Archie, Volume 2 by Mark Waid

If you missed the review for Volume 1, you can find it HERE.

After a whole ordeal of getting this book in my hands, it finally got here and after a tiring week (or weeks), I’ve been in the mood for lighter reads and comic/graphic novels fit that bill perfectly. I’m actually thinking of diving into my other comics sitting around the house for a change of pace. I do have a pretty cool TBR list for this year that I hope to complete. Maybe I should post it so that you all can keep me accountable.

Regardless, back on track, I enjoyed the revamp of Archie. I still like the old comics and they give me fond memories and so much nostalgia when I see them around but the first book impressed me. I’m ready for the second one.

Let’s check it out!

Archie, Volume 2
By: Mark Waid (writer) & Veronica Fish (illustrator)

Archie, Volume 2

In the second volume, we are back to somewhat of a more traditional familiar territory. Archie is now determined to find any way to convince Mr. Lodge that he is useful and worthy of Veronica. At the same time, Betty amd Archie’s friendship is still cracked.

While I love the original Archie comics, Volume 1 did capture me quite a bit. Modernizing the characters but keeping the essence of their personality still there is probably incredibly hard and they did do a great job in the first one. It have us a look again at who everyone is and sets the stage for the story which is good for old and new people starting this series. Volume 2 was so much fun to read and I finished the book excited for the next one. This book had a lot of the silly Archie bits and showed us a story arc for Archie and Veronica while still giving space for Betty’s side. It worked really well.

Visually, Volume 2 still has wonderful illustrations. The color palette and the environment help with the tone and atmosphere. There are some pretty dramatic moments and it does a great job and reflecting it.

Overall, I don’t have a whole lot to say but I do urge those still unsure to give it a shot. It feels like the writer is truly finding his footing as to where to take the story and I am excited to read Volume 3 which was just released a few days ago and since my bookstore here had an online discount, I already put in my order for it. Hopefully it will be on its way.

On the same note of Archie, I have also wrapped up Season 1 of Riverdale and the TV binge post is coming up.

Have you read the modernized Archie comics? What do you think of it?

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files 01) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Its been a long time since I’ve had a book review go up. I’m so sorry! I started about 3 books on my Kindle and just couldn’t get into it. It was time to admit that it is time to pick up one of my physical books and see if it will do better.

Illuminae has had a lot of buzz about its awesomeness. Being not so into Young Adult books and really not much of a sci-fi enthusiast, I still decided to give this a go because I just can’t miss out on what others call awesome and I needed a change in pace. I’ve read books like this before where its comprised of telling a story through reports and such. It is one of my favorite sorts of reading because it does feel really authentic most of the times. World War Z had a similar set-up and Carrie was definitely this type of story except a different genre. Anyways, just when you pick up the book, it looks so intriguing and fun!

Let’s check it out!

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files 01)
by: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Illuminae

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded. The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again. – Goodreads

 WOW! I don’t go all googly eyes and crazy about books. Illuminae is definitely something. It is nice to feel the same passion and excitement as others. There is so much creativity in this one and the way it shows off the situation through hacked documents and camera footage and making it authentic and forbidden by striking out sentences and having spaces and having little images created through words and binary numbers is so smart and suitable for a story like this one. It takes us not only in the future of 2575 but a dystopia. We can believe in the Kady and Ezra who has broken up over something that seems so random now. Aren’t most teen break-ups like that? However, life does throw them lemons and that comes in the form of a war that they can’t control and are split up over the two ships that remain. There’s a lot of politics as the captains of the ships have to make difficult decisions. And we see these in memos.

Other than the creative elements of using different mediums to tell their story so we get a pretty good picture of what is going on, it is the progression and pacing of the events that make it so fun. Also, the fact that we are zeroed into various characters more and the story makes the feeling of well-rounded, its easy to forget that other things are happening and then when it does have a reveal, the moments tend to build up in several surprises and twists that truly make this one big. What starts off as a sci-fi, war and dystopian novels quickly turns around and becomes a futuristic “zombie-esque” movie. Somehow revealing that probably makes it worse because that was one of the bigger twists in Illuminae that I embraced and was shocked because I didn’t read any synopsis before jumping in.

In terms of characters, Kady and Ezra are an interesting pair of characters. There’s a clear connection between them and right away for two kids nearing adulthood (aka 18 years old), there is a striped away innocence that we can’t push away. Both of them have their secrets while Kady seems to have something more. As the readers, we get a third person view of reading these reports and we get a clear idea of where everyone stands and how they both feel and what they are going through. Aside from them, perhaps the other character is the all powerful AI called AIDAN who takes on a huge role as it takes control in this 2575 future of almost everything and humans are rendered almost dysfunctional and slow when they lose the power to use it. I won’t tell you why but it brings on a whole new meaning to technology and aritificial intelligence being a double-edged sword.

Illuminae is a book that you jump into to take an adventure. It almost feels like watching a movie and yet, I don’t want this to be adapted into a movie (although its already announced that it will be – of course). There’s something about reading these passages that work so much more than what a movie adaptation can do. The fact that its like we are watching this in third person recap from different footages gives such a nice imaginative journey. It does so much more to what we can see going on. There are twists that can only work because of the between the lines and hidden facts on paper along with the imagery. Illuminae is a must-read. It has been a long time I haven’t felt this excitement for a book before: a pageturner full of thrills and twists and some compelling characters, moral and ethical choices. It is so awesome!

Rambling about adaptations ahead… skip if you’d like

Before I go, I just need to ramble about movie adaptations because both my darling husband and fantastic co-host has heard about it. I’m all for adaptations, heck, I’m starting a freakin’ segment on it, right? However, there are exceptions to the equation. It is why I wish some people would realize why its okay to not adapt every book (or video game) that is popular. The whole execution can be the death of what was a great book: look at I Am Number Four. A great book series that just didn’t take off as a movie which is a shame because it can do so well in the right hands. Another example more along the lines of this one is World War Z which was a great movie but it wasn’t an adaptation or even an inspiration, it was a zombie movie that leeched off the idea of World War Z. The book wasn’t about that: it was about survival and the different citizens and their stories and escape. It wasn’t about almighty Brad Pitt solving the mystery of it all. I liked the movie but calling it an adaptation is just trying to sell it as something it isn’t. To be fair, Carrie did a fairly good job for something with similar structure. There are some great adaptations but with something that works so well, perhaps I’m just not creative enough to see how they can make Illuminae great and I think part of it is how much involvement the authors have in this matter to use their creativity to work it all out. I’m happy that the adaptation will probably get a bigger reach for Illuminae, however, I will try to tuck away the subjective views and wait for the first trailer to see how they approach it all.

Rambling done…

Have you read Illuminae? Are you planning to?

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age by Alan Pearce

**Received in exchange for an honest review**

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age
by Alan Pearce

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age

Sherlock Holmes is the greatest detective of all time. He is driven to right the wrongs of the world. It is only natural that he should turn his attention to the Internet.  “The Internet has become a sinister and dangerous place – a grotesque parody of all that it originally promised,” explains Holmes. “Open your eyes, Watson. We are living in a postmodern surveillance dystopia from which escape for all but the most skilled individuals is impossible.” Luckily, Holmes has all the right answers. This is a cyber-security and digital counter-surveillance handbook like no other. – Goodreads

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are iconic characters and extremely smart ones at that. They are a great team and just like TV shows such as Elementary has done, Alan Pearce has taken these two characters and put them together in a modern setting to use modern day examples of how the digital age has made us more vulnerable and teach us the tools we need to protect ourselves a little more with cybersecurity. The idea of it all is fascinating especially because security is a huge part of just being online.

Tranquil Dreams is nothing big and my Youtube channel and Twitter are far from it as well but we are all exposed to the dangers of being in the cyber world. I do recommend that you take this handbook and explore the little tips and applications and software it talks about as you can step by step. For myself, I read on the go so that proves a little more difficult. However, it proves useful and I will go back to explore all that it talks about. Not that I don’t trust Alan Pearce and his cybersecurity knowledge even when told through Sherlock Holmes to give better examples of how certain cybersecurity issues could happen, but rather, its important to research things on our own as well. Its all part of learning, at least that is what I believe.

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age is a fun and quick read. Its an educational read as well as it fills up with examples shown by Sherlock Holmes as he teaches Dr. Watson through everyday examples going from one location to the next with tips and details, some of which I already knew about and others that I was surprised to learn more about. Something about setting as a real life example in places I can relate to made this educational read more tolerable and engaging and the angle it takes to teach us is a great one. Even if you don’t plan on installing and setting all the software and cybersecurity tips it talks about, there is still something to take away from this read. Although at times, it can get a little overwhelming, hence the advice above to research as you go and take this read bit by bit and see what applies to you and what doesn’t.

With that said, this topic fascinates me. In fact, I did start looking at my mobile security because I work so much on my cellphone, even if I do avoid money related transactions on it. I took a look at a few apps it suggested and things here and there. For me, this handbook does a good job of outlining what we need to know. I’m not one to pick up these handbook manual things mostly because I’m still recovering from giving up fiction literature from years of college and university. However, time and time again, I do think about this and it is very useful for everyday life whether you choose to follow everything it says or not.

There is much to review here. The Sherlock Holmes Handbook for the Digital Age is still something I need to explore to determine what can be useful for but as a quick informative read to know more about cybersecurity, I think it sets up a good stage to educate us in a fun and engaging way. There is a lot of information compacted in this quick read. As I said, it sets up a big stage to try to learn more about all these aspects, especially the software and apps and other measures it suggests, especially if cybersecurity interests you, as it does for me.

Sherlock Holmes and the Nine-Sigil Dragon by Tim Symonds

***Thanks very much to the author for reaching out to me to review his newest novel!***

Sherlock Holmes and the Nine-Sigil Dragon
By: Tim Symonds

sherlock holmes and the nine-sigil dragon

It’s the year 1906. Rumours abound that a deadly plot is hatching – not in the fog-ridden back-alleys of London’s Limehouse district or the sinister Devon moors of the Hound of the Baskervilles but in faraway Peking. Holmes’s task – discover whether such a plot exists and if so, foil it. But are the assassins targeting the young and progressive Ch’ing Emperor or his imperious aunt, the fearsome Empress Dowager Cixi? The murder of either could spark a civil war. The fate of China and the interests of Britain’s vast Empire in the Orient could be at stake. Holmes and Watson take up the mission with their customary confidence – until they find they are no longer in the familiar landscapes of Edwardian England. Instead, they tumble into the Alice In Wonderland world of the Forbidden City. – Goodreads

Sherlock Holmes is everywhere now. He has been reinterpreted for the big screen and in television, modernized to the 21st century and even so much time after still capturing the hearts of a lot of readers. It is suffice to say that Arthur Conan Doyle created a beyond iconic character and investigative team with Sherlock and Dr.Watson. I feel that I need to justify that I have ONLY read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and none of the other stories. I just never got around to it. Especially when it also happens to be the first book review I did here and needs revision so much. To say that I know the Sherlock Holmes character well via literature is a huge stretch but I feel that most of Holmes books are rather case by case so lets just jump right in.

Tim Symonds has written a few of these Sherlock Holmes follow-up novels building his own cases. I have not read them but I do feel it incredibly coincidental that he happens to set me up with this one which is set in China back in the Empress Dowager days. Perfect setting and great use of historic characters. Empress Dowager and the emperor at the time along with her renowned and powerful eunuch and all these colorful characters in history makes for a great story. The mysteries in the Forbidden Palace however for myself was not so well concealed because I did grow up with a lot of this Chinese history material and I had suspected the who quite early in the story.

Sherlock Holmes and the Nine Sigil Dragon however does have a great writing. The more classical English is always fun to read. It is a change in pace (especially for myself) and there are much less frequently used words which may require a dictionary to grasp but the context is always on track. The writing captures what I remember Sherlock and Dr. Watson’s dynamic together. However, the pacing leaves a little to be desired. A strong start is always tricky and yet while I did enjoy the story when it picked up a few chapters in, the trip to China at the start felt a little slow. It might be the process of getting used to reading the most sophisticated writing (which is a high probability).

Going back to the characters, I feel that the need to show the interest in English and how they did speak it broken or not was a little unnecessary. The characters themselves goes without saying that we can assume who they are. Perhaps because I do speak Chinese that it became bothersome to have to read the same words in their romanized Mandarin form while also reading it with the English term. It felt a little like a Chinese lesson. However, it does come into context. Little nitpicks on my part. Also, this world is complicated. The Forbidden City and the ranks and their characters and the traditions and formalities are all depicted quite well. My suggestion to those that plan on reading this: make use of the glossary in the back because it will has a great purpose even to deeper understand what certain things mean.

In fact, even for myself, growing up outside of China, there are little details that I wasn’t aware of or just sometimes slips my mind. In those moments, when the mystery and the investigation starts going more in depth. The pieces start falling together. I always love the deciphering the case and what happens because that is when the details really come together perfectly and the author has done a great job in doing so. The mystery is fun. It uses and respects a lot of the history and the nature of these characters and the complexities behind the walls of Forbidden City and the politics of the entire situation.

Overall, Sherlock Holmes and the Nine-Sigil Dragon is a good read. It dives into Chinese history and enters into the Forbidden City, bringing to life some of the iconic historic people that actually was a big deal. The mystery itself is feasible and the writing is done very well. While, the beginning could have been paced better and there were small things in the charaterization that left a little to be desired, the story works well once it picks up and offers a great mystery to solve.

