Joshua Joseph Spork vowed to live a quiet life. As the son of Mathew "Tommy Gun" Spork, Joe spent his youthFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Joshua Joseph Spork vowed to live a quiet life. As the son of Mathew "Tommy Gun" Spork, Joe spent his youth among the glamorous, self-made thieves of the Night Market and learned of London's mobster scene from the Dandy of Hoosegow himself. In the wake of his father's death, Joe renounced his title as the heir of crime and followed his grandfather, Daniel, into the honourable world of clockwork repair. Of course, Joe's business suffers under its anachronistic leanings, and he struggles to earn a living with his antique clocks and mechanical curios.
When Joe's mischievous pal, Billy Friend, offers him a glimpse of a clockwork "doodah", Joe takes the fate of the world into his very hands. His tinkering activates a contraption called the Angelmaker, a veritable doomsday machine commissioned by Shem Shem Tsien—the sadistic Opium Khan of Addeh Sikkim—and built by Frankie Fossoyeur, a Frenchwoman consumed by her own brilliance. With the clock running, Joe must call upon his thieving roots and put his street smarts to work in order to survive. At the same time, one woman named Edie Banister—a former British intelligence agent from the Second World War era—holds the well-guarded secret of the Angelmaker's origins, and only she knows how to stop the deadly clockwork swarm within…
Nick Harkaway captures a brilliantly gritty and violent world of organized crime, espionage, and government-sanctioned torture, while creating a vibrant cast of characters overflowing with amusing tics and cutting humour at every turn. He's got an excellent ear for dialogue as well, and he wields a dark, very British sense of humour in the most unlikely situations. I found I took an immediate shine to Joe Spork for his loveable, somewhat self-defeatist attitude at the start, and for his hesitant charm throughout.Readers are treated to a rare example of a coming-of-(middle)-age novel, which proves to be a delightful twist to a common generic convention.
Overall, Angelmaker proves an addictive read with a stinging sense of humour, and readers will find an eclectic blend of noir mystery, science fiction, and espionage action all in one shot.
Ideal for: Noir newcomers with a penchant for sci fi; Dark humorists craving the glitz and swank of London's underworld; Readers craving complex narrative puzzles within their looming-apocalypse books; Folks interested in coming-of-(middle)-age stories and their unpredictable outcomes....more
Against the odds, Katniss Everdeen survives the Hunger Games after her split-second decision forces the GamemOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
Against the odds, Katniss Everdeen survives the Hunger Games after her split-second decision forces the Gamemakers to crown two victors. She and her fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark return home with new riches in hand and real estate in the Victor's Village, but Katniss finds little relief in the spoils from the Games. Gale, her longtime friend, freezes Katniss out of his life after watching her "fall in love" with Peeta on national television. In addition, Peeta turns his back on Katniss after she confesses their relationship was nothing more than an act to keep them both alive. As she navigates the distance between her friends, Katniss hears rumours of unrest in the districts and whispers of rebellion against the Capitol—much to her shock, her role in the Games has fuelled an unrest she cannot stop. But Katniss is left wondering one treasonous thought: if she is responsible for igniting the fire, should she even attempt to put it out?
As Katniss and Peeta prepare to visit the districts on the Capitol's sadistic Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If Katniss cannot prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that her love for Peeta motivated her actions in the arena, she will lose everything in a heartbeat…
Even though The Hunger Games deals with a brutal televised sporting event in which children are forced to hunt one another, I found Catching Fire offered A) far better descriptions of the excess and the casual violence taking place in the Capitol and B) a bloodier and more sinister dystopian story than the first book. Catching Fire had an unrelenting pace to it, which made for fast reading and delightfully bittersweet shockers at the end of most chapters. I also found Katniss was even more cunning this time around, and I appreciated that her mind was occupied with more important matters than strange clothes and rich meals. She's also more vicious this time around, most likely because she's now a confirmed killer. She's had to witness what evil she's capable of enacting, which allows her to push further into her darker side when the need arises. And man, does the need ever arise in book two…
Ideal for: Tentative fans of The Hunger Games (trust me, keep reading the books); Current teens and former teens interested in dystopian fiction and apocalyptic promises; Kids who like their relationship statuses complicated; Folks who dig a little mental torture in their violent prose; Readers who like their heroines tough, brooding, and armed with arrows....more
Bureaucratic magic meets stifling political deadlock in the Cold War–inflected novel, The Night Watch. UnbeknOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
Bureaucratic magic meets stifling political deadlock in the Cold War–inflected novel, The Night Watch. Unbeknownst to the human citizens of Moscow, a war between agents of the Light and the Dark has marred their streets for generations. Supernatural beings known as the Others maintain the fine balance of Good and Evil among the human population, and among the Others themselves, under the guidelines of The Great Treaty—a tense "ceasefire" signed by the leaders of the Night Watch and the Day Watch.
