Wednesday, April 30, 2014

astonishing x-men, vol. 3: torn

astonishing x-men, vol. 3: torn
issues #13-18
joss whedon & john cassaday
marvel comics
published 2007

If you thought their past efforts were full of shocks and surprises, hold onto your eyeballs - because you haven't seen anything yet, as things go from peculiar to just plain bizarre!  Emma Frost's erratic behavior has the X-Men spinning in a non-stop downward spiral.  Will an unlikely union be the final straw?  After secretly lying in wait for months, the new Hellfire Club makes its move!  Plus: The X-Man destined to destroy the Breakworld stands revealed!  Who is it, and what will be their fate?

It's strange to read a book, not understand half of what is going on and still kind of enjoy it.  I have, however pinpointed what it is that keeps me from loving Astonishing X-Men (and X-Men in general).  The fucking psychics.  For me, superheroes/villains as psychics is such a cop out.  Especially the ones that can control other minds.  Thank god Whedon does dialogue well otherwise this would be terrible.

The humor has finally shown up, but there's just so much more that is over my head or I find completely frustrating.  Danger is one of them.  Blech.

I still enjoyed it, it still had me reading, but I'm not in love with the X-Men.  I read another reviewer say something like 'I'm finding lots of things to like about this book, but nothing I love.'  That about sums it up for me too.

astonishing x-men, vol. 2: dangerous

astonishing x-men, vol. 2: dangerous
issues #7-12
joss whedon & john cassaday
marvel comics
published 2007

A tragic death at the Xavier Institute reveals a powerful enemy living among the X-Men that they could never have suspected - and no, it's not Magneto.

Things heat up in a way none of the X-Men ever dreamed, but will teamwork save the day when they can't even depend on themselves?

Creepy, creepy!  Danger reminded me of a female Predator.

But we find out things maybe we didn't know before.  Again though, because I don't know X-Men history, or really Marvel history, I had no idea what Genosha was.  But the tension building up into the non-fight was good and I laughed at the last page that looked like it came straight out of a Buffy flashback.

astonishing x-men, vol. 1: gifted

astonishing x-men, vol. 1: gifted
joss whedon & john cassaday
marvel comics
published 2004

Cyclops and Emma Frost re-form the X-Men with the express purpose of "astonishing" the world.  But when breaking news regarding the mutant gene unexpectedly hits the airwaves, will it derail their new plans before they even get started?  As demand for the "mutant cure" reaches near-riot levels, the X-Men go head-to-head with the enigmatic Ord, with an unexpected ally - and some unexpected adversaries - tipping the scales.

Hello back of book description.  Say "unexpected" one more time.

When I was younger I watched the X-Men cartoon and I saw the first movie when it came out back in 2000, but that was it for my foray into the X-Men world.  As readers of this blog know I'm not really a fan of Marvel comics.  I don't know why, but I just can't get into them.  I think Spiderman was the only Marvel character I really ever liked and then the movie ruined it for me.

It bugs me now when people say they're fans of Joss Whedon because 'Avengers was so awesome', but then I wonder if they get irritated when I say I'm a fan of Avengers because 'Joss Whedon is so awesome.'  But even then I'm not really a fan of Avengers.  I haven't read any of their books or anything.

Anyway, I'm getting off topic.  My friend pointed out to me that Joss wrote the first 24 issues collected in four volumes and that she thought they were really good.  When I went to the library later in the week they had all four volumes sitting right there.  It was a sign so I picked them up and now I'm finally cracking them open.

Of course, the writing is good.  That's a given.  The story is interesting and the art is great.  It still didn't grab me, I wasn't immersed like I get into the DC books I read or even Joss's other comics (Fray, Serenity, Angel, Buffy) but I thought it was good and will continue to read.  But there were things that bugged me.

Not being a knowledgeable fan of X-Men and it's characters apart from the basics like Cyclops, Wolverine & Beast I was lost a lot.  I had no idea who some of these people were and they had backstory.  It was a big deal for Emma Frost to be there, but I didn't really know why until I looked it up later.  I'm not saying they should go into a whole history of the characters just for me and other dummies who don't know what they're reading, but a little explanation would have worked.

