I became acquainted with the "Under the Red Hood" storyline via the animated movie, and it is definitely a very dark part of the Batman history. I hav...moreI became acquainted with the "Under the Red Hood" storyline via the animated movie, and it is definitely a very dark part of the Batman history. I have recently embarked on exploring the Batman graphic novels, and decided to give this one a swing. This was very good.
This serves as a bit of a prequel to when the Red Hood enters the Gotham scene. It's not about Batman. It's about Jason Todd, who was found in the ruins of the warehouse that the Joker brought down on his head after beating and torturing him nearly to death. Initially, Jason is catatonic, but Talia Al'Ghul sees him as a pawn in destroying Batman and mentors him into the dangerous and murderous vigilante/assassin he becomes. He learns everything that Batman doesn't teach him about the darker Arts of War, with the goal of getting revenge on Joker (and peripherally Batman). In the process, he realizes that deep down, he still believes in fighting for good, but is willing to use extreme methods to deal with evil that Batman would never countenance.
This feels like a credible action/suspense story. Jason goes deep into the darkest pits of corruption and criminality, learns the skills he needs for his ultimate quest, and finds he can't turn a blind eye when innocents are harmed, or the tutors that Talia acquires for him turn out to be reprehensible in their habits. He also realizes that not all the means are justified for a desired end. Jason has a phenomenal brain and the incredible acrobatic and martial arts skills that demonstrate very clearly why he was Batman's Robin. Ultimately, I don't see that he has departed to far from the path that Batman sent him down. Maybe he is lost, but I think he will find his way. I need to read Batman: Under the Red Hood soon!
The real monsters are the ones who try to create them.
A brilliant geneticist embarked on a quest to create the perfect weapon. Nobody believed in her,...moreThe real monsters are the ones who try to create them.
A brilliant geneticist embarked on a quest to create the perfect weapon. Nobody believed in her, but when she finds a person willing to finance her research, Dr. Sarah Kinney comes to realize she has gotten into bed with real monsters.
With stolen genetic material from the legendary Weapon X, aka Wolverine, these fringe scientist create clones (to make more weapons, of course), only to realize that the clone embryos aren't viable because of the Y chromosome. Dr. Kinney hits on the idea to use a X-gene. Of course the male chauvinist pigs don't like the idea. She does it anyway, and X-23 survives. Her penance is to have to carry the embryo to term. This backfires on the researchers and the company, because Sarah bonds with her daughter, instilling lessons into her that will come into play in her life at a later time. Despite the fact that Dr. Zander Rice, a %$%* of the first order, exercises his complete misogyny on X-23 (and latent hatred of Wolverine, who killed his father), torturing her to making his weapon, and unleashing her into the world as a killing machine with the use of his trigger scent.
This story is very tragic and also heartbreaking. I'm not sure if the writer intended to put so much pathos into the story, or if he was just trying to create a credible origin story suitable to Wolverine's daughter. The end result was a graphic novel that inspired a lot of emotion in me. Outside of my awe that X-23 is so awesomely kickbutt, is my sadness for her deprived childhood and what she was forced to do by her handler. I mean I can't help but appreciate an assassin of her caliber. But the idea of a child being raised that way and created to be a weapon, is heinous. It reminded me of Saber of the GhostWalker series by Christine Feehan (Predatory Game, which is a nice recognition, since I love that series. She was also cultivated as a child assassin (using her innocent, childlike appearance to infiltrate and destroy her targets).
To think I didn't even know who X-23 was six months ago. Boy was I missing out. Glad I discovered her. She's up there as a Marvel favorite now for me. Unfortunately, the Craig Kyle versions are out of print. But at least the awesome Marjorie M. Liu takes over, and those are still in print, so I will be checking those out.
Because of the storytelling and lovely artwork, I'd have to give this one 4.5 stars. (less)
This is comic book history. It really is. Frank Miller tells an epic love story that a few sad people who have never heard of Daredevil and Elektra wi...moreThis is comic book history. It really is. Frank Miller tells an epic love story that a few sad people who have never heard of Daredevil and Elektra will never know. It starts with two idealistic college students who meet and fall in love, and ends with them on opposite sides of the law.
I don't think I am exaggerating by saying that Elektra is one of the most lethal women ever written on paper. She is an accomplished assassin who uses her pointed sais to end the lives of those who either become her target, or get on her bad side (although she is not a psychopathic killer who murders at will). Like Daredevil, her entire body is a weapon. Elektra has renounced the law after the death of her father, so she sees nothing wrong in working for the highest bidder. This puts her in extreme contradiction to Matt Murdock/Daredevil, who believes in the law and supporting it even to his detriment (while he is a masked avenger, his work is to uphold the law). As such, Daredevil has sworn to bring her to justice.
What I liked about this book, among many things is that Elektra and Daredevil are like moons that continually encounter each other as they follow their individual gravitational paths. While their romance is doomed, it's clear that they cannot forget or disavow each other completely. In fact, they save each others lives more than a few times in this book. While they are enemies, their hearts are never parted from each other. It's romantic in the deepest sense.
The artwork was really good. I was especially impressed with the motion and energy of such athletic and graceful characters as Elektra and Daredevil. Elektra herself was extremely visually stunning. She is so iconic in her complete look in this graphic novel, I can see no need to change her look that much even so many years later (although it was done in the two movie incarnations, which I liked to varying degrees). Honestly, I liked her artwork in this better than in Elektra: Assassin, which looked muddy to me. When I started painting last year, Elektra was one of the first characters I attempted, because her look strikes me so profoundly.
