Comics Briefly: American Vampire #16

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Yeah, there was only one book that came out this week that I thought was worth buying. But it is completely worth buying.

American Vampire #16 (Ghost War Part 4)
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Rafael Albuquerque, Colors: Dave MaCaig

Not much new to say really. Another awesome issue from the American Vampire team. I just always want more! I'm surprised and glad that Henry is on the ball in this issue. The art is gorgeous and the story both fast-paced and subtle, again, as usual. I want to know what happens next, dammit!

Also I recently went back and re-read the entire series. It's so good. So dark and violent and sweet and touching and twisty. I particularly love the cover art, both the design of each one and the way it marks the different arcs. And I didn't realize until I had them all out, but check out "Ghost War" so far (click for big!):


Top Ten Tuesday - Bookish Websites

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This week's prompt is: 

Other than blogs, there aren't a great many book-related websites that I visit regularly.

1: Goodreads I use to keep my recently-read lists semi-organized, manage widgets, and to post reviews.

2. NetGalley is fairly useful, although I only read a scattering of my books from it.

What else....Oh, I know!

3. Queens Library and 4: New York Public Library These are essential to my reading habit, for managing my request lists, renewals, etc.

5: Diamond Comics Distributors Has the lists of which comics are coming out which week.

6: Wikipedia is my go-to site for 'what else is this author known for/quick list of the books in this series/etc.'

7: Amazon, I'm on a lot to read reviews and shop for cheap used books or Kindle books.

8: The Strand is a giant bookstore in Manhattan, with an enormous selection that is always changing. The website is usually correct about what they have in stock, which is a good way to check on specific books before I go.

That's most of what I use with any frequency, anyway. 

Just a Geek

Monday, June 27, 2011

Just a Geek: Unflinchingly honest tales of the search for life, love, and fulfillment 
beyond the Starship Enterprise
Wil Wheaton, 2004

Premise: From the back cover: "Just a Geek is the story of how Wil Wheaton faced down his constant companion, the ghost he calls 'Prove To Everyone That Quitting Star Trek Wasn't A Mistake.'"

I read this at a really good time. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that reading a memoir about career transition and self-doubt is really satisfying if one is full of doubt and in the midst of a potential career transition.

It doesn't hurt that this book is also clever, touching and really funny.

I rediscovered Wil Wheaton recently through the delightful Penny Arcade D&D podcasts. I don't get to do any gaming in my day-to-day life lately, so it's fun to eavesdrop on these games through the podcast. And Wil is obviously a really great gamer.

Reading the book was wonderfully comfortable. It's adapted from entries from his blog, each enclosed in a fuller story of what was going on in his life when he initially wrote the posts and interspersed with flashbacks for more information. I felt as if I were listening to an unusually open and honest story told by a friend.

The 'plot' of the memoir largely revolves around Wil making peace with having been on Star Trek, having left Star Trek, and figuring out what he's going to do with his life if he's not getting jobs as an actor. I liked the 'behind-the-scenes' of his blog, where he would reprint an early post, and then write that he had been exaggerating in the post so that he wouldn't reveal how badly the audition had gone, or how depressed he was, etc.

There are poignant chapters about interactions with other Trek cast members, sweet parts about his wife and step-kids, as well as parts about his passion for acting, and frustration with the 'industry'. Plus a really moving and funny section titled: The Wesley Dialogues.

I recommend Just a Geek to all us geeks, and to anyone who feels like you're fumbling your way through life, just trying to figure out the next step.

5 Stars – An Amazing Book

Check out Just a Geek on

Follow Friday Jun 24

Friday, June 24, 2011

This is Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View

Today's Question is:

Q. In light of the Summer Solstice. Also known as Midsummer...let's talk about fairies. What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

Growing up, I loved my mother's beautiful illustrated cloth-bound fairy tale books, but I can't remember now whether I had a favorite then. I read a bunch of interesting ones in Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book. I'm rather fond of East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

I am also very fond of Jim Henson's Storyteller, for interpretations of fairy tales on film. If you missed this delightful (but short) series, go now! It's on Netflix Instant Streaming! 

For a book based on Fairies: I will continue to push The King of Elfland's Daughter. Read This Book. Let the prose take you, and you will adore this classic of fantasy.

Comics Briefly: Batman: Gates of Gotham #2, X-Men: Legacy #251

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Favorite Issue This Week: Gates of Gotham #2

Issues were new in stores on 6/22/11

Batman: Gates of Gotham #2
Writer: Scott Snyder & Kyle Higgins, Artist: Trevor McCarthy, Colors: Guy Major

I liked this issue quite a lot. There's a really nice pacing to the multiple story threads, using each bit as counterpoint to another. Also I am really enjoying the fantastic interplay watching the younger bats (Tim, Cass, & Damian) interact. Plus, I have to add, I love Cass's Black Bat costume.

