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review 2018-04-08 05:49
Red Sonja by Amy Chu
Red Sonja Vol. 4 #0 - Amy Chu,Carlos Gomez

The barbarian She-Devil with a Sword faces a whole different world and challenges in this new adventure written by Amy Chu and drawn by Carlos Gomez. Somewhere deep underground, strange and powerful demons clad in metal armor attack and roust Red Sonja from a deep magical sleep. Confused and weaponless, she must find a way to defeat these mysterious creatures, escape from her solitary prison, and make her way to the surface to discover where she is, and why she was put there...

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illustrations by Carlos Gomez

Coloring by Mohan

Cover Art by Nick Bradshaw

 

 

Once again, I'm sampling another version of the Red Sonja story. In this one, author Amy Chu places our heroine in more modern times, facing a world full of technology she struggles to understand. 

 

Can't say I enjoyed this one quite as much as Michael Oeming's work. All the classic traits of the character are still honored here, but in Chu's version it feels like overkill. Nearly every panel here seems to put the perspective emphasis on Sonja's lady bits more than the storyline at hand. I'm not necessarily bothered by Sonja being scantily clad, but do we need SO many panels of her derriere photobombing the scenes? I do like to have SOME villain backstory.

 

Coming off of Oeming's lush version, the artwork in this sampling also struck me as more cartoonish in style, the dialogue a bit more cringe inducing. I appreciate wanting to have humor worked into the character, but here it veered a little too far into cheeze-fest for me, sometimes bringing to mind old TMNT (the original one) episodes.. only not as good with the laugh-facepalm blend. As a whole, the story here had its fun elements... I just find myself not really in a rush to continue with this line in Sonja's story. 

 

The kindle edition features "exclusive digital content", which pretty much amounts to a collection of un-colored versions of some of the panels you see earlier in the book, as well as a few examples of illustrator Carlos Gomez's sketches laying out ideas for the Sonja character -- costume details, different versions of facial characteristics, that kind of thing. 

 

 

 

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review 2018-04-08 05:14
Red Sonja: She-Devil With a Sword #0 (Graphic Novel) By Michael Oeming & Mike Carey
Red Sonja: She-Devil With a Sword #0 - Michael Oeming,Mike Carey,Mel Rubi,Caesar Rodriguez,Richard Isanove

 

 

Writers: Michael Oeming & Mike Carey
Art: Mel Rubi
Coloring: Caesar Rodriguez & Richard Isanove
Cover Art: Greg Land; Inking: Matt Ryan, Cover Coloring: Jason Keith

 

 

This is a 17 page prequel to Oeming's rendition (a 50 issue series) of the epic Red Sonja tale. This first offering is told from the POV of Jessa, a bartender who tries to get Red Sonja drunk so she can steal Sonja's blade. Fighting and hell-fury ensues.

 

I've enjoyed the Red Sonja story in its various forms since my childhood. Being a (natural) redhead myself, it was cool to have such a strong, bold fellow red to look up to! Hardcore feminists in this modern age might not love Sonja as she is typically portrayed, with overflowing lady bits and ridiculously useless chainmail bikini... as a woman, let me say, either take this for what it is and have fun with it or don't read it. I find the chain bikini hilarious the same way I laugh my way through the old movie adaptation that was done back in the 80s (I think.. maybe the 70s), where Bridgette Nielsen had to wear equally ridiculous outfits. I love it all. It's campy at times, laughably stupid in some scenes, but there are also moments where you can't help but cheer for Sonja's undeniable fierceness.

 

Oeming's version here offers gorgeous color work as well as prose that just oozes that legend feel. The reader, even if only briefly, gets the chance to escape into something with a true sense of epic-ness and just downright FUN. I thought this was a blast to read and look forward to trying out the rest in the series.

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review 2017-09-19 09:42
Portrait of Vengeance (Gwen Marcey #4) by Carrie Stuart Parks
Portrait of Vengeance (A Gwen Marcey Novel) - Carrie Stuart Parks

Gwen Marcey has done a good job keeping the pain of her past boxed up. But as she investigates the case of a missing child in Lapwai, Idaho, details keep surfacing that are eerily similar to her childhood traumas. She doesn’t believe in coincidences. So what’s going on here? No one knows more about the impact of the past than the Nez Perce people of Lapwai. Gwen finds herself an unwelcome visitor to some, making her investigation even more difficult. The questions keep piling up, but answers are slow in coming—and the clock is ticking for a missing little girl. Meanwhile, Gwen’s ex-husband is threatening to take sole custody of their daughter. As Gwen’s past and present collide, she’s in a desperate race for the truth. Because only truth will ensure she still has a future.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Let me start off by saying that if you haven't read any of the previous Gwen Marcey stories, I'd recommend checking out the earlier books with this particular series. While the cases themselves could technically make for stand-alone works, there are characters and certain details of Gwen's life that are carried through all the books. 

