“Did you seriously pack candy and drugs for dinner?”

Rat QueensSometimes I hate that I have this compulsion to collect reading material.  We all know that most of us have wonky wiring that leads us to purchase books with shiny covers or request ARCs of unknowns EVEN THOUGH we have more than enough books to read for the rest of our entire fucking lives, right?

Usually I don’t think of this as a problem.  It’s not a problem, it just means I have OPTIONS.  Who doesn’t like options, right?  Right.

Except sometimes not.  Because when I have too many options, it’s really easy to forget about that thing I desperately wanted to read because it got pushed out of the way by the eleventy billion other things that I desperately wanted to read.

Today I wanted to punch myself in the box because I let the first trade of Rat Queens* sit there for OVER A MONTH without reading it.

…and then I wanted to punch all of my comicbros in the junk for not fucking mentioning to me BACK IN SEPTEMBER that “Hey, sj?  There’s this kickass new comic that you will love so hard you’ll swear that Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch have direct access to the pleasure centers of your brain.”  WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU GUYS?!

I am mostly kidding, because as much as I want to be mad that I could have been reading this more than six months ago, I’m so happy that I read it today that I just can’t even.

I just picked it up so I could look for images for you guys and got sucked into reading the first issue again and now I want to finish writing this so I can go read the next four.  THAT is how good it is.

Rat Queens is crass, vulgar, gory, and just fucking beautiful to look at.

My biggest problem is that I don’t know whether I love Hannah more than Dee.

Dee?

Dee?

Or Hannah?

Or Hannah?

Hannah?

Hannah?

 

Dee 2

Or Dee?

Or maybe Betty and/or Violet?

Or maybe Betty and/or Violet?

I don’t know, I just can’t decide.  They’re all my new favourites.  All of them.

You need to drop everything you’re doing right now (unless, y’know, you’re holding children or a beverage or something) and go pick this up.  RIGHT MEOW.

Sen, Kate, Heather L, Bronwyn, Nubia, Bellum.  You ladies need this comic in your lives immediately.

I mean…the rest of you do, too.  But them especially.

GO!

 

*ARC provided by Image, and I’m sad I didn’t get around to praise singing before the release date.

I don’t have a catchy title, but this is what I’ve been reading.

Since my last review I’ve read 45 books.  Well, all but five of those were comic trades or graphic novels, but still.  I’ve fallen WAAAAAAAAAY behind on everything.  Let’s try to make as much of it up in one go as possible, shall we?

 

courtney crumrin

I read pretty much the entire run of Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin comics (Oni Press) so far.  I have loved every page.  Someone DMed me a few months ago and chastised me cos I wasn’t reading it already.  I wish I could remember who it was, cos that person was right.

I wish these comics had been around when I was a teenager.  If you lose the sorcery, Courtney is very much like I was at this age.  It would’ve been nice to have her to relate to.  The art is gorgeous and the story has made me a little weepy on more than one occasion.  More of this, please.

 

wonton soupJames Stokoe’s Wonton Soup* (Oni Press) was not such a hit for me, though.  I wanted to love it.  I thought the story had potential – that episode of Futurama where Bender decides to search for the secret to Ultimate Flavour?  It’s kind of like that.

And, again, I wanted to like it.  I did enjoy it up until about the halfway mark, and then it just fell apart for me.  The art wasn’t anything to write home about, and the story got…kinda weird and hard to follow.  It was just kinda meh.  I would neither recommend this one or tell you to avoid it.  Because I’m wishy-washy like that.

 

Bram and BenThe End Times of Bram and Ben (James Asmus, Image Comics)* was a total hit for me, on the other hand.

This feels like something that was written just for me and I FUCKING LOVE when that happens.  The Rapture happens and Bram is raptured, then returned to Earth cos of a clerical error.  He decides the role of antichrist is up for grabs, and he’ll be the one to take over.  Really funny, really blasphemous, really worth your time.

Read it so you can find out who the antichrist REALLY is, and get a good hearty chuckle out of the whole thing.

 

murder mysteriesMore angels and heavenly beings came up in the form of the graphic adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story “Murder Mysteries.” (Dark Horse)* I’d read the story before, but think it was AMAZINGLY well suited to this sort of adaptation.  If you’re on the fence about sequential art books at all, and don’t want to dive into The Sandman head first (which, what’s your problem?  YOU SHOULD TOTALLY READ IT WITH US.), maybe check this out.  Cos some of the characters here show up a few times in The Sandman.  And you should read that cos it’s awesome.  But so is this.