X-Men Legacy #251
Writer: Mike Carey, Pencils: Khoi Pham, Inks: Tom Palmer & Craig Yeung with Nelson DeCastro, Colors: Marte Gracia

This continues the Lost Legions storyline from the last issue. Several of Legion's murderous superpowered sub-personalities are on the loose. I love comic books. Most of the writing and art is pretty strong here. There is one notable plot hole regarding the timing of Magneto attacking Legion: it's not clear, at least to me, whether taking him down would have any effect on the other personalities. I did really like a lot of the dialogue in this one. Styx is really scary, though.

Also Considered:
Secret Avengers  #14 (Fear Itself)
I skimmed this in the store and came really close to buying it, but bought a graphic novel instead. It seems to be both a snippet of the Fear Itself war, and a one-shot highlighting Valkyrie's history. Valkyrie is a character I would like to know better. Plus it's written by Nick Spencer, who I like.... Maybe I will go back for this issue.

Victory Conditions (Vatta's War, Book 5)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Victory Conditions (Vatta's War, Book 5)
Elizabeth Moon, 2008

This is the final book in the Vatta's War Series. (Books 1-4 reviewed here.)

Overall this is solid sci-fi action. Nothing exceptional, just fine. It would probably be hard to follow if I hadn't read the previous books, but all the characters are growing nicely into their roles, and the plot rolls along to a satisfying conclusion. It's a quick read, and I enjoyed it.

Except for one thing.

The very end is just terrible. The end of the plot about a pirate fleet taking over systems and disrupting communication is fine, obvious, but fine. But after that ends, the book goes on to give a tag about the end of the romantic tension between two of the lead characters. It's a terrible scene. I mean, it's short, but just ridiculous. Not funny, not romantic: I was embarrassed on the characters' behalf. The romance isn't built up in a way that should lead to a scene that is so juvenile. For another character, in another plot, sure, whatever, it's corny but might be okay.

For this it just left me with a bad taste in my mouth about the whole book.

2 Stars – An Okay Book

Victory Conditions is on

Follow Friday/Book Blogger Hop Jun 17

Friday, June 17, 2011

Side Note: I made a beautiful geeky doll which I am very proud of. See her at The Blue Fairy's Workshop.

This is Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View

Today's Question is:

Q. Genre Wars! What's your favorite genre and which book in that genre made it your favorite?

I'd say my all-time favorite genre is Fantasy, in most of its flavors. Of course, I love Science Fiction, I really like Classic Noir and some Mystery, occasional Horror, very occasional Romance. But I always come back to Fantasy, especially Epic Adventure Fantasy, ever since I fell in love with the Prydain Chronicles as a child. Being obsessed with Dragonlance as a teen just cemented it.

Book Blogger HopThe Book Blogger Hop is hosted at

Today's Question is:

“How many books are currently in your To-Be-Read (TBR) Pile?”

Well, there's less than ten books in a literal pile, but those aren't necessarily the books I'm reading next. I tend to keep my TBR list in the cloud, so to speak. Partially a list of reminders in my email, partially a list of pending requests at the library, partially a collection of samples from un-purchased books on my Kindle. My apartment is too small to let me keep too many books physically here at any one time. I'll select my next book from one of those lists, or I may hear about something new that will grab my attention. I don't like to plan my reading strictly too far in advance, except when I am interested in a particular subject.

Comics Briefly: Avengers Academy #15, Batgirl #22, Darkwing Duck #13, Power Girl #25, Ruse #4

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Favorite Issue This Week: It's a tossup. Avengers Academy for pathos, Batgirl for fun.

All Books new in stores on 6/15/11

Side Note: What is with all the ads for shoes this month?

Avengers Academy #15 (Fear Itself)
Writer: Christos Gage, Penciler: Tom Raney, Inkers: Scott Hanna & Andrew Hennessy, Colorist: Jeromy Cox

This is a tie-in issue with the Fear Itself crossover and a good issue of Avengers Academy building on what has come before. Good job walking that tightrope, Gage and company! On the edge of melodramatic, on the edge of rushed, but I think this issue did a great job handling the students faced with war. I have never liked Tigra as much as I did here. This was a strong issue.

Batgirl #22
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller, Artist: Pere Perez, Colorist: Guy Major

First, I need to say: that is one fantastic panel on the first page with Steph and the Bat-shadow! Nice. Steph looks cute in her grown-up traveling outfit too. The interplay between Batgirl and Squire is pretty darn adorable. The action is great, the plot solid. Great Issue! (Only downside: it's totally cheating to  have the next part in another book, even Batman Inc.)

Darkwing Duck #13
Writer: Ian Brill, Artist: James Silvani, Colorist: Lisa Moore

I think I missed an issue of this. This one-shot was just fine, while the little seeds of a new arc were pretty intriguing. This is mostly a bridge issue, I need to find the one I missed!

Power Girl #25
Writer: Judd Winick, Artist: Hendry Prasetya, Colorist: Jessica Kholinne

Mixed feelings about the art in this one; some really nice panels and some that felt off. Similarly, the writing was up and down. There were some nice moments, though, and I liked the resolution.