 

In this fourth installment in the series, forensic artist Gwen Marcey is investigating the murders of a married couple within the Nez Perce tribe (Lapwai community) as well as the whereabouts of the victims' missing (presumed kidnapped) young daughter. Some of the particulars of the case, as far as clues at the scene and specifics regarding the profiling of the killer, appear to echo traumatic events from Gwen's own childhood. As the case / plot progresses, Gwen becomes more and more convinced that finding the answers within this present case will, in turn, answer questions about her own traumas that have plagued her for years.

 

The journey to the truth proves to be a solidly uphill battle, as Gwen finds that many of the key witnesses she is relying on for information have deep-seated prejudices against Caucasian people. In what's now become a signature mixture within this series as a whole, author Carrie Stuart Parks creates her characters and environments by bringing forth a compelling blend of historical fact, details / inspiration from actual true crime cases, and occasionally details from cases Parks herself worked during her own years as a forensic artist. While working within the Nez Perce tribal lands, our protagonist Gwen gets a crash course in the history of such traumatic events as Wounded Knee / Pine Ridge, as well as the development of AIM (the American Indian Movement). It takes little time for Gwen to see that she will need to tread lightly when working with the descendants of people involved in these painful moments within Native history. Though the years have passed, the hurt has hardly diminished. 

 

Having followed this series from the beginning, I couldn't help but laugh and shake my head to find 8 pages into this latest book that Gwen is STILL having fights & custody battles with her ex-husband. I couldn't help but think "it's been four books now, that kid can't have too much high school left for this argument to be relevant much longer.." I feel for Gwen there. On the happier side though, I'm loving that the stories within this series seem to be quietly steering toward a "Gwen & Beth Investigate" kind of trend. Beth has a bigger role in this book than in some of the previous ones. She's such a hoot, I love to see her getting more of the spotlight! Keep your dictionary nearby though. Beth loves her some "word of the day" usage and Parks works in some words that definitely had me feel like I was back in SAT prep days! 

 

The true star for me though has to be Winston, Gwen's Great Pyrenees dog. While Parks always gave him quite the humorously entertaining dog personality, he, like Beth, was more in the background in much of the previous books. In Portrait of Vengeance however, Winston gets solid book "screen" time, scenes that will make dog lovers cheer at the protectiveness of pups over their humans. Go ahead, hug your own pooch after this one. :-)

 

So far, the very first book in the series, A Cry In The Dust, still proves to be my very favorite. But this one is now in a close second. This book proved to be slightly more gruesome in parts than its predecessors -- in one scene, Gwen likens a crime scene to a Jackson Pollack painting. Yeaaah, I'll just let you art fans visualize that one. But if you're not scared off by a little edge, Parks yet again gives the reader one fun ride full of twists and turns that have you wondering who in this story is to be trusted! 

 

It was neat to read in Parks' acknowledgements that she wrote this story (at least in part) while participating in a writing retreat at author Colleen Coble's home. She further notes author Frank Peretti as a mentor in the process of developing this series as well. For fellow fans of Gwen's investigations: when asked whether a 5th book was in the works, Parks answered (via Goodreads):

 

"As of now, book 5 will be a stand-alone about an artist (caught up in a case) in Kodiak Island, Alaska. My publisher wanted me to take a break from Gwen. You'll be meeting Murphy."

 

 

I, for one, am looking forward to meeting this Murphy fella! 

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: BookLookBloggers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book with a request that I might check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

 

------------------------

ICYMI -- My reviews for the previous books in the series:

 

#1 A Cry In The Dust

#2 The Bones Will Speak

#3 When Death Draws Near

 

* Gwen Marcey also makes a cross-over appearance in Colleen Coble's Mermaid Moon AND Twilight At Blueberry Barrens

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review 2017-01-18 19:51
Twilight at Blueberry Barrens (Sunset Cove #3) by Colleen Coble
Twilight at Blueberry Barrens (A Sunset Cove Novel) - Colleen Coble

Kate Mason has devoted herself to caring for her family’s blueberry barrens. But after her fields stop producing fruit, she’s forced to come up with alternative ways to make a living.

