Friday, December 18, 2015

Book Babblings *SPOILERS*

Blood Kiss by JR Ward

Nitty Gritty: Paradise, daughter of the First Advisor to the King wants out of her gilded cage. Her great escape plan? The revived Blackdagger Brotherhood's training program? She wants to learn how to fight to break free of the glymera's stifling control. Only the sexy and mysterious Craeg throws a monkey wrench on her plans.

Butch, the Dhestroyer, is knee deep in his own troubles, and if he wants to climb out he is going to have to take a hard look at himself ad make some changes or risk losing the one thing he loves more than life itself.

Opening Line: "Some graduations happened in private." 

The Good: Um well I was glad to see more Vishous. I honestly wish Ward would have let Butch and V be together. Their relationship is a hellva lot more interesting than Doc Jane's and Marissa's ever could be.

The Bad: I wanted to like it I really did. Ward promised to take us back to out first loves. She promised us the BDB as we remember them. Um...I'm not convinced she knows them anymore. This book was a giant pain in the ass to read.

There is an entire scene where all the women in the house have a girls night and just veg out watching Magic Mike XXL something scores of women did when the movie actually came out. So the girls are having a good time and just relaxing. Well you would think the boys would take the time to do something manly, like go hunt, pull up a game on TV, or get lost in Assassin's Creed Syndicate for a few hours, but no they sit around the dinner table and whine about the movie the girls are watching. I mean they were one razor blade away from killing themselves about the girls night movie. It was sickening and disgusting. That's not love. That's possession. And the Brothers are real good at that.

At first I thought it was sexy and mysterious but there is something highly wrong with the relationships in this universe. The women are just interchangeable holes to shove their thick man parts into.

And the women are just stepford sexbots. None of them have much of a personality. All of them are small, delicate, with smooth cream skin and blonde hair. Except for Mary and Wellsie. During sex they want to mark their women to ward off other suitors as if the woman is incapable of letting other men know that she is happily attached.

Everyone is starting to run together. Everyone sounds the same, and they all sound like a pack of teenagers at the mall on a Saturday. In the beginning Tohr was a pretty sophisticated guy, and yeah he went through a gut punch over Wellsie. Hell I was hurt when she died, but now he sounds like one of those little Autobots from the second Transformer movies, and that ain't a good thing! Lassiter is the only one with discernible personality, and he outlived his usefulness 5 books ago.

There is a murder that happens pretty close to the beginning of the book and Marissa is consumed with solving it. Butch even polishes off his old detective skills and gets involved. They scratch out some clues and follows up with them and then the murder is solved in two pages...not even a plausible conclusion to the murder! It's almost like Ward was so wrapped up in the sex she forget about the subplot she introduced and then just slapped together an ending to get Paradise and Craeg back together.

And we just keep going around and around with this war with the Lessers. Its like enough already!! I'm tired of it frankly. It was awesome in the beginning when the Lessers had a little class about them, but now why are the Brothers even fighting them now? They're petty drug dealers, who frankly would rather not even deal with the vampires. They're trying to stack cake and deal with the vamps is getting in the way of that. So its like the vamps are the only ones keeping up with this war.

I am getting sick and tired of the slut shaming going on in this book. Every guy wants to spit garbage about the chick vamp that likes a little side action because her husband has one foot in the Fade, but she's made out to be the whore. Excuse me? So what are all the "males" that have slept with her? You can go kick rocks with that.

And please don't get me started on Paradise (could her name be anymore tragic) and Craeg. Paradise is a girl of the glymera. Sheltered, treasured, pampered and treated like a beautiful doll her entire life. The Brotherhood sent out applications for their training program to beef up their numbers, and she thinks "Yes I want to join this dangerous program to protect the race simply because my bonehead friend says girls can't do it." No other reason, and when she gets into the program she spends the entire time panting after another trainee to the point that she halfway kills herself on a treadmill. Nearly 20 stitches later and the girl still can't control her libido like an adult. She's acting like a tween with her first One Direction Crush. But we are supposed to think of her as a warrior? But Ward spends page after page after page establishing what an awesome fighter and warrior Craeg is fighting Peyton in a fistfight and then Butch in a knife fight, Paradise gets to outlast everyone by walking in a circle, but she's a great warrior. Craeg is a walking tool of the highest order. His family was slaughtered during the raids because the family his dad worked for wouldn't let them into the safe room, yeah that was messed up. So now he hates all of the aristocrats. Like every single one of them killed his family. Yeah, thats the level of maturity we've got going on here.

I was just so pissed off at this book, like how could such a great premise have gone so horribly wrong? Come on Ward! Come on! We are 14 books into this! This isn't your first novel! I've read fanfiction of your books better than this. I mean I'm started to feel insulted here.

Final Thoughts: This is the last book by JR Ward that I am going to read. Not even going to bother getting subsequent books from the library anymore. I just can't with her.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Book Babblings

The Girl in The Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz 

The Nitty Gritty: Michael Blomkvist is an investigative journalist without a story and Lisbeth Salander is a undercover crusader without a cause. What happens when Sweden's best duo run out of things to do?

Well if you are Wasp and one of the best hackers in the world you tackle the biggest game in town, the United States National Security Agency, or the NSA. And if you are Blomkvist you find yourself in the middle of a murder investigation by the strangest of circumstances.

Lisbeth is on the hunt for an elusive group of hackers responsible for some of the biggest intellectual heists in the century, and a couple of murders and Blomkvist is hot on her trail.

This group who call themselves the Spiders have targeted Lisbeth and a Swedish scientist on the cusp of breaking through to A.I. Driven b vengeance and a sense of her own brand of justice Lisbeth is going to hunt them down to the last line of code and Blomvist will shine a light on their illegal activities of its the last thing he does...and it might just be.

