February Wrap-Up (2014)

In February I spent most of my time playing Mass Effect and getting lost in tumblr. So, reading was on the back burner, and I only finished two books. I did read plenty of graphic novels, though!

Rating system
1 out of 5 – I didn’t like it: badly written or just got on my nerves
2 out of 5 – It was okay: other people might enjoy it more
3 out of 5 – I liked it: a fun/enjoyable read
4 out of 5 – I really liked it: good characters & plot, maybe some theme that spoke to me
5 out of 5 – It was amazing: I consider it a favorite and will probably re-read at some point

My favorite post of the month

My Favorite Secondary Characters


Books

Redshirts
Redshirts

By: John Scalzi
First published in 2012
Genre: Science fiction comedy

Soon after being assigned to the starship Intrepid, a group of new ensigns realize that on every Away mission, at least one low-ranked crew member is killed.

This book entertained me, and I did even laugh aloud a couple of times. I just watched Star Trek: TOS last year, so things were fresh in my mind, and I could appreciate the parody. I don’t think you need to have watched Star Trek to enjoy this (though it definitely helps), but you need to be familiar with the tropes and cliches of the genre. It’s sort of like Galaxy Quest, in that way.

There were a couple of editing mishaps – namely twice calling other characters Kerensky when they were Jenkins and Abernathy, respectively. I also found the prologue to be a bit too underlined and simple, and when I started reading, I was afraid the whole book was going to be like that. I now understand that the prologue was there to set up the whole Narrative plot point, but since I couldn’t know it at the time, the writing just felt too simple for me.

The “Codas”, kind of short stories, at the end were not necessary for the main plot, but I liked them, too. Made me want to get more productive and less lazy with my creative endeavors. All in all, the book was not mind-blowing, but it was very entertaining.
4 out of 5 stars

Punainen kuin veri
Punainen kuin veri (“As Red As Blood”)

(Lumikki Andersson #1)
By: Salla Simukka
First published in 2013
Genre: YA crime thriller

High schooler Lumikki Andersson gets caught up in the dealings of international drug business when she stumbles upon some missing blood money.

Once in a while I like to look at what’s going on in the field of Finnish YA literature. So I picked up Punainen kuin veri, a crime thriller with a 17-year-old high school girl as the protagonist. I have to admit that cover appeal was the main reason I picked up the book. The design of the whole trilogy is just gorgeous, with the black-and-white Snow White -themed cover images (the main character’s name, Lumikki, is Snow White in Finnish). The design is greatly elevated by the decision to colour the edges of the pages – in the first one they’re red (as blood), the second one just plain white (as snow), and the third one black (as ebony).

This is a pretty short and fast-paced book. Some things just work out way too conveniently, but I actually enjoyed the almost superhero-like characteristics of the protagonist, Lumikki. She was physically strong, quick-thinking, and good with disguising herself, all the way to changing her movements to appear like someone else. I liked how her abilities were explained with how she was forced to learn all this because she had been bullied in school. It felt plausible while reading the book. There were some other things that didn’t feel as plausible, like some of her dealings with the drug lords, but I’m willing to let it slide.

Punainen kuin veri was a pretty simple, younger YA story. I had fun reading it, and plan on reading the other books, too – mostly because they are quick reads, and because I like the protagonist.
3 out 5 stars


Graphic novels

YoungAvengersVol1Best of the Month sticker
Young Avengers, Vol. 1: Style > Substance
By: Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
First published in 2013
Genre: Superheroes

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie reinvent the teen super hero comic for the 21st century, uniting Wiccan, Hulkling and Kate “Hawkeye” Bishop with Kid Loki, Marvel Boy and Ms. America.

I had so much fun reading this first trade collection of the new Young Avengers! When I read about superheroes, I always tend to gravitate to reading about teen superheroes. I have previous experience of the Young Avengers from a short tie-in story they had with the Runaways, but I remember that I liked them.

The story was good, although it wasn’t anything mind-shatteringly awesome. Due to Wiccan’s spell going wrong, the team has to battle against mind-controlled adults, including their own parents. If I only judged for the story, the book would get one star less. But the main attraction to me were the characters! I enjoyed all of them so much, and I laughed out loud at many of kid Loki’s quips. The artwork was very good and the vibrant coloring added to the overall feeling of whimsy and fun – the cover design represents the tone pretty well. I really want to follow these characters on their adventures, and will definitely read the further volumes.
5 out of 5 stars

Serenity Vol 1
Serenity: Those Left Behind

By: Joss Whedon, Brett Mathews & Will Conrad
First published in 2006
Genre: Science fiction western

This graphic novel closes the gap between the Firefly TV series and the subsequent movie, Serenity.

What started as a really promising book ended up being quite light on content. This graphic novel won’t do much for you if you aren’t familiar with the show – but of course that was the whole point: to tell what happened right after the show ended.

At the beginning I felt pretty optimistic about this book: everything felt a lot like an episode of Firefly. There was a heist, and the character’s voices were right, like this gem from Captain Mal:

“Change of plans. Looks like we’ll be leaving this world a bit sooner than anticipated. I’d like that last statement to prove specific and mundane, not spiritual-like.”

But after the beginning, my enthusiasm dwindled. Not much happened, and I wasn’t that interested in what did happen. One of the biggest weaknesses was getting rid of the Hands of Blue so quickly – they were such a presence in the TV series, that I think more comic issues would have been needed to really deliver on the threat they seemed to pose. The artwork was hindered by the artist trying to capture the actors’ likeness. By trying to be too realistic, the artwork came out as rigid and devoid of soul. Some characters were better captured than others, but for example Simon looked nothing like himself.

The good beginning as well as the simple joy of seeing these characters again made me add another star to the rating.
3 out of 5 stars

Y the Last Man Vol. 3
Y: The Last Man Vol. 2-5

By: Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra
First published in 2003
Genre: Dystopian science fiction

These volumes continue the search for the reason that escape artist Yorick and his capuchin monkey survived the plague that killed all other males on the planet.

I started this series in January, and in February I read four volumes in total. I have to say, I’m still pretty torn. A lot of people really enjoy the series, but I just can’t seem to get that into it. I’m going along for now and I intend to finish the series, just to see where it goes. The premise and the setting are pretty interesting, but I don’t care much for the characters, or how some things are handled. The tone of the series feels a bit off for me.

There are also some stupid things being said. A woman in an acting troupe saying that they shouldn’t even be practicing adventurous plays with swordfighting, since women only want to watch romance plays. Like, what woman would say that? An actress, no less? Another woman almost explains that she’s shaven her head bald, because there’s no point in meddling with hairstyles anymore now that there are no men on the planet. Granted, she was cut short, but that’s what it seemed she was going for. Because women only do their hair because men like it. Yes. Sigh…

I gave the individual volumes either 2 or 3 stars, so 2.5 out of 5 stars it is!

Chew Vol. 7
Chew Vol.7

By: John Layman & Rob Guillory
First published in 2013
Genre: Special agent drama-comedy with a twist

Tony Chu – the federal agent with the ability to get psychic impressions from what he eats – is back in action, just in time to face a cult of egg-worshipping terrorists who’ve declared holy war on the chicken-eaters of the world.

I don’t have much to say about this volume. It was ok, but pretty clearly an in-between volume before the plot gets back going again. Not one of the strongest installments. I feel like some of the things are played out, and hope the series finds its legs again soon.
3 out of 5 stars

Delilah Dirk Vol 1
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

(Delilah Dirk #1)
By: Tony Cliff
First published in 2013
Genre: Historical adventure

Selim, a tea-drinking, peace-loving lieutenant in the Turkish Janissary Corps, is swept away on an adventure with globe-trotting troublemaker Delilah Dirk.

This book started as a web comic, and you can read the first few chapters here. First of all, I really liked the artwork, and the colouring is gorgeous. The physical book also looks really good, with the title embossed in silver on the cover. It’s also nice to follow the evolution of the art from the beginning to the end of the book.

As for the story itself, it was a fun adventure. I did like Selim, but wanted to learn more about Delilah. I have to admit, though, that I enjoyed artwork more than the story. This is one pretty graphic novel.
3 out of 5 stars

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