tobin_elliott's reviews
271 reviews

100 Bullets: Brother Lono by Eduardo Risso, Brian Azzarello

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dark tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75

This is the first 100 Bullets installment—though, to be honest, it's 100 Bullets adjacent at best—that doesn't earn a 5-star from me.

The art is still up to the usual calibre, the colouring is glorious, and the writing is sharp and witty. Unfortunately, in this one, the story is a somewhat tired one that's been used time and time again. It doesn't help that Lono was never even close to my favourite character from the group that ran through the series. I always found him a bit more of a caricature than a character.

Still, we see Lono trying to, if not atone for his sins, at least leave them in his rearview. So, of course you know that resolve is going to be tested. I think, for me, the thing that was missing was the agonizing over falling back into that old lifestyle. If he really wanted to change, we should have seen more struggle at falling backward.

Just me, though.

Overall, a vicious yarn, and quite cinematic, but it didn't seem to hold the same crackle as the main series.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

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challenging dark emotional tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

2.5

Going through this re-read is a fascinating experience. Books I remember loving the first time around, I'm only okay with this time around. Others that didn't do as much for me the first time around, I'm digging far more this time. 

This, unfortunately was more the first one. I remember thinking this one, while not mind-blowing, was a really good one.

It's still good, but I think I can now pinpoint the precise point where King lost the ability to write a convincing child. Here. With this book.

Trish is a fun character, and I loved how King made her survive more due to her common sense than through some weirdly acquired survival skills. She's tenacious and she's interesting enough to hold the reader's attention.

However, King swings wildly between having her think like a young kid still in the single digits age, then shifting way over to a child who's point of view uses words like indecorous. She thinks about things like when the longest days of the year are, which—at least to me—are more the thoughts of, say, an author in his early fifties.

This way-off-the-mark narration and dialogue will, at least as of this writing in 2024, reach its zenith (or nadir, depending on your point of view)  with FAIRY TALE and the utterly deplorable portrayal of 17-year-old Charlie Reade, a teenager who's a solid forty years out of date when it comes to expressions and thoughts.

But overall, the story was gripping. Trisha's plight was real, and awful, and King does his usual brilliant job of ratcheting up the tension.

I have complaints, primarily over the unseen threat hinted at throughout the novel. I would have loved to have seen King lean into the supernatural aspect harder, especially toward the end.

I also wouldn't have minded more cutaways to the parents and brother, and the manhunt.

So yeah, overall? Not a bad story, but not a great one. Kinda right in the middle.
100 Bullets, Vol. 13: Wilt by Eduardo Risso, Brian Azzarello

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adventurous challenging dark emotional mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
- The End, The Doors

And, after 100 issues, collected into (fittingly) 13 trades, the story of the Trust and the Minutemen comes to an end—well, aside from the Brother Lono coda that I'm about to start—and I'm impressed, I'm elated, I'm exhausted, and I'm bummed.

I will say, the convoluted twists and turns in the last couple of collections do get a bit confusing, but this one lays it all out and explains it all. And, even better?

I knew how this was all gonna end. Absolutely had it nailed.

And, in one final, impressive stroke, they pulled one final twist on me...because it did not end as I expected.

This is very likely my favourite graphic novel series, ever.
The West End Horror: A Posthumous Memoir of John H. Watson, MD by Nicholas Meyer

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adventurous dark mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

I quite enjoyed this one, and all the cameos Meyer dropped in. The story was enjoyable and did feel mostly like a quite authentic Conan Doyle tale.

I do also like that Meyer is willing to take chances and also push the boundaries of Sherlock's universe, but not too much. Sherlock doesn't meet Cthulhu or Batman or Donald Trump, so these are good things.

I do, however, think that it does go a touch too Hollywood. The cameos are fun, but in a slim volume, it does begin to feel a touch claustrophobic, a touch overstuffed.

Still, with no new Doyle yarns, Meyer is, at least for now, still my favourite go-to for the further adventures of Holmes and Watson.
The Night House by Jo Nesbø

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dark mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

0.25

Well, this was utterly dreadful, wasn't it? And I don't mean that in a good way.

There's so much wrong with this, that the somewhat slightly coherent wrap-up in no way justifies the crap the reader has to wade through in the first 90% to get there.

I don't want to spoil anything for anyone wanting to read this, so I'll just say this: The book is split into three parts, the first being about 75% of the book, and, while it starts with a bang, it swiftly goes down the nonsensical hill from there, hitting every bump and pothole along the way.

There was a social media post that went around a year or two ago where the poster said something along the lines of, "this book feels like the writer was making up as they went along" and there's some sort of sarcastic response from a big name author that basically says, "Ummm...who's gonna tell him?" It's played for laughs, and it is rather humorous. However, I understand exactly what that original poster was saying now.

By the end of this first section, it feels like Nesbo literally had no plan, no plot, no idea of what he was going to write next and so just barfed out whatever showed up in his noggin at that particular moment. The plot holds no logic, it's just a mess of "this happens, then this happens, then this"... Characters change their minds too easily. Things happen that are utterly ridiculous.

But wait, you think that's bad? Wait'll you hit the section section. It's far shorter, but it's even more ridiculous. I don't know that I've ever got to within 30 pages of the end of a book and decided it wasn't worth finishing, but I've never come closer to doing it than with this book. As bad as the first section was, the second was far worse. Nesbo piles ridiculousness on top of ridiculousness until it's a teetering tower that he really doesn't have any way out of.

Instead, he jumps to the third and final section, which appears to be the justification for the previous two bits.

I understand what he was trying to do, but the experiment was an abject and utter failure. If you're going to go the route this book went, then you have to build a strong, coherent, and frankly brilliant story to build up to it.

Something along the lines of what was done in The Usual Suspects is my first thought.

Nesbo...did not do this. He had elements that he slapped together. He moved the characters from one element to the next. But it was not an entertaining story, it was not a coherent story, and it was not a good story.

This was awful. 

Last year, it took until August to find the worst book I read all the way through. This year, it happened within the first three days of April.
Revolver: How the Beatles Re-Imagined Rock 'n' Roll by Robert Rodríguez

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informative reflective medium-paced

3.0

This was...okay. Not terrible, not fantastic.

My biggest issue is with the books of this style, purportedly written to examine a single album's influence on the greater musical industry, then proceeds to give a history of the Beatles' output prior to that (as though, with the millions of books written on the Beatles, their history, and their influence, that's even a requirement).

After the history, we get a bit of an overview of where their heads were at, which is good. Then we're taken on a mostly workmanlike overview of the making of each song, which is fine, but I was hoping for a touch more insight.

Then there's an overview of its initial reception, which is expected and should be there, and how it seemed to influence the other artists and bands' output afterward, which I thought was a big part of the point of this examination. 

But then we get a quicker overview of the buildup and making of Sgt. Pepper and the reception, just so the author can basically rip into it for not being as groundbreaking as Revolver.

Overall, felt like much ado about nothing, to be honest.
Bag of Bones by Stephen King

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challenging dark emotional mysterious reflective sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

Five books into my Great Stephen King Re-Read (2024 Edition), this was a novel I was sincerely looking forward to revisiting. Like DESPERATION before it, I remember truly loving this book the first time around.

Unlike my re-read of  DESPERATION this one didn't disappoint. I loved this one all over again.

I was amazed at how much of the story I'd forgotten. I had the opening few chapters clearly, but, by the time Noonan got to Sarah Laughs, I'd forgotten damn near all of it. I'm kind of glad I did, as it allowed me to basically re-read it and experience it much like the first time.

There's so much I loved here. The horror was quite subtle for the first three-quarters, allowing King to also examine Noonan's relationships with Jo, with Matty, with her daughter, with the extended family and townspeople, and while I'm sure some readers found it somewhat self-indulgent and "that crazy Stevie overwriting again" I found it essential to how the story played out.

On top of that, King's examination of grief was given the space it needed to breathe, which I appreciated. I find that, in stories, it's given short shrift, making it feel like it's felt and dealt with in a couple of weeks. It felt real here.

The other aspect I loved—and I'm guessing it's something more that authors would respond to—was King's portrayal of Noonan's creative process and the writing process in general. In fact, it was kind of killing me and every time King brought it up, I kept thinking that I should be writing.

Was it a perfect book? No, but very few are. But did King grab me pretty much from the first page and hold me until the last one? Hell yes.

I was going to say this is one of his best "latter year" novels, but looking at my shelves, it's very clearly closer to the middle output. But he was having a fairly solid streak, with the one-two punch of GERALD'S GAME and DOLORES CLAIBORNE, then ROSE MADDER (a book that I feel has been undervalued), then THE GREEN MILEDESPERATION, and now this one.

But this particular one? This is one I point to when asked why I love Stephen King.
100 Bullets, Vol. 12: Dirty by Brian Azzarello

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dark emotional mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

Okay, this one?

It's DARK. 

With only one more volume to go (plus the follow-up Brother Lono "epilogue") I can only imagine how this is all gonna end, but I'm absolutely here for it. This series consistently blows me away like no other long-running series ever has.
100 Bullets, Vol. 11: Once Upon a Crime by Eduardo Risso, Tom Fontana, Brian Azzarello

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challenging dark emotional mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

Y'know, I gotta say, 11 volumes into a 13-volume set, and I've rated every single one as a five-star read?

I honestly can't think of another series I've done that on. The characters are just getting more and more real to me, the story is getting deeper, and the endgame is starting to present itself.

This is just a brilliant series.
Gollitok: A Horror Novel by Andrew Najberg

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adventurous dark emotional mysterious reflective tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

3.25

Hmmm.

I honestly expected to enjoy this one far more than I did. I guess the biggest point to me is, this is the first time I was bothered because I felt I was experiencing the story from the wrong character's point of view.

Without going into it too much, this book feels like 1984 crossed with IN THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS crossed with Vandermeer's Area X novels, but refigured into a video game setting. Basically, the island is a puzzle that has claimed many lives. The story is told through Varka's point of view, which is very much a "let's explore here and here and here" and we're treated to descriptions of the island, the mysterious facility, stairwells, etc. Like Lovecraft's Mountain of Madness, there's a lot—and I mean a LOT—of description.

Yes, it's atmospheric, and Najberg does a great job of setting both the environmental tone, as well as the political and cultural tones of a postwar/post-pandemic Eastern Europe. He's a skilled writer.

However, my issue with the story is that, until about 75% of the way in, while things that have consequences happen, they all happen off-stage, so we miss them. Instead, we're treated to some really cool scenes of weirdness that ultimately have very little consequence.

So, for much of this book, I was just waiting for something to happen, aside from, "look at that, that's awful, wonder what happened/what it is" scenes.

And this is my point. There's another character in the novel—to my mind the more interesting character, with more to lose—named Yost. And she's the one that gets to both experience the things and do the things. Again, all things we find out about afterward.

Overall, it's a good story, and I found the ending satisfying. I just wish it was less video-gamey, scout-around-and-discover-things and more of things actually happening.