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Seriously, you should totally read this.

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Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

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Fraction, M., & Zdarsky, C. (ill.) 2014. Sex Criminals, vol. 1: One Weird Trick. Image Comics: ISBN: 9781607069461.

Annotation: Suzie has the power to stop time when she has sex, and she thought she was the only one until she met Jon. Together they come up with a plan to save Suzie’s beloved library, using their superpowers to rob banks.

Reaction: Describing this book to people is ridiculous. Because the premise is RIDICULOUS. It’s crazy and weird and totally awesome. It’s so much fun to read (as an adult! This is definitely not one for kids, and I wouldn’t even recommend it to a teen [but I also wouldn’t stop them from checking it out if they found it]). As my husband and members of my book club can attest, I’m not usually a huge fans of things that can be described as “weird,” but this book manages to find a great balance between weird and not-weird that really works for me.

The two main characters are great, and I would like to go out for drinks with both Suzie and Jon. And, not gonna lie, I fell a little in love with Jon the first time we meet him, too. His Lolita quoting is so sexy, and Fraction and Zdarsky perfectly capture that moment between Suzie and Jon. Honestly, it made me want to read Lolita, which is not a book I’ve ever harbored a secret desire to read.

My buds, Matt and Chip, actually do a great job of portraying their burgeoning relationship for the entirety of the book. I enjoyed watching it unfold and develop, and I especially love their epic first date when they spend a lot time talking and getting to know each other. It just feels very natural and genuine to me, and it makes me really excited to see where Matt and Chip take them in later volumes.

I also really like the way Suzie breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the reader, which is something I feel like I’m seeing a lot more often in various media, and it super works here. It really helps make the story feel intimate and as if Suzie’s having a conversation with a good friend over drinks. I also like how Suzie will actually insert herself into scenes from the past as she narrates. I find it clever and fun, but I also have a little bit of a girl crush on Suzie, so I’m not sure she can do any wrong in my book.

I know this review has already turned into an ode to how much I loved this book, but we have to talk about the art. It’s amazing. It really helps sell this ridiculous story. I really like the classic pinup vibe of the character designs and that they look like normal people. Suzie and Jon are hot, but not supermodel, superhero hot. They’re regular people hot (and most of Jon’s appeal comes from his humor and intellect). Zdarsky does really interesting things with the characters’ flashbacks, and the stopped time scenes are crazy cool. I also love the coloring here. I love everything. It’s all good.

So, you know, read this. But only if you don’t mind copious amounts of doin’ it in your comics.

Author’s website (Incidentally, Matt Fraction is married to the excellent Kelly Sue DeConnick.)

Illustrator’s website

(Contributed to Cannonball Reads 7 as part of my 52 reviews in 52 weeks. I’m a little behind.)


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The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

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Gillen, K., & McKelvie J. (Ill.) The Wicked + the Divine, vol. 1: the Faust Act. Image Comics: 2014. ISBN: 9781632150196

Annotation: Every ninety years, twelve gods come back to earth. Two years later, they are dead. In 2014, Laura is obsessed with the recently returned pop star deities and will do anything to get close to them.

Reaction: This book is excellent if you, like me, love the mythologies of religions all over the world and enjoy seeing modern uses of ancient gods. They’re very like fairy tales in that way for me, and this book does some wonderful, modern things with these relatively obscure gods and goddesses. This is not to say that you have to be super into mythology to get this book; it would definitely appeal to urban fantasy and superhero comics fans, as well. Gillen & McKelvie have pulled a lot of things together to create something fantastic, all while using a diverse cast of characters, including a couple of gender bending deities. And seriously, their lady Bowie!Lucifer is inspired, and I cannot wait to meet the male Inanna (one of my favorite pre-Christian goddesses).

I really appreciate the story centering on Laura, and that we get this crazy escapade from the perspective of a normal girl. She really helps ground things into the “real world,” and it is completely wonderful that they use a lady of color for this pivotal role. I think the creative team has done a great job of reflecting the diversity of London (and I also really enjoyed the story’s skeptic pointing out that a white girl as a Japanese Shinto deity might be problematic). The writing in this is just so smart and witty, and the art fits so well with it.

My favorite thing about the art (and something that Gillen points out in his Writer Notes about the issues), is how McKelvie really captures facial expressions. There are some panels where the characters face conveys so much and is so perfect for that moment in the story. It’s subtle and completely awesome. But you know? The big moments are great, too. McKelvie and their colorist does a great job of giving those “holy shit is getting real!” moments the impact they deserve. And I love the juxtaposition of the quiet and the major. This is probably the kind of thing that it would be really easy to give your reader whiplash with, but pacing in this never feels frenzied to me.

I finished my first read-through of this on a plane, and it was everything I could do not to slam it down on my fold out tray in anguish at the thought of having to wait any length of time for the next installment. This is another one I’m debating about single issues vs. collected paperbacks. I absolutely love it, and I really don’t know that I can wait another 5 or 6 months for the next collected volume.

Author’s website, where you can read the “director’s commentary” on the individual issues of this (search for “Writer Notes”).

Illustrator’s website

(Contributed to Cannonball Reads 7 as part of my 52 reviews in 52 weeks.)

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Mercedes Thompson (series) by Patricia Briggs

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(I originally wrote this when Frost Burned (book 7) first came out about a year ago, but it’s been languishing in my drafts ever since. Book 8, Night Broken was released earlier this month, so I thought this would be an excellent time to actually publish this bad boy.)

You know that series that you devour in like two weeks and then wait anxiously for the next installment? And that book/series that is your totally guilty pleasure reading (except you don’t actually feel that guilty)? Well, the Mercedes Thompson books (written for an adult audience) are that for me. I happened across the first audiobook, Moon Called, a couple of years ago, when I was browsing for books to listen on my walks to work. I was a little skeptical about it, as I tend to be about any vampire/werewolf book I’ve never heard of before, but the premise sounded interesting, and I was getting it for free from the library, so why not? Also, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ll read just about any werewolf/vampire novel. I love the genre, lordy.

Well, I loved it. LOVED. I read or listened to the next five books as soon as I could get my hot little hands on them, even buying books four and five because the library copies were already checked out. I then went on to read Patricia Briggs’s Alpha & Omega series, which is set in the same world.

Mercedes Thompson is a Walker, a Native American shape changer who turns into a coyote. She owns a garage and lives next door to the local Alpha werewolf. In the first book, a young werewolf shows up at her garage looking for work. A few days later, he’s dropped on her doorstep, dead, and she takes it on herself to find out where he came from and why he was killed. Hijinks ensue.

Each subsequent book has Mercy getting into all kinds of trouble, involving various supernatural villains, including vampires, wizards, and the Fae. One of my favorite things about these books is that, while they reference the previous books, I don’t feel any great need to reread the earlier books when a new one comes out. Each story is self contained and stands on it’s own, so I don’t have to worry about remembering what happened two books/years ago.

When I got the email from Audible that book 7 had just been released, I bought it immediately. Starting it was like going back to visit old friends. I love the cheesy, punny, snappy dialogue, and I love the way the action started within thirty minutes of the beginning the book. And I preordered book 8 from Audible, waiting with great anticipation for when I could spend some quality time with characters I’ve grown to know and love.

The Mercy Thompson books live in a sub-genre of fantasy in which ladies who have some supernatural abilities get into trouble, kick some bad guy booty and fall in love. I love that genre, I generally find the plots fun and engaging and the characters pretty decent, but after reading books in AT LEAST six or seven of these types of series, the concept gets a little stale. But you know what? I will always come back to Mercy. Maybe it’s just because she was one of the first experiences I had with this kind of book, but I find her stories exceedingly readable and the characters all really relatable and interesting.

Sidenote: I have listened to most of these books on audiobook, and I love them. The narrator is wonderful, and after about 5 or 6 books, she is the voice of Mercy to me. And I was able to download most of the audiobooks through my library’s e-audibooks provider Overdrive.

Author’s Website

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Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

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Brennan, S. R. (2012). Unspoken. New York: Random House. ISBN: 9780375870415

Annotation: When someone starts ritualistically killing animals in the woods, it’s up to Kami to figure out what’s going on and whether or not it has anything to do with the return of the mysterious Lynburn family.

Reaction: Gosh, I love Sarah Rees Brennan (SRB). She is a delight. I love that she writes strong heroines who are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves, thankyouverymuch. I love that she includes minority characters, including the quarter Japanese heroine in this novel and several gay characters in everything of hers I’ve read.

If I were going to criticize her, I would say that perhaps her dialogue is a bit too snappy and clever to be read as Real. However, coming from the generation raised on Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars and anything Joss Whedon, I love snappy, somewhat unrealistic dialogue. Her characters say everything we wish we were clever enough to come up with in our own lives, and in addition to being clever, she’s funny, and her one liners make her books immensely enjoyable.

I will admit that it took me a bit to get into this novel. I was so anxious to figure out the mystery behind the Lynburns that I wanted to rush through all the build up and exposition. Which is not to say that the beginning of the book was boring, but she makes the mystery so EXCITING and MYSTERIOUS that I want to know more about that and less about someone killing a fox in the woods. Though, really, it’s all interconnected.

One of the things that I really love about SRB, besides her snappy dialogue, is that she is not predictable. I might have known a couple of minor things before they happened, but the Big Bad was a total surprise to me at the end. I knew it would be someone I least suspected, but I didn’t really realize how true that was.

This is a book for lovers of urban-ish fantasy, who want kickass heroines and great stories. Despite the somewhat sinister plot and OMG, SRB JUST RIPPED MY HEART OUT-ness (as a friend put it) of the end, this story is pretty light hearted and delightful all most of the way through.

But honestly, y’all should read Sarah Rees Brennan. She’s wonderful, and I love her so very very much.

Author’s Website

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The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

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Johnson, M. (2011). The name of the star. New York: G.P. PUtnam’s Sons. ISBN: 9780399256608

Annotation: A Jack the Ripper copycat is loose in London, and Rory, who moved to London from Louisiana for her senior year of high school, gets entangled in the investigation when she sees a man no one else does at the site of the second murder.

Reaction: I’ve read a few of Maureen Johnson’s books before, and I really enjoyed them. She’s got a good sense of humor and writes believable characters with page turning plots. Her other books have been pretty light, realistic fiction, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Jack the Ripper paranormal, urban fantasy from her.

Well, I got the great dialogue and wit I’ve come to expect from her, the sense of adventure her other books have and a teenager trying to find where she belongs. I also got Jack the Ripper copycat murders, ghosts and a team of young people who can see ghosts thanks to near death experiences. She made the murder plot line appropriately creepifying; as I told a friend recently, I had a little bit of bedtime anxiety after reading this before lights out. She also made the stakes feel very real. Despite being told from the first person perspective, there were times when I thought that it was curtains for Rory.

As the title page says, this is Book One of the Shades of London series, and I’m looking forward to reading more of them. It was a great, quick read. Fans of paranormal/urban fantasy will not be disappointed and neither will be fans of Maureen Johnson.

Author’s Website

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Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

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Cross, S. (2012). Kill me softly. New York: Egmont USA. ISBN: 9781606843239

Annotation: Mira’s godmothers have forbidden her from visiting Beau Rivage, where her parents were killed when she was a baby, but as her 16th birthday approaches, she decides to disobey their orders and return to the place she was born.

Reaction: I really enjoyed this book, and once I really got into it, I couldn’t put it down. I think Cross did something really clever with fairy tales, through her creation of a world in which fairy curses and blessings are real and passed out to people descended from fairies. In this world, the cursed/blessed are destined to reenact the original story from which the curse came.

The heroine, Mira, battles against “fate” and falls in love and finds herself and new friends in the process. All the other characters are great, and I love seeing how they deal with their own curses. Blue (as in Bluebeard) is delightfully snarky and tragic. Freddie Knight, a Prince Charming in waiting, is sweet and innocent, almost to the point being insufferable. And you just can’t help feeling sorry for the Beauty whose Beast is awful and whose father is clueless. Not to mention watching the interactions between Snow White and her Huntsman and how Jewel deals with actual jewels and flowers falling out of her mouth.

I’m sure I could find nitpicks with the story, plot and structure if I wanted to, but I don’t want to. I enjoyed this book almost without reservations, I would probably be willing to read it again someday, and I would totally recommend it to friends of mine who are into fairy tales or urban fantasy.

HOWEVER, I do have one major issue: WHY does NO ONE care that 21 year old Felix is hooking up with a 15 year old girl?! Everyone warns Mira away from Felix because he is also of the Bluebeard get and has embraced his role in the story, but NOT ONCE does anyone say, “Dude, that’s illegal.” I get that the dream of an older, college age boy is alluring to 15 and 16 year old girls: they’re mature and wise in the ways of the world, but it’s still icky. Ladies, just say NO to statutory rape.

Also be wary of men with naturally blue hair.

(Sidenote: Here’s a great retelling/reworking of the Bluebeard story by Ursula Vernon.)

Author’s Website