The good fight, peacefully…

Fables Vol. 10: The Good Prince (Fables (Graphic Novels))
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator)

Flycatcher‘s story. Single-handedly invading the Homelands. Third time‘s a charm, after Bigby Wolf and Boy Blue…

Frau Totenkinder is smart, but very scary. There is some pretty gung-ho diplomacy. And Flycatcher cleans up nicely. I didn‘t expect the Arthurian Legend or Lancelot. Nice twist.

The Interlude: The Birthday Secret was cute. Very different artwork. It worked well. Finally the cubs find out something important on their fifth birthday.

Back to the Good Prince. Most of the crew in Fabletown watching Flycatcher through the magic mirror—that was a fun idea. 

I really liked what happened with the Magic Grove. Nice art & ending. The final full artwork pages were especially nice.

That was a proper fairytale!
4/5 🐸🤴🏻🧌⚔️ 

Collecting: Fables 60-69

Bit of a slower Fables… it‘s probably me…

Fables Vol. 9: Sons of Empire
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Artist), Mike Allred (Illustrator), Joëlle Jones (Illustrator)

A very large number of artists contributed to this volume. It alternates between the main story and variously themed amusing short stories. The artwork in the short stories is hit and miss. 

Spoilers from here on… you should not proceed, if you are still reading or plan to read this series at some point.

Gepetto‘s hut and the holy grove have burned down. The emperor is angry. Where is Pinocchio in all this? Ensorceled! Forces gather in the Imperial City. The Snow Queen makes an announcement… Fabletown is in deep trouble. Permanent Winter is upon us! 

Aaaaaand…. We get a short story about Hair!? Ok, yes, the Rapunzel story was fun and kinda sad… 
Small recommendation for the author: get a beta-reader whose mother tongue is German. Just saying. It‘s weird, m‘kay?

The Four Plagues, um… “This is how the world ends.“ 😬
That is a grim plan of action! The Snow Queen is scary.

The next short story, Porky Pine Pie, has very pretty artwork. Watercolour style, my thing…

And then back to potential warfare and Burning Times and an interesting followup to the fairytale of Hänsel and Gretel. 🍭🍬🍭🍬 

And another short story, A Thorn in Their Side, about that Mundy reporter following the Fables in their tracks. Very short, pleasant artwork. I wonder if he will end up at the Farm one of these days?

Over There, Part 4 of Sons of Empire: This feels a bit like the first X-Men movie and Bigby Wolf reminds me more and more of Wolverine. The Adversary is planning an all-out war. We get some war games and adjustments to plans… well done. 🐺🐺🐺🐺🐺 

And another short story / interlude… The Road to Paradise. Three visually impaired mice… ok, that one was odd and a bit pointless… 🐁🐁🐁 
Followed by a strange Christmas triplet thing with Jack, Wolf Valley and then the farm. I like the developing friendship between Boy Blue and Rose Red. I assume this part came out around Christmas. Merry Christmas, Fables team! The Christmas story with the kids is cute, but I‘m a little disappointed how gender stereotypical they are portrayed. 🤶🎅🎄🎅🤶 

Father and Son: Aka Mr. North and Bigby Wolf. And family. The art was not my thing. 🐺🐺🐺 

Burning Questions: Snippets of 3 pages each or so, answering questions from fans. Ok… 🤷‍♀️ 🤷‍♂️ 

This volume was a mixed bag, the short stories disrupted the build-up of suspense of the main story.

Collecting: Fables 52-59

Mowgli channels his inner Tarzan to go and see about a Wolf…

Fables Vol. 8: Wolves (Fables (Graphic Novels))
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator), Shawn McManus (Illustrator)

A bit on the spoilerish side… Wolves starts off with Mowgli, still tracking Bigby Wolf. This alternates with the kids at the farm, learnig to control their shapeshifting and flying.

And then, in part 2, Mowgli does his Tarzan thing and finally finds the big, bad wolf… 

Nice intro into Happily Ever After. Bigby is straight off into a mission, going up a beanstalk to meet a wizard in the cloud kingdom about something… and then he is off behind enemy lines. Fun sequence, Mission Impossible style! And he has an extraction bean with him, lol… That mission is very well told. 

