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arrakiswitch

A Reciprocal Love Affair With Books

Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.

Currently reading

Miles Morales: Spider-Man (A Marvel YA Novel)
Jason Reynolds, Kadir Nelson
Progress: 206/261 pages

July's been a tough month

And now I'm running to catch up on reviews, both reading and writing!

 

The Fourth was... the Fourth; I live in the South now, so you never know if it's fireworks or someone shooting off guns. We stay inside either way. But it was a couple of days later that marked one year since my brother passed away very prematurely from cancer. It's been tough; our little family was reduced to just my sister and me. Needless to say, the spirit to read sort of fled.

 

Though I have been reading through a ton of graphic novels and trade paperbacks. I feel fairly confident in naming this THE SUMMER OF DAREDEVIL.

 

Hopefully, I'm getting back in the swing of things. We've gotten immensely good news lately, in that Scholastic just purchased my sister's second novel (w00t! Publishing date currently set for Spring or Fall of 2019!) with the option to purchase another. We're beyond thrilled obviously!

 

So, I'm going through a rough patch mentally, which mental illness will do, but there are great things on the horizon. Thank God, frankly, LOL!

The Witcher vol. 1: House of Glass by Paul Tobin

Paul Tobin: The Witcher, Volume 1 : House of Glass (Paperback); 2014 Edition - Joe Querio Paul Tobin

It was fine. Much, much more typical a supernatural story than the Fox Children, with a nice building of suspense, of mystery. But the resolution felt more like modern American fantasy fiction, and left me with an overwhelming sense of 'eh.' And Geralt's stance on love seems INCREDIBLY  out of character, considering his feelings for Yen and even Triss. Which bothered me because, yeah, these were meant for fans of the games, and it was released before the third one, which means that yen hadn't been properly introduced yet. But that shouldn't have made a difference; most fans know the lore, and even if they don't, it's a misrepresentation of the character. I kept waiting for him to break through it and say something about Yennefer, but he remained stalwart and... eh. A fun read, but nothing more than that.

Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2) by Cassandra Clare

Lord of Shadows - Cassandra Clare

Just a much, much better book than the first in this series, in terms of pacing, story and character. One of my biggest complaints was how Clare seemed unable to blend the main storyline in the first with the romantic storyline, and they both fought for dominance while it seemed like two whole books slapped together. They're interwoven perfectly this time, with the relevance to the main action apparent.

 

Clare also willfully defies expectations, subverts what was seemingly put in place in Lady Midnight. The thing is, I didn't always love what she subverts it for. Ever since Sarah J. Maas got popular, it seems like it's ALWAYS THE FAIRIES nowadays. Not that this is unknown to Clare; the Seelie Court makes a HUGE impact on The Mortal Instruments, but since the first book started as more of a Gothic tale of magic and unfulfilled love, it was a letdown, for me, to jump to the Faeries.

 

And the death (again) of a CERTAIN CHARACTER from the first novel was surprising, to be sure, and so was the hand that dealt the killing blow; I had assume that that CERTAIN CHARACTER was actually the titular Lord of Shadows, until I came to understand it was the Unseelie King and we were going full-out Faerie. I liked that CERTAIN CHARACTER and wished that he'd been more fulfilled as a villain.

 

And while there's an excitement in following the Blackthorn clan to London and Idris, I miss the melding of the flashy modern world, in the shape of L.A., mixed with the strange and unique of the magical world from Lady Midnight. Though at least England does provide a bit of that dark romance that I was missing from the first novel.

 

The end is a little bit of a letdown. No one wants a political council meeting to be the climax to such a huge tale, and the loss of one main character actually seems ridiculously mandatory and unnecessary; I wasn't even certain what she was still doing there or why another CERTAIN CHARACTER lashes out at her. Shrugs. And I thought I knew where it was going, where the story was taking me, with Jules and Emma, making them an echo of the tragic couple from the first novel, but that was another subversion and... I'm not certain how I feel about that.

