"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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Scholastic Press
Sharon Cameron

The Summary
"History has a way of repeating itself.  In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade.  Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a single, red-tipped rook feather left in their place.  The mysterious Red Rook is a savior of the innocent, and a criminal in the eyes of the government.

"Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy's arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from financial ruin.  But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to the doors of the Bellamy House, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems.  Which is only fair, because neither is she.

"As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow ever higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

"Daring intrigue, delicious romance, and spine-tingling suspense fill the pages of this extraordinary epic tale from award-winning author Sharon Cameron."

The Good
I absolutely loved Rook.  I found it at my library purely by accident, sitting atop a display of random young adult novels in the teen section, and I was immediately attracted to the cover.  I recognized the image of Paris on the cover, replete with a skeleton of the Eiffel Tower rising in the distance.  It looked familiar and yet, at the same time, it was completely and utterly foreign...and I couldn't help myself.

I was immediately intrigued by the Red Rook.  Sophia lives an intriguing double life as both the daughter of an impoverished aristocrat and the Red Rook.  (I'm not ruining anything for readers by mentioning Sophia's alter ego, as her identity is hinted at on the book jacket and confirmed in the first couple of pages.)  She's a clever and capable heroine, who manages to save lives and, ultimately, start a revolution.

Personally, I liked her.

And, while I was a little suspicious of René, I eventually grew to like him.  He and Sophia work well together.  They both have (possibly deadly) secrets; they have unusual skills that help them fit quite nicely in their line of work; and they make a living thwarting the government.  I liked seeing their relationship develop, and I liked seeing how Sophia reacted to someone who had many of the same skills and talents as she.

Granted, I wasn't a fan of the love triangle--René and Sophia seemed to harbor a mutual affection, while Spear and Sophia have history.  Although Sophia views Spear as more of a brother, their relationship is, nevertheless, complicated--but it wasn't as bad as, say, Twilight.  Or Vampire Diaries.  Or Something Strange and Deadly.  Or any number of other young adult fantasy/sci-fi romance.

Overall, I liked Rook.  It reminded me of Cinder and the rest of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.  While it does fall under the rather broad label of dystopian young adult fantasy (think Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, Life as We Knew It or, even, The Giver), I really enjoyed Cameron's novel.  I enjoyed the characters, the unexpected twists and turns, the ambiguous references to the past, the complicated political climate.  It's quickly become one of my guilty pleasures.

The Bad
Admittedly, I did dislike the pace of this novel.  For the most part, I enjoyed Rook.  I liked the intermingling of tense, suspenseful story-writing with political intrigue and romance, and I liked how the story would flip between characters and give me insight into what's happening at any given moment.

However, I hated how it slowed toward the end of the story.  I think Rook was bogged down by too many twists and turns, by too much build up.  It would have fared better if it had trimmed out a little of the fluff--the budding romance between Sophia and Rene, the dwelling on LeBlanc's political aspirations, the myriad of preparations to depart for the Sunken City--and focused more on the core of the story.

Also, I would have liked a little more detail about what happened to Paris and society as a whole.  I know about the Great Death, which apparently was a near-extinction level event that practically wiped out the human race, and I understood vaguely that the so-called "Ancients" were essentially us; however, I didn't quite understand what happened between the Great Death and the present day of Sophia's world.

One character postulated some theories, such as a reversal of the magnetic poles or a weakening of the atmosphere, which could have led to the change in climate and the gradual decline of humanity, but I don't have much detail.  I mean, what happened to Paris that it became the Sunken City?  How and why did the Commonwealth build itself into some semblance of Regency era England?  What happened that technology was completely and utterly wiped out--and why was it so distrusted?

I would have loved a little more detail, and I was a little disappointed when I didn't find it.

