Comics Briefly: American Vampire #19, Avengers Academy #19, Justice League Dark #1, The Fury of Firestorm #1

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Favorite Book This Week: Huh. All the books had highs and lows this week.
Favorite Writing: American Vampire.
Favorite Art: Justice League Dark.

All Issues new in stores on 9/28/11

American Vampire #19
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Jordi Bernet, Colors: Dave McCaig

Darn, this issue was not as good as I was hoping it would be. It has some very strong bits of dialogue, although I think adding extended early history between Skinner and Book at the very start of the issue is unecessary and just clogs up the story. Once the plot gets going it gets pretty good, but I really dislike Bernet's art. The cover is pretty, but totally misleading for what's inside. The final splash page, in particular, is awful. I mean, maybe they're trying to evoke a sort of oldfashioned cartooning style, but it doesn't match anything, even in this issue, and I just think it takes a moment that should be scary and awesome and makes it WTF?

Avengers Academy #19Writer: Christos Gage, Penciler: Tom Raney, Inker: Scot Hanna, Colorist: Jeromy Cox

Fairly good, if wussy, ending to their Fear Itself tie-ins, although there was something a bit off. Maybe it was rushed? There's just something a bit odd in pace and tone. Good character beats here and there. Finesse's mask looks different all of a sudden and I hate it. Veil at the end brings some great perspective to the plot, although it does make me wonder where they can go from here.

Justice League Dark #1Writer: Peter Milligan, Art: Mikel Janin, Colors: Ulises Arreola

Huh. This was a pretty good reintroduction/introduction to the magic characters of the DCU, although I'm not completely sold on the idea. With the possible exceptions of Zatanna and Constantine, they seem a little angsty for a super-team. What do they think this is, the X-Men? Nice scene-let between Bats and Z, but the other Leaguers are in too many panels, because apparently we need to remind everyone that even though he now has "armor", Superman is a wuss in the face of magic. I'm more interested in the premise than in any plotlines started in this issue, but it's competently done, and fairly pretty. I read it twice today and little of it is sticking with me, though.

The Fury of Firestorm #1
Co-Plotters: Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver, Writer: Gail Simone, Artist: Yildray Cinar, Colorist: Steve Buccellato

I don't know. Maybe I'm just tired of #1 issues at this point, but I saw a whole lot of sound and fury here, but didn't really care. The tone turned me right off from page one. I'm tired of the volume of "edgy" I've seen in the last month. There's a lot of unanswered questions, way too many for a first issue for my money. Not the kind that make me think: "Oh I want to find out the answer, I better get Issue #2", the kind that make me think: "Well, that made very little sense. Maybe I'll check back in once the first arc is done and see if it ever came together." And I really don't have any desire to re-read this issue to see if I'm missing anything. Maybe Erin will come home and read it and love it.

Flipped through a few others in the store:
Aquaman and Teen Titans: neither looked bad but nothing I'm going to go out of my way for.
All-Star Western seemed okay but nothing that grabbed me
Green Lantern: New Guardians almost managed to disguise the fact that they did exactly nothing in 20 pages... almost.

Elric: The Stealer of Souls

Monday, September 26, 2011

Elric: The Stealer of Souls
Michael Moorcock, collection published 2008 
(Stories originally published between 1961-1965)

Moorcock is one of those authors that as a fantasy fan, I know I was 'supposed' to have read. Somehow I had missed him until recently, so when I saw this book on the used shelf at The Strand, I decided it was time.

Premise: This volume collects the first stories written about Moorcock's angtsy albino anti-hero: Elric, Last Prince of Melniboné. He was hugely influential for many modern fantasy writers, and a lot of  darker anti-heroes have their genesis in these tales. In this book, we follow Elric through several loosely connected adventures, then the second half of the book is four novellas that fit together into a full story that expands the sweep of the character and the world.

First off, the cover is fairly silly, but the internal illustrations are quite nice. It took me a little time to be drawn into this world, but I expect that from a work from this time. I was immediately struck by the tension between the pulpy grand language and the plots, which had plenty of action, but were more bound up in the way Elric felt than earlier stories I've read in this style.

His relationships with various women and companions are strained from the start; he's a loner who ends up surrounded by people, and then those people tend to end up dead. He's a physically weak member of an ancient race of great magical power and knowledge, who survives through symbiosis with his black sword that eats souls. This is sword and sorcery, but it's not a happy place.

The description tips into melodramatic here and there, but it's tremendously majestic at other times. It was written in the 60's, so no surprise that it gets incredibly surreal.

There is one story stuck in the middle of the book that is not about Elric, is very short and seems out of place. However, there are also copies of a lot of the cover art that went with the original printings of these stories, and that is really fun.

The second half of the book, which is the novel “Stormbringer”, is stronger than the first half, and really swept me away with the depth of the story and the contradiction at the heart of the main character. A villain cast as the hero is not a new story, but it's done really well here.

