Digital Comic: The Vamprie Diaries – Vervain 3/3

Image

Welp. The last third of the initial installment of The Vampire Diaries comic is complete. Has it won me over?

Eh.

On the positive side, this issue is a huge improvement over the second issue; the plot gets wrapped up nicely and in a way that is both believably Salvatore (though I will wonder why they still let him go at the end of it all instead of just going the True Death route, maybe because of the younger fanbase?) and something we’ve seen happen in the show’s canon before so it makes sense. The banter between the brothers was also nice.

On the down side, the second issue fills like filler ever more now. The main thrust of the second issue – discovering Julian’s weakness – was mentioned in passing only. What was the point of going to the trouble of them learning it to not actually use it? I feel like there was a Chekov’s gun failure here. Additionally, Julian started sounding a wee bit like a James Bond super-villain towards the end. It was decidedly more cheesy than scary, even though the latter was clearly the intention.

Overall I just remain kind of meh on this title. It’s not awful, it’s not great. I’m sure that, like the True Blood comic, it needs to exist outside of the main canon, but at the same point in time the True Blood comic felt like it ran parallel to it rather well. This first issue only dealt with the Salvatore brothers; expanding the books out to the other characters will help me see the bigger picture, and whether this can manage that.

I will likely give the books one more arc. These things can take time to settle into their rhythm and I get that; but still my patience is not endless.

Verdict: See if a friend has a copy and browse it. Fans of the series (but not so much comics) may enjoy it better than fans of both the series and comics in general. At $0.99 its not a big investment to try; it’s not just a must have either.

Advertisements

Good Reads 62: Pawn by @aimee_carter

ImageThe last few weeks I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump. First I’d been between books, then I got sick and that kicked me out of any kind of mood to read. I was lacking motivation to pick up my Kindle again. But around twitter, a lot of the book bloggers I’d been following were buzzing about this book and my friend was like “you have to read this!”

And so I have.

It’s the quickest I’ve devoured a book in quite some time.

And making it even more worthy of praise? It’s a dystopian young-adult novel, a genre that has, without question, been growing stale in recent months as many of the books try to copy The Hunger Games or Divergent, the later of which was quite derivative itself.

The book is interesting because unlike most in the genre which like to have large rebellions that encompass the world, this book focuses on a very small internal struggle within the family at the height of power. We get an idea that there are hints of problems in the outside world and hints of the corruption that make the society not quite perfect (though to the authors credit, she does show that the system can work, that it’s not completely broken – a nice twist) but that isn’t the focus. Though the heroine does legitimately want that change, she’s not a natural at this. And I’m okay with that. It’s nice to have protagonists who can’t always take action, who are reactive rather than proactive. It makes them feel 17. One of my big issues with Divergant is that Tris went like feeling like she was 13 to 25 back to 14 again when the plot called for it. She never felt real, and Kitty does, even if some find her more at a distance or harder to relate to/root for than most YA heroines.

While I don’t think Pawn reinvented the wheel here (nor did she try), I think the author has accomplished an extremely fine example of the genre; and those who like YA or who like dystopian politics will really enjoy it.

Verdict: Buy it

P.S. A hundred points to Slytherin for lack of a true love triangle – the feeling Kitty develops make sense in the context of the plot, and that whole aspect is handled in a refreshing manner. If only more YA authors could follow suit.

Good Reads 61: True Blood: Steve Newlin’s Field Guide to Vampires by @McMillz and Gianna Sobol

Image

I think the proper way to review this book is to put it into context of what it is, and what it is not. What it is not: an episode guide, season-by-season guide or any kind of comprehensive character guide. What it is: a notebook “written” by human Steve Newlin (and based on the text after Texas and before he was turned) with “annotations” by Eric and Pam who have found it on an AVL protestor that was protesting about Fangtasia.

The book itself does a good job looking like a lab book. Beneath the cardbord book jacket is the book’s title in white lettering and the True Blood logo engraved in black. Each page is generally printed on faux-graph paper (except when items like Fellowship of the Sun (FotS pamphelets cover pages) with one font each for Steve (black), Eric (blue) and Pam (red). The handwriting thing is a stretch, but the authors do a good enough job conveying the voices that it helps you suspend disbelief.

Timeline wise, it appears this book was written mid-season five, based on one of the comments left by Eric. Roman is dead, but the Authority haven’t all gone and offed each other yet. What this means is that any events that happened in season six – zero reference, unless they’re hinted at as future possibilities in the FotS sections (like the Hep V and vamp camp). For that matter, we don’t even get profiles of the Authority vampires. Aside from a few pages of Steve talking about his turning (Salome ordered it so he could eventually replace Nan, but he doesn’t know who did it, so nothing really new from the show), the Authority is largely discussed as a hypothetical, something that human Steve isn’t sure exists, but feels like it must. I do find this a bit jarring (like why is this being released so many months after season six if there is more or less zero content from that season ) and a bit of a disappointment. Your mileage may vary.

