Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: Nimona

Nimona
Story and art by Noelle Stevenson
*****

“Halt you villains! Unhand that science!”
― Noelle Stevenson


From Goodreads:
The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it "a deadpan epic."

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.
 

From Me:
Oh my word I loved this book! The story takes place in a sort of medieval, magical land that has refrigerators and pizza delivery and dragons. The story is heartfelt and I may have teared up once or twice, while at other times I struggled to hold in my giggles since I was reading it over lunch at work.


The art is fantastic and the story is lovely. I read a library copy, but this one is going to have to go permanently on my shelf.
Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review: Day Shift

Day Shift (Midnight, Texas #2) 
By Charlaine Harris
****

A fun follow up to Harris's Midnight Crossroad. This time around the focus is on Manfred and Olivia as the primary voices, and Joe as a secondary voice. (I kinda love that there's no single main character in this series - Manfred takes the lead, but the other characters seem to be getting their own chance to take focus from book to book.) 

Things are changing in this unchanging little town and nobody likes it. There are several mysteries for our characters, some of which aren't revealed at the end. What was revealed was more about the characters, namely who and what they are. While I enjoyed the mystery, what I really loved about this installment was getting to know the characters better. I can't wait to find out more about them and see what happens next to their little town, because clearly something is coming.

In my review of Midnight Crossroad, I commented on how various characters and references were made to Harris's other series. The only reference I hadn't caught in the first book was to Sookie Stackhouse's world. Well, Day Shift is chock full of Sookie references, and they aren't even little minor ones. I love that we're getting a new series and a new set of stories, but I also like that I don't have to completely leave those past worlds behind.

Another great book for fans of Charlaine Harris! Recommended.

**I received an Advanced Review eGalley of this title from NetGalley**

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book Review: Seven Kinds of Hell


Seven Kinds of Hell (Fangborn #1) 
By Dana Cameron
*****
“I felt the shame of unleashing the Beast only until I was washed in a flood of righteousness...As I stepped out of my cheap black China-doll shoes, I felt elegant, sleek, graceful. The wind ruffled my fur.”  ― Dana CameronSeven Kinds of Hell
Take everything you know about vampires and werewolves and toss it out the window. Go ahead and toss it, I'll wait.

Dana Cameron's Fangborn world is made up of vampires, werewolves, and oracles, and they are completely different from anything I've read or watched. And they're FASCINATING! I'm particularly intrigued by Dana's vampires - which can turn into giant, colorful snake-creatures. Seriously, how cool is that? (Ok, maybe less cool if you have a snake-phobia. Fortunately for me they didn't turn into giant spiders.)

The story follows Zoe, a young woman pursuing an education in archaeology, who spent her life on the run from her father and his family. Her mother believed they were some kind of mafiosi, and they shuffled from place to place over the years to keep them at bay. Now Zoe is an adult, her mother just passed away, and it looks as though her father's family has finally caught up with her. Oh, and either she's insane, or she can turn into a werewolf. (Spoiler Alert: she's not insane...)

You'd think this would be enough of a story - woman on the run trying to stay a step ahead of her werewolf family, but noooo, Dana turns it up a notch by adding an international artifact hunt, mythology, several baddies of human and non-human nature, and various allies and enemies with Zoe trying to figure out which is which. 

This story subverted ALL of my expectations and gave me a book so far beyond what I could have hoped for! I gave up trying to figure out what could possibly come next after the first few surprise twists. And to top it off, Dana is a real-life archaeologist, so when she gets into aspects of that field, it's truly fascinating (or at least it was to me, who at one point thought I wanted to become an archaeologist - see my review of Lives in Ruins for more info about that). 

Bonus: I haven't traveled much, and what I *have* done took place over 10 years ago, but the characters traveled to places that I've seen in the flesh, and that was awesome for me. I've seen the ruins at Ephesus, and I've shopped the streets of Kusadasi (where I was proposed to...by a random fella outside a shop), and I've wound my way through the twisty alleyways of Mykonos. Luckily my trip didn't involve any murders or vast conspiracies...

