Jack of Fables Vol. 9: The End by Bill Willingham

Posted by on Jul 15, 2016 in 2016, 3 stars, Bill Willingham, Book Review, Comics | 1 comment

Jack of Fables Vol. 9: The End by Bill Willingham

Jack of Fables Vol. 9: The End by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges with art by Tony Akins and Russ Braun

Genre: Fantasy, Comics
Format: Trade Paperback Comics Collected Edition
Series: #9 in the Jack of Fables series
Publisher: Vertigo
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 136
Source: Library

The Book:
This volume 9 is a compilation of issues 46-50 of the comic series.
From the back cover:

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
The allegedly legendary Jack of Fables has been through a lot of changes lately – big, bat-winged, fire-breathing changes – but one thing has remained reassuringly constant: a lot of people still want to nail his hide to the wall.
Now, after countless centuries of having his mouth write checks that no other part of his body could cash, Jack’s delinquent accounts are finally coming due. His swashbuckling son Jack Frost, the pistol-packing Page sisters, a wild man with an axe (er, sword) to grind and a busload of lost Fables looking for the promised land are all making a beeline for Jack’s hilltop hideout – and the epic brutality of their ensuing showdown promises to outshine even the tallest of Jack’s fabled trove of tales.

My Thoughts:
This spinoff series from the main Fables storyline has been very hit and miss for me. I’m not sorry I read them but I’m glad to have reached the end.

In this volume as with most of the series I found myself laughing out loud at times and feeling annoyed at others. Throughout the series my favorite parts have been those that featured other characters than Jack. Jack is kind of a jerk and annoying.

The finale to the series wraps up a lot of things. Characters from earlier volumes were nice to see again. The forecasted “Shakespearean Ending” was probably the only way to end this and while I’ll miss some of the characters it pretty much had to happen that way.

The artwork by Tony Akins and Russ Braun is some of the best of the series. There’s lots of action and a wide variety of settings and characters. Plenty of color and interesting elements in the backgrounds are always nice to see.

This series isn’t crucial to the Fables world but it’s a sometimes interesting and always surprising detour.

3 stars Rating 3/5

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The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

Posted by on Jun 24, 2016 in 2016, 3 stars, Book Review | 4 comments

The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 423
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Frances Irvine, left destitute in the wake of her father’s sudden death, has been forced to abandon her life of wealth and privilege in London and emigrate to the Southern Cape of Africa. 1880 South Africa is a country torn apart by greed. In this remote and inhospitable land she becomes entangled with two very different men—one driven by ambition, the other by his ideals. Only when the rumor of an epidemic takes her into the dark heart of the diamond mines does Frances see her road to happiness.

But before she can follow that path, Frances must choose between passion and integrity, between her desire for the man who captured her heart and her duty to the man who saved her from near ruin, a decision that will have devastating consequences.

My Thoughts:
This one was slow to get going and I’m not sure it ever really captured me. It was OK and maybe even a little better than OK.

The main character was one of those I wanted to slap. Naïve I can understand, continually making stupid decisions annoys me. Although the two men she was involved with weren’t exactly prizes either. One was a jerk and the other seemed to think that she should be able to read his mind.

Nevertheless, Frances did grow up a bit through the course of the book and that was good.

I did enjoy the setting and the history of South Africa. The author based parts of the story on real events. Her research and writing kept me interested even though I disliked the main characters.

It had its moments but I just wish there had been more of them.

8a6e1-rating_25stars Rating 2.5/5

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Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mahew Bergman

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in 2016, 3 stars, Book Review | 1 comment

Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mahew Bergman
Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mahew Bergman

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 224
Source: Purchased

The Book:
From the publisher:

Exploring the way our choices and relationships are shaped by the menace and beauty of the natural world, Megan Mayhew Bergman’s powerful and heartwarming collection captures the surprising moments when the pull of our biology becomes evident, when love or fear collides with good sense, or when our attachment to an animal or wild place can’t be denied.

In “Housewifely Arts,” a single mother and her son drive hours to track down an African gray parrot that can mimic her deceased mother’s voice. A population-control activist faces the conflict between her loyalty to the environment and her maternal desire in “Yesterday’s Whales.” And in the title story, a lonely naturalist allows an attractive stranger to lead her and her aging father on a hunt for an elusive woodpecker.

As intelligent as they are moving, the stories in Birds of a Lesser Paradise are alive with emotion, wit, and insight into the impressive power that nature has over all of us. This extraordinary collection introduces a young writer of remarkable talent.

My Thoughts:
This collection of twelve short stories was highly recommended by enough people that I trust on my LibraryThing group that I took a chance and bought a copy instead of getting it form the library. Then I promptly put it on my bookshelf and let it linger there for far too long.

Thanks to my commitment to reading my own books I finally pulled it off the shelf and read it. My friends were right. The writing is wonderful.

As with any short story collection, some of the stories are better than others. A few were rather forgettable but others really made an impact. The author’s husband is a veterinarian and in that profession is represented in several of the stories. Sometimes it’s the main character and sometimes not. All of the stories deal with women at a crossroads in their lives and touch on relationships with other people as well as animals and the natural world.

There are a few scenes that depict suffering animals and while they are well written and the animals are treated lovingly it’s a difficult subject and understandably a deal breaker for many readers.

The woman who took a road trip to find the bird who could mimic her mother’s voice is one that I could understand. There are days I’d give anything to hear my mother’s voice again. I also thought the one about a veterinarian who had her face scarred by a wolf hybrid that came out of the anesthesia unexpectedly was one of the better ones.

Many of the stories left me sad, so if it’s an uplifting collection of stories you’re looking for, this one isn’t it. Nevertheless the writing is simply lovely and something I could appreciate even though the overall tone of the stories wasn’t really my thing.

3 stars Rating 3/5

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Chew Vol. 5: Major League Chew by John Layman

Posted by on Jun 3, 2016 in 2016, 3 stars, Book Review, Comics, John Layman | 0 comments

Chew Vol. 5: Major League Chew by John Layman

Chew Vol. 5: Major League Chew by John Layman with art by Rob Guillory

Genre: Mystery
Format: Trade Paperback Comics Collected Edition
Series: #5 in the Chew series
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 120
Source: Library

*Note – this is volume 5 so spoilers for previous volumes are inevitable

The Book:
This volume 5 is a compilation of issues 21-25 of the comic series.
From the back cover:

Tony Chu – the cibopathic federal agent with the ability to get psychic impressions from what he eats – has been kidnapped. He was ambushed, knocked out, brought to a remote location, and bound securely. His captor intends to feed Tony from a menu of his choosing, to find out what Tony can see, in order to learn from him. His daughter Olive has been kidnapped for the exact same reason. Two kidnappers, two captives, and two very different outcomes.

My Thoughts:
This series just gets weirder and more fun with every volume. Tohy has been demoted to traffic division and for unexplained reasons wears a kilt and rides a Segway while on duty. His partner has been transferred too and is working at the USDA with a new partner even stranger than Tony. Then it turns out that Tony’s daughter Olive might be even more gifted than her dad.

Some previous characters show up as well as some new people with different food related special power. One can sculpt chocolate in a way that it’s as real as what it’s supposed to look like (think deadly chocolate sword).

The artwork by Rob Guillory is colorful and fun and manages to present some bizarre stuff in a way that isn’t completely gross. There is plenty of funny stuff in the background of the main action.

I know it sounds a bit disgusting but I definitely encourage you to give this series a try.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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Jack of Fables Vol. 8: The Fulminate Blade by Bill Willingham

Posted by on May 17, 2016 in 2016, 3 stars, Bill Willingham, Book Review, Comics | 0 comments

Jack of Fables Vol. 8: The Fulminate Blade by Bill Willingham

Jack of Fables Vol. 8: The Fulminate Blade by Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges with art by Tony Akins and Jim Fern

Genre: Fantasy, Comics
Format: Trade Paperback Comics Collected Edition
Series: #8 in the Jack of Fables series
Publisher: Vertigo
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 126
Source: Library

The Book:
This volume 8 is a compilation of issues 41-46 of the comic series.
From the back cover:

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT
The newly dragonified Jack of Fables has finally found contentment in the form of a huge pile of gold upon which he can rest his enormous, scaly bulk. Contentment, however, never makes for an interesting story – which is why Jack isn’t the star of this exceptionally exciting collection.
Instead, his son Jack Frost takes center stage, traveling through a kaleidoscope of worlds in search of chivalric adventure and entry-level heroism. Along the way, his unique brand of open-hearted altruism will yield some cruelly valuable lessons regarding human nature – provided he can survive the endless waves of assassins that his efforts inevitably stir up.

My Thoughts:
I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the increasingly insufferable Jack of Fables was totally absent from this volume of the series. This one is all about his son Jack Frost and his endeavors to become a hero. There are also occasional visits from Babe the Blue Ox and his remarkably hilarious fantasy life.

Jack Frost is determined to become a hero but he doesn’t think ahead very far before jumping in to help. His help has a tendency to be less than helpful. His sidekick Macduff the owl is a great character. He tries to rein Jack in but he’s not always successful.

This is the penultimate volume in the Jack of Fables spinoff from the main Fables series. They haven’t been nearly as good as the main series and I’m glad there’s only one more.

The artwork continues to vibrant and the story allows the artists to create some new and interesting settings. Some of it looks a little more science fiction that fantasy.

This one was actually OK but that was helped by the lack of Jack.

3 stars Rating 3/5

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Chew Vol. 4: Flambé by John Layman

Posted by on Apr 21, 2016 in 2016, 3 stars, Book Review, Comics, John Layman | 2 comments

Chew Vol. 4: Flambé by John Layman

Chew Vol. 4: Flambé by John Layman, with art by Rob Guillory

Genre: Mystery
Format: Trade Paperback Comics Collected Edition
Series: #4 in the Chew series
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 120
Source: Library

The Book:
This volume 4 is a compilation of issues 16-20 of the comic series.
From the back cover:

These are strange times for Tony Chu, the cibopathic federal agent with the ability to get psychic impressions from the things he eats. Strange writing in extraterrestrial script has appeared in the skies of Planet Earth – and stayed there People don’t know if the end days are upon them or not, but they don’t seem terribly concerned about the laws of the FDA, and what was once the most powerful law enforcement agency is rapidly descending into irrelevancy. So where does that leave the FDA best agent, Tony Chu?

My Thoughts:
This series is bizarre but and filled with seriously dark humor but in such a fun way. The gist of the initial plot is that in the aftermath of bird flu (or possibly a government conspiracy) poultry meat is banned and chicken is a hot black market item. Tony’s psychic ability is triggered by whatever he ingests or tastes. He definitely tastes some strange and downright gross stuff along the way.

The added complication in this volume is the appearance of fiery writing in the sky in an unintelligible language. This makes the regulation of poultry meat rather unimportant but Tony Chu and his partner still have plenty of crime to investigate.

Tony’s family members continue to play increasingly more important roles. His sister was a great addition to this volume. There are also more food related special powers introduced. One character is brilliant but only as long as he keeps eating.

The artwork by Rob Guillory is colorful and fun and manages to present some bizarre stuff in a way that isn’t completely gross.

I know it sounds a bit disgusting but I definitely encourage you to give this series a try.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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