Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Vol 1

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thor: The Mighty Avenger Vol 1
Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, Matthew Wilson, 2010

Premise: This book collects the first four issues of the most recent all-ages Thor series, along with a reprint of Thor’s first appearance from 1962. Jane Foster is a historian. She’s already having trouble with her job at the museum and trouble with her love life, when an affable Asgardian appears one day to turn the world on its ear.

This was impossibly cute. I absolutely adored it.

This series reboots Thor from the ground up, so you don’t need to know anything going in. There’s humor and action, romance and friendship; the writing is clever and the art is clean and charming.

I could do without the extra reprints in the back of the book, though. It’s not that it’s bad material, just dated and completely unconnected to the rest. It could be confusing for someone who just wants a stand-alone story, and isn’t interested in getting into the (frankly confusing) history of the character.

The Thor:TMA issues are good fun, though. Thor is charming, Jane clever and sweet, Giant-Man, Wasp and the Warriors Three all make a good showing when they show up as guest stars. There’s a larger story - about why Thor is on Midgard at all - running in the background, but I enjoyed just following these adventures for themselves.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

Garment of Shadows (Mary Russell, Book Twelve)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Garment of Shadows (Mary Russell, Book Twelve)
Laurie R. King, 2012

Premise: Sequel to Pirate King. Russell wakes in Morocco with her memories scrambled, but not her wits. Despite the loss of purpose and identity, she eludes pursuit and hides in the maze-like city of Fez. Holmes looks for her, and for another absent friend. They are both drawn into the complicated and volatile political struggle in the region, and each have a piece of the puzzle they’ll need to solve to make it out alive.

This novel was not without flaws, but reading it was like snuggling into a cozy blanket with a cup of tea: familiar and comfortable and very pleasant. I think I had a big smile on my face during much of the reading.

I enjoyed Russell’s attempts to deduce who or what she was by her meagre possessions and apparent skills. Holmes was very well written in this volume as well, and their sections complimented each other well. The politics and history are interesting.

Don’t worry, Russell doesn’t spend too long lost in the fog, and I really liked following her reclaiming her memories and life a little at a time. It’s a rather short book, which helps the pace move along nicely, and nothing becomes tedious. The red-herrings and twists in the plot are well placed, and if I didn’t love every aspect of the resolution, at least it was much better than several recent entries in this series.

An enjoyable and exciting adventure with characters I’m quite fond of is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Kitty and The Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville, Book 1)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Kitty and The Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville, Book 1)
Carrie Vaughn, 2005

Premise: Kitty Norville is a radio DJ by night, werewolf by, well, other nights. When she starts talking to her callers instead of just taking requests, she accidentally starts a call-in show for supernaturals, cranks, and the curious. Her sudden success should be great for her, except her pack and the local vampires are angry about the potential attention, and someone’s determined to take her off the air.

Oh, now this was an urban fantasy/paranormal whatsit I could really enjoy. Kitty is sassy and snappish and she’s scared, but gaining nerve. I really liked that her goals revolved around staying alive, staying sane, and keeping her job. There’s a cute guy, but that is not the plot.

The supporting characters were pretty interesting overall. I hope that there are some less antagonistic female characters in the later books; one flaw here is that, other than Kitty, this is a bit of a sausage fest.

The action I enjoyed, the intertwining plot threads worked for me. I whipped through this book in a single evening because I couldn't put it down. I really liked the way the wolf sections were written. It conveyed the dichotomy and the struggle between the human self and the wolf self in a way that really worked for me.

I also thought it was an interesting stab at a world that’s on the cusp of recognizing that paranormals exist, instead of one where that’s already the status quo.

I am going to get a little bit into spoilers here, but I think I need to talk about the one thing that I both really liked and that was really uncomfortable to read. If you don’t want to read details, I do at least want to give this book a trigger warning, for discussion of rape and sexual coercion.


Okay. Here’s the thing. Kitty’s a werewolf. In a pack. And that comes with some interesting physical instincts, and some pretty ugly sexual baggage. Pack status between the Alpha male and the females revolves around sex, and the part of Kitty that is the Wolf is okay with this. The part of me that is a human reader was revolted. But what I liked about it was that it was this dark, brutal, animal side to the paranormal state that seemed like a logical blend of human opportunism and animal instinct. The pack dynamic lends itself to abuse, and those instincts mean that werewolves have even more trouble than normal humans trying to deal with an abusive relationship. Kitty, as the youngest in the pack, has to fight her wolf instincts in order to assert herself. It’s not pretty, and she doesn’t really face up to how awful it is, seemingly sweeping it all under the rug until she can’t anymore.

