Review: From Holmes to Sherlock

Posted on August 9th, 2017 @ 18:52
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From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an IconFrom Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias Boström

My rating:

Blurb:

Everyone knows Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created a unique literary character who has remained popular for over a century and is appreciated more than ever today. But what made this fictional character, dreamed up by a small-town English doctor in the 1880s, into such a lasting success, despite the author’s own attempt to escape his invention?

In From Holmes to Sherlock, Swedish author and Sherlock Holmes expert Mattias Boström recreates the full story behind the legend for the first time. From a young Arthur Conan Doyle sitting in a Scottish lecture hall taking notes on his medical professor’s powers of observation to the pair of modern-day fans who brainstormed the idea behind the TV sensation Sherlock, from the publishing world’s first literary agent to the Georgian princess who showed up at the Conan Doyle estate and altered a legacy, the narrative follows the men and women who have created and perpetuated the myth. It includes tales of unexpected fortune, accidental romance, and inheritances gone awry, and tells of the actors, writers, readers, and other players who have transformed Sherlock Holmes from the gentleman amateur of the Victorian era to the odd genius of today. Told in fast-paced, novelistic prose, From Holmes to Sherlock is a singular celebration of the most famous detective in the world—a must-read for newcomers and experts alike.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, more than I thought it would be—the matter of course I was definitely interested in, but the way the author gathered and presented his material gave the whole book a ‘storytelling’ side that kept me wanting to read, and read, and read. Much like Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. A biography-slash-history book that is in itself a big story.

I won’t deny that some chapters towards the middle (the period between Conan Doyle’s death and the modern adaptations after the 1970s-80s) weren’t the most interesting for me, but even those didn’t detract from the book as a whole. It takes us through the genesis of the original Holmes & Watson stories, how they came to be, how their author perceived them, the conundrum of seeing them more successful than his ‘most serious’ works and of wanting to kill Holmes… How they gradually escaped his and his family’s grasp, in spite of efforts to keep a hand on them, because what Doyle gave birth to was bigger than him, bigger than just a handful of people, and wanted out, plain and simple.

I’ve read all the original stories (will read them again), yet I admit I’m lagging behind when it comes to movies. Well, now I know exactly what to catch up on, what to look for, and what kind of tone these adaptations’ would be—the movies with Basil Rathbone won’t be the same than the BBC Sherlock series, nor is their Holmes the one from the 1980s series with Jeremy Brett. I’d need half a lifetime to catch up on all this (and I’d want to catch up several times, for sure), but now at least I have a clearer view of ‘the bigger picture’.

Arthur Conan Doyle gave life to Holmes and took it away, but the Great Detective just won’t stay dead, will he? It’s all the readers and actors and directors and other authors that gave him a much, much longer life than expected.

Conclusion: Highly recommended!

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Review: Nothing

Posted on August 6th, 2017 @ 20:19
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NothingNothing by Annie Barrows

My rating:

Blurb:

Nothing ever happens to Charlotte and Frankie. Their lives are nothing like the lives of the girls they read about in their YA novels. They don’t have flowing red hair and hot romantic encounters never happen—let alone meeting a true soul mate. They just go to high school and live at home with their parents, who are pretty normal, all things considered. But when Charlotte decides to write down everything that happens during their sophomore year to prove that nothing happens and there is no plot or character development in real life, she’s surprised to find that being fifteen isn’t as boring as she thought. It’s weird, heartbreaking, silly, and complicated. And maybe, just perfect.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss.]

Well, this book captures ‘nothing’, which is both good (the character Charlotte intends to show nothing exciting happens in her life, and she does that well), and not so good, because in the end, it made for a fairly plotless novel that read like a journal, quite slice-of-life, and it wasn’t exactly exciting. So I’m on the fence here, in that I get the intention, but don’t really enjoy it?

The author nailed the ‘teenager narrator voice’—also both a good and a bad thing: good for characterisation, bad for… hm, let’s say that 20 years later, it’s not particularly interesting (yep, I wasn’t interesting myself in my teens, hah). The intended audience being YA, possibly the latter won’t be too much of a problem, as younger readers may relate to Charlotte’s views on life… or maybe not? I tended to like Frankie more, in any case, because at least she sometimes -does- things, and tries to initiate change.

