BooksOfTheMoon

Giant Days: Not On the Test Edition Vol. 1

By John Allison

Rating: 4 stars

Despite hearing good things about this series, I wasn’t really sure what it was about. Recently though, I was looking for something to read, and this was recommended to me again, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’m quite glad that I did – it follows three flatmates in their first year at university and their various (mis)adventures.

I like the art styles here, which was done by Lissa Treiman for the first three quarters (chapters 1-6) and then Max Sarin for the last two. The styles are quite different and when I was flicking through it after first getting hold of it, I thought that the change would be jarring. But when it came to it, I was so absorbed in the story that it barely registered.

I like the three main characters, they’ve all got a lot of personality and are different enough that they complement each other well. It’s very believable that they would be friends, despite being so different. They have the same problems and concerns as other young adults just starting university: getting to know themselves; finding people to love; trying new experiences; making mistakes. It’s a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing where it goes next.

My one, minor, niggle is that although it’s set in a UK university and written by a British writer, it sometimes feels very American. I’m not sure if this is just me, but it does occasionally draw me out of the story.

Book details

ISBN: 9781608869947
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Year of publication: 2017

Norse Mythology

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

Gaiman’s retelling of the mythology in this volume perhaps doesn’t add anything new, but the stories are pared back and well-told, with little getting in the way of the story itself. I was half way through the book in one sitting, so it’s definitely easy to read.

Gaiman talks in his introduction how he was inspired by Roger Lancelyn Green. Although I read his collection of Greek mythology as a child, it appeared to make little impression, as I don’t have much memory of it, and I never read the Norse mythology book.

I appreciate that the book has to rely on what sources there are, but I’m sure there are more stories than the handful of familiar ones told here. It would have been nice to read some of the more obscure ones, but that’s about my only big complaint. Other than that, it’s a very easy book to read, the stories in it would work well told aloud, and it helps to keep an important cultural touchstone alive.

Book details

ISBN: 9781408891957

Witch Hat Atelier, Vol. 3

By Kamome Shirahama

Rating: 4 stars

The third volume of this enjoyable manga neatly resolves the cliffhanger from the end of the previous volume, and apart from some ominous grumbling at each other, nothing more is heard of from the Knights Moralis, who I assume will be back in a future volume. But we are introduced to a bunch of new mysteries, and Master Qifrey is revealed to have his own connection of some sort to the Brimmed Caps and isn’t above being devious himself.

Our window on the witching world, Coco, continues to be innocent and delightful, and she starts to make a connection with Tartah, the grandson of the quill and ink seller, who turns out to have his own problems.

There’s nice little world-building touches, like the idea that the ban on magic that affects bodies is so absolute that even healing magic is banned; and how much the idea of witches helping others in their society seems to be taken for granted by those around them, and they almost stop seeing the witches as people, and just as things that make their lives better.

It’s continues to be a fun and engaging series and I look forward to continuing the story in future volumes.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632368058

Reformed: Supervillain Rehabilitation Project

By H.L. Burke

Rating: 4 stars

I’m a bit of a sucker for traditional superhero stories, so this short novel set in world of regulated superheroes with its strong thread of redemption was a compelling draw. Prism is the young leader of a superhero team, eager to carry on her father’s work in rehabilitating former supervillains. She chooses Fade: someone who had started on the road to redemption and then relapsed.

I love a good redemption story, and while this isn’t entirely the route that the book takes, it’s still fun. There’s a romance between the two leads, signposted very early on, which gave me cause to grumble at the start, as the the chemistry between them felt more told rather than shown. Normally, I roll my eyes at that old cliché, but I guess it’s a cliché for a reason. It wasn’t until quite late in the book that I felt emotionally invested enough in the two characters for their budding relationship to really work for me.

Other than that, I enjoyed it a lot. Of Prism’s team, only her and her brother get a lot of character development, with Keeper (animal control) and Tanvi (super strength) playing supporting roles. I hope they’ll get more to do in future books (especially with the revelation about Keeper towards the end of this one).

Fade never really feels as dangerous or likely to turn on the team as the cover blurb suggested, but the external threat that Prism’s team has to deal with alongside integrating Fade is powerful and works well as a unifying force within the group.

The world is fun and the book doesn’t treat itself hugely seriously. Despite my few gripes, it’s just what I needed in the moment.