As for the new content in this book: it’s there. The bulk of it comes about Steve’s human life, and the history of the Fellowship of the Sun which is quite clever. There is also a lot lifted from the comic continuity that McMillian built up over its run. The average reader will be happy to know what happened to Chow, and the comic reader will delight in getting the backstory on Sarah’s romance novel (and an excerpt page!). That said, comic readers may find it a bit disappointing that most of the new content isn’t that new to them.

Finally, there is a section on werewolves, shifters (and thanks to Eric and Pam) a few pages on faeries as well as some location guides for vampire related businesses. These do feel a bit like filler, because the book is relatively slim at 144 pages.There are also fun drawings scattered throughout the text.

Overall, I do think the book accomplishes what it set out to do and fans of the series should enjoy this; though more casual fans might enjoy it more than the hardcore fan who has read the comics as well. I think as long as you go into it with the proper expectations, the book is a Buy It for fans of the show.

Good Reads 59: Angelbound

18459932Disclaimer: An ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair review

I have not had good luck with the angel/demon sub-genre of paranormal fiction this year, adult or young adult. I’ve read titles with half-baked world, easily guessed plot twists, and stories that ended as abruptly as the first half of a two-part film, only without the actual justification for doing so. In short: I was in a rather cynical mood when I requested this book. Thankfully, I was very pleasantly surprised by this and wound up enjoying myself immensely.

Myla (or Myla-la as her mom likes to call her) is a Quasi: a half-human, half demon. Quasis like her are a servant class in Purgatory; beholden to the Ghouls who are allies to the demons. All Quasis are assigned jobs, many of them quite menial. As her half-demon is a Fuhror demon- a wrath based entity, Myla is obligated to fight in the Arena where she fights souls who have elected to trial by combat to determine whether they go to heaven or hell. She has never lost and she loves to fight. The one thing she yearns for is to learn who her father is (a point her mom is obsessively not willing to discuss) and try to figure out what is going on as demons start behaving oddly in the Arena, she gets dreamscapes from the Angel Verus and she starts falling for a Thrax Prince (half-human, half-angel) named Lincoln.

Bauer does a good job here setting up the world in which they live; down to little details like how all Quasis are assigned a uniform of t-shirts and sweat-pants to try and discourage normal teenage behavior. Because we have a good idea of how the world works, the dreams that reveal the past are especially devistating. I love how there is no love triangle here. In fact, there is almost the opposite. Myla isn’t boy crazy. At all. She knows she’s started to crush on Lincoln, but also knows that because he’s a Prince, there’s not really a good chance they can be together and tries to talk herself out of it. I love the interactions here between Myla and her best friend Cissy, the envy demon and how the “dates” between Lincoln and Myla are anything but typical but completely fit in with the character that Myla has been presented as. She feels like an actual high school student without being a stereotype of one. And that is always a plus.

I do have some small quibbles -like the behavior of some of the Thrax feels a bit too bitchy and even though they (in their eyes) have reason to dislike her and there is a (thankfully) brief fixation with butt jokes in the begging that seems a bit juvenile and out of place given the tone of the rest of the book. Neither of these are major complaints though, and neither would stop me from recommending this.

All in all, this book has all the qualities I look for in a good book: a fully-developed world, likable characters and an interesting plot. If you’re looking for something fun, give this a shot.

Verdict: Buy it.

Note: This book is due to be published December 17th. Keep an eye out for it!

Question: Do You Blindly Read A New Series By A Favorite Author?

Question comes from Yummy Men and Kick Ass Chicks

Meh. I’ve been reading long enough that no author gets a 100% free pass. If an author starts on a new series I’ll definitely read the sample, or check it out in the bookstore, but I won’t automatically buy it just because, and that’s mainly for two reasons:

1a. Just because an author is good in one genre doesn’t mean they’re good in others. Authors who cross over well (like Brandon Sanderson) are incredibly rare.

1b. I’m pretty set in what I like to read genre-wise. I’ll occasionally dip my toes in other waters, but it’s pretty uncommon and just because I like the author doesn’t mean that they’ll win me over and I hate to waste $$ on a book that I won’t finish.

2. If the premise doesn’t grab me (or the genre) then the small things annoyances that I used to ignore now stare me in the face and that just isn’t fun.

Of course this presumes it is a genre switch. That doesn’t always happen, but it does happen quite a bit, especially authors with long established series.

So all that is a way of saying no, I guess 🙂

Digital Comic: The Vampire Diaries – Vervain 2/3

TVD-Cover-tease

After a unexpected (or at least poorly communicated) delay in the schedule, The Vampire Diaries digital comic is back with Vervain part 2. Let’s take a look, shall we?

