Tag Archives: reviews

Comic Review: Batman: Li’l Gotham Issues 1 & 2

Batman: L’il Gotham is a digital-only series by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs uses the Batman universe to tell holiday short stories (and possibly later other stories that aren’t holiday related.) I’m a huge fan of Batman but I haven’t read any of the comics in years and I wouldn’t even know where to pick it back up (feel free to point out story arcs I should catch up on in the comments). So when I’m thrilled to have some stand alone Batman-related things I can enjoy as quick reads.

The first issue takes place on Halloween. Batman teaches Robin how to Trick or Treat. It’s as adorable as it sounds. And of course the villains, like the Joker and Harley Quinn, love Halloween because they can go out in public like normal people. (Obviously in this simplified version of Gotham, they’re not considering the option of just wearing normal clothes and ditching the makeup.) I especially enjoyed the variety of costumes in the background.

Issue #2 is the Thanksgiving episode. The Penguin takes issue to the ritual consumption of birds and thus plans to spoil the holiday. There’s a cameo by Li’l Barbara Gordon! I squeed. There are also Batman and Robin parade balloons, which Robin snarks about a little.

Nguyen’s beautiful watercolor style gives the comic a storybook feel but it’s still richly detailed and intricate. The writing is reminiscent of the older Batman cartoons, complete with cheesy villain puns (which I adore). They’re all complete stories, and read like episodes of a show.

If you like the cartoon incarnations of Batman or just fun little stories about him and Robin, you’ll enjoy this series.


Review: Pitch Perfect

As far as I can tell, Pitch Perfect is an a capella movie version of Glee if Glee had a better sense of humor about itself and less of an after school special complex. I like that it’s a capella, which gives it another degree of difficulty and makes it about more than covering songs. And unlike most episodes of Glee, there wasn’t a single song I felt the urge to fast forward through.

The movie opens with Beca, who just wants to be a DJ. But her dad is a college professor and she gets FREE college, so he wants to her to give it at least a year before running off to Los Angeles to make it in the world of DJing. When she’s overheard singing in the shower, she’s recruited to the Barden Bellas, the university’s all-lady singing group whose leader, Aubrey, wants to keep their routines old fashioned. Oh, and they’re not supposed to hook up with guys from the male counterpart group, the Trebblemakers, which means of course Beca has a thing with one of them.

It’s a good story about an ensemble of ladies coming together and being awesome to win. It’s mostly predictable. I mean, like every other movie about the Underdog Team working hard to overcome whatever holds them back, it’s pretty obvious from the get-go that they will see Beca’s talent at remixing songs, bring the Bellas into the 21st Century, and win the day.

So it’s the journey that matters, and Pitch Perfect’s is enjoyable. It’s funny and the characters aren’t all cardboard stereotypes. The romance is sweet, and not made of instra-love. It’s nothing special or exceptional but it’s not bad and the music is pretty darn catchy. I have no desire to rewatch the movie but I’d be happy to load the soundtrack onto my iPod. The actors all bring it and the writing is mostly great for what it is.

The movie also manages to incorporate a pretty diverse cast without shoving in your face how diverse they are. Sadly, the one character they miss the mark with is Fat Amy. (Rebel Wilson is gorgeous and talented as hell though.) I do like that there’s a large lady character who is unapologetic about her body and calls herself “sexy.” But like Lauren on Glee, Fat Amy suffers from the same stereotyped writing that makes some of the things she says feel at odds with her character. She’s given the jokes about loving food and hating exercise that are apparently required in Hollywood for any character above a size six. It’s not that no fat person has never said “Man, I hate cardio!” or “I love candy!” but it’s sad to see it as the confident Fat Girl’s refrain. But I digress.

Overall, it’s definitely worth a watch, especially if you do enjoy Glee-like things and college movies and the soundtrack is made of win.

Review: Claudia’s Story: An Interview with the Vampire grahic novel adaptation

I grew up on Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. I read the first book when the movie came out in 1994 and the rest of the series, to a point, and I’ve reread them a lot since. I’d always loved vampires in various forms, but something about Interview with the Vampire brought out the richness and realism of what being such a creature who used to be human might be like. I’m also a sucker for a good story framing and having a quirky reporter taping the interview was awesome. To this day, the first four books in that series remain some of my favorites.

Claudia’s Story, an adaption by Ashley Marie Witter, is Interview from her perspective, which is dark and disturbing. It tells how she was turned, how she grew from a true child vampire into a woman trapped into a child’s body for all eternity, and how she puts up with Louis (doting but self-hating) and Lestat (Monsieur Can Do No Wrong). I’m a huge fan of swapped POVs and unreliable narrator, which is part of the reason I love The Vampire Chronicles. One book is Louis’ take and the next book is Lestat going “Pfft yeah right, here’s how I saw it.”

So to give us an entirely new perspective is a great idea for a fresh way to retell the story. We get bits and pieces of Claudia’s diary in the third book, Queen of the Damned (which bares little resemblance to its movie incarnation), when Jesse, a supernatural investigator, recovers the journal. It’s always something I wanted more of, and here we are.

It is impossibly creepy to see it drawn out on the page. Claudia is small, maybe five in the novel, and in the graphic novel there are scenes where that alone is enough to make my skin crawl.

Louis' expressions of frustration, angst, and sadness are as perfect as Lestat's grin.

(Child monsters are always the worst, aren’t they?) Witter doesn’t shy away from the gritty darkness of a child who is not a child, nor does she avoid the uncomfortable conversations that arise because of it. It is Claudia’s story, after all, and Witter tells in all of its twisted, strange entirety. It’s devastatingly heart-breaking and completely disturbing at the same time.

The art work is breathtakingly gorgeous, too. Even if Louis looks constantly depressed (accurate). And finally, finally, we get a depiction of Armand that doesn’t make him look like a middle-aged man with a bear hide on his head. (I’ll concede Antonio Banderas played the hell out of that part in the movie but the costuming.. yikes.)

It works as a stand-alone story, but I suspect its best audience will largely be fans of the book and/or the film. Although if you like pretty and haunting vampire comics, this is definitely one to add to your collection.


(Also I forgot how much of a jerk Lestat is in Interview. Seriously, like, I know he’s the quintessential teenager pretty much always, but if he did like three things differently, everything could have been puppies and roses and sparkl–err… Well.. Maybe it’s better that he didn’t.)

Review: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

It’s no secret that I love vampires and always have, and will basically devour anything about vampires at all* but there is so much vampire media out there, I have to draw the line somewhere or I would never sleep again. So I never picked up Vampire Academy. Because.. I mean.. I’m sure it’s great, Mead is awesome and hilarious, but the name put me off. I don’t really care for the vampires-in-school thing. Suffice to say, it’s on my reading list now, so mea culpa.

Bloodlines  drew me in because it was about an alchemist and I love alchemy. Bonus vampires? Sold. That was all I needed. And then I met Adrian.

Adrian Ivashkov is like if Daniel Molloy and Will Herondale somehow combined their DNA. He’s sweet and caring deep down, sure, but he’s sarcastic, doesn’t seem to take anything seriously, and lives on gin and cigarettes. (And blood. Obviously.) *waves fangirl flag*

The story is about Alchemist Syndney Sage, who has to go to a boarding school with a vampire princess, Jill, to keep her safe, since alchemists in this world live to cover up the existence of vampires and nasty things from mundane people. Jill is also being threatened by vampires for political reasons. And Adrian is just there as far as Sydney knows, at least at first, because he has nothing better to do.

Syndey is book smart and OCD and happy to go to this boarding school posing as a senior, because she’s never been to real school and it’s as close to college as she feels like she can get. She is less good at fitting in with other students, particularly when one of them thinks her golden alchemist tattoo is making her smarter, because there’s an illegal tattoo operation in town that’s giving students unfair advantages for the right price.

I did take issue with a scene in beginning where Sydney is fitted for a uniform and spends a lot of time whining about her size. She’s like.. a four I think? She talks about how fat she is, and I really loathed that. I get that teenagers (hell, people) can obsess about size, and it’s in character for her being so OCD and perfectionistic, but all the same it really bothered me at the time, because man, if she’s a cow then I’m like a Humpback Whale, so thanks there, chica. However, it’s sort of forgivable because it is so much a part of her character, and in the second book [spoiler] Adrian even calls her out for having a serious eating disorder, which we see in glimpses as the series continues, so it’s not treated as a healthy behavior but all of the same[/spoiler].

I have no idea how this stacks up to VA since I haven’t read any of them, but I enjoyed both this and its sequel, again, because Adrian makes me giggle like a mad person. It does sort of run on vampire politics which can get old quickly, but I don’t know if there’s much I can’t forgive for Adrian, particularly maybe the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time, which was [spoiler]The Adrian Hunts for A Job Scene… just.. I was in stitches, especially when he drinks the martini at the bar interview… such a bad idea but so hilariously played, Adrian![/spoiler]

I also liked that Mead has clearly built an in-depth vampire world, and then writes stories from the perspective of Sydney, who isn’t really keen on magic and whose up-brining makes them weird about vampires, even the good non-murderous ones. It’s an interesting twist to have a YA heroine who not only lacks magical powers but would not take them if they were offered.

*Not Twilight. But then, to be honest, I did read Meyer’s short novella about Bree Tanner, in which the titular character thought she was a real vampire and not a sparklepire, and it wasn’t terrible, so… you know. Also Vampire Baseball. That will never stop being hilarious to me.

Recommended if: You like supernatural stories set in boarding schools, and/or can forgive that for a handsome, snarky, gin-drinking vampire. Which, I mean, what can’t you forgive for that?

Sims: Supernatural Expansion – The Sims I’ve Always Wanted

The Sims uses the slogan “Play with Life” and it’s true. Sims is and has always been a giant sandbox with an ever-increasing world of options. It has a variety of appeal. If you like to design and build houses and buildings, you can do that. If you like to give Sims opposite personality traits, shove them in a studio apartment and watch what happens, you can do that too. The Sims 3 Expansion packs have increasingly created richer, more realistic environments and potential. They’ve given us pets. They’ve given us  toy chests and dragon costumes. They’ve given us jobs that you don’t just sit back and wait for, but jobs you do: making over other Sims or remodeling their houses.

But Sims Supernatural is, to be honest, the Sims I’ve always wanted. We’ve had vampires since Late Night, but you had to meet a vampire and convince them to turn your Sim if you wanted to be one. Now you can be a vampire or a faerie or a witch or a genie or even a ghost right out of the gate. This pack gives us historical and faerie outfits and something I’m going to call “Lestat hair.”

This is also the pack that fully gives us magic. Witches can do alchemy and make zombies rise. Vampires can turn other Sims. People joke about “why play the Sims? So you can have a fake person clean the kitchen and go to work and pay bills.” This is the pack that changes the game completely, allowing the player to delve into all sorts of fantasy worlds and create their own stories with fantastical elements.

Continue reading

Tori (Jokingly) Schemes to Make Money For Reviews

Recently I learned about a “blog” that charges authors for “honest” reviews. This is because–they claimed in an e-mail to Michele Gorman (whom they later threatened into removing their site name**— they have too many books to review and also, they want to only review stuff they know they’ll like. How a $95 fee helps this process is unclear. Possibly because when someone pays you nearly a hundred dollars to say things about their book, anyone willing to take that kind of money has a moral compass that points east and will happily say only nice things.

I’m not going to name this “blog” (which is not a blog at all, so much as big piece of overpriced internet ad space) because people who craft such intricate scams tend to threaten lawyers even if they’re not actually litigious, and it’s Monday and I’m too tired for that crap.

I mean, at first I was disgusted. But then I was like “WAIT. Here I am BLOGGING FOR FREE. In my own spare time. When I could be knitting or clipping my cat’s toe nails, or baking pies.” And I realized I want a slice of this immoral, delicious scheme. So I present to you,

CWC’s New Fee Scale For Book Promotion*:

$1000 – I will tattoo your book title on my forehead. Imagine the amount of press covering the “insane fangirl who tattoo’d the title of X Novel by YOU onto her face before it even came out.” If that won’t get copies off shelves faster than 50 Shades of Grey, I don’t know what will.

$500 – I will wear a sandwich board with your book cover for an entire weekend in a busy metropolitan area and shout your book title and name with a megaphone at passersby.

$100 – This gets your book a review so glowing that I won’t even read it! I’ll just say vague complimentary things about character-development and your choice of setting. ($10 extra if book is set in Oakland, Redmond, or New Jersey.)

$75 – I will post a photo of your book cover with my cat. If you tip me, it’ll even be the least cranky-looking cat.

This is the cute one looking cranky. You never know what you'll get with cats.

Okay, I realize a lot of authors don’t have that kind of money. But I’m not a monster! So I’m also offering some great Economy Packages:

$50 – I will write haiku about your book. But based on its cover and title. For $50 I don’t have time to read it, obviously.

$25 – I will stand outside the local bookstore and attempt to pitch your novel to everyone who enters until they chase me away or until that cute guy who works there asks me if I want to get a drink with him because his shift is over and he’s impressed by my passion for books. (You’ll need to sign a NDA that you’ll never tell Hot Bookstore Guy that you paid me to stand out there and wax poetic about your crappy novel.)

