Tag Archives: fantasy

Review: Mistress of Thieves

Hey everyone, sorry there was a bit of a delay on this one. (Check out my social media for the full story.) I was a little unsure where to start in the Kindle Store, to which the answer is not on the app if you are looking for the self-published section, but I stumbled upon this one after a lot of digging among the traditionally-published crowd, and thought it was worth a shot!

In Mistress of Thieves by Carrie Summers, Myrrh is an up-and-coming freelance thief who’s lost her only true friend. The city guards finally captured her mentor, an aging rogue and the closest thing she had to a family. He’s dead now. She’ll be next if she doesn’t figure out who betrayed him. As she begins her search, she’s double-crossed by a fellow freelancer and sold out to a shadowy new crime syndicate. With a sack over her head and wrists tightly bound, she’s delivered to the lair of the syndicate’s boss, a man named Glint. Certain he intends to kill her, Myrrh is surprised to learn that he has other plans. An unrepentant scoundrel, Glint is as charismatic as he is complex. And he has information about her mentor’s disappearance that will upend everything she thought she knew about the city’s underworld.

So this was a surprising amount of fun! It seemed like it was going to be super dark and grim, but the writing found ways of inserting some humor that made me grin without making the main character an idiot–actually, she’s rather brilliant, if impulsive at times. The second person point of view was sort of iffy for me, I don’t particularly like it, but it was done well enough that you eventually tune it out. It wasn’t as strongly fantasy as my usual taste, but there was enough that I can see how it ended up in this section rather than anywhere else.

The characters’ backstories were well-done, as was the balance of the cast. Myrrh was fun to follow, though I’m disappointed we didn’t learn her real name yet. Considering the crap that went down, I think if she had told Glint her real name, it could have had a deeper emotional wound…but the writer might also be saving that for later, so you know, I’m okay with it. Nab was friggin’ awesome. I was like, “Oh, little kid to look after, the cute bait.” And then he actually appeared and was a smart brat and I was like, “Okay, not what I expected, but BETTER!” I love realistic kids, especially when Myrrh gave it right back at him. Glint’s backstory was a lot…smaller I guess?…in terms of scale than I was expecting, but it worked, and I totally get it if the world is meant to stay focused here.

The romance was actually done well. It wasn’t something that started in the story, it felt organic in terms of how it built, and when the plot twist is revealed, it added another stab to the heart without having gone to super cliche levels. I also didn’t feel like it took over the story, and it didn’t completely eat up Myrrh’s goals. That thrills me to death. In fact, I think it hurt Glint more than it did Myrrh, which is a nice role reversal. In a similar vein, the female characters were more plentiful than usually shown in thieves’ guild type settings, and I loved the variety. We had more than just the geisha assassin (as the trope is called) and the girl thief, and what we saw was fun. I hope we see more of them.

My only complaint is so minor, and relates entirely to the fact I bought the book on Kindle. The large city that the book was set in was broken down by districts, bridges, and a river. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the layout right in my head (it’s not numerical like you’d think!), and that left to me getting a little confused. Now, Tamora Pierce’s Provost Dog series is very similar for the first two books, and I had less of a problem. That’s because I own physical copies, and it was a lot easier for me to toggle to the map in the front. The Kindle version of Mistress of Thieves not only sticks the map in a kinda weird spot, but I don’t have a Kindle-Kindle, I use my Android phone (which is not the biggest thing ever), so setting bookmarks sucks. As a result, it was halfway useless to me as a reference.

This was a fast but fun read that I enjoyed. It kept the plot simple without getting really convoluted or losing itself down subplots, and it kept true to its characters, even if that meant the ending wasn’t your typical Happily Ever After. Overall, I highly recommend it, and I hope the sequel that comes out next week is just as good!

…Just get the physical copy. 😛

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Review: Barbie Movies

Specifically, I am talking about what are referred to as Season 2 through 4 of Barbie movies on Wikipedia (I wasn’t born when Season 1 happened).

This may seem like something ridiculous for me to be watching as an adult, but believe it or not there are a lot of us who grew up with Barbie who enjoy watching the films if only to see what they’ve gone done did now. And to be honest, the evolution itself is pretty entertaining, and I like where it is going. For direct-to-home movies, the animation is never that bad for the time periods it is being produced in, and honestly I feel like while some of the story elements are goofy, the movies show how the brand is continuing to grow and try to not only appeal to girls, but help them find their voices and confidence.

