Hercule Poirot's Christmas

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cross-Posted for Mainlining Christmas!

Hercule Poirot's Christmas
Agatha Christie, 1939

I find Agatha Christie to be an acquired taste that I've never quite acquired. I enjoy her work, usually, but it takes me a long time to get into each book.

This was no exception. Once the story got going I quite liked it, but there were a lot of character introductions to get through first.

Once the extended family was all together at the manor house, they got right down to the business of Christmas: acrimonious backstabbing, awkward flirting, and murder. Poirot is brought along to assist the local police when patriarch Simeon Lee is found dead in a locked room. He'd assembled his clan of children together for the holidays to emotionally torment them, then threatened to make a new will.

So everyone has a motive, but only Poirot can peel through the misdirections and lies to figure out what happened. I especially enjoyed Poirot's amusement at the very British nature of the Lee family.

An enjoyable read, but the quiet tone isn't my favorite.

3 Stars - A Good Book

LOTR Read-Along! Return of the King Part Three

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Hobbit and LOTR Read-Along is hosted by Little Red Reviewer and Geeky Daddy
Previous Posts:
FOTR: Part One Part Two Part Three
Bonus One: Photos of Books
TT: Part One Part Two Part Three
Bonus Two: TOYS!
ROTK: Part One Part Two

Welcome to Part Three of Return of the King!
It's the end of the Read-Along! I'm sad to see it end, but it's just in time, as the holiday blog that I run with my husband is going to be taking up a lot of my blogging energy for the next month. Come visit us there: Mainlining Christmas!

Due to time and what I actually have to say, I might skip some of the prompts this week, because mostly I want to talk about the fact that we finally got to my favorite chapter. Yay!

What did you think of the two weddings? Do you think Eowyn will eventually find happiness with Faramir?
I talked about this a bit last week: I think Eowyn and Faramir are well matched in background and temperament and will balance each other nicely.

Holy Cow I was not expecting the scouring of the shire. If this is your first time reading, were you surprised? And if this isn't your first time reading, does the shock get a little easier to swallow on re-read?
I love love love The Scouring of the Shire, and I don't recall ever being shocked by it, just delighted. It is one of my favorite parts of the whole trilogy, and I see it as the culmination of many of the themes and plots of the work. I love that no one recognizes the hobbits at first, I love how easily they take charge and become a strong force for good. 

I love that we get to really see how each hobbit's experience in war and in other lands has shaped him into a different person than when he left. I love Merry rousing the countryside with the tactics of Rohan, I love Pippin asserting himself as a Guardsman of the King, I love Sam rescuing the hearts of the people and the land itself, and Frodo as the strangely wise voice of compassion. It just honestly makes me happy to see them each come fully into their own.

As far as the end of Saurman goes, I find it appropriate.

Also there are a lot of touches in this section and the part immediately afterward to remind me of the conceit that the book that we are reading is descended in direct line from the Red Book in which the hobbits recorded these events as history. And frankly I still get a wonderful shivery feeling when Frodo reveals the final title. 

What did you think of the very end, of the departure of the Havens?
I forgot that the Three Rings are so directly described as their bearers prepare to take ship. The whole thing is a beautiful sequence. There are a few "very end"s, though. The end of the main story, the main themes, are wrapped up with Sam's return home on the last page. However, I believe that chronologically the final event to be chronicled in LOTR is the death of Arwen in Appendix A, and that's some beautiful writing as well.

I'd like to thank everyone who's been involved with the read-along, I've had a great time!

Come back next weekend for one more Bonus: my review (it's actually been sitting in queue for a while) of the fan work which retells LOTR from another perspective: The Last Ringbearer.

