Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Will Supervillains Be on the Final?: Liberty Vocational Volume 1 by Naomi Novik, illustrated Yishan Li

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Title: Will Supervillains Be on the Final?
Series: Liberty Vocational Volume 1
Authors: Naomi Novik, illustrated Yishan Li
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 192
ISBN: 9780345516565
Publisher: Del Rey
Author Website: www.temeraire.org
Twitter: @DelReySpectra, @naominovik
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

From Amazon:
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Temeraire novels comes the first graphic novel in a thrilling new saga about the next generation of high-flying costumed crusaders

HEROISM 101

As universities go, Liberty Vocational is the private college of choice for budding superheroes learning to master their extraordinary powers for the good of humankind. But for sixteen-year-old Leah Taymore, just making her way through classes without incident is shaping up to be a superhuman task. Star struck by legendary ex-hero turned student advisor Calvin Washington, petrified by ultrastrict dean Dr. Santos, and tongue-tied over her supercool (and handsome) classmate Paul Lyman, timid Leah fears that even her ability to manipulate atoms won’t be enough to survive the rigors of L.V.—and become a full-fledged defender of all that is right. But the real test of her mettle is yet to come, in the form of infamous supervillain Bane, who has infiltrated Liberty with a sinister plan to bring down the best and brightest heroes of tomorrow before they even take flight.

Liberty Vocational is not your typical college. Why, you ask? Because it is where young superheroes go to learn how to use their powers to the best of their abilities. Leah Taymore has just started at Liberty Vocational, but her biggest challenge isn't learning how to use her extraordinary atom manipulation powers without causing a catastrophe, it's learning how to get through the day without causing a catastrophe just on her own. Add in to the mix cute boys, an adviser who may not want to advise her and a dean who may be out to get her, and Leah doesn't always have the best days. Then there's Bane. A supervillain of some notoriety who has infiltrated Liberty Vocational with some secret agenda all his own...

Will Supervillains Be on the Final? is cute. Compared to Novik's Termeraire series, it seems to fall a little short for me, but that may be more of the fact that I don't think I'm entirely the target audience, but I can appreciate it for what it is. You can tell that Novik is having fun with her characters and their situations. Leah's goofiness fits her well as she tries to navigate through a life that is entirely new to her. The supporting cast can sometimes be a little over the top, but that's really the point. The book is done in a manga fashion (which lends itself very well to this story), so in my limited manga-reading experience this seems to be true to how they are written, so manga fans should really enjoy this. Yishan Li's art is crisp and clean, and easy to follow throughout most of the book. Novik's Temeraire fans (more the girls than the guys, although the questions of the morality of superheroics might prove to be interesting to the male set, too) should probably give this a try as well, just to see how Novik can stretch her writing muscles.

Nothing challenging here, but something fun all the same.



Federal regulations require that I disclose that I receive a small commission on any purchases made through Amazon links on my blog, which I use to purchase more books.

FTC Guideline: ARC borrowed from a friend

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 1 by Kevin Hearne

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Title: Hounded
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 1
Author: Kevin Hearne
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 304
ISBN: 9780345522474
Publisher: Del Rey
Author Website: www.kevinhearne.com
Twitter: @KevinHearne, @DelReySpectra
Format: ARC Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars

From Amazon:
Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

Holy crap, but did I love this book! Druids! Witches! Gods! Werewolves! Vampires! Irish wolfhounds! Widows! Throw all these things together, and what you have is an entirely romping fun adventure of a book.

Atticus O'Sullivan may look 21, but in reality he's 21 centuries old and the last Druid. And when you're that old, you're bound to make some enemies along the way. You see, Atticus is in possession of a sword that he "stole" from the Tuatha Dé Danann almost 2000 years ago, and some of those gods want the sword back. Unfortunately for Atticus, one of these ancient gods has made it his personal vendetta against Atticus and has chased him for centuries. And Atticus has run for centuries. But maybe it's time for Atticus to stop running and face his pursuer. However, even Atticus knows it's not a good idea to take on a god by yourself, so he calls in help from some other gods, his vampire/werewolf tag team of attorneys, a bartender who is possessed by a centuries old witch and his faithful Irish wolfhound, Oberon. But even this mixed bag of heroes may not be enough to take down a Celtic love god who has allied himself with Hell and a coven of witches.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the moment I picked it up. Hearne's writing is so natural that it picks you right up in the story and sweeps you along. The world building in Hounded isn't too challenging - the entire story takes place in Tempe, AZ - but it's the way that Hearne utilizes gods from several pantheons to create a varied way that religion works in his world. I think this is a really unique approach to gods and Hearne uses it well. Don't let this intimidate you, though. Hearne explains who everybody is and doesn't leave you hanging on trying to figure out who is who.

