Friday, May 20, 2011

Not a review...

Here's an excellent short story by Eric Gregory, titled The Harrowers. It's a zombie/dystopian tale. I don't usually like zombie stories, but this one is a great read. Try it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 8, Vol 1)

Several years ago, a tragedy occurred on television: an amazing show was canceled after seven wild and wonderful years. Well, Buffy the Vampire Slayer lives on! Enter the official Season 8 comics, now collected in several graphic novels. NetGalley has provided me with several to review. I just finished Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home (Season 8, Vol. 1).

My Rating: ★★★★

Thank you, Joss Whedon, for bringing Buffy back to us. The television show was my first experience with urban fantasy and lead to my current obsession with it. I have missed Buffy, the characters, humor, the world, everything. Reading this was like coming home after a long trip away. All Buffy fans need to read this.

Pros -

It's Buffy. Not only is it Buffy, it's by the original mastermind Joss Whedon himself. His trademark humor is peppered throughout, and reads just like watching an episode. It picks up after the seventh season, with all the history and characters present. It truly is the eighth season. Everything I loved about the television series is here.

The artwork captures the actors almost perfectly. There was only one person who I had to puzzle out which character he was (and honestly, his character could be considered very minor at best). Everyone else was drawn spot on.

Cons -

The story was good, but not amazing. I'm not sure how it could have been better, but it did not completely grip me. It was still enjoyable though.

I recommend this to all Buffy fans. Because of the extensive supporting cast, and history, it'd be very difficult for readers who don't know the universe to enjoy this as much.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Coming up...

From NetGalley, I've received several digital graphic novels for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 comics. I've started those and look forward to sharing my reviews. I've also started Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre.

Feast: Harvest of Dreams by Merrie Destefano

I just finished Feast: Harvest of Dreams by Merrie Destefano, which I received as an Advanced Reader's Copy.

My Rating: ★★★

Feast is an unique and interesting urban fantasy. I've never read a similar story. The Darklings were completely new to me. It's nice to see a fresh spin in the genre. However, there didn't seem to be any set magic rules here. Yes, it's fantasy, but I like a firm framework and guidelines in which magic works. The Darklings did all kinds of magical feats, but we never get an idea of their limits. Feast has great potential, however it could have been better.

Pros -

Unique concept. I had no idea what to expect when introduced to the Darklings and they're great. They're non-humans, and they act like it. I dislike novels where the fae, vampires, shifters, etc, act just like us, but with extra abilities. Not the case here. At no point did I wonder whether a character was human or not.

Fast, easy read. This is a fun and quick escape.

Cons -

Undefined magic rules. There needs to be some kind of framework for what magic can and cannot do. The Darklings just throw veils and songs around, and things happen. I never got a real feel for them, or their limits.

Too many characters. I lost track of the number of characters Destefano introduced. And they are all told in the first person. Thankfully, every chapter tells us which person we're listening to, but it gets confusing.

Most of the chapters are very short. As in a page or two long. I'm not sure any chapter was longer than six or seven pages. It made reading it very choppy at times, especially with the constant POV changes.

Feast is an enjoyable read, but it could have been more. I'm up in the air about whether I'll read any more if this becomes a series. I recommend this for any urban fantasy reader looking for something new.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

I absolutely adore the Harry Dresden books, but for some reason it takes me awhile to finish one. But I finally finished Turn Coat. What a ride.

My Rating: ★★★★

Jim Butcher is amazing. The depth of his world, characters, plot, all of that, blows me away each time I read a Dresden book. Turn Coat is number eleven in the series, yet I'm still loving it. It shows no signs of slowing down or growing stagnant. Few authors can pull off long series well. Jim Butcher is one.

Pros -

It's a Harry Dresden book. I'm so invested in these characters and the world, I really want to know what they're doing, how they're going to handle the ongoing problems that cover several books. The whole world evolves and changes and you never know how it'll play out. Every time I pick up a Dresden book, I know it's going to be a wild, but fun, ride.

The writing itself is flawless. Okay, I'm not an English professor, but in my humble opinion, Butcher writes amazingly well. He throws in descriptions I'd never have thought of, but are just perfect for that situation. And, coming from Harry's point of view, the descriptions can be very humorous. I just eat it up.

Yet another beautifully complex plot. Butcher loves to take two radically different plots, force them both on Harry then let us watch him juggle them. In the end, the plots are directly tied together in a way that we never would have guessed. I love it.

I've mentioned the characters before, but they deserve their own section. Everyone in the Dresden-verse is amazing. These aren't names on a piece of paper. They're people. You feel for everyone of them. They all have their own struggles, thoughts and plans for the future. They're not some random figures moving in the background. This book is no exception. We see more of many of the side characters, and learn more. Everyone, like Harry, continues to grow.

Cons -

I have a personal pet peeve with books in a long series: when the author has to bring in a new bad guy every book that's more powerful than anything the protagonist has ever faced. Oh, no, nothing's ever been so evil and strong as this bad guy! After several books of this, I'm left yawning. Really, again? Granted, the Dresden books don't do this every book. But it happened in this one, and has happened before.

I figured out the traitor. And I don't mean, near the end I realized who it was. But shortly after seeing this person fairly early on, I had that “Aha!” moment. Sigh. I didn't get all of the details. There were many other things happening that had me utterly clueless. But I figured them out. It's the first time I've done that (and got it right) in a Dresden book.

A major character had something happen at the end of the last book. I really wanted to know how he was. But he only got mentioned in one sentence.

This is another, great Dresden read. Anyone who likes his stories should read this one too, in chronological order of course. This is not a series that can be enjoyed as much if read out of order.

Follow my reviews at Urban Fantasies Read and Reviewed.

Doorways by George R. R. Martin

I received a sneak peak up the upcoming graphic novel George R. R. Martin's Doorways from NetGalley, as a free Advanced Reader's Copy. I am a huge fan of Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, so I jumped at this.

My Rating: ★★★★

Let me start by saying that I only received the first part of this, and this review covers only that. I enjoyed it. The art and coloring was good (comic book quality good, not Rembrandt, of course). The panels flowed well into each other, never leaving me wondering which was next. The brief glimpse of the story I had was interesting. As with many “super-hero” type comics, it seemed a bit rushed. Unfortunately for the comic genre, the writers have very few pages to grab the reader's interest. If they fail that, the reader will not purchase the next issue. I consider the rushed air part of the genre.

There were a few moments that stretched my suspension of disbelief. I was left pondering, “Would a government agency really do that?” There was an explanation given, but it didn't quite work for me. This, too, might be because of the limitations (expectations?) of the genre. The characters needed to be off and running by page XX, so it happened.

I love George R. R. Martin. He puts amazing depth to his worlds and characters. I am eagerly awaiting to see what he can do with this. Admittedly, I worry if his talent can truly be expressed in this medium. I'm looking forward to the rest of Doorways, and recommend this one to comic/graphic novel readers.