Review: Among Others by Jo Walton

Author: Jo Walton
Publisher: Tor Books
Released: January 18th, 2011
Received: Net Galley
Warnings: Sibling (twin) death

4 kitties

I received a copy of Among Others through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Among Others as a novel by Jo Walton originally published back in 2011, but has recently gotten some extra attention thanks to it getting a new print edition. Personally, I’m really excited about that fact. I’ve loved Jo Walton ever since I was a teenager, and yet I never read this book. Talk about a great chance to dive back into the works of somebody you adore!

Morwenna Phelps, aka Mori, is a girl who lived in two worlds. The real world, and the world created for her through her greatest love: books. Mori is a girl very much in need of an escape. She may have her mother’s gift to see magic and fairies, but that has never saved her from the darker things in life. Nor did it ever offer her the escape from reality that she so desperately craved.

“There are some awful things in the world, it’s true, but there are also some great books.”

Among Others is an utterly enchanting read. Mori is a fascinating character, and her love of books makes her both approachable and all the more endearing. It opens up her world, and thus her narrative.

This book was everything that I needed it to be. It’s ironic, really. Mori’s escape was found in books (something we can all sympathize with, I’m sure), and I found an escape in her novel. Her story was not what I expected, but it was brilliant nonetheless.

There was a lot to enjoy about this book, not least of which is the way the story unfolded. There was this constant sense of intrigue, thanks to all of the past that had yet been revealed. It added a sense of tension to the story. Something that worked nicely in balance with the adoration of novels expressed.

Speaking of, Jo Walton did not shy away from talking about books. Mori didn’t love imaginary books. She loved real books – books that we all have access to today. That was refreshing. It was so much fun seeing books I loved referenced within these pages. It made Mori’s world come to life, which I’m sure was the intention.

Regardless, Among Others was an absolutely delightful read. I’m so incredibly happy that this novel got another print run, because I somehow managed to completely miss it the first time around. I’m glad that my mistake has now been rectified.

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Realm Review – Thor: Metal Gods Episode 10

The Cavalry Has Arrived in Thor: Metal Gods Episode 10

Thor’s epic and metal quest continues in Thor: Metal Gods Episode 10. Thor, alongside his brother and new allies, has been put into quite the predicament. All while on the hunt for a special crown with a very dark history.

This latest series for Thor is being published by Serial Box (now Realm). Each week they’ve released a new episode (or chapter, if you prefer), continuing the tale of a famous Marvel hero. We are nearing the end of the first season, with only five episodes left after this one.

Thor is the first Marvel series to launch on this platform, but he will not be the last. Black Widow, Jessica Jones, and Black Panther all have impending series that have already been announced. And who knows, maybe they’ll add even more beloved characters to that list?

A Cry For Reinforcements

Thor: Metal Gods Episode 10 was a dramatic addition to what has already proven to be a thrilling and unique series. Brian Keene took the helm for this episode, and he was unafraid to show us the loss and devastation that may come with space battles.

He also managed to weave in many other elements, some classic to Thor’s series in particular. This made the series feel more grounded (once again) and added to the complexity of the story itself.

The decision to include more famous Marvel characters in this episode was a smart one. It was a rallying call – both for the characters and the readers. Their introduction was truly epic while providing an out sorely needed by those mired in battle.

All things considered, Thor: Metal Gods has done a brilliant job of sticking both to the musical theme and the core elements that make Thor such a fascinating character. All while adding in new elements, making the Serial Box version stand out as its format.

The tenth episode held true to this format while having a bit of fun along the way. The more I read this series, the more excited I become to see how the final confrontation will go. I’m also more than a little bit curious to hear if there will be a second season, and if so, what it will contain.

Narration

As with the rest of this season, Daniel Gillies was the narrator for Thor: Metal Gods Episode 10. At this point, it really is safe to say that his voice is the voice of this story and vice versa. He’s really adapted quite well to the role and is even having fun with it.

This is an episode with heavy lows and dramatic highs. There’s a real epic sense to the writing itself, but the narration provided by Gillies all further enhances it. His voice resonates with the impact and empowering nature of what is happening. It’s ideal when you think about it.