Comics Briefly: Princeless #1, Wolverine and the X-Men #2

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Favorite Book This Week: Princeless #1
All books were new in stores 11/23/11

Princeless #1
Story: Jeremy Whitley, Art by M. Goodwin and D.E. Belton, Colors by M. Goodwin and Jung-Ha Kim

I had heard a review of this book on the 3 chicks podcast a few weeks back, so I thought I knew what to expect: a humourous flipped fairy-tale. I got so much more than that. I got characters with heart and warmth, a world with fascinating corners we've barely glimpsed, and an utterly charming story about a princess off to save the day. The art is adorable and effective, the writing mostly very snappy. It's super small press, so you might have trouble tracking it down (I snagged the last copy at my comic shop) but whether you have a young comic lover (or young fantasy lover, especially female) in your life or you're just sweet on awesome All Ages books like I am, this is highly recommended.

Wolverine and the X-Men #2
Writer: Jason Aaron, Pencils and Colors: Christ Bachalo, Inkers: Tim Townsend and Jaime Mendoza

Pretty fun second issue. Maybe a hair less brilliant than the first, but it was full of action, humor, and great character moments. Iceman gets to be awesome, and I'm intrigued by a friendship between Idie and the Brood student. Also, it was super cute that Kitty Pryde was answering the letters column.

Read but did not buy:
Skimmed Red Hood and The Outlaws #3, and it looks mostly as stupid as what I've seen from the previous issues, but the last three pages or so are a ridiculously adorable flashback about Jason Todd. Yeah, I don't get it either, but it was really cute.


Terry Pratchett, 2011

Premise: Commander Sam Vimes is taking a vacation to his wife's estate in the country. But just because you drag the copper out of the city doesn't mean he won't drag his sense of justice with him, and when mysterious and nefarious things are being done to the local goblins, Sam decides maybe the country isn't so boring after all.

Another reviewer put it well when she said that it's a Monsters Are People Too plot, this time around focusing on goblins. Pratchett himself basically lays out the main theme on page 93:
The City Watch appeared to contain at least one member of every known bipedal sapient species plus one Nobby Nobbs. It had become a tradition: if you could make it as a copper, you could make it as a species. But nobody had ever once suggested that Vimes should employ a goblin, the simple reason being that they were universally known to be stinking, cannabalistic, vicious untrustworthy bastards.
Of course, everybody knew that dwarfs were a chiselling bunch who would swindle you if they could, and that trolls were little more than thugs, and the city's one resident medusa would never look you in the face, and the vampires couldn't be trusted, however much they smiled, and werewolves were only vampires who couldn't fly, when you got right down to it, and the man next door was a real bastard who threw his rubbish over your wall...

Knowing the basic idea early doesn't mean it isn't delightful to follow through to the end, though. There's plenty of provincial politics, unexpected allies, adventure and good humor to be had, and the ending still managed to throw a few surprises my way.

The goblins themselves are pretty interesting, once you get down to it: a complicated blend of tribal culture, superstition, and natural magic. The subplot about Young Sam learning about animals is adorable, and the chapters about what the rest of the Watch is up to dovetail neatly with the main plot without feeling forced. There are some particularly poignant moments with Angua that reflect back on the entire series with both triumph and melancholy.

I should add, the plot of this book builds upon Thud, and it might be difficult to follow, and certainly less satisfying, on its own. Also it managed to take the main aspect of Thud that I didn't think worked, and makes it work here wonderfully well.

Another winner in the Discworld, solidly enjoyable.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Terry Pratchett, 2005

Premise: It's Koom Valley Day, or soon will be, and the city is restless. The anniversary of a much-argued historic battle between Trolls and Dwarves, firebrands are using it to stoke racial tensions until Ankh-Morpork's melting pot is threatening to crack. As usual, The City Watch is on the front lines.

On this re-read, I didn't like this book quite as much as I remembered, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to like. Much of the immediate plot hinges on solving the murder of a dwarven leader, and Vimes and the usual crew spend a lot of the book scattered over the city, picking up pieces of the puzzle.

