Category Archives: Book Reviews

Review: Boycotts and Barflies

…Okay, some background. I read this story when it was still a fanfic, specifically Twilight fanfic back when I thought the books were silly fluff reading for the age demographic that I still technically was in (a.k.a. before the train wreck that is the last book) and I loved it for what it was. Now that it’s original… Well, I’ll get to that. But now you know there’s history.

Bella Swan Grace Parks and her three friends are sick of endless dates with men who don’t meet their standards. Their solution? A boy boycott, for six weeks until the New Year. Well sort of, they are still allowed to flirt and go on group dates (so the bet is sort of pointless). It’s all in good fun, until Grace meets Edward Michael Andris and his friends meet hers. Surprisingly, the boys are also on a bet of their own–this time to meet “nice girls” and no longer allowed to date the girls they meet while bartending, casually referred to as barflies. Hijinks ensue as everyone remains determined to win the bet…or are they?

Okay, so romance novel: likelihood of some of this happening is non-existent. It’s merely a tool to set the two main protagonists against each other so they have conflicting goals. And between it and family interference, it actually works for…most of the book. She even had a really good idea for the bet exploding in everyone’s faces. The problem that no one caught in the fic’s transition to real publication, is that the ending just sort of…coasts. The conflict at the end where we find out not only what the boys have been up to but supposedly Grace’s two best friends just blows over in favor of a romantic night out. There’s no satisfaction with that. These girls lied to her, the boys lied to her… It shouldn’t end that easily, even if it was supposedly to help Grace realize her own worth.

Speaking of self worth, there are some good points and there are some bad points to characters in this book. On one hand, the dialogue and the banter between characters is hysterical. I’m not completely sold that the ages fit the dialogue, but I am willing to hand wave it because it is funny. And there is good chemistry between all of the characters, and delaying any actual sex scenes means it avoids the trap of being so heavy with them that it’s uncomfortable to read. I even appreciate the fact that the fact most singles can’t afford to live by themselves is acknowledged, so unlike most romance novels finding places to be together is a real challenge.

On the other hand… A lot of the issues with the Twilight characters carried over, even with the filing off of the serial numbers. The friends aren’t fleshed out enough or given enough flaws to make sense. The fact Grace is so insecure isn’t ever really explained well besides pretty fish in a small pond that got transplanted and hasn’t moved on yet. (BTW, this sort of insecurity is common in teenagers, but we tend to grow out of it in our twenties.) And maybe this is me knowing the source material like I do, but I don’t think the serial numbers were filed off enough. They tried, I give her credit for trying, but I could still see what it once was. Considering how she had set up the fic, it was hard to take it to original fiction and leave it still intact enough for her fanfiction audience while being separate enough that no one saw the original fandom unless they were looking.

The thing that I think irks me the most is the way the guys treat the girls they pick up at the bars and the way they are written. It’s painful and horrible disrespectful to women in general. It was sort of nudged at being inappropriate by the fact the girls were sort-of-sort-of-not barflies by definition and the guys were forced to re-evaluate it, but still. The term itself bothered me. As did the way these girls treated the boys they went out with. It’s one thing to find the date boring, but really, a dinner date is hard to be entertaining if you aren’t an entertainer by nature. One of the girls is admittedly shallow and won’t go on a date with someone who isn’t high on her personal taste list. Both sides were equally painful, at least from my standpoint, and really had the potential to cause a lot of hurt feelings and didn’t because the author didn’t want them to.

Much like its source material, Boycotts and Barflies ranks as a good lighthearted read that is amusing as long as you don’t look at it too closely. It suffers some from being prior fanfiction that transitioned over to original fanfiction, but it did so to hold on to its humor. The more you reread it, the more it starts to wear, so maybe save it as a once every three or four years thing.

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Book Top Recs and Why

Due to me being a pudge this weekend while getting over bronchitis (again), I have a list for this week’s post, one I’ve been wanting to post for a while. My bio has some of my favorite writers listed, but that doesn’t really explain some of my favorite books. I cheat and do a few series, just because sometimes it’s hard to break a single away from the whole (those who remember my Top 10 Favorite Movies will remember this trait of mine). Otherwise, well, welcome to my influences. Not calling this a top 10 list because…well, I had to narrow myself down, and I wasn’t paying attention to count.

Goddess of the Rose by P. C. Cast
As much as I love to flambe The House of Night series (and ohhhh, do I love to use that as bonfire starting fuel), Goddess of the Rose will always hold a special place for me. Not only was it my first adult romance novel, but it combined so many of my own personal quirks that it still has a pride-of-place position on my bookshelf. If you’ve read too much of Cast’s work, the magic system is going to seem painfully familiar, and there are obvious romance tropes that are just going to have to be suffered through, but it still remains a personal favorite for the characters and plot.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
I use a specific book, because I am surprisingly apathetic about a large chunk of the rest of the series at this point in my life, but Half-Blood Prince for some reason hits this perfect balance of the personal problems that are always on Harry’s mind at the same time as trying to save the world from an evil wizard. It helps that Voldemort finally gets some much needed back story and character fleshing out that he becomes a real villain to my mind. The characters are also at a more relate-able age, rather than being pre-teens or very young teens. It isn’t an easy book to just jump into the series with, but if you’ve been in it for the long-haul, it hits you right in all the emotional weak spots.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The first classic to find its way on my list, yes, you are going to have to wade through literature language to get through it. (Give these poor folks a break, they were paid by the word.) But Mary’s and Colin’s character growth will make it totally worth it, as you watch these two children find family in each other and grow beyond what is expected of them. The ending is a tear-jerker, and just brings it all together. At times the spoiled behavior in the beginning and the cold attitudes of the adults can be really wearing, but the moments of goodness makes up for it in my mind.