By the end of the volume, I understood why the imaginations of so many have been captured by this character. These stories inspired so much that I love, that I can't help but love them for that reason alone.

I found the end of the book tremendously affecting, in a way I haven't experienced in my reading in a long while. For that, for a tremendously intriguing world, and for the birth of the tortured sword-and-sorcery anti-hero, I give this book high marks.

5 Stars – An Amazing Book

Check out Elric: The Stealer of Souls on

LOTR Read-Along! Fellowship Chapters 16-End

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Hobbit and LOTR Read-Along is hosted by Little Red Reviewer and Geeky Daddy

Welcome to the Third and Final part of Fellowship of the Ring.

Part One Part Two

I'll respond to a few of the discussion suggestions below, but first, another anecdote:

Once upon a time, in 1999, in the lands known as Massachusetts, there was a shiny new college student who lived in a dorm. Many such students lived in single rooms in this dorm, and the halls were filled with bright decorations. One day this particular student was walking with some new friends, and they went one floor higher than they normally did, to stop at one particular door.

On a piece of white paper, mounted on this door, was printed: Pedo Mellon a Minno.

The student who lived behind this door asked if the others remembered the phrase, and joked that they had to know the password, which, of course, was "Friend". The new student thought this was marvelous, because while she loved Lord of the Rings, she hadn't thought to put it on her door. (Let's not forget, this is two years before the movie made LOTR popular again everywhere.) In fact, when she came into the room, she found much about the inhabitant to like, including a well-loved copy of LOTR itself, as well as other books, decorations and interests. The two became friends, and then good friends, and, at the turning of the year, became a couple. And she bought him a new hardcover edition of Lord of the Rings, so that the paperbacks could be returned to his parents.

That's the copy that I'm reading. We've been together for almost twelve years now. Lord of the Rings is one of those things that has become even more important to me over time.

Okay, enough sappiness! Discussion topics!

Galadriel and her Ring. She knows the Ring of power must be destroyed, but with its destruction comes the de-powering (is that a word?) of her Ring as well. The Elves must leave Middle Earth or forget who and what they are. For her, this is a no win situation. Frodo's success effectively means the banishment of the Elves in Middle Earth. I wonder if that makes him more likely to do everything in his power to succeed, or less?

I'd forgotten how much frank discussion there is of the impact on the Elven Rings, and how tied that is to the closing of the Age, dwindling of the elves, etc. Although, in a way, the elves were also banished (by their own doing) to Middle-Earth in the first place, so leaving is both a sadness and a homecoming. Or so it seems to me; in Galadriel's song she seems to doubt that they will be able to sail away from Middle-Earth, and it grieves her. While I'm talking about Galadriel, I want to note that I also forgot that there's a nice piece of Aragorn's story here if you're looking for it, which touches on courting Arwen. Heads-up for those coming in from the movies: Aragorn and Arwen's story isn't told in full until the Appendix.

After spending some time in Lothlorien, Sam realizes the Elves aren’t quite as scary or as strange as he first thought. I wonder if when he gets back to the Shire if he’ll realize the Hobbits in the next town aren’t quite as strange as he once thought. I really don’t think this is an overt “message” story, but I do wonder if Tolkien didn't mind throwing in a little message of “those folks in the next valley aren’t as different as you think”.

Sure, there's a lot of cross-culture and cross-race friendships: Legolas and Gimli, Hobbits and everyone, alliances between Elves and Men. In the later books it becomes a little more problematic, as "evil" humans are hardly ever portrayed in a complex or sympathetic light. (After the whole Read-Along, I'll tell you guys about The Last Ringbearer, which I read this past spring. It was fascinating.)

I only stared reading fantasy a few years ago, and I keep running into this undercurrent of choice. Bilbo has to choose to give up the Ring. Frodo has to choose to take on the quest and be the Ring bearer. Even Boromir is choosing how he feels about the Ring and what it could bring him. In the end, this is all coming down to how we choose to live our lives from moment to moment.

What I love, what I've always loved about both Fantasy and Science Fiction, is that by putting characters into extreme situations, you can really dig deep into ideals of morality, nobility and, yes, choice.

And the obligatory: what was your favorite part of this section?
It was all so good! Moria, Lothlorien, the river-journey... too hard to choose! I really felt for Boromir on this read, though. His entrapment by the siren song of the Ring is so well handled, understandable from his history and his point of view, and his grief after realizing how close he came to fully falling is so complete.

Next Time: The Two Towers!

Follow Friday Sept 23

Friday, September 23, 2011

This is Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read

Today's Question is:

Q. Do you have a favorite series that you read over and over again? Tell us a bit about it and why you keep on revisiting it?

Anyone who's been around here for a while knows my answer to this.

I own Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga in both print and ebook. Recently I've been making my way through at least 12 out of the 14 books (plus short stories) every 8-10 months or so.

I love this series not only because it's well written, exciting, moving, and extremely fun, but because every time I read them, I notice new things. I normally read very quickly, so with books that can take the scrutiny, re-reading can be very enjoyable for me, as I pick up on subtle details and turns of phrase that I missed the first time. Also, as time has passed I become obsessed with different parts of the series. I mentioned in a recent post that Memory, a book in the middle of the timeline, has recently become my favorite, because turning 30 and struggling with career change speaks very directly to where I am in my life.

In certain moods early books like The Warrior's Apprentice or Cetaganda, more about high adventure, espionage and finding one's feet, are more enjoyable, and at other times later books about mystery, adult romance and commitment (Komarr, A Civil Campaign) are just what I need.

For wonderful characters and a fascinating world, but most of all for the incredible range of topic and tone while remaining true to those characters and settings, The Vorkosigan Saga is the series I read over and over.

You don't have to take my word for it: download The Warrior's Apprentice as a free ebook from

(Close Second place: The Complete Sherlock Holmes. For a while I almost had this memorized.)

Comics Briefly: Batman #1, Cloak and Dagger #2, Darkwing Duck #16, Supergirl #1, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2, Ultimate X-Men #1, Wonder Woman #1

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Favorite Issue this week: Supergirl #1 (Close run with TMNT, Batman and Darkwing Duck, though)

All books were new in stores on 9/21/11

Batman #1
Writer: Scott Snyder, Penciller: Greg Capullo, Inker: Jonathan Glapion, Colors: FCO Plascencia

I was actually won over on this one by the art, more than the writing. Yeah, with the twist in the first sequence the writing was pretty awesome. (The ending twist is silly.) But what I really enjoyed was the tone set by a Batsuit with a bit of an old-fahioned touch, combined with "cute" style Bruce. Also, despite my eternal love for the ladies of Gotham, a panel that highlights the clannishness of Bruce and his troop of sons always makes me smile.

Cloak and Dagger #2
Writer: Nick Spencer, Artist: Emma Rios, Colorist: Javier Rodriguez

Not quite as much fun as Issue #1, but still a beautiful, haunting book. Technically a Spider-Island tie-in, but you can read this mini-series alone. It's got real style.

Darkwing Duck #16
Writer: Ian Brill, Artist: James Silvani, Colorist: Lisa Moore

Really fun issue! The reveal on the villain was well done, and played into the larger plot threads. The dialogue was snappier than it's been for the last few, too. Next time: Crossover with Ducktales!

Supergirl #1
Writers: Michael Green & Mike Johnson, Penciler: Mahmud Asrar, Inker: Dan Green

This was pretty great. I like the tone, the art. Most of all, I like Kara, which is really what this series needs to sell it. I don't like whatever is going on with her tights/boots/whatever, but I like her attitude. Superman better not be a dick to her in the next issue, or I'll be disappointed.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #2
Story: Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz, Script: Tom Waltz, Layouts: Kevin Eastman, Art: Dan Duncan, Colors: Ronda Pattison

More great action, more exposition, pretty art. I really want this to be awesome, and so far it's solid but not jawdropping. Good stuff, although even the high quality paper doesn't stop me from wincing a little at the 3.99 cover price on this title.

Ultimate X-Men #1
Writer: Nick Spencer, Pencils: Paco Medina, Inks: Juan Vlasco, Colors: Marte Gracia

Most of the press has been about Spider-man, but there's a lot of shuffling going on in the Ultimate Marvel U these days. This was a pretty interesting little book, taking the themes of the X-Men in a new direction. Many characters are dead or missing, and those who remain are in constant danger. I don't know whether I'll follow this long, but it features both Kitty and Rogue, so I'm interested.

Wonder Woman #1
Writer: Brian Azzarello, Artist: Cliff Chiang, Colorist: Matthew Wilson

Very intriguing, but I'm not fully sold yet. The story seems neat, and I actually really like the designs on the gods, but Diana seems like a bit of a cypher in this issue. We'll see what happens next.

Best Book I didn't buy:

X-Men Schism #4
Damn. I expected another struggle between Wolverine and Cyclops to end up tired and cliche, so I skipped this when it started. However, I really liked the last issue, and this one was awesome from the sparking dialogue to the final gorgeous splash panel. I'm a little sad that I haven't been collecting this. I really liked this issue, but at this point I'm holding out for the trade.

Also Considered:

Green Lantern Corps #1
Hey, all the pages that weren't in the stupid preview were actually really good. Guy and John bond over being openly Green Lanterns, then set off to kick some ass. I like that they're both heroes, as opposed to Hal who was a worthless schmuck in his book. They're having problems with other stuff, but they're good at being good guys.

Blue Beetle #1
Shrug. Maybe call me when you're done retelling the freaking origin.

Star Trek #1
This was cute but I decided I didn't need a new retelling of "Where No Man Has Gone Before" starring the 2009 crew. However, if that sounds awesome to you, check out this book.

Top Ten Tuesday - Books Everyone Else Has Read

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This Week's Prompt:

Top Ten Books It Feels Like Everyone Has Read But Me

Let's See...

1: The Hunger Games is in the category of "Books I'll pick up one of these days if I see an available copy at the library and I don't have anything else I want to get and I'm all caught up with my other reading." I just don't feel the need to go out of my way.

2: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo I heard a little about this book and shrugged, then I heard a little more and got interested, and then a little more, and it went back into the "maybe, eventually" category.

3: The sequels to Twilight I read the first one so that I could criticize it fairly, but I am not subjecting my brain to the rest.

4: A Feast For Crows/A Dance With Dragons Nope. Not enough hours in the day to read another of these doorstoppers. Not going back to this series unless I hear that it ended and the ending was really amazing, and even then I might just read a synopsis or something.

In  a more Classic vein, 5: Catcher in the Rye Missed this one in school, and never had the umph to track it down.

My brain refuses to come up with any more just now, partially because I think "everyone" is a vague category. There are plenty of YA books that I've seen on lots of blogs but I don't have any interest in, but I don't know anyone personally who has read them. Similarly, many of my friends have such different reading habits that there are very few books "everyone" has read.

The Rogue (The Traitor Spy Trilogy, Book Two)

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Rogue (The Traitor Spy Trilogy, Book Two)
Trudi Canavan, 2011

Recent Release, Copy Provided by NetGalley

Premise: Sequel to The Ambassador's Mission (review here). Lorkin is adjusting to life among the so-called Traitors, trying to find a way to trade for new magical techniques without falling afoul of the faction who wants him killed. Back in Kyralia, Sonea worries about her son, but her hands are full tracking the unknown Rogue magician and dealing with two novices who stumble into dangerous knowledge. Meanwhile, Ambassador Dannyl continues his search for the lost history of magic.

I continue to really enjoy this series, but I don't think it's amazing, just solidly good. In this volume, everyone is distracted by potential romantic complications, either old flames or new love.

I think my favorite plot thread was the one about a pair of new characters: the novices Lilia and Navi. Lilia gets a lot more trouble than she bargined for when she becomes infatuated with the glamourous older Novice. She is a bit silly and a bit at fault, but her position is completely understandable. It's also nice, in the context of that plot, to see Sonea in a mentoring position.

There are no major changes in this book, but the plots are coming into congruence, and the new discoveries about the capabilities of magic seem to be headed for a clash with the old-fashioned Guild traditions.

It seems that big changes are ahead for the magicians of the Guild, whether they want it or not. While much of this book felt like set-up for the next, it was enjoyable set-up.

3 Stars - A Good Book

The Rogue is available on

LOTR Read-Along! Fellowship Chapters 9-15

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Hobbit and LOTR Read-Along is hosted by Little Red Reviewer and Geeky Daddy
Part Two of FOTR went much smoother for me than the first section. I think I may have just been in the wrong mood last week.

Discussion questions are below, but first, an anecdote.

The first time I read Lord of the Rings, I was probably in my early teens. I was already passably familiar with the Rankin-Bass animated versions of both The Hobbit and ROTK at this point; I literally don't remember not knowing the basics of this story. I took all three books out of the library one summer afternoon, and started in on Fellowship around dinnertime. At 5am, I closed the book after the last page of FOTR and went to sleep. I did nothing but eat, sleep and read (and the former two grudgingly) until I finished Return of the King in the middle of the third day.

With all that in mind, I'll move on to the Discussion Topics, provided by Geeky Daddy (Clarifications/edits added by me)

1. What was were your initial thoughts of Strider/Aragorn when the Hobbits met up with him in The Prancing Pony? Did you think that he was linked with the Riders Ringwraiths?

I love Aragorn in this part of the book. He's got a nice balance of competence and caution, friendly but capable of being deadly serious. You can feel the tension between the need to get Frodo and company to trust him, and the impulse to just grab him and haul him bodily to safety. The second half of this question is fairly N/A, for the reasons above.

2. What was the biggest surprised to surprise for you during this section of the Fellowship of the Ring?

The song that Frodo sings in the Prancing Pony to distract the crowd from asking too many questions. I would like to direct to this passage anyone who has ever argued with me whether LOTR can be read as a prehistory of Earth. Admittedly, I always remember that point because it's stressed at the end of the Rankin-Bass ROTK, but this passage makes it explicit. Frodo's song is a linguistic ancestor of the nursery rhyme "Hey, Diddle Diddle." This amuses me intensely. "Here it is in full. Only a few words of it are now, as a rule, remembered." -FOTR, page 170

3. Do you like that Tolkien goes in depth and tells the readers of the history events of the war that is upon the Fellowship? Do you like that Tolkien goes in depth and tells the readers so much of the history?

As the richness of the world is what sets these books apart from much of what came before and after, I certainly like it. It does give a sense of depth to the world, and grounds the characters in a sense of time. Also the historical asides often do double duty. One of the best examples of this so far is Aragorn singing part of the Lay of Beren and Lúthien. It gives you a flavor of elven culture, a hint about how long they have been fighting Melkor and Sauron, and foreshadows Aragorn's own story.

4. How far do you think you would have lasted if you were Frodo and nearly becoming a Rider?

Well, first of all, Frodo rides Glorfindel's horse perfectly well, although I don't think that's quite what the questioner intended to ask. Second, Frodo was on his way to becoming a wraith, not a Ringwraith. Important difference there. To answer the intended question: hold on, I'll make a Constitution Check.

5. As dangerous quest unfold to become, the other hobbits want to stick by Frodo til the end. Would you sacrifice yourself and stick with Frodo til the end? Even as the quest becomes more dangerous, the other hobbits want to stick by Frodo 'til the end. Would you sacrifice yourself and stick with Frodo until the end?

I think we all, especially those of us who read fantasy, hope a secret hope that if we were put in a situation where it was really important, that we would rise to the occasion. How would we know for sure, though, unless it was really a life or death scenario?

Previous Read-Along Posts:

Comics Briefly: American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #4, Batwoman #1, Demon Knights #1, Resurrection Man #1

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Favorite Book This Week: Demon Knights #1. No Question.

All issues were new in stores on 9/14/11

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #4
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Sean Murphy, Colorist: Dave Stewart

Solid Issue. Snazzy new background information, and lots of nazi vamps get toasted. Not much else necessary to say, really.

Batwoman #1
Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, Artist: J.H. Williams III, Colors: Dave Stewart

I know, I'm the only one not head over heels for this book. The story seems fine, but I don't know. I really dislike certain aspects of the art. Maybe I need to read all the back story I missed (which doesn't speak well of a #1, I think) but I just don't like Kate yet, so I'm pretty ambivalent on this book.

Demon Knights #1
Writer: Paul Cornell, Penciller: Diogenes Neves, Inker: Oclair Albert

What a relief! I was concerned after I didn't like Stormwatch (last week, by the same author), but I loved this issue. Best book of the new 52 so far, for me. I loved the tone, I loved the characters, I just enjoyed the hell out of it. Great villains, great heroes. It is absolutely D&D in the DCU, and I couldn't be happier.

Resurrection Man #1
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Art: Fernando Dagnino, Colors: Santi Arcas

Not sure about this one. I liked this issue quite a bit; liked the premise, the writing, the twists, but I'm not sure how it would be to read an entire arc of this character.

Other Books Considered:
Batman And Robin #1
Some decent ideas in the first half of this, but... call me when Damian is anything other than a completely obnoxious prick, about which the only story is "Damian does something stupid, and other characters have to make up for it."
Also, my favorite unofficial panel about Damian is here:

Green Lantern #1
Not bad, but nothing that hooked me. Hal is a shiftless dummy, Sinestro's a jerk. What else is new?

Top Ten Tuesday - Books Recommended by Another Blogger

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This Week's Prompt:
Top Ten Books I Read Because Of Another Blogger

Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week, everyone!

1: Champion of the Rose, by Andrea K. Host
This was reviewed positively by The Book Smugglers, and I remembered that when I saw it spotlighted on Kindle Nation Daily.
This is probably the recommendation that had the most effect on my reading, as I have since purchased all of Ms. Host's novels, and read all but the most recent.
More Reviews: The Silence of MedairStray (Touchstone)

2: God's War, by Kameron Hurley
Reviewed at Little Red Reviewer Unfortunately, I didn't like this book nearly as much as she did.

3: Star Trek: Harbinger, by David Mack
Picked this out after kind words over at This Week at the Library

I guess I could also count
4: Dawn by Octavia Butler
because while it wasn't recommended specifically by any feed I was reading, when I picked this up I was inspired by other bloggers who were actively trying to read more books NOT written by white people.

Books I have read already, but haven't posted reviews for yet:

5: Treespeaker by Katie W. Stewart
Reviewed at Sift Book Reviews

6: The Last Man On Earth Club by Paul R. Hardy
Reviewed at Sift Book Reviews

7: The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester
Reviewed at Dreaming About Other Worlds

On the TBR List:

8: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
After the gushing praise at both Little Red Reviewer and The Hopeful Librarian

9: Will Supervillains Be on the Final?: Liberty Vocational Volume 1 by Naomi Novik 
Found out this book existed at Book Smugglers

All I can come up with for now... Do you have any favorite recommendations?

Stray (Touchstone 1)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Stray (Touchstone 1)
Andrea Höst, 2011

Premise: Cassandra Devlin was just walking home from school when she turned a corner and was suddenly in a forest, somewhere far away from where she had been. First order of business: survive. She is just starting to get a handle on her situation when she is rescued, but her rescuers? Aren't from Earth. Cass needs to figure out how to get along in their world long enough to maybe, just possibly, convince them to help her get home.

This intriguing sci-fi series is written in diary style, so we hear everything from Cass's perspective. Her voice is what really sells this book. It's a great combination of snarky humor, matter-of-fact description and the occasional sense that she's balancing on the edge between managing her surroundings and completely breaking down. I really loved the whole first section with her alone, using the diary as an outlet to stay grounded, trying to figure out what happened and what to do next.

I wasn't expecting the dimension-hopping society that rescues Cass to be made up of tech-heavy humans, many of whom are psychic. (I must not have read the description that carefully.) They were driven out from their original home by malevolent things from between the worlds, and there is an organization that protects their settlement from incursions from nearby areas, sort-of 'echo' dimensions. It's a cool idea, and it makes for a lot of fantastic description. I like the little spins on cliches that Ms. Host throws in. For example, of course (slight spoiler:) Cass ends up having a mental power in this psychic society, but how exactly it works was unexpected.

There is a lot of potential in the mystery of what if any relationship exists between Earth-humans and the Setari. They have some ideas, Cass has others. I really hope that is explored further in the coming books.

I did run into a little name confusion here and there once a lot of characters were being introduced at once. Also I was really thrown by one scene in the middle. It shook up what I thought I knew about the rules of the world so much that at first I thought it was a dream sequence and it took me a bit to figure out what was going on.

I really liked that Cass is self aware enough to often recognize when she is predisposed to an impression or a decision based on the television, books and other media she consumed on Earth. That doesn't mean she always makes smart choices, just that she can analyze her own reactions. The entire ending was very well played.

Overall a strong first volume, despite a few bumps here and there

4 Stars – A Really Good Book

Check out Stray on

LOTR Read-Along! Fellowship Chapters 1-8

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Woo! It's time to start in on the meat of the LOTR Read-Along, with the first eight chapters of Fellowship of the Ring. (The Hobbit and LOTR Read-Along is hosted by Little Red Reviewer and Geeky Daddy)

It's been an interesting re-read for me so far; I find that I'm noticing different aspects of the writing. Of course, I'm also reminded that the beginning of FOTR is slooooowwww. I like these books, but they take their sweet time to ramp up. These are all the chapters that when I heard they were cutting a lot of it for the films, I said: "yeah, okay, I mean, I'll miss it, but that makes sense." (Unlike the big section at the end of ROTK, but we'll get there when we get there.)

Discussion questions provided by Little Red Reviewer follow!

1. Hobbits seem to have songs for everything!  I didn't realize this was a musical. . . . how are you liking all the songs? 

It's fine. I generally like poems with plenty of rhyme and rhythm, and memorizing the Ring poem was a big deal for me when I first read the books.

Although, I'm actually finding them a little distracting this time through, because my brain is caught between musical styles, and I can't quite picture the tunes. I was completely thrown by A Walking Song (when Frodo, Sam and Pippin are walking toward Bucklebury), realizing how drastically re-purposed it was by the films. The fact that I was so surprised reminded me how long it's been since I've read these books in any depth.

2. I love that we learn about Gollum and his past so early on. It gives a dark and foreboding (dare I say, perilous?) feeling to the whole thing. Were you surprised that the story took a dive towards the dark and scary so quickly?

I admit, I kind of skimmed this part this time through. (Everybody who was along for the Hobbit last month, I hope you caught the reference that when Gandalf disappeared on the dwarves and Bilbo, it was because he and the other Wizards were fighting Sauron.)

3. Tom Bombadil!  what and who is he???  If you met him in a forest, would you trust him?

No one knows, because Tolkien wouldn't say. Seriously, he's some sort of nature guardian. He's like Kipling's version of Puck. As such, you can trust him exactly as long as you aren't acting against whatever he's protecting. I liked that he had some weird moment of communion with a brooch. It made me think about the Silmarils, and Bombadil and Goldberry's place in Tolkein's pantheon of great couples.

4. What did you think when Pippin, Merry and Sam told Frodo about their "conspiracy", and that they pretty much knew what he was planning from the beginning?

This part I didn't remember clearly, and it was pretty funny. One of the main things I like about this section is that they're so terrible at planning. Frodo's terrible at hiding what he's doing, they don't know what direction to go, they get lost in the woods, they keep getting in trouble, they don't have any weapons. They're all willing, but very silly about it. They have a lot of growing to do to survive the books, and this lays the groundwork.

5. What's your favorite part of the book so far?

I'm fond of the creepiness of the sequence on the Barrow-Downs. It's the first time that Frodo is really faced with danger and death, and it always made an impression on me. The image of them waking up, dressed as sacrifices to an angry ghost is really a great image. Plus there's a nice little parallel to the Hobbit, where they come upon their weapons basically by luck.

Previous Read-Along Posts:
The Hobbit Parts 1 and 2
The Hobbit Part 3

Follow Friday September 9

Thursday, September 8, 2011

This is Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read

Today's Question is:

Q. Have you ever wanted a villain to win at the end of a story? If so, which one?

I have a somewhat complicated answer here. I am a fan, from way back, of occasional stories where the villain (or, more likely, the character of ambiguous morals) comes out just as well as the hero, or gets what they were after no matter what the hero does because of a Xanatos Gambit (i.e. all roads lead to victory). Well developed characters of ambiguous or complicated morality are always welcome, and they should accomplish their goals as often as (or more often than) anyone else.

When a book has actually flat-evil villains, I don't like depressing endings, but I do sometimes enjoy the bittersweet. While I am looking forward to the new book Pirate King, the previous Russell/Holmes novel, The God of the Hive (see review), is an example of a book where I thought the ending went too much the protagonists' way, and it just would have been a more interesting ending if it had been a more mixed victory.

Thinking back through recent reads...
Leviathan Wakes would have been more interesting (and I would be more interested in the idea of a sequel) with a straight 'villain wins' ending. What it had was close to that, but fairly wishy-washy.

(Villains winning is also one of the many many ways that Twilight could have sucked less, (see my review for a dozen different endings I thought up) but that seems like an easy target... )

Happy Blog Hopping!

Comics Briefly: Animal Man #1, Batgirl #1, Justice League International #1, Static Shock #1, Stormwatch #1, Swamp Thing #1

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's an all DCU Week, and I bought a few more than I otherwise would have because my comic shop was offering a good deal.

Favorite Book This Week: Batgirl #1 (Really REALLY close: Animal Man, Static Shock)
All books new in stores on 9/7/11

Animal Man #1
Story: Jeff Lemire, Pencils: Travel Foreman, Inks: Travel Foreman and Dan Green, Colors: Lovern Kindzierski

The art in this book really threatened to turn me off right away, it's not a style I enjoy, but the writing was strong enough to keep me intrigued. It's creepy and surreal in a fantastic way, and the ending was awesome. Definitely interested to see what else they've got up their sleeves for this one. Although, Side Note/Spoiler: [highlight to read] Little Girl raises small animals from the dead is also the origin of notorious paranormal romance character Anita Blake. Just saying.

Batgirl #1 
Writer: Gail Simone, Penciler: Ardian Syaf, Inker: Vicente Cifuentes

Strong dialogue, quick action, good character beats, you know, what I expect from Gail Simone. The set-up is fine, the villain reminds me a little of stupid slasher movies, but that could turn around easily. The ending is.... kinda overly melodramatic. Even so, this is a really strong issue, and it makes me happy to see Babs happy (even young, questionable timeline Babs.)

Justice League International #1
Writer: Dan Jurgens, Pencils: Aaron Lopresti, Ink: Matt Ryan, Color: Hi-Fi

I'm not too interested by the set-up here (annoying UN suits create super-team), but it's a neat mix of characters, so I wanted to give it a shot. After reading, I have mixed feelings about this issue. I'm already tired of the really, painfully old "foreign characters speak stereotypically funny broken English" gag. Batman and Booster, on the other hand, are written well. (I may have bought the issue because of how much I liked their interactions.) I'm not too impressed with the lady with the magic hair powers yet, and I admit to being a little personally grumpy that with Fire, Ice and Vixen also on the team, more lines and focus went to blond hair-lady than any of the others. Sigh.

Static Shock #1 
Story: Scott McDaniel and John Rozum, Pencils: Scott McDaniel, Inks: Jonathan Glapion and Le Beau Underwood, Colorist: Guy Major

I really enjoyed this book! It was fun and irreverent, both a good introduction and a decent hook for the next issue. Static is a little cocky, a lot young, and he seems book smart without always being people-smart. I like him. The art gets a little loose around the edges in the middle of the book, but it isn't too distracting. Especially if the new team on Blue Beetle doesn't work out, this could become a go-to teen hero book for me.

Stormwatch #1
Writer: Paul Cornell, Artist: Miiguel Sepulveda, Colorist: Allen Passalaqua

Full disclosure: the WildStorm Universe and I aren't on the best of terms right now, and I come to this book with only the sketchiest knowledge of the previous versions of these characters. Now, this is still more than a lot of people have but, I read this issue and, well, I don't get it. I thought the plot was boring, and the dialogue incredibly stilted and forced. I don't know why I'm supposed to care. I liked Jenny Q, though. Only consider this book if you're already familiar with (and like) Stormwatch. Not going to follow this one.