I love the subplot about Vimes reading to his son, and Angua dealing with her own racial issues in adapting to a vampire in the watch. Mr. Shine is a worthy addition to the background cast of characters, and there's both humor and poignancy in how Vimes deals with a paper-pushing investigator sent by Vetinari.

My only real problem with the book is the blend between the main plot and characters and a few mystical elements. I did like most of the final resolution, but something about it felt slightly off to me.

Anyway, it's still tons of fun to read, and now I'm freshly re-read in time for Snuff!

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Check out Thud! at Amazon.com, or as I did, at your local library.

Night Watch

Monday, November 21, 2011

Night Watch
Terry Pratchett, 2002

This was a re-read for me of one of my favorite Discworld books. Some spoilers in the premise for earlier books, and a few light spoilers in the review, because otherwise I couldn't talk about my favorite parts.

Premise: Samuel Vimes has come a long way from a kid who joined the Watch. Under his leadership, the City Watch actually became a force for law and order. He eventually married and is now expecting the birth of their first child. This is all suddenly torn away when Vimes is thrown through a rip in time into his own past, along with the murderous psychopath he was chasing.

I sometimes wonder if you could construct an interesting personality test from the Discworld series, based on which characters and which plotlines you most enjoy. For example, I know plenty of people like the Witches of Lancre books best, but they might be my least favorite. I really enjoy the books about Death, but my very favorites, the ones I go back and re-read again and again, are the books about the Watch. The struggles of the fantasy cops, both standard and extraordinary, have some of the best heart, not to mention adventure, in the series. Either Night Watch or Thud might be my very favorite Discworld novel.

By this volume, Vimes' personality, philosophy of policing, and plotline is fully developed, and throwing him back to 'the bad old days' allows for a fascinating exploration of his character, and adds an unusual level of introspection. It also expands the world by giving Ankh-Morpork, and many of the city's prominent citizens, a real history.

It's Discworld, so there's humor and satire, in this case largely of governments and revolutions; the commentary often has a dark bite.
"Vimes had spent his life on the streets and had met decent men, and fools, and people who'd steal a penny from a blind beggar, and people who performed silent miracles or desperate crimes every day behind the grubby windows of little houses, but he'd never met The People.  
People on the side of The People always ended up disappointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness." - pg 250

The plot itself, in which Vimes has to play a new part in a dark time of political unrest that he's lived through once already, is both tragic and inspirational. He's always aware of his own inner tension between wanting to do right by the living, real people of this time and a desire to 'fix' history so he'll be able to return to his future. This is complicated by the necessity of playing role model to his own younger self.

I absolutely love this book, although it might be a bit less affecting to those who haven't read a few of the earlier books featuring the Watch.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

LOTR Read-Along! Return of the King Part Two

Saturday, November 19, 2011

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

Previous Posts:
FOTR: Part One Part Two Part Three
Bonus One: Photos of Books
TT: Part One Part Two Part Three
Bonus Two: TOYS!
ROTK: Part One

(PS: For more fantasy, come back this Mon-Wed for a short string of Discworld reviews, culminating in a review of Snuff, the newest one, on Wednesday. But back to Tolkein for now...)

Welcome to Part Two of Return of the King!
This section took us through the main plot climax, and into the actual returning of said king. I love the whole sequence on Mount Doom, always have, although I'm still looking forward to the rest of the book!

1. After witnessing the events of Denethor's demise, what are your thoughts on him as a father and as a ruler, especially when compared to what happened with Boromir and the Ring.

Denethor is a pretty sad character. I mean, he's arrogant and foolish, but as the leader of a city under siege (and I don't just mean now. They take that whole 'line of defense for all the free peoples' thing seriously) he's under a lot of pressure. Boromir was young and headstrong, but he learned from his father the pride of their city and the pressure of their position. I don't think Denethor necessarily started out a bad father or a bad ruler, but his direction and moral compass was twisted by his contact with his palantir. Not to mention Denethor had a lifetime of hopes bound up in his son that were doubly broken by the time we really met him: both by Boromir's death and by the impending coming of the King. His relationship with Faramir is broken on many levels, but the simplest is that parents often have trouble relating to children who are different then they are, and that small, normal stress was blown up into disaster by the pressures of the war.

2. Instead of riding into the city with pomp and circumstance, Tolkien pens the king's return as a clandestine act in which he demonstrates his rightful place through the act of healing the wounded. Your thoughts?

Well, Gondor has lived with the Stewards for so long that it's probably better to change things a little gradually. It would be very unlike the Aragorn we've seen up until this point to brashly claim his birthright until he was sure that it was the best thing for the city and everyone involved.

3. For one chapter Sam got to be rescuer and ring-bearer. What are your thoughts about Sam's brief time as a ring-bearer in comparison to the others who have born the ring, or wished to?

I talked a little about this in the last third of Two Towers. I love Sam as a Ringbearer. I love how much his grounded goodness protects him from the Ring, and how his ability to stay in touch with his instincts keeps him from pushing his luck.

4. In a twist unexpected in many hero tales, Tolkien ends the journey into Mount Doom with Frodo ultimately failing at his task. How did you feel about this and ultimately how does it make you feel about both Frodo and Gollum?

I think this sequence reveals the full power of the Ring, and really brings home how extraordinary is was that Frodo made it this far to begin with. The Ring doesn't want to die, and Frodo and Sam were very strong to be able to bring it close enough that a little luck could win the day. Gollum's mad struggle for the Ring is a part of this too, it helps you feel the malignant power of the thing.

5. Given that The Lord of the Rings is largely about an all male cast, what are your thoughts about Tolkien's portrayal of Eowyn now that we've seen the course of her journey through these culminating chapters of her story?

I adore Eowyn, even though I have conflicting feelings about her. As a character, unique in her own right, she is fantastic. She rises from her wound and eventually finds some personal peace after her pain. As almost the only representative of women in the whole book, my feelings are more mixed. The part where Gandalf essentially tells Eomer: your sister is just like you, but she hasn't had the freedom you've had, so how do you think she feels! That part was wonderful and surprisingly progressive. The part where she finds salvation through the love of the right man? Slightly more problematic. Let me be super clear here: I think it's a good place for her character to go, but a simplistic thing to happen to the only warrior woman mentioned in all of Middle Earth. Because I do think the bookish Faramir, kind and wise, and the warrior Eowyn, brave and honorable, are a really perfect couple.

6. Much of this section of our reading has been filled with desperate acts with little hope of success. How do you feel about the mood Tolkien created in the build up both to the battle and the final push into Mount Doom and what are your thoughts on how these sections ended?

It's so hard to put the book down through this entire sequence. I remember watching the movies thinking about how without the Book plot-split, they couldn't actually convey the tension from the end of Book Five, when Aragorn and Gandalf think Frodo might have been captured or killed. Watching the movies, you know what happened, but reading the book, last you saw Frodo, he had been captured. Really, from then through Mount Doom is one long push toward the end. Even though a lot of this is Sam and Frodo walking across Mordor, I still felt the constant tension.

The moments with Sam and Frodo coming down the mountain after the Ring is destroyed are some of my favorite scenes in literature; I find them incredibly moving, perfectly sad and hopeful and peaceful all at once.

7. The "assigned" sections for part 3 only take us to the end of the actual story. Will you be reading the appendices?

Of course! Well, some of them. I do recommend everyone find and read the section that details (and finishes) Aragorn and Arwen's story.

Blue Beetle: Shellshocked, Road Trip and Reach for the Stars

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blue Beetle: Shellshocked, Road Trip and Reach for the Stars
John Rogers, Keith Giffen, Cully Hammer and Rafael Albuquerque, 2006, 2007, 2008

Okay, I get it now. Jaime Reyes is awesome.

