Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland by Bill Willingham

Posted by on Mar 7, 2017 in 2.5 stars, 2017, Bill Willingham, Book Review | 2 comments

Werewolves of the Heartland by Bill Willingham
Werewolves of the Heartland by Bill Willingham with art by Craig Hamilton and Jim Fern

Genre: Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Series: Original Graphic Novel related to the Fables series
Publisher: Vertigo
Publication Date: 212
Pages: 179
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

Bigby Wolf takes center stage in what might be the most action-packed FABLES story to date. Bigby embarks on a quest through the American Heartland to find a new location for Fabletown. In his wanderings, Bigby stumbles across a small town named Story City, that, amazingly enough, seems to be populated by werewolves. Who are they and where did they come from? They aren’t Fables, but they sure aren’t normal mundys. They seem to already know and revere Bigby, but at the same time they’ve captured and caged him – but why? Unravelling the many mysteries of Story City may cost Bigby more than his life.

My Thoughts:
I expected to love this. Bigby Wolf is one of my favorite characters in the Fables world and a graphic novel featuring him should have been right up my alley. Unfortunately, it missed a bit.

It’s an original graphic novel that was published after Volume 17 Inherit the Wind. It’s not strictly after that book and it’s not crucial to the overall Fables story. It’s a side trip (literally) featuring Bigby. He ends up in a town founded by someone Bigby met when they worked together during World War II. The town is populated by werewolves so it’s not a hard leap of logic that Bigby’s old friend is a werewolf too.

The story just never fully grabbed me. I enjoyed the flashback to Bigby’s time in World War II the most. The present-day story was just not the usual Fables fare for me. Bigby as a wolf works. Bigby’s blood spawning a race of werewolves (who all look like Bigby’s old friend and his former Nazi scientist wife) didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

The artwork was also a disappointment. It was mostly pale colors and pastels. It just didn’t fully work to draw me in to the story. I’m used to bold and vivid colors in the Fables books and their spinoffs.

It’s a spinoff. It’s not crucial to the ongoing Fables story. There were parts I liked but there were enough parts I didn’t like to make this just average.

Rating 2.5/5

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Stamped DNF – The Likeness by Tana French

Posted by on Feb 23, 2017 in 2.5 stars, 2017, Book Review, DNF, Tana French | 8 comments

Stamped DNF
The Likeness by Tana French
The Likeness by Tana French

Genre: Mystery
Format: Ebook
Series: The Dublin Murder Squad #2
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: DNF at page 216 out of 497
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Six months after a particularly nasty case, Detective Cassie Maddox has transferred out of Dublin’s Murder squad and has no plans to go back. That is, until an urgent telephone call summons her to a grisly crime scene.

It’s only when she sees the body that Cassie understands the hurry. The victim, a young woman, is Cassie’s double and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used on an undercover job. Suddenly, Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl but, more importantly, who is this girl? And as reality and fantasy become desperately tangled, Cassie moves dangerously close to losing herself forever.

At what point did I break up with this book?
I put it aside at page 216 out of 497. When I realized it had been a month since I started the book and I was still less than halfway through I knew it was time.

What worked for me?
Despite the unlikely premise of Cassie being able to take the place of her doppelganger I thought it was an interesting way to approach the investigation.

What didn’t work for me?
I’m not sure exactly. I loved Tana French’s first book. I was familiar with her dense writing style and knew it would be slower paced. Unfortunately, it was just too easy for me to put this down and do something else. I wanted to love this book. I wanted to get wrapped up in it and spend hours at a time reading it but it just didn’t draw me in enough for that to happen.

It’s not you, it’s me . . . or maybe it really IS you.
I think it’s probably a little of both. I may pick it up again at some point in the future. I looked at the audiobook but saw that it was 22 hours long. I’m not sure I’m up for that. I did see that the narrator was getting a lot of praise in the reviews so who knows I might go that route someday.

Have you listened to or read this book? What did you think?

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Stamped DNF – The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in 2.5 stars, 2017, Book Review, DNF | 0 comments

Stamped DNF

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardover
Series: The Saxon Chronicles #1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: DNF at page 228 out of 333
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

This is the exciting—yet little known—story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms.

