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.

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.

Review: TMNT Villains, vol. 1 (graphic novel)

_graphicnovel-TMNT_Villains

So it’s no secret that I like TMNT. A lot. I grew up with them and it’s one of the only things that I refuse to let go. Imagine my surprise when I came across a graphic novel on netgalley (and, even better, it’s listed as read now). I immediately picked it up, and…

Well, truthfully, I really enjoyed it. If you watch the cartoons, Baxter Stockman and Krang are somewhat familiar characters, although how familiar depends on the incarnation–after all, Stockman in the ’87 toons was a dweeby nerd that eventually turns into some weird fly mutant, and Stockman in the ’03 series is a brilliant megalomaniac whose ambitions quickly go from being a great scientist to nothing but revenge.

Krang’s back story and Stockman’s back story are somewhat similar, in that they were both inspired by their respective fathers. Old Hob and Alopex are both mutants, one working to become a Big Bad in his own right, and the other working for the Shredder himself.

The artwork is gorgeous. Each story has its own color scheming, and it’s beautifully done to separate the stories. Each story is also book-ended with full-page images of the character in question.

Overall, it was a nice, quick read for some backstory on a few of the villains. I enjoyed it and look forward to more.

BFTA Review: Lou Aronica – Blue

Aronica_Lou-Blue

Title: Blue
Author: Lou Aronica
The Fiction Studio
Rating: 5/5

Chris Astor is a man in his early forties who is going through the toughest stretch of his life. Becky is Chris’s fourteen-year-old daughter, a girl who overcame enormous challenges to become a vibrant, vital young woman – and now faces her greatest obstacle yet. Miea is the young queen of a fantasy land that Becky and Chris created when Becky was little, a fantasy land that has developed a life of its own and now finds itself in terrible, maybe fatal trouble. Together, Chris, Becky, and Miea need to uncover a secret. The secret to why their worlds have joined at this moment. The secret to their purpose. The secret to the future. It is a secret that, when discovered, will redefine imagination for all of them. Blue is a novel of trial and hope, invention and rediscovery. It might very well take you someplace you never knew existed. (goodreads.com)

Once I got started with this book, I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know what would happen to Becky, and Tamarisk, and after a while I started really getting the gist of the outcome, but I still kept hoping for something else.

I found myself relating both to Becky, as a child of divorced parents who can’t get along all that well, and to Chris and Polly, as well. It’s really hard to lose someone you love, and it’s especially hard to watch someone die from cancer, because it can be a really slow process.

There were times when I really disliked Polly, mostly because of her poison towards Chris; she dislikes him so much she goes so far as to believe that Chris is trying to take Becky away from her when Becky decides she wants to spend more time at Chris’s. There were times that I disliked her so much that I found her to be unsympathetic. It was Chris’s sadness that tugged my heart strings more, partly because he had lost so much time with Becky, and partly because, just when he was starting to spend more time with her, he loses that time.

I kept hoping for a better ending for Miea, romantically at least. I really wanted her to get back with Dyson, but I know that lives change and Miea had a lot to do, but she at least became friends with Dyson again, and it was a start. But I was also glad they were able to find a cure for the blight.
Even if you don’t read fantasy, or general fiction, I’d recommend you pick this book up and read it. It’s a very touching story, and you won’t regret it.

This book was read and reviewed as part of a virtual tour hosted by Pump Up Your Book. For more information on Lou Aronica or his book, Blue, please visit The Fiction Studio.

Originally posted 11 March 2011.

BFTA Review: Anne Fortier – Juliet

Fortier_Anne-Juliet

Title: Juliet
Author: Anne Fortier
Ballantine Books
Rating: 5/5
Read for: 2011 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge

Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.
This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it? (goodreads.com)

It’s no secret that I really don’t like the Romeo & Juliet story, and it really has nothing to do with the storyline itself, but the fact that it’s over-done. But reading this book was nothing like reading a new take on the Romeo & Juliet story. It was a romance, definitely, but the romance is sewn through Julie Jacobs’s adventures, and it becomes more than just a romance. It becomes an adventure.


The book eventually alternates chapters between the present, with Julie’s story, and the past as Julie reads the letters and papers her mother hid away. I thought this would be distracting, but instead it enriched Julie’s story, and unfolded a new version of Romeo & Juliet that I hadn’t heard before–the one that inspired Shakespeare’s version.