Ruse #4
Writer: Mark Waid, Artist: Mirco Pierfederici

This finishes off the miniseries. I enjoyed these four issues and the climax was well done, but it wasn't quite as good as I wanted it to be. Emma was particularly fun in this issue, and the finale is rather cute. Overall: good, not great.

Top Ten Tuesday - Sentimental Moments

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This Week's Prompt: 
Top Ten "Awww" Moments In Books (those cute lines, charming actions, kisses, or any other sentimental moment that made you say "AWWW!"

1: I often have a soft spot for the scene, often near the end, in 75% of Mercedes Lackey's novels in which Person A realizes that Person B, with whom he/she is secretly in love, is secretly in love with him/her too! Yes, it gets a smidge repetative, but still sweet.

2: On the subject of micommunication: Cordelia "translates" for stubborn would-be lovers Droushnakovi and Koudelka in the book Barrayar (Lois McMaster Bujold). Excerpt:
"Drou, Kou has a few things to say to you. Since you apparently speak different languages, he's asked me to be his interpreter." 
Kou made an embarrased negative motion over Cordelia's head. 
"That hand signal means, I'd rather blow up the rest of my life than look like a fool for five minutes. Ignore it."...

3: On that series, I'll add The Proposal (Final) in A Civil Campaign (Bujold). Makes me smile and giggle just thinking about it. Politics and romance come together in a gesture both grand and intimate.

4: (Trying to be relatively un-spoilery) Halfway through The Waste Lands (Stephen King, Dark Tower 3), when the final member of the group arrives. Foreboding undertones or not, it's a sweet moment. 

5: The ending of Gail Simone's first run on Birds of Prey, which is also a kick-ass triumphant scene, but builds to this gorgeous 4-page panel (Artist: Nicola Scott) and every one of those characters is on scene because they care about Oracle. And then there's one of those adorable scenes Gail writes so well with the gals bonding over take-out. And THEN Oracle goes out and brings lonely Misfit into the fold. It's completely sweet and wonderful.

6: The climax of The Adventure of the Three Garridebs (Conan Doyle), for being one of the few moments when Holmes actually shows how much he cares for his friend.

7: The closing scene between Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman in (alternate future graphic novel) Kingdom Come (Mark Waid, Alex Ross) is pretty sweet and wonderful, but I won't spoil it by telling you why.

8: The final strip of Calvin and Hobbes (Bill Watterson)

9: Either scene in Dragonlance: Legends (Weis and Hickman) which prominently features a rabbit.

10: The last chapter of The House at Pooh Corner

Champion of the Rose

Monday, June 13, 2011

Champion of the Rose
Andrea K. Host, 2010

Premise: The land of Darest was taken by treaty from the Fae, and order is maintained by the magic of the Rose, established by the first Queen. Unfortunately, when the line of Rathen kings failed, the magic didn't notice, and it continued to choose Champions to protect a nonexistent royal line. Soren doesn't have any idea why the magic chose her, forced her, into the role of Champion, but now a bloom has appeared on the Rathen Rose. And that means a rightful heir is alive.

The part of this book I liked most was the character of Soren. Uneasy in her role, conflicted in her purpose, she always has to balance what she wants to do with what is right, what is her duty, and what the controlling magic of the Rose will actually allow her to do. Her struggles to fight and/or use the instincts of that blind force are deeply compelling.

The plot becomes complicated fairly quickly, and I don't want to give much away. I can say that the magic used in the book is interesting, and there are basicaly no infodumps.  Both the political situation between the humans and the fae, and the fae themselves, are well handled. One warning, large aspects of the romantic plot are very dark. I wasn't totally satisfied with the resolution to that part of the story, but overall the plot was intriguing and the ending was strong.

Also, while it was never an issue, the norm among all the people in the book seemed to be bisexuality, and I thought that was pretty awesome.

A political and emotional story more than action-packed, Champion of the Rose is an enjoyable, worthwhile read.

3 Stars - A Good Book

Champion of the Rose is available on (ON SALE NOW!)

DC stands for Debate and Confusion

Thursday, June 9, 2011

So I hadn't chimed in yet on the ridiculousness going on at DC Comics. I thought I'd give it a little time for the dust to settle, but most of the fallout is looking unhappy from my perspective.

In case you haven't heard, DC is canceling all of their books and 're-launching' (not rebooting) their line with 52 #1 issues in September. They've said they realize that their titles weren't modern and diverse enough... or something. Which is fine, and maybe a few of the titles that were obviously green-lit to court a non-white audience will do well. From the part of “diversity” known as the female comic reader, I'm less thrilled. Most of the characters I care about look to be either changed or missing/dropped from prominence/made 'edgy'. Damn, I hate doing things in the name of 'edgy'. I haven't seen one pitch yet that looks fun: it's all spiky art and oh-look-how-dark-and-tormented-we-are. It sucked in the 90's, DC, and it sucks now.

Not to mention they had Jim Lee re-design most of the costumes to look completely idiotic.

Okay, here's a run-down of more thoughts.


