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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sheep Comic Review: X #2

X #2 by Duane Swierczynski
Writer: Duane Swierczynski

Artist: Eric Nguyen
Colorist: Michelle Madsen
Cover Artist:Dave Wilkins
Genre: Crime, Action/Adventure, Superhero
Dark Horse
Publication Date:June 12, 2013
Format:FC, 32 Pages
Price:$2.99
UPC:7 61568 22527 3 00211


X has a bone to pick with Arcadia’s political kingmaker Berkshire, and the two share some “face time.” Meanwhile, Leigh’s online exposĂ© attracts some murderously angry readers.

Swierczynski and Nguyen take on Dark Horse’s classic vigilante!

I never read comic books as a kid. Did The Punisher get his ass kicked a lot? I only ask since there is a vague Punisher vibe coming from the X Killer. That whole killin' villains with hyper-violent pinache kind of vibe, you know. And when X does it, he tends to walk away with as much of his own blood on his hands as of his enemies. But the dude's tougher than Samsonite luggage wrapped in kevlar.

Still, underground reporter, Leigh Ferguson, finds the masked vigilante battered and bloodied in an alleyway and doing something she didn't expect: asking for her help. What's a girl to do?

Most gals would have high-tailed it out of there before the corrupt police force or the seemingly few surviving gangsters showed up to finish him off. Leigh ain't most girls and piles the masked sack of tenderized meat into her car. Getting blood out of the upholstery is a pain, but so is the police barricade they run into. What's a girl to do?
In Leigh's case, her sleuthing has drawn the ire of not just the sleazy mayor who wants the anonymous blogger spilling the goods on his schemes, but also the X Killer himself. At this point it's a small miracle she hasn't received a gift-wrapped bullet to the brain. But it's not like X can be all that mad at her, since she did pull the proverbial thorn from his paw at the start of this issue. That's gotta count for something, right?

Swierczynski's and Nguyen's X is a cross between a Gatling gun and a rampaging elephant. If he isn't putting a bullet in you, he's stomping a mud hole in you, with a mop and a bucket required at the end more than a body bag. Revenge thrillers don't come with much more carnage than this, unless maybe if you're watching Old Boy or Ichi the Killer. If the action is getting ramped up further in this series, I can't imagine how.


4 1/2 Sheep




Guest Reviewer: Gef Fox

Comic Review: Skullkickers #23 (Dark Skullkickers #1) by Jim Zub

Skullkickers #23: (Dark Skullkickers Dark #1)
Story By: Jim Zubkavich
Art By: Edwin Huang
Art By: Jim Zubkavich
Image Comics
Price: $3.50

Diamond ID: APR130431
Published: July 3, 2013


Yup, we're beating this re-re-re-re-boot dead horse one... more... time. DARK SKULLKICKERS DARK - it's the comic the industry needs, it just doesn't know it yet! Our fourth story arc ends and darkness begins! Secrets are revealed, continuity is poked and, of course, violence is unleashed. For die-hard collectors keeping up with our old sequential numbering, no problem! Our B cover legacy variant is a classic issue twenty-three.


I missed Skullkickers #22, and as such got a little bit lost at the start of Skullkickers #23. I can only assume it was similarly awesome, or I managed to avoid the lone stinker since I started reading the series.

Either way, Rex and Kusa find themselves reunited with the Dwarf at the top of the mountain. Now, I'm not too sure what they were expecting to find after slogging and slugging there way past all kinds of nasty obstacles, but I'm pretty sure a saloon full of drunken revelers was fairly low on the list. And yet that's precisely where they wind up.

Considering the irreverent nature of Skullkickers, I shouldn't be surprised, but surprises is what Jim Zub specializes in. And Edwin Huang's specialty remains his electric illustrations. Each issue features characters and settings that leap off the page, aided by colors from Misty Coates and Ross Campbell that ought to be the envy of every Saturday morning cartoon.

The climax of "Eighty Eyes on an Evil Island" sees a barroom brawl as window dressing around an existential conversation between Kusa and the elfin narrator of this whole story. As for how it all wraps up and leads into the next story arc, well you'll just have to read it to believe it. Just when I think I have things figured out, cue the swerve and we're off in a wild new direction.

If you haven't checked out Skullkickers yet, it looks like the next issue might be a great place to start. If you can track down the back issues of his series though, all the better.


4 and 1/2 Sheep




Guest Reviewer: Gef Fox

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Releases for July 30 in Speculative Fiction

New releases in Speculative fiction for July 30. In case you were wondering how a book gets on my handy dandy new release list. I have three criteria:
1. well known author
2. lots of great reviews
3. I think the cover is cool
 
disclaimer: all these covers are links to our amazon affiliate pages. I Smell Sheep will get a small percentage of all sales through these links as an advertising fee. I Smell Sheep uses the money to pay for sheep s*** and shipping <G>

Comic Review: Oz #1 by Joe Brusha

Oz #1 Cover B (ArtGerm)
Oz #1 by Joe Brusha
Zenescope 

At long last the last realm of power in the Grimm Fairy Tales universe is revealed…and there’s never been an Oz quite like this. This modern take on the story reimagines the classic fairy tale in the classic Zenescope style. The Witches of OZ are searching for a lost weapon of power known as the Veridian Scepter. Their quest leads them to the most unlikeliest of places…the farmlands of Kansas and the home of the unlikeliest of heroes…Dorothy Gale. With incredible cover art by superstars J Scott Campbell, Artgerm, EBAS and Ale Garza! The epic Oz adventure starts here.

Set in Zenescope's surprisingly vast Grimm Fairy Tales universe, which includes a bloody, bawdy version of Alice in Wonderland, Oz is a new six-part series. And in this one, Dorothy is all grown up--and out.


A far cry from Judy Garland, this version of Dorothy looks more like the kind of farmer's daughter you'd see in a Playboy spread. As for Toto, the little terrier has been traded in for a giant wolf that shows up wounded one night outside Dorothy's bedroom window.

Oz #1 Cover A (J Scott Campbell)
The first issue does a fair job at incorporating Dorothy and the Kansas backdrop into Zenescope's big picture, starting off with the wolf and its master on the run with a horde of some nasty-lookin', sword-wielding demons. As the master falls, he passes a package to the wolf and sends him on his way from the fantasy world--not sure if it's Oz--into the real world. There's no mistaking Oz when Dorothy and Toto are hurled there though, as the Munchkins appear in a macabre funhouse-mirror version of themselves, with a Victoria's Secret incarnation of the Wicked Witch of the West there to greet Dorothy.
Some of the artwork felt a bit uneven. The opening sequence was great with the tension and mysterious nature of the chase, then Dorothy's introduction came and she looks just really awkward with so many lines used in drawing her that she looked a little haggard.

Like the other Zenescope titles I've checked out, the artwork goes for a titillating approach, the dialogue plays it straight. You might expect it to come off as tinny, but it's done well. Over the top, sure, but it's a fantastical story, so you need some melodrama to get it across. Overall, a good start to this series, and has me very curious to see how one of my all-time favorite stories from childhood will be re-imagined in the other five issues.


3 1/2 sheep





Guest Reviewer: Gef Fox

Alpha Male Diner: Stefan Harper (Mage) by Nancy Northcott + giveaway



Stefan Harper (mage and physician)
Recipe by Nancy Northcott
Guardian: Book 2 of The Protectors

Ingredients:
A six-one, leanly muscled frame
Dark brown hair that generally needs a trim
Chocolate brown eyes with tiny gold flecks
A clear, rich baritone voice
A keen, intuitive mind
An unfailingly kind and loyal heart
Magical powers focused on healing but capable of delivering a lethal strike when necessary

Season with:
Tragic loss of a childhood friend
Six years of secretly helping a renegade unmask a traitor
Dedication to the protection of humanity from ghouls
A failed romance with the woman he loved because she couldn't accept his magical gifts

Mix, adding a splash of wry humor. Stir in frustration over having to lie about his powers to the Mundanes he respects. Fold in regret over the woman he loved and lost.

Heat to blazing as he reunites with his lost love and they battle deadly ghouls preying on the local Mundanes.

Serve quickly and duck in case of explosion.


Test Taste

Sheriff Burton started the press conference by summarizing the situation, mostly repeating what had been in the paper and adding a few facts about Ms. Baldwin. Behind him stood a deputy in uniform.

The deputy shifted, revealing Mel. She stood straight, a tall, slender woman in a neatly tailored black pantsuit and blue, v-necked blouse.

Stefan’s breath took an odd little hitch below his heart. That was probably indigestion from this morning’s Mexican omelet, but he couldn't deny he felt something. He took off his sunglasses and surveyed her as he hadn't been able to do in the sheriff’s office.

The tailored shirt didn't quite disguise the curve of the small, high breasts under it. Her dark hair hung almost to her shoulders in a sleek bob instead of the long, full curtain that once had fallen halfway down her back.

It had felt soft when he buried his hands in it. When she let it trail over his body.

