Thursday, 8 October 2015

Curses and Confetti by Jenny Schwartz

Curses and Confetti by Jenny Schwartz is the third novella in her Bustlepunk Chronicles that started with Wanted: One Scoundrel (and continued with Clockwork Gold). This one continues the romance between Esme and Jed in the lead-up to their wedding, while introducing a new mystery and set of shenanigans for them to deal with.

Esme Smith and Jed Reeve are getting married. The unlikely pairing of an Australian suffragette and an American inventor is set to be the wedding of the year—until the Gypsy Oracle arrives in town, a man is killed, Jed is hopelessly compromised and Esme has to save her man and survive…Grandma!

This instalment in the romance of Esme and Jed focuses on their wedding planning, which is rudely interrupted by a scandal and a curse. While Esme juggles wedding planning with appeasing the town gossips over the scandal, hosting Jed's grandmother, and her women's lib plans, Jed gets distracted by clockwork (and helps on the scandal front). I did find the steampunk elements a little bit less quirky than in the earlier novellas, but perhaps that's because the worldbuilding is more established by now (and there was no cause for anything to explode).

Curses and Confetti was not a long read but it was a pleasant and relaxing one. Life has been a bit stressful lately, so it was a good book to wind-down with in bed. If you enjoyed the earlier novellas in the series, I definitely recommend picking up this one. I hope there will be more stories in the series because I would like to know what Esme and Jed get up to next.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, self-published
Series: Bustlepunk Chronicles, book 3 of 3 (so far)
Format read: eRC
Source: the author
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness is a YA novel set in a version of the US where a series of Chosen Ones have to avert apocalypses on a regular basis. The main characters, however, are relatively ordinary bystanders, trying to get on with their lives in a crazy world.

What if you aren't the Chosen One? The one who's supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you're like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week's end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

This was an excellent book. Both funny and poignant, it gently mocked the teenagers-chosen-to-save-the-world subgenre, while giving us well-developed characters to care about. At the start of every chapter was a short paragraph describing what was happening with the world-saving kids, and then the rest of the chapter would be about our main characters and their relatively mundane problems.

The narrator is Mikey, who is mostly concerned about the normal teenager things: asking out the girl he likes, his sister's health problems and graduating before someone blows up the high school. He also has OCD and anxiety, partially brought on because of his mother's political career, and his older sister is a recovering anorexic. The two older siblings also spend a lot of time trying to protect their much younger sister from their mother's career, their alcoholic father and whatever is going bump in the night.

The best thing about this book is its portrayal of mental illness, especially OCD. Mikey's symptoms are a seamless backdrop to his life, except when they're not and they get more serious and seriously disruptive. We watch Mikey get progressively worse as the novel progresses and then we see him ask for help. I haven't read many books with positive portrayals of therapy and I can't think of any with positive portrayals of taking medication for a mental illness. But The Rest of Us Just Live Here does all of this.

There were also some great portrayals of gay teens — Mikey's best friend is gay — but I don't want to go into too much detail there because spoilers.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here wasn't actually as funny as I was expecting/hoping it would be, but the emotional depth made up for it. As the as the background apocalypse goes, it caused me to think about Buffy a lot while reading. There aren't actually a huge number of direct parallels with Buffy — the most obvious being that Buffy is indeed of the subgenre being parodied — but the idea put me in mind of that episode where Xander has his own little adventure while the rest of the gang save the world ("The Zeppo"). Not that Mikey or any of his friends were ever in with the world-saving crowd (and they don't have any adventures with larcenous zombies), but it's the same feeling of background doom permeated The Rest of Us Just Live Here. I suspect there are a lot more references to more recent YA books (and certainly to fashionable tropes) than there are to a twenty year old TV show.

The important thing, however, is that The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a pretty great book. It's not as hilarious as I expected, but it's very entertaining and the portrayal of mental illness is excellent. It's an entertaining critique of the kind of universe where the world has to be saved from the vantage point of a small town over and over again. I highly recommend it to fans of YA spec fic books, fans of Buffy and just fans of spec fic generally.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: October 2015, Harper Teen (US edition)
Series: No.
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Infinite Loop by Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charretier

The Infinite Loop by Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charretier is a self-contained comic book mini-series. The blurb caught my eye on NetGalley because of the time travelling lesbians element, which it absolutely delivered on. (I couldn't find a nice cover image for the collected volume, so the image to the right is from issue #1, but I gather the same art is being used for the collection.)