Word on the internet is that there is now a rule at DC that women have to wear pants. This makes me uneasy. Not because I don't think that practical costumes are awesome, but because it's presented as a rule. Superhero costumes are not a one-size-fits-all type thing.


Good Pants: Awesome Question from this week's issue of Birds of Prey:

Bad Pants: Ridiculously ugly Black Canary from the cover to September's new Birds of Prey:

The blog DC Women Kicking Ass did a great post on the difference between costume issues and artist issues when it comes to female characters:

Also, user lexid523 perfectly articulated my uneasiness in the following comment on the BleedingCool Forums:
Practicality doesn't always = pants/trousers. Ancient Greeks wore skirts in battle. Field hockey and women's tennis players wear skirts Gymnasts wear leotards. Would I like to see more pants than receding panty lines? Hells yes. But I can't shake what Gloria Steinem said when they first redesigned WW's costume-- "If the powerful only wear pants, it sends the message that only pants are powerful." Skirts can be powerful. Bare legs can be powerful. But if the only way you can get your artists to not go over the top sexualizing of your female characters is to tell them to dress more like men, I think you need new artists, not new costumes.

Also, WTF is up with that girl who might be Zatanna on the cover of “Justice League Dark”?

Zatanna now:

In September?:

I know the fishnets are her thing, but 'stage magician' is also her thing. Moving her fishnets to her arms just makes her look like a teenage goth.

Besides, it pisses me off as a designer because wouldn't she have rocked a look like this?

Moving on, Characters:

Characters who are getting more time/prominence and I am cautiously optimistic about:
Cyborg on JLA (Interesting choice, could be great)
Vixen on JLI
Etrigan heading up a team of medieval heroes? Could be awesome
Static Shock with own series (I'm not a big fan of the character, but I know many are)

Characters who I have not heard anything about yet, who I like where they are now:
Stephanie Brown (Batgirl)
Renee Montoya (The Question)
Helena Bertinelli (Huntress)
Zinda Blake (Lady Blackhawk)
Jaime Reyes (Blue Beetle)

Characters who I'm really concerned about the direction it looks like they're going in:

Wonder Woman (Brian Azzerello is a fine writer, but makes me very nervous to put him on Wonder Woman, given the unholy way-too-violent-for-this-character mess that has been her corner of the DCU of late.)

Wonder Girl (Cassie) (Cassie “my mom is an archeologist and my dad is Zeus and I kind of have issues with that, but I kick ass for the good guys” Sandsmark is now a “belligerent powerhouse thief” with a stupid looking red barbed lasso-thing? WTF?)

Starfire (Has been a bit of a mess recently, but now in a book about “outlaw vigilantes” starring Jason Todd? Plus her main characteristic in the pitch isn't that she's a badass space warrior princess, but that she is “a former prisoner of intergalactic war”. Arrgh.)

There are so many writers at DC that I don't trust to write female characters worth a damn, that on some level I'm worried about all of them.

Of the confirmed and rumored titles and teams, on 52 books I'm seeing 3 female creators, one writer, one artist, and one co-artist. One of those artists is not on a superhero book, but on a vampire romance. That is kinda sad, DC.

On that subject, about writers:

The Good:
Gail Simone on Batgirl, co-writing Firestorm. Not that even Gail Simone can make me all that interested in Firestorm.

Scott Snyder on both Batman and Swamp Thing, which makes me interested in Swamp Thing but concerned about keeping up the schedule of my beloved American Vampire!

The Bad:
Bryan Q. Miller, one of a vanishingly small number of writers who can write fun stories and female characters worth a damn, not yet on anything. This makes me very unhappy.

Scribe of possibly the BEST single issue of this year so far Nick Spencer has already left for Marvel, so no hope there.

Duane Swierczynski is on Birds of Prey. Fuck. I knew I recognized this name, but it took me a minute with Google to realize why. He wrote that horrid Holmes book I reviewed here. Maybe his original stuff is fine, but what I read was basically a book full of what-not-to-do when writing established characters, so I am more than a little horrified that he's taking over the Birds of Prey. Not that the Birds without Oracle or Huntress or Lady Blackhawk means much to me... except as the only all-female super team in DC. Fuck.

Okay, that's out of my system for the moment. I'm trying not to be too pessimistic, it's probable some of the books will be awesome.

And I know it's all a stunt to get new readers. I'm just sad that all of the things I was reading DC for (characters I like, stories that are both action and FUN) look like they're being thrown out in the process.

I'll leave you with some Themysciran ladies looking powerful and comfortable in their short togas.

Comics Briefly: American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #1, Birds of Prey #13, X-Men: Legacy #250

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Favorite Issue this week: So Close.... But I think American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest takes it. Birds of Prey is just a hair behind.

All issues were new in stores on 6/8/11

Side Note: I am sick of the Super 8 ads that seem to be in all the DC/Vertigo books this month. They are so long and annoying, I've started pulling them out of my books.