Renting out the small cottage on her property seems an obvious choice, but it won’t be enough. When entrepreneur Drake Newham shows up looking not only for a place to rent but also for a nanny for his two nieces, it’s almost too good to be true. And maybe it is—because Drake brings with him dangerous questions about who might be out to kill his family. The more time Kate spends with Drake and the girls, the more difficult it becomes to hide her attraction to him. But a family crisis isn’t exactly the ideal time to pursue a romance. Meanwhile, Kate learns that her uncle—in prison for murder—has escaped. Add to that a local stalker who won’t leave her alone, and Kate is looking over her shoulder at every turn. With threats swirling from multiple directions, she wonders if her blueberry fields will ever flourish again . . . or if this twilight is her last. Set on the beautiful coast of Maine, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens brings together suspense, romance, and the hope that one day new life will come again.

Amazon.com

 

 

For years now, Kate Mason has grown accustomed to running her family's blueberry farm in Maine but recently the farm just hasn't been producing a profitable amount of fruit. As finances become increasingly tight, Kate is forced to look to other means of income. She gets the idea to renovate a small cottage on her family's property and make it available for summer rentals. During this renovation process, in walks Drake Newham. Drake, with his two nieces in tow, is a visitor to Sunset Cove, looking for a place to stay for awhile. What he doesn't reveal is that he fears there's someone trying to hunt him down, set on hurting him and / or his nieces, so the casual "place to stay" inquiry is really a desperate need for a spot to lay low until he figures out what's going on. 

 

Needing someone to look after his nieces while he investigates, Drake also asks about available nannies. Kate, seeing a potential (much needed) double dose of income, volunteers herself for the job. Over the course of the story, Drake and Kate have a lot of page time together so they reveal quite a bit about their respective backstories. Drake explains that he is the legal guardian of the girls now, as his brother and sister-in-law are dead, a suspected murder-suicide. With the constant sense of being hunted down himself, Drake has his doubts about that. Kate meanwhile has been in recovery from chemo treatments after a diagnosis of aplastic anemia. To make matters even more stressful, her convicted murder uncle has escaped from prison, there's a Peeping Tom / possible stalker of Kate's roaming the island creeping everyone out, and bodies are washing up on the beach just a little too regularly for Kate and her sister Claire, who have already been put through the ringer throughout the course of this series. 

 

I struggle with this series. I am drawn to the setting --- who doesn't love a good mystery set along a New England coastline, right? And the plot ideas are not bad, they definitely stir my curiosity each time, but each time so far whenever I dig into the story, there's something that always seems to land just off the mark for me. In this installment, I think the biggest culprit was the way the plot unfolded --- Drake's brother has ties to a Chinese drug lord?! Kate's uncle in prison because he killed the mother of Claire's (Kate's sister) fiancee ... strenuous tie there btw... because said mother saw him moving a body?! That scene where Kate and Claire are talking out in the yard and Claire just gets nailed by a crossbow bolt outta the blue ... and all this before you're even 85 pages in! -- A lot of ideas flying around, but a noticeable lack of cohesiveness to bring it all together. There was also a sense of a good idea being taken too far (see examples mentioned above) or not fleshed out enough. 

 

The writing here was not Coble's best, IMO. I personally found the characters and the mystery from Sunset Cove #2 a little more engaging. Here, the dialogue often came off a little too scripted, especially with Kate's, making her feel a bit wooden at times to me. But we gotta work in a romance so of course Drake looks past what seems like a pretty cardboard personality to me and comes at her with "no woman has ever intrigued me like this." Poor guy. Kate's tendency to overstep her bounds when it came to caring for the girls got on my nerves as well. I get you're the nanny but you shouldn't get to basically tell the legal guardian "you should shut it and do it my way" multiple times. In real life, you'd likely be fired, not have your employer fall in love with you! But I guess Drake likes himself a dominant kind of lady friend. 

 

As far as the writing itself, I struggled with a few passages that apparently escaped an editing eye (check out pages 71, 111) where the wording / grammar was off juuuust enough to make for a harsh silent reading experience. There were also way too many people involved in that ending.