A science-fiction series that asks the age-old question, "What would you risk for a chance at true love?" Meet Teddy, a young woman who lives in a faraway future where time traveling is a common practice and her job is to maintain the status quo by correcting time paradoxes. But when she meets Ano, "a time paradox" and the girl of her dreams, Teddy must decide between fixing the time stream or the love of her life, both of which have unique consequences. A dynamically graphic, science-fictiony, poetical, paradoxical wunderkind of a sexy, time-traveling, adventure-packed comic.

The story is about Teddy who is part of what we could loosely call the time police. Her job is to travel through time and space dealing with anomalies — things that shouldn't be there like dinosaurs in the 20th century. Dealing with anomalies involves erasing them from the continuum so they don't continue to cause trouble. But then Teddy meets a human anomaly, with whom she falls in love.

The somewhat odd thing, that isn't addressed as much as I would have expected, is that the society of future time travellers does not believe in love. They view it as a quaint historical phenomenon and so are shocked when Teddy falls in love. (And also shocked by the fact that the anomaly, Ano, isn't a proper person because she is an anomaly.)

What follows is Teddy running away from the world, discovering a huge conspiracy and fighting to fix everything despite said conspiracy. There are a few confusing time loops — but it's not a proper time travel story if there aren't confusing time loops — and Teddy's path crosses with alternate reality versions of herself.
<minor spoiler>
And because I was a bit concerned when I was reading, there is indeed a happy ending.

Overall this was a fun, if slightly confusing, read. I was glad to read a self-contained comic that wasn't part of a longer series. Recommended if you enjoy time travel stories and/or lesbians.

4 / 5 stars

First published: December 2015, IDW Publishing
Series: Yes, but this volume collects the entire series
Format read: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol 1: Squirrel Power written by Ryan North and illustrated by Erica Henderson. It is the first trade paperback collection of Squirrel Girl comics, containing issues #1–4 and also the first issue she ever appeared in from 1990.

Wolverine, Deadpool, Doctor Doom, Thanos: There's one hero that's beaten them all-and now she's got her own ongoing series! (Not that she's bragging.) That's right, you asked for it, you got it, it's SQUIRREL GIRL! (She's also starting college this semester.) It's the start of a brand-new set of adventures starring the nuttiest and most upbeat super hero in the world!

OK. Squirrel Girl is my new favourite. Sorry Carol/Chewie and Kamala, you are now number two. (For the record, Spider-Woman and She-Hulk are number three. For now.) This comic is awesome. I had read issue #1 before, but while it stands as a nice introduction, the real meat of this story arc happens in the other three issues. Issue #1 does introduce Doreen, her surroundings, her squirrels and her room mate, though, so don't like, y'know, skip it or anything silly like that.

The main arc of this volume is Squirrel Girl saves earth from Galactus (I don't think it's a spoiler that Earth doesn't get destroyed, especially not this close to Earth/reality actually being destroyed in Secret Wars). She has a limited amount of time before Galactus reaches earth and by golly do other things just keep getting in her way. Hilariously. And OMG the Squirrel Girl and squirrel armour/space suits were the absolute best. Especially Tippy's version. *flails and dies of cutedorable*


(I wrote the rest of this review, other than this paragraph, before reading the 1990 issue.) The retro issue, which I suppose isn't that terribly retro since it's from the 90s, was a better read than I expected. It had the old art style and, even ignoring the weird 80s make-up, Squirrel Girl didn't look as nice as she does now. (Notably, her tail was less fluffy and her uniform was a bit meh.) BUT! It did cover the backstory with Iron Man that she kept alluding through in the modern story arc, so that was pretty cool. The actual story was enjoyable and almost as funny as the modern story, so whoo, not a dud. Squirrel Girl is awesome no matter what! This kind of makes me want to go back and read other old Squirrel Girl-having issues... at some point when I've subscribed to Marvel Universe again.

This comic/volume was hilarious and super fun to read. Unless you hate fun or adorableness (or squirrels, I suppose), this is the comic you should be reading. I cannot wait for the next volume, which luckily is only three months away, whoo. I am very tempted to go buy the floppies/digital floppies so that I can have MOAR NOW, but we have made a pact to only buy trades so I will be strong and wait. (I want a squirrel-ear headband. I would probably only wear it at cons, but still.) Also the trade included the letters columns, which I wasn't expecting but which kind of makes sense, in retrospect, given issue #4. So if you like letters, you still get them in the trade. Bonus! You also DO get the hidden text along the bottom which I'd heard somewhere we wouldn't so YAY because it is awesome.

Read Squirrel Girl!

5 / 5 stars

First published: September 2015, Marvel
Series: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, first volume of first run of solo series containing issues #1–4 plus Marvel Super-Heroes #8 from 1990
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Online book shop which is entirely not affiliated with Amazon.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Invisible Republic Vol 1 by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Sara Bechko

Invisible Republic Vol 1 by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Sara Bechko is the first collected volume of an ongoing comic book series. It caught my eye on NetGalley because of the SF/space aspect and kept my attention because of the female name on the cover. Turns out it's written by a husband and wife team (and illustrated by the husband), which I didn't realise until the bios at the end.

Arthur McBride's regime has fallen. His planet has been plunged into chaos, his story shrouded in mystery, until reporter Croger Babb discovers the journal of Arthur's cousin, Maia. Inside is the violent, audacious, hidden history of the legendary freedom fighter. Erased from the official record, Maia alone knows how dangerous her cousin really is, and what truly happened to bring him to power.

This comic hooked me pretty quickly. It's set in two time periods: the "present" after the fall of a dictatorship on the planet Avalon, and the "past" at the time the regime is coming into power. A journalist from the future finds a journal written by the former dictator's cousin, telling a story different from the official party line. The story is then split between his time trying to track down more information and the past as told from Maia's point of view.

I liked how the art style distinguished between the time periods through use of colour as well as a few actual year headings. Although it wasn't a hard and fast rule, the past tended to be more golden toned, while the future had cooler tones.

Invisible Republic is a story about revolutions and convenient lies. This first volume only really sets the scene, but it does so in a satisfying way. I felt that there was enough story for me to get a feel for the series but, of course, there's plenty more to tell in upcoming issues. Also, there was a nice cliffhanger/revelation at the end of this arc just in case you needed more reason to want to keep reading (I didn't, but I still liked the reveal).

I highly recommend Invisible Republic to all fans of SF and comics. It has a pretty rad female protagonist and also bees. I am definitely looking forward to continuing with the story when the second volume comes out.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: September 2015, Image Comics
Series: Invisible Republic, Volume 1 of on-going series, containing issues #1–5
Format read: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Monday, 21 September 2015

Captain Marvel Vol 3: Alis Volat Propriis by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Captain Marvel Vol 3: Alis Volat Propriis by Kelly Sue DeConnick and illustrated by David Lopez is the third collected volume of Captain Marvel comics (well, or the 5th or 6th depending on how you want to count, but there is a "3" on a spine) that started with issue #1 in 2014 (see my reviews of Vol 1 and Vol 2). It's also the collection of the last comic issues before the Secret Wars mega event, when the Captain Marvel series is replaced by Captain Marvel & The Carol Corps.

Captain Marvel's time as an astronomical avenger has pitted her against some of the worst the galaxy has to offer (lookin' at you J'Son). The Haffensye Consortium has been tracking Captain Marvel and Tic for weeks. Now, they've finally caught up to them both! Captain Marvel was barely able to survive the last time she squared-off against the Haffensye - think she'll be so lucky again?

Because this is the last normal collected volume of Captain Marvel of this run, it's a bit shorter than usual, comprising of only four issues. The first two form an arc that's mostly about Chewie the cat (and I suppose somewhat crucially ties up Tic's storyline). Aside from the recurring issues Marvel has with plausibility of space physics — Astrophysics: Marvel's one weakness! — I really loved this story. Partly because Chewie had a bit of a Mad Max moment and partly because I think I finally understand how Carol's suit works in space. So that was issues #12–13 and they were a nice way to tie up Carol's time in space.

However, issue #14 was a dud. It was part of some sort of cross-over event ("The Black Vortex") which has apparently mainly taken place in a bunch of other series. The story only made borderline sense and did not end with an actual conclusion, which was disappointing. I took half a star off the volume's rating for issue #14 being such a nonsensically incomplete story. (Would it have killed them to add in another issue to round things off, especially given how short the volume is?)

The last issue was lovely though. Carol goes back to Earth and the story ties up the loose ends of her relationship with Tracy, who has been a constant background presence throughout DeConnick's entire time on Captain Marvel. It was bittersweet but a really nice way to leave things. I love it.

If you've been enjoying Captain Marvel thus far, I strongly recommend picking up this volume, even if you're a bit put off by its shortness. That said, if you have the option to grab just issues 12, 13 and 15, then that's probably a satisfactory alternative. In the meantime, I am eagerly awaiting the collected Captain Marvel & The Carol Corps and also A-Force.