Double Bonus: I had the chance to meet Dana last month at my library's annual Book Fest and she is super nice, incredibly funny, and wicked awesome. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, take it!

Seven Kinds of Hell was such a cool book. There's a lot too it, but it's one helluva ride! Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Review: Pocket Apocalypse

Pocket Apocalypse (InCryptid #4) 
By Seanan McGuire
****
“Hello,” she said. “Have you heard the good word of Wadjet, Protector of Egypt and great snake of the Milky Way?” 
― Seanan McGuirePocket Apocalypse
The fourth book in the InCryptid series had me on edge! The danger-level in this particular book seemed more intense than in previous installments. Normally I'd pick up a book in this series with the general assumption that the leads would live and there'd be a standard, if open (due to it being a series), HEA. I did not have that assurance as I read this story! Alex and Shelby head to Shelby's home in Australia after learning about a werewolf outbreak. In McGuire's world, werewolves are diseased - with a rabies-like virus - that makes them crazed killing machines. There will be no romantic interludes with these creatures. As they investigate the beastly menace, Alex also has to deal with Shelby's family, who pretty much hate him on sight as he's 1) an outsider, 2) a Price, 3) a grandson and cousin to a cuckoo, and 4) dating their daughter/sister.

The Aeslin mice, my favorite anthropomorphized characters since...ok, maybe ever, provide much needed levity, as everything else was stressing me out! They are basically the best. Despite the levity and all the madness and mayhem, there's one particular death that I'm still bitter about. Seanan, you know what you did!

I loved this book and I love this series. I can't wait to see what Verity's been up to in the next installment! We're going to a TV dance competition! HAIL!

Artwork by Kory Bing. Image taken from http://seananmcguire.com/fgaeslinmice.php

Monday, March 30, 2015

Book Review: Dead But Not Forgotten

Dead But Not Forgotten: Stories from the World of Sookie Stackhouse
Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
****
“Not since the dark days of the Twilight franchise had it been so trendy to be dead.”
― Charlaine HarrisDead But Not Forgotten: Stories from the World of Sookie Stackhouse
The premise of this short story series kinda blew my mind. A collection of urban fantasy, paranormal, mystery, etc. writers got together and picked a character from Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series and wrote a new story based on said characters. These weren't stories on a common theme built around their own characters; they were actually writing stories within Sookie's world, up to and including origin stories! The idea of someone writing stories like that who weren't the original author (or taking over a series postmortem) was a little bizarre. I kept thinking WWCD: What Would *Charlaine* Do?? 

That being said, it totally works! I don't know how they did it, but the short stories all found the right voice and felt like they belonged to the whole. Highlights for me include Leigh Perry's "The Real Santa Clause," her take on Diantha (one of my favorite minor characters) in a post Dead Ever After world. There's a mystery to solve and Diantha is up to the challenge, "suresuresure." Seanan McGuire's "Knit a Sweater Out of Sky" had my favorite title and I loved the magical whimsy mixed in with the danger and comeuppance in Amelia's story. One of my favorite characters from the series is Pam, and I loved learning more about her origins from Dana Cameron's short story "The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars." I had to take a beat or two to divorce myself from the True Blood Pam and find the Sookie Stackhouse Pam - which can be difficult since Kristin Bauer van Straten is such a powerhouse that it's hard NOT to think of her. Once I got my character incarnations straight, I was completely enthralled by Pam's passion and fire, as well as her sass in the face of danger (the bit with the photo-op was a delight).

A great book for anyone who's still not quite ready to let go of the series. Recommended.


