Saturday, January 31, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Volume 1

Anita Blake: Guilty Pleasures Volume 1
By: Laurell K Hamilton, Stacie Ritchie
Illustrated By: Jess Ruffner-Booth, Brett Booth
Paperback: 168 pages
Publisher: Marvel
Language: English
August 2008, $14.99
Genre: Comic/Urban Fantasy

In a world where vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures are legal citizens of the United States, Anita Blake is an animator – someone who literally raises the dead for a living. But she moonlights as a vampire hunter, called in to resolve situations that are too much for conventional police to handle. Now, a series of murdered vampires are turning up across St. Louis, and Anita Blake has been recruited to bring the killer to justice. But it’s not just the police who want her help, this time. It’s the vampires themselves.

Adapted from the novel Guilty Pleasures by New York Times bestselling author Laurell K Hamilton, the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter graphic novel introduces readers to the compelling world of Anita Blake and promises to seduce those who aren’t already fans.


+++++++++++++

Most people who know me understand that I have a love/hate relationship with Laurell K Hamilton and the Anita Blake series. I like the first seven or so Anita books and I dig comics so I thought I would give the Marvel series a try despite my reservations on the artwork.

In this first collection we have Guilty Pleasures in comic form. Someone has been killing master vampires in St Louis. If Anita doesn’t help the current reigning leader, then they will kill or take over her friend Catherine’s mind…permanently. Anita doesn’t like being put in between a rock and a hard place, her friends or threatened or having to work with Jean-Claude, one of the city’s remaining master vampires.

Anita is still Anita. Still snarky, still likable…still a necromancer. The storyline is still the same as the novel, same cast of characters, etc. My problems don’t reside there as it’s a nice faithful adaptation of the book. The dialogue works in places. The pacing okay. My problems reside in the artwork. I understand that this is a comic book and therefore Anita and crew may look decidedly different than the picture you have in your head. So where do I begin?

All of the men look exactly alike and yes they may be pretty but pretty doesn’t have to mean they look like girls with pecs; which is odd, since the women in the comics end up looking different from one another. Sometimes the artwork doesn’t match the descriptions or dialogue and the thighs on the characters are so overdone that well, you can’t help but giggle. Dolph looks entirely wrong as if they read a completely different description than the books and did I mention that all of the men look exactly alike, but with different hairstyles?

In the end it doesn’t work for me. There was nothing exceptional about any of it and for once I am really glad I only borrowed it from the library. I suppose if you are a big Anita fan and have to have everything related, this is a necessity, but unlike the Harry Dresden comic (which I really liked), this did absolutely nothing for me.

So, meh…

2.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fables Volume 2

Fables Volume 2
(Animal Farm)
By: Bill Willingham
Illustrated by: Mark Buckingham
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Vertigo
Language: English
August 2003, $12.99
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

Fables of the world unite. Ever since they were driven from their homelands by the Adversary, the non-human Fables have been living on the Farm – a vast property in upstate New York that keeps them hidden from the prying eyes of the mundane world. But now, after hundreds of years of isolation, the Farm is seething with revolution, fanned by the inflammatory rhetoric of Goldilocks and the Three Little Pigs. And when Snow White and her sister Rose Red stumble upon their plan to liberate the Homelands, the commissars of the farm are ready to silence them – by any means necessary.

+++++++++++++

I like fairytales. Give me a modern twist and I am pleased as punch. I had heard a lot of Fables, but it took me a while to getting around to reading it. I read the first volume last year, but then I apparently got distracted by other comic shininess which you have to admit is fairly easy to do considering all the great graphic novels that are out there. I must say that I just keep getting lucky with my choices. Nothing has been disappointing and this volume is no exception.

The story arc is very Orwellian. It isn’t called Animal Farm for nothing folks, but there is also a nod to other classics, most importantly Lord of the Flies. Snow White heads up to the Farm, to see the non-human Fableland exiles with Rose Red in tow. What they discover on arrival is nothing short of a coup. Fairytale faves make appearances from a revolutionary Golidlocks to Reynard the Fox who does have a fond appreciation for the ladies no matter what the species and the Three Little Pigs. What is great about this series is the characters aren’t just the traditional known fables. I actually had to look up Weyland Smith and I enjoy figuring out each of them.

This volume was a bit brutal and I found myself shocked at what happened to Colin, who I apparently got attached to in just a few short pages. But I enjoyed it. It was my own little Grimm fairytale Fable style. I enjoyed seeing which Fables chose which side and think I need to have a fire breathing crow just for kicks.

I really like the series. The artwork is great and the stories a joy to read. Its not everywhere you can get social commentary, drama, humor, action and more mixed in with the stories you were read and listened to as a child.

Now if I could only get a raise so I could afford to buy the rest of the volumes.

3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks


Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Crossing Midnight Volume 1

Crossing Midnight Vol:1
(Cut Here)
By: Mike Carey
Illustrated By: Jim Fern & Jose Villarrubia
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Vetrtigo
Language: English
June 2007, $9.99
Genre: Graphic Novel/Comic


In Nagasaki, Japan, a twin brother and sister – Toshi and Kai Hara – are born on either side of midnight only a few minutes apart, but those few minutes will lead their lives down two very different paths. It’s clear as she grows up that Toshi, the female twin, is something out of the ordinary. Nothing with a point or an edge can harm her: knives will snap or bend rather than break her skin. And when she reaches her teens, a mysterious figure who calls himself Aratsu, the lord of the knives, comes to claim her as his servant.

If Toshi agrees, she will have to leave Japan and the human world behind and cross into the world of the kami, the spirits who live in and rule over the everyday objects we make and use. If she refuses, the consequences for her and for her family will be terrible beyond imagining. That is, unless her brother Kai can figure out what kind of hold the kami world has on Toshi – and on the rest of the Haras. But Aratsu is only going to ask three times…


+++++++++++++

For those of you who have been reading Confessions for a while, you will know that I have recently renewed my love for Mike Carey after falling in adoration with his Felix Castor series of novels and the Lucifer series. I have been picking up what I can and have even thought about revisiting some Hellblazer comics just for kicks. So it should hardly be a surprise, I am fairly predictable that way, that I picked up Crossing Midnight. It looked fairly interesting, and yes sometimes I am drawn in by interesting and pretty covers.

The narrative flows fairly well, the story interesting, and its something new which I can always appreciate. And its not light on the horror aspect of things. Maybe that’s why I like it. No one is safe and that’s life because sometimes bad things happen to good people. I also like the potential story and conflict between the two siblings. For as spirited as Toshi is, her impudence can make for some great storytelling as well especially considering how this first volume ended.

The artwork itself was just a tad stiff compared to some of the artists Carey has worked with in the past, but it did have some moments. Its not my favorite of Carey’s, but I still enjoyed it enough that I look forward to reading the next one.

3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks


Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Reach

The Reach
By: Nate Kenyon
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Leisure Books
Language: English
November 2008, $7.99
Genre: Horror

Young Sarah is no ordinary girl. She’s been diagnosed as schizophrenic and locked away in a children’s psychiatric ward. But that’s not what makes her special. She also has a very strange – and powerful- gift. Scientists have been studying Sarah’s remarkable psychic power for years, enhancing it, manipulating it…twisting it into something evil. But their plans have gone horribly wrong. How much longer can they control Sarah? And what will happen when her powers are unleashed?

+++++++++++++

I can’t remember where I saw this title posted, but it intrigued me. Kind of a cross between ‘Firestarter’ and other Stephen King titles that contain psi powers. At first I wasn’t wholly impressed as the lead character dresses rather plainly and professional, the perfect student kind of feel, and then wears a scrunchie in her hair. I would have to go with Carrie Bradshaw and say that no self respecting woman would be caught in public wearing such a thing. Yes, its something small but it annoyed me and dated the book when I think the time period was meant to be ambiguous and not be stuck in the late 80’s early 90’s. Thankfully I kept reading.

It’s an easy read. Psych grad student Jess Chambers is asked to look in and try to befriend and diagnose young Sarah. She is told that the girl is schizophrenic, but Jess discovers early on that Sarah is not what she seems, nor are her ‘caregivers’ and the truth is far more dangerous.