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #1
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Sean Murphy, Color: Dave Stewart

This is the start of a mini-series that runs somewhat concurrently with the normal American Vampire series, since the main storyline is currently set in WWII in the Pacific, while this book is headed to Europe in the same time frame. This issue is a fantastic reintroduction to Felicia Book and Cash McCogan, both characters we last saw in the Devil in the Sand story arc, both currently agents of the anti-vampire organization. Felicia has grown up a little more, gotten a little rougher around the edges, and Cash has been dealing with the fallout of the previous arc. You could easily jump in here without prior knowledge, although reading the earlier comics adds a nice grounding, particularly to Felicia. I am thrilled to see more of Felicia, I thought she had a lot of potential in the earlier issues, and she will handily carry her own story. Don't take my word for it, read the completely kick-ass amazing opening:

Birds of Prey #13
Writer: Gail Simone, Artist: Diego Olmos, Colorist: Nei Ruffino

The Birds' fight against Junior concludes in this issue, and everyone gets some great panel time. Question is cool, Lady Blackhawk gets to be her fabulous self, Huntress, Canary, Oracle: all awesome. I really liked this issue, with two small problems. First, the ending came too quickly; the resolution is pretty rushed. The second problem isn't the fault of anyone on the book. Second problem: WHAT DO YOU MEAN THIS IS GAIL SIMONE'S LAST ISSUE?!? I knew she was off the title as of the DC re-vamp/re-whatever, but I didn't know there was a two-parter with a different team between then and now! I was not prepared for this. And that's actually what makes the fact that the ending falls a little flat so sad. To me the ending feels a little like the lead in to an awesome team book that I would love, that we just are not going to get. It's good, it's almost great, but for me the bitter is a little stronger than the sweet.

X-Men: Legacy #250 (Giant-Size)
Lost Legions Part One: Writer: Mike Carey, Pencils: Khoi Pham, Inks: Tom Palmer, Colors: Marte Gracia
Flashback: Writer: Mike Carey, Pencils: Steve Kurth, Inks: Jay Leisten, Colors: Brian Reber
Into the Abyss (reprint) by Claremont, Sienkiewicz, Orx and Glynis

This is a double/triple/something size issue, containing two new stories and a reprint. Both new stories I felt were strong. "Lost Legions" is the continuation of the main plot from last issue: some of Legion's more dangerous sub-personalities took advantage of the recent reality warp to go wandering, and the team needs to contain them before tragedy strikes. Character moments are good, art well done, action good. I liked it. "Flashback" takes place actually at the same time, as sort of a side scene. This follows one of the other recent plot threads, and I'm excited to see what will follow out of it. I hope it's space travel! I love Galactic X-Men! The third story, "Into the Abyss", is a classic story from The New Mutants with one of the first encounters with Legion. It's pretty good, but a little wordy and awkwardly dated at times. On the other hand, it was really nice to read something with classic Moira this week. Overall: good solid issue.

Top Ten Tuesday - Settings

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This Week's Prompt is:

Top Ten Settings in Books

I'm sorely tempted to list broad setting categories like "High Magic Fantasy World", but instead I think I'll try to be super specific with fictional places that work really well for their stories.

1: The World (Not Actually Mercury), The Worm Ourobouous

For a genre lover like me, the first known alternate fantasy world (i. e. not ancient Earth, but an alternate world) holds a special place in my heart. See my review here. Even a year after reading the book, I can picture the castle of the Witches, the forest stronghold, the mountain pass to the magic caves, and more. I found it an extremely evocative world.

2: Middle Earth, The Lord of the Rings

It may not be an absolutely complete, plausible world, but it comes really close. Again, the individual cities and places stay with you, and the experience of traveling through them is central to the plot.

3: Mid-World, The Dark Tower

Many series in which the plot centers around a journey have great settings. The post-apocalyptic western fantasy horror world of the Gunslinger is certainly one of them. From the deserts and the mutants' caves, to the endless beach, to the ruined city, to the rustic settlements; Mid-World is in such flux it doesn't matter much that the different places within it don't always fit together. All the worlds turn about the Dark Tower, after all.

4: The Elemental Worlds and The Labyrinth, The Death Gate Cycle

This series was structured around a world fractured into its components (a world of Fire, of Air, of Water...) so a strong sense of place is inherent in the premise.

5: Gotham City, Various Comics

Split between slums, prisons and high-rises, the City of Gotham provides both home and motivation for all the Batfamily. Practically a character in its own right, the battered but unbroken city looms over its corner of the DCU. Every so often writers try to take some of those characters out of Gotham, give them other cities, but it never quite sticks.

6: Redwall Abbey, Redwall series

Another clue to a strong setting is when the series is actually named after the place. The books may have gotten repetitive, but the walls of the Abbey-thick red stone protecting the inhabitants, secret passages and grand banquet halls-remain strong in my memories. (Review here)

7: The Downs, Watership Down

Another journey novel, the characters in Watership Down don't travel very far in a human scale, but the novel easily conveys what a terrifying journey it would be to rabbits. The vivid descriptions of the various warrens as well as the other terrain they pass through mean this book deserves to be on this list. (Review here)

8: Neverland, Peter and Wendy

The Neverlands are dream realms of childhood adventure. That's definitely good enough to make the list.

