Mogsy: Favorite Series

Oh whyyyyyyy, why must you make me choooooooose?

This is the reason I’m always chafing at these kinds of “What’s your favorite ______?” questions. Whether it’s movies, songs, books, etc. I don’t know how anyone can name just one. I know I can’t. A book series is no exception, but if I gotta pick just one…

Putting aside a whole slew of series I’ve fallen in love with just recently, or ones that still have too few books published in it to be included, I’ll probably have to go with this long-time personal favorite of mine — Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Universe, which is nine books split into three trilogies: Books 1-3: Phèdre Trilogy, Books 4-6: Imriel’s Trilogy, Books 7-9: Moirin Trilogy.

All of them are quite fantastic, even though I felt the Moirin Trilogy might have missed its mark, and Imriel’s Trilogy as a follow-up wasn’t really that bad at all. Still, it’s the Phèdre Trilogy that I completely adore. It’s the one that first introduced me to the wonders and beauty of Terre D’Ange, its magic and its people.

For a long time, many of the books in this series has ranked among some of the best I’ve ever read, and I always remember the reading experience fondly and with pleasant nostalgia.

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The Brian K. Vaughaning

This one time, I admitted that I had not read very much of Brian K. Vaughan’s comics. The result was a Twitter deluge of my friends – some of whom were in the midst of dealing with current issues of Saga – expressing their Brian K. Vaughan love and all the feels that he invokes in them. Since then, I’ve been slowly working my way through his books and have pretty much come to the same conclusion about how incredible a writer he is.

If you break down the stories, they are almost simple. All stories that have been told before. Teens dealing with the betrayal of parents. Rebels who just wanted to belong. Caged souls seeking freedom. Love conquers all. But Vaughan takes these simple seeds and plants them in such diverse gardens. Environments, timelines, events and especially the characters are all woven together so magically. I really love the way that reading one of his stories in no way prepares you for reading any of the others. They are all so amazing. Credit also goes to the artists’ skills in capturing Vaughan’s unique (and sometimes veeery disturbing) visions.

Runaways, Vol. 1: Pride and JoyRunaways, Vol. 1: Pride and Joy (art by Adrian Alphona)

I’ve never been drawn to the comics about teenaged superheroes, even when I was a teen, but as the first series in my BKV adventure, I find myself wishing I’d stumbled on this one sooner. First of all, I love the entire concept of a group of teens who discover their parents are eeevil and decide to stop them. The kids themselves are more than just typical teens with typical mutant powers. In fact, some don’t even have powers at all, while one shares a psychic bond with a velociraptor. How cool is that? Actually, they are fairly typical teens, but Vaughn does a great job of fleshing each one out and helping them to work through the ultimate betrayal of discovering their parents are not what they seem.

“Yeah my parents were practically unconscious.
Satanic rituals must really wear a person down.”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: No Future for You (Season 8, #2)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: No Future for You (art by Georges Jeanty)

I read this a while ago and couldn’t remember it well enough to know why I had given it a mere two stars on Goodreads. I know that I definitely fell out of love with season eight towards the end and even Joss had to apologize for where things went, but this was only volume two, so it shouldn’t have rated so low. I’ve reread it since and suspect that my two-starring was either accidental or perhaps because, by the end of the book, I was really mad at Buffy, Giles and Faith for being Buffy, Giles and Faith. Which means that Vaughan did his job well to make me feel such anger and frustration towards these characters. He did such a good job of digging into their broken hearts and souls, while maintaining the whimsy and cynicism we’ve come to expect of Whedon’s characters. This story was about inner demons and paying for the past and relationships and jumping to the wrong conclusions and loneliness and need and betrayal because you have no other choice. My only disappointment in this book is that we never get to see the further adventures of Faith and Giles…

“But those of us who refused to pay the piper during our adolescence have a responsibility to shoulder the most most unpleasant costs of adulthood.”

