Book Review: Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis

Jessica Jones: Alias Volume 1 collects issues 1-9, this graphic novel tells two stories the first is issues one through five which would get this novel an easy five stars, because it’s written so well, but the second story is not as good and would rate three stars. Fuck is the first word in this book and really sets you up for an adult comic, we see the infamous scene that was in the Jessica Jones tv show on Netflix where she has super hero sex with Luke Cage. There’s is comically two scenes of toilet seat crime solving, which I’m a fan of, and would probably solve most of my cases there if I was in law enforcement. Marvel hero’s in this book are Captain America Steve Rogers, Captain Marvel Carol Danvers, Daredevil Matt Murdock, and Power man Luke Cage. This novel is mature in content, it was published in 2001 and was published under MAX that an offshoot of marvel for extremes, this was Marvel’s way of competing with DC comics popular Vertigo comics.

The Plot: Jessica Jones used to be a Super hero, with a cape and everything and was called Jewel, Now she’s a seedy private eye, investigating mainly cheating spouses. This all changes when a woman who is clearly wealthy walks in and wants Jessica to find her missing sister. Jessica finds the sister and her boyfriend one late night, but she see’s something else the girls boyfriend gets a call and has to leave, but he doesn’t go out the front door, he goes to the roof and changes in to Captain America. (this is not like the movies where Captain America does not where a mask and his identity is known to the world) Jessica smells a trap, she tires to call the number given by the sister and it is disconnected, she goes to the address that was given and it’s a baby clothing store. She goes back to alleged sisters apartment and see’s that it is surrounded by cop cars, and a body on a gurney due to strangulation. After burning a lot of bridges no one will help her. She goes back to work and the police are waiting on her with cuffs saying they received an anonymous phone call speaking of Jessica’s involvement. Will she be implicated in a murder she did not commit? will any of here old superhero friends save her? Will she find the person behind it before it’s to late?

What I Liked: The dialogue is really sharp and fast, it really captures the way people talk. There’s a scene with Jessica and Captain Marvel gossiping of super hero’s sex lives that’s amazing and very catty. The detective work s really good it’s explained really well. The police interrogation scene was done really well the panels perfectly show the nervous rapid paced flow. The superheroes are used just enough, the names dropped but don’t appear are really great and you will get rewarded for knowing them, especially in the catty sex lives scene. There’s really good twist in story lines. The art work keeping the noir shadowy feel works incredibly well setting up the seedy atmosphere.

What I Disliked: The second story about finding a semi famous sidekick that might be related to Jessica. There’s a really good twist involving a psychologist that I really loved and did not see coming, but that was all I loved in this tale. I did not like how Steve Rogers was drawn, everyone else was fine but it was just bad and Captain America deserves better than that.

Recommendations: If you like Marvel’s Jessica Jones Tv show then you’ll love this and see where they got the ideas for this and that scene, since there is three of Marvel’s Defenders in this volume. If you want to read about a strong female protagonist. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars and look forward to reading the 3 other volumes out.

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Book Review: Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

What an incredible concept that Lovecraft Country pulls off showing the horrors that an African American Family deal with as they deal with the Jim Crow South in 1945 and an added layer of supernatural elements. This novel will make you think just how hard it was to be a person of color at time. This novel does tie into the movie The Green Book directed by Peter Farrelly and starring Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini as it was the book The Negro Motorist Green Book was inspiration for the Safe Negro Travel Guide in the book. This novel blends Science Fiction and Horror most notably H. P. Lovecraft, but it twist the tales to fit the black audience. H. P. Lovecraft told great tales but they have tend to be racist and reactionary of the times, so it was cool to see this flipped.  This novel is being adapted for a series for HBO by Jordan Peele (Get Out) and JJ Abrams (Lost).

The Plot: This book is told as short stories that are all connected involving two black families (the Turner’s and Dandridge) and friends, as deal with magic, power, racism, and freedom. The main story is Atticus is found to have an ancestry of Braithwhite blood who are a powerful elitist cult of warlocks, with ties to the Klan. They want to perform a spell that requires a sacrifice of a Braithwhite, and they think Atticus is perfect for this. The kidnap his father and torment his friends and family. There’s story that involve space travel, potions that can turn people white, possessed African voodoo dolls, and Haunted houses.

