Category: Reviews


Review – Bull Running for Girls

Posted 13 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Bull Running for Girls by Allyson Bird

Bull Running for Girls, Allyson Bird

I didn’t get on with the writing style of these. It felt dry, and all the stories had the same feeling to them — something a bit too prone to explanation rather than action, which took the impact of some of the interesting ideas and creepy aspects away. I liked some of the ideas here, but the execution really didn’t work for me.

The stories are structured okay, and self-contained, but… I don’t know, altogether I felt they were lacking something.

(Received to review from the publisher via LibraryThing.)

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Review – Wonder Woman: Guts

Posted 13 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Wonder Woman vol. 2, GutsWonder Woman: Guts, Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins

I’m not really a fan of Wonder Woman, I think, at least not in this incarnation. I’m not fond of the character designs, except maybe for Strife (but she reminded me of someone else; maybe a Neil Gaiman character?) and Wonder Woman herself, and the plot just… Nah.

I can take some tweaks to my mythology (hello Thor), but this was strangely closer to the actual mythology and further from the spirit of the mythology. Or something. The bickering among the gods, Hera’s jealousy, etc — it all makes sense within Greek myth, but they seemed cardboard cutouty, which Thor and Loki do not.

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Review – The Eternals

Posted 13 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Eternals by Neil GaimanThe Eternals, Neil Gaiman

I knew nothing about Eternals before reading this, and pretty much just got it because it’s by Neil Gaiman. So I didn’t know about the original series (and still don’t know much about it). Some of the character designs and ideas are kinda cool, and the art works well enough, but I don’t think Gaiman managed to rescue this from the wtfery of its apparent origins.

The longer he drew out the mystery, the better it was; all the explanation was kinda… this is what you were setting up for? Really?

I don’t think this works well in a world with registration and Civil War and Tony Stark, either.

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Review – The Best of All Possible Worlds

Posted 12 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen LordThe Best of All Possible Worlds, Karen Lord

The Best of All Possible Worlds is not a perfect book. I can sympathise with various of the lower-star reviews out there. It’s a quiet book, contemplative, and ultimately despite the backdrop it’s basically a romance against a sci-fi, post-disaster backdrop. It’s not quite Ursula Le Guin, but I quite liked the slow progression. It had the feel of something unfolding, rather than a roller-coaster ride, and that’s just fine by me.

I think some potentially problematic things are brought up by the plot and dealt with varying degrees of success. The domestic abuse by telepathy ties in with the plot in a couple of ways, so I don’t understand people saying that doesn’t fit. I’m very tired of the whole “you included this [minority] character just to get brownie points” idea. Maybe there are some people out there who do that, but I don’t see why a character has to be fully explored with all characteristics plot-relevant to be included. Finding a big long explanation for a gender neutral, essentially asexual character isn’t necessary, if that’s the way the character works. And Lian worked fine in that sense, for me — and I think that aspect of their identity was relevant, in some ways.

I mean, you don’t include other stripes of queer characters and then look at them with a magnifying glass to justify their inclusion. Some people are just queer, why can’t characters just be queer? And why oh why do you need to know what’s going on downstairs for trans* people?

All in all, I didn’t love this the way I enjoyed Redemption in Indigo, but I’m glad I got round to reading it. (Finally.)

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Review – Wonder Woman: Blood

Posted 9 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Wonder Woman: Blood by DC ComicsWonder Woman: Blood, Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins

This was one of the first DC books I picked up, I think, but I didn’t get round to it till now. I have to say I’m more fond of Batgirl — I’m not sure this was a very good introduction to Wonder Woman. I mean, there’s very little by way of explanation of her motivations going on. She just kills some stuff dead and finds out some secrets about her past.

It’s fun enough, and the art is good, and the mythology goes pretty well with actual Greek mythology (unlike, say, Marvel’s Thor). I think the review/s that mention it being a bit like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman have got something there, too.

In any case, I have the second volume already, so we’ll see how that goes. But I may not be buying any more Wonder Woman after that.

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Review – Young Avengers Vol. 2

Posted 8 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Young Avengers Style > Substance by Kieron GillenStyle > Substance, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie

I’ve been sort of reading this since the individual issues came out, but this is the first time I’ve properly sat down with it and read it all the way through. I’m pretty sure I’m going to love Gillen’s run on Young Avengers — I mean, he gets the humour just right, he combines the characters in fun ways, and the art does a lot of interesting meta things that my comics & graphic novels class would’ve had a whale of a time with.

Since I haven’t read the Secret Invasion, Civil War or Dark Reign Young Avengers comics (yet), I’m unsure how Kate got together with Noh-Varr, and I don’t know much about America Chavez, but this new make-up of the team is pretty awesome, adding Noh-Varr, Kid Loki and America Chavez to the original Young Avengers line-up. I miss Iron Lad/Vision and Cassie, but this does deal with the fallout of that somewhat too, which means it all works really well.

Obviously, Loki’s up to something, and I mostly know what that is; and I know what happens in terms of Billy and Teddy’s relationship in the other volumes, so there’s not as much mystery for me as there would be for most readers, but for the reader coming in fresh there’s stuff to work out, too, which is cool.

