A Shadow in Summer

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Shadow in Summer
Daniel Abraham, 2006

Premise: An assortment of unique characters plot with and against each other about the future of a powerful merchant city-state.

While I really enjoyed reading A Shadow in Summer, it's been a couple of days since I finished it, and I'm already having trouble remembering it. I thought it was well done, an interesting magic system, pretty neat characters, but I don't know...it just didn't hook me completely.

The prologue was a bit intimidating in its use of new terminology; it took me a while to figure out what was going on. Once the story picked up I liked it (and understood it) more.

I liked Amat, the older overseer, a lot at the start, but she didn't really grow on me. I liked the main two young men, both conflicted and searching for purpose. The magic was neat, it centers on binding ideas into a human form and using them to accomplish tasks. The people who can do this are called poets, which frankly confused me for a chapter or two until I figured out what they could do. The primary andat (idea given form) in this book was called Seedless, and he was an interesting character, snarky and inhuman.

I did keep mentally comparing it to the Calliope issue of Sandman, even though it's a fairly different idea.

I appreciated that the denizens of that country had a whole second language made up of gesture, but I did get a little tired of reading “[whoever] took a pose of query/of apology/of affirmation” without having any idea what it looked like. Just a hair cutesy for me.

I did enjoy the book, but I didn't love it. Will I read the next one? Maybe if I see it in the Library.

3 Stars – A Good Book

More about A Shadow in Summer on Amazon.com

LOTR Read-Along! The Two Towers Part Three

Saturday, October 29, 2011

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

This is the second part of The Two Towers.
FOTR: Part One Part Two Part Three
Bonus One: Photos of Books
TT: Part One Part Two

Here we are at the end of The Two Towers! It's kind of nice to be taking the time to savor each part of the book, because left to my own devices, I'd probably have kind of skimmed this section in my hurry to get back to the other characters. And that would be a shame, because following Sam and Frodo is wonderful.

Discussion Topics:
Faramir strikes me as a noble, intelligent fellow, especially concerning powers beyond his control.  Had he gone to Elrond's Council instead of Boromir, how might the story have changed? 
Faramir is awesome. He goes on the short list of people who are not really affected by the Ring (and yes, they basically changed this up in the movies because they wanted the Ring to seem more dangerous). I think it's because he's calm, and sure of himself, sure of who he is. He'd like to help win the war for his people, but he's studied enough to know that the One Ring is no way to do it. Thinking of him at the council is sort of odd: yes, he probably wouldn't have forced the split in the party, but in the end everyone got where they were most needed, so who knows how things would have turned out without that?

What did you think of Shelob and her lair? Would you willingly go in there?  Yes, I know Gollum says "this is the only way", but Frodo could have demanded they explore and attempt to find another way.
To be fair, Gollum doesn't say "this way, through the lair of the giant evil spider, is the only way," and any way into Mordor is likely to be fraught with danger, so I think we can accept that Frodo and Sam push on despite their instinctive misgivings. Given what they've seen and heard, it does seem like the only choice, so I'm not about to second-guess it from here.

When Sam saves Frodo from Shelob, he finds himself in the vision he saw in Galadriel's mirror. Knowing the future isn't always as helpful as one would think, is it?
Knowing the future is never helpful. Ever. Unless you are a time-traveller, then I guess it's important to know where you're going. Without a time-machine, knowing the future is a tangled mess of self-fulfilling prophecies and moments of "too late" de-ja-vu.

Having always been a sidekick/helper of sorts, Sam reluctantly realizes he may have to become the Ringbearer. What do you think Sam will do with the Ring of Power? If you were the sidekick of the hero, and suddenly had the opportunity to become the hero, to finish the quest, what would you do with the Ring of Power?
I'll be interested to see answers to this question from those who haven't read the books. Note that in this last section, Sam uses the Ring to hide from the Orcs, and while he feels an effect, his loyalty to Frodo and to the Quest is unchanged. His innate goodness is just that awesome. Now, I don't have quite enough trust in my own innate goodness to use a Ring of Power (or even, in all honesty, to put on any of the replicas that came out with the movies) but I would certainly try to finish the quest.

