Saturday, June 22, 2013

Beletseri's #CBR V Review 16 My Favorite Witch by Lisa Plumley

I’m going to try and keep this review short, mostly because I read this book about a month or so ago and gave it a DNF (did not finish). It just got exponentially terrible. 

Dayna is a runaway witch. She fled her witchy hometown because she sucks at magic and all the mean girls at her high school were making her life miserable. Apparently there is some kind of weird second puberty for witches around 30ish and Dayna has to come back to train to control her magic? Or something I don’t know. TJ McAllister (who I kept calling TJ McSexxxypants and/or TJ Hooker) is the warlock sent to get her. Blah blah, he gets her and accidentally marks her as his mate. Blah blah, she comes back but he doesn’t want to be tied down so he basically dumps her on the town’s weird bureaucracy for training. Dayna has to train and is taking night high school classes, complete with mean girls, cliques and bullshit. Dayna’s story is about coming into her powers and redeeming herself in 2nd high school, while TJ is on a mission to save witchy kind from evil forces by finding The One. (Who, duh, is Dayna). He’s also half Native-American which makes him part shaman, or something. 

Basically my problem with this book was that there were so much crap all mixed together. Each time I turned around there was a different theme or set of references being added to a character. I just didn’t feel like everything worked together. One chapter would have Dayna fighting high school mean girls, the next chapter TJ is fighting evil spy warlocks, then there’d be a romance chapter. It just became clunky. A better author might have been able to make these things work, or set a better tone for all the elements to work together. Here it just felt sloppy and disjointed. Although the final straw for me was that through some more complicated and, frankly, stupid mythology warlocks aren’t supposed to get blow jobs. But Dayna wants to give him “his pleasure” or some nonsense. I read that bit about BJs and literally yelled “OMG BJs are VERBOTEN!!” Then I had to explain to my roommate why I was yelling about BJs alone in my room at 11 o’clock at night. That is really how I’d surmise this book, stupid plots point created through terrible convoluted logic to create unnecessary conflict.  

I must say that even though I couldn’t finish it there were aspects of the book that spurred me on. I got through about 2/3rds of the book and then read the last chapter to find out what happened. I said early that there were too many elements mixed together, but often the elements on their own were very interesting. I felt like I was reading 3 fun books that just happened to be mixed together. Dayna was spunky and fun, TJ was a sexy and interesting hero. I wanted to see the two of them get together, I wanted to see Dayna learn about her powers, and I wanted to find out how they defeated the evil. But I just couldn’t keep wading through the other terrible aspects of the book. Plus that whole forbidden BJs thing just pissed me off. In a book with lots of sex set in the modern world I really don’t understand how an author can justify writing that. 

I give it 1 out of 5 William Shatners.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Beletseri's #CBR V Review 15 Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lani Taylor

Wow, Holy shitballs. I just finished it, like 30 seconds ago. Baxlala was totally right. It’s amazing!!

Ok. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system review time! I’m going to try not to spoil it, but since the last half is basically just a huge reveal it might be hard. Karou is a teenage girl living in Prague attending art school, she lives on her own but her family, where she was raised, are chimera which are like human animal hybrids. Brimstone runs a shop that deals in teeth, of all kinds, human, animal whatever. Karou knows she isn’t normal and doesn’t have a normal existence, she’s curious about who she is but takes all the strangeness in stride.

Without giving away too much what makes this book amazing is three things, the characters, the world, and the big reveal. (There’s a love story that is really solid too, but it’s not what drove the book for me). Karou is a great lead character. She’s badass, smart, can fight with knives! And she has blue hair. The book is, mostly, told from her perspective. The big reveal is the truth about who she is. Strange things begin happening all around her, winged beings (angels) start being seen around the world and they’re burning handprints into doorways. This is all linked to Karou and swirls around her. The book does a great job of building this. It’s a tantalizing mystery and is very well paced. I was actually really impressed with the plotting. The second half of the book is almost all flashbacks, which is a bit clunky. But the point of everything leads up to the full reveal of who Karou is and what her story is. It’s done really well, and I think is the biggest contributor to the fact that the reader just can’t put this book down.  

The story is also told, partly, from the perspective of Akiva who is one of the angels. He sees Karou and becomes fascinated with her. He begins following her and trying to piece together the mystery of who she is. Plus there is Issa the snake woman and Brimstone the horned, goat footed fellow who is her father figure. Karou also has a bff named Zuzana who is adorable and really supportive.

