Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I read this (August 2011)

I apologize about the length of this in advance. I may start doing this post bi-weekly to cut down on the wordiness.

Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

The Hidden Goddess by M.K. Hobson (The Native Star, Book 2): If you haven’t read The Native Star, don’t even bother with this, I read it only a few months ago and I was occasionally lost. However, you should definitely read these two. Magical alternate-history with some steam-punk flair. Awesome and weird.

Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between by J.A. Saare (Rhiannon’s Law, Book 1): A middle-of-the-road necromancer/vampire pair-up. Not an original spin but decently written. It’s indie-published so it’s cheap and that’s probably the standard by which I am judging it (it was only .99 when I bought it). I’ll get around to the recently-released sequel, but it barely ranks on my list of priorities.

Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, and Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels, Books 2-4): Yes, go read these right now. No, really, RIGHT NOW.

Historical Fiction

Settling the Account and A Second Chance by Shayne Parkinson (Promises to Keep, Books 3 & 4): The four books follow a group of people living in New Zealand in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. The story is well written and interesting but there is so much of it (3 of the books top out at 500+ pages) and there isn’t really a plot. The story managed to be engaging despite the almost ridiculous amount of every-day minutiae included but it is a serious time investment.


The Madness of Lord Ian Mackensie by Jennifer Ashley (Highland Pleasures, Book 1): Ms. Ashley writes some seriously hot, beautiful romances. Instant-lust-that-is-really-love gets the story started, but watching the characters move toward each other is incredibly rewarding. The second novel in the series is Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage and the third is The Many Sins of Lord Cameron (I sure do love romance novel titles, barf). This series tends toward dark and the issues the characters deal are heavy so if you prefer romances that are fluffy, this probably won't appeal.

My Darling Caroline by Adele Ashworth: Nothing about this worked for me. The language was too modern, the lady-protagonist was too perfect, the dude-protagonist was annoying. Doubt I’ll be reading anything else by this author.

Last Night’s Scandal by Loretta Chase (The Carsington Family, Book 5): I have said before that I love this book. I LOVE THIS BOOK. 

Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie: I wanted to love this book, it’s all noir-ish, but the lady-protagonist rubbed me the wrong way. I generally like strong, assertive women (both in books and IRL), but I just couldn’t get behind Nell. Also, I didn’t believe that the lady/dude relationship would last. I am extra sad because I love Jenny Crusie so much.

The Care and Taming of a Rogue, A Lady’s Guide to Improper Behavior, and Rules of an Engagement by Suzanne Enoch (The Adventurer’s Club, Books 1-3): Solidly written, enough suspense to be engaging, believable romance. The lady-protagonists were all remarkably similar, but maybe you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t read them consecutively?

Passions of a Wicked Earl by Lorraine Heath (London’s Greatest Lovers, Book 1): I liked this one because of the emotional journey the characters take. The lady-protagonist starts as a bit of an ingĂ©nue, the dude-protagonist starts as an unemotional, uncompromising douche-wad, but they have some decent growth throughout the story. The writing was occasionally a little flat, and the end was frankly wtf but overall, a nice way to pass the afternoon.

What a Gentleman Wants by Caroline Linden (The Reece Family, Book 1): The setup was really far-fetched and the suspense aspect felt a little forced, but I liked the lady/dude combo enough to ignore the shortcomings. Caution: Plot Moppet.

For Your Arms Only by Caroline Linden (Bow St. Agents, Book 2): Too much emphasis on the intrigue, not enough on the romance. Snooze-fest.

Defy Not the Heart and Joining by Johanna Lindsey (Shefford’s Knights, Books 1 & 2): SBTB had posted about which Johanna Lindsey novels a person would recommend for someone unfamiliar with Lindsey. A popular recommendation was Gentle Rogue, part of the Malory series, and one I didn’t like (flat characterization but I may revisit it anyway). The only other Lindsey I had read was Silver Angel which is full of some amazing wtfery. But I REALLY liked Defy Not the Heart. It’s got most of the orly? that old skool romances have but without the rape. Joining is basically the same book, 15 years later. Head strong, unconventional lady-pro, over-bearing but good-at-heart dude-pro, heads clash, true love, blah blah blah. Fun the first time, less so the second.

