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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Review, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Review: Daughter of the Sword by Steve Bein

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Daughter of the Sword.  I was pleasantly surprised, and ended up enjoying it.  While it was more a police procedural than urban fantasy, with historical flashbacks thrown in to breathe life into the backgrounds behind the swords, I had a hard time putting it down. The setting helped – a whole bunch.  I’m not going to lie; I love reading about Japan, and Mariko’s job as a detective with the MTPD gave the story a colorful backdrop.

Mariko is the only female detective with the Metropolitan Tokyo Police Department and she’s got her sights set on being a narcotics officer.  When her old, encouraging superior officer retires and is replaced with Ko, she knows she’s got her work cut out for her.  Ko wants her making coffee or bringing him tea, and he has no patience for a woman in his department.  Mariko is on a probationary period with Narcotics’, and Ko has threatened to dash her career at the first hint of impropriety from her, and even if she’s on her best behavior, he’s still going to send her packing at the end of her probation.  He makes no secret that he doesn’t want her on the team, and Mariko bristles at his dismissal of her skills.

When she gets a tip that someone is planning to start pushing hard drugs on the streets, Ko dismisses her out of hand.  The police and the yakuza have an unspoken agreement; the police look the other way on smaller offenses, and the yakuza make sure hard drugs stay off  the streets.  Ko sends her to investigate an attempted robbery to get her out of his hair.  Mariko is angry at being assigned to a case that isn’t even a crime.  The sword wasn’t stolen because the homeowner interrupted the robbery.

The owner of the sword is Professor Yasuo Yamada, and once he enters the picture, I couldn’t read fast enough.  Yamada has studied the weapons created by Inazuma, a sword smith of extraordinary skill.  Most scholars doubt he even existed, but Yamada has no doubts. He’s seen several of Inazuma’s blades, and Yamada believes that each has  magical properties.  Mariko scoffs at his claims, but as she gets to know Yamada, and as a demented killer continues to try to steal Yamada’s sword, she starts to wonder if the swords are somehow connected to the rumored cocaine shipment.

Mariko becomes a student of Yamada’s; in addition to being an expert about the history of the swords, he’s also an expert swordsman.  Even though Mariko still doesn’t believe in magic swords, she does believe that someone is dead set on stealing Yamada’s sword.  When a group of armed thugs break into Yamada’s house with the intent to kill him, Yamada, a frail seeming, nearly blind 89 year old, swiftly puts an end to their aspirations, looking all the world like a samurai warrior of old.

I really enjoyed the flashbacks.  Each of the swords has a history, and each is explored through a series of  flashbacks.  The swords are cursed or blessed, depending on the will of the one wielding it and the intention behind their attacks.  The characters in the weapons’ pasts get pretty much what they deserve, too.  Their behavior dictates their successes and failures, and while some learn from their mistakes, others never do and suffer horribly for it.

I liked Mariko, too.  She has to put up with a lot of crap from Ko, but she still finds a way to circumvent his orders and do what she thinks is right.  She’s tough, not easily intimidated, and she goes up against yakuza members and drug dealers with equal ferocity.  Her mom gives her pause, but otherwise, she’s got guts and nerves of steel.

If you’re looking for something a little different, Daughter of the Sword is worth a look.  It’s a pleasant break from the shifters and alternate realities that I’ve been reading, and I could easily relate to the strong female lead.   

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by my local library

From Amazon:

 

ANCIENT POWER

As the only female detective in Tokyo’s most elite police unit, Mariko Oshiro has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. But when he gives her the least promising case possible—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—it proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.

The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it.

Mariko’s investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her.

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2. Review: One Night with Her Bachelor by Kat Latham

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

After the smashing success of What a Bachelor Needs, I decided to give One Night with Her Bachelor a spin.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work as well for me, because I didn’t find the hero very appealing.  Yes, Gabriel is going through a rough patch, but, still, Dude, you have to bathe regularly.  He lives in his grandfather’s cabin in the middle of woods, a good hike from civilization, and the thought of living without electricity does absolutely nothing for me.  My idea of camping is checking into a Fairfield Inn, and that’s roughing it.  So a guy without a job, the internet, furniture, or a way to charge a Kindle – yeah, that’s not happening.

We meet Molly Dekker, a single mother working hard to provide a happy home for her exuberant son Josh.  On the weekend Josh is off on a camping trip, Molly decides she’s going to do something for herself.  She’s going to hike into the woods, find Gabriel’s cabin, and proposition the man she’s had the hots for since she was a girl.  Gabriel was her brother’s best friend, and when he was injured in the line of duty, he lost everything after the tragic accident. 

Gabriel is a former Air Force pararescueman, and when he’s sent to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter, he arrives too late to save Molly’s brother.  Worse, he’s terribly wounded, and his injures rob him of his job.  Unable to  remain in the service, he’s now at lose ends.  Suffering from PTSD, he retreats from his family and settles into the cabin in the woods, living like a hermit.  He only goes to town when he needs supplies, and when Molly shows up on his doorstep, he isn’t amused.  He’s not even sure what to think after she makes him an offer she thought he’d be delighted to accept.  All Gabriel wants is to be left alone.

While she’s trying to talk Gabriel into bed, she discovers her son has gone missing from his campsite.  Fearing the worst, she and Gabriel rush off in search of him.  When they find him, he’s been seriously injured, and Gabriel quickly takes matters into his own hands.  He rescues Josh, saving his life, but the boy is left paralyzed.

With Josh’s medical bills, Molly is now struggling to make ends meet.  She blames herself for Josh’s condition, and regrets ever going to Gabriel’s cabin.  She’s afraid to leave her son alone now, stifling his efforts at independence.  When her friend discovers how poorly she’s doing financially, she organizes a charity auction to help her raise money, despite Molly’s protests. 

As you have probably already guessed, Molly ends up with Gabriel as her bachelor.  While there were sparks between them and some of the dialog was very fun, I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in their HEA.  They struggled to communicate, and their conflict resolution skills left a lot to be desired.  They are both still so emotionally raw from the enormous potholes in their lives that it was hard for me to believe they were up to the complications that go hand in hand with a relationship.  Gabriel can’t even confide to Molly about his accident, because he still hasn’t come to terms with it himself.  When he finally does, Molly was justifiably irked at his lack of trust in her.

So, bottom line –  while I liked getting the scoop on the backstory for the series, aspects of One Night with Her Bachelor just did not work for me.  The hero wasn’t my cuppa, and the couple’s inability to communicate didn’t give me a sense that they’ll enjoy their HEA.

Grade:  C

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Bid on a date with this wounded warrior for an unforgettable night of adventure. Aim high—and bid higher!—because no one comes close to local hero Gabriel Morales.

Molly Dekker hates being the town charity case, but when her son Josh is seriously injured she has no choice. She lets her best friend organize a bachelor auction to help pay her massive bills and make Josh’s life more comfortable. She can’t bid on any of the men, but a surprise bidder gives her a gift she never expected: a date with the man who saved her son’s life—the only one she’s in danger of losing her heart to.

Former Air Force pararescueman Gabriel Morales made a career of flying to the rescue, until a tragic helicopter crash stole more than his livelihood. Being auctioned off like a slab of beef isn’t in his recovery plan. But one look, one touch and one night unlocking Molly’s pent-up passion make him realize how badly he needs to be rescued…and how badly he wants to rescue Molly right back.

Will Molly and Gabriel’s never-quit attitude have them rushing head-first into love? Or will Gabriel’s secret pain stall their relationship before it can get off the ground?

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3. Review: What a Bachelor Needs by Kelly Hunter

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I was kind of avoiding the Bachelor Auction books because, at first, they didn’t interest me.  I just read a book where the hero was auctioned off, so the premise wasn’t even catchy.  But then.  But THEN!  I saw that Kelly Hunter wrote What a Bachelor Needs and I was so on board I forgot my life vest.

I have read and enjoyed many of Kelly Hunter’s works.  I love her dialog and how the protagonists interact, and the secondary characters are always fun to meet, too.   All of that is true here. There is so much humor in WaBN that I actually laughed out a loud a few times, startling the puppers.  It’s okay, though, they have already realized that mom is kinda weird, but her love is genuine, so they didn’t scurry off to locate a hiding place.

Single mom Mardie is struggling to provide a safe, secure home for her young daughter Claire.  The victim of domestic abuse, she was in one horrific marriage and she’s not going to make that mistake again.  On the lowest night of her life, Jett Casey, the guy she’d been crushing on since high school, saves her after she’s taken a beating in an alley.  Mardie is mortified that Jett is her rescuer, and despite her objections, she allows him to call emergency services so she receive the medical attention is obviously needs. 

This meeting changed both of the their lives.  It made Mardie realize that she deserved better and that she was worth something.  It overwhelmed Jett with guilt because he didn’t think he did enough for Mardie.  He just let her go, back into whatever hellish situation he’s momentarily saved her from.  When he has a chance to do something about it a few years later, he takes the opportunity to assuage his guilt very seriously.

Mardie doesn’t have two nickels to rub together, and she’s too proud to ask for help from anyone.  When her friend buys Jett for her, she’s not happy.  But Jett, a competitive skier, is sidelined with an injury, so he’s offered to be the winner’s handyman.  Mardie’s house needs a lot of TLC, so she’s finally convinced that letting Jett fix a few things will make it a safer environment for Claire.  She also learns that occasionally asking for help isn’t a bad thing, a hard lesson for her to learn.

I loved Jett.  He is such a kind, giving guy, and he only wants to help Mardie.  He’s a ski god, enjoys having a good time, and has women throwing themselves at him.  But once he starts tinkering around Mardie’s house, he only has eyes for her.  She fights the attraction she feels for him, but their chemistry shines on every page.  Mardie’s reservations are completely believable, too.  Once the week is over, he’s just going to go off on his merry way, traveling the world and winning more titles.  Mardie doesn’t think she has anything to offer him, despite his protestations to the contrary.  She’s still fighting the demons from her past, and she doesn’t think she can ever trust again.

