Fiction Friday Round-Up – June 5th, 2015

This was a pretty busy week; among other things, Jane and I launched our new pop culture website, Mind the Gap (which you should totally check out because we have a lot of great content!). But I also managed to completely catch up on the Flavia de Luce series, and finished a couple of ARCs. As always, please click the titles for the full review!

  • As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust – Alan Bradley: “The series is no longer simply a collection of unrelated mysteries; it started to hint at the bigger picture and Flavia’s role within that larger narrative.”
  • Devil’s Daughter – Hope Schenk de-Michele and Paul Marquez: “It had a great plot and some interesting moments but, while it had an open ending, I’m not tearing down the house in anticipating for the sequel. Definitely a good change from most of the other angel-based YA out there, though.”
  • Grunge Gods and Graveyards – Kimberly G. Giarratano: “If I was trying to pitch this book, I’d say it was a combination of Melissa Marr’s Made for You and Elizabeth Chandler’s Kissed by an Angel but with more ghosts and, well, grunge (those are all good things, by the way).”

Last week, I read a truly disappointing ARC:

  • Beyond Clueless – Linas Alsenas: “I’m sure there’s an audience for it, but this is one of those rare cases where I feel too old to read this and I think it would be better received by readers aged 12-14”.

But I also read a great female-centric comic book, so it sort of evened out!

  • Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass & Sorcery – Kurtis J. Wiebe: “There are also light, funny moments in between all the fighting; whether it’s Betty packing candy and drugs for dinner again or Dee being anti-social i.e. reading a book at a party, you get a good glimpse at the queens’ personalities.”

Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery – Kurtis J. Wiebe

Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery – Kurtis J. Wiebe

20299683Who are the Rat Queens?

A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they’re in the business of killing all god’s creatures for profit.

It’s also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!

First of all, thanks to my pal Jane for lending this to me (we swapped comics after I gushed about Nimona to her)! Speaking of Jane, you should keep on eye on this cool thing we’re working on (it officially goes live on Monday).

Anyway, as I have mentioned numerous times, comics are not my strong suit. I like and appreciate them, but I’m by no means an expert.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed Rat Queens! I mean, for one, this volume is entitled “Sass & Sorcery”, which is amazing. And for another, these strong female characters are hilarious. This is their battle cry:

rat queens

I’m not even sure what that means, but I love it.

There are also light, funny moments in between all the fighting; whether it’s Betty packing candy and drugs for dinner again or Dee being anti-social i.e. reading a book at a party, you get a good glimpse at the queens’ personalities. Plus they – the queens themselves and the supporting cast – are pretty diverse, which only adds to the awesome factor.

I read a couple of reviews that suggested you don’t take the Rat Queens seriously, and by that, I think they mean don’t go in expecting high-brow humour. They can be crass and boorish, but they’re also sassy and tough and they don’t take nothin’ from no-one.

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Fiction Friday Round-Up – May 15th, 2015

Here are some books I finished over the past week and a bit (I’m currently unemployed, so I’ve had time to read). As always, please click the link for a full review!

  • Speaking From Among the Bones – Alan Bradley: “Part of this book felt like filler, but since spending any amount of time with Flavia is always a delight, it wasn’t a chore to read. It just wasn’t very memorable.”
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty (re-read) – Libba Bray: “I was still hooked by the first few paragraphs, the writing was just as evocative as I remembered, and there were even a couple of creepy moments that sent a small shiver up my spine.”
  • The Rearranged Life (ARC) – Annika Sharma: “This book read like a cross between Bend it Like Beckham and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and it was definitely interesting to read the descriptions and think about the differences between cultures…a cute summer read.” *includes a giveaway!**
  • Endless Nights – Neil Gaiman: “This is both a good and a bad way to be introduced to the world of the Sandman. On the one hand, you get a story starring each Endless sibling, which gives you an idea about them […] On the other hand […], I had no idea what to expect.”
  • Nimona – Noelle Stevenson: “I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a strong, badass female villain/shapeshifter […] whose default form is a “pudgy” girl.”

And I’m also helping to host a giveaway!

Last week, I read a new adult ARC and was sorely disappointed:

  • Sing for Me – Gracie Madison: “I have complicated feelings about this book. It wasn’t bad per se, I just didn’t really enjoy it. I read the whole thing, though admittedly I started skimming at about 30%.”

Also, I got an Indigo giftcard so I bought some books I’ve been meaning to buy for a while, and it’s all terribly exciting.


Obviously, I’ve already finished Nimona, but I’ll have reviews for the other three at some point, hopefully this month or next.

What have you read this week?

Endless Nights – Neil Gaiman

The Sandman: Endless Nights – Neil Gaiman


THE SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS will be a delight to fans of Gaiman’s work and newcomers to the graphic novel. Whether haunting, bittersweet, erotic or nightmarish, the seven stories in this book – one for each of the Endless siblings – reveal strange secrets and surprising truths. Each story is illustrated by some of the greatest comic artists from around the world.

P. Craig Russell draws the story of DEATH and one day, two hundred yeas ago, on an island in the Venice lagoon – a day that goes on forever.

Milo Manara pains a a story of love and DESIRE in ancient times as a beautiful young woman gets everything she wants… at a price.

Miguelanxo Prado takes us back for a DREAM of the dawn of time, when stars spoke and even the Endless were young.

Barron Storey creates fifteen heartrending portraits of DESPAIR.

Glenn Fabry draws a story of archaeologists uncovering the future and learning a little too much about DESTRUCTION.

Frank Quitely draws a final commentary of the DESTINY of these Endless Nights.

Neil Gaiman always promised he would return to the world of THE SANDMAN. Now, aided by some of the finest international artist, he has returned to the characters he made famous, to bring us new dreams… and nightmares.

I have mentioned many (MANY) times that I’m completely obsessed with Neil Gaiman. For all my fawning and fan-girling over him, though, I had never actually picked up any of his Sandman comics – you know, the things he was known for before he started regularly releasing novels. So I borrowed this volume from my sister and I finally had time to read it this week.

This is both a good and a bad way to be introduced to the world of the Sandman. On the one hand, you get a story starring each Endless sibling, which gives you an idea about them – their personality or reputation or a hint of their back story. Basically a snapshot from their very long lives.

On the other hand, since I haven’t read any of their other stories, I had no idea what to expect.

Based on these stories – I like to call them “vignettes” because a) it sounds fancy and b) that’s pretty much what they were – and based on the little factoids I know about each Endless, I’m going to guess that Delight/Delirium will be my favourite sibling (my good friend Jane loves Death, so I’m naturally inclined to like her too), because I think she’s fascinating. What happened to her that caused her to shift from Delight to Delirium? I liked that we got a glimpse of her original self in Dream’s vignette, but I also just want to know more.

What’s especially interesting about this volume is that each vignette is illustrated by a different artist (listed above in the synopsis) so there were a lot of different styles which, obviously, made the reading experience a bit more complex than if it had all be done in one style. Artistically, I’m not sure which one I liked the most, but the portraits of Despair actually made me feel sad, so they were most effective.

Neil Gaiman’s prose is, as always, delightful, evocative, and sometimes thought-provoking, but can I really say anything bad about him? No, I can’t. I just can’t.

I loved getting a glimpse of the Endless in the volume and I just bought the first volume of the original Sandman comics, so hopefully I’ll have a better understanding of their world soon. Apparently, once you start reading them, you just can’t stop, and I’m excited to embark on this epic journey.

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Nimona – Noelle Stevenson

Nimona – Noelle Stevenson

23131087Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

I might not read a lot of comic books, but I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about Nimona so I decided to pick it up.


First of all, the animation is adorable. It’s fairly simple, but it’s effective. Apparently you can spot random superheros/villains in the background of some panels, but I’ll admit that I was too focused on Nimona herself to pay attention to the small details (I’ll look for those “Easter eggs” the next time I read it).

I’m a huge Adventure Time fan, and reading Nimona felt like reading an Adventure Time comic book (I have a small collection, because man, they’re addictive). Nimona is a complex girl and, in my mind, a combination of some of AT‘s strongest female characters: she’s as tough as Fionna, as clever as Princess Bubblegum, as fiery (literally and figuratively) as Flame Princess, as sassy as Lumpy Space Princess, and as badass-with-a-soft-side as my personal favourite, Marceline the Vampire Queen.


She doesn’t look so badass here, but trust me, she is.

Nimona made me laugh out loud, especially whenever she turned into a shark (“I’M A SHARK”), but there were moments where, instead of trying to offer some sort of complicated explanation, she dismissed something by saying “it’s magic”, or “it’s science”, and I loved it. Sometimes you don’t need an explanation for something, as long as it makes sense within the story’s world.

The relationship between Blackheart and Goldenloin (if that’s not the best name for a hero, I don’t know what is), is complicated but arguably realistic (realistic within their world, I mean). And the development of Blackheart and Nimona’s relationship was just the cutest thing.

I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a strong, badass female villain/shapeshifter (did I mention her shapeshifting is amazing? Because it is) whose default form is a “pudgy” girl. Nimona is an excellent read, and I am definitely going to be re-reading it – after I lend it to everyone I know.

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Fiction Friday Round-Up – March 6, 2015

Books I’ve read this week include (but are not limited to):

  • Marvel: 1602 – Neil Gaiman: “Here are the best things about it: It takes Marvel characters and imagines what they would have been like in 1602.”
  • Audrey (cow) – Dan Bar-el: “The illustrations in this book are lovely and a perfect fit for the story. Audrey oozes sweetness and the animals look the way they “sound” (if that makes sense).”
  • The Replacement – Brenna Yovanoff: “I wanted to like this book so much. The cover. The synopsis. The Edward Scissorhands comparison. The COVER. The super creepy excerpt on the back of the jacket. THE COVER (seriously, this cover gives me chills).”

Can’t wait to see what next week holds!