So read this, then read that.

Wait, what was I talking about?

 

dreary and naughtyDreary & Naughty: Friday the 13th of February (John LeFleur/Shawn Dubin, Schiffer Publishing)* was overall a disappointment.  The art itself was fantastic (like, srsly, I want prints of this ish to hang around my house), but the little poem that was the story was pretty much the worst.  The meter/scansion was so off.  I wanted to love this cos it seemed like such a cute idea, and if it had been JUST the art, I would have given it an enthusiastic five stars.  As it is, I’mma have to stick with recommending that you just flip through this in the bookstore or library or whatever.

 

emily and the strangersRob Reger’s Emily and the Strangers (Dark Horse)* Maaaaan, idk if I’m getting too old for Emily, or if she’s totally different now than I remember or what.  This was not good at all.  It was so preachy and moralistic, and I don’t recall her being like that when I used to read her.

I wish I could have back the 20 minutes it took me to read this.

No.  Just no.

 

Okay.  That’s obviously not even close to everything I’ve read recently, but I’m done typing for now.

TL;DR: Read Murder Mysteries, The End Times of Bram and Ben and Courtney Crumrin.  Avoid the others.

 

 

* If it’s marked with an asterisk, I received an ARC from the publisher.  I promise these are my real opinions of this work.

“Gods don’t apologize, I’m sure you’re aware.”

the copper promiseThis is one of those posts that I’m just not sure how to write.  I could try to sneak in my relationship with the author at the end of the review and be all Sneaky McSneakerson, but damnit…I’m PROUD to know this writer, and don’t want it to seem like I’m hiding anything, so.

Jen Williams has lived in my computer for more than 10 years.  We met on a fan forum when my oldest was only 4 and he’s turning 15 in a few months.  Once upon a time, I thought I’d be telling people I knew Jen, but I was almost certain it would be cos she’d be a famous illustrator.  I still get to tell people I know her, but it’s for something I feel I’m more qualified to talk about…

Okay, so just a few weeks ago, I was telling a friend of mine on facebook that I was pretty sure I was done with fantasy.  I’m totally tired of how it seems to be taking itself so seriously, and haven’t been finding the joy in reading it that I remember when I was drawn to it in the first place.

The Copper Promise opens with a pretty brutal torture scene, and for a few pages I was worried that I was in for more of the stuff I’m burnt out on.  But then it switches scenes to a sleazy little pub, where we meet two of our main characters; with Wydrin and Sebastian’s first interactions, I knew I was in megabooklove.

Wydrin is the Copper Cat of Crosshaven.  A sell-sword from a family of pirates who has a problem knowing when to keep her mouth shut (I promised myself I wouldn’t call her feisty, but the word definitely fits).  Her companion/partner, Sebastian, was a knight of Ynnsmouth who was dishonourably discharged from his service to Isu the mountain god after…well, after things.  I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Enter Aaron Frith, a noble of the Blackwood who is on your standard quest for vengeance.

The Copper Promise sounds on the surface just like any of a handful of other swords and horses/dungeon crawl books that you can find anywhere, but it would be a mistake to dismiss it as such.  It’s like those Weis and Hickman books I devoured back in the day were updated without all the problematic tropes that are still so common in fantasy.

I laughed and laughed at Wydrin’s one liners.  My heart broke when I learned why Sebastian was cast out in disgrace.  I got a little weepy at that letter that starts “Father…” I did a fistpump and a FUCK YEAH at Frith’s use of control.  I marvelled at the well-thought out and BELIEVABLE magic system of Ede.  There were sentences that were so beautifully constructed that I had moments where I thought “Jesus, why is she writing genre fiction?”

You guys?  This book was so good.  So.  Good.  And I promise I’m not just saying that cos I know Jen.  I’m saying that because even though you all know that I’m not a fan of romance in my quests and instead prefer what Kate and I refer to as light boning, I still found myself like this at the end.

Mr Blank kissy kiss

That’s not to say that there IS romance, but…dude.  I kinda wanted there to be, y’know?  What’s that about?

Sadly, The Copper Promise doesn’t yet have a US publisher, but you can order it over here via The Book Depository (don’t you want that sexy cover on your shelves?), or resort to IP proxy trickery like I did to purchase the eBook.

You guys need to read this book.  Sooner, rather than later.

I have no idea how to close this post, so I guess I’ll just say HOLY SHIT, SEN, I LOVE YOUR BOOK!