Speaking of enhancements. Sounds accompanied the events of the battle itself to go with it. Much like you’d expect to find in a comic, only with an audiobook spin. Something about it felt almost second nature, making them a seamless inclusion to the narrative. And I firmly believe that it is all the proof we need that they were perfectly timed and placed.

Conclusion

Thor: Metal Gods Episode 10 was dramatic and intense. Given that we’re nearing the end of the season, that’s not much of a surprise. What is a surprise – in a good way – are the characters that have been brought into the fray. They are sure to turn the tides while giving readers (or listeners) even more reasons to cheer.

This review was originally written for Word of the Nerd, but has been ported over to Quirky Cat’s Fat Stacks now that the site has shut down.

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Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston

Author: Andrea Hairston
Publisher: Tor.com
Released: September 8th, 2020
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Violence, rape (implied), torture (implied)

I received a copy of Master of Poisons in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Andrea Hairston’s Master of Poisons sets up a changing world, one that’s struggling to survive.

In a world full of magic, there’s only so much that can be done to stop the poisonous desert from creeping ever closer. Yet that is exactly what Djola hopes to do – to save his people, as the Master of Poisons it is his job.

“No hope without change, no change without sacrifice.”

Warnings: Master of Poisons touches upon many intense subjects, and portrays lots of violence, rape (implied), and torture (also implied).

Master of Poisons is the latest fantasy novel, one that highlights different struggles and attempts to survive. It’s a dark and dangerous world, and yet this novel has made a point of showing all of the reasons to find hope.

I’m honestly struggling on what to say about Master of Poisons. It’s an intriguing and brilliant novel, of that I have no doubt. But I also really struggled with this one. It always felt like I was playing catchup – like I was struggling to put the pieces of the world together in a way that made sense for me. I’m not sure if that’s just me, or the mood I was in while reading, or what.

I do know that it kept me from feeling any real connection to this book. Which is a shame, as I really really wanted to enjoy this book more than I did.

That isn’t to say that I disliked it. The writing was brilliant, as was much of the world. I just didn’t feel much of a connection to any of it. Ironically, if a sequel was to come out, I would read that in a heartbeat. I can’t help but feel like I’m on the verge of a breakthrough, and that at any moment a sudden rush of understanding will hit me, and suddenly make me love the book. At least, that’s what I’d like to think. I hope that all makes sense.

I did find the magical system to be intriguing, and sincerely would have loved to see more of it (I feel like I say that a lot, but it really is true). The fantasy worlds portrayed were brilliant and bold, showing the good and the bad. The potential, as well as the struggles to get there.

While I did struggle a bit, as mentioned, I never had any problem understanding the stakes at hand. Hairston made it very clear what was at stake, and thus what would be lost of Djola’s goal failed. That brought the fantasy elements back down to a darker level, but not in a bad way.

Finally, the writing within Master of Poisons is wonderfully done. There are times where it almost flows like prose, and it’s hard not to respect the heck out of that. Here’s hoping for more of it’s kind down the line.

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Review: Gamora & Nebula: Sisters in Arms by Mackenzi Lee

Author: Mackenzi Lee
Publisher: Disney Publishing
Released: June 1, 2021
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

Gamora & Nebula: Sisters in Arms is the latest installment in Marvels hero series. The other notable addition to this series (so far) follows Loki, so you just know that this will be a fun ride! What made me so eager to pick up this read, in particular, is a combination of the characters (I adore Nebula) and the author – Mackenzi Lee.

The relationship between Gamora and Nebula has always been rocky – and that’s putting it kindly. Their adoptive father was (and still is) always pitting them against one another to make them stronger (so he claims).

The end result? One daughter is his favorite, and both sisters tend to resent each other more often than not. Still, there are times when they can work together when their sisterly bond rises up and gets them through even the worst situations.

“Her father courts Death. He pulls her close and kisses her hair as he breathes deep her woody perfume.”

Gamora & Nebula is everything that I had hoped for in this novel, and then some. It’s fun, fast-paced, and puts two sisters through the wringer. It also ended up having at least one major pun, I’ve come to realize.

Moving on, I really did enjoy this read. I knew I would, given the characters we’re talking about. To be clear – these are not the same exact versions we see in the movies or even the comics. By that, I mean that their history and personalities are the same, but their current events are open to change.

Then again, there will always be a constant element for these two powerful women. They will always be fighting. Fighting against one another. Fighting together. Fighting for their freedom, and for the right to love each other as sisters.

It’s complicated and messy, and that is why we love them. All of that was so beautifully captured in Lee’s writing; it was perfection. I also adore that she included Thanos’ obsession (I’ll give you three guesses). That was a nice touch and helped to show how messed up he is.

I could happily spend all day writing about these two characters. But I won’t. Other than to say: I really hope that both sisters get a sequel and that we get a chance to see them happy. That’s always my hope for these two (Nebula especially, that girl needs a win!).

Thanks to Disney Publishing and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Stranger Things: Zombie Boys

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Valeria Favoccia, Nate Piekos, Dan Jackson
Released: January 21st, 2020
Received: Own

4 kitties

Stranger Things: Zombie Boys is one of several graphic novels currently available from the world of Stranger Things. So if you liked the Netflix show, and want to see more of these brave and stubborn kids, this might be a good place to start.

Zombie Boys is set after the events of the first season. Meaning, after Will went missing, and was later found. If you watched the show, then you’re probably already getting an idea of where this is going to lead. The title helps give that idea.

The boys have all gone back to school. Only everyone is having trouble coping. Not just the primary four, but all of the students. After all, one of their own was declared, missing, and then dead, only to come back once again.

Stranger Things: Zombie Boys is an extremely quick read from this world. It’s about seventy pages, and focuses entirely on Will and the reactions to his return. Naturally, it gets a little bit dark at times – though it should still be approachable for a younger audience (if they were able to handle the show, they can handle this).

What I really enjoyed about this graphic novel is that it showed the consequences of everything that happened. You can’t exactly come back from the dead and have nobody react – even if you were only dead on paperwork. So that was a bit refreshing, if you ask me.

More than that, it showed the talent these kids have when it comes to turning a bad situation into something positive. Sure, it was borderline childish, but we have to remember that these are kids. Kids who went through hell, and came out on top.

The artwork itself is bright – very bright, despite the zombie themes running throughout. That was another refreshing change. If you take a peek at the cover, you can get a good idea of what sort of art style will be waiting for you within.

All things considered, I enjoyed Stranger Things: Zombie Boys. Though maybe that is simply because I believe that Will deserves more screen time, especially after everything that he has gone through.

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Review: Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena

Author: Shari Lapena
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Released: July 27th, 2021
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Emotional abuse

4 kitties

Shari Lapena’s latest novel, Not A Happy Family, is a mystery thriller and family drama all rolled into one. It instantly caught my attention as one of the options for BOTM, and I just couldn’t resist.

The Mercer family has always been well off – and they’ve always been full of tension, drama, and secrets. Their three children are set to inherit millions, assuming their parents don’t do something to forever alter that financial path.

Even the mere suggestion of that sounds like the recipe for a thriller novel. As we all know, something is about to happen to rock this already shaky boat.

“Maybe you should just tell them the truth.”

Right away, the twisted dynamics in Not A Happy Family pulled me in. It was a mess and one that I couldn’t look away from. In a way, the setup felt very familiar to Knives Out (and if you haven’t seen that movie, may I recommend giving it a go? It’s one of my favorites).

Family drama? Check. Extreme wealth? Check. Questionable family loyalty? Check. Inheritance worth killing for? Triple check. You can see where I’m going with this one! This is a messed-up family, and it won’t take you more than a page or two to figure that much out.

What takes longer is figuring out how it all relates to one another. This leads me to my next point – what I loved the most about this book is that it really did keep me guessing. Despite the apparent setup, it took me a while to figure out who the killer was.

On that note (no spoilers, I promise), the ending was very satisfying. It didn’t lay out the whole story for us but instead left certain parts of it open to our imagination. Yet it didn’t leave too much answered. It was the right balance, and I found myself appreciating the note it left off on.

The best part about Not A Happy Family is that each and every character had a motive. More than that, most of the characters were designed to be hated. So it’s hard to feel bad for them, even when it looks like things might get rough for them.