That wide, ripe mouth, now wearing neutral pink lipstick instead of the bright red or coral she’d once favored, had been soft, too. Soft and yielding and welcoming.

Until everything blew up.

Hell. The annoying hitch pinged his chest again. She wore sunglasses, so he couldn't see her eyes. Nothing in her face hinted at anything beyond cool, professional attention to the sheriff, but he would bet she was watching the crowd. He could take a couple of steps backward, separate himself, and be more conspicuous. See how she reacted.

Damned idiot. What was he, twelve? He set his jaw and stayed where he was.




check out Adria's 4 1/2 Sheep review of Guardian here

Guardian (The Protectors #2)
by Nancy Northcott

A POWER TO KILL

FBI agent Camellia "Mel" Wray is no stranger to violence but when an old friend is brutally murdered, she takes it personally. The case hits even closer to her heart when the best person to help with the investigation is Dr. Stefan Harper, the only man she ever loved-and lost. One look at the gorgeous medical expert and Mel realizes he's still impossible to resist-and still harboring a secret after all these years . . .

A POWER TO LOVE

Afraid Mel wouldn't accept him, Stefan never revealed his study of magical medicine or his abilities, instead allowing her to believe he'd been unfaithful. Now she's back in his life-and their mutual attraction burns hotter than ever. But when something dark and otherworldly threatens humans, Stefan must summon his mage powers to keep everyone safe. Will Mel be able to trust him again? Or will their love cost him even more than it did the first time?

Nancy Northcott, author, paranormal romanceAbout the Author:
website-Twitter-FB-blog
I still love comic books, fantasy and science fiction, though I don’t read comics as much as I once did. I try to get to Dragon*Con every year. I’m also a lifelong history geek and Anglophile, passions born when I was in second grade and watched a television drama about the Tudors. By the time I reached college and learned just how inaccurate that story was, it was too late. I was hooked! I majored in history and spent a fabulous summer studying Tudor and Stuart Britain at Oxford University (as well as learning to drive on the left side and observe local customs in pubs). These experiences left me with serious geek tendencies, which I indulge by reading a lot of history. My college classes mostly covered who fought whom, when, why, and how, and I’ve been delighted to discover how much material is available about the ways people of different eras lived.


I've traveled extensively in Britain with my husband and our son, collecting numerous tomes, weighty and not, on my passion. My husband, a children’s literature professor who understands the “book thing,” graciously carried home the ones I didn't have time to entrust to the Royal Mail. His help put a whole new spin on the “carry my books” bit and helped make possible the Writer Resources section of this site, where I share some of my best finds.





GIVEAWAY
one winner will get a Net Galley copy of Guardian and 3 collector cards 
(The winner either must have a NetGalley account or be willing to create one, which is free and available to everyone.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: Guardian by Nancy Northcott


Guardian (The Protectors #2)
by Nancy Northcott
A POWER TO KILL

FBI agent Camellia "Mel" Wray is no stranger to violence but when an old friend is brutally murdered, she takes it personally. The case hits even closer to her heart when the best person to help with the investigation is Dr. Stefan Harper, the only man she ever loved-and lost. One look at the gorgeous medical expert and Mel realizes he's still impossible to resist-and still harboring a secret after all these years . . .

A POWER TO LOVE

Afraid Mel wouldn't accept him, Stefan never revealed his study of magical medicine or his abilities, instead allowing her to believe he'd been unfaithful. Now she's back in his life-and their mutual attraction burns hotter than ever. But when something dark and otherworldly threatens humans, Stefan must summon his mage powers to keep everyone safe. Will Mel be able to trust him again? Or will their love cost him even more than it did the first time?

Mel and Stefan have a history. They were once in love but it ended badly when Stefan refused to share his secret with her, instead allowing Mel to believe he had been unfaithful to her. Nine years later, a violent crime has brought them together again.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons, the two lead characters are interesting and have great chemistry, the storyline is interesting and easy to follow, but best of all, Guardian can be read as a standalone. It was fun to read a paranormal romance that didn't have vampires or werewolves as the lead characters (not that I object to fangs and fur, I am a diehard fan) and that had a heroine that was so skeptical about the paranormal. It threw an extra obstacle into Stefan's path.

Stefan was, at first, not the type of hero I envisioned for a paranormal romance. He's a doctor who also happens to know magic and demons exist. I honestly pictured him as a geeky, beta male that women walked all over. Don't ask me why, that's just the image I had in my head for some reason. Instead he's this hot stud who walks a fine line between what is generally accepted as fact and what is known to be magic induced. He's so loyal to his cause, to keep the knowledge of magic, mages and demons a secret from a world that just isn't ready to know of its existance, that he sacrifices his chance at happiness. Even when he meets up with Mel again, he fights to keep her at a distance. It would have been easy for the author to create some over the top, paranormal conflict of epic proportions for Stefan and Mel to overcome but instead this couple has the rather normal trust issue to solve.

Mel on the other hand was exactly as I pictured her. An independent, cynical loner suffering from a broken heart. As much as she denies it, she never got over Stefan. Mel refuses to believe that there is such thing as magic and that her friend's murder was the work of demons. Working with Stefan to solve the case strains her resolve to forget him even as it opens her eyes to a new world and new dangers.

While it does classify as a paranormal romance, Guardian reads more like a contemporary romance with a dash of paranormal elements. They don't interfere with the romance, nor do they suffocate the overall story. The steady stream of paranormal scenes add mystery and danger to an already likable story. I enjoyed the world Nancy Northcott created, her characters were lively, fun and passionate.

The only problem I had with Guardian was that the beginning was a little slow. However, it does pick up the pace after a few chapters and then it's one hell of a trip. I would definitely recommend this book to paranormal romance fans, especially those who would like a break from vampires and werewolves. I can't wait to read the next book in the series, but in the meantime I will be reading the first book and novella.

4 1/2 Sheep






Nancy Northcott, author, paranormal romanceAbout the Author:
website-Twitter-FB-blog
I still love comic books, fantasy and science fiction, though I don’t read comics as much as I once did. I try to get to Dragon*Con every year. I’m also a lifelong history geek and Anglophile, passions born when I was in second grade and watched a television drama about the Tudors. By the time I reached college and learned just how inaccurate that story was, it was too late. I was hooked! I majored in history and spent a fabulous summer studying Tudor and Stuart Britain at Oxford University (as well as learning to drive on the left side and observe local customs in pubs). These experiences left me with serious geek tendencies, which I indulge by reading a lot of history. My college classes mostly covered who fought whom, when, why, and how, and I’ve been delighted to discover how much material is available about the ways people of different eras lived.


I've traveled extensively in Britain with my husband and our son, collecting numerous tomes, weighty and not, on my passion. My husband, a children’s literature professor who understands the “book thing,” graciously carried home the ones I didn't have time to entrust to the Royal Mail. His help put a whole new spin on the “carry my books” bit and helped make possible the Writer Resources section of this site, where I share some of my best finds.





Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: Spartan Frost (Mythos Academy #4.5) by Jennifer Estep

Spartan Frost (Mythos Academy #4.5)
by Jennifer Estep

I'm Logan Quinn, the deadliest Spartan warrior at Mythos Academy. At least I was--until the day I almost killed Gwen Frost.

Professor Metis and Nickamedes say that I'm fine, that Loki and the Reapers don't have a hold on me anymore, but I can't risk it. I can't risk hurting Gwen again. So I'm leaving Mythos and going somewhere far, far away.

I know Gwen wonders what's happening to me, whether I'm safe. I can't tell her, but this is my story.

There's always that fear of being lost when you jump into the middle of a series and I have to admit I was pretty lost at the beginning of Spartan Frost. Not only did I NOT know who the characters were or what they could do, I didn't even know what had happened in the previous book that lead to Logan turning on Gwen. However, that didn't last long and I soon got the gist of what had happened.

After being taken over by the soul of Loki and almost killing Gwen, Logan decides to put space between them. Feeling guilty for what he did, and fearing it could happen again, he leaves Mythos Academy for New York. Unfortunately, trouble isn't far behind.

I normally avoid YA Novels because I just can't relate to younger characters, but I'm glad I gave Spartan Frost a chance. Author Jennifer Estep writes one hell of a YA story! Spartan Frost is a novella, basically it's part of the Mythos Acadamy series but told from Logan Quinn's point of view. Estep can take a cocky, confident teen and transition him into a brooding, angry and doubtful young man with ease that furthers the overall story-line and in general, makes Logan a far more interesting character. After all, no one likes characters who stay the same through six books.

Spartan Frost gave me a small, but potent sample of Jennifer Estep's talent and I'm surprised, but happy to say I will be adding the Mythos Academy series to my TBR.


4 Sheep

About the Author:
website-FB-twitter-blog
Jennifer Estep is a New York Times bestselling author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.

The Elemental Assassin series (for adults)
The Mythos Academy series (for young adults)The Bigtime series (for adults)


Jennifer has worked as a features writer and page designer for a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper and has more than 10 years of journalism experience. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and other writing groups.



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