The writing is fast-paced but doesn't seem to want to try to get ahead of itself. I've noticed this in books I've read before like this, that the story tries to move itself along almost too quickly, not giving you a chance to keep up with it. That's not the case here; Hearne keeps his story moving but without rushing you through it. His entire cast of characters are funny and witty, but not overly so. I found myself laughing out loud through several portions of the book, and especially at Oberon, Atticus' Irish wolfhound. I think that Oberon may be my favorite character in the book. His take on the world and what is happening around him from a smarter-than-your-average dog point of view is often hysterical.

I could gush on some more about the book, but really, you just have to read it to really appreciate just how much fun it is. Fans of Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files will definitely want to pick this series up, but anybody who enjoys a funny, clever urban fantasy will really enjoy this book. Highly recommended!

Hounded is available May 3, 2011, from Del Rey, Hexed: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 2 will be available on June 7, 2011, and Hammered: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 3 will be available on July 5, 2011, so you won't have to wait long for the rest of the series!



Federal regulations require that I disclose that I receive a small commission on any purchases made through Amazon links on my blog, which I use to purchase more books.

FTC Guideline: ARC paperback received from publisher for review

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 1 by Kevin Hearne - Coming May, 2011 from Del Rey

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Title: Hounded
Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 1
Author: Kevin Hearne
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 304
ISBN: 9780345522474
Publisher: Del Rey
Author Website: www.kevinhearne.com
Twitter: @KevinHearne, @DelReySpectra
Format: Paperback from publisher for review
Available: 5-3-11
Rating: 5/5 stars

From Amazon:
Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

You're going to have to come back on 5-3-11 for my full review, but I will tell you right now, holy crap, did I love this book! The best way to describe it is The Dresden Files meets religion. But don't think that comparison means Kevin Hearne is a copycat writer; he has a style and story all his own. His rather unique take on the pantheon of gods from religions all over the world is quite clever.

Highly recommended!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

P.T. Barnum by Anne Edwards, illustrated by Marylin Hafner

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Title: P.T. Barnum
Authors: Anne Edwards, illustrated by Marylin Hafner
Copyright: 1977
Pages: 63
ISBN: 9780399610837
Publisher: Putnam Publishing Group
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3/5 stars

This is a charming little volume that is definitely geared toward a younger audience but is still a good, if simplified, biography of P.T. Barnum. Edwards follows his life from childhood right up to his death, highlighting all the major accomplishments in his life. The accompanying illustration by Marylin Hafner are cute, if not a little dated, but it's part of the charm of the book.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bloom County: The Complete Library, Vol. 2: 1982-1984 by Berkeley Breathed

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Title: Bloom County: The Complete Library, Vol. 2: 1982-1984
Series: Bloom County
Author: Berkeley Breathed
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 304
ISBN: 9781600105838
Publisher: The Library of American Comics, IDW Publishing
Website: www.berkeleybreathed.com
Twitter: @IDWPublishing
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars

The second volume of the collected editions of Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County is just as good as the first, if not a little better. Breathed's wit is becoming a little sharper; his characters a little more defined, both artistically and literarily; he's beginning to find his way with the characters and the direction that he wants to take his strip in. His social commentary is starting to really solidify into what made this strip what it was: a commentary on us in the 80s. And what rings true then seems to still ring true in some cases today.

The reproduction quality of the strips could be a little better, but to be able to have all of the strips collected like this in such great editions, I'm willing to overlook that.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book 1 by Tom Sniegoski, illustrated by Jeff Smith

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Title: Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book 1
Series: Bone
Authors: Tom Sniegoski, illustrated by Jeff Smith
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9780545141024
Publisher: Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic
Author Website: www.boneville.com
Twitter: @scholastic
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5 stars

From Amazon:
A return to the enthralling world of BONE with book one in this gripping spin-off novel trilogy, illustrated in four-color!

Twelve-year-old Tom Elm is just an ordinary turnip farmer from the Valley, but he's always felt destined for something bigger. So when he discovers everyone in his village is asleep and plagued by nightmares, he assembles a band of unlikely heroes. They must fight to preserve the Spark--a divine light born at the core of a vast, dark nothingness called the Nacht. The Nacht is trying to permeate the Waking World with nightmares of the Dreaming, and it's Tom's mission to defeat the Nacht and its most loyal follower, the Constable. If he fails, his family--and everyone--might never wake up again.

Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book 1 is a great followup to the Bone series. Thorn is queen and there has been peace in the Valley since the events of Bone. However, that is until people in the village start falling asleep and never waking up, including Queen Thorn.

