Review: Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine by Tim Hanley

Title: Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine

Author: Tim Hanley

Star Rating: * * * *

Genre: Pop culture analysis, Superhero

Thanks to NetGalley and Chicago Review Press who provided me with a free copy of this book in return for a fair review.

 Cover - Wonder Woman Unbound

Background and Synopsis

Wonder Woman is a very hot topic at the moment due to the immense popularity of superhero movies, and the unfortunate absence of female leads in any of these films. For Marvel, the conversation has been focused on Black Widow, a character that has at least gotten screen time. For DC, the heroine at the heart of these discussions is Wonder Woman, one of their “holy trinity” of main properties. However, despite the fact that she is supposedly one of the central DC characters, Wonder Woman is often ignored in terms of merchandise and non-comic appearance opportunities. This has led to a situation where most people could probably talk about the histories of Batman and Superman, but are largely ignorant of Wonder Woman’s origins and basic story premises.

Hanley published Wonder Woman Unbound to try and clear up some of the confusion regarding this iconic character. He painstakingly details her history, from the golden age to today, talking about how her stories have been affected by different authors and varying time periods. To those who think Wonder Woman is too confusing a character, Hanley proves them wrong by presenting Wonder Woman as a hero who has undergone extensive changes like all the other major superheroes of DC and Marvel, but she has multiple histories and origins that can be drawn upon to make a cohesive, interesting, and empowering whole.

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Review – French Milk by Lucy Knisley

Title: French Milk

Author: Lucy Knisley

Star Rating: * ½

Genre: Graphic memoir/travelogue

Cover - French Milk

French Milk is about Lucy Knisley’s month-long trip to Paris when she was 22. It is meant to be both a travelogue, as well a series of ruminations on the transition to adulthood. Unfortunately, the book does neither particularly well.

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Double Review – The Unwritten 8: Orpheus in the Underworlds and Locke and Key 6: Alpha and Omega

The following two reviews are going to be short because I find it hard to write about books that I really enjoy. Instead of giving people a fair and accurate description of the good and the bad, I just want to run around in delight, babbling about all the things that I liked. To prevent my review from becoming just a series of animated gifs, I’m going to challenge myself to be brief and concise in my attempts to encourage people to read the latest volumes of both The Unwritten and Locke and Key!

Also, since both books are new or soon-to-be-released entries in popular series, let me be clear that there are at least some SPOILERS AHOY!!!!

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Review – After Dead by Charlaine Harris

Title: After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse

Author: Charlaine Harris

Star Rating: * *

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Cover - After Dead

After Dead was a very strange and unfulfilling follow up to the Sookie Stackhouse universe. Harris writes short (often only a sentence or two long) notes on what happened to the different characters after book 13. However, many of the included characters are minor, forgettable people that readers probably don’t really care about, and several of the more popular characters suffered through very unfortunate lives. Not to suggest that events like heart attacks or divorces don’t happen, but for readers, it is really unpleasant to have your last look at a series be tainted by unhappy events that did not have the benefit of build-up or denouement.

I finished After Dead without feeling as if it had added positively to my experience of the series. If Harris was going to write something like this, I would have preferred to see longer stories about the main characters with more than just tiny hints about significant events in their lives.

I also expect that Harris may be teasing readers with future possible stories (involving Barry, Quinn, other people listed as having adventures that were unspecified), and this was annoying. After all, if we never get these stories, then some of the more interesting characters were left unexplored.

In any case, this is a book for only the most diehard of fans. It’s very short, takes under a half hour to read, and is oddly melancholy.

Top Ten Tuesdays – Best Books to Read For Halloween

And now for this week’s list from The Broke and the Bookish, in no particular order:

1.      It – Stephen King

 Cover - It

I’m not usually a Stephen King reader, but It is a masterpiece of horror. I find clowns to be creepy to begin with, but Pennywise can keep me up at night as he’s a being of unimaginable terror. When I first read this book, I have no idea what I was getting into, so the reveal of what was happening to the group of protagonists over decades was incredibly frightening and nightmare-inducing. I still shudder when I hear the phrase “we all float down here”.

 2.      Locke and Key Series – Joe Hill/Gabriel Rodriguez

 Cover - Locke and Key

Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son, and he seems to have inherited his dad’s ability to craft a suspenseful and horror-filled story. Locke and Key is a tale about a family ripped apart by supernatural forces that didn’t seem so terrible to begin with. When their father is brutally murdered, the three Locke kids and their mother move back to the old Locke manor where the kids start to discover a series of magical keys. Some let you become a ghost, others let you change gender, and some even let you peer inside your own head! But using these keys comes with a price…

 3.      The Hallowed Ones – Laura Bickle

 Cover - The Hallowed Ones

The Hallowed Ones is a very unique YA dystopia because the main character is a teenage Amish girl in a world filled with vicious vampires. While this description might seem a bit unusual, the book has an extremely effective setting and plot that made me not want to turn off the lights. The vampires in this book do not sparkle or lead rock bands; they are bloodthirsty beasts that tear people apart and even have some mind control powers. Also, the female lead in this book is amazing!

 4.      I Am Not a Serial Killer (and the rest of the John Wayne Cleaver Series) – Dan Wells

 Cover - I am not a Serial Killer

John is not a typical teenager. If he was over the age of eighteen, he’d be diagnosed as a sociopath, but so far he’s only been labelled as having conduct disorder. His whole life is organised around rules that he’s created to help him make sure that he doesn’t become a serial killer. His research into other killers and his work at his mom’s mortuary seem to keep him stable, but what happens when a serial killer sets up in his home town? Dan Wells manages to write a creepy series without making a loathsome protagonist. Also, the twist in this story is pretty interesting, making this a horror book rather than just another murder mystery.