The conversation between the two Orcs at the end was highly amusing for me.  Yes, it serves to educate Sam on Frodo's condition, and Tolkien could have just left it at that, but he didn't. The Orc's commiserating could have been any soldiers in any war.  To me, it felt like Tolkien was humanizing the enemy, instead of the traditional dehumanizing of the enemy that you usually see in war stories. What do you think?
There is some of that human sympathy, and it's welcome here, since in general the Orcs get very little of it. They're certainly not nice people, but neither are they unthinking beasts. I don't remember how much that sense is continued when we pick up this plot thread in the second half of ROTK, but I'll be on the look out for it.

The book ends on a cliffhanger. Are you excited to finish up the trilogy and see how it all turns out?
Well, I know how it turns out, but I am anxious to read it again anyway. 

No Read-Along post next week, but stop by next Saturday anyway for 
more LOTR bonus content!

Comics Briefly: Avengers Academy #20, Legion: Secret Origin #1

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Books were new in stores on 10/26/11

Avengers Academy #20
Writer: Christos Gage, Penciler: Tom Raney, Inker: Scott Hanna, Colorist Jeromy Cox

I had mixed feelings about this issue. It's well done, decently follows the reshuffle of the cast, with a few really nice character moments. It does, however, feel like this is the appropriate jumping-off point, if I want to take it.

Legion: Secret Origin #1
Writer: Paul Levitz, Artists: Chris Batista & Marc Deering, Colorist: Wes Hartman

Hey! A story about the beginning of Legion of Superheroes, with characters I recognize! That's what I wanted, and didn't get, in the New 52 Legion books! So far it's cute and fun, although not much more. Mostly told from an external point of view with mixed success. It's just a miniseries, though, so it's less of a commitment to pick up the first issue.

Read, Didn't Buy:

Justice League Dark #2: I found this pretty dull, even though the angsty character du jour was Deadman instead of Shade. Also Dove is in it. Not much happened.

Wolverine and the X-Men #1: This was completely and utterly looney tunes, in a way I really liked. Wolverine starts a school! Education Inspectors! Kitty! Hank! Inter-dimensional Imps! SHI'AR! It wasn't quite enough to buy it, though I'm tempted to go back. I'm trying to wait for the trade on some books...

Pirate King

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pirate King
Laurie R. King, 2011

FYI: This is the eleventh book featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. See my reviews of books 1: The Beekeeper's Apprentice and 10: The God of the Hive.

Premise: After the tumult of the recent months, Mary Russell is looking forward to some time away from tangled politics and mysteries. Her plans are cast awry, however, when she is asked to investigate sinister happenings surrounding Britain's premier silent film company. When movies, pirates, and Gilbert and Sullivan are involved, you can guarantee that nothing will be what it seems.

This was an extremely enjoyable read, although it falls a hair short in the climax of the plot. It's much more fun than the most recent Russell books, making it a welcome change of pace. The hectic world of early film is a fantastic milleu to visit, and all of the supporting characters were fascinating.

My favorite parts of the book, though, were the few moments of connection between Russell and Holmes, who are apart for much of the book. King has a lovely light touch here, writing her romance into word choice and pauses, tiny character beats that perfectly communicate meaning without betraying the sensibilities of two reserved, intellectual characters. After the craziness of the last few books, it feels good to see them comfortable with each other. This series can put more passion and depth into taking hands than many romance novels put into sex.

I didn't love the ending, though. I felt that while the action plot resolved satisfactorily, the resolution to the mystery plot was kind of thrown away, which begs some awkward questions about the set-up at the very beginning. It's still a very fun ride.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Pirate King is available on Amazon.com

LOTR Read-Along! The Two Towers Part Two

Saturday, October 22, 2011

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

This is the second part of The Two Towers.
FOTR: Part One Part Two Part Three

TT: Part One

This was the middle bits, wrapping up the Isengard plot and the beginning of Frodo and Sam's attempt to get into Mordor. Let's get straight to the discussion questions:

1. The Glittering Caves of Aglarond; Fangorn Forest: Which of the two would you be most excited to visit once the war was over?
No fair! I love both forests and caves. Especially forests that lead to caves. Of course, depending on who you are and how careful you are, Fangorn might be more likely to kill you, so that would have to be taken into account...

2. How did you like the reunion of at least part of the fellowship at Isengard? Did any part of it stand out to you?
I really like that Gandalf and Theoden went off to talk strategy and news with Treebeard while Merry and Pippin treat Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli to a casual lunch. It gave their reunion a nice feeling of friendship and brotherhood, because the "grownups" are away, so to speak.

3. What are your thoughts about Gandalf's confrontation with Saruman?
It's pretty sweet: Gandalf gets to exercise his shiny new power-level. I also enjoy it because it's a bit of nice foreshadowing for *REDACTED FOR SPOILERS FOR YOU SILLY FOLKS WHO HAVEN'T READ THE BOOKS*.

4. We learn a great deal about the Palantir in this section. How do you feel about Saruman given Gandalf's speech about the use of the Palantir? Would you, like Pippin, be tempted to look in to see what you could see?
I basically agree with Gandalf about Saruman: that the palantir probably aided in his turn to the dark side, but he was foolish not to seek help in dealing with something that powerful. Let's not be too hard on Pippin, some of his problem was obviously a compulsion brought on by touching the thing. Assuming that it wasn't pointed straight at Sauron, a palantir could be awesome, but you'd want to check that with a licensed wizard before you went mucking around with one.

5. What are your thoughts about Smeagol/Gollum in this first part of his journey leading Frodo and Sam? For those of you who've seen the film, are you hearing Andy Serkis in your head when you read Gollum's lines?
I do feel bad for Gollum, and not only because I know the rest of the story. I really like the complications here: it's clear that feeling pity for Gollum is like feeling pity for an injured snake. You can try to help it, you want to help it, it might seem to like you, but you can never trust it. Regarding Andy Serkis, I hear him off and on. Definitely for the poem/song.

6. Sam and Frodo are not traveling in the most picturesque part of Middle-earth. Which would you find worse, the seemingly impossible to leave mountains or the Dead Marshes?
More landscape either/or? Well, I'd probably rather take my chances in the marshes, as I used to be passable at navigating swamps. (I spent lots of time catching frogs as a kid.)

7. Tolkien introduces us to a lot of places in this section of The Two Towers, many just getting a mention in passing. What do you think of Tolkien's place names (Minas Morgul, Isengard, the Emyn Muil, and on and on)? Do any stand out to you? Are there any that you don't care for?
Overall I love Tolkien's place names. His knowledge of language really shines here, as all of the ones I can think of roll pleasantly off the tongue and resonate well in the mind. There are some, like Ithilien, that I have trouble remembering when the book isn't in front of me, though. I do sometimes get tired of "this place is called X, except the elves call it Y, and it used to be called Z, and..." While it does help expand the sense of the history, I don't need all the alternate names for every single place they go.

Follow Friday Oct 21

Friday, October 21, 2011

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

Today's Question is:

Q. What superhero is your alter-ego?

I haven't Blog-hopped in a while, but I had to answer this one. 
My real-life superpowers, FYI, are:

- the ability to find almost anything in our apartment, no matter how long it's been since I've seen it or who had it last

- the ability to make surgers behave.

A surger is a machine that looks like this:
that uses 4-5 needles and two blades to make edges that look like this:
and it's a fussy, temperamental piece of equipment.

For my super-hero alter ego, though, I'm picking Shayera Hol, aka Hawkgirl
This version, obviously
Not for her complicated love life or backstory, but because, like Hawkgirl, I can be a fun, loving, complex person but still often feel like there should be "Less talking, MORE HITTING!"