I found Julie to be a little boring at times, and sometimes annoying (and most definitely naive, especially considering how “travelled” she is supposed to be), but I disliked her pushy sister, Janice, even more. Janice often treats Julie like crap, then has the nerve to be upset when Julie brushes her off or doesn’t listen to her. Julie also does really weird things, like run when she should stay and listen to explanation. The book could have been a little shorter if Julie had just followed her heart and gone with Alessandro in the first place.


Despite my annoyance with Julie and Janice, I fell in love with the book. I sometimes felt I was walking through the streets of Siena with Julie. And I so desperately wanted her to be with Alessandro that I would roll my eyes when she did something to push him away. Although the “hate at first sight” scheme might be a little contrived, for Julie and Alessandro it seemed to work; she was intrigued, and not at all put off when it seemed he didn’t speak english at first, and she was definitely physically attracted to him. I just had a hard time believing that the reason he doesn’t believe she is Giuletta is that she is supposed to be dead. It felt like an awkward plot point thrown in to give a little more twist to the story.


Overall, I loved the book (as if the rating didn’t give that away). I didn’t walk into it expecting a romance, but that’s exactly what I got, and it was pleasantly surprising.

Originally posted 24 February 2011.

BFTA Review: Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games

Collins_Suzanne-TheHungerGames

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #1
Scholastic Press
Rating: 5/5
Read for: 2011 Wish I’d Read That Challenge

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender.
If she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love. (goodreads.com)

I’ve read so many raving reviews about this book, I’m so glad I wasn’t disappointed. I absolutely loved the book, and I’ve already got the second in the series, Catching Fire, on hold at my library. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.


Throughout the whole thing, Katniss had me thrown. I wasn’t sure whether she actually liked Peeta, her co-tribute from District 12, or whether she was simply faking the whole thing. Once the games get started, she spends a lot of her time angry at him, but when the rules change, she spends her time nursing him back to health. It’s a little confusing, and I wanted Katniss’s feelings for Peeta to be real, but I also knew that she had some feelings for Gale back home. Yet Katniss finds comfort in Peeta, at least until they are on the train back home, when she breaks his heart, and then feels guilty about it.


I was also torn between wanting Katniss to fight the Capitol more, and feeling the same dispair that she so obviously feels. I liked the rebellious acts she does, wreathing Rue in flowers when Rue dies, and promising that the Capitol will have no winners at all when the Gamemasters go back on their earlier rule change.


I’m hoping that Katniss continues her little rebellion in the next book, and eventually she has something with Peeta, not Gale (probably because we see more of Peeta than Gale, and get to know him better).

Originally posted 13 February 2011.

BFTA Review: Michael Crichton – Jurassic Park

Crichton_Michael-JurassicPark

Title: Jurassic Park
Author: Michael Crichton
Alfred A. Knopf
Rating: 5/5
Read for: 2011 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Creatures once extinct now roam Jurassic Park, soon-to-be opened as a theme park. Until something goes wrong…and science proves a dangerous toy…. (goodreads.com)

Almost everyone’s seen the 1993 movie Jurassic Park, infamous for its T-Rex scene in which the Rex terrorizes people in a couple of Land Rovers. The novel is so much better, in that it’s gorier and definitely creepier.
There are technical aspects, such as the constant discussion of DNA replication, along with incomplete strands and filling in the voids with amphibious DNA, as well as Ian Malcolm’s constant discussion of chaos theory, not to mention the technical aspects, where lines of code are tossed on the page like word vomit.
But it’s all explained in layman’s terms, and it’s easily glossed over in favor of the better part of the novel (and the main characters): dinosaurs.
There’s something you get in novels that you don’t get in movies, and that’s smell. In Jurassic Park, characters are constantly commenting on the smell; carnivores smell like rotted flesh, mostly because of their messy way of eating. Blood and bits of flesh stick to their exposed teeth, their face, their forelimbs, and eventually the material rots. It’s an experience we can’t get watching the movie, and it makes the novel a little creepier because there is a comment on a rotting-flesh smell, and it gives the scene an ominous feeling.
The Velociraptors, although incorrect, are probably the worst in the whole bunch. Definitely the T-Rex is scary, mostly because of its size, but the Velociraptors put a whole new level on terror with their calculating hunting techniques. It’s too bad the Velociraptors were nothing like what’s in the novel. Had the book been written today, they wouldn’t have been Velociraptors, which were about the size of a turkey; they would have been Deinonychus, which were definitely bigger and had the big, scary claw that gave me nightmares as a child.
Despite all this, I loved the book. Really, I love dinosaurs, and I’m most definitely looking forward to reading the next novel, The Lost World.

Originally posted 26 January 2011.