The Heir by Johanna Lindsey (The Reid Family, Book 1): Sweet and believable romance between the lady-pro and dude-pro. I do like how the villainess gets both her comeuppance and a bit of sympathy but I wish that the women were more than just character foils to show how awesome the lady-pro is.

Lady of Conquest, Thief of Hearts, A Kiss to Remember, and The Bride and the Beast by Teresa Medeiros: I keep running into the same trouble with Medeiros, the stories are competently written and the arcs are fun if not always original, but I rarely buy the relationship between the lady-protagonist and the dude-protagonist. Of the four, I liked Thief of Hearts best.

The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville (The Burgundy Club, Book 2): Again, good writing and good storytelling, but I didn’t always believe the lady/dude relationship. And both the lady and the dude were kind of shitty people. The first book, The Wild Marquis, was better.

Nobody’s Baby but Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Fuck no, this book is horrible. Besides bad writing, the characters are shitty people doing really shitty things to each other. And did I mention bad writing? STAY AWAY.

The Bargain by Mary Jo Putney: A lot of perspective hopping and the premise is morbid, but it’s decent. Not great but better than average.

Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas: Really well written and a really wonderful emotional connection between the two protagonists. And the way the story unfolded and revealed the character motivations was lovely. Read this now. There is a related book, Delicious, which I haven’t yet read but it’s on my short list.

Glory in Death, Immortal in Death, Rapture in Death by J.D. Robb (In Death, Books 2-4): I said last month that I understand the appeal of these and that’s still true. But if you are going to read this series, do NOT read them in rapid succession. It makes it more apparent that it is the same story over and over again. Formula is thus: Somebody dies, Eve Dallas goes on the case, she has lots of sex with Roarke, she meets someone new who is not actually a suspect, investigation, emotional breakthrough, aforementioned new person is the murderer. Dum dum dum. The fifth book steps away from that, but I’m sure book six will snap right back. I’m probably going to keep reading these for awhile, but my interest is already starting to wane and I’m betting that by the time I hit book 15, I’ll be raging about how much I hate these books.

Mad, Bad, and Blonde by Cathie Linz (West Investigations, Book 1): DNF. I got a quarter through the book before I couldn’t take anymore.

YA Fantasy

A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy): DNF. I struggled to finish books one and two. I COULD NOT make myself finish the last book. I tried to but I hated the narrator and all her friends and they made such ridiculous decisions and ARGH, what a waste of time. I wanted to like it because the narrator and her friends are struggling against a really prohibitive era (Victorian) for women and pushing against the status quo and taking power into their own hands (magically speaking, mostly) but they were so un-likeable that I wanted to shake them until their heads fell off.

ETA: Deleted post by accident, my bad

Monday, September 26, 2011

I read this (part II)

... continued from here.

So, like I was saying. Sookie Stackhouse! Good christ. These books are to literature what Pop Rocks are to dental hygiene. I actually tried reading these a couple of years ago (pre-Anita Blake, you know) and I got through one chapter before throwing the book in disgust. So that shows you that my tolerance for terrible writing has absolutely skyrocketed in my post-LKH world of shattered dreams and disillusionment. Oh, and sorry, Connie, for throwing your book that one time.

If you are like me and watch/ed True Blood before reading the books, then apparently you are a sane person and will be OK with the absurd amount of license Alan Ball takes with both the characters and the story. If you read the books first, you apparently hate True Blood and want Alan Ball to die in a fire. I mean, I get it – people always like the book more. It’s just a thing. You feel all warm and snuggly with these fake people who live in your head, and get all jacked up when someone goes and interprets them differently (WRONGLY) than you did. That’s cool, bro. No judgment.

BUT. I have to take a teeny moment to defend Mr. Ball, here. These fucking books are awful, you guys. It’s not like taking a piss on the Mona Lisa, OK? It’s a dude taking some rough source material, putting it in a Dior dress and sending it to fashion week. Or something. I apologize for the surplus of hazardously misshapen metaphors that are flying around here (idkwtf). Really, he’s just doing his thing. And while I think this past season was a clusterfuck of proportions like I don’t even know, it was STILL better than the last five books of the series all smooshed together. Because while the first 2/3 of the series is not exactly brain food, the last 1/3 is basically Charlaine Harris going to her fans HEY GUYS! WHAT’S UP! GO FUCK YOURSELVES, HOW BOUT IT! YEAH! YOU’RE A BUNCH OF ASSHOLES AND PS I KILLED YOUR GRANDPARENTS WHILE YOU WERE AT THE 7-11 GETTING A TAQUITO! HAHA! I’M AWESOME.

I was going to talk about how the show and the book series are different, but I started and? It would take me days. DAYS. They are different. Very, very different. Lafayette is dead by the second chapter of Book 2, for example. Jason turns into a halfass werepanther. Arlene joins the Fellowship Of The Sun – Jason does not. Arlene does not have Rene’s devil-possessed baby. Sookie kills Lorena. There is no Jessica. The Nevada king forcefully takes over LA and kills Sophie-Anne Leclerq, not Bill Compton (who is like whiny, and a big computer nerd). Tara is married, and has babies. And is white. Pam is British! And wears twin sets! SO MUCH ETC.

Anyway, should you read them?
Um? You know. Go ahead, if you want. They’re not good by any stroke of the imagination, but they’re fun, and quick. The series does go to shit around Book 8, but not in any shake-your-fist-and-cry-foul way. I mean, I was never invested enough to feel betrayed. I just sort of looked at it like “Oh … that was a pretty fucked up thing to do, author. You must not have much integrity. Oh wait. You wrote the Sookie Stackhouse books. Right. No worries. Moving along!”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Emergence by David R. Palmer

I love that a book published when I was one year old is both still available at the library and is also still awesome. It’s written almost entirely in shorthand (not the squiggles-and-dots kind, just the culling-of-extraneous-words kind) which I admit, would have put me off if I had know about it prior to borrowing, but it was surprisingly easy to adjust to.

Encapsulate This

Unspecified future date, USA, blah blah blah. Candidia Smith-Foster (otherwise known as Candy, I seriously had to look up candida because, gross, who would name their kid that? I was relieved to discover I had the word wrong) is a survivor of a bio-nuclear war. She’s mentally and physically precocious (certifiable genius and at least 5th degree black belt in karate), supremely motivated and focused and is also only eleven years old. She sets off across the country to find other survivors and discovers more than just people.

Ruminate on That

I said that this is written is shorthand (also in first person) and that was weird for like 6 minutes. Then I got over it. Sometimes Candy comes off just a little too precious, but she is an occasionally funny, mightily observant, pragmatic, and over-all sympathetic narrator.  She definitely makes a few mistakes, but she’s only eleven, and is still figuring out who she is on top of trying to cope with the world ending. What I like best about her is her incredibly progressive approach to life especially regarding sex and non-standard personal relationships (In a polyamorous marriage? Candy’s got no problem with you). It is a little uncomfortable to read about an eleven year old making these particular sexual decisions, but it is better that she consider them and come to her own rational conclusion than to put it off and be stuck in a bad situation.

Emergence was originally published as a serial in a Sci-fi magazine and was collected for publication in 1984. Despite its age, it doesn’t really feel dated, with cassette tapes and NASA being a couple of glaring exceptions (it is SO SAD that NASA is dated, seriously, it makes me a little teary). However, I’m in no way a technical person and a lot of the jargon flew right over my head so maybe it just doesn’t feel dated to a layman. You STEM types are probably SOL.