What a Bachelor Needs is a fast, fun read with snappy dialog and a kind, compassionate hero who is very heroic, and, hey, he does home improvements!  If that doesn’t make Jett Mr. Perfect, I don’t know what would.  If you have a couple hours to fill this weekend, I highly recommend getting cozy with this book.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Your date with ski champ Jett Casey is an either/or deal. He’ll take you off-piste for the ultimate Montana ski adventure or he’ll put his handyman skills at your disposal for a week. Which one would you choose?

Single mom Mardie Griffin has a run-down old house in need of fixing and a memory of Jett Casey as her savior in a time of great need. So when her friends acquire Jett’s services at a bachelor auction and send him to fix up her house, she sets aside her mistrust of men and lets him in.

Elite athlete Jett Casey has the world at his feet and no desire for stability. But there’s one woman he’s never forgotten and if he can help make her safe this time, maybe she’ll stop haunting him.

No strings, no sex, no commitment. Just fix things. Surely it can’t be that difficult…

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4. #Zombies! Novella Review: Please Remain Calm by Courtney Summers

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Please Remain Calm picks up right where This is Not a Test left off, but from Rhys’ POV.  At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but I actually liked his narration better than Sloane’s.  Rhys is a straight forward kind of guy, and while he is torn up over what he had to do to his parents on the first awful night of the zombie apocalypse, he has done a fairly good job of moving past the ordeal.  While he does suffer from nightmares, he counts himself lucky to be alive, and he is determined to stay that way, so that his parents’ deaths will mean something.  Unlike Sloane, he is not suicidal, and he strives to find some sort of normal in the new horror of his existence.

Rhys and Sloane are headed to Rayfield, where a refugee camp has supposedly been established.  They make a major blunder, though, and are soon running desperately away from a group of zombies.  They are separated, and Rhys is saved by Jesse and Lisa, a couple who are making their way to their safe house in the woods.  They also have their four year old daughter with them, and Jesse is understandably suspicious of Rhys.  He doesn’t trust him, and he doesn’t want to put his small family in danger.  He warns Rhys that if he messes up, he won’t hesitate to eliminate him.

Please Remain Calm has a lot more action than This is Not a Test.  Because Rhys and his new companions are outside, with no shelter, they are tempting targets for roaming zombies.  Regardless of how careful they are, it’s inevitable that there will be encounters with the undead.  They are adrenaline fueled battles for survival, against foes that just don’t stop.  The zombies don’t ever quit, and where there is one, there are usually many more.  Every shadow, every boulder, every tree is a possible hiding place, and the tension kept me flipping the pages.  I gobbled this novella up in short order, and immediately hoped that there will be more in the future.  The ending is ambiguous, leaving everything up in the air, so be forewarned.

Grade:  B / B+

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

In Please Remain Calm, the gripping sequel to Courtney Summers’ This is Not a Test, Rhys and Sloane are headed for a safe haven when they get separated along the way. Rhys is determined to reunite with Sloane until he discovers people who might need him more–people who offer him the closest he’ll get to everything he’s lost, if they can just hold on long enough. Rhys thinks he has what it takes to survive and find Sloane, but in a world overrun by the dead, there are no guarantees and the next leg of his journey will test him in unimaginable ways…

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5. Review: Gotham Academy #6, The Kids of the Black Hole

Gotham Academy #6

Gotham Academy 006-000Story: Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher

Art: Karl Kerschl, Mingue Helen Chen 

Color: Msassyk, Serge Lapointe

Letters: Steve Wands

Publisher: DC Comics

 

 

 

As much as we love reading about the adventures of the world’s greatest detective, you have to figure Gotham city is probably a pretty messed up place to grow up. Walking down the street could get you turned inside out by Joker gas or someone in a skintight cat outfit could shred you to pieces. Even adolescents in this world have it rough. This is mostly due to Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher. They put kids in buildings with Arkham inmates, fire hazards, and sinister looking headmasters. All these obstacles put forth for our enjoyment in Gotham Academy #6.

The issue wraps the first story arc and sheds a little more light on Olive Sliverlock’s forgotten past. What issue six finally does is make good use of a Batman appearance. It’s powerful, and not just because of the fight with Killer Croc. This chapter of Gotham Academy puts Olive on a collision course with the caped crusader. Neither character is shown to be on the right side of the argument, which makes this matter poignant to the series and a mystery we’re sure to want answers about. Cloonan and Fletcher write the usual whimsy and angst sprinkled voice that cast of characters has become known for in the series. It’s just that now the team has managed to raise the stakes for all of them.

In addition to the usual fantastic Disney animated style art of Karl Kerschl, issue six brings Mingue H. Chen on board for some key flashback sequences and an epilogue that leaves us wishing DC would just skip Convergence altogether. Her style is noticeably more painted than that of Kerschl but it never jitters the reader. The two artists blend pages smoothly and that’s the best you can ask for when sharing illustration duties on a single story.

Gotham Academy is one of the best new ideas DC has published in awhile. If you’ve been on the fence about trying this series, go do it. Issue six, as a standalone, has major hook and you’ll definitely be enticed enough to pick up the pieces you’ve missed. One usually has to read a Vertigo published book to find this much depth in a comic.

Now that the kids are united it’ll be even more fun to see how they’ll be divided.

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6. Review: HIT 1957, A Good Year For California Wine and Crime

Hit 1957 #1 (of 4)

BOOM_Hit1957_001_A_Main

 

Story : Bryce Carlson

Art: Vanesa R. Del Rey

Colors: Niko Guardia

Publisher: BOOM! Studios

 

 

 
Hit: 1957 is the second volume in the Bryce Carlson series and continues its dark and violent dive into the depths of 1950’s corruption in Los Angeles. While it certainly doesn’t blaze new territory, it does deliver on the promise of sharp noir with only the slightest of hiccups.

Writer Bryce Carlson picks up the series two years after the events of the original. Mickey Cohen is out of jail and the LAPD have seemingly regained control of the city. The underworld is however a different story. A battle for Los Angeles has been raging between infiltrating crime boss Domino and detective Harvey Slater’s morally gray area task force. That’s really the direction the story goes, as Slater must deal with the war on organized crime, pressure from internal affairs, and the kidnapping of Bonnie Blair.

BOOM_Hit1957_001_PRESS-6

Russ Manning Award winner Vanesa R. Del Rey takes on art duties for the book and in a word, it’s stellar. She has a knack for cinematic angling. When you combine her heavy lining with the moody colors of Niko Guardia it makes for a noir combination that’s just right. The opening sequence of the book illustrates that magic hour pop of the day just right. This natural auburn cast by the setting of the sun is depicted as an augment on the emotional tone of the characters. Though it isn’t all sunshine, towards the end of the book its look feels a little inconsistent with some of the face work.

Overall the book is solid, though its jumps can be a bit jarring at times. Carlson writes a story for California history buffs. You’ll see a lot of seediness, which marred an influential period in the economic and social development of Los Angeles. In a book like this you won’t always be able to tell the good guys from the bad, and that’s the mark of any good noir. Crime stories aren’t fast by nature and their fury heats to a boiling point subtlety and that’s what you’ll see here. Hit: 1957 isn’t blazing any new trails with its content or plot devices, but it does so many things right that it warrants picking up for a chance at your pull list.

 

0 Comments on Review: HIT 1957, A Good Year For California Wine and Crime as of 1/1/1900
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7. In Tandem: BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN, by ELIZABETH WEIN

Welcome to another edition of In Tandem, the read-and-review blog series where both A.F. and I give our two cents at the same time. (You can feel free to guess which of us is the yellow owl and which of us is the purple owl...we're not telling!)... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on In Tandem: BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN, by ELIZABETH WEIN as of 3/23/2015 11:27:00 AM
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8. Review: Giant Days “Boy Drama Will Be On The Test”

Giant Days #1

BOOMBOX_GiantDays_01_A_Main

 

Story: John Allison

Art: Lissa Treiman

Colors: Whitney Cogar

Letters: Jim Campbell

Publisher: Boom! Box

 

 

 

1. Unless you religiously follow web comics, you’ve probably never heard of John Allison.
a. True, but you should be reading Bad Machinery. 
b. False

2. Giant Days is a book about____
a. Three girls beginning their first year of university in England.
b. The angst that comes along with wanting to reinvent yourself in a new place.
c. A bet settled by a cafeteria blunder.
d. All of the above.



3. Susan Ptolemy’s problems begin____
a. At the beginning of page one.
b. When a mysterious boy from her past named McGraw transfers to her school.
c. She catches her friend in a compromising moment.
d. She doesn’t have any problems (No that would be an awful story).



4. Esther De Groot is_____
a. The trio’s drama magnet.
b. A raven haired goth with horrible luck when it comes to boys.
c. A former member of a Black Metal Society with a weird mystical tattoo.
d. All of the above.



5. Daisy Wooton is______
a. Home schooled and naive.
b. Not a pervert, just enjoys watching napkin folding videos.
c. Both A&C
d. None of the above.



6. Lissa Treiman’s art in the book is______
a. Quirky, a mix of newspaper comic strip with the emotional grandiose of Scott Pilgrim.
b. Dark
c. Stick figures
d. Gory



 

 

BOOMBOX_GiantDays_01_PRESS-9

7. What’s happening in the page above
a. An example of Whitney Cogar’s subtle yet distinct color work with the characters.
b. A funny visual gag you’ll see throughout the story.
c. Susan asserting herself as the group’s leader.
d. All of the above.