(and it’s part of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, so you can read it for free if you’ve got a Kindle and Amazon Prime)

Book details

Year of publication: 2020

The Wicked + the Divine Deluxe Edition: Year Two

By Kieron Gillen

Rating: 4 stars

This second oversize volume of WicDiv collects the third and fourth arcs of the overall story. The first arc in the collection steps back from the overall plot to do more character-focused issues on some of the remaining members of the Pantheon. Regular artist Jamie McKelvie is missing for this arc, with a bunch of guest artists brought in. This mostly really works, but I wasn’t sure about Kate Brown’s art for the first issue of the volume. It’s rather cartoony and, for me, didn’t quite work with the material. On the other hand, Tuta Lotay’s art for issue 13 is fantastic, and puts a soft touch to a delicate subject (and that issue is pretty hard-hitting). I also really like Brandon Graham’s almost dreamlike art for issue 17, which gave us more insight into Sakhmet, who was present right from the start, but who we hadn’t really spent any time with before this.

After dropping hints of her in the previous volume, we finally get to meet Tara in the flesh, as it were. It’s a shame it’s so brief though, as her issue is very powerful, dealing, as it does, with objectification and harassment of women.

The second arc not only goes back to the plot, but turbocharges it. After seeing Ananke’s questionable actions last volume (not to mention the frankly murderous behaviour at the end of that volume), here we see her further manipulate her “children”, culminating in a dark ritual that even Woden doesn’t like the look of.

Spoiler
Also, Laura/Persephone’s alive! *Happy dance*! And while I don’t necessarily blame her for killing Ananke, this can’t end well.

I’m still really liking Gillen’s writer’s commentary. It’s a great way to review what you’ve already read, but more slowly and thoughtfully, paying attention to things that you rushed past on the first pass. And comics, even a large book like this one, are still brief enough that you can make multiple passes like that in a reasonable amount of time.

A compelling story, combining very modern storytelling with ancient tropes in an effective manner. I’m both dreading and can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Book details

ISBN: 9781534302204
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2017

Pied Piper

By Nevil Shute

Rating: 4 stars

I probably wouldn’t have found this book on my own, but a friend recommended it to me and it sounded delightful: an old man goes on a fishing holiday to France in the middle of the Second World War. While he’s there, France is invaded by the Nazis, and he has to make his way home, except that a British couple also out there ask if he’ll take their children back to Britain as they can’t leave. He agrees, and spends the book acquiring more children to bring safely to Britain.

This is a charming and sweet book. Our protagonist, Mr Howard, shows boundless patience towards his charges and a determination to get them out of danger and to safety, whether in England, or to send them to his married daughter in America.

Howard’s decision to go to France on holiday perhaps shows poor judgement, but there are mitigating factors, revealed later in the book. But it also perhaps shows how little the war had impacted gentlemen of a certain age and class at this point, that he felt that a fishing holiday was safe. Although I imagine nobody expected France to fall. Certainly not a quickly and completely as she did. The book is also contemporary to events: it was written in 1942, only two years after the fall of France, when the book is set. At this point, the outcome of the war is far from certain, and to write such a positive book in the midst of it is quite the achievement.

Spoiler
I really loved the relationship that built up between Howard and Nicole, the French girl whose father he knew, and who, it turns out was the lover of his dead son, John. This is something that surprised me in a book written at this time – that such a relationship, with heavy implications that it was a physical one – outwith marriage was not only written about, but in a positive, non-judgemental way. Howard even accepts and describes Nicole as his daughter-in-law, despite the fact that John died before they could marry.

An enjoyable, slow-paced book, albeit with added danger towards the end. But even Nazis want to see their children kept safe.

Book details

ISBN: 9780099530220
Publisher: Vintage Classics
Year of publication: 2009

How To

By Randall Munroe

Rating: 4 stars

There are perfectly sensible ways to dig a hole, cross a river or move house. If you’re a fan of any of being sensible, do not buy this book. The author uses Science! to find the most useless, complex and dangerous ways of doing common or everyday tasks. As well as the above, we learn to how throw a pool party, move house, predict the weather and much more.

In this book I learned that the US military detonated nuclear weapons to see what effect they would have on alcoholic and carbonated beverages (good news, they survived and, apparently, tasted fine); that one percent of people think it’s okay for employees to steal expensive equipment from their workplace (presumably that’s the oft-neglected thieves’ vote); and that if the book itself was used to power a car, it would burn through about 30,000 words per minute.

Munroe persuaded Serena Williams to hit tennis balls at drones (outcome: Serena Williams is very good at accurately hitting balls at things) and Chris Hadfield to answer increasingly stupid questions about how to land an aeroplane/space shuttle/space station (which he amusingly did without batting an eyelid).