 

Emma does remain probably the strongest character, in my opinion, that Clare has written; while Clary remains a favorite of mine, Emma sort of fulfills what I had wanted Clary to be.

 

A solid entry, and I enjoyed it far, far more than I actually thought I would. Despite being nearly 700 pages long, it read fairly quickly, and I never felt a fatigue, which is a testament to its spot-on pacing.

 

I do have to say, I think it's hilarious, in a series that references anything and everything in pop culture, especially with fantasy fiction, the fact that she openly avoids mentioning Harry Potter is howl worthy, considering this world started off as Potter fanfiction. So things that could have been written off as another reference actually seem like she's ripping them off, because none of the characters mention it. Not a huge problem, just something I thought was funny.

Reading progress update: I've read 51 out of 431 pages.

Banewreaker - Jacqueline Carey

This is one of my best friend's very favorite books, and that's very unnerving, LOL! You always feel at least a little pressure to like it. Luckily, so far, it's really good. And I do love that she intentionally absorbed Tolkien's world and turned it on its head. Carey's Silmarillion game is strong!

Daredevil: Back in Black vol. 1: Chinatown by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

Daredevil: Back in Black Vol. 1: Chinatown - Charles Soule, Ron Garney

So, straight up, I avoided Secret Wars like the plague, because I actually despise the big crossover events, so the fact that Matt's identity is now only known to Foggy and the fact that Matt seems to be a lapsed Catholic, and that he's now working for the DA's office, all surprised me. But not in a bad way, because, thank God, it's actually a new direction for the comics to take the character in. (Hugely unpopular opinion, but Foggy began to play WAY too large a role in the comics in the past ten, fifteen years.)

 

I know Waid's run was hugely beloved, especially since it added a bit of lightheartedness to the comic (again, unpopular opinion, I didn't dislike it, but I didn't think it was the best thing that had ever happened to the comic either; Matt without his angst is like peanut butter without its jelly) and so this has come under some scrutiny. But I enjoyed seeing it go in a completely new direction. My complaint would be with the story, and how it almost felt as if it had been cut in half, since a lot of it relies on events from Secret Wars, and how Matt is already training Blindspot, the introduction for that character only coming in the last issue of the collection. Which also allows for some surprises as to his identity, and that was fun.

 

And I liked Blindspot. A lot. And I really liked that he seems like a direct response to the criticism that there are an awful lot of white martial arts dudes running around New York; at one point, Blindspot even pointedly compares himself to Luke Cage in Harlem and Daredevil in Hell's Kitchen.

 

A strong start to a new run that I've heard only gets better.

Daredevil vol. 14: The Devil, Inside and Out by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

Daredevil By Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark Ultimate Collection - Book 1 - David Aja, Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark

I struggled with the rating for this one for quite a bit. On the one hand, I really enjoyed it; it kept me reading, an eager page-turner. On the other hand, when you delve into the actual content, it's just a repeat of the Bendis run, but not as well, in my opinion. Matt loses one of his oldest and best friends (in this case, Foggy, and, hey! But, unlike Karen, he can't stay fridged forever--'cause, ya know, he's not female. It's revealed by the end of the volume that he's alive and in protective custody.) The loss drives Matt over the edge, as before, though this time, instead of driving Matt to seek more control, which was a really interesting character choice, they go for the more typical 'he just wants to fight everyone.' Will he kill the people responsible? He better not, because that'd pretty much assassinate his character.

 

And instead of the the interesting idea of Matt suffering an actual breakdown after Karen's death, his personality shifting, and not being able to see it happening, this comic is littered with people, mostly Ben, telling Matt, SO THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE WHEN SOMEONE LIKE YOU GOES INSANE!