And 'astonishing'?  We want to astonish them?  It sounds lame.  Who says that?  Well, Cyclops apparently.  He shouldn't.  And why doesn't Emma wear a matching outfit?  Why is she the only one in slut gear?  Is it because her powers don't work when she's fully clothed?

Joss's humor is mostly absent (except for a brief comment on Emma's outfit in the beginning) and that's a bummer, but I'm interested enough to keep reading.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

whatever happened to the caped crusader

whatever happened to the caped crusader
neil gaiman & andy kubert
dc comics
published 2010

He is Gotham City's protector, its avenging spirit, its Dark Knight.  For yrs he has waged a one-man war to keep its streets safe.  But tonight that war has claimed its last and greatest casualty.

Batman himself.

The Masked Manhunter lies in a coffin in Crime Alley, the place where he was born.  His closest friends and deadliest enemies gather to pay their final respects.  Each of them tells a very different story of the Batman they knew: how he lived...and how he died.

Like a shadow in the night, a dark figure watches over this macabre memorial.  He knows that the contradictory tales these heroes and villains are telling cannot possibly all be true.  Before the night is over, before the lid is closed on the Batman forever, he must have answer the question: whatever happened to the caped crusader?

Written by Neil Gaiman as kind of a farewell to his favorite character, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader was to be two issues ending the Batman and Detective Comics series.

This is quintessential Gaiman.  Very ethereal, very surreal.  While the whole time you know it is Batman speaking in the background you're not sure who he is speaking to.  As the book progresses it becomes more clear until you realize it was quite the obvious choice.

Two issues, very short and a very good send off to the character that everyone, even his enemies loved.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

batwoman, vol. 1: hydrology

batwoman, vol. 1: hydrology
j.h. williams & w. haden blackman
dc comics
published 2011

They call her La Llorna.  "The Weeping Woman." A spectral presence that drowns her own sorrow by destroying the lives of others, dragging innocent children to a watery grave....or to an even worse fate.  The hero called Batwoman is no stranger to sorrow herself.  Estranged from the father who was once her partner in crime fighting, she blames him for the death of her mad sister in Gotham Harbor - but she blames herself most of all.

Now she has a new partner, her cousin Flamebird.  Together they're on the hunt for La Llorna, he children she's abducted, and the shadowy forces behind it all.  But the hunters are hunted as well: Everyone from government agents to Gotham cops wants to clip Batwoman's wings.

A tide of danger is coming in to Gotham City.  And it will be all Batwoman can do to keep her head above water.

I really want to like Batwoman and I plan on continuing this series, at least as they come out in trade paperback.  And it is an interesting character with lots of issues and great attributes. Maybe it's because I didn't have much knowledge of Batwoman before the New 52, or rather, no desire to know about her until now, but I felt like I was coming into a story that had already begun without me.

Hydrology collects issues #0-5 and we start out with mention of Kate's twin sister and who she became and even the back cover mentions her father was her partner in crime fighting.  But nowhere in the book is that really made clear.  There's no backstory and you're just meant to follow along as if everything makes sense.

Now, I don't know if other series in the New 52 are like this.  To be honest they probably are, I just never noticed because I already know the backstories for the series I collect and read.  The other thing that bugs me is that this is only the first 6 issues (counting #0) so the story arc isn't nearly complete.  If the arc crossed over multiple characters I could see having more than 1 book for the arc, but this is soley Batwoman's story!