What I Liked: This book is heavy in racism, but it is balanced in humor, how the Turners get out of a racist town, and a great moment when the reparations are paid back. The cover really captures the book having the Klan robes also double as tentacles. The Ruby story where she drinks a potion to turn white, and gets back at a white woman who accused her of stealing. The story of the Haunted house that’s full of a racist ghost, but come together when the home is threatened by other racist. The characters are all written pretty memorably it is a little hard keeping track of who is related to who, but I eventually caught on.

What I Disliked: It took a little to long for the short stories to all start connecting, I honestly thought for the longest time they were not going to connect, so I ended up breaking up this book between other books, which I wouldn’t recommend doing, because at the half way point everything starts connecting and I was like crap let me go back and reread to make sure I get everything and their connections. I would’ve liked for the ending to be a little bit more epic, it good but it had a really great potential to be extra special. It took me about 40 pages to get in to this one.

Recommendations: This book is my first 5 star of the new year, I will say it barely made it when I feel out a review I fill out the stars first, but going through all the things I liked and the difficult tone of this book that it did a really great job to pull off I gave it a rare 5 out of 5 stars. I think this is a great on to check out if you like historical fiction, supernatural, and science fiction, this is a great blend of all those mixed in with a dash of horror. I will say as horror element go the racism and tension of possible death by racist is scarier than any creature or horror in this book. Trigger Warning if racist language is a trigger for you, just be warned there’s scenes of it used and brutality that comes with it but a lot of little pay off through out. happy reading, every one, would love to hear others opinions on this book since it was like a best of both worlds mix of horror science fiction and history.

Book Review: Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

Guilty Pleasures is the first book in the Anita Blake Series, that now spans 26 books. This book is a reread for me. I read it over a decade ago when I had just started reading. I raised my review from 3 stars to 4. I really deserves it terms of originality at the time, this is one of the first that can truly be classified as Paranormal Romance, there’s not any real romance in this book, lots of longing and a couple of dreams, but there is way more action than romance. The action is sometimes non stop the hero actually gets hurt and has battle scars.

The Plot: Anita Blake is an animator, who reanimates corpses for profit. Vampires have recently came out, there is still a debate if they’re alive or dead. Anita is also a Vampire Hunter, the hunts have to be sanctioned by the government but you still can kill in self defense. Anita helps that new police force to protect against vampire crimes, but is not one of them. Her feeling on Vampires is not good, she doesn’t hate them but has never met one she didn’t want to see dead. She is shocked when the Master of St. Louis wants her to investigate a couple of vampire murders. She refuses having already having a lot on her plate in animations and a bachelorette party to help out with and her general dislike of the vampire species. Anita is tricked by members of the bachelorette party, into going to a club called Guilty Pleasures, which is a vampire strip joint, I do not know if it only caters to women, but that’s all the book focused on, at the club the Bachelorette is bitten when Anita is away. Anita finds out this was all just a sent up, if she helps out solving the murders her friend will be left alone and not made a vampire slave. Anita begrudgingly agrees to take on the case, but it could cost her life and her soul as she is forced to feed of a vampire for survival, and has unintended consequences.

What I Liked: The head games in this book are the best. The world created is really fascinating and well thought out. The character’s are really memorable, even side character’s, which there are a lot so Hamilton did a fantastic describing them physically and adding personality when she can, I just read a book that did not do it well, so I’m probably appreciating it more than I should. The villain was terrifying and posed a real threat.

What I Disliked: The Mystery in the end was really not important at all, it was kind of a foot note, that the master kind of kept forgetting to ask about. I’m like sure some vampires want to kill her but you asked her to do a job let her solve it, then kill her. I was underwhelmed by who did the vampire killings and why he wasn’t a bigger threat.  I did think it was way to soon to have every type of  were person already exist, wererats were featured but wereleopards, werewovles, and weretigers were already discussed.

Recommendations: I liked it better the second time, and was way more appreciative of the world created. If you like Anne Rice and the Vampire Chronicles this is a much faster action packed version but still has the longing nailed. I didn’t like the Dead until Dark series but if you did I think this is better in my opinion. I rated this on a second reading 4 out of 5 stars. I do plan to continue reading the series.

Book Review: The Unwritten, Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Unwritten Volume 1 was a reread for me, back when I was buying comics and Graphic Novels, and this one did not appeal enough to me to continue but now that my library has the whole series and friends have recommended it I decide to give it another try. It has been 8 years since I read it, and I’ve grown a lot as a reader and a reviewer, so my initial star review has changed from 2 stars to 3 stars out of five. The premise is still really interesting, and I’m curious for now to se where it goes but pacing is this books problem.

