Comics roundup: Moon Girl and Papergirls

Paper Girls, Vol. 1 Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Vol. 1: BFF

I’ve been having some mixed results with the last few comic books I’ve picked up. Paper Girls is one of those raved-about very popular comics that everyone seems to love while I hadn’t heard much about Moon Girl before I picked it up at the library. But as fate would have it, I ended up enjoying Lunella Lafayette’s adventures very much. Paper Girls on the other hand I did not connect with on the same level. Sometimes that’s just the way it happens. Even though it’s got a lot of qualities I like (awesome female friendships! Time travel! Conspiracy stuff!) I just wasn’t into it. I feel like I’m missing something because I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.

But Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur was absolutely delightful. Lunella is a child genius with the inhuman gene, fighting against the inevitable: at some point, her inhuman powers are going to be activated and she’ll turn into something else. But Lunella is determined to forge her own path in the world – and her trusty dinosaur buddy comes along for the ride!

I’m always on the lookout for more comics to read, but I think I’m going to focus on actual books for a while until something really spectacular comes along.

Over to you, my fellow booklovers: have you read either of these comics? What did you think?

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Waiting on Wednesday #17

Welcome back to another edition of Waiting on Wednesday! WoW is a weekly meme that started with Breaking the Spine. Here’s what I’m waiting on this week:

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

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Description (from Goodreads):

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Testing trilogy comes a sweeping new fantasy series, perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Sarah J. Maas.

Twins Carys and Andreus were never destined to rule Eden. With their older brother next in line to inherit the throne, the future of the kingdom was secure.

But appearances—and rivals—can be deceiving. When Eden’s king and crown prince are killed by assassins, Eden desperately needs a monarch, but the line of succession is no longer clear. With a ruling council scheming to gain power, Carys and Andreus are faced with only one option—to take part in a Trial of Succession that will determine which one of them is worthy of ruling the kingdom.

As sister and brother, Carys and Andreus have always kept each other safe—from their secrets, from the court, and from the monsters lurking in the mountains beyond the kingdom’s wall. But the Trial of Succession will test the bonds of trust and family.

With their country and their hearts divided, Carys and Andreus will discover exactly what each will do to win the crown. How long before suspicion takes hold and the thirst for power leads to the ultimate betrayal?

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Why I’m Waiting: I’m such a sucker for rivals struggling over the throne and this one should be especially exciting since the rivals are brother and sister. This promises lots of secrets and betrayal and courtly intrigue – sign me up!

Back to you, book lovers: what book are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Review: The End of Oz

The End of Oz (Dorothy Must Die, #4)

Synopsis (from Goodreads): In this high-octane fourth book in the New York Times bestselling Dorothy Must Die series, Amy Gumm must do everything in her power to save Kansas and make Oz a free land once more.

At the end of Yellow Brick War, Amy had finally defeated Dorothy. Just when she and the rest of the surviving members of the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked thought it was safe to start rebuilding the damaged land of Oz, they realized they’ve been betrayed—by one of their own. And Dorothy might not have been so easily defeated after all.

In the fourth installment of the New York Times bestselling Dorothy Must Die series, the magical Road of Yellow Brick has come to the rescue, and whisked Amy away—but to where? Does the Road itself know where she needs to go to find the help that she needs?

Welcome to the other side of the rainbow. Here there’s danger around every corner, and magic shoes won’t be able to save you.

 

I’ve had an up and down relationship with the Dorothy Must Die series, but I’m pleased to say that I have mostly positive thoughts about the final installment.

Here’s the thing you should know about me: I judge all Oz retellings against the Wicked musical (just like how I judge all dystopias against The Handmaid’s Tale) and… let’s just say, Wicked is a hard act to follow. The movie Oz the Great and Powerful? Um… the visuals were nice, I guess. The wicked witch character on Once Upon a Time? Literally the worst. NBC’s Emerald City? Well, I was kinda sorta liking it until they killed off the one character I liked. I enjoyed the Tin Man miniseries for its campiness, but the dialogue was a little clunky. Oz retellings and I just don’t seem to get along unless it’s Wicked and you’ve got Elphaba singing about defying gravity.

But what’s admirable about Dorothy Must Die is that it not only turns the traditional wicked witch versus goody two-shoes Dorothy plot on its head, it also dives headfirst into a lot of the lesser known Oz mythology (this is something that Emerald City, for all its faults, also got right.) I have to give Danielle Paige credit for doing her research into the other books about Oz and pulling some lesser known characters into the mix.

When I finished Yellow Brick War, the third book in the series, I was a bit annoyed. I thought DMD was going to be a trilogy and to found out that there was suddenly this magical fourth book… when you were expecting things to be over and got another cliff-hanger instead, you might not go into the final installment with the best thoughts. But I don’t like leaving things unfinished unless I’m really mad (maybe at some point I’ll write a discussion post on DNFing because I have many thoughts) so when The End of Oz came out, I picked it up.