Enter 12-year-old Tom Elm, turnip farmer. There isn't much about Tom that is extraordinary, except for his belief that he is destined for something greater. The destiny becomes apparent when the Dreaming chooses Tom to be their champion against the Nacht, the evil that is corrupting the Waking World. Tom it directed by the Dreaming to bring together a band of heroes to help him in defeating the Nacht.

Book 1 of Quest for the Spark is your general introductory trilogy book; we meet the main cast of characters, both good and bad, and are introduced to the danger at hand. Not much else happens here, but it is a great addition to the Bone mythology. It's different from previous Bone stories in that it is a prose story, but it it illustrated in full color throughout by Jeff Smith (the creator of Bone) and the illustrations are fantastic. I've always been a fan of Jeff Smith's artistic style; it's very simplistic and minimal but he packs quite a bit of emotion into each art panel. I prefer to see his artwork in black and white (as it was originally presented) but the colored version of these illustrations are still gorgeous. Tom Sniegoski does a great job in keeping the light and whimsical yet serious and epic feel of Smith's writing from the original series. Overall, a great book and I can't wait for the next volume!

Top Book Club Books in March

Top Book Club Books in March

I've read three of these selections (Room, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and Water for Elephants: A Novel) and loved each of them. Have you read any of the Top Book Club Books from March?

Top-Selling Titles in Chicagoland and Milwaukee Last Week

Top-Selling Titles in Chicagoland and Milwaukee Last Week

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

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Title: The Iron King
Series: The Iron Fey, Book 1
Author: Julie Kagawa
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 363
ISBN: 9780373210084
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Author Website: www.juliekagawa.com
Twitter: @harlequinteen, @jkagawa
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars

From Amazon:
Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined…

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

I'll admit right up front that I was skeptical about this book. My friend Gail had been bullying me for awhile to pick up the series and give it a try, but honestly, the whole Harlequin thing kind of turned me off of the entire idea (even if it is being published through Harlequin Teen). It kept getting great reviews, as did the subsequent books, but it really wasn't until the third book was released and it was dedicated partly to Gail that I figured I should give it a try. If one of my best book friends was willing to promote the series so much that the author dedicated the book to her... well, I figured it was time to read at least the first one, The Iron King.

Wow. Wow wow wow!

I loved it! Julie Kagawa has such a natural story-telling ability that I was completely sucked into the story, immediately. Her characters are believable and her landscapes are tangible. I was thoroughly enjoying the book when she added in such a compelling and new idea, I was practically jumping up and down from the excitement I had. Her ideas about the new breed of Fey is genius. It seems so obvious, I'm surprised nobody has come up with it before (and maybe they have, and I just don't know about it), but she took the idea and ran with it. I don't really want to give too much away because it really is in the realization of what the new Fey are that makes it so interesting, but needless to say, these are Fey for the 21st century.

The story centers around Meghan Chase, your typical teenager trying to make her way through high school and life. She has all the typical high school problems: family, boys, school. But it isn't until a dark stranger starts following her and her best friend, Robbie Goodfell, starts to act overly protective of her that things start to get really strange. It all culminates in Meghan discovering that she is the child of a faery king and that she is being used as a pawn of war. Add in the mysterious Prince Ash, and you have all the elements you need to for one great story. Oh, and don't worry, for those curious there isn't too much romance, if any. For a Harlequin book, they really were light on the romance and heavy on the action for this book.

If you're looking for an original story set in a at turns familiar and yet strange land, I'd highly recommend The Iron King. I'm sorry it took me so long to getting around to it, and I'll admit that maybe, this once, Gail was right. But don't tell her I said that. She'll never let me live it down.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

X-Men: Deadly Genesis by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Trevor Hairsine & Scott Hanna

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Title: X-Men: Deadly Genesis
Series: X-Men
Authors: Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Trevor Hairsine & Scott Hanna
Copyright: 2005
Pages: 200
ISBN: 9780785118305
Publisher: Marvel
Twitter: @marvel
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

From Amazon
What happens when the skeletons in your closet finally break down the door and come looking for you? The X-Men are about to find out! In the wake of the tragic events of House of M, the mutant community is in turmoil, and the X-Men are bearing the brunt of this New World Order. Amid the chaos, a new enemy awakens, one whose very existence will haunt the founding members of the X-Men like nothing has before. Who is this new threat? How is he tied to Professor X's darkest secret? Cyclops, Wolverine and the others must find out soon, before they and those closest to them go mad! X-Men: Deadly Genesis, by Wizard Top Ten creators Ed Brubaker and Trevor Hairsine, is a mysterious blend of horror and super-heroics, as well as a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Giant-Size X-Men #1, that will have X-Men fans talking for years to come! Collects X-Men: Deadly Genesis #1-6.