Comics Briefly: Batman #2, Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #1, Supergirl #2, Wonder Woman #2

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Favorite Issue this week: Batman #2

All books were new in stores on 10/19/11

Batman #2
Writer: Scott Snyder, Pencils: Greg Capullo, Inks: Jonathan Glapion

Okay, this is really good. Gorgeous, basically note-perfect, solid good comic. Less fun than Demon Knights, but you can't have everything. Light but nice touch on Gordon and Dick, nice expressions on Bruce. That suspended feeling of a really breathtaking panel reveal. Nice work.

Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #1
Writer: Chris Roberson, Pencils: Jeffery Moy, Inker: Philip Moy, Colors: Romulo Fajardo. Jr.

Yes, I picked this up because I couldn't resist the premise. Star Trek! Legion! CROSSOVER! Whoo-hoo! This first issue is mostly set-up, and I didn't leave it quite understanding what the full set-up is, but the writing is strong, the art solid, and the premise irresistible. The opening was pretty awesome, too.

Supergirl #2
Writers: Michael Green and Mike Johnson, Penciller: Mahmud Asrar, Inker: Dan Green, Colorist: Dave McCaig

Strong second issue. Basically the standard superheroes meet'n'fight, but well balanced between Kara's panic and Superman's compassionate confusion. Also she's trying to deal with having all her superpowers start randomly, so that's fun.

Wonder Woman #2
Writer: Brian Azzarello, Artist: Cliff Chiang

I guess it's very pretty, but I'm not enjoying reading this. It just isn't a tone I like, all anger and sharp edges. There are a couple of nice moments: Diana talking with Hippolyta, practice fighting in the ring, but the rest of it I could do without.

Also Read:

Justice League #2
Better than the first issue, but not good enough to buy.

Catwoman #2
Just looking through out of morbid curiosity. Ick. Ick. Stupid. Bad writing, bad plotting, bad art. Ick.

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I Read Because of the Title or Cover

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This Week's Prompt:
Top Ten Books Whose Titles Or Covers Made Me Buy Them

I've been skipping a lot of the memes lately, but this one deserves a little comment I think. Although, in my case, many of these books should be called Books whose Titles or Covers made me take them home from the library...

1: James Bond Series, by Ian Fleming

Okay, I read most of this series from the library initially, but I liked the covers on these editions so much that I bought them. They look like old school over-the-top movie posters, and I love it.

They look great on the shelf, the colors are bright and bold, and each spine has a little piece of the picture above the title. I don't tend to take them on the subway, though...

2: The Manual of Detection, by Jedediah Berry

I remember not liking this book as much by the end as I had at the start, but it was the striking cover that made me pick it up at the library.

3: Mister B. Gone, by Clive Barker

More a cute conceit than really a great book, but nicely creepy (a good Halloween pick!) and has gorgeous internal and external design.

The idea: it's a demon, trapped in a book, telling you his story.

4: Ilium, by Dan Simmons

This, not Hyperion, was the first book I read by Dan Simmons, and I picked it out just because I was intrigued by the title and the cover enough to read the back.

It's Greek Myth plus far-future sci-fi, cloning, The Tempest, and a pair of highly literate robots. I'm not sure it's great, but it's definitely ambitious.

5: Recursion, by Tony Ballantyne

Another library book pulled out for its pretty cover. Intriguing, if over-complicated, sci-fi about nano-machines, AI, and fate.

6: The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor

The problem, I find, with picking out books by cover or title, is that I usually end up disappointed. This was a cool concept, a promising beginning, but I felt it fizzled in the middle somewhere.

I could just fill the rest of this list with wonderful Guy Gavriel Kay titles. So I think I will.

7: Tigana 

Tigana I read between my third or fourth years in college. I had a library edition that was hard cover, had lost its dust jacket, so I had nothing but the title and a vague impression that the author wrote fantasy to go on. I had been so busy with school work, and consciously catching up with classics, that I hadn't really read a novel in some time. I loved this book, and it reminded me how much I love fantasy and need it in my life.

8-10: Sailing to Sarantium, The Lions of Al-Rassan, A Song for Arbonne

All evocative, marvelous titles for great books.

I feel sure I'm forgetting something important though... I'm sure one of you knows a book with an amazing title I shouldn't have left off this list...