End Spoilers___________________________

In non-spoiler language: some of the relationships, and the sexual content, are really dark, but I thought it mostly worked in context.

The initial premise hook (the creation of the radio show) did seem a little rushed and the book is rather short. This isn’t great literature, but it is action-packed fun.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Anno Dracula

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Anno Dracula
Kim Newman, 1992

Hey, look! Alternate History plus monsters before it was a trend!

Premise: What if Dracula didn’t lose. What if his bid to settle in England was successful? What if he then - a prince of Transylvania, after all - married Queen Victoria? This is the story of a very different history.

I really enjoyed this book, despite a few glaring plot holes. Dracula’s rise to power, for example, is generally glossed over. All the things that follow from that: social positions of prominent vampires, rebellions, etc. work well from the premise, but how exactly he managed to get there is left a bit fuzzy. This was mostly only a problem at one point, when you see Dracula in person, that how he became so powerful became hard to picture for me.

Luckily the rest of the book is simply lovely.

The assortment of characters is delightful for those of us who like to play “spot the reference”: some are original, some from history, some from literature. The main plot follows the hunt for Jack the Ripper. The Ripper, like in our world, murders prostitutes. The catch is that these are vampire prostitutes. So is he crazy or fighting back against the spread of vampirism? Are those the same thing?

It doesn’t actually take long for the book to tell you the identity of the killer, so most of the story is figuring how and when the other characters will catch on, and what will happen then.

The two main characters are quite charming, and carry much of the appeal of the book.

Charles Beauregard is a young gentleman, still human to the dismay of much of his social set. He is affable, but with hidden depths, and is an agent of a particular club of unclubbable gentlemen. His relationship with his troubled fiancee is one of the more important emotional plotlines.

Geneviève Dieudonné I adored. She is a vampire, but of a different line than Dracula. She is older than he is, and has complicated feelings about the fact that Dracula’s rise is making vampirism socially desirable in London. She’s practical while still occasionally romantic.

There are an assortment of intriguing supporting characters and the period setting is quite well done, including an unpleasant darkness in some of the characters that many novels I read set in the time would have elided.

Overall, a satisfying historical supernatural read.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Check out Anno Dracula on

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, Book One)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, Book One)
Charlaine Harris, 2001

Premise: Sookie is a waitress; she mostly keeps to herself. She sort of has to, otherwise she ends up reading people’s minds and knowing things she’d rather not. She’s intrigued when the first vampire shows up openly in their small town, which quickly turns to worried when her new friend is suspected of murder.

This was....fine. Nothing special. It’s cute, I guess, and the writing is competent and I was curious enough to get to the end, but in the end I just thought it was fine.

My main problem with the book was Sookie. Laying aside her annoyingly cutsie-pie name, she’s irritatingly dense. Why are you surprised when something paranormal happens? YOU CAN READ MINDS! You ARE paranormal! And then, why are you surprised the next time something paranormal or scary happens? And the time after that? And the time after THAT? I know it’s a lot to take in, but she is really incapable of rolling with a situation, and I find that off-putting in a heroine.

The rest of the supporting cast is fine, the twist of the end of the mystery was okay but nothing amazing. The other intended twist maybe was a surprise in 2001, but at this point my reaction as a reader was: “of course that is the case, I knew from page two. That’s how these books work.”

I guess I just felt like checking off the boxes to me. Plucky Heroine: Check. Paranormal Ability: Check. Hunky Vampire: Check. Romantic Angst: Check. Romantic Rival: Check. I know that it was early in the trend, but I’m not sure there’s any reason to get into this series now unless you already love the characters from watching True Blood (I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know how similar/different it is).

That is, if you’re a reader of sci-fi/fantasy/urban fantasy/mystery/etc. If you’re primarily a romance reader, I can see coming at this from a totally different angle and seeing it as new and different. However, I don’t think the romance adds much to the book from the angle of a genre reader.

2 Stars - An Okay Book

Night Shift (Jill Kismet, Book 1)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Night Shift (Jill Kismet, Book 1)
Lilith Saintcrow, 2008

Premise: Jill is a hunter, someone trained to battle the things from hell that sneak onto Earth to cause death and corruption. But she isn’t without weakness and darkness of her own, and with a force like she’s never seen causing havoc in her city, she isn’t sure whether she can still stand and fight.