4 / 5 stars

First published: September 2015, Marvel
Series: Captain Marvel (2014) Volume 3 and the end of the run, though it is followed by Captain Marvel & The Carol Corps
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Non-Amazon online book shop

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Saga Volume Five by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga Volume Five written by Brian K Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples is the fifth volume of collected comics in the ongoing Hugo Award-winning series. If you haven't been keeping up with the series, this is not the point to jump in at. I strongly recommend starting with the first trade collection.

Multiple storylines collide in this cosmos-spanning new volume. While Gwendolyn and Lying Cat risk everything to find a cure for The Will, Marko makes an uneasy alliance with Prince Robot IV to find their missing children, who are trapped on a strange world with terrifying new enemies.

Unsurprisingly, Volume Five picks up and continues the story from where we left off in Volume Four. The story continues incrementally, as it has been, with some progress from all the main character groups. I thought it was tied together particularly nicely by the main character's narration.

I'm honestly not sure what else to say that I haven't said in earlier. I love Ghüs and Lying Cat and the central stories are all a bit tragic. And there's the obligatory horrifying giant genitalia. Basically, if you've been enjoying Saga thus far, there's no reason not to pick up this next volume.

I'm looking forward to rereading the entire series when it's complete (whenever that is) and being able to post a meatier review. As it stands, I'm looking forward to the next instalment.

4 / 5 stars

First published: September 2015, Image Comics
Series: Volume 5 collecting issues #25–30 of the ongoing series
Format read: Paper! Trade paper! Back!
Source: A random comic book store while travelling

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Wayward Vol 2: Ties That Bind by Jim Zub and Steven Cummings

Wayward Volume 2: Ties That Bind written by Jim Zub and illustrated by Steven Cummings is the second collected volume of the ongoing comic book series. I have previously reviewed Volume 1, which ended on quite a dramatic note.

After the traumatizing finale of volume one, everything has changed for our supernatural teens. Who is Ohara and how does she fit into the great pattern of destiny and power that will change Japan forever? Jim Zub (Conan/Red Sonja, Samurai Jack) and Steve Cummings (Deadshot, Legends of the Dark Knight) continue their supernatural spectacle that combines the camaraderie and emotion of shows like Buffy with Japan's engaging culture and mythic monsters. This volume includes design artwork by artist Steve Cummings and profiles on mythical creatures by noted monster researcher Zack Davisson.

I enjoyed Volume 2 much more than Volume 1 — and Volume 1 was far from a drag. What I think makes Volume 2 so much more compelling is the way in which in brings a lot of separate story threads together into a cohesive whole. Vol 1 ended on a cliffhanger, which I thought was a little overwrought. Vol 2 doesn't resolve it straight away, instead introducing us to a new character, Ohara, who I liked just as much as Lori. Although this arc starts off focussing on Ohara, the other characters we loved in the first volume quickly make a reappearance (and so many cats, even more cats than before).

Although I don't disagree with the general pitch of "Buffy but in Japan", Ties That Bind takes Wayward in a more unique direction.  The ensemble cast is very different, with a different set of skills and personalities and more cats, and the background mythology, of course, is much more Japanese. In Ties That Bind a lot of the worldbuilding backstory comes together in a way that there wasn't room for in Volume 1. I highly recommend reading the two volumes as a single unit. At the very least, if you were on the fence about volume 1, I suggest giving volume 2 a chance.

I enjoyed Wayward Vol 2: Ties That Bind a lot and not just because there were many cats. I am definitely looking forward to the next instalment. This is a great comic series and I highly recommend it to comic and fantasy fans. And fans of Buffy.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: August 2015, Image Comics
Series: Wayward Volume 2 containing issues #6–10 of the ongoing series
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Purchased from a real book shop!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Tsana’s September (and August) Status

Oops. Some of you may have noticed that I skipped my August status. Time and external pressures caused it to completely slip my mind. On the other hand, it's been a pretty quiet two months on the blog/reading/reviewing front for the same reason. Part of it is work-related deadlines eating up a lot of my time but part of it has been Defying Doomsday reading. The latter has gone quite well; Holly and I have finished making our way through the slush and are now narrowing down our shortlist to TOC-length. Exciting times.

Also, I am currently on exceptionally shitty hotel wifi, so this post will not have images in it like my updates usually do. Honestly I'll be glad if the text component posts within the first five tries.