Pride of Baghdad (art by Niko Henrichon)

I remember reading an article in National Geographic about Baghdad just before America took its “War on Terror” to its doorstep. It spoke of the people and their everyday lives and how they understood the world’s views of Saddam Hussein’s reign, but for them, it was different. Their lives were not horrible. They were not entirely oppressed by the evil dictator. And they did not ask for the world to step in to liberate them.

This is what came to mind as I read this anthropomorphic story of a pride of lions who escaped the Baghdad Zoo during a military attack. Based on a true story, it follows Zill, Noor, Safa and little Ali as they come to terms with their world turned upside down. Is leaving their cage to fight for survival in a crumbling city truly freedom? Is freedom worth the cost?

“Is that a horizon?”

Saga (art by Fiona Staples)

In simple terms, Saga is a science fiction meets fantasy love story about two young soldiers on opposing sides who meet and fall in love and will risk everything to to keep their new little family safe.

In more accurate terms, the reviews from friends to convince me – or anyone – to read this book, go something like this: “Yes there is a lot of kinky, crazy sex (OMG don’t read this at work!) but it’s all contextual, I swear! And OMG this book is so amazing! My feeeeels! When does the next one come out? jakljdflkajfljafiu!!!”

How could I resist such glowing and intriguing reviews? And now that I have read volume one, I can safely say, “Yes there is a lot of kinky, crazy sex (OMG don’t read this at work!) but it’s all contextual, I swear! And OMG this book is so amazing! My feeeeels! When does the next one come out? jakljdflkajfljafiu!!!”

“It’s not like I grow up to become some great war hero or any sort of all-important savior…but thanks to these two, at least I get to grow old.”

The Private Eye (art by Marcos Martin)

The Private Eye’ is a pay-whatever-the-hell-you-want online comic that will make you question your online activities (like making online purchases) and just how much privacy exists in the ether. It is a futuristic throwback to classic detective stories where everyone has a secret identity after everyone’s information is exposed for all to see. I had some involvement in the #Nymwars that followed the release of Google+, so the concept really hits home for me. Toss in an intriguing mystery and off we go.

“I’m not a pervert. I just use this nym when I want to be left alone.”

Ex Machina (art by Tony Harris)

Mitchel Hundred is America’s first superhero, created by a freak accident that gives him control over machinery. With the help of his two friends, he dons the identity The Great Machine and takes of the responsibility of saving New York from evil. Only, unlike in the comic books, this — erm — comic book quickly points out that super heroes tend to cause more trouble than they think they do, especially for the authorities. Eventually, following 9/11, Hundred takes off his mask to run for mayor of New York, a position where he actually can do some good. A lot of the plot focuses on the daily political problems, including a major one at an art museum that impressed me for not pulling politically correct punches on the subject matter. Add to that a snow storm that cripples the city and the return of The Great Machine’s nemesis who is targeting snow plow drivers. I really loved how much information and detail was brought in through only five issues without being overwhelming or verbose.

“When people ask who saved you, tell them it was The Great Machine. Tell them everything’s going to be all right!”
 

Y:The Last Man (art by Pia Guerra)

I love the way sexism and misogyny are front and centre from the start, but all presented within the context of the situations where we meet the major female players in this story and the single male who survives the gender apocalypse. All male mammals but Yorick and his monkey suddenly and mysteriously die, leaving the world in sudden chaos. The statistics presented at the end of issue one are staggering. Forty-eight percent of the population is dead, but the number of males in various positions of power are near 100%. I really liked how the remaining women weren’t all stellar examples of humanity, meant to prove that women really can do things better than men. The Amazonian movement is frightening and the Republican reaction certainly reminds me of current events.

“Men. Can’t live with ’em…”

Tuesday Tea: The Garden of Last Days with a Sprinkle of Bloodlust





What I’m Drinking: A personal blend of blood orange, ceylon sonata, and pomegranate for a tangy, tarty taste that I’ve named Bloodlust.

