Good Reads #30 The Wise Man’s Fear

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One reason I decided against a rating system of numbers or stars or the like is that how much I like a book can be hard to quantify. Yet, I still will give basic review on Good Reads. This can be hard when I am debating whether something should be two stars versus three, or four versus five.

This book, for the first time, illustrated something that perfectly illustrates what a five star book it. It is a book that, much like this, has flaws. Absolute, legitimate flaws, and yet is so strong in its own right that you are not only able to, but completely overlook them because they don’t detract from the story even as they might normally make me rant and rage and throw another book down and never pick it up again.

And The Wise Man’s Fear does have flaws.

Kvothe skirts the line of being a Marty Stu without crossing it. The author had an annoying habit of hand waving some really-interesting sounding stories because they exist solely to move Kvothe from point A to point B to move the narrative along. That brings me to my other major gripe about this book. The first third was more time spent at the University. It was too much. I don’t think anything from that span at the University truly added much new about Kvothe; I’d rather have seen 100-150 pages cut from there and spent instead on the stories that were only hinted at.

But you know what? That gripe is minor. Get past those 360 pages and the book really opens up and is so good that you forgive the earlier sins. You’ll meet a wide array of interesting characters (including any number of strong women, thank you!!) and see how deep his world building truly does go.

All in all: this was a very worthy successor (if not even slightly better than) The Name of the Wind. If you liked the first, it’s a no brainer. If you haven’t read Name of the Wind, go read it because this is quite literally the 2/3 of a story and won’t make sense without it. I’ve seen it called one of the best epic fantasy series in the last twenty years and I think it’s highly worth it. It’s a wonderful example of the genre that’s engrossing and engaging and yet not so dense that you need a chart to keep track of who is who. All in all, anyone who loves a good story will enjoy this.

Verdict: Buy it.

Comic Catch Up! (Dream Thief #1, Dream Merchant #1)

So I figure I have probably six weeks of comics here. -hangs head in shame- I did, however find my copy of Nightwing #20 so now I’m confident that I have pulled out everything that I have bought since my last bing out for reading. This will be a short post (because I don’t want to OD) but I’m going to talk about two new series – one put out by Dark Horse comics called Dream Thief and one by Image called by Dream Merchant.  They sound like they might be in the same  vein, time to find out if they are.

Dream Thief – John Lincoln is an asshole. Period. After going bar hopping and cheating on his girlfriend, he tries to make nice by picking her up for lunch. After telling him that she’s being put on unpaid leave he freaks out on her because apparently he can’t get/keep a steady job he freaks out on her. She asks “why are you being so difficult” and his response is

“Because you keep a gun under your pillow, and we haven’t had sex in months. You freeze me out and say I’m being difficult? He broke into the house and stole some stuff. It’s not like he raped you!

No, but we find out later that she was tied up and he threatened to rape her, so I mean that still counts as traumatic in book. Oh, and then her friend Jenny chews him a) not only being a dick but b) bringing weed onto government property and his response is “Why is every woman in my life crazy?”

AGH. This guy is SUCH an asshole and we’re supposed to get behind him as a character? It gets better though. He steals a priceless Aborigines mask, blacks out and kills his girlfriend “because she deserves it” since through the mask he can see that she killed an innocent man in error because she thought he was the one that broke in. But pfft. Instead of understanding that it’s the trauma talking, he’s all no. She DESERVED to die because she’s a murderer.

The story goes on from there and the issue ends with him having wiped out a room of gay porn actors, but you know what? Fuck this comic. Fuck it hard. I don’t give a shit what kind of message the writers were trying to put out, but there is literally nothing redeemable in this character and to think that he’s supposed to be doling out some kind of justice or whatever is absurd and offensive.

The only positive I’ll give is to the cover which I rather like and the art inside is decent. But ugh. I just took a shower before reading this and feel like I need another.

On the bright side we have…

Dream Merchant #1 – This was more in line with something I might have expected from a comic with this title. Winslow is a little boy who has always had problems with his dreams; so much so that the outside world thinks he cannot distinguish between reality and the dream state and have him committed. While at the institution we meet Ziggy, his schizophrenic friend and Anne, who is basically the lunch lady. As time goes on his dreams only get more vivid and harder to escape from. Ultimately, he’s forced to flee the hospital as previously unseen figures start to chase him and he is rescued by a man calling himself Dream Merchant who promises to teach Winslow how to hide in his dreams for reasons yet unknown. The title is beautiful to look at and has a great quiet surrealistic feeling that you’d expect from a dream-like state. As an added bonus it’s a double sized issue and no ads making it a fantastic value. Easily worth a look.

 

Comic Catch Up!

I really want to get better about reading comics the week I actually purchase them, instead of accumulating a pile of at least a dozen first, but somehow that doesn’t seem to be happening. I guess I just like being between books too much to do so.

Batman #20 – The conclusion of the Clay Face tale. Haven’t been a fan of Scott Snyder’s filler issues, still not really a fan now. Snyder is at his best when he really has time to plot out a tale and take his time telling it. Granted, he’s such a strong writer that even his iffy stuff is still good, but I rather just get to the Zero Year to see where he goes with it. Also: the artwork in the B story really stands out against Greg Capullo’s, and not in the good way. Tynion is a good writer, but the art is so muddy and dark that I don’t even want to read it.

The Bounce – New indie title by Joe Casey and David Messina. I’m..not sure what to make of this and I’m not sure that I liked it enough to want to try and make heads or tails of it. We have a stoner who may or may not be a “costumed vigilante” that goes by the name of The Bounce after taking a hit of The Fog, there’s some kind of investigation of a murdered police chief  that also seems to tie to the hunt for the vigilantes and some kind of evil government scheme. It’s all really disjointed. Throw in some language that borders on gratuitous and I’m not feeling it. I’m dropping it from my pull list.

Lost Vegas #2 – The art work is still real stand out here, with bright colors and bold tones that really make you feel like you’re in a futuristic Los Vegas.The hero continues his quest to get off this prison ship. I was iffy, but positive on the first issue and this hasn’t really swayed my opinion much. It’ll probably be dropped from my pull list.

Nightwing 19 – Nightwing goes to Chicago to look up Tony Zucco in this post Death-of-the-Family issue. I like how he’s broke and I like how things go awry. I know I have issue 20 around here somewhere, I need to go find it.

Sex 3 – Unlike The Bounce, this is a title of Casey’s that I’m really enjoying. Simon is still trying to figure out where he fits into this new world – both from a business and a super hero point of view, there are all kinds of shady gangster dealings, and yes, there is sex and it is equal opportunity. Yes, there is a woman getting herself off with a vibrator, but you also see full frontal of one of the main male characters. This is an adult title and there is a lot of adult content (like The Big Bounce, the language is really salty and again borders on being gratuitous) but it’s worth a read if you can get around the rest.

More later 🙂

Good Reads: #29: The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)

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I picked this up last week at the books store when I was wandering the aisles looking for something to read. A couple of people I follow and respect had read this and given it positive reviews so I gave it a chance.

And now that I’ve finished it…it was there. Seriously. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. It just existed. The big problem for me is that the book promised to give another go at a human-turned-vampire and her trying to deal with that when she’s become that thing that she hates so much. It’s something that in the right hands can be really fun to explore. For example: Louis from Interview with the Vampire deals with it by just killing whatever poor soul crosses his path, even becoming semi-notorious amongst his kind for it. Stefan Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries never managed to learn control and has forced himself on an animal blood diet instead. Bill Compton from True Blood became a mainstreamer and refused to kill his pray before such thing even existed as anything more than rumor and, at the beginning of the shown is shown as a bit of an outsider because of his apparently reluctance to feed on actual humans.

So what does the author have our heroine do? She just…feeds. Yeah, she goes long periods between feeding but that isn’t her choice so much as she’s forced into it by the circumstances she finds herself in. Therefore, I feel kind of robbed, that there was never really much displaying her internal struggles with what she has become. Sure, there are the “I almost killed him!!” moments when she’s taken too much blood but…that’s kind of a normal trope for a new vampire.

The story picks up some when she runs across the group of ragtag humans trying to find Eden, a vampire-less city. She deals with trying to hide the fact that she is a vampire from the group that conveniently travels only at night. There’s also a small side forbidden romance subplot that goes just far enough and remains believable. It helps, but it was a bit too little, too late especially since the book was such a slow burn to get started..

At the end of the day the book just kind of was for me. I don’t really care what happens to either the humans, to the protagonist, or to the one that sired her that goes looking for her in the sequel. It just…was. Combine that with little niggling things – like the fact that this girl with the surname Sekemoto just happens to gravitate towards a katana when told to pick a blade to learn to defend herself with or that canned food is still okay to eat after at least sixty years since packaging (I know it has a long shelf life, but that long? IDK…) all together it just didn’t work for me.

Verdict: Skip it.

Good Reads #28: Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1)

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I really enjoyed Espionage & Etiquette enough that I decided to check out the parent series whose universe it was set in. I’m glad I did, for I think that this book is stronger in pretty much sense. The cast is bigger and a bit more complex. The settings are more varied and fleshed out and the world building is much better and the explanation behind vampires and weres is an interesting one and I liked it.

Oddly enough, the steam punk, a pretty major feature of the other book, is pretty downplayed here. I’d call this much more a supernatural book than I would steam punk, though the elements are there. The plot isn’t terribly complex or unique, but it’s fun enough and the courtship through Victorian guidelines is always a blast.

Verdict: Buy it.

On the note of whether you should read this before reading the Etiquette and Espionage..yes and no is my answer to that. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. On the one hand, there are few passages that make more sense if you’ve read Soulless first. On the other, weaknesses of the newer book stand out all the more. Some of them are what you might expect in a difference between YA and “adult” but things like the world building seem even lazier when compared to the parent series.

In my other review I stated I felt like the vampire and were characters were tacked on, and now I feel that way even more strongly than before. As I mentioned, preternatural creatures are front and center in that universe and in Etiquette & Espionage they exist but feel tacked on. Having read this, I’m even more convinced that they were, that the author or the publishing company was worried that they might alienate fans of Parasol Protectorate if they didn’t include them, but then did such a poor job of it they may as well might not have bothered.

I still think both books are fun, but Soulless is undeniably a better book and even though you might be a bit confused, you might be better off starting with Etiquette and Espionage. It’s really your call. If you like one, you’ll like the other and vice versa.

Good Reads #27: The Siren (Original Sins #1) by Tiffany Reisz

ImageA bit of background: I freely admit to enjoying reading smut and I like my smut kinky. I tend to avoid reading published versions of it, because often the framing devices are boring as hell and the sex is either damn vanilla or not really BDSM – think 50 Shades of Gray where the author pretends to know about it but actually Misses the Point entirely.

I gave this book a chance because I got a copy from a friend whose friend also enjoys kink and she was giving it rave reviews and wanting our mutual friend to read it to RP. I borrowed it to give it the once over because she asked for my opinion on it.

At first…I was bored. There plot, such as it is, is that Nora is an erotic novelist (and part-time professional Dominatrix) trying to write her first Real Novel. A stuffy English editor agrees to work on the book with her to make it salable. The subplot is she has a 19 year old Methodist college boy living with her as kind of an assistant. She loves him, but knows she can’t be with him because her lifestyle would ruin all that she cherishes about him. It’s all pretty romance-novel standard stuff and it’s competent. Not complex or all that interesting, but competent.

Things improved when we started getting the first passages of sex, in the form of scenes from the book that she’s writing. These are done incredibly well. They capture what BDSM is both emotionally and physically really well and there’s no doubt in my mind that the author knows her stuff. I was actually willing to go with the basic plot just to get to them.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

Then everything derailed. There’s this scene where Nora deflowers who she thinks is an 18 year old boy. A bit young for my taste…but fine. The scene itself is well done and the author goes to great strides to show that this scene is fully consented to by the boy. It’s after the fact that gets me, when it’s revealed that, in fact, he’s only 15 that the book loses me utterly as I discovered a squick I previously didn’t know I had.

Nora is around 30. Soren, her former Master and active priest in the Catholic Church, the one who arranged it is in his late 40s. Just. No.

I’m not against using the lifestyle to aid someone who is lost, but I don’t think a 15 year old is mature enough to really be able to decide that this is what he needs. It’s also said that Nora started this young and that left me unsettled too. There’s just too much room for emotional manipulation in my mind for this scenario to work and honestly, I don’t get how a 30 year old, very experienced woman, would really find a boy (and yes, a 15 year old is a boy, not a man) that attractive, even if he’s acting as a stand in for the one that she does want to sleep with.

The scene is small and doesn’t have much consequence in the novel, but the second novel picks up with a year later when he’s 17 and he’s starting training to become her submissive. It kind of feels like the cycle beginning anew and that just doesn’t work for me.

If you don’t like kink, you won’t like this book because there’s very little that’s truly vanilla in here. If you do like kink, whether or not you’ll like the book is whether you can get around Michael’s age.

Verdict:

If you don’t mind the above – borrow it.

If you do – skip it.

I will say that the series has a large following so it’s either not bothering people or people are willing to overlook it because of the derth of good kink that’s out there. It’s kind of hard to say. They don’t dwell on the age too much so it may be easy for you to just mentally age him up and then be fine with it. For me though, I just can’t. I’ll stick to the internet instead.

 

Good Reads #26: Etiquette & Espionage / Bookstore Rec: Mysterious Galaxy

I had the fortune of attending the L.A. Times’ Festival of Books a few weeks ago. While there, I stumbled upon the booth of Mysterious Galaxy, an indie genre bookstore. After the show I ordered today’s book from their website and their service was FANTASTIC. I ordered on Saturday, got confirmation on Sunday – along with a note that showed they read MY note and the book showed up on Thursday with a handwritten thank you note. They also have a series of interesting book clubs called the Fantastic Firsts where they, approximately once a month send you the first edition (often signed) of what they think is a great title for the genre. It is a year long commitment and you do get 20% off for joining. You do, however have to pay full shipping on each book and it is on the expensive side (starting at $7 for medial mail in a padded envelope to $10+ for a box). Really, the only complaint I can make is that generally speaking you’ll have to pay full price for the books because it is an indie, but the service does make up for it. I highly suggest giving them a once over if you’re looking for something new to read. They can be found here: Mysterious Galaxy.

I bring them up because today’s book was their YA Fabulous First selection for the month of February.

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Etiquette & Espionage is about a 14 year-old girl named Sophronia, the youngest tom-boy daughter of a minor country noble who is a bit of a tom-boy. Her mom, fed up with her ill manners ships her off to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. It just turns out that in addition to the normal finishing school topics – etiquette, dancing, languages and the like – they also teach finishing – spy work and assassination skills. And the tail is the first few months of her time in this school. The protagonist is plucky and intelligent and very likable and the author surrounds her with a fun cast of characters in and interesting environment that all adds up to a fun read with some witty dialogue. 

If I were to have any complaints about the book is that the world feels over-busy. There is heavy steam-punk elements at play, and the usual pseduo-Victoriana that tends to come along with it. On top of this there are vampires and werewolves. While the supernatural elements didn’t necessarily detract from the book, I don’t know that they added much either. To be fair, although this is the author’s first YA novel, it’s not her first book and she set it in her Parasol Protectorate series and maybe if I had the background knowledge of the world they’d feel less tacked on.

All in all though, my complaints are pretty trivial and I really had an enjoyable time with this book and look forward not only to the next book, but I might even go check out her adult titles. Unless you’re just not a fan of steam punk, I can give this an easy recommendation.

Verdict: Buy It