Tag Archives: sff

February and March reads

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley – This is an older/earlier book, and it shows in the development of the plot, such as it is.  The ending of the baby mystery was out of nowhere and didn’t really fit with the tone of the rest of the piece.  It felt sort of wedged in, as if the author had written herself into a corner with the paranormal bit and then – voila! – came up with a practical/real solution that hadn’t been signaled in any way earlier in the book.

Echoes in Death by J.D Robb – Meh. Guessed whodunnit as soon as the character was introduced and the “twist” earlier on (during the post mortem).

The Chemist  by Stephenie Meyer  – Really trope-y heroine. Dreamy and not really believable hero. Split with twin to get all skills. Author had a couple of faux pas re: DC, especially re the Metro (there are no ladies rooms in Metro stops).

Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs – Glad this was a library loaner, because paying for it would have irritated me.  Miscellaneous sloppy typos missed in copy edits (the for then, ambitions for ambitious, etc.).  Disjointed narration. If you have to tell me at the outset of each chapter the setting, then you are doing something wrong, too much telling. More everyone loves Mercy. More power pulled out of nowhere to serve the plot. Meh.

Mira’s Last Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold – The writing was fine, but this novella felt kind of purposeless to me.  Penric’s situation wasn’t really advanced from the end of the last story, on the run with a potential ladylove and her refugee brother.  They are in a slightly safer locale, but the conflict isn’t resolved or even moved forward at all.  It was vaguely interesting to get a different personality of Desdemona has a role, but absent actual progression, I felt like the novella was a disappointment; I wouldn’t call in a money-grab, exactly, but it felt purposeless and like fluff or filler.

Currently reading Empires of Light (nonfiction) and a biography of Ida Tarbell.

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The Hanging Tree

This was better than the last book.  Primarily because it was set in London and was centered around the Faceless Man.

But there were still some irritating things.  First, the complete absence of direct address commas.  Where have they all gone, editors?  Second, references to events that occurred in the graphic novels.  Aaronovitch has spent a lot of time and creative energy on them, I get it, but they are a completely different media that not everyone enjoys, and it is irritating as hell to see something, and making a reference to them as canon is a way to alienate some readers. Third, a lot of the characters and events of this book felt like they’d retconned by Aaronovitch to me in some ways.  Tyburn suddenly likes Peter on a personal level?  And other stuff that would be serious spoilers.  But some of it felt really inconsistent with the world as previously established.  Unless, of course, Peter as narrator is even more unreliable that I thought.

Eh.

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The new Bujold book

When the new Vorkosigan book, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, was announced last year, I pre-ordered a hard copy for my brother-in-law.  He likes first edition hardbacks and there was a limited signed edition, so…  When his copy arrived last week, I quickly mailed it to my sister to squirrel away as a gift.  And then I downloaded a Kindle copy.

Although I pre-ordered and ordered copies, I didn’t actually read much about it.  Jole was obviously the fellow from earlier books, Aral Vorkosigan’s aide de camp, and the Red Queen would be Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan.  Set after Aral’s death.  But other than that?  Eh, I didn’t need to know.

I feel like maybe I had *expectations* for this book.  It isn’t a badly written book by any means.  It works as a bookend for the series, in the sense that it takes Cordelia back where the series began, Sergyar, and addresses topics came up in the first and second books but were left fallow when the series concentrated on Miles rather than Cordelia and Aral. [I could say a lot more about that but it would involve serious spoilers.]  But I kept waiting for an external plot to match the internal one, and it never happened.  As Miles went about becoming Admiral Naismith and then Auditor Vorkosigan, he got adventures to go along with the personal growth, while this mostly had Jole’s personal growth/change with Cordelia as…not puppeteer but conscience-nudger, maybe?

I don’t know.  I think I’m going to have to read it again.

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Do I dare start this book tonight?

My copy of Blood of Tyrants, the new Temeraire book, was waiting at home this evening when I arrived.

Do I dare begin it now?  If I do, will I be awake until 3am reading?  [If I’m awake then, I might as well stay up since I get up crazy early in time to get to the gym before work.]

Who am I kidding?  I have no will power.  *off to read about dragons and the captains who love them (in a non-creepy way)*

Tangent:  after a long stretch of feeling unenthused about new releases, the last couple of weeks have been pretty good to me.  Of course, nearly all the books are *not* genre romance, but still it’s nice to have a glut of good books.

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Recently read: Strange Fortune

Title:  Strange Fortune

Author:  Josh Lanyon

Publication info:  (c) 2009, Blind Eye Books

Format:  trade paperback

Genre:  fantasy

Back cover copy:

Strange Days Indeed

Valentine Strange, late of his Majesty’s 21st Benhali Lancers, needs money.  Happily, the wealthy Holy Orders of Harappu are desperate to retrieve the diadem of the Goddess Purya from an ancient temple deep in the mountainous jungle  — an area Strange knows well from his days quelling rebellions.  The pay is too good and the job seems too easy for Strange to refuse.  But when Master Aleister Grimshaw, a dangerous witch from a traitorous lineage, joins the expedition, Strange begins to suspect that more is at stake than the retrieval of a mere relic.

Grimshaw knows an ancient evil surrounds the diadem — the same evil once hunted him and still haunts his mind.  However, experience has taught him to keep his suspicions to himself or risk being denounced as a madman.  Again.

Harried by curses, bandits and unnatural creatures, Strange and Grimshaw plunge onward.  But when a demonic power wakes and the civilized world descends into revolution, their tenuous friendship is threatened as each man must face the destruction of the life he has know.

The blurb is somewhat exaggerated IMO.

What did I think?  I enjoyed the book as speculative fiction set in an alternative colonial India in which magic and witches are active.  The adventure was engaging.  But the back copy led me to believe that there would be more…introspection, perhaps?  The relationship between the two men was pretty ancillary to the plot.  TBH, while I grasped the larger context of the civil conflict between the Albans and Hindush, some pieces of the plot (like Lady Isabella, and the mutineers) felt not-well-integrated.  I wonder if I knew more about the Anglo-Indian colonial experience, would I feel like the book was more cohesive?  Or maybe it is fine, just not up to the standard of the book I was rereading before this one, The Curse of Chalion, which is my absolute benchmark for fantasy as alternate histories of sorts.

What about the book as object?  Blind Eye Books is a reputable publishers and the book’s presentation is lovely.  I especially like the colors and patterns used to decorate the book cover, although I don’t love the cartoon style hero.  There were a fair number of either copy editing or typesetting misses, mostly little things like quotation marks facing the wrong way or being doubled, some dropped punctuation and missed letters and the like.

Would I recommend the book?  Yes.  With the caveat that it is not at all like Lanyon’s other work, so readers should not expect Adrien English-in-India.

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Loved, liked, and meh

Book I read last week that I loved: Novik’s latest Temeraire book, Crucible of Gold 

Several years and books ago, Novik hinted about the alternate history of the New World as a result of the existence of dragons, and in this book readers get to learn more.  But better than that, the dull, dragging narrative and clunky pacing of the last book have vanished.  While I understand intellectually that Tongues of Serpents was a set up book, it needed better editing and pacing.  (Like the second and third books, which felt like a single long book chopped in two for marketing/business purposes, I wondered a little if it would have been better off coupled with either Victory of Eagles or Crucible for better pacing and plotting because it was a disappointment on its own — that seems to be the general consensus among the readers I know.)

Anyway, I love the way the Inca and Tswana dragons and their view of their human families are a foil for the European mindset about dragon ownership, and yet at the same time highlight the possessive natures of the dragons in Temeraire’s coterie.

One particular part left me goggle-eyed and startled, because I did NOT see that coming.  Not shocked or offended in any manner and it sort of fits in retrospect, but just startled.  Sort of the way I felt when JK Rowling casually announced that Dumbledore was gay.

And the ending was good, circling back perhaps to clear up some dangling threads in the next book.

The book I liked well enough:  Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

I liked but didn’t love this book and I haven’t quite figured out why beyond a few general quibbles.  First, Anna’s development from cowering and fearful in the first book of the series to organizing and managing in this third book.  Told not shown, and not particularly believable to me given how hard Briggs worked to present her as hesitant, self-doubting and reticent.  Second, in the early books, Anna’s delicacy and short stature were made much of IIRC but in this book she is average height or taller.  Did she suddenly have a growth spurt after maturity?  Lastly, I’m growing uncomfortable with serial killers and rapists in urban fantasy and Briggs’ use of rape and/or threatened sexual assault to the female narrators and characters in her books in particular.  It’s all down to personal taste and YMMV, obviously, since a lot of other readers really loved this book.

The meh book:  Scandalous Women: The Lives and Loves of History’s Most Notorious Women by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon

Some of the entries in this short survey are obvious (Joan of Arc); others are less so (Carry Nation); and still others are original and inspiring (Ida B. Wells).  The tone and style are extremely casual and informal, with the author making comparisons to Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, etc. — very pop culture referential, as if the author felt she had to equate each woman    It’s hard to condense the history of a complex character like Eleanor of Aquitaine to 15 pages or less, and the difficulty is very apparent here; in many of the biographies, the emphasis is on the trivial and the titillating rather than substance, which is an unfortunate waste of an opportunity.  There’s no significant analysis and the approach is not serious , and the bibliography and citations are somewhat lacking IMO.  Perhaps I’m the wrong audience; maybe a 20 year old who knows very little about history would be fascinated by this introduction to the wild women of days gone by.  Or maybe they could find the same information at Wikipedia for free.

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SBD: A Game of Thrones

Today’s SBD:  A Game of Thrones.  High fantasy.  

In case you’ve missed it, HBO is currently airing a miniseries based on George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.  I haven’t been watching, but I have seen all of the chatter on the InterTubes about the series, as well as screen caps of favorite actors and characters.  So I picked up a copy of the book — due to the miniseries, there were no used copies to be found, but plenty of reissues at B&N.

It’s 800 pages.  Which would be fine if it told the whole story.  But no.  The series (originally envisioned as a trilogy) is going to be seven books, of which only four are currently published.  In fact, the last book is actually half of one book, split because it was deemed too large.  Apparently Martin fans have been unhappy with him because he keeps pushing the publication date back.  

I get that a lot of people love this series; it’s won awards.  But I am not joining the legions of fans.  I trudged through the 800 pages and all could think for the vast majority of them was FFS, drop the puck, Martin. And become less enthralled with your own voice. Too many POVs, too slow yet simultaneously too busy.  One note characters for the most part.  By the end of the first installment, I wanted everyone except Arya Stark and Jon Snow to just die already.  Not prepared to invest any more time in the series, or even to watch it on HBO, despite the pretty pretty eye candy.

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