"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened
and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you
and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse,
and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was."
Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Break Time

It's time for a break.

If it isn't obvious, my updates have been sporadic (at best) and I've fallen completely behind on my reading schedule.  I love reading, but I've become a little less enthusiastic about writing reviews.  For now, I'm going to take a break and enjoy reading for the sake of reading without worrying about a review.

Maybe, some day, I'll write more reviews when I feel like I have more time, when I feel like adhering to a schedule--when I'm ready and raring to write about books.  In the meantime, I hope you all have a Happy Valentine's Day.

And, as always, happy reading.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Bandette: Presto! (Volume 1)

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Dark Horse Books
Bandette:  Presto! (Volume 1)
Paul Tobin
Colleen Coover

The Summary
"She is alluring, she is mysterious, she is Bandette!

"The world's greatest thief is a costumed teen burglar by the nome d'arte of Bandette!  Gleefully plying her skills on either side of the law alongside her network of street urchins, Bandette is a thorn in the sides of both Police Inspector Belgique and the criminal underworld.  But it's not all breaking hearts and purloining masterpieces when a rival thief makes a startling discovery.  Can even Bandette laugh off a plot against her life?

"This beautiful hardcover includes the complete first adventure from Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover's enchanting series, plus Urchin Stories illustrated by guest artists Steve Lieber, Jonathan Case, Erika Moen, Jennifer Meyer, Rich Ellis, Alberto J. Alburquerque, Tina Kim, and Mitch Gerads; an original illustrated tale; and more."

The Good
Bandette is a fun, adventurous graphic novel featuring a quirky heroine--although heroine may be stretching it a bit.

Bandette is a thief, and a very good one; however, she's also a friend to many and an enemy only to those who would do true evil.  She's a bit of a Robin Hood character, but she enjoys thievery a little too much to be classified as a hero.

Overall, it's a very mild book with fun characters, colorful adventures, and funny stories.  Even when faced with deadly enemies, Bandette manages to have a good time.  She's intelligent, she's capable, she's kind-hearted--and she's the best at what she does:  stealing things and infuriating Inspector Belgique.

The Bad
No complaints.

The Ugly
There are a few mature themes, but nothing terribly frightening or vulgar.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Fairy Godmother: Revisited

Luna Books
The Fairy Godmother
Mercedes Lackey

The Summary
"In the land of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, if you can't carry out your legendary role, life is no fairy tale...

"Elena Klovis was supposed to be her kingdom's Cinderella--until fate left her with a completely inappropriate prince!  So she set out to make a new life for herself.  But breaking with 'The Tradition' was no easy matter--until she got a little help from her own fairy godmother.  Who promptly offered Elena a most unexpected job...

"Now, instead of sleeping in the chimney, she has to deal with arrogant, stuffed-shirt princes who keep trying to rise above their place in the tale.  And there's one in particular who needs to be dealt with.

"Sometimes a fairy godmother's work is never done..."

The Good
I decided to reread The Fairy Godmother on a whim.  I liked it the first time around and I was craving something with adventure, magic, fantasy and romance.  And, honestly, I wasn't disappointed when I picked up Mercedes Lackey's novel.

It's chock full of fairy tales:  Cinderella, Rapunzel, the Fairy Godmother, Prince Charming, Snow White, the Evil Queen, and much more.  Each one is given a fresh twist that draws their stories together in new and exciting ways.  Plus, it has fairies.  Not the dainty little sprites you might imagine, but the tall, lithe fair folk--the kind you meet in The Lord of the Rings--which, somehow, I'd forgotten.

I found it interesting to reread The Fairy Godmother.  Despite knowing how the story ends, I enjoyed going back and seeing the small details I'd missed during my previous trip.  More importantly, I took the story at a slower pace and I enjoyed it far more than I expected.

I mean, in my last review (which you can check out here), I pointed out that Lackey's novel was missing some indefinable quality that would have made it perfect.  While I still don't think it's the perfect fantasy novel, I do have a new appreciation for the characters and the stories as a whole.  I loved the different strands of folklore and fairy tales that come together to create a wonderful story that's full of humor, heart, magic, and adventure.

It was just the thing I need.

The Bad
No complaints.  Like I said, I enjoyed The Fairy Godmother much better the second time.

The Ugly
These fairy tales are not for children.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Glass Castle

Image result for the glass castle book
The Glass Castle
Jeannette Walls

The Summary
"The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant.  When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly.  But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive.  Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family.

"The Walls children learned to take care of themselves.  They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York.  Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.

"The Glass Castle is truly astonishing--a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family."

The Good
It took me a long time to pick up and read The Glass Castle.  Like literal months.

First, I wasn't sure I wanted to read a memoir.  I was firmly entrenched in my romance novels and fantasy stories, and I didn't want to burst my own bubble by reading about the real world.  Second, I'd never read anything by Walls and, if I'm being honest with myself, I wasn't sure I wanted to start reading her now.  I mean, what if she was awful?  I hated the idea of slogging through a poorly written memoir.

However, The Glass Castle is anything but poorly written.  Jeannette Walls is a phenomenal writer.  As I settled in to read, I discovered she had a compelling voice and an incredible story to tell.  Her memoir tackles difficult subjects--like neglect, abuse, mental illness, homelessness, etc.--but Walls treats these things delicately.  She recounts her life in such a way that you are able to see it through her eyes as she grew from a child to a young woman.

The Glass Castle is sad and tragic, but it's ultimately a compelling and hopeful story about survival.

The Bad
Read below.  I have a bit of a spiel.