This was the first novel I’ve ever read written by Shari Lapena, and I am totally blown away. You better believe I’m adding her to my list of trusted thriller authors.

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Review: The Art of Comic Book Drawing

The Art of Comic Book Drawing: More than 100 drawing and illustration techniques for rendering comic book characters and storyboards
Authors: Walter Foster Creative Team
Publisher: Walter Foster Publishing
Released: March 10th, 2020
Received: Net Galley

4 kitties

I received a copy of The Art of Comic Book Drawing through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Art of Comic Book Drawing is everything that it promises to be. This is a guide and introduction for comic book artwork. Everything from the basics to more detailed steps is included here. And it’s all designed to get readers started on their comic book journey.

What I love about this book is how it really managed to cover all of the basics. And I do mean all of them! This book covers the basics of drawing, inking, character creation, drawing motion, lettering, storyboards, and more. It’s actually quite impressive!

Best of all, it actually does a brilliant job of explaining all of these basics to you. Anybody who has read an art book knows that this element is just as (if not more) important as having a talented artist on the team. Thankfully, you can find both here.

I also love that they’ve included practice pages and exercises throughout the book. I know that might not seem like much, but it’s something I’ve come to really love and appreciate.

In short: this book has everything a beginner would need or want in order to get started. So if you’ve been wanting to create a comic, but don’t know where to start, or are feeling intimidated, then this is absolutely a book worth checking out. That is also true even if you’re just curious, because The Art of Comic Book Drawing is also an interesting read, regardless of skill level.

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Realm Review – Thor: Metal Gods Episode 9

Differing Tactics in Thor: Metal Gods Episode 9

The quest for magic, gods, and revenge continues in Thor: Metal Gods Episode 9. Thor and his allies have found themselves in a sticky situation – one that may just require different tactics to get out of.

Their quest to reclaim a mystical crown has taken several turns, with new allies joining every day. And old relationships are getting dredged back up to the surface once again, for good or ill. Naturally, that in itself has created a fair amount of chaos.

Thor: Metal Gods is a series currently being published by Serial Box (now Realm). It’s a new form of storytelling for Marvel and Thor. Each week a new episode (chapter) is released, continuing the tale in both written and audiobook format. It’s been a totally unique experience so far, but one worth talking about.

Battles and Turmoil

Thor: Metal Gods Episode 9 did not shy away from the inevitable battle. What occurred in this episode was a brilliant battle – one that gave each of the primary characters a chance to shine. Or, at the very least, a chance to show off their skills – and the turmoil they’re batting within.

Yoon Ha Lee was back at the helm for this episode, and they did an excellent job of laying out a space battle like you’ve never seen (or head) before. What made this episode so interesting (outside of the battle itself) was how each character reacted to the situation at hand.

This series is showing a different side of classic Marvel characters. Thor is still undoubtedly Thor – but the series is also moving to build off successful elements we’ve seen in the MCU. A Thor who is more aware of what his actions cost others. Or at least, this is a Thor becoming aware of that fact.

Likewise, Loki has been slightly altered for this telling. Once again, that is not a bad thing. This is merely a different side of Loki we’re seeing. There are lots of reasons for this fact, not least of which is the new storytelling method. All things considered, it’s an effective change – one that has made the God of Mischief all the more difficult to predict.

Narration

As with the rest of this series, one can opt to listen to Thor: Metal Gods Episode 9. That’s part of what has made this series such an experience to behold (or to hear). Daniel Gillies has been the narrator this entire time, and I, for one, am very grateful for that consistency.

I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews that Gillies has truly settled into the different voices for all of the characters involved. That element became vital in this episode as the battle raged on. Knowing who was who on a moment’s notice felt more important than ever. And it’s safe to say that Gillies pulled it off.

Speaking of the battles, he was able to infuse the epic quality – the sense of danger – into his reading. Making the battle feel as grand and threatening as you might imagine, and then some. It was exactly what this episode needed.

Conclusion

Thor: Metal Gods Episode 9 was another thrilling addition to this series. It’s perhaps the most action-packed episode of the series (so far) and has left fans eagerly looking forward to the next episode. And everything that will come with it.

