Review

Review: Powers – The Secret History of Deena Pilgrim by Brian Michael Bendis

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2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I love superhero stories. All the classic comics, plus more recent novels. So when I was offered this for review, I leapt at the chance. It takes a classic detective story and adds superhero elements, based on the comic book series of the same name by Brian Michael Bendis, and an hour long show on the Playstation Network. However, whilst it seemed that I would not be at a disadvantage being unfamiliar with the Deena Pilgrim universe, I definitely felt I would have enjoyed the book a lot more were I more familiar with it.

Also, I feel like this book may have suffered slightly from bad timing. I began reading it at the same time as I was reading Calamity, the third book in the Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson. Reading two books about superheroes at the same time – especially when one of them is from a series you really love – you’re sure to compare the two, and unfortunately The Secret History of Deena Pilgrim didn’t quite live up to it.

Overall, I didn’t particularly enjoy this one – the detective element or the superhero element. There wasn’t much involvement of superheroes, apart from a link with the murders that Deena investigates. The whole mystery felt a bit of a mess, and rather than drawing me in and encouraging me to work things out for myself, it just really confused me. There was an entire chapter where one character was referred to by three different names, constantly alternating – which had me convinced for a while that there were in fact two characters present, instead of one. I found myself reading this book only at lunchtime at work, mostly just because it was smaller and easier to fit in my bag than the other book I was reading…

It’s a shame that this one didn’t work out for me. If I’d previously read the comic and understood more of the back story then perhaps I would have enjoyed it a lot more – so I’d love to hear if anyone has read both, and enjoyed them!

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Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2015: My Top 10 Science Fiction Novels of the Year

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2015, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

I feel this has to be a part of Sci-Fi Month every year: my favourite science fiction novels read this year. These are the ten novels that impressed me the most, listed in no particular order because I find it so difficult to order books… I just love them all too much. If you enjoyed any of these, let me know!

Steelheart & Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson Firefight

Both Steelheart and Firefight were extraordinary books. I have really enjoyed everything by Brandon Sanderson that I’ve read so far, but these two are written in a very different style to everything else, and are aimed at younger audiences. However, if you’re not a Young Adult fan, this series still comes really highly recommended – particularly if you like the superhero genre.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury & Tracer by Rob Boffard

Fahrenheit 451 Tracer

Reading Fahrenheit 451 meant making progress with my Definitive Science Fiction Reads challenge, created for Sci-Fi Month 2013. It is a haunting tale; the thought of a world where books are banned absolutely terrifies me, and many others I’m sure. Tracer was a Netgalley find, chosen for my post-The 100 needs. It is so action-packed and fast, and I can remember the opening scene really well as it was so vivid.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North & Armada by Ernest Cline

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Armada

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is a more ‘subtle’ science fiction book, in that whilst time travel (of a sort) is the central concept of the book, it actually takes a backseat. How Harry time travels/is reborn is less important than what he does with his many lives. It is definitely the sort of science fiction book that would appeal to those who do not consider themselves big fans of the genre. Armada, on the other hand, is definitely one that will appeal to a certain group of people: video game fans. The story of a teenager who gets caught up in an alien invasion that seems inspired by the online game he plays, it is Ernest Cline’s second novel. I couldn’t wait to read it after Ready Player One, and whilst I did not enjoy it much as his first novel, I still rated it five stars because it was just so fun.

Time Salvager by Wesley Chu & The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

Time Salvager The Girl With All The Gifts

Time Salvager was one of those books that I had high expectations for, but it still managed to utterly blow me away. As I said in my review, it is the type of science fiction that I have been yearning for for a while. The Girl With All The Gifts is a very different type of book, but equally fantastic. A sort-of-zombie dystopian novel, unlike other books of the same ilk, the reader sees the zombies from a more ‘personal’ viewpoint.

Way Down Dark by James Smythe & Catalyst by S.J. Kincaid

Way Down Dark Catalyst

Way Down Dark was another wonderful Netgalley find, that I partly took a chance on just because of the cool cover. This felt like a breath of fresh air compared to the whole host of science fiction/dystopian Young Adult novels that have recently been released. Unfortunately as it has been labelled as ‘for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent, I fear this will put many people off the book who actively avoid those series or those similar. Ignore that! Catalyst is the final book in the Insignia series, and was a really great ending. It follows young teens training for the military, and somehow often feels simultaneously tense and light-hearted.

Have you read any of these, or are you planning to? What are your thoughts?

Review

Review: Steelheart (Reckoners #1) by Brandon Sanderson

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

You know those sorts of books that you go into, expecting to really enjoy – you know you love the author’s work, the premise sounds amazing – but then they pretty much blow everything out of the water and are somehow even better than expected, defying expectations?

Yep, that was Steelheart.

I haven’t been a Sanderson fan for as long as some – my first read of his was Elantris, at the end of 2013, followed by The Final Empire at the beginning of 2014. From then on I knew this was an author whom I had to read as much of as possible. I love superheroes and superhero stories, so when I heard about Steelheart I knew it was the book for me.

You can’t go into this book expecting Sanderson’s usual style of writing. This is a Young Adult book, and the tone is so different. I really hope that doesn’t put many of his readers off, with the stigma that YA fiction sometimes has, because they will really be missing out. As with the Mistborn series, the action scenes are fantastic, and I had such a vivid image of every part of the book in my head.

I loved the variety of characters. David, with his awful metaphors, was hilarious. But he was also determined and dedicated, having spent the past ten years researching Epics so he could get revenge for the murder of his father. The Prof was a bit of an enigma, and I look forward to finding out more about him. Cody was an odd one, with his Tennessee-accented Scottish slang, occasionally mixed with Irish, and I really felt myself warming to this silly man very quickly. Tia was this awesome, super-smart one-woman force who I totally wanted to be. I’m interested in seeing more of Abraham, because he may seem gentle and quiet albeit armed with a rocket launcher, but I reckon with the right situation he could turn into a total badass and go completely crazy. And Megan… well, she is one dark horse.

I had my suspicions about how events might unfold, what secrets were being kept, and despite the fact that I managed to guess a small part of the end, I was still surprised in so many ways. The last 10-15% of the book was just phenomenal, with a huge face-to-face showdown and so many different twists and turns. I was pretty much sat there with this look on my face the entire time:

ERMEHGERD!!
ERMEHGERD!!

The other day, I received a copy of Firefight in the post from Gollancz, and I am SO HAPPY BECAUSE I COULD NOT WAIT MUCH LONGER TO READ IT AFTER THAT CONCLUSION. Fangirl mode very much activated.

Review

Review: The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

 

18309415.jpg3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I somehow managed to avoid hearing anything about this book until it turned up on my doorstep. But once I’d learnt a little about it, I thought it sounded fascinating – superheroes and an alternate history, a particularly apt book considering I’m reading all the Marvel comics I can get my hands on at the moment. Plus that cover – how amazing is it?! Now I have to admit I’m really not a fan of World War stories, but I was excited about reading this one due to it being an alternate history.

The story follows two superheroes, known as Oblivion and Fogg, their respective powers being able to obliterate anything, and produce and manipulate fog. Apparently people with these sorts of powers have been used to protect the world for centuries, and much of Fogg and Oblivion’s story takes place during and around World War II. I love the idea of people with these superhuman powers being recruited by the government and military, as part of special ops. However, the book frequently skipped between different locations and time periods which was, in some places, a little confusing – especially because these chapters were often only a page in length. Whilst it kept the story moving at a really fast pace, it also felt like there was no time to take things in.

Whilst it has such positive reviews on Goodreads, it just did not live up to that expectation for me. I can see why people love it – personally I really enjoyed the story. It was mostly just the writing style that really didn’t click. Written in present third person, without speech marks, and often using short, clipped sentences that forgo pronouns and names, I just didn’t like it. Sometimes it felt like every non-essential word was just dropped from a sentence.

But it’s not all doom and gloom in this review! Despite what it may seem, I DID enjoy this book. I loved the concept and the story (despite probably missing a few elements due to the pace) – it was just the writing style that really dragged the rating down for me. I found it difficult at times, and it just didn’t seem to flow. I don’t know why, but because of the setting (and perhaps the cover?), as well as the lack of speech marks, I was imagining the book as some black and white foreign film in my head, with subtitles – which was pretty fun! The way that Lavie Tidhar played on actual historical events was really clever.

Overall, a brilliant story for all fans of superheroes and alternate histories, but sadly told in a style that I just did not get along with.

 

I have passed my copy of the book on to Amber as she was super excited to read this one, so look out for her review!

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: April 2014

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

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Last month I read a total of twenty books, which sounds like a lot but many of them were graphic novels: After Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #13.5) by Charlaine Harris, Mass Effect Foundation: Volume 2 by Mac Walters, Red Country by Joe Abercrombie, Glow (Sky Chasers #1) by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1) by Morgan Rhodes, Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) by Laini Taylor, X-Men Forever 2, Back in Action (X-Men Forever 2 #1) by Chris Claremont, Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men Volume 2 by Stan Lee, This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, Civil War: Marvel Universe by Ed Brubaker, A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, Behemoth (Leviathan #2) by Scott Westerfeld, Goliath (Leviathan #3) by Scott Westerfeld, Wolverine Noir by Stuart Moore, Wolverine First Class: Ninjas, Gods and Divas by Peter David, Wolverine First Class: Wolverine-By-Night by Fred Van Lente, X-Men Legacy: Emplate by Mike Carey, The Avengers: Volume 2 by Brian Michael Bendis, X-Men: Worlds Apart by Christopher Yost, The Kill Order (Maze Runner #0.5) by James Dashner.

I was so happy to finally finish the Leviathan series, and it’s now one of my favourite Young Adult series out there. I read some other great books this month: Days of Blood and Starlight was just as gripping as Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Falling Kingdoms was a wonderful fantasy read. I also went crazy on the graphic novel front, ordering as many Marvel comics as I could through my county library service. And there are still plenty more to read! I also read most of Dragon Age Library Edition: Volume One, but unfortunately my ARC stopped about three quarters of the way through. I did email Netgalley, who contacted the publisher but sadly I haven’t heard anything and the title has now been archived. I will just rate and review it based on what I did managed to read.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the Avengers vs. X-Men Challenge, so unfortunately I didn’t do as well as last month, and I also didn’t quite manage to defeat April’s villain, Kingpin. Better luck next month! May’s villain is Bullseye, and he looks to be quite a challenge.
  • I’ve already beaten my goal of fifty books for this year on Goodreads. I’ve raised the goal to seventy-five, which I think will still be manageable – I may even reach that before August, and I can raise it again!

 

Currently reading:

>The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black The Quick by Lauren Owen

Off the blog:

The majority of April was fairly quiet, but this past week has been pretty busy. I’ve been off work since last Tuesday, although I’m back today. On Wednesday night I went to the Glamour Book Club to see Laini Taylor and Lauren Owen, and I also met up with some fellow book bloggers! I will cover the event in detail in a future post. My friend joined me in London, and she stayed until Tuesday. On Thursday night, we went to see Jace Everett in Bristol. It was a TINY event, with about one hundred people – but the venue put out chairs, so no-one was dancing and I felt like we gave off a bad impression. But despite that, I loved the music and got to meet the man himself afterwards, and get a CD signed. Then on Friday we went to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which I really enjoyed, Saturday was Free Comic Book Day which meant a trip to Forbidden Planet in Bristol, as well as Bristol Zoo because it was a lovely, sunny day. Oh, and a few weeks ago my Dragon Age: The World of Thedas book arrived, which my fellow Queen of Ferelden, Paola, convinced me to buy. I was just a *little* bit excited by its arrival, as you can see…

Some highlights from April 2014.
Some highlights from April 2014.

 

How was April for you?

 

Thoughts

Thoughts #17: If You Were A Superhero…

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Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Marvel comics. I’m not sure what bought it on; I’ve always been a fan of comic books, superheroes and the Marvel films – but only lately have I really started reading about them. This lead me to thinking what my powers would be if I could choose them – and I just couldn’t work it out. So I thought I’d consider some of my favourite Marvel heroes to begin with. I’d also like to address the question to my readers!

Gambit

Gambit

  • Real name: Remy Etienne LeBeau
  • Aliases: Death, Le Diable Blanc, Cajun
  • First appearance: Uncanny X-Men #266
  • Powers & abilities: Can tap into the potential energy within an object, and transform it into kinetic energy, allowing the object to explode when thrown; hypnotic charm allowing a subtle influence; very accurate aim when throwing playing cards and knives; skilled fencer
  • Amazing because… I don’t know why, I’ve just always really liked Gambit. His appearance really appeals to me, plus his powers are unique and different whilst still being useful. He’s pretty good at one-to-one combat without his powers, and can take on groups of enemies with them – covered for all situations!

Rogue

Rogue

  • Real name: Anna Marie (surname undisclosed)
  • Aliases: Anna Raven, Miss Smith, Irene Adler, Mutate #9602
  • First appearance: Avengers Annual #10
  • Powers & abilities: Previously able to absorb the powers, memories and personality traits (and life force) of anyone she comes into skin-to-skin contact with; later immunity to poisons and a virtually indestructible body, above normal reflexes, psychic sense
  • Amazing because… Rogue has gone through a lot. She lost her parents at a young age and was raised by Mystique, and discovered her powers as a teen, when her first kiss fell into a deep coma. She has been part of both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. I can’t even imagine not being able to touch a loved one for fear of killing them, and Rogue has lived with that for her entire life.

Hawkeye

Hawkeye

  • Real name: Clinton Barton
  • Aliases: Marksman, Longbow, Goliath, Robin Hood, Golden Archer
  • First appearance: Tales of Suspense #57
  • Powers & abilities: No powers as such, but Hawkeye is an incredibly accurate marksman, with above average reflexes and hand-eye co-ordination; trained with throwing weapons and for unarmed combat; natural athlete; combat strategist
  • Amazing because… Hawkeye is a normal man. He’s not a superhero, he’s not a mutant: he’s just really good at what he does. Extreme dedication and training is the reason that he is the most skilled archer in the world, and that is incredibly admirable.

And one hero I’m not really bothered about…

Squirrel Girl...

Squirrel Girl

  • Real name: Doreen Green
  • Aliases: None
  • First appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes #8
  • Powers & abilities: Enhanced strength, speed, agility and reflexes; small claws and enlarged incisors; squirrel-like abilities and able to communicate with squirrels
  • Yep, she’s a real Marvel superhero. Nope, I don’t get it either. Apparently she was created to bring some light-heartedness to the comics, but still… squirrels?? Really?? Although if you play as her in the Lego Marvel Superheroes video game, you get to throw squirrels at people, which is strangely fun…

So, what did I choose as my powers after considering all these?

It was difficult and took some consideration, but I’ve come up with three ideas. I didn’t want to pick the usual ones like flight, invisibility, super strength etc, I wanted something a bit different – and here they are:

  • The ability to speak and understand any language I come into contact with. I love languages, and how amazing would it be to be able to speak ALL of them?! This didn’t really come from any specific superhero, although a couple of them are at least bi-lingual; for example both Gambit and Rogue are fluent in French.
  • The ability to touch an object and immediately know its history. Partly inspired by Rogue, who can learn memories by touch, I’d love to be able to touch an object and know all about it – how awesome would that be for a museum curator? I could instantly tell who crafted something, what it was used for, when it was used.
  • The ability to travel in time, and take others with me. Yep, I’d love to be able to travel in time at will, but only if I could take others with me – perhaps as long as we were in contact some way I could take them with me. This has nothing to do with Marvel, and everything to do with Doctor Who.

What would your superhero powers be if you could choose anything? Do you have any favourite superheroes?

Deadpool

HEY! DON’T FORGET THE MERC WITH A MOUTH!

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #13: Heroes

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The TV series this week is: Heroes

Heroes

After a total eclipse casts its shadow across the globe, seemingly calling forth a multitude of everyday men and women with special powers, Dr. Mohinder Suresh, a genetics professor from India, continues to champion his father’s theory that there are people with extraordinary abilities living among us. Heroes follows those people and their fight to save the world…

Heroes is another one of those shows that I started watching when it was first aired, then missed a couple and never caught up – despite the fact that my family owns all the DVDs and I could watch it on Netflix at any time. I’ve always been quite squeamish and that scene where Claire has to basically put her chest back together was a bit too much for me – although I think shows like Game of Thrones have desensitised me lately! Maybe I should give it another try, and just add it to my ever growing list of shows to watch and/or finish…

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

I’d always heard a lot about Brandon Sanderson, but I didn’t read any of his work until the end of last year. I’ve only read two of his books so far (Elantris and The Final Empire) but I loved them both. Whilst he tends to write fantasy, Steelheart is something quite different – a story of normal people, granted superpowers – and a desire to take over the Earth. The ‘Epics’, as they are known, are almost unstoppable, and only one force dares to stand against them – the ‘Reckoners’, normal people without super powers, who study the Epics in order to assassinate them. Ugh, I just want this book NOW. But it’s only out in large paperback at the moment – I’m waiting for a Kindle sale, or the smaller paperback.

Vicious by Victoria Schwab

Vicious by Victoria Schwab

Vicious is one of those books that I’d heard absolutely nothing about – until suddenly ALL of my blogger friends starting reading and talking about it. It’s about two young boys, college roommates, who discover that under the right conditions, gaining superpowers is possible. But things go wrong when it comes to the experimental stage, and ten years later the two boys are no longer friends – but enemies. Goodreads claims that Victoria Schwab ‘brings to life a gritty comic book style world in vivid prose’, which sounds totally my kind of thing. Also, I don’t know if it’s just me – but when I look at the thumbnail of this cover, all I can see is Gru from Despicable Me looking down from that balcony!

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

Unlike the previous two books, Soon I Will Be Invincible is not one that I’ve seen all over the blogosphere. I found it whilst browsing Goodreads, and thought it looked pretty perfect for this feature. It sounds like a bit of a typical superhero story (an evil villain called ‘Doctor Impossible’ determined to take over the world, a ‘new’ superhero who will go on to prove themselves), but it also sounds pretty fun.

The H.I.V.E series by Mark Walden

The H.I.V.E series by Mark Walden

Because we can’t forget the super villains! I’ve seen the H.I.V.E series around a lot – it’s mostly aimed at middle grade audiences. The series follows a young boy called Otto who is picked from his orphanage to become part of the Higher Institute of Villainous Education, where young children are trained to become super villains. However, Otto soon realises that it is a six year program and he doesn’t want to stay. With the help of his genius friends, he begins formulating a plan to break out. There are currently eight books, with a ninth on the way.

As well as these novels, there are so many different graphic novels and comic books relating to superheroes to check out. I’m currently working my way through various Marvel (mostly X-Men, Fantastic Four and Avengers) storylines, but other great publishers include DC and Dark Horse.

Are you a fan of Heroes? Do you have any recommendations to add?