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Search tags: read-inn-2017
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review 2018-06-07 17:36
Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
Wake of Vultures - Lila Bowen

I’ll begin with a disclaimer: this isn’t my type of book, though from its marketing I thought it might be. First, because while it has a fantasy plotline, the setting and tone are more horror-tinged paranormal, full of monsters and gruesomeness. Second, because it really is a young-adult novel, in the sense of being an easy-to-read, action-oriented adventure populated by simplified characters and featuring a 16-year-old Chosen One who is unrealistically functional for her age and life experience, with a heavy emphasis on People Are Different and That’s Okay. Adding a couple of sexual assault scenes doesn’t make an adult novel of something not written in an adult register; it just means your YA is dark and risqué.

At any rate, this book follows a standard fantasy plotline: Nettie, a mistreated orphan of mysterious parentage who is shunned in her town, discovers supernatural powers, loses her mentor, learns she is the Chosen One, and goes on a quest to defeat an evil villain. The setting is interesting – an alternate version of the Old West, specifically Texas around the 1870s – and the author tries hard to make the book diverse: Nettie is part-black, part-native, bisexual, and genderqueer. This effort is in my view only moderately successful: the characterization overall is not particularly deep or complex; Nettie doesn’t have any consensual sexual encounters or a relationship; and Nettie’s racial heritage functions mostly just as the reason people are occasionally mean to her. She was raised by white people and the only important non-white characters in the book are two native siblings who, in the traditional role of irritating fantasy allies, are much more knowledgeable, skilled and committed than the protagonist but inexplicably pop in and out of the story rather than sticking around long enough to be helpful, presumably because if they simply took over the quest there wouldn’t be much action left for the clueless young protagonist. But this is better than including no diversity at all.

It’s an action/adventure type of book, with a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter and even a literal one at the end of the novel (I read the preview of the sequel online to satisfy my curiosity, which does not extend to reading another book). The narrative is full of “cowboy” talk: “The Rangers were doing their level best to give off an air of relaxation and ease, but any feller with sense could see that underneath the calm they were jittery as junebugs at a jaybird party.” At least the author has committed to her setting.

Overall, this isn’t a book that did much for me; I’d have appreciated more interesting characters or a plot that contained more than a quest to kill a monster, with something or other attacking our heroes every chapter. But if you like dark paranormal YA with a dash of horror and don’t mind the standard fantasy plot, this book may well be for you.

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review 2018-05-25 22:00
Absolutely fantastic!
Transformers: IDW Collection Phase Two Volume 3 - Jimbo Salgado,Nick Roche,Alex Milne,John Barber,James Lamar Roberts

This is just splendid: a lot of storylines are coming together, and it's beautiful to watch it all in one go.  

 

I think I'm gonna reread all this next year, too, to be honest.

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review 2018-05-25 17:22
Loving phase two
Transformers: IDW Collection Phase Two Volume 2 - Livio Ramondelli,Chris Metzen,Flint Dille,John Barber,James Lamar Roberts

The spotlights were mixed, but I'm truly enjoying both More Than Meets the Eye and Robots in Disguise.   This is a fascinating and illuminating reread and I get more and more every time I read these comics again.   MTMtE is particularly nuanced, and I am continuing to enjoy that the most.

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review 2018-05-23 15:58
Excellent storylines with a couple bumps
Transformers: IDW Collection Phase Two Volume 1 - Andrew Griffith,Nick Roche,Alex Milne,John Barber,James Lamar Roberts

I find the switching between MTMtE and RiD, to be honest, distracting, mostly because it doesn't feel like you're reading one continuous story.   It feels like distracting POV jumps.   Still, this is such an excellent collection, I only knocked off one fourth of a star.   The other fourth is for two reasons.   One: because I always find The Death of Optimus Prime to be integral to his storyline, but a chore to read.   Also, while Barber is an excellent storyteller, I'm spoiled by knowing what's to come: RiD isn't bad - in fact, it's a lot of fun and volume two was my gateway into this continuity because Dinobots - so much as his work gets so much more refined and nuanced later on, that this feels like an excellent author finding his way in retrospect.   And this is, to be honest, not a knock-down in my opinion: some authors intuit what to write and how straight away, but most have to work at it.   And if you ask me, I'd prefer the second kind of author.   The struggle to reach that excellence can keep them from taking it for granted, or thinking that they don't have to or shouldn't hone their craft: they are the authors who, in my opinion, continue to excel.   (There are exceptions both ways, but in my experience, this is what tends to happen.)

 

I say this because I feel like I've been comparing early Barber to early Roberts, and then to later Roberts.  For me James Roberts has been one of those authors who's knocked it out of the park with a couple exceptions: some issues got too moribund for my taste and then he quickly injected the humor back into Lost Light in particular.   I feel like I've been unfair to Barber, and so I'm explaining how I think of his writing at the present.   The fact that I have changed my opinion about him as he grows means I may change my mind again: I may find him to slip, or to reach a point where he becomes, hands down, my favorite TF author.   

 

I also am taking this much time explaining this because I think the context matters: how I view his work, and how it's evolved, does go into the rating.  This works much better for me in the context of what is to come, from these storylines and from Barber himself.   Reading this, I keep wanting to get further along, to what he does to Prowl, to the Dinobots in The Redemptions of the Dinobots, to Optimus Prime.   I'm also eager to sit back and enjoy watching the evolution of his writing.   So in a way, this is so high because in retrospect, that evolution is well worth watching and reading and it elevates this reading experience for me.   Furthermore, I'm less sneer-y now that I've seen it once, and I'm just allowing myself to sit back and enjoy the ride. 

 

Anyway, this has the Death of Optimus Prime and the beginning issues of More Than Meets the Eye and Robots in Disguise.   A bunch of fun so far.   I'm knee deep in Autocracy which starts off the next volume.   

 

Note: "allowing myself" at one point autocorrected to "blowing myself".  Vin's just being naughty now.

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review 2018-05-21 20:59
Nope!
Transformers: The IDW Collection Volume 8 - Dan Abnett,Mike Costa,Andy Lanning,James Lamar Roberts

I was going to write a longer review, but no.   This gets weird, and not in a good way, in a  fucked up, this makes no fucking sense way.  

 

James Roberts co-writes one volume, the one that not only made the most sense but was the most complex, nuanced, and interesting.   It's the only one worth reading for the storyline.   The last volume, however, had one of my favorite artists.   So Livio Ramondelli? I will show up for his Transformers art, no matter how fragged the storyline is.   

 

Onto better stories in Phase 2!

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