DNF – Kingfisher – Patricia McKillip

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Summary:

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Did Not Finish: 2015 Year End Edition

So. Yeah. This isn’t exactly what I was planning my last post of the year to be, but DNFing about three books in a row (I read City of Lights in between the first and the last two) is pretty unusual and so worthy of documentation. Don’t worry. My first review of 2016 will definitely be more positive 🙂 So let’s do this.

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Summary:

MAGICAL TRICKS. DEMONIC TREATS.

After narrowly escaping her fate as a sacrificial scapegoat, Arcadia Bell is back to normal. Or at least as ordinary as life can be for a renegade magician and owner of a tiki bar that caters to Earthbound demons. She’s gearing up for the busiest day of the year—Halloween—when a vengeful kidnapper paralyzes the community. The influential head of the local Hellfire Club taps Cady to track down the fiendish bogeyman, and now that she’s dating red-hot Lon Butler, the Club’s wayward son, she can hardly say no.

Cady and Lon untangle a gruesome thirty-year trail of clues that points to danger for the club members’ children. But locating the person behind the terror will require some metaphysical help from Cady’s loyal bar patrons as well as her potent new Moonchild powers—and she’d better figure it out before the final victim disappears and her own darkest secret becomes her biggest enemy.

Why I didn’t finish:

Of the three books here, this definitely was the biggest surprise for me. I honestly enjoyed Kindling the Moon for the same reason that I did enjoy parts of this book: Cady’s relationship with Lon which felt healthy and loving and a fresh of breath air in a genre where dysfunctional relationships are the order of the day. That being said, the main plot was fairly rote and didn’t do anything that different. When I read the first book, it had been early 2015 and I hadn’t been reading much Urban Fantasy. It wound up being one of my most predominant sub-genres of 2015 and I found a lot that I really loved and it absolutely raised the bar on what good urban fantasy was for me. When I came back to this series in December, then, I realized that the series just couldn’t reach to that new level of expectation that I now had. I still enjoyed Cady and Lon and Jupe and their relationship and interactions, but the main plot that drove the action? Not so much. The relationship wasn’t enough to salvage the rest and so I put this one on ice.

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Summary:

If Night falls, all fall . . .

In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark—which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.

Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai’s former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian’s destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai—or Haarth—may have.

In a moment of “I really should have been more careful,” I realized that Daughter of the Blood was actually the third book of a trilogy that I hadn’t read. Oops.  The first two books happened to be on sale for $1.99 each so I figured why not? I could then pick up the ARC fully in on the plot. Or so was the plan. Instead though, yeah. Malian’s father is kind of a jerk, the Houses have stupid arbitrary rules. Malian is clearly a Chosen one who is wise beyond her 14 years of age. There’s a POV switch that is probably not needed but is there for the sake of complexity and I just found myself not caring for any of these people. I actually tried to read this before The Martian and set it aside. I went back to it this week and didn’t get much further. This is pretty old school style high fantasy that I know has its audience, but I also know that I’m not said audience.

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Summary:

What is worse: Being so broke you can barely afford food, getting hired for dangerous missions way out of your league, suffocating under mountains of unanswered questions—or wanting to sexually dominate someone who can kill you without lifting a finger?

Lu Delong is a mercenary who evaluates antiques most of the time and deals with the paranormal on rare occasions—even though it’s supposed to be the other way around. When he joins a dangerous quest for an ancient artifact, he meets and becomes strongly attracted to a mysterious and powerful immortal named Cangji. Despite his friends’ warnings and Cangji’s icy, unsociable demeanor, Delong is unable to resist befriending him. However, Cangji is deeply involved in a matter beyond mortals, and Delong is drawn into a chaotic struggle by both visible and invisible forces.

Always the pacifist who wanted to live a simple human life, Delong never imagined he’d end up involved in a conflict that will affect everything from the lowest insects on earth to the highest gods in heaven.