The Dragon Chronicles by Susan Fletcher
So far a quartet (though I suspect this is a come-back-to-when-I-have-ideas series for Fletcher), there’s a lot to like about this series in my opinion and a lot to be irked about it. It’s sort of a pick-and-chose thing. I wish the romances were better written, since sometimes those plots feel forced. It does this weird jump from medieval, high fantasy to urban fantasy from book three to book four, which takes some twisting of the brain. But at the same time, it’s dragons. I’m easily pleased by dragons.

Green Rider by Kristen Britain
See my review for a more thorough review, but yes, this makes high on my rec list. Just so many moments I love in this book, and the character growth is awesome.

The Unicorn Chronicles: The Last Hunt by Bruce Coville
This series was the one that got me into fantasy and my big unicorn kick. The relationship between Cara and Lightfoot in Song of the Wanderer just struck me for some reason, and The Last Hunt is the conclusion I’ve been waiting for half my life for (literally in two senses: it took him a while to finish, and omg, my eleven year old fanfic idea actually came true, I died when I found out, just died). I feel like there’s a lot more to this world that could be fleshed out, but at the same time it gives a sense of completion to things that I don’t want him to mess with. (Okay, I want Lightfoot/Cara fluff. But I’m a sap, this is a given.)

Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce
Female power figures are sort of my jam, and Kel is a perfect fit. The first girl to publicly go for her knighthood after the king passed the law allowing it, she faces bullying and sexism while she goes through the physically and mentally exhaustive process of being a noble warrior. She faces the trials of war, and proves her character when everyone sane would have turned back. But don’t let that fool you, there are moments of pure  humor in these books, particularly Squire, that always make me giggle.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Classic number two, and if you are surprised to see it here…do you read this blog? Because I think my horse-obsession is pretty clear, and it actually used to be worse before I was a teenager (if you can imagine that). I’ve read multiple versions of this story, seen multiple films, and all of them have at least a touch of the charm that makes the whole thing so enjoyable. There’s some preachy moments and getting used to the narrator being a horse, but I think it is an excellent story with heart.

Rangers Apprentice by John Fletcher
Speaking of heart, ugh, this series. This is the series that I actually ordered a dinky little book from New Zealand for an outrageous amount of money because I couldn’t wait for the American print of the next one in the series. I read the stories in chronological order, so short stories before the last book, and that made the knife to the heart that much harder. I was crying, I was throwing things, Ginny can testify that I did not handle this well…because that’s how hard Fletcher makes you feel. I haven’t read any of his other works (I’m still nursing my broken heart, okay?), but I highly recommend this one, obviously.

White Fang by Jack London
The last technical classic, I don’t know why this book jives with me as much as it does. I’m not a dog person, I’m not a wilderness person…I’m a snow person, but only if I don’t have to drive in it. Maybe it’s because it’s the exact opposite of Black Beauty, and makes no apologies that it’s central protagonist is an animal who doesn’t understand humanity. Maybe it’s watching White Fang grow, and change, and adapt. I don’t know, but I recommend reading it.

The Immortals by Tamora Pierce
…She’s my favorite writer, she’s going to be on this list twice. Deal with it. 😛 Daine was actually the first of her characters that I read, and hooked me on the whole world. It combines this whole magic-and-animals-and-character-growth theme I’ve been having on this list. Emperor Mage has my big moment of heartbreak, Realm of the Gods has my moment of squee, but without Wild Magic and Wolf Speaker, we never would have gotten there, and it’s so important to see the growth and change that happens. Also, Daine is sassy and Numair gives as good as he gets, it’s hysterical.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
I loved the movie, I’m gonna love the book. I have the special edition with the short story that serves as a sort of epilogue, which I think helps with my satisfaction level. Everything I love about the movie is still true about this book, though I feel like the plot is a little heavy with the additions that text allowed him (such as all the business with Lir and the prophecy and whatnot). The extra fleshing out is great if you are already familiar with the story, but might be a little hard on those coming in blind.

Brightly Burning by Mercedes Lackey
Another first for me as far as this being the book that introduced me to Valdemar (boy, that was a mistake), I picked it up on clearance and never looked back. Lan really just resonated with me at the time. I hadn’t dealt with the bullying history I had in an emotionally healthy way, and Lan went through such a similar experience that it almost made me cry right from the beginning. Then just when things start to get better…war came, and ruined everything. Just all the feels. All of them. I wouldn’t call the ending happy…but it is satisfying even in the tragedy, which is all I can ask of it.


Review: The Green Rider

…ACK! I saved this as a half-finished draft and forgot to finish it and post it and… I had a major brain fart, sorry! But you know what, I actually really liked this book. It has it’s flaws, but it’s a great stand alone book. (My thoughts on the series as a whole at the end, though.)

The Green Rider by Kristen Britain is the story of Karigan G’ladheon, a young girl determined to run from what feels like her latest mistake that isn’t actually her fault. Her plans are foiled, however, when a messenger, in his last dying breath, charges her with finishing his duty–delivering his messenger’s bag and the letter inside it to the king. But mysterious forces are right on this rider’s tail, and a coup is in process for the young king’s throne. Kari has a much bigger part to play, as she finally finds her place in the world…now if only she wouldn’t stay so stickin’ blind to it!

Like I said, I really liked this book. The characters were vibrant, and well-fleshed out. In particular, I loved the female ex-Weapon-turned-mercenary, who remained loyal to the prince she was assigned to guard until he finally broke that loyalty. And then Kari herself, who was headstrong and stubborn, but still showed her vulnerability and age at times. Her relationship with her father was refreshing, and I love how her intelligence and ruthlessness is reserved for when it is needed most. There wasn’t a romantic role so much as a slight hinting at what was to come in later books…but more on that later. It was nice for the book to focus on friendships, family, and duty rather than romance, though, since it isn’t seen often enough with female protagonists.

