Mercedes Lackey’s The Spellbound Child

Mercedes Lackey’s The Spellbound Child

The Case of the Spellbound Child by Mercedes Lackey

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I’ve loved Ms. Lackey’s Elemental Masters series from The Fire Rose – which is probably why I continue to pick up every new addition, despite the fact I drag through all of the “Sherlock” volumes, hoping for a return to the delight I found with the first handful of books. Maybe they’re a treat for devotees of the master sleuth, but I’ve yet to find a single one I didn’t want to beat my head with. The presence of Sherlock provides an unwanted deus ex machina that turns the story from a rewritten fairy tale to a bumbling farce. Except, this time, you got the addition of the struggle to even READ a good portion! I appreciate wanting to remain true to a regional dialect. Still, so much of the Dartmoor dialogue left me reading, re-reading, and RE-READING, struggling to parse the meaning. Nothing throws you out of a story faster than a lack of comprehension! You need to find a middle ground between respecting an area’s manner of speaking and allowing a reader to immerse themselves in the story – AND understand what’s happening.
Even worse, the editing was deplorable. While I understand you pay slightly less for a Kindle version of a book, that shouldn’t translate to less care with the final product. Section breaks disappeared in a couple places, leading to sudden shifts in POV. Spelling and grammar errors show up EVERYWHERE, and you even have simple indents missing. It created a sloppy document any writer would cringe to submit for publication. That you expect a reader to accept such a thing? That’s unacceptable.



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The eBook Dilemma

The eBook Dilemma

Every reader has their quirks. Some people collect hardbound books like library treasures. They’re aiming for a leather and gilt trove you usually only see in the movies. (Of course, they usually never READ those books; they’re strictly for show) Other readers stick to paperbacks. And they have different reasons. The softcovers take up less room on a shelf, allowing you to stack more in a smaller space. They weigh less, meaning less risk of a buckling shelf. And, of course, the cost comes in lower, so you can purchase twice as many. (Or is that my logic coming through?)

Then you have the genuine book snobs.

They want every volume to match. So they’ll hunt down covers by the same artist – regardless of cost. If a publisher decides to change printing format mid-way through a series, they have a meltdown. When new volumes get released years down the road that feature a design on the spine, they splurge and re-buy the entire series. Every book on their shelves is the same height. They sort by color (or some other insane logic). When you come over, they proudly show you their card catalogue – and ask you to fill out a card when you borrow one of their books.

Books are precious to readers. You can’t break spines, crease pages, or spill anything on them. If one of us see you abusing a piece of literary treasure, we’ll hastily provide you with one of the thousands of bookmarks we’ve accumulated over the years. And while we don’t hesitate to share our favorite stories with you, letting a book out of our hands is beyond difficult.

And I’m not different.

If you’re a favorite author of mine? I buy your work in hardback. New authors I haven’t taken a risk on yet? You’re in paperback. Everything’s organized in alphabetical order. So you’ll see varying heights and sizes along the shelves. Depending on when I fell in love with an author, the covers may or may not “match.” (And, no, I’m not wasting time and money chasing down the matching spines) Manga’s organized alphabetically by title, rather than author. And the same goes for my comics and light novels. Quirky? Yes. But not THAT out there. Where I drew the line was when eBooks hit.

I HATED the idea. How could anyone NOT want to hold a book and cover their walls in shelves? Who wanted to throw out the smell of printed paper? Not to mention the nonsense of tapping a screen in favor of turning a page, feeling parchment between your fingers. I rebelled and sneered. There was no way I was EVER going to bend and get one of those ridiculous things. Instead, I proudly proclaimed that I’d be the woman in Fahrenheit 451, burning alive in a house stuffed to the rafters with books.

Until some of my favorite writers sucker-punched me.

They wrote novellas ONLY available in eBook format. I understood the logic, too: publishers don’t want to spend money on novellas. They’re not worth the cost. But eBooks? They don’t require paper or ink. For months, I agonized and stared at the little note next to the cover on the Amazon listing. And, finally, with gritted teeth, I brought home a Nook. Of course, I assured anyone who’d listen (and even some who didn’t), the tablet was strictly for those books I couldn’t reach any other way.

And, for the most part, that’s what the poor device has served for. Any time I stumbled upon something I couldn’t find in any other format, it went onto my Kindle app. Where other people I know turned to their eBooks to save on weight and space in their luggage when traveling, I continue to have no qualms with hauling half a library around with me. I refused to compromise on my book standards. No way was I buying an electronic version of a book I wanted for “convenience.”

Funny how the Universe gets to you sometimes.

By accident, I didn’t pay attention to the book type on my Wish List a few months ago. So when I went to purchase it, I was confused when it said I could read it immediately (rather than offering a shipping option). Turns out, I’d picked the Kindle version. Annoyed, I rolled my eyes and grumbled that I’d get around to reading it eventually. And then I forgot about it. Well, until I could only find the Kindle version of one of the comic volumes I wanted to read, and I noticed a “New” tag on two covers in the Kindle library. But, again, I wasn’t interested in reading it at that moment.

Fast forward to this weekend when I discovered that roller skating is not like riding a bike. I sprained my left shoulder. And while I’d started Keeper of the Lost Cities: Nightfall over the weekend, attempting to lift the book wasn’t possible. All I got was pain. Probably because the volume weighs almost 1.5 POUNDS! My love for a physical book suddenly presented a real problem. I couldn’t NOT read before bed, though.

Which was when I remembered the Nook. And the case with a stand. Grudgingly, I admitted the eBook was useful in that situation. And while it took a little bit of resettling to find a way to tap the side of the screen to “turn the pages,” I finally ended up comfortable – and able to read.

I’m not ready to abandon my shelves and shelves (and shelves) of books by any means. But I CAN see a reason to allow the occasion electronic volume to slip through my fingers. Just in case.

Black Cat: On the Run

Black Cat: On the Run

Black Cat, Vol. 2: On The Run by Jed Mackay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I’ll give Mr. MacKay some credit – this volume read better than the first (an important lesson on continuing when you have the slightest pique of interest when reading). Toning back some of the absurd humor made the biggest difference and tying in a coherent plot. Felicia feels more like a coherent character rather than a random person in a series of vignettes. Black Fox has yet to step out of his cardboard shell, but he’s getting there. And the weaving together of so many other Marvel worlds feels strange but believable at the same time. (I suppose DC does the same thing, but it feels more evident in Black Cat). It’s enough of an improvement – and a greater enjoyment – to encourage me to stick with the series.



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Harley Quinn and Power Girl

Harley Quinn and Power Girl

Harley Quinn and Power Girl by Amanda Conner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Ms. Conner and Mr. Palmiotti remain in rare form. And who didn’t have a burning desire to know what happened in those few panels back in volume 2 (Power Outage)? It’s the perfect tongue-in-cheek humor you’d expect from Harley in space. And while it probably helps to have some knowledge of Power Girl (something I lack completely), you can get through the plot without a problem if you’re clueless. The team provides enough background and clues to help you limp along through her backstory – something they’ve always managed to do with all of their volumes. Any true fan will appreciate the diversion.



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Harley Quinn: The Final Trial

Harley Quinn: The Final Trial

Harley Quinn, Vol. 4: The Final Trial by Sam Humphries

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


How do you cope with heavy emotional states in a character like Harley Quinn? It’s a complicated question – one that plenty of writers have explored (at least, as far as I’ve read). And Mr. Humphries and Mr. Russell tackled it in one of the best ways I’ve encountered to date. While I wanted to throttle them for the opening of the volume (they went there; they actually went there), the handling of the final trial proceeded better than I imagined. And instead of cycling down a whirlpool of half-choked laughter the way other writers have, they launched into Meredith’s comic on comic book events. Which was so perfect and accurate, you can’t help but laugh and feel at ease. They nailed the average reader’s perception so perfectly, too. Because I HATE those stupid notes encouraging you to buy fifty different comics to comprehend a single plotline (and I don’t do it – often leaving me with a vague idea of what’s going on). Everything tied together perfectly. Well done, fellas.