The usual fast-paced storytelling is still present in this final volume, I’m happy to report. There’s no time wasted on reflection. I thought it was an interesting choice at this point in the story to introduce dual narration. I wonder if things would have felt different if we’d had more of Dorothy’s POV all the way through? It did make for a bit of a jarring reading experience: Dorothy’s voice is definitely an acquired taste. So I’ll be honest: I wasn’t as invested going into this final book as I wanted to be. But I was won over in the end because I honestly didn’t see it coming. (I don’t want to spoil it here, but if you’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean.) It was a bold narrative choice and while it might not be popular with some readers, I have to give Danielle Paige credit for going there. If I had to rank all the books in this series, it would look something like this:

  1. The Wicked Will Rise (book 2)
  2. a tie between The End of Oz (book 4) and Dorothy Must Die (book 1)
  3. Yellow Brick War (book 3)

Report Card:

  1. Coverart/Book design: 8.5/10 A-
  2. Plot/Concept: 9/10 A
  3. Main character: 7.5/10 B. I like Amy but as I said… Dorothy is an acquired taste
  4. Secondary characters: 8/10 B+
  5. Setting/Worldbuilding: 9.5/10 A+. Major credit where credit is due for the research.
  6. Writing: 7.5/10 B
  7. Pacing: 7.5/10 B
  8. Romance: 8/10 B+
  9. Ending: 9/10 A.
  10. Overall: 74/90. 3.5 stars for a B+ rating overall and a satisfactory ending to the series.

 

Review: Heartstone

HeartstoneSynopsis (from Goodreads): They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.

Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.

It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

Elle Katharine White infuses elements of Austen’s beloved novel with her own brand of magic, crafting a modern epic fantasy that conjures a familiar yet wondrously unique new world.

As someone who loves all things Austen, when Elle Katharine White’s Heartstone crossed my path I knew I had to get my hands on it. It combines two of my favourite things: Pride and Prejudice… and dragons! And it does it rather well.

I appreciated that Heartstone managed to incorporate the riders, dragons and other creatures within the world of Pride and Prejudice without deviating too much from the structure of the original novel, even if it did make for some uneven pacing. The story spans many months and the major points of action are spread apart. While the novel doesn’t dwell on the time between, it does have to do some side-stepping in order to get to the interesting parts. But even with the small lulls in action, I found it to be a quick read.

What I find most interesting about retellings is how the original characters get recast and how their relationships unfold. We all know the epic Lizzie/Darcy relationship from the original P&P, so seeing it played out by Aliza and Daired feels like watching favourite OTP fall in love again (unless you haven’t read or watched Pride and Prejudice, in which case, what have you been doing with your life?) Aliza’s relationship with her sister Anjey (Jane in the original) is also one of the highlights.

But I was most interested in how some of the villainous characters from the original novel were recast here. While the Caroline Bingley, Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins characters come off better here, Heartstone really doubles down on Wickham as a villain, which I think was a sound narrative choice. There were also some new characters introduced: the dragons! I love these talking dragons, you guys. And I love this book. It’s a lot of fun and it doesn’t take itself as seriously as some Austen retellings. It’s respectful of the original text as well, which is very important.

Report Card:

  1. Coverart/Book design: 9/10 A. It’s got a dragon on the cover!
  2. Plot/Concept: 9.5/10 A+. Pride and Prejudice with dragons, you guys.
  3. Main character: 9/10 A. I loved Aliza!
  4. Secondary characters: 8.5/10 A-. A well-rounded cast, but a few could have used more development.
  5. Setting/Worldbuilding: 9/10 A. This was where the book really shone. It feels like England by another name but it also feels very original.
  6. Writing: 8.5/10 A-
  7. Pacing: 8.5/10 A-
  8. Romance: 9/10 A
  9. Ending: 9/10 A
  10. Overall: 80/90. A solid A rating and 4 stars from me! Everything is better with dragons.

Waiting on Wednesday #16

Another week, another Waiting on Wednesday! WoW is a weekly meme that started on Breaking the Spine. Here’s what I’m looking forward to this time around:

Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

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Description (from Goodreads):

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community, and has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea‘s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

With illustrations from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums and snippets of Wallace’s fanfiction, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Why I’m Waiting: I’ve come to love books that deal with being in fandom: Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Danica Stone’s All the Feels come to mind. This book sounds like it’s in the same vein as those two and it sounds like a nice, fluffy read.

Talk to me, book lovers: what are you waiting for this Wednesday?

Review: The Swan Riders

The Swan Riders (Prisoners of Peace, #2)
Description (from Goodreads):

Greta Stuart had always known her future: die young. She was her country’s crown princess, and also its hostage, destined to be the first casualty in an inevitable war. But when the war came it broke all the rules, and Greta forged a different path.

She is no longer princess. No longer hostage. No longer human. Greta Stuart has become an AI.

