Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: FRENCH LESSONS by Peter Mayle

Cover illustration by Ruth Marten.

Like the other two Mayle books I’ve read recently, this is a collection of essays on a theme. The theme here is food and drink, and the connecting thread is the author’s treks around France to various festivals, activities and events celebrating some of the more unusual items on the French menu. Accompanied by French gourmet friends, and occasionally his wife, Mayle investigates frogs and their edible legs, chickens with blue feet, very smelly cheese, snails, French Riviera bistros, a marathon through wine vineyards, an intoxicating wine auction in Burgundy, a gourmet health spa and more. All the adventures are told in Mayle’s very entertaining and witty style with plenty of humor directed at himself as well as those he meets. I have now decided that Mayle’s writing will please and delight me no matter what topic he tackles, as in a few here that normally I would not want to read about! I will look for more Mayle books at future book sales.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: MISTER MIRACLE #10

Image © DC Entertainment. Written by Tom King, art and coloring by Mitch Gerads, lettering by Clayton Cowles.

Unlike the last few issues, this one takes place mainly on Earth, in the continuity where Scott Free, Barda and their infant son Jacob are living a mundane existence in a nondescript apartment in an anywhere, USA neighborhood. Scott continues to be torn apart by the decision he’s been asked to make: he can halt the current war between Apokolips and New Genesis, thereby saving millions of lives, if he is willing to give his son Jack to Darkseid. Scott and Barda grew up on Apokolips, so they know full well what that would mean for Jack. Barda is understandably against it, but Scott is wavering, haunted by the choice. Not much happens physically this issue, but a great deal happens emotionally and between the characters. It’s an issue that shows how powerful good comics writing can be. Oh, and how did I not notice before that the baby has the same first name as his parents’ creator?

Recommended.

And Then I Read: GREEN LANTERNS #49

Image © DC Entertainment. Written by Aaron Gillespie, art by Roge Antonio, colors by Hi-Fi, letters by Dave Sharpe.

In the second part of “Rebel Run,” Jessica’s GL partner Simon catches up with her and throws his support behind her. Though he’s supposed to be retrieving  Jessica for Hal Jordan, instead the two of them investigate the strange fit of rage that overtook her, causing injuries to many, that Jessica has no memory of. The answers lie with Accampo, a criminal that Jessica was supposed to be making a deal with to secure incriminating evidence on an important trader, Obazaya V’Sheer. She has no memory of that either, but when they catch up with Accampo, they’re soon headed for V’Sheer’s private pleasure planet.

On the one hand, this story feels like a fill-in between epics. On the other hand, I like the smaller mystery and crime-solving feel. And when Hal Jordan shows up on the wrong side for our heroes, I was actually a bit outraged, so I fell for it all completely. Well done.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: EUROPEAN TRAVEL FOR THE MONSTROUS GENTLEWOMAN by Theodora Goss

Cover illustration © Kate Forrester.

A sequel to “The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter,” which I thoroughly enjoyed, this one is just out recently. The premise is somewhat similar to that of Alan Moore’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” but with mainly female protagonists. The cast of the first book includes the main viewpoint character, Mary Jekyll, her young sister Diana Hyde (daughters of the two aspects of the Stevenson character), Catherine, the panther woman from Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” Beatrice Rappaccini, the poisonous daughter from the Hawthorne story, and Justine Frankenstein, the “bride” created for Frankenstein’s monster. Catherine is the writer of the book as we read it and she tells it, and the story is often interrupted by  comments from the other characters, adding details or disagreeing with Catherine’s narrative, an unusual narrative idea that occasionally gets in the way of the story, but usually adds to it. New characters this time are Irene Adler (Sherlock Holmes’ female counterpart), Mina (Harker) Murray and Count Dracula from the Stoker novel, and Lucinda Van Helsing taking off from the same book. Another important character makes a late appearance, which I won’t spoil.

As the title suggests, the Athena Club, as the women call themselves, are summoned to Europe initially to find and save Lucinda Van Helsing, who is being experimented on by her father. (All the women have been victims of similar treatment.) Mary, Diana and Beatrice lead off, and are followed separately by Catherine and Justine once the first three disappear. It’s a long book with many twists and turns, plenty of thrilling adventures, and exotic locales from Paris to Vienna, the Carpathian mountains to Budapest, all well researched. Other literary and historic figures make appearances, and each character has moments to shine, and moments to fail and be helped by her companions.

A work of fiction requires one to suspend disbelief. The characters must seem real. That’s even harder when the characters have pasts in other books. The one area in this one where I felt the author took a wrong turn was in the handling of Count Dracula. All the characters and their back-stories differ at times from their creator’s versions, but Dracula differs too much, in my opinion, and I could not accept the role he plays in this story completely. I kept waiting for the “real” Dracula to be revealed, and it didn’t happen.

In all, though, it’s a wonderful read, just the kind of thing fantasy and horror fans are likely to enjoy. By all means start with the first book, then read this one. I’m on board for the next one whenever the author can produce it!

And Then I Read: OTZI by Rick Veitch

Image © Rick Veitch.

Rick has sent me his latest self-published work, OTZI. The book is square, 8.25 by 8.25 inches, 142 pages, all in black and white except the covers. There are no dialogue balloons or captions. Every page is a single large panel. It’s a wordless story except for a section about two-thirds in where newspaper stories, signs, and text messages add information.

I knew a little about the real Otzi, nicknamed “The Ice Man,” among other things, whose mummified remains were found in a glacier in the Alps near the border of Italy and Austria. He was found by two tourists, a husband and wife, who thought at first he might be a more recent fatality, but when the remains were retrieved and tested, he was found to have lived between 3100 and 3400 BCE, or about six thousand years ago. The remains have been heavily tested and investigated, and provide many insights into the time period and the people of that time.

I knew a little about that from newspaper articles, but I did not connect the real Otzi with Rick’s story until the section where some text revealed it. Rick’s story is fantasy with some science fictional overtones. At first we see Otzi as he was, in his native ice and rock environment, but he is soon drawn into a phantasmagorical experience of stones flying in formation, and a meeting with a being that seems made of energy. I won’t spoil the story by revealing more, but simply say that Otzi is brought into the modern world and soon has a cult following before disaster strikes. I don’t understand the ending, which is again wordless, but the journey was interesting and visually stunning. The book can be found on Amazon.com among other places, and I recommend it, as I do all Rick’s self-published books.