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Lost Adventures

Monday, October 17, 2011

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Lost Adventures
Created by Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino
Various Writers and Artists, 2011


Premise: This volume collects the A:TLA comics that were previously published in several Nickelodeon branded magazines, as well as many which were never published. They take place concurrently with the animated series, as a series of short stories that fit in-between the episodes.

I adored this. It's a great assortment, from short two-page gag comics, to longer, in-depth stories. Twenty-eight stories total, including both stories I had read in the Free Comic Book Day sample. They are arranged in chronological order, and split up into sections for how they match up with the seasons of the series.

There were a few shorts that had art which I didn't much like, but overall it's remarkably consistent. The writing is generally strong, all the characters are true to their on-screen selves, and the dialogue and situations captured that balance of comedy, action, and pathos that makes the show so special.

I don't necessarily recommend this to anyone who isn't already familiar with the show, although if you aren't a fan of the show, I recommend you go watch it!

The best stories are definitely the longer stories which go with the third season.

My favorites were:
  • “Private Fire”, in which Sokka inflitrates the Fire Nation Army to “learn more about them,” with comedic results. 
  • “Combustion Man on a Train” in which Aang splits his time between comforting a little girl who is traveling alone and fighting Combustion Man (villain from the show, they don't know his name)... on a TRAIN.
  • “Swordbending” in which Sokka challenges Zuko to a 'Swordbending' contest, and Zuko tries to get Sokka to admit there's no such thing as 'Swordbending'.
  • “Dragon Days” is especially welcome, as it's a flashback to before Aang was frozen, about an adventure with his friend Kuzon.

If the entire volume had been stories of that quality, it would have been amazing. As it is, it's a strong volume, and I'm glad I bought it, but it has weak spots, especially early on, plus the very surreal “bonus” comics at the end.

I understand that Dark Horse plans to create a new series of Avatar comics, presumably issue-length. I now have very high hopes for this.

4 Stars – A Very Good Book

Check out Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Lost Adventures on Amazon.com
Watch Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix!

LOTR Read-Along! The Two Towers Part One

Saturday, October 15, 2011

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

Welcome to the first third of The Two Towers!
FOTR: Part One Part Two Part Three

I always forget, when I haven't read the books in a while, whether the two towers of the title are Orthanc (the tower of Isengard) and Bara-dur, Orthanc and Cirith Ungol, or Orthanc and Minas Morgul. It is technically the last one, but I think the only place I've seen that verified is in the very end of FOTR, and it's only there if you have a version that is split into three books. It could be any of them, or none, as far as the plot is concerned. The Two Towers contains all the middle bits of the story; I understand why it was hard to come up with a name for this volume.

(In case you missed it, I did a bonus post on one of the off weeks: LOTR Bonus: Photos of Books!)

I'm a little stretched for time this week, so I'm not going to respond to all the suggested questions.

Selected discussion topics:

What is your favorite part of The Two Towers, thus far into the book?
I've always had a soft place in my heart for Rohan, and the culture of the horse lords. The Golden Hall, the Rohirrim... fantastic stuff. I wish we were able to spend more time establishing it, but at this point the plot is moving rather quickly, and all the new characters better join up or shove off. One specific moment I liked was Eowyn left alone to defend her people, her armor shining in the sun. That was really a lovely image.

What were your thoughts and reactions of the battle at the Hornburg?
Saruman's army was pretty darn stupid to attack such a solid fortress. I know they couldn't really have marched onward, leaving the forces of Rohan in their rear, but their plan seemed to consist of "kill the humans!" It didn't go too well for them. Also, the survivors of the battle were eaten by trees, which is both disturbing and awesome.

Do you like it that Tolkien has split the Company into three mini-quests? Do you wonder if the company will be together throughout the quest again?
Not a terribly applicable question for me, since I know the plot, and anyone who's seen the movies also knows when the characters will meet again. I do like the structure, for the most part: first spending time following up on everyone on the west side of the river, and then we'll catch up with Sam and Frodo in "Book Four" (LOTR is six books in three volumes, after all.) Each set of characters cannot affect the others at this point, so I'm fine waiting to get back to the other plot.
Oh, unless the question was about the decision to split the party in the first place. Of course I like that: it makes narrative sense given the danger of the Ring, it lets the reader follow established characters all over the different events and lands affected by the war, and smaller groups give each character more individual moments to shine.

