Wonder Woman, Vol. 3: Iron ~ Brain Azzarello

  • Title: Wonder Woman, Vol. 3: Iron
  • Author: Brian Azzarello
  • Artists:  Cliff Chiang, Tony Atkins, Dan Green, Amilcar Pinna
  • Series: Wonder Woman Vol. IV #3
  • Genre: Graphic novel
  • Format: Digital
  • Source: Review Copy
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Description:  In these stories from issues #0 and #13-18, a terrible betrayal forces Wonder Woman to make a deal with the gods who want her dead, and her “family” grows larger than she could have imagined. Will the mysterious Orion help Wonder Woman rescue Zola’s baby from the clutches of Hermes, or does he have darker intentions?


Review:  When I was but a young girl, I absolutely loved the Wonder Woman television series. I wanted to be Diana, Amazon Princess, a.k.a Wonder Woman. At the very least, I wanted my parents to change my name to Diana. Of course, they refused and as a result people fail to recognize my greatness, but that is a story for another day.

Fast forward to present day dorkorific DarthVal (ok, I added the Darth, but you must admit that it has a certain ring to it). In the past few months I have discovered that I enjoy graphic novels, further solidifying my place in dorkdom.

I was disappointed in my first female super hero experience (World’s Finest featuring Huntress and Powergirl), so I approached Wonder Woman with trepidation. After all, I did not want to tarnish those childhood memories. Plus, as an adult, I was not sure how I would feel about the portrayal of a super-hot chick running about fighting bad guys in her Underoos. I received an ARC for Wonder Woman Vol. 3, took a breath, and decided to just jump in and see what happened.

It is official. I STILL want to be Diana, last Princess of the Amazons. Wonder Woman is kick ass enough to flaunt what she’s got and still chastise anyone who dares to objectify her. She is sexy and intelligent, fierce yet fair and her compassion offsets her strength. Kudos to author, Brian Azzarello, for creating such rich characters. Beyond his vibrant heroine, the other characters were wonderfully crafted. In particular, I loved Orion. He was such a jerk, but at times, quite the charming jerk. I also found Hera to be a delightfully shallow she-bitch.

The story itself is told well. I particularly like how the graphic novel started with its back story introduction of young Diana, complete with retro looking artwork. As for the current thread, who knew Wonder Woman had such a messed up family??? (Probably everyone who is not newbie like me.) Jerry Springer’s guests have nothing on this bunch.

Finally, the artwork was FANTASTIC! Both the modern story and the flash back introduction were striking, providing the perfect visual experience to compliment a wonderfully written narrative.

So, I am now seated on the bus, on my way to take up my place in camp Wonder Woman. I just need to make a couple stops along the way pick up volumes one and two.

*Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was provided to me for review by the publisher through the Net Galley program.

 

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Silent Encounter (Short Story)

(Note:  A steamy short story. It is not explicit but it does have sexual context.)

It was just a quick, fast fuck with smothered moans and cut off grunts. He didn’t say anything. His look shut off anything she had to say. There were no sweet kisses and leisurely caresses to tantalize her senses.

He watched her as she pulled up her tight skirt and pulled down the sheer stockings. As instructed, she didn’t wear any underwear. Without any indicators, she knelt before him to unbuckle his belt and undo his pants to release his erection. She wanted to touch it, take it in her mouth, stroke it with her tongue and suck it hard with her greedy desire. Instead, she stood up, bent over and braced herself against the prestigious wood paneled hallway.

There was no foreplay or warmup. He took her. Hard and fast. And she took him; hot, wet and willing. His hands marked her soft pink flesh where he held her hips for his use. The smack of moist skin to skin muffled by the thick wooden panels. He jetted his released into her with several thrusts that shoved her into the wall. Held her still as the last of his release soaked her inner walls and pulled out to wait. In seconds, she turned, knelt before him and eagerly cleaned his semi-erect cock of their tryst.