The emotional landscape of the characters was very clearly portrayed through the artwork and narrative. Elektra's desolation at her father's death and the fact that Matt is everything she wants but cannot have, that he has moved on. Matt's determination to follow his hard path, despite the fact that his heart wants something else. And the end of their tumultuous love affair, it's brutal and abrupt, and Miller is unapologetic about it. And Matt is not ready to move on from Elektra, despite confirmation that she is denied to him in every way.
Some episodes in this volume were a bit more cartoonish than others. The character of Turk, a two-bit thug that is continually humiliated in his encounters with Daredevil, is clearly played for laughs. Matt's friend and partner, Foggy, is almost always drawn rather goofily, but even he has some very serious moments. I honestly didn't like Matt's girfriend, Heather, at all. Her personality seems very dated to me. Even though Elektra is a ruthless killer, I think she's a much better love interest for Matt. There is a deadly seriousness to the stories that feature Kingpin and Bullseye, two major adversaries to Daredevil. The first a methodical career criminal who veers more towards sociopathy, the latter a complete psychopath with some serious malignantly narcissistic tendencies. Kingpin has a vibrancy and a power, a charisma that comes off the pages at the reader. I don't like him, but at the same time, I liked looking at him and reading his dialogue. I can't stand Bullseye for reasons apparent and some I can't get into.
In my opinion, this is a groundbreaking series of comic books. Miller has given us the comic book antiheroine we always longed for, but assumptions about gender held many back from delivering. Even twenty plus years later, I think that Elektra will always stand out. She touches on the inner ninja that every girl secretly wants to be, even when we have been told that girls don't do that. This wannabe ninja is cheering!
Overall rating: 4.25/5.0 stars--Not quite 4.5 stars, but better than 4. (less)
This is an expansive volume that includes so many interesting points in Deadpool's story. He takes on dicey adversaries like Wolverine and Bulleye. Th...moreThis is an expansive volume that includes so many interesting points in Deadpool's story. He takes on dicey adversaries like Wolverine and Bulleye. The former seems to be an exercise in futility, with two evenly matched opponents, considering that both of whom are more or less immortal. The writing and art play things up for laughs, but there is also a deadly seriousness in that both Wolverine and Deadpool are equally formidable in their own ways, and not above showing ruthlessness to their enemies. I liked the Wolverine storyline because it has some juicy tidbits of Wolverine's own personal history.
Bullseye I don't like at all. Bullseye and Deadpool almost become friendly adversaries in that they earn each other's respect. It's true to Deadpool's history of being, shall we say, morally flexible, that he could become 'friendly' with someone like Bullseye.
Deadpool takes on the Skrull invasion. He manages to out-think his enemy in that they assume that Deadpool is no good tactician. He is. And he's also got nothing to lose. That makes him a deadly enemy. Along with his penchant for insanity and trickery.
Deadpool goes after Norman Osborn in the aftermath of Deadpool's work to take down the Skrulls' invasion. Obsorn manipulated the situation to make himself look like a hero, and has subsequently wrestled control of SHIELD away from Tony Stark and renamed it HAMMER. He sends his team of villains turned questionable heroes the Thunderbolts after Deadpool to save his own butt. Although he's outgunned and outnumbered, Deadpool refuses to stay down for long.
I liked how the end of the book has a history of Deadpool as a character. His story is long and tragic in some places. In others, showing how Deadpool is not quite a hero, but not a villain instead. He trods the line between them both and continually steps over in either direction.
While Deadpool is a formidable warrior, and there is plenty of violence and action, this book isn't for readers who don't appreciate ridiculousness and a hero who's perpetually cracking jokes, many fairly low brow and crass. Even some of the action scenes are played for laughs. As well as Deadpool's worldview tinged by his mental illness carrying over into absurdity and cartoonish imagery.
This is one superhero (in the broadest of terms) who stands out from the crowd. I'd recommend this graphic novel to readers who don't have an aversion to the ridiculous.(less)
Disclaimer: You cannot take these Deadpool graphic novels seriously. Deadpool is a wise-cracking mercenary who is also cracked in the gourd. His grasp...moreDisclaimer: You cannot take these Deadpool graphic novels seriously. Deadpool is a wise-cracking mercenary who is also cracked in the gourd. His grasp of reality is tenuous, and thus, through his eyes, our view of the world is as well.
I think that Marvel uses this character for some comic relief (although I think Spider-Man as well to a lesser extent). Of course, readers have to have a twisted, darker sense of humor. When I started reading this, I was hoping that Deadpool wouldn't do any killing of innocent people, and he mostly doesn't. It's complicated. He has a conscience in the form of a dead SHIELD agent who shares his mind with him, and I think that deep down, Deadpool isn't a bad guy. Maybe that's wishful thinking on my part. No, seriously, he does try to minimize collateral damage and help people, showing a strange sense of ethics.
The artwork was bright and reflected the craziness of Deadpool's mind and his adventures. Another great thing about this book was the prodigious cameos it had: Iron Man/Tony Stark, Luke Cage/Power Man, Daredevil, even Spider-Man.
The story is seriously whacked, so I wouldn't recommend it across the board. It's for folks who have a strange sense of humor (I can count myself among those, even though some of it was on the edge of my own tastes). And for those who like a seriously kickbutt main lead who can go all ninja on his enemies, even while he's spouting foolishness and who is quite obviously insane.(less)
Daredevil is the Man Without Fear, shaped by childhood circumstances to be a nighttime prowler and avenger/crime-fighter. His father's sad demise spur...moreDaredevil is the Man Without Fear, shaped by childhood circumstances to be a nighttime prowler and avenger/crime-fighter. His father's sad demise spurred him to seek justice, but he doesn't stop there. He disciplines his body to further his mission of protecting the innocent and seeing criminals captured, although he never goes over the line to murder.
I am in the minority, but I liked the movie with Ben Affleck. I think they conveyed the essence of the comics fairly well.
