Mini-Reviews – Graphic Novels

Hey guys! I thought I’d do another session of Mini-Reviews because I managed to snag a couple of really good graphic novels the other day! 🙂

Saga, Volume 1 Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist)

Description from Goodreads:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

My Review:

I didn’t quite know what to expect coming into this one. I hadn’t actually read any reviews for this series other than a few comments from friends on Goodreads which basically all said “Where has this been all my life?!?” Seeing that it also has one of the highest ratings I’ve ever seen on GR, I decided to add it to my list.

Man, am I glad I did! This was one of the most exciting graphic novels I’ve ever read. I’ll admit, I haven’t really branched out of the ‘superhero mainstream’ before in physical comics, so I was delighted to find a full-fledged story with amazingly fleshed out characters.

Apparently not one for shying away from action, the author begins our story with one of the main characters in the midst of childbirth and ends the same scene with a gigantic firefight. What a way to jump into the middle of things! It works really well in this instance, though, by pulling you directly into the story without having to worry about too much setup. It also helps set the tone for the series by letting the reader know upfront how much danger our main duo is in.

The author is really great at making all of the characters seem believable too, which can be difficult in a sci-fi, where you can have anything from spider-women to ghosts. I love that, by the end of Vol 1, we’re already starting to get some backstory for all the main characters. I’m really becoming attached to some of these guys and finding out more about them and how they got into this situation is very interesting.

The artistry of the novel is wonderful as well. The diversity between the different species is very impressive and everything was really well executed. I did however, feel like I’d seen one character somewhere before…

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Left: Prince Robot IV (Saga, 2013), Right: The One Electronic (Rice Boy, 2006-2008)

Very probably a coincidence, but I couldn’t get it out of my brain. 😉

All-in-all, I’d definitely recommend this for sci-fi fans! I’ve already ordered the Volume 2; I can’t wait to get started!

Fables, Volume 1: Legends in Exile Bill Willingham (Writer), Lan Medina (Artist), Steve Leialoha (Artist), Craig Hamilton (Artist), Mark Buckingham (Cover Artist)

Description from Goodreads:

When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the “mundys,” their name for normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters created their own secret society that they call Fabletown. From their exclusive luxury apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, these creatures of legend must fight for their survival in the new world.

My Review:

Oddly, it was the cover that originally drew me into this series (great job, Mr. Buckingham, lol). I literally went “Is that a flying monkey?” and then I noticed the title. I’ve always been a fan of fairy-tales, so I decided right then and there to give this one a go.

I love the idea of fairy-tale characters trapped in our reality. Seeing how each character has established themselves in our world puts a very interesting twist on the original tales. This story mainly focused on Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, and Rose Red, but the author did a great job of pulling in as many characters from different tales as he could. He even got Old King Cole in there!

The mystery in this novel “What happened to Rose Red?” was really interesting. I was pretty stumped as to what happened all the way up to the end. The author did a good job with the pacing of the story, so that the reader was intrigued, but not rushed to a poorly explained conclusion.

Having finished the novel, though, one has to wonder…just where did the creators of ‘Once Upon A Time’ get their idea? A dark force takes over fairy-tale land, leaving our heroes trapped trapped in the mundane world? That sounds awfully familiar…


So how about you guys? Read any good comics lately? Got recommendations?

T5W – Judging a Book by its Cover

Crud puppies! I completely forgot to do my T5W yesterday! That’s what happens when you stay home sick on a Monday; it throws your whole week off. 😉

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is Favorite SFF Cover Art! Tough category, but here are a few that really drew me in.

Meddling Kids (Edgar Cantero)

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This book is a kind of horror satire of the 1970’s Scooby Doo and the cover does a great job of capturing the essence of those old cartoons.

Shutter (Courtney Alameda)

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This cover is just creepy. It was what first drew me to the book when I was scrolling around Goodreads and it matches the storyline perfectly.

Leven Thumps and the Eyes of Want (Obert Skye)

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Really the entire series has wonderful covers, but this one is my favorite. It’s just gorgeous!

End Games (T. Michael Martin)

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Another horror, I know, but you have to admit the cover is neat. It has a wonderfully creepy feel and I love how they turned the trees into zombies.

The A.I Gang series (Bruce Coville)

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Ok, yeah, I need to explain this one. No, the artwork isn’t the best. But, you have to admit, 90’s era kid’s book artists really knew how to draw in the reader. All three covers show the main characters right in the midst of action, battling mortal danger. Exactly what you’re looking for when you want an adventure.
Let’s compare that to the 2014 version…
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Seriously? Come on now. Which would YOU have picked up as a kid?


Show me yours! What are some of your favorite covers?!?