$10 – I’ll tweet something nice about your book on Twitter and possibly imply it was recommended to me by Stephen King or author of your choice.

Bottom of the Barrel Bargains!

$5 – I will write 200 words on why your book is the best thing on the bookshelves this week, making sure to casually knock any direct competition. For an extra $2 I might even post those words on the blog.

$3 – I will mention your book to every barista I come in contact with all week long. I know you’re wondering how that will work, but trust me, I’ve taken Improv classes; I can make it sounds totally natural. “Yeah, no room in my americano, and speaking of Americana, can I tell you about this amazing book I read?” See? Easy.

Please send CASH only to Paypal. No e-checks or digital payments.

*PLEASE NOTE: This is a joke. It’s meant to be funny. If it’s not funny it’s because it is Monday and I worked 9 hours today and I’m on my third can of espresso. We never take money or any other form of compensation for book reviews–not even kitten hugs :(–and we are always honest.

**Joke’s on you! We don’t want to drive more traffic to your fake blog.

Review: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Monument 14 is a novel about fourteen children (from teens to kindergarten) who are stranded in a Big Box Store during a chaotic national disaster that involves earthquakes, tsunamis, and a poison gas that’s leaked from a nearby military base.

Laybourne looked familiar to me when I saw her at the Fierce Reads tour, but it wasn’t until later I realized why. We’re long lost sisters. So now she can get me a publishing deal, right? No? Okay, that’s not true. But she is an actress, and she’s been in movies with Will Ferrell and other SNL alumni, as well as the Upright Citizens Brigade. So I had seen her face previously.

I mention this more because writing an ensemble cast of 14, even if there’s one narrator, is no easy feat, and Laybourne manages to give every single kid their own personality and flesh them out. I highly suspect her experience acting and getting inside character’s heads helped this process, because for a debut novelist, she has it down. I can tell you one thing about every single one of the fourteen and that’s pretty impressive.

Plot! On their way to school, two school buses that were driving near each other crash during a hail storm. One of them drives straight into the store and the other is felled by hail (its engine, we later learn, is top side, while the other bus had an engine on the bottom so it was protected from the hail). Bus one explodes and several people are killed by hail to the head. Some make it into the store, including Mrs. Wooly, the first bus driver. But after the hail subsides, she leaves to find them help, putting the older kids (Dean, Jack, Astrid, Josie, Brayden, Niko) in charge until she gets back. (Spoiler: she never gets back.)

The book is set just a few years in the future, but by then the internet/wi-fi is just The Network, and The Network is down. From an older television, they learn about the tsunamis and the poison gas cloud, and how bad things are. (And this poison gas cloud is military evil – it affects each person based on their blood type, so some people get hives, others turn blood-thirsty, and others are fine. Talk about Pandemonium Gas.)

Overall, it’s a haunting and scary book, and yet in a lot of ways it’s fun. Maybe I’m a giant weirdo but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wandered around Target or Fred Meyer and thought of how I’d set things up if I were living there in the midst of a zombie outbreak or post-apocalyptic scenario. So I loved reading about how the kids set things up, from the way Dean–our first person protagonist–realizes he can outfit the Pizza Shack with real cooking equipment from the shelves, to the Bunks/Cabins that Josie builds in the dressing rooms. I also like that despite some disagreements, the kids don’t go all Lord of the Flies or anything.

Also, I’m kind of a sucker for first person narration that’s justified in text. (Granted, many of my favorite books are first person and not justified, I just think it’s kind of neat when we know why “I” is telling the story.) In this case, it’s Dean, who gets old notebooks and writes down what happens every day as an act of catharsis. Also it’s guy narrator, which is less common in YA (especially a sole-first person narrator).

There are a few things that bothered me but I’m having trouble putting my finger on them. Like there’s something niggling at the back of my brain but I can’t figure out what. And I guess I find it hard to believe that in giant store, there aren’t more old style AM/FM radios that Alex, the genius, couldn’t tune up to emergency channels, although maybe it’s just enough in the future that those things wouldn’t exist anymore. Really, I highly enjoyed it and I look forward to the sequel, if there is one, and Laybourne’s future books.

Recommended for: People who enjoy realistic responses to disaster scenarios. People who have dreamed about the world ending so they can hole up inside a Walmart.