Good Reads #47: The Demon King

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Mind is boggling that this is already book 47! I’d love for Allegiant to be #50, but I  already have a new book that I bought today (Rampant) and two library books at one (one I’ve already picked up, and one waiting to be picked up that was on hold). Hm… if I take my time with the library books I can still pick up Allegiant for #50. We shall see!

Anyway, as for this book? I picked it up because I didn’t want to bring my library book with me on my trip (you know, just in case something happens). It helped pass the time. That’s about all. Little happens, the book dangles intriguing prospects over you but does little with them; the protagonists are bland enough to not get fully invested.

There is just SO much good fantasy out there (more so adult, but in the YA sphere too) that I just can’t recommend this book.

Verdict: Skip it.

 

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Dragon Con: Day 2 & A Night at the Georgia Aquarium

Agh. This con is driving me absolutely insane.

On the one hand, it’s original programming is fantastic. Today I sat in on relatively high-level (especially for a gen interest con) on both bitcoins and on the theory of comedy. They were great discussions. On the other hand, OMG the size of the con makes it impossible to actually DO anything at this con. Aside from these two cons, I did a free signing for the guys from Mythbusters and part of a third panel (it was so stuffy in the over-crowded room it was putting me to sleep). That’s ALL I did at the show itself.

Seriously.

I had had a full day of panels planned, but had already realized I wouldn’t be able to travel back and forth between the hotels in time. Instead, I picked a new panel (the comedy one) that I thought it might be easier to get to. It took me a FULL half-hour to get from one hotel to the other and I was going from main hotel to main hotel. It was an absolute nightmare. When I was filling out my schedule for tomorrow I deliberately kept it in one hotel so I could actually do more things. People complain about how people can’t see anything at SDCC. I can say with certainty I have seen way more there than I have here. One girl tried to convince me that this was part of the charm. I told her to go to a con like this at an actual convention center and get back to me on that. Seriously, the SD convention center may be huge but you can actually navigate it pretty damn easily (not counting the dealer’s hall). This is a nightmare and it GIVES me nightmares because if there is any kind of emergency, we’re all freaking dead. That’s how crowded it is.

The day was not a total loss though. I did get Adam and Jamie’s autographs (Mythbusters) fairly readily. They had some authors signing in the same room. One of them had a book described to me as being about “killer unicorns.” For $10 how could I not?

Like I said, the Bitcoin Panel was great and once I actually got to the Comedy panel it was rather enjoyable too. I wanted to do the M5 panel with Jamie and Adam, but it ran 5:30 – 6:30 and I was meeting up with my roomie to hit up the Night at the Aquarium instead. We were going to meet at six, but met up closer to 5:30 ish. It worked out well, because we hopped onto the very first shuttle and got inside the place rather quickly. The DJ was very enjoyable and there was some FANTASTIC cosplaying going including a Big Daddy and some Little Sisters. There was also a very funny Deadpool complete with snorkel and swimming trunks on. I’m glad we went tonight. The place was more enjoyable with the music and people watching and the drink. We’d been kinda disappoint had we gone during the day; we’ve been to better aquariums before.

Overall, I WANT to love this convention, but for every cool thing there is something so frustrating I want to scream. Say what you will about SDCC, but if you’re willing to put in your time camping you will see a tremendous amount of cool shit. And if you don’t want to camp, but are willing to go to the smaller panels, you’ll still see a ton of cool shit. Here, the crowding factor makes that nigh impossible.

Dragon Con: Day 0 and Day 1

Day 0: Travel went very smoothly, for the most part. My gate was out of Alaska Air’s terminal and all their gates have outlets at every seat. Fucking fantastic. There was one weird incident: I get settled in and this guy sits next to me. He smells a little and I can’t understand him because he has to use a voice box, but whatever. Shortly before take off, a flight attendant comes over and looks at him and goes, “Sir? You don’t look like a Brenda.” I was in Row 13. His seat? In Row 41. I don’t even know.Plus side, after they kicked him back to his seat, they filled the empty seat with a pilot who was repositioning. She was awesome 😀 Side note: Economy Comfort seat and wifi TOTALLY worth the extra $$ spent. I did end up having to take a taxi because roomie got stuck in traffic, but if that’s the worst thing you can say about a day of travel, that’s still a good day.

The hotel….well…the wifi is free? Beyond that, it’s functional and that’s it. The TV is CRT, the mattresses are unimpressive, they give you no extra pillows/blankets etc in the closet, they give you the bare minimum of towels in the bathroom and so on. It works, but I can’t say I’d recommend the place really.

Registration was okay. Decidedly not as good as SDCC (but then no one can beat the system that Comic Con has in place for its shows) but still less painful than AX. Can’t complain too much. Except for the lack of free lanyards. Kind of a dick move. Veterans were obvious. They brought their own. I eventually forked over $5 to buy one from the con, because the badges (while awesome to look at) are so big that it doesn’t seem like a great idea to clip them from your shirt: like they’d be prone to fall off. Had I known, I would have brought one. I have literally a dozen of them from various cons. It’s a money maker for them, but I still kind of resent it.

Day 1:

Discovered the trams are semi-useless. There are no signs for them. The ground is not marked like they promised. No one seems to know exactly where they are picking up. They also only run from the hotel every 30-45 minutes AND MY HOTEL IS ONLY 1.5 MILES AWAY. The shuttle started at 9:00. First panel was at 10. I wanted breakfast first. So I walked. In the humidity. It was still a bit overcast so it wasn’t too bad, but ugh. This an area for improvement.

I can’t really make too many comments about the programming yet; I only did three panels today and they were all big ‘guest’ panels: the True Blood panel, the Spotlight on Lucy Lawless, and a TNG panel with John DeLancie, Marina Sirtis and Michael Dorn. They were all enjoyable. I did slightly prefer the True Blood panel. Not necessarily for the guests (Marina Siritis is a snarky bitch and I kind of love her) but because it was the only panel where the moderator actually spoke to them for a few minutes first before opening it up to Q & A. The other two were a straight hour of Q & A. Anyone who has been to cons of any size knows how bad of an idea this can be. Tomorrow I’m checking out panels from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Young Adult lit tracks so I’ll have a better feel for the unique programming then. As for the clearing the room bit: it’s nice. The whole ‘no line til an hour before’ thing seems a bit silly because people try to line up anyway. They have Reasons, but I ain’t buying them. Anyway.

Walk of Fame: overall, pretty well laid out with generally enough room to do what needed to be done. Prices seemed mostly reasonable. I will say that the actresses who play Holly and Ginger got screwed: they separated them from the rest of the TB actors and I don’t think many really recognized them without that help. Their tables were empty. 😦 I didn’t want to approach because I didn’t want to buy and it seemed kind of mean to do so. I did pick up an autograph from Janina (I have Rutina and Jim’s) and we discussed cosplay for a few minutes. She seemed nice enough. I declined to pay $20 to take a picture of her with my camera though. I will also decline to pay $30 to take a picture with her. I think I’m skipping out on that whole thing and better off for it. That looked like a zoo down there.

Art Show: Genuinely impressed with the level of talent on display. Definitely one of the best ones I’ve ever seen. I also love the idea of having an area for artists to sell prints. Brilliant idea, tbqh, and it might not be a bad idea for other cons to steal.

Dealer’s Room: from a merchandise standpoint, it was a mixed bag. A LOT of steampunk related items (I’ve never seen so many corset dealers in one place!) and a fair amount of indie jewelery makers and the like. Not much in the way toys (well plenty of Funko) almost nothing of comics. Of course, it’s hard to really gauge what is there when you can’t even see how the room is organized or even really walk it properly. I am used to insane dealer’s room. I’ve done SDCC. But this? What a hot mess. The rooms they were using felt like the lines snaked around instead of being in neatly laid rows. Everything was super tight too. I don’t think I’ll be back. The one virtue to the place? TONS of places to charge my phone. Woot! I also actually made it out of the dealer’s room only spending $3 to protect my Janina autograph, since I forgot mine at home. Double Woot!

And the stuff I didn’t like so much:

WiFi/Cell Service – complete shite for me. Wasn’t going to get access at the hotels and it was so busy at the main hotels the only place I had decent luck was the Sheraton. But since this is to be expected, it’s a minor quibble.

Overcrowding- OMG is this con ridiculously overcrowded. The official headcount form last year was 55000. Heard today actual was about 70000. Why the underreport? The 55k was based on rooms sold. This con has a history of getting in to trouble with the Fire Marshall for violating safe occupancy limits. One year they closed off the Hyatt to only those with a key card. This year? They opened doors in the dealers room they weren’t planning to have open because the Fire Marshall made them. There are throngs of people everywhere. And unlike a convention center which is made to hold such volumes of people, the high volumes made it SO difficult to move around. And it’s only going to get worse tomorrow. It’s a con in desperate need of moving to a convention center, but apparently the con has contracts with the hotels for another 6-7 years or something. They’re adding another one next year. And speaking of: here’s the thing. It’s nice that three of the hotels are connected. It really is. It doesn’t change the fact that the hotels are GIGANTIC and can be more than a block apart. Hoping around form building to building in these crowds just isn’t fast and it’s going to suck having two panels back to back in different hotels tomorrow.

The almost snobby attitude of veterans – I’ve heard numerous people complain about things (registration, moving around) being more difficult than in the past. Yet I suggested moving the con and I had more than one person get affronted by the notion. “If we move to a convention center, than programming has to stop at 8 and we’ll be just like San Diego.” (Counter argument: Do what SDCC does: keep nighttime programming in the hotels. Problem solved). More than one person and even con personnel talk about how corporate SDCC is and Dragon Con TV took a cheap shot (and they admitted it was cheap) about how corporations “pandered” to geeks at SDCC. You know what? If pandering means you get Hiddleston dressed as Loki reciting monologues from memory? PANDER ME BABY.

I don’t get the attitude. The cons aren’t the same. Like. At all. The programming is like over-sized Wonder Con meet Lobby Con with more celebrities and some genuinely unique programming. There’s no reason that people can’t enjoy both. It almost comes off as bitter. And it also seems kind of stupid when SO much of their growth is coming from SDCC vets. Just because the con got too big for comfort doesn’t mean they necessarily hated SDCC. It just rubbed me the wrong way.

Ultimately, I do think that I’m catching Dragon Con at a bit of a bad time: it’s clear they’re in a growth spurt but don’t have a great way of handling said growth spurt. That said, all the people I’ve chatted with in line and what not have been genuinely friendly and I can understand why people would love this con. I’m not sure that this is the con for me, but I am waiting to be proved wrong 🙂

Good Reads #46: Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Maybe do an in depth review later; but I’m at Dragon Con and wanted to post something so I didn’t forget entirely.

Short review: exceptionally well written realistic-feeling epic fantasy. If you like your fantasies in more real world settings with minimal magic, check this out. We are in the middle of a mini-Renaissance for this kind of fare and this is right up there with the Name of the Wind.

Verdict – Buy It

Movie Review: The Mortal Instruments (City of Bones)

I saw this movie because I needed something to do today and because the trailer didn’t look awful and even looked a bit enjoyable. Coming out of the movie I’ll say this: it wasn’t awful. It wasn’t great, but it was competent and certainly could have been worse.

Although I can’t say for certain how faithful (or not) this adaption is, I can say that if this movie is closely related at all that this book is the kind of book that gives Young Adult novels a bit of a bad name. There is nothing original here. There is magic (and a rip-off of Hogwarts), there are demons, there are vampires and there are werewolves. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for it to be compelling you need almost perfect execution. Unfortunately, this film is lacking that in several ways:

First and foremost, there is a severe lack of character development. At the end of the film Clary (Cassandra Clarie, why not just have called your protagonist Claire and been done with it?!) states to the bad guy that he doesn’t know her. Problem is, we don’t really know her either. The movie never really takes time to establish any kind of character for her. The most we get is that she thinks her mom is paranoid/stifling and that she may be a bit of a cock-tease because she’s leading on the Token Mundane. She “loves him like a brother” but it’s obvious to everyone else that his love is not platonic. That’s it.  Jase falls in love with her…because? Simon fell in love with her…because? The rest of the characters are pretty much equally one dimensional.

Secondly, the plot thrives on conveniences and characters being stupid. Let’s bring the Mundane along on a trip he has no reason to be on! Oh look! He’s been kidnapped. I never would have seen that one coming! At one point it’s made very clear that the music of Bach somehow drives demon’s batty (Bach was  Shadow Hunter…just go with it). Jase starts to play some notes and the demon gets incredibly twitchy yet Clary goes ahead to retrieve the Plot Device and could have only done so by blatantly ignoring what’s going on around her. This is also after said character goes “no weapons inside!” Even without the Bach you knew how this scene would end.

Finally, there are a number of twists big and small that you can spot, some sooner than others, but you predict it all. Unless of course, it’s a plot element that is built up and then completely ignored the rest of the film, presumably to save it for the sequel when no one will have remembered this moment.

All that combined with cheesy dialogue and incredibly awkward intrusion of Teenage Kiss Music (you know, think of any episode of the Vampire Diaries when Elena shares a kiss with someone) when non-instrumental music hasn’t been used anywhere else in the score and the best you can say for the movie is that it’s competent.

On a technical level there isn’t much to complain about: the film looks and sounds great There’s a bit of sketchy CGI but nothing too distracting. As far as acting goes, it’s not bad. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is by far the best of the lot, and it’s arguable that he’s wasted here on material that just isn’t very good. Godfrey Gao provides a nice bit of eye-candy in a role that has some bit of plot significance, but about as much screen time as an extended cameo. The rest just do what they can with the material they were given. I didn’t notice any real chemistry between Lily Collins (Clary) and Jamie Bower (Jase) but that’s probably as much due to the script as anything.

Younger teens will enjoy the film and fans of the book series may enjoy the film (again, I can’t speak to how faithful the movie is; if it is as loose an adaptation as Beautiful Creatures was though, I could see there being rage from the fans) but it’s really no mystery why this film didn’t do better at the box office: it didn’t really <i>deserve</i> to.

Hollywood desperately wants to recapture the box office magic of Harry Potter and Twilight and The Hunger Games but what they keep forgetting is that for one reason or another all those films had crossover appeal (Divergent should as well, but I still think it could go either way at this point) and this book doesn’t. The sequel was supposedly optioned as well, but much like Beautiful Creatures, I wouldn’t put too much faith in it actually hitting theaters unless it does incredibly well overseas.

One final note: I found this film surprising violent; like in the Dark Knight kind of way where had there been a bit more actual blood it’d have easily been an R rating. Seriously, some of the fights here (especially one early scene where a cast iron skillet is used) could have been easily fatal. People thinking of taking younger kids might want to hold off.

Verdict: Bargain Matinee at best if you set your expectations properly. That said, if you had other movies you wanted to see (new or old) I’d still probably go see one of them first instead.

Good Reads #45: Dark Triumph

ImageWhen I finished this book less then two weeks ago, I was surprised to find that the sequel had already come out. I loved the first one so I went ahead and ordered it at the library, even with some slight hesitation due to the change in narrator from Ismae to Sybella. Were my fears justified?

Yes and no.

On the one hand, the story is quite more intimate this time around. We do eventually meet up with some of the characters of the first book, but this one is much more focused on her heroine and what she seeks out to do. In some ways, it works. It’s a reminder that in big sweeping conflicts like the one portrayed in the series that there is both the larger political fight and often several smaller personal ones. On the other hand, for much of the book Sybella isn’t as compelling a narrator as Ismae was. In Grave Mercy we are told that Sybella is ‘half-mad’ and while her history (which is slowly doled out) certainly makes it justifiable, in reality she comes off as a mixture of determined, but with this huge cloud of despair mixed with depression hanging over her head. It’s fitting for the character, but makes her narration flat. The book gets more lively as she grows herself, but it just doesn’t grab you the way Ismae’s tale does and so it takes longer to get into it, even though the story picks up quite literally in the middle of the action.

Another thing that I am unsure of is a trope developing that I’m not sure that I’m liking.

Spoilers ahead, skip down if you don’t want to read them.

At the tail end of Grave Mercy, Ismae meets Mortain, the God of Death, on the battle field. In that instant she learns that there are multiple ways to serve her god and decides that she will become a kind of angel of mercy. The meeting gives her renewed faith and strength and she uses it to wrap up her story.

At the tail of Dark Triumph, Sybella meets Mortain. She finally gets the proof she needs to know she really is his daughter and realizes that she is meant to be his hand of justice. The meeting gives her renewed faith and strength and she uses it to wrap up her story.

The parallelism is nice, but I don’t know that it works. It makes sense when Ismae meets him: throughout her story she is portrayed as extremely devout. She questions the motivations of the monastery that she serves and its head abbess, but almost never her god. Sybella, however, can best be described as agnostic. She accepts the notion of Mortain as her father only because the alternative is quite literally too horrible to accept. She is constantly questioning his existence, his motivations and so on. Given that the first book indicates that Mortain does not reveal himself to all of his children (the Abbess has never seen him) would such a god really reveal himself to one whose faith was so slippery and reluctant as in the case of Sybella? I’m not so sure and so ultimately this comes off as a bit gimmicky.

There is a third book due out next year with a third narrator and I’m willing to bet money it will end the same way. I don’t think this is something that will ruin the series or anything, but I think I may have been happier without it.

Spoilers Over.

At the end of the day, the book was still good, but not as good. There was little in the way of political intrigue here and Sybella as protagonist wasn’t quite up to the level that Ismae was. I am looking a bit more forward to the final book as it seems like we’ll also be getting a fresh story. Ultimately, these books are strong enough that I do want to see how the series wraps up, but I’m just not as wowed by it as I was the other title. This is one of those ‘your mileage may vary’ deals: I loved the first in part because of the political intrigue and because we saw life in the convent, both things missing here. Consider what you enjoyed about the first book to make your choice in how to proceed.

Verdict: Borrow it if you liked the elements that I liked, buy it if you don’t mind the shift in focus.

Good Reads #44: Rush

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This book is what Fifty Shades of Grey wanted to be, if the E.L. James had a concept of what an adult woman would actually behave like and knew how to craft a Dom that wasn’t a total abusive asshole.

Mia is our protagonist. She’s 24 years old. She’s not a virgin and there are no “inner goddesses” to be found here. She’s had a crush on Gabe for some time, but never acted on it because in some ways he’s a bit of an older brother. She comes across as intelligent and willing to try out new things, but she’s also not a complete pushover either. She’s “submissive, not spineless.” This is a good thing.

Gabe is 38, old money. He’s known for living a kinky lifestyle. He’s kind of an ass in a way that a lot of old money guys can be, yet has self-awareness enough to realize when he’s gone farther than he should and at least tries to make amends.  He does have her sign a contract, but a) it’s not the morning after deflowering her b) it’s part non-disclosure agreement and full disclosure about what he expects and most importantly c) he not only accepts changes she wishes (namely a clause that demands he be faithful to her just as he demanded it of) but is pleased that she asked for them and was willing to stand her ground for them. I also liked his attitude on safe words and there is no plastic tie bondage here! The book also makes it clear that he wasn’t abused or anything, his life style is more or less a hedonistic one.

As far as the sex goes…it’s about the same level as 50 Shades, maybe upped a notch. You have some rope bondage, you have some spanking (hand and crop) and there’s some anal play (props to the author for having him prep Mia!). If you’re a fan of books like The Siren you may be a bit disappointed in this respect: there’s no real scenes, they don’t go to clubs, and you aren’t even sure if owns anything beyond a few toys. The kinkiest thing may just be that they’re constantly doing it in his office. Is it soundproofed? And no one ever notices the smell of sex in the air?

Overall, the book is a well-enough written piece of erotica. It doesn’t do anything particularly novel and doesn’t really rock the boat. If you’re mainly looking for some erotica it may well fit the bill.

Verdict: Borrow It.

Final note: the two “sequels” are already out  – one covers Mia’s brother Jace and one to cover the third partner Ash in their quest to find the right woman for them. I probably won’t pick it up, but I wanted to throw it out there because it apparently just came out and Target had all three books on sale so if it interests you and can’t borrow them from the library (where I picked this up) that may be a place to go look.