What Have I Read?

What Am I Reading?

I recently started Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley, the sequel to Mirror Empire. I kind of wish there'd been a shorter gap between books because most of the names completely escaped my memory. But I've gotten back into it quickly enough.

I am also partway through Jason Nahrung's Blood and Dust, although I'm taking a break for now because my reading mood shifted.

I've also made some headway on Letters To Tiptree, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein. It's a good book to dip into when I only have a short amount of time to read.

New Booksies

For internet is slow reasons, books are listed in reverse order, from most recently acquired to oldest.
  • Musketeer Space by Tansy Rayner Roberts — the full ebook as a perk of supporting her Patreon
  • The Joy of Witchcraft by Mindy Klasky — review copy from LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme
  • Wayward Volume 2: Ties That Bind by Jim Zub — trade comic book purchased from real life book shop
  • Planetfall by Emma Newman — ARC from NetGalley
  • Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond — hardcover was a present. Already reviewed, see above.
  • The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu — purchased ebook
  • Letters To Tiptree edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein — review copy received from Twelfth Planet Press
  • The Starry Rift by James Tiptree Jr — purchased ebook (in anticipation of reading the above), already reviewed, see above
  • Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb — purchased ebook
  • Shutter Vol 1: Wanderlost by Joe Keatinge — purchased trade paperback, already reviewed, see above
  • Spider-Woman Vol 1: Spiderverse — purchased trade paperback, already reviewed, see above
  • Blood and Dust by Jason Nahrung — review copy from Clan Destine Press
  • The Big Smoke by Jason Nahrung — review copy from Clan Destine Press
  • Cloudwish by Fiona Wood — review copy from NetGalley, already reviewed, see above
  • Water by KJ Taylor — the last Drachengott book, review copy from NetGalley

Friday, 11 September 2015

Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond

Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond is a licensed fiction novel set in it's own version of the DC universe. As should be obvious from the title, it's about Lois Lane, the reporter will work with Clarke Kent (aka Superman) at the Daily Planet when she grows up. It's set when she's in high school and has just moved to Metropolis with her family, now that her army general dad has gotten a permanent posting. It's not quite set in the same universe as any other Superman property that I'm aware of; it puts teen Lois in our near future.

Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all over—and seen all kinds of things. (Some of them defy explanation, like the near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.) But now her family is putting down roots in the big city, and Lois is determined to fit in. Stay quiet. Fly straight. As soon as she steps into her new high school, though, she can see it won’t be that easy. A group known as the Warheads is making life miserable for another girl at school. They’re messing with her mind, somehow, via the high-tech immersive videogame they all play. Not cool. Armed with her wit and her new snazzy job as a reporter, Lois has her sights set on solving this mystery. But sometimes it’s all a bit much. Thank goodness for her maybe-more-than-a friend, a guy she knows only by his screenname, SmallvilleGuy.

Fallout was a fun read, which is pretty much what I expected from it. Lois is the new girl at school and sees herself as a permanent outsider because her family moves so much. Despite this, she quickly makes friends and finds an underdog to defend. We also see her coming into her own as a junior journalist (junior as in, it's kind of a high school programme).

When I was adding this book to Goodreads, I couldn't help but notice a review in which someone was complaining that Superman/Clarke wasn't in the book (a great disappointment to that reviewer). Given that complaint, I was quite surprised at how much SmallvilleGuy was in the story. He might not have shown up at Lois's school in person but he was absolutely the second most prominent character in the story — Lois spends a lot of time chatting with him online.

Fallout was a very self-contained book and I don't think you even had to know the whole Lois Lane/Clarke Kent schtick to enjoy it. (But surely everyone knows that right? If not, you do now!) I am much less in touch with the DC universe/s than I am with the Marvel cannon and I had no trouble understanding what was happening. It's really just a YA science fiction novel that happens to have two popular characters at the centre of it (and a bunch of new characters who are basically just ordinary high school kids).

I enjoyed Fallout and I will definitely be reading the sequel when I can get my hands on it. Anyone after a fun YA read with a bit of creepy conspiracy and a whole lot of kick-arse heroine thrown in should absolutely try to track it down. My copy was a US import (that may have circumnavigated the globe) but apparently it's coming out in the Commonwealth in March for easier access.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: May 2015, Switch Press
Series: Yes. Book 1, book 2 is coming, beyond that not sure. Also, obviously set in a DC universe
Format read: Hardcover. *GASP*
Source: Present