The Night Watch opens as Anton Gorodetsky, a young Other from the aforementioned watch, patrols Moscow's streets as an active agent for the first time. As he tracks down a renegade vampire and his newly made mistress, Anton stumbles across a young woman on the metro with trouble brewing around her. A powerful curse swirls over Svetlana's head and threatens to unleash great terror over Moscow, but Anton has his hands full after saving Egor (a young, uninitiated Other) from the clutches of the Dark Ones. At the command of his boss, Anton teams up with a powerful Other named Olga, a woman locked into the form of an owl as punishment for a past error in judgement. Together, and with the rest of the Night Watch, they struggle to remove Svetlana's curse and to protect Egor from the vampires after his blood.
I had a mixed response to this book: on one hand, I loved its paranoid atmosphere and its densely bureaucratic treatment of magic (e.g. licenses to hunt as a vampire and werewolf; licenses to use magic as a healer or a seer, etc.), but there was a definite energy lag toward the second half of the book (where cold vodka and repetitious Anton-angst rule the narrative). However, fans of the fantasy/horror blend will discover great action and heady philosophical debates in this first book of The Night Watch tetralogy.
Ideal for: Readers with a penchant for Cold War politics and fantasy/horror mash-ups; Nerds who like a shot of the philosophical in their genre fiction; Folks who like their morals in a fine murky grey inside of a solid black or white; Readers who like to feel paranoid while diving into a new work. ...more
Oppressive regime + brutal televised sporting event + one feisty, romantic heroine = one primo read for the dOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
Oppressive regime + brutal televised sporting event + one feisty, romantic heroine = one primo read for the dystopian teen crowd out there. Amid the ruins of the former North America lies Panem, a nation comprised of twelve isolated, though highly specialized, districts is ruled under the iron fist of the Capitol. In the aftermath of a failed rebellion among the districts, the Capitol created a televised spectacle known as the Hunger Games to further subjugate the districts and to appease the violent appetites of Capitol citizens. Each year, one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen are selected by lottery from each district and are then forced to participate in the Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Out in District 12, Katniss Everdeen upsets the 74th Annual Hunger Games when she volunteers to take her younger sister's place as tribute. Thus begins her dangerous journey to the Capitol and the arena, where she must weigh her own survival with her sense of humanity…
I admit, I was a little mixed with The Hunger Games. On one hand, Katniss friggin' rocked the world at the start. She's cunning and outspoken, and she had a nice bit of crazy in her while training for the Games (re: shooting at the distracted Gamemakers during her private assessment). But I was left with a slew of questions that were never satisfied: how does one buy real estate in the Capitol? Why are their children never sacrificed for the Games? How do tributes not just breakdown during the pre-Game interviews and costume parades? How do any of the remaining tributes believe the whole "if both people from the same district survive, you both win the Games!!" ruse? Though, to be fair, I think if I'd been a preteen in 2008, I'd have been all over these books in a heartbeat.
Ideal for: Dystopian junkies of all ages; Preteen readers who like a little rebellion and gore with their romance; Lenny Kravitz fans who think he'd make a killer Cinna (holla!)...more
Katniss Everdeen survived the nightmarish Quarter Quell and finds herself absorbed into the rebel group of DiOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
Katniss Everdeen survived the nightmarish Quarter Quell and finds herself absorbed into the rebel group of District 13. Her home in the Seam was burned to ash, along with ninety percent of its population. Gale survived. Katniss's mother and sister, Prim, escaped. Peeta was captured by the Capitol after the second Games came to an explosive close. And the spark of revolution in the districts has caught into a towering inferno of dissent.
Despite her fragile state, Katniss is called upon to lead the rebels as their symbolic Mockingjay. The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn in District 13's game, to accept responsibility for the countless lives lost, and to alter the future of Panem's governance. To do this, she must pledge herself to Alma Coin, the woman destined to become the new president of Panem, and rid herself of the anger that comes after leaning her life has been planned out since the first Hunger Games.
She must become the rebels' Mockingjay, no matter what the personal cost.
I definitely felt there was too much plot for one novel to handle—between Katniss's mental damage, the sinister agenda of District 13, and the offensive launched against President Snow and the Capitol, Mockingjay was bursting under the weight of its excess. Plot lines were condensed for the sake of forging one compact package as opposed to two well-balanced novels, and I could sense the narrative floundering therein. And also, the fact that Katniss kept getting knocked unconscious at the peak of each battle became quite frustrating—she's the girl on fire, not the girl on morphling.
Overall, a mixed reaction to the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, though I'm still glad to have the conclusion in place.
Ideal for: Readers who knocked off the first two books and need some resolution; Dystopian teens who like a quick read and who don't pull at loose threads; Folks who like convolutions and darkness in their teen romance novels....more
Two months have passed since Ava's last assignment. While savouring the good weather on a family cruise arouFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Two months have passed since Ava's last assignment. While savouring the good weather on a family cruise around Curaçao, Ava takes a business call from Uncle. He has little information to offer, but the client—Wong Changxing, the "The Emperor of Hubei"—has called in an urgent favour and needs to meet with the duo immediately.
