Review – Grim edited by Christine Johnson

Title: Grim

Editor: Christine Johnson

Star Rating: * * *

Genre: Fairy Tale Retellings, Short Stories, Young Adult

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

 Cover - Grim

Synopsis

Grim is a collection of short stories based on classic fairy tales with new twists and reimaginings.

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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 – Nepture Noir edited by Rob Thomas

Title: Neptune Noir: Unauthorized Investigations into Veronica Mars

Editor: Rob Thomas

Star Rating: * * *

Genre: Literary and pop culture analysis

Note: Review copy obtained from NetGalley.

Cover - Neptune Noir

Synopsis and Background

Before I can talk about the book, I have to talk about a TV show: Veronica Mars. Long story short, go watch it. Go watch it right now! I am not generally a TV person, but Veronica Mars is one of my absolute favourite stories. It’s a noir mystery series with a spunky teenage girl as the protagonist. It’s dark, morally challenging, and has a complex and imperfect female main character that drives the show forward. The show ran for three seasons, but was cancelled in 2007.

So why talk about a TV series that was cancelled several years back? In 2013, a massively successful Kickstarter campaign was launched to fund a new Veronica Mars movie, and that movie was released on March 14, 2014 (check your local theatres!). The movie takes place several years after the series when Veronica is a fully fledged adult coming back to Neptune to help out an old friend. I went to see it on opening night, and I can guarantee that fans are going to enjoy this new addition to the Veronica Mars canon!

But what about Nepture Noir? This book is a compilation of essays written about various literary and social aspects of the series with commentary from Rob Thomas, the creator of the series. The essay authors, fans of the series themselves, explore many different aspects of the show, including the symbolism that it uses, and discussions about why the show worked so well.

The Good

If you have not watched Veronica Mars, this book is not for you (yet). But for fans, it’s an interesting addition to the series that celebrates some of the best aspects of the show.

Some of the essays are quite unique, and I really quite enjoyed Chris McCubbin’s piece on why Veronica Mars has a surprisingly big conservative fanbase, and Lawrence Watt-Evans’s character analysis of the cars used in the show. I was also a big fan of the two essays from Joyce Millman and Amy Berner on the role of fathers in the show, particularly the focus on Keith Mars who is one amazing fictional dad. While there was nothing truly ground-breaking presented in this volume, the authors caught onto little details that add quite a bit to one’s experience of the series.

The Bad

Despite my enjoyment, there are some downsides to the book. For one, the pieces were all written before the third and final season came out, so there is a lot of speculating about future development that is no longer relevant as the show moved forward. But since I enjoyed seasons 1 and 2 quite a bit more than season 3, this didn’t bother me at all.

For people looking for more critical academic work on this show, Neptune Noir is more of a lighter, analytical look at the show. This isn’t a fault unless you come in looking for something deeper than you will get, so don’t expect scholarly quality and depth. Just enjoy a series of essays produced by a bunch of articulate fans of the series.

There was only one essay that I truly did not like in Neptune Noir, and that was Heather Havrilesky’s “The Importance of Not Being Earnest”. Before I explain my discomfort, I should give readers a spoiler warning for the show and a trigger warning for content involving sexual assault. One of the most controversial plot elements of Veronica Mars is that the main protagonist is a rape survivor. It’s an integral aspect of her backstory, and part of the reason that she is so driven to root out the evil in Neptune. In Havrilesky’s essay, she concentrates on talking about Veronica as a world-weary teen that has crossed into adulthood too soon, specifically in relation to her views on love. She applauds Veronica’s maturity in understanding that love isn’t this perfect state of being, and that the people you love can hurt you. She then goes on to talk about her first high school breakup. However, this comparison is pretty tasteless when one realises that Veronica’s issues with love arise out of the fact that her first love dumped her without telling her why (and she later finds out that it’s because they might be half-siblings), shortly thereafter, her best friend was brutally murdered, the entire town then turned on Veronica and her father for attempting to solve the crime (Veronica’s dad was the sheriff at the time), she was drugged and raped at a party when she tried to fit back in with her former group of friends, the new sheriff refused to believe her when she reported the assault, and her mother ran off when her father lost his job. In short, Veronica’s views on love have been affected by some severely violent and emotionally disturbing events that are not equal to an average high school breakup. To compare to the two diminishes the severity of the harms that Veronica suffered, so the essay, despite saying some interesting things, left me uncomfortable and frustrated.

Final Thoughts

If you like Veronica Mars, Neptune Noir is probably going to be a fun and thoughtful addition to the series as you wait for what Rob Thomas is going to produce next (and fans should know that the Veronica Mars movie continues in book form with the release of The Thousand Dollar Tan Line on March 25th!).

 

Review – Will-O-the-Wisp by Tom Hammock and Megan Hutchinson

Title: Will-O-the-Wisp: An Aurora Grimeon Story

Authors: Tom Hammock and Megan Hutchinson

Star Rating: * * *

Genre: Graphic Novel, Mystery, Paranormal

NOTE: Review copy obtained via NetGalley.

Cover - Will o the Wisp

Synopsis

After her parents died from accidentally ingesting poisonous mushrooms, Aurora is sent to live with her estranged grandfather deep in the southern swamps. Not only must she contend with this cantankerous old man, but she must figure out how to fit in with the diverse residents of Ossuary Isle. When strange occurrences begin to happen, she starts to explore the realm of Hoodoo magic alongside a priestess from the swamp in order to protect her new community from a vengeful spirit.

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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 – Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London by Sylvain Cordurié

Title: Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London

Authors: Sylvain Cordurié (Author), Laci (Illustrator)

Star Rating: * * *

Genre: Graphic Novel, Mystery, Paranormal

NOTE: Review copy obtained via NetGalley. Publication date is February 11, 2014.

Cover - Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London

Synopsis

After the events at Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock Holmes goes into hiding. By convincing everyone that he is dead, he hopes to avoid any reprisals for his part in Moriarty’s death. However, he finds himself drawn back to London for a case from a very strange client. Individuals linked to the royal house are being brutally killed, and it is not the queen that has sent for him, but a demonic master vampire who needs Holmes to track down a rogue monster. With Watson and his wife being threatened, how can Holmes crack this case without handing over his soul to the proverbial devil?

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