Basically, my complaints are with the set up and the lack of issues in this TP, not with the story itself.  I actually was familiar with La Llorna thanks to TV's Grimm so I felt rather proud of myself.  :)

So I'm on the fence.  I've got volumes 2 and 3 on hold at the library.  I'll read through those and decide then if I want to continue with Batwoman!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

sea of monsters

sea of monsters
percy jackson #2
rick riordan
disney hyperion
published 2006

After a summer spent trying to prevent a catastrophic war among the Greek gods, Percy Jackson finds his seventh-grade school year unnervingly quiet.  His biggest problem is dealing with his new friend, Tyson - a six-foot-three, mentally challenged homeless kid who follows Percy everywhere, making it hard for Percy to have any "normal" friends.  But things don't stay quiet for long.  Percy soon discovers there is trouble at Camp Half-Blood: the magical borders which protect Half-Blood Hill have bee poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and the only safe haven for demigods is on the verge of being overrun by mythological monsters.  To save the camp, Percy needs the help of his best friend, Grover, who has been take prisoner by the Cyclops Polyphemus on an island somewhere in the Sea of Monsters, the dangerous waters Greek heroes have sailed for millennia - only today, the Sea of Monsters goes by a new name ... the Bermuda Triangle.  Now Percy and his friends - Grover, Annabeth, and Tyson - must retrieve the Golden Fleece from the Island of the Cyclopes by the end of the summer of Camp Half-Blood will be destroyed.  But first, Percy will learn a stunning new secret about his family - one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon's son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.

I can see why Emma likes these books so much.  They're full of action and the nuances of Greek mythology.  I enjoy how they relate the Greek mythology into the modern day things.

But the books don't feel as weighty as Harry Potter and they don't keep me engaged for very long.  Inevitably while reading, my mind will drift to other things.  I never find myself fully engrossed in the book.  I'm completely interested in the outcome, or what is coming throughout the journey, but for some reason I get easily distracted.  Which is why it took me so long to finish the book!

a wanted man

a wanted man
jack reacher #17
lee child
suspense/crime/general badassery
published 2012

Four people in a car, hoping to make Chicago by morning.  One man driving, another telling stories that don't add up.  A woman in the back, silent and worried.  And a hitchhiker with a broken nose.  An hour behind them, the FBI descends on an old pumping station where a man was stabbed to death - the knife work professional, the killers nowhere to be seen.

All Jack Reacher wanted was a ride to Virginia.  All he did was stick out his thumb.  But he soon discovers he has hitched more than a ride.  He has tied himself to a massive conspiracy, in which nothing is what it seems, and nobody is telling the truth.

I'm not kidding you.  If you only reads books from one author, only read one series, it should be this one series by Lee Child.

Jack Reacher is one of the best fictional badasses that has ever graced a page.  He's freaking scary smart, can't stand someone being wronged (especially women and children, but men too - at least good men).  He kicks ass.  Literally.  And he gets revenge.  He gives people what they deserve.  But what I really love the most about him?  He has morals.  He can't just walk away when he knows he can do something about it.  The best example of that:
"It gives me some kind of chance to survive the night."  "How are those better odds?  If you come back with me, you're guaranteed to survive the night."  "No," Reacher said.  "If I come back with you, I'm guaranteed to die of shame."
These books are getting funnier as well.  The longer Reacher is out of the military, the more his dry humor comes out.
Reacher had no patience for people who claimed that y was a vowel.
For some reason that struck me as funny.

My favorite lines had to do with an annoying motel clerk.
"It's the FBI, for the man with the broken nose.  That would be you, I suppose." Reacher said, "Pretty soon it could be either one of us, if you don't stop yapping at me."
She hadn't shot the fat man.  She was clearly a person of considerable patience.
The story is fast and there is almost always something important happening.  And there's always this big conspiracy or crime going on (of course, otherwise what would be the point), but it's almost like a backstory.  The story is not about the crime or the mystery to be solved.  The story is how Reacher reacts to that story and the hell he brings upon the criminals.