What I’m Listening To: I Belong To You / Mon Cœur S’ouvre à Ta Voix by Muse

What I’m Reading: The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III


Quote: “But he has wasted time. And money. So much of it. It is this alcohol. He has become too fond of it. The feeling of freedom it gives to him, of floating above all that is here he cannot control. And it makes him more brave to talk to an uncovered kafir woman in a place of evil that holds him. When he approached her in the shadows, her body so close to his own, his heart was speeding and it was difficult to look at her face and into her eyes and request time alone with her. It was something he could not have done if he had not been drunk. Again the wisdom of the Provider and the Sustainer as taught by imams he had ignored. They know these vodkas and beer and cognacs and champagnes, they are the colors of water and earth but they have been made in the fires of Jahannam. They only cloud men’s minds and weaken their discipline and turn their hearts to caring only for the flesh that does not last.”


Note: Tea drinking, listening to music, and reading are some of my favorite past times, and I usually do them all at the same time. I’ve recently gotten serious about blending and brewing my own tea more often, so I’ll post these occasionally on Tuesday.

Graphic Novel Review: Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone

Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone

Full disclosure. I stopped reading the New 52 after four
comics. I read Mister
Terrific #1
, Justice
League #1
, Detective
Comics #1
, and Swamp
Thing #1
.

Out of those four comics, I was only impressed with Detective Comics and Swamp Thing. Justice League was only “meh” and didn’t feel like it was worth the trouble of continuing at that point, and Mister
Terrific
was terrible when it had so much potential to be great. Even
though I did enjoy Detective Comics and Swamp Thing, I still put them on the back burner in favor of other comics that I wanted to catch up on. Admittedly, I was one of those people who wasn’t that excited to see Barbara assume the Batgirl mantle again. I love Barbara. I really do, but I always felt that she was a more formidable hero as Oracle than as Batgirl. That’s neither here nor there now, and there’s no point in rehashing old thoughts. Moving on…

I decided to try Batgirl for two reasons. I wanted to try another comic from the New 52 to see how I would enjoy it, and I wanted to read more Gail Simone after sort of shying away from her writing because of a volume of The Atom I read that made me want to run away screaming. Friends and fans of Gail assured me that I would enjoy either Birds of Prey or Batgirl much more than I enjoyed The Atom. After some resistance, I finally decided it was time to close my eyes and step off this cliff again.
The Darkest Reflection follows Barbara Gordon who has made her return as Batgirl after an experimental—or at least it sounded experimental—medical procedure returns her ability to use
her legs. For those of you not quite familiar with what happened or only have a vague idea of what happened to her, refer to The Killing Joke pre-DCnU. After some downtime rehabbing while living in her father’s home, Barbara decides that it’s time to spread her wings, move out of her father’s house, and take up the mantle of the bat again. What Barbara didn’t count on was her survivor’s guilt and PTSD (which is triggered when she’s faced with guns) making her return to crime fighting more difficult than she’d expected.
I enjoyed this much, much, much more than I did The Atom. At first, I was a little afraid that I might have to put this book down because it started a bit campier that I like. Actually, no, I should explain that better. I love when writers use campy writing to their advantage, but sometimes, I feel like writer’s try too hard with it. In turn, that turns me off because it comes off feeling so artificial and forced and makes it hard for me to enjoy the story.  This was one of the main problems that I had with The Atom. There were points in the beginning of this story where I worried I might be traveling down that road again, but after a while, the story found its footing and turned into an enjoyable read.
Barbara is a survivor struggling with the thought of having her
legs back. She struggles with conflicting feelings that make her feel blessed for this miracle, but questions why did she, out of all the people in the in the world, deserve such a miracle. After thwarting a murder attempt on a family, Barbara’s next foe challenges her miracle as well and brings out deeper psychological fears.

 

I really enjoyed the portrayal of Barbara’s struggle. She’s of two minds for most of this comic. She’s a superwoman and a frail all in the same breath. One minute she’s praising herself for her strength and smarts, and the next minute, she doubts herself and if she’s even doing the right thing. She wonders if she’s squandering her miracle by pushing herself too hard, but then she feels that this miracle wasn’t given to her for her to sit by idly. A brief confrontation with Nightwing shows the feelings she stills hold for him  while punctuating that she doesn’t want the others to believe that she’s not capable–to the point that she lashes out at him in order to show that she isn’t helpless. She doesn’t want their help. She wants to prove herself, her strength and ability to overcome, to the bat family.