He tucked himself away and dressed. He straightened his tie as he walked away. She was left alone, dripping from their encounter and staring hopelessly at his retreating back.

~*~

A Shire Romance (Part Twenty-four)

A classic romance with a Hobbit twist!

When Tamsyn left for Somerset that morning, little did she realise that she’d end the day somewhere she didn’t even realise existed. Nor did Perry know when he set out for a stroll that day that his life would be utterly changed. Thrown together by chance and torn apart by their responsibilities, their future lies in Tamsyn’s hands.

Note to Readers:  This is the first full-length novel I ever wrote. It’s a few years old, and I know it’s far from perfect. That was never the intention either, since it isn’t something I can publish traditionally due to copyright issues. I like the story, however, so I hope people reading this will enjoy it on those terms. Please be aware it contains explicit language and scenes.

PART TWENTY-FOUR – THE BOARD MEETING

The following morning Tamsyn dressed with extra care, using make-up to hide the dark circles under her eyes and the pallor of her face. Andy nodded his approval, though he still shook his head at her lack of shoes, and she felt as ready as she’d ever be to face her executive board.

On the trip to the office she found herself wondering why she had never thought to modernise her board of directors – bring in some new blood and some more women – but deep down she knew she had never even thought to mistrust her father’s old friends. Now she was on her way to face seven white, fifty-something males who apparently didn’t trust her as much as she’d trusted them.

When she walked into the boardroom at five to ten they were all already there, whispering among themselves, and she looked at them with new eyes, noticing things she had never seen before. Jim McMurphy glanced her over, and she saw a glimpse of both disdain and lecherous desire which made her skin crawl. Robert O’Donohue – whom her father, as a fellow Irishman, had always favoured – had an air about him that suggested he was indulging her by being there, but felt he had more important things to do. Of all seven men, only Albert Moore seemed the same, kindly gentleman he had always been, and Tamsyn hoped fervently that he at least would back her up, so she wouldn’t have to fight this fight on her own.

“Morning guys,” she greeted them. “Sorry for calling you up at such short notice.” She had never insisted on formality, and saw no reason to change that policy now, even if it might have been an advantage.

“That’s fine, Tamsyn,” Albert said. “I must say I’m glad to see you; we’ve not been able to reach you all week.”

There was enough of a question in his voice that Tamsyn took it as one, and she gave him her best effort at a smile. “I felt I was long overdue for a holiday, Albert, so I went and hid for a few days. I figured you wouldn’t miss me for just a week.” Especially not since you’re happy enough to conduct transactions behind my back anyway, she thought.

“So, why are we here?” Jim asked.

Tamsyn took a deep breath and met his eyes. “Interesting that it should be you asking that, Jim, since in a way it was you who instigated this meeting.”

“What? Me?” he said, taken aback, then looking at his colleagues in confusion.

Tamsyn dropped her casual tone. “I found out yesterday that the Somerset project is being done on contract with the Donnan brothers. Normally I know I can trust all of you implicitly in matters such as the acquisition of new contracts, but I can’t help but remember a rather… explicit e-mail to all of you after the last building project we did for them.” She opened the folder she had brought in, took out a sheet of paper and slid it across the table towards Jim. “This is a copy of that e-mail. Please, Jim, read it out to all of us.”

Jim looked at her as if to say something, but bounced off on her icy glare. Instead he cleared his throat and read, “To: all members of the Board of Directors. Subject: Donnan & Donnan Real Estates Ltd. Message reads: Donnan contract finally resolved. If anyone, I repeat, anyone ever tenders for contract with these motherfuckers again, they’ll find themselves on the street so fast that their arse won’t even touch the fucking stairs. Love, Tamsyn.”

In the quiet that followed she heard several coughs. She didn’t know whether they were embarrassed coughs or coughs to hide laughter, but neither did she care. She kept her gaze fixed on Jim, who made as if to slide the paper back to her, but she gestured at it again. “Kindly check the date on that, Jim. When was it sent?”

He cleared his throat again. “Six months ago.”

“Six months ago,” she repeated. “I understand that the current contract we have with Donnan & Donnan was brokered by you. Is that correct?”

“Yes. Yes, it is,” Jim replied stiffly.

“Right, so here is your one chance to give me a good reason not to have your arse out on the street, because I really don’t think that e-mail could have been any clearer as to my feelings on this subject.”

He looked around for support, but everyone studiously avoided his eyes. “Well, we… we kind of thought that message was a joke, really,” he stammered.

“Really,” Tamsyn snapped. “Do tell.”

“Well, the language…” He trailed off and Tamsyn sighed.

“Guys, what’s going on? We’ve never minced our words with each other, and I’ve always encouraged you to be honest with me. You think that mail a joke? In its wording maybe, but that was only because I thought the contents were so obvious I didn’t need to state it in more serious terms.” She leaned forward and jabbed a finger at the paper. “Two years, Jim. Two fucking years it took us to get our money out of those Wiltshire cunts. What the fuck possessed you to tender to them?”

At that point Robert butted in. “Company policy states that we tender for all contracts above a value of–”

“Company policy my arse, Rob.” Tamsyn whirled on him. “Company policy is not to do business with fucktards, and the Donnan brothers are worse than fucktards.”

“But the size of the project, the prestige…” That was Ronald Wessington, and he too flinched when Tamsyn turned her gaze on him.

“Value. Size. Prestige. Is that what you base your decisions on these days? Because my father always went for honesty, value for money and benefit to local communities and companies.”

“Paddy has been dead two years now, Tamsyn,” Rob said, trying to sound gentle.

“I am aware of that, Rob. He was my father after all. And his last wish was for me to continue in his footsteps and to uphold his values and beliefs. I thought I had your support in this.”

“You have, Tamsyn, but…” Ronald said, trailing off when she glared at him.

“But? I didn’t think there was room for a ‘but’ in there. You either support me or you don’t. If you find that you suddenly have difficulty with the values I’m trying to uphold, I’d appreciate it if you told me so now, rather than simply bypassing me and doing things behind my back.”

Jim cleared his throat again. “Tamsyn, the Donnan brothers represent the single biggest real estate company in the Somerset and Wiltshire area. Not dealing with them means that we’re unlikely to ever do any projects in that area of the country again.”

“I fail to see the problem with that,” Tamsyn said through clenched teeth. “We operate all throughout the UK and have even done building projects abroad. We’re one of the biggest building companies in Britain. We’ve been increasing our profits for the past five years. What need do we have of two measly fucking counties?”

“Tamsyn, we simply feel that in certain areas we have more… experience than you,” Rob said. “We were never trying to bypass you.”

“Funny, because that’s very much what it feels like to me. As for experience, I’ve been following dad around since I was seven. Oh, I’ll admit that a seven-year-old child doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on at a building site, but dad never failed to explain things to me, and he’s taught me everything he knew, on top of the education I got. If that’s not enough for you, then please give me one example, just one, where I’ve gone wrong. Just one example where I’ve failed to get Moriarty & Co. the best deal possible.”

There was silence all around the table, because Tamsyn knew very well that there were no examples to bring up. Then Jim’s cough echoed through the room again. “Tamsyn, you’re so young and so…” He hesitated, waving his hand vaguely as he looked for the right word.

“Female?” Tamsyn suggested with ice in her voice.

“Well, you have to admit that this business asks for a certain amount of… ruthlessness sometimes.”

“And because I’m young and a woman I can’t be ruthless?” She met him stare for stare, and Jim was the first to look down.

“You want ruthless?” Tamsyn said, and she now spoke quietly enough that the men on the other side of the table had to strain to hear her. “I’ll give you ruthless. I would have given you another chance, Jim, for the sake of the long friendship between my father and you, but I see now that that would be too weak, too feminine of me. So have it your way: you’re fired. I’ll pay you your notice, but I do no want to see you in these offices again after today. Am I clear?”

Jim had gone pale, but he took the hit with dignity. He nodded and stood up, then gave Tamsyn a calculating look. “Don’t think I’ll take this lying down, Tamsyn. I’ll see you in court for constructive dismissal, and then you’ll see what ruthless really means.”

“Please do,” Tamsyn said with a nonchalant gesture. “I’ll look forward to it.”

He gave her another long look, then left the room, ramrod straight and never looking back. Tamsyn turned back to the others and met six apprehensive stares.

“Well, that was unpleasant, but necessary,” she said. “Before we wrap this up I’d like you to know that I’ve taken the liberty of hiring a team of solicitors and auditors to go through all Moriarty & Co’s files with a fine-toothed comb. They’ve taken copies of everything as is. If there is anything of specific interest in there that you feel I might want to know about, you have one week to tell me about it yourself. I’m sure I don’t need to explain this any further. Good day.”

With that she turned on her heels and left the room. Andy was waiting for her in her office, tapping away on his computer, and when he saw her he jumped up and winced at the look on her face. “I take it that didn’t go too well then?”

She sighed and plunged down into a chair, resting her feet on the edge of his desk. The remaining board members were just filing past and stared at her, wide-eyed, as if they’d only just noticed she was barefooted. “Close the blinds, will you? Stupid fucking glass offices.”

He did, and closed the door with a decisive click that shut out the rest of the office, and only then did Tamsyn answer him. “Whether it went well is a matter of opinion.” She rubbed her eyes. “I had to fire Jim.”

Andy whistled. “I’d say that’s bad.”

“You’re probably right, especially as he says he’s going to sue for constructive dismissal.”

“Ah. Um, exactly what did you fire him for?”

“Technically, because he blatantly ignored a company directive that told everyone not to deal with those Donnan arses again. In reality, because he suggested I wasn’t ruthless enough, so I had to prove him wrong.” She sighed and stared ahead of her, suddenly despondent. “What am I doing here, Andy? Why am I doing this? All that time I spent learning this shit, and now this. I’ve got no friends, I’ve always lived for my job, and now I find I’ve been stabbed in the back by my own board of directors. Why am I here?”

Andy gave her an apprehensive look. “I’m your friend, Tam,” he said.

She gave him a wan smile. “I know, but you’re the only one. Jim McMurphy certainly won’t count as one after today.”

“He goaded you, Tam,” Andy said, feeling back on safer ground now. “I’m sorry to say that it probably means you don’t have a leg to stand on.”

“Oh, I agree with you. But you know what? I couldn’t give a rat’s arse, because I have far more pressing priorities. Where have you got to with buying that site and your research into nature reserves and endangered species?”

Andy gave a small smile and showed her a few links on his computer. “I reckon if we go for two species we’ll be about right. That’s enough to make the situation pressing, but not too much to push it into the unbelievable. So I’ve picked a bird and an orchid.”

“A red-backed shrike?” Tamsyn said, raising an eyebrow. “Never heard of it, but then I’m not an ornithologist. Why that one?”

“Not been spotted in the UK since 1970, but they found a breeding pair earlier this year in Devon, so this could be seen as another step towards them re-establishing themselves.”

Tamsyn nodded her approval. “And a lady’s slipper orchid.”

“Yep. Common in other parts of the world, but endangered in Britain. I picked this one because they like boggy soil, and there’s a patch of that on the site which is due to be drained as part of the project.”

She patted him on the shoulder. “Two species that could conceivably have cropped up naturally, and will be able to survive in the area. Perfect. Now we just have to hope that Radagast can work with that. Come, let’s see if he’s woken up yet.”

o–o-o–o

Will Radagast be able to help with the endangered species? Find out in the next installment of  A Shire Romance! The story will be a weekly release until completion.  

A Shire Romance is written by Erica Dakin. You can find out more about Contrary Erica on the Guest Reviewers page and check out her website to find out more information about her work.

Mistletoe and Murder ~ Carola Dunn

  • Title: Mistletoe and Murder
  • Author: Carola Dunn
  • Series: Daisy Dalrymple #11
  • Genre: Cozy mystery
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  In December 1923, the formidable Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple has decided that for Christmas the family will all gather at Brockdene in Cornwall at the invitation of Lord Westmoor.

Her daughter – Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher – is something less than pleased but yields to the demands of her mother, especially as she’ll be there just before the holidays working on another article for Town and Country about the estate itself.

But the family gathering quickly goes awry. Brockdene, it seems, is only occupied by the Norvilles – poor relations of Lord Westmoor – and Westmoor himself won’t be joining them.

So Daisy, her husband Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, and their family must spend their Christmas holiday trapped in an ancestral estate with a rich history of lore, ghost stories, rumors of hidden treasure and secret passageways with a family seething with resentments, grudges and a faintly scandalous history.

The veneer of civility that pervades the halls of Brockdene, however, begins to wear thin when long-held family secrets threaten to bubble over, and one of the Christmas guests if found savagely murdered.

With few clues as to who committed the murder and with too many motives as to why, it is once again up to Daisy to sort out the truth that lies beneath a generation of poisonous secrets.

Review:  This cozy English mystery is a ‘pure’ Daisy Dalrymple, cute and predictable (in a good way), one of the best in the series. The action takes place over Christmas in a crumbling mansion of an earl. He is Daisy’s distant relative and he invited Daisy (or rather her mother needled the invitation out of him) and her family for the holidays, but for Daisy, it is also a working vacation – she has an assignment to write an article about the mansion and its centuries-old history.

In accordance with the tradition of this series, the first few chapters describe the life of the mansion, familiarizing Daisy as well as the readers with the place’s shabby, decaying splendor, the quirky set of its denizens, and their convoluted family dynamics. Then a tragedy interrupts the jolly festivities, or should I say their pale approximations – one of the guests gets murdered.

Contrary to most other novels of the series, Daisy doesn’t discover the body. Her husband Alec, Detective Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, does, so he has to interrupt his own vacation for a spot of detection, but Daisy definitely helps her beloved.

For most of the tale, the readers are as baffled as the police about who the culprit of this drama is, although it’s largely a process of elimination. When we disregard all those who can’t be murderers, the only person left on the list of suspects is the guilty party, however unlikely.

The characters are divided into two clans. The series newcomers, the members of the family under suspicion, all have their distinct personalities. Some are depicted deeper than others, but on the whole, the group is believable. Like in any family, there are various currents swirling among them: affection and dissatisfaction, vulnerability and stupidity, shame, envy, and passion.

The recurring stars – Daisy, Alec, and his team of detectives – make this book a welcome addition to the series. Everyone has his or her accustomed role to play, a slot to fill, to the readers’ continuous delight. The children – Daisy’s stepdaughter Belinda, her friend, and her puppy – provide some humorous interludes.

Like all the books in this series, this charming story also had new words for me:

Etiolated – pale and limp, feeble looking, effete. Nice to know.
Canard – 1) a malicious rumor; 2) something to do with airplanes.

Recommended for all the fans of the series as well as the lovers of cozy mysteries.

Drip (Short Story)

Plop

The trickle of water slides down the numb skin that’s grown colder even as a fever burns white hot beneath. The shivers and uncontrollable shuddering stopped hours ago. Not a good sign.

Plop

An ordinary drop of who-knows-where-it-came-from-or-how-clean-it-is water dived with no feelings, but he couldn’t help but think it must have felt glee, to splat into an ignoble shift of nothing-shape and careen down his side.