Male characters didn’t get left out of the character love fest either. I think our two royals, both King Zachary and his brother Prince Amilton, were written well, and while there were elements of both that felt contrived, we don’t see enough of them for it to be a concern to me. Zachary’s are easy explained because a) we don’t see him for long enough, and b) a lot of that is when he has his “public” face on. I know Amilton in particular is going to seem really tropey, but he was the secondary antagonist, and I was always more concerned about Shawdell, who was less reliant on tropes. (Revealing too much about Shawdell is spoilers, sorry!) These were the forces who controlled either the protagonist or antagonist forces, and there were plentiful other characters.

…Maybe too many characters. I think there could have been some pruning, just for the sake of pacing, which is the only real flaw. The plot was there, Kari was getting into plenty of trouble, getting out of it, only to land in more, all of it staying relevant to the main plot. During her peaceful breaks, we got to see inside some of the more deplorable minds of the antagonists, to see some of what was going on that she couldn’t see (yet) that still raised the stakes for Kari. But there is a lot of story here, and I feel like some of it could have been cut or merged with other scenes to get the word count down and help the pace so the reader didn’t feel slogged down.

I had some moments of confusion about where magic existed in this world and how commonly was it known about. It seems like magic was mostly forgotten, except for strange enthusiasts, the Rider Corps’s broaches and those who know about them, and the elves (she calls them something else…they’re elves). This is acceptable, I just wish there had been clearer reasons for why this had happened when obviously this hadn’t always been the case. Was it because the old war had done something to drain magic or lessen it’s impact? I’ve read so much fanfiction at this point, I can’t remember if it was ever stated in the book or not, but I can say that it wasn’t in the beginning when I could have really used that explanation.

Overall, great stand-alone. The problems come in later books…

I got about halfway through the second book, maybe a bit farther, and had to stop. The pacing was killing me. At that point, the characters were literally just running around like chickens with their heads cut off and not making an inch of progress to resolve any of the problems, just wallowing in their misery. There was also some plot rails going on that I suspected were going to get worse. The magic of the rider’s broach, I will go ahead and say, will pretty much force the bearer to serve in the Rider Corps until they are released. This does not bode well for later. Also, random ghost? Since when are there ghosts?! Yeah, the magic part of world-building continued to have issues.

And the killer for me… Okay, I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I’m a sap. I mean, I want my fluffy romances, and if there is angst, yay, but it has to resolve itself so my babies can be together! But there are some writers who love this tragic romance thing, which I respect, it’s just not my jam. And in the second book, there are moments of fluffy cuteness between Kari and Zachary that makes me squee and so excited for later books. STOP! MAYDAY! DO NOT CONTINUE MY FELLOW SAPS! Because I have done the wiki-diving and reading commentary of the fans. The rest of the series proceeds to nosedive in the romance department in the direction of the tragic. Unless I ever hear from the readers who are willing to push through the serious pain Britain is putting us through, that things do work out in the end for Kari and Zachary, this just isn’t a series I can force myself to read.

But I will totally read the first book again. So just ignore the rest, focus on the good. (And if you want fanfic recommendations, I have a list, so send me an e-mail!)


Review: Night Myst

…I really wanted to start the week with a good one for my birthday, but I’m going in the order of my migraine-reading. (Next week will be a good one though!). And Night Myst should have hit all the right buttons for me. There’s a lot of fantasy elements in it that also factor into my own series, Sun’s Guard, and that I just like seeing played with in new and interesting ways. And in that sense, this series didn’t disappoint. But for the rest… Well, let’s get into the meat of things.

Night Myst by Yasmine Galenorn follows the return of the Indigo Court into a world where vampires, were-creatures, fae, and magic users are in an uneasy truce… a truce the new Court is about to break. Enemies of the vampire’s Crimson Court (and for good reason), they aren’t afraid of ruining the lives of humans or fae to get their revenge. Enter Cicely Waters, a witch with a crappy past who is finally feeling the call to return home. But her childhood/teenage sweetheart, the fae prince Grieve, has changed because of the new Court returning in his woods, and it is going to get Cicely involved in games of politics that will threaten her physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

Okay, let’s get the ugly out of the way. I had severe, and I do mean severe, issues with the Crimson Court’s dealings with Cicely in the book, in particular the ending-up required blood giving. It was rape. Pure and simple. And the way Galenorn handled the aftermath of it was just as atrocious as her writing it to begin with. I expected better, I really did. I’m pretty open minded and have the philosophy that as long as your lifestyle isn’t hurting me or embarrassing the crap out of me, do what you will. And as a writer, I’ve got more curiosity than my moral senses are sometimes comfortable with. But the way this writer portrays the BDSM community is just as bad as Fifty Shades of Grey, only without any stupid attempts at redeeming, it’s just evil. This is further enforced by the rape scene. And having sex with your lover immediately afterward is not an instant band-aided, especially with the screwy relationship Cicely and Grieve have. Nothing like what you expect when the protagonist is of an alternative life style herself.

There. That’s done. To turn this into a more positive note, I did think the way the vampire and the ousted-fae court tried to manipulate Cicely was perfect. So many times, vampires or fae are humanized, even if the book tells us that these races are manipulative bargainers, we don’t see it. This book showed it, over and over and over again. It was impossible for Cicely to stay ahead of them, and she didn’t really bargain well with them, usually getting scared to the point of being dumb. Or being dumb on behalf of Grieve (I’ll get to this). It eventually got overwhelming, and not in a good way. Scene questions, from a writing perspective (have I talked about this, I should check) should end in, “No,” or, “Yes, but,” until the very end of the book. If there had been a couple more, “Yes, but,” endings to scenes, it would have been perfect, with us seeing the manipulative factors to the races, but less dumb reactions on behalf of our protagonist.