8. Does Giant Days have any flaws?
a. Yes, it’s too perfect.
b. No.
c. Yes, for a book set against the background of higher education they never entered a classroom.
d. Yes, a slice of life story needs a little more emotional stakes.



9. Should you buy Giant Days?
a. No, you should only read books with capes and tights where nothing relevant happens.
b. Yes, because you’re a well rounded person who can appreciate comical stories with down to earth characters.

10. Extra credit essay:
Giant Days is a book with the feminine voice of HBO’s GIRLS and the charm of the Sunday comics in the newspaper. John Allison crafts characters with genuine yearnings who blend together nicely. Lissa Treiman’s art is the best compliment a cleaver and whimsical story like this could get. Though first issue felt like it needed a bit more build in the tension, the series is worth getting on board for. I can’t wait to see these chicks get into more problems.


 

Score: 98% 

You’ll need to repeat the course – @bouncingsoul217

2 Comments on Review: Giant Days “Boy Drama Will Be On The Test”, last added: 3/21/2015
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9. Review: Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

This isn’t so much a review as a compilation of what I love about The Others series.  There are already a ton of reviews, so instead I’ll try my best to compel you to read Vision in Silver if you haven’t already.

The series just gets better and better.  I have enjoyed seeing how Meg’s introduction to the Lakeside Courtyard has changed the Others, and how they have changed her.  Meg is struggling to understand simple human interactions, since she was isolated by the Controller in her cell at the Compound and she wasn’t allowed to have normal socializations.  A prized belonging, she was valued for her skin, which when cut, causes her to prophesize.  Her man who controlled her made a fortune on her, paid for by Meg with her blood.  Once she was able to run away to the Courtyard, she finally found a measure of independence working as the Others’ Human Liaison.  Now she has to figure out how to survive outside of the Compound, where she finally has a choice over her own life.

Because Meg is addicted to the euphoria that overcomes her when she cuts, she constantly battles the urge to pull out her razor when she thinks there’s a danger to her new friends.  Meg is having a hard time tamping down the need to cut, but under the watchful gazes of the Others who inhabit the Courtyard, she is having some success with her addiction. Until she gives in to the urge and damages some of the relationships she’s worked so hard to develop.  When Meg first arrived at the Courtyard, the Others were indifferent to their new employee.  Sure, they found her amusing, but as her cheerful and caring personality slowly won them over, one by one, they all developed a need to protect her.  Witnessing her losing control of herself shakes the tough Nathan to the core, and I was worried that they wouldn’t be able to get past her lapse in judgment.  Nathan is a protector, so being forced to hurt Meg wounded him deeply.

When Meg first came to the Courtyard, Simon only thought of humans as meat.  Humans working in the Courtyard were off-limits, because I guess even the Others consider eating your employees bad manners, but otherwise, the annoying humans were prey.  By Vision in Silver, there are  two kinds of humans – cleaver meat and the members of Meg’s pack.  Simon, and many of the rest of the Others, realize that there will be advantages to having a pack of humans willing to work for the good of everyone.  With the growth of the Humans First and Last movement, it’s become even more important to have humans they can trust for business dealings with the humans.  As the violence against the Others escalates, Simon begins to wonder if a new type of Others will transform into Humans.  What a scary thought.  The Others are so powerful that the humans have no hope to win a war against them, but they are so arrogant that they don’t even know the many forms of their enemies.  There are older, frightening, and terribly powerful beings in the wild that think of the humans as fleas, and the only thing keeping them from wiping them out is Simon’s experiment in the Courtyard, where humans and Others live together.  I’m curious to see how long this tolerance will last, as the HFL movement continue to strike out at them, as well as betray other humans, all in the name of victory.

As Meg tries to find ways to cope with new situations, she is also given the task of helping the other cassandra sangue who were rescued in Murder of Crows cope with their new surroundings.  Some of the girls are unable to handle the sudden changes that have overwhelmed them, but one girl desperately grasps ahold of the idea of living.  She’s moved to a small settlement, where some Wolves are given guardianship of her.  She refuses to name herself, despite the Wolves urging.   She doesn’t need a name.   She’s uncertain of new surroundings, and thinks that she’s given up one form of captivity for another.  When Jackson gives her colored pencils at her timid request, she’s finally allowed to answer another call instead of cutting herself.  Through her art, her ability to see the future flourishes.  I love, love, loved her chapters, as she slowly, tentatively reached out and explored her new world.  Jackson is just as confused as she is, but he strives to help her settle in and feel more comfortable in her new home.  I got a little teary eyed when she finally gave herself a name.  I hope she has a larger role in the next book.

The emotional pull between Simon and Meg is the slowest burning romance.  Like – ever.  Neither one of them knows how to show their feelings, so they stumble along, trying to figure out just exactly what it is that they are feeling for each other.   Simon gets jealous when others give Meg the attention he wants to, and at the end of a long, hard day, all he wants to do is curl up with her, a movie, and a bowl of popcorn and decompress.  He’s fiercely protective of her, and she is just as protective of him.  There’s a lot of tap dancing here, because nothing between them makes sense to either of them.  You know that Simon is doomed, though, when he thinks of Meg and also thinks “Mine.”  How long before he connects the dots?  Because almost everyone in the Courtyard have already figured it out.

I usually don’t like reading books in a series one right after another.  No matter how talented the author, their writing style begins to grate after too many back to back books, and repeated phrases become distracting.  That did not happen with The Others.  Right after I finished one, I wanted to jump right into the next, and that’s the only bad part about reading a series that is incomplete.  It’s going to be a long, long wait until Marked in Flesh releases next year!

Grade:  A (or I want MOAR NOW!)

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Black Jewels Trilogy transports readers to a world of magic and political unrest—where the only chance at peace requires a deadly price…

The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

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10. Review: The Sultan’s Harem Bride by Annie West

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

At one time, I loved romances with sheikhs.  I loved the desert setting, the opulent palaces, and the armchair travel.  Current events have diminished some of this enjoyment, though, so it’s with a bit of trepidation that I pick one up any more.  I can’t remove myself from reality enough to enjoy them as exuberantly as I once did.  I saw some positive reviews for The Sultan’s Harem Bride and since it was at the library, I decided to give it a read before diving into Anne Bishop’s Vision in Silver.

The story worked for me because the author didn’t completely ignore current events.  Heroine Jacqui is suffering from PTSD after witnessing a suicide bombing that took the life of her best friend and fellow news correspondent, Imran.  Once a woman who thrived on adventure and danger to get to truth for her news reports, she’s now uncomfortable in crowds, jumpy at loud noises, and drowning in guilt because it was her lead that got her friend killed, while she walked away physically unscathed.  Emotionally, she’s a wreck, and when she’s given the opportunity to research the lives of women who lived in Jazeer’s  harem, she jumps at the chance.  It’s really her last option; she’s quit her foreign correspondent job and is struggling to find something meaningful to  do instead.

She and Asim clash from the get go.  Asim is distrustful of journalists, and he needs to protect his younger sister from more grief from the press.  He can’t believe that his grandmother invited Jacqui to the palace.  Jacqui is also partly to blame for the death of his cousin Imran.  Nobody can know that Samira is hiding at the palace, instead at an island resort, a story he’s carefully fed to the press.  Asim is skeptical of Jacqui’s motives, and he vows to keep a close eye on her.

I enjoyed The Sultan’s Harem Bride, but there were a few elements that marred that enjoyment.  I thought Asim, though he could be a caring man, acted like a jerk too many times, and he always thought the worst of Jacqui, without any basis for his behavior.  Then, after their steamy affair burns up the sheets, he continues to look for a suitable bride to help him rule his country.  His parents had a destructive, toxic relationship, so he refuses to even consider marrying for love, and instead is looking for a biddable woman to give him heirs.  The thought of considering Jacqui for the position never occurs to him, or when it finally does, he dismisses it because she’s all wrong for him.  Really?  She’s good enough to keep as a toy, for however long their attraction lasts,  but she’s not good enough to marry?  I’ve read this trope a few times in the past few months, and it irritates me every time.  It’s hard to actually like the hero when he’s so dismissive of the heroine.    

Despite my reservations, I liked Jacqui and Samira, and I’m looking forward to reading Samira’s story, The Sheikh’s Princess Bride, in April.

Grade:  C / C+

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

WANTED: Desert princess to join harem

Sultan Asim of Jazeer has hundreds of women at his beck and call. So why does he want the only one who threatens to reveal his family’s shameful secrets? 

Journalist Jacqui Fletcher jumped at the chance to write a history of the harem—not to become a sultan’s plaything! But it’s hard to remember her assignment when the sultan’s sensuous caresses spark a fire she’s never experienced before… 

Asim is looking for a pliable princess for a marriage of duty. Brave, beautiful Jacqui couldn’t be more wrong for him. So why does holding her feel so right?

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11. Review: Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I’m bummed that Touched by an Alien did not work for me.  I thought there was too much telling and not enough doing, and it got annoying after a while.  I hit the 52% mark and decided that this rental was going back to the library.  Even though this book didn’t win me over, I am still interested in the series and I’ll probably give Alien Tango a whirl (sorry for the awful pun!).  I don’t know if all of the set up is what bogged things down, so I need to do a little more research to know for sure.

I liked Kitty and her family, but the gorgeous aliens attempting to help save the world were both smug and annoying.  Christopher was a jerk, and I don’t know if he redeemed himself or not because I set the book aside.  Jeff Martini was too good to be true.  An empath, he has an unfair advantage to wooing Kitty because he knows what she’s feeling.  I thought that was kind of creepy, and it gave Jeff the upper hand in their relationship.  If the Alpha Centauris weren’t such terrible liars, I could not have bought into their romance at all.  Since he can’t lie to save his life, I’m taking the leap and assuming that he can’t manipulate Kitty’s feelings without her catching on either. 