While it is easy to make comparisons to ‘Firestarter’, I think it holds its own. Sure you have a little girl who has an amazing and dangerous power with an evil institution trying to use that power for their own ends. Enter in someone to save said little girl. Sprinkle in some fun chaos and voila. I like Sarah and I like Jess. Though some of the villains weren’t too big of a surprise there was one I didn’t see coming and that takes a bit.

I am not well versed on all things psychology, but Kenyon seemed to be fairly knowledgeable or at least he faked it really well. The man did his research and for that he gets a shiny gold star. Now if he could just change that scrunchie into just a simple elastic hairband I will be happy.

Overall, it’s a good book. Not as much of a horror as the description would suggest, but good. I wanted a bit more from it, but was also pleasantly surprised with what I was handed. From what I hear this is book one of a trilogy and I think I enjoyed it enough that I would probably pick up the other two. I was at least enamored enough that I went and decided to get his first novel, Bloodstone, from the library. Worth a gander.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks


Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

Backup

Backup
By: Jim Butcher
Illustrated By: Mike Mignola
Hardcover: 72 pages
Publisher: Subterranean
Language: English
October 2008, $19.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Dresden Files

Let's get something clear right up front. I'm not Harry Dresden. Harry's a wizard. A genuine, honest-to-goodness wizard. He's Gandalf on crack and an IV of Red Bull, with a big leather coat and a .44 revolver in his pocket. He'll spit in the eye of gods and demons alike if he thinks it needs to be done, and to hell with the consequences--and yet somehow my little brother manages to remain a decent human being.

I'll be damned if I know how. But then, I'll be damned regardless.

My name is Thomas Raith, and I'm a monster.

So begins "Backup," a twelve thousand word novelette set in Jim Butcher s ultra-popular Dresden Files series. This time Harry's in trouble he knows nothing about, and it's up to his big brother Thomas to track him down and solve those little life-threatening difficulties without his little brother even noticing.


+++++++++++++

The Dresden series is one of my favorite urban fantasy series. They’re fun, snarky and have enough action and mystery to keep me entertained. Plus, how can you not like Harry? When I first heard about Backup I was excited. Not only was about Thomas, Harry’s brother but had illustrations by Mike Mignola of Hellboy fame. How could I be disappointed?

Well, the main questions are: Was it good? And was it worth the money? I would have to say it depends. If you’re a fan of the series, this belongs right there with the rest of your collection. However, it wasn’t one of the best. In fact it felt rushed, the writing wasn’t what I have to expect of Butcher and Thomas sounded far too much like Harry for me.

I love Thomas. He’s a great character and though he shares some similarities with Harry. He is not Harry and the description of the book tells you that. And yet his voice was Harry’s voice. Yes, Thomas is snarky just like Harry is, but it feels different in the Dresden Files. I feel like he is his own little hot snarkfest that can kill you and you will beg for him to do it. But there’s more to him. He may be a killer, but he has levels. He has a vulnerability about him and I never quite saw that. We did learn some new stuff, but not as much as I was expecting. I wanted to know more about the Oblivion War. I wanted to know more about Thomas in general really. I wanted to learn more about him and get a better feeling of him than I already have and know from the Harry books. I know Butcher can do it because I have gotten that from some of the Harry novellas about Harry. In fact I think I got more new perspectives on Harry such as the pokes at Harry being a neat freak or even about Bob than I did Thomas.

I understand why this wasn’t in an anthology due to Mignola’s illustrations which are top notch. And I did like parts of it. It just wasn’t what I expected and not what I hoped it would be. It just needed more depth, more characterization, more….more. If you are new to the series, I wouldn’t recommend starting here as there are far more worthy outings. And yet, as I said, if you are a Dresden fan it is worth the read, but more of a see if you can borrow it from a friend or grab it on loan from the library.

2.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks


Have your own review let me know and I will post it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book
By: Neil Gaiman
Illustrated By: Dave McKean
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins
Language: English
September 2008, $17.99
Genre: Childrens/ Fantasy

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead.

There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy-an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer.

But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family. . . .


+++++++++++++

“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”

We all know I heart Neil Gaiman in huge ginormous and ridonkulous ways. I generally devour and absolutely love everything that he writes and that is hard to say about authors sometimes. This book has been in my wishlist since I first heard about it and how could it not be when the premise is: What if Mowgli from the Jungle Book got raised by ghosts instead? Neil said that it was inspired “Around 1985 or 1986, we lived in a house with no garden, but we had a graveyard just over the run, so that was where my son Michael (three or four at the time) rode his little tricycle. And I remember watching him, and thinking it would be fun to do The Jungle Book, only set in a graveyard instead of a jungle, and that was the start of it. Because I tend to be fairly slow about these things, it's taken me...twenty-two years to get to it." It’s okay Neil I am happy to wait those 20 years if the Graveyard Book is what comes of it.

What is there not to like, no scratch that love, about this story. It combines the whimsy of ghosts, ghouls and a graveyard with a poignant story about growing up. But I don’t think the metaphor is beaten into you, but easily accessible. It’s a story that children can enjoy, but that adults can as well and did I mention it has great drawings by Dave McKean (Not to get off topic but I absolutely love this resurgence of stories with artists that aren’t just for kids…see Backup by Jim Butcher and Mike Mignola and I heart Dave as much as I do Neil…see Mirrormask or most of his body of work). Every one of Bod’s adventures was a joy to read (I especially liked Danse Macabre or the bewitching Liza…she’s snarky, whats not to like) and some of the characters I desperately want to know more about (Silas in particular). Bod is never unlikable, even when he is being selfish because I was there once and I still am (curiosity will kill this kitty, but satisfaction will bring me right back). The entire tale is endearing and one I have every intention of reading to my hypothetical children when I eventually do have them.

When it ended, it was bittersweet. I didn’t need more and yet I wanted more, but then I usually do with Gaiman’s works. There is humor, magic, suspense and delight within these pages and I could not recommend it enough.

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Monday, January 5, 2009

Book Meme: Nearest Book

Not sure where they got this, but this was sent to me via email and I thought I would give it a go. Shiny gold star to the individual who came up with it. I am a sucker for memes sometimes.

* Grab the nearest book.
* Open it to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
* Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

My result: I snorted. "You want me to tell you that it's because in our secret hearts, we long to be heroes? Or that deep down, there's something in us that cries out for humanity, for redemption?" I shook my head and smiled at him, showing teeth. "At the end of the day? Because we don't like competition." -- Backup by Jim Butcher. Okay so its more than a sentence, though the 'I snorted' was pretty funny.

Challenge Fever

So I read 75 books last year. Not too horrible considering I finished up a degree, worked far too many hours, moved and then in a fit of insanity decided to have two retail jobs during the holiday season. *grin* So, this year I have decided to join the challenge fever that seems to be spreading. I have two thus far though I am sure I will want to do more if but to try and reach my goal of 109 in 2009.

The Challenge: The Sci Fi Experience
Sponsored By: Carl

When: January 1st through February 28th, 2009
How: Read some Sci-fi in the next two months
Why I am Doing It: I am not a big sci-fi fan as a rule when it comes to books, the same would go for high fantasy. I have read a few sure, but my most read genre is urban fantasy. So I thought I would try and read some books I wouldn't normally read or re-read ones I already love in hopes that it will get me in the mood and I will expand my reading horizons this year.

My Book List Thus Far:
The Electric Church by Jeff Somers
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

+++++++++++++++++

The Challenge: What's In a Name 2
Sponsored By: Annie

When: January 1st through December 31st, 2009
How: Choose one book from each of the following categories. 1. A book with a "profession" in its title. 2. A book with a "time of day" in its title. 3. A book with a "relative" in its title. 4. A book with a "body part" in its title. 5. A book with a "building" in its title. 6. A book with a "medical condition" in its title.
Why I am Doing It: Too fun to pass up

My Book List:
1. The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie (Gun Seller = Profession, right? Plus Hugh Laurie. Bound to entertain.)
2. The Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry (Happy Hour is a time of day as far as I am concerned. Bring on the refreshments and snark)
3. Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow
4. Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
5. Whitechapel Gods by SM Peters
6. Heartsick by Chelsea Cain (The first novel about a female serial killer that Stephen King put in his faves for the year. I will give it a go.)

Though I may find more for the challenge as the year goes on.