The awkwardness of relationships is also well-portrayed, for instance Charlotte’s relationship with Sid, how they met through internet and kept texting each other, and Charlotte likes him but is convinced they’ll never met and it’s doomed to fail anyway, and so on.

Of course, the book shows that the ‘nothing’ Charlotte complains about isn’t such a truth; little things happen, opportunities arise, the girls are just so convinced their lives are boring that they don’t notice those things are being important, through the way they add up. But that’s also something I wasn’t really at ease with.

First, the girls are quite similar, and it was difficult at times to know if a chapter was about Frankie or Charlotte (at some point I just went with 3rd person = Frankie, 1st person = Charlotte); they’re not helped in that by their common background, there isn’t much diversity in here, nor in the friends they mention, most often in passing.

Second, there’s a subplot that Charlotte sort of… brushes over as if it was trivial, and I’m sorry, no, I don’t think anyone would go through such an event and then just leave for home and not realise even for five minutes that what they did was awesome and, yes, important. That’s the part where Charlotte prevents a school friend from getting raped by a boy who clearly saw she was drunk and didn’t know what she was doing anymore. Way to trivialise attempted rape, and way to show how selfish and shitty a person can be, I mean, hello Charlotte who won’t stay with her because, oh my God, then she has to tell her parents she was at a party and her parents will think she was drinking too and she’ll be grounded… Yeah. I get it, ‘nothing’ happens in your privileged little life. And let’s not mention the ‘wai things would be more interesting if we were gay’. Nope, no love from me, girl. Can we stop using LGBT relationships as plot devices, and use such characters as, you know, people with personalities?

Conclusion: At least it was a quick read, and points for writing teenager characters fairly well, but I can’t say I enjoyed reading Charlotte’s parts.

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Review: Bizenghast Collectors Edition 1

Posted on August 4th, 2017 @ 20:37
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Bizenghast Collectors Edition V.1Bizenghast Collectors Edition V.1 by M. Alice LeGrow

My rating:

Blurb:

When a young girl moves to the forgotten town of Bizenghast, she uncovers a terrifying collection of lost souls that leads her to the brink of insanity. One thing that becomes painfully clear: The residences of Bizenghast are just dying to come home. Marty Legrow has crafted an unforgettable Gothic drama that will leave readers haunted long after the last page is turned.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I’ve had this comic book on my shelf to read and review for quite some time, I just didn’t get to it until now. (I’ve known about it for quite, quite some time, back when the author posted on deviantART, and when I saw it on NetGalley, well, it reminded me that at some point, many years ago, I used to check on the related art from time to time.) It gathers the first chapters of the Bizenghast series, and I’d say it’s more an introduction for now, but still giving the reader to see enough.

A strange girl who isn’t getting over her parents’ death and whose health seems to suffer in consequence; a boy who seems to be her only friend, in the small remote town where she lives with her aunt who doesn’t know what to do with her; and a contract signed in a mysterious castle with a strange arachnoid-slash-humanoid being, with the goal of freeing spirits who couldn’t find solace in death, following a trail of riddles. I am not sure yet where this is leading, but in themselves, the first ‘tasks’ involved sufficiently creepy elements to keep me hooked.

The art is sometimes confusing and inconsistent, though, potentially because it’s a work that started years ago, and one can see the author’s style changed over the years. Still, it’s worth a read.

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Review: Cold Hearted

Posted on August 4th, 2017 @ 20:05
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Cold Hearted (Yancy Lazarus #2)Cold Hearted by James A. Hunter

My rating:

Blurb:

Yancy Lazarus just wants to be left alone. He wants to play his blues music, smoke a few cigarettes, and otherwise leave the supernatural world to fend for itself.

He especially wants to be left alone by the Guild of the Staff—the mage ruling body—where he used to work as a Fix-It man. But when a little kid gets nabbed by an ancient Fae creature from the nether regions of Winter and the Guild refuses to set things right, he just can’t seem to heed good sense and leave things be.

