Review – Batgirl: Death of the Family

Cover of Batgirl: Death in the Family by Gail SimoneBatgirl: Death of the Family, Gail Simone, Daniel Sampere

There’s a lot of individual elements I like in this book — Barbara’s bravery, her struggles with her anger at the people who put her in a wheelchair, her sheer ferocious intelligence (and yet she spends so much time punching her way through problems, sigh), some of the family issues that are brought up… But where it ties in with the other Batfamily books, it feels clumsy. I don’t know what’s going on with Damien, with Nightwing, etc. Nor do I really get chance to care, since it’s all a whirlwind of action.

The art is good, expressive, etc, but ye gods, I forgot how dark DC comics can be. Grit, grit, and more grit.

I do like Alysia’s coming out; I like the casual way Barbara takes it, and yet how important the moment still feels.

Rating: 3/5

Review – Red Sonja: The Art of Blood and Fire

Cover of Red Sonja volume 2 by Gail SimoneRed Sonja: The Art of Blood and Fire, Gail Simone, Walter Geovani

Gail Simone’s run on Red Sonja continues to make the She-Devil about a lot more than tits and ass and the male gaze. Her relationships with other women are important, but here we also see how she relates to the rather male-oriented world around her. I love that it makes no excuses for what Sonja is like — low on hygiene, high on hedonism, low on distinction, high in violence… And she’s a character you can love anyway, because there are things she cares about, regrets that she has, and she clearly inspires people around her in many ways. Despite her faults, she has friends, and she knows exactly who she is.

The art is mostly lovely, though some of the variant covers do veer back to the tits and ass version of Sonja, I think. And the… ‘chibi-fied’ ones just made me wince. C’mon, don’t infantilise this powerful woman who would hate to be portrayed that way…

Sonja’s adventures continue to be more episodic and disconnected than cohesive. It’s not a superhero story with a massive arc and a need to obsessively buy loads of tie-in comics. Which is good, I think.

Rating: 4/5

Review – Tomb Raider: Season of the Witch

Cover of Tomb Raider: Season of the Witch by Gail SimoneTomb Raider: Season of the Witch, Gail Simone, Nicolas Daniel Selma

I never got into Tomb Raider as a kid — though it helps I didn’t have any games consoles until I was a teen — but I recently played the reboot and loved it. The survival aspects were great, and I needed to think tactically about taking out enemies, etc, etc. Season of the Witch doesn’t, in my opinion, bring anything really new to the story. It deepens the stories around some of the relationships, but in many ways the actual plot is a re-run in miniature of the game — without such high stakes, it seemed; there weren’t many characters to lose anymore.

You’ve got to love, though, the tension between Reyes and Lara, and the way that plays out; but especially the deep friendship between Lara and Sam. I hope that remains an essential part of the series.

Rating: 3/5

Stacking the Shelves

First full week of 2015; first chance for us to break all our resolutions and buy a load of books. How’s everyone else been getting along?

Comics

Cover of Batgirl volume 4 by Gail Simone

Late Christmas present from my dad. ❤

Library books

Cover of Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs Cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman Cover of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Cover of The Time Paradox by Philip Zimbardo Cover of The Secret Life of Birds by Colin Tudge

At my parents’ place again for most of January, so this is what I got out of the library to keep me amused — as if I needed anything more than what’s on my ereader and on my shelves from their generosity at Christmas! Ahem…

Anyway, so far this year I’ve avoided buying any new books; I’ve finished the first book in my Open University course already, so I feel like maybe I deserve one, but I can’t choose. I do now have an Amazon wishlist which I’m trying to keep updated. If nothing else, it’ll serve as a list of ‘approved’ books when I do want to get something, and I’ve saved stuff I haven’t preordered yet onto there too.

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is “Top Ten Books I Read in 2014”. This one you can probably predict if you follow this blog, but I won’t leave you guessing. Also, links don’t show up on my theme very well, so I’ll just say now that all the titles are links to the reviews I wrote earlier in the year.