Opening Line: "Frans Balder always thought of himself as a lousy father."

The Good: LISBETH IS BACK!!!!! I can't tell you how excited I was when this book was announced. I fell in love with Blomkvist and Salander after the first book. I admit I waited for all the hype to die down before I dove into the books, but once I did I was in a fan hook, line and sinker. I was gutted when I found out Larsson had died. Beyond the loss of a short life the world lost a literary gem. Larsson singlehandedly changed the game of crime novels in Sweden and indeed the world. Since the publication of the Millennium trilogy Sweden has seen an explosion of crime novels with brilliant leads and wonderful plots. I've found myself thumbing through the crime section more than the fantasy aisle since I first read Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

Lisbeth is the sort of person you want to have on your team when you're in a jam. She's the hail mary everyone needs in their life. And Blomkvist is better than Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and all of it if you want the world to know your story.

The Bad: We all know about the controversy surrounding the publication of this book. Eva Gabrielsson, his writing partner and his life partner has been vocally against the publication of the book, especially its author, but Larsson'd brother and father have literary rights over his estate and they approved the book and its author. So its a sticky situation with family on both sides of the issue. I bought the book all the same.

The Girl in the Spider's Web is like your favorite article of clothing that your mother accidentally shrunk in the dryer. It's still yours and it fits, but something just feels off about it. The shoulders don lay down like they used to. The color is a smidge lighter than it was yesterday. Its still the same garment but its not. That's what this book was like. Of course I wasn't expecting the writing to be the same. Larsson and Lagercrantz are two different people and sometimes I appreciated their different writing styles, but more often I wanted Larsson's flair for cutting through all the purple prose and getting to the meat of the issue. Larsson has a way of introducing characters with such clarity that I could describe them to a sketch artist and everyone in the world would recognize who it was and with Lagercrantz he jumps right into the action and then we get a little background on the character, but its not lasting. I had to go back and reread the first chapter about Balder to remember who he was when he was mentioned again.

Larsson didn't mind breaking the rules of fiction. He didn't start his book off with action. He didn't open up in the middle of a scene. He didn't have to. He had a compelling story to tell and you either sat down to listen to it or you didn't. He wasn't going to use trickery or slight of hand to capture your attention. Lagercrantz just falls right in line with the rest of the Fiction Hall Monitors. Every rule is followed to the letter, and yeah the story is compelling but the rigidity with which the rules are adhered to is distracting and disorientating to say the least.

The book is only 431 pages long and it took 410 pages to get to the point. This book felt like it was pandering to us the audience and to the characters. In the past books, Lisbeth's abilities came into play because the situation called for them. In this book its like the book that calls for the abilities. Lagercrantz has put the cart before the horse. Everything revolves around Lisbeth's abilities. Ok so if you want everything to revolve around Lisbeth and her hacking abilities then this book should be her book, but she is largely absent. The bad guys get more page space than she does. Which is a shame. Lisbeth Salander is a literary treasure and she should be treated with the respect she has earned.

The Girl in the Spider's Web feels like poorly conceived fan fiction.

My Hope if the Series Continues: That Lagercrantz sits down and reads the Millennium till he can quote a line from any page and the he really starts to study it. I want him to find a way to stick to the Larsson school of writing fiction because following the rules is boring and Salander and Blomkvist deserve better than that. I think it would really open up his writing and give him a freedom he might enjoy.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Book Babbings

Armada by Ernest Cline 

The Nitty Gritty: Zack Lightman is a gamer, one of the best in the Earth Defence Alliance. The fiction world of the game Armada and Terra Firma. Life is pretty easy and dull in Beaverton, OR. He plays video games, works at a dumpy little gamer shop in a shopping center and tries not to kill the high school bully.

Life doesn't seem to be going anywhere, till he spots a flying saucer at school, then his world is rocked like a James Bond martini. Suddenly all those hours spent with a controller in his hand isn't time wasted. It was training, and he is going to need that training if he is going to save the world.

Along the way Zack will learn secrets about himself, his family and the world that he would never have dreamed of. This is a battle of the cosmos and its anyone's game.

Opening Line: "I was starting out of the classroom window and daydreaming of adventure when I spotted the flying saucer."

The Good: Let me say the dust jacket for Armada is one of the prettiest I've seen in a good while. It has a good hand feel; I love just running my hands over this cover. The illustrations are wonderfully rendered, and my copy even includes an autograph. I thought that was sweet.

Cline gets his geek on in a major way in his books and that shows through his writing like a chocolate stain on a white shirt. You couldn't miss it if you tried. I love books where authors write in their wheel houses. It adds a layer of richness to the books that is refreshing and surprising.

Unlike Ready Player One we don't get a constant and consistent cast of characters to fall in love with, in Armada, the cast shifts and changes constantly but the characters are well planned and thought out that the brief flashes we get of them we love them. We care about them and what happens to them. I was invested in

While there was romance in the book. I liked that he curtailed all the lovey dovey crap from Ready Player One. There were times I wanted to strangle Wade with my bare hands, but here Cline cut that crap off at the knees. Zack has a slight crush on Alexis, and Alexis seems to return the affections, but we don't have to put up with all the hormones because he is literally sent to the Moon for his assignment.

Zack seemed to have a bigger pair than Wade did, and he was only marginally smarter. I felt like Cline started with stock characters, the gaming nerd, and only changed a few little things about them. But I do admit I like Zack a little more than I did Wade. Though Zack's little screw up at the top secret facility was an epic fail and it felt more like a pissing contest than him actually trying to save the day. And what's worse it didn't make any sense. So I don't know why Zack would have done what he did. There was no forthcoming payoff or glory in it.

The Bad: As soon as Ray was unmasked I could tell what the ending was going to be. It was painfully predictable. I think he spent more time in the geekory and not enough time on the actual story.

75% of this book is actually just explaining things. And the rest is left to the real story. Cline kept explaining and reexplaining said things over and over again. Its like he thinks his readers will forgot how he described the Glaive fighter jet from one chapter to the next. So each time we get reintroduced to every little element. It wastes time and it takes up valuable real estate in the book. Real estate that he sorely needed to really work on the plot.

The bait setup that got the whole story rolling was cringeworthy. It really is, and its lame as hell and I wanted to scream to the heavens. Cline can vividly imagine and describe fictional interstellar crafts, but he fails every time when it comes to flushing all the potential out of his plots, and whats worse he has really good plots! I think Cline gets caught up with how much nerd knowledge he could cram into this book and Carl Sagan and the Cosmos was his starting point.

Cline spends more than half of the book setting up the final battle, and then its rushed. The book is 349 pages long and its not until page 330 that the the actual plot of the book really starts to take off. And when we get to the climax its 3 pages long.

My Hope for future books: I really want Cline to step back from the nerd herd and focus more on honing the actual craft of writing a book. He is great with characters and weaving info dumps into the story without you actually noticing, but he keeps fails on plot, story structure and development.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Book Babblings

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

The Nitty Gritty: Magic is fading, getting Draino is cheaper than hiring a wizard to clear out those rusty pipes. Jennifer Strange is the foundling manager of Kazam Magical Arts Management, an employment agency for magicians. Jobs and money are tight since all magic is drying up, and worse her boss, Mr. Zambini, has disappeared. Literally. On top of babysitting a tower full of magicians someone predicts the death of the last dragon. The new sends the country into a tizzy. Hundreds of acres of land and billions of moolah is up for grabs.

And Jennifer finds herself at the epicenter of all the action.

Opening Line: "Once, I was famous." 

The Good: It was a quick and light read filled with a few chuckles here and there. Fford is capable of creating new and exciting worlds effortlessly. As a reader you just slide right into the world without realizing you've fallen down the rabbit hole. Jennifer wasn't an annoying, whining 'woe is me' teenager which I found so refreshing I could have cried. Her boss disappeared and she could have gone to pieces about it and did a Bella, but she didn't. She put on her big girl panties and kept the business going and the cogs moving as smooth as they can when you are dealing with magicians.

Jennifer has a pet, a Quarkbeast. A strange animal that only its mother could love. It has razor sharp teeth, strikes fear in everyone it meets, and has a long list of mysterious qualities that you learn about throughout the entire book. For some reason I really liked that. Its not a fluffy dog or a fat, pampered cat that she keeps in a travelling case. Its just an usual morsel and I gobbled it right up.

The Bad: Well this book is a little light on an actual story. First the real action doesn't start till more than half way through the book and second there wasn't a whole lot of action going on. This book is sort of like Indian Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. This book would have turned around the exact same way without Jennifer Strange, the protagonist of the book. So I really couldn't understand why she was the main character. Things just happened to her. She wasn't proactive in anything, she didn't move the plot along. She let other push her around and dictate how things would go and what would happen. She seemed better suited to her management role at Kazam, but she didn't transfer those skills to her dragonslaying. She was a leaf caught in the current of a docile stream.

We are introduced to a George RR Martinesqe number of characters for no reason at all. It felt like the characters were used as world building instead of using actual world building.

And the actual currency in this book is called Moolah. Now I'm not sure if this is meant to be cheeky or just lazy but I found it extremely annoying. I've seen Fforde do better.

Final Thoughts: Against my better judgement I am going to continue with the series. Fforde is a great storyteller and this opening salvo could get better with age.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Writing While Black

One of the questions that I get asked a lot is, why do you write fantasy. Let me back for a little bit. If you know anything about me I am a proud and loud social justice warrior. I believe that all people should be free and equal, in all manner of things. And I am not afraid to let the world know that.

In my interactions with people I often find myself in discussions and debates about the state of and the treatment of African Americans. I am black and I am American so that is the black experience that I know best. When I talk about these things I get assertive and passionate. After all I live as a black American ever day of my life. And people wonder why I don’t write literary fiction or even non-fiction about the black experience.

The first reason I give is that the easiest thing to do is to write what you know and more importantly, what you love. I love fantasy. I know fantasy. I love every thing about fantasy. The dragons, the elves, the vampires, the slayers, the necromancers. Every thing. Well not Twilight or the Mortal Instruments, but that is a different post entirely, but everything else I like. I live and breath fantasy, even when I try to write a pure mystery the killer turns about to be an elf with a raging candy cane addiction. Seriously my first NaNoWriMo story was the Candy Cane Murders. Don’t worry that manuscript will never see the light of day again.

Second if I wrote a searing commentary on black america under the guise of a lit fic novel it would get shelved in the African American section and no one save a handful of black people would read it. One of the best selling books in the African American fiction section, The Coldest Winter Ever has only sold a million copies. I know that a million copies is a great number, a number that any author would be proud to have but I have bigger dreams. I think its great that libraries and bookstores have an African American fiction section, but I think its become a dumping ground for any book with a black protagonists. CWE is a crime drama and if it had be shelved in that section along side Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Womens Murder Club it would have gotten better sales. I don’t want my book to end up in the Land of MisShelves Novels, lonely and forgotten.