The book started out promisingly.  Kitty is minding her own business, headed back to work after an early dismissal from jury duty, when a domestic dispute breaks out in front of her.  Things get ugly when the man turns into a winged super powered being who can fling blades from his wings, causing chaos, death, and destruction.  Instead of running away, Kitty grabs the only weapon in her possession, a pen, and kills the monster.  I loved that!  Here’s a bad ass heroine who can’t run away and save herself, but instead has to take matters into her own hands and try to stop the mindless killing that’s taking place in front of her.  Things kind of took a downward spiral after, though.

When she’s whisked away back a gang of impeccably dressed, drop-dead gorgeous men, she learns that they are aliens, and they’ve come to Earth to try to save it from parasitic beings that turn people into super powered monsters. All of the background info is fed to the reader through long-winded dialog, which quickly got boring.  I probably wouldn’t have read as far as I did if it wasn’t for another monster attack, and the introduction of Kitty’s mom, who is every bit a bad ass as her daughter.  She’s also a secret agent, and she quickly takes charge of the alien situation.  Her dad enters the picture soon after, and he’s just as fun as her mom. 

The endless verbal barrages, with their accompanying info dumps, finally had me setting the book aside.  I liked Kitty and her parents, though, so I’m going to give the next book a try, with hopes that once the series is more established, there will be more doing and less jaw flapping.  Are any of you reading the series?  What do you think?

Grade:  DNF

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

Marketing manager Katherine “Kitty” Katt had just finished a day on jury duty. When she stepped out of the Pueblo Caliente courthouse, all she was thinking about was the work she had to get caught up on. Then her attention was caught by a fight between a couple that looked like it was about to turn ugly. But ugly didn’t even begin to cover it when the “man” suddenly transformed into a huge, winged monster right out of a grade Z science fiction movie and went on a deadly killing spree. In hindsight, Kitty realized she probably should have panicked and run screaming the way everyone around her was doing. Instead she sprinted into action to take down the alien.

In the middle of all the screeching and the ensuing chaos, a hunk in an Armani suit suddenly appeared beside her, introduced himself as Jeff Martini with “the agency,” and then insisted on leading her to a nearby limo to talk to his “boss.” And that was how Kitty’s new life among the aliens began…Touched by an Alien is the thrilling first installment of the Alien novels.

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12. Review: strange things are afoot in Bill and Ted’s Triumphant Return

BillandtedWritten by: Brian Lynch

Pencils by: Jerry Gaylord

Inks by: Jerry & Penelope Gaylord

Colors by: Whitney Cogar

Publisher: Boom Studios

As a fan of both of the goofy, strange and wonderful Bill and Ted movies, I wanted to like Bill and Ted’s Most Triumphant Return #1. And for the most part, I did. It’s got View Askew Productions veteran Brian Lynch on writing duties, who has done solid work for IDW’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer series spin-off Spike: Asylum. It’s got the art of Jerry Gaylord, who has lovingly personified other franchises like TMNT and Adventure Time. Yet while Bill and Ted were very much themselves, they also seemed to lose a little something in the translation.

Bill and Ted picks up right where Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey left off, with the titular boys from Wyld Stallyns high off their winning performance at the San Dimas High School battle of the bands. All your Bill and Ted favorites are there, Death, the Princesses and the Stations! Future nemesis De Nomolos is carted off in handcuffs, swearing revenge on the Stallyns and It’s not long before the media is clamoring to know when the pair will write their next epic single. Stopping home to check in with their newborns, left in the care of the now reformed “good” robot Bill and Ted, the boys find themselves wading through a field trip from the future San Dimas High that has phone-booth time traveled into their bedroom. And we’ve only just gotten halfway through the comic.

This is what left me a tad disappointed by this first issue. It felt a little more like a tour through a Bill & Ted theme park than a story in it’s own right. But this is a problem not unique to this comic, so some leeway must be given in this first issue of this comic adaption of the wildly successful, if critically mixed, Bill & Ted franchise. Still, the tour through all of the Bill and Ted characters we know and love should have moved along a bit quicker. Also missing was the somewhat dark, more adult sense of humor from the films. This book read more like a Saturday morning cartoon. Not the officially licensed Saturday Morning Bill & Ted cartoon, but a cartoon nevertheless.

Still, Lynch has the voice of Bill and Ted down pat: their dialogue seems very natural and unforced, and Jerry Gaylord’s art is a marvel: the characters look so good I almost wish this book would some how be the jumping off point for another animated series. I would’ve liked more Rufus interaction right up front, and not just for sentimental, George Carlin-related reasons. More Rufus interjections could have provided some framework that could have made the Bill and Ted interactions with fans, friends and followers seem a little less aimless. This may have been avoided due similarities with Evan Dorkin’s Bill and Ted’s Excellent Comic Book series.

Still, for fans of the San Dimas metalhead duo this comic will go down smooth and leave you with a smile on your face. It’s also bound to drum up buzz for that new Bill and Ted sequel that Alex Winters has been chumming the waters for since 2010.

 

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13. Review: Crossing the Space Rubicon in SOUTHERN CROSS #1

SOUTHERN CROSS #1

SouthernCross01_Review

 

Writer: Becky Cloonan

Art: Andy Belanger

Colors: Lee Loughridge

Letters: Serge LaPointe

Publisher: Image

 

I imagine a typical Friday night for Becky Cloonan or Andy Belanger includes sipping wine and eating fancy cheeses while watching movies like Akira or The Abyss. How else could a science fiction mystery like Southern Cross exist? Regardless of the how, Southern Cross is now a thing, and it’s as necessary as any of the great 80’s sci-fi stories.

Written by Becky Cloonan (Gotham Academy), Southern Cross story is the journey of Alex Braith,  a young woman who hitches a ride on a space tanker called the Southern Cross. She’s traversing the galaxy to a moon called Titan in order to investigate the suspicious circumstances of her sister’s demise. The opening chapter is gritty and gives very little away as the story unfolds. We spend the majority of the issue learning about Alex and the corporation she suspects to be at fault, Zemi. Cloonan has crafted a character that readers can both love and hate. While her inner monologue gives us reason to feel for her; it’s the interactions with others aboard the ship that make you say “what an a**hole. “ For example there’s one tense exchange between Alex and her cabin punctuated by a dripping faucet in the background which makes it that much more uncomfortable to watch. Regardless of what side you fall on, Alex is a unique internal mystery of a character.

The art of Andy Belanger (Black Church) is well suited for Southern Cross. From a design stand point; the world of the story feels outer space massive in scale yet almost “down to earth” in a way. The massive spaceports almost look like city skylines. Even the Southern Cross itself doesn’t feel alien; it opts for the look of an oil tanker at sea. These strategic touches make easy connections between the readers and themes they’ll uncover throughout the series. For all the comforts he puts in the book, Belanger knows when to get sci-fi weird. The Cross is half Delorean and half creepy parts of the Queen Mary. Belanger’s art buttresses the story all the way through to the end. Once you get to that final intense panel, the horrors really begin and you want issue two already.

When picking up the book, keep in mind you’re in for a slow burn with a deep mystery that will unravel at the right moments. If you enjoy tension and suspense… pick up Southern Cross. If you’re a fan of haunting style horror… pick up Southern Cross. Should you fancy complex and rewarding character… pick up Southern Cross. This has officially become my new vice, it’s just that addictive.


If your frequently used words list includes Batman, Clutch, and pastrami pizza follow Dave on twitter @bouncingsoul217.

 

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14. Review: Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

ZOMG!  These books!  This series!  I’m going to gush, and I just can’t help myself!  It’s rare when I come across a series that sucks me in with the strength of a Dyson vac on steroids, and Anne Bishop manages to do just that.  I read Written in Red in December, and it was one of the best books I’d read last year.  I didn’t write a review because, gosh, I just didn’t know how to put my thoughts into words.  I still don’t, but I’ll try anyway.

I didn’t rush out to read Written in Red because I don’t remember loving the first two Black Jewels books.  I read them so long ago, though, that maybe my memory is faulty.  Or my reading tastes have changed.  But when I was offered a review copy of Vision in Silver, I thought, what the heck.  Written in Red was on sale for $1.99 at the time, and the library had Murder of Crows, so I cautiously entered the world of Meg Corbyn and the mysterious, dangerous Others.  I’m hooked!

Meg is a cassandra sangue, a blood prophet.  Murder of Crows picks up where Written in Red left off; Meg has settled in with the Others as their human liaison.  She’s basically their mail carrier, and she accepts, sorts, and delivers the parcels the terra indigene , or the Others, order from the humans.  There is an uneasy peace between the humans and the definitely not human Others, but it’s a precarious peace at best.  The humans are tolerated by the powerful Others only as long as they provide something they want, otherwise, the humans are reduced to one thing. If they have nothing to offer, then the humans are prey.  It’s as simple as that to the Others.  Either a human is somewhat useful and they are allowed to live unmolested, or they are special meat.

Meg is special because of the power in her blood, so she is in the not prey category, and that designation is non-negotiable.  The blood prophets are wonderful and terrible creations.  Some evil humans are exploiting them, selling their prophesies to the highest bidder, as well as using their blood to poison the Others.  The cassandra sangue feel euphoria after being cut, which releases their prophesies, but they also come with an expiration date.  Supposedly, their skin can only be cut a thousand times, and then they go mad or die.  They are virtually slaves to greedy, powerful men who use them for their own gain, keeping them carefully segregated and ignorant of the rest of society. 

Murder of Crows notches up the tension between humans and the Others.  Humans First and Last, an organization intent on destroying the Others, is striking out at their enemies, heedless of how the Others will react.  They seem to have forgotten how powerful the Others are, and that humans are allowed to remain in their towns and cities, on land rented from the Other, only because the Others find them useful.  When the Crows are singled out for murder, the Others don’t respond well to the threat to their kind. 