I can’t tell you too much about the world without revealing everything, but I went into this book expecting YA Urban Fantasy and I got YA low fantasy. The way magic operates is really interesting; teeth are used for magic because they are a bit of pain. The magic of this universe is predicated on pain. The world and it’s characters become very fascinating.

The only thing I really didn’t like was that there is a bit of the POWER OF LURRRRVE that solves all problems, that kind of annoyed me. Plus the beginning starts off kind of slow and I felt like there was an unevenness between the two worlds. There is this night world Karou inhabits of the chimera, but she is also a normal teenage student. The juxtaposition feels uneven. I’m not sure if that was on purpose, since there is a unevenness in her life that is part of the story, or if it was clumsy. 

Meh, either way I give it 4 out of 5 moray eel teeth.

Beletseri's #CBR V Review #14 Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy

Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy has a lot happening in just six short issues. Firstly I got this book through and it was of the upcoming trade paperback. The story follows a reality television show, skeezy television exec Slate obtains DNA from the Shroud of Turin and commissions Dr. Sarah Epstien to make a clone of Jesus. They get a teenage virgin named Gwen to be the mother and Slate sets everyone up in a bizarre island compound. The compound is protected by former IRA member Thomas. Everything is filmed and J2 becomes the hottest reality show on TV, along with the most divisive. There are constantly hordes of activists protesting the show and the baby (called Chris). The most prolific and vicious are the born-again Christians. And that’s just the premise! 

Chris doesn’t even become “Punk Rock Jesus” until the third issue. I don’t want to spoil it, but the island is more of a prison for the “stars” than a way to protect them. Slate manipulates everything till the bitter end. Chris becomes radicalized and an atheist. He escapes the compound, starts a band, and sets off on a crusade to stop religion? I dunno, at this point it was at bit, well, pointless. 

While I totally enjoyed this comic, it was almost impossible to take it seriously. It was so violent that one of the main character’s really gruesome death just feels like another scene. It’s one of the most defining moments for the title character (and the other main character Thomas) but it was hard for it to have the gravity it needed in with all the Tarantino-esque bloodshed. Plus I really feel like the author put too much in. Christianity (including Catholicism and Protestants) Muslims, Reality TV, Evil Network executives, Science, atheism, alcoholism, guns, the IRA, punk rock, the list really goes on and on. It was tough for me to care too much about any one of the things the author was harping on. 

It read like Murphy had just been introduced to atheism and was really really excited about it. Like he got this new toy and couldn’t wait to tell everyone. Plus the bulk of the book was a “fuck you” to someone, Christians, TV execs etc. Not that I don’t enjoy a good fuck you, but that’s really all it was in some parts. Plus I heard a rumor that this book was kind of Murphy’s reaction to working for the big comic companies that he wanted to make a creator-owned comic that couldn’t be messed with. When I heard that it made perfect sense. It did read like someone who had been majorly burned by TPTB.

Despite all that I really enjoyed the book. The art’s not bad (which is a pleasant change) and the story is really original. It’s not often you get to read a book put out by a mainstream publisher that touches on so many very radical ideas. Plus I love reading non-orthodox takes on religion. It was a different comic, and just that alone gives it enough value to warrant reading. 

I give it 3 out of 5 overly violent deaths.

Beletseri's #CBR V Review #13 Avatar the Last Airbender: The Promise

Avatar the Last Airbender: The Promise is a series of four comics that pick up right where Avatar: The Last Airbender ended, with the defeat of Fire Lord Ozai. Just a warning, there will totally be spoilers for both shows (Avatar and Korra) in this review. I picked this up care of The edition I downloaded was actually the Library Hardcover edition that includes notes from the writers and artists, and collects all four books into one. 

This book actually makes a really interesting bridge between Avatar and Korra and begins to set up the changes we see in Korra. Fire Lord Zuko and Avatar Aang are working together with the Earth King to create peace, it’s call the Harmony Restoration Project. All throughout the first series Aang has to save the balance of the world because the four elements have gone out of whack. The Air Nomads were eliminated, the Fire Nation conqured much of the Earth Kingdom, most of the Southern Water Tribe is gone. It’s sort of understood in the series and made plain here in the book that Aang’s idea for peace is to make the world like it used to be. To separate the four nations again. They run into some problems. Namely that the oldest Fire Nation colony as actually incorporated Fire and Earth together. (not always in the most harmonious way as is wont to happen in colonized civilizations) But there has been a new mixing of peoples over the last 100 years. The characters include a girl who is an Earth bender but her father is from the Fire Nation. She maintains that she is a Fire Nation citizen. 