Cover of The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison Cover of The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany Cover of We Have Always Fought by Kameron Hurley Cover of My Real Children by Jo Walton Cover of The Movement by Gail Simone

  1. The Goblin EmperorKatherine Addison. Yep, you probably predicted this one. I just loved it to bits — I’d have happily gone back to page one and started all over again right away. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but it was pretty perfect for me.
  2. The King of Elf-land’s DaughterLord Dunsany. This is definitely not new to a lot of people, but it was new to me. I think I’d read one of Dunsany’s short story collections before, but not this one. It’s a lovely mythic/fairytale-like world. In style and the like, it’s not like the more typical modern fantasy, but that doesn’t put me off at all.
  3. We Have Always FoughtKameron Hurley. I haven’t read any of Hurley’s fiction yet; she may even be a writer who appeals to me more as a commentator than as a creator, since I did start God’s War at one point and put it down again. But I loved this collection of her essays. She very much deserved her Hugo.
  4. My Real ChildrenJo Walton. Again, probably predictable. I loved the characters in this — the sheer range of them, the ways small circumstances could change them. It was quite upsetting on a personal level because of the mentions of dementia, but the fact that it had the power to upset me only made me like it more.
  5. The Movement: Class WarfareGail Simone. I think this is a pretty timely comic. This sums it up, from my review: “[T]his is a group of young people getting together against injustice. Not supervillains: injustice. Crooked cops who beat poor people and POC because they can. The whole system of privilege and disprivilege. It’s a team of heroes for the Occupy Movement, for the 99%, for the disenfranchised.”
  6. Cuckoo SongFrances Hardinge. Read this all in one go on a train journey and resented every interruption. There’s a great atmosphere to this book.
  7. Behind the Shock MachineGina Perry. I’ve always been fascinated by Stanley Milgram’s experiments, and this was a great way of delving into them — looking at it not from Milgram’s point of view, not looking at the results, but at the people he used in this experiment.
  8. What Makes This Book So GreatJo Walton. This is kinda cheating, in that it’s a book chock full of the books Jo Walton likes. Not limited to a top ten, of course, but I have a feeling it could furnish the whole contents of this list.
  9. SpilloverDavid Quammen. Fascinating stuff, with some very obvious conclusions that apparently still need to be said. We are destroying habitats, forcing animals closer together and closer to us: we’re creating the perfect situation for a pandemic. It’s going to happen again, as it’s happened before, and we’ve just got to hope it isn’t something exotic and deadly. Even the flu is bad enough when it sweeps the world.
  10. The Broken LandIan McDonald. This is the only book in this list I didn’t give five stars. But it’s stayed on my mind the whole time, and the issues it examines aren’t temporary ones that’re about to go away.

Cover of Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge Cover of Behind the Shock Machine by Gina Perry Cover of What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton Cover of Spillover by David Quamnem Cover of The Broken Land by Ian McDonald

This is gonna be a really interesting week to check out other people’s lists; I’m looking forward to this! Make sure you link me to your list if you comment. I’ll always visit and comment back.

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.

Stacking the Shelves

So, time for Stacking the Shelves a la Tynga’s Reviews! You know how I keep saying my haul post is going to be smaller “next week”? Well, next week it will be. I think? That’s the idea, anyway. Part of this I blame on going to Rainbow Rowell’s signing in Waterstones with Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts. I’d pick something up to look at it and she’d chip in with “that one’s good!”

Or I might just have no restraint. There’s always that explanation. Anyway, to kick off, here’s me with Rainbow Rowell!

Photo of me and my dorky grin, with author Rainbow Rowell

If you look closely you can see a little frog in the picture. Which means this is a good time to plug my friend’s art project: basically, she’s made a hundred of the blighters and over the last few months, she’s been ‘releasing’ them into the wild, a few at a time. If you find one, take a picture of yourself with it and then move it to somewhere new! Most are in England, West Yorkshire area, but I know some have gone to London, some have been released in Cardiff and Swansea, and some are travelling round the world. If you’re going to Loncon, I have two to release there, so keep your eye out for Sad Frog Project!

Waterstones haul

Cover of The Falconer by Elizabeth May Cover of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein Cover of Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon Cover of Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard Cover of Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan Cover of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart Cover of the special UK Collectors Edition of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

My copy of Fangirl was signed, of course. I still need to finish reading it… But I loved the way Rowell spoke about it, spoke frankly about Cath’s social anxiety, spoke with enthusiasm about fandom. So I’m very glad to have a signed copy. As for the others, some I’ve been planning to get for a while — Two Boys Kissing and Code Name Verity. Leah forced Take Back the Skies on me, and we talked about the others enough to get me interested.