Yeah. This book is as broken as the summary for it. I should have seen the summary for the red flag that it was. Still, sometimes indies like this can have good content to help make up for the technical flaws. Unfortunately, our introduction to the protagonist is him jeering at a refugee vegetable seller: he dismisses her as an incurable gossip with nothing else to do, “like other women,” and then bullies/all but blackmails her into selling him her food at a fraction of the value before preening over how pleased he was with his accomplishments. He may be broke, but that doesn’t make the behavior any less despicable. And this book was written by a woman, folks! So yeah, this was a non-starter.

Out of curiosity, I went to the publisher’s website and it’s clear to me that Dreamspinner Press is barely a half-step above a vanity publisher. They claim their books go through a “16-20 week” editing process with no less than four different editors, but broken English abounds in this text and it’s obvious that if suggestions were made, they were not taken. Covers are generic at best and poorly Photoshopped at worst. Some authors have nice head shots, some use candids (Yeyu used a selfie of herself on a train) and some are just icons of random objects. The whole thing just feels unprofessional. I’ll give ’em half a point for apparently not charging their authors to publish, but that’s about it.  Shame too, the world could use some more decent LGBTQ-friendly genre publishers.

Next time: the next Alex Verus novel,  Hidden because I’ve earned myself a book I know I’ll enjoy.

Did Not Finish – Rift (Nightshade Prequel #1)

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Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow is promised to a group called Conatus after one of their healers saves her mother’s life. Once she arrives, Ember finds joy in wielding swords, learning magic, and fighting the encroaching darkness loose in the world. She also finds herself falling in love with her mentor, the dashing, brooding, and powerful Barrow Hess. When the knights realize Eira, one of their leaders, is dabbling in dark magic, Ember and Barrow must choose whether to follow Eira into the nether realm or to pledge their lives to destroying her and her kind.

With action, adventure, magic, and tantalizing sensuality, this book is as fast-paced and breathtaking as the Nightshade novels.

This book is everything that I hate about Young Adult fantasy. I read 150 pages of the 430 before I gave up. Let’s list this bitch.

  1. Noblewoman Ember Morrow just hates to be a noblewoman and wants to be a warrior. Because.
  2. A healer from the Conatus just happens to appear at her father’s manor when the labor goes wrong. It is a miracle she arrives, and later suggested that her birth is a portent for the future of the order. AKA she’s a Chosen One.
  3. When she gets to the order, she undergoes the following rite: examine three rooms. Go through the door of the room that looks neat and undergo a trial there. There is medieval Europe (not even secondary world medieval Europe) the amount of craftsmanship and labor that would be required to make this happen is absolutely absurd.
  4. She is the only one of the six to pick War as her avocation.
  5. During her trial she successfully uses a dagger to kill that which was set against her. She has never had any actual training other than a few moves shown to her and practicing on some straw. On the other hand, her friend Alastair, who was trained to fight since he was probably five or six, was not successful in his attempt. Obviously, she’s a natural.
  6. Warrior order has zero issues bringing a girl with no training and no real strength of stamina from living a life of relative leisure into their order, despite the fact that she is way too old to start such training when her life would basically be half over at the age of 16.
  7. Order uses magical incense to induce hallucinations to help the smithy divine the weapon to produce for the knight.
  8. “The horse picks the rider.” And in this case, a stallion picks her. Despite never having had any experience horseback riding, within an hour she can successfully control said stallion at both a cantor and a gallop. Anyone who has ever ridden a horse will laugh at you and tell you no.
  9. Ember gets upset when she’s told to stay out of a fight because she hasn’t had any training – hey, she fought (aka got lucky) that one time in the trial, okay?? – defies her master and throws her dagger into the side of the beastie giving her mentor the time he needs to finish it off. Has the author ever SEEN a throwing knife? The balance of a dagger is completely off. Is it theoretically possible to use a dagger like a throwing knife? Sure. In theory. Would a girl with zero experience have gotten anywhere near close to doing what she did? Hahah. No.
  10. Crushing on your mentor.

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Look. Some of these tropes can be done well, but this is like a guide on how not to do any of them. Learning how to fight takes years of practice and no amount of “being a natural” can change that. Heck, look at Buffy. Once Giles finds her, he starts training her formally because he knows that being the Chosen One is only going to get her so far. The stuff with the horse and the knife is just absolutely insulting to anyone who knows anything about either one of the topics. I get that this is meant to be escapist fun, and I’m sure for some it is, but to me? It’s just stupid. This is the kind of stuff where you need to have some grounding in reality to make work and this has none of that. The book seems to have some fans, but for me, it’s just a no go.

 

Did Not Finish – Kushiel’s Mercy (Kushiel’s Legacy #6 / Imriel’s Trilogy #3)

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Summary:

Having learned a lesson about thwarting the will of the gods, Imriel and Sidonie publicly confess their affair, only to see the country boil over in turmoil. Younger generations, infatuated by their heart-twisting, star-cross romance, defend the couple. Many others cannot forget the betrayals of Imriel’s mother, Melisande, who plunged their country into a bloody war that cost the lives of their fathers, brothers, and sons.

To quell the unrest, Ysandre, the queen, sets her decree. She will not divide the lovers, yet neither will she acknowledge them. If they marry, Sidonie will be disinherited, losing her claim on the throne.

There’s only one way they can truly be together. Imriel must perform an act of faith: search the world for his infamous mother and bring her back to Terre d’Ange to be executed for treason.

Facing a terrible choice, Imriel and Sidonie prepare ruefully for another long separation. But when a dark foreign force casts a shadow over Terre d’Ange and all the surrounding countries, their world is turned upside down, alliances of the unlikeliest kind are made, and Imriel and Sidonie learn that the god Elua always puts hearts together a purpose.

Review:

I can’t say I saw myself DNFing this book. While I have recommended the first two of Imriel’s trilogy, it’s always been with the bit of a caveat that I didn’t think it as good as Phedre’s trilogy. Part of it was Imriel himself – he hasn’t been the most likable person for much of the series – but more to point, it’s been the use of magic in his series that has served as a turn off.

Magic has always been part and parcel of Carey’s world. In the first three books, the magic seen was generally Divine in nature. More importantly, magic may have had an influence on the story but it never drove nor dominated the series. Even the ending of Kushiel’s Avatar – in which there is a ridiculously huge bit of magic – the journey leading up to that magic was the focus, not the magic itself.

The exact opposite has been true of Imriel’s story. While Kushiel’s Scion is arguably half Phedre’s book and half his, by the time it shifts to him magic starts coming to the fore. It drove the conflict in the second half of that book. It drove all the conflict in Kushiel’s Justice as it does here in Kushiel’s Mercy. And while I love magic, the magic has to be done right and by and large it hasn’t been. It felt out of place in Kushiel’s Scion – we spent well over 400 pages (if not even more) magic free then BOOM out of no where it drives the whole plot. Albeit still ill defined, it was done better in Kushiel’s Justice as it hung over proceedings and drove some action, because that book was really about Imriel’s growth here.

This book, however, is where we lost the plot entirely. The major push behind the plot is as follows:

Wanting to ally itself with Terre d’Ange, an enemy comes to court and casts a spell during an eclipse that makes everyone lose their damn minds, causing the court to become instant besties with said enemy and to forget pretty much everything else convenient to the story to happened before it. The only ones not impacted by the spell are Imriel himself – who thanks to his mom, gets jabbed with a needle that somehow results in him become completely bonkers for thirty days before returning to instant lucidity – and Imriel’s major political enemy because hey, someone has to help Imriel get the eff out of Dodge so he can try and find a way to save the day.

I am not kidding.

And of course, everyone in court thinks that Imriel is the crazy one and no one behaves like themselves and whatever. I just can’t. It’s such a mind boggling stupid concept that it threw me out of the story entirely. The whole thing is just so convenient and so out of no where that it broke my immersion 100% and it just kinda sapped my desire to finish reading. I did skim to the end and can say that there is a HEA (of course) and the question of secession in Alba is so easily resolved that it makes you wonder why it was even presented as an ordeal.

All told, I still recommend Phedre’s trilogy, but Imriel’s trilogy is very much your mileage may vary. I’d been debating as to whether I wanted to give Moirin’s trilogy a go, but as of this moment I think I’m going to pass. If I do, I think it won’ be til 2016 at earliest – I think I need to put some distance between this books and those if I’m going to have any chance of giving them a fair shake.

DNF – Gold Throne in Shadow (World of Prime #2) – M.C. Planck

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Summary:

The continuing adventures of Christopher Sinclair, mechanical engineer turned priest of war.

Christopher, raised from the dead and promoted to a moderate rank, takes command of the army regiment he trained and equipped. Sent south to an allegedly easy posting, he finds himself in the way of several thousand rabid dog-men. Guns and fortifications turn back the horde, but Christopher has other problems that cannot be solved with mere firepower: a wicked assassin; hostile clergymen; dubious allies including a bard, Lalania, with a connection to a mysterious group of scholars; and worst of all his own impolitic tongue. But all of these pale into mere distractions once he discovers the true enemy: an invisible, mind-eating horror who plays the kingdom like a puppet-master’s stage. Lalania claims she can help–but will it be enough?

Review:

Man, I’ve had a bit of a rough go at it lately. In addition to the previously DNF’d Since You Been Gone, I’ve also DNF’d a third book which I didn’t bother posting about here because it was a historical romance, something I’d picked up for a change of pace more than anything. As I said before, I don’t normally post DNF reviews because for the most part it’s a case of me not being the right reader for a particular book, it happens. I decided to make the exception for this book because as I noted in my Stacking the Shelves post: I loved Sword of the Bright Lady. It was on my favorites list from 2014. I loved the way it took an ordinary man and dropped him into a medieval world. I loved watching him trying to figure everything out. I loved watching him bring change like a tsunami washing over the land.  So when the publisher asked me if I wanted to read this, it was with great delight that I said yes.

And then I tried to read it.

The book picks up where the last off: Christopher has been resurrected after his ignominious defeat at the end of the last book. It’s decided that the only way to continue his mission is to elevate him to grant him status in more line with the position he holds and to give him more flexibility to do what needs to be done. Fair enough. But then the book spends almost entire first half feeling very much like a tutorial in things a newly minor noble needs to take care of. Expanding his armies, expanding his smithies, talking to important people. It’s all very mundane. The hostile clergymen show up in the first half, but by this point it still doesn’t feel like it’s leading up to anything. Ultimately, it’s taking way too long for such a short book to get going. It could still work if the characters were given enough to do to care about them enough to help push you through this set-up. Outside of one interesting (albeit very brief) scene with implied female-on-male sexual assault, however, that just doesn’t happen.

Ultimately, I feel like the story here has just ground to a halt and wasn’t worth continuing to press through. That said, I continue to recommend Sword of the Bright Lady which does work decently as a stand alone novel.

DNF Review: Since You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson

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Summary:

It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um…

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait…what?

Review:

Okay, a bit of context since I obviously don’t review contemporary fiction on this blog. I was in a Random Questions with Nori (#RQWN) chat a few weeks ago and one of the questions asked us to admit to something popular that we haven’t read. I admitted to not having read contemporary YA. I have read Anthony Breznican’s Brutal Youth, but that’s so outside of the traditional mold that I’m not entirely sure it counts.

Regardless.

Our hostess was so surprised that I had never read any and asked why, and I told her the simple truth: I’ve just never really been a fan of contemporary works, even in the adult form. Well, she asked if she could recommend one book and if I’d give it a chance. Since I do believe in giving books a chance that I otherwise might not, I said sure.

And this is what she recommended it.

As I struggled to make it through the book, i finally today pinpointed why I’m not enjoying this:

I can’t relate to these characters.

At all.

I grew up in the suburbs, the child of two parents who were very much a part of my life. Here we have the classic tropes of both small town girl and flightly parents who can barely be called parents, the sort that are so self-absorbed they seem not to give a shit about their kid. It’s both awful to read (hello, your daughter clearly needs to talk and get your head out of your ass, you’re a parent first a playwright second, you shouldn’t be relieved she has a damn job because it means you can neglect her even more) and plot convenient all in one go. I also think that for a girl with so little stability (couch surfing as a child is not healthy) that she seems awfully stable, if maybe not a little reserved, though I suppose that that is understandable.

So then she has a list of things to do like “hug a Jamie” and “kiss a stranger.” Because this would go down SO well in today’s world. At best, you’re going to get a lot of strange looks. At worst…well, we don’t think about the at worst.

There are the using playlists as means telling us about their character, I guess? It seems lazy at best. Maybe it’s because I’m part of the generation where getting a CD player was a big deal and playlists weren’t a thing until I was well into college.

I don’t know. Everything just seems so clean and pure and relatively wholesome. Kids may be drinking underage, but no gets drunk or does stupid shit like drive while under the influence. I guess in a way contemporary YA are like the teen movies of the 80s (which for the record, I’m not a huge fan of either. I blame it on having to watch Dirty Dancing 93084329084309832 times). Harmless enough and I suppose fulfills that romantic element that I think a lot of people wish for, but don’t have in their own lives.

I get why this book and why this genre appeals to people. But I don’t believe in these kids. They don’t feel real to me. For all my qualms with a book like Brutal Youth they felt like real people for good and for ill and for all that entails. For me though, this is a book about a girl whose friend mysteriously disappears, doesn’t tell anyone that she’s disappeared, and when she gets contact from her in form of a list of things to do she doesn’t get mad that her friend went silent, or didn’t send an explanation, she’s like OK, awesome! And just…yeah. Not happening.

There is clearly an audience for this book, and clearly I am just not it. But at least I can say I gave it a chance, which I’m glad to have done. I do think that if this is the kind of thing that you’re into, that you’ll enjoy it.

Curiosity Quills Serial Publishing and a quick DNF review of The Vampire Circus by Rod Kierkegaard, Jr.

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Summary:

Note: I normally put a book’s Goodreads synopsis here, but at almost 600 words and a full page in length it’s just too long for what I have planned to say. You can read it here if you so desire, but I hope going forward that he learns that less is more as this is less a tease and more the outline of the whole book.

Review:

I requested the first three parts of this novel for two reasons: the story did have me kind of intrigued and more importantly, I was curious to see how Curiosity Quills was handling the release of these serialized stories.

As far as the serial aspect goes,so far, I like what I see. In terms of pricing, it’s $1.99 per part which assuming it’s five parts keeps it within my personal preference of $10 for a full title and you get a novella’s worth of content for that money, which is inline of what I was expecting. The installments do end at good cliffhangers, which is nice to see. While I don’t know if I’ll ever be a fan of serial printing, I do feel like the publisher is handling it well, and I’d feel safe recommending them if you want to check out serialized novels, over say dipping your toes at Amazon where too many self-published titles charge you too much for too little story.

As for the story itself?

Eh.

I’m going to chalk this up as not being my thing. Too many stories going on with characters I’m not necessarily caring for and I have immediate knee-jerk reaction to any STD resulting in vampirism (bacteria don’t work that way!) and the writing isn’t otherwise strong enough to make me over come it. There is probably an audience for this book (I’d say western fans maybe, as there’s a lot of that vibe going on) but I don’t think I’m it.

Verdict: Fan of how the publisher is putting out its serials, but the book itself is a DNF for me.

Available: First three parts are available now.