Let me talk briefly about the ending of this comic. No real
spoilers, but just some thoughts. When I realized that Barbara’s threat was eliminated in the fourth issues but there were still two issues left in this arc, I was thinking, “Okay?” It ended perfectly, and I was thinking that things were about to get odd since what could you possibly accomplish in two more issues? I was pleasantly surprised. You can say the next two issues in the arc were a mini-story, but still tied into the “reflection” theme showing Barbara what she
could’ve been if she hadn’t had family and support.
The first part dealt with accepting that miracles happened
to people whether they deserved them or not and that there’s no one who can decide that someone is undeserving of such a miracle, even if it’s a personal miracle. The second part dealt more personally with the idea that not everyone may see his or her miracle as a miracle. It showed how fragile the line between miracle and damnation is in some people’s mind, and it showed a thing about compassion and understanding, as well.
Overall, this was entertaining. There were some hiccups for
me, and I’m back to questioning why it’s so easy for some people to find out who the bat family is over other more intelligent criminals. That’s a general annoyance of mine with Batman and the bat family, not something that’s limited to Gail herself. However, I still
enjoyed the story and appreciated it for showing Barbara’s return as a struggle that she’s working to overcome for physical and psychological reasons. I’ll definitely read more of the Batgirl
758dc-new3stars

Graphic Novel Review: Saga vol.2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

Giant troll scrotum aside, this was an incredibly heartwarming and heartbreaking read.

If you’ve made it this far in the series, nothing should shock you. If you haven’t read Saga yet, then you may have heard about the crazy and even the controversy surrounding issue #12. Let’s just say that when my husband picked up the copy of volume one that I had lying on my bed, he flipped through a few pages, said “Uh.. I found the robot sex…,” then he put it down and backed away slowly.

It’s difficult to describe Saga without commenting on the uninhibited (but purely contextual!) fantasy space sex and nudity, but underneath the shock value is a fantastic story. Honest! So put just your prude down for a few minutes and pick up this series.

The last volume set up the science fiction falls in love with fantasy and makes a baby story of two enemy soldiers who will do anything to protect their new little family from the various parties who want to see them thoroughly dead. A classic Romeo and Juliet tale, but with way more kinky and weird and a lot more heart.

At the end of volume one, Markos’ parents have appeared aboard the rocketship carrying the little family to the planet Quietus to meet the author of Alana’s favourite book. The bounty hunter known as The Will is intent on rescuing a six-year old girl from the slave trade. Prince Robot IV has figured out where the fugitives are headed and is determined to finish his job in order to get back to his pending fatherhood. And baby Hazel’s incorporeal babysitter, Izabel, has been zapped.

Volume two jumps right in with the absolute best disapproving-but-utterly-loving-mother versus headstrong son and understanding father versus headstrong new daughter-in-law interactions I’ve ever read. I can’t speak more directly on why I loved these interactions so much without spoiling the moments of pride, amusement, joy and tears that I felt as everything progressed.

Meanwhile, The Will, still mourning The Stalk, gets an unexpected partner, whom he convinces to help in his effort to save the slave girl. And Prince Robot IV continues his read through of Alana’s book – which I now desperately want to read myself. I love how important this book is to the story, initially as a clue to the fugitive’s whereabouts, but in volume two, we learn how it brought the lovers together.

Baby Hazel’s narrative interruptions are more common in this volume, serving as a constant reminder that she survives this ordeal. That means the story will eventually have a happy ending, right? I’d like to hope so, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to get a lot of heartbreak and loss on the way there. I am most definitely in this for the bittersweet long haul.