If she can survive the transition, Greta will earn a place alongside Talis, the AI who rules the world. Talis is a big believer in peace through superior firepower. But some problems are too personal to obliterate from orbit, and for those there are the Swan Riders: a small band of humans who serve the AIs as part army, part cult.

Now two of the Swan Riders are escorting Talis and Greta across post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan. But Greta’s fate has stirred her nation into open rebellion, and the dry grassland may hide insurgents who want to rescue her – or see her killed. Including Elian, the boy she saved—the boy who wants to change the world, with a knife if necessary. Even the infinitely loyal Swan Riders may not be everything they seem.

Greta’s fate—and the fate of her world—are balanced on the edge of a knife in this smart, sly, electrifying adventure.

Full disclosure: I was slightly terrified to read this book. It came out last Fall, but I put it off until now. Why, you ask? This was one of those cases where the first book in the series set the bar so high, it would have been impossible to reach. But The Swan Riders comes damn close.

Another confession: I’m kind of over dystopia as a genre. Maybe it’s because I grew up watching Star Trek’s more optimistic view of the future, but I’ve always struggled with dystopia as a concept. Or maybe it’s also because I compare every dystopia I read to The Handmaid’s Tale and nothing measures up to The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s terrifying because in our current political climate, it feels like something that could actually happen! *shudders*

Back to The Swan Riders. I recall its predecessor, The Scorpion Rules, being a polarizing read: people either didn’t connect with it, had very mixed feelings about it, or they absolutely loved it. It was one of those books that incites a strong reaction either way. I was in the absolute love category: I appreciated the sophisticated level of storytelling, the character development, the Canadian connections, the diversity, everything. The Scorpion Rules was always going to be a tough act to follow for me.

But despite my lofty expectations, The Swan Riders is a solid follow-up. Without giving too much away (because things will get super spoilery if I do) the story arc that our favourite morally grey AI Talis goes through… wow. Not to mention Greta’s continued journey or the additional quality time we get to spend with my guy Elian. There’s so much thought-provoking stuff in unpack that I can’t explain it properly in a review, though I’d love to talk to someone who’s read it. There were also some new characters who stuck with me long after I turned the final page (Evangeline, you guys!) but a few of my faves from the first book were absent, which bummed me out a bit.

Report Card:

  1. Cover Art/Book Design: 8.5/10 A-. Visually striking, but I’m sad they changed the style from the first one! Now mine don’t match.
  2. Plot/Concept: 9.5/10 A+. Still solid.
  3. Main Character: 9.5/10 A+. I love Greta. She’s not everyone’s type of heroine, being so quiet and dutiful, but it’s been wonderful to see her find her voice and her power.
  4. Secondary/Supporting characters: 9.5/10 A+. I LOVE EVERYONE.
  5. Setting/Worldbuilding: 9.5/10 A+. Quality worldbuilding.
  6. Writing: 9.5/10 A+. The quality of Erin Bow’s writing style is a cut above.
  7. Pacing: 8/10 B+. This was my major quibble. While the first book was slower paced, the pacing remained even throughout. This one starts with a bang, but then it meanders a bit.
  8. Romance: 8/10 B+. I love Elian, but where was my Xie?
  9. Ending: 8.5/10 A-. A bit more open than I personally prefer, but well-handled.
  10. Overall: 80.5/90 = A. Somewhere between 4 and 4.5 stars. I had my worries, but things came together in the end. However, I will say that if you’re a mood reader like me, this is definitely the type of story you have to be in the mood for.

Mini Reviews: Black Canary 1 & 2

I’ve gotten so behind on my reviews! Bad me. I haven’t kept this blog as active as I intended to back when I promised myself I’d get back into blogging. But hey! Better late than never. I’m adding a bunch of reviews to my post schedule today, including this mini comic review for the first two volumes of Black Canary.

Black Canary, Volume 1: Kicking and Screaming Black Canary, Volume 2: New Killer Star

Hmm.

Black Canary was a bit of a frustrating reading experience for me. Do you ever have that feeling where you’re certain you’re going to like something, only to have it be underwhelming when you finally experience it? That’s how I felt about Black Canary.

Being somewhat familiar with Dinah Lance’s backstory from other properties (kickass vigilante with metahuman powers) I wanted to see how this newest version fared. Turns out, if I didn’t have that background knowledge, I would have been completely lost. I loved the idea of re-casting Dinah as a rock star. I thought that aspect of the plot worked. the artwork is visually striking and the supporting players were a lot of fun. But… I was so lost. Volume 1 set things up pretty solidly but everything got super convoluted in Volume 2. If I hadn’t read these back to back I would have been even more lost. It’s also really hard to tell a story about music in medium that’s entirely visual. If I hadn’t known about Dinah’s signature Canary Cry, I wouldn’t have had anything to go on.

But I do see why people have praised these comics. It was great to see Dinah on her own without the characters she’s usually associated with and like I said, the style of artwork was really cool. In the end, Black Canary was a case of “pretty good, but not my thing.” Both volumes earned a solid but ultimately “good but not great” 3 stars from me.