Review – Avengers Assemble: The Forgeries of Jealousy

Cover of Avengers Assemble: The Forgeries of JealousyAvengers Assemble: The Forgeries of Jealousy, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Warren Ellis, Matteo Buffagni

The Forgeries of Jealousy is pretty fun. Unlike Science Bros, it does follow through one story arc, based on a recent event involving the Inhumans. I don’t know much about that, but I don’t think you need to. The closest POV character is Anya Corazon, Spider-girl, and she doesn’t seem to have been involved much in the event up to the point where this starts, though she does know what about the situation. Still, the volume follows Spider-girl as she works with the Avengers to rescue her social studies teacher.

There’s a lot of fun banter and some good team-ups — the best being Spider-girl, Spider-woman and Black Widow, though her team-up with Wolverine is kinda fun, and her interactions with Tony Stark and Captain America are sweet. Gotta love the end, with Steve sending her the Avengers Assemble theme song for a ringtone, and asking her not to tell anyone he can use a smartphone (and of course his texts are spelt out properly with punctuation and all).

Overall, I can see why people think it’s a bit of wish fulfilment, but it’s also fun and features a lot of the female Avengers. Kelly Sue always does a great job, and I love the line-up she gives us here.

Rating: 4/5


Review – Avengers Assemble: Science Bros

Cover of Avengers Assemble: Science BrosAvengers Assemble: Science Bros, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Christos Gage, Pete Woods, Stefano Caselli, Tomm Coker

Although it feels a little disconnected — the TPB is a collection of disparate Avengers stories, rather than any kind of continuous story arc — this is a great book. It’s funny till it’s not, serious in the right places, with some great character moments and a great team. Spider-woman and Hulk make a fun pair-up, while I will never get over Captains America and Marvel being friends and drinking kale smoothies for breakfast, or Tony’s sweet pep talk for Bruce while he’s eating caramel and walnut ice cream. The final story involves the Vision, and it surprised me by linking with Young Avengers and having Vision go to meet one of his sons at the end. Also, I thrilled a little to the scene-setting line: “Outside Wiccan and Hulkling’s House”. I hope Vision likes his son’s boyfriend…

I was a little bemused by Clint apparently dating Jessica Drew, but okay. The story with those two and Natasha was pretty cool, though strongly reminiscent of Amazing Spider-man, with the lizard people and all…

The art is really good, too; I don’t actually remember any of the artists’ names from anything else, but the drawings are really clean and clear, the action looks great, the colours are bright and eye-catching without being garish, etc.

This volume is worth it for “Hulllllk, make me a sandwich”, “hippy peanut butter” and the naked walk to the Baxter Building alone. The rest is extra caramel for Bruce’s depressed ice cream breakfast.

Rating: 5/5

Review – Fictions

Cover of Fictions by Jorge Luis BorgesFictions, Jorge Luis Borges

I got along with Fictions a lot better than with The Book of Imaginary Beings; while it’s still composed of various short pieces, each one has a plot and a purpose. The writing is beautiful; if the translation does any justice to the original, it must be gorgeous in its simplicity, while describing plots and settings that are anything but simple. I could almost go learn Spanish just to read Borges’ own words — though this Penguin translation by Andrew Hurley is a good one, and makes the stories accessible and clear.

Can you even pick a favourite from this volume? I suppose maybe I can — ‘The Library of Babel’, maybe, or ‘The Lottery in Babylon’. I’m going to keep this book around and reread it sometime, slower, in a different order, whatever. Just dip in and out see what else I find in these stories that I didn’t see this time. And it’s high praise for me to say that I am sure there’s a lot I didn’t see.

Rating: 5/5

Review – Winter Soldier: The Bitter March

Cover of Winter Soldier: The Bitter March by Rick RemenderWinter Soldier: The Bitter March, Rick Remender, Roland Boschi

I haven’t heard good things about Rick Remender’s work, but I kind of like this run on Winter Soldier. It begins by following Fury and another SHIELD agent during the Cold War, as they begin to go up against the Winter Soldier. But slowly, Bucky’s memories surface in the Winter Soldier, changing the whole course of the story.

Ultimately, it doesn’t change anything about the Marvel universe — Bucky might as well never have resurfaced, really. In a way, that makes this a bit of a cheat: we see a little of Bucky’s struggles against the Soviets who control him, but it doesn’t really mean anything. It doesn’t show us anything about Bucky we didn’t already know. It doesn’t pick up on where we left him in the last Winter Soldier comic, with the love of his life unable to remember who he is. With everything he’s come to care about destroyed.

It’s a fun spy/action story, but nothing more.

Rating: 3/5

Top Ten Tuesday

Aaand time for another Top Ten Tuesday! This week it’s a Halloween theme — not my favourite holiday, really; I’m a scaredy-cat at heart. Anyway, here’s the theme: “Top Ten Books/Movies To Read Or Watch To Get In The Halloween Spirit OR Top Ten Characters Who I Would Totally Want To Be For Halloween”. Aaand I’m gonna do the latter. Most of them are comics characters, because actually I’m really bad at visualising characters.

  1. Any Avenger. Comics/movies whatever. Especially one like female!Bucky or the Lady Avengers manips. Not that short red hair really suits me for anyone. Gimme a blond wig and I’ll do Carol Danvers? Scarlet Witch maybe?
  2. Batgirl. From Gail Simone’s run. I’d just need longer hair… lots longer. Like it used to be, in fact.
  3. Storm. Even mohawk!Storm. Maybe especially mohawk!Storm.
  4. A female assassin. Shush, Assassin’s Creed counts for this — there’re Assassin’s Creed books too.
  5. Kate Bishop. Young Avengers! We don’t need to imagine a female Hawkeye; we’ve got one. And I’d have a badass bow.
  6. Lara Croft. She has comics! It counts! Badass bow, again.
  7. Eowyn. Shield-maiden style, of course.
  8. Nazca. From The Lies of Locke Lamora. She’s badass and she should be celebrated.
  9. Zamira Drakasha. Scott Lynch again. Ditto!
  10. Sabriel. Or maybe Lirael. From Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy!

Lots of kick-butt ladies. I didn’t deliberately pick them to be mostly the ladies who fight; it’s just those are the ones I can see myself doing better. Not such a fan of the long dresses and so on.

Review – The Crystal Cave

Cover of The Crystal Cave by Mary StewartThe Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart

There’s still a lot about The Crystal Cave that bothers me, but I think, on balance, I liked it better now than I did the first time I read it. As I’ve said, it’s Misogynistic Merlin, which is my least favourite flavour — you have some clear-headed, quick-thinking, powerful women, but then you have lines like this: “Duchess and slut alike, they need not even study to deceive.” And the whole bit about weak female magic and Merlin needing to be a virgin and blahblahblah. Could definitely have done without that.

Still, not having recently read Sword at Sunset, or anything else of Rosemary Sutcliff’s, this managed to have something of that flavour without the narration, and the characterisation of Ambrosius, being too much overshadowed by Sutcliff. I know for sure which one is the better book, and which one I enjoy more, but this doesn’t stand up so badly when it’s not right up against something by a master like Sutcliff. I got more into the relationships this time, though I wish Merlin didn’t leave such a trail of servant characters dead in his wake. I liked Cerdic, liked Cadal; their deaths because of their faith in Merlin were pretty hard to take. I know he does acknowledge a measure of that but still, gah. The relationship between Merlin and Ambrosius really does work, though, the slow realisation of what’s going on there, and their closeness. Also the fact that Merlin isn’t forced to be a warrior (though that makes the ending, where he is, doubly odd).

The mix of magic and science here is a little weird. The standing stones are raised using math, but the prophecy really is second sight; the dragons are just symbols, but the vision is real. It’s like a step between out-and-out fantasy and realism. There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but I tend to prefer things that go at it a bit more unequivocally! If Merlin can see the future, why is there no other magic in the world?

Anyway, I’m going on to the other books now, though I seem to recall from summaries there’s more flavours of misogynistic Merlin awaiting me.

Rating: 4/5

Review – Six Against the Yard

Six Against the Yard, Margery Allingham, Anthony Berkeley, Freeman Wills Crofts, Ronald Knox, Dorothy L. Sayers, Russell ThorndikeCover of Six Against the Yard by The Detective Club

I got this book mostly for the Dorothy L. Sayers story, of course, but I was interested in the premise, too. Six master mystery writers, including Margery Allingham and Dorothy Sayers, took it upon themselves to write a short story each in which someone committed the perfect murder. And then, in response, an ex-Superintendent of the CID explained the ways he thought that perfect crime could be picked apart. Cornish didn’t seem to think any of the six would really ‘pass’, for various reasons, but it bothered me a little that it didn’t matter how many precautions the characters took to get rid of the evidence, Cornish was sure the police would find something. The police are not all-knowing or perfect; I guess the problem is that I approached the stories as literary, and Cornish tried to view them as reality, while still seeing himself having access to all the facts. Not quite fair!

Margery Allingham’s story is good; she sets up a great narrator, handling themes of domestic violence and so on pretty well. I did applaud Cornish’s understanding of psychology in his response, where he pointed out that the murderer presented themselves in the most sympathetic light possible, but there’s no reason to take their word as gospel truth, even in a confession. Overall, clever but obvious.

I was pretty ambivalent toward Father Ronald Knox’s story of a dictator murdered in his home. That all seemed fairly obvious. Cornish’s feeling that the crime is perfect through unfair play is right: like he says, the crime is unpunishable, but not untraceable.

Anthony Berkeley’s story is fun: another great narrator, fun set of characters. That aspect of it is better than the perfect murder stuff, and the whole story reminded me of Lynn O’Connacht’s beef with first person narrators: why, how, and when are you telling the story? Berkeley didn’t really explain why the two narrators would tell the story in the way they did.

