Friday, 26 July 2013

Days Gone Bye

Title: Days Gone Bye
Series: The Walking Dead #1
Authors: Robert Kirkman
Illustrator: Toby Moore
Pages: 144 (paperback)
Published: September 26th 2006
Published by: Image Comics

An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled: There is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. Rick Grimes finds himself one of the few survivors in this terrifying future. A couple months ago he was a small town cop who had never fired a shot and only ever saw one dead body. Separated from his family, he must now sort through all the death and confusion to try and find his wife and son. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living.

Rick Grimes is a good-guy police officer with a wife and son. It's just an ordinary day for him. Until he gets shot. Then wakes up an indeterminate amount of time later alone in an empty hospital. Then finds out that he's living right in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. So, you know, not a great few days. He sets off to try and find out what happened to his wife, Lori, and son, Carl, but soon finds himself in a whole mess of trouble.

I really enjoy the TV adaptation, so I figured I'd venture into the heretofore unexplored genre of comic books graphic novels to see how it all started. One thing I was not expecting was how short it was; it took me less than an hour to read the whole thing, which I suppose shouldn't have been as surprising as it was. While there are some extended conversations, most of the action and story is visual.

And I did enjoy it. It was a little confusing to see how much had changed when they were making the show, but I could also see all the similarities and even picked up on a couple of shots which must have been taken straight from the illustrations.

The story was good; there was always something going on, whether it be personal conflicts or zombie attacks. Really the story is more about the former than the later, and the zombie-apocalypse is just the backdrop for all the drama! There were even a couple of funny moments, for me, often due to the "uhh"s and "gak"s of the zombies. And the ending definitely came as a surprise. I mean, I knew (well, guessed) it would happen eventually, but wasn't expecting it this soon!

I'll probably carry on with the series at some point, because I want to see the story develop in its original form and I've heard (and seen thus far) that a lot has been changed. Plus one of my favourite characters from the show, Daryl, hasn't appeared yet. Apparently one of my favourite characters is an invention of the television series, so I'm not intrigued to see who else they've invented, or left out. More changes than I'd expected going on here.

So I'm semi-converted to graphic novels...I'm not hooked, but I think this was a good introduction. And I'll definitely be open to others written by authors of books I've enjoyed - I know both Neil Gaiman and Joe Hill have their own series out there.

Saturday, 20 July 2013


Title: Disenchanted
Author: Robert Kroese
Pages: 220 (ebook)
Published: November 6th 2012
Published by: 47North

Being assassinated doesn't have many upsides, so when King Boric is felled by a traitor, the king comforts himself with the knowledge that, like all great warriors, he will spend eternity carousing in the Hall of Avandoor. There's just one problem: to claim his heavenly reward, Boric must release the enchanted sword of Brakslaagt.

Now, to avoid being cursed to walk the land of Dis forever as an undead wraith, he must hunt down the mysterious Lord Brand who gave him the sword twenty years ago. So begins Boric's extraordinary journey across the Six Kingdoms of Dis, a walking corpse who wants nothing more than to be disenchanted and left in peace. Along the way he's advised by the Witch of Twyllic, mocked by the threfelings of New Threfelton, burned, shot at, and nearly blown to bits. But nothing can prepare him for coming face-to-face with Lord Brand. For in that moment, Boric discovers that nothing—in life, in death, or in between—is exactly what it seems.

Boric, King of Ytrisk, pretty much dies at the start of this story. I saw pretty much, because it turns out his enchanted sword won't let him die so easily. He finds himself - very unwillingly - as a wraith, spirit intact but his body rotting and falling to pieces around him. And it is in this very fragile body that he has to try and defeat the evil mastermind who gave him the cursed sword to start off with. On his way he meets a whole host of often more than slightly ridiculous characters.

This was a very easy story to read, more so in the later chapters where there were fewer punchlines hitting you around the head. This book started out as a 'comedy', though for me it was trying far too hard and it seemed like that was a joke or punchline every couple of sentences. Though reminiscent of Terry Pratchett in terms of style the result was a bit of a mess really, in my mind at least. As we got further into the book (serialised, originally released in six fortnightly episodes) the humour was brought to heel a little, and the story itself was allowed to come through more.

And it was a pretty good story, with a twist that I didn't see coming at all. There was a lot of misdirection and misinformation, and whenever you thought you had it sorted it twisted around again. Of course, all this did take place in the last section, and the pacing could have been evened out a little, for the earlier sections - whilst readable - weren't particularly encapturing. In those, we flick between Boric-the-dead, and Boric-the-very-much-alive-and-killing-(sort of)-an-ogre. But in neither of them are any particular leaps forward made. Stuff happens in the former, and history is set up in the latter. Again, it is only in the later sections of the book that everything starts to come together, but I think it may have been a more engrossing read if there had been some more stuff going on for Boric-the-dead in the earlier sections than randomly stumbling from place to place.

When it comes to characters, Boric is the only one that appears with anywhere near enough consistency to really get a feel for. Others pop in and out (I was particularly a fan of Bubbles, the flying bear; in large part because his name was Bubbles), but their appearances tend to be fleeting a best - even in a book of only 200-some pages. But Boric does grow with the story, and there are some nice parts. He is obviously a very intelligent man in his own way: strategy and war rather than academia, but there is a deepening to him in the course of the story which probably would have been heart-warming if I'd cared for him more. Because, for all his snarky humour (which I appreciated), it was quite difficult to develop any depth of feeling for him. I wanted to see how everything worked out, but I didn't particularly care if he got disenchanted and un-wraithed.

An entertaining enough read, but maybe in need of some cleaning up and evening out. A bit more depth to the characters - Boric in particular - would make them more...not likeable, but care-worthy, and would make it a more gripping read.