Daredevil is actually pretty noirish. The concepts, the setting and the characters. Daredevil has an interesting Rogue's Gallery, a mix of types. While some of the villains/foes that Daredevil faces are over the top and comic booky, a fair amount are amoral criminal types that you might see in the real life of any city's underworld. You can see why he is so determined to wipe out crime in his city as it's evident how far-reaching and destructive its effects are, which Matt Murdock learned intimately. As a lawyer, he sees the failings of the justice system to protect people, so he is not afraid to get physical to see justice done.
Daredevil's ability is really cool. When he was doused with radioactive waste, it blinded him, but enhanced all his other senses. His sense of hearing and smell is super-acute, but he can also see things with sonar, similar to a bat. While Daredevil does have superpowers, he also uses extensive martial arts and physical conditioning to hone his skills, along with his billy club, which is pretty darn awesome. This dude can kick serious butt.
This is an older graphic novel collection, and the coloring and artwork is a bit dated-looking, but otherwise, compelling and well-written despite the dated feel of the illustrations. Many will be familiar with Frank Miller, if not from the comic book world, than from the movie adaptations based on his work. His noir touch is very evident in the stories inked by him, with Daredevil's formidable and well-earned reputation as a denizen of the night who vigilantly protects his city. Matt Murdock is a mall-mannered lawyer by day, stricken with blindness as a child. His personality seems fractured, but he merely hides his purpose from those in his life who would no doubt be hurt by his double life. It's not one of those situations where you wonder why people don't know who he is. Clark Kent, I'm looking at you! His secret identity is rock solid.
I didn't expect to like this as much as I did. I guess I forgot how much I liked what I read of this series. I have read a couple of comic books with Daredevil (years ago, back when I first fell in love with comic books), with a stack of them in my garage I never got around to. I'm glad that my library had the collections that show his origins as a crimefighter. He's a compelling character that resonates with me. Not a carbon copy of Batman, but there are some similarities between them. Goodness knows how much I like Batman. I think I like Daredevil for similar reasons, and he's also a redhead, so that's another level of like.
So yes, I am grateful to the movie version for bringing this character to my attention. I am looking forward to Affleck as Batman too, for the record. I got Volume 2 which has my girl Elektra, so I'm jazzed! I recommend this graphic novel.
I don't use the term brilliant much when I'm writing reviews. But this is the term that just keeps coming to mind about this book. I knew I'd apprecia...moreI don't use the term brilliant much when I'm writing reviews. But this is the term that just keeps coming to mind about this book. I knew I'd appreciate it, because I have an appreciation for Asian culture and people, and swordsmanship; and honestly, something about a book with a woman holding a sword on the cover just pulls me in.
This book speaks to me of a writer who loves Japan, both modern and ancient. Someone who has taken the time to investigate and learn the culture, even to the deepest levels. You can't gain that kind of authenticity any other way.
Bein has taken an idea about three swords crafted by a legendary swordsmith and created a beautifully rich novel around them. While this is labeled as fantasy, the fantasy element is that the swords have animus and their very natures affect the destiny of those around them. Bein cleverly unfolds his story with a combination of past and present narrative. I was a bit worried I would find the historical parts dry, but I didn't. It was fascinating. I realized how little I know about samurai and how bushido affects everything about their lives. The insight into this period was crucial in this novel, because the swords are over nine hundred years old. Since I haven't even lived in cities that old, I can't even conceive of owning something that old! But for a Japanese person, not such a stretch. Now add in the fact that these swords have shaped history in major ways!
It takes some skill to make an inanimate object sinister. But that's exactly what Beautiful Singer is. It's a sword that takes over the owner's mind and leads him hand and headfirst down the path of doom. This is why I don't go in for antiques! The other two swords have their own distinctive natures as well. What was interesting is that the swords can’t make you into something you’re not. They seem to work on the inherent nature of the person. This destiny attached to these swords brings Mariko Oshiro to the front door of elderly Professor Yasuo Yamada, who is the owner of a sword that a violent Yakuza criminal tried to steal. This twisted path could only be destiny, as all the forces send her in the direction of a deep bond with the nearly blind expert swordsman, who takes her on as a student. Because she is the only one who can stop Fuchida, a man who has been seduced by the voice of his own sword, Beautiful Singer.
This book is just so good. It’s amazing how the story just drew me deeper and deeper. I wanted to find out about how these three swords could draw people into relationship with each other from historical to modern times, and not always in a good way. But ultimately, the right people end up in the right places, until we end up in the present with Mariko and Yamada’s story.
If you’re looking for an over-the-top fantasy story with all kinds of out there scenes, this isn’t the book. If you want a book with an excellent narrative building on a concept that seems magical, if you don’t believe in swords that are blessed and cursed, then you’d enjoy this book.
The cultural aspects had major appeal. As I mentioned earlier, the look at bushido and historical samurai was a good learning experience. But equally important was the view into modern Japan. I especially appreciated that the main character was a Japanese woman, who dealt with a society which is profoundly sexist, and she was driven enough to fight for what she wanted and needed in life, even as she ran into stumbling blocks of prejudice within her own agency, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. I admired her drive and determination. I also liked seeing the walls come down between her and Yamada, as she realized that this old man was what she was missing from her life, the companionship and the belief in her that he offered. Yamada, I adored him! No words! I can easily see why Mariko came to love him so much. Relationships can be pigeon-holed because it is the natural way of humans to classify what is hard to define. But they are so complex. They provide what we need in this life in a way that goes way beyond labels. That’s how Yamada and Muriko’s relationship impacted me. And also Keiji and Hayano’s back in the 40s. Heck, all the stories added so much texture to this book.