Characters time…only, there isn’t much to say. There was a decent sized cast, but so much of the focus was on being afraid, both of outside and inside causes, and Cicely kept running off to be alone or with Grieve, we didn’t see much of our motley crew, outside of the cousin’s boyfriend possibly being a butt-munch, and the cousin herself being messed up via ignoring her powers (which is always bad). Mostly by ways that don’t balance with the impression we’re supposed to have of deceased/missing characters. (Lots of characters are mentioned, then are revealed to be dead, missing, or otherwise not involved, get used to this.) Similarly, the other courts are so cluttered, it’s a constantly rotating image that is difficult to keep up with. In the end, the only two who are really solid…ish…as characters are Cicely and Grieve. This works for romance novels, but if that is where the focus is supposed to be, the side cast needs pruned down.

Cicely and Grieve. Oh lord. Okay, let’s establish this: I am okay with the reincarnated lovers thing. Believe it or not, this is a trope I like. I’m also okay, if it is written well, with immortal men watching a girl grow up and falling in love with her as an adult. But that’s not what happens here. Grieve loves Cicely…even if it is how Cicely will be as an adult..when she’s a child. And really starts the manipulation early. This is a particular kind of child offender, so while other people are cooing over it, I can’t get over that bit of backstory. It’s a delicate balance to write, I know (this is spoken as someone who ships Thor’s daughter with Fandral in MCU, trust me, I KNOW), and this one just strays too far. Grieve as a character is so bipolar and confusing, all it does is feed my image of him as this creepy man who needs cut out of Cicely’s life immediately. Some of this is plot related, but it again, wasn’t handled well.

Cicely herself is very much a power-fantasy, wish-fulfillment character (which makes the rape scene even creepier, actually, in a way). Judging by author pictures, it might even be a case of author insert, though that could also be wrong. Regardless, I don’t have problems with these characters, as my hatred of the term Mary Sue can attest to, and outside of her plot, I like most of Cicely well enough. I have to say most. Her background got hella-complicated with the half-fae, reincarnated vampiric fae, thing she ended up having, which irked me to have dumped all in one book, and her love for Grieve made her dumb to the point of being a complete idiot who I couldn’t like for that reason alone, levels. But if those had been toned down, and the writer didn’t steal any agency her character had with her plot, this was very much a character I could have gotten behind. Seriously, if she had focused on the reincarnated thing for this book and left the half-fae part for the second book and just foreshadowed, I’d be okay (as long as it doesn’t go too far beyond this). Similarly, I know love makes you do crazy things, but Cicely was having all the markers of an abusive relationship, which is not cool. But if she gets slapped out of it later, this could work. So not a bad character overall.

Here’s the really good note: the world building was well done. Cramped, but well done. Seriously, when the only problem I have is everything is too conveniently located in the same town for no real reason, that’s a good sign. This writer has good ideas, has a good knowledge base, and builds accordingly. The antagonists aren’t just evil for no reason. Myst has valid reasons for what she is doing, completely valid, and they are explained well. When it comes to things like being too cramped, usually why things are happening in a particular place can be explained in a future book, if there just isn’t room without making things clunky, so it’s something I’m pretty quick to forgive. Now, did the ice spider things freak me the crap out? Yes, but I’ve got serious arachnophobia. I can’t even handle dead Aragog from Harry Potter. Again, free pass (except okay, I wish we’d seen earlier hints of spiders, but maybe I had blinders on and missed them. It happens).

Will I read more of this series? No. I can’t. The vampires left too big of a sour taste in my mouth, as did Grieve. Unless the very next book involves some character deaths of a very specific nature, this series is unsalvageable for me. I honestly can’t even recommend this series to others to read. But, and this is a big but, I am willing to give this writer another shot…with a different series.


Review: Charming

I always was more of a Prince Adam girl rather than Prince Charming, which ironically is perfect for this book, Charming by Elliot James. It takes the conventional role of Prince Charming (this time referring to just a general prince-hero type in fairy tales, rather than the Disney reference), and tries to throw a spin on them. Is it all that original? Not really, but A for effort.

The novel follows John Charming, who is the black sheep of the family…or should I be punny and say the wolf of the family? But everything has gone to hell, so he’s living under a false identity, tending bar in a small town. Or at least, he is…until a valkyrie and a vampire walk into the bar. John is being dragged back into the world he thought he’d left behind. The question is, will he make it back out again unchanged?

I think I’ll start with world building this time. I actually thought there were some things to it that were really well done…and others that came across misogynistic…and then a couple that could have used some fleshing out. For example, the Knights Templar and the idea of the Pax Arcana I thought worked well. The Knights weren’t made into this blanket of sameness that covered the whole world, the geas made it clear that there were going to be Knights whether they wanted to be or not, and the other elements just flowed together well. There were degrees and layers to it. Similarly, it touched on other orders founded by different cultures where the idea of feudalism hadn’t taken root yet, which helped give dimension.

But for our particular Knight, I find his existence as the only one of his kind to ever exist really illogical. The odds just don’t seem right to me. Rare, sure, but I feel like there should be history there. Similarly, even though a ghost ended up being kind of a big deal for subplots and others for red herrings, they really weren’t touched on beyond Sig’s “I see dead people” shtick and what little she mentions. John should know at least enough about this, and the book has enough info dumps in it, one more really couldn’t have hurt. (More on this later.) Without the explanation, it left the ghost elements feeling like an after-thought to try and make Sig work in the story and be vital to it.

Similarly, I have some issues with how he decided to interpret the Valkyrie myth. Obviously, I’ve done my own dabbling in this, so I’m a little biased. I think I’m capable of keeping my distance and respecting other people’s vision…but this one just irks me. I know someone out there is going, “As long as she doesn’t have a kid, it’s fine, right? You’re over-reacting.” And maybe I am. But for a Valkyrie to lose their immortality, and if I inferred correctly a good chunk of their power, just by having a daughter seems like a really messed up weakness, and a way of removing agency from this particular kind of creature. You don’t see gender or physical sex factoring into other creatures’ weaknesses. I understand how it can seem like I’m splitting hairs–my swan maidens are vulnerable by their swan skins being stolen, which are taken by human men to capture them for wives. But I make it clear that this is an assault in all meanings of the word, no matter how “nice” the man is. This has the overtones of it being a choice and responsibility of the woman, when it isn’t.

Okay, moving on. Plot. It actually wasn’t that bad. It definitely lagged at places and could have used some tightening up. I get that there was some play going on with the full moon, and that’s why he had the number of days leading up to everything, but it was a bit too much, meaning there was a lot of dead space. And when writers have dead space…they info dump. I do it, other writers do it. It’s a fact. And sometimes editors let us get away with it. In this case some of the information was helpful. In others…not so much. I could have done without it, or done with some more information on the parts that were left gaping (see ghosts and such). I did like the fake out before the big confrontation in the white room of pain. Weaknesses was the relative doppelganger (really, really lame), and the romance as a whole.

Which brings me to characters. John on his own was a strong voice. Not a unique voice, but a strong one. His sudden glee over his soul felt like it came out of nowhere. I mean, I get that he was raised to believe that he was a monster, but I guess there just wasn’t enough of this worry conveyed before his revelation. Side characters were about as strong as I expect from side characters. The priest in particular had a wonderful freshness to her that I wish John had, it would have helped him stand out more among the crowd of werewolf (or almost werewolf) male protagonists out there. There was a distinct lack of a villain voice. The antagonist feelings were split between a member of the group and hunting for an enemy vampire…who we didn’t really see until the end. We learned about her, never actually saw her. The plot survived, but it left us lacking a secondary strong voice to combat with John and bring balance to the book.

I think James realized he needed a second strong voice, which is why the romance subplot got introduced and Sig got pushed more to the front. It was a strong-arm attempt, and it was an awkward situation to read. I like Sig, I just don’t know if this was the best way to write her into John’s life. Heck, I’m not sure I even like her and John as a thing. Was there chemistry there? Yes. But even with how drawn out the timeline was, it felt rushed. Surprisingly, I wish she had been pushed back a little bit more until a later book, and let things progress more naturally.

For all my nitpicking, I actually loved this book. Ginny wasn’t sure enough of where it was going for sequels, which I can understand, so I might try the second and see how it goes on my own. But even if you are just reading the first as a stand alone, I recommend it. Yay for starting the New Year off on a good foot! Hopefully the rest of 2016 goes just as well.


Review: Death’s Daughter

Well, I keep seeing a lot of this concept, so I guess it’s fitting that there’s one in the Ginny Box…

Calliope has been living the past year as a personal assistant in New York City, waiting for her chance to get an in on the fashion industry. But then things turn weird, and she discovers that she has been living the last year under a Forgetting Charm. She is a daughter of Death himself, and now that he’s turned up missing, she’s the only option for her family to keep their immortality until he can be found. But it’s never that easy. She has three tasks to complete in order to earn her new title, and she has the Devil’s protege and her own family working against her. (There’s gratitude for you.) In the end, she has to figure out what the truth is, and what she really wants.

Okay, whew. Hard to try and summarize this book without spoiling anything…mostly because it’s hard to figure out where it is. The plot is a bit all over the place. But before I get into that, I have a style note that’s important. The way this book was written is very Princess Diaries, romance novel… annoys me to death… first person style. If I make it three chapters in this style and don’t want to kill the protagonist, it’s a miracle. But it’s also stupidly popular, so obviously I am one of the few who gets that level of irked by it. So I am going to try and remove myself from my hatred of the narration style and just focus on the actual story.

…which was a bit all over the place. Benson (known for playing Tara on Buffy, btw), actually set the bones for a good plot. Trials, love interest wants the same goal, family doesn’t believe in her/trust her… Good bones. But she kept getting tangled up in herself. To begin with, Callie was both a complete idiot and a crybaby. Now, when I say complete idiot, I mean she didn’t know things that I know are covered in multiple times in American school systems and even if they aren’t, they are enough part of the collective culture that she should have had at least a clue from that, and since this is part off her family’s business, I especially expected better general knowledge. I don’t mean I wanted her to be an expert, but she should have had some passing knowledge. And I like heroes who aren’t afraid of crying–look at Katherine in Threads if you don’t believe me–but Benson pushed it too far and had Callie a little too quick to either burst into tears or throw a hissy fit. You can write a feminine, overwhelmed character without pushing it that far.