5a31b-5stars

Wendy: Favorite Series

I’m not necessarily a fan of historical fiction, or of the Arthurian legend, but a friend recommended this to me and I ended up loving the book so much that I bought the entire series and have read it twice.

The Warlord Chronicles is the story of King Arthur, as told in the first person by his friend Derfel. It includes the regular cast of characters and the expected monumental moments, but Cornwell skillfully twists them in a realistic way. What we think we know as Arthurian “truths” are, according to this book, the result of history being twisted by memory or by bards paid to sing different songs…

In keeping with making it more historical fiction than fantasy, much of the magic is toned down, though the belief in magic and ritual remains.

I love that Arthur is not the main character in this story about Arthur. he plays a major part, obviously, but this is Derfel’s story and I love the humility of a main character who never really realizes how great a man he is and how great a friend he has been to a king.

The trilogy consists of The Winter King, Enemy of God and Excalibur.

Tiara: Favorite Book Turned Into a Movie

 

“I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect. I say let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”

– Tyler Durden, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Mogsy: A Book That I’ve Read More Than Three Times

Okay, I’m going to cheat a little for this question. The thing is, I don’t typically reread books. If I were to read a book again, it would be a book that I love, and generally books that I love, I remember very, very well, and that’s why rereading isn’t something I do a lot. Unfortunately, life’s just too short (or more accurately, my TBR list is just too long) for it, so you can see why it would be kind of a challenge to come up with a book I’ve read more than once, let alone more than three times!

But…there is a book that comes close. In the fourth grade, I had a fantastic teacher called Mr. Smiley. And I am so not kidding, that was his real name. Mr. Smiley was a fun guy who was also Australian, so he had this really cool accent which made class story time even more amazing with his ability to do these great voices. One of the books he read to us was The Hobbit. And that, dear readers, was my very first exposure to this fantasy classic and the name J.R.R. Tolkien. I loved it.

Fast forward a couple years, in Grade 6, at another school in another country, my fellow students and I were assigned The Hobbit to read for English class. I’ll admit, reading the book for a school assignment was definitely not as fun as listening to Mr. Smiley do his Gollum voice, but eh, what can you do? I remember having a great time returning to Middle Earth, nonetheless. It was just as good the second time around.

I have, of course, read The Hobbit again since my school years. But even if you count that along with the first couple of times (which I do, even if it was read to me the first time around) that’s still just three times. But I included this book in my answers to the 30-Day Reading Challenge anyway, because as you can see the adventures of our beloved Bilbo Baggins played a big role in my childhood reading experiences which ultimately lead to my love for the fantasy genre in my adult years.

Eventually, I hope to be able to read The Hobbit to my own child, when she is a bit older. When I do, I suppose then it will be a book I have read more than three times, but too bad we’re not counting future reads! In any case, I can’t think of a better title to introduce my daughter to the world of fantasy books, and who knows, maybe it’ll be the one that leads her down the road to become a fantasy fiction fan, like it did for her mom. The thought warms my heart.

Mogsy: WOGF Update

As you know, last week I decided to jump aboard the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge. Seeing as we’re already halfway through 2013, I figured I’d better get cracking.

Since my last update, I’ve already managed to finish a couple of books, so keep an eye out on this blog for their reviews over the next few weeks.

 

I’ve also started on two more since, which when I’m done reading should — at an average of one book per month — get me up to speed for this challenge.

Kind of weird how it worked out to me reading two books about dragons at the same time, but the way the creatures are portrayed are so different in each. Both books are quite good so far. I guess I’ve been lucky in making my choices for this challenge, because I haven’t yet come across a book or an author I couldn’t stand.

Speaking of which, I also wanted to mention that I made a last-minute change on my list of books and authors. I’d forgotten that I ordered a copy of Marie Robinette Kowal’s Glamour in Glass a couple weeks ago up until the hardcover practically showed up on my doorstep. It was one of the 2012 Nebula Awards nominees and I really wanted to check it out, so when I saw that Kowal and her book fit the challenge requirements, I switched them in. I’ve updated my original post to reflect the change.