My feelings for this book are so intricate, that I’m having trouble putting them into words. So I’ll just end by saying I just loved this book so much. It may not hit you the same way, but I hope that others find something to offer them in Daughter of the Sword. (less)
Stormdancer has such a distinctive feel that impacted me as a reader. The mix of rich Japanese-like culture and folklore with a dystopian twist. The m...moreStormdancer has such a distinctive feel that impacted me as a reader. The mix of rich Japanese-like culture and folklore with a dystopian twist. The main character is a brave but troubled young woman who earns my loyalty and encourages me to stand up for what I personally believe in.
But the one thing that really won me over was the connection between Yukiko and the arashitora, who she names Buruu. I’ve been an animal person since I was a wee lassie, and the bond between humans and animals is very important in my life. To see the love and trust that grows between Yukiko and Buruu, and their devotion almost brought tears to my eyes, because I am a true sap about stuff like that. Buruu is a majestic and beautiful creature, although fiercely lethal and untamable, as a legendary creature should be. I loved that although Buruu doesn’t tame down or change in his essential nature, he grows as the bond with Yukiko develops. They teach each other things important for their journey.
The world of the Shima Isles is a dark one. The place hovers on the brink of ecological disaster, and many crimes against humanity occur daily. The Shogun is clearly mad, and his power without limitation. On top of that is the Guild, which strives to make more of their poison lotus, despite its cost to their world and the people within it, and burns people who they view as heretics, probably all of which are innocent. In this kind of world, it’s hard to have hope, which is why Yukiko begins this story as a sullen and miserable young woman. She’s lost more than she can reconcile, feels the personal sting of betrayal daily, and it’s wounded her emotionally. What a good time for Buruu to come along, although their connection is not without anguish for them both. But in this world, personal sacrifice is necessary to right the terrible wrongs occurring. In the end, they are healing and comfort and safety to each other in a dark place. Together, they will not be defeated.
Stormdancer is a very good book. While it took time for me to get into the flow of terminology and world-building, I appreciate the author’s efforts to create such an immersive, fascinating world. The Japanese cultural elements appealed highly to me. Of course, I loved the strong young heroine, among many strong capable women who fight for their world just as the men do. The action scenes brought to mind some of my favorite martial arts/fantasy movies. I admit I am a serious fan of swordplay, and this book has some beautiful and bloody evidence of this martial art, along with others. I could see this is a gorgeous anime-style film, but I hope that it is made in live action, with its all Asian cast. I would definitely pay money to see this on the big screen.
While I agree that is definitely for young adults and for older readers who enjoy young adult fiction, I like that Kristoff doesn’t curtail his writing merely to fit in the current YA trend. The violence is quite descriptive and there is some sensual content (although fade to black). The storyline is quite dark, with the ecological sabotage for power and money, the cruelty and violence against so called enemies of the state, and the disregard for the welfare and needs of the citizenry. I think there are good lessons in here, although I don’t think Kristoff ever strays into PSA territory. It’s inherent and beautifully integral to this novel. Personally, I think this book is fine for readers 14 and older. However, I would recommend a parent reading it first. This one is very close to a five star rating, but since some scenes lacked clarity, I ended up giving it 4.5/5.0 stars. Despite that, I highly recommend it to dystopian, fantasy, and Asian folklore fans. (less)
I first became acquainted with Sarwat Chadda when I read Devil's Kiss, and I knew he was an author I wanted to follow. Chadda has switched gears sligh...moreI first became acquainted with Sarwat Chadda when I read Devil's Kiss, and I knew he was an author I wanted to follow. Chadda has switched gears slightly, writing for the MG/Juvenile group with this series, and with a male lead. He has also set his book in India, I believe that he was drawing in some degree from his own heritage. With The Savage Fortress, Mr. Chadda has written an involving read quite full of darkness and danger, and incredible heroism at its center.
Ash Mistry is an English boy of Indian descent. He gains the opportunity to explore the land of his parents' birth when he goes to stay with his aunt and uncle in India. Ash doesn't care much for India, despite his romantic hopes. It's hot, dirty, and basic in amenities. He'd rather be at home in England, with his videogames and his friends. I could identify with Ash in that I hate being hot and dirty, and the descriptions of India in that sense make me question whether I would enjoy my first experience with it any better than Ash does. However, Ash finds his destiny and comes to life in a way that staying in England never would have provided.
When his uncle gets the opportunity to translate a scroll for the very rich Englishman, Lord Alexander Savage, Ash encounters evils right out of Indian legend and folklore. For Lord Savage is a wicked magician cursed with immortality in a decaying body, and surrounded by blood-thirsty rakshasa creatures (rakshasa is a general term for demons who can have a variety of animal/human forms). Ash begs his uncle to have nothing to do with the man and his dark enterprises, but his uncle doesn't believe him. Ash falls in a deep hole at an archeology site funded by Lord Savage, and pricks his finger on an ancient arrow that connects him to the power of an ancient god, whose power belongs to the wielder of the arrow, which is called an astra.
Things go downhill from here and tragedy results in Ash and his young sister Lucky being on the run for their lives. An ancient holy man and his strange companion intervene, and guide Ash closer to his destiny as the wielder of the astra, and the only person who can stand in the way of Lord Savage's wicked intentions.
Mr. Chadda is definitely in touch with the child part of himself. He understands that kids want adventure and wonder, but don't always have awareness of what comes along with that fun parts. Ash is like a stand-in for the thirteen-year-old self of older readers, or the young readers who read this book. It's a case of "Be careful what you wish for." We can't even know how dark our world is until we face it head on. Ash encounters things that made my hair stand on end. And the author is almost gleeful in describing the gore and violence. Not too much for a MG book, although I think the age restriction should be 13 or older, honestly. I could see this book causing nightmares to a younger reader. I was hesitant to read it late at night, just in case.
There is no lack of adventure and danger, and Ash's character undergoes desired and necessary growth in character. At the end of his harrowing experience, he is not unchanged. He realizes that we are accountable for our actions and we do have responsibilities in our lives to do what's right even if it's hard. While some readers might not be as accepting of the polytheistic elements of this story, I think this content can still be enjoyed as a fiction work, and I would recommend that parents investigate this book before letting their younger children read it. Even though I don't subscribe to the Hindu beliefs, I do think there are some good lessons to be learned about accountability and personal ethics. As a lover of folklore and mythology, I thought the world-building was fascinating, and Chadda describes India vividly. I felt as though I was there. He shows a lot of textures in the different peoples in this book, and I think it's good for readers to be exposed to multicultural characters and the diversity of our big, wide world.
Bruce Mann is an excellent narrator. He utilizes a variety of tones and accents that fit this book very well. I especially liked how he speaks Ash's part. Ash has a very distinctive way of speaking and he comes to life for me. I liked the kid a lot. I'm glad my library had this in audio, even if took me ages to finish listening to it (not out of boredom, just time issues).
I'd recommend The Savage Fortress to 13 or older children (with parental approval) and older readers who enjoy MG/Juvenile fiction with folklore. I'm looking forward to more of Ash's adventures.(less)
I was so sad to finish this book. I love visiting with the GhostWalkers in any capacity, and the arrival of the long lost Thorn (now called Azami) was...moreI was so sad to finish this book. I love visiting with the GhostWalkers in any capacity, and the arrival of the long lost Thorn (now called Azami) was desperately appreciated. Sam is a sweetheart while clearly maintaining his capable and lethal identity as an enhanced soldier. He is a very calm, together person. I think in some ways, the quiet heart of Team One. From the other books he seemed courtly and down to earth, eminently huggable. It's nice to see more dimensions to him and to see his love story unfold.
Hanging out with Team One again was awesome. And getting to meet the incredibly gifted and advanced Daniel was a real pleasure. He's going to make life very interesting for his parents and the Teams. Also, it was nice seeing Ryland in the field again. I missed seeing him kick some butt. The Team is not just a well-oiled military team, but a close-knit brotherhood/family.
While there is definitely an insta-love vibe between Sam and Thorn, it works for them. I could and do believe in their love. Sam and Azami connect on an intellectual, physical and emotional level. Sam has always kept a part of himself separate from others (despite his tight bonds with the other members of Team One and their wives), and when Azami comes along, she finds her way into the deeper parts of him very quickly. He wants to be her protector, although this lethal woman is more than capable of taking care of herself and others. Sam sees the wounds that Whitney's experiments have left on Azami's psyche and body and it only makes her more beautiful to him, not the broken, unwanted person she fights to leave behind. I loved that Azami is a samurai warrior in every way. I also loved her demure, together, composed demeanor. Despite her calm, she is a very passionate, deep person. She has a lot of strength to survive what she endured from Whitney's heinous experiments, rising like a phoenix from the ashes. The tattoos she wears are very representative of her journey and her psyche. I have to admit, I wish I had gotten to see her go to town with a katana (I'm a martial arts freak, so forgive!), but she proves her lethal skill in many ways, as much as ninja assassin as a samurai (and for a girl who has always thought ninjas were freaking awesome, that worked for me). I liked what I saw of her brothers, and honestly would like to see more.
I am very curious to see where the conspiracy will go next with Whitney and Violet. It looks like there's going to be a game-changer on this front. Azami is going to be a real asset in this arena, with her intel into Whitney, and her resources as a Yoshiie. She probably hates Whitney more than all of the other GhostWalkers combined, and with good reason. Whitney made a huge mistake underestimating her and the other GhostWalker women, not to mention the strong bond between the GhostWalkers. His reckoning is coming, although I don't want to see this series end any time soon.
This book felt too short. I was enjoying it so much, when it ended, I was like, "Oh, no!" I would have been happy with seventy-five more pages, easy. It's like leaving a gathering of your favorite people when these books end, knowing you might not get to spend time together again for a while. I really don't want to wait a year for another installment. It's going to be a long wait. I think I will end up rereading this book to experience more of Sam/Azami's love story and the GhostWalkers yummy goodness.
It's hard to say how I felt about this book, other than loving it and smiling most of the time as I read. The action was hardcore and fierce, and the loving was intense and beautiful, deeply emotional. Despite that satisfaction I felt reading it, I fight a pervasive feeling of sadness because it's over and I don't want to leave this world. I guess I need therapy for my GhostWalkers addiction! That's all I can say right now! Another thumbs up from this die-hard GhostWalkers fan.
*This might be a first draft for this review as my feelings coalesce into something coherent.*
The Left Hand of God starts out very dreary and grim. It was hard going reading such a dark story, but I found Cale's character compelling enough to k...moreThe Left Hand of God starts out very dreary and grim. It was hard going reading such a dark story, but I found Cale's character compelling enough to keep reading. Reading books in which most of the religious people are the bad guys is difficult for me. Especially when the religion is either Christianity or a thinly veiled, ugly version of what people assume Christianity is. It seems as though Christianity is the religion that gets the most criticism in fiction, and this book is no different. Of course, some tenets are slightly different. But if you are familiar with Christian beliefs, it's clear to see where Hoffman is going here. Think Spanish Inquisition and Mad Monks, and you won't be far off. I won't spend too much more of this review 'ranting' about such things. The churchs of my faith have done enough damage throughout history to draw some negative views from people. But after a while, it's like shooting fish in a barrel, really. Are there bad Christians? Certainly. Are there decent Christians? Certainly. But, more often than not, 'we' get to be the bad guys. Oh well. Despite this unbalanced and rather unfair view of the Christian church, I was still able to enjoy this book, because Cale is a character that draws all this reader's interest back to him. And as magnetic as Cale is, Mr. Hoffman managed to populate this novel with a lot of other interesting characters, from Vague Henry, Kliest, Idris Pook, the Chancellor, Cale's first love, Arbell (who I never grew to like), and the various Matarrazzi citizenry. Also, the humor was very good. Extremely dark and sarcastic, but funny all the same.