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Harley Quinn: The Trials of Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn: The Trials of Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn, Vol. 3: The Trials of Harley Quinn by Sam Humphries

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Who says comics don’t kick you in the teeth with serious issues? (And, no, I’m not referring to the destruction of worlds) I mean, how brutal can you get, Mr. Humphries? You didn’t feel Harley had enough to deal with in her life? You had to up and give her mom cancer? It undercuts the best of the humor within the Trials of Harley Quinn – though Mirand’r is fantastic, don’t get me wrong. And putting Batman in a judgmental light of leaping to conclusions was nice to see – though that might be my personal bias coming out. You also can’t deny the hilarity of Meredith’s inserts of the Villain of the Year excerpts. They’re a pure joy to read and (for anyone familiar with Apex Lex) likely a fresh change to see a supervillain scrambling to recruit someone else to their cause.



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Harley Quinn: Harley Destroys the Universe

Harley Quinn: Harley Destroys the Universe

Harley Quinn, Vol. 2: Harley Destroys the Universe by Sam Humphries

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


You have to appreciate writers willing to poke humor at the system they work for. And what’s a bigger issue with comics than continuity? So I have to applaud Mr. Humphries and Mr. Russell for allowing Harley (or, rather, Meredith) to run rampant with continuity among the DC universe and turn everything on its head. Even without a complete understanding of the various characters and their stories, you get the mayhem. (Please – the dinosaurs?) And Johnni DC is the perfect blend of exasperation and sass. You can almost see DC having a division where she’s employed on the side. The humor helps soften the blow you feel coming in the background with Harley’s mother. And, as a devoted animal-lover (and a woman), the final installment with the cats was sheer perfection. As comics frequently decide to undercut the female gender, I tip my hat to these gentlemen.



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Harley Quinn vs. Apokolips

Harley Quinn vs. Apokolips

Harley Quinn, Vol. 1: Harley vs. Apokolips by Sam Humphries

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Mr. Humphries and Mr. Sebela take Harley to a completely different level – literally. And while you might need some background in other DC comics to have your footing (or, you know, watch the Harley Quinn animated series), it doesn’t take long to puzzle out what’s happening with Granny Goodness on Apokolips. And the poor endless struggle to meet finances. The team pulls off the routine theme in a new way that doesn’t make it feel tired or repetitive. And the same goes for the ever-present question of Harley’s sanity (the lack thereof?). It’s the perfect tongue-in-cheek plot that any genuine fan will rally behind and cheer.



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Harley Quinn’s Villain of the Year

Harley Quinn’s Villain of the Year

(Okay, it’s short enough I shouldn’t count it towards my reading goal. However, I bought it and sat up after finishing Lodestar, so I figure it’s worth mentioning)

Harley Quinn: Year of the Villain (2019-) #1 by Mark Russell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Mr. Russell is an absolute genius. Harley hosting an award ceremony for the DC villains? Is there anything better than that? Not to mention ripping off some of the most iconic dresses from the red carpet. I have no idea how it figures into the bigger event – and, admittedly, no desire to find out – but it works on its own. It’s the perfect little break for anyone who needs a quick laugh and enjoys the darker side of the comic world.



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Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities: Lodestar

Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities: Lodestar

Lodestar by Shannon Messenger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Ms. Messenger heeded the request of readers everywhere and picked up the pacing of Sophie’s adventures with this volume. And while there’s still plenty of teenage angst to contend with, the crumbling layers of the Elvin world start to show themselves. And, I, at least, appreciate getting to peel back the diamonds and pearls and see the mold and rot lying underneath. All of the opulence present gets cloying at times (is there a need for it?). The skulking, hiding, and lies beneath the lavish shell help cut the treacle. Though it’d be nice if Sophie caught on to the parallels between her new world and the human world she spent most of her existence within. Thus far, she seems oblivious to the similarities. It’s an annoyance, considering she’s the expert there. Perhaps, with the revelation of the final chapters, things will change in that direction with the next volume.



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