Final Reckoning

Should you read this? Yes, do. Yeah yeah, post-apocalyptic, been done, blah blah. But it’s good and interesting and fun and goes to some unexpected places. There were at least 2 times I was all like “WHA? What just happened?” but in a good way. The end was just a little orly? but still, lots of fun.

Emergence by David R. Palmer

Friday, September 23, 2011

I read this [...summerish? 2011]

I know I owe you an Anita Blake recap. Blue Moon, I think. If memory serves, it's full of rape and torture, which ... pleasant! And it takes place in some dumb state that shouldn't exist but does ... Tennessee, maybe? Oh, and there are demons. Rapey, murderous demons. Whatever. The book sucked, because they all sucked, and if you don't know that by now, god help you.

While you're waiting for me to get to that -- with bated breath, amirite? -- here is what I've managed to plow through in the 12 minutes of down time I've had since July. Or, as I am referring to my life now, PAS (post-Atlas-Shrugged).

The Complete Works Of HP Lovecraft - self-explanatory? You either like that shit or you don't. I needed a refresher, and that mofo is $0.99 for Kindle. How do you not buy that? It is full of gibbous moons and fish people and insanity and words with way too many consonants. In other words, everything cool. This will especially speak to you if you are a 15 year old goth. Are there even teenage goths anymore? Is that still a thing? Fuck, I'm old.

The Hungers Games series  [Suzanne Collins]

  •  The Hunger Games - Jae already reviewed this. IT IS AMAZING. Seriously, go fucking buy this book right now. If you are poor and have a kindle, email us for gods sake, we will totally loan it to you.
  •  Catching Fire (Book 2) - If you read the first one, you will, no duh, have to read the sequel. This is very much an in-between book. Like Pirates Of The Caribbean 2? It would probably make no sense out of context. But it's good - the characters get developed, and while the first one is STORY STORY STORY this one gives you time and room to actually form attachments and opinions to these crazy fucking kids.
  •  The Mockingjay (Book 3) - This one is full of WTF. And bombs. It is full of WTF and bombs. I basically hated the heroine halfway through this, and sort of stuck with the opinion. It was a good hate, though! I didn't want to stop reading about her, I just wanted to kill her with knives while doing it. This sentiment is probably all me. I guess she's likable? And her actions/decisions make sense? But fuck her, seriously. I think I just hate teenagers and all the stupid teenage shit they do. ALSO, as I told Jae: the hero [one of them] is named Peeta, and I seriously couldn't read his name without thinking of some Brooklyn mafioso "yo dis is Petah" Type O Negative thing, and I giggled the whole time. 

The Southern Vampire Mysteries  [Charlaine Harris]

Oh my god, you guys. This is Anita Blake Lite. Like, I'm not consumed by skull-crushing rage reading these, but I feel almost as filthy and definitely as dumb. Also, I've been watching True Blood since it started, so I have a definitely soft spot for all of these ridiculously attractive characters. 

To be continued! Here is a picture of Alex Skarsgard to hold you over.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews, Books 1-5

Hey, another five-in-one, it’s almost like I’m not neglecting to post at all.

In an (ultimately destined to fail) attempt to read fewer romance novels, I started reading the Kate Daniels Urban Fantasy series. I borrowed the first 2 from the library because I’ve been burned by UF before (ahem, The Hollows/Rachel Morgan and obvs Anita Blake) and didn’t want to waste my money.

Encapsulate This

Set in Atlanta (sometime in the unspecified future), magic and technology co-exist uneasily. At any given moment, one or the other takes precedence and you could find your car stopping in the middle of street during a magic wave, or your wards failing during a tech wave. Tall buildings tend to fall down, and horse-back is probably the most dependable way to travel. Vampires, were-animals, fabled heroes, and various other not-so-mythological and fantastic creatures walk the streets.

Magic Bites: Kate Daniels lives near-ish to the city, she’s got an awesome sword and a bad attitude. Her former guardian has been murdered and she is out for justice (revenge really, it’s always revenge) and to find the killer, she has to cooperate with the Masters of the Dead (necromancers) and with the Pack (the various weres). Kate’s a sometime-mercenary, an all-the-time loner, and has a secret she must keep hidden at all costs.