The Ugly

There's a lot of gruesome ways to die in this book, whether by guillotine or knife blade or poison or simply exposure in prison.  Le Blanc and the Allemande, intent on quelling the populace and bringing rebels to heel, leave a trail of bodies in their wake--and it's really quite gruesome when you think about it.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins

St. Martin's Griffin
Florence Foster Jenkins:  The Inspiring True Story of the World's Worst Singer
Nicholas Martin
Jasper Rees

The Summary
"Despite having no pitch, no rhythm, and no tone, Florence Foster Jenkins became one of America's best-known sopranos and [even performed] at Carnegie Hall.  Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Florence Foster adored music and as a girl was a talented pianist, but her wealthy father refused to allow her to study in Europe.  In retaliation, she eloped with Dr. Frank Jenkins, but the marriage soon foundered, not least because the eighteen-year-old bride contacted syphilis on their wedding night.  Moving to New York, Florence became a piano teacher, but after her father's death in 1909, she inherited a considerable sum of money.  It was then that she vowed to become a great soprano and began taking singing lessons.  That same year she met the man who would become first her manager and, then, her common-law husband, St. Clair Bayfield.  Over forty years later, after a lifetime supporting New York's classical musical societies and even founding her own, Florence's greatest dream was finally realized.  At the age of seventy-six, she gave a recital, by public demand, at Carnegie Hall.  Her extraordinary story is now a film starring Meryl Streep as Florence and Hugh Grant as St. Clair Bayfield, directed by Stephen Frears."

The Good
Florence Foster Jenkins was quite an entertaining book.  I really liked the detail involved in her story, and I also liked how the authors pulled from several documents and resources to bring Florence's character to life.  She's an absurd character in history, a larger-than-life persona that fed on the adoration of her many fans, but both Rees and Martin manage to ground her firmly in reality and delve deep into her history.

She's quite a fascinating individual.  After eloping with a man twice her age, Florence became a concert pianist (she was quite the accomplished player), a music teacher, a social club manager, and, fulfilling a lifelong dream, a concert soprano at the age of 76.  She might not be a shining star in history, and she might not be remembered half so well as others; however, she made quite a splash in the early twentieth century.

Meeting Florence Foster Jenkins for the first time was an interesting experience, especially after listening to a recording of her music.  (If you intend to read this book, I would highly recommend sampling her work.  It gives a little more context as to why she was dubbed the "world's worst singer" and, more importantly, it gives you an idea of what she really sounded like.)  But it was a good experience, and I'm glad I read up on her.

Moreover, I appreciated the pictures that showed Florence's family--including her philandering husband, her raucous cousin on the Jenkins' side (who managed to escape murder charges on two separate occasions), and her beloved St. Clair Bayfield--as well as portraits of her youth.  It was nice to actually see her costumes, period pieces for the Verde Club that were both ostentatious and remarkable, like their wearer.

Overall, I had a great time reading Florence Foster Jenkins.

The Bad
Occasionally, the text did become a little dry.  I sometimes struggled to finish Florence Foster Jenkins for the simple reason that the chapters seemed to last forever and it seemed to rehash some familiar information unnecessarily.  It's a wonderfully detailed book, but it can border on tiresome, especially toward the end.

The Ugly

You know, I didn't realize that syphilis could actually impair hearing.  I knew it could drive a person insane, but I didn't realize it could attack one's ears and actually induce deafness--or, in the case of Florence Foster Jenkins, alter hearing considerably.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bonus: A Week to be Wicked

Avon Books
A Week to be Wicked
Tessa Dare

The Summary
"When a devilish lord and a bluestocking set off on the road to ruin...time is not on their side.

"Minerva Highwood, one of Spindle cove's confirmed spinsters, needs to be in Scotland.

"Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, a rake of the first order, needs to be...anwhere but Spindle Cove.

"These unlikely partners have:
  • to fake an elopement
  • to convince family and friends they're "in love"
  • to outrun armed robbers
  • to survive their worst nightmares
  • to travel four hundred miles without killing each other.
"All the while sharing a very small carriage by day and and even smaller bed by night.

"What they don't have time for is their growing attraction.  Much less wild passion.  And heaven forbid they spend precious hours baring their hearts and souls.

"Suddenly one week seems like exactly enough time to find a world of trouble.  And maybe...just maybe...everlasting love."

The Good
A Week to be Wicked is a guilty pleasure, plain and simple.  It was a fun little novel that I read over a weekend and, honestly, I loved the growing adoration that Colin has for Minerva.  She's a bookish sort of girl who is tired of being overlooked; he is a dissolute rake with a conscience and a heart of gold.  Moreover, she has a goal, reach Edinburg to present for a geology symposium, and she has a plan, ond that involves a crazy adventure with a handsome man and a dinosaur.

Yes, dinosaur.  One named Francine.  (It will all be made clear if you read Dare's novel.)

Honestly, A Week to be Wicked was fun to read.  I enjoyed watching Colin and Minerva's relationship build and progress as they find themselves thrown into one mishap after another.  I laughed at some of the more bizarre moments:  an embarrassing moment with a Puritanical couple who believes they are brother and sister (and then discovers they are not); a terrifying incident with a band of highwaymen; an even more embarrassing moment when Minerva pretended to be a foreign-speaking assassin; and a funny little story involving a shooting competition.

Overall, it's a fine novel.  If you're looking for something fun to read (hinted with steamy moments of passionate romance), A Week to be Wicked isn't a bad way to pass the time.

The Bad
Sometimes, it was just a little too absurd for my taste.

The Ugly
It's explicit.  I guess I should have seen that coming, since the cover sports a half nude couple lying in bed.  I felt a little awkward with certain descriptions of the female anatomy.

I will never look at an apricot the same way again.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Girl in the Steel Corset

Harlequin Teen
The Girl in the Steel Corset
Kady Cross

The Summary
"In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one...except the 'thing' inside her.

"When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back.  And wins.  But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full grown man with one punch.

"Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them.  The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets, against the wishes of his band of misfits.  And Finley thinks she might finally be a part of something, finally fit in--until a criminal mastermind known as the Machinist threatens to tear the group apart..."

The Good
I enjoyed The Girl in the Steel Corset.  It's not quite fully formed, like I could have wished for a little more depth, a little more detail in some of the descriptions and a little more of...something; however, it's a decent teen novel.  I liked it and, truthfully, I found it to be a fascinating little YA book, but I probably won't pursue any more of the series.

I will point out that I did like the concept of the Aether.  It adds a complex, supernatural undercurrent to the story, besides, of course, the obvious (i.e. Finley Jayne and her supernatural strength, reflexes, and speed; Griffin with his unnatural psychic abilities; Sam with his inhuman strength; Emily and her incredible intelligence; or Jasper, using an unrivaled speed and dexterity with a gun.  Take your pick.).

I also liked the unexpected science behind the era, the experiments and technology that seem to run wild with newer, more interesting inventions appearing each chapter--courtesy of the ingenious Emily, of course.  It's a fun series, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.

The Bad
I found The Girl in the Steel Corset to be a little lacking.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but it was missing something that could have made it great.  It had an intriguing plot, especially with its references to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and other classic literature, and it created a fascinating world of Victorian culture and futuristic technology.

However, I didn't sink into the story as I would have liked and I wasn't enamored of the characters as I hoped.  I did like Emily and Jack Dandy managed to make me grin, and I thought the Machinist made a fascinating villain, but, overall, I wasn't enchanted with The Girl in the Steel Corset.

The Ugly
Ugh.  Love triangles.

Have I mentioned that I hate love triangles?  Apparently, any YA novel worth its salt will fabricate a complex (and entirely unnecessary) network of romantic relationships.  For Twilight, it was Edward and Jacob; for The Girl in the Steel Corset, it's Jack Dandy or Griffin King.

Seriously.  Just pick one already.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Flash: Move Forward (Volume One)

DC Comics
The Flash:  Move Forward (Volume One)
Francis Manapul
Brian Buccellato

The Summary
"Struck by a bolt of lightning and doused in chemicals, Central City police scientist Barry Allen was transformed into the Fastest Man Alive.  But there are some things even the Flash can't outrun.

"After years spent on the hunt for vengeance, one of the Flash's oldest friends has returned, with new enemies hot on his tail--an unstoppable mob that seems to grow more quickly than Flash can stop them.

"In the supermax prison called Iron Heights, the Flash's most dangerous enemy plans his escape, dreams of revenge, and prepares to put the Flash on ice for good--driven by a personal grudge the Flash can't see coming.

"And deep within the Flash himself, incredible new powers are ready to be unleashed--unforeseen, unexplored abilities fueled by the same Speed Force that makes the Flash run, and which could be his greatest weapon...or his worst nightmare."

The Good
I actually enjoyed reading the New 52 version of the Flash.  It's interesting to read about the "Fastest Man Alive," and it's a pretty interesting story.  You get to see some of his background; however, you also get to seem him develop as a character and come into his new powers.  So far, it seems like a great series and it has a lot of promise.

The Bad
I'm not a big fan of the Flash.

Manapul, Buccellato, and the whole team over at DC Comics does a great job of creating a new Flash for readers to enjoy and Move Forward is quite enjoyable; however, I wasn't immediately captured by the story or drawn in by the characters.  Truthfully, I felt like I was in the dark most of the time, as I was completely unfamiliar with the Flash's "Rogue Gallery," and I didn't have any interest in Gorilla Grodd.

It's a good book, and it's a good series.  Unfortunately, it's just not my cup of tea.

The Ugly
Mob Rule.

I was a little put off by how Manual Lago actually created more of his psychically linked doppelgangers.  It's horribly graphic, and it's equally disgusting.  I don't really want to talk about it, okay?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bonus: Some Like It Scot

St. Martin's Paperbacks
Some Like It Scot
Suzanne Enoch

The Summary
"Can a class of wills lead to a love for all time?

"Nineteenth century, Scotland:

"When a mad lass in trousers shoots at him, Munro 'Bear' MacLawry isn't sure what impresses him more--the girl's sure aim or her irresistibly tempting curves.  Catriona MacColl has fled to the Highlands with her half-sister to escape an unwanted wedding, and wants no part of him, nor any man.  But he can't abandon the flame-haired, sharp-tongued wildcat now that he's discovered her--not when she fits so perfectly in his arms..."

"Munro has more than earned his nickname--he's a well-muscled, well-favored mountain of a man with an engaging bad-boy grin and a string of well-satisfied lasses behind him.  Bringing Catriona food, blankets, candles, everything she needs to survive a winter in an abandoned abbey, Munro is an unexpected gift in her reckless bid for freedom--and an unexpected complication.  Clan MacDonald has plans for her, and they don't include her falling for a MacLawry.  But this man makes her feel like a woman--and he may be her one chance to live a life about which she's only dared dream..."

The Good
Oh, my gosh.  This novel.

This is not usually my cup of tea.  Between the scantily clad couple on the cover draped in plaid and the annoying reproduction of a Scottish accent, Some Like It Scot isn't exactly the type of novel I'd ever have pictured reading.  And yet it somehow found its way into my reading queue for the simple fact that I couldn't stop laughing over the title.

Yes, I picked up this book for the title alone.  It's a bit of a bad pun, but I have a weakness for bad puns.  It's why I'm half tempted by the Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid that precedes this novel; it's also why Sarah MacLean's "Scandal and Scoundrel" series has been calling to me (The Rogue Not Taken, A Scot in the Dark, The Day of the Duchess).

Apparently, I like bad and/or corny titles.  I just can't seem to help myself.

However, unluckily for Ms. Enoch's novel, the title was just about the only endearing thing about this novel.  I liked Catriona MacColl for her wildcat ways, for her indomitable will and sharp tongued retorts, for her ability to survive in the darkest corners of the Highlands...with or without the help of anyone else.  Otherwise, she's not so great and Some Like It Scot sort of fall into that category where my feelings border indifference and apathy.

The Bad
Altogether, Some Like It Scot doesn't exactly rank high on my list.  I didn't care for the accents (I mean, I can't really tell if they're realistic or not as I don't exactly hear Scottish accents on a daily basis); I didn't care for the relationship building; I didn't care for the characters, or their attitudes; I didn't have any particular feelings for this book.

I finished it, but it felt more like a completing a chore than enjoying a novel.  I liked some parts of it and, yes, I adored the title for some inexplicable reason, but I just couldn't fully sink into the story or enjoy it.  It's too contrived, maybe?

It seems to follow a set pattern.  Even if I could appreciate Catriona's unique qualities, even if I thought Munro was darkly scintillating, I just didn't feel very strongly about either one of them or their relationship.  Like I said, it seems to follow the tried and true patterns of other authors--and it just doesn't sit well with me for some reason.

Overall, it's not a book I'd really recommend.

Unless you like gratuitous, explicit love affairs.  If that's what you're looking for, then I'd highly recommend it.

The Ugly
I don't get to see the Scottish Highlands for myself.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Summer's Child

Bantam Books
Summer's Child
Luanne Rice

The Summary
"On the first day of summer, Mara Jameson went out to water her garden--and she was never seen again.  Years after her disappearance, no one could forget the expectant mother whose glowing smile had captured the heart of everyone who'd known her:  Maeve Jameson, still mourning the loss of a granddaughter she had struggled to protect...Patrick Murphy, a dogged police detective obsessed with the vanished woman...and Lily Malone, drawn to the rugged beauty of the Nova Scotia coast and its promise of a new life.

"Here Lily hopes to raise her nine-year-old daughter, Rose, far from the pain and loss of the past.  Here she will meet a gifted scientist, Liam Neill, whose life is on a similar trajectory from heartbreak to hope.  And before the season is over, Lily will find the magic that exists in people we love best...the everyday miracles that can make the extraordinary happen anywhere."

The Good
Although I actually read Summer's Child several years ago, I enjoyed revisiting the rugged coast of Nova Scotia and a special rose garden on the New England coast.  Summer's Child does very well at giving readers a feel for the setting whether it's the conifer-covered coast of Nova Scotia with its rocky shores or the overflowing gardens of small Massachusetts cottages or the antiseptic whiteness of a hospital room.  You really get the feel for these locations, which I greatly appreciated.

I also thought the characters were well developed.  I really liked Lily who still struggles with her choices, who still fights her demons every day, and Liam stole my heart.  (I'll be honest, I had a bit of a crush on the big shark researcher.)  But I also thought the Rice did a wonderful job of characterizing children without making them seem unbelievable.

Take Rose, Lily's daughter, for instance.

Rose is only 9-years-old.  She's a sweet kid, but she's mature for her age because she's had to endure multiple heart surgeries to deal with her terrifying condition, Tetralogy of Fallot.  She doesn't sound like a little adult, but she doesn't sound too young for her age; she's just right, plus she's incredibly bright and incredibly sweet.  I just wanted to give her a hug and tell her it would all be alright.

Summer's Child is just a good wholesome book.  It sticks in my memory, because it's one of the very first purely romantic books I read.  It's very mild, very sweet, but it does a wonderful job of building characters and relationships to make them seem realistic and, more importantly, believable.  It reminded me a little of Jan Karon's Mitford series, in that it had stories laced with tragedy but, at it's core, it's about hope and love.

I liked it.  It gave me the warm fuzzies.

The Bad
No complaints, really.  It could get a little dull at times, especially when I really wanted to know what was happening with Rose.  But, otherwise, I enjoyed it all around.  It's not my favorite romantic novel, but it's definitely up there as one of my all-time favorite comfort books.

The Ugly
Abuse, plain and simple.

I really, really hated Ted.  I mean, he was absolutely despicable.  I disliked Edward, of course, but he was somewhat of a distant memory, a simmering hatred that lingered in the back of my mind.  Ted, however, incurred my active hatred since he was so recently in the past of both Marissa and her daughter, Jessica.

I'll just leave it at that, or else I'm going to spoil a plot twist.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Reluctant Reformer

The Reluctant Reformer
Lynsay Sands

The Summary
"Lady X.

"Everyone knew Lady X...or, at least, everyone knew of her.  The masked courtesan was reputedly a noblewoman fallen on hard times.  What Lord James had not known was that she was Lady Margaret Wentworth--the feisty sister of his best friend.  Gerald claimed his sibling was beautiful, virtuous, naive; and he had forced James into an oath of protection.  But when James tracked the girl to a house of ill repute, what other explanation could there be but that Maggie was London's most enigmatic wanton?

"Lord, Why?

"Snatching the wench away would be a ticklish business, and after that things would get harder.  James had to ignore his quarry's violent protests that he was an idiot, that she was never the infamous X.  He had to find a way to reform the hoyden, to save her from scandal.  He had to steer clear of his own meddling aunt--all the while keeping his hands off those luscious goods that the rest of the ton had reputedly sampled.  And, with Maggie, hardest of all would be keeping himself from falling in love."

The Good
The Reluctant Reformer is a funny, if rather absurd, romance novel.  They were constantly misunderstanding one another, constantly misinterpreting each other's intentions.  It's quite amusing to watch them circle around the main issue, both embarrassed to admit anything (she's actually a writer, but he thinks she's a courtesan; she doesn't want her secret to get out to the ton, who would disapprove of her occupation, while he's likewise trying to protect her reputation from a completely different issue) and bumbling around blindly.

It's really very funny, and it's not a bad book.  Sands' novel was amusing enough to keep me attentive, and it's actually very well done.  I don't think it's completely historically accurate and it's absolutely absurd, but I enjoyed the story.  The characters developed nicely, even if the plot was a little predictable, but it kept me involved.

It gives an unexpected twist on the boy-meets-girl romance.  In this case, boys meets girl; boy falls in love with girl, even though he believes she's a prostitute; girl discovers what he really thinks of her, and promptly delivers a swift kick to his shins.  Admittedly, I liked the deviation and I couldn't help laughing about it.

The Bad
I was constantly frustrated by the fact that if James and Maggie had simply said the right words--if she had admitted her real occupation, and if he had simply said the words out loud what he thought--they both could have been saved a lot of embarrassment.  But I suppose that would have cut the story short, and made it less awkward for the couple.

The Ugly
Attempted murder.  Plus, it's quite explicit.

I will never look at cinnamon apples the same way again.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Fables: Storybook Love (Volume 3)

Fables:  Storybook Love (Volume 3)
Bill Willingham
Mark Buckingham
Lan Medina
James Jean

The Summary
"A fairy tale ending?

"Not likely.

"In the Fables' world, there isn't a lot of happily-ever-after to go around.  As refugees from the lands of make-believe, the Fables have been driven from their storybook realms and forced to blend in with our gritty, mundane reality.

"But that doesn't mean they don't have any room for romance--or the pain, betrayal and jealous rage that go along with it.  In fact, love may be blooming between two of the most hard-bitten, no-nonsense Fables around.  But are they destined for happiness--or a quick and untimely death?"

The Good
Truthfully, I was curious to see how this story would develop.

Well, okay, I'll admit I was mostly curious to see what was going on between Bigby and Snow White.  They have a curious relationship: part romantic, part professional, yet incredibly complicated.  It's interesting to witness the way they react together, the way they protect one another when faced with deadly enemies--and it's interesting to see how they, eventually, manage to form a relationship.

More or less.

Like I said, it's very complicated.

The Bad
I read Fables:  Storybook Love, but I can't help but feel I started to lose some interest in the story.  I know the series continues for a grand total of 22 volumes, and I don't think I'll muddle my way through the rest of the story.  It's complex and dark and, truthfully, it's just not what I'm looking for right now.

The Ugly
It's hard to kill the Big Bad Wolf, but not for lack of trying.

Poor Bigby.  I know that has to hurt.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fables: Animal Farm (Volume 2)

Fables:  Animal Farm (Volume 2)
Bill Willingham
Mark Buckingham
Steve Leialoha

The Summary
"Fables of the world, Unite!

"Ever since they were driven from their homelands by the Adversary, the non-human Fables have been living on the farm--a vast property in upstate New York that keeps them hidden from the prying eyes of the mundane world.  But now, after hundreds of years of isolation, the Farm is seething with revolution, fanned by the inflammatory rhetoric of Goldilocks and the Three Little Pigs.  And when Snow White and her sister Rose Red stumble upon their plan to liberate the homelands, the commissars of the Farm are ready to silence them--by any means necessary!"

The Good
Fables is a complex series, morally and politically speaking.  You get a taste of the microcosm in which they exist, the intricate relationships that tie them together and the political juggling act performed by Snow and others, in volume one; however, in Animal Farm, you really get to see how the divisions between the humanoid and anthropomorphic parts of the community split the Fable world.