Hmmm. I read a historical romance by this same author and rather liked it most of the way through, hence picking this up off a dollar-book rack. Sorta wish I’d grabbed something else now.

It wasn’t out-and-out terrible, I was curious about the setting and the plot, the hell creatures were interesting, and the fact that there were plenty of kinds of were-creatures and the story doesn’t bother to break you in easily about it was fun.

I feel sort of uneasy about my opinions here, too. Did I dislike this book because Jill is just too rough around the edges for me? Because she’s weak? Because the unpleasant parts were too unpleasant? Maybe it was just the wrong time to read this.

Or did I dislike it because the romance is telegraphed way ahead of time and completely forced and way too much of the page count and just kinda icky? Because Jill’s tough-as-nails-only-not shtick got old really fast? Because her could-have-been-awesome power set never gets explained or described in a compelling way? Because the hunters seem like assholes, and not in a ‘you have to be dark to fight the darkness’ way, but in a ‘codified sociopathic’ kind of way?

The plot was interesting. The villains were interesting (although the author might have shot herself in the foot a little here, because the power creep is already really high here in book one, so I have no idea how she managed to ratchet up the tension in the next book.) The world was kinda neat, the set of paranormals different than average and she took a very different tack on the behavior of were-folks which I much appreciated. I just couldn't come around on Jill, and since she’s the main character and the narrator, that made it really hard to enjoy reading the book.

In the end, I’m sorry for the time I spent reading it, and that’s the main qualification around here to end up with -

1 Star - Didn’t Like it Much.

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, Book 1)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, Book 1)
Patricia Briggs, 2006

Premise: When a runaway kid shows up at Mercy’s auto shop looking for a little under the table work, it doesn’t seem like much. But a hungry teenager who’s also a new rewolf is a recipe for trouble. Luckily Mercy knows enough about wolves to give the kid a hand, until it drags her into an interstate plot that could put all the local paranormals in danger.

The “our world except some paranormal folks are out in the open” setting is pretty familiar at this point to anyone who reads urban fantasy or PNR. The twist on this one is that of all things, minor fae were the first to go public, and it looks like other folks will eventually follow suit. So part of the background of the plot is a conversation internal to the werewolf community about being public or not, and that’s pretty interesting. It’s not really explored the way it could be, but it’s a neat aspect to consider.

Mercy is fun, she’s not a were, but sort of similar. Her super-special uniqueness didn’t bother me because it wasn’t dwelt on to any extended degree, mostly just a part of the backstory. Her voice is entertaining (the book is in first person), and I found it easy to sympathize with her. There’s a touch of romance (of course there is) but it doesn’t overwhelm the story.

I liked the level of creepiness most of the paranormal characters had. Mercy’s used to it, to a degree, but none of these folks are human, including her, and while many of them are friendlies, they are still dangerous, still alien.

A few nit-picks: the villain’s plot has emotional resonance, but is slightly over-complicated. The cover to the edition I have is ugly and ludicrous, and made me not want to read the book, or wish I’d gotten it on my Kindle.

It was an exciting, fast-paced read, though, and I enjoyed it. Will I read more in the series? Maybe.

3 Stars - A Good Book

It's Vampires for Valentines!

Welcome to Vampires for Valentines Week!

I’m posting a new review every weekday this week, each one of the first book in a series.

Monday: Moon Called, by Patricia Briggs
Werewolves and vamps cause trouble for shifter Mercy Thompson.

Tuesday: Night Shift, by Lillith Saintcrow
Okay, there’s no real vampires in this one, but there are shapeshifters, demons, and demon hunters.

Wednesday: Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris
Yup, it’s the True Blood series!

Thursday: Anno Dracula, by Kim Newman
Something a little different: this's Paranormal Historical Fiction, kiddies. Vampires all over the damn place.

Friday: Kitty and the Midnight Hour, by Carrie Vaughn
Radio DJ Kitty Norville starts a call in show for the undead and part-time furry.

Let’s get started, shall we?

The Lodestone Trilogy

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Lodestone Trilogy
Mark Whiteway, 2011

I received a copy of this book from BookRooster for the purposes of review.

Premise: The Kelanni are ruled by a Prophet who might not have their best interests at heart, might not even be part of their species! Rebels Lyall and Alondo, kitchen-maid Shall and former soldier Keris must team up to save their people.

This is a first for me. I didn’t finish this book. Well, technically I finished the first book, but it’s a trilogy in one volume, so I didn’t finish the whole thing. Generally, if I don’t finish a book, I don’t review it, but in this case I did get a galley, and if I don’t write something about it now, I’ll feel like I have to read the rest, and life is just too short for that.

Is it terrible? No. It’s passable sci-fi on an intriguing world. But the characters are unlikable cardboard and the details are maddeningly inconsistent.

I think I dislike all of the main characters. I dislike how most of them are introduced, with a bare touch of stock back-story that doesn’t actually add any gravitas. I don’t think any of them have a believable reason for going on the quest, and they consistently act like idiots. I figure that the idea is that Shann will grow into a good, strong person, but at this point (a few chapters into Book Two) I kind of want her to fail, because she’s such a stubborn blockhead. The male characters can’t seem to be serious for two minutes in a row and Keris’ bitterness feels fake and tired to me. All of these characterizations could work, I’ve known characters like them that are compelling and believable, but these just don’t work for me.

The details of the plot and setting keep jarring me out of the story. One example: on one page a minor character’s relationship with main character A is played up and important and emotional, and five pages later the same minor character’s heretofore unmentioned relationship with man character B is supposed to be really important and heart-wrenching? Huh? Motivations are harped on or ignored by turns. It’s unclear for way too long whether there is night on this planet. There’s a lot of foreshadowing that makes scenes which are written like reveals just read as expected information.

The lodestone technology is really interesting, and the prologue chapter is really cool, and that’s what caused me to pick the galley in the first place. But I’m going to stop reading now, because I just don’t care what happens.

DNF, 2 Stars - An Okay Book

And All the Stars

Monday, February 4, 2013

And All the Stars
Andrea K. Host, 2012

Premise: Maddie wasn’t where she’d told her parents she was going, instead she was on her way to meet her cousin, to work on the painting that she hoped would win her an important scholarship. Then there was an explosion, and afterward, everything would change.

Another winner from Andrea Host! This was a great read, full of interesting characters and fabulous plot twists.

The premise is strong: aliens invade, but in a different way than I’ve ever seen, affecting people in various ways and quickly threatening to take over. Maddie and a growing collection of new friends first have to survive and then figure out whether they can fight back.

I really liked Maddie’s perspective throughout. She’s a little shy and awkward, and she has a particular way of looking at things which is filtered through her artistic abilities. This can make her seem cold and distant, and she’s surprised how quickly things change for her after the initial catastrophe, in terms of connecting with others.

There were a few plot twists that I really didn’t see coming, and they were basically amazing. The exploration of the post-disaster groups and the mechanics of the aliens were fascinating as well. I loved the presence of the internet, and how people used it to spread knowledge and rumor worldwide as the situation changed.

There’s a romance, and it’s important, but very well handled, with realism and depth. I would stick this book more firmly in YA than some of this author’s other work, but I’d stick it on the top of any list of “recommended YA Science Fiction”.

My only real quibble is that I didn’t like the epilogue. I found it tedious and unnecessary, personally.

Spoiler-y comment regarding both this and the Touchstone series: I actually really enjoyed Gratuitous Epilogue, on the other hand. I had spent so long with those characters already that the description of growth and happiness felt earned. With this story, I didn’t need that, and the pat happily-ever-after wasn’t satisfying for me, but rather undermined the uncertainty and hope of the closing chapter which preceded it. Other reviewers have said that they liked it, though, so it’s a personal opinion.

A strong plot with a varied cast from a great storyteller. What’s not to like?

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Comics Update and Valentines Announcement!

Hey fellow readers! An update and an announcement today.

As you may have noticed, I’ve stopped doing the weekly comic reviews. We moved to a new city last summer, and the combination of altered budgets, crappy titles (I hate you so much, NEW 52) and no great comic stores means that my comic buying habits have dropped way off. However, the existence of lots of great used book stores means that my graphic novel buying has increased, so you’re likely to see a higher volume of graphic novel reviews interspersed with books.

Also, I’ve decided it’s time for another THEME Week! Next week, it’s Vampires for Valentines here at The Blue Fairy’s Bookshelf. I’ll be reviewing Book One of five different urban fantasy or paranormal series, so stay tuned!