 

So, it's not in any way a bad comic, but it brings nothing new to the table, and the things it repeats, I feel it doesn't do as well as it did the first time around. Also? Can we talk about the fact that the writers of this comic never seem to understand that civil rights exists? And that's a problem that runs through all eras. And I'm aware that this comes from me being the sister of a deaf disabilities activist, but I notice it and it bothers me. Do you know how many blind protesters there would be outside of that courtroom? Especially since his wife is blind also and most likely has friends in the blind community.

 

And 'legally blind' is a thing. Someone please give the writers of the comics as well as the excellent Netflix show this memo. Because it's getting on my nerves.

Daredevil vol. 12: Decalogue by Bendis & Maleev

Daredevil, Vol. 12: Decalogue - Alex Maleev, Brian Michael Bendis

I liked this a lot better than most fans do. I think it might be lowered expectations, having already read it and there being quite a few years between then and now. I understand that the promise of learning what happened in the "missing year" was far too intriguing, and the actual payoff being something like the Doctor Who episode Love & Monsters was ultimately disappointing for most readers. But, for me, the result was a personal story, and a fairly bizarre one--one of the stranger one, actually, in Bendis' run. An enjoyable, standalone story that I like considerably more than most of fandom.

DNF'd at 115 pages

Blood of Elves - Andrzej Sapkowski

The translation. Is. AWFUL. But that wasn't the only problem for me. I got more than a hundred pages in and, really, all that happened was a discussion of Ciri's period. That was the most eventful thing. I imagine this makes me a very bad Witcher fan, because I know other people go NUTS for the books, but it wasn't doing it for me, and with the truly terrible translation, I just decided not to try to power through it.

The Witcher vol. 2: Fox Children by Paul Tobin

The Witcher: Volume 2 - Fox Children - Paul Tobin, Joe Querio

A small and minimally adventure-filled story (apparently based on an episode in one of the as-yet untranslated Witcher novels, but taking all its cues from the video games) feels unambitious, but is fun to read. I've seen others complain it's too padded out, and I sort of feel the opposite, that it could have benefited from focusing some of the empty panels of "atmosphere" to either character development (I was often mixing up all the secondary characters, and no one but Janessa stood out, and her BIG SECRET REVEAL didn't mean anything when I didn't know much about her.) or genuinely trying to build suspense. 

 

The art, as per most post-Hellboy Dark Horse comics, seems to be mimicking Mingola, and doing it poorly, with neither his flare nor the video games' GORGEOUS atmosphere and locations.

 

A good way to spend an hour or so of the afternoon, but not much more. Enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable.

Daredevil vol. 13: The Murdock Papers by Bendis & Maleev

Daredevil, Vol. 13: The Murdock Papers - Alex Maleev, Brian Michael Bendis

An absolutely fantastic high note to end on, with a surprisingly inevitable conclusion that refuses to "comics" its way out of the hole that Matt has pretty much dug himself into. Anytime there's a ton of Elektra, I'm happy, and this run was good to Natasha, too (though I remember being hugely amused by the banter, and now it just makes me cringe. I never want to read the term 'ninja skank' again.)

 

This review took me a while to build to, and it wasn't because of the material, but because, the more and more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to write about hero worship. Though I'd read comics all throughout the 90's, specifically X-Men and anything else I could get my hands on from Marvel, it wasn't until the early 2000's that I found comics that really changed me.

 

The Marvel Knights imprint was a huge part of this. I actually own all of Ennis' Punisher, every volume, which, even when I was young and slightly spoiled by my parents, was an indulgence. But I've read them to death, and they had me convinced, for a long time, that Ennis could do no wrong. This is... obviously not true. The MAX extension of his run on Punisher taught me that, though that's still pretty exceptional, it began to miss his humor. And then I read Crossed and realized that his sense of humor had just become laughing at every and anyone who was offended and/or sick at the extreme ideas he keeps throwing at you.

