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.