The series is engrossing and hard to put down.  Anne Bishop made the Others seem, well, not human.  I love the world building, and I love learning more about the creatures that populate it.  Simon Wolfgard is the leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and he and Meg have a lot to learn about each other.  Their first interactions are awkward, and growly Simon often leaves Meg frightened and uncomfortable.  Simple misunderstandings threaten to burst into violence with all of the Others, and Meg has to carefully navigate her new surroundings.  She’s at an even greater disadvantage because she was kept sheltered and ignorant in the Controller’s compound.  She manages to make friends among her new employers, and slowly gains their trust, and even wins the protection of one of the most powerful Others in Lakeside.

I love the Elementals, who bring devastating destruction as casually as flicking their fingers.  And the ponies.  OMG! The ponies!  Chubby and grumpy, they reluctantly assist Meg with her delivery duties (she has to bribe them with treats).  But then, when danger strikes, suddenly, they aren’t chubby little ponies anymore.  They are majestic, terrifying beasts of thunder, lightning, and fog.  I freaking love the ponies!

Meg is hard to dislike, too.  She is one of the most selfless heroines I’ve ever been introduced to.  She knows that she can only cut herself some many times, and that cutting herself is inherently dangerous because she can cut too deeply and bleed to death, but when she feels that her new friends are in danger, out comes her blade.  She’s also one of the bravest characters; she endures horrible pain to learn how to escape from the Controller, and she puts herself in harm’s way to protect the Courtyard and everyone in it.  She’s kind and gentle, but has a stubborn streak a mile long.

My favorite part of Murder of Crows is how confused both Simon and Meg are about their relationship.  Being a Wolf, he doesn’t understand that shifting into his human form can cause all kinds of problems between him and Meg.  Being different species, they have a different understanding of what a friend is, and they grapple to work out a definition that works for them, but it’s a slow, awkward process.  Will they ever be more than friends?  I have no idea, but I can’t wait to find out!

If you haven’t read Written in Red or Murder of Crows, you must give them a try!  Like, right now!  They are awesome books that build to a holy crap, I can’t believe this is so good! crescendo.  Then, after the last page, you just want more!

Grade:  ZOMG! A!!

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

Return to New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop’s “phenomenal” (Urban Fantasy Investigations) world of the Others—where supernatural entities and humans struggle to co-exist, and one woman has begun to change all the rules…
After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more.

The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murder of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard—Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader—wonders if their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or a future threat.

As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now, the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.

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15. Review: ALL-NEW HAWKEYE…Ready…Aim…Run

ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #1

All-New Hawkeye (2015-) 001-000

 

Storytellers: Jeff Lemire, Ramon Perez

Colors: Ian Herring, Ramon Perez

Letters: Joe Sabino

Publisher: Marvel

 

 

Jeff Lemire’s works have been very hit or miss for me. Sweet Tooth is a book that I still adore. His work on Green Arrow was solid, but his Constantine issues felt rushed or cut short. When Marvel announced that he would launch a new volume of Hawkeye with artist Ramon Perez, it definitely got me curious about All-New Hawkeye #1.

My immediate thought after finishing the opening chapter is that there isn’t much to go on in the first issue. The story recalls events from Clint Barton and his brother Barney’s childhood as on-the-run orphans. These events are interwoven with Clint and Kate Bishop currently invading a hidden Hydra fortress in search of the evil organization’s latest ultimate weapon. While the opening chapter definitely doesn’t lack substance, it does however leave a lot to the imagination as far as where the story is going in this arc.

There are two groups of people this book is for; fans of Lemire/Perez, and fans of anyone ever using the Hawkeye name. Just like the previous volume, while the book is called Hawkeye, it could have just as easily been called Hawkeyes, and that should tell you the value readers get in the book. If for some reason you missed the Fraction/Aja run on Hawkeye, don’t worry Lemire’s story is quite fresh and welcoming to new readers. Because of the book’s subtlety and elegance, All-New Hawkeye might put off those who expect mega Avengers scale battles in their comics, but those readers most likely never got on board with Fraction’s run either. Also, don’t worry that the last issue of Fraction’s run hasn’t come out yet, this one stands on its own.

Ultimately, All-New Hawkeye #1 is just flat out fun to read. The flashbacks of Clint and Barney growing up are gorgeous. Ramon Perez’s watercolors present an interesting dichotomy when compared to Ian Herring’s more traditional color work in the book, but both are solid and don’t stray far from what made Hawkeye one of Marvel’s most unique titles. Jeff Lemire is no stranger to writing archers, and it looks as though he’s going to infuse needed depth into Clint Barton’s upbringings, while taking anyone who has carried the name Hawkeye along for the ride. For an opening issue, the book could have used a little more setup. Based on the stellar watercolor work and witty banter between Clint and Kate; we liked All-New Hawkeye, but it still has a little bit to prove before we love it.

If you pick up one Jeff Lemire book this week, make it Descender from Image Comics. Should you find yourself with an extra $4 then give All-New Hawkeye a shot.


Tell us what you thought of Hawkeye here or @bouncingsoul217 

As always with Marvel, first come first served.

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16. Review: Big Con Job is a dark, meta, fandomy heist: and I can’t look away

BIGCONWritten by: Jimmy Palmiotti and Matt Brady

Art by: Dominike “Domo” Stanton

Colors by: Paul Little

Letters by: Jim Campbell

Publisher: Boom Studios

I came into Big Con Job #1 cold: Amanda Conner’s lively cover art shows a bunch of aging space-opera stars at a convention table. Their larger than life TV personas are depicted on banners that stretch high behind their real life counterparts; looming over the actual people behind the clearly much younger characters. The images overwhelm and diminish them. It’s a great piece of art because on first glance it has a self-aware, lighthearted look to it. After reading the issue, however, that cover takes on a much darker tone.

Palmiotti and Brady have created a group of characters instantly familiar to fans of comic books, science fiction and fantasy in general: aging TV stars wearily working the convention circuit to earn their daily bread. There’s the buxom, Princess Leia-like love interest to the pulpy, Captain Kirk-ish Buck Blaster in the aptly-named series ‘Treck Wars’. The pair look out into a sparse audience that has turned on them: asking accusatory, confrontational questions and demanding answers from the actors (Blaze Storm and Danny Dean) who obviously had very little input on their character’s development.

There’s nothing lighthearted about the look Big Con Job’s writing team provide into the hardscrabble lives of the increasingly obsolete actors. They can’t pay their rent and are getting evicted; they’re getting stiffed on promised appearance fees and drooled over by the invasive fans they must cater to. In one particularly gut-wrenching scene, Poach Brewster, the man behind the show’s Spock-esque scientist, breaks up with his younger partner. She’s a beautiful actress on the rise, and he knows his melancholia is holding her back. As he clutches her pillow to his face the next morning, I actually turned my face away from the panels. I keenly felt the anguish of these characters. I’m sure the recent loss of Leonard Nimoy added poignancy to Brewster’s story; thank goodness Nimoy had a rich artistic life post Star Trek.

Some intensely heartbreaking scenes are still to come. A warning: if you struggle with depression, or are just having a rough day, you might want to read this issue when the clouds disappear. But you should read it. I was shocked by the unexpected depth, not just of the plot but also of Dominike Stanton’s art. It seemed to subtlety change from page to page, morphing so the characters and settings matched the tone of the story. In the convention scenes, where the actors put on their best imitations of happiness and nostalgia, the art becomes rounder, and more stylized. When Dean and Brewster try to drink away their pain, the images seem to stretch slightly, giving them a more strung-out look.

It all lays the groundwork for a strange heist scheme, which name-checks the San Diego Comic Convention just before the book ends. Most heist narratives waste little time in defining the “why” of the robbery or con-job; it’s enough to know that money is at stake, or perhaps a loosely-sketched blackmail scenario. Not so in Big Con Job. The why is painful, understandable and relatable. Comic readers may not be washed up actors well-past their 15 minutes of fame, but they have loved the characters portrayed by those people. Have traveled with them in their hearts and minds to distant lands and planets; but will they follow them past the adventure scenes and epic battles through the dismal struggles of the real-world people behind the fame?  To see what likely-illegal schemes that desperation and tragedy can push a person to consider? For my part, I’m ready to watch this group break bad: I can’t look away.

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17. Review and Giveaway: Grave Matters by Lauren M Roy

My thoughts:

I loved Night Owls, so I was eager to dive into Grave Matters.  While it didn’t quite have the punch that the first book did, I enjoyed revisiting with Val, Elly, Cavale, and the rest of the Night Owls gang.  The characters are what makes this series stand out for me, and I had a blast getting to know them better.  There aren’t any that I dislike, and I even like the not so nice Stregoi vampires, led by Ivanov and his second in command, Katya.

Elly gets most of the attention in Grave Matters.  She’s working as a bodyguard for Ivanov, the head of the Boston vampires.  She has a tenuous relationship with the vamps, and as one incident after another start piling up and none of them make any sense, she begins to wonder if she’s putting a little too much trust in her employer.  After she exorcises a ghost from a neighbor’s house, things get really weird.  There’s a necromancer in town, and he’s causing all kinds of trouble.  There’s also a rival vampire coven threatening Ivanov’s turf, so Elly has a lot on her plate. 

There’s a lot of vampire politics and jostling for power.  There are also an increasing number of the necromancer’s newly risen dead getting in the way and mucking things up.  The necromancer interferes with both Cavale and Chaz, making them both determined to uncover his identity.  While Cavale is a bad ass and more than capable of defending himself, Chaz is faced with the uncomfortable truth that he’s the weakest link of the Night Owls gang.  Lia and Sunny can probably take on an entire town and emerge victorious, shy Justin, still adapting to his new undead existence, can more than hold his own, and Elly puts Chaz’ fighting abilities to shame.  Add in Val’s reluctance to put him in danger, and you have a guy wrestling with his sense of self-worth.  Chaz decides to do something about his state of helplessness, and finally comes into his own during the climax of the story.