Book Review – Caraval

Book: Caraval – Author: Stephanie Garber

Genre: Young Adult, Adventure, Fantasy

Description from Goodreads:

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

My Review:

I’ve seen my share of bad reviews for this book, but I actually really enjoyed it. The idea behind the game of Caraval is intriguing. It’s basically a giant cosplay-treasure hunt, where you can trade secrets and wishes for magical items and dreams. And at the end, if you solve the mystery, you may just win the prize of a lifetime. But don’t get TOO caught up or Caraval could become your downfall.

I’ll be completely upfront: the main character, Scarlett, is about as angst-ridden as you can get. Her father is a monster, her arraigned marriage is a mystery, her sister is missing, and then she starts falling for a guy who could be anyone. But somehow, she never comes off as annoying. I actually really liked Scarlett. I felt pretty bad for her situation and spent most of the book going “Come on, I know you can do this! You got this one, Scar!” I also really liked her sister, though she’s not in the forefront of the novel for very long.

The action in this one never stopped coming. I actually read the book in about 5 hours, which isn’t too bad for an over 400 page book, and most of that can be attributed to the fact that I spent about 85% of the book on the edge of my seat. The author really knows how to keep you guessing: Is creepy Dante really Master Legend? Or is Legend actually the mysterious Julian, the sailor who arrived just in time to carry the girls off to Caraval? Will Scarlett escape her father and will she ever find her lost sister? What is real and what is just the game?

This one was a knuckle-biter from start to finish. I highly recommend it to people who like adventurous books with a dash of romance thrown in (yes, I even liked the romance in this one 😉 ). I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel!

Similar Book(s):

The Night Circus – Erin Morganstern

Book Review – Six of Crows

Book: Six of Crows – Author: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Young Adult, Adventure, Fantasy

Description from Goodreads:

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first..

My Review:

I really enjoyed this novel. Bardugo managed to build an entirely original, yet realistic, world. I found myself trying to compare the countries with our own and, though there were similarities, there were enough differences that the world seemed completely new and exciting.

The diverse cast was very interesting. Having most of them be from different countries gave them each a very unique viewpoint towards the war and the mission itself. I don’t think there were two characters who came from similar backgrounds, even when they grew up in the same city, and it was their individual qualities that made them work so well as a team, even if they didn’t always want to.

I don’t usually like it when the POV jumps around, but in this instance I think it worked. I liked how the inner-thoughts of each character were used to lead into their history and how they explained the perspective of each character. It really helped me understand them all individually rather than just focusing on a single character or the group as a whole.

I will admit, as I have several times before, that I am not fond of romances, and so much of this book seemed to focus on the yearnings of the characters that it almost turned me off. The adventure and writing style of the book are what kept me going. I was truly curious as to what would happen during the mission and whether or not all of the crew would make it out alive. Bardugo has an easy writing style that allows you to read quickly enough that you can flow through the adventure almost as easily as watching a movie and, with an adventure this broad and exciting, that is a great thing.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy, group adventures…or just a good scoundrel. Be ready for some romancy-angst, though, and be aware that there is a sequel!

Similar Book(s):

Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson

 

Book Review – Welcome to Night Vale

Book: Welcome to Night Vale – Author: Joseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor

Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Supernatural-ish

Description from Goodreads:

Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “King City” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.

Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “King City”. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.

My Review:

The Podcast – Joseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor have built something so completely unique with this podcast that it’s very difficult for me to describe. The cast of characters is extremely diverse: from our favorite radio host, Cecil Palmer, to the real 5-headed dragon, Hiram McDaniels, this is a crazy wonderful cast. The plots of the show are all based loosely (and not so loosely) on real conspiracy theories and contain everything from a giant glow cloud that drops dead animals (ALL HAIL) to a mysterious desert other-world to an overreaching corporation run by a smiling god. See? Very hard to explain. The best I can do is share my all-time favorite review of the podcast: “It’s like Steven King & Neil Gaiman got together to build a Sim City and just left it running for a few years”. Seriously awesome. 🙂

The Book – This book was just as wonderful as the podcast. It gave us an in-depth look at several “side characters” from the show and tied up a few plot lines. It also contained a full storyline of its own, though with several call backs that pointed out some rather clever foreshadowing they had done in the podcast.

I especially liked the Library sequence, since I’ve always been curious as to what those exactly those horrible Librarian monsters are and what a Library in Night Vale actually looks like. Turns out it looks like any other library…filled with horrific monsters that want to kill you, making any attempt to use the Library like running a gauntlet where you have to remain completely silent and hope your weaponry holds out. You know, just the usual. 😉

The King City mystery was really interesting and finally took us outside of our small town for a glimpse of what else this world holds. The authors described the town so well, that it felt like I was actually walking down the streets, looking at the abandoned shops myself. The plot line with the Man in the Tan Jacket finally cleared up the story behind this mysterious character who has been wandering around Night Vale for quite some time. Wow, I was not expecting that!

And the thing with the pink flamingos was great. I just love all the completely off the wall things these the guys come up with!

No review is complete without giving props to the Voice of Night Vale, Cecil Baldwin. I was lucky enough to purchase the audio version of this book, so I got to spend several hours basking in his melodious tones. (Really, he has a GREAT voice.) He didn’t do super well at trying to sound like the female main characters, but his voice is so naturally deep, that I’ve forgiven him for it. 😉 The rest of the book was very well done; he just makes the reading sound so natural, like he’s having a conversation with you. I’m very glad I got the audio version, reading it on paper just isn’t the same experience.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an interesting, touching, completely crazy adventure. You don’t necessarily have to have listened to the podcast to understand what’s going on, but it would definitely help. There are some small details that you won’t pick up on if you haven’t done your homework. 😉 You can find out how to listen to the show here: http://www.welcometonightvale.com/listen

Similar Book(s):

Can I just list all the WtNV books here? Lol!

Mostly Void, Partially Stars – WtNV Episodes, Year 1
The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe – WtNV Episodes, Year 2

And the new book, It Devours, is now available for pre-order!

Book Review – Strange the Dreamer

Book: Strange the Dreamer – Author: Laini Taylor

Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Supernatural-ish

Description from Goodreads:

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

My Review:

There are few things more frustrating than the words “To Be Continued” at the end of an amazing book. Especially when you didn’t know it was a series. And the book just came out 3 weeks ago. AAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…YOU ALL NEED TO READ THIS BOOK!

The world the author has created is amazingly detailed. Full of history and culture and so well described that even the most mythical of creatures seem realistic. This is a world that feels like it COULD exist, even as you are reading about flowers that can fly and castles that float. These are people you could know, even as they scream moths and fight ghosts.

The characters are completely genuine. I felt a kinship with the title character, Lazlo Strange. Seen as a bit of an odd duck, even around his fellow Librarians, Lazlo’s kind nature, sense of humor, and yes, love of books, endeared him to me. I also felt a strong affinity for Sarai, the other main character, who’s empathy allows her to understand both sides of the conflict and is understandably torn about choosing one or the other. In fact, all of the characters were written very complexly, allowing the reader to see bits of themselves in almost all of them.

I don’t want to go too much into the plot, because I definitely don’t want to spoil things for you. All I will say: You know that rare moment, when you are so completely caught up in a book that you realize you are physically leaning into it, as if that will somehow make the action happen faster, because you just HAVE to know what’s going to happen? I was like that for the entire last quarter of the book. The ‘To Be Continued’ is both a blessing and a curse, because I’m ecstatic that my time in Weep isn’t over, but I have no idea how long it will be until I can see it again.

This is my first foray into Laini Taylor novels and, if this one is any indication, I may have a new favorite author to add to my list. It’s not often that I finish a book and immediately rush onto my computer so I can post a review. This book, with it’s beautifully described world, amazing characters, and gripping plot, will stay with me for a very long time.

Similar Book(s):

American Gods – Neal Gaiman (More for the type of book than the plot.)

T5W – SFF To-Reads

I admit it, I am late again. This time, I honestly just forgot to post! Oops! But here it is, the next installment of Top 5 Wednesday!

This week’s topic: SFF books that you can’t wait to read!

While perusing my “TBR” list on Goodreads, I noticed a peculiar trend. Though I was well known in my younger years for being a sci-fi geek, there is an alarmingly small number of sci-fi books in my TBR pile! So this list will mostly be fantasy related…though I definitely intend to head over to the sci-fi genre list on GR to pick out some new tales! 😉

Abarat (Clive Barker)

768878Goodreads Description: Candy lives in Chickentown USA: the most boring place in the world, her heart bursting for some clue as to what her future may hold. She is soon to find out: swept out of our world by a giant wave, she finds herself in another place entirely…The Abarat: a vast archipelago where every island is a different hour of the day, from the sunlit wonders of Three in the Afternoon, where dragons roam, to the dark terrors of the island of Midnight, ruled by Christopher Carrion. Candy has a place in this extraordinary world: she has been brought here to help save the Abarat from the dark forces that are stirring at its heart. Forces older than time itself, and more evil than anything Candy has ever encountered.

Why I want to read it: This book was based on a series of paintings (as shown on the cover) that Clive Barker made himself. I really like the idea of a place where each island represents a different hour…though I will admit it sounds a tiny bit like a rip off of Rudolph’s Shiny New Year. 😉 I really like stories that can incorporate multiple worlds. It’s like peeking into the brain of the writer and seeing all of their different ideas at once.