9: Elfland and Erl, The King of Elfland's Daughter

Review here. All other fantasy realms pale a little in comparison with Dunsany's masterwork. The poetry of the writing describing both the human kingdom of Erl and the lands 'beyond the fields we know' is marvelous.

10: Can't pick... Honorable Mentions: Krynn, Pern, King Haggard's Castle, Valdemar, Barrayar, Holmes' London, The Hundred Acre Woods...

I guess I lean toward fantasy when it comes to settings. I love to read sci-fi, but generally the places aren't as evocative on the page (on film is a different matter).

Leviathan Wakes

Monday, June 6, 2011

Leviathan Wakes
James S.A. Corey (pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), 2011

New release! Copy for review provided by Netgalley.

Premise: Holden works on a deep space water-hauler, Miller is a cop on the Ceres asteroid. Each man will have his life upended by the discovery bearing down on the system. The human race will never be the same, whether they live on Earth, Mars, or out in the Belt.

I had mixed feelings about this book. I loved the prologue, I enjoyed a lot of the middle, I loved most of the end. It was somewhere in the middle, though, when I got tired of the testosterone. It's a very male book, for a lot of the time. This isn't bad, just a little wearing after enough pages. Also it dips a little too far into gory horror description to become a favorite of mine.

FYI: The marketing copy will tell you different, but I wouldn't call this space opera. It's a bit too dark and gritty for that label. Sci-fi noir? Just sci-fi? I'm not sure.

Now, all that said, overall I really liked this book. I liked the tension between Holden the optimist and Miller the cynic. I liked the noir style of Miller's entire character arc. That doesn't mean I didn't want to shake the characters occasionally, and the book left me both satisfied and wanting to know more about the climax.

Oddly, I'm a little sad that this is book one of a series. I think it would be stronger if it were intended to stand alone. It does stand alone perfectly well as it is, I guess I'm saying that I suspect my enjoyment of this novel wouldn't be enhanced by any further stories set in this world.

4 Stars- A Very Good Book

Check out Leviathan Wakes on

Mission Complete

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Well, that's all for Star Trek Week. In case you missed any of the posts, here's the list again:

Monday May 30: Provenance of Shadows (Novel)
Tuesday May 31: Beyond Uhura (Memoir)
Thursday June 2: I Am Spock (Memoir)
Friday June 3: Harbinger:Vanguard (Novel)
Saturday June 4: Up Till Now (Memoir)

I think the take away from this is that I really enjoy Trek comics, and the occasional memoir, but I'm not in the mood for licensed novels this year. Ah, well. 

Modern Star Trek Comics

Star Trek: Burden of Knowledge
Written by Scott and David Tipton
Art by Federica Menfredi
Colors by Andrea Priorini and Arianna Florean

Since my jump back into collecting comic issues last year, some of the books I've been interested in are IDW's Star Trek titles. Scott Tipton (better known by me for Comics 101) on the cover was an additional enticement to check it out.

Burden of Knowledge is a four-issue miniseries that came out in 2010.

The writing in this is generally very strong, it echoes the tone and characters of the original series beautifully, without quoting directly. The art is a little shakier. The half-cartoony style is sometimes elevated by the computer coloring, and sometimes severely undermined by it. There are some beautiful panels, which look like the actors without feeling the need to be photo-realistic, and there are some badly misshapen faces.

The plot of Burden of Knowledge is quite enjoyable: a series of linked encounters with aliens with very different ideas of science and culture, often playing with the idea of what it means to be part of the Federation. There are a few instances of overly obvious dialogue choices, but on one level that's part of the charm of a piece meant to harken back to The Original Series.

Star Trek: Khan: Ruling in Hell
Written by Scott and David Tipton
Art and Color by Fabio Mantovani

The other recent miniseries I picked up is Khan:Ruling in Hell. Based loosely, I assume, on Greg Cox's novel of the same name, these four issues chronicle the time Khan and his people spend on Ceti Alpha V between the events of Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan.

The art is quite nice here, lovely colors and strong choices. The only major flaw in the art is not entirely their fault: the dress of straps thing that the women in Khan's group wore in the Original Series didn't exactly look comfortable on film, but drawn flat it looks either ridiculous or non-existent.

Again the dialogue is particularly strong, especially for Khan. The story is compelling and tragic, and kept me interested even though I knew perfectly well what was going to happen to them. Khan's one-sided relationship with the absent Kirk is devastating in issue two, and the strife that pits his people against each other keeps the drama high through issues three and four. It's a beautiful piece overall.

I enjoyed both of these miniseries, the first is more lighthearted, but the second is definitely stronger.

Both Burden of Knowledge and Khan:Ruling in Hell are available as slim graphic novel collections.

Up Till Now

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Up Till Now
William Shatner and David Fisher, 2008

Note: I was not originally going to read this book as part of this project. I was originally going to read a completely different memoir, by a different actor. My husband objected to my doing a Star Trek unit without something by Shatner. I decided he was probably right, and that the other memoir was out of tone for this week, since it had little to do with The Original Series. Still, stay tuned for my other review soon. (Here's a spoiler: the other book is better.)

Hmph. This book was, on some level, precisely what I expected. Self-deprecating on the surface, while swinging wildly between charming, funny, annoying, boring, and revolting.

It often felt like it was trying too hard to be funny, which has its own tinge of pretension. And I was put off by the style. It's full of constant tangents, like 'commercials' and a weird sense of the middle ground between fact and fiction. Sometimes openly the narration will state that the following “is not true,” but that doesn't make it feel as if the rest of it is true, it just gave me the sense that it's all a show. Since it's all a show, and not an especially enjoyable one, I'm not sure why I should care.

It's not all bad by a long shot. There are portions which are genuinely funny and parts that are genuinely poignant, and it doesn't much matter if they've been embroidered.

Unfortunately, my least favorite parts of the book were the chapter about Star Trek and the end. Shanter comes off as genuinely bemused and bewildered by the success of Star Trek. I understand this, it can be hard to see the impact of art from the ground level, but it doesn't make for compelling reading.

Bewildered might be a good word for the tone of many parts of the book: bewildered by failure, by success, by the feelings and opinions of other human beings... It's more than a little narcissistic under the obvious self-parody.

The last chapter or two, particularly a 'humorous' segment about meeting and wooing his fourth wife, I found boorish and distasteful to read. The stuff about Boston Legal was fine, but I admit to skimming a bit by then.

I get a kick out of Shatner, most of the time, but I didn't get much of a kick out of this book.

2 Stars – An Okay Book

Follow Friday/Book Blogger Hop June 3

Friday, June 3, 2011

Current Events here at the Bookshelf: You're visiting at the tail end of my week of Star Trek related book reviews! Links to all the articles HERE!

This is Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View

Today's Question is:

Q. What are you doing to prepare for an upcoming zombie apocalypse and/or the return of Mel Gibson to the silver screen? (Both of which could be terrifying.)

I feel like I'm as prepared as I'm going to be for Zombies. I read enough sci-fi, etc. that not much fazes me, and until we know what type of zombies are encroaching, there's not much more to be done. If you see a suspicious creature, consult the Monster Manual!

Book Blogger HopThe Book Blogger Hop is hosted at

Today's Question is:

“Share your favorite post from the last month and tell us why it’s close to your heart!”

Hmmm, I'm pleased with my review of Finishing the Hat, the book of collected Sondheim lyrics, because I enjoyed sharing my love of musicals, but I'm also really happy with the Star Trek reviews that have been posting this week. I had a lot of fun writing a list of books that were recommended to me for a Top Ten Tuesday Post. I've been so busy with work this month that it's been a struggle to keep to a minimum posting schedule, so I don't feel that I've done anything too spectacular in May. 

(Incidentally, my favorite article I've ever written for this blog posted over a year and a half ago. My lengthy, scholarly analysis of Irene Adler.)

Star Trek Vanguard: Harbinger

Star Trek Vanguard: Harbinger
David Mack, 2005

Premise: Plots, espionage and secrets ride just beneath the surface at Starbase 47, aka Vanguard. The plot contains mysterious artifacts, smugglers, gangsters, lovers and the opportune arrival of the Starship Enterprise. Set near the start of The Original Series.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually liked it. The plot is very convoluted, without much of a solid through-line, and there were so many characters that it got a good way into the book before I could start to keep them straight. I could see this working well as a series of episodes on a television show, actually; there was a succession of small climaxes and interweaving plot-lines that built on each other. I'm just not sure it's the best structure for a book.

There was a lot of solid character work, spread between intriguing new characters and reliable canon characters. It was just... so many characters got POV time that it held back any momentum from building. There were so many characters, but there wasn't really any one that I connected with. There are eleven different close-third person perspectives by page 63, when the narration finally returns to a character for the first time.

So yes, part of my disappointment could easily be personal taste. Recently I'm really into personal stories, stories that follow one character.

The ideas here are solid. There are interesting threads in a lot of the stories being told, interesting politics, interesting character quirks for the most part.  It was a fairly enjoyable read by the end, but I had to struggle through the first hundred pages.

2 Stars – An Okay Book

Check out Star Trek Vanguard: Harbinger at

I am Spock

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I Am Spock
Leonard Nimoy, 1995

Reading this book has caused me to think a bit about my own perspective. I wonder what it's like to read a book like this, an actor's memoir, and not have a background in the performing arts. Does it help people understand what it's like to work in the industry, or do they come away from the book thinking they understand, but with the wrong messages?

I do come at this book with a background in performing arts, and am familiar with actors of many types, so what I get from this book, especially when combined with Beyond Uhura (reviewed here), is a plausible portrait of actors who seem an awful lot like actors I've known.

A great deal of the book is concerned in assuring the reader that Nimoy really does love Spock, and that the title of his earlier memoir (I Am Not Spock) was never intended to convey animosity. From skimming excerpts of that book online, I would say that he is not exaggerating. The earlier book has the same respect and enjoyment about the Vulcan that comes through here.

