Emma Maree Reviews Batman: Year One

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller (Writer), David Mazzucchelli (Illustrator), Richmond Lewis (Colorist)

Genre: Fiction/Graphic Novel/Comic Book/Superhero

From master storyteller Frank Miller (“Batman: The Dark Knight Returns”, “Sin City”) comes the most incredible Batman story of all…and the inspiration for the worldwide smash-hit movie “Batman Begins!”

Lieutenant James Gordon takes up a new post in the crime-ridden and corrupt city of Gotham, while billionaire Bruce Wayne returns to the scene of his parents’ deaths, intent on avenging their memory. Each faces trials and challenges of their own, only for their lives to become irrevocably and potentially tragically intertwined…

This all-new, deluxe edition features new introductions by Miller and Mazzuchelli, pencils, promotional and unseen art, script pages and much more.

When DC decided to modernise their characters, they ran into a problem with Batman: his dark origin story already fitted the direction they were trying to go. Instead of redoing his origin story, they decided to fill in the blanks with Year One.

Year One tells the story of Bruce Wayne stepping back into Gotham City, finally ready to avenge his parents. It’s also the story of Gordon, not yet a commissioner, who takes a job in Gotham for the sake of his wife and learns just what it takes to be a cop in the world’s most corrupt city. Lastly, it’s the story of Selina, who realises she can escape her life as a Gotham prostitute for a much more fun career.

The included extras are some of the best I’ve ever seen. There’s cover art from the printed single-volume comics and previous collections of Year One, scripts, a short autobiographical comic by David Mazzucchelli with examples of his older work, and some examples of the colouring differences between the original comic and the printed collections. I’m particularly fond of the last two extras: the autobiographical story is a short and fun read, and the colouring comparisons really showcase what a great change the new colours make to the story.


How Many Books Do You Read?

Today, for their Road Trip Wednesday question for bloggers, YA Highway asked: About how many books do you read in a year? Do you want to read more? Or, less?

This year, I set myself a Goodreads Reading Challenge to read 35 books. I’ve already passed that, despite a year that’s been (sometimes) hectic and (always) busy.

Looking at the responses from my blog friends, though, this achievement feels a bit low. Next year, I’m raising the bar to 50 books! And according to my big 2013 to-do list, which I’ll be posting soon, next year will be focussing on the for review pile, the personal to-read pile, comics, short stories and some non-fiction.


I can’t believe this year is almost over. It’s been a good one, all things considered and weighed up. I’m hoping 2013 goes just as well as this year, and I can’t wait to see what surprises it brings.

Emma Maree Reviews: Anna and the French Kiss

Book: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Genre: YA/Romance

Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she’s less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.

I’m not usually much of a romance reader, but this book has received so much universal adoration that I had to give it a try. Plus, a fluffy romance book is a good read while travelling.

I’ve been describing this book to friends as “like a very smartly written chick flick”, and now that I’m finished I think it’s a very fitting description.

The story is a bit slow to start, but fantastic once it gets going — it’s a sweet, complex story of an American trying to find her way in Paris and all the interesting friends she makes in her year there.

It doesn’t shy away from anything, delving head-first into fascinating character personalities and friendships, detailed backstories, and teen issues.

I’ll be looking forward to picking up “Lola and the Boy Next Door” when I’ve whittled down my to-read piles.

Emma Maree Reviews: “Soul Eater”!

Maka is a Meister and Soul is her Weapon. As students at the Grim Reaper’s Death Weapon Meister Academy, their study habits couldn’t be more different. But in battle against the supernatural forces of evil, they’re a freakin’ lethal team.

That’s when Soul transforms – literally – into a razor-sharp scythe, and every defeated wicked soul he sucks down makes him more deadly. That’s when Maka unleashes the merciless slayer within, wielding her partner and dropping monsters. Seriously. Monsters. Like the witches, werewolves, and zombies that lurk in the shadows and feed on the souls of the innocent. Every freakish ghoul Maka and Soul take out strengthens their bond, and fighting alongside their fellow Meister/Weapon classmates, Maka and Soul are the world’s last line of defense against evil.

I just finished watching all four seasons of “Soul Eater”. I try to pick up lessons from anything I enjoy that I can apply to my creative life, and Soul Eater was a powerful lesson in both great visual character designs and engaging, unique character personalities.

The main characters all have their stereotypes (Maka is a hard-working student with an angry streak and absentee parents, Black Star is a self-centred orphan with a ego the size of the moon, Death the Kid is a perfectionist with crippling OCD) but there’s sides to their personalities that unfold as the story progresses and gives them real depth. Plus, the story has a powerful underlying message about being able to accept your friends, despite how different they might be to you.


This is Soul Eater, eating a soul. (Credit to Aomineche on Tumblr)

It also gained a lot of points by having a central relationship between a girl and a guy, both best friends and fiercely protective over each other, without resorting to romance. I felt like the ‘bromance’ worked out better for the anime and made their relationship feel much more powerful.

So if you’re looking for a new anime, you can do worse than this sweet anime and it’s gorgeously designed world. The storyline isn’t anything to write home about, with a lot of recap and a few loose ends that never get tied up, but it does the job and the world of the DWMA is beautiful and fascinating.


Emma Maree Reviews: Anya’s Ghost

Book: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

File Under: Graphic Novel/Comic/Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy

Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part…

Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.

Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.

Or so she thinks

Comic books are one of those mediums that exists on two separate plains: adult comics, and children’s comics. Sometimes they overlap, but there’s almost no real middle ground, no equivalent to the YA/teen fiction section of a bookstore.  “Anya’s Ghoost” is one of those few comics that aims itself directly at teens.

Anya, a Russian immigrant in America, is struggling to fit in: she’s dark-haired and curvy when all the popular girls are skinny and blonde, she’s only got one real friend, and she’s had to spend years getting rid of her accent.

When Anya meets Emily, a ghost who’s spent decades at the bottom of a well, a whole world of new possibilities open up. Emily can float around the classroom getting her the right answers for tests, she’s someone to talk to at home other than Anya’s annoying little brother,  and she might even be able to help Anya get together with the cute boy in the class above. With Emily’s help, Anya might actually be able to be one of the popular girls — but at what cost?

“Anya’s Ghost” is drawn in greyscale/blue and greyscale with a clear, simple style with smooth lines — slightly reminiscent of “Scott Pilgrim”. It also comes recommended by Neil Gaiman. It’s a great, quick read with a lot of positive messages. I wish I had this comic while I was growing up.

Here’s a preview of the first pages. I think it might be the US edition only that uses blue shading, my edition uses grey.

Books in the Post: September

Because time isn’t always on my side when it comes to reading books and writing reviews, here’s a list of some of the awesome books I’ve bought or been sent recently.

Above, we’ve got:

A red moleskine sketchbook: These hardy, reliable things are what I use to jot down writing ideas when away from my PC. This one’s a present to myself because I’ve filled up my black one. This was purchased by myself.

“What’s Left of Me” by Kat Zhang: This was a prize for winning the contest over at Once Upon a Bookcase! Can’t wait to read this.

“On The Day I Died”: A short story collection, just in time for Halloween. This copy was unsolicited, sent by Random House.

“Witch Crag” by Kate Cann: Another unsolicited book, sent by Scholastic. Absolutely gorgeous cover.

“Noughts & Crosses” series by Malorie Blackman: I requested these books (recently updated with new covers) from Random House and I can’t wait to start reading them! Did you hear the drama over the racism in the “Save the Pearls” book? N&C has a similar concept, but executed properly.

“Tiger’s Destiny” by Colleen Houck: Unsolicited copy sent by Scholastic. I have the whole series of these, and their cover art is fantastic, but for some reason I haven’t picked them up to read yet…

I’ve also had a very e-heavy month, buying all the following for myself:

“Mockingbird” by Chuck Wendig, “Zoo City” by Lauren Beukes, “Empire State” by Adam Christopher and “The Alchemist of Souls” by Anne Lyle: Angry Robot’s e-book store had a buy-one-get-one-free offer on, which I gleefully took advantage of to tick a few books off my to-buy list.

“Angel Dust” by Sarah Mussi: I have a publisher-crush on Hot Key Books (and Angry Robot, in case you didn’t notice) so I’ve been picking up a lot of their work to read. These is a great urban fantasy novel set in the heart of London.

“The God Engines” by John Scalzi. One day I will get round to reading a Scalzi novel. One day.

“Leviathan” Series by Scott Westerfeld. Lots of fun, I need to get round to writing a proper review of this trilogy.

Emma Maree Reviews: Code Name Verity

Book: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein 

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Historical

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

I picked this book up due to the massive (and I mean MASSIVE) hype it’s had around the Internet. And for the first third of the book, I was convinced it just wan’t for me. It was slow and languous, and often needlessly confusing. I was fighting the urge to mark this down as ‘Did Not Finish’ and move on.

But I was determined to find out just what was so good about this book. I read on. And I got hooked.

The climatic half of this book is amazing. It’s sensational. I just wish I’d be warned about that beginning so I knew to keep on plodding through.

But oh my, that second half. This is a meticulously crafted story, with a razor sharp eye for dialogue and historical details. I’m very glad I finished reading it.

Emma Maree Reviews: Angelfall

Angelfall by Susan Ee

Series: Penryn & the End of Days, Book 1

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Urban Fantasy

It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

Six weeks after humans gunned down the angel Gabriel, the Earth has been torn apart by an apocalypse brought down by God’s own soldiers.

Now, how’s that for a hook?

Angelfall’s post-apocalyptic San Francisco setting is wonderfully fresh, setting it apart from all the other angel YA out there. There were a few points where I would have loved some meatier worldbuilding about the angels, as Ee is very vague on their mythology.

But it was Penryn that sold the book for me. Here are a few reasons why Penryn is one of the most badass lady main characters in YA:

  • She’s trained for years in combat and martial arts, and it shows. The research put into her fight scenes is solid and works brilliantly.
  • She values her family — her schizophrenic, violent mum and her wheelchair-bound sister — above everything else.
  • She doesn’t let falling for the enemy, an angel, get in the way of her own goals and her need to protect her family.

I originally picked this book up because it was on sale at Amazon, and I can heartily recommend it for YA fans looking for a fresh new story and a genuinely awesome protagonist.

Emma Maree Reviews: Dear Agent

Book: Dear Agent by Nicola Morgan

Genre: Non-Fiction/Writing Advice

You’ve written the best book you can and you believe there are readers for it, but how do you persuade an agent or publisher to take it on? The first thing they will see is your letter or email and this short document must sell your book, make it stand out from the crowd, make it (and you) desirable.

Dear Agent contains detailed expert advice, covering the best structure for your letter, what to put in (and what to leave out), the answers to the questions writers ask, and all the horrible mistakes to avoid. Make your book stand out for all the right reasons.

This is a sister book to Write A Great Synopsis, but this time the focus is on UK-style covering letters to help you net a UK agent. UK covering letters are a lot more laid back than US queries (by which I mean you won’t get instantly rejected dun dun duuun if it’s not perfect) but they’re still important enough to stress writers out.

“Dear Agent” is a short, sweet, and to-the-point read that covers all the important questions, such as should I mention multiple books, being rejected, my pets, or that my mum liked it…

It also pays special attention to the tricky bits: that dreaded hook, how to write the bio section even if nothing very interesting has happened to you, and how to inject a bit of personality into the letter. It covers both fiction and non-fiction, multiple Points of View, and other sticky situations that can make the thought of summing it up in a letter more nerve-wracking than it needs to be.

If you’re new to the submission process, or trying out the UK system for the first time after submitting in the US, then this is a great starting point. Authors who’ve been submitting in the UK or US will already be familiar with a lot of the advice, but the tips are still useful no matter how long you’ve been wading in the query trenches.