Review: Ash and the Army of Darkness

Posted on August 31st, 2014 @ 12:20
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Ash and the Army of DarknessAsh and the Army of Darkness by Steve Niles

My rating:

Summary:

The battle has been fought and won. Ash battled and defeated the Deadite image of himself and saved the world. Now all he wants to do is get home and have a normal life. Too bad he messed up the Book of the Dead incantation. Will Ash ever escape the land of the Deadites? Will he ever find his girl? Will he ever remember the last part of the incantation? Now an army of unbelievable horrors rules the land and only Ash can annoy them!

Review:

(I received a copy of this book from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

This volume collects issues 1 to 8 of the comics, which pick up right after where the Army of Darkness movie left off—at least, if memory serves right. Ash is pulled back in 1300 to face more Deadites and a renewed threat, this time because the one he left the Book of the Dead with might not have been the best choice. (Not that anyone would have been a best choice: it seems the book has a will of its own.)

I found the book somewhat close to what I remember of the movies—Ash being both badass and somewhat stupid at times (the Faceless Man part is quite a good example of that, and I can say I wanted to facepalm just as much as the other character involved). However, I regularly felt that more could have happened, and that the plot didn’t move that fast, although the action scenes were drawn in a fairly dynamic way. The PDF copy I got had very clear lettering; on the other hand, some panels appeared a little bit blurry, and I don’t know if this is on purpose, or just a scanning problem due to this being an ARC. As for Ash, sometimes he really looked like the one from the movies, but not always; that was disconcerting.

An OK read for me, though a somewhat forgettable one. I’m not sure I’d pick the next volume.

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Review: Les Misérables (manga)

Posted on August 30th, 2014 @ 11:30
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Manga Classics: Les MiserablesManga Classics: Les Miserables by Stacy King

My rating:

Summary:

Adapted for stage and screen, loved by millions, Victor Hugo’s classic novel of love and tragedy during the French Revolution is reborn in this manga edition.

Review:

(I got an ARC of this manga through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

Though I’m a native speaker and have studied a lot of French classics during my high school and university days, I must admit, and not without shame, that I’ve never read Les Misérables—not the full version, that is. I only ever laid my hands on parts of it many, many years ago, mostly Cosette’s early life story, as well as Gavroche’s, and those were adapted for younger readers. In other words, I can’t pass judgement on this manga adaptation’s faithfulness regarding Victor Hugo’s original work. However, I can tell that it should at least make a lot of readers want to pick the actual book, and get to know the characters and the missing side stories better. It sure made me.

Because some side stories are missing, and the script writer’s bit at the end of the manga confirmed this. I do remember, for instance, that there was a part about Fantine’s lover/Cosette’s real father, and why they were separated. The same way, Gavroche’s story was shortened. There just weren’t enough pages available in manga format to properly put those in. Now, considering the original stories’ complexity, I still think the adaptation was well-done and interesting. The essential story lines remain, and all tie together as they should.

The drawings, too, seem to reflect the characters fairly well. Negative characters such as the Thénardiers are easily recognisable to their features. Cosette is cute, as she should be. Fantine’s drop from a beautiful woman to a destitute one is clearly shown as well. And the more ambiguous ones, such as Javert and Valjean himself, appear with serious features that allow the illustrator to depict their emotions, especially when they go through rethinking their purposes in life. Overall, the illustrations were really pleasant and fitting.

As an adaptation, it might seem a little light in places to someone who already knows the whole work. On the other hand, someone discovering it, or only knowing part of it, would likely be drawn (no pun intended) to pick Hugo’s books later on. It’s a pretty good thing in my opinion.

(Beware, though, of the ebook format—which is the one I got, as an ARC: the PDF reflects the order of the printed pages, which means you have to go to the end of the manga first, and then scroll your way back to the “beginning”. I’m used to doing this, so it didn’t matter much to me, but it can be surprising and annoying at first.)

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Review: Return to London

Posted on August 29th, 2014 @ 18:32
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Return to LondonReturn to London by Terence Jenkins

My rating:

Summary:

Full of entertaining bite-size chunks of London’s history, this book tells tales that will inspire you to explore a place you thought you knew.