Story List:
"Nobody's Business" by Rachel Caine (featuring Kevin Pryor & Kenya Jones)
"Tyger, Tyger" by Christopher Golden (featuring Quinn)
"The Real Santa Claus" by Leigh Perry (featuring Diantha)
"Taproot" by Jeffrey J. Mariotte (featuring Andy Bellefleur)
"Knit a Sweater Out of Sky" by Seanan McGuire (featuring Amelia)
"Love Story" by Jeanne C. Stein (featuring Adele Hale Stackhouse)
"The Million-Dollar Hunt" by Jonathan Maberry (featuring Mustapha Khan)
"Borderline Dead" by Nicole Peeler (featuring Desiree Dumas)
"Extreme Makeover Vamp Edition" by Leigh Evans (featuring Bev & Todd)
"Don't Be Cruel" by Bill Crider (featuring Bubba)
"What a Dream I Had" by Nancy Holder (featuring Alcide Herveaux)
"Another Dead Fairy" by Miranda James (featuring Claude & Claudia Crane)
"The Bat-Signal" by Suzanne McLeod (featuring Luna)
"The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars" by Dana Cameron (featuring Pam Ravenscroft)
"Widower's Walk" by MaryJanice Davidson (featuring Eric Northman)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: Prudence

Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1) 
By Gail Carriger
*****
“If that Alpha wanted to dash off into the jungle with a mysterious goddess on her back on a whimsical evening run in the middle of a prospective battle, they would go with her.” 
― Gail CarrigerPrudence
Another great lark from the amazing Gail Carriger! Fast forward from the Parasol Protectorate series about 20 years, and join the offspring of several of its main characters in this new series. Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama is the daughter of a werewolf and a preternatural (a "soulless" able to cancel-out the super in the supernaturals), making her the first metanatural (being able to "steal" the super from the supernaturals) in hundreds of years. She was also adopted and raised by a fashion-forward vampire and his pretty-boy drones. This combination of parentage has lead young Rue (she hates her name), to be rather daring and fearless, particularly in terms of undergarments, much to the dismay of her family.

Lord Akeldama, Rue's adopted father, sends her to India on a mission: someone has stolen the tea he was intending for an importing venture. Armed with a dirigible decorated like a ladybug, the twin offspring of the London vampire queen, the son of a brilliant inventor, and relatives stationed at her destination, and Rue dives full steam ahead into adventure. 

The first book in the Custard Protocol series is light and frothy and full of fun. There is certainly a mystery and the occasional daring-do, but the story never loses its sense of humor. Old characters grace the pages occasionally, and I was delighted to see them again. And the new characters were equally lovely. Miss Sekmet became an instant favorite. In addition, Carriger expanded her world building, introducing not only new characters, but new creatures as well. That was unexpected, but completely delightful! I can't wait to see what  else she has in store for her readers in future books.

This book can certainly stand on its own, but I'd recommend starting with the Parasol Protectorate series and possibly even the Finishing School series first, if you're new to the author. Her characters float between the series, and I find certain scenes more meaningful when I know the backstory. Either way, I highly recommend this book if you're looking for a clever romp with a healthy dollop of silliness.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1) 
By Jenny Han
****
“Do you know what it’s like to like someone so much you can’t stand it and know that they’ll never feel the same way?” 
― Jenny HanTo All the Boys I've Loved Before
To All the Boys I've Loved Before is the story of Laura Jean Song Covey, who is about to begin her junior year in high school. The three Song girls - Margot, Laura Jean, and Kitty - have been extraordinarily tight since their mother died years ago. Margo, the eldest, is about to leave for her freshman year of college at Saint Andrews in Scotland, leaving Laura Jean to take over the big sister role. 

The year starts off with a bang for Laura Jean. Over the years she wrote love letters/goodbye letters to the boys she's loved to provide herself with closure. Once she wrote the letters to the boys, she seals them up, addresses them, then sticks them in a hat box in her closet. They were never supposed to be seen. But on the first day of school, Laura Jean finds out that her former crushes have received their letters.

I had some trouble with this book initially - I really don't handle embarrassing situations well (be they fictional, real life, or my own), and boy howdy does this story start off with a doozy. But after getting over that hump, the story was touching and sweet and funny. I really enjoyed the characters and their growth. 

