Friday, October 09, 2015

Booknote: Monster Motors

Bryan Lynch, Monster Motors. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2015. ISBN: 9781631403378. 

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: comic horror, cars
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

This can be a nice selection for the Halloween season. The comic has a cute little premise: cars and trucks as monsters. Vic Frankenstein and his robot assistant Igor move to Transylvania, Kentucky. He has finished college, and he is looking to set himself up. He buys a plot of land, site unseen, on the Internet, which turns out to be a big junkyard. He figures that he can use it for his experiments, but there is more to be found than he bargained for. For one, he has to deal with vampire motor Cadillacula. Then a group of motor monsters led by a hunter show up, and they want to capture Vic's motor monster truck.

This is entertaining, although Vic's cockiness and Miss Van Helsing's arrogance can be a bit irritating at times. Otherwise, there is plenty of action and comic horror to enjoy. The art is good, colorful. This is certainly a volume for older kids and younger teens. There is not much depth here, but it is meant to be fun reading. For public libraries, this is a good title for Halloween displays too. For academic libraries that collect graphic novels, I'd say this is an optional title.

I liked it overall; it's a quick and easy read.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: Uncle John's Beer-Topia

Bathroom Readers' Institute, Uncle John's Beer-Topia. Asland, OR: Portable Press, 2015. ISBN: 9781626863590.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: trivia, alcohol and spirits, food and epicurious, humor.
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

From the book's description:

"Pull up a stool and chug a pint of Beer-Topia, a rich, deep-bodied keg of beer knowledge, beer trivia, beer history, and beer fun. In recent years, beer has evolved from the swill your uncle drank at the bowling alley to the explosively-popular 'microbrew' culture. There’s a lot to explore about the beer phenomenon, and Beer-Topia will plumb the depths."

This is a light and entertaining book, and I think fans of beer trivia as well as fans of trivia in general will enjoy it. Now before you dismiss it as "one of those bathroom reading books," check this one out. The book features beer trivia, history, the science of beer, terminology, and a lot more. The book is arranged in short chapters or sections that cover various topics. These sections can be a page or a few pages long. This is so you can have just the right amount of reading for your bathroom trip or any other time you want to grab a quick read. You don't have to read it in the bathroom. It is an easy book to browse, and it is a book you can read anytime.

In the end, it is one I really liked. It could be a good selection for public libraries, especially if they already collect other trivia books and/or books on beer and brewing.

4 out of 5 stars.

Learn more about the Bathroom Readers' Institute and their other books.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Booknote: Mortal Kombat X, Volume 1

Shawn Kittelsen, Mortal Kombat X: Blood Ties.  New York: DC Comics, 2015. ISBN: 9781401257088.

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: video games
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

This is one of those video game prequel comics. I have to say this was better than other video game prequels I have read. The author has a compelling and entertaining adventure story, and it also features plenty of fighting action for fans of the video game.

In this tale, there is a fragile peace between the realms. Years have passed, and champions have risen and fallen. Some of Earth's champions have children of their own rising up to be warriors. Thus we get to see old favorites in action along with new fighters. However, the peace is threatened as Raiden the Thunder God has visions of a rising evil threatening to enter Earth. The only hope is to use the Kamidogu daggers, six powerful relics imbued with blood magick. The problem is that the daggers are cursed, and they are spread out in various locations.

The story starts right away, and once it does, you are draw in as it moves from location to location. There is plenty of intrigue and betrayal as power shifts in the other realms. For fans of Mortal Kombat, there are plenty of gruesome fight scenes, including bone crunching close ups of fatalities. The artists do a great job drawing these violent, bloody scenes, which are a trademark of the game. Overall, the art in this one is very good. Fans of the game will probably enjoy this one. For casual readers, there may be a bit of a learning curve if they are not familiar with the game. However, the story gives just enough to figure out who is who and the story basics.

I'd say public libraries with graphic novels collections will want to get it. For readers' advisors, keep in mind that the Mortal Kombat game is bloody violent (that is what makes it popular), and that is present in this comic. Most readers who play the game already know this, but advisors (especially those who may not read too much in graphic novels and comics) need to be aware. This is a title for older teens to adults.

In the end, I did really like this one.

4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Monday, October 05, 2015

Booknote: Harley Quinn, Volume 2: Power Outage

Jimmy Palmiotti,, Harley Quinn, Volume 2: Power Outage. New York: DC Comics, 2015. ISBN: 9781401254780. 

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: superheroes, humor
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

The humor from volume 1 continues here. The volume picks up issues 9-13 of the comic plus "Harley Quinn: Futures End #1", which is kind of a dream sequence/alternate story line, "Secret Origins #4", and the San Diego Comic Con comic issue. You do get a lot of material in this volume.

The main story is the story with Power Girl. Power Girl drops out of the sky with a bad case of amnesia. So what does Harley do? She gets herself a new costume and convinces Power Girl that they are both a crime fighting team. Various hijinks ensue, including some dimensional travel. The other stories are also entertaining; Harley is still the landlady of her building and making new friends among the neighbors and side show folks. Among the adventures here, Harley finds herself in a skating ring where there are no rules. The Comic Con issue was good, but it seemed more of a distraction in what is otherwise a great volume.

The comics are fast paced, and they have plenty of hijinks and humor. Harley is doing well on her own, and though there is still a bounty on her head, she keeps having fun. I would love to see what troubles she gets into next. The art in this one continues to be excellent and a pleasure to look at. It is certainly a great reason to pick up this volume.

Still give 5 out of 5 stars to the series.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Friday, October 02, 2015

Booknote: Tales of Heresy

 Nick Kyme and Lindsey Priestley,eds., Tales of Heresy. Nottingham, UK: Black Library, 2009. ISBN: 978-1-84416-682-4.

Genre: Science fiction
Subgenre: military scifi, role playing game novels
Series: The Horus Heresy, Book 10.
Format: paperback
Source: I borrowed this one on Interlibrary Loan at my library (Hutchins Library). The loan came from Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Library System in Alaska. For me, this may be the furthest out ILL I have borrowed so far. 

This is the tenth book in the Horus Heresy series. As I have noted previously, this series has its ups and downs, but it is one I have enjoyed overall. This particular volume is a collection of seven stories, and like other anthologies, quality can vary. The stories' themes focus mostly on heresy and those who cast their lot with Horus. If you are interested in the early days of the Horus Heresy events, this book may be for you.

Some highlights of the stories featured (there may be a light spoiler or two):

  • "Blood Games" is a story of the Custodes, the warriors that guard the Imperial Palace and the Emperor. One way they do this is by running drills to test their defenses, using some of their members to see how far they can infiltrate or not. It took me a bit to realize that was what was happening; Abnett does a good job of immersing the reader into the story and setting. If you like some suspense, a little cat-and-mouse play, this is a good tale for you. 
  • "Wolf at the Door" is a story of the Wolves of Fenris, the VI Legion, as they fight to bring a world into Imperial compliance. The end twist is that some of the locals, who initially supported the legion as it helped them get rid of rivals, do not wish to comply. The ending, though I could see it coming, was still moving. 
  • "Scions of the Storm" has a similar ending, but here we deal with the Word Bearers legion, at a moment when Lorgar, their primarch, is on the verge of a new vision for his legion. 
  • James Swallow gives us a tale of the Battle Sisters. This particular group of combat sisters are the Sisters of Silence; they have vows of silence, so I find interesting the idea that they use different types of sign language to communicate. In "The Voice," the sisters find a derelict vessel of their order filled with psykers, and they need to find out what happened.
  • Gav Thorpe's "Call of the Lion" is a tale of the Dark Angels. As legions of Astartes grow, they begin to draw members from other worlds besides Terra. In this tale, a Terran and a Calibanite confront each other over command and perhaps the future vision of the legion. 
  • Graham McNeill's "The Last Church" is not much of an action tale. However, it looks at an interesting detail. As the Emperor unifies Terra and spreads the rule of reason and logic, religion is torn down; churches are closed down and destroyed. In this story, the day comes for the last church on Terra to be closed down, but its last priest will not go down without a fight, a debate with the Emperor's envoy who calls himself Revelation. The story does present some good lines in their debate. For regular readers of Warhammer 40,000, well let's just say they will appreciate a touch of irony given how the future unfolds. 
  • The final story, "After Desh'ea" by Matthew Farrer was for me the slowest read in the set. As the Imperium expands into the stars, the Astartes legions go looking for their primarchs, some of whom have been lost. The War Hounds Legion have finally found their primarch, and he has a whole new plan for the legion. For me, this was the weakest story in the set, but I still read it. I did like the ending of it even if it seemed to drag a bit to get there. 
Overall, I really liked this volume. I think it ties nicely into the series, and it highlights well early events of the Horus Heresy times. As I said, some stories are better than others, but it is a good collection overall.