Steelheart (Brandon Sanderson)

20342545Goodreads Description: David wants Steelheart — one of the Epics said to be invincible, who killed David’s father. For ten years, David has studied and planned for revenge. He wants to join the Reckoners. These rebels assassinate the Epics, super-powered tyrants. He has seen Steelheart bleed.

Why I want to read it: Brandon Sanderson is an amazing writer. I read The Rithmatist a couple years ago, fell in love with his style of writing, and immediately grabbed a copy of this book…and then I put it on a shelf and forgot about it. (Oops.) But I’ve added it into my reading challenge this year! And who doesn’t love a good revenge story, eh?

The Spaceship Next Door (Gene Doucette)

27809678Goodreads Description: When a spaceship landed in an open field in the quiet mill town of Sorrow Falls, Massachusetts, everyone realized humankind was not alone in the universe. The residents of Sorrow Falls took the news pretty well. This could have been due to a certain local quality of unflappability, or it could have been that in three years, the ship did exactly nothing other than sit quietly in that field, and nobody understood the full extent of this nothing the ship was doing better than the people who lived right next door.

Sixteen-year old Annie Collins is one of the ship’s closest neighbors. Once upon a time she took every last theory about the ship seriously, whether it was advanced by an adult ,or by a peer. Surely one of the theories would be proven true eventually—if not several of them—the very minute the ship decided to do something. Annie is starting to think this will never happen.

One late August morning, a little over three years since the ship landed, Edgar Somerville arrived in town. Ed’s a government operative posing as a journalist, which is obvious to Annie—and pretty much everyone else he meets—almost immediately. He has a lot of questions that need answers, because he thinks everyone is wrong: the ship is doing something, and he needs Annie’s help to figure out what that is. As a matter of fact, Annie Collins might be the most important person on the planet. She just doesn’t know it.

Why I want to read it: Well, that’s a long description. I actually DID condense it a bit, but that’s about as smooshed as I could get it without dropping plotline. 😉 Anyway…doesn’t this one sound good?!? The idea that something so strange and life altering can become so passé that no one even thinks twice about it anymore is an interesting one. Of course, it looks like that will end up NOT being the case, but it’s what first drew me to the book. Now I just want to know what happens. 😉

Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)

2744Goodreads Description: Fat Charlie Nancy’s normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn’t know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother. Now brother Spider’s on his doorstep — about to make Fat Charlie’s life more interesting… and a lot more dangerous.

Why I want to read it: I LOVED American Gods. As a mythology nut, it is one of my most favorite books. It managed to squeeze all the gods I know about (and a few I didn’t know…and a few the author invented…) into a single, action packed book. Neil Gaiman is a superb writer; he managed to human-ize (is that the right term when talking about Gods?) every character and made you actually concerned for their fates. When I found out there was a sequel, I HAD to pick it up. I hope I love it just as much as the original!

Death Watch (Ari Berk)

10637834Goodreads Description: One night, Silas Umber’s father Amos doesn’t come home from work. Devastated, Silas learns that his father was no mere mortician but an Undertaker, charged with bringing The Peace to the dead trapped in the Shadowlands, the states of limbo binding spirits to earth. With Amos gone, Silas and his mother have no choice but to return to Lichport, the crumbling seaside town where Silas was born, and move in with Amos’s brother, Charles.

Even as Silas eagerly explores his father’s town and its many abandoned streets and overgrown cemeteries, he grows increasingly wary of his uncle. There is something not quite right going on in Charles Umber’s ornate, museum-like house—something, Silas is sure, that is connected to his father’s disappearance. When Silas’s search leads him to his father’s old office, he comes across a powerful artifact: the Death Watch, a four hundred year old Hadean clock that allows the owner to see the dead.

Death Watch in hand, Silas begins to unearth Lichport’s secret history—and discovers that he has taken on his father’s mantle as Lichport’s Undertaker. Now, Silas must embark on a dangerous path into the Shadowlands to embrace his destiny and discover the truth about his father—no matter the cost.

Why I want to read it: Sometimes book descriptions intrigue me for no apparent reason. This is one of those descriptions. I know, I know, it sounds identical to a ton of books out there: “Kid loses his parent, gains a weird power, finds out he has to save the world and avenge his father at the same time”; this isn’t even the first book in THIS LIST that has those elements. But there’s just something about this one that makes me want to read it. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the Death Watch. I want to know what that is!!!

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Well, I hope I gave you a few SFF books you hadn’t heard of that peak your interest!

So how about you? What SFF books are on your plate?