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Sesana

Sesana

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Childhood's End
Arthur C. Clarke
Siege
Brian Michael Bendis, Olivier Coipel
Scrivener's Moon - Audio
Philip Reeve
Dengeki Daisy, Vol. 01 - Kyousuke Motomi Surprisingly not terrible. I was surprised that the identity of Daisy was revealed so early (to the reader, but not to Teru). I expected that to be a mystery that dragged on, even while Daisy's identity became increasingly obvious. Instead, it looks like a lot of the plots will come from Daisy trying to hide his identity in a much more natural way. I'm also pleased that it seems like the romance will be able to develop over time. And I like how Teru views Daisy: he's her friend, not because of anything he could do for her (which is why she tries not to ask much of him), and their connection as friends is more important than a romance. It's refreshing, to see a teenage girl put a supportive friendship as a top priority in her life.
Attack on Titan, Volume 1 - Hajime Isayama There's a lot of hype surrounding Attack on Titan, though a lot of that is for the anime version. I've never seen it, and after reading the first volume of the manga, I don't know if I'll bother.

Attack on Titan is based on a solid premise: a century ago, man-eating giants, called titans, suddenly appeared and attacked humanity en masse. Now, the remaining survivors live inside high, thick walls, and have generally given up on defeating the titans. So far, so good. And what the manga does best is to give you a very real sense of the panic and desperate fear that goes with a titan attack on the city. When the titans were actually attacking, it was a riveting read.

But the book doesn't spend all its time detailing attacks. That's probably a good thing, in general, because I just would have gotten tension fatigue. But this is where the problems come in. The characters aren't particularly compelling or likeable, and the dialog isn't convincing. It's possible that the latter could be due to the translation, but Kodansha translations are usually pretty good.

And I hate the art. It looks amateurish to me. There are a few panels that are effective, and the titans' designs are chilling, but in general it just looks clumsy. It seems like the anime has a different, and much better, art style.

So I don't like the writing, and I don't like the art. The premise is good, but is that enough to keep me reading? Nope.
13th Boy 1 - Sang Eun Lee Meh. I picked up this book not because I thought it would appeal to me (my record with romance comics is very hit or miss) but because I'm interested in reading more manhwa. I haven't read much so far, and I would like to at least try. It doesn't help that many books tagged "manhwa" here on Goodreads just aren't.

This is probably not the best representative of Korean comics. As a story, it seems confused. Does it want to be a younger teen romance, or does it want to be a fantasy? The first chapter is written as a straightforward romance, but the second chapter opens with a walking, talking cactus. It's jarring. I found the main character, Hee-So, to be intensely annoying. She's loud, clingy, and so "in love" with apparent love interest Won-Jun that she refuses to take any of his expressed feelings into account. She wants him, she'll have him, and she doesn't care what he thinks about it. Yes, she's a stalker, and we're supposed to think this is... What? Cute? Romantic? A sign of how true and pure her love is? No, I don't think so.

The art looks cute on the cover, but I wasn't blown away by what I saw inside. It isn't terrible, by any means. I've seen far worse. I'm just not thrilled.
Will & Whit - Laura Lee Gulledge Laura Lee Gulledge quotes Doctor Who and references Firefly in this book. I could almost stop there, since that's how the author fully won me over. But the truth is that she didn't need the references. I like this book, and especially the characters, well enough without.

This is the sort of quiet book where not much happens. At least, there aren't many big events. It's just about the characters, and how they change over the course of the book. We see the most change in the main character, Will (short for Willhelmina). Will lost her parents, and has been trying to bury her grief. But it isn't all about her. It's also about her two best friends, both struggling to gain confidence in themselves. And it's about art, and how it can be used as an escape or as therapy.

I read and loved [b:Page by Paige|8928004|Page by Paige|Laura Lee Gulledge|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1287612691s/8928004.jpg|13804487], which is also about art as an outlet. The art in this one is every bit as lovely as in Page by Paige, but I think Gulledge has improved as a storyteller.
Other (An Other Novel) - Karen Kincy This is a really interesting world that Kincy's put together. Fantasy creatures like centaurs and fairies are real, and increasingly public in their lives. Aside from the Others (or people with a paranormal identity, which is fabulously PC), this is recognizably modern America. Considering that Kincy doesn't give her supernatural characters much in the way of extraordinary powers, this isn't exactly X-Men. Or maybe it is, because The Others is mostly about the sort of prejudice that one would expect to spring up when people discover that vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters are real. People staring at the centaur in the supermarket? Naturally. Pray the fey away church groups? Sadly, yes. A serial killer who pointedly poses his Other victims in ways that suggest their exact paranormal natures? Yes, I can see this.

Kincy's worldbuilding is the strongest part of the book. Granted, it is mostly our world as we know it, but the way people react to the Others is consistent and makes sense. She also handles the various abilities (and weaknesses) of the Others in a way that's internally consistent and mostly consistent with the stories that her readers will be familiar with. That said, she also ventures outside the usual suspects that pop up again and again in fantasy. There are werewolves, sure, but main character Gwen isn't one. She's a pooka, a Welsh shapeshifter that I doubt many readers in the target audience would have heard of before. Gwen's friend Chloe isn't a fairy, she's a dryad. Honestly, I get sick of book after book being about werewolves or vampires, and it's nice to see some variety.

That said, how much you like this book will depend almost entirely on how much you can bring yourself to like Gwen. I did end up liking her, mostly, but she could be frustrating. She has believable flaws, even if they can be irritating. It can be very annoying to watch her cling to her prejudice against Others that are made (like vampires), not born (like herself- her father was a pooka). And yet, I entirely believe that growing up as she did, in the culture that she did, she'd feel judgmental towards those she sees as making her own life harder. I never felt like the author agreed with her in the slightest, or felt that we should, which made it bearable. The way she handles her relationship with boyfriend Zack (who does not know that she's a pooka) made me want to shake her sometimes, but it's also painfully realistic. How many girls hide important things about themselves from boys they love, out of the fear of losing them?

That said, I had a harder time with how doggedly Gwen stuck with her initial impression that a werewolf Chloe is dating must be a bad person. Of course, she's basing it off of negative werewolf stereotypes, and of course those stereotypes have been heavily ingrained in her. But after awhile, it stops making any sort of sense that Gwen would still be convinced that a werewolf is behind the Other murders, and especially not this werewolf. And yet it takes her almost the entire length of the book to come to grips with that. I was also surprised with how she kept trying to find the killer, against all reason. And speaking of less than wise decisions, how about shapeshifting openly, outdoors, on a sunny day? When you know that somebody is stalking and killing Others in your hometown, shouldn't you be more cautious?

I like the world that Kincy has created, and I think it holds together. I'm torn about her main character. Gwen can be very hard to like, but it's also easy to see why she is the way she is. It seems that other books in the series have different narrators, so I may try those, too.
Dracula Everlasting 1 - Nunzio DeFilippis,  Christina Weir,  Rhea Silvan (Illustrator) Underwhelming. The art, the characters, the overall story, none of it is bad. It just isn't good, either.
Saga, Volume 2 - Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples I'm pleased to note that volume two of Saga is every bit as imaginative and well-written as volume one. We get a look at how Marko and Alana met and fell in love (bonding over a book, how romantic!). There are also a few new characters, which should lead to some interesting stories. And of course, the volume ends on a cliffhanger. I'll definitely be sticking around for more.
Young Avengers, Vol. 1: Sidekicks - Allan Heinberg, Jim Cheung Well, this was actually a lot of fun. Because on the surface, this is a terrible idea. Or maybe just a painfully retro one. Teenage sidekicks have been out of vogue for decades, especially ones that closely echo the theme of the hero they sidekick for. And it might work for the Legion of Superheroes, but the idea of naming a character created in the 21st century Iron Lad is... Well, it's hardly current. And as a team name, Young Avengers is no better. I have a sneaking suspicion that some of these decisions were made by editorial and handed down to the Heinberg as Things He Must Do, which is kind of a shame. I remember when Young Avengers first hit the stands that I cringed at the name and passed the book by. That was not my wisest decision.

The thing is, as hokey as the name and the general concept are, this is not a hokey book. Not even slightly. The characters are engaging, in a very real, not-even-slightly-cheesy way. The dialog may not always be sparkling, but it's real and fits the characters. And the story holds together. It's easy to rely on the teen fiction standard of adults who just don't understand, but here it makes sense. I absolutely believe, without a moment's doubt, that Captain America would not want a teenage kid to dress up like Bucky and fight crime, especially when that kid turns out to be the grandson of the real first super soldier. (Is this what firmly established [b:Truth: Red, White, and Black|670341|Truth Red, White, and Black|Robert Morales|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1176970351s/670341.jpg|656375] as part of Marvel's continuity?) If I'd read [b:Avengers Disassembled|105969|Avengers Disassembled|Brian Michael Bendis|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348253902s/105969.jpg|102150], Iron Man's motives might have been even more clear, but what I did know was sufficient for me to buy his position.

I did find myself rolling my eyes at the boys' club mentality some of the characters, particularly Patriot, displayed when (gasp!) girls wanted to join the team, but I do think that was intentional. They're never shown as being in any way reasonable in wanting to keep Kate and Cassie out, and I think Heinberg wanted the reader's reaction to their acceptance to be, "It's about time!"

I had fun with this book, and I liked the characters. So here I go again, trying to catch up on a title long after I should have started to read it. I like Teen Titans, and it should have occurred to me that I would like Young Avengers, too. Especially because the latter also has a blonde girl named Cassie who wears a red costume, in one of the closest total coincidences I can remember seeing in comics.
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant - Tony  Cliff Effortlessly fun to read, Delilah Dirk is a fun, light weight, beautifully illustrated adventure comic, set in the Middle East of the early 19th century. I had high hopes for this book from looking at the cover, showcasing title character Delilah. On the cover, she looks like an active character, and pleased to be so, and attractive without being sexualized. It's an accurate reflection of her character within the book. Delilah is a deeply fun character to read about, a joyous swashbuckler. The Turkish lieutenant of the title, Selim, acts as her initially reluctant sidekick and the viewpoint character. It's basically a buddy book, and together Delilah and Selim remind me of Ferris Bueller and Cameron more than any other duo. And yes, it is a book that pairs an attractive man and an attractive woman together, then proceeds to make their relationship non-romantic. Sure, something may develop in later books, but here Delilah and Selim are good friends, and I like it that way.

And I really do have to mention the art, which is fantastic. Cliff's characters have great expressions, but the real stunners are his backdrops. Cliff's landscapes are simply gorgeous, a real pleasure to look at. His colors are vibrant and natural, which can be tough to pull off. There's a balance between "real life is brown" and primary color bonanza, and he hits it.

The prologue and first two chapters are available to read online.
Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits - Matt Fraction, David Aja, Francesco Francavilla, Steve Lieber, Jesse Hamm, Matt Hollingsworth This is just insanely good. If any superhero comic is a total package, it's this one. Great writing involving superheroes that act like heroes, talk like people, and have realistic but not overwhelming flaws? Check. Brilliant art that gives the characters expression and individuality? Check. Eye-catching colors that are subtle yet unique? Check. Covers that make this title pop on the shelf? Check, a thousand times check. Add in one of the most creative individual issues I've read in recent years, and this is close to perfection. It's worth reading for the Pizza Dog issue alone, but it would be a crying shame to read only one issue of Hawkeye. In all seriousness, I did not care a bit about Hawkeye as a character before I picked up the first trade, and now he might be one of my favorite mainstream(ish) heroes. Fantastic work, all around.
Avengers Assemble: Science Bros - Kelly Sue DeConnick, Stefano Caselli, Pete Woods It's books like this that make me glad I'm reading Marvel again. It isn't quite perfection, but it's so incredibly fun. Avengers Assemble seems like it's positioned as the book for people fresh off the Avengers movie who have little experience in comics, and it's great for that. It has most of the ingredients that made Avengers such a great movie, especially a good balance of serious action and humor. The Science Bros story does start off hilariously (a million bonus points to DeConnick for writing Hulk griping about "hippy peanut butter") but shifts to serious where appropriate. And it doesn't feel any more jarring to the reader than it does to the characters. This is supposed to be fun for them, until it isn't. The villain feels like a credible threat, and has enough character himself that I hope to see him back again soon. The Black Widow story has a more serious tone, and it gives a good look inside Natasha's head. The last issue, an annual, is an oddly touching Vision story. I've read very little classic Avengers, and I barely even know who the character of Vision is, but by the end of the issue I found myself deeply attached to the character. That one apparently wasn't DeConnick, but it was a lovely piece of work.

Between this and [b:Captain Marvel|15984353|Captain Marvel, Vol. 1 In Pursuit of Flight|Kelly Sue DeConnick|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1357824516s/15984353.jpg|21738670], I'm becoming a huge fan of DeConnick. I especially love the tiny, background details in the book, things that you can miss on a quick read but add depth to the story world once you notice them. Things like Captain American signing paperwork in the background of a panel. I don't know if the credit for this sort of thing goes to DeConnick or the artist, or more likely both, but I loved seeing it. And details aside, Caselli draws a really nice looking superhero comic.

The continuity requirement for reading Avengers Assemble has, so far, been practically non-existent. It's a great jumping on point for new fans interested by the movie, and it does a fantastic job of introducing characters who weren't around for the movie.
The Walking Dead, Vol. 18: What Comes After - Charlie Adlard, Robert Kirkman I was not sold on the last volume of Walking Dead. I felt like Kirkman was writing brutality for the sake of being brutal, because he feels like we expect it at this point (which, fair enough, we do, or we should) or because he simply sees no other way forward. This volume is a bit of an improvement in that regard. Sure, Negan is a terrifying, brutal character, but he's given development beyond his baseball bat. That's what this volume is really all about, giving Negan depth and, in the process, making him even more of a threat. From what I've seen here, Negan is just as much of a sociopath as he had seemed at first glance, maybe even more so. But now he's compelling, too. I wouldn't say likeable, because he certainly isn't that. But now he's a person, not just the means to an end. And it's a relief, because I had gotten to the point where I was reading Walking Dead just because I had been reading Walking Dead, more out of inertia than real enjoyment. I'm still skeptical. Kirkman needs to have an ending in mind, and I'm not convinced that he does. Dragging this on endlessly will eventually lose me.
Fatale Volume 3 TP - Ed Brubaker Unlike previous volumes, this Fatale collection is more like a series of short stories, each set in a different time and place. Really, it serves as a form of exposition, explaining (somewhat, sort of) what Josephine is, who is pursuing her, and who has gone before her. Not everything is explained, which is good. A little mystery around the edges of the story keeps me interested. I liked meeting women like Josephine through history. They are all somewhat similar, but I can chalk that up to being shaped by very similar experiences. I also liked seeing a range of time periods. To my surprise, I ended up liking the Wild West vignette the best. I am not exactly a western sort of person, not usually. I was also surprised to discover how much going backwards in time advanced the overall story of Fatale. I'm still really enjoying this series, as much for the stylish art as for Brubaker's writing.
Iron Man, Vol. 1: Believe - Kieron Gillen, Greg Land Mixed feelings. On one hand, I do appreciate that the storyline is self contained. It starts here, and it's over with here. You don't need much canon background, other than a passing knowledge of Extremis. I already had that, but you could probably pick up everything you needed to know from this collection. And parts of the story are very fun.

That said, I did take issue with some aspects of this book, namely the art. Land seems to have a hard time drawing convincing expressions, especially on the female characters. Consistency also seems to be an issue: the Tony Stark in issue one doesn't quite look like the Tony Stark of issue three. I also got tired of the how sexualized all of the female characters are. All of them. It's really irritating when Pepper and Tony are trying to have a serious conversation, in panels framed where we see Pepper's body, but not her face. That it doesn't happen more often is solely due to the book being mostly Tony, most of the time.

The vast majority of women that show up on the page are there as props, not as people. Gillen took Tony's playboy tendencies to their crudest extremes, while ignoring Tony's actual character. Would he really work on designs for future tech while literally surrounded by bikini-wearing women? Because there's absolutely no way that one of his competitors couldn't take advantage of that by sending in a pretty lady in very little clothing to do a little corporate espionage. And while I'm at it, Tony designing an AI to sound like Pepper (and naming it P.E.P.P.E.R.) is far, far creepier than Gillen seems to realize.

I would have enjoyed this book more if not for all of that, but it's hardly a work of genius in any event. Fun, sure, and easy for readers fresh off Iron Man 3 but with little comic content.
Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes I had a tough time getting into this book. It's written entirely as progress reports (more like journal entries) by the main character, Charlie. And at the start of the book, Charlie is barely literate. For me, that made the first 40 pages or so a struggle to get through. But then Charlie undergoes a treatment that is never fully defined (there's some sort of surgery involved) and his intelligence grows. And luckily, the book becomes much easier to read as Charlie learns standard spelling and grammar.

Keyes used that premise, a character progressing from mental disability to extreme genius, very thoughtfully. He writes about how both a lack of education and the extremes of education can become isolating. Before the surgery, Charlie was often the butt of jokes by people he had thought were his friends, who were willing to take advantage of his lack of understanding to give themselves an ego boost. Afterwards, those same people become intimidated by his rapidly increasing intelligence, because his new intelligence made them feel inferior to him. At the same time, Keyes doesn't give Charlie a pass, showing how he allows his increased intelligence to divide him from people around him who are, in his opinion, less educated. And then there's also the idea, showing up again and again in the story, that pre-surgery Charlie was a person, every bit as much as post-surgery Charlie, and that he had deserved to be treated with respect.

Of course, this book is also a product of its time. It's fitting, because Flowers for Algernon was being written as taking place in the present day. There are things which are jarring to modern readers that would not have been so when Keyes wrote this book in the late 50s. Apparently, it was acceptable to call people with mental impairments morons, something that just wouldn't pass today. I could get used to it being on the page, but I don't doubt that many readers would have trouble with that. I think I was able to accept that this had been standard and inoffensive at the time because Keyes was, overall, writing thoughtfully.

This is a book with an emotional impact that leaves the reader with much to think about. At times, it can be slow. We are essentially following Charlie's thought process through his progress reports, and he isn't always hurried. But in the end, that turns out to be a good thing. We get to know Charlie much better than we might have otherwise, so we become more invested in what will become of him. And it gives Charlie's last progress report an additional weight that it may not have had otherwise.
A Bride's Story 4 - Kaoru Mori It's so, so pretty. Of course it is. I've never known Kaoru Mori to do anything but lovely, fully researched art. But this volume... I'm just glad the twins haven't been the stars from the start. If they had been, I wouldn't have gotten to volume four. I hate characters that only communicate by shouting, and that's the twins in a nutshell. By the midpoint of the book, it was painful to slog through their scenes. And even when they weren't shouting, they just weren't likeable. Hopefully, the next volume will be light on the twins. Better yet would be if they aren't around at all.