Laura Jean discovers a lot about herself, as well as a few of the boys, and I liked how much she grew. I know some people have been a bit shocked by the ending (no spoilers here!), but I liked where it left off. Also, it doesn't hurt knowing there's a sequel. I can't wait to see these characters again and find out what happens next!

Except for one: 


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Audio Book Review: Finishing School Series

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1)

By Gail Carriger
Narrated By Moira Quirk
Story: *****
Narration: *****
“It's no good choosing your first husband from a school for evil geniuses. Much too difficult to kill.” 
― Gail CarrigerEtiquette & Espionage
From Goodreads:
It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. 

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.


From Me:
This book is utterly delightful! Our heroine is clever, a Hermione without the wand, and fearless, but not in a "too stupid to live" way. Having read Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, I got a kick out of meeting characters in their youth that I knew as adults from Alexia's story, particularly the nine-year-old french girl who dressed as a boy. My fingers are crossed that Sophronia one day meets Akeldama - I think he'd like her.


Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2)
By Gail Carriger
Narrated By Moira Quirk
Story: ****
Narration: *****
“Ah. And how many ways do you know to kill me, while we dance?”
“Only two, but give me time.”  
― Gail CarrigerCurtsies & Conspiracies
Another great story by Gail Carriger! I truly love her Steampunk world and Sophronia's place in it. I had a hard time in the beginning of the book with the way the other students were treating our heroine, but it was explained well and made sense with the plot...I was just glad when that particular part of the story ended. 

Can't wait to find out what happens next!


Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3) 
By Gail Carriger
Narrated By Moira Quirk
Story: *****
Narration: *****
“Lady Linette has been teaching us seduction techniques.” She lowered her eyes and then looked off across the gray moor, presenting him with her profile, which was rather a nice one, or so Mademoiselle Geraldine told her.
That statement successfully shocked Felix. He swallowed a few times before saying, his voice almost as high as it had been a year ago, “Really?” 
― Gail CarrigerWaistcoats & Weaponry
Sophronia and company take on another adventure, this time helping Sidheag with family issues (notable background info in the Parasol Protectorate series). The ladies are terribly clever, and not much can stop them. Mixed with the action and a masquerade ball, Carriger deftly weaves in incredible humor - the girls may have started their training in seduction techniques, but it's clear they're still naive about some aspects of the opposite sex. Suffice it to say that these parts of the story brought out the giggles.

Now I need to go back and read the Parasol Protectorate series and get a refresher before diving into the Custard Protocol! Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review: Bad Blood

Bad Blood (Latter-Day Olympians #1) 
By Lucienne Diver
****
"I needed a shrink and a ladies' room--not necessarily in that order." --Bad Blood, Lucienne Diver
I'm so excited that Lucienne Diver will be one of our featured authors at this year's Lake County Library BookFest! Bad Blood was great fun with a super-sassy P.I. heroine, a la Charley Davidson. But instead of Charley's ghosts and demons, Diver's Tori Karacis is "facing off" against the Greek gods of old! Surly gods, creatures from the sea, two potential beaus, and a prehistoric sloth are just a few of the problems Tori has to deal with, not to mention the supposedly hum-drum case of a woman's missing dog.

I can't wait to see what happens to Tori next! Recommended.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Book Review: Vision in Silver

Vision in Silver (The Others #3) 
By Anne Bishop
****
"Meg Corbyn entered the bathroom in the Human Liaison's Office and laid out the items she'd labeled the tools of prophecy: antiseptic ointment, bandages, and the silver folding razor decorated with pretty leaves and flowers on one side of the handle." --Vision in Silver, by Anne Bishop.
Another great entry in The Others series. The mythology utilized in this series is so great - and so different from any other urban fantasy/paranormal/SFF series I've read. 

After finishing the book, I wondered if it was the end of the series. Honestly, if this *had* been where the series ended, I would have been very happy with the final result. It left you with hope for certain things while wrapping up other things nicely (was that vague enough?). But it looks like there will be at least two more books in the series. Books I will definitely be reading! 

**I received an Advanced Review eGalley of this title from NetGalley**