It's truly a sight to behold.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

i like it like that

i like it like that
gossip girl #5
cecily von ziegesar
published 2008

It's spring break and love is in the air.  Or is that a blend of Chanel no. 9 and Gucci Rush?  Is there a difference?  Blair moves in with Serena and they're back to being best friends.  But will the love-fest last or will they end up tearing out one another's newly highlighted hair?  And speaking of new, Nate is on the straight and narrow, playing Nate-in-shining-armor to his crazy new girlfriend, Georgie.  But he will definitely get more than he bargained for when he, Georgie, Blair, and Serena end up hanging out together in Sun Valley, Idaho.  Back in Manhattan, Jenny is spending time with a mysteriously nice new boyfriend and Dan is spending time crying in the office of the Red Letter literary journal.  And Vanessa, wait, is that Vanessa shopping at Barney's with a guy in a Lacoste shirt?  The long cold winter is over and the sun is finally shining along Fifth Avenue.  The trees are in bloom and NYC's most fabulous are ready for a truly outrageous vacation!

It's funny.  Usually, I read the book before I see the movie, but there haven't been too many book series that TV shows have been based on that I've watched.  Bones is one of them, but those books are so different it's really only the Temperance Brennan character who is the same.  When I do read a book and see the movie I'm inevitably disappointed in how the movie portrayed a character or changed something.  I hardly ever think the movie change was for the better, but in the case of Gossip Girl the changes that were made were mostly for the better in my opinion.

My favorite characters on the TV show were Chuck and Blair.  The only reason why I watched the show after the second season was only because of the two of them.  The rest of them could have all died in a fiery soap opera plane crash and I would have continued watching as long as Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf were still there.  In the end, I didn't even care who Gossip Girl was.  I just care about what happened to Chuck & Blair.

So while I loved them on the show, the book is much different.  Chuck is nowhere near the show Chuck.  He's like first episode Chuck, but much further out there.  Plus, he's a background character that we hardly get to see, much less get into his head.

Still, I find myself drawn to Blair.  I could care less about Nate, Serena, Jenny, Dan or Vanessa.  Their chapters are just annoying interruptions to my Blair story!  Out of those Vanessa is probably most interesting.  Dan is just as ridiculous as he was on the show and even Jenny, who I loved in the It Girl books, is boring.

However, it doesn't matter what I don't like about these books because I still love reading them!  I'll keep reading just in case my Chuck Bass comes back.

the thousand dollar tan line

the thousand dollar tan line
veronica mars #1
rob thomas
published 2014

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime & corruption.  She's traded her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.

Now it's spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks inot a frenzied, week-long rave.  When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate.  But this is no simple missing person's case; the house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime.  And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica's past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

I had so much fun reading this book!  The voice was distinctly Veronica's as only Rob Thomas could do.  All the usual suspects were present including some that just shocked the heck out of me!

I was afraid the story would be cheesy, but I should have known better.  It was like reading the story for a really good, slightly longer episode.  I never knew what was coming and plot twists definitely took me by surprise.  I thought I would like it simply because it was Veronica Mars, but the fact is, I liked it because it's good.  Plus, my town got a brief mention so that was exciting!

I would most definitely read a series of books like this and I hope Rob Thomas keeps writing them, at least until we get another movie.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


pretty little liars #8
sara shepard
harper teen
published 2010

Back in middle school, Ali plucked Emily, Hanna, Aria, and Spencer from obscurity and turned them into the beautiful, popular girls everyone wanted to be.  Ali was the best friend they ever had.  But she also made them do terrible things and taunted them with their worst secrets.  Now, three years later, all their questions about Ali have finally been answered and they can put this awful chapter of their lives behind them.  Or so they think.

I've been really disappointed with this series for awhile now.  I think after the second book the whole thing got really old and annoying.  I was expecting much of the same for Wanted, but I was actually pleasantly surprised.

Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves.  The girls are still incredibly dumb and irritating, but the story itself was finally coming around to an honest-to-goodness conclusion and that's all I wanted.  When all is revealed everything made sense and all the pieces fit together.  Finally, an end.