Comics Briefly: American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #5, Batgirl #2, Batwoman #2, Demon Knights #2

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Favorite Book This Week: American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #5 (Demon Knights #2 close second)

All books new in stores on 10/12/11

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #5
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Sean Murphy, Color: Dave Stewart

A great conclusion to this miniseries. Fun action, good lines, bittersweet close. I can't actually tell you much without giving important plot away, but I like Felicia so much, and I can't wait to see more of her.

Batgirl #2
Writer: Gail Simone, Penciller: Ardian Syaf, Inker: Vicente Cifuentes Colorist: Ulises Arreola

Not loving the art here. There's just something off about a lot of the panels. I think there's something promising in the story, but we'll see where it goes before I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

Batwoman #2
Co-Writer & Artist: J.H. Williams III, Co-Writer: W. Haden Blackman, Color: Dave Stewart.

This issue had a few funny moments and good lines, and the mystery plot is neat, despite how little of it there is so far. However, I wouldn't be sold enough on this character to be collecting this if Erin didn't like it.

Demon Knights #2
Writer: Paul Cornell, Penciller: Diogenes Neves, Inker: Oclair Albert, Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo

More zany fun in the middle ages! Magic! Fighting “Dragons”! Of all the New 52 books I've read, this is the cast I'm most interested in. Vandal Savage gets some great moments here, as does Shining Knight and new Amazon-ish Exoristos. Etrigan and Xanadu are delightful to read; overall I really enjoyed this second issue.

The Mermaid's Madness

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Mermaid's Madness
Jim C. Hines, 2009

Premise: The sequel to The Stepsister Scheme, this is the continuing adventures of kick-ass princesses Snow, Talia and Danielle. The Kingdom of Whiteshore had a friendly relationship with the local tribe of undine (mermaids) that included mutual respect and trade. Or they did until this year. The mermaid princess Lirea has returned to take command of her tribe, and she is determined to go to war with humanity. Danielle and the others need to find out Lirea's true history and how to stop her, before more people die.

I liked this quite a bit, even though it risks being more of the same. I still like all the characters, I like the world, I like the way the story plays with fairy tale conventions.

I really like the twist on The Little Mermaid that is central to this one. It's dark and twisted and awesome. Lirea is a sadly broken person, and as such is fairly sympathetic, despite everything. The culture of the undine was fascinating, too.

Danielle has learned some since the last book, although this time she has to convince her prince that it's okay for her to go off on adventures. Talia and Snow are adjusting to the trio-team dynamic, and there's some growth in all their relationships.

I wish I had more to say than that these books are really fun action-packed romps starring a great team of women, and I approve of them. I suppose that's enough, though. I really enjoy reading them, and I fully intend to read more of these “Charlie's Angels” style Princess stories.

4 Stars – A Very Good Book

Check out The Mermaid's Madness on Amazon.com

Comics Briefly: Action Comics #2, Animal Man #2, Huntress #1, Swamp Thing #2

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

As we head into the second month of the New DC titles, I have to admit that this entire experience has got me somewhat burnt out on single issue comics. I'm just tired of most of what I'm seeing. I'll still be picking them up, for now, but we'll see whether I either get sucked back in by something great, or soon my pull list is going to drop way down.

Favorite Issue this Week: Huntress #1

All issues new in stores on 10/5/11

Action Comics #2
Writer: Grant Morrison, Pencillers: Rags Morales & Brent Anderson, Inkers: Rick Bryant & Brent Anderson

This continues to be mostly fun and intriguing. Good energy in the characters and the art. There's a substantial art preview and interview in the back of this issue, some of what is coming seems promising to me, and some of it seems less so.