Magic Burns: Someone is stealing from the Pack and they have requested Kate’s assistance with finding the thief. If that wasn’t enough, the magic waves have been coming closer together and will culminate in what is known as a flare. At the height of a flare, gods can walk the earth. If Kate can’t figure who out how to stop them from manifesting, shit will get real.

Magic Strikes: When Kate’s friend from the Pack gets himself nearly killed, she has to finagle her way into the Midnight Games (hey, an underground death match!) to find out who done it. What she discovers is a plot that could change the Pack FOREVER (doom doom doom).

Magic Bleeds: Someone is killing some other people, and Kate is called in to figure out who/why/how (they know where). Turns out that her secret is coming to bite her in the ass but it may also be the only reason she will survive the encounter with a deadly member of her own family…

Magic Slays: Kate is now running her own show and she hops on her first paying gig. The vampires are escaping the control of the necromancers and the Masters of the Dead want to know why. There is way more at stake than anyone realizes (hah, I made a pun) and Kate must stop a nefarious plot before it’s too late.  

Ruminate on That

When I first finished Magic Bites, I wasn’t totally enthralled but I was certainly intrigued. I thought the book was well written, had a pretty original take on magic in the modern world, some solid world-building, and had an independent, sword-carrying lady-protagonist that was like-able but not love-able. Kate’s smart but fallible, really good at what she does but not perfect, and she is terrible at personal relationships. She does sometimes take her independence to the point of idiocy, but that’s fine, she has a sword (I will forgive a lot of things if there are swords involved). Anyway, I liked it enough to nab the second book and Magic Burns builds on all the promise of the first book. While the story line is a bit confusing, it is more interesting because it reveals more about Kate’s history and the world-building just keeps on getting better. I liked book 2 so much that I immediately purchased books 3, 4, and 5 for my Kindle so I wouldn’t have to wait for the library copies (seriously library, one copy of each?). GUESS WHAT? I was not disappointed. Magic Strikes is AWESOME. I will go so far as to say it is the best of the series. Magic Bleeds and Magic Slays are pretty wicked but there is a bit more focus on romance and less on the total bad-assery that is Kate Daniels. The romance doesn’t overtake the story and I happen to like romance (no doy) but I thought that the tension between Kate and Mystery Man (totally not a mystery if you read the books, go read them) in book 3 was perfect. Also, underground DEATH MATCH. Also, also, Kate loves The Princess Bride (the book not the movie, since television doesn’t really work) which makes her a winner. Also, also, also Kate is (occasionally) hysterically funny, I cannot tell you how many weird looks I got from the boyfriend because I was laughing alone in the dark (not actually in the dark, else how would I be reading?) (Okay, no more also’s, I promise.)

I think that the series, which is awesome in many, many ways, has most of its strength in Kate’s character growth. She goes from “Meh, she’s aight” to “Whoa, that is one awesome lady*” without her becoming so perfect that I want to gag.

*(Unlike Anita Blake who became magic just because, Kate’s been training her whole life both with a sword and with magic. She is a special snowflake, but there are actual reasons for it. Also (hah, I lied), Kate’s extra-super-special-ness provides the focus and the final conclusion for the series. A lot of UF tends not to have an end-point and the stories are about whatever so they go on FOREVER and lose any cohesion they might have begun with (much like this sentence…). I don’t particularly care if it takes 10 books to get to the conclusion, I just want there to be a purpose (I do love a Great Quest). What I don’t want is to watch a character meander around doing whatever until the author gets bored or the series stops making money.)

Final Reckoning

Should you read these? HELL to the YES. Grab a snuggy and settle in for the weekend. The series gets better and better (despite what I said about book 3, that one was just my personal favorite).  I would hazard that there are at least 2 more books to come (the website lists that book 6 is in progress) but it’ll probably be awhile since the author/s have another series being released more-or-less concurrently.