Category: Reviews

Review – Fangirl

Posted November 8, 2014 by in Reviews / 9 Comments

Cover of Fangirl, by Rainbow RowellFangirl, Rainbow Rowell

I have some friends with reservations about Fangirl, and then there’s lots of people who think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. It took me a while to read it because of that, but I think on balance I like it a lot. The primary thing I enjoy is that it involves neuroatypical people; Cath’s anxiety, her dad’s bipolar, Wren’s potential alcoholism. It feels true to life in the way the twins grow apart and come back together, in the way university life works. I’ve totally been with Cath, eating energy bars instead of finding the cafeteria, talking to people online instead of going out and enjoying the fun.

One thing that does bother me is the characters who try to drag Cath out of herself like it’s that easy. Reagan mentions medication once, but after that there’s no indication that Cath gets therapy or any kind of substantive help with her issues. She’s just kind of friended-and-boyfriended out of it to a large extent, which — I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but when I was in Cath’s position, it took medication and therapy as well as the friends.

Also, Levi’s “nice guy” thing was just — ick. I mean, in many ways he seems like a genuinely nice guy, but then he admits he was doing the whole nice guy thing to try and get Cath to date him. And he wouldn’t respect her wishes about her name or letting her carry her own damn laundry, so how I’m supposed to believe he respected her about anything else, I’m not entirely sure. You’re not such a nice guy if you’re trying to be a nice guy to make a girl like you, you know? And that aspect didn’t fit with the rest of Levi, who seemed too good to be true in many ways — the kind of guy who rescues kittens from trees and helps old ladies cross the road.

Anyway, most of the scenes between Levi and Cath are really well done: early awkwardness, the slow evolution of their relationship, even the misunderstandings — which normally really annoy me in romantic stories. I did feel that their relationship was real, even if Levi himself was a little too good to be true.

I do still really like the way Rowell writes; it’s really easy to just settle into, nothing pretentiously getting in the way of reading it, nothing trying to be too flowery. And the excerpts of fanfiction and “Gemma Leslie”‘s work made me smile; Rowell does understand fandom, as was also clear when I went to her talk/signing, and she gets the comfort and excitement of that online community just right.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Red She-Hulk: Hell Hath No Fury

Posted November 7, 2014 by in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Red She-Hulk: Hell Hath No FuryRed She-Hulk: Hell Hath No Fury, Jeff Parker, Carlo Pagulayan, Wellington Alves

Hell Hath No Fury is a pretty fun story. I haven’t read anything that actually used Betty Ross before now, except I think she was in a Hulk comic I read for a few pages. This gives her a story of her own, one that doesn’t revolve around Bruce Banner, and though I’m not fond of the way this plot talks about Bruce/Hulk (as becoming nothing more than a monster), her issues and her mission are pretty interesting. I don’t think I’ve read anything using Aaron Stack/the android X-51 before, and he’s pretty interesting too: an android more advanced than Ultron and the Vision.

Despite the fact that this is issues #58-62 of Red She-Hulk, it’s easy enough to follow what’s happening. There’s a quick summary of who Betty is and how she Hulked out at the beginning, and the other mysteries explain themselves as you go along. Aaron is pretty self-explanatory, too. I think this works without reference to any other arcs and storylines, beyond the background knowledge about Betty Ross’ relationship to Bruce Banner.

The Avengers also have their moment here; it’s a little funny how Red She-Hulk can so easily defeat them; it’s like Marvel making Betty more powerful than all of them combined, which I’m not entirely sure she’s meant to be. Mind you, she’s got the body of a Hulk and the mind of Betty Ross, so she’s subtler than the original Hulk, more able to strategise. Anyway, the Avengers’ appearance and banter is fun, and I like seeing Cap making the tough decisions with the data he has — it’s the wrong decision, but he can’t know that. He just does the best he can.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Sundial

Posted November 6, 2014 by in Reviews / 2 Comments

17349743The Sundial, Shirley Jackson

The pleasure of reading The Sundial is in the quality of Jackson’s prose, the cleverness of the way she does character and plot through dialogue or limited narration, the way she can take almost any scene and infuse it with that little frission of dread and foreboding. I’m not as much a fan of it as I am of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, though there are commonalities; most of the characters are detestable, which is not something I get along with, and all but one or two are quite weak personalities, which means they don’t act much versus a single powerful character — which makes that character repellently appealing, but makes the rest of them seem pretty insipid.

Overall, it’s never clear whether this is meant to be horror, literary, fantasy/spec fic, whatever. It can be what you want it to be. What it is really is a story about people and the way they act and react, and how difficult it would be to find people who are really worthy of inheriting a new world. You don’t have to accept that the world is really ending, only that the characters believe so.

As you’d expect, there’s also a fine sense of place; the Hallorans’ home is a character in the story too. There’s a lot of description of it, which is all revealing of character and the history of the family, but if you don’t have the patience for it, that might seem quite slow.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – She-Hulk: Law and Disorder

Posted November 5, 2014 by in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of She-Hulk: Law and DisorderShe-Hulk: Law and Disorder, Charles Soule, Javier Pullido, Ron Wemberly

I’ve been meaning to try some She-Hulk comics for a while, so Charles Soule’s Law and Disorder seemed like a good place to start. And it was: it’s not part of some big overarching plot, although Jen remains part of the superhero world, with super clients, a formerly super-landlady, and apparently a super paralegal as well. Several heroes (and villains) make their appearance, including Daredevil, Tigra, Hellcat and Dr Doom.

It’s a fun book, altogether, introducing what is obviously a story arc for Jen in the form of a mysterious file connected to reality-warping magic (can I just briefly hope that Dr Strange can’t help and instead Jen needs to speak to Billy Kaplan?) as well as the self-contained story of trying to get Dr Doom’s son political asylum. There’s plenty of female characters as well as Jen, and she is in doubt about her worth as a person, an attorney and a superhero. It’s pretty great, reading a book with such a confident female character.

I’m not an enormous fan of the art in this book; Pulido’s work is okay, but not really to my taste, and Wemberly’s art just looks dreadful to me. You get used to it, but it’s still a style I really don’t enjoy.

Overall, though, it’s a fun book, and I’ll be picking up more She-Hulk.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Pretty Deadly

Posted November 4, 2014 by in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnickPretty Deadly, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios

I’m having a bit of a hard time with this book. I didn’t find it as confusing as many other people seemed to, but I do feel that there wasn’t much to grab hold of. It felt like set-up, something that might’ve been better as a flashback in an established comic, because you get the feeling that the important stuff is yet to come. And worse, you don’t get much of a grasp on character — it’s like a myth in that sense, but there’s also the Wild West vibe and other stuff going on that makes me feel like it should be more than something pretty and mythic. I mean, we know what Deathface Ginny is by the end of this, but we have no freaking idea who she is. Allegiances and relationships and characters are all unclear.

Visually, it’s a stunning comic. I’m not a great fan of Emma Rios, usually; I really didn’t like the work she did on Captain Marvel. This worked better for me, though, and there’s some amazing pages here. They can be a bit crowded, though — full of panels, and very little script and explanation.

Overall I think it’s a cool idea and a cool team — I am a fan of Kelly Sue, and Rios’ style does look good here! — but I think it needed to be tightened up, pruned, written differently. I don’t know if I’ll read more of Pretty Deadly; I think I might look for like-minded reviews and see what they’re saying when there’s another TPB out. Deathface Ginny could be really, really cool, but there’s so little of substance here.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Vanishing Witch

Posted November 3, 2014 by in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Vanishing Witch by Karen MaitlandThe Vanishing Witch, Karen Maitland
Received to review via Bookbridgr

I was pretty excited when I received a copy of this to review via Bookbridgr, because I’ve enjoyed all Maitland’s work so far. And this is certainly very much like her other work in tone and style — the historical setting, carefully drawn; female characters focused on, as least as much as the male ones; hints at supernatural aspects without anything being completely overt.

Unfortunately, it also has the kind of plot and twist I expected from Karen Maitland’s work, as well. It’s very effective in the first couple of books I’ve read by her, but I predicted it here and that took away some of the enjoyment. She still has great control of pacing, a great handle on her characters and how they relate to each other, how people manipulate each other. But I expected the story to play out as it did, almost from reading the first hundred pages.