Well, not really.  As we all know at this point, this is book #8 and there are currently 14 books in the series (not counting Pretty Little Secrets or Ali's Little Lies) with the 15th coming out in June.  So either things aren't as resolved as we thought they were or these idiot girls do more dumb stuff.  Or a combination of both.  I'm kind of bummed that there are more books because I would have been satisfied with this ending (Kate getting her due justice would have been even better, but alas).  So we'll see what kind of trouble these girls get into next.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

cocktails for three

cocktails for three
madeleine wickham
contemporary/chick lit
thomas dunne book
published 2001

At the first of every month, when the office has reached its pinnacle of hysteria, Maggie, Roxanne and Candice meet at London's swankiest bar for an evening of cocktails and gossip.  Here, they chat about what's new in their lives and what's new at The Londoner, the glossy fashion magazine where they all work.  But beneath the girl talk and the laughter, each of the three has something to hide: High-achiever Maggie is pregnant, and terrified at the prospect of becoming a mother; glamorous Roxanne is losing hope that her secret lover will leave his wife; and kindhearted Candice cannot escape the guilty secret that has pursued her since childhood.  What a chance encounter at the cocktail bar sets in motion an extraordinary chain of events, their lives quickly spin out of control and their friendship is stretched to the limit.  Suddenly, Maggie, Roxanne and Candice must face their fears and troubles alone, and it is only a matter of time before one of them snaps...

I bought this book years ago, maybe even when it first came out.  That was when I read Sophie Kinsella's first few books and thought they were great.  Then I read a couple more and realized I hated her books.  So this one sat on my shelf collecting dust.  This year I decided I would make a dent in my shelf.  I would either get rid of the books I wasn't going to read or read them.  So with that in mind I finally started this book.

And I did enjoy it.  I think maybe I just don't like the Shopaholic character.  There were things that drove me nuts about the characters at certain points, but that was because I could see what was coming much better than they could.  No one was over the top crazy (unless they were supposed to be!) and the stories were all believable.  I related most with Maggie, of course.  The reluctant mother who has no idea what she's getting into and then being in way over her head.

But each character brought her own weight to the story.  Despite it taking me so long to finally read and finish this book it was a quick read.  And my only complaint was that not everyone got what was coming to her by the end of the book!

the darkest evening of the year

the darkest evening of the year
dean koontz
published 2007

Amy Redwing has dedicated her life to the southern California organization she founded to rescue abandoned and endangered golden retrievers.  Among dog lovers, she's a legend for the risks she'll take to save an animal from abuse.  Among her friends, Amy's heedless devotion is often cause for concern.  To widower Brian McCarthy, whose commitment she can't allow herself to return, Amy's behavior is far more puzzling and hides a shattering secret.

No on is surprised when Amy risks her life to save Nickie, nor when she takes the female golden into her home.  The bond between Amy and Nickie is immediate and uncanny.  Even her two other goldens, Fred & Ethel, recognize Nickie as special, a natural alpha.  But the instant joy Nickie brings is shadowed by a series of eerie incidents.  An ominous stranger.  A mysterious home invasion.

And the unmistakable sense that someone is watching Amy's every more and that, whoever it is, he's not alone.

Someone has come back to turn Amy into the desperate, hunted creature sh's always been there to save.  But now there's no one to save Amy and those she loves.

In most of Dean Koontz's recent books I've read there is an autistic or child with Down's and a dog that has some uncanny sort of understanding of humans.  Most of the time I love it, but the way that the child was treated in this book was hard to read.  I mean, really hard to read.

The whole story is very slow.  He's building suspense and trying to lay out the story, but this time it didn't feel suspenseful and when the resolution is coming to and end it happens in about 4 pages.  After 10 years of being tormented by this woman there is no confrontation it's just over.  And the outcome is so 'magical' that I just couldn't get into it.  In the end, I just didn't care who lived and who died.

Friday, April 11, 2014

monster, vol. 1

monster, vol. 1
naoki urasawa
viz media
published 1995

Brilliant doctor Kenzo Tenma risks his reputation and promising career to save the life of a critically wounded young boy.  Unbeknownst to him, this child is destined for a terrible fate.  Conspiracies, serial murders, and a scathing depiction of the underbelly of hospital politics are all masterfully woven together in this compelling manga thriller.