Thirdly, I just want my books to entertain the masses. Yes in real life I am educator, not by trade but by passion. I am a tutor and a mentor, but as my grown up job I want to be a writer. A children’s, YA and TV writer if you want specifics. I will use my real life to educate people about the black experience I will use my books to entertain.

Not every black author feels the way that I do, so understand this is a deeply personal choice for me and in the years to come, as I get older and wiser, I may change my mind. For now I will write my fiction with a healthy dose of fantasy.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Babblings

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Nitty Gritty: Ready Player One is the greatest easter egg hunt ever created. Created by a dying genesis obsessed with the 80s pop culture. He plants the egg in the virtual reality simulation OASIS. In OASIS you ca ben anything, anyone and do anything. For many its as addictive as crack and just as enjoyable as sex.

Wade Watts, or  Parzival as he is known online, is a gunter, or egg hunter, he devotes his life to finding Halliday's egg and collecting the prize. Billions and dollars and control over the OASIS. He spends his life immersed in the 80s. From the tv shows, the video games, the food, the music, everything in search of clues to the 3 keys that will unlock the gates that will lead to the egg.

He's not the only one hunting. He has set himself up against the rest of humanity and the IOI Sixers, a paramilitary unit of corporate egg hunters out to find the egg to control the OASIS with a capitalist fist. The fate of the humanity rests in the hands of a boy who only wants to go on a date with his online love, Art3mis, a fellow gunter and OASIS celebutant.  

Opening Line: "Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first hear about the contest." 

The Good: This is a book for everyone who sits down and remembers the 80s with fond memories. Most people agree it was the worst decade for fashion and that might be true, but it was the dawn of the Age of The Geek.

Any book that references Real Genesis is aces in my opinion. I seriously thought I was the only person in the world who has liked or even seen that movie. Its on my DVR back in the states and it is one of my favorite movies and I dare say I would hold it up against Val's Doc Holliday as one of his greatest roles. I love that Wade loves this movie, and I'm glad I'm not the sole fan.

Just as Rick Riordan took the things about ADHD and dyslexia and turned them into superpowers Cline has turned all the obsessions and habits of a nerd and made them bankable. Bankable in a virtual world, but still useful. All the time we spend in fantasy worlds and unplugged from the real world pay off in this tale. They pay off in a big way. The countless hours we spend with a controller in our hands is a good thing. A thing that helps get the prize, and ultimately get the girl.

The Bad: This book is soft core porn for all the white ubergeeks of the 80s. Reading this book you would think that no black person contributed anything or even participated in geek culture in the 80s. While I wasn't a teen like Halliday in the 80s I was a kid and therefore I remember the decade as fondly as Halliday does. However my 80s were a bit more colorful than what is portrayed in this book.

The erasure of black geeks is a constant uphill battle that blerds (black nerds) like myself have been fighting since we bought out first Ghostbusters lunchbox. We are ignored by the mainstream geek culture and picked on and bullied by our African American cohorts. Its a lonely place to be. We are always the sunflower seed in a pile of rice. Where was the Cosby Show, Reading Rainbow, Coming to American, The Golden Child, Beverly Hills Cops, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, The Jeffersons, Fat Albert, Family Matters, Different Strokes, 227, Amen, A Different World, Whitney Houston. Reading this book one would think the nerd world is a totally white space made available by and for white men.Yes Aech turns out to be African American, but Cline took care of that by giving Aech a white boy avatar in OASIS. A virtual space where someone could be a troll or a vampire if they so choose to be. So race or gender shouldn't and didn't really matter. Oh sure he gave us the token "its easier to be a white man" excuse for Aech, but I'm not buying it.

Cline completely and totally disregarded any contribution from black culture into geek lexicon. And it hurts.  

The info dumps abound through this book. Which in a fantasy book is sometimes needed, but not when your novel is based in the real world and you are referencing real things. Cline describes things as if he alone is the preserver of all things 80s geek related. As if he were the only geek in the 80s enjoying Labyrinth or Atari or Pacman. I can assure you I loved going to grab a slice of pizza and paying Pacman at the table. Granted I never played a perfect game, but I can still get down on a game if I have to. I think the book could have been streamlined without all the info dumps. 80% of them were wholly unnecessary to the movement of the plot. They seemed to just be dumped so Cline could show off his nerd knowledge. Well grants us nerds are known to show off for each other, but we never do it in full view of the normals. Its just not done. And Ready Player One is the reason why.

For all the buildup of the sinister nature of the Sixers I expected more of a fight out of them. I expected some Jason Bourne, James Bond, Lisbeth Salander antics from them. They blow up a trailer stack and kill one gunter. And those two actions are separated by nearly 200 pages of nothingness from them. I thought they would chase Wade around the real world and through the OASIS. But they didn't and I was disappointed that this turned from a great set up to just another 'chosen one' trope, where everything neatly and always worked out for the main character.

Final Thoughts: I want to give this a two just for the bad taste I got after realizing that my brand of nerdom was totally erased, but it was still an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I just noticed! My bookshelf lacks a certain feminine touch

Believe me when I say I am an out and proud social justice warrior. Yes I know. We spend more time on our soapboxes than down in the trenches actually trying to change things, but I like to think I do my small part of griping and getting my hands dirty. Imagine my surprise when I went to pull a book off my shelf to read for the umpteenth time and I noticed a very ugly trend.

My bookshelf is a sausage fest. Excuse my vulgarity for a moment. I am a black woman that loves everything about being a girl. The glitter, the underpants, even the shoes and I support woman every chance I get and frankly for a raging feminist like me to have a bookshelf bulging at the seams of male writers left me flummoxed.

How could this have happened? When did it happen? How could I have not noticed? Me, who always makes a point of waxing poetic about the need for diversity in literature and pop culture has more male authors gracing her shelves than female.

