Nicole B. (noisechick) - Reviews

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The Alchemy Of Stone
The Alchemy Of Stone
Author: Ekaterina Sedia
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 1/20/2012


I totally disagree with the other reviewer, and feel the need to extrapolate because I don't want anyone to miss out on this wonderful book.

So it's not a stupid 'paranormal romance' that happens to be set in the alternative world of the moment: Victorian Steampunk. It's not escapist action-adventure. It's about politics, tradition vs progress, and what it means to be 'human,' and further, what defines one's role in society.

This book was beautiful. The prose was elegant and simple, giving enough detail to develop the otherworldly steampunk city without bogging the reader down in pages of useless description. (Frankly, it has much to do with the perspective of the emancipated automaton heroine's limited viewpoint and interest in such things as much as anything. She tastes and smells in the pursuit of her alchemy... but is not overly involved in hedonistic narcissism of human life.)

I liked the gargoyles perspective, limited in it's own way, though I still don't understand their utter inability to actively engage in the city they profess to love and protect. They just kinda watch, and bemoan their fate. But then, that seems to be the fatal flaw in a lot of the characters - they just don't ACT - or if they do, it's too little, too late.

It was a unique, authentically (and deliciously) steampunk novel. It was also nominated for the Tiptree award in 2008 (a feminist sci-fi award given to exploration of sexuality and gender.)


Alone In My King's Harem (Yaoi Manga)
Alone In My King's Harem (Yaoi Manga)
Author: Lily Hoshino
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 27
Review Date: 10/19/2007
Helpful Score: 3


This collection is confusing as all heck. There are some manga that you just wonder "huh? was there something lost in translation or did they misprint the pages?" and at first, I thought that was what was going on here.
But no. It's just BAD WRITING.
It's like the author was selfish and desperate to get to the good part, she just skipped any linear story construction. The characters (especially the uke) aren't introduced, their motivations are taken for granted, and things just seem to happen randomly.
It's like it was written by a 13 yr old girl.
The only reason it gets one star is that the art is somewhat pretty.
(though 'those scenes' are confusing and rushed. Again, like a 13 yr old...)
Hey, request it and see for yourself, but don't spend $$ on this.


The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects
The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects
Author: Mike Mignola, Dave Stewart
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 12/11/2011


A bit "light" in my opinion - as far as the Mignola cannon... but it is a one-off. So it's not as deep or meaningful as the mythology twisting of the "Hellboy" world. But it's amusing, and beautiful. There's an odd take on "Jack and the Beanstalk" worked in. And the "Prisoner of Mars" was a rather more steampunky than the stupid "Corsets and Clockwork" YA 'steampunk' romance anthology I just read was. (But that's neither here nor there.)
Guess there was a Sci-Fi channel (excuse me: SYFY) pilot made of this back in 2006. I haven't watched it yet, but it's interesting. Too bad it didn't get picked up. Ah well


Antique Bakery Volume 1
Antique Bakery Volume 1
Author: Fumi Yoshinaga
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 29
Review Date: 1/5/2012


Well, first off, to the purists - this is shōnen-ai, not yaoi. (Though even THAT description is pushing it.) There is NO romance between the characters, and NOTHING remotely explicit. The chef just happens to be gay, and got rejected by the bakery owner in high school. (The reason the chef can't keep a job, despite being excellent in the kitchen, is because he is [supposedly] irresistible to both gay and straight men alike, and keeps causing fights - though we NEVER get to see them.)
Frankly, I was bored with all the in-depth description of deserts - I am not a foodie. (If you are, you'll be in heaven.)
The whole book was rather erratic, and kinda doesn't make sense until you read the next volume - when you learn more character background and a (rather mild) seduction starts with a peripheral character.
I really don't see why this series won any awards. But that's my opinion, so whatever.


Antique Bakery Volume 2
Antique Bakery Volume 2
Author: Fumi Yoshinaga
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 15
Review Date: 1/5/2012


I'll say it again - this is this is shōnen-ai, not yaoi.

The plot is slightly better than the first volume - so if you're waffling on continuing this series (I read a lot of first volumes and give up) read the second one before you make up your mind.

The author attempts to present these episodes/recipes as stand-alone, with bits of over-arching plot thrown in (a la "Petshop of Horrors" or... any prime-time drama on tv.)

You find out that the owner (who is from a wealthy family) was kidnapped as a child, but has no memory of the event, other than the kidnapper fed him desserts. The kidnapper was never caught, and it haunts the former police investigator who ruined his career on the case, and somehow became a desert-obsessed recluse who now frequents this shop- because it's the best in town.

Also, the chef tries to put his 'gay-demon' (his words, not mine) moves on the owner's clumsy butler, who shows up out of the blue one day and proceeds to be a walking prat-fall. Not a lot happens. There is very little 'boy love' or 'romance' -just a gay character who may or may not hook up with a straight one in a future volume. I was kinda annoyed this was even labeled 'yaoi.'

That said, there is a plot building under all this... frosting... but it's taking a long time for this delicate souffle to rise. Debatable if I'll continue the series.


Antique Bakery Volume 4 (Antique Bakery)
Antique Bakery Volume 4 (Antique Bakery)
Author: Fumi Yoshinaga
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 3/30/2013
Helpful Score: 1


It's nice to see a series wrap up in less than 18 volumes [sic]. That said, this isn't a 'happily ever after.'
I admire that about this series, the 'dramedy' aspect.
It's one of the few series I've read lately where the YA 16+ warning wasn't just for people having sex or there being graphic violence. (They finally deal with Tachibana's kidnapping as a child.)
I can't really say more without spoilering it.


Arcana, Vol 1
Arcana, Vol 1
Author: Barbara Randall Kesel, So-young Lee
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 11/4/2011


Huh... another one with no real review...
I picked this one up because I was impressed with So-Young Lee's other series "Model"- both the art and the story.

However, I'm a little ambivalent about this story so far: young heroine in a fantasy kingdom can talk to animals, and thus, has a special destiny. However, no one seems very keen to explain it to her, or the audience. (Which is annoying.) Also the un-named antagonists remain such - anonymous and ... unmotivated.
... oh and something about dragons.

(seriously, I know this review is confusing - but it's like the author got lost in drawing pretty boys and forgot to clarify the plot.)

So if you can't deal with slow beginnings, and confusing (lack of) storylines... skip it. The art is pretty, and I love me some dragons & hot mysterious wizard guys... but... yeah. I like a clear plot to hang it on.


Armageddon Summer
Armageddon Summer
Author: Bruce Coville, Jane Yolen
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 28
Review Date: 5/30/2007


It's a fairly good YA book - written in a duelistic narrative (Marina and Jed's perspective swaps back and forth each chapter.)
My only complaint is that the perspective is almost TOO real, with the blindsides and misused words that the 13/14 yr old nieve narrators would actually use writing their story.
That, and after building all kinds of wonderful tension - it climaxes, and ends. (guess I'm just used to a coda/post-script.)
Definately recommend for YA - but not so much for adults looking for 'ageless' reading (Like Holly Black, Francesca Lia Block, or J.K. Rowling.


Black Orchid
Black Orchid
Author: Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 5/16/2009
Helpful Score: 1


This is what I get for picking up something *just because* it's written by Gaiman. Superhero comics. (like the big DC on the cover shouldn't have been a clue... but it's from 1989, was Dark Horse even around yet? And I guess Sandman -no I haven't read them all yet - was DC.)

Not a bad thing. Dave McKean's art is gorgeously dark and gritty-realistic. And since I'm in the same boat as Black Orchid - I know nothing of her story - this 'origin' type journey of self-discovery is a good one.

Helps if you know the Batman verse (and in our days of movie saturation, who doesn't?) but not necessary.


The Blonde Geisha
The Blonde Geisha
Author: Jina Bacarr
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.6/5 Stars.
 26
Review Date: 7/25/2008
Helpful Score: 12


I don't know how the author can be a "sexspert" and live in Japan and yet somehow know nothing about geisha.
Geisha were not high class prostitutes, or courtesans, and were not obsessed with sex - that's an age-old Western misconception that she does nothing to dispel and everything to reinforce.
She doesn't even bother to deal with the training period geisha go through, just skips to the (quote unquote) good part about selling virginity - and a sex-obsessed western 18-yr-old girl hiding in a teahouse. And the idea that geisha run around with expensive kimono with nothing underneath- and oops their obis just always come undone... good grief.
And even that... she doesn't get it on but one time at the end of the book, so it's not even a proper erotic novel.
If you want a one-night read and don't care about reinforcing stereotypes of Asian women (and no, I'm a white girl writing this) and mockeries of other cultures histories and traditions - be my guest. But this is pulpy trash, I was severely disappointed.


Blood & Dishonour: The Dark, Bloody and Perversely Erotic World of the Satanic Sluts...Satan's True Sirens
Review Date: 1/14/2012
Helpful Score: 2


... What can I say? I found this in the 'locked case' at Half Price Books for $5. It's an alternative model collection - presumably for the porn site "Satanic Sluts."
Ah yes, here it is: "Welcome to the Satanic Sluts website where, over time, 666 of the world's most beautiful, depraved, attitudinal and creative women will place their images for your delectation and their Satanic grandeur - PRAISE THE LORD!"

It's the Playboy centerfold style interview profiles of horror/fetish models that would (frankly) make the Suicide Girls blush.
I know 'alternative' models, I know 'horror' models - and these women are... well, pretty hardcore. So I wouldn't recommend it to the faint of heart - or those that are easily offended (it is, after all, a bunch of avowed 'satanists.') But the pictures are quality if you're into fetish and horror models. (There is a lot of graphic BDSM, fetish, blood & the like, mixed in with the more mundane nude gothic pin-up type stuff.)

I'm sure I'll be passing it along as a gift to either one of the dominatrices I know, or one of my bi friends at the goth club.

(I like unusual & weird thing, am an avid first amendment defender, and well... like to push my own boundaries to the point of offense. So this goes in that collection.)


Blood Legacy: The House of Alexander
Blood Legacy: The House of Alexander
Author: Kerri Hawkins
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 5/24/2010


The most compelling "vampire" book I've read? No. But considering my depth and breadth of reading in the genre, it still stands out.
I really liked the first book, and this continues the story without disappointing.
(Guess it's a 'trilogy' now.)
A lot of sensualism and bloodletting without sex, which is nice. (This is not paranormal romance.)
Ryan is tasked by the Council of Elders with a millennial cleansing- basically, to kill as many of "the Others" (don't call them vampires- they hate that) as she sees fit- and is able to do. All while her father - the patriarchal leader - lies gravely ill.
She has to step lightly around the political machinations of the various council members even as tries to determine who is responsible for her father's predicament.

The book is full of dry, sarcastic wit. The wording can get a bit repetitive, but the author has done her homework, there aren't a lot of 'suspend disbelief' plotholes. (No one, not even a 700 yr old vampire, walks away from jumping out of a plane.)

I'll be curious how the 3rd book turns out.


Bones of Faerie
Bones of Faerie
Author: Janni Lee Simner
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 36
Review Date: 1/14/2012
Helpful Score: 1


This one was a pleasant surprise for me. It's not often an author can take an overused trope from YA (fairies) and spin it into something new.
I can't even compare it to Holly Black or Melissa Marr's worlds - except in terms of quality - though it's very, very different in tone and subject.

Simner's style is very quick, sparse and... bleak. Frankly this evoked "Hunger Games" more than "Wicked Lovely." 15 yr old protagonist Liza lives in a village near St. Louis in the dystopian aftermath of the Fairie War. (Believe it or not, the St. Louis Arch is used as a gateway between the Fae world and ours.) It's never stated, but we obviously nuked fairyland and they nature-bombed us - making trees, animals and even water into semi-sentient, vicious enemies humans have to battle on a daily basis while attempting to wrestle a living out of throwback-Depression era conditions.

When children are born with signs of magic in them (like Liza's baby sister- born with clear hair) they're 'put out' of the village. Liza's mother goes insane from this, and leaves her alone with her war-shocked, emotionally numb father. Liza, after a beating, runs away, intent to find her mother, since she's started having visions of her - which means she has magic - which means, she's gonna be 'put out' soon too.

But Liza learns her father's rules aren't always right, or always true.

It's a quick read, and I rather like that it doesn't get bogged down in unnecessary over-emotive descriptions. Given how little the protagonist (and all the characters) know of what's happened to their world,it's rather an asset. This is about survival, not a romance novel.

Glad to see there's a sequel "Faerie Winter". Definitely gonna have to read it.
(PS- yes, I used all the different spellings of 'fairy' on purpose, I'm bratty that way. It annoys the purists & the grammar nazis.)


Cause of My Teacher
Cause of My Teacher
Author: Temari Matsumoto
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 12/15/2013
Helpful Score: 1


So there are 6 stories here (7 if you count the bonus one that relates back to the first story). They are all very short, so they lack context and character development. But, if you like quick one-offs that get to the good bits of make-out and sex, you'll love it.
Me? Not so much. But the art is decent. Not great, but enough variety and consistency I wasn't utterly disappointed.


Clubbing
Clubbing
Author: Andi Watson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 12/15/2013


It's not a bad story, and the ending is a surprise, but I really didn't like the protagonist. I suppose it doesn't help that there is so much British slang in here they had to include a dictionary-to-American (which is annoyingly places before several pages of preview stories for the Minx line, so you have to bookmark 10 pages from the end, and HOPE when you get stuck that they explain it- because they don't explain everything.) I should also point out that I read plenty of British authors and watch BBC shows, so when I say the slang is heavy, it's not mainstream stuff either.)

I've read some of Andi Watson's other stuff (though not in a while) but I didn't like his portrayal of Lotte. She is a spoiled, narcissistic brat at the beginning, and doesn't learn anything. She's like the Paris Hilton of Goth. She gets away with whatever she wants, and has no repercussions. So while her story is entertaining, it's pretty vapid. I can't say more without spoilering it, other than to say there is NO WAY anyone would walk away from her situation unscathed and unaffected. Unless it was Paris Hilton. In which case, I'm disappointed in the author and humanity.


Corsets and Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances
Corsets and Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances
Author: Trisha Telep (Editor)
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 9
Review Date: 12/11/2011
Helpful Score: 3


The editor says it all in the introduction: "... might seem a tad light-hearted to the steampunk purist..."
Um... yeah. There are several stories in this anthology (most notably "Chickie Hill's Badass Ride" that have NOTHING to do with steampunk. )(Unless you count taking apart a clock in an alternate 1960s with some 'Lovecraftian beasties' to be steampunk. I don't. Much like I don't consider Justin Bieber's xmas video to be steampunk.
There's a video up on youtube: Just Glue Some Gears On It (And Call It Steampunk) which harps on the fashionably of the genre right now. And having read this anthology, I feel the same way. Cheated.
There is exactly THREE dirigibles in the entire 13 story collection. Less than half the stories take place in a proper Victorian era setting... I'm NOT a purist, but this... is insulting.
It gets 2 1/2 stars for having a few stories with independent young heroines who aren't ruled by love. But being independent while wearing a corset doesn't make it steampunk.


Crossed Volume 1
Crossed Volume 1
Author: Garth Ennis, Jacen Burrows
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 7/14/2013


Warning: This is SERIOUSLY graphic violence - I'm talking Takashi Miike level gut-wrenching, brain-pain here. Swear words and 'extreme horror' labels don't really quantify it, as most jaded horror fans know. If this was a movie, it would probably get an 'X'- not even an 'NC-17.'
I don't know if I'm just too used to sanitized 'comic book code' media standards or what... *looks at shelf full of Clive Barker 'Hellraiser' adaptations* Nope. - but I was utterly appalled by how graphic this got.
I both like and hate it for that.
At least, the violence was divided out equally between men and women- both as victims & perpetrators.
(It's really hard to review this without spoilering what is both the best and worst parts of this.)

Ok, so apocalypse (for once without zombies!) and this follows some very real survivors. I say 'very real' because they are flawed, and not in cliched ways... it's very raw like that. This will never be a made-for-tv "Walking Dead" because you really can't even like the protagonists 100%. Everyone kills to stay alive, both the crazed plague victims (the crossed) and other survivors.

I guess I hated it because I don't think there needs to be two page spreads of graphic, disemboweling, cannibalistic rape. A good artist or writer can imply a lot without sticking that in 4-color glorified poster art. Seriously, this is the kind of thing that get people committed, forms senate house committees about 'standards' and well, is enough to tip a teetering Dalmer or Gacy mentally over the edge.

The book, the idea, is brave and original. But it's been a long time since I had to wait a week or two to process the visceral revulsion I had for something I mentally consumed. I guess that's just my warning if you pick this up.


CSI: Serial (New Format) (CSI)
CSI: Serial (New Format) (CSI)
Author: Max Allan Collins, Gabriel Rodriguez, Ashley Wood
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 1/20/2012


For fans of the show, it's all there - down to Grissom's snarky one-liners. It's done circa 2002, so Greg is still in the lab.
The dialog is a little annoying, they say "Leuco-Crystal Violet" instead of LCV or 'blood spray' (which is what it does, detect blood) half a dozen times. Yet that's about the only piece of work-related jargon they use - so it's distracting and superfluous.
But the story holds together: A modern day Jack the Ripper is recreating their namesake's murders as painfully accurately (same types of locations, same type of dismemberment) as possible. WHILE a Jack the Ripper convention is going on in town!
Still, in true CSI fashion, there is little gore, it's about the SCIENCE.
(Which, was kinda annoying for a horror fan like me.)
I also wish they'd used more of Ashley Wood's art - it's more, grown up, disturbing and spooky. (That was why I picked it up. )But sadly, it's only used for the 'lets go to the technical re-enactment' that they usually use computer FX for on the show. That and a little of the old-tyme Jack the Ripper woodcuts. Oh and the chapter pages.
Gabriel Rodriguez (who can do good stuff - if you've seen Locke & Key) is kinda restrained by doing real-life actors. They come off as kinda matte.


Dark Reign: Deadpool / Thunderbolts
Dark Reign: Deadpool / Thunderbolts
Author: Robert de la Torre, Daniel Way, Andy Diggle, Paco Medina
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 12/22/2011


Eh, this was the weakest of the Deadpool collections I'm reading (mostly in order.)
Some of that has to do with it being a "crossover" with Thunderbolts... and 'universal events' that I frankly... don't give a crap about.
So, there's less Deadpool, more other supers (which, as with most crossovers, they make no attempt to explain who these characters are or -for the most part - why they're doing what they're doing.)


Dexter
Dexter
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 1.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 7/26/2014


(Copied from my goodreads review)
I guess being a fan of Jeff Lindsay, who created the character, and wrote so many nifty, dark, black-humor filled tomes of alliteration, I probably set my expectations too high. Because this just... sucked.
The art was flat (Dalibor Talajic - your job is to enhance the story with art, not just faithfully record the script- I can read, and your portraiture skills aren't that great. You need to decide if you're going to go realistic or cartoony in how you present faces, because it's very off-putting to have both in the same panel, and way too many of both Dexter and Debora's portrayals had a sort of 'I'll come back and finish this drawing later' look that just ruins any sort of dramatic effect. The only GOOD thing you did - was sort-of imply the 'Dark Passenger's' presence with a looming shadow, but even THAT was inconsistent, and I think you basically forgot about it by halfway through the book.) I've seen children's color-your-own books with more detail and atmosphere.

The plot was also really flat. It read like a rejected episode of the show. (One they threw out for lack of realism.) There was no magic, no joy, no black humor, and NO BLOOD. The only hint of violence is on the covers. I wouldn't even rate this PG-13 if it was a movie. It was about as violent as 'Law and Order'.


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