e-books than for paperbacks, I'm irritated with Amazon for refusing to let Kindles play nice with other formats, I'm irritated with iBooks/Apple regarding just about their entire system, and I'm pissed about the Harper Collins library e-books debacle. You'd think maybe just one other industry would choose to learn from the music industry and get ahead of the technology wave instead of fighting tooth and claw to keep their old business model.

Ah. Feels good to get all that out. Enough snark for today, here is a kitten:

Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book 1)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dawn (Xenogenesis, Book 1)
Octavia E. Butler, 1987

Premise: After a horrible war, few humans were left alive. Lilith Iyapo lived through the war, only to awaken in a featureless room. Who brought her here, are they rescuers or captors or something more complicated? And what plans do they have for the remnants of humanity?

Dawn is a brilliant, moving book. I realized that I had never read anything by Octavia Butler - one of the few highly successful African-American women writers of Science Fiction - so I set out to remedy that. I'm very glad that I did.

Lilith is a strong, complex character, and the reader sees the plot unfold entirely from her perspective. Her struggles - within herself, with the Oankali, with other humans - prove her to be smart, adaptable, human and fallible. How her personal convictions grow and shift while she learns more about her situation make up the greatest part of the drama.

It won't be giving much away to tell you that Lilith and the other survivors have been taken on board an alien spacecraft. The aliens are keeping most of the humans suspended or separated while they learn about them and repair the damaged Earth. The alien-ness of the Oankali is wonderfully done. They can act human, and are bipedal, but every time Lilith thinks she understands, something new is revealed. I am always intrigued by a truly alien race, and few authors do a good job with them.

Dawn deals with human sexuality and relationships in an intriguing, dark, adult manner, without being in almost any sense a “romance”. The complexity and ambivalence of this book was fascinating to me. I absolutely loved it

5 Stars – An Amazing Book!

I will definitely be seeking out the sequels to this.

The whole series is called Lillith's Brood or Xenogenesis, and it's for sale at

Follow Friday/Book Blogger Hop

Friday, March 18, 2011

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee's View

Today's Question is:

How did you come up with your blog name?

I basically answered this on my About page, but it started with The Blue Fairy's Workshop, where I post my custom toys and dolls as well as other art projects. The Bookshelf has grown to be a much bigger site, but it started out as an extension of my first blog.

Book Blogger HopThe Book Blogger Hop is hosted at

Today's Question is:

Do you read only one book at a time, or do you have several going at once?

It depends, but I will often read more than one book at once. I might have one in my bag and one by the bed, or pause what I'm reading on my Kindle to dash through something that is about to be due back at the library. Sometimes I try to finish one before starting another, especially if I'm finding the book hard to concentrate on, but it's not a rule. 

Scent of Magic

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scent of Magic
Andre Norton, 1998

Willadene has a talent for scent, and finally manages to leave her life as a kitchen drudge for her distant cousin to become an apprentice herbalist.  She has to master the skill quickly if she wants to help her mistress protect the Duke's daughter from the evil forces gathering in the land.

This is a decent character-centered adventure fantasy.  There's nothing groundbreaking, but nothing boring either. The characters are well articulated and interesting: Willadene, timid but insightful, Halwice the Herbmistress is kind and secretive, the Duke who is uncomfortable with ruling, his daughter, dealing with suddenly being called upon to be a public figure, the Chancellor, loyal even against the Duke's outward wishes, and others.

I like the idea of scent-based magic.  Something as simple as switching the sense the narration focuses on alters the feel of the story strongly.

It doesn't come together by the end as much as I might have hoped.  While the ending is fine, it relies a bit too heavily on a few cliches and one of Norton's favorite crutches: unexplained mysticism.  This makes it all feel rather mythic, but that doesn't mesh well with the very down-to-earth beginnings of the story.  Also the resolution of one major character is poorly explained.

The beginning and middle is stronger than the end, but not enough for me to really recommend this, except as filler.

2 Stars – An Okay Book

On the other hand, I bought this used for a dollar.  Not a bad read for a dollar.