Friday, 12 July 2013


Title: Starcrossed
Series: Starcrossed #1
Author: Josephine Angelini
Pages: 501 (ebook)
Published: 31st May 2011
Published by: HarperTeen

How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

Helen Hamilton has always stood out: she's unusually tall, strong and fast. She's also exceptionally beautiful, but this is so far from her mind that it's not until very far into the book that I really noticed that fact. (Or maybe I just wasn't paying attention, but I'd like to think it's the former). She's devoted to her dad, after her mother walked out on them when Helen was only a few months old, and her best friend Giggles (at this point I cannot for the life of me remember her actual name). She tries to stay out of trouble, stay unnoticed. And she succeeds. Until a new family moves onto the remote island where she lives, and the first time she sees one of the kids in school she tries to kill him.

Paranormal Romance books (PNR) get a lot of bad press. Understandably. Many of them aren't great, and are written to jump on the bandwagon main-streamed by Twilight. Ordinary girl/boy falls in love with mythical being of some description. They can't be together for x, y, z, but fight through in spite of everything. All is wonderful! *eyelash flutter and sigh* But it's PNR books like this that restore my faith in the genre, because every so often I do come across one that is wonderful, and I really enjoy reading it. Of course, this means I have to wade through all the rubbish ones looking for the good ones (probably with more misses than hits), but every time I'm about to give up on the genre I come across a book like this.

The characters are wonderful and you can really believe in their decisions and how they feel in different situations. The plot has up and downs and twists, and it's quite clear from the end of the book that there's something more going on though I literally have no idea what that is! But I'm going to go buy the next book really soon so I can find out!

Helen is a particularly great leading lady. She just wants to be normal and fit in, trying her very hardest to not stand out in any way and failing quite miserably. Because of the life she's lead, she's sensible and down-to-earth, but she isn't bland along with it. She can be moody and she falls out with people - both friends and family - and acts like a regular teenage girl in so many ways. Her best friend, Giggles - nicknamed for her distinctive laugh - is a nice counterpoint, and often offers a lighter counterpoint to whatever may be going on. I always imagined her as an Alice Cullen-esque figure and character (Twilight - I know! Don't shoot me...), prancing around the place and being slightly mischievous and sneaky.

The Delos family seems to encompass all the different stereotypes you can. Of course they're all ridiculously pretty (what would PNR be without ridiculously pretty people?!), but besides that you have the really ridiculously pretty one, the sporty one, the quiet sensitive one, the mystical one, and the guys-guy. I think I covered them all... But they're still all likeable characters. Again, they're very down-to-earth (probably because of the situation they're in in life in general and what they believe is at stake) and seem just like a normal, very large, family.

I don't know that much about Greek mythology so I can't really comment on the veracity of any of that side of things, but as an ignorant observer I understood a lot of what was going on, and the informative bits weren't unwieldy or annoying. You're told enough so you understand the relevant history, but you aren't overloaded with unnecessary information - which I think could be quite easy given the shear depth of stuff that could be delved into.

Yeah, it took me a little while to really get going with this book, but once I did I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait to see where Helen and Lucas go after the shocking revelation at the end of this part of their story.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Fire Study

Title: Fire Study
Series: Study Series #3
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Pages: 441 (paperback)
Published: January 16th 2009
Published by: MIRA Books

The apprenticeship is over
Now the real test has begun
When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder — able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena's unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena's fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before.…
Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.

In Magic Study, we started to discover more about Yelena: her history, and her way with magic. This, the last in the Study Series thus far (though there is talk of a follow-up trilogy), ties up all of the ends left open in Magic Study. Yelena has to try and find the truth when it comes to her Soul Finder powers, and the prejudice - and sometimes hatred - which comes with the stigma of this name. Of course, that's not the only thing going on and Yelena has to deal with the continued threat of enemies made in previous stories.

This book, unfortunately, continues on the downward trend in the progression of the series. There's a lot of dire situations put in just because it makes the story 'more interesting'. It seems like every couple of chapters that Yelena is put into a life-threatening situation and it begins to work the opposite, becoming repetitive. Although it can be said that there are at least different challenges to overcome in each book when it comes to \using magic: for everyone, but Yelena in particular.

So while the story isn't up to the same standard as the earlier books, all the great characters from the first get their screen time (though in my opinion, Valek could always do with more). There are some great moments where we see Yelena and Valek experiencing problems in their relationship. Up until this point it's been all happy-wonderful-in-love stuff, so it was nice to see that it isn't always perfect for them either. Their disagreements were realistic, as were their resolutions. Both fit with the characters that have been built in the other two books and felt like things that genuinely would have come about for them rather than being put in for the sake of it.

We also get to see a bit more of Yelena's immediate family, Lief in particular, and the development of those relationships were nice. Though her relationship with her parents seems a bit easy considering they hadn't seen each other for so long, with Lief it followed a believable line both for the circumstances and the animosity he feels towards her.

The end of this book was dragged out quite a lot, and it definitely could have been shortened without serious detriment to the book as a whole. Indeed, the whole thing probably could have done with some tightening up to make the story more streamlined and less repetitive.

But as I said before, there are rumours of a second trilogy following Yelena, and I will definitely be reading at least the first. Why? Because of the central characters: Yelena, Valek, Ari and Janco are some of my favourite fictional characters, each unique with their own personalities and yet fitting together to make a good team - both for get things done, and to make for good reading. Here's hoping it next book will be an improvement on this, and get back to the awesomeness that was Poison Study.

Not a bad book by any means, but the repetitiveness of the situations bring it down a little, though the characters are - as always - wonderful.