Review: TMNT: Utrom Empire (TMNT 8.5)

TMNTUtromEmpire

IDW publishing

The last time I reviewed a TMNT comic (link at bottom of review), I wasn’t sure how much I could reveal without creating some massive spoilers. Fortunately, this time is different.

Fugitoid, a fugitive android on the run from, well, pretty much everyone, has been captured by Stockman after an unsuccessful attempt at android-suicide. He finds himself caught between the insane, angry Stockman, and Krang, a general of the Utroms. He must decide what to do in his situation, and find his own way out.

Interspersed with Fugitoid’s story is some of Krang’s history, as well as a short storyline with the Turtles themselves. In his history, Krang is painted as a semi-sympathetic villian, one whose only goal is the survival of his species. The turtles are on the farm in Northampton, and Don finds the Fugitoid’s work journal, which is filled with plans for the Technodrome.

The only thing I hate about comics and graphic novels is that usually, an entire story is not encased in a single volume. It’s more like reading a serialized novel, and it. is. frustrating. I want the entire story, from beginning to end, in a single volume. Not because I hate it being separated, but because I just want to know the whole story because I become so involved in it.

This is also probably the fault of my own history with the TMNT franchise, since I grew up with it and love it immensely. I’d love to see an entire story arc contained in one single graphic novel (though I realize the odds of that are probably astronomical).

This is a nice middle-ground of an arc for the Turtles, but also sets up the beginning of a new arc for them. For the fugitoid, it’s also a middle-arc area, and all I want is to read the next installment. This is seriously worse than waiting for next Saturday’s morning cartoons.

A lot of the characters here are familiar, and will be to anyone who has seen the ’87 cartoons and the ’03 cartoons. Zog, the outer space Triceratops from the Triceraton Wars arc of the ’03 cartoon, appears (as a slight aside, that’s the first arc we see the Fugitoid in during those cartoons, also). Stockman is actually more reminiscent of the ’03 cartoon Stockman, and Krang shows up, although he belongs to a race that is never mentioned in the ’87 cartoons, and to be honest, his personality here in the graphic novels is a much-needed upgrade. Fortunately, the storyline itself is unique to these graphic novels, and this is very exciting for me.

So, as a quick recommendation, if you liked the cartoons, you’ll probably (most likely) like this series. Start with volume 1, Change Is Constant, and work from there. Because this is seriously beautiful.

You can find the first graphic novel I reviewed here. TMNT Micro-Series: Villians vol. 1.

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Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black

Black_Holly-ColdestGirlInColdtownTitle: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black
Little, Brown for Young Readers
Rating: 2 / 5

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

I tried to like this. I really, really did. I wanted to read a fresh vampire novel. I wanted something new, something different. I thought the idea of Coldtowns was pretty interesting. Unfortunately, the book fell flat for me.

Part of this is the timeline. Everything happens fairly fast, within a week, and as a result, everything feels rushed. From getting from the party in which Tana finds herself to be the only survivor of a vampire attack, to arriving to Coldtown, to everything else that happens after (which I won’t say, because SPOILERS). It feels rushed because it is–I would have probably preferred this to be a two-parter, told in two novels.

Because of the rushed pace, we don’t learn much about the characters. We learn a lot of backstory about Tana and Gavriel, but that’s it. With the exception of his history with Tana (which, honestly, wasn’t a lot, and he was kind of a douchecanoe through most of it), Aidan has no history. Midnight and Winter, two teens Tana, Aidan and Gavriel run into on their way to Coldtown, have next to no backstory (not that it matters, turns out they really aren’t all that important). A lot of the lack of characterization is where the novel fell flat for me–I didn’t know the characters, wasn’t learning much about them, and therefore I really didn’t care about what happened to them.

There’s also the problem of random chapters dropped in the middle of the action. For some people, this isn’t a problem, but it’s a huge problem for me because it slows down the pace and a lot of it was unnecessary exposition. There’s even a chapter that starts with “once upon a time” and was vaguely reminiscent of Laini Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”, or at least that’s where my mind went at the time, and I asked myself just what I was reading.

Finally, there was the problem with the sort of insta-love between Tana and Gavriel. They have hardly any scenes together, and all of a sudden Gavriel drops the L-word like a bomb. It wasn’t believable.

Overall, the book wasn’t terribly horrible. I did, after all, manage to finish it. Holly Black writes well technically, but between the rushed pace, lack of characterization, and the insta-love, I just couldn’t really enjoy it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. This has not influenced my opinion in any way.

Review: Parasite – Mira Grant

Grant_Mira-ParasiteTitle: Parasite
Author: Mira Grant
Series: Parasitology #1
Orbit
Rating: 5 / 5

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system – even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives…and will do anything to get them.

I decided to do something a little different with this review; instead of reviewing the whole thing at the end, I’d do little progress reports, because, while I am, at the time of this writing, around 100 pages in, I’m having a lot of fun with it and am looking forward to finishing it. I’m planning to do three sections to this review, so without further ado:

Part the first

My initial reaction was that I was unsure of reading this book. I’d heard both good and bad things about Mira Grant’s writing, some say her writing is too involved, and some really enjoy the level of detail and research that goes into her books. Some people had a problem with the format, some didn’t.

So far, I’ve not had a problem with either. I really enjoy when writers don’t feel the need to dumb every little thing down to the readers–they assume their readers are at least intelligent enough to use context clues to figure out what they’re talking about (or, at the very least, the reader knows how to use a dictionary). When Grant feels the need to explain something, it’s done in a way that feels less like an explanation and more like part of the story.

Then there are the articles, transcripts from interviews, excerpts from autobiographies, etc. These little bits are dropped here and there in between the narrative from Sal, our main character, and leave a slightly unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Speaking of Sal, her experience alone is wildly unnerving. When we first meet her, she is waking from a coma, a result of a car crash that left her brain dead. She has no memory of who she was before waking up, and she has to relearn everything it means to be human and to be able to function in society.

At this point in the book, I have my theories about Sal and her thoughts and experiences, but I’ll keep them to myself, as I’m trying to write this review without spoilers.

Part the second

I finished the book in what amounted to one large reading session. The book picks up speed, in a way, after about 100 pages (which, by the way, is usually where I say, “forget it” if the book isn’t holding my attention, but in this case I made an exception). Everything develops slowly, but it feels like it happens fairly quickly, Grant’s writing is that well-done.

Grant makes us want to care about the characters. I felt absolute anger towards Sal’s parents, who are overprotective to the point of treating her like a young child, instead of a fully capable adult. I felt devastated at some of the losses Sal experiences. It’s been such a long time since I’ve cared so deeply about characters, and it was so refreshing.

The last thing I want to touch on is that the book eventually starts developing multiple storylines. There’s the story with SymboGen, the company who developed the tapeworm, there’s the storyline with the military, and finally the “sleepwalkers”, which is coming across as a zombie-like story. Grant previously did a zombie trilogy, the Feed series, and I am now curious whether Grant is going to go in the same general direction (a zombie story). I was actually hoping for something different, because of this. By “different”, I mean not a zombie-esque story.

There are still more books to come in the series, so I guess we’ll find out if it continues, but it also looks like a “human versus human” scenario in the middle of a possible apocalypse, which is very, very interesting to me.

As a quick mention, the theories I had about Sal were correct, and I very much am looking forward to Parasitology #2.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. This has not influenced my opinion in any way.

DNF Review: The Weight of Souls – Bryony Pearce

Pearce_Bryony-WeightOfSoulsTitle: The Weight of Souls
Author: Bryony Pearce
Strange Chemistry
Rating: DNF

Sixteen year old Taylor Oh is cursed: if she is touched by the ghost of a murder victim then they pass a mark beneath her skin. She has three weeks to find their murderer and pass the mark to them – letting justice take place and sending them into the Darkness. And if she doesn’t make it in time? The Darkness will come for her…

She spends her life trying to avoid ghosts, make it through school where she’s bullied by popular Justin and his cronies, keep her one remaining friend, and persuade her father that this is real and that she’s not going crazy.

But then Justin is murdered and everything gets a whole lot worse. Justin doesn’t know who killed him, so there’s no obvious person for Taylor to go after. The clues she has lead her to the V Club, a vicious secret society at her school where no one is allowed to leave… and where Justin was dared to do the stunt which led to his death.

Can she find out who was responsible for his murder before the Darkness comes for her? Can she put aside her hatred for her former bully to truly help him?

And what happens if she starts to fall for him?

I tried with this one. I really did. I started reading it, and it took me so long to get to just 100 pages that I finally gave up.

Truthfully, it isn’t a bad book. The characterization is typical of a teenager in high school, and for some reason, I just couldn’t get into it. Normally, teenagers acting like teenagers doesn’t bother me. This time, it just slowed down my progress with the book. I wasn’t invested in the characters, and as a result, I didn’t care what happened to them.

Part of my problem, I think, was the brief journal entries from Taylor Oh’s ancestor, an archeologist who was part of a team that broke into a tomb and, apparently, pissed of Anubis. The family becomes cursed as a result.

I’m actually unsure whether the backstory is necessary (I gave up reading at about 146 of 225 pages), but for me it felt extraneous. While it was nice to know how Oh’s family became cursed, it wasn’t necessary for me to know the step-by-step process; simply knowing the curse existed, along with some minor details like how it worked, would have sufficed.

The pace of the story was, while fairly consistent, somewhat slow, at least for me. I went into it expecting a much faster pace. For the first 60 or 70 pages, not much happened, and this contributed to my inability to really become invested in the book.

Eventually, I’ll probably pick the book up and try again, but for now, this is a DNF. At the time I read it, it wasn’t a fast enough pace for me, and I couldn’t become invested in the characters. I’m hoping upon a future re-read that I will enjoy the book more.

I received this book via the publisher via Netgalley. This has not influenced my opinion in any way.

Review: Stalk Me – Jillian Dodd

Dodd_Jillian-StalkMeTitle: Stalk Me
Author: Jillian Dodd
Series: Keatyn Chronicles #1
Bandit Publishing
Rating: 1 / 5

Keatyn has everything she ever dreamed. Her life is following the script she wrote for the perfect high school experience. She’s popular, goes to the best parties, dates the hottest guy, and sits at the most-coveted lunch table.

She’s just not sure she wants it anymore.

Because, really, things aren’t all that perfect.
Her best friend is threatening to tell everyone her perfect relationship is a scam.
Her perfect boyfriend gets drunk at every party they go to.
It’s exhausting always trying to look and act perfect.
And, deep down, she isn’t sure if she has any true friends.

To add to the drama, her movie star mom has a creepy stalker.
A hot, older man flirts with her and tells her they should make a movie together.
And she’s crushing on an adorable surfer. Dating him would mean committing social suicide.

So she writes a new script. One where all the pieces of her life will come together in perfect harmony.
But little does she know, there’s someone who will do anything to make sure that doesn’t happen. (goodreads.com)

So… What the hell did I just read?

It took almost two days to finish this book. It was filled with a lot of nothing-happenings. Mixed in with the actually important plot was a lot of slice-of-life stories. Conversations with Keatyn and her mom, with Keatyn and pretty much anyone. Unimportant things she does. Lots of descriptions of her clothing, which I actually started skipping over, because beyond a simple “jeans a t-shirt” or “dress and heels”, I really just don’t care. Throwing around a lot of designer names and spending what feels like half a page on a description of one outfit really crosses the line for me into “overkill” zone.

Not to mention that the book is written in first person, and not done so well. Keatyn gives a day and time for each section of narration, as well as a quick little title that shows up within that narration somewhere. If she needs to describe something that happened in the past (and usually, it’s unnecessary description because if it was important, it wouldn’t have been ignored in the first place). By “in the past” I’m not talking about something that happened years ago, but only an hour or so before her narration began.

The jumping back and forth gave me a headache after a while. I had to keep putting it down because a lot of what she talks about in past tense just wasn’t that important.

There’s also a lot of “valley girl” speak (using the word “like” as something other than describing or verbage). It’s. Annoying. It’s one of those peeves I have that I didn’t really know I had until it came up while reading one day. And it stuck with me, apparently, because it’s still really annoying.

Keatyn’s “friends” are back-stabbing, money-grubbing, no-good people. I know people like this exist, but if you go by this book, the entire existance of them are all holed up at some rich-person high school in Malibu. Keatyn fits in with them pretty well, despite her insistance that she’s different and wants to be different. She caves every. single. time. And it is beyond ridiculous.

Despite Keatyn only being 16, she obviously is much more mature and is also so awesome at doing practically everything. She plays soccer (and is apparently so good that her coach is okay with her skipping practices and games, because she never plays in one single game during the entire novel, even during the parts that actually take place during the school year), she dances, takes martial arts lessons, kickboxing lessons, and surfs. She’s fluent in a few languages and is passable in others. On top of all that, she still has time to party, party, party.  (This entire paragraph brought to you by sarcasm.)

And that’s pretty much my entire take-away from this, because not only did Keatyn seem like an annoying brat with too much time on her hands, she’s also entitled and more than a little indecisive. Let’s not talk about her boy-hopping and who she decides is the love of her life this week. We don’t really get to know much about any of the boys, except possibly Brooklyn. Even Cush gets very little screen time. Keatyn doesn’t give us a feel for any of them, except that they’re all, apparently, really hot.

The “stalk me” drama that happens over the course of the novel actually feels a little thrown in there because someone realized there wasn’t much of a plot otherwise. It feels paper-thin and watered down. Keatyn doesn’t concern herself with any of it unless it’s happening in the now–ten minutes later, it’s pretty much forgotten again. Keatyn also is more than a little stupid during the whole thing, which doesn’t help her case any.

Overall, I was very unhappy with the book. I won’t be continuing the series, especially if any of the sequels are as vapid and boring as this one.

Review: The Collector – Victoria Scott

Scott_Victoria-TheCollectorTitle: The Collector
Author: Victoria Scott
Series: Dante Walker #1
Entangled Teen
Rating: 4 / 5

Dante Walker is flippin’ awesome, and he knows it. His good looks, killer charm, and stellar confidence has made him one of Hell’s best — a soul collector. His job is simple, weed through humanity and label those round rears with a big red good or bad stamp. Old Saint Nick gets the good guys, and he gets the fun ones. Bag-and-tag.

Sealing souls is nothing personal. Dante’s an equal opportunity collector and doesn’t want it any other way. But he’ll have to adjust, because Boss Man has given him a new assignment: Collect Charlie Cooper’s soul within 10 days.

Dante doesn’t know why Boss Man wants Charlie, nor does he care. This assignment means only one thing to him, and that’s a permanent ticket out of Hell. But after Dante meets the quirky, Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect—he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector, and uncover emotions long ago buried. (goodreads.com)

The Collector is a lot of fun. A. Lot.

Dante is your narrator, and if you’re not used to it, he’s a little off-putting with his confidence, swagger, and outright arrogance. At some points, it gets a little annoying, but it’s also nice to see him handed a slice of humble pie, mostly from Charlie.

Dante, in life, was one of the Popular People. Charlie isn’t. Charlie seems a little over the top sometimes in the opposite direction of Dante–she isn’t pretty at all (messed up teeth, fuzzy hair, not-so-clear skin, bad fashion sense, and a bedroom that looks like Mattel’s Barbie threw up all over it). Her friends are just as bad of outcasts. After reading this book, and a few others in the “high school” category, I just have one question: do people really experience high school like this? And by “this” I mean, if you’re not popular, than your ugly? And there’s apparently various levels of popularity? Because I surely didn’t. (For the record, I was not one of the “popular” kids, but I was definitely known.)

Anyway, Dante has a one-track mind about getting out of Hell permanently with this assignment, and of course things go badly for him (because it wouldn’t be story if there weren’t complications). It isn’t until he really gets to know Charlie, as much as he can in a two- or three-day span, that he starts second-guessing himself and his assignment.

When I think about it, I had a lot of problems with this book. Not because it isn’t a good book, because if you take it on the surface level it really is kind of shallow and self-fulfilling, but because Dante is sometimes frustrating (okay, a lot), Charlie is too far in the other direction, and the plot gets a little obvious in places (notably the sub-plot of Max and Valery).

That isn’t to say I didn’t like the book, because I did. It’s a lot of fun. I went into it expecting a fun ride, without taking it too seriously, and that’s exactly what I got. When I first read it, I’d been in the middle of reading several serious books, either seriously long, or just with serious subject matter, and it was a nice change of pace. The second time I read it, I was in the middle of reading a fairly difficult adult book (for some reason, despite enjoying it, I was struggling with the length). The Collector provided me with a nice change of pace there, too.

This is, as you can tell, one of those guilty pleasure books for me. It may not be the best book out there, but dammit, I enjoyed it. And I’m also looking forward to the sequel.

BFTA Review: Jeff Lindsay – Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Lindsay_Jeff-DarklyDreamingDexter
Title: Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Series: Dexter #1
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Doubleday


Rating: 4/5


Meet Dexter Morgan, a polite wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s handsome and charming, but something in his past has made him abide by a different set of rules. He’s a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: he only kills bad people. And his job as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department puts him in the perfect position to identify his victims. But when a series of brutal murders bearing a striking similarity to his own style start turning up, Dexter is caught between being flattered and being frightened — of himself or some other fiend. (goodreads.com)

Please forgive me — this review got away from me a bit.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the first in a series of books about a sociopath who occasionally helps his cop sister and kills bad people. Oh, and we, as readers, are in his head.

Dexter is short–at only 288 pages, it’s one of the shortest novels I’ve read this year, and it’s a quick read. Dexter is pretty fun, for someone who doesn’t understand or experience emotion. He’s practiced at “being human”, his way of saying he fools people into thinking there’s nothing wrong with him. Even his sister doesn’t really suspect. He is clever and witty, and has no trouble at all telling people how it really is, and even calling people out on their stupidity.

Although the book is really a who-dun-it mystery, Dexter really makes the book. He is entertained by odd things, like a Barbie head hanging from his freezer:

Whee. I had a new hobby. (p. 128)

I will say, however, that the introduction to this character is incredibly unpleasant, and as the book progresses, Dexter’s mind becomes more and more weird. He is fascinated by the moon, and it seems like his “hunting” cycle is dictated by it. He seems to only kill when the moon is full.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes and this question: refrigerated trucks have rear-view mirrors?

If you can’t get me my newspaper on time, how can you expect me to refrain from killing people? (p. 170)

Because, the paper carefully pointed out, how could we believe that two such killers could possibly be on the loose at the same time? (p. 171)

Mutilated corpses with a chance of afternoon showers. (p. 173)

Originally posted 08 April 2011.