 

Between Bendis' run on Daredevil and the Marvel Knights Elektra that he penned, I had the same sort of blind admiration for him. Of course, reading Daredevil now from the beginning, older and more mature, and not just infatuated with what he was doing I see the many cracks in the facade. But is that necessarily a bad thing. It doesn't dim my enjoyment of it, though I did get that WHAT WAS I THINKING? feeling an awful lot. It doesn't change the way it hit me back then, or what it meant to me, or even my desire to reread it. Being able to see it critically is actually a boon to the material.

 

And, hey! At least they're not Gail Simone, whose writing never let me down, but her fervent defense of Barbara regaining the ability to walk, and the way she interacted with disabled fans about it, turned me off of her personally, and that is much, much worse.

Star Wars vol. 4: Last Flight of the Harbinger by Jason Aaron

Star Wars Vol. 4: Last Flight of the Harbinger (Star Wars (Marvel)) - Jason Aaron

What the heck happened? Have they run out of ideas? That doesn't seem possible, considering they have the entire Star Wars universe to play with. The tone shifts are absolutely inconsistent, and Han and Leia racing through a stolen Star Destroyer to determine who gets to be captain is one of the stupidest and most juvenile things I've seen either of those characters suffer, and Luke continues to go down the rabbit hole of GEE GOLLY GOSH characterization that makes me want to hurl.

 

And I would make a joke about The whole... Marvel with "complex" fascists thing, but it's been a problem in Star Wars for a long time now; I just went off on a rant about it with the Battlefront 2 trailer. No, making someone a TRUE BELIEVER of the totalitarian fascist dictatorship does not make it deep or interesting, it doesn't illuminate "another side." And it gives weight to the lie, in this comic, that all such governments sell themselves on, and that's that they'll help "the people." Also, dude stormtrooper wields a lightsaber because not only is he a SUPER FASCIST WITH THE POWER OF FANATICAL BELIEF! He's also obviously a huge Gary Stu.

 

Bluh. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Reading progress update: I've read 195 out of 699 pages.

Lord of Shadows - Cassandra Clare

And I crawl slowly along. I think I've decided that, while I don't like the story as much as TMI, the characters are much, much more well-rounded and likable. And, ah, Cassie Clare's trying, with the female characters being friends, interacting, but every time there's an evil and bitchy character, it's always a woman again. Guess those old habits are hard to break.

Daredevil vol. 11: The Golden Age by Bendis & Maleev

Daredevil, Vol. 11: Golden Age - Alex Maleev, Brian Michael Bendis

Did I just give a Bendis/Maleev Daredevil three and a half stars? Yes, yes I did. Because it's a short arc and padded with a lot about Alexander Bont, the kingpin of Hell's Kitchen before Wilson Fisk (and, in this run, Matt as well.) Using an experimental format of showing Bont's rise to power in black and white, and Daredevil's past with him (and Melvin Potter aka Gladiator) being presented in sort-of vintage dot-color, it recaps their history with one another and... it's underwhelming.

 

Really, this was only ever going to be of interest to a die-hard DD fan, and even I felt my attention waning. In the present, Bont, using Potter, captures Matt and has Melvin beat the ever loving crap out of him, and then decides to expose him. There isn't much here. Matt's in peril, and then he's... not, saved partially by bureaucracy and Agent Del Toro, who's also found herself the new inheritor of the White Tiger amulet's power (Tamora Pierce wrote an exceptional run of comics about Del Toro as the character, but that was pretty much the extent of her time as White Tiger before Marvel gave the mantel over to her niece Ava Ayala.)

 

The end! It's well done, but not particularly interesting.

 

My library is missing the next volume, so I'm attempting to ILL it, which is taking forever, and I might just end up reading the last volume of the Bendis/Maleev run before I get my hands on it. Sighs. 