Plop

Funny how you take for granted the things you have on a daily basis when it’s all taken away. Clothes, for example, are worn to help shelter the body but most would only think of them as a matter of necessity of not being nude or a fashion choice that determines their status and worth.

He just wanted some fucking clothes to be warm. Not that clothed, wet and dying is any better than naked, wet and dying. But dammit if he had to choose one over the other. Clothes is the way to go.

Plop

Counting is overrated. Even if it’s something you can do unto infinity, the monotonous cadence eventually numbs the thinking mind and zeroes out the whole point of staying occupied. If he had wanted a zen state of nothingness, he would’ve just slept.

He didn’t want to sleep.

He didn’t want o think.

He definitely didn’t fucking want to remember.

Plop

Being insanely awake and lucid as his body slowly succumbs to the leeching death was no party but it was better than dreaming shit he had no control to negate. The madness of simple things like water drops, pervasive cold, intensifying feverous heat and bitching was better than giving in. The goal was to give nothing.

Nothing more than his life.

Plop

The Ophelia Cut ~ John Lescroart

  • Title: The Ophelia Cut
  • Author: John Lescroart
  • Series: Dismas Hardy Mystery #14
  • Genre: Legal Thriller
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Source: GoodReads First Read
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  Brittany is 23, the pretty, popular daughter of Moses McGuire — and niece of defense attorney Dismas Hardy. Her most recent of many ex-boyfriends, Rick Jessup, can’t get over her. His abuse escalates, culminating in a terrible night when Brittany is raped. Within 24 hours, Rick is dead, Moses is the prime suspect, and Hardy must defend his old friend. The case threatens to uncover old secrets that could destroy the careers of Hardy and police lieutenant Abe Glitsky.

*This review may contain spoilers.*

Review:  The Ophelia Cut is your basic run-of-the-mill legal thriller. Don’t get hung up on the fact that it book 14 in series. This is the first and only book that I’ve read in the series and I felt that it is a solid stand-alone book. Mr. Lescroart did a really good job of feeding the relevant back story without leaving the reader frustrated that they missed something. I do suspect that had I read past books in the series I might have perceived more depth to the characters, but it wasn’t necessary.

They plot itself was interesting, however, I never felt that edge-of-you-seat pull that typical of a really good suspense story. I just did not get the thrill from this thriller. This book was surprisingly easy to put down. It did have enough going for it to make me want to finish the book. I am also not sure that I actually liked any of the characters. In fact, I kind of wanted Moses to be convicted just because I found him to be whiny and annoying. Was it wrong that I found it kind of funny that all of his friends and family just automatically believed that he did it?

One interesting thing about this book is that it really was not “who-dunnit” so much as a how-do-we-defend it. I know this might bother those die-hard mystery buffs who need a solid resolution, but I was ok with it. In fact, it was kind of refreshing to let my mind consider the possibilities. It certainly was no Scooby-do, “I would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling teenagers” ending.

As for the resolution of the trial, I really did not like how this was handled at all. It was really lame and I didn’t buy it any more than the fictitious jury should have. I was left wondering if the author was not sure where to take it and his deadline was coming up, so he reached for the low hanging fruit.

Another thing that bothered me was the implication at the very end that the prosecutor was sympathetic. This did not add up, especially considering the lengths that he went to, sometimes using under-handed methods, to win the case. Oh, but he allowed a sympathetic jury? Why would he let up in that one area? Maybe the author was trying to make a statement that a father going after his daughter’s rapist would be justified? Whatever the case, it just did not play out well.

I thought the cover was a great cover for a thriller. The dark blue wash suggests a sinister tone, along with the body language of the people in the image. However, as I read it, I just didn’t see where the cover fit the book. The title also nagged at me throughout most of the book. I kept trying to figure out what it had to do with the story. This, however, the author did explain in the epilogue.

In the end, this book was just OK.

*Disclaimer: this book was provided free of charge to the reviewer through Good Reads first reads.