One of my friends on GRs remarked that the book seems to have a split personality. I completely agree. The first part seemed like a relentlessly dark story of religious zealotry, and its deleterious effects on young boys. I thought the whole book would be about the boys trying to escape its effect. However, the story turns into a not quite as dark, but still murky coming of age story in which we see a young man go from point A to point Z, and how it affects him. It left me a bit confused at how to take this story. I think that Mr. Hoffman had so much fun writing that he sort of lost his sense of direction. Despite that fact, this was still a very good book. My tastes are odd enough that I can enjoy dark material (depending on the execution), although I am an unrepentant consumer of happy ever after stories. The crucial ingredient that causes me to love a book, or even like it, is a pull towards the characters or the story, and that can overule my desire for happy, sunny reads. In this case, Cale is that sort of character. I listened to this on audio, and I was seduced into a dependence on hearing Cale's story. He's an interesting kid. He scares a lot of people, annoys most others, and inspires a strange sort of loyalty in the rest that they don't quite get, nor does Cale. He's not even the nicest guy. But he shows a sense of honor that causes him to do the right thing, even when his pragmatic nature tells him not to. I hope that he doesn't listen to the junk that the Redeemers seem to want to feed him, about his darkness, his curse, and his true mission. I don't believe that about him at all. I do believe he is a very dangerous person. But why can't that darkness in him be used for good? I think it can.
Towards the end of this book, I listened with a very strong sense of dread. I knew that things weren't going to end well, but I couldn't not listen. I just have to know what is going to happen to Cale. He's important to me, and that means I will be reading the next book: The Last Four Things.
Thoughts on the audiobook narration: The British narrator has a beautiful, smooth voice, with a certain element that lends itself very well to the sinister aspects of this story. He has an ability to employ an almost monotone delivery (lending a paradoxically dark, sharp edge to the violent and also the humorous elements) that he employs in quite the right way to surround the listener with an atmosphere that brings this story to life. I would recommend listening to this book on audio if you can find it.
Recommendation: I would advise those who don't like dark subject matter not to read this novel. However, if you don't enjoy dark stories, but you like very compelling, enigmatic characters, you might find yourself compelled to read it anyway, like I was. (less)
Crystal Hubbard has delivered a great story of a woman trying to start a new life, and break free from the prison of fear that her abusive, controllin...moreCrystal Hubbard has delivered a great story of a woman trying to start a new life, and break free from the prison of fear that her abusive, controlling ex-husband held her captive to. For readers who enjoyed movies like "Sleeping with the Enemy" and "Enough", this book will strongly invoke memories of those stories, but Ms. Hubbard has put her own spin on that storyline of an abused ex-wife on the run from her crazy, stalker ex-husband.
Ms. Hubbard teaches me as an aspiring writer how to use language to tell a story. She always stimulates all the five senses when she writes. She beautifully describes colors and imagery, that give this novel a three-dimensional feel. I liked how she uses the language of color to describe how different Cinder's relationship is with Gian to her painful marriage to Sumchai Wyatt. Whereas everything was grays, blacks, and whites with Sumchai, there is a dazzling array of colors, each vibrant with Gian. Her descriptions of food were so scrumptious, I wanted to jump into this story and start eating. And the love scenes are very descriptive and evocative, making me think about sex and how it can express the feelings that a couple has for each other to a degree that I usually don't when I read a romance. Also, I appreciated how she wrote Gian as a hero in an inspiring, appealing way, but also showed that he was just a man, not a superman. In this case, Cinder didn't need a champion in the traditional sense. She needed to find her inner champion, and Gian helped her to do that.
The characters in this story came to life, fully realized. Cinder was a deep person, not perfect. A real woman. It's really easy to cast judgment on abused women, and say, I'd never let a man do that to me. However, it happens more than not that a woman ends up in a relationship that starts out good, and then finds that her life is completely controlled by a man who doesn't know what the meaning of love is. In this book, I could see how Cinder went from point A to point B, and woke up one day realizing exactly the extent of the control and games her husband had over her. Some of his cruel tactics made me so angry, and I couldn't imagine being in that situation. Yet, I didn't feel the need to judge Cinder, because being in love with someone does give them a control over you that allows you to put yourself in situations that can be just as unhealthy as Cinder's, and there is a large component of psychological damage, steadily inflicted that allows a person's will to be weakened to the extent that they feel that this is the norm. There is also that fear and shame of speaking out and telling others what is going on. Fear for oneself, and fear that this person might hurt them as well. As with the slow procession from lover to victim that unfolds with Cinder, we see her slow healing and the psychological breakthroughs that allow Cinder to come back from that edge and reclaim her sense of self, her identity, and control of her life. I think this was written brilliantly, and unlike film media, I could see deeper into the abused wife scenario. I admit that this was a harrowing journey at times, too. You think in your mind, how could someone associate this with love. How could you deliberately hurt your wife that way. It was clear that Cinder's ex-husband was a deeply mentally ill person, but not one that I ever felt sorry for. Not when he truly didn't want to get better. At the end of this story, I was cheering loudly for Cinder, having gone along the way every step with her and seeing how hard she worked for her emotional/mental/physical victory.