Alternative Culture, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Kate BrownCover of Marvel's Young Avengers: Alternative Culture

Alternative Culture is fun and meta, once again. The only annoying thing was how little was revealed. I mean, where does Leah tie in? Who is the fake Patriot?

But in terms of characters and the art and design of the comic, it was amazing. I like Prodigy as a character — he can stay in the team — and I loved some of the throwaway lines like Hulkling finding the little green things really cute, and Kate telling Noh-Varr to shut up and look pretty (and being, at least according to one of Noh-Varr’s exes, pretty kinky).

I’m not as fond of McKelvie’s art as I was of the original Young Avengers art, but it is pretty good.

Cover of Marvel's Young Avengers: Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and SpaceMic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, et al

Volume three definitely makes a great ending to this run of Young Avengers. It continues with all the great things about the previous volumes, and wraps things up pretty satisfyingly. I’m intrigued by the ending with Patri-not, and Loki’s character arc works well too.

The hints about what Billy will be/do are interesting, as well as how Patri-not links into that. And I love the new team, the way it didn’t make sense at the beginning how all these kids would be together at the end, and now I’ve got there it seems perfect.

I love the New Year’s party, too. Tommy’s dorky dancing is the best.

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Review – Just Babies

Posted 8 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Just Babies by Paul BloomJust Babies, Paul Bloom

I’ve read one of Paul Bloom’s books already (How Pleasure Works) as well as being part of his Moralities of Everyday Life MOOC on Coursera, so a lot of the psychology experiments and arguments were not at all new to me.

Just Babies is, like Bloom’s other work, accessible to the lay reader, written without frills and complications. Bloom sets out his argument quite simply, without over-complicating anything. Overall, I find it hard to say what I think about this book specifically, since I was already aware of Bloom’s ideas and already had opinions on them. There’s certainly nothing I violently disagree with, for all that Bloom is much more of a utilitarian than I am.

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Review – Death and the Penguin

Posted 7 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Death and the Penguin by Andrey KurkovDeath and the Penguin, Andrey Kurkov

I don’t think I’d have ended up reading Death and the Penguin without a little challenge I’m doing to read twenty books recommended by friends. (It took me a while to get my twenty, but maybe now I should post them or make a shelf for them or something.) It’s interesting, though. I’m not generally very good at politics and satire, particularly when I’m not very aware of the historical context, but this is enjoyable anyway.

You see, the penguin is not metaphorical. Viktor literally has a pet penguin who lives with him. Honestly, that was my main motivation in reading on: I didn’t care so much for Viktor, but Misha is really compelling for all that he’s the only character who never says a word. The other absurd elements of the plot somehow only work for me because of Misha.

It’s simply written, easy to follow despite the absurdities — the person who recommended it to me said it’s a good Russian lit for beginners type book. I’d agree; I mean, I love War and Peace, but I can understand it being rough going for some people, and Anna Karenina and Crime and Punishment took me forever. I do recommend this: the relationship between Misha and Viktor is sweet and somehow melancholy, a mutual loneliness.

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Review – The Earth: An Intimate History

Posted 5 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Earth: An Intimate History by Richard ForteyThe Earth: An Intimate History, Richard Fortey

As with Fortey’s other books, I really enjoyed this — and that seems more important with this one since it’s about geology, which is not something that’s ever been a particular interest of mine. Fortey has a discursive, conversational style, while still getting in a lot of information and technical language. And in all of his books, it’s a sort of travelogue, too, which is quite interesting.

It’s hardly a completely exhaustive history of Earth, but it takes exemplars from various geographies and shows how they apply to the whole of the planet. It works quite well, though it is still a pretty dense book.

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Review – Magic Bites

Posted 2 April, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Bites by Ilona AndrewsMagic Bites, Ilona Andrews

I wasn’t expecting very much of this one, despite hearing some good things about it. I mean, it’s always been hanging around on the shelves with the urban fantasy books, which mostly I enjoy in a brain candy sort of way. This was still very easy to read, but it had more world-building than I expected, and required the reader to do more work. It’s got interesting shapeshifter and vampire lore, most of which I haven’t seen anywhere else, and it’s a semi post-apocalyptic setting that’s been caused by magic. I was reminded a bit of Robin McKinley’s Sunshine with some of the world-building, although the vampires are not at all the same.

Kate Daniels, the lead, doesn’t seem particularly special as a character — there’s plenty of tough-talking mercenaries out there, male and female. There were quite a few points, though, where I was very pleased with her characterisation: she knew when to back down, she didn’t go into everything with all her strength but tried to hold back what she didn’t need to use, and despite being a tough-talking mercenary, she was decent towards other people.

Some parts of it didn’t come together for me very well — her motivation seemed to lose its focus halfway through, for example, and the bit about her being special in some way teases for more in later books, but makes some parts of this book a bit deus ex machina-like. The writing isn’t super, but I’m definitely intrigued by the world, and Kate has a lot of promise.

Curran, however, eh. No boundaries, despite all the stuff about shapeshifter control he loses his temper more than I’m comfy with, typical macho posturing crap a lot of the time. I really hope I wasn’t meant to like him, but I rather suspect I was. I wasn’t a huge fan of Dr. Crest, either; he honestly seemed tacked on to be a red herring.

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