It reminds me of George Orwell's novel from whence it takes its name.  By turns brutal and complex, Fables:  Animal Farm really dives deep into the dark side of the Fable world--and attempts to shed light on a political situation that is at once volatile and surprisingly tenuous.  It's fascinating to watch the story unfold.

I also enjoyed the inclusion of other literary worlds, branching out into the old folktales, like Br'er Rabbit and Reynard the Fox, and classic tales, like The Jungle Book.  There's so much history to them, so much depth to them from all the years of telling and retelling--and its interesting to see how my views, my feelings of these characters match up to their newly imagined counterparts.  It's mind-boggling to think these characters will not always stay the same.

The Bad
I don't always recognize the fairy tales and stories involved in Fables.  But, I think, that's more or less my own failing rather than anything on the part of the authors who brought these characters together in new and exciting ways.

The Ugly
Graphic violence.  It made my stomach churn.

And for good reason.  I very much disliked the Lord of the Flies reference.  It's quite obvious when you see it, and it's just as sickening.  (All I can say is:  Poor Colin.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Fables: Legends in Exile (Volume 1)

Fables:  Legends in Exile (Volume 1)
Bill Willingham
Lan Medina
Steve Leialoha
Craig Hamilton

The Summary
"Who killed Rose Red?

"In Fabletown, where fairy tale legends live alongside regular New Yorkers, the question is all anyone can talk about.  But only the Big Bad Wolf can solve the case--and, along with Rose's sister Snow White, keep the Fabletown community from coming apart at the seams."

The Good
Fables:  Legends in Exile is an interesting concept, but it also succeeds with the execution.  I really liked the idea of fabled worlds, these literary lands where stories and their characters--like Snow White, Rose Red, Prince Charming (who I really dislike, just FYI), Beauty and the Beast, Briar Rose, Bluebeard, and even the Big Bad World--and it's incredibly fascinating to see these characters coming to life and mingling together.  It's a literary stew just brimming with all my favorite stories and fairy tales.  How could I not enjoy it?

I liked Snow White.  I like that she's basically in charge of Fabletown, that she has the capability to run a government and run it well.  She's smart, she's tough, and she's really quite amazing.  But I also like the Big Bad Wolf--or Bigby, as he's now known.  He's a cross between a hard-boiled detective noir and a werewolf, which, confidentially, makes him quite interesting.  Plus, he seems like a genuinely good guy (for the most part anyway).

Overall, I enjoyed it.  Although I'd tried to read Fables in the past and didn't care for them, I find now that I'm older--and, perhaps, a little more jaded when it comes to comic books and what is permissible in graphic novels--and a more knowledgeable of fairy tales, I enjoy Fables.  It's a catchy series with intriguing characters, complicated relationships, and fascinating stories.

The Bad
Admittedly, I wasn't always intrigued with the course of the plot.  It's an interesting story, don't get me wrong, but it was sometimes a little dry.  Plus, I couldn't always discern the relationships between the characters, unless it was spelled out for me, and I always closed the book feeling like I was missing something.

All the denizens of Fabletown have a history with one another  Everyone fears Bigby, because he was once the Big Bad Wolf who gobbled up unsuspecting travelers in the forest, and yet he's Fabeltown's enforcer; Bluebeard is a homicidal maniac who has managed to ingratiate himself into the political and social scenes of Fabletown; Snow White is sister to Rose Red, first wife to Prince Charming, and right hand to King Cole, mayor of Fabletown; Little Boy Blue is an assistant to Snow, helping to keep Fabletown running smoothly; Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk fame) is a con-artist and computer hacker with a less-than-stellar record.

There's more, I assure you, and it's all very complicated.

The Ugly
These characters are not the saccharine sweet Disney characters fans of fairy tales have come to know and love.  They are tough, they are jaded, and, in some cases, they are homicidal maniacs.  In fact, they are closer to their roots in Brothers Grimm and Hans Christen Anderson than their modern counterparts.  Their stories are painted with a little more blood and gore, riddled with a little more tragedy, which is decidedly unpleasant.