There’s lots of action, and Elly is the main participant in the fighting.  Cavale is in stealth mode, trying to track down the necromancer.  When Chaz unlocks the key to the necromancer’s runes, they all have the uneasy realization that an ancient Mesopotamian god of the dead might be involved in the strange and deadly goings on, both in Boston and their towns.  I thought this was a great twist, because, really, how do you defeat a god, and a god of the dead at that?

If you’re looking for a new urban fantasy series to take for a spin, the Night Owls books are great.  They have great characters, fun plot twists, and lots of tense moments.  The character interactions are my favorite aspect of the series, and there are just enough personalities to get to know without being overwhelming.  The books are also very fast paced; nobody gets to sit on their thumbs for long before they’re scrambling to put out a paranormal fire or save somebody from an unpleasant end.  I can hardly wait for the third book in the series!

Night Owls bookstore always keeps a light on and evil creatures out. But, as Lauren M. Roy’s thrilling sequel continues, even its supernatural staff isn’t prepared for the dead to come back to life…

Elly grew up training to kill things that go bump in the night, so she’s still getting used to working alongside them. While she’s learned to trust the eclectic group of vampires, Renfields, and succubi at Night Owls bookstore, her new job guarding Boston’s most powerful vampire has her on edge—especially when she realizes something strange is going on with her employer, something even deadlier than usual…

Cavale isn’t thrilled that his sister works for vampires, but he’s determined to repair their relationship, and that means trusting her choices—until Elly’s job lands all of the Night Owls in deep trouble with a vengeful necromancer. And even their collective paranormal skills might not be enough to keep them from becoming part of the necromancer’s undead army…

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18. Review and Giveaway: Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye

Today I have a review and giveaway for Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye!

If you have been following the blog, you already know that I enjoy all genres of fiction.  Reading level is irrelevant.  I love anything from picture books on up and I always have.  When I saw Witherwood Reform School, I thought it would be worth checking out, so I was happy to hop on the blog tour.  I haven’t read Obert Skye previously, but I have heard of his Pillage trilogy and have it on my TBR.  Witherwood Reform School is the start of a new series about Tobias and Charlotte Eggars, a brother and sister who get themselves into more trouble than they’ve ever been in before.  And to think it all started with tadpoles and gravy!

Tobias and Charlotte are mischievous kids, and they’ve already managed to drive off several governesses.  Their latest, Martha, is like a thorn in their sides.  She’s lazy, mean, and after threatening harm to Charlotte, Tobias has had enough.  He very cleverly sneaks tadpoles into the gravy, fully expecting to be amused when Martha runs screaming from the house.  What he doesn’t expect is for her to choke on a mouthful of mashed potatoes, hurl up the grossly contaminated gravy, and run screaming from the house – right as Ralph, the kids’ put-upon father, returns home early from work.  Ralph is not in a good mood; he’s just been fired from another job, and his children are the last straw.  He orders them into the car, drives out to the middle of nowhere, and drops them off at the gates of Witherwood Reform School.  Then he leaves them standing in the rain, intending only to give them a scare.  He then gets into an accident and loses his memory.  Poor Ralph!  Poor Tobias!  Poor Charlotte!  Their lives are all about to become a lot more complicated!

There is something weird going on at Witherwood, and it’s not just the creepy teachers and scary monsters patrolling the school grounds. As Tobias and Charlotte are forced to attend classes and do dishes and slave away on KP duty, they realize that something is not right.  There are guys wandering around in lab coats, singing guards walking the halls, and mysterious rooms they are told never to enter.  They are locked in their room at night, and they don’t even have pillows!  That right there would be reason enough for me to escape.  I mean, how are you expected to get a decent night’s sleep with NO pillow?

The tone of the story is very dry, and reminded me of Lemony Snicket.  Witherwood Reform School is fast paced, and a very quick read.  Charlotte and Tobias are likeable protagonists, even if they have a tendency to create mayhem.  They are clever, which serves them well with their attempts to escape, but also unlucky, because every attempt is foiled, leaving them in more trouble than before.  My only complaint is that it reads like a serial – think of Darren Shan’s Zom-B.  It ended on a cliffhanger, none of the important plot points were resolved, and it has a feeling of incompleteness.  I think it will appeal equally to boys or girls, assuming they don’t mind the non-ending and are ready to follow the series for the long haul.

 

 

Obert Skye is the author and illustrator of the Creature from My Closet series: Wonkenstein, Potterwookiee, Pinocula, and Katfish (forthcoming September 2014). He has also written the bestselling children’s fantasy adventure series Leven Thumps and Pillage. He currently lives indoors and near a thin, winding road with his family. Visit him online at abituneven.com or follow him on Twitter at @obertskye.

After a slight misunderstanding involving a horrible governess, gravy, and a jar of tadpoles, siblings Tobias and Charlotte Eggars find themselves abandoned by their father at the gates of a creepy reform school. Evil mysteries are afoot at Witherwood, where the grounds are patrolled by vicious creatures and kids are locked in their rooms. Charlotte and Tobias soon realize that they are in terrible danger—especially because the head of Witherwood has perfected the art of mind control. If only their amnesiac father would recover. If only Tobias and Charlotte could solve the dark mystery and free the kids at Witherwood—and ultimately save themselves.

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  2/18: Little Red Reads

2/19: A Reader’s Adventure

2/20: Stories & Sweeties

2/23: The Hiding Spot

2/24: Bumbles and Fairytales

2/25: Manga Maniac Café

2/26: The Book Monsters

2/27: Mundie Kids

3/2: Milk & Cookies: Comfort Reading

3/3: Green Bean Teen Queen

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19. Review: Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1 packs a punch

Screen shot 2015-02-14 at 5.14.20 PMWriter: Jeremy Whitley

Artists: Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt

Publisher: Action Lab

This installment in the ongoing Princeless series is everything you could want from a title like Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1. A tough and self-assured lead, whose Father trained her from childhood to be a quiet, efficient warrior of the high-seas as opposed to a princess waiting in a tower for rescue. Yet in the latter situation is exactly where Raven Xingtao, the pirate princess, finds herself in the opening pages of the book. Yet it’s two other princesses on a large pink dragon that end up breaking into Raven’s tower. Adrienne is clearly not “wearing her husbands armor” as a Knight loitering beneath the tower discovers to his peril, and Bedelia formidably wields a large Harley-Quinn style mallet. Raven easily falls in with the trio leading to several action packed scenes.

Admittedly, this is was my first brush with the Princeless series, but the story was easy enough to follow. I would have liked to learn just a little bit more about Raven and her brothers before the issue ended, though. We’re fed some tantalizing bits–such as the fact that her brothers put her in the very tower she escaped from, apparently with the blessing of Raven’s Pirate King father. This is quite a reversal from the flashback scene that opened the issue, which found the King grooming a young Raven to follow in her great-grandmother Ming’s fierce, legendary pirate-of-the-Rim-Sea footsteps.

Rosy Higgins Ted Brandt are a lovely art team on this book, giving the story and action the look and feel of an animated series that would have fit right into the Disney’s afternoon programming block. Sadly, in those days princesses did not get to save themselves. Writer Jeremy Whitley seems more than aware of this fact, and the whole package makes Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1 incredibly appealing to anyone who wants a little less damsel-in-distress and a little more Kick-Ass in their fairy tales.

 

1 Comments on Review: Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1 packs a punch, last added: 2/15/2015
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20. Manga Review: The Legend of De Marco by Abby Green and Sae Nanahoshi

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Occasionally confusing presentation, but I loved the art, so the book gets props for that.  This is a revenge story.  Gracie’s brother Steven runs off with a million of his employer’s euros.  Rocco De Marco isn’t amused.  If news of this leaks to the public, it will ruin his company.  When Gracie shows up looking for Steven, he makes a brash decision; he’ll keep her in his penthouse until Steven turns himself in.  Gracie, after putting up a fuss, realizes that she has nowhere else to stay.  She’s just been fired from her job, and after her landlord made a pass at her, she packed her suitcase and moved out.

Rocco accuses Gracie of helping Steven steal his money, and at first he doesn’t believe that they are siblings.  Gracie decides to prove that he’s wrong, and to make the best of a bad situation.  Rocco’s housekeeper just quit, so he offers Gracie the job.  Thinking that she can keep an eye on Rocco and learn if his people find her brother, she accepts the position.

Despite his belief to the contrary, Gracie and Rocco have a lot in common.  Both come from humble backgrounds, and both were treated horribly by a parent.  While Gracie is still struggling to find success, as well as keep a roof over her head, Rocco has made a fortune, all in an effort to get back at his father, who treated him like trash.  The final feather in his cap, marrying a socialite with a sterling pedigree, will seal his revenge.  Too bad he’s falling for Gracie, a woman with no social cred and someone he doesn’t even trust.

While this wasn’t a complete win for me, the art more than made up for some of the plot’s shortcomings.  Rocco is handsome, whipcord lean, blessed of gorgeous hair and a face to stop the hearts of ladies the world over.  Gracie is sweetly tomboyish, though stunning later in the book when she attends social outings with Rocco and she’s decked out in beautiful dresses. 

The ending wraps up a little too quickly, but I recommend this fast read if you have Scribd account.

Grade:  C+

Review copy read on Scribd

From Amazon:

Her little brother, Steven, has disappeared with a million euros in tow? Gracie, seeking a more detailed explanation of what happened, rushes to the company where her brother works. The president of the company, Rocco De Marco, meets with her to explain that her brother has stolen money from them and disappeared. Furthermore, they are also questioning her as if she is an accomplice to the crime. “You are an important person in relation to the incident. Until Steven appears, we would like you to stay in the company penthouse on the top floor of the building.” Isn’t this imprisonment?