As far as retcon's go, this one wasn't too bad. Turns out the team of X-Men that Professor X forms in Giant-Sized X-Men #1 is actually the second team that he sent to Krakoa to rescue the original X-Men. The first set of X-Men he sent were actually students of Moira Mactaggert's, who Professor X quickly trains through mind manipulation and sends off to Krakoa, only to have that entire team seemingly killed on their first mission. The only other person who knows of this tragedy is Cyclops, but Professor X wipes the memory from his mind to make it easier for Cyclops to cope. What I didn't like about this story is that it struck a little too close a cord with the DC Comics mini-series Identity Crisis which was released the year before, in which a terrible mistake in the JLA's past is mindwiped from everyone to keep the secret safe. Deadly Genesis, IMO, was handled well and the repercussions from this story have had significant effects on the X-Men as a whole; I just wish it didn't seem like Marvel was trying to copy the success DC had with so similar of an idea.

This volume does introduce us to Vulcan, the mysterious third Summers brother, who quickly becomes one of the X-Men's deadliest villains. It is also a direct lead-in to Rise & Fall of the Shi'Ar Empire, which ran in Uncanny for a full year after this mini-series. Banshee's death is handled well, too. He doesn't seem to have died in vain, and he appears to have remained dead, which doesn't always happen in comics. I personally feel that the X-Men as a whole seemed to be lacking direction post-House of M, but this volume does seem to start to steer them in a somewhat unified direction.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

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Title: Boneshaker
Series: The Clockwork Century, Book 1
Author: Cherie Priest
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 416
ISBN: 9780765318411
Publisher: Tor Books
Author Website: www.cheriepriest.com
Twitter: @cmpriest, @torbooks, @torSteampunk
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5 stars

From Amazon:
In the early days of the Civil War, rumors of gold in the frozen Klondike brought hordes of newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Anxious to compete, Russian prospectors commissioned inventor Leviticus Blue to create a great machine that could mine through Alaska’s ice. Thus was Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine born.

But on its first test run the Boneshaker went terribly awry, destroying several blocks of downtown Seattle and unearthing a subterranean vein of blight gas that turned anyone who breathed it into the living dead.

Now it is sixteen years later, and a wall has been built to enclose the devastated and toxic city. Just beyond it lives Blue’s widow, Briar Wilkes. Life is hard with a ruined reputation and a teenaged boy to support, but she and Ezekiel are managing. Until Ezekiel undertakes a secret crusade to rewrite history.

His quest will take him under the wall and into a city teeming with ravenous undead, air pirates, criminal overlords, and heavily armed refugees. And only Briar can bring him out alive.

Zeke wants to know the truth about his family. He's heard the stories, how his father, Leviticus Blue, built the Boneshaker, a machine that would mine through the ice of the Klondike to read gold for the Russians. He's heard the stories about how something went terribly wrong with the Boneshaker and how Blue lost control of it and it powered its way through the financial district of 1890s Seattle, smashing through several bank vaults before it reversed course and made its way back to the Blue mansion. He's heard the stories of how the Blight gas started to seep out, killing anyone who came into contact with it and turning them into zombies. He's heard all these stories, and doesn't want to believe them because his mother, Briar, who was there, won't tell him anything. And he's suspicious. And he plans on breaching the wall that has been built around Seattle to keep the Blight and rotters inside and finding out the truth and help rewrite his family's history. What he finds on the inside, however, may not be exactly what he is looking for.

Boneshaker is just as much a book about family and the ties that bind as it is a Steampunk extravaganza. Yes, it has the requisite dirigibles, goggles, mechanical goodness and other necessities that are obligatory in making a story Steampunk, but it is also the story of the love a mother has for her child and the lengths that she will go to to protect that child. Briar will stop at nothing to make sure that Zeke is safe, and this is what helps this book stand out in the Steampunk crowd. There's more to it than just Steampunk. And, just to make sure that her story stands out from other Steampunk stories, Cherie Priest also throws in a (un)healthy dose of zombies, just for good measure. It's also full of great characters who are each unique and engaging, and the world-building is topnotch.

Boneshaker is a great read. It's a great Steampunk novel. And it's a shame that it took me this long to finally getting around to reading it. Whether you're a fan of Steampunk or just enjoy a romping good book that is solidly written, Boneshaker is for you. Now, it's time for me to move on to Clementine and Dreadnought, the continuing stories of The Clockwork Century!