In this historical handbook, author, journalist and London guide Terence Jenkins hopes that the tales of England’s capital city will inspire readers to explore this unique part of our country. It is a place rich in history and known for its extensive culture. Following the success of Another Man’s London, he gives us an idiosyncratic look in bite-sized chunks of London’s exciting history that are fascinating and easy to read.

Amongst other characters you will meet Bulbous Betty and the Black Prince who had a surprising effect on the course of London’s history. Discover why 100 shrouds were requested and what really happened to that polar bear in Piccadilly… Find out who was exiled in SE19, and what was all the fuss about a fig leaf?

The book was written to follow Jenkins’ trilogy of London books, Another Man’s London, London Lives and London Tales, and also as a return to the city following his explorative book Further Afield. Not just an entertaining read but also an educational pocket guide, Return to London covers some of the unique facts about London’s history that have largely remained unknown.

Review:

(I got an e-copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

3.5 stars. A fast and interesting read, with plenty of little details and usually unknown facts about quite a few places in London. As someone who’s visited this city a couple of times only, but likes learning about it, and is always looking for a “quirkier” kind of tourism than the basic monuments and museums, this is definitely going to be useful at some point. Another good thing here is the author’s tone, who clearly loves this city, as well, and it shows (in a positive way, that is).

The book might not hold as much appeal to a reader who’s never foot in London, though, because it rests on unspoken previous spoken knowledge of the various districts: some details can only be fully understood when you know a bit about this or that borough, how it came to be, and so on. I wouldn’t recommend it as a “London 101″ introduction book.

Also, I would’ve liked a few more pictures. There’s usually one per chapter, while said chapters deal with so many more places than just a couple. (Granted, I read it on the Kindle app on my small-screen Smartphone; not the smartest move ever—no pun intended.)

Pick this one if you’re planning a trip to London, want to discover more about its history, and are interested in seeing less travelled places there.

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Review: The Anatomy of Dreams

Posted on August 25th, 2014 @ 18:09
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The Anatomy of Dreams: A NovelThe Anatomy of Dreams: A Novel by Chloe Benjamin

My rating:

Summary:

It’s 1998, and Sylvie Patterson, a bookish student at a Northern California boarding school, falls in love with a spirited, elusive classmate named Gabe. Their headmaster, Dr. Adrian Keller, is a charismatic medical researcher who has staked his career on the therapeutic potential of lucid dreaming: By teaching his patients to become conscious during sleep, he helps them to relieve stress and heal from trauma. Over the next six years, Sylvie and Gabe become consumed by Keller’s work, following him from the redwood forests of Eureka, California, to the enchanting New England coast.

But when an opportunity brings the trio to the Midwest, Sylvie and Gabe stumble into a tangled relationship with their mysterious neighbors—and Sylvie begins to doubt the ethics of Keller’s research, recognizing the harm that can be wrought under the guise of progress. As she navigates the hazy, permeable boundaries between what is real and what isn’t, who can be trusted and who cannot, Sylvie also faces surprising developments in herself: an unexpected infatuation, growing paranoia, and a new sense of rebellion.

In stirring, elegant prose, Benjamin’s tale exposes the slippery nature of trust—and the immense power of our dreams.

Review:

(I got this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

2.5 stars because I liked the concepts in this book, but found the execution wanting.

The story bounces between a few time periods, allowing us to see what’s happening in two “levels of present” (the first one being Madison, where Sylvie and Gave meet Janna and Thom) and two “levels of past” (high school time, then the beginning of Sylvie’s involvement in Keller’s research). I’m mentioning this because it can be a potential deterrent to some readers. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a kind of narrative style I tend to enjoy, and since I had no problems following it and piecing things together, I’m putting it in my “I like it” category. There was just one part, though, towards the last third, where I felt that it wasn’t handled that well. Too bad.

My feelings when it comes to the characters remain lukewarm. The story’s entirely told from Sylvie’s point of view, but in the end, I’m not sure I got to “know” her. Same with Gabe and Keller, perhaps even worse. They all seemed to be here for the plot, and not as full-fledged people. Granted, their research consumed a lot of their life during the course of the novel, yet I think I would’ve felt Sylvie’s plight much more if I could have related to her as to a “real” person (no need for she and I to have anything in common: just more character development in general). There’s her painting, but what about Gabe’s occupations? Was there only work here? What about Janna, who was definitely in a good position to notice what was going on? There would have been more to tell about them all, and the lack of such information, in the end, diminished in my opinion the ethical questions surrounding Keller’s research, as well as the degree to which each of them was influenced by the experiments.

To be honest, I was probably waiting for something different, something more linked to the theme of lucid dreaming: Sylvie really not knowing what was real and what wasn’t, for instance, or other people displaying such characteristics. The blurb was in fact more exciting than the story itself, all the more because I’m always eager to read anything that has to do with dreams, nightmares, and blurred reality boundaries. The story showed one patient being submitted to the experiment, and spoke of another one whose actions might or might not have been a direct result of Keller’s study. There was a lot of potential here for dilemmas of various kinds; however, the characters often danced around the issues, only confronted them now and then, and I found this slightly frustrating.

On the plus side, the writing style itself was pleasant enough, beautiful while remaining believable for a first person point of view narrative.

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Review: Darkness

Posted on August 24th, 2014 @ 09:13
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DarknessDarkness by Erin Eveland

My rating: 

Summary:

One Girl. One Boy. And the Masters of Darkness. See the Shadow Creatures. They are everywhere. But you can’t run from the shadows or the Masters who control them.

Catherine has been born with a supernatural power called Darkness. The Masters of Darkness have found her and it’s just a matter of time before someone claims her.

An Interactive Novel
A QR Code starts the beginning of each chapter connecting the reader to specific art or music that ties into the mood and setting of the novel. Using the quick response code in print and eBook formatting, Darkness incorporates visual and sound to heighten the reading experience.

Review:

(I got this book from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

Try as I might, I couldn’t get into this novel, in spite of a theme that seemed appealing to me. Although I liked the idea of “interactive” parts (codes/links leading to songs, videos, pictures.. that had artistic value regarding the various chapters).

I think the main reasons to this are that:

1) I couldn’t connect with the characters at all. Perhaps because I’m not currently in the mood for Bleak Life Is Bleak worlds, where nothing the people do seem to be able to get them out of their misery? Catherine had a strong streak, but in spite of that, I found her extremely passive, basically waiting on a guy that wouldn’t look at her so often, just because they had been friends for a couple of years before that. This, in itself, was partly understandable (wanting to escape a horrible life with someone you love), except that he didn’t show any inclination to do so, she never tried to prod and see how he was feeling about it, and so it looked less like hope than unfounded infatuation.

2) The romance between Nathan and Catherine: no chemistry to speak of. Again, with more action and less wishful-thinking-in-my-little-corner on their part, it could have worked.

3) The whole Darkness/Light conflict and mythology was confusing. It made more sense when Jorgen explained it, but this comes rather late in the story. In the end, I’m still not sure if Catherine is Darkness or Light or a mix of both, nor what exactly Artros wanted of her.

4) The story lacked editing. A few typos here and there, I can live with. However, the story had a tendency to go into rambling, about the thoughts of this or that character, as if at some point, several versions of those thoughts had been written, then left all together because choosing one turned too hard to do. It slowed down the pace and caused me to start skimming after a while.

5) Nothing much happens before the 65-68% mark. The characters are unhappy, then unhappy again, then something makes them more unhappy… And I just can’t believe that after Kathy’s episode with the hospital, no social worker pulled Cathering out of there. I know the CPS don’t have the most brilliant reputation, but that was stretching it. (And why didn’t Catherine do anything on her own, anyway? It’s not like she was staying with her mother out of love and respect, her basic needs weren’t even met, and frankly, considering her place and living style, going to some orphanage for two years might not even have been the worst option here.)

On the good side, the idea of Darkness as a power, of controlling Shadow Creatures, was interesting. Just not used here in a way that would have made me like this story.

1.5 stars.

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