The first thing you’ll notice is that the cover art (and what would be the inner cover art in a traditional printed comic) is exactly the same as the previous issue, and I’m going to guess that it’ll be the same in the final issue. Some quick research shows that this seems to be standard practice for .99 comics – Batman ’66 apparently does the same. I guess something has to give at this price point. It’s not something that I’m going to hold back against the title, but I do love interesting cover art so it’s a tad bit of a disappointment. That’s about all I have to say about the art – it’s got some hits and some misses and it’s definitely a ‘your mileage may vary’ kind style that you’ll love or you’ll hate.

Storywise…

Ummm..

Yeah…

I’d like to say what you learned about our witchy friend, but I won’t because that more or less would spoil the only plot thread of the issue. The majority of the issue is devoted to a great chase through the Salvatore house. On the one hand, what you learn is kind of fun and they use the information in an interesting way. On the other hand, when you stop to think about it, it feels kinda lame. I’d honestly expected something bigger to be demanded in exchange for what he has done. The spirits have certainly shown themselves to be quite harsh in the past, and in this modern day setting his weaknesses don’t feel like such because I don’t know how many modern people will even get what they are referring to. Luckily, the Salvatores have been around long enough to be able to exploit this weakeness, and I’m sure it’ll come in handy down the road. I’m sure the information they discovered will be useful, but the issue still somehow felt unsatisfying, like time could have been devoted to something else instead (though don’t ask me what). Since it does contribute to plot, I won’t call it filler, but I don’t think it’s much of a step beyond that.

Clearly I’m still on the fence about this series. I want to like it, I am trying to like it and am keeping an open mind, but I’m just not convinced yet.

I’ll hang around next issue, and maybe through the next arc. If I’m not convinced by then…we’ll see.

Good Reads 58: Best One Hour History: The Renaissance

Image

An ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair review

While browsing NetGalley, this caught my eye. Why? This tease of a text below:

What if, for the price of a latte and an hour of your time, you could really learn about and enjoy history? We’re not just talking about memorizing dates and names, but truly grasping the ideas, feelings and passion behind major events and how humans have clashed over them for centuries?

The Best One-Hour History series by history teacher Robert Freeman is for those who want a quick but coherent overview of major historical events. It will also serve those who need a competent high-level introduction before going further. Each volume is less than 60 pages long and provides a clear and concise account of the episode under discussion. Details include the context in which it arose, the major actors, the event itself, and the major consequences. In about an hour, the reader will obtain a thorough understanding of why each subject holds iconic status in Western Civilization. And it will NOT be boring!

Challenge accepted.

For the record, I am not the intended audience of this book: I was a history major in college. That said, I have all too often heard the complaints about the subject being boring and I fully agree with the author that it’s because you just haven’t been fortunate enough to read “good” history. So when I saw this, I had to wonder if this book could live up to its claims. And did it?

For the most part, I’d say yes. First and foremost, it nails the high-level overview part. I’d say that the best comparable to this book would be the lecture a professor gives on the first day of classes once the attendance and discussion of the syllabus had occurred. You get the outline for the course, but no real detail. You’ll learn enough to recognize a concept, say humanism, and have an idea of what it is. For something that aims to be a high-level review, I think it has met its goal.

The version I got review was not yet finished, and there was a note from the author stating he hoped that the items in italics (usually the name of a text or a painting) would be clickable and launch you into Google. I do hope that this made it into the final e-book version because I can see this as enabling human desire to delve deeper into a topic that catches their interest – think a trip to TV Tropes or Wikipedia.

If I have any gripes about this title, it’s that I feel like it could have used a bit more editing. The author discussions how the development of the merchant class helped to dismantle feudalism no less than three separate times. Given that the book is very short – around 55 pages or so – that repetition stood out and not in a good way.

Finally, I’m not entirely sure that he managed to avoid the claim that it won’t be boring. The short nature of the book means the author doesn’t have time for the kind of anecdotes that (for me at least) truly brought history to life. These are pretty cut and dry and I’m not sure that someone who is disinterested will be converted.

Overall, this is a solid introduction to the subject and I imagine the other titles will be as well. It’d be a good read for someone brand new to a specific aspect of history. If the e-books do round themselves out with a series of solid links (and not just a pre-filled Google-search) it could even be a good reference tool for someone taking an intro-level course.

Verdict: At only $5.98 per, it’s a solid Buy It for a high-school/college freshman student in your life or just dipping their toes in the water. Someone looking for a refresher course, something more in depth or something “fun” may want to keep looking.

P.S. And yes, this is indeed something you can finish in under an hour. I wager it’ll take you 45 minutes to an hour depending on how fast you read.