Premise: These are the first three collected trades of the recent Blue Beetle series. (Not the brand new one, the one that started in 2006.) Jaime Reyes is a teenager in El Paso, who finds a scarab that seems to be made of stone. It's actually alien technology that bonds to his spine, giving him semi-sentient armor and the superhero identity of the new Blue Beetle. (There were two previous Blue Beetles, neither had the scarab react to them in this way, and both are dead at this point. It's not necessary to know anything about the previous Blue Beetles to enjoy these books.) Immediately after he discovers his new powers, he's drafted by the Justice League on a seriously far away mission. When he returns home, he finds that he lost a year somewhere. His family thought he was dead, his friends are freaking out that he's back, and he doesn't know how to be a superhero, but he thinks he has to try. That's where the story starts.

I understand why so many people raved about this series. It has a fantastic blend of action and humor, of epic battles and personal moments. The core of the series isn't Jaime fighting villains, it's him trying to figure out what the scarab is, and how to be a hero, while not freaking out or worrying his family, while protecting his hometown and his friends.

I love that there is very little secret identity bullshit. No sitcom-style manufactured problems about double lives. Everyone who is important to Jaime knows that he's the Blue Beetle, and they all adjust to it pretty well. The supporting cast is really strong here, and that helps a book like this stand out.

Of course, there's also great villains, awesome cameos from other heroes, and plenty of mystery. The art styles are really strong, flamboyant and expressive. I love it.

Jaime is a great hero, a unique personality with a sense of humor, an strong sense of right and wrong and a realistic perspective on the world from his upbringing. His family is extremely important to him. Both his parents work hard to keep their family above water, so he has, let's just say, a different worldview from some other heroes who are living off their trust funds.

All three collections were really good, but I especially loved Reach for the Stars. That one features awesome guest spots with Guy Gardener (Green Lantern) and Superman, the introduction of Traci 13 (the awesome sorceress girlfriend) and an amazing crossover with Teen Titans.

Shellshocked and Road Trip get 4 Stars, Reach for the Stars gets 5

Awesome series.

Check out Blue Beetle: Shellshocked, Road Trip, and Reach for the Stars on Amazon.com

Comics Briefly: Batman #3, Supergirl #3, Wonder Woman #3

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Favorite Issue this week: Batman #3

All books were new in stores on 111/16/11

Batman #3
Writer: Scott Snyder, Pencils: Greg Capullo, Inks: Jonathan Glapion

Decent issue, if mostly exposition heavy. My favorite thing was the use of odd panel angles; they really enhanced the off-kilter feeling Bruce is getting about the owl people. This book has pretty art. And a cliffhanger.

Supergirl #3
Writers: Michael Green and Mike Johnson, Artists: Mahmud Asrar & Bill Reinhold, Colorist: Paul Mounts

Decent amount of action and exposition here, but if Kara doesn't punch that obnoxious guy's face in soon, I'm going to be very put out. I know she's learning, but she needs a solid win. Soon.

Wonder Woman #3
Writer: Brian Azzarello, Artist: Cliff Chiang

I thought this issue was narratively disjointed, plus the whole world heard about the Zeus-reveal two months ago. I don't really understand what's going on here, why these characters are saying and doing the things they're saying and doing, other than to be dicks to each other. Side Note: they're grieving for the Amazons who died last issue, but Amazons are irreplaceable, and no one seems upset or surprised enough for me. Everyone else seems to love this book, but I just can't seem to get on board.

The Silent Tower

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Silent Tower
Barbara Hambly, 1988
New E-Edition 2011

New Ebook Edition. Copy provided by NetGalley.

