CJ Reviews A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl

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A Hundred Thousand WorldsTitle: A Hundred Thousand Worlds
Author: Bob Proehl
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Format: Advanced Reading Copy
Rating: 3.5 stars

Valerie Torrey took her son Alex and fled Los Angeles six years ago—leaving both her role on a cult sci-fi TV show and her costar husband after a tragedy blew their small family apart. Now Val must reunite nine-year-old Alex with his estranged father, so they set out on a road trip from New York, Val making appearances at comic book conventions along the way. 

As they travel west, encountering superheroes, monsters, time travelers, and robots, Val and Alex are drawn into the orbit of the comic-con regulars, from a hapless twentysomething illustrator to a lesbian comics writer to a group of cosplay women who provide a chorus of knowing commentary. For Alex, this world is a magical place where fiction becomes reality, but as they get closer to their destination, he begins to realize that the story his mother is telling him about their journey might have a very different ending than he imagined. (Goodreads)

I have to be honest and say I’m not really sure how I feel about this book. I was so excited to read it because it sounded like exactly my kind of book, but then I never really got into it. There were some great things about it that I liked, but I just couldn’t identify with the characters as much as I thought I would and just wasn’t as enthusiastic about it by the end.

It was interesting reading Proehl’s made-up Pop Culture universe and trying to associate the characters, tv shows, comic book publishers with their counterparts in our world. And I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at comic writing and fan conventions. I also really appreciated the over-arching theme of valuing stories and moving on. There were a lot of elements in this book that were done really well and could possibly invoke a great discussion within a book club, but for some reason I just found myself wanting to rush through it so I could get it done and move on to my next read. There wasn’t anything about this book that made me fall in love with it and want to savor the moment while reading it. Ultimately, I think I just wanted to enjoy it way more than I did, which is a shame.

I think one of my problems with the book was that most of the novel was building towards this potentially dramatic climax, that just ended up falling flat – at least for me. I also felt the novel was lacking the excitement and humor that I had expected of it – this was much more of a drama set in the world of comics and fan conventions than I was expecting. My favorite part was by far the veiled references to our own Pop Culture icons, which you had to be paying attention to pick up, as all the names and places are changed.

Overall, this book just wasn’t at all what I was expecting it to be. Perhaps if I had gone into it with fewer expectations, or had been in a different mood while reading it, I would have been able to enjoy it more.

ARC August 2016
A Hundred Thousand Worlds was read as part of ARC August hosted by Read.Sleep.Repeat. You can find more on the books I read during ARC August here.

Netflix Binge: Daredevil Season 2

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Daredevil1This blog is primarily for posting book reviews and other reading topics, however once in a while I will deviate to talk about other things I am passionate about – mostly movies and TV. One thing I am currently obsessing over is the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix.

Last year I broke down the entire first season into a week-long series of blogs reviewing every episode. (If you’re interested, you can find them all here, under the ‘Netflix Binge’ tag.) Unfortunately, I do not have the time for that kind of review this year, even though season 2 is just as deserving of that kind of attention. However, I did want to share some thoughts I had as I was watching the season.

Once again Daredevil has proven how well this format can work for Marvel. I love the tightness of the storytelling and the way the episodes flow into each other. My viewing of Daredevil is near compulsive – at the end of every episode I had to hit play on the next one, because I couldn’t just stop it there (and I was really disappointed when I got to episode 13 and could not hit play on a new episode). Like the first season, this felt like watching a 13-hour movie, though there were several mini-arcs throughout the season that brought a little bit of closure periodically during the season so it didn’t feel like there were too many strings left dangling until the very end (although it did still feel like there were quite a few balls in the air going into the season finale).

After Vincent D’onofrio’s performance as Wilson Fisk last year I really didn’t know how Daredevil was going to top Kingpin in the villain department. D’onofrio was absolutely brilliant and brought so much depth to his performance – he actually made you feel sympathy for Kingpin. Fortunately, the writers and producers of Daredevil didn’t even try to top Kingpin, instead going for a completely different kind of story. Instead of one Master Villain, the Punisher and Elektra storylines were separate but weaved together throughout the season. I think this worked well and the change in pace in that way prevented too much comparison to the previous season as to cause disappointment at the lack of Fisk this season.

Daredevil2The entire principal cast is excellent. I know I sang the praises of Charlie Cox, Elden Henson, and Deborah Ann Woll last year, but they are just so good in these roles. Henson in particular steals the screen as Foggy Nelson in nearly every scene he is in; he is just fantastic. The addition of Jon Bernthal and Elodie Yung this year only increased the excellence of the cast. Both put in stellar performances, and I was particularly impressed with Bernthal’s Punisher. While I can’t say I’ve seen a lot of Bernthal’s work, from what I have seen this may be his best performance. I would love to see each of these characters show up again elsewhere, either in another season of Daredevil or one of the future series coming to Netflix. They are both very interesting characters, and very well-written.

I am a huge fan of all things Marvel, particularly the MCU. However, I think what Marvel is doing on Netflix may be some of the best storytelling they’ve done. First Daredevil and then Jessica Jones, each show has really nailed the characters and has been extremely well-written and compelling. Everything about each of these shows has been fantastic and I can’t wait to see what they do with the rest of the Defenders universe.

It’s hard to review an entire season of a TV show in just one blog post, but I can say that if you were a fan of season one, you will not be disappointed. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s better than season one – simply because Fisk made the first season so epic, and each season is different enough to make an equal comparison unfair – but it’s at least as good. And if you’re a fan of the Daredevil comics, but haven’t yet watched any of the series on Netflix, I definitely recommend you making the time to binge the show as soon as possible. They’ve really done justice to the characters and the comics.

So if you’re looking for a dark and gritty superhero drama done well, spend some quality time this week with the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.

CJ Reacts: Frank Castle Comes to Hell’s Kitchen

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Photo courtesy AMC

I’m sure all Marvel fans – unless they were hiding under a rock yesterday – have heard the news of the first casting announcement for season 2 of the Netflix series Daredevil. Rumors had been circulating for a while that Frank Castle – a.k.a. the Punisher – would be finding his way to Hell’s Kitchen in season 2 of the series and yesterday those rumors were confirmed with the official announcement that Jon Bernthal had been cast in the iconic role.

“Jon Bernthal brings an unmatched intensity to every role he takes on, with a potent blend of power, motivation and vulnerability that will connect with audiences … Castle’s appearance will bring dramatic changes to the world of Matt Murdock and nothing will be the same.” – Jeph Loeb, Marvel’s Head of Television, quoted in the official press release.

Bernthal is well known to The Walking Dead fans as Shane, Rick’s best friend/Laurie’s lover/psychopath and to be honest, he never would have even registered on my radar as a contender for The Punisher. I won’t lie – by the end of Shane’s time on The Walking Dead, I was ready for him to go. At first I had loved his character, but the further downhill he went, the more I was ready to say goodbye. This is in no way a reflection on Bernthal himself – I know he’s a great actor. I’ve seen him in many other things and have always been impressed with him. Or perhaps this is a reflection of his work – he was really good at making me hate Shane. If that was the goal, then kudos to him.

So if I had to come up with a list of possible candidates for Frank Castle, Bernthal probably wouldn’t have made the list. When I first heard the announcement, after my initial excitement over the confirmation of Punisher coming to Daredevil, I was a little skeptical about the choice. However, the more I think about it, the more excited I get. I think Bernthal has the look and the attitude to pull it off. I’m really optimistic that he will do a good job. I’m also curious to see what they do with the character. Will they show his origin story? And now that he’s confirmed for Daredevil season 2, will he pop up elsewhere in the MCU?

I’ll be honest, I haven’t read a lot of Punisher comics, the little I know about the character is from his appearance in other titles and the 2004 movie starring Thomas Jane. So maybe you actual Punisher fans will have a much stronger opinion on this than I do. So far Marvel has done pretty well casting their roles, so I’m inclined to be trusting. And at the very least, we all know he can play a gun-toting psychopath fairly well.

What do you think of the Punisher joining Daredevil and Bernthal’s casting? Let me know in the comments!

CJ’s Bookshelf: May Reads

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Is it really June already?!? How is that even possible?

May was a busy month. I took a short road trip to Philadelphia with friends to see Neil Gaiman speak (one of the highlights of my life) and then another to New York City to see Darren Criss in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which was fantastic. Between that and my continuing comic book obsession, I didn’t get as many novels read this month as I had hoped. Plus, one took me longer to read than I had been expecting. I have since limited my comic book reading to right before bed, so that I am only reading 3-4 issues per day. Although, this month the titles were a little more varied than last month’s all-Daredevil reading.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

neverwhereThis was the May book for my book club, and I was really excited because after seeing Neil Gaiman in person I was really in the mood to read anything and everything by him. Neverwhere has always been one of my favorites, and I think I enjoy it a little more each time I read it. I just love the way Gaiman takes things that are completely normal, and twists them just a little but to create the World Below in this novel. If you’ve never read anything by Gaiman, this is a terrific place to start. I would also recommend you trying the audio book, which is read by Gaiman himself, and Gaiman is a fantastic reader. I could sit and listen to him speak or read anything for hours. Another option for those interested is the radio play BBC Radio did a couple years ago, starring James McAvoy as Richard Mayhew; it’s an excellent adaptation of the book.

I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster

I already wrote an entire post sharing my thoughts on this book, so I won’t say much more, other than to reiterate that I really love her writing. And ever since I finished this book I’ve been obsessed with the idea of learning Italian and traveling to Italy on my own. I’m definitely going to have to make this happen someday.

A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin

Madness of AngelsKate Griffin is one of multiple pen names used by Claire North (which is also a pen name I believe) who is the author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and Touch, which I read back in February. I had loved those books so much that I was curious what her other novels were like. A Madness of Angels is an Urban Fantasy novel about a sorcerer who had been murdered, then is resurrected two years later, but he doesn’t come back alone. The book is kind of a mixture of The Dresden Files (back when Harry had one of the Fallen trapped in his head), Neverwhere and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. I have actually been curious about this book since it’s publication – I had been working in a different bookstore back then and would pass it on the shelf and kept thinking I’d read it someday. Now that day has come and I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I really enjoyed this book- the story was interesting and her magic system was different from what I’ve read so far. I really liked how closely the magic was tied to the life of the city and how it was pulled from normal things. But on the other hand, it took me forever to get into the book (I almost put it down in favor of other books several times just in the first 30 pages) and then it never became a book that I couldn’t put down. I also never became as attached to the main character as I am to Harry Dresden. But Griffin’s writing style continues to fascinate me – she does really unique things with her writing. In this case, the way she switched from singular to plural pronouns. At first it frustrated me because it seemed random and I didn’t understand the reason, but once I found the pattern and the background I was fascinated by how well she integrated the concept.

Ms. Marvel

I really want to read the current Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel books, but decided to start with the 2066 run of Ms. Marvel for some added background. There were some parts that I really enjoyed, but there seemed to be a lot of dropped plot threads once Secret Invasion and Dark Reign took place and that frustrates me. I don’t know if I just missed something along the way, or if something happened in another title I wasn’t reading, but there are several things I was waiting for pay off on that never seemed to come. Plus the story seemed to jump around a lot, especially between Secret Invasion and Dark Reign.

Secret Invasion

secret invasionOne thing I had forgotten (and I think I might have mentioned this before) is how much comics are tied together. In the last couple years most of my graphic novel reading had been Sandman, Fables, The Walking Dead – all titles that stand alone in their old worlds and aren’t affected by events elsewhere. The Marvel Universe isn’t like that, and it’s taking me a while to readjust to this. Plus, since I’ve still only read fairly recent titles there’s a lot of back story to all the Marvel titles that I’m not yet familiar with. Reading Secret Invasion (and the follow-up Dark Reign) has helped me fill in some of the blanks during my Daredevil reading. At least now I know how Norman Osborne came to be in charge of his own version of the Avengers (and how Bullseye ended up wearing Hawkeye’s costume).

Original Sin

I came to the Original Sin tie-in for Daredevil and decided I would just read the entire story to help understand what was happening – plus I knew this was last summer’s big event in the Marvel Universe. It never ceases to amaze me in these comics now no one ever really trusts anyone else. They fight side by side when necessary, but they’re also very quick to believe the worst when it comes to that. Of course, characters like Nick Fury are hard to trust because he never tells anyone the whole story. I thought the story was interesting, and reading it finally helped me understood what led to Thor losing control of Mjolnir.

And there’s what I was reading in May. My current reads include (a few have been on the list for a while because they got displaced by other titles):

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Mort by Terry Pratchett
Civil War (Marvel) by various writers and artists

And my upcoming reads include (Subject to change based on whim and mood):

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Blood and Iron by Jon Sprunk
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
Orphan Train by Christine Baker Kline
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

If you’re interested in staying up-to-date on what books I’m reading you can also find me on Goodreads.

CJ’s Bookshelf: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

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Sculptor CoverI’m hesitant to review The Sculptor because I don’t feel that I have enough experience reading graphic novels to give an informed opinion on the book. I enjoy Marvel comics, and I am a big fan of The Sandman, Watchmen, Y the Last Man and The Walking Dead. I’ve read a few Fables and The Unwritten, as well as the first volumes of Persepolis and Maus.

But as for critically reading and reviewing a graphic novel? I feel somewhat inadequate. However, after reading Scott McCloud‘s The Sculptor I felt that I had to share my opinion on the graphic novel, which in my limited experience is one of the best I’ve ever read.

McCloud is known for his books about comics, such as Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art but in The Sculptor he tells a unique and haunting story about creating art and the lengths an artist would be willing to go to in order to achieve recognition and validation of his art.

Young David Smith is an aspiring sculptor who just wants to world to see his talent, but a past falling out with a benefactor has left him disheartened. Just as he finds himself unemployed and nearly penniless he is visited by Death who has taken on the form of his Great-Uncle Harry. Death makes a deal with David – he will give him the ability to create art from any medium with is hands, but in exchange David only has another 200 days to live. From there David’s life takes on a new purpose and direction as he works against time to get his name and artwork out to the world, as his life takes a few unexpected turns.

Sculptor panelsThis story is absolutely beautiful and tragic, imaginative and emotional, and in the end it’s about life. The one thing I walked away with from reading this book is the importance of everyone around us and making each day count. That may sound cliche, and McCloud gets that point across without sounding nearly as cheesy as I just did, but when it comes down to it, that’s what I felt this story was about. Once I picked the book up and started reading I just couldn’t stop.

Not only is the story incredible, but the artwork is gorgeous as well. The style is fairly simple – blues and blacks – but it’s elegant and full of depth. When it rained the sidewalks actually looked wet. The panels are fluid and flow together so well; you can almost feel the motion in some of them. McCloud masterfully managed to evoke emotion through the artwork. The scene where David has a breakdown in the subway felt chaotic and noisy, just as you imagine it would have been. The story seems to take on a life of it’s own as you’re reading; I completely tuned out the entire world around me almost immediately after picking it up to read.

While I love all the graphic novels I’ve read, I don’ think I’ve read one yet that has drawn me into the story nearly as much as this one has. If you’re at all interested in graphic novels then I can’t recommend this one enough. But you don’t have to take my word for it, the cover of the book itself contains Neil Gaiman‘s assessment, “The best graphic novel I’ve read in years.” And if you can’t trust the opinion of the man who brought us The Sandman, who can you trust?