Where did I go wrong? I think I may have gotten dazzled by the brilliant stories and the wonderful worlds and nuanced female characters of these male writers.

Well let's dissect some of my favorite books. The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. Colfer hit upon two of my treasured things. Bad boys and fairies. Artemis is a boy genius who turns his massive intellect on reclaiming the family fortune. He accomplishes this by defrauding The People, what we would call fairies, out of their gold. He does this with the help of the massive built and expertly trained Butler, no first name given. The most intriguing this about the series isn't Artemis, yes he is cute and yes he is smart, but Holly Short, Captain Holly Short is the standout for me. She is the only female in the LEP Recon unit. She is efficient, highly regarded in her line of work and very good at her job. Especially if it involves shuttle and solar flares. She is great at reading suspects and she always gets her man, or dwarf or pixie. Whomever the perp may be. And I can't talk about awesome female characters in the Fowl series without mentioning Opal Koboi. Sure she is the bad guy, but she is one of the better Moriarty reincarnations I've read in a good while. From the moment we meet her she is pulling Fowl's strings left and right, and even through time and space. She is maniacal and utterly diabolical with just the right amount of maybelline.

The Rangers Apprentice and Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan. I'm a fantasy girl through and through sure, but I do like what we in the business call low fantasy. Books set in alternative settings with little to no magic whatsoever. The Rangerverse fits snuggly into that category. I love that in this series girls don't have to prove to anyone that they can do anything a man can do and sometimes do it better. Its just accepted that woman are a vital part of life and that sometimes they can be called upon to defend their countries, or rescue wayward Oberjarls.

The Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson. I've heard it all. Savage rapes, sexual abuse, attempted murder, incest, child abuse and pedophilia just to name a few of the travesties committed against the female characters in the books, but I can't help but love and root for Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is wickedly smart. Painfully smart even. She is calculating and exacting. Above all she is uncompromising. She has her own brand of morals and will not stray from them for anyone. Salander is a woman who has been brutalised beyond measure but she will never call herself a victim. Now I am not saying that woman who do aren't strong. That is a topic for a different blog, but I like her coping mechanisms. She didn't mope around, she duct taped the sucker and gave him a dose of his won medicine. Even Erica Berger is a great character that grew on me by the end of The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. She was smart, sassy and not afraid to have her cake and eat it too.  

Now don't misunderstand me, I read female writers. Some of my favorite writers are women. JK Rowling of course, she saved my life. Not as in she herself personal, but a copy of Harry Potter and Philosopher's Stone stopped me from eating a bullet from my father's gun. So she will always be on my top ten. I've got 4 fan fiction stories based on the Potterverse. Angie Sage, author of the Septimus Heap series and the newly penned Pathfinder series is just a joy to read. Her cast of characters almost rivals George Martin, with backstories just as extensive. And a great friend to have on facebook if you are so inclined. Mercedes Lackey, a prolific female in the fantasy genre, has been fascinating audiences for decades. Personally I am in love with her Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdom series. I'm a sucker for fairytales what can I say.

Should I forgo reading books by men even if they have great female leads and female characters even though I champion female writers? Does it make me a bad feminist to have more male writers on my bookshelf than women? Is NOW going to revoke my feminist card? What's a girl to do? How do I reconcile reading more male authors than female authors?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Book Babblings

Mortal Heart By Robin LaFevers

The Nitty Gritty: The thrilling conclusion to His Fair Assassins' series. Annith has watched as sister after sister has been sent out to met out the death that Mortain has handed down. When the abbess sees fit to lock Annith away as the convent's seer she has had enough. She steals away under the cover of darkness to seek out Mortain's will for her life and just maybe become a true handmaiden of death.

Breton is on the edge of a precipice. The French are at their door and they are leave a trail of bodies in their wake. France is intent on having Breton under their banner. When trickery, backstabbing and politically manoeuvring don't work they move up to full scale invasion and occupation. The young duchess is going to have to rely on the old gods and their servants if she is to hold on to her duchy and save her people from certain annihilation.  

Opening Line: "For most, the bleak dark months when the black storms come howling out of the north is a tome of grimness and sorrow as people await the arrival of winter, which brings death, hunger bitter cold in its wake." 

The Good: Death has a heart. Mortain was the knockout highlight of this book. A god walking among mortals is always a hit for me. He was the tall, dark and lurking type but that is sort of a turn on. He wasn't a bad boy like his hellequinn which made him all the more appealing.

Each of the three heroines has suffered in her own unique way. They are broken toys and Death helps put them back together again. Its a background story for the ages frankly. We never get to see female characters with pasts like these. Well we do if they are utterly insane like Poison Ivy or Harley Quinn, but high functioning women who become the heroes in their own tales are few and far in between.

I really like the mythos that LaFevers creates with her gods in this historical fantasy. Its original enough that she won't be lumped in with Rick Riodan but its close enough to the Greek or Roman mythos thats is familiar to her audience.

The Bad:  The novel wandered through the countryside of Brittany like a drunken mercenary on a binge, and it was not a good time to be frank. This book is 553 pages long and it did not have to be. It really didn't We could have lost 200 pages of this book and still be satisfied. Annith blunders from one storyline to the next and LaFevers is really heavy handed with the plot in the beginning. As subtle as the Beast in a suit as it were.

I mean I'm not sure with anyone else but I called out her lineage before the 100th page. It was as clear as the nose on my face so I'm not sure why we had to wait nearly 300 pages till we got to the true. The reveal wasn't as grand as the previous 300 pages lead us to believe. There was little fanfare except Annith's completely overblown reaction. Then her very quick turn around once she has the information. She is like a revolving door of a emotions simply for the sake of tension. There were other ways for tension to be squeezed from this book than that. Annith could have gone into the French court. She had the blonde hair and the cloistering from the outside world to have pulled it off. It was only until the last 50 pages that her purpose became clear. For she was just taking up space for the fist 450 pages. And then it was almost like Indiana Jones in the Raiders of the Lost Ark. The book would have ended the same without Annith in it. Her big win could have been won but any other highly skilled archer. There was nothing in this book that she accomplished that couldn't have been done by another. Unlike Dark Triumph.
It takes a 100 pages before she even leaves the convent. Frankly I wanted to strangle her and get the hell on with it.

And frankly we never did learn what really happened to Matelaine. Sure Annith goes in search of the truth, but she never gets it and then it just doesn't matter. After all her blustering and emotional turmoil over her death she sure gets over it fairly quickly without much ado.

The insta-love while not totally sugary sweet was apparent when Balthazar ambushed her in the forest. There was no back and forth. The impossible dance between the could and should. The will they or won't they. They meet on page 116 and instantly you know he is the love interest. LaFevers tries to make him mysterious and I sort of fell for it. Maybe for 10 pages. Then is just became grating. They denied themselves just because.

All these things were used in the place of real tension. Its like Robin had energy for only one book but she had already committed to writing a trilogy. Most authors get it right with the first or the last book, but she got it with the middle book.

Overall Thoughts on the Series: Dark Triumph is the stronger book of the series. The love affair seemed more natural and free flowing than Mortal Heart and Grave Mercy. I feel this three books could be condensed into one book, and it would have been a hit out of the park.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Book Babblings

Prudence by Gail Carriger 

The Nitty Gritty: Lady Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama is all grown up and ready for adventure. As the only, to date, metanatural in the world its up to her to cause as much trouble as she can while she can. This time she is given her very own dirigible and an assignment to negotiate a tea treaty with interested parties in India for her Dama.

All is not as it seems for the crew of The Spotted Custard as they float into port in Bombay. For one a mysterious cat seems to be on their tail (pun included) and said cat keeps asking Rue about her mother and two the local werewolf pack is acting funny and a Brigadier's wife is missing, along with Dama's tea. Its up to the crew of The Spotted Custard sort everything out before new gets back to England that Rue entertained a certain military gentlemen without a chaperon.

Opening Line: "Lady Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama was enjoying her evening exceedingly."

The Good: I am a huge, huge fan of Gail's and a bigger fan of her Parasol Protectorate series. I mean who doesn't love a bossy woman with a penchant for getting into sticky situations? Well I do. I tore through the entire series in a manner of days and was saddened when I got to the end and found out there wouldn't be anymore. I was overjoyed when Gail announced that she was returning to the sundowner world and giving use a new cast of characters for our troubles.

The brood of all the characters we grew to love in the Parasol Protectorate are all present and accounted for in the Custard Protocol. Its interesting to see that Primrose and Prudence became friends, better friends that Ivy and Alexia every were. For the simple fact that Prim and Rue are totally honest with each other and hold each other in the strictest of confidences. I wished Alexia and Ivy could have been that close. Ivy had a lot more to offer than people gave her credit for. Though its nice to see Prim getting a better spotlight and role than her mother got.

I am really enjoying the new characters in this tail. Especially Spoo. We often get this image of Victorian of England that tells us women were objects, pretty things to be bartered for money, position and or crown. Its nice to get these glimpse into a society that did have places for women that fell outside of societal norms. Sure society was still rigid and close minded but now we know that there were women who bucked tradition. I have a feeling Spoo is going to move out of the secondary character realm into a major character and I am all for it.

The Bad: I still really don't have a sense of Rue's personality. It seems to be a combination of several characters. Now on occasion in the novel Rue pulls on the personality of others as a means of infiltration, she is the daughter of the Prince of Spies after all, but even after she removed them I still don't know about Rue. The rest of the characters are laid out perfectly and precisely. I can tell you all about Prim, Percy and Quesnel and even Spoo, but for the life of me I can't figure out Rue.

Its almost as if Carriger is recreating Alexia because she got great feedback on this character. For me Rue is just a younger version of Alexia. We met Alexia when she was 26 and we meet Rue when she is 20. So I think Carriger just rolled back the clock for Rue. She doesn't have a firm footing.

I hate the relationship Rue has with her mother. I didn't think Alexia was going to suddenly turn sappy and become the mother of the year, but at the end of the Parasol Protectorate she did have a maternal connection with Prudence, but in this new series its almost as if Alexia and Conal abandoned their child into the sole care of Dama, as he is now called. Oh and can I mention the fact that I hate that Lord Akeldama, in all his dandy finery has been reduced to the ill fitting moniker, Dama. I cringe every time I read it. I just think it was forced tension that we didn't need. We already had that. Three people, two the blood parents, and one the adopted vampire parent, are trying to raise one child. That has tension slapped all over it. We didn't need the cliched bad parent relationship. I think it does a disservice to Alexia and especially Conal who was too excited over having a child. Now its possible that with this being the first book in the series Carriger wanted to firmly cement this as its own stand alone series and she needed to distance Rue from Alexia, but I think there were other ways this could have been accomplished.

For someone raised by Dama with Alexia and Conal as parents Rue is painfully naive. Almost to the point of stupidity. Rue seems to just be getting by on the sheer force of a borrow personality.  

My Hope for the Series: I hope that Carriger can cement Rue's personality a little more.  If she can then this series is sure to overtake the Parasol Protectorate and firmly place Carriger in the upper echelons of the fantasy genre right along side Butcher and Lackey and Riodan.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Babblings

Nest by Esther Ehrlich 

The Nitty Gritty: Its 1972 and we are smack in the middle of Cape Cod. Not the usual setting for a children's novel, but here we find Naomi, affectionally nicknamed Chirp. Chipr's 'nest' is a neat little home with her older sister, her father and her mother. When chirps mother is diagnosed with MS, their perfect home comes crashing down around them. Chirps finds solace in bird-watching and a newfound friend in Joey, the slight bad boy across the street.

Nest follows Chirp, her family and her friend as she deals with her mother's illness and the fallout of the family unit, and the private world she creates in her 'nests'.

Opening Line: "I should have taken the shortcut home from my bird-watching spot at the salt marsh, because then I wouldn't have to walk past Joey Morell, whipping rocks against the telephone pole in front of his house as the sun goes down." 

The Good: I'm a fantasy girl through and through. I devour fantasy like a hungry hippo, but sometimes I need a break for all the fairy dust and goblins and vampires. Nest was a nice vacation. My childhood was nothing to write home about so its nice to read a sort of feel good book about a bygone time when kids were just kids. Without sexting and thots and all that garbage.

Nest is a story about a girl embarking on a journey to find herself and maybe the meaning of everything when her mom becomes ill.  Her mom, a dancer is sidelined by MS. Which sets the family on a collision course with tragedy. Today MS is manageable though not curable. In the 70s medical advances were not being made in the field of MS. Watching the family go through this is heartbreaking, and heartwarming. 

I love that this story could explore a friendship between a boy and a girl and nothing is expected of either in the love department. Yes they younger than the YA set but it seems like we have become obsessed with middle grades and YA books featuring a female leads and them in love triangles. Suzanne Collins was encouraged to take Gale from just a write in character to a love interest for Katniss to boast sales, and we see how well that did. Which is a shame. I think the story would have been better without that complication. 

For a book written by an adult through the eyes of a little girl I never got the sense that it was an adult writing as a child. Chirp had appropriate thoughts and observations. Ehrlich didn't take an adult and just age her down with a birthdate. A phenomenon we are seeing a lot of. Chirp was a true little girl in every sense of the word. It was very refreshing. Chirp explored her neighborhood, like any true adventurer would. She wrestled with her sister, something all girls do even though they make it seem like only boys and brothers are hands on with their siblings. I've tried all manner of WWF (I'm old school like that) moves on my sister. And runs around with her best friend Joey.

The Bad: The story went darker than I expected of a children's book. No I don't think kids books have to be about fairy tales and rainbows, but I think we need a little warning before we are slapped with mental illness and death. That's heavy stuff for children to deal with.

The story lagged a little bit in places. Sometimes it was a struggle to keep turing the page, but I stuck with it because I was invested in the character and the story at that point.

My Final Thoughts: This is a wonderful vacation from the YA sludge that is being churned out by the dozen these days. A proper tear jerker and a great way to open up dialogue between parents and children about a tough subject matter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Book Babblings

Hive & Heist by Janine A. Southard 

The Nitty Gritty: Beat up and almost broken Rhiannon's Hive collapses into the John Wayne Station looking for solace. Seeking refuge in its safest the Hive relaxes a bit and the future starts to look bright, until their engine is nabbed.

Well when life gives you lemons you throw them back and steal some cherries. The Hive scheme to steal their engine back, but its not really stealing if it's yours in the first place. With a smarter than should be allowed Star Ranger robot on their tails and a brothel run stage play the Hive is turning into a real family.

The robot, by the way, is bolts deep into an investigation into a string of thefts and murders aboard the station. A rival lawmen group are determined to get into her way and impede the investigation, but she is having none of that.

Hive & Heist is a romping good time in outer space.

Opening Line: "Criminal couldn't escape justice."

The Good: I love the pop cultural references like the Texas Rangers and the john Wayne Station. Though I can't say that I am a fan of the Duke, but I like it in a sort of space opera.

I do like the sort of robot police procedural aspect. Though not the sort of procedural we are used to with Law & Order or CSI. And my hats off to the female robot lawmen or Star Ranger. Even if it is a robot its nice to get some diverse characters in the mix.

This is a science fiction book that doesn't take itself too seriously. There is a fair amount of humor and laughs to be had, mostly a lot of ribbing at the main characters expense but if you can't laugh at yourself who can you laugh at. I do enjoy good natured characters like that. A lot of times in YA fiction the girls are so morose and angsty that its depressing to read. Its nice to have a character crack a joke and a smile every once in awhile.

I do love that this book is introducing teens to the scifi genre and that we are getting a female main character in a space opera. the YA section is full or magic and vampires and werewolves that I walk into the bookstore with garlic and wolfsbane just to repel all that.

The Bad: For it to be a continuation of a previous book it lagged and it sagged in places. Almost as if it were still trying to find its story and its footing. Book 2 is not the place for self doubt. You are supposed to work all of that out in the first book.

I get the bread crumbs and I suppose there are more bread crumbs in the fist book than the second book but I would have liked a little more in this book. A tiny bit more backstory for those reading out of sequence and a bit more foreshadowing for the upcoming books. Even if it is a book in the middle of a series they should be stand alone books in and of themselves. I should be able to read a book and not feel like I'm reading a Greek book on trigonometry. That was a little distracting.

I really hate when books in a series can't stand alone. I know that its part of a larger story, but if someone reading book two has no idea what is going on, or who is who, or what this gadget is and you fail to explain it because it was all explained in book 1 then I call that a fail. I understand you get more money with them buying book 1 and book 2, but you also sell more if people like book 2 and want to buy the fist book as well. Not because you didn't answer any of their questions.