Munroe certainly didn’t skimp on showing his workings throughout. For whatever harebrained scheme he comes up with, he probably provides not only the outline solution, but there’s a good chance he’ll provide the relevant equations and fill in the values for you, so you can try it for yourself. In fact, this book probably has more equations than I’ve seen outwith a maths or physics textbook and almost certainly has the highest laugh to equation ratio of any book that I’ve read all the way through.

A lot of fun, engagingly written and scientifically accurate, if implausible. If you do try out some of the things in this book, make sure to video yourself so that the rest of us can point to it in warning of Things That Man Was Not Meant To Attempt.

Book details

ISBN: 9781473680326

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4)

By Martha Wells

Rating: 4 stars

Murderbot is on its way back to Dr Mensah, with additional evidence against the shady-to-full-blown-evil GrayCris corporation when it discovers that she’s been kidnapped. So, once again ignoring its Risk Assessment Module, it immediately goes off to rescue her. En route, it runs into some old acquaintances (friends, Murderbot, they’re your friends) and has more Feelings that aren’t about entertainment media.

Like the rest of the Murderbot books, this is fun, pacy, and with more emotional punch than you would expect from a sarcastic, misanthropic killbot. Despite its best efforts, Murderbot really does care. It wants to protect those who were kind to it and who treat it like a person, and it wants to beat (in both senses of the word) those who are trying to harm them.

It’s not world-shattering stuff. It’s pretty lightweight, and popcorn reading, but it’s good at what it does and is highly entertaining. Recommended.

Like the others in the series, this is short, easily readable in a couple of hours. I got given the middle two volumes in the series as a birthday present, which is what then pushed me to pick up this final novella, as otherwise I probably wouldn’t have bothered, given that they’re priced close to full-sized novels. If Tor releases the novellas as a pretty omnibus on paper, they’ll have a built-in market (I’d certainly buy it, despite now owning all of them in electronic format). Come on Tor, why won’t you take my money?!

Book details

Publisher: Tor.com
Year of publication: 2018

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)

By Martha Wells

Rating: 4 stars

Murderbot got its clients away from the really quite nasty GreyCris corporation on the survey world it had been guarding them on, and after its client bought it, just walked away. Now it decides that it needs to know about its past, about the event that caused it to give itself that name. Aided by a research transport vessel, it ends up taking on a small group of clients as a security consultant and finds that despite what it wants, it cares about them too much to skip out on them.

Murderbot is, despite, you know, the whole murder thing, a delightful protagonist. It’s fun and sarky and, despite its best intentions, isn’t nearly as misanthropic as it wants to be. It just wants to be left alone to watch space-Netflix all day, but instead keeps getting involved with humans it can’t bear to leave to die horribly.

While I’m still not convinced about any society that creates sentient cyborgs and then enslaves them, I think that Wells has given us enough hints that a) she doesn’t consider this to be a place anyone would want to live and b) not the whole of human space is like the bit that built Murderbot.

The research transport that Murderbot sort of befriends (ART) is a lot of fun, and you can’t help wanting to protect its clients/cover story, as they’re young, innocent and just adorable.

Final thought: Murderbot is horrified at the idea of being hugged. I would do some murdering of my own for a hug right now (stupid coronavirus).

Book details

Lumberjanes: To the Max Edition, Vol. 5

By Shannon Watters

Rating: 4 stars

The first story in this collection moves away from Roanoke cabin to Zodiac, as Barney settles in with their cabin-mates following their move to the Lumberjanes camp last volume (incidentally, there was a nice little introduction to the idea of people’s pronouns here, which wasn’t too thickly laid on, but a good way to show it handled well). Diane has been allowed to stay, and she takes them off on a treasure hunt for magic. After this, we’re back with Roanoke, as we move into a sports-based storyline involving roller ball. I’m not a huge sports fan, but there’s enough fun in this (especially given who the opposing team are) that it keeps my attention.

The second arc sees Parents’ Day, where the various parents come to visit. This revisits previous hints that Molly’s family life isn’t happy. Seeing her watching, smiling slightly sadly, as the others make happy reunions with their families is a little heartbreaking. This seems to be something that the authors are going to leave simmering and come back to in future.

The artists change between the arcs in the volume. While I enjoyed the Carolyn Nowak’s art on the first story, Ayme Sotuyo’s work on the second felt “more Lumberjanes” to me. Both are very good and fit the type of storytelling going on here, but the second just spoke to me more. As always, everything to do with art is subjective, and YMMV.

The themes of friendship to the max, and found families persist in this volume, as the girls grow ever-closer, and the camp becomes ever-weirder. Lovely stuff.

Book details

ISBN: 9781684153121
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Year of publication: 2019

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress