book reviews

Spotlight on Graphic Novels! Coffin Hill Vol 1

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Coffin Hill Vol 1

Coffin Hill* follows a young woman, Eve Coffin, who has returned to her home town after she leaving the Boston Police Department. She’s caught serial killers and had a successful career. Though she’s not excited to be going home, a town where children sing-song at her and call her the “Witch of Coffin Hill,” she has bigger things to focus on.

Eve’s walked into the horrors of her past: teenagers have started going missing in the Forrest of Coffin Hill. Eve’s worst fears, that the teenagers are being consumed by an evil she’s unleashed, are about to be realized and she’s in for a battle.

Highlights:

  • Coffin Hill features a main character who is more concerned with her own sense of self and coming to terms with her past self than she is with her romantic interest.
  • Eve is headstrong and rushes into things, at times without thinking. This often stems from a personality where helping is more urgent than needing a guardian to keep her safe. She’s unafraid of conflict and doesn’t need someone else (namely her old friend and police chief) to help her.
  • The artistry is fantastic. The novel utilizes overlays and multiple perspectives in creative ways. Miranda often shows multiple views of the same moment in the same panel. This may seem confusing, but the result is a multidimensional moment with a sense of movement that is often lacking.

I expect that there will be lots of moments for growth as this series continues. It could use some more pauses and more explanation of how the past and present are interwoven.

Overall, a 4 out of 5 and a seriously optimistic eye towards the future.

Coffin Hill Vol 1 will be available May 20th. You can preorder it here.

*Review material for Coffin Hill Vol 1 was received via NetGalley

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Review: Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

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Title: Dark Eden

Author: Chris Beckett

Publication Date: April 2014

Genre: Science Fiction

 

Overview: John’s family lives in Eden, a dark, wild planet once visited by people from Earth. They’ve spent the last 150 years in the Circle Valley waiting for Earth to rescue them, living as hunter and gatherers in the same spot that their forefathers were abandoned in generations ago. But the valley is dying. There isn’t enough food and no one has left to find more. In a fit of frustration, John destroys the center of their home and departs for the Dark Place beyond the valley bringing with him a group of ragtag youths.

 

For Fans Of: William Golding, Orson Scott Card (circa 1985?)

 

World-Building: Eden is pretty interesting as far as settings. It’s a land where there is no external light source and where the animals are mostly six legged and have mandibles (feelers on a mammal would be called _______?) It’s human inhabitants are almost cult-like and it’s surprising that they have absolutely no modern knowledge–presumably their forefathers were stranded astronauts– and live primitively. I found the more interesting parts to be in the time spent outside of the Valley. The developments that John Redlantern and his friends come up with are relatively simplistic, but enable them to encounter some fun and scary creatures.

 

The culture I found a little unsettling at times if only for the sexual practices. Beckett is not graphic in any of this, but some of it gave me the creeps (i.e. John and the group leader)

 

Character Development: John is consistently self-centered. That wasn’t so bad except that he’s indulged through to the very end without any real consequences despite a number of instances that seemed to be foreshadowing otherwise. I liked Tina; she was probably the best character. I liked that she had to become responsible and didn’t shirk from it and I liked that she was realistic about the people around her. Beckett sets her up initially as someone who’s a bit vapid, but she doesn’t stay that way.

 

Plot: There’s no real plot or end to it. John’s screwed it all up royally and it kind of just ends with him running from his screw ups like he did the whole book long. That’s not to say it’s bad. It felt like the way to end it for him, but there wasn’t some overarching plot or purpose to his adventures. Don’t expect a real conclusion to them.

 

Rating: 3.5

 

Notes: I received this copy from netgalley.com as an eARC. Dark Eden is an Arthur C. Clark award winner.

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0804138680?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0804138680&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Book Depository Link:  http://www.bookdepository.com/Dark-Eden-Chris-Beckett/9781848874640

Review: Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper (Wild Hunt Quartet #1)

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Title: Songs of the Earth (Wild Hunt Quartet #1)

Author: Elspeth Cooper

Publication Date: 2011 (MMP2012)

Genre: Fantasy

Overview: Gair was a knight for the Church until he is accused and found guilty of witchcraft. He’s branded and outcast, left to die. His only hope is a mysterious old man named Alderan. They depart for Alderan’s home, where people who can hear the Songs of the earth are trained to control their powers. There he learns that a force much greater than the Church is about to wreak havoc on the world, a force that comes from his own kind.

For Fans Of: George RR Martin

World-Building: This book is mostly set up for the rest of the quartet. In it, we learn all about the general set up of the world: its government, magic, threats, and general history. The descriptions of these are thorough, if not always riveting. Overall, Cooper makes it enjoyable, but it at times feels like the book is all world building and no plot.

Character Development: The main character, Gair, is interesting. He doesn’t really grow too much throughout this book, but I suspect that has much to do with the first book setting the background for the next three. What we do learn about him is interesting, he has a conflicted past, some self-doubt, and a great deal of inner strength –not to mention power. I thought the most interesting part about him is his history with the church. As a former novice, later cast out by the church, he has a lot of continued faith, calling for help from the Goddess whose people so violently rejected him. I suspect this will be one very interesting thread later in the series.

Plot: As I said before, this is really just the layout and set up for later plots. As far as the plots in this book itself go, it is very slow. I think it will pick up a lot in pacing and interest in later installations. The bits of plot that have formed and will be carried out are very promising. I’m interested to see how Cooper contrasts Gair with Savin and to see how the Church plays into the plot later on.

Rating: 3.5

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Songs-Earth-Wild-Elspeth-Cooper/dp/0765368501/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397503030&sr=1-3&keywords=elspeth+cooper

Book Depository Link: http://www.bookdepository.com/Songs-Earth-Elspeth-Cooper/9780575096165

Review: Wool by Hugh Howey

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Title: Wool (The Omnibus)

Author: Hugh Howey

Publication Date: January 25, 2012

Genre: Science Fiction

Overview: Jules has lived her whole life in the Silo. No one who lives there can remember the world before it. They only know that the outside is desolate and that the cleaners (those who leave the safety of the silo to clean the cameras) always die. When Jules is picked to be the new sheriff, she finds out that the silo is not just an isolated safe haven, but that it harbors the secrets of a society long since dead.

 

For fans of: Orson Scott Card, Veronica Roth

 

World-Building: The world building was crucial to Jules’ narrative. Everything hinged on the way in which the social and technical world around her was organized. In a world in which people are stuck in silo with over 100 floors, the world has to fit together well. Howey does this well. Major equipment and mining occur on the bottom (where resources would likely be more accessible), agriculture is spread evenly throughout and operates on hydroponics, the water is both recycled and taken from an aquifer (It’s not sure where this happens exactly, but at least it exists), and the government is placed at the top. All of this does create a feasible society with a well thought-out social stratification.

Additionally, Howey makes sure to answer the more important questions about the world: what do people do for trade (gain chits), how does the air get cleaned (entire floors are dedicated to air cycling), why aren’t there elevators (I can’t actually tell you this).

 

Character Development: This is one of the interesting points. Jules is herself throughout, and, while she does find out significant facts about her world, it’s no real surprise that she takes on large burdens and is unafraid of the challenges that face her; her character is that way from the beginning.

Lucas, however, changes a great deal. He starts out as a simple IT support man. He doesn’t really think about the inner workings of the Silo. What I like most about his development is that he takes these revelations and ruminates on them before making any decisions. He isn’t just taking anyone’s word at face value. This makes his later decisions and changes of heart that much more valuable.

An aside: I loved how he acts at the end of Casting Off. I had all of the feels.

 

Plot: The plot is faced-paced and Howey keeps you moving. Some of the twists are awesome. I will say that there are times when the danger is there just to make things feel more dangerous rather than to serve a purpose to the plot. Maybe if I were reading this as the novellas came out I would have seen them as having more purpose, but I doubt it.

 

Rating: 4.0

 

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Wool-Omnibus-Edition-Silo-Saga-ebook/dp/B0071XO8RA

Book Depository Link: http://www.bookdepository.com/Wool-Omnibus-Edition-Hugh-Howey/9781469984209

Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

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Title: Reconstructing Amelia

Author: Kimberly McCreight

Publication Date: June 20, 2013

Genre: Contemporary, Mystery

Overview: When Kate’s daughter is found dead after falling off of her school’s roof, everyone assumes the worst: suicide. That is, until Kate receives an anonymous text message telling her that Amelia did not jump. Kate is then launched into an investigation to find out what really happened. In doing so, she finds out dark secrets about her daughter’s world–secret clubs, tell-all blogs, and cruel text messages– that Kate is sure led to Amelia’s death.

 

For Fans Of: Gossip Girl, The Cyberbully

 

World-Building: Reconstructing Amelia is set in the present day with all its amenities. The part of the world that really takes some convincing is in Amelia’s social life and in the investigation of Amelia’s death.

 

I understand that Amelia is supposed to be going to a very rich private school. And while I can potentially see secret clubs existing, it’s hard for me to buy into some tell-all gossip rag about the students. I know students can be mean and malicious, and maybe it’s just my own high school experience, but I don’t really buy the idea that someone would go out of their way to chronicle all the gossip that is going on in a small school. That stuff travels fast enough on its own. Let alone that blog becoming popular.

 

This being said, the gRaCeFULLY blog isn’t really important to the plot at all. All of the blog entries could be taken out and the plot would still move fine, if not more smoothly.

 

The other part of the story I found difficult to believe was that, in this world, Kate is very active in her daughter’s investigation. This was a wholly unbelievable thing to me. That Kate was permitted to follow leads, view evidence, and come with the detective on her daughter’s case to participate in questioning was ridiculous. This would, in any case or investigation, be a totally biasing, unquestionably forbidden thing. It took me out of the story.

 

Character Development: Reconstructing Amelia is much less about the characters than the mystery. That being said, there are characters who aren’t built in a way that even hints at their actions in the past. I found that disappointing.

 

Plot: The plot was fine. It wasn’t a terribly insurmountable mystery what had happened.

 

Rating: 3

 

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Reconstructing-Amelia-Novel-Kimberly-McCreight/dp/006222543X

Book Depository Link: http://www.bookdepository.com/Reconstructing-Amelia-Kimberly-Mccreight/9780062225436