Kobo store

Cover of Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep Cover of Futureland by Walter Mosley Cover of Heart of Veridon, by Tim Akers Cover of The Wanderer in Unknown Realms by John Connolly Cover of The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen Cover of Premonitions by Jamie Schultz Cover of Permanent Present Tense by Suzanne Chorkin Cover of Liars and Thieves by Karen Maitland

It’s a rather mixed bag, isn’t it? The first three were mentioned in books of essays I’ve been reading recently; I’ve enjoyed some of John Connolly’s other stuff; The Queen of the Tearling is getting interesting reviews; I thought my sister would like Premonitions but I’m gonna try it first; Permanent Present Tense is non-fiction and was mentioned in the neurobiology MOOC I’m doing; Liars and Thieves is a short by Karen Maitland, who I’m a big fan of!

Netgalley/e-ARCs

Cover of A Touch of Poison by Aaron Kite Cover of Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel Cover of The Copper Promise by Jen Williams Cover of The Godless by Ben Peek Cover of A Suitable Replacement by Megan Derr Cover of Blood Tells by Rachel White Cover of The Mapmaker's Daughter by Caroline Dunford Cover of The Passage of Pearl by Lynn E O Connacht

An interesting bunch — I’ve been interested by The Copper Promise for a while!

Bookbridgr

Cover of Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson Cover of The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland Cover of Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman

I think I’m in love with Bookbridgr. I’m certainly super happy about getting The Vanishing Witch! I don’t think I’ve crossposted any of my Karen Maitland reviews here so far, but I’m definitely a fan.

Library

Cover of Y: The Descent of Men by Steve Jones Cover of Coral by Steve Jones Cover of Blood & Guts by Roy Porter Cover of Jurassic Mary: Mary Anning and the Primeval Monsters by Patricia Pierce Cover of Darwin's Island by Steve Jones Cover of The Serpent's Promise by Steve Jones Cover of Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler Cover of Gloriana by Michael Moorcock Cover of My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor Cover of Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Mostly non-fiction this week, as you can see; all my Steve Jones reservations came in, and I had a browse in the 610s-620s in the non-fiction section of the library. (Well, also the 560s, because dinosaurs.)

And finally

Comics

Cover of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Cover of The Movement volume 2 Cover of Ms Marvel #6

I didn’t actually magically get my hands on the second TPB of The Movement, but I thought it’d be silly to put up the cover of every single issue. So there y’go. And I imagine there’s no mystery as to why I picked up Guardians of the Galaxy.

Okay, I can’t believe how long this post has got, and I need to do a ton more things before I go to bed. When this goes live in the morning, I’ll already be out at the Race for Life, volunteering at a 10k event. And then on Sunday, I’m running in the 5k event. So I may not be very active this week, but I will visit back anyone that comments here, of course! Have a good week.

(Oh, and if you have some spare cash, sponsor me, please?!)

ETA: Except I can’t volunteer today due to travel problems, wah. But at least I’ll be around to chat to people!

Review – Legends of Red Sonja

Cover of Legends of Red Sonja, by Gail Simone et alLegends of Red Sonja,Gail Simone et al

Received to review!

I didn’t love this TPB of stories about Red Sonja as much as I did the first TPB Gail Simone worked on, but I definitely appreciate what she did, the way she drew together female creators for this, and also the stories they all chose to tell. Women are prominent in many of them, and there are some delightful lines — like, “What’s wrong with men? I know plenty of decent male fighters.”

(If you don’t know why that made me laugh, well, it’s the flipside of what you usually get. Normally it’s a man damning women with faint praise for whatever skill or job.)

The whole storyline consists of a frame story with the Grey Riders, who are hunting Red Sonja, and then a series of stories told about her by her allies. What I loved about those was the way they emphasised different aspects of Red Sonja: her body, yes, but also her links with other women, her beliefs, her skill at fighting, and her cunning. Especially loved the little hat tip to complaints about her costume when she’s first given it, with the lady who gives her it telling her that if men are watching her curves, they aren’t watching her sword.

Red Sonja is kind of a male fantasy fulfilment thing. The chainmail bikini makes no sense, and probably chafes. But Gail Simone has made me feel very fond of her anyway: she and her team take everything about Sonja makes it feel more real, more worthy of celebration. She might’ve started as a sexist fantasy, but she doesn’t have to stay that way.

Rating: 4/5

What are you reading Wednesday

What have you recently finished reading?
Legends of Red Sonja (Gail Simone) et al, which was not as good as the first Red Sonja TPB under Gail Simone’s leadership, but still pretty fun, and also Rocket Girl: Times Squared (Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder), which was… okay, but I wasn’t enamoured.