Premise: In the world of Ferryth, mages are forbidden to interfere with people's lives, but factions in the government and the Church are still looking for a reason to move against them. They might get it when a minor mage is murdered by someone manipulating the dangerous Void, releasing abominations into the land. Caris, bodyguard and nephew to the Archmage, is traveling with him to try and solve the mystery. The first stop is the imprisoned mage Antryg Windrose, mad apprentice to the late Dark Mage who knew the most about the Void. The other piece of the puzzle, however, is held by a computer programmer named Joanna who is being hunted from across the Void by their unknown foe.

How did I miss this one until now? Admittedly, I was a little skeptical of the world-jumping premise, but it's well handled throughout. The fantasy world is grounded enough, and Joanna's reactions to it are reasonable, as are Caris' thoughts during his brief sojourn in California.

Most of the story concerns the mystery: who is working this dark magic, what is his/her plan, what does he/she need a programmer for so badly that they traveled across dimensions to kidnap one? Joanna soon solidifies as the main character, with Caris along as local guide and second opinion.

There's a romantic plot that works without overwhelming, and my attention was fully held by the emotional lives of the characters.

One of the weaker aspects here is that the “modern” technology, while vague enough, is quite dated. Joanna was a programmer in 1988, after all.

Also the version I read had a handful of severe and confusing copyediting problems, including whole phrases misplaced in the next or previous sentence. I really hope those aren't in the paid edition, but I don't know.

I found the penultimate section a bit shaky, but the story finishes very strong. Fair Warning: you're going to want to read the next book right away, to find out what happens next.

Thanks to Open Road Publishing for re-releasing all of Hambly's work as ebooks.

4 Stars – A Very Good Book

Get The Silent Tower on Amazon.com

LOTR Read-Along! Return of the King Part One

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Hobbit and LOTR Read-Along is hosted by Little Red Reviewer and Geeky Daddy
Previous Posts:
FOTR: Part One Part Two Part Three
Bonus One: Photos of Books
TT: Part One Part Two Part Three

Welcome to Part One of Return of the King!
If you missed my Bonus Post last weekend, here's a link: LOTR Bonus: TOYS!

Man, I am having a harder and harder time only reading the assigned chapters as the plot speeds up in this final volume. This week focuses on Return of the King Chapter 1-6, which brings us mostly through the Battle of Pelennor Fields, but not entirely. Some aspects of my answers may reflect the next few chapters, too, but I've tried to keep that down.

Rather than answer the prompts directly (they're kind of vague this week), I'll just use each as a bit of a jumping off point.

On the Paths of the Dead:

I'm ashamed to admit that this is a section of the book I had forgotten about when I saw the movies, and I had to ask how much of it was from the book. It's more haunting than the series has been for some time, this idea of the men cursed as oathbreakers, waiting through the decades for a chance to be freed. It's a rather nice side effect of his plan to defeat the corsairs coming up from the south that Aragorn can lay them to rest.

On the hobbits' roles in the battle in defense of Minas Tirith:

This is the one of my very favorite subplots in the series: the roles that Merry and Pippin play in the armies of Rohan and Gondor respectively. I find it thematically satisfying that neither one is take very seriously at first, but both manage to accomplish great deeds. They've grown quite a bit from the young hobbits who tricked Frodo into letting them come with him out of the Shire, now showing their bravery and wisdom.

On the build-up to the Battle of Pelennor Fields:

Wow, I love this book. The lead-ins and preparations for the Battle never seemed slow or unnecessary to me, just a rising tide of tension rushing toward the conflict.

On Eowyn's part in the Battle:

As I said above, I started reading ahead because I couldn't put it down at the scheduled section break, so I have more to say about Eowyn than is covered in this third of the book, but I'll try to keep it simple for now. She's sort of a broken person at this point. No one understands her, she's all twisted up between her assigned role, her dreamed role, her crush on Aragorn, her fear and her determination. I think it's her rage and despair that drives her to disobey Theoden and come to war. Now, it was important that she do so, fate and destiny and all that, but it was still originally a selfish decision on her part. (Merry's determination to go is more selfless, of course providing he didn't slow down the other Riders. He wasn't left in charge of a kingdom.) I find myself hoping that this experience teaches her that glory comes with death and pain, and that she finds a way to blend her strength as a warrior with wisdom.

On Denethor and Faramir:

The original prompt was about Denethor's decision to send Faramir into the hopeless battle to hold Osgiliath, but I really don't have anything to say about them without the events of the next chapter after the section we were asked to read. Curse you, chapter break!

Comics Briefly: Batgirl #3, Batman: The Brave and the Bold #13, Batwoman #3, Demon Knights #3, Huntress #2, Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #2

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Favorite Book This Week: Batman: The Brave and the Bold #13!

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

Batgirl #3
Writer: Gail Simone Penciller: Ardian Syaf, Inker: Vicente Cifuentes, Colors: Ulises Arreola

This issue gets much more interesting once Nightwing's involved, but I'm just not that emotionally connected to NewYoung!Babs. I don't feel like I get her, I find her villain boring and her motivation murky. A few really gorgeous panels bring this up to good overall, but I'm really tired of this plot.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #13
Writer: Scholly Fish, Pencils: Rick Burchett, Inks: Dan Davis, Colorist: Guy Major

YAY! Awwww, this was freaking adorable! A parody of a classic Batman comic, starring ALL THE ROBINS. Yes, ALL OF THEM. Everyone gets a little moment, and Nightwing (in full 70's awesome-costume) organizes the troops. The plot is fun, the resolution fantastic. Carrie mocks Damian! Tim and Stephanie hang out! Jason tries to be all cool, but he loves Batman too! YAY!

Batwoman #3
Writers: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman, Artist: J.H. Williams III, Colors: Dave Stewart

I finally in this issue got a glimpse of why everyone is so nuts for this character. There were a couple of character moments that I found really compelling. It's really too bad I still don't like the character. I'm really warming to Bette, though. The biggest flaw with this issue was the length. It just feels paced wrong to me, like it cuts off before it can get going.

Demon Knights #3
Writer: Paul Cornell, Penciller: Diogenes Neves, Inker: Oclair Albert, Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo

Nuts, not as much fun as last month. This one's suffering a bit from "middle of the story" syndrome: not much happens except bits of exposition and some really annoyingly pointless plot twists.

Huntress #2
Writer: Paul Levitz, Penciller: Marcus To, Inker: John Dell, Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse

This continues to be decent, but I'm not sure it reaches great. Solid action, nice character moments, solid art. Nothing that impressed me, though.

Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #2 
Writer: Chris Roberson, Pencils: Jeffery Moy, Inker: Phillip Moy,  Colors: Romulo Fajardo

This book is a lot of fun. Ridiculous amounts of fun. I really love the writing, the touch on the Trek dialogue is especially nice, although I do wish the pace would pick up a little. The little cross-world allusions are funny, and I have some very amused ideas about what could happen next.

The Unfinished Song: Taboo

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Unfinished Song: Taboo
Tara Maya, 2011

I received a free copy of this book in return for a review.

Premise: Sequel to Initiate, this is the continuing story of Dindi the aspiring dancer/shaman and Kavio the young prodigy, outcast from his tribe. The core cast expands some, as does the world.

I liked this volume more than the first by quite a bit. The world became clearer, the structure of the magic became clearer, and best of all, the history that seems so important to the future of these characters was clarified.

Fewer typos, fewer narrative missteps, this is overall a stronger book. Also it was quite a bit longer.

It is a sequel, so from here out there may be slight spoilers.

One part that I didn't like was a sex scene. It came basically out of nowhere, and was surprisingly graphic. I don't mind that the characters had sex, that felt right, and some description of it is necessary for understanding their relationship, but the style of the writing took a side trip to romance novel. It was also odd because it only happened once. It isn't as though all the characters who had sex or romance in this volume got that treatment.

On that note, I thought the introduction of gay characters was fairly well-handled and welcome. Downright sweet, actually.