The Ugly
This book infuriated me.

Walls is a wonderful writer and her memoir is insightful, thoughtful, and incredibly fascinating; however, I wanted to argue that this was not a memoir about "the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family."  I didn't see loyalty (except between Jeannette and her siblings) and I didn't see love and I didn't see a quaint, peculiar little family; I saw intense neglect, if not outright abuse, and child endangerment and alcoholism.

I understand Walls loved her father and I understand that her father, as much as he was capable, loved his children.  However, I thought both her father and her mother were selfish, neglectful, and thoughtless to the health, well-being, and safety of their children.  I have only to point out that the first chapter that Walls was severely burned as a child while trying to cook her own food.  She was hungry and her mother wasn’t going to make her anything, so she did it on her own.  She couldn’t have been more than five.

Or then there’s the incident where she was flung from a moving vehicle.  Accident or not, that’s just reckless endangerment and it could have killed her.  Or there’s also the chapter where she speaks about digging old food out of the trash cans at school, so she wouldn’t starve.  All the while, her mother was squirreling away food for herself and not bothering to feed her children when she obviously could.

I only saw loyalty between the Walls children.  They protected and looked out for each other, they would help provide for the others; in fact, I imagine the only reason they survived their heinous childhood in West Virginia is because they stuck together.  Even after their parents undermine them again and again, they stick together.  Her sister escapes to New York first and then, one by one, they all manage to leave West Virginia--and their parents--behind.

Her father, no matter how much he professed to love his children, did not.  I understand that some parents or guardians struggle to provide for kids; however, sometimes you have to make difficult choices to provide for your children.  He could have sacrificed his pride and applied for federal assistance; they obviously needed it, so why wouldn't he ask for help?  Instead, he would lie and cheat and steal, and then blow his money on alcohol and hookers.

And why couldn't their mother do the same?  She could hold on to a job; in fact, she did for a little while.  I know she didn't like it.  No one wants to work at a job they hate, but, in order to provide for her children, couldn't she have kept a job long enough to put food on the table and start her search for a new job in the meantime?

Obviously not.  That would require a sense of selflessness and empathy she didn't possess.

This book disgusted me on so many levels, and it infuriated me.  I couldn't stand reading about how much Walls adored her father, only to have him disappoint her time after time.  It's heartbreaking as she comes to realize that the Glass Castle--her and her father's shared dream--will never become a reality.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Kings of the Wyld

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Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Kings of the Wyld
Nicholas Eames

The Summary
"Glory never gets old.

"Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

"Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three.  Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay's door with a plea for help--the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

"It's time to get the band back together."

The Good
This is arguably one of the best books I read in 2017.  Sometimes ridiculous, sometimes gory, Kings of the Wyld is an unexpectedly endearing and simultaneously adventurous novel.  It's hilarious, heart-warming, and yet still action-packed.

I absolutely loved it.

I first stumbled across this book at my local library (though I will probably be acquiring a copy for my own shelves) and I was immediately caught by the cover.  At first, I couldn't quite reconcile the gritty, fantasy-esque cover image with the rock band motif.  I mean, "the boys are back in town"?  Really?

It just seemed so weird.  Mercenaries treated like rock stars?  It's absurd, but it was just the right level of absurdity to draw me in to the story.  Full of odd creatures and fascinatingly complex characters, it's a story that turns fantasy (as I have known it) on its head.

As far as fantasy heroes go, Clay and his band are not quite your typical heroes.  Granted, no one is perfect, but Moog, Gabriel, Matrick, and Ganelon are about as far from perfect as you can get.  Moog is a bit demented and terribly forgetful; Gabriel is a drunk whose life has spiraled out of control; Matrick is caught in a loveless marriage with a queen who wants him dead, not to mention he's kind of a horrible person; and Ganelon--well, Ganelon has spent the last decade or two trapped in stone, but, before that, he was a stone-cold killer.

They are seriously flawed, but they kind of grow on you.  I mean, Gabriel, despite being a crappy husband and a not-so-great dad, is setting out to save his daughter, Rose, against all odds, and Clay is going to help him do it.  They're fighting against age, personal demons, and time to save Rose.  While they may be a little more willing to break laws (and bones), they're ultimately good people.

And, personally, I found I liked Clay the best.

He wasn't the narrator, but much of the story is told from his perspective and he offered uncanny insight into the story.  Jaded and tough, gifted with a deadpan sense of humor, Clay was by far my favorite character.  (Moog, however, comes in at a close second.)  He was the driving force within the book, a steady voice, almost like the conscience of the story.

He has a dark past, but I admired him for his tenacity and loyalty.  Moreover, I couldn't help but appreciate the way he loved his wife, Ginny, and his daughter, Talley.  Clay is a big brute of a man, as you read on the first page:  "[His] shadow, drawn out by the setting sun, skulked behind him like a dogged reminder of the man he used to be:  great and dark and more than a little monstrous."

He was not a good man; in fact, he may not even be a very good man, even now.  But he cares about Ginny and Talley, and he'd do anything to protect them.  He respects Ginny, and he admires Talley.  If nothing else, I liked him for being a decent human being who cares about his family and doggedly follows his friends into battle to save another man's daughter.

The Bad
Admittedly, the story is a bit drawn out.  There's always so much happening, so many plot twists and adventures are thrown at our heroes that it can get a little tedious; however, it's an easily forgivable sin.  The ending was so satisfying, the absurd adventures in between were totally worth it.

Overall, it's an excellent debut.

The Ugly
People are not perfect.  They can make terrible mistakes and they can commit truly horrible atrocities.