The Plot: Tom Taylor father has written a Harry Potter like successful series of novels expanded over 13 books, the hero is named after his son Tommy Taylor. Before Tom’s dad could complete the next chapter he vanished when Tom was a teenager. The father and son relationship was not a happy one but he did give Tom an encyclopedia of knowledge about real locations that were used in famous literary works across the globe. Tom now makes a living going to conventions as the inspiration for the Tommy Taylor books and has sort of became the brand ambassador. The book gets interesting as a women comes to a convention and has all this evidence that his life is a lie, and maybe he was kidnapped but some believe that he is the real Tommy Taylor form the books. One crazed fan believes he’s the villain in the story and his duty to kill Tommy Taylor. Tom starts finding all these clues about his dad’s disappearance and making him believe that his dad and other writers could make there stories come to life.

What I Liked: The plot and subplot is amazing, it is such a good intriguing story. I liked the use of websites and web messages, for telling us how the world is taking in these events that are happening. The scenes that take place in the fictional Tommy Taylor Book series are done really well in terms of font and artwork that is different from the rest of the book. I like the history of novelist and there works that were used in the the story, that’s what really makes me want to keep reading this series. The villain of book is unhinged and it’s fun to watch and read.

What I Disliked: The execution of this series just grinds to a halt. the last issue in this 5 issue graphic novel is all about the past to be specific Rudyard Kipling’s , and it should not have been a whole issue, it could have easily been condensed or at least stretched out over multiple issues. it’s actually interesting but it kills the flow of the book.

Recommendations: This series has such potential, I hope it lives up to it right now I’m hesitant to recommend it, I would not recommend buying this book, but browse it in your bookstore see if it catches you interest after the first issue, and if you’re like be check it out from the library. I rated this book 3 out of 5 stars I’m going to read the next volume, hopefully I’m blown away. Happy reading!

Book Review: Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

Escaping from Houdini is the Third Stalking Jack the Ripper book that follows the adventures of Audrey Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell as the investigate corpses and always find trouble in the late 1800’s. The opening was without a doubt the best one of the series it quickly pulled me in, and moved really for the first half, then it started to slow down and run out of good suspects for the mystery. I stopped caring about the victims who stopped being memorable after the first couple. I wanted to like this one more than I did.

The Plot: After the events in Stalking Prince Dracula, Audrey and Thomas are headed on a journey to America from England. Audrey’s Uncle and mentor in autopsies joins her on this journey. They set sail on a 7 day voyage on the RMS Etruria, a luxury cruiser of the time, this trip is different because of the new dinner entertainment the Moonlight Carnival, Which is a dozen or so acts featuring a young Houdini, the act promises, mayhem, madness, and possibly death, and that’s what the show delivers, a murder takes places right in front of the audience at Audrey and Thomas’s table. This murder leads to other’s and the ship pointing fingers at the mysterious performers. Audrey and Thomas are put to the test to find the killer or killers.

What I Liked: The opening is done so well, easily my favorite part. Character’s from the first book are back in this one, they were deeply missed. The love story aspect still works I liked them a lot more when Audrey and Thomas were in sync. The bits that Houdini were in worked well, but few and far between. I did like that they have one murder that can’t be explained which will fit into the next book but worked really well.

What I Disliked: The pacing was good for the first half then lost me, as character’s keep going back and forth to the same location. The explanation for the killings was good but the build up to it pretty bad and didn’t care towards the end. I needed to care about the victims but half of them I could barely remember them interacting with Audrey, which made they’re death not that impactful.

Recommendations: I think this is the weakest of the trilogy so far, I would rate this book 3 out of 5 stars while I rated the other books 4 out of 5. I would give the series 4 out of 5 stars so far the last book in the series Capturing the Devil was just announced for September and I plan on reading it, to complete the series.