 4 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: Batman: Earth One, Volume 2

Geoff Johns,, Batman: Earth One, Volume 2. Burbank, CA: DC Comics, 2015. ISBN: 9781401241858. 

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: Superheroes
Format: e-book galley
Source: Edelweiss 

I am really enjoying this series where we see Batman stepping out and learning how to become a hero and detective. The author really does a good job of humanizing a hero that is often seen as flawless (though certainly not white knight squeaky clean as Superman is often portrayed). It is the experience of struggling to learn and do the right thing portrayed in the character of Batman that is a strength of this volume and the series overall. And struggle he does as Batman is torn between two influences: his hardcore bodyguard Alfred and the more idealistic detective James Gordon. These two men, father figures even, are shaping how Batman will turn out. It is an interesting dynamic.

Let us not forget the story, which is good and riveting. After the events in volume 1, Batman faces new rivals. A guy calling himself The Riddler is killing groups of people in an apparently random way if they fail to solve his riddles. Plus the city sewers are haunted by some monster. What is neat in the series, and this volume is no exception, is the character portrayal. We see familiar villains, but with new twists and turns. A big reason to keep reading this is just to see what the author does because everything you thought you knew will be turned.

Add to all this some very good art, and you got a solid comic. Fans of Batman should be reading this, and if you read the first volume, you need to pick this up. I am highly recommending it. It is a good selection for libraries with graphic novel and comics collections. I can tell you it is a series I will order for our library.

5 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Booknote: Dungeons and Dragons: Legends of Baldur's Gate, Volume 1

Max Dunbar, Dungeons and Dragons: Legends of Baldur's Gate, Volume 1. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2015. ISBN: 9781631402500. 

Genre: comics and graphic novels
Subgenre: fantasy, role playing games
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

If you are familiar with tales set in Baldur's Gate, or perhaps you are familiar with the video games (I've played the Dark Alliance title for PS2), then you will likely enjoy this. This work is a tie-in to the D&D 5th edition role playing game. However, let me reassure you that no prior knowledge is needed to enjoy this tale. The tale of a group of misfits coming together to save the day stands alone just fine.

An elf magess comes to Baldur's Gate in search of her lost brother. It seems he is in some kind of trouble, and whatever it is, they may want her out of the way too. When confronting some thugs, she accidentally gives life to a statue of Minsc, a local ranger and hero who strives for virtue and has a hamster as a companion. They team up with a couple of rogues to keep searching for the brother, but they soon discover greater danger and dark forces at play.

This is a light, entertaining read with some fun turns, a hijink or two, and a good amount of action. Basically, it's a nice popcorn read in the tradition of D&D fantasies. I thought the art was nice. Minsc embodies your basic role playing do-gooder hero, and it's entertaining to see him strive for goodness in a place as corrupt as Baldur's Gate. In the end, this is a title I liked. It would make a good selection for public libraries with graphic novel collections; this is especially so if you also have some gamers among your teen readers (or older. The title is basically teens and up).

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges:

Booknote: The Bigger Bang

 Vassilis Gogtzilas, The Bigger Bang. San Diego, CA: IDW, 2015. ISBN: 9781631402593.

Genre: Graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: art, heroes
Format: e-book galley
Source: Netgalley

First, there was the Big Bang that created the universe as we know it. Then there was a Bigger Bang that created a superbeing: Cosmos. Many see him as a destroyer. Some see him as a god or savior. What we know is he is trying to atone for something, and a despot in a far off world tries to manipulate him for propaganda and power.

This volume reads like a simple fable, though if it has a moral, I am not sure what it is. Not that it matters. It is a nice little story with colorful art. The art is in a sketch, slightly blurry sort of style, but it is still pleasant enough. As the book has minimal text, it is a fairly easy read.

Overall, I liked it, but is pretty much a title to borrow rather than buy.

3 out of 5 stars.

Qualifies for the following 2015 Reading Challenges: