Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy (Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, authors; Brooke A. Allen, illustrator)

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
(The Lumberjanes series, 1 - 4)
Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, authors; illustrated by Brooke A. Allen
Fiction, YA Comics/Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: At Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types, girls spend their summers canoeing, hiking, learning about nature, making friends, and earning Lumberjanes merit badges... or, at least, that's what most girls do. April, Jo, Mal, Molly, and Ripley keep driving their cabin counselor Jen nuts breaking camp rules - but it's not really their fault. Something weird's going on in and around camp - strange old bear-women and three-eyed foxes and more - plus a peculiar warning about a "Kitten Holy" they can't make heads nor tails of. Like it or not, they're up to their eyeballs in the strangest summer of their lives! At least they'll get some kick-ass merit badges at the end - if they make it that long...
This volume includes the first four issues of the Lumberjanes comic books.

REVIEW: This girl-power fantasy adventure comic doesn't loaf around, hurling the reader straight into the action and introducing both characters and concepts on the fly. It's a weird, wacky tale with some hilarious lines, not so subtly poking popular story tropes (and outfits like Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts), though the characters are sometimes a jumble and some haven't developed much depth yet. Still, it's quite fun and reads quickly, and it got some laughs out of me. I expect I'll be exploring more of this title in the future.

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Fairy Quest: Outcasts #1 (Paul Jenkins) - My Review
Princeless (Jeremy Whitley) - My Review

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy (Tui T. Sutherland)

Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy
(The Wings of Fire series, Book 1)
Tui T. Sutherland
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: When a hairless little scavenger slaughtered the old SandWing queen, chaos erupted across the dragon world. Since none of her three daughters had killed the old queen, there was no clear heir to the vacant crown. Blister, Burn, and Blaze have been fighting ever since, even dragging other dragon tribes into their decades-long conflict. But there may be hope for peace in a NightWing prophecy of five dragonets, hatched on the brightest three-moon night, who will end the war and choose the rightful queen. None of the rivals trust the prophecy to favor them, hunting down and slaughtering any of the so-called Talons of Peace who are determined to see it fulfilled - but destiny will not be so easily thwarted...
According to his guardians, Clay the MudWing tried to kill his nestmates when he hatched - but he's been an oversized klutz ever since, the worst of the five dragonets hidden in the secret cave by Talons of Peace guardians. Maybe he's too softhearted and stupid to fulfill the prophecy, as he fears, but they have two more years to grow. Hopefully he'll find the inner monster he was hatched with by then, the one that will let him fight like a proper warrior. Only Tsunami the SeaWing grows restless; she tires of life underground, and doesn't see how they're supposed to save a world they've never even seen. She's determined to escape - and so is Clay, after he overhears their guardians planning to kill off one of the five: harmless Glory the RainWing, a last-minute substitute for the SkyWing called for by the prophecy. The plan goes wrong almost from the start, plunging Clay and his fellow dragonets into a world far more cruel, violent, and treacherous than any of their studies could've prepared them for. Do the dragonets of prophecy stand a chance when the whole of the dragon world stands against them?

REVIEW: As a dragon-lover, I could hardly resist trying this popular new middle-grade series. Sutherland creates a wonderfully imaginative world that's sure to enthrall young fantasy fans, with several different tribes of dragon (each with their own look and special skills) and interesting characters. Clay and the other dragonets start out fairly simplistic (he's the big, lovable oaf, Tsunami's the scrapper, the NightWing Starflight's the studious and aloof one, the runt SandWing Sunny's overly trusting and optimistic, and Glory the RainWing's the overlooked, quiet one), but they all grow significantly, each finding unexpected challenges that they sometimes fail to negotiate. The dragon world is not a kind one: surprising levels of death and betrayal wind through the plot, and the talons of the dragonets aren't entirely clean by the end. The prophecy itself has potentially tainted origins, as well, and the Talons of Peace can be every bit as ruthless and cold as the queens they claim to oppose. Starting off quickly, the story moves at a fair flight speed, with the odd touch of humor to liven darker moments. Being the first of the series, it resolves just enough to set the dragonets on their path, while leaving more twists and hooks to keep readers eager for the next book. If the dialog sounded a little human and juvenile at times, if the odd anachronism slipped in now and again, and if the message was a trifle heavy-handed, well, it's aimed at middle-grade audiences. The Dragonet Prophecy marks a nice, solid start to a series any young dracophile will enjoy.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Dragoncharm (Graham Edwards) - My Review
Bitterwood (James Maxey) - My Review
Song of the Summer King (Jess E. Owens) - My Review

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Feel The Heat (Kathryn Shay)

Feel The Heat
(The Rockford Fire Department series, Book 1)
Kathryn Shay
Fiction, Romance
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Francesca "Francey" Cordaro's thirtieth birthday wasn't spent with girlfriends at a wine bar, or on a date; as a firefighter, she was battling a blaze in a warehouse when she broke her arm rescuing a civilian. This wasn't just anybody, though: it was Alex Templeton, stunning bachelor CEO of Templeton Industries. Francey's worked hard to prove herself in a man's world, and she has the bitter reminder of her parents' failed marriage to show her what happens when a firefighter gets too close to anyone outside the job. She hasn't even dated in ages, and the last thing she needs is to fall for a man way out of her league, no matter how charming. Unfortunately, her heart has other ideas...

REVIEW: It can be difficult to find romances that stretch boundaries; part of the appeal seems to be the comfort of the familiar. This one, however, had a nice twist, so I gave it a try. Ultimately, I had mixed feelings on it. Francey definitely isn't the stereotypical swooning romance lead; her profession, coupled with scars left from her childhood and the bitter breakup of her parents (one that neither parent got over), give her a little more backbone, and a few more obstacles to overcome when negotiating a relationship. Alex, on the other hand, is largely the typical alpha male... a trait that nearly costs him everything as he finds himself drawn to a woman who won't be stuck in the proverbial kitchen. Sparks naturally fly from the start (literally, if you take into account how they meet), and the pair go through the expected ups and downs... some of them feeling a little manufactured, like more than a few lines of dialog. Competing for space, however, is the ongoing feud between Francey's father, Ben, and her estranged mother, Diana - one that drags the story back to typical romance tropes, particularly the idea that first loves are the only real loves and anyone who walks away from a relationship is merely in denial. (There were a few other squirm-worthy moments here and there, as well.) Other characters, some likely cameos from Shay's other series, clutter up the tale with too many names who have too little to do to distinguish them. And there's a background thread about the cause of the fire at the warehouse that resolves more or less as one might expect from early on. It manages to come together (mostly) by the end, though, and there's a decent level of sizzle in the sexual tension throughout. All in all, it's not a bad romance, and the lady lead offers something a little more gutsy than many romances, but it just felt too bloated and occasionally forced for me to grant it a full four stars.

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Concrete Evidence (Rachel Grant) - My Review
Almost Perfect (Julie Ortolon) - My Review
Bidding On Brooks (Katy Regnery) - My Review

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Magick Made Easy (Patricia Telesco)

Magick Made Easy
Patricia Telesco
Nonfiction, Magic
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Cauldrons, broomsticks, eye of newt... real folk magick has never been like most popular descriptions make it sound. It's often been much smaller and more practical, a personal sort of magick and manifestation that still holds relevance today. The author offers tips on materials and rituals for today's magick workers.

REVIEW: Another potential idea-sparker, I picked this up on discount. Telesco doesn't offer step-by-step spells or cleansing rituals or other such things. Mostly, she gives an overview of what "real" magick is, which seems to boil down to focusing one's intent and using ritual and specific items as props to help with manifestation or thought change. Teleseco then offers long, alphabetized lists of items and their "meanings" and associations in spellcraft, with the frequent reminder that one's own interpretation and gut reactions ultimately trump any belief handed down from previous cultures or generations. I found the lists only vaguely useful; aside from the alphabet, they were disorganized, and some of her descriptions were vague or incomplete. (At one point, she refers to the ruby slippers of The Wizard of Oz - though, if she'd actually read the book, she'd know they were silver originally. A minor thing, but it made me wonder about the depth of research in other entries.) To be honest, I started skimming round about the B's. On the plus side, she included thoughts on the magical potential of the modern world, bringing folk magick into the twenty-first (well, twentieth, as it was published in 1999) century. Her writing is also reasonably clear and accessible, without losing itself in esoteric terms or concepts, which earned it the extra half-star over Okay. It isn't a bad book, and would likely be useful to someone looking to try a little folk magick for the first time, but it failed to really engage my interest or imagination.

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The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Spells and Magic (The Diagram Group) - My Review
The Giant Book of Magic (Cassandra Eason) - My Review
The Complete Book of Amulets and Talismans (Migene González-Wippler) - My Review

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

City (Clifford D. Simak)

Clifford D. Simak
Open Road Media
Fiction, Collection/Sci-Fi
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: For thousands of years, around the fires at night, tales have been told of ancient times and lost worlds... but were they ever true? These stories are often considered cautionary tales or attempts by previous generations to give form to impossible concepts, but some argue that there is a factual basis, a hidden history wrapped in layers of storytelling, pointing to a lost, utterly alien species. Was there ever a time when Dogs had no speech, when they were just dumb beasts at the heels of the legendary, ultimately self-destructive race known as Man?

REVIEW: This classic collection by noted author Clifford D. Simak chronicles the rise of a Doggish race in the wake of humanity's failure, a fall triggered not by war or external catastrophe but by blind spots and flaws in our racial psyche. It's an odd conceit, one that takes a while to grow on the reader, especially as the pre-tale commentary (by Doggish authors, many of whom argue against the possibility of Man ever having existed outside a story) acts as partial spoilers for the tale that follows. (This especially wasn't helped by a long-winded introduction to this Kindle reprint, one that assumes I already know about Simak and the significance of City.) The stories themselves also show their age around the edges, and not just by having the last cities of modern civilization abandoned as obsolete a few decades before I read this: the tales all rely on outdated attitudes and cultural assumptions, including (but not limited to) the sexism. Women appear as wives or secretaries, and almost never else - and among the robots, Dogs, and other species, no females apparently exist at all. The tales themselves often wander into philosophical territory, bogging down now and again under the weight of their ideas. That said, the further I read, the more the overall themes started to gel, and the collection as a whole presents ideas and images that linger long after I met them. I can see how these were, and are, considered genre classics, even if the style and some of the tales themselves aren't quite my cup of cocoa.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Foundation (Isaac Asimov) - My Review
Childhood's End (Arthur C. Clarke) - My Review
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