Find Scent of Magic really cheap at

Comics Briefly: Avengers Academy #11, Darkwing Duck #10, Ruse #1

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Favorite Book This Week: Avengers Academy #11

All books were new in stores on 3/16/11

Avengers Academy #11
Writer: Christos Gage, Penciler: Tom Raney
Inker: Scott Hanna, Colorist: Jeromy Cox

A good issue, with a few awkward art moments. There was one sequence in which I couldn't understand what was happening now and what was flashback, and a splash page where the perspective was fairly strange, but other than that and some weird faces here and there, the art on this title is better than it's been. It says a lot about how intriguing the characters and the writing is that I put up with the spotty art. There were some really good moments for Veil in this issue, and while I don't have the Marvel background to appreciate the villain they were bringing back, the information didn't feel overwhelming. I really liked the crazy space-lady that most of the issue centered on. It had a very fun hook for the next issue, and I'll look forward to it.

“I knew this would happen. You hang out with the Avengers, sooner of later some cosmic wack job shows up wanting to kill everybody.”

Darkwing Duck #10
Writer: Ian Brill, Artist: James Silvani
Colorist: Lisa Moore

A solid, if unexceptional, issue. The best part was a four page sequence focusing on LaunchPad and Morgana. The main plot with Darkwing and Steelbeak is fun too, but there's a slight feel of 'putting the pieces in place' – setting up for the next bit. Now, it's still a great issue. Lots of fun, some well-placed puns, new characters, old characters... It's just not no-holds-barred amazing, and that's what I've started to expect from this book.

“This is like looking for a needle in a pile of old, boring needles.”

Ruse #1
Writer: Mark Waid, Artist: Mirco Pierfederici

CrossGen! I remember CrossGen. Ruse is about the only CrossGen title I was interested in, so I'm amused that Marvel is bringing it back for this miniseries. It's a Victorian detective story set in a semi-magical alternate world. This was a pretty fun issue, and the banter was very strong. Ruse is about a Holmes-ish detective, Simon Archard, with the series mostly focused on his assistant, Emma Bishop. Although I enjoyed this issue, after the first section, I found Emma all talk and little action. I hope that balances out with some good moments for her in the next issue. Simon is a clever, pompous ass, and she needs to have more than wit to balance him.

“Why do we trust newspapermen with facts? It's like giving gunpowder to infants.”

Top Ten Tuesday - Characters As Family

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish

This Week's Prompt: Top Ten Characters I'd Want As Family Members

This is a difficult prompt for me. I whiled away many an hour when I was young imagining that I was friends with various characters, but today? I'm stumped.

I find my difficulty to be two-fold:

1) Most interesting, well-drawn characters are not people you would want to hang out with on a day-to-day basis. In real life, either they would seem to be jerks, totally uninteresting (because you wouldn't actually be involved in the story), have genes you probably don't want, or downright dangerous to the people around them. People who are pleasant to be around often don't make compelling characters.

2) Many books in the genres I read don't deal much with familial relationships outside of parent-child ties or romantic partnership. Plus if the family is involved, they are usually the source of negative drama.

I was able to come up with just one that avoided these problems.

1. Countess Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan (Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Series)
She is smart, strong and caring, and gives really stellar advice to everyone around her.
She shook her head, her smile growing more rueful. "Mark, I'm more than willing to help you and Kareen reach for your goals, whatever the obstacles. But you have to give me some clue of what your goals are." 
Be careful how you aim this woman. The Countess was to obstacles as a laser cannon was to flies. - A Civil Campaign

The Neon Court

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Neon Court
Kate Griffin, 2011

New Release! Book provided by the publisher for review via NetGalley
NB: Kate Griffin is the adult fiction pen name of Catherine Webb 

Okay, first I have to come clean. I didn't request this book for review because I liked the sound of it. I did like the sound of it, it sounded fun and scrappy and not romantic, but I requested it because I found out Ms. Griffin, besides being an author, is a lighting tech. I, when the economy is feeling up to it, am a stage manager, so I feel a certain kinship.