Nimoy's very devotion to the character is what created some of the tension on the set reported by Nichols. Comparing and contrasting the books was really interesting. It's an example of how people can be in the same room and at the same time on different worlds. Neither one is “right” or “wrong”, but how different actors approach a job, what opportunities they have to take control of a role, or not, and the vagaries of fans combine to create vastly different working experiences.

Some of this difference is in the system. Nimoy relates an interchange with the producers in which they refuse to provide his assistant with pencils for responding to fan mail. Nichols relates a conversation when a mail-room worker comes secretly to tell her that the higher-ups told them not to send her most of her fan mail, but if she comes down to the mail room, they'd be glad to pass it on. It isn't like the two actors are starting on the same playing field.

Some of it, however, is just in style. Some actors seize control of roles, of situations, and I understand why they feel they have to do that, and sometimes it is a great thing to do for the piece. Some prefer to work with an ensemble, building a team-based dynamic. Often actors don't even realize which way they're behaving at any given time, so I'm not sure whether Nimoy doesn't mention the occasional tension within the cast out of courtesy toward his co-stars, or whether he was simply unconscious of it.

This book is also interesting for containing a rather exhausting litany of how each piece of Spock and Vulcan was developed, and by who. There are also some interesting historical notes here. Nimoy films a mini-series in Bejing in 1981 and travels to the USSR in 1984 for a screening of Star Trek IV, and has perceptive observations in each case.

I respect Nimoy for his work, and it was a highly entertaining book: well written, clever, sweet. There was a slight sense of self-congratulation here and there, but it more often seems like remembering the best of things than a conscious re-writing of history.

4 Stars – A Very Good Book

I Am Spock on

Comics Briefly: Avengers Academy #14.1

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

All Books new in stores on 6/1/11

Avengers Academy #14.1
Writer: Christos Gage, Penciler: Sean Chen, Inker: Scott Hanna, Colorist: Jeromy Cox

Decent one-shot story. Did a good job of being both an intro to the characters (that's the .1 gimmick) and a piece of the ongoing story. Well done villain, but not an exceptional issue. And frankly, I'm getting a little burnt out on Avengers Academy coming out every two weeks.

Also Considered:
Various Flashpoint books, Wonder Woman #611
The World of Flashpoint #1 was kind of cool, the rest of it looks like crap so far. Wonder Woman has gone back to being pretty awful. I am not optimistic about the news out of DC ths week, (universe reboot? again?) so I'm a bit sour on them just now.

90's Star Trek Comics

So last year we went to an awesome sale at my favorite comic book shop: Jim Hanley's Universe. And we bought a huge box of cheap back issues. 6 of these issues were of Star Trek Comics published by Marvel/Paramount, spanning three titles, originally printed between 1996 and 1998

Here's a survey of these scattered issues:

Star Trek Unlimited #1 (Nov '96)
Writers: Dan Abnett and Ian Edginton; Pencilers: Ron Randall, Carlos Garzon, Jerome Moore, Mark Buckingham; Inkers: Al Williamson, Derek Fisher, Kev F. Sutherland

Two stories in this double size issue, both nicely written, true to their source material and with pretty decent art. The first story is based on Next Gen, and concerns a conflict about first contact between the crew of the Enterprise-D and representatives of a race with a much more hands on version of the Prime Directive. The second story is Original Series: the Enterprise follows a distress call and ends up in a shooting match with Gorn warships. Both stories wrap up satisfactorily, although there is a bit too much luck involved in reaching the seemingly impossible solution in each case. A really fun issue, though.

Star Trek: Early Voyages #5 (Jun '97)
Writers: Dan Abnett and Ian Edginton; Penciler: Patrick Zircher, Inker: Greg Adams, Colorist: Marie Javins

I love the idea of this series. The stories revolve around the original Enterprise crew, Captain Pike and his female second, etc. In this issue we get a lot of nice teases, character moments, and an okay plot about crazy splinter Vulcans, although I don't get enough here to figure why a story would need these guys when we have Romulans. I don't know what happens, since I only have the one issue, but I do like this issue.

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #6, #7, #18 (May '97, Jun '97, May '98)
Writer: Chris Cooper, Penciler Chris Renaud
Inker: Andy Lanning, Colors: Kevin Somers

The rest of the issues I have are all from Starfleet Academy. This series takes place simultaneously with Deep Space Nine, and follows a group of cadets. It seems pretty solid for a book of this type (i.e. teen team of heroes). Issues 6 and 7 are a little plot for the departure of one character, killed in issue 5, and the arrival of a new Betazoid teammate, and using him to flush out a changeling.

Issue 18 I have two copies of: the English edition and the Klingon edition! It follows a group of Klingon cadets who had clashes with the Starfleet kids in earlier issues, and is a pretty darn good issue.

Apparently there was just one more issue after 18, so while they're only decent comics it's pretty neat to have a few.