The title “The Promise” comes from the opening of the book, Zuko gets a promise from Aang that if Zuko starts to turn evil like his father that Aang will kill him. This is pretty dark for what is arguably a children’s comic, but sets up the main conflict of the book. Basically Zuko withdraws his support from the Harmony Restoration Project because he sympathizes with the colonists. Aang (and the Earth Kingdom) see this as an act of war and Aang sets off, fearful that he might have to kill his friend. 

I was actually really impressed with the story, the writing and the art. The art stays pretty true to the series. Almost everything was on model. The new characters all look like they could have walked right out of the cartoon. The backgrounds, sets, characterization, everything was amazingly on-model. I think there was a touch of missed opportunity for some really creative art, however I know that with a widely watched show, a 12 and under audience, and the wide distribution of the book that it wasn’t possible for the artists to get too creative. Plus I enjoy the art of Avatar so it was nice to look at. 

All of the characters are there, at least in some small role. Each one of them acted in character. There was still the great mix of drama and comedy. Over all it felt like an additional episode. It was really solid. Plus I found the ideas around the colonists fascinating. It really touches on issues of mixed heritage in a modern way, it should speak to Americans. The idea that someone can belong to two cultures and yet none at all is a distinctly American problem that we have been giving voice to for generations. Plus I thought the conflicts, blessings and lingering problems of colonization were dealt with in a smart way that brought out both the positives and negatives. It wasn’t presented as black and white, but really brought the nuances. This is an even more admirable feat when you remember that this is a children’s book! There are history textbooks (not to mention the countless history books at B&N) that can’t deal with these issues with the level of realism and honestly that this fantasy comic book can. 

I’m hoping to get more books in this series since this book left off with out really solving too many issues. It left a bunch of storylines opened. That is really the only problem I had with it. 

Because of that I’m only giving it 4 out of 5 momos.

Beletseri's #CBR V Review #12 Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest is a steampunk book follows the Briar Wilkes into the ruins of alternative history Seattle to rescue her son. 16 years earlier her husband, inventor Leviticus Blue, invented a powerful drill that destroyed the banking district and created a massive rupture in the earth. From that crevasse  erupted a yellow gas called “Blight” that kills the people that breath it and turns them into zombies (or rotters).  That’s a lot to take in. Steampunk, zomibies, alternative history Seattle (the Civil War still rages on even in 1880) family drama, oh and there are airship pirates and a mysterious crime boss.

I enjoyed the book, I think despite the fact that I felt like it took a bit to pick up steam. It’s a long 450 pages, but the last half really breezes by. It’s fascinating the amount of different things that Priest has working together. There are so many strange and new facets to this world. There is even a book long mystery of what happened to Leviticus Blue. I really enjoyed Briar Wilkes. She’s a tough character that has had a tough life since she is the only one left who can take the blame for the destruction of Seattle. Her son on the other hand is a bit annoying, however he is a 15 year old boy so that’s pretty realistic. He storms in brashly to a decaying Seattle full of zombies and almost dies about 1,000 times. Briar is a truthworthy narrator and she tells him not to go digging in the past. It’s frustrating to see him do just that. Plus it felt jarring to have two different stories. I enjoyed reading what Briar was up to, but the narrative would switch back to Zeke’s perspective.  I loved the ingenuity of the world, there is a sound cannon called a “Daisy” an assortment of masks and goggles and an animatronic arm. 

Besides Zeke, who actually grew on me, the only other thing I really didn’t like was some of Priest’s writing style. There are some amazing action packed scenes but I felt like I had a hard time following the action. I would read a paragraph and not really have much of an idea what had happened. I guess sometimes the writing didn’t feel clear enough to me. Perhaps I just wasn’t paying enough attention.
I haven’t decided if I’ll read the next few books in the series. Perhaps I will, but I think I can wait and I’ll work through a few other things first. 

Over all I give it 3 out of 5 pairs of goggles.