I also wasn’t sure how I felt about the world building itself. There were a few components that I just didn’t think synced well with each other. For example, Persephone may have been Queen of the Underworld to the Greeks, but she was never a goddess of death. The Indian stories also got tweaked, but at least that was explained in verse. Then you have the Judo-Christian elements demanding immediate attention, but even that doesn’t fit with what the role of Death was supposed to be in this world. Overall, it was a lot of different mythos competing with each other and either too much or not enough explanation going on as to who was who. What’s worse is a lot of this information and a good chunk of the back story were given during info dumps, which are just hard to digest as a reader. Not that those back stories ever made a huge chunk of sense either…

There were some elements I did like of it. Talking Cerberus and his female pup, Griselda, were cute (I refuse to acknowledge the stupid nickname she got given). The kiss between the love interest with Siren blood and the protagonist being what breaks his hold over her because it was awful made me laugh. The relationship between Callie and her father was also really interesting to me, and I wish I had seen more of it at the end. Okay, I also loved hating her sisters and her mother. Honestly, I can understand why she left. Overall, there were also enough female characters that it gave us a good range of different personality types, so Callie didn’t have to be the Every Girl. Admittedly, it got pushed to the extreme, which seems to be the biggest flaw in Benson’s writing style, but it was nice to see such a wide range, since it was easily some of the best representation I’ve seen lately.

Would I pick up another book in this series, even if the narration changed to something more manageable? Probably not. Like I said, everything seemed pushed too far to the extreme for the sake of drama. It made Callie and the other side characters difficult to relate to, and it made it bounce all over the place in terms of plot. Add in the fact the narration style is one I detest, and this was  hard one to get through. This concept has become really popular in recent years–Deaths’ daughter assuming the mantle, struggling with its responsibility. I just think there are better options if that’s what you want to read for.


Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Okay, I had a piece of strawberry shortcake to recover from the feels. I can write this review now.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 picks up a few years after the original film. The people of Berk have welcomed dragons into their lives, mostly with the help of Hiccup… who is now struggling to figure out who he is, especially as his father is in a big rush to shove him into the role of chieftain. He escapes by exploring the world around Berk, which is now much more open to them because of the dragons. In the process, he stumbles into a conflict between two opposing sides: Drago, who is attempting to conquer the world with an army of dragons and has past history with the people of Berk…and his mother, who has spent the last twenty years traveling the world, rescuing dragon species from Drago and giving them a safe place. The role of the peacemaker is familiar for Hiccup, but he’s about to discover that he has more growing to do to become who he is supposed to be.

As far as sequel movies go, this is how you do it. It expanded upon the world, yet didn’t contradict itself. We saw several of the dragon species that were mentioned in the first movie, but we didn’t get a chance to see, as well as ones that Berk had no knowledge of. We met the counterpart species for the Queen from the first movie (the Alphas), and considering their sizes and powers, it makes a lot of sense for them to be off on their own. The answer of why we’ve only seen Toothless for a Night Fury is answered, while at the same time the species itself sees some growth. My only concern with world building and even larger plot is I don’t know what else they can do, and I know there’s a third film in the works.

The plot was very typical coming of age story, just with dragons and a missing parent reunion and stuff I mentioned in world building. It still hits you right in the emotions (obviously), since I was laughing and then crying. I did like that our three primary female characters weren’t considered lesser to the men. In fact, Astrid is at almost equal levels with Hiccup in some ways, just more down to earth and steady to help counter balance his flightiness. (Okay, yes, we do the captured female-rescued-by-male thing. She reverses it first, so I forgive it.) And there is a moment where Valka says, word for word, something that Stoic had previously told Hiccup, showing how similar they are and of equal if just very different standing.

I had two nitpicky details. I didn’t like Ruffnut and the trio of male’s subplot. At first and in trailers, it was really funny. But it just weighed kinda heavy. I mean, it did turn funny when Ruff got rejected by all the males period after the royal brat she was. But her behavior just made me cringe once I had long enough to think about it. Because manipulating men to her advantage was okay? No, just no. I’d have been more comfortable if she kept up with her shoving them away and being like, “Dudes, NO!” rather than use them to win races and such.

My other nitpick was Valka herself. I mean, I love her. But she didn’t entirely jive with what we knew about her from the first movie. It was implied she was exactly like the other women around the village, who are female models of the males and the exact opposite of Hiccup and some of the scrawnier teenagers. Wider and taller. But instead, she is sort of the same build as Hiccup, Astrid, and the twins are growing into (which is the minority on Berk). I can’t decide if they just don’t think a heavy female protagonist won’t fly or if it was to explain why Hiccup is so scrawny. So consider me a little irked, speaking as someone who has pretty much always been tall and thick. I’m also not sure how I feel about her being this voice who tried to stop the Vikings back during the war with the dragons. It also wasn’t quite right with what we established in the first film–I feel like if this was some trait of his wife’s, Stoic would have reacted differently and at least mentioned her. And the helmet made of her breastplate (ew) wouldn’t be a thing, I don’t think.

But that’s me being extremely nitpicky. Overall, the film was full of laughs and tears, excitement and wonder. It’s also completely different from the books, but I can see flashes of the influence (I think the twins are meant as a tribute to the original series, honestly). It is definitely high on my recommended film list,and I hope Dreamworks does just as well with the third and ends this series on a high note.


Review: Moon Called

So I dug into the Ginny Box (which is officially its own tag now) and pulled this beauty out. And actually, it’s pretty decent, which I know is a welcome change of pace around here.

Moon Called follows Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson, who despite growing up with werewolves and having one for a neighbor, is in fact not a werewolf. She’s something a little bit different (spoiler: she’s a play on the Native American walker myths, more on this later). But that doesn’t stop her from getting snout-deep in werewolf politics. When a runaway new wolf shows up on her shop’s doorstep, it drags her back to a world she thought she left behind and into a future where werewolves are no longer a secret…like a lot of fairy kind.

I’ll start with the elephant in the room. What the heck is a walker? Well, in Native American myth, it’s someone who has the ability to walk in another skin (usually a coyote or mountain lion). Now, this is the first real issue I have with the book. I don’t think that Natives have first dibs on their own stories, to a certain extent. There are some universal concepts that I think all writers should be allowed to play with. The walkers, for example, are similar enough to werewolves that I honestly feel like that as long as they are treated the same and don’t have ethnic ties, we’re cool. So instead of being “walkers,” with the Native ties, they are all shapeshifters, just some are wolves and some are coyotes and others mountain lions. The other alternative is if the writer his/herself is Native, in which case I back off, since I’m obviously not in a place to argue about Native culture and it’s all on them at that point if they link it to their culture or not.

Not the case here. Not only is Brigg’s a non-Native as far as I can tell (feel free to correct me, folks), but her character is supposedly half Native but ignored by her father’s family and people. That irks me. That beyond irks me. Maybe it’s because I’ve taken enough Native American studies/literature courses to know the boundaries, maybe it’s because I’ve grown up more culturally aware because of where I’m from. I don’t know. I just know that the Native aspects of this story really weren’t given the respect they deserved. If you are GOING to go there, you need to be respectful of the culture and at least attempt to give them some sugar with the bitter…instead of just bitter. At least with the first book. Maybe the rest of the series gets better?

Okay, enough with the pessimism. The good news is that Mercy is awesome. We have several powerful male characters in this book, and not only does Mercy stand up to them, she thumbs her nose at them a couple of times, which I always appreciate seeing. She’s also in an unconventional career, and even before her degree change to history, she was in engineering, which is another (sadly) unconventional choice. In the process, she never lost her femininity or her own integrity as a character, which I value. The only thing that I wish was that there were more like her. Like, we sort of get hints about the vampire lady and one or two of the females being on the same level of Mercy. But most of the attention that isn’t on Mercy is on the boys, so we don’t get to see it.

As far as the plot is concerned, it gets a little tangled up in the middle, which is normally for the first book in a series where the writer is trying to blind side you. There were just too many false trails being placed to figure out what was going on with Mac, made further complicated by the attack on Adam and Mercy going back to the pack that raised her. Add the vampires and it became an absolute monster to keep track of, especially since most of the names are on the forgetful side. Don’t get me wrong, this is much preferable to Lucas making syllables up. But it did make keeping everyone straight in their allegiances…entertaining, to put it mildly. It was full of action, though, and the main character is constantly sticking her nose into things, so you aren’t being told what happened. You’re seeing Mercy figure it out herself or being an active part of it.

This is not the first world where the fae/vampires/werewolves/whathaveyou have come out of the supernatural closet, even for someone like me who doesn’t read much urban fantasy. I do think the approach was interesting, with the set up of fae reservations and the way some fae were forced out while others made the decision for themselves. Again, I feel like this could have been awesome to relate back to Mercy being half-Native and could have been a really cool tie in, but…nothing was done with it. I’m not even sure of its place in this world, other than Briggs thinking it was a logical/cool idea. But the dynamics of the werewolf pack (as misogynistic as it is) were well-thought out, I thought, though obviously females being set as submissive annoyed me.

Overall… Eh. It didn’t completely blow my mind, but I didn’t want to throw it against the wall. It was fairly well written, if a bit troubled in places because of plot, with more zigs and zags than it needed but plenty of action. I liked the main characters fairly well, I just wish we had another strong female on Mercy’s side, rather than lurking in the shadows as existing, just not relevant. And the concept had good legs, it just…wasn’t strong enough to stand on its own. Maybe the second book will be better? We’ll see if it’s in the Ginny Box!


Nothing Good Comes Out of Ultimates

Wasn’t entirely sure where to stick this, since it’s not entirely a review, but more of a nerd rant… So it sort of got tossed around in various places. Slight Avengers: Age of Ultron spoilers because that’s what sparked this whole discussion in the first place.

When I say, “Ultimates,” I am referring to a line of comics Marvel released that rebooted several of their popular series, all with the preface of “Ultimate” in front of them. I actually read the beginnings of the X-Men one, then lost track of it until I heard that the line basically imploded because of how “WTF?” it was. Now, I’m not big on most comic books (despite loving certain superheroes). Why? Because I can’t keep up with the multiple timelines and verses and the contradictory information… It makes me want to scream. I do better with stand alone graphic novels or short runs. Ultimates should have worked for me, since it was short by necessity and most things comic fans (or at least, the fans I knew at the time, this was back during the hermit days of freshman year) complained about, I liked.

Oh, no. They were right about Ultimates.

So with my crazy way of read comics, rather than being particularly attached to timelines or plots, I pick heroes that I care about. Doesn’t matter what’s going on with the other characters, in fact I will skip whole issues if my characters aren’t in them, and I only try to understand the bigger plots so I know what this personally means for those characters. Their numbers are few…but mighty. And the Marvel ones are, in order of priority:

  1. Rogue
  2. Remy “Gambit” Lebeau
  3. Clint “Hawkeye” Barton
  4. Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse
  5. Laura “Talon,” “X-23” Kinney
  6. Wanda “Scarlet Witch” Maximoff

Rogue doesn’t have a name on this list because she has different names depending on continuity. 😛 The others are pretty consistent.

But with that list in hand, let’s take a brief walk through what Ultimates does to my poor babies. Bobbi and Laura are spared, they aren’t even in the series. This immediately means my Hawkingbird ship is dead, but you know, as long as it isn’t Clintasha, I can live with this (I love Red, I do, but she and Clint would kill each other). As for Wanda, she gets off light in that she only has an incestuous relationship with Pietro. (Yes, incest is “light” and “only,” does that tell you how bad this is about to get yet?)