Literary Theater Techs Unite!

Happily, I quite liked the book, so no harm came of my impulse.

Premise: Matthew Swift, Midnight Mayor of London (that's a sort of magical enforcer/leader/diplomat) has just a couple of problems. First, two of the larger magical factions, the Neon Court and the Tribe, are on the brink of war over a murder. Second, an sometime friend of his seems to have a nasty case of should-be-dead-but-somehow-isn't. Somewhere in all this is a prophecy, a conspiracy, and an encroaching evil dangerous enough to give the most powerful beings in London nightmares. Can he save the city, his friends, and himself?

I hadn't read the two books that come before this one, and through much of the book that wasn't a problem. A few times, though, complicated consequences from the earlier volumes came up, and I think I could have followed the minor characters more easily if I had more context.

I especially liked the details of this book; the writing was strong in tactile imagery. The imagination and originality of the setting was fantastic, but it fell apart for me a little in the big picture. The plot hangs together well, I just at some point found it less compelling than I did when it started, although I couldn't put my finger on why.

I did really like it, I just wanted slightly more, perhaps a more satisfying climax.

The main character, Matthew Swift, was wonderful. There was a touch of modern noir here between the darkness of the setting and Swift's habit of getting himself beaten up. He means well, but doesn't always know the right thing to do, and has a propensity to just bull ahead into a dangerous situation and make it up as he goes. I admire that.

I liked Penny the wiseass sidekick, and I liked the completely realized, complex flavors of the different factions warring in the city. The magic is really cool, this specifically urban magic bound up in public transit and electricity and litter.

One bit of the plot which I loved was a nice twist where Griffin put enough subtle information in so that as the reader, I realized something was wrong before the characters did.

Overall it's a very inventive world with well drawn characters, although something in the plot, maybe the tension, didn't entirely coalesce for me. I'll look for the previous volumes, though, and look forward to more work from this author.

4 Stars – A Really Good Book

The Neon Court is for sale on

Comics Briefly: Batgirl # 19, Birds of Prey #10, X-Men Legacy #246 (Age of X Chapter 3)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Favorite Issue this Week: X-Men Legacy #246
All books were new in stores on 3/9/11

Batgirl # 19
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Artist: Ramon Bachs

A decent issue, but not exceptional for this series. I'm a little sad that we're back to the plotline after such enjoyable side stories as the last two issues. I'm not sold on Steph's crush on the cop yet, but I'll hold my judgment on that for now. Also worth noting: large parts of this issue don't make much sense without the current plot of Birds of Prey and at least knowing the premise of Batman Inc, and I have mixed feelings about the way it's presented here.

Birds of Prey #10
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Inaki Miranda

This was almost a really good issue. The dialogue was good, the plot came together nicely, there were kick-ass moments for just about everyone. My biggest problem? The art was just awful; actually distractingly ugly. The cover is gorgeous. The internal art is not.

I'm going back and forth about how I feel about the high number of guest stars. It seems to be pulling the title further into the Batman Inc. line of books. This issue adds things I want to see more of, like Misfit and Catwoman, along with some I could happily skip, like ugly art of Batman, and just odd things, like why, in her stronghold, with only Batfamily who are privy to her secrets present does Barbara call people by their superhero names? It's just weird, and it 'sounds' wrong. Reading this issue, I realized that I'm going to be mighty disappointed if most of these extra Bats don't take themselves back to their own books pronto and leave the Birds to be their own team.

X-Men Legacy #246 (Age of X Chapter 3)
Writer: Mike Carey
Pencils: Clay Mann, Inked: Jay Leisten

This was the most fun and exciting of my issues this week. I'm enjoying the alt-world story, I love the focus on Rogue and Magneto, and the action was great. I like mini-series in general: writers can tell a defined story in a set number of issues, and then have an ending. I know that the ending of this will probably be with the characters restoring the “actual” time-line, or something similar. It's how they get there, and how they got this way in the first place, that are the big mysteries. I like the specific things that make it hard for anyone to figure out that there's a problem, like the big example: no one believes in telepaths. I really like the art; I like the little spins on the characters and their relationships. However the writers get to the end, I plan to enjoy the ride.  