What are you currently reading?
I’m slowly-slowly making my way through Death, Disability and the Superhero (José Alaniz), which is very academic and hard going, because I haven’t had to use my brain like this in a while. I’m enjoying it, though; I’m wondering if it’s going to mention Hawkeye in, what was it, the 70s? Who was deaf, according to the internet. I think Gail Simone’s Vengeance Moth is a bit too recent for this study, but I’m gonna be interested in the stuff about Daredevil. I haven’t read any Daredevil yet, but it is something I’m interested in.

I’m also reading The Serpent’s Promise (Steve Jones), which… I’m not sure how I feel about it. He’s one of those people who is very, very dismissive of faith/religion and basically holds it up as an intellectual truth that there’s no God. Which obviously, I’m not so sure about it. Anyway, the aim is to explain events in the Bible through science.

And finally, I’m reading The Vanishing Witch (Karen Maitland). It only arrived this morning, so I probably shouldn’t jump straight to it, but I’ve enjoyed all of Karen Maitland’s books and I’m excited about this one. I accidentally read the back page (I read so fast that if my eyes fall on it, it’s read), so I have some idea of what’s going to happen, and for once I’m a little disappointed about that. Normally I don’t mind spoilers.

What will you read next?
I’m trying to work on my Netgalley ratio right now, so next is probably Yesterday’s Kin (Nancy Kress). Although I’m also thinking of Illusive (Emily Lloyd-Jones), because hey, superpowered heist story!

Stacking the Shelves

Wait, how is it time for Stacking the Shelves again already?! Oh well, happy Saturday, all, and don’t forget to check out Tynga’s Reviews to find everyone else’s posts and interact with loads of wonderful other people.

I was actually going to say it’s been a quiet week, but then I remembered a bunch of books I’d ordered arrived, and I got quite a few ARCs too. Plus, me and my sis had a day trip to York with one of my closest friends, and that more or less inevitably meant a bookshop. (Less inevitably, it meant even my friend picked up something — my hunger for books is one of those things we really don’t share, but now she’s prepping for a teaching course, so she has to do more reading. I am trying to get her to try Attachments by Rainbow Rowell for fun…)

Anyway, I’ll just… split these up however comes to mind.

Ordered before this week!

Cover of Died in the Wool by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Final Curtain by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Swing, Brother, Swing, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Storm Front by Jim Butcher Cover of Fool Moon by Jim Butcher Cover of Grave Peril by Jim Butcher Cover of Sea of Shadows by Kelley ArmstrongCover of Wings to the Kingdom by Cherie Priest Cover of Sunrise of Avalon by Anna Elliott

So yeah, more Ngaio Marsh, no one’s surprised. Cherie Priest, ditto. Jim Butcher might be a bit of a surprise because I didn’t get on that well with the series the first time I tried to read it, and found some aspects of it problematic. Still, I did enjoy them for light reading, and The Works (yes, again) was selling them for around ~£2 each. So. Might as well see if I can get back into the series.

Re: Anna Elliott, Lynn O’Connacht bought me the first two books yeaaars ago. I spotted this one in, oddly enough, The Works’ online shop and went oh yeah, I never read that.

Bought in York

Cover of Opening Night by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Spinsters in Jeopardy by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Scales of Justice by Ngaio Marsh Cover of A Plague on Both Your Houses by Susanna Gregory Cover of The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick

And… more Ngaio Marsh. I’m not even that huge a fan, in that sense, I just find reading her work really relaxing. Susanna Gregory, I’ve been meaning to try. And automatic recommendation sites keep suggesting The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, and the first few pages intrigued me well enough, so with that comparison to Scott Lynch… yeah, worth a try.

One lonely ebook

Cover of Landline by Rainbow Rowell

ARCs

Cover of Rocket Girl, by Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder Cover of Yesterday's Kin by Nancy Kress Cover of Detour from Normal by Ken Dickson Cover of Legends of Red Sonja, by Gail Simone et al Cover of Conquering the Electron by Derek Cheung and Eric Brach Cover of Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch

Yep, that’s a pretty odd mix. Nancy Kress, I’ve liked some of her other work; Gail Simone is just awesome and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s in there too; Ken Dickson’s story about his experience with mental illness sounded interesting enough; electrons are cool; Rocket Girl was on read now; Tomorrow and Tomorrow was the first book I spotted on BookBridgr that intrigued me.

And finally, new Captain Marvel. ❤

Cover of Captain Marvel #5

So what’s everyone else been stacking their shelves with? Say hi, link your posts, let’s talk books!