And then there is the longed for reunion with Snow. Awww…. Happily ever after! 

Aaand we get another short story, Big and Small. Cinderella being Small and the guys at the top of the beanstalk being Big. Comic relief. The art is a simpler and flatter style, but I liked it. Everything in this caper takes three days… 😂 

Next is a Special Travel Supplement. Maps! Well, ok, two maps… one for Fabletown and one for the Farm. And then we get the complete script of Happily Ever After. Nope, I did not read the whole thing, but it was interesting to see what a comic script looks like. Skim-skimmity-skim.

Collecting: Fables 48-51

Murder, revenge and demons

The Puppetmaster
by Kemi Ashing-Giwa

A story of revenge and of demons from another universe. Best guess, inspired by Japanese culture. Short, grim and good.

“Uduak IX may have ordered an assassin to gut his niece in a holy monastery, but he is still a man of honor. As emperor of Johari IX, the greatest human-ruled planet in the Known Worlds, honor is an attribute to be expected. And so before he had her butchered, he gave the order that she would be allowed a single sheet of solar parchment and a holographic brush so she might write her last words.“

15 pages, from 👹 👹 👹 👹 👹
Can be read for free here

Added to my TBR pile: The Sufficient Loss Protocol

    “When an alien entity sneaks aboard a corporate spaceship, with no motive besides sabotaging the mission and murdering those aboard, commander Uzoma Ifiok launches an investigation—despite knowing that the real danger isn’t the one picking off her crew.”

    And read previously: Fruiting Bodies

    “An alien fungal infection has ravaged a faraway planet, turning all but six of the colonists into ravenous arinkiris. Inyama, a mycologist, is her species’ last hope. But it’s not expertise her fellow survivors want from her.”

    I liked it. Well written, tightly plotted. Very short, but with a nice plot bunny at the end.

    East and West clash and then Wood and Meat…

    Fables Vol. 7: Arabian Nights (and Days)
    by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator)

    The Adversary has started his campaign against the Arabian fables. Sindbad arrives in Fabletown. And Mowgli is tracking Bigby Wolf. Sinbad brings a Djinn, which means big trouble…

    The tale of how the fables deal with the Djinn is entertaining and leads to a very gruesome ending for someone. Unexpected romance vibes at the end. The search for Bigby Wolf was in the sidelines and did not lead to much. Overall good. 🧞‍♀️🧞‍♂️🧞🧞‍♀️ 

    And then we get The Ballad of Rodney and June, I assume as an additional short story and a glimpse at the Arabian campaign, seen from the POV of a wooden soldier of the Adversary‘s forces. Plus we get some forbidden love and another road trip through the Homelands. And a second life. Oh wow, this part was really, really good. Excellent story telling. This is where this volume really shines. 🪵🪵🪵🪵🪵 

    Collecting: Fables 42-47

    Some interludes and the real Adversary…

    Fables Vol. 6: Homelands (Fables, #6)
    by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator)

    We are following up with the fables that left Fabletown after the election of Prince Douchebag to major of Fabletown and Snow White being banished to the Farm. 

    The first 50 pages are about Jack and with different artwork again. Although not as ugly as the artwork at the beginning of the last volume. The artwork is very is simple, with little detail, but ok. Strange earlobes? 

    Jack hits Hollywood with one of his schemes. The casting couch thing is pretty off, even if this was written in 2006. But I guess it is part of his obnoxious persona. I get the point of the story, but did not like it particularly much. It‘s mostly about nasty people, treating other less powerful people badly. Not very attractive. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

    Once Jack‘s story is done, we move on to the old Homelands and meet a goblin and an orc (?), doing their duty and collecting taxes from human fables. They are pretty funny… until they meet Boy Blue.

    One, two! One, two! And through and through 
          The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

    Boy Blue give s a pretty good Robin Hood impression. The bit with Saint George‘s dragon is pretty funny. We get an interlude hopefully eventually leading back to the main story with Bigby Wolf, which is what I was waiting for since the ending of the previous volume. And finally the identity of the Adversary is revealed to us. Dang, I expected that. 👺 👺 👺 👺

    Collecting: Fables 34-41

    Reading inspired by this volume:
    Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll — Ruslan and Ludmila by A.Pushkin — The Snow Queen: Illustrated by T. Pym

    April 2023 Wrap-up

    My April 2023: (links lead to goodreads)

    And Put Away Childish Things 🧚‍♀️🧚‍♂️🧚🧚‍♀️☆ Netgalley, a wardrobe and an unhappy Underhill.
    Antimatter Blues (Mickey7 #2) 🐛🐛🐛🐛🐛 ebook, popcorn fiction with creepy crawlies on a colony planet. Things go Boom!
    Pretender (Foreigner #8) ★★★★☆ audio
    – Pacific Storm 🌀🌀🌀🌀☆ overdue Netgalley, near-future SF cop thriller.
    – Dogs of War 🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕 KU, Rex is a good dog. Loved it. Rex had such a great voice. 
    – Swordheart 🦡🦡🦡🦡🦡 audible freebie with the subscription, entertaining sword and sorcery with a slightly clueless widow and an enchanted barbarian.
    – Prophets of the Ghost Ants DNF at 48% 💣, very old Netgalley. Dystopia, insect-sized humans with an ant army, too much cruelty, racism, gratuitous violence, no meaningful development.
    – Ocean Grave, KU, DNF after 140 pages 💣. Swim the other way, quickly! Seriously, this was bad. 
    – Chicks Kick Butt, paper, from my TBR pile. DNF after 86 pages and 23% 💣. Anthology of stories that are part of longer series. Realized that I really do not enjoy most UF anymore. 

    Graphic novels/comics
    – Southbound! (Les Beaux Étés #1) by Zidrou ☀️☀️☀️☀️☆ eComic, family story, pretty artwork.
    – Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile 🧚‍♀️🧚‍♂️🧚½☆, fairyland characters in exile in New York and a murder case.
    – Fables Vol. 2: Animal Farm (Fables 🧚‍♂️🧚🧚‍♀️🧚‍♂️🧚 I had fun and liked the story, although the artwork was not a highlight.
    – Fables Vol. 3: Storybook Love 🧚🧚‍♀️🧚‍♂️☆☆ collection of romance-themed stories, mature content. It was ok. 
    – Fables Vol. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers (Fables 🧙‍♀️🧙🧙‍♀️🧙‍♀️🧙, backstory and a battle.
    – Fables Vol. 5: The Mean Seasons (Fables 💨💨💨💨½, a look back at Bigby. Flying babies and murder.

    Shorts stories
    – THREE CUPS OF GRIEF, BY STARLIGHT by Aliette de Bodard | Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 100, January 2015 ★★¾☆☆
    – Salt Water by Eugenia Triantafyllou | | 🐙🐙🐙🐙☆ |…

    – Strange Animals 🦒🦓🦔🐸🦅 Netgalley, coffee table book with photos of quirky animals.
    – Food: A Cultural Culinary History, audio, The Great Courses, non-fiction, DNF after 10 hours, at 55%. 💣 

    currently reading…
    – Call of the Reed Warbler, audio, non-fiction, regenerative agriculture in Australia, ongoing, but struggling…
    – The Last Astronaut, ebook, TBR pile
    – Fables Vol. 6: Homelands, eComic, KU

    Specfic on the small screen:
    – Picard S3, done, thank goodness. It wasn‘t bad, but… 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♂️🤷 
    – Carnival Row S2, abandoned in the penultimate episode. The last part didn‘t do anything for me.
    – Mandalorian S3, done. That was fun! ★★★★★ (No Grogu emoji, sadly…)

    It‘s a shocking amount of DNFs. Not my usual style. But I am finally working on my backlog—old Netgalleys, my TBR pile, KUs that I have been meaning to read for ages… Time passes, tastes change… in the process I did kick some books off my shelves right away, without even trying to read them. Let‘s see how long the cleaning mania lasts.

    Despite the many DNFs I also had a nice amount of 5-stars and finally started Fables. Good month!

    Oh, and I took part in Dewey’s April readathon this weekend. Well, kinda, I was out and about for part of it. Still, I managed:
    326 pages of eye reading
    8 h 44 minutes of audio.

    Total pages and minutes in April 2023:

    I hope I can keep it up in May… First I need to finish The Last Astronaut, then I will tackle my buddy reads, Lords of UncreationThe Unsettling Stars and Planet of the Apes. And then my backlog…

    Entertaining sword-and-sorcery

    by T. KingfisherJesse Vilinsky (Narrator)

    Funny! Comfort read! Audio with great accents! Great ideas! I enjoyed this so much that I just kept going and never took any notes. Halla is unintentionally funny, naive, willfully clueless and ever curious—I understand why Sarkis keeps banging his head against inanimate objects. And he has a delightful brogue in the audio. Scottish?

    “Sarkis turned around and began to beat his forehead very gently against the wall. “The great god is punishing me,” he said softly, “for my crimes. I cannot go to his hell, and so he has sent a woman to torment me.” 

    What is it about? Halla is a 36-year old widow, looking after an elderly collector of curious items. After his death she inherits all of this estate. Her mother-in-law and cousin are having none of it. She is locked up and confronted with a forced marriage to her cousin with the clammy hands. She considers to kill herself with an old sword to avoid that situation and ends up with an enchanted warrior coming out of said sword. Sarkis now has the job of protecting her, as long as she is his wielder. They have to flee her relatives and run into all kinds of trouble whilst trying to figure out how she can get a hold of her inheritance. On the way they pick up a non-binary priest and a gnole—a badger/weasel with a very dry sense of humour. I was enchanted.

    Sword-and-sorcery on the somewhat silly side. If you are looking for a light read with some laughs, some snark and a little romance, this could be it. I recommend the audio.

    My last two reading relays for Dewey‘s readathon were ok. During the week I always read less. By the time I am done with work, I often opt for watching TV, it‘s easier on the brain. Anyway, I started to read The Last Astronaut. The first 50 pages were good so far! My plans for tomorrow fell through. Not sure yet what else we might do. Potentially I stay home and actually participate in the readathon, I‘ll see.

    Cleaning my TBR shelf… Paranormal Romance!

    The other day I picked three books from my shelf, decided for one of them and put the other two as nah-not-in-the-mood on my coffee table. Executive decision: putting them into my give-away-basket. Here is the second book that has to go:

    In 2016 I read and loved a book, read two novellas from that world and then bought the sequel. But I was never in the mood. It‘s probably fun, but I am so done with historical and/or paranormal romance at the moment. Plus the very first sequence of the book was a sex scene of a lord and a whore. Sigh, really not in the mood.

    Here is the book that I am tossing into my out-basket:

    Moonglow (Darkest London, #2)
    by Kristen Callihan

    Finally free of her suffocating marriage, widow Daisy Ellis Craigmore is ready to embrace the pleasures of life that have long been denied her. Yet her new-found freedom is short lived. A string of unexplained murders has brought danger to Daisy’s door, forcing her to turn to the most unlikely of saviors . . .

    Ian Ranulf, the Marquis of Northrup, has spent lifetimes hiding his primal nature from London society. But now a vicious killer threatens to expose his secrets. Ian must step out of the shadows and protect the beautiful, fearless Daisy, who awakens in him desires he thought long dead. As their quest to unmask the villain draws them closer together, Daisy has no choice but to reveal her own startling secret, and Ian must face the undeniable truth: Losing his heart to Daisy may be the only way to save his soul.

    From the book blurb

    And here are my 2016 reviews of the novellas and the first full-length novel, in series order:

    Ember (Darkest London, #0.5) 

    Entertaining prequel to Firelight, the first book in the Darkest London series. It revolves around Miri and Archer, same as Firelight. I would recommend reading Firelight first, as the prequel is quite spoilerish and would give too much away of the revelations in Firelight. Nice addition though, if you want to find out more about the time between Miri’s and Archers first meeting and their wedding.

    Fairly well plotted, with alternating POVs. Some suspense, some sex. Pretty rudimentary world building, but then it’s fairly short. Probably a little hard to understand what is going on, without having read Firelight. Which I now want to re-read, as I have already forgotten quite a bit about Archer’s curse.

    My Kindle edition contained previews of Firelight and Moonglow.

    Firelight (Darkest London, #1) 

    Beauty and the Beast? Or more Phantom of the Opera? 

    Historical romance in the vein of Regency romance, but set a little later. Let’s call it Gaslight romance…? With a dash of magic and some intrigue. Definitely not Steampunk, PNR or UF.

    A girl with a fire-magic gift of some sort and a mysterious, tall stranger, wearing a mask and suffering from some disfigurement or curse… 10% into the book I was enjoying myself already and wanted to marry him myself. 

    Some romance tropes were not entirely avoided. The main characters falling into instant lust, lack of communication, mistrust… By the middle of the book I wanted to smack their heads together. There must be a better way to create tension and suspense in a novel than the main characters not talking to each other? It’s annoying and very over-done.

    Bonus points for the female character not being a quivering virgin!

    Details and world building on the supernatural parts could have been a bit better.

    The beginning of the story was very good. Humour, plot, action, all well done and very entertaining. The last third of the book fell flat a little, as if the steam had gone out of it somewhat. I had expected more. 

    But overall the book was much better than I expected and very entertaining. The glimpse into the next book makes me consider getting the next one in the series…

    Entwined (Darkest London, #3.5) 

    Highly entertaining. Silly. Full of the usual shenanigans of historical romance novels, with a small dash of the paranormal. Arranged marriage, Cyrano de Bergerac on crack, lots of lies, people keeping secrets all around and complete failiure to talk to each other. Steamy sex. Murder. Some violence and severed body parts. Great fun. 

    Going back to reading this series in it’s proper order now. You probably should read it in order anyway. The last line of this novella might be spoilerish for another novel. I can’t tell yet, as I’ve definitely not followed my own advice. But I don’t care. Getting the next book now.

    Capers, romance, the woods, a werewolf…

    Fables Vol. 3: Storybook Love
    by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator), Lan Medina (Illustrator), Bryan Talbot (Illustrator), Linda Medley (Illustrator)

    This volume is a collection of romance-themed stories. Shorter stories with changing artwork and artists. 

    Starting with Jack from the Mountain during the American Civil War. Never heard of the guy. Anyway, he cheats the devil… Content warning/rating: graphic sex, for mature readers. And lots of blood and mutilated, walking corpses. We have left fairyland. Forgettable. 

    Next is a two-part caper with several of the main characters of the previous volumes. Prince Charming is still a douchebag. The caper is entertaining, the solution to Sleeping Beauty‘s wake-up kiss is amusing.

    PS: why do we keep meeting the Big Bad Wolf, but not Red Riding Hood? And why is she called „Riding“? There is no riding in that fairytale. Anyway…. Anne Rice is mentioned! I liked this little story arc.

    The next part featured the Mouse Police. Followed by a bunch of other chapter headings—it was somewhat confusing, I eventually lost the plot. Anyway, one was called Into the Woods and Chris Pine started singing in my head… followed by The Wolf‘s Tale… Finally we got to see Bigby Wolf as a wolf! About time, a well drawn wolf and much prettier than the human version. Who strangely enough in some scenes didn’t seem to have a mouth. Very odd. Plus this mouthless version was definitely the ugliest rendering of Bigby Wolf, which made the romance a little challenging. More graphic violence, lots of blood and murder along the way.

    Generally better artwork than Vol. 2. I liked the page layouts in the middle. I‘m not a fan of artists changing throughout a collected volume, it makes the whole experience so uneven. 

    The stories were ok, I did like the caper story and the part with Snow White and Bigby Wolf in the woods. But all things considered, this was just ok. 🧚‍♀️ 🧚‍♂️ 🧚

    Collecting: Fables 11-18