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21. Review: Drifters by John L Campbell #Zombies

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I LOVE this series!  I meant to read a romance on Valentine’s Day, but once I picked this up, I couldn’t put it down. This works fairly well as a jump on point for the series if you don’t want to go back and read the first two books (which you really should!). I think the action flowed better, and we finally get to find out what happened to Angie’s family. Some of it is devastating, because the real monsters in zombie fiction are usually the surviving humans.

The action picks up pretty much where it left off in Ship of the Dead.  Angie, Vlad, Skye, and Carney are on the Black Hawk, headed to the safe house at Angie’s parents’ ranch.  When they get there, all they discover is devastation.  It looks like a small army has overrun the bunker, killing Angie’s father and cleaning out their stockpile of weapons and supplies.  There’s no sign of Dean or Leah, so Angie staunchly believes that they are still alive.  Dean is an urban warfare specialist; surely he found a way to keep himself and their daughter alive.

Told through a series of flashbacks and present time chapters, at first I was a little confused by the flow of time.  Probably because I had to think, just a teeny bit, and I usually don’t like to do that when reading about zombies.  Just let them keep coming, and the protagonists keep running away, and I’m happy.  The timing of the events jumped around, ebbing back to Dean and Leah, and then surging to Angie’s frantic efforts to find him.  It all ties up near the end, but it was a slight shift from previous installments in the series, and it took me a few chapters to get used to.

We have a whole new cast of characters to love to hate, and I was counting down the pages until they meet their long overdue end.  This time, it’s a bunch of bikers and an Army deserter kicking the ant hill, and boy, did I want to see these guys suffer.  A couple of them got off way too easily, and I thought they deserved worse than they got.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying as the scum that sacrifices his companions to zombies, only to end up outwitting himself and getting eaten in the end.  Yeah!  Or the guy who brutalizes everyone, and then gets turned on, meeting a bloody, justified fate.

Once again, the fighting is fierce, the zombies are relentless, and the bad humans are BAD HUMANS!  All of those new characters to wish death upon, as well as a few to cheer for their survival. I think that’s why I enjoy the series so much; I get so caught up in the characters and their struggles (both good and bad) to survive, and the tension is so great that it’s hard to disengage from the story. I save these for the weekend, so I don’t have to go anywhere and can just sit like a lump and read them to the last page.

There’s a scary new type of zombie, and I can hardly wait for September, when Crossbones hits store shelves, to find out more about them. If you are a chicken sh!t like me, read this on an eReader at night, turn off the lights, and prepare to be FREAKED out! Fun, fun read

Grade:  A-

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

The survivors of the Omega Virus make a desperate effort to find the living. But the walking dead aren’t done with them yet…

Helicopter pilot Vladimir Yurish is a man of his word. The last thing he wants is to abandon the safety of the U.S.S. Nimitz and his newly adopted son Ben. Still, a promise is a promise, no matter how close to death it brings him…

Angie West has fought hard to keep strangers alive, but now it’s time to tend to her own. Only, when she finds her family missing and their hideout burned and looted, she realizes the threat to her family isn’t just the undead—the living can do so much worse…
Halsey has done well for himself, given the circumstances. Between his secluded ranch and precise shooting, the plague hasn’t touched him. Until a Black Hawk crashes on his property, bringing the war to his front door…

Amid the chaos of a destroyed civilization, the survivors encounter a new threat. And these new monsters can’t be outrun—or outwitted…

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22. Review: Agent Carter explodes with action and sacrifice

AgentCartersnafuAs I was drying my tears following the dramatic conclusion of this week’s episode of Agent Carter, ‘Snafu’, all I could think about was that I wanted more. More Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, whose range and presence eats up every frame of this small-screen show that plays like a big-screen adventure. More of the fabulous, smart dialogue and fantastic supporting cast; more of the beautiful costumes and period lighting — just more! More than just next week’s season finale. If you haven’t been watching Agent Carter yet, in the name of good comic-based television I implore you: read the recaps at ABC.com, binge watch episodes 3-7 and set your DVR to ABC next Tuesday at 9pm/8c.

When we last left Agent Carter she was handcuffed to a desk at SSR, on the receiving end of what was sure to be an impassioned interrogation at the hands of Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj). So it was a surprise when ‘Snafu’ opened instead on the show’s second flashback to Russia. While the last flashback showed us a young Dottie (Bridget Regan) snapping necks in 1937, this one takes place in 1943 and concerns the whereabouts of that other Russian mole: Dr. Ivchenko (Ralph Brown). It seems during WWII, Ivchenko was already in full command of the Professor X-like mind control powers he used to push Agent Yauch to commit suicide in last week’s episode. Here he uses them as mental anesthesia on wounded soldier undergoing an amputation.It’s an odd bit of exposition that serves only to define the mechanism of Ivchenko’s powers, which are pretty clearly articulated in later scenes.

Thankfully, the episode quickly plugs us back into the Carter vs. the SSR interrogation scene we’ve all been waiting for and it does not disappoint. Agent Sousa seeks to pin nearly all of the SSR’s unsolved mysteries on Carter’s double-agent machinations: the Raymond/Brannis/Krzeminski murders, theft of the Nitramene bombs and connection to Stark’s weapons cache.

Chief Dooley (Shea Wigham) looks on from behind a one-way mirror with Ivchenko by his side, pulling Dooley’s strings with every twist of his gold hypno-ring. Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) comments on Dooley’s “unorthodox” choice to allow the Doctor to view the proceedings; thank goodness someone is looking on with a critical eye. Sousa, blinded by his heartbreak over Carter’s perceived betrayal, lays into Carter in the most brutal way possible: crediting her defection from SSR to Howard Stark’s ability to “get in deep” with her.

Incredibly, the temperature is turned up still higher on the proceedings as the interrogation drags on. There’s some smart direction in cross-cutting the scenes of Sousa, Thompson and Dooley all taking their turns grilling Carter. It builds the tension so that when Carter unleashes her thus-far concealed opinions on their opinions of her it feels like a revelation. Rather than take umbrage at being seen as a “stray kitten” left at Dooley’s doorstep, a “secretary turned damsel-in-distress” to Thompson or Sousa’s “girl on a pedestal transformed into some daft whore,” Carter remains calm and stands firm. “You’re behaving like children,” she tells them, “what’s worse, what’s far worse, is that this is just shoddy police work!”

And this is the appeal of Agent Carter in a nutshell: using the rampant sexism of the 1940s as a cloak of invisibility for women who serve as double agents on both sides of the emerging Cold War conflict. This being a Captain America spin-off, Agent Carter is clearly the white hat: empowered by the integration of women into the war effort, now struggling to maintain her position. Dottie shows us the other side of the same coin: empowered by integration as a child into a super-spy program, she relishes in her amoral, powerful position post-war.

Jarvis (James D’Arcy) arrives with a half-baked plan to spring Carter from her interrogation with a faked Stark-confession, but only succeeds in throwing suspicion off of Carter long enough to buy them some time to try and figure out Leviathan’s endgame. Ivchenko continues his campaign of brainwashing the Chief. By acting as a mental marriage counselor to Dooley, whose marriage seems to have suffered from to his devotion to SSR, he hopes to gain his trust — and access to Stark’s weapons store. Carter soon realizes the only way out is through, and finally divulges the truth of her double-life to the SSR team. Sousa and Thompson both believe her confession, and that’s enough for Dooley to send the boys off on Dottie’s trail.

What follows is one of the best action sequences to date. Dottie smiles as each SSR Agent underestimates her: hesitating to attack as she disarms or kills them, one after the other. Her prowess leaves even Sousa speechless: as she escapes he watches her execute a controlled fall through the center of a ten-story staircase as effortlessly as if it were a jungle-gym. Meanwhile, Dooley clears the SSR lab of it’s staff with Ivchenko by his side, shopping for Stark technology. Ivchenko makes off with “Item 17″ in just in time for Dottie to appear driving the getaway car. But before they can truly get away, says Ivchenko, they must test item 17 to ensure it “still works.”

Unfortunately, before he left, the bad doctor talked the Chief into strapping on a glowing prototype vest of Stark design. Jarvis, apparently the wikipedia of bad baby technologies, explains it was intended as a heat source for troops in cold conditions. Like nearly all of the Stark bad babies, though, there’s a dangerous flaw: the self-sustaining battery invariably overheats when activated, eventually becoming an explosive device. Warning the team that Ivchenko got inside his head, the vest nears it’s boiling point and Dooley says goodbye to SSR. Wigham, Murray and Atwell play the scene for all it’s worth: wringing every bit of heartbreak from Dooley’s parting lines to both Thompson; “Tell my wife I’m sorry I missed dinner” and Carter: “Promise me you’ll get the son of a bitch that did this!” It’s a nice touch that he leaves the avenging in the hands of Carter, who knows a thing or two about Avengers. Dooley spares Carter a parting: “atta-girl!” before bravely taking a swan-dive through the office windows just in time, exploding in mid-air.

The remaining SSR team mourns the loss of Dooley before discovering that Ivchenko stole item 17 — one of the few bad babies Jarvis can’t identify. Dottie, however, knows exactly what item 17 can do as she wheels it into a movie theater concealed in a baby carriage. A twist of the knob and the device begins to emit gas. She abandons the carriage and locks the theater doors behind her as the gas begins to take effect on the unsuspecting theatergoers. They cough, then get angry and begin to fighting each other like wild animals. They scream and tear at each other, sparing no one and leaving behind a pile of bloody corpses. It seems we finally have our answer to the mystery of Finow! Ernst Mueller (Jack Conley) may have been a creepy Nazi but he wasn’t lying when he claimed the Russian soldiers had “already been torn apart” before he and his soldiers arrived on the scene. Whatever item 17 contains, it made those unlucky Russians and movie patrons tear each other apart.