Most of the characters had some growing up to do in this volume, as they figure out what is important to them and what they are willing to risk for it.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Check out The Unfinished Song: Taboo on Amazon.com


Saturday, November 5, 2011

When the LOTR movies came out, of course there was merchandise! Some of the best was the action figure lines produced by Toy Biz. We (my husband and I) actually collected the entire Fellowship in 6 inch scale, but those are currently in storage. So really the only LOTR stuff on display in our apartment is this:

Uh, yeah. That's still a lot of stuff, isn't it.
Most of it is the smallest scale, figures that are less than two inches tall. They're from a series generally called "Armies of Middle Earth". The characters have a tiny amount of articulation, but are basically just statues.

Here's the 2-inch Fellowship, coming out from between a set of Argonath bookends. Wow, that shelf is really dusty. Sorry about that...

These sets and scenes were actually pretty nice for their size. Especially the ones that were playsets, like The Bridge of Khazad-dum:
  Frodo hides from a Winged Nazgul in the ruins of Osgiliath:
The Palantir chamber in Orthanc:
I also really like the little horses in that series. Out in front we've got Theoden and Eomer:
Up above there's Gandalf (the White) on Shadowfax:
 There are a few 6-inch figures tucked into the corners of the shelf. The 6-inch figures from these lines were great quality. The costuming details and the paint work is fantastic, and many of them came with an impressive number of accessories. On our current display, in the back you can spot Elrond:
and Galadriel:
While on the other side we've combined a 6 inch Treebeard with tiny Merry and Pippin for a fun effect:

 There are a few LOTR figures scattered elsewhere in our apartment, too. Eowyn guards one of my bookshelves:
While this oversized Troll looks down from a high shelf:

But the crown of our LOTR collection is Sting!
 Gorgeous, right? Just wait until you turn it on:

The LOTR Read-Along returns next week with Part One of Return of the King!

Comics Briefly: Action Comics #3, American Vampire #20, Animal Man #3, Swamp Thing #3

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All books new in stores on 11/2/11

Action Comics #3
Writer: Grant Morrison, Pencillers: Rage Morales and Gene Ha, Inkers: Rick Bryants and Gene Ha, Colorists: Brad Anderson and Art Lyon

The first section, a flashback to Krypton, is really good, but the rest seems disjointed. I'm not sure when all these vignettes are happening in relation to each other, or how any of them resolve. I read it twice, but I feel like I'm missing a through-line. The back matter about the other "Super-" titles is much appreciated, and the kind of thing they should be doing in the back of the issues, instead of the same preview or interview in EVERY book in a given month. Of course, it just made me surer that the only one of those books I'm interested in is Supergirl, but I think the idea is right.

American Vampire #20
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Jordi Bernet, Colors: Dave McCaig

I found this stronger than last month's, at least for the flashback in the first part. I really liked the story of how that character came to be. The stuff happening "now" leaves me a little flatter. But as in last month, the final splash page doesn't get me excited for the next issue, just leaves me confused.

Animal Man #3
Writer: Jeff Lemire, Art: Travel Foreman, Color: Lovern Kindzierski

This was okay. More information and plot than last time, although I'm still dissatisfied with the slow pace. This is a problem I'm having with ALL of the New 52, though. Not enough plot, too much dark and edginess. The combo is deadly for me, because the way you keep me interested without plot is with humor and character moments.

Swamp Thing #3
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artists: Victor IbaƱez, Yanick Paquette, Colors: Nathan Fairbairn

Interesting new plot twists, and finally some more info but, again, not enough happening in one issue. Also there was a single panel page that I'm sure would have been really effective were it not opposite a full page ad for Red Hood and the Outlaws, so it took me a while to figure out that it was in fact part of the comic. I like Abigail's new look alright, while the verdict's still out on her character. The cover is so stupid... I don't even want to talk about it.