Tag Archives: 3 Stars

The Vanishing Act, Mette Jakobsen

The Vanishing Act, Mette JakobsenThe Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen

First Published: 2011

Pages: 217
Form: Novel

Rating:3/53/53/53/53/5

This is a story about a snow-covered island you won’t find on any map.

It’s the story of a girl, Minou. A year ago, her mother walked out into the rain and never came back.

It’s about a magician and a priest and a dog called No Name. It’s about a father’s endless hunt for the truth.

It’s about a dead boy who listens, and Minou’s search for her mother’s voice.

It’s a story of how even the most isolated places have their own secrets.

It’s a story you will never forget.

I’m still not entirely sure what I think of this book. It’s one of those books that sometimes gets quite patronisingly described as ‘charming’; a short, well-written and introspective ‘coming of age’ novel touching on several big themes, but ultimately has no plot to speak of and the characters remain simplistic.

The narrator, Minou, is twelve (possibly a bit older – acts a lot younger). One year ago her  mother disappeared – the titular ‘vanishing act’ – from the small island they live on. A year later the dead body of a young man washes up on shore and Minou starts to recall her childhood, her mothers disappearance, and the events leading up to it. And that’s really about it – Minou thinks and occasionally writes, but nothing actually happens save in the flashbacks and at the end of the book everyone remains in pretty much the same position they were in the beginning.

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Gone, Michael Grant

Gone, Michael GrantGone by Michael Grant

First Published: 2009

Pages: 560 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Gone #1

Rating:3/53/53/53/53/5

299 Hours 54 Minutes

Suddenly it’s a world without adults and normal has crashed and burned. When life as you know it ends at 15, everything changes.

A small town in southern California: In the blink of an eye everyone over the age of 15 disappears. Cut off from the outside world, those that are left are trapped, and there’s no help on the way. Chaos rules the streets.

Now a new world order is rising and, even scarier, some survivors have power – mutant power that no one has ever seen before . . .

Catching up on some reviews that, for various reasons, I never got round to writing in 2013.

How to rate this book… Gone turned into one of my favourite finds of last year, I pretty much devoured the first five books in the series back-to-back and am eagerly waiting for the paperback release of the final installment. I would happily rate the series as a whole in the 4 to 4.5 star bracket. But it’s one of those series that is somehow more than the sum of its parts and, each individual book falls more within the 3-3.5 range for me. With book one starting a bit bumpy and taking me a little while to get into. So I’m going to try to ignore hindsight and rate as my first reaction on finishing the book was – 3 stars (I liked it but nothing special).

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Fables, Vol. 19: Snow White, Bill Willingham and various artists

Fables- Snow WhiteFables: Snow White

Form: Comic Book (Trade Paperback)
Series: Fables, Volume 19 (issues 124-129 & backup stories for 114-123)

Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists:
 Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Shawn McManus, Andrew Pepoy
Colourists: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Todd Klien
Cover Art: Mark Buckingham, Joao Raus

Rating3/53/53/53/53/5

Warning: This is volume 19 of an ongoing series  – it’s going to be impossible for me to avoid spoilers for previous volumes.

DEUS EX MATRIMONY

Once she was the beloved of Prince Charming, the greatest swordsman who ever lived. Then she married Bigby Wolf, the implacable offspring of the North Wind. But before she knew either one of those famous Fables, Snow White was betrothed to another,

Now this dark prince has returned, bearing unstoppable magic and seeking Snow’s lovely white hand in (re)marriage. Her current husband? He’ll have to go. Their children? No room for them in this happy family either.

It’s hardly the fairy-tale ending Snow and Bigby envisioned – which is why Snow, whose radiant exterior belies the depth of her icy resolve, will stop at nothing to prevent it from happening. But will Snow fall? Or will someone else be buried beneath the coming storm?

With Snow White, the acclaimed creative team of Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha is joined by guest artist Shawn McManus to unearth long-buried secrets and usher in a shocking new era for the entire Fables cast!

News broke last year that Fables would be ending for good with issue 150. As a massive Fables fan I actually couldn’t have been more pleased because, since issue 75 when the first main plot thread was resolved, the series has rather lost its direction. New threats have been brought in, new villains, but none with the same impact. New plots and ideas and characters have been cycled through at such a pace that I find myself losing track and longing for more of the original main characters to step back into the spotlight. It’s still good, don’t get me wrong, but I no longer instantly want to rush out and buy the trade paperbacks the moment they come out, I sit about not even realising it’s out then go ‘oh yeah…I should probably catch up on Fables‘ when I do chance to see a new volume in my comic store.  A planned endpoint is really what the series needs.

But onto this particular volume! Although I’ve rated it 3 stars I actually like it more than the last one. It’s a much welcome return to the core cast and the two characters who really sold me on the series right back at the beginning: Snow White and Bigby Wolf.

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Last Argument of Kings, Joe Abercrombie

 

Last Argument of Kings, Joe AbercrombieLast Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

First Published: 2008

Pages: 670 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: The First Law #3

Rating: 3/53/53/53/53/5

Logen Ninefingers might only have one more fight in him, but it’s going to be a big one. Battle rages across the North, the King of the Northmen still stands firm, and there’s only one man who can stop him. His oldest friend, and his oldest enemy. It’s past time for the Bloody-Nine to come home.

With too many masters and too little time, Superior Glokta is fighting a different kind of war. A secret struggle in which no-one is safe, and no-one can be trusted. And his days with a sword are far behind him, it’s a good thing blackmail, threats, and torture never go out of fashion.

Jezal dan Luthar has decided that winning glory is far too painful an process and turned his back on soldiering for a simple life with the woman he loves. But love can be painful too–and glory has a nasty habit of creeping up on a man when he least expects it.