Animal Man #2
Story: Jeff Lemire, Art: Travel Foreman, Colors: Lovern Kindzierski

Some of what happened in this issue was pretty interesting, but in the end I was dissatisfied with the amount of plot here. I might push this book off to waiting for trade if the pace doesn't pick up.

Huntress #1 (of 6)
Writer: Paul Levitz, Penciller: Marcus To, Inker: John Dell, Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse

This I really enjoyed. I wish the tone had been leavened with a bit more humor, but it was definitely Helena, doing what she does best: fighting gangsters and protecting the innocent. There's some of the same subject covered here as in the graphic novel Pipeline (which starred Question and Huntress), although nothing would make me happier than adding a partner for Huntress to play off of.

Swamp Thing
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Yanick Paquette, Colors: Nathan Fiarbairn

More consistent art than Issue 1, which was already pretty strong, and a decent amount of plot movement. I really liked the beginning, although I was not completely satisfied with its resolution. I am really beginning to think I can't collect both this and Animal Man. There's just too much of the same thematic ground covered.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Lindsay Buroker, 2011

Premise: Tikaya is a linguist, but during the war, she became a master cryptographer, and was instrumental in protecting the allies of her island home from invading navies. After the war, the defeated Turgonians want revenge on the one they call the cryptomancer, but first they kidnap her to help them decipher some mysterious runes. Along with another prisoner with a mysterious past, Tikaya needs to help her captors enough to keep herself alive, but if the secrets lead to putting something dangerous in Turgonian hands, she'll have to try to stop them.

I enjoyed reading this book, although it was fundamentally sort of fluffy. The romance is fine, the characters are sweet, the action is well done. It just didn't make a huge impression on me. It doesn't linger in the mind.

Side Note: I hate the cover. It doesn't matter much as an ebook, but I really dislike it. I think it's misleading and that the art is just unappealing.

Again, I liked Tikaya, she's super-smart with a bit of quirky humor, although a race of pale blond intellectuals living on a tropical island nation strains my credulity more than a little. Not a big problem for me, just a little reaction of “really?”

It was fun to read, it really was, but I'd have been more interested if the plot wasn't so pat. The good people are good. The nasty people are nasty. The good country is good. The nasty country is nasty. The good honorable people who come from this nasty country don't seem to be a contradiction. There is a clear answer to the moral question of what to do about the spoiler: *alien, probably* technology they find at the end of the arctic tunnels, and the good people agree about what the answer is.

I'm exaggerating slightly, the main couple had enough color to be entertaining and there was one supporting character (whom I think the sequel focuses on) with a little more depth, but most minor characters with more than one shade got disposed of once the plot was finished with them.

The balance between magic and technology is interesting, although since Tikaya spends most of the book with a group of low-magic people, I didn't get a good sense of how it worked.

I did really like the sequence when they were trying to decode and disarm the weird box that was making people crazy and violent. Even though I kept visualizing the scene as 30 Days of Night.

Overall a fun romp, a well-crafted fantasy action-romance, but nothing exceptional.

3 Stars – A Good Book

Check out Encrypted on Amazon.com

LOTR Bonus: Photos of Books

Saturday, October 1, 2011

There's no Read-Along post this week, so I thought I'd share some pretty photos.

While we don't have a copy of The Hobbit in our apartment (I had to get one from the Library last month) we do have a copy of The Hobbit Pop-up Book.

It's quite pretty, and panels that pull out on the sides of each page have excerpts from the text. There's only about 6 pages in the book, though.

(to spare Little Red Reviewer nightmares, I didn't take a picture of the Mirkwood spider battle 2-page spread...)

Here's our copy of Lord of the Rings. The dust jackets feature an Alan Lee painting.

While under the jacket each cover has this symbol in red and gold gilt.

Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers feature this big fold-out map in the back:

And Return of the King has a map with more detail of the smaller area in which it takes place.

However, I've been getting busy, and hard covers are heavy to carry on the subway, so I've also borrowed a Kindle copy of LOTR from the library. It doesn't look half bad, although the maps don't translate very well.

Generally, I prefer to read on my Kindle these days, but something about LOTR begs to be read from the big hard cover editions with the thick cream pages.