Daredevil vol. 10: The Widow by Bendis & Maleev

Daredevil, Vol. 10: The Widow - Alex Maleev, Brian Michael Bendis

So, Milla files for annulment, on account of Matt's mental problems being the

false pretenses' under which he married her, and Matt torments himself, torn between his reverence for the sanctity of marriage and love for Milla, and respecting her enough to give her what she wanted. Meanwhile, Natasha Romanova aka The Black Widow is on the run from her own agency and decides to hide in plain sight. With Matt.

 

Published as a 40th anniversary special for Daredevil, it works because it doesn't necessarily have that big sort of celebration feel to it; it's very much still in tune with the tone of Bendis' run on the comic, somber, dark and semi-realistic but stylish artwork, and that oftentimes rapid-fire banter between the characters. There's plenty of action, with DD and Widow running around, having adventures, and it does have a great sense of fun.

 

And herein I realized my biggest problem with the way Milla was being written: she's held in too much reverence to banter with Matt the way Foggy and Nat are, she's too serious, and her scenes far too weepy and tense, and it's seemingly made her lose all of her personality. It wasn't that way in the beginning, but she's suffering from the curse of the good girl, being held as an example of what men should aspire to instead of being any sort of fully realized and complex character.

 

Spoiler: Matt grants her the annulment because he does really love her, and she's shocked and presumably realizing that they're still in love, even after telling him that she could live without him. I know it's that, If you love someone, set them free aesthetic, but it seems particularly shallow here.

 

The collection ends with a series of vignettes by different artists (all written by Bendis) of how other characters in the Marvel universe reacted to Matt's being outted, as well as a few "missing scenes." They're well done, but nothing necessarily to write home about. They add texture, and they're well-written; they weren't a chore to read, but they ultimately added very little.

 

Reading progress update: I've read 41 out of 699 pages.

Lord of Shadows - Cassandra Clare

700 pages. *Takes glasses off and rubs eyes* With how slow I've been reading since I broke out of my slump? This is going to take a LONG. TIME. But! It started out really well. Loved seeing Clary and Jace. I can already tell, though, that this is going to be that... sort of split personality type of book that the first one was, plot and romance being present in equal parts and sort of at odds with each other.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses - Sarah J. Maas

Maybe it's because I can see influences beyond the norm for YA fantasy, influences from sources I loved as a kid, like Lloyd Alexander and Andre Norton, that I really enjoy Sarah Maas' work. I find it easy to read, though not exactly simplistic, and entertaining in a blockbuster sort of way.

 

Feyre wasn't exactly a character I could relate to, and I found myself annoyed at her maybe more than I should have, but I understood her motivations, mostly, for being as confrontational as she was--fear--and as sometimes willfully dense as she could be--her behavior of Fire Night, I can only assume, was a product of her desire for Tamlin.

 

Tamlin's an inoffensive character, and if you think that's weak praise, you haven't read much romance, LOL! I found myself gravitating towards Lucien, I adored his snark, and the way that he actually seemed to build a relationship with Feyre. I loved the use of the different fairies, and the use of the Beauty and the Beast themes was well-handled--I especially liked why she returned home, and how her sisters were handled; it was really different for a BatB retelling. And the last hundred and fifty pages take on more themes from the myth that inspired the BatB fairy tale: Eros and Psyche, with Feyre having to prove her love through a series of tasks, and being made immortal at the end of it. Spoiler.

 

And yet it was that last hundred and fifty pages, that take place in the kingdom of Under the Mountain (aka Hades) that lost the book that star/half a star. I like Rhysand. I'm going to put that out there right now. He grew on me. But Maas has a problem, and that problem is her waning interest in her main male characters. In defense of Throne of Glass, it at least took a few books before it happened, where here it takes, oh, about three hundred pages. I just wanted more of Tam and Lucien, and much, much less of this character I was still getting my bearings with. And my resistance to him is also why I'm not rushing to pick up the second book, honestly.

 

All in all, though, a truly enjoyable book, and a new take on Beauty and the Beast, a notable one in a sea of BatB retellings.