Parts of the story, in the beginning, don't really mesh up with anything else in the book. Almost like the author couldn't decide where to put it so it got stuck into this book. The pace didn't really pick up until the middle of the book, but by that time some readers have bailed.

My Final Thoughts: I have not read the first book in this series but from this book I am keen on picking it up and diving into it just because the author leaves so many things unsaid that you need to know in this book. Though I don't think I would be reading it for enjoyment at this point. But anything dealing with Hives is aces in my book. I'm a Resident Evil gal through and through what can I say.

Book Babblings

Liesmith by Alis Franklin

The Nitty Gritty: Sigmund Sussman is a twenty year old nerd. The pudgy computer geek living not with his mother (thank you for that) but with his dad. He is that IT guy. The voice at the other end of the line asking you "Have you done control, alt, delete?" The lonely one with the armpit stains. He plays dungeons and dragons and he has two best friends who happen to be girls. Oh and he can always tell one someone is lying.

Then Lain walks into his life. That sexy new IT it guy. Sigmund's life takes a sharp left into Norse mythology and while Sigmund resisted the detour at first he grabbed a hold of his destiny and his first male on male kiss with both hands.

As the romance blossoms between the total delicious Lain and the plump Sigmund something is right about Lain and fate comes crashing down in the form of the Wyrd. An ancient force that throws Lain and Sigmund into a proverbial blender on pulse. Unwilling for the adventure Sigmund is warned that "only fools mess with the Wyrd. Why? Because the Wyrd messes back."

Opening Line: "Everything is true, especially the lies."

The Good: This books gave me a newly found love or trope, the reluctant, ordinary hero or rather person is Sigmund's case. Yes we've seen this trope in television and in other genres, but in fantasy we get the farm boy yearning for adventure, or the chosen one being prepped since birth or the kickass warrior woman or girl itching to make some nasty beast her bitch for the night, but we never really see the reluctant hero in fantasy. I think it was a little cliche to make him a nerd. As if nerds are the only reluctant people in the world. I though that was an easy out for the author, but there it is.

Sigmund Sussman, just couldn't be bothered to care really. His singular goal in life seemed to be to make his father proud. As proud as a lowly IT guy can make his father. He was almost an extra from Office Job, which was an hilarious movie for me, but Sigmund seemed less funny and more sad.

I really liked that this is an urban fantasy novel which 1) not set in the United States or Victorian England 2) highlighted a gay romance 3) had minority main characters. We need more of this, we need more diversity in our books. Franklin gives us that.

Sigmund has a gift. No he isn't a Stackhouse psychic, or a Potter magician, or a Dresden wizard. Sigmund can tell when people are lying. That's all. Nothing something that will make him a hot commodity in the "world beyond the veil" and is able to tell when people are lying. Something I learned to love watching Agent Jinks on Warehouse 13. *sniffle* I miss Pete. But I digress, Sigmund doesn't think his gift is a big deal, he's lived with it his entire life, but he doesn't full grasp the breadth of this gift because he doesn't yet understand himself. I like that. Even as an adult he has room to grow he is still learning about himself. We always expect adults to be set in stone, to know who they are and to conquor the world. Teens are the ones always in flux, but sometimes we adults still don't know who we are, or more importantly who we want to be. Sigmund is that sort of man. 

The Bad: The romance, while not insta-love just didn't seem to go anywhere. I'm not familiar with the mating rituals of gay men but I know that something has to happen. This was just page after page of awkward glances and a camping trip that was the perfect place for a Brokeback Mountain kiss and reference but we didn't get that. I think Franklin really missed an teaching moment here. There are a lot of people who haven't been exposed to a gay relationship, especially in fantasy. This could have been that book. Give us the same you would with a hetro relationship. Not insta-love, but give us more.

You know that I am a stickler for great character names and Sigmund Sussman just rubs me the wrong way. Like he should be the subject of a episode of Criminal Minds, not a gay IT guy on the brink of a intergalactic war between the Norse Gods. And frankly he does sound like a fat guy. Like the name screams I'm a tub or lard who likes to close down the Sizzler. Even though Sussmen just has a little extra poundage in the belly area. I will give Franklin brownie points on a non-traditional main character though.

I am getting a little tired of low self esteem man characters and more so when its a guy. Just because guys aren't forced to live up to the unrealistic expectations that girls are. So for Franklin to go on and on about Lain's golden hair, beautiful hair and how plain jane Sussman is was a little grating and very Bella Swan/Ana Steele.

Along comes Lain. Lain is hot, funny and attractive and the newest member of staff in Sigmund's team. And of course Sigmund is attracted to him. But poor, nerdy Sigmund has never had a boyfriend (surprise) only has two friends is not in the same league with Lain. Oh surprise, surprise there. Give me a break. Why is it so hard to either a hot main character to fall for another hot character, or to have two plain janes be attracted to each other. Or better yet different kinds of beautiful. For me there is nothing sexier than a tall, skinny, slightly pale nerd with a flop of hair in his face. For someone else a ginger with a mass of freckles all over her face is the perfect vision of Venus. I'm so sick of the golden haired, blue or green eyes god with a chiseled chin and chest. There is more than one way to build a beautiful man.

My Final Thoughts: I think I would read the next book in the series. I like that we are getting a different set of gods and that it's not a group of teenagers, but then when it is the world make a little more sense. I want Sigmund to really get his footing, grow some balls and really get with the program.

But if you like decently written urban fantasy with a dab of gay romance,  a sprinkling of Norse gods, battles, monsters, and things that go bump night and sometimes in the day, then this is the book you need in your life.