Top Ten Tuesday - Dynamic Duos

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This Week's Prompt: Top Ten Dynamic Duos
"(those bff's, partners in crime, or powerful couples that you just can't forget about)"

Ah. Ha. HA HA HA HA HA...

1. Batman and Robin (Bruce and Dick)
2. Batman and Robin (Bruce and Tim)
3. Batman and Robin (Dick and Tim)
4. Batman and Robin (Dick and Damian)
5. Batman and Robin (Bruce and Damian)
6. Batman and Robin (Old Bruce and Carrie)
7. Batman and Catwoman (Bruce and Selina)
8. Batman and Batgirl (Bruce and Barbara) 
9. Batman and Batman Beyond (Bruce and Terry)
10. Batman and Superman (Bruce and Clark)

Sorry, seriously, where was I?

1: Batman and Robin, really
What... you want more details? Okay. The father/son relationship between Bruce and his various sidekicks is one I really love. I mostly like Bruce and Dick or Bruce and Tim, I've also read some Dick and Tim that has a brotherly vibe that I really enjoyed. I've only experienced the fallout from Jason and I haven't read enough to be sold on anybody and Damian just yet, although I've heard good things.

2: Holmes and Watson
Obviously. If you've never read the actual Doyle stories, you may have missed this, but this is not the relationship between the star and the comic relief, but a between a flawed genius and a brave and loyal friend. Holmes needs Watson, to keep him grounded, to bounce ideas off of, to watch his back. Watson... Watson is a soldier, a doctor, and a writer. He appreciates being needed.

3: Cameron and Raistlin Majere
The love/hate/resentment/affection relationship between the twins stands at the heart of what made Dragonlance popular. One of my favorite moments is from War of the Twins: after having been estranged for years and then openly at odds, when thrown against an external danger, both fall quickly into the old instinct of mutual defense. Figuring out if either can live outside of their dysfunctional partnership is the core of that whole trilogy.

4: Frodo and Sam
Yeah, obvious, I know, but it is one of the great classic friendships of literature.

5: Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin
From the novels by Patrick O'Brien. I adore the Aubrey/Maturin series (also known as the Master and Commander series.) The historical detail and style is superbly done, plus I just like books set in the Napoleonic Age. While individual novels have high and low points, the series as a whole stands as a portrait of a unique friendship, unorthodox, yet unbreakable.

The list is feeling a little testosterone heavy, I admit that I have a thing about male bonding.

6: Tarma and Kethry
Here's the only example I can come up with just now of a pair of women who have the sword-brother style relationship that I love. From the Vows and Honor series by Mercedes Lackey, Tarma (swordswoman from a decimated tribe) and Kethry (mystic, healer, medieval feminist warrior) travel together, righting wrongs and occasionally making cash.

Hmmm... an interesting compare/contrast could be done between them and Xena and Gabrielle, who would be on this list if they were book characters.

7: Calvin and Hobbes
Because it's BRILLIANT.

8: Oracle (Barbara Gordon) and Batgirl (Stephanie Brown)
Here's a modern comic team-up that I've really been enjoying. Barbara as mentor to the new young Batgirl is amusing, particularly since Stephanie is so much fun to read. (I would have put Barbara and Kara (Supergirl), but I really only know that team from animation, or Barbara and Dinah (Black Canary), but I personally can't extricate them from the larger Birds of Prey with Huntress.)

9: Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Green Arrow (Oliver Queen)
I've enjoyed what I've read of this, although I will readily admit that it's dated now and more important than it is good. In the 70's, writer Denny O'Neil and artist Neal Adams did an acclaimed comic series focused on social and political issues of the day. The drama came from the superheroes themselves being at odds ideologically, with Hal Jordan representing order and working within the law and Oliver Queen representing 70's liberalism and radical social change. (Green Arrow on JLU, "defender of the little guy," has his roots here.)
More information...

10: Lawrence and Temeraire
From His Majesty's Dragon, and following series. Okay, I had to have a mental human-other pair-bond on this list. Besides, I've loved what I've read of this series. It's dragon-based warfare in the Napoleonic Age!
(Honorable Mention: Probably some of the Dragon-Rider pairs in the Pern books, but I'd need to re-read them to give you specifics...)

I had a lot of trouble with this list, actually, because most of my favorite characters are either a solo star surrounded by a supporting cast, or in tight groups that are so clearly ensembles that I couldn't logically separate out two. What obvious pair (sticking to non-romantic) am I forgetting?

The Fall (Book Two of the Strain Trilogy)

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Fall (Book Two of the Strain Trilogy) 
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, 2010

Premise: The sequel to The Strain (Previous review, part of a series on vampire literature, is here.) The Master's plans start to come together while scattered humans try to fight back against the increasing vampire plague. Some small spoilers below, especially for the first book.

The Fall suffers a little from being the middle book in a trilogy. It's interesting and exciting, but a lot of the middle feels like just setting pieces in motion so they can come into play later. It's still good, but I anticipate the third will be a more satisfying read.

It continues to be a great take on vampires. Science and magic and other things I won't name because it would be a spoiler all come together to create vampires that feel both fresh, and like a natural step from earlier versions. (I noted this in The Strain as well, that there's a bit of Dracula, a bit of I Am Legend, plus unique twists, etc.)

It also feels like a natural progression on Del Toro's ideas about vampires. I definitely saw aspects of Chronos and Blade 2 represented here.

It's a gory book and not for the faint of heart. The flawed heroes are trying to beat back the evil, but I'll just say that The Fall ends in a dark place and the third book will probably be more dystopian horror than modern horror.

My enjoyment of the book design was validated, because the symbol I liked so much on the chapter dividers of The Strain actually has import in the plot. Nice foreshadowing, guys.

Gus, who was one of the characters who intrigued me the most in The Strain, returns to put together a team of vampire hunters using the people he knows: gang toughs from Jersey City. I like the main characters: Eph the scientist turned fighter, Vasily the exterminator, Nora the bio-tech, and Setrakian the scholar, but I really enjoy the side-plot about Gus and company.
“The old ways are over, Creem. I've seen it, man. I've seen the fucking end. Turf battles? This block-by-block shit is so two-thousand-late. Means nothing. The only turf battle that matters now is all or nothing. Us or them.” - page 107
There are a few revelations that I really loved here and a few that felt forced. Overall I enjoyed it, but not quite as much as the first one. That's the lot in life for almost any 'Book Two of Three', though.

3 Stars – A Good Book

Buy The Fall on

Book Blogger Hop March 4

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Blogger Hop  

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted at

This week's question is:
"Who's your all-time favorite book villain?"

Hmmm... there's a couple ways you can go here, and there's no way I'm choosing just one.

Some posts I've seen are going with villains that are purely villainous, who are truly evil. For that, I'll have to go with Randall Flagg (from various works of Stephen King, notably The Stand, and The Dark Tower series. He's evil, he might be demonic: a practically immortal force of chaos. From Wikipedia:
To King, Flagg is “somebody who’s very charismatic, laughs a lot, [is] tremendously attractive to men and women both, and [is] somebody who just appeals to the worst in all of us.”
The second route is the one I often prefer: you can enjoy villains for being well-rounded, for having motivations you understand, even if you don't agree with their actions. These villains sometimes edge over into being villainous protagonists. Today I'm going to pick The Lady from Chronicles of the Black Company. Evil? Check. Incredibly powerful and dangerous? Check. Still occasionally has human feelings and sympathies? Check.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Comics Briefly: Avengers Academy #10, Darkwing Duck Annual #1

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Favorite Book this Week: Darkwing Duck Annual

All books were new in stores on 3/2/11

Avengers Academy #10
Writer: Christos Gage, Penciler: Sean Chen
Inker: Scott Hanna, Colorist: Jeromy Cox

The art is more consistent this month, thank goodness. This was a good issue, in which we got more of Veil and Hazmat, both intriguing characters who I am happy to know more about. I liked the cute conceit of seeing bits of the kids' various classes: Superhuman Ethics, Extraterrestrial Culture, Applied Chemistry... Plus, hey! It's Leech! Hazmat's plotline verges on melodramatic, but I found it well done.

Darkwing Duck Annual #1
Writer: Ian Brill, Artist: Sabrina Alberghetti
Writer: Tad Stones, Artist: James Silvani

Fantastic! This double-size, two-story issue hit all the right notes for me. The first story, “Toy With Me” focuses on the return of Quackerjack. He's got a new plan, a new “friend”, a new weapon, and a dangerously dark outlook on life. It's a good adventure, and a nuanced portrayal of a cartoon villain's mind. It's actually kind of tragic. The second story, “The Untimely Terror of the Time Turtle” is short, fun, clever, and just plain good. Plus it's written by Tad Stones, creator of Darkwing Duck! The number of sly Disney references in the background of Silvani's art is awe-inspiring, as always. The story starts in a pet shop, and just about every Disney animal has a little cameo by the end. Both stories are wonderful, but the best part might be the essay in the back from Tad Stones, detailing the creation of the Darkwing cartoon show.

This issue stands alone from the ongoing series. If you're a fan, but haven't tried any of the Darkwing Duck comics yet, this is a great one to try.

Top Ten Tuesday - Unread Books

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This Week's Prompt: Top Ten Books You Just HAD to Buy...But Are Still Sitting on the Bookshelf

Hmm. I buy very few books, and even fewer that I haven't read before. I like to take a book out of the library, read it, and if I really like it and want to read it again, maybe I'll buy a copy. I live in a very small apartment, after all.

I guess there are a few. Let me look around...

1: The Deed of Paskenarrion, by Elizabeth Moon
I read the first volume in this trilogy by getting a free ebook from the Baen Free Library. The local library refused to send me the rest of them, as they were paperbacks. I saw a cheap used copy of the whole trilogy so I picked it up to bump an Amazon order up to $25. I haven't gotten around to reading it, though.

2: The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, by William S. Baring-Gould
When I bought this, I didn't realize that much of the analysis is angled toward treating the Holmes stories as if they were real, and then trying to put them into an internal chronology that works, or suggesting solutions for internal inconsistencies. (For example, such and such a story can't take place this year as stated because of this other thing, so maybe Watson lied about this date, for this reason, etc...)

This approach to the stories doesn't actually interest me, so instead of reading it through as I expected to, I've just dipped into this as a reference. (I have read the complete Sherlock Holmes: I have another edition with no commentary that has the original illustrations.)

3: The Dragon and the George, by Gordon R. Dickson
4: The Goblin Tower, by L. Sprague de Camp
Found in a bin of dollar books, haven't gotten to them.

5: Showcase Presents: Supergirl
This black and white collection of early Supergirl stories is really corny, so I've only read a few. The book was a dollar, though, so I don't feel as though I wasted money.

6: I have a folder on my computer with a bunch of free ebooks I downloaded from Project Gutenberg and other sources and haven't read.... does that count? Among them: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Carmilla, The Great God Pan, The People of the Mist...

7: Phenomenal Girl 5, and Merlin's Harp are both Kindle books I downloaded when they were free and haven't read yet.

8: Ah-Ha! Got a real one! (Sort of) Vampire: The Requiem
Bought it soon after it came out, but just haven't plugged through much of it. Of course, if I had people nearby to game with, that might change quickly.

9: Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War: Volume Two
Cheating a little here. This is one of Erin's, but I keep forgetting we have it, and so I haven't read it yet...I don't think I have, anyway.

10: ....Last thing I can find: Box of Loose Comic Issues
There was an awesome sale at a comic store last year, and we got an entire box of back issues for $25. Despite my best efforts, I haven't yet gotten through all 135 issues. I have read a lot of them, though.

I bought lots of books when I was in high school, and some in college, before I had to budget for rent and food and such. Now I'm a lot more picky. Am I alone among book bloggers in that I buy books so seldom?