What We’ll Do For Blood (The Almost Human Series #1) by C.L. Mannarino

For some of you who are new here, I love supernatural and paranormal novels. More specifically, while the vampire genre has been wildly overused, I still remain intrigued by what else is showing up. This is where this next novel comes in. What We’ll Do For Blood is the first book in a series by C.L. Mannarino.

Before we start the review, I would like to send a huge thanks to the author for sending me the novel in exchange for an honest review!

What We’ll Do For Blood
by C.L. Mannarino

what we'll do for blood

In the sleepy town of Northam, Massachusetts, not everyone is who they seem to be. Take Scott Whitney, for example. A struggling high school senior, Scott wants nothing more than to have his much-divided, social-climbing family believe him when he comes to them with something important, no matter how often he disregards their rules. One night, Scott catches his father’s beautiful colleague, Maria, drinking his father’s blood in their office parking lot. When his father has no recollection of this event, and gets weaker the more he spends time with Maria, Scott turns to his mother and sister for help. When he realizes that Maria has captured their hearts and minds, as well, Scott has to find a way to believe in himself, and become more than anyone thought he was capable of, in order to stop her. But what will it cost him? – Goodreads

What We’ll Do For Blood is the first in the author’s series. For that, it definitely does set a decent stage to the characters and story. In particular, we learn quite a bit through his actions and decisions and thoughts about the person he is. Our main character is Scott and if not a little silly sometimes, because he lacks a bit of real life experience since he is only a high school guy, he definitely is brave. He emphasized the point that you can’t choose family no matter what happens. It never is too far-fetched in building up a scenario or a thought and that is especially with a genre like this one.

As mentioned before, vampire stories are overused. You don’t need me to tell you all the crazy ways they have been portrayed in books then adapted to movies and TV. For the most part, the vampires here stick pretty much to tradition. They feed and glamor and do what they have to to survive. They live in groups but hunt in solitude. They are ruthless and don’t eat human food and drink human beverages. I do appreciate sticking with the traditional portrayal. However, this story does also hit a lot predictable turns whether it is the choices or Maria, the vampire and adds in pieces that are just glimpses of supporting characters that are there.to serve a certain purpose only.

The aspect that saves it is that it is well-paced and well-written. Nothing beats a good reading like having a tasteful piece in front of us. What We’ll Do For Blood hits some super predictable plotlines and in the end, its really easy to see what it is setting the stage for. However, the setting itself is before modern times and I believe somewhere in the seventies perhaps. I cannot remember the time frame. It is mostly a vibe perhaps also because the characters themselves also live in a small community with even more small-minded people which makes Scott’s father’s recent promotion at his work so significant and why it becomes even harder to sidestep talking to the wrong people and even how Scott’s parents perceive what his son is doing.

Overall, What We’ll Do For Blood is a decent start as it is well-paced and well-written. While we can appreciate taking the traditional vampire route, it does have its predictable moments that do take away from it being exceptional. The extra of society ranking and community impressions and the likes add a little something extra to the story. It is an easy read and while does feature a high school main character, still will appeal to an older audience as it has some more violent descriptions but do note that this book seems to be intended for young adults (at least).

The Tale of the Golden Pirate by Anthony Renfro

Today’s book review is for a book sitting in my Kindle for a little while from a fantastic blogger and author Anthony Renfro over at Poetry, Books, Movies, and Music. I’ve read a few of his short stories before and read his first full novel AWOL as well. I’ve reviewed all of them here. This is the second novel I’ve read of Anthony’s called The Tale of the Golden Pirate, previously called as I realized Ghostly Visitations and Southern Destinations.

The Tale of the Golden Pirate
by Anthony Renfro

The Tale of the Golden Pirate

An Action-Adventure tale about pirates, ghosts, buried treasure, doomed love affairs, double crosses, drug deals, and creatures made of slime. An eclectic tale combining the world of Jimmy Buffett and Stephen King. Follow Parson’s journey as he is pushed into endless peril, and asked to do things most people are rarely asked to do. Does he get his buried treasure? Does he get that easy life so many of us dream about? The answers lie within the pages. –Goodreads

I haven’t read a lot of books about pirates. There’s a little bit of paranormal factors in here. The Tale of Golden Pirate is definitely an adventure. There are some little bumpy patches here and there but overall, its an enjoyable read. The story is pretty much about being introduced to man called Parson, a jogger and uncommitted sort of guy to his job or the girl he is with. I can’t say that Parson starts off being a really likeable character but in the course of the story, the readers learn to warm up to him a little more. The best thing that Anthony does is set some interesting characters and here, he does a good job at it. Parson’s character has good development while also keeping up with injecting various characters throughout to make it not just a solo journey but one filled with worthy encounters. Even the pirates who are ghosts of the past pose a mystery that keeps us guessing what the deal is and why Parson was chosen.

The Tale of the Golden Pirate does have a few clunky bits. Its not enough to put off reading but there were awkward parts. In rare places, we’d jump to talking about jogging which somewhat breaks the momentum of the adventure on hand. In later bits, there are parts of talking to the readers which I’m not sure how I liked it. I think if it was done throughout the book, it would be more effective and add a little fun twist to it. Maybe give it a consistent character. However, I do like the addition of haikus throughout the story. It was a nice touch especially since bloggers who know Anthony know that he writes a lot of haiku posts on his site and he is really good at them.

In a whole, The Tale of the Golden Pirate was a decent read. It does start off strongly and sets up a good pace for the novel. The pacing does lose a little steam in the middle bits. Whenever we are in the main adventure mode, the story is tight knit and absolutely engaging to read however, it does tend to veer off a little in parts. At times, it felt a little like I was missing the point of it or maybe it was to add a few casual moments in there. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind it. However, once we enter into the last third or quarter of the novel, things really pick up quickly and it is one big well-written page turner sequence.

Even with some rough patches, The Tale of the Golden Pirate has something different. The ending is well worth the scattered slow bits in the middle. While I might not recommend this as highly as his first novel, AWOL (review HERE), The Tale of the Golden Pirate deserves a chance. Its still an overall pleasant read.

House of Cards by Ilana Waters

House of Cards has been sitting in my Kindle for a while. As I work through the list and only in my 2013 free Kindle downloads, House of Cards was the next one and I remember downloading it because it had the same name as the TV series but the plot was totally not.  To be honest, at this point, I wasn’t even reading the summary again.  From the cover, it looked YA paranormal (aka vampires) so hey, I did read the whole Sookie Stackhouse so this is right up my alley. I do love me some vampires.

Let’s check it out!

House of Cards
by: Ilana Waters

House of Cards

Eighteen-year-old Sherry has just begun her newly independent life in Paris when she is kidnapped by a group of vampires. They hold her hostage in the House of Cadamon, their catacomb lair beneath the city, ruled with an iron fist by a leader known as “the Master.” The only thing keeping Sherry alive is her ability to tell vampire fortunes through tarot cards, a task she is forced to perform night after night. She finds an unlikely ally in Lucas, a four-hundred-year-old reluctant blood drinker who is as much a prisoner of Cadamon as she is. –Goodreads

It turns out my deductions are correct, mostly because the cover of the book was positioning the book well. Very nice cover, by the way! I like it quite a bit.  While I want to rate a book and sometime even pick up books by their attractive covers, we can’t exactly do that.  It means nothing to the story itself. House of Cards is an average YA paranormal vampire romance. There were some good ideas, like using tarot cards and fortune telling to indirectly weave in the vampires in House of Cadamon and even reveal their temperament, especially that of “the Master”. I liked the beautiful setting of Paris and “the Master” having a hold on them and having the freedom but not actually having it so it wasn’t just set underground in the catacombs where House of Cadamon was located.

The story is simple.  Its at times a good thing and at times, not so good.  For one, its not a long book but in the middle, it dragged out quite a bit as they built the relationship between Sherry and Lucas.  I have nothing against romance.  In fact, I like reading them.  As I was reading House of Cards, I couldn’t help but feel like Lucas and Sherry had the Bella and Edward sort of vibe and I only know it from that one time I watched 70% of New Moon. If you’ve followed my last few reviews of these ebook adventures, I stepped into this one hoping for that it wouldn’t have these steamy sex scenes and then this was all reluctant and craving it all.  The point is: Sherry is in this House of Cadamon and I can’t imagine being seventeen year old, on my own, being captured and having been revealed that vampires actually exist and while there was fear, it quickly subsided and became like something totally different.  But that is the thing, House of Cards isn’t aimed or made for me so its hard for me to relate in a realistic way and for that, I couldn’t engage into Sherry’s character.

However, the main issue here isn’t even that.  I think its the fact that the writing style is not done well.  We are looking at everything from Sherry’s perspective but yet its in a third person point of view however, the actions are insinuate towards a first person. Then, deductions and events happen and it would feel awkward to read.

Don’t get me wrong though. House of Cards may not be geared towards me, even if I read a good bit of YA paranormal novels but while it takes time and drags on a little at parts, the ideas here are good.  I can understand the appeal of the book and it actually changes from my normal views of YA books.  I would’ve preferred a first person perspective and maybe a little more romance action.  I don’t mean sex but just kissing or more of that than just desires floating all over the place and feeling like it didn’t really amount to much after all that wait time. If YA and vampire stories appeal to you, its worth a read.