Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dreams of a Dark Warrior - Kresley Cole Quick Review

After reading a string of books that left me feeling meh, I turned to Kresley Cole's Dreams of a Dark Warrior and immediately perked up.  Cole's stories are peopled with female characters who are strong and funny, just so entertaining.  A Kresley Cole book is never dull.

Regin, a Valkyrie and Aiden, a Viking berserker are cruelly torn apart when Aiden is murdered in her arms.  But there is a curse that causes Aiden to be reborn over and over again, with no memory of his previous incarnations.  He will only regain his memory when he kisses Regin and then he will die again, shortly after making love to her for the first time.  See, that's why it's a curse.

This time around Aiden has been reborn as Declan Chase, enemy and torturer of the Lore.  And when I say torture I mean things like vivisection on conscious victims.  Declan hates anyone and anything that has to do with the Lore.  His goal is eradication.  Regin recognizes that Declan is Aidan.  To stop his barbaric practices she can manipulate him into remembering who is really is but in doing so, she signs his death warrant.  Talk about conflict...

There is a dark tenor to this book (Dude!  Stone cold vivisection!), that worked for me.  It made the stakes really high and kept me riveted to the page.  When the hero is a violent, damaged junky, a hearts and flowers story just doesn't cut it.

However, I didn't quite buy the HEA for these two characters.  It happened to soon.  I think when your lover has perpetuated heinous acts upon your kind, it takes more than a big grovel to make amends - even if he had a good reason to act the way he did. That's the kind of thing that takes time, lots and lots of time.

But, I was entertained by this book.  I love Cole's characters and the world they inhabit.  I love that the characters are more than humans with magic powers, they have their own morality and sense of justice.  This is the 11th book in the series and it is still going strong.  I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series.
Grade: B +

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Link Love

The wonderful Diana Wynne Jones passed away on March 26, 2011.  She was one of my favorite authors as a kid and still one of my favorites as an adult.  Her inventive imagination was a constant source of amazement to me.  If you have never read one of her novels - do so now.  She will be missed.
Diana Wynne Jones via the New York Times
Christopher Priest on Diana.
And another by Neil Gaiman.

I don't have any ink but when I was younger, I used to tell myself that when I turned forty I would get a tattoo on my calf.  I had seen my first calf tattoo when the college theatre group I was working with went to the Edinburgh Fringe.  The kilt wearing soldiers had them and I thought they were very sexy.  But before I could turn forty, my dad retired and got his ear pierced and a tattoo of a red devil on his calf with the words "Born Lazy" tattooed underneath.  If I got a tattoo now, I'd just be copying my dad and suddenly it didn't seem so appealing.  Then I saw these - Literary Tattoos - and I'm rethinking that decision.

N. K. Jemison asks - what should science fiction sound like?  Missing Voices

The Oddest Book Title of the Year - I'm disappointed that The Italian's One-night Love Child didn't win but glad that at least it made the short list.

I am a big fan of Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series.  To kick off their Steampunk Week, Stellar Four has an interesting interview with her.  

How Not To Respond to a Review - Wow.  Go ahead and read the comments on this one.  Just wow. Then take a gander at the Amazon reviews for The Greek Seaman.  Before the kerfluffle, the book had a total of three (positive) reviews.  Now it has over fifty negative reviews added to the total.  At some point, those reviews feel like a dead horse has been beaten, fucked, and then beaten again.

Why Sailor Moon Is Awesome - and revolutionary and kick ass and cool.

A Paranormal Primer - The Hollows, The Paladins, Dark Days,  and Primal Instinct primers by their authors.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Quick & Dirty Reviews

I'm working some crazy hours this week so I don't have as much time to write reviews, (although I still manage to find time to read books.)  So here's some brief thoughts on a few books I've read.

Game Over by Taylor Keating:  This is an interesting hybrid of styles.  There are shapeshifters, fae, mystical guardians, a post apocalyptic world, and a cyberpunk setting.  River, the heroine, is a gamer sucked into the VR world she has created for her newest game.  This world is also somehow linked to the virtual prison of the Dark Lord, the big bad.  The Dark Lord suspects River has some sort of power that will help release him from his prison and manipulates the game in order to win River's soul and ultimately, his freedom.  Luckily, River has help in the form of the Guardian, Hawk, who although imprisoned in this virtual world, works with River to defeat the Dark Lord.  There is some nice pacing in this book and a lot of action, plus some steamy steamy between River and Hawk... but, in the end, the book didn't work for me.  The paranormal fantasy and technological elements just didn't mesh.  I felt like I was reading a cross between Lord of the Rings and Tron and the effect was jarring.  There were so many different style elements that it felt a little like everything but the kitchen sink instead of a cohesive, multi-layered world.  I think that if a reader can get past that, this could be an enjoyable, action paced, sexy paranormal.  Unfortunately, I could not and I never fully engaged with this story.  Grade: C .          

Primal Bonds (Shifters Unbound) by Jennifer Ashley:  In Ashley's world, shifters are forced to live in shanty towns and wear a collar that causes them extreme pain when they get aggressive.  They can't own new cars, they are limited in their ability to use the internet, they are forbidden to ride in airplanes, and crimes committed against them are often ignored by law enforcement.  When half fae/half wolf shifter Andrea joins the Austin pack she must first get permission from the authorities before making the move.  Fleeing an unwanted mating with a stereotypical douchebag, she agrees to a mate-claim with Guardian Sean Morrissey sight unseen.  Good thing he's hot, as well as hot for her and ready to turn their mate-claim-in-name-only into the real thing.  Sean and Andrea are a well matched couple.  Both are strong characters and I like the fact that Andrea is able to hold her own with the dominant Sean.  And yet, I'm sorta torn on this series.  One the one hand, I find Ashley's take on shifters refreshing, one the other hand, it is also depressing.  Shifters have very few rights and are second class citizens.  And humanity is the oppressor.  Whenever a character left Shiftertown, I kept expecting them to be the victim of a hate crime.  There is an ugliness to this world and it made me uncomfortable... but I also found it intriguing.  I'll be interested to see where she goes with it.   Grade: B  

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pale Demon by Kim Harrison Quick Review

I used to keep all my Rachel Morgan books.  I liked to go back and reread them from time to time but after reading Black Magic Sanction, I began to think that it was time for me to move on and so I gave my copies away.  I wasn't done with the series, just... the old magic wasn't there. While Pale Demon wasn't as frustrating as Black Magic Sanction, it had its moments.

In this episode, Rachel, Jenks, Ivy, and Trent embark on a road trip.  Rachel needs to get to San Francisco for what she believes will be a coven pardon as well as her brother's wedding and Trent needs to get to Seattle for some mysterious elfquest.  Both are under a time limit - Rachel faces permanent banishment to the Everafter if she misses the Coven conference and the future of the elf race is dependent on Trent completing his quest in the specified time.  There is lots of excitement along the way as various foes try to put a stop to the gang’s trek.

Now, there is nothing like a road trip for characters to get to know each other, while allowing the reader to learn more at the same time.  We finally get to see the private side of Trent, the real person behind his slick public persona and y’know what?  He’s a whiny jerk.  Which makes him the perfect foil for Rachel, a character whose maturity decreases with each new installment.  One of the pleasures of reading a series is to watch how the characters deepen, grow, and change over the course of the series.  So it is a drag to watch Rachel regress.  I mean, there comes a point when impulsiveness turns into whatthefuckery.

Look, Pale Demon was not a bad book.  It was a disappointing book.   I didn’t dislike the story per se but I found Rachel especially tiresome.  I think she has bad judgment, poor impulse control and is a self involved screw up.  So it's hard for me to remain invested in this series.  Just thinking about Rachel makes me want to whine about Rachel which just goes to show how pervasive her self-pitying stylings are - they can infect the reader.
Grade: C

Link Love

Habit and Ritual from Lilith Saintcrow
The Birth of Steampunk
The Book Smugglers Recommend...
Gender Imbalance in Literary Reviews?
JA Konrath Drops Price of Book, Makes Way More Money
Why Silver Will Kill A Werewolf
The Accidental Steampunk
Confessions of a Slush Reader
How Young Is Too Young from Nicole Peeler
Lambda Award SFF Finalists
An Open Letter on Indie Publishing
Criticism is not the enemy of collegiality
Is All Publicity Good Publicity?
Where the Cover of Your favorite Novel Comes From
Can Great Characters Save A Bad Plot?
When Should the Waltz End? more from Lilith Saintcrow
Libel Law Shake-Up

Friday, March 11, 2011

Link Love

I read Kate Griffin's A Madness of Angels while on vacation in New Orleans last year and was really impressed.  I read a lot of urban fantasy but this was the first one I'd read where the magic system was intrinsically linked to its setting as opposed to just taking place in a city.  This urban fantasy could not take place anywhere but in a city.  Over at the Orbit Books website, N. K. Jemisin has a post up about her love of the series.  Go on over and take a gander.  You Should Be Reading Kate Griffin

10 Best SFF Books of the Decade  - readers poll over at Tor.
25 Steampunk Novels for Aficianados
The Posthumous Popularity of Edward Gorey

Court Rules No Libel in Book Review Case - hey, remember that case I linked to about the author who sued a book reviewer for libel over a bad review?  Well, not only did she lose, she is going to have to pay damages for artificially bringing proceedings through the French criminal system.

Carolyn Crane Opines about Fuck - I am a big fan of fuck.

MythPunk Panel from Boskone 48

dabwaha - this sunday is the big day to make your picks for the DA/SBTB tournament.  I think I got knocked out in the first round last year.  this year, I am determined to go all the way.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Explaining vs. Excusing

A couple of weeks ago, I read the first three books in Stacia Kane’s Chess Putnam series.  Boy, did I like those books.  Well written, complex, gritty urban fantasy.  The books came to my attention after there was a bit of controversy about them around the interweb because the heroine is a… wait for it…  hardcore drug addict.  People were clutching the pearls left and right over that, let me tell ya.  Apparently, it is ok to have a hero who supplies drugs to dealers, (I’m talking about you, Rehvenge,) or a pot smoker*, (that would be you, Phury),  or even an assassin – god, there are too many of those to name - but a protaganist who uses hard drugs!... oh no, we can’t have that.  

Now, I like the anti-hero.  I like the bad boy.  Show me a guy who’s behavior is warped by his tortured past and I’ll show you a book I’m gonna read.  (And if he has long hair… well, what can I say – I am a hair whore.)  But if there is no understanding of why a character is the way he is, instead of getting an anti-hero, I just get a character who is a dick.  (Which, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing.  At least dick characters are interesting.)  So I also like when an author builds a backstory that makes me understand why the hero is an assasin/drug lord/addict/bad dude.

That was one of the reasons why I enjoyed the Chess Putnam series.  With each book, we learned more about the demons (inner) driving Chess and why she kept herself perpetually high.  That girl had some serious baggage.  Drugs were her way of drowning out the screams in her head.  It could be painful to read but no matter how destructive her behavior was, it was always believable.  And the reader understood her behavior without necessarily condoning it.

Then there is Rehvenge, from J. R. Ward's Lover Avenged.  Rehv started out as a fascinating character - a member of the aristocracy, a sympath, a nightclub owner, and the local druglord.  Yup, that's right - he wasn't just a dealer, he ran his own little drug empire. One dark, dangerous dude.  So what led this aristocrat down such an immoral path?  Turns out he needed the money because he was being blackmailed.  (By his half sister, who also forced him to have sex with her... um, whoa.)  He couldn't afford to pay the blackmail and keep his mother and sister in the fancy pants style they were accustomed to so he turned to drug supplying.  Makes total sense, right?  Luckily, in the BDB world, being poor is much worse than being a drug kingpin and so Rehvenge was absolved of his sins and got his HEA.  

Here's the thing, sometimes authors go to far in explaining the antihero's backstory.  No longer just an explanation it becomes an excuse for the character's actions.  But some behavior cannot be excused, only understood.  If an author is going to attempt to excuse bad behavior then they better have a damn good reason and not, Sure, I'm a drug dealer but it wasn't my fault.  I had to do it because otherwise we would be poor...  

Friday, March 4, 2011

Link Love

Why Your Book Buyer hates You
Why Your Used Book Store Clerk Hates You
Free Kindles Coming? - not sure how I feel about this, (if it does indeed happen.)  I have a lot of issues with e-readers.  Plus, the idea of getting a free Kindle but having to pay a yearly fee, doesn't really make it free.  It is more cost effective to buy a Kindle for $150, (or whatever the price is now), than it is to pay $79 a year for the privilege, (the cost of an Amazon prime membership.)  I guess it depends on how much that yearly fee will be.
A Rant About Whores - it's several years old but still worth reading
Coining Steampunk
Recommended Women Horror Writers - Horror is not my genre but I have read Mira Grant's first book, Feed, liked it a lot and would totally recommend it.  I did find it odd that Marjorie M. Liu's name was included in the additional recommendations.  I would not categorize her as a horror writer.
Reviews Are for Readers - this has been linked to by many others but I feel strongly enough about the issue to post a link here as well.
Pyr's Spring/Summer Catalog - check out what Pyr has coming out this spring and summer.
The Birth of the Modern Romance - I love the list of things that were different in 1972
Colonizing Space is a Dirty Term
Apple Goes From David to Goliath
Arthur C. Clark Award Shortlist

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Drowning City by Amanda Downum - Review

   I wasn't going to read this book at first, having read reviews of it around the web but I'd heard Downum's second novel in the series, The Bone Palace, was pretty good and I wanted to read that.  Since I am anal, I had to start with the first book in the series.  It was only after I finished The Drowning City that I learned that it was not necessary to read this book before reading The Bone Palace.  I wish I had discovered that sooner. 

Which is not to say that The Drowning City is a bad book.  It's not.  There are some interesting elements.  The heroine is Isyllt Iskaldur, a necromancer and spy from Selafai.  She has been sent to Symir, the capitol of Sivahra to offer aid and support to the revolutionaries looking to overthrow the occupying Assari Imperial government.  (Whoo.  That's a lot of esses.)  She manages to make contact with the revolutionaries fairly quick; she also meets Asheris, a mysterious mage who serves the Imperial government.  The Assari government are grade A dicks and there is more than one faction of revolutionaries looking to end there brutal rule.  These factions are also at odds with one another over the methods that should be used.  One group is for a nonviolent overthrow, the other will use any means necessary to achieve their goals.

I liked that there were more than two sides in this story - not just the usually good vs. evil.  There are three different groups looking to overthrow the occupiers but each has different motives, each is working towards a different end result.  Isyllt encourages revolution because the Imperial government is beginning to look to her own land with a conquering eye.  Revolution in Symir will keep them from advancing that goal.  The Dai Tranh work under the assumption of - you are either with us or against us, there is no middle ground.  They'll kill enemies and allies alike to achieve their goal, which is to not only depose but also destroy the Imperial government.  Then there are the Jade Tigers, who's talk of revolution never translates into effective action.  Each group has its own agenda: each group has its flaws, which adds a nice complexity to the story.