 

Nice to see another cross-over appearance of Gwen Marcey, the investigator from Carrie Stuart Parks' Gwen Marcey mystery series!

 

Note: This is the third installment of Coble's Sunset Cove series. I have not read the first in the series (Inn at Ocean's Edge), but have read / reviewed the second book. This third book brings back some of the characters from the first book (I checked the synopsis of the first book) -- Claire, Luke (Claire's now fiancee) and Kate -- but can easily be read as an independent story.

 

FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book & requested that I check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own.

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review 2017-01-16 06:24
Siren's Song (Siren Trilogy - #3) by Mary Weber
Siren's Song (The Storm Siren Trilogy) - Mary Weber

After a fierce battle with Draewulf, Nym barely escaped with her life. Now, fleeing the scorched landscape of Tulla, her storm-summoning abilities are returning; only . . . the dark power is still inside her. Broken and bloodied, Nym needs time to recover, but when the full scope of the shapeshifter’s horrific plot is revealed, the strong-willed Elemental must race across the Hidden Lands and warn the other kingdoms before Draewulf’s final attack. From the crystalline palaces of Cashlin to the legendary Valley of Origin, Nym scrambles to gather an army. But even if she can, will she be able to uncover the secret to defeating Draewulf that has eluded her people for generations? With a legion of monsters approaching, and the Hidden Lands standing on the brink of destruction, the stage is set for a battle that will decide the fate of the world. This time, will the Siren’s Song have the power to save it?

Amazon.com

 

 

 

**** WARNING: DISCUSSING BK 3 OF A TRILOGY... SPOILERS AHEAD *********

 

 

 

So here we are in the third installment of Mary Weber’s Storm Siren Trilogy and our protagonist Nym is still trying to defeat that evil Draewulf. Siren’s Song picks up pretty much right where Siren’s Fury left off. Nym is en route to rescue the captured Princess Rasha. Nym and her posse try to warn Rasha’s mother, Queen Laiha, of the dangers headed her way but the meeting doesn’t go as well as hoped. 

 

If you’ve worked your way through the first two books, you might remember Nym losing her Elemental powers. To compensate, she made a visit to a witch and picked up some powers more dark in nature. It proved to be a decent quick fix to get her Eogan back but now she has to figure out how to keep those dark powers from overtaking the good, light part of her soul. It was always funny to see how the bouts of foul weather would give away Nym’s rough mood days. X-D

 

“Never destroy what simply needs taming, Nymia. Mercy grows hearts more than bitterness.”

 

And how did I not pick up til now that Eogan is only 22?! Seemed so much older! And the “Skinny Love” reference... did Mary Weber slip in a Bon Iver reference in there?! :-)

 

Much of the same drama you’ve seen from earlier in the series continues here, only with the ramped up intensity that you’d expect of a series closer book. Some of my interest in the plot waned here and there whenever the battle scenes declined -- there are some wonderfully LARPy battles near the end! -- and talk of court politics increased. A little intrigue here and there I’m all for but some of it went on a little long. I do really enjoy this cast of characters though, so the humorous banter often pulled me through the drier parts. I also liked the tension that was built around the character Myles as his powers grew. It was fun to keep guessing if he would turn good or bad in the end. There’s also the adorable little boy Kel who brings some sweet levity to otherwise intense scenes. 

 

I remember noticing that Weber got a little heavy-handed with the fake swearing in the second book -- this book is put out by a Christian publishing house so when characters needed to swear, she had them using made up curses like “litches”, “hulls”, “bolcrane” (bolcrane doubles, also the name of a feared, deadly lizard-like creature within the Storm Siren world). Though the presence of that pseudo-swearing felt rather ever-present in Siren’s Fury, here in the third book it seems to fall off to nearly non-existent. 

I would’ve loved to see a few more scenes within the Valley Of Origin, but otherwise I thought this was a strong finish to this whirlwind nature-inspired fantasy series. Definitely an improvement from the somewhat lackluster plot of Siren’s Fury. This closing book features a strong ending with one pretty epic final battle. Those scenes in the final pages are seriously LOL adorable! 

 

YA fans, check out the shout-out to author Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why) in the acknowledgements! It was neat to learn that he helped write the few chapters written from Eogan’s POV. 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: Because Nym using cutting as a way to process her internal pain throughout part of this series, author Mary Weber recommends that readers who might be triggered visit the website To Write Love On Her Arms (twloha.com) for information and help. 

 

FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book & requested that I check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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