Wong, one of the most powerful men in China, is livid after discovering his collection of Fauvist paintings are forgeries. His love for the French masters of this colourful, bold movement collapses when a representative from Harrington's auction house informs Wong that at least seventeen of these paintings—with a combined total of eighty million dollars—were painted by professional forgers. With his pride at stake, Wong cannot afford a public scandal and his second wife May Ling will not allow their finances to be compromised further. Ava's reputation as a forensic accountant precedes her, and her particular brand of persuasion could help bring these thieves to light. But her gut reaction to Wong's revenge-lust sets Ava on the defensive, and May Ling's gradual interference in the investigation could prove disastrous to all parties involved…
Ah, Ava Lee—Canada's sweetheart and James Bond's official successor, all wrapped into one clever, deadly package. The Wild Beasts of Wuhan offers cleaner dialogue and excellent verbal sparring, a nice glimpse into the mundane work of accountancy, and a brilliant representation of a queer relationship and the stresses of having a girlfriend in the process of coming out. Ian Hamilton's fourth book—The Red Pole of Macau—drops in Canada this July 2012 and you can bet I will be first in line for Ava's next adventure.
Ideal for: Disbelievers of detective fiction and mystery stories; Kids who get a kick out of James Bond and his brand of suave, action-packed detective/spy work; Readers in need of a positive portrayal of a queer woman who just happens to kick lots of ass as well. ...more
Morning Glory Academy is one of the most prestigious prep schools in America—as the collection opens, six trFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Morning Glory Academy is one of the most prestigious prep schools in America—as the collection opens, six troubled teens pack their lives into a single suitcase each and tie up loose ends in their hometowns. Casey's thrilled with her scholarship, while Ike's mother can't believe the school would scout her psychopathic son. Zoe's a serial dater with a disinterest in school, Hunter's a Canadian sweetheart from a broken home, Jade (formerly Jane) has an obsession with vampires and a clear stalker streak, and Fukayama Jin has a quick wit and a killer's instinct. However, once the teens arrive on campus—in a drug-induced blackout, no less—their fight for survival begins, and the mysteries behind these hallowed doors reveal themselves one by one…
Nick Spencer's written quite the introduction to his series, and his main cast possesses quite the loveable crew of anti-heroes. I took an immediate shine to Casey, the blonde bombshell who's also the leader of the new recruits. She's clever, organized, and she puts a bit of fear into her über-sadistic teachers. Also, I will have to honour fellow Canadian, Hunter—his talents have yet to be seen at this point (aside from his good-natured, beta-male approach to this murderous new life), but I get the sense he's got a few tricks hidden up his sleeves.
I found Joe Eisma's panels were well-structured and the pacing of the horrific scenes was good—the nightmarish images averaged about one-per-comic and tended to occur after a page flip (again adding to the general warning at the start of this post…). I did find some of the artwork became repetitive at times and duplicate panels or panels with minimal differences between them were regular features.
I expect I'll pick up the next volume in the series, if only to delve deeper into the dark secrets of Morning Glory Academy. Of course, next time around, I'll make sure to start reading well before 10 PM…
Ideal for: Readers craving a labyrinthine mystery in their sci fi horror; Teens looking for clever, convoluted, sixteen-year-old protagonists; Fans of secret societies, government training programs, or other sinister (and lowdown) groups....more
Kate Kane has taken over as Gotham City's caped crusader in the wake of Batman's apparent death in the DC evFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Kate Kane has taken over as Gotham City's caped crusader in the wake of Batman's apparent death in the DC event Final Crisis. Kane's a former marine, forced out of the U.S. Armed forces under the tenets of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", a policy barring gay and lesbian soldiers from serving openly in the military; however, her drive to protect Gotham, and her desire to overthrow a mysterious cult that tried to kill her six months earlier, motivates Kane to transform herself into the vigilante Batwoman.
As Kane rises to power, a new madwoman and her minions threaten the good citizens of Gotham with a toxic death cloud and an unrelenting urge for chaos. But Alice—the Lewis Carroll–quoting High Madame of the Religion of Crime—has more than poison in her arsenal, and the dizzying revelations she carries will alter Batwoman's life forever…
To start, I have to praise J.H. Williams III and his remarkable, panel-shattering artwork. Whenever Kane dons her iconic suit and takes to the crime-filled streets of Gotham, readers are treated to non-linear fight scenes saturated with Kane's taste for blood-red accents, and the very layout of Williams's panels take on a highly-stylized, shattered design that begs for hours of careful study.
Of course, due credit should be given to author Greg Rucka who's been praised for his nuanced, thoughtful depiction of Kate Kane, the modern incarnation of Batwoman herself. Here, Rucka takes the time to explore the motivations behind Kane's vigilantism and fills out her backstory with salient political issues, namely her dishonourable discharge under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." She's sacrificed a career with the armed forces to live an honest life, and her aim to bring justice to Gotham's streets makes perfect sense in this context. When it comes to personable, complicated superheroines, I can think of no better vigilante to start with than Batwoman.
Ideal for: Readers craving lush, groundbreaking artwork and a capable, complicated superheroine; Folks who'd like to see LGBTQ issues rendered in a thoughtful, action-packed story arc; DC fans and members of the Bat-clan....more