While the king of the Union lies on his deathbed, the peasants revolt, and the nobles scramble to steal his crown. Yet no-one believes that the shadow of war is about to fall across the heart of the Union. Only the First of the Magi can save the world, but there are risks. There is no risk more terrible, than to break the First Law…

And with the final book in the First Law trilogy (there are follow up standalone books set in the same world but this book completes the original trilogy), I remain more unconvinced than ever by Joe Abercrombie’s reputation as a master of fantasy. Sure, he subverts the cliche heroic fantasy tropes and stock characters to turn them on their head – but barely anyone writes that sort of heroic fantasy anymore anyway. And he still falls into that worst of fantasy author habits: writing way more than he he needs to, spinning a simple story into a whole trilogy. None of his books need to be as large as they are. The ending, while I admit it could have been a genuinely great end to standalone or a first novel in a series, feels anticlimactic after three books and roughly 1,700 pages. Especially when so little of relevance really happened in either book one or two. Really, the whole series would have been massively improved by hacking out all the filler, maybe reducing the number of POV characters, and condensing it all into two books instead (one would probably be pushing it).

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The Inside Story, Michael Buckley

The Inside Story, Michael BuckleyThe Inside Story by Michael Buckley
Illustrated by  Peter Ferguson

First Published: 2010
Pages: 266 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: The Sisters Grimm #8

Rating: 3/53/53/53/53/5

 

Sabrina and Daphne Grimm have studied hundreds of fairy tales as part of the family business, but they never thought they’d actually be in one. And yet that’s exactly what happens when they follow the diabolical Master into the Book of Everafter, a mysterious tome in which copies of the world’s fairy tales live out their stories over and over again. The Grimm’s must track down the Master while avoiding the book’s tyrannical Editor, who is devoted to keeping the stories on track. In the Book of Everafter, stories can be rewritten, which is why Sabrina and Daphne must find the Master before he can alter his fate – and the fate of the world.

The penultimate book in the series, The Inside Story, is a massive departure from the previous instalments. The now-formulaic ‘Fairy Tale Detective’ plot-line that’s been gradually phased out in the last two books is now put completely aside in favour of pure action-adventure. But also put aside is the ‘fairy tale characters living in the modern world’ concept, which is probably the bit I enjoy most about this series. The Inside Story sees Daphne and Sabrina leaving Ferryport Landing and jumping into the master-book of fairytales where they have to race through each story, in pursuit of the villainous ‘Master’, before he changes his own story forever and gives himself ultimate powers. Meanwhile ‘the Editor’ is pursuing them all for interfering with his stories and insisting they put things back the way they were. It’s all very meta and it does sound like a fun concept. But the execution left me feeling kind of flat. Continue reading

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Sanditon, Lady Susan, & The History of England, Jane Austen

Sandition, Lady Susan, etc., Jane AustenSanditon, Lady Susan, & The History of England by Jane Austen

First Published: Posthumously – Writen c.1786-1817

Pages: 504 (Hardback)
Form: Collection of juvenilia, short stories, and unfinished novels

Rating: 3/53/53/53/53/5

This rare collection is a must for all Jane-ites. It represents what Richard Church regarded as Jane Austen’s literary work-basket, and contains some of Austen’s earliest work – her hilariously brief History of England, illustrated by her favourite sister, which is a worthy forerunner to 1066 & All That, to the unfinished Sanditon, the novel of her maturity on which she was working at her death aged 42. Also included are two epistolary novels, Lady Susan and Love and Freindship (sic), The Watsons, Catherine, Lesley Castle, Evelyn, Frederic and Elfrida, Jack and Alice, Edgar and Emma, Henry and Eliza and The Three Sisters.

The History of England is illustrated by Cassandra Austen

While I  thought Lady Susan was absolutely greatI would probably only recommend  Austen’s juvenilia and her later unfinished novel to people who are really interested in Austen and her development as a writer. Personally (and although a fan I’m not an Austen worshiper) I thought the juvenilia was absolutely fascinating and would have loved to see the finished versions of the two abandoned novels. If that sort of thing doesn’t interest you, though, and you want a completed story then just go for Lady Susan or give this book a miss completely and stick with Austen’s published novels. Continue reading

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Tales From the Hood, Michael Buckley

Tales from the Hood, Michael BuckleyTales From the Hood by Michael Buckley
Illustrated by  Peter Ferguson

First Published: 2008
Pages: 274 (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: The Sisters Grimm #6

Rating: 3/53/53/53/53/5

In Ferryport Landing, everyone gets a day in court – even the Big Bad Wolf. Mr, Canis is put on trial for past crimes, and Mayor Heart’s kangaroo court is determined to find him guilty. It’s up to the Grimms to uncover evidence to save their friend, though Sabrina starts to wonder whether they would all be safer with the Wolf in jail. Despite her misgivings, Sabrina and her sister, Daphne, investigate what actually happened in the Big Bad Wolf’s most famous tale – and the real story will shock you!

I’ve given all the previous books in this series four stars but that’s a bit misleading, although I really enjoy them that is despite a lot of issues present throughout the series – but that came to a bit of a head for me in this book. The overarching plot is very drawn out with some of the books (2, 4, and 6 so far) failing to do anything much to advance it, Sabrina’s character development keeps going two step forwards in each book only to be followed by one step back in the next,  and the writing is often a bit clumsy. Buckley’s method of opening each book in medias res with a snippet from the climax before going back a few days to start the story again at the beginning has always bothered me. Rather than adding to anticipation or tension, I find it detracts from it and tends to make the climaxes anti-climactic. What I have given the previous books four stars for is primarily good ideas and ‘fun factor’ over their actual execution. This book had those good ideas, but I didn’t find it anywhere near so fun.

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