More favorite moments (there were so many!):

  • I won’t pat myself on the back too hard that my earlier suspicions of the Doctor proved correct; he was so shady I rewound episode 5 to make sure I hadn’t missed him hypnotizing Carter into bringing him back to the US.
  • Funny that the episode opened on Ivchenko playing mental chess with a wounded soldier; wonder how he’d fair against Magneto
  • “Howard Stark has never scrambled my mind or any other part of me!” Oh Peggy, you slay me!
  • Bravo to Bridget Regan, who can even make buying a baby carriage effectively sinister
  • All the switchboard ladies of the SSR telephone center giving a collective “ooh” at Jarvis’ claim to have a signed confession from Stark
  • Hayley Atwell breaking my heart with: “just wanted a second chance at keeping him safe.”
  • The moral of the story is: always look for street parking!

1 Comments on Review: Agent Carter explodes with action and sacrifice, last added: 2/20/2015
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23. Review: Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I don’t read many inspirational romances, but I stumbled upon Karen Witemeyer a while back, and I really enjoyed her writing.  When I saw Head in the Clouds at the library, I thought it sounded cute, so I checked it out.  I could relate to Adelaide, a young woman looking for her very own hero.  Charmed by Jane Eyre and other novels, she longs for a man to protect her and take care of her.  What she finds is even better; she discovers the love of her life, but she also finds the strength to protect and care for herself and her loved ones.

Adelaide has fallen in love with the idea of being in love, so she quits her teaching job and follows her destiny to Fort Worth.  Only once she arrives, she discovers that the man she’s been pining for is married and has a family.  Humiliated and angry with herself for allowing her impulsive nature to leave her without a job or a place to live, she answers an advertisement in the newspaper to be the governess to a sheep rancher’s daughter. Before she can blink, she’s headed to central Texas with two other applicants, to meet both Gideon, the sheep rancher, and his daughter, Isabella.  Talk about a stressful job interview!  It took two days of hard travel to reach her destination, and then she had to vie against two women with more experience and better teaching credentials than she possessed!

After charming Isabella and the rest of the rest of the household, she scores the job.  Now she learns that Isabella hasn’t spoken a word in months, and she’s mourning the death of her mother.  Adelaide is determined to help Isabella out of the shell she’s surrounded herself in, and help her find joy and laugher once again.  Adelaide’s teaching methods, which utilized role-playing and creative play, were fun to read about.  I loved the teacher – student interactions.  Isabella has had an unhappy time, and she’s having a hard time being a kid.  Adelaide slowly and patiently draws her out of her shell, much to Gideon’s delight.

The romance is very sweet, and the biggest hurdle they must overcome is class difference.  Gideon is British, the son of a baron, and he thinks he has to marry someone refined and elegant, two things that Adelaide is not.  Adelaide was raised on a cattle ranch, and she can ride and shoot as well as any man.  Gideon thinks his parents won’t approve of her, so he firmly resists his attraction to her.  Until danger threatens both Isabella and Adelaide, and then he realizes that life is too short to worry about what other people expect of him.

There’s a lot of action in Head in the Clouds, and Adelaide proves her worth in difficult situations.  I liked that she didn’t wait for someone to save her or Isabella, but instead made her own opportunities to save herself.  She’s brave, fiercely protective, and intelligent – how can you not like a heroine with traits like those?

There is a lot of religion in the book, but it didn’t seem intrusive or out of  place because of the setting.  If this had been a contemporary, it probably wouldn’t have worked for me, but I expect that with the harsh surroundings and difficulties involved in ranching in the 1800s, that faith would have a large place in both Gideon and Adelaide’s lives.  I am not a particularly religious person, but the prayers and requests for guidance didn’t bother me, but I will mention it in case that’s not your cup of tea. 

I haven’t read many inspirationals, but I liked Head in the Clouds so much that I want to rush out and try other authors in the genre.  If you read them, do you have any recommendations for me?

Grade:  B

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

Adelaide Proctor is a young woman with her head in the clouds, longing for a real-life storybook hero to claim as her own. But when a husband-hunting debacle leaves her humiliated, she interviews for a staid governess position on a central Texas sheep ranch and vows to leave her romantic yearnings behind.

When Gideon Westcott left his privileged life in England to make a name for himself in America’s wool industry, he never expected to become a father overnight. And five-year-old Isabella hasn’t uttered a word since she lost her mother. The unconventionality of the new governess concerns Gideon–and intrigues him at the same time. But he can’t afford distractions. He has a ranch to run, a shearing to oversee, and a suspicious fence-cutting to investigate.

When Isabella’s uncle comes to claim the child–and her inheritance–Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect Isabella from the man’s evil schemes. And soon neither can deny their growing attraction. But after so many heartbreaks, will Adelaide be willing to get her head out of the clouds and put her heart on the line?

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24. Review: dark deeds, secrets and lies lurk beneath the masks of Secret Identities #1

secretidentitiesStory by: Jay Faerber & Brian Joines

Art by: Ilias Kyriazis

Colors by: Charlie Kirchoff

Letters by: Ed Dukeshire

Publisher: Image Comics

Secret Identities #1 wastes no time in establishing it’s universe. On the opening pages we’re thrown into a two page splash of super heroics familiar to even the casual comic reader. A team of eight archetypal heroes, known as the Front Line, converge in battle over downtown Toronto. They include a beautiful and deadly alien woman, a rock-bodied hulk , and a silver-suited man of super-human speed. A portal has been opened over the Canadian city, spewing wave after wave of nasty hell-creatures crashing over our heroes.

But before you can say excelsior, differences that root the team more in the genre of titles like Planetary and The Authority begin to emerge. The being who opened the portal? A failed televangelist turned satanic messiah. The muscle-bound hero Punchline, who swoops in like Superman to save the bacon of the power-girlish teammate Luminary is a woman: her secret identity is a failed, depressed comedian. And Luminary herself? She doesn’t hide her identity as the willful daughter of the President of the United States; creating a political quagmire by refusing to use her team to expand her father’s presidential powers.

Jay Faerber, a veteran of titles like Teen Titans, Generation X and New Warriors splits writing duties with Brian Joines, who previously worked on Faerber’s Noble Causes and spin-off Dynamo 5. Clearly it’s a fruitful pairing; the story crackles along at breakneck speed, peeling back the heroic images to reveal the strange secret identities beneath. There’s a palpable, intriguing darkness hiding behind the familiar costumes and super-team set-up. Do the heroes really know each other, or even themselves? There’s tension, twists, intrigue: what more could you ask from a debut issue? How about beautiful art from Ilias Kyriazis that manages to be fresh and dynamic, while also honoring the look and feel of the mainstream super hero tropes that form the story engine of Secret Identities. Kyriazis crams a lot of action and detail into his panels, but they never look overstuffed or confused. As the issue draws to a close, the team is ensconced at HQ: the mutilated body of a giant cyborg whose defeat marked the first victory for Front Line. If issue two continues or improves on the formula set out in issue one, Secret Identities could prove a sleeper hit for Image.

 

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25. Review: The Promise of Rain by Rula Sinara

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I didn’t read any further in the blurb than “elephant research and rescue camp” before I added The Promise of Rain to my TBR.  Imagine my delight when the library actually acquired a copy so soon after the release date!  It’s one of the first novels in the Harlequin Heartwarming line that I’ve read, and while I enjoyed the story, I have mixed feelings about certain aspects of it.

Anna Bekker’s life revolves around two things: her four year old daughter, Pippa, and the elephants she’s studying.  When the head of the research department back in the States starts exerting pressure on her about expenses and results, she knows that her funding is in danger.  When she’s told someone will be visiting the camp to audit the books, the last person she expects is Jackson Harper, her former best friend and the love of her life.  He’s also Pippa’s father, a fact that she’s kept secret from him.  Jack is beyond pissed that he’s been kept in the dark about his daughter, and he thinks a wildlife camp in the middle of the Serengeti is the last place she belongs.  It’s dangerous!  There are wild animals! Snakes!  GERMS!  Yes, Jack is a germaphobe, but  that’s not the biggest reason I couldn’t connect with him.  He’s also manipulative, emotionally stunted, and clueless. So, yeah, I didn’t much care for Jack.

Anna, on the other hand, I loved.  She’s dedicated to her daughter and to the elephants she’s researching, and the thought of losing her funding is keeping her up nights, sleepless and worried.  Having her future rest in Jack’s hands is galling, especially when he’s so angry with her about Pippa.   When it turns out that he’s keeping quiet about a conflict of interest regarding her funding, she thinks the chasm between them can’t get any wider.  Then Jack threatens to fight for Pippa’s custody, and she realizes just how wrong she was.

The romance didn’t work for me.  Jack is too anal and too uptight, and if there was any chemistry between Jack and Anna, I didn’t see it.  While they both have trust issues, Jack just didn’t seem like he would ever be capable of being the kind of partner Anna needed.  If I hadn’t liked Anna, the elephants, and the secondary characters so much, The Promise of Rain might have been a DFN for me.  Instead, I loved the details of Anna’s work and the descriptions of the camp and the wildlife preserve. The romance, unfortunately, fell flat for me.

Grade:  C+

Review copy obtained from my local library

From Amazon:

He wants to take her child out of Africa…

The Busara elephant research and rescue camp on Kenya’s Serengeti is Anna Bekker’s life’s work. And it’s the last place she thought she’d run into Dr. Jackson Harper. As soon as he sets eyes on her four-year-old, Pippa, Anna knows he’ll never leave…without his daughter. 

Furious doesn’t begin to describe how Jack feels. How could Anna keep this from him? He has to get his child back to the States. Yet as angry as he is with Anna, they still have a bond. But can it endure, despite the ocean—and the little girl—between them?

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