Swamp Thing #1
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Yanick Paquette, Colors: Nathan Fairbarn

I really loved the opening of this issue, grounding it firmly in the breadth and depth of the DCU. Alec Holland is alive again, but he remembers being Swamp Thing, and he still has a connection to that world. This is a very intriguing start on that story. Superman's guest role is well done, the tension in the situation is well handled, and the art is strong overall, although there's a couple of really odd angles on Superman that stuck out to me. The bad things are really creepy. Really really creepy. This plot must be closely related to the similar creepiness over in Animal Man, or DC editorial is asleep at the wheel.

Best book I didn't buy: Action Comics.

There are some really nice touches here. This is Superman as an angry young man, but still recognizably Superman. But... it wasn't 3.99 good. Not quite.

Other books I looked at and didn't buy:
Looked through Batwing, and it was pretty, but didn't seem to be coalescing in the writing.
I also flipped through Detective Comics, and there is just nothing about that book that interested me.

Review: Ready Player One

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ready Player One
Ernest Cline, 2011

New Release! Copy for review provided by Netgalley.

Please Insert Coin to Begin.

Premise: In the very near future, life is pretty bad. Most people spend their time (and their money) on the OASIS, an enormous virtual system that has replaced the internet, schools, many workplaces, and more. But the late creator of the OASIS left a secret, an easter egg, in the program somewhere. Whoever finds it is entitled to the late billionaire's entire fortune. There are corporations that spend all their time and energy in the search for the egg, but there are also lots of freelancers. Freelancers like Wade Watts, high school kid and gunter (egg-hunter). But no one has made progress on the riddle of the Egg in years, that is, until now...

This is the most charmingly adorable dystopia I think I've ever read, and I mean all the words in that sentence. Halliday, the man behind the OASIS and the hunt for the Egg, was a child of the 80's, and layered the pop culture references of his childhood into some environments in the virtual world and made them the key to the elaborate game that he set up for his aspiring heirs. This means that much of the book is kids in the future studying and becoming obsessed with the 80's, which is pretty entertaining. Obscure video games, movies, D&D, it's all in there. (Well, not too much in the way of books, which is odd for a book, but whatever.)

The book itself is structured like a classic 80's film: a group of kids from different backgrounds are in search of treasure, the obsessions of young people are extremely useful, the antagonist is an evil corporation whose motives and actions will probably be kind of silly if you think about them too hard. It skims over uncomfortable aspects of the future, touches on subjects without exploring them; again, much like many 80's movies.

It's a super-fun read, not serious science-fiction by any definition, but it's not trying to be. There were a few aspects to the plot that I found too easy or pat, but the tone was generally light enough (even when the subject matter got dark) that I could overlook them.

The puzzles were fun, the sense of teen adventure was strong, and I couldn't put it down once I got into it, devouring it in two marathon sessions. The ending was simplistic, but I'm still giving it high marks.

4 Stars – A Very Good Book

Check out Ready Player One on

Comics Briefly: Justice League #1

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I know, I was surprised too, when I went to check my pull list for this week and it was empty. But since it's an event and all, we picked up the new Justice League #1.

Issue new in stores on 8/31/11

Justice League #1
Writer: Geoff Johns, Penciller: Jim Lee, Inker: Scott Williams, Colorist: Alex Sinclair

So this is the flagship of the brand new DCU, and after all the hype, I have to say that it's...fine. Even good. But it's a slow start, nothing grabbing me from the first page. It's mostly Green Lantern (Hal) being a whiny, arrogant jerk and Batman (Bruce) being quietly competent and a little weird, with a peek at Cyborg that I don't know how I feel about yet, and a smoldering young Superman on the last page. (I predict new fanfiction in 3, 2, 1...)

It felt really short for a 3.99 issue, only 24 pages of content. Superman Beyond #0 last week was 3.99, too, but it was 30 pages. The art is nice, if a smidge busy for my taste here and there. The dialogue is decent, although, for me, Hal's pretentiousness steps over the line into grating. I enjoyed reading the issue, but in my brain it still feels like a good Elseworlds, not a good "real" book. It's a really good Elseworlds, though. Much better than Flashpoint. Does it seem from this issue that it will be the best version of the Justice League ever? Probably not, although I can't really tell. I'd wait for the collection, if you haven't already picked this up. But it's fine, and this is comics, and things are always changing.

So if you're still feeling angsty about the New 52, just do what I do, and remember, this:
Chinguards! Collars! Sparkly!

is the "real" Justice League only exactly as much as this is:
Old School!

and this:
Captain Marvel, Dr. Fate, Dr. Light, Mr. Miracle, this was clearly a magic/space adventures-heavy version.

and this one:
Never Forget. Superman was Blue and Electric, and that was in 'actual' continuity, too.

and this:
Hawkgirl, Vixen, Red Arrow, Red Tornado... is that Black Lightning? Wow.

And, of course, my personal favorite version:
Because if I can't hear Kevin Conroy saying it, it'll never really be Batman for me.