Thor: Metal Gods has ended up being so much more than I had dared hope for. It’s been an exciting adventure, one that is both similar and unique. It has the tones and characters we love while being unafraid to take risks along the way.

This review was originally written for Word of the Nerd, but has been ported over to Quirky Cat’s Fat Stacks now that the site has shut down.

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Review: Girl A by Abigail Dean

Author: Abigail Dean
Publisher: Viking
Released: January 21st, 2021
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Abuse, starvation, imprisonment, severe injuries, psychological abuse

3 kitties

Abigail Dean’s latest novel, Girl A, is one that will stick to the memory of thriller fans all over, with a chilling tale of family and secrets.

Lex Gracie is the girl who escaped. Girl A, as the newspapers called her. In her mind, she calls her family home the ‘House of Horrors,’ and it is an accurate depiction. For a time, Lex thought that she had left that world behind.

Before her mother’s death dragged up all those memories again. Along with all of the secrets and lies that run through her family. Even today, so many years after she escaped and freed all of her siblings.

“You can endure an awful lot when you know that you’ll be fed at the end of it.”

In many ways, Girl A is one of the most twisted and disturbing reads I’ve picked up in quite some time. Lex’s story is dark and is not for every reader out there. Yet there was also something familiar about this story – I know I’ve heard of this before, but in reality and in fiction.

Lex’s narrative is split, jumping through points of time with little or no warning. While it fits her mental state and the overall feeling of confusion she carries with her, it does make it more difficult to read and understand.

While there are many jumps, I mostly tried to sort them into two timelines. The ‘before’ and the ‘now.’ The ‘before’ timeline is naturally fairly graphic at times. though it goes a long way in explaining everything that is happening in the ‘now.’

On that note, I should emphasize that this book is not for everyone. It contains many triggers, including abuse, starvation, imprisonment, severe injuries, and psychological abuse. There are also several other implications, but those are a bit harder to put my finger on.

“The past was one of the few foreign countries which neither of us wished to visit.”

Overall, I found myself wanting to enjoy this story, but I had difficulty connecting despite that. Which sounds crazy, given everything Lex and her siblings went through. You’d think it’d be easy to find that human connection. I’m not sure what went wrong there; perhaps it was simply all of the jumps in perspective. All I know is that it left me feeling slightly disappointed in Girl A.

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Review: The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Author: Chuck Wendig
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Released: July 20th, 2021
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Abuse, kidnapping, alcoholism, mental health

3 1/2 kitties

Chuck Wendig is here with another paranormal thriller, and I am all sorts of here for it. The Book of Accidents is one of those books that I had been counting down the days for, and I am glad to have finally found the time to sit down and read it.

The past sets the tone for the present, even when we’re unaware of it happening. For example, Nathan lived in a country house, where he witnessed a secret he’ll never speak of. Meanwhile, Maddie used to be a little girl who likewise was witness to a dark secret.

Now, these two people have found one another, and the result is their son, Oliver. Only, the shared horrors they’ve witnessed are rising back up, reaching into the present, and going straight towards Oliver.

“Books were usually a way for her to power her own brain down and borrow someone else’s for a while.”

What makes The Book of Accidents a standout novel is the way Chuck Wendig tackles different types of horror. There is no single ‘big bad’ in this book, but rather several disturbing and horrifying sequences that merge together into one tale.

To say that it was spine-tingling wouldn’t do it justice. Here the mundane and the paranormal combine into one, and somehow that in combination with Wendig’s writing makes it feel almost too real. Too horrible.

While many different elements are dancing throughout this book, overall, there’s a more gothic vibe to the story at hand. It makes The Book of Accidents feel more cohesive, which I very much appreciated.

I should probably mention that this book may not be for the faint of heart, especially not as it delves into the horrors that can spring from the human mind. These are the parts that frequently feel too real, all while blurring the lines between truth and fiction.

The Book of Accidents is absolutely a novel that horror fans will love, as will many thriller fans, I believe. Yet it is also a novel that is very different from both, and I kept help but appreciate that more than anything else.

Thanks to Del Rey Books and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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