 5.      Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites – Evan Dorkin/Jill Thompson

Cover - Beasts of Burden Animal Rites
I suspect that there have been more than a few absent-minded adults who have picked up this book for children without realising what it is really about. After all, the art is gorgeously rendered in watercolours, and the main characters are an adorable troupe of dogs and cats. However, these pets are more than just fluffy cute things; they are magically-inclined agents working against the forces of darkness. They deal with creatures that kill indiscriminately, evil spirits called forth from other dimensions, and vengeful ghosts. Animal Rites is a collection of stories that will definitely send shivers down your spine!

 6.      World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War – Max Brooks

 Cover - World War Z

World War Z is a collection of first-person recollections of the zombie war. Based on texts from World War II, this book is chilling because it seems so real and possible. As the stories are from people all around the world, it’s impossible to imagine a safe place during this time period, just a great deluge of fear and death.

 7.      The Newsflesh Trilogy (Feed, Countdown, and Blackout) – Mira Grant

 Cover - Newsflesh Trilogy

Mira Grant graces another one of my top tens because she is just that awesome. The Newsflesh trilogy is a zombie story with a lot of politics and science thrown in. However, even though the world is fleshed out more than your average zombie book doesn’t mean that readers aren’t treated to many hair-raising zombie attack scenes. There’s a lot of heart in Grant’s trilogy, but our heroes are often only moments away from being eaten. Definitely a fun, but intelligent read for the spooky holidays!

 8.      The Works of Edgar Allan Poe

 Cover - Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe

It doesn’t really matter what you pick up by Edgar Allan Poe as all his horror works are delightfully dark and macabre. He’s one of the literary greats of the genre, and his writing is beautiful and unique. Read some his stories and poetry to understand many of the horror tropes that are still in use today!

 9.      The Price – Neil Gaiman  (from Smoke and Mirrors or illustrated in Creatures of the Night)

Cover - Creatures of the Night

The Price is a simple story that manages to be utterly chilling despite its length and small scope. A black cat moves in with the author, and every morning the cat seems to have another injury, each worse than the last. But no matter what the author does, the cat will not stay inside during the night, and whenever the cat is forced to remain in the basement to heal, bad things happen to the author and his family. What exactly is the cat protecting the family from? This story is very effective in both text and illustrated form, and I look forward to the animated feature being released soon!

10.  A Study in Emerald – Neil Gaiman (from Fragile Things)

Cover - A Study in Emerald

Take Sherlock Holmes and stick him in Lovecraft’s world and you get this creepy little story from Gaiman. I can’t say much about it without spoiling the entire thing, but the atmosphere is a fantastic combination of Doyle and Lovecraft’s universe, and it’s a very disturbing view of a very different Earth.

Review – Parasite by Mira Grant

Title: Parasite (Parasitology #1)

Author: Mira Grant

Star Rating: * * * *

Genre: Sci-Fi/Medical Thriller/Horror

Cover - Parasite

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!

Synopsis

Sally Mitchell was seconds away from being taken off life support when she miraculously woke up. The only explanation that the doctors could suggest was that her tape worm implant managed to save her from the effects of her terrible car crash. After all, in 2027, who doesn’t have one of these helpful creatures in their guts to help control their health?

Six years after her accident, Sal remembers nothing of her previous life and just wants to move on. However, her family still wants their “old” daughter back, and Symbogen, the corporation behind the intestinal implants, is still very interested in her as a test subject. When people start falling ill to a mysterious “sleeping sickness” that seems to turn people into mindless, violent automatons, Sal’s life becomes even more of a mess. Wanting answers, she reaches out to an anonymous source who speaks to her in code, but the truth leaves her with difficult choices about who she needs to be loyal to and who she really is.

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Review – Thumbprint by Joe Hill and Jason Ciaramella

Title: Thumbprint

Author: Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella, Vic Malhotra (Illustrator)

Stars: * *

Genre: Graphic Novel, Murder Mystery, Horror

Cover - Thumbprint

Today’s review is a bit shorter than normal and not in my usual style because I do not have a whole lot to say about Thumbprint. I received a copy of this graphic novel off of Net Galley, so I wanted to make sure that I completed a review. However, I didn’t actually enjoy the book all that much. There isn’t much objectively wrong with Thumbprint, it’s just not what I expected from Joe Hill. I am a big fan of his Locke and Key series, but his fantasy-horror books have nothing to do with this latest war-based work.

Thumbprint is the story of a woman soldier coming home from the war in Iraq after having done horrible things. She’s got PTSD and flashbacks, and is absolutely convinced that someone is out to get her. As it turns out, the threats that she is receiving are not a paranoid delusion, and part of her past life is coming back to hurt her.

It’s not that the story in Thumbprint is necessarily uncompelling, it’s just that I’ve read similar tales before and this one isn’t really giving readers a new perspective. There’s a lot of graphic violence and shock tactics in use, but I’ve seen these things before, and frankly, their use in stories is starting to strike me as a bit gratuitous. The biggest weakness of Thumbprint is that its grand message is not particularly grand. Human cruelty is a reality, and war messes people up quite badly. I would have appreciated a theme that was a bit more subtle and nuanced, and an ending that was clearer in what it was trying to convey.

All of the above being said, there are people out there who are going to love Thumbprint. In many ways, it is a short and powerful work. It didn’t do much for me, but I am already very familiar with the horrors of war (thank you, political science background and general news junkieness). There are those for whom this will be a new and horrifying story, and this book may be a five-star read for them. However, this review should serve as a warning to those who are coming in because they love Joe Hill’s work in general. This is not Locke and Key, and you will be disappointed if you are looking for a similar story in this book.