Nothing’s ever easy though. Turns out, the kidnapping is just the tip of one big ol’ iceberg of pain and trouble. It seems some nefarious force is working behind the scenes to try and unhinge the tenuous balance between the supernatural nations and usher in a new world order. So now, if Yancy ever hopes to see the bottom of another beer bottle, he’s gonna have to partner up with an FBI agent—an agent who’s been hunting him for years—in order to bring down a nigh-immortal, douchebag mage from a different era. And to top it off, Yancy’s gonna have to pull it off without his magical powers … Boy, some days just aren’t worth getting out of bed for.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I do believe I liked this second instalment in the series more than the first one (usually, it’s the contrary).

Still packed with action, a little less noir and but with perhaps a bit more grit towards the middle , and also more female presence this time (not the Damsel In Distress kind either—she’s the one saving his ass more than the contrary… and at the same time, she’s also the way through which he can realise he may be a better person than he thinks). A dash of potential romance, but it’s light, and follows the no-nonsense I’m getting used to from Yancy, and from the other party as well: they both know they live in a world that isn’t what it seems, that is more often than not hectic and unforgiving, and so they’re going with a carpe diem attitude rather than the usual sappy ‘true love forever’.

The plot felt a little tighter than in the first book, although I could’ve done with a few less flashbacks (we already know about Yancy’s past family and time in ‘Nam from book one, so having him think about it -and- tell another character about it was redundant). Here there are more hints of a meta-plot that I think is going part of the next books in the series for now, considering a certain name dropped during a conversation, and which is bound to resurface. So far I like the world the characters evolve in; the author keeps going with other supernatural creatures than the usual vampires, werewolves and ghosts—there is a sort of werewolf, but only in appearance, and that creature’s nature is actually really cool in my opinion. The Guild of mages is prooobably full to the brim with corrupt people, and I bet it’s going to end in Yancy and a couple of good guys having to save the world or something (if the ones appearing good aren’t the most corrupt of the bunch!), which would be predictable, but also fitting in that kind of universe. I’m not sure I’d like to see it otherwise anyway.

While the main antagonist was more of the pitiful kind, all things considered, he was a good reminder than sometimes one doesn’t need to be truly evil at hear to do evil… and thus, anyone in a moment of weakness may end up turning to means they shouldn’t envision. Yancy included (good thing he plans for failsafes).

Conclusion: It still reads in some places as if it could do with another editor’s pass, but all in all the story and the characters were entertaining (in a good way, that is).

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Review: The Comic Book Story of Video Games

Posted on July 30th, 2017 @ 21:05
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The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming RevolutionThe Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution by Jonathan Hennessey

My rating:

Blurb:

A complete, illustrated history of video games–highlighting the machines, games, and people who have made gaming a worldwide, billion dollar industry/artform–told in a graphic novel format.
Author Jonathan Hennessey and illustrator Jack McGowan present the first full-color, chronological origin story for this hugely successful, omnipresent artform and business. Hennessey provides readers with everything they need to know about video games–from their early beginnings during World War II to the emergence of arcade games in the 1970s to the rise of Nintendo to today’s app-based games like Angry Birds and Pokemon Go. Hennessey and McGowan also analyze the evolution of gaming as an artform and its impact on society. Each chapter features spotlights on major players in the development of games and gaming that contains everything that gamers and non-gamers alike need to understand and appreciate this incredible phenomenon.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

Fairly interesting, although to be honest, in spite of the early chapters being educative in their own ways, I would’ve preferred to see the focus more on the actual video games (and industry) themselves, rather than also on the electricity/industrial revolution parts. The art style, too, was not always consistent, and sometimes too stiff.

On the other hand, I appreciated the inclusion of actual video games characters in panels, as watchers or part of the ‘narrative’; just trying to remember or find out who they were, was in itself another, different dive into history. (Well, maybe it wouldn’t work that well on someone who knows less about such games, but for me, it worked.)

I also liked how the book included some of the backstage workings behind the whole video games industry; they were plenty of things I didn’t know, for instance Sony and its Playstation, I had no idea there had been a deal in the plans with Nintendo for CD games, and that it completely fell through. (I’m not feeling younger, though. Being reminded that this PSX I got in 1998—and I made it a point to get a US model, too, since the European one didn’t run the games I wanted—was even a few years older than that… well…)

Conclusion: An informative and colourful read. I do wish it had spent just a little less time on the really early years, where ‘games’ per se weren’t so much concerned (to be fair, I already know a lot about computer history in general).

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