Gian was a hero that I just adored. He was a very good man--a lovely mix of oh-so delicious masculinity, stability, honor, sweetness, and gentleness. Not to mention sexiness. I liked how he was a man with a military past that had colored him, but he had some conflicted feelings about the violence he had to commit as a soldier. When he told Cinder why he ran a martial arts dojo, it was a very profound thing. I know I've heard it before that martial arts helps a person to empower oneself on a level that makes it easier for them not to kill someone, but it made even more sense from the vantage point of a man who had to kill people for a living, and was subjected to the violent acts of others. There wasn't anything I didn't love about Gian. He was a fully-realized kind of hero. The one that you can drool over and respect, and think how much you'd admired and be drawn to him in real life. It wasn't that he was perfect, and no man or woman is. He was just perfectly lovable.
I loved the integration of martial arts styles and philosophy in this story. It was clear that Ms. Hubbard did her research, and she built a beautiful story around it. I never felt subjected to 'info-dumping'. Instead I found the facts and descriptions very intriguing. Of course, being a long-time fan of Asian martial arts, in the real world, and in the cinema, that gave me just one more thing to like about this story.
As one of my friends on GRs touched on, I loved the diversity in this story. You have such a beautiful mix of ethnicities, which is how I see the world being. Not one palette, but so many colors, coming together to make an intriguing society, each contributing to the world in which they live. I loved the scenes of Gian's employees at the dojo, Cinder and his mutual friends, and their trash-talking and playing around. Also how they helped each other and stood up for each other. I even liked how things worked out with one employee who really acts like an idiot over the course of this book.
This is my third book by Crystal Hubbard, and my praise for her is well-earned. She is such a good writer, and she delivers a beautiful love story, one that is more than just romance. It's fiction that hits on many cylinders, and gives the reader even more than they expected. Burn is a book I'd highly recommend.
This was a good start to a new to me series. Although it does have that standard male UF feel (which is not a bad thing), there were a few things that...moreThis was a good start to a new to me series. Although it does have that standard male UF feel (which is not a bad thing), there were a few things that nicely distinguish it from the others that I read and enjoy:
1. The lead--Jesse James Dawson (don't call him JJ) is pleasantly angst-free. I like angst as much as any other reader, and probably more, but it's nice when the character doesn't stoop over like a 90-year-old from the weight of sorrows on his back. I think a huge factor in this is my second point.
2. Jesse is a happily-married family man! It was so refreshing to have a hero who is not a loner who avoids women or just uses them to fulfill his male needs, or both, but is deeply in love with his wife. The moments of intimacy and married people exchanges caused many 'aww' moments or smiles as I read. It's clear that Jesse doesn't take his wife for granted. He respects her as an equal with formidable strengths that balance him out. He knows his wife doesn't take crap, and he doesn't shovel any her way. At the same time, he is protective of his family in a way that I think a guy should be with his family. I loved how much he values his wife and his little girl. I have a big soft spot for a hero who is a father or has a fatherly vibe to him, so I dug the scenes in which Jesse plays with/takes care of his daughter. I can see why Jesse has the empowerment to go out and fight the good fight like he does.
3. Jesse is a modern samurai. He follows the bushido code. Let me make it clear that I am a huge ninja/samurai/Asian martial arts fangirl. Although I lack the discipline for the Way of the Warrior, I had mad respect for Jesse's adherence to this philosophy. Although he is not a religious man, he has a code which directs his behavior, instead of drifting through life aimlessly. It rounds him out as a character in a solid, but not over the top way instead of this story being about his A)determination to get vengeance, B)leftover childhood issues, C)being a happy-go-lucky ne'er do well that merely stumbles into heroic situations.
4. The concept of Jesse working as a champion--fighting demons to win back people's bartered souls was very cool. I like that there was rules to be followed, and I admit that the demonic aspects were a bit chilling, although not in a macabre, in your face, way. It felt very real-world and entirely possible. A nice foundation for world-building in this series.
5. The conversational narrative was good. Jesse has enough snark to put me in the wise-cracking UF male mode that I like, but it's not forced or obvious. It was interesting seeing Jesse interact with his co-workers at It, a trendy store that I would equate to the real-life store Hot Topic. They are very much of the new generation, and Jesse is in his thirties and a grown man with grownup responsibilities. They call him Old Guy, which I found hilarious. It may not seem like a huge age difference, but as a woman in my thirties who has worked with people in their teens and early twenties, it can actually be a fairly large gap at times. Long story short, Jesse gets cred as a realistic character who I can buy into for a series. I liked spending time in his head and I would come back.
This was a pleasant, relatively quick read. I think it's a great start for a new series, and there was enough hooks here to get me coming back for more. I liked the story, the characters, and the concept. The action parts were good and the humor had me laughing and nodding along. That makes this a thumbs up book for me. Four solid stars, and my recommendation to fans of male lead UF along the lines of Harry Dresden or Atticus O'Sullivan. In other words, both fun and meaty. (less)
I first became acquainted with The Question on The Justice League Unlimited animated show on Cartoon Network. I was intrigued. He wears a mask that gi...moreI first became acquainted with The Question on The Justice League Unlimited animated show on Cartoon Network. I was intrigued. He wears a mask that gives him a face with no features. The Question is sort of a more philosophical (and less badass) Batman. He's a crusader against injustice and corruption, who doesn't mind using his fists, although he's also very cerebral.
This was a good introduction to him in the graphic novel/comics form. I liked seeing how he goes from being rather brash and unorganized in his pursuits, to becoming more spiritually focused and more of a deadly weapon, when necessary. This is very much in the crime drama genre, but with little bits of supernatural elements mixed in, since The Question comes back from the dead.