Marvel 1602 – Neil Gaiman

Marvel 1602 – Neil Gaiman, art by Andy Kubert

Neil Gaiman’s vision of the Marvel Universe in the year 1602! The year is 1602, and strange things are stirring in England. In the service of Queen Elizabeth, court magician Dr. Stephen Strange senses that the bizarre weather plaguing the skies above is not of natural origin. Her majesty’s premier spy, Sir Nicholas Fury, fends off an assassination attempt on the Queen by winged warriors rumored to be in service to a mad despot named Doom. News is spreading of “witchbreed” sightings – young men bearing fantastic superhuman powers and abilities. And in the center of the rising chaos is Virginia Dare, a young girl newly arrived from the New World, guarded by a towering Indian warrior. Can Fury and his allies find a connection to these unusual happenings before the whole world ends? 

I actually read this about a week ago but I forgot.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really read a lot of comics, so critiquing them is not my forte.

This, however, is the type of comic I would so totally read. I love the Elizabethan era, and though this takes place right before her death, it was still a fascinating time.

Here are the best things about it:

It takes Marvel characters and imagines what they would have been like in 1602.

That’s it.

If you need more recommendation than that, I don’t know what to tell you.

Most of the “big” names show up: the original X-men, the Hulk, Captain America (in the craziest twist ever!), and, my personal favourite superhero, Spiderman.

Fantastic Four and Dr. Strange mythology has never been my strong suit, but I knew enough to recognize them. And while the majority of my X-men knowledge comes from one of those DK reference books that I read many years ago, I was still pretty pleased to figure out most of the allusions.

Plus it’s Neil Flippin’ Gaiman and he can do no wrong in my eyes, so we all know I was going to love this, even if it hadn’t been set in my favourite time period.

Also, the art is really nice: detailed but not “busy”, dark colours that match the tone, etc. Good job, Andy Kubert!

Flora & Ulysses – Kate DiCamillo // The Last Temptation – Neil Gaiman // Doll Bones – Holly Black

Even though it’s actually Sunday, this still technically counts as a Fiction Friday! Man, I’ve really missed reading books for fun.

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures:

“It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry — and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart. From #1 New York Timesbest-selling author Kate DiCamillo comes a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format — a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black-and-white by up-and-coming artist K. G. Campbell.”

I borrowed this from my boss because I heard it was good, and man, I’m glad I did! It’s super cute and has a really sweet message at the end. The illustrations are adorable – you wouldn’t think a half-bald squirrel would be cute, but Ulysses is precious!

My favourite character – apart from Ulysses – was Dr. Meescham who was both hilarious and enlightening. I also liked how dramatic William Spiver was and how Flora came to accept him, despite her initial misgivings.

There were many layers to this book, all of them equally enjoyable: the comic books Flora loved, her relationships with her parents, Ulysses’ story…I loved that, like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, there were chapters that were entirely illustrated in comic-book form that advanced the plot and made it easier to image the characters.

Like I mentioned up above, the ending was really sweet and was something that I think a lot of children will benefit from reading.

The Last Temptation:


“Neil Gaiman brings shock rocker Alice Cooper’s concept album to life in a surreal sideshow of the soul! Join a young boy named Steven on a surreal journey of the soul, as an enigmatic and potentially dangerous Showman seduces him into joining his carnival. Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of this seminal Gaiman work, returned to print for the first time in over a decade. Fully remastered in color, this Deluxe Edition incorporates complete scripts to all three chapters, black-and-white thumbnail art of pre-colored pages, an original outline of the project by Neil Gaiman, and a collection of letters between shock rocker Alice Cooper and the author!”

One of my Christmas gifts from Ro was this newly re-released edition of a Gaiman comic book. I haven’t gotten around to reading any of Gaiman’s comics yet (there are so many and, as someone who has never been a huge comic fan, it’s a bit daunting), but this was a good start.

I liked the Theatre of the Real – it was creepy and scary and could definitely mess with your head – like most of Gaiman’s worlds. The comic was written in such a way that I probably would have guessed it was a Neil Gaiman work even before reading his name on the cover.

Michael Zulli’s artwork is very well done. Again, I’m not a big comic reader, so I don’t really have a basis of comparison, but in my humble opinion, they were eye-pleasing.

While I realize the Showman is supposed to be Alice Cooper (the persona, not the person), I couldn’t help thinking that if this had been made into a movie 15 years ago, Johnny Depp would have done an incredible job as the villain.

The only thing is, now I feel the urge to listen to Alice Cooper…

Doll Bones:

“Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her.

But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen—and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.

Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?”

I also borrowed this book from my boss, after we briefly bonded over a mutual admiration of Holly Black. I have to say, though, it wasn’t as scary-good as I hoped it would be.

I imagine it would have scared the pants off of me when I was younger, which I guess makes sense (since it’s a middle-grade novel). I did relate to the children and how they felt like they should grow up but they weren’t ready to stop playing (story of my life!). But there were parts in the middle that sort of lagged, parts where I was waiting for the Queen to do something terrifying, but nothing happened.

Yes, it was creepy; yeah, there were moments when I wondered how wise I was to be reading it after midnight; but overall, it wasn’t a long-lasting fear. It was those brief seconds of a heightened heart rate, and then…nothing. No after effects, no peeking over my blankets to make sure I was still alone…nothing. Still a decent read, though, and recommended if you like Holly Black.