Top two’s turn. There’s a brief side story of much sadness with Remy, living as a petty thief on the streets and getting his guilt issues going. Then we get to Rogue, here named Marian Carlyle after “Robin Hood’s gal,” a reference I absolutely love. She does her stint as a villain, as is tradition with her, and then she hops over to the good side. Much like in the movies, she has to get left by Bobby for Kitty (because this is such a good pairing, ya’ll /sarcasm). But she has a madcap adventure with crazy-curly-haired Gambit, and then they go off on thieving adventure together. If they had left it there, life would have been good. But no. You see, Rogue was at one point a partner with Juggernaut during the villain stint, and he wants her back. One big bad fight in Vegas later, Juggernaut is taken care of… And Remy is dying. So what’s the solution? Rogue kisses him until she absorbs him to death.

I threw that volume across the room and refused to read the rest of the series except one later volume I indulged in for the gay!Piotr story.

So there’s most of my list down and dead or not involved. Surely things aren’t so bad with Hawkeye right? Here is where you all who don’t want spoiled for Age of Ultron need to turn away, because this is the version they are working from in the films. So Clint obviously isn’t with Bobbi, instead he secretly dates and marries a girl named Laura, completely off of SHIELD records for her own safety. They have three kids, the youngest still a baby. All is going well. Until there is a traitor among the Avengers-esque Ultimates Team…who proceeds to track down his family, violently murder them all down to the baby, and then leave their bodies for him to find. And it doesn’t end there. Instead Clint finds the traitor and kills them for vengeance for his family. And then, because we haven’t tortured him enough, he becomes a glorified death-seeker. For my fellow Final Fantasy X/X-2 fans, he becomes Nooj. Nooj. They turned Gippal into Nooj!

Yeah, try to wrap your head around that one.

I’m excited about the MCU. I love the movies, and I feel like they are how superhero movies should be done. But man, picking that version of Hawkeye makes me all sorts of sad and dreading the upcoming films. I don’t want to see that ugly fallout in live-action…

End nerd-rant.


Review: Shadow Moon

Sorry this was late, folks. I forgot that Lucas was a pain to slog through in text…

Shadow Moon is the first in a trilogy meant to be a follow-up to the movie Willow. One night, our favorite magus has a dream of flying on dragon back to the castle where his friends are raising the Sacred Princess, Elora. And it is the last night the castle is seen again. Now Willow travels under a name bestowed by friends, trying to discover what had gone wrong and grieving for his losses. But while he’s gone, Elora is left in the care of others, and the world is stirring with whispers of danger to come, of Shadows and dangers. When Willow finally returns to Elora, will it be to someone who can help him right what has gotten twisted…or a spoiled brat?

Honestly, this plot is a such mess, it’s a bit of a miracle that I came up with that much of a summary. From my understanding, there was actually a novelization of the original movie that gave a lot more detail and was actually pretty good. The problem is, the sequel series that advertises on the front cover that it’s a continuation of the movie…actually relies almost entirely on the book. So there was mentioning of characters and some world building that I had missed completely from the movie, so I had no idea what the heck it was talking about. But I was trying to trudge through, I was.

Except my favorite character was killed after the first chapter. And I wasn’t given a truly relate-able character to hang on to for the entirety of the book. And he wouldn’t finish one scene before moving on to the other. And none of the plot lines seemed to be leading to the main scene. And he wouldn’t explain why sometimes Willow’s actions were the only choice. But I FINALLY got to the climax of the book…and nothing was resolved.

At this point, my friends, we must ask ourselves, “Plot, what plot?” Because no goals were really accomplished. Yes, we had a group of protagonists (not a one of them someone a reader could completely relate to, but I digress). Yes, we had antagonists. Actual good ones who I cheered for sometimes rather than the heroes, to be honest. And yet, for all the times they came into conflict, it just…didn’t GO anywhere. Which means there was no satisfaction for me as a reader for getting through all the crap in the end.

Character-wise…it was a coin flip. A couple characters were well done. Elora, Anakerie, and Geryn. If Willow had explained more, rather than simply making logic leaps without the reader, he would have been decent. The brownies will probably annoy me, so it’s not their fault, I just think their purpose hasn’t been defined well yet. But the rest were just this hodge podge of imagery rather than actual people I could relate to. I never really got an understanding of why the Deciever was doing what he was doing, other than because he could (which is not a good motivation). Now, this could just be me not reading deeply enough. But if I missed it in my reading style, then I promise you, it was too subtle or not mentioned often enough.

The world itself was interesting, if not explained well. I don’t think Lucas built any kind of rules to this world, aside from what he made up as he went along. I can give him a few props for keeping some of the basics consistent, but those details were things that he never actually explained so how could he mess it up? Everything else was a confusing mess, from the magic system, the structure of the world, and even what had happened to cause the Cataclysm or Elora’s change. I was interested in what I could piece together myself, but it was far too much effort to do on my own. I don’t want spoon fed, but I shouldn’t be working at a reading-for-pleasure book like it was one of my textbooks from college.

Overall, this was a typical Lucas work. He can come up with some great ideas and amazing imagery. But he doesn’t have a clue how to structure it or even explain it in a way that makes sense to someone not in his head. I love the Star Wars and Indian Jones films, don’t mistake that. But he can’t stay consistent in his in-world mythology and explanations even in those! Seriously, I can’t stand the books because of this, and ignore them entirely. (I may be one of the few people not worried about Disney buying the rights to the Episode VII.) He has no eye for editing, and no one, not even his co-writers, will hold him back when he starts spinning in circles.

But I have been  promised the next two are love, and I trust Ginny. I’ve eaten my veggies, it’s dessert time! That said, I can’t promise the next book in the series’ review this Sunday since this one took so much longer than planned. I do however have two more things I was wanting to blog about, plus Misty. So I will probably blog about those two things between this trilogy’s books to give me time to get them read and posted. If I finish them so I can post Wednesday or Thursday, I will, otherwise I’ll hang on to them for Sunday.