Zen and Violence uses the common villain of the evil, corrupt church member. I'm not sure how I feel about that. As a Christian, I do take exception to Christians almost always being portrayed as crazy, evil, hypocritical, and megalomanical, more than we are shown as being mere humans on a spiritual journey. We don't seem to get the same even-handed approach as the other religions (which seem more palatable in the media and the humanities as a whole). On the other hand, I respect that there are members of the clergy and so-called Christians who do give credence to the bad reputation of those who profess to follow Christ. It wasn't a deal-breaker, but more of a somewhat painful pinch to me as I read this story, since the only obvious Christian in this story was the most evil, craziest character. But, sadly, I've grown used to this (not sure if that's good or bad).
I was in the mood for a quick graphic novel read, and I enjoyed this. I liked the noir elements, and I'm a sucker for brainy, crime-fighting martial arts practitioners (Batman, Deadpool, and Daredevil anyone?). Although this was not a five star book, I'd like to read more stories about The Question, since I like my heroes on the edgy, yet thoughtful side.(less)
I bought this one a while ago because I was intrigued by the idea of an action/adventure series about a spe...moreI don't like zombies, but I like this book!
I bought this one a while ago because I was intrigued by the idea of an action/adventure series about a special government agency which handles strange science threats. It's been sitting on my shelf, not because it didn't look interesting. I was just reading and doing other stuff.
Glad I was able to read it for the February group read for the Action/Adventure Aficionados group. A very strong selling point is that this one hits the ground running. I hate being bored, so I appreciate a book that doesn't give me opportunities to get bored, and also engages my intellect. This book did both. I felt that I was drawn into the action early on, and the fact that the characters have to think on their feet adds to the sense of urgency. This book is built quite heavily on that sense of urgency, and it succeeds. This was a book that never slowed down, despite the high tech science elements. I feel that the author wrote a book here that is intelligent, but also action-packed. He took zombies and gave them a 21st century update, which makes it even more scary. To think that someone is crazy enough to make a pathogen that would turn people into zombies, and to unleash it on innocent citizens, for any reason, is absolutely frightening.
Mad scientist stories interest me. And this one has a whopper! I did think the actual identity of the mad scientist was quite interesting, although I found their reasons to be a let-down. Not that there was any good reason to do what that person was doing, but the reason didn't ring true to me. Unless it's just sheer craziness.
Terrorism lives up to its name. The thought of murdering people for a cause is appalling. In this book, there is also another dimension here. Maybe terrorism in its essential form isn't the whole picture. Terrorism is also good business. The thought nauseates me. But there are people in this world who happily make lots of money this way. This aspect of terrorism is examined in Patient Zero. That someone in fact uses it to create a demand and supply effect. The zombies aren't the ones with no souls in this book.
This is one of those books I didn't want to put down. Here I am, reading this book in bed when you'd think zombie books would be off the bedtime reading list. Nope. I had to keep reading.
Joe has action hero chops. Maberry lays the groundwork for why he's the man for the job, and he acquits himself admirably. I liked that Joe is a tough action hero, but he's also flawed and human. He doesn't have all the answers, nor does he have emotional wholeness, and he knows it. That's another reason he's on the frontline. I kind of liked his attitude. What can I say? A grumpy hero can work for me. And yes, the martial arts, barehanded zombie fighting was pretty awesome. I mean, that takes some guts to tackle a zombie without having a respectable fifteen feet shooting distance between them. How about breaking zombie necks with one's bare hands and other parts of the body? I'll leave that to folks like Ledger. He is a man of action and an intelligent man. A good mix.
I touched on the bad guys. It's hard to write a good villain. You can easily make them too campy or so mundane you're bored to tears. Both is death, no pun intended. How about a little realness thrown in with the evilness quotient? That's a good mix. I'm not sure how effective the villains were on an essential level. They did the job, but something was off. I couldn't identify with the villains. Nope. Not at all. I couldn't put myself in their shoes. To me, they were foul beyond believe. No amount of integrity despite some of them being true believers. Actions speak louder than words. I often asked myself which was worse, the true believers or the ones motivated by almighty dollar? I don't have an answer for that one.
Rudy is like Joe's heart and soul. His conscience. I honestly think having Rudy has kept Joe sane. I liked that he is the voice of reason and the voice of ethics, not that Joe isn't ethical. But he can't always weigh the tough questions in the thick of battle. It's good to know he has Rudy to bounce those off of. Good friends are scarce, so I'm glad they have each other.
As far as the team and the people who work at DMS, I think there are characters that stand out. Church is definitely one of them. He's the mystery man with long fingers, and iron hands that can crush his enemies or protect those who need it. He's a good guy to work for, but not a man to cross. I liked the idea of DMS. How they recruit the best, because the best is needed for a situation like they face in this book. Major Grace Courtland stands out as a female character who is tough as nails, but also three-dimensional. You don't get to see too many military heroines, and she's a very good one. The team that Joe picks don't get as much page time, but I hope to see more of them. They earned my respect in the many confrontations they face, shortly after or right when they find out zombies are real. I'd still be in the pinching myself phase. And then there is Doctor Hu. That was utterly priceless!
What fell short
I felt that the ending was less well-executed than most of the book. The story was so well-plotted until the end, that I just had this 'huh' moment with how it ended. I mean the final confrontation was pretty good, but some of the hows behind it, not so much. I still don't understand what happened with the one character who turned out to be a red herring. And the master plan seemed a bit campy on the part of the true believers. Other than that, I have no complaints. But this knocked my rating down in the end.
I have found a new series to follow. Maberry delivers on action and cutting edge science. I love the idea of the DMS, and a top notch action hero like Joe Ledger combined with it, will keep me coming back. While not all elements were 100%, this was a solid read that I enjoyed enormously. I have to give this one a respectable 4.25 star rating. I'll be back for more!