This one was recommended to me by a friend.  I went to the library and found the first volume and now I wish I had put the others on hold!  Grrrrrr

Volume 1 begins in Germany, 1986 with a young Dr. Tenma, rising star at Eisler Memorial Hospital.  Destined for big things and engaged to the daughter of the hospital director he's also dedicated and hard working, but his ideal life begins to show signs of tarnish when he wonders if the man he looks up to is really someone worth idolizing.  When he goes against the directors orders to save a gravely injured young boy his life goes into a tailspin.

Fast forward 9 years later and life is much different for Dr. Tenma and he seems to be happy with his new outlook on a doctor's life.  But things that happened 9 years ago are threatening to come back to haunt him.

I was told that Naoki Urasawa is Japan's Master of Suspense and that's evident here in this first volume.  But he's also really good at creepy.  There's a few creepy characters (I don't want to name any names so as not to spoil the story for you) and a few despicable ones too!  The other thing I really like is that I can easily tell the different characters apart!  One thing that always bums me out with lots of mangas is how everyone kind of looks the same.  Not necessarily main characters, but the supporting cast of friends, co-workers or relatives all tend to have that same look and I start getting people confused.  But Urasawa's artwork is unique and distinctive.

The story is goooood and leaves you with pretty much no closure.  What I expected to happen, happened, but that wasn't a bad thing and now I need to get my hands on Vol. 2!

Monday, April 7, 2014

attack on titan, vol. 1

attack on titan, vol. 1
hajime isayama
graphics/sci fi/action
kodansha comics
published 2011

Humanity has been devastated by the bizarre, giant humanoids knows as the Titans.  Little is known about where they came from of why they are bent on consuming mankind.  Seemingly unintelligent, they have roamed the world for years, killing everyone they see.  For the past century, what's left of man has hidden in a giant, three-walled city.  People believe their 100-meter-high walls will protect them from the Titans, but the sudden appearance of an immense Titan is about the change everything.

I can see why everyone freaks out about this series.  It was definitely a good beginning with an amazingly ridiculous cliffhanger.  There are so many things that are only briefly touched upon that the book is soaked with mystery.  I was thinking I would just read the first volume, but seeing as how it ended I have to read the second one now.  And I doubt stuff wraps up so I'll probably be in this for the long haul!

stupid perfect world

stupid perfect world
scott westerfeld
harper teen
published 2012

Kieran Black lives in a "perfect" world.  Disease and starvation have been eradicated, sleep is unnecessary, and it takes no time at all to go from the Bahamas to the moon.  But now Kieran has to take Scarcity, a class about how people lived in the bad old days.  And as if sitting through an hour of Scarcity every day wasn't depressing enough, it's final projects time.  Each student must choose some form of ancient hardship to experience for two whole weeks.  Kieran choose having to sleep eight hours a night, which doesn't seem too annoying.

Maria Borsotti has never thought much for Kieran, but she decides to take pity on him and help him out with his project.  Soon, Kieran is sleeping and having vivid dreams, while Maria, whose Scarcity project is to give up all teenage hormone regulation, is experiencing emotions she never knew she had.  As their assignments draw them closer together, they begin to wonder if the olden days weren't so bad.  Maybe something has been missing from their perfect lives after all?

Ha!  This was awesome!  I love how Westerfeld's mind works.  The Uglies is one of my favorite series so I shouldn't be surprised that he's come up with another crazy world to write about.  I love just about everything in this novella.  I love that they can teleport to the moon, they don't sleep, Kieran hangs out at the North Pole, I love "headspace" and that they can't go outside their apartments because the parks are protected wildlife areas.  But I love Scarcity the most.  Seriously?  A class about how people lived in the olden days and then they get to experience something of those days.

I wish this was longer, but I don't think it would have enough meat to actually be a full length novel.  Nearly perfect!

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