On one wall is the biggest effing barbecue I’ve ever seen…

Also?  He was easy on the eyes.

Also? He was easy on the eyes.

I love faerie tales.  Love, love, love them.  I like them dark and I like them sinister.  I’m a total Andrew Lang fangirl cos he took on the task of collecting ALL THE FAERIE STORIES and having them released as the Colour Fairy Books, that I’ve been collecting since I was just a wee sj (sidenote:  if you’re ever wondering what to get me for my birthday or holidays, you can’t go wrong with a Lang collection, no joke).

So, anyway, I was perusing NetGalley, looking for ish to read for Zombruary (cos I didn’t already have enough sitting around waiting to be read, right?) and the shiny cover for Grim caught my eye.  I got as far in the blurb as “dark fairy tale retellings” before I stopped reading and started clicking REQUEST, REQUEST, REQUEEEEEEEEEST!

Some of the wind was taken from my sails when I was approved, though, and realized that it was a Harlequin Teen book.

EMBARGO“Oh.  Oh, no.  Oh, sj – what have you done to yourself?” is what I asked myself repeatedly.

…and there aren’t any zombies in this book, but there is cannibalism, so I’m totally counting it.

Right, so – faerie tales are fantastic, but sometimes things get lost in the re-tellings.  You can go all out and make your story barely recognizable as the tale you’re basing it on, or you can go the Philip Pullman route and just tell it like you heard it originally.

Both styles are featured here.  Those that put a new twist on stories older than dirt were probably my favourites, but none of them were really terrible (and that’s unusual to say for a collection like this).

I’d have to say that the least successful stories were those that deviated the least from their original sources.  Jon Skovron’s “The Raven Princess” was nearly identical to the version of “The Raven” I remember reading as a child, and Amanda Hocking’s “The Pink” was also incredibly similar to every other version of that story that I’ve read.

Not a huge fan of either of those.

Oh, and I skipped Ellen Hopkins’ retelling of The Snow Queen (“Before the Rose Bloomed”) because

it was written

like this with some sort of

strange line breaks?

Like it was trying to be

poetry, but instead

just gave me a headache.

The BEST stories were unexpected.  I’m not a huge fan of Puss in Boots in general, but Jerri Smith-Ready’s “Figment” was a pretty fabulous take on it and Kimberly Derting’s “Light it Up” (Hansel and Gretel) might just have been my favourite.

Other highlights were:

Julie Kagawa’s “The Brothers Piggett,” which made me laugh quite a bit.

Jackson Pearce’s take on Snow White (“Sell Out”), which was quietly sad and yet hopeful.

Saundra Mitchell’s “Thinner than Water” (based on Donkey-skin/Cat-skin, whichever version you happen to’ve read), which was triggery as hell, but had the BEST ending.

Rachel Hawkins’ “The Key,” which was a fantastic take on the whole Bluebeard thing.

TL;DR – worth your time AND your dollars.  You can skip the stories you don’t like, but there are few enough of those here.

Grim was released yesterday, but when I went to goodreads to get the cover photo, I noticed that they’re doing a giveaway for it that ends on the 28th.  Go get you some faerie tales!

I could think about that, or I could dance.

Good lord, I heart this cover.

Good lord, I heart this cover.

So.  The truth is that The n-Body Problem kind of broke me.  I finished it on Wednesday morning and since then have started and put aside 4 or 5 other books because I just couldn’t get into them.  I re-read Wizard’s Holiday with Heather and thought maybe that’d fixed me, but then I proceeded to abandon 3 more books just because I couldn’t bring myself to care.

Bluh.

I was ready to throw in the Zombruary towel.

Scrolling through the shelf again, I decided to try Maureen F McHugh’s After the Apocalypse, cos even if I wasn’t feeling it, it was a book of short stories, so I wouldn’t have to feel like I’d accomplished NOTHING when I gave up on it.

I.  Fucking.  Loved.  This.  Book.

As can be inferred from the title, all are apocalyptica of some sort.

How do you want the world to end?

Bird flu?

Zombies?

AI?

Dirty bomb?

Chicken McNugget?

You’re covered here.

I won’t even pretend that I understood the point of a few of them, but each one kind of quietly wrecked me.

I can’t even pick a favourite, although I will say that my husband walked by as I read the last few sentences of “Honeymoon,” and heard me sob under my breath and thought something was wrong.  I had to explain that it was just this girl.  This girl.  I can’t even.

Read “Useless Things” here, let it devastate you, then go buy the damn book.

zombruary