 

Book Review: Elevation by Stephen King

Elevation is a quick quirky read, not horror but definitely Science Fiction. This by any other writer would simply be a throw away story, but in King’s hands he brings life to the characters and the setting of Castle Rock. There’s a fun quick reference to IT in this story, and George Bannerman and the road he is named after as he was sadly killed by Cujo. This story is such a quick read at 146 pages, but a fun one I can see myself picking this up a couple years from now to experience it again.  This book also starts me back on my quest to review Stephen King books, I had read a King a month from June to October then stopped because of work, but now I’m back with my King of the month reviews

The Plot: Scott Carey is losing weight at an alarming rate but, there’s a catch he looks the same as he always did slightly overweight. His frame reads 275 but when he steps on the scales he weighs 230 and has steadily been dropping a pound a day. Another element that’s odd is his weight doesn’t change no matter if he holds a twenty pound weight in his hands. He confides in a retired doctor Bob Ellis to show him. Scott doesn’t know how it happened but doesn’t want his life to be studied. He sets a date on a calendar that’s some months away where his weight will be zero if it keeps progressing. Scott’s not really scared but he has more energy and his spirt has been elevated. And he wants to with his time left elevate others, he takes a special interest in his married lesbian neighbors that the town has it out for. He wants to elevate the town to a higher standard. There’s a lot more, that’s packed in this tiny story.

What I Liked: How easy it was to fall in love with the characters they are not fleshed out all but I some how drawn to them immediately . The pace in this story is amazing. The ending was pretty perfect. I like the them of Elevation in the minds, in the feeling and physically being elevated. The race is just great writing, so easy to picture, and I was constantly snickering as Scott passed the teenagers twice.

What I Disliked: It was preachy a bit one sided doesn’t directly preach down to the audience, but that was it, it’s 146 pages and I don’t think any of them were wasted or where they could be added to. I’ve read other reviews where they thought it was cliched and stereo typical, I live in the Bible belt. I’ve seen a fair share of stereotypes I thought were dated and out of touch be living a breathing but saying that I’ve seen some people that would fit in a stereotype break that standard, when I moved here from California. I feel the purpose of this novel is to elevate people to higher standards, and in this fictional world of Castle Rock he does that.

Recommendation: This is a can’t miss if you’re a Stephen King Fan, If you like feel good stories with humor, I felt like this is a Man Called Ove with Science Fiction added. I rated this story 5 out of 5 stars do your self a favor and read this short novel my one of the master story tellers of our time.

Book Review: In the Woods by Tana French

In the Woods has been in my TBR for so so long it was great to finally read it. This is the First in the Dublin Murder Squad Series. The story is is very engrossing and so detailed. The mysteries are pretty engaging and have deeply psychological effects on the characters. The book is kind of a downer but a very satisfying one. This book did win an Edgar Award which when you get to the ending it makes since. I was blown away in terms of writing at the interrogation scenes, there’s a lot and they are all really rifting.

The Plot: In the Year of 1984 three local kids went in the Woods of a small town in Dublin, and only one was ever seen again. The boy Adam Ryan was found viciously gripping a tree and his shoes were filled with blood and he was unable to remember a single thing. Twenty years later that boy now a man has changed his name to Rob Ryan, and became a detective for the Dublin Murder Squad. The only person who knows who he is, is his partner Cassie. They catch a case in that same small town from 20 years ago. A murder of a child in the woods, but found by the child is a piece of clothing that one of the missing kids wore the day they disappeared, can these cases be linked Can Rob hold it together, and still investigate as he starts to remember that fateful day and the days leading up to it.

What I Liked: The interrogation scenes are so fantastic, they play so heavily on psychology. I really like that we have the words spoken then we have Detective Ryan’s inner-monologue telling the reader what’s bullshit and what’s not. The mysteries are pretty compelling you really want Ryan to remember and you want the death of the little girl solved. The ending is one I will remember for a while it is depressing, but the psychology of it is so good, it’s a chess match that keeps going back and forth until it has a winner, you might not agree with who won but it was a fun ride.

What I Disliked: The book was a little hard to get into, it’s sometimes to procedural and over explained. I compare it The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo where it’s good and psychological but there where be a tangent where every item in Lizbeth Sadler’s room is explained, I felt the exact same thing here, if 50 or so pages were trimmed it would be the perfect book. I haven’t read too many international novels maybe it’s a thing they do and I have to get used to it. I was a little let down by lack of solve in one of the mysteries I know there’s sequels maybe it’s explored later but as an invested reader I wanted more.

Recommendations: I you love Psychological Thrillers this is the book for you, it’s like a course in psychology. It’s a little slow but in the end really memorable scenes. If you like international Thrillers like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo then you will like this one as well. I rated it 4 out of 5 stars. I plan to continue reading her Dublin Murder Squad series, the characters are deeply flawed but written really well.