It’s still a good story, but that knowing really disappointed me. I’m hoping for something more different from Maitland’s next novel: something that will surprise and intrigue me the way her first book did, instead of just being enjoyable. I’ve read all her other books in almost one sitting, but the last two have been more comfortable, just books to sit down and read when I had time. I’m hoping for the compulsive quality of the first couple.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Broken Monsters

Posted November 2, 2014 by in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Broken Monsters by Lauren BeukesBroken Monsters, Lauren Beukes
Received to review via Netgalley

I really wanted to enjoy this, as I like the idea of it and I like to follow Beukes’ work (even if I’m still only halfway through Zoo City, shut up, I’m overwhelmed), but it’s too far away from the paranormal/fantasy genre for me. I do like crime stories and mysteries, but not the really grim and bizarre stuff, and this really crosses too close to that for me. Beukes’ writing is good, evocative, pulls you in — but I didn’t want to be pulled into this story; I was grossed out from the start.

I’m still hoping to read The Shining Girls, because I’ve heard so much about the supernatural aspects there — enough to hope it’s more my thing. I’m not sure, though, because I thought this was along those lines too, and then most of it seemed very straight forwardly crime fiction.

So, I’ll chalk this down to ‘not for me’, and reach for another book, I guess. I’m pretty sure Zoo City is for me, and probably Moxyland too, at least more so. I just need to find the time.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – The Canterville Ghost

Posted November 1, 2014 by in Reviews / 6 Comments

Review of The Canterville Ghost by Oscar WildeThe Canterville Ghost, Oscar Wilde

I’ve read some of Wilde’s other work, and in general I like it more than this; the first story, ‘The Canterville Ghost’, is kind of funny, making a comedy out of a ghost story, and some of it is genuinely funny. The second and third stories in this little collection, though, were more disappointing: ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime’ seems a pretty standard exercise in a story of self-fulfilling prophecy, and ‘The Sphinx Without A Secret’ was just kind of bloodless.

Still, Wilde’s writing is always good, which kept the mediocre level of plotting from being just boring. ‘The Canterville Ghost’ is the best of the three, I think.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Avengers Assemble: The Forgeries of Jealousy

Posted October 31, 2014 by in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Avengers Assemble: The Forgeries of JealousyAvengers Assemble: The Forgeries of Jealousy, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Warren Ellis, Matteo Buffagni

The Forgeries of Jealousy is pretty fun. Unlike Science Bros, it does follow through one story arc, based on a recent event involving the Inhumans. I don’t know much about that, but I don’t think you need to. The closest POV character is Anya Corazon, Spider-girl, and she doesn’t seem to have been involved much in the event up to the point where this starts, though she does know what about the situation. Still, the volume follows Spider-girl as she works with the Avengers to rescue her social studies teacher.

There’s a lot of fun banter and some good team-ups — the best being Spider-girl, Spider-woman and Black Widow, though her team-up with Wolverine is kinda fun, and her interactions with Tony Stark and Captain America are sweet. Gotta love the end, with Steve sending her the Avengers Assemble theme song for a ringtone, and asking her not to tell anyone he can use a smartphone (and of course his texts are spelt out properly with punctuation and all).

Overall, I can see why people think it’s a bit of wish fulfilment, but it’s also fun and features a lot of the female Avengers. Kelly Sue always does a great job, and I love the line-up she gives us here.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Avengers Assemble: Science Bros

Posted October 30, 2014 by in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Avengers Assemble: Science BrosAvengers Assemble: Science Bros, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Christos Gage, Pete Woods, Stefano Caselli, Tomm Coker

Although it feels a little disconnected — the TPB is a collection of disparate Avengers stories, rather than any kind of continuous story arc — this is a great book. It’s funny till it’s not, serious in the right places, with some great character moments and a great team. Spider-woman and Hulk make a fun pair-up, while I will never get over Captains America and Marvel being friends and drinking kale smoothies for breakfast, or Tony’s sweet pep talk for Bruce while he’s eating caramel and walnut ice cream. The final story involves the Vision, and it surprised me by linking with Young Avengers and having Vision go to meet one of his sons at the end. Also, I thrilled a little to the scene-setting line: “Outside Wiccan and Hulkling’s House”. I hope Vision likes his son’s boyfriend…

I was a little bemused by Clint apparently dating Jessica Drew, but okay. The story with those two and Natasha was pretty cool, though strongly reminiscent of Amazing Spider-man, with the lizard people and all…

The art is really good, too; I don’t actually remember any of the artists’ names from anything else, but the drawings are really clean and clear, the action looks great, the colours are bright and eye-catching without being garish, etc.

This volume is worth it for “Hulllllk, make me a sandwich”, “hippy peanut butter” and the naked walk to the Baxter Building alone. The rest is extra caramel for Bruce’s depressed ice cream breakfast.

Rating: 5/5

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