Thorndike’s story was simply too theatrical and contrived. Rooooolling of eyes actually happened here.

Sayers’ story was well written, but fell down in terms of being the perfect murder because it wasn’t a murder. She spent so much time tying up each loose end that Cornish could’ve used to untangle the thing that ultimately, while there was motive, means, and opportunity, there was no defining moment where the ‘murderer’ acted. He simply failed to act, and he wasn’t even sure if that would change anything. I did like the set-up and the psychological understanding, though.

Freeman Wills Crofts’ story has an interesting set-up, but I didn’t think it was even nearly a perfect murder — there were several holes in the logic, which Cornish quite rightly points out.

So as I said, entertaining little collection, nice idea; not overwhelmed by the result, but it’s fun enough.

Rating: 3/5

Review – The Lord Won’t Mind

Cover of The Lord Won't Mind by Gordon MerrickThe Lord Won’t Mind, Gordon Merrick
Received to review via Netgalley

This is a really quick read, though I confess I ended up skimming a bit. There’s a lot of sex scenes and a lot of drama: if it weren’t a popular early gay story it wouldn’t mean very much, I think. But it was one of the earliest novels to feature gay characters who struggle with their identity and have a happy ending, and I was surprised at how quickly it got to that, too. Our sympathies are unequivocally with Peter and his desire for commitment, his passionate love for Charlie; while Charlie’s struggles are treated with some understanding, it’s not as though the narrative treats him as “in the right” for wanting to hide the relationship. In that sense, it’s a celebration of queerness, of love (and yeah, sex) between two men, from a time when that was hard to find. No wonder it was popular.

On the other hand, there’s plenty of unpleasantness here — domestic violence, Charlie wanting to hurt various women and sometimes Peter, racism, homophobia from a few characters, internalised homophobia on Charlie’s part, etc. No matter how good it was for gay people to read a passionate love story for them at the time, there’s a lot that’s problematic and off-putting.

And, frankly, for me the writing wasn’t that good. Situations were contrived, there was a lot of repetition, and I didn’t really believe in the sudden intensity of feeling from Peter — Charlie’s more grudging love was a little easier to believe in, but even so, they went into it at an amazing pace.

Still, it’s kind of fun in a trashy way, and it is nice to have that happy end.

Rating: 3/5

Stacking the Shelves

Hi everyone! It’s time for Stacking the Shelves again. I thought I wouldn’t have a big haul this week, but I did spend my Kobo voucher in the end, and picked up some books at the convention I went to. Oops!

Dead tree books

Cover of Six Against the Yard by The Detective Club Cover of The Sorceress and the Cygnet by Patricia McKillip Cover of The Cygnet and the Firebird by Patricia McKillip

Cover of Mistress of Mistresses by E.R. Edison Cover of A Fish Dinner in Memison  by E.R. Edison Cover of The Mezentian Gate by E.R. Edison

Cover of Moon-flash by Patricia McKillip Cover of Nova by Samuel R Delany

Patricia McKillip! No one is surprised! Got a compliment at FACTs about my taste in books, hee. Been meaning to read more Eddison for a while, I think I’ve mentioned, and Nova is one that Jo Walton’s spoken highly of. I’ve already read Six Against the Yard, and the review should be up tomorrow.


 Cover of Dreamsongs by G.R.R. Martin Cover of Dreamsongs by G.R.R. Martin Cover of Wild Cards ed. G.R.R. Martin

Cover of Infinity Blade: Awakening by Brandon Sanderson

Wild Cards sounds fun, and I’ve been meaning to read more G.R.R. Martin, so, voila. Infinity Blade: Awakening is based on a game, apparently, but reviews say you don’t need to know the game. And maybe I’ll decide I want to play the game, too!

Aaaand my one review copy, which I think I requested because someone I know gave it a good review:

Cover of The Hawley Book of the Dead

So what’s everyone else been getting? Comment, link, etc — I always visit your blog in return if you visit me!

Review – Darwin’s Radio

Cover of Darwin's Radio by Greg BearDarwin’s Radio, Greg Bear

As warned by a friend, the ideas here are pretty fascinating — the book might be fifteen years behind in terms of science, but there’s nothing inherently ridiculous about the idea based on the scientific knowledge of the time — but the actual narrative is pretty deadly boring. Some of the writing is just… why would you let that slip past, editor? Hard SF isn’t just about the cool ideas: there has to be some element of execution there as well, or there’s no point in writing it as a novel — there’d be a non-fiction audience for speculation about the future too, undoubtedly.

It’s pretty unfortunate, since Bear did the work here in setting up the world, figuring out the details, making A lead to B without a gap in logic. Unfortunately, the prose is flat, most of the characters likewise, and isn’t there a song with lyrics that go I don’t care a lot? Because it’s in my head right now.

Rating: 1/5