The story is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed nobleman, who is captured as a child by the Danes and then raised by them so that, by the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex (Alfred’s kingdom and the last territory in English hands) Uhtred almost thinks of himself as a Dane. He certainly has no love for Alfred, whom he considers a pious weakling and no match for Viking savagery, yet when Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he is finally forced to choose sides. By now he is a young man, in love, trained to fight and ready to take his place in the dreaded shield wall. Above all, though, he wishes to recover his father’s land, the enchanting fort of Bebbanburg by the wild northern sea.

This thrilling adventure—based on existing records of Bernard Cornwell’s ancestors—depicts a time when law and order were ripped violently apart by a pagan assault on Christian England, an assault that came very close to destroying England.

At what point did I break up with this book?
I put it aside at page 228 out of 333. I did enjoy the first 150 or so pages but it became easier to put it down and harder to pick it up. When I realized that I had nearly 100 pages to go and I really didn’t care what happened I knew it was time.

What worked for me?
I thought the time frame was interesting. It’s set in the ninth century during the time the Danes were trying to take over the kingdoms that would eventually make up England.

We watched and thoroughly enjoyed the television series The Last Kingdom based on Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles. They combined the first two books into the first season of the show. It’s quite good and I do recommend you watch it.

What didn’t work for me?
I’m not sure exactly. I think it was partly pacing. It seemed to move slower the more I read. The battle scenes were exciting but the story between seemed a bit tedious at times. Maybe it’s because I had already seen the story in a more condensed form that made it seem to slog.

It’s not you, it’s me . . . or maybe it really IS you.
After we watched the television series The Hubster read the first four books. He enjoyed them and plans to continue.

I do know that a second season of the show has finished filming and will eventually be on Netflix. I’ll be watching for it and recommend the first season.

Have you listened to or read this book? What did you think?

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Nutshell Review – Jack of Fables Vol. 7: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack

Posted by on Oct 9, 2015 in 2.5 stars, 2015, Bill Willingham, Chris Roberson | 0 comments

Jack of Fables Vol. 7: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges and Chris Roberson

Jack of Fables Vol. 7: The New Adventures of Jack and Jack by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges and Chris Roberson

Genre: Fantasy, Comics
Series: #7 in the Jack of Fables series
Publisher: Vertigo
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 128
Source: Library


The Book:

This volume 7 is a compilation of issues 36-40 of the comic series.
From the back cover:

THE ETERNAL HERO

Following the world-shaking events of THE GREAT FABLES CROSSOVER, Jack of Fables isn’t feeling quite like his old self. He isn’t looking like it, either – it may be the extra 200 pounds, or the scaly skin, or the enormous tail, but something’s definitely different about this most immodest of storybook stars.
For a change, however, it isn’t all about him anymore (though he would certainly tell you different if he had the chance). Having recently saved our mundane world, Jack’s newly discovered son Jack Frost is poised to take the spotlight away from his old man – provided that he can survive his new career as a freelance do-gooder-for-hire.

My Thoughts:
I was a bit disappointed to discover that the Jack of Fables spinoff from the main Fablers series didn’t end with the Great Fables Crossover. It seemed to be a natural ending up until the point where Jack and his sidekick Gary The Pathetic Fallacy took off for further adventures. It seems that there are more of this spinoff series, therefore I continue.

This one had some good points and some bad. The bad is that Jack is still a jerk but the good is that karma seems to be slapping him upside the head.

The other good is that much of this book features Jack’s son (Jack Frost) who is much more interesting than his dad. When he relinquishes his powers and decides to become a hero for hire it looks like there’s potential. My favorite part is his newly found sidekick who happens to be a wooden owl he dubs Macduff.

My favorite characters in this series are Macduff the owl who his hilarious and Babe the Blue Ox who has a hilarious and vivid fantasy life.

As always the art by Tony Akins and Russ Braun is fun and colorful with some great visual humor tossed in here and there.

This spinoff is definitely a lesser companion to the main Fables series but there are only two more volumes and I’m a completist so I’ll read them. Fortunately they’re quick read and I love Babe the Blue Ox. I’m also hoping for more of Macduff the Owl.

2.5 stars Rating 2.5/5

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Nutshell Review: Jack of Fables Vol. 2: Jack of Hearts by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges

Posted by on Jun 27, 2014 in 2.5 stars, 2014, Bill Willingham, Book Review, Nutshell Review | 2 comments

Photo Credit

Jack of Fables Vol. 2: Jack of Hearts by Bill Willingham and Matthew SturgesJack of Fables Vol. 2: Jack of Hearts by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges

Genre: Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Series: #2 in the Jack of Fables series
Publisher: Vertigo
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 143
Source: Library

The Book:
This volume 2 is a compilation of issues 6-11 of the comic series.

From the publisher:

After successfully escaping from an inescapable prison, is there a better place to head for than the city that fickle fortune built? Not if you’re Jack of Fables! Overflowing with his legendary self-regard, Jack is about to discover the key to winning back his lost riches and triumphantly returning to the top of the heap. All it will take is a little planning and some help from Lady Luck.
Unfortunately, Lady Luck turns out to be a bit more substantial than her reputation would suggest, as well as a whole lot crazier. Jack’s going to have his hands full just keeping his head on straight in Sin City – something that his former jailers intend to take full advantage of.

My Thoughts:
This second volume of this series had me remembering why I don’t like the character of Jack. I’ll continue with this spin-off series because I can alternate it with books from the main Fables series and I know that the stories do converge back together eventually.

In the meantime there are parts of the Jack story that are fun and interesting, but the problem is that Jack isn’t one of them. He’s insufferable and a jerk. I do enjoy when his grand plans get thwarted but he always seems to pick himself up and remind himself how great he thinks he is and move on to another adventure as he tries to rebuild his fortune and power.

I did enjoy learning about how he became Jack Frost for a while.

I’m going to be very disappointed if Jack doesn’t either get what’s coming to him or has a Grinch like change of heart somewhere along the way. In the meantime. I’m glad that next up for me is the next in the main Fables series.

2.5 stars Rating 2.5/5

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Audiobook – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Posted by on Apr 15, 2014 in 2.5 stars, Audio, Book Review | 5 comments

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Audible Studios
Publication Date: 2012 Audible Inc. Book originally published 1900
Length: 3 hours, 50 minutes
Read by: Anne Hathaway
Source: Free Audible download

The Short Version:
A tornado lands young Dorothy Gale in the Land of Oz which is most definitely not Kansas.

Why I Read It:
When I got the email from Audible that they were offering this free I downloaded it. When I decided I wanted to read Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die I decided to listen to the original book first.

The Book:
From Google Books:

In the first of L. Frank Baum’s time-honored Oz novels, country girl Dorothy Gale gets whisked away by a cyclone to the fantastical Land of Oz. Dropped into the midst of trouble when her farmhouse crushes a tyrannical sorceress, Dorothy incurs the wrath of the Wicked Witch of the West. Dorothy is desperate to return to her native Kansas, and, aided by the Good Witch of the North, she sets out for the Emerald City to get help from the legendary Wizard. On her way, she meets three unlikely allies who embody key human virtues—the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.

My Thoughts:
I’m sure I read this as a kid but I sure didn’t remember much of it. I remembered it being quite different from the movie but the details have faded.

The book itself is an odd story. The interpretations of it as political and social allegory are well known but whether Baum really intended as that may or may not be true and honestly I don’t care. I was interested in the story and how it differed from the movie and to hear Anne Hathaway’s reading of it.

If I had a recommendation at this point it would be that if you want to revisit the original Baum story go the the library and pick up a print edition. Skip this audio version.

The story was quite different from the movie. The Wicked Witch of the West is almost a minor character. As in the movie there is a fair amount of violence for a children’s story. I really didn’t remember the Tin Man being such a whiner. I also didn’t remember that both the good witches make an appearance. Each area of Oz has a distinct population and is ruled by one of the witches. The munchkins from the movie are only a quarter of the story.

As for the audio production it started out OK and while I like Anne Hathaway fine as an actress but I will never listen to her narrate another audiobook. She seemed to try way too hard to give each and every character in the book a distinct voice and accent. There are far too many characters for that in this book. The Tin Man might have seemed like a big whiner to me because of the way she did his voice. The Scarecrow sounded exactly like Marge Simpson. Before Dorothy and her companions were falling asleep in the field of poppies Hathaway lost me completely. When the stork sounded like a Valley Girl out of the early 80’s I’d had enough. At that point Hathaway’s increasingly odd voice characterizations became a complete distraction from the story. The Guardian of the Gate in the Emerald City sounded like Daffy Duck and the Wizard himself sounded like an elderly Southern lady.

I only finished it because it was so short.

2.5 stars Rating 2.5/5 for the book

1 stars Rating 1/5 for the narration


SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.

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