The second “season” of films show their age the most–these films started coming out in 2001, when CGI animation was still figuring itself out. It did however set the tone as different from the prior two films by being in a different style. Most of these early movies, done from 2001-2009, were based either off of fairy tales or ballets, with a few originals thrown in that matched the theming of the mystical and fantasy elements. Even if the stories themselves are familiar, the writers didn’t approach them the same way and really worked to give the Barbie character agency rather than being the end goal like most fairy tale heroines are.

Examples include Rapunzel, where rather than always staying in the castle, she finds her way in and out of the tower on her own. One of the original stories, The Magic of Pegasus, has a princess go out to rescue her sister, herself, and other princesses. If anything the boy who comes along serves the role girls usually are relegated to–the practical one who only serves to help the hero. Even the rendition of The Three Musketeers works hard to show that these girls can be feminine and powerful at the same time. (Okay, I am a sucker for war fans, what can I say?)

The third season (2010-2015) is where they started reaching out to modern stories as well, almost entirely original with some being in fairy tale settings but with modern elements. This is where they really had fun with what they could come up with. While some sort of irked me for being rather shallow, such as A Fairy Secret, I did like this idea of there being a greater world that they were playing with in some of the films and others I thought really played around with traditional roles and made them fresher. The Pearl Princess was amusing with the fact that the main character used her love of dress up to find a good job that would suit her, and the traditional dork character was a hero in his own right.

There was also more variation in Barbie’s personality depending on the movie. She had definitive flaws, skills, and overall wasn’t nearly as grating as normal. For example, Kristen from The Pink Shoes was a talented dancer…she just couldn’t stick to the choreography, a flightiness to her personality rather than there being something necessarily wrong with other people’s opinions. While the end result is Kristen still getting to be a star ballerina, it isn’t for a traditional role with traditional choreography she would have to learn, but rather an original production that she would have a voice in. Similarly, Alexa in The Secret Door is shy and lacks confidence in herself. The movie is about helping her find out that she can do what her duties require of her as a princess, without calling her wrong for feeling shy sometimes.

The new fourth season (2016-Present) hasn’t had much going on so far, but it’s showing that they are going even farther out of their comfort zone (to my approval) and into some elements that really need more girl representation. It’s a fact that when it comes to things like space adventures, spy thrillers, and even video games, that male characters are usually the hero, and the girls are either the goal or they are the damsel in distress still. Even Bond Girls aren’t considered as good at their job as the male leads. But the Barbie movies are taking what they did with season two and applying them to these genres. In particular, I loved Starlight Adventures for what it was–middle-aged power hungry man had to get smacked down by a young woman who had this thing called environmental conscientiousness and morals. One of the upcoming movies is also centered around video games, which I am all for.

If you think Barbie movies are for little girls only, you are sadly mistaken. They aren’t too bad to watch on a lark on your own, nothing worse than a Disney movie, except these have the emphasis on girl-power where it belongs. The animation is increasing in quality as they go, and the stories are amusing. Give them a shot before you completely write them off, since there are plenty to choose from.


Review: Age of Adaline

I remember being intrigued by the trailers for this movie but never getting around to seeing it theaters. Well, I’ve rectified that, and what do you know, a romance movie that doesn’t make me want to drill my brain out!

Due to an accident when she was twenty-nine years old (the first time), Adaline has stopped aging. Her daughter now has to pass as her grandmother. Her only friend who she has been able to keep through identities is only possible because she is blind. Adaline lives in fear of being discovered, but is she truly living? She starts to question that when she meets Ellis, who reminds her of what she once had. But there are complications with being immortal, and sometimes they come to catch up with you in the most unlikely of places.

The genre for this one is a little weird to nail down. Normally when you are dealing with immortals, some level of fantasy is involved. But this time, there’s an annoying little voice over guy who goes, “Noooo, there’s science involved!” Not real science, my sort of soft science that sounds technical and doesn’t rip me out of my movie experience by making me go, “Really?” and is from far enough in the future they may manage to avoid getting called out on it…maybe. (After self-tying shoes and hover boards happened on time, I can’t exactly argue against it.) So it’s sort of straddling the line between urban fantasy and soft sci fi with a heavy reliance on the butterfly effect.

This movie is a loving ode to San Francisco. The setting just breathes life and is almost a character in and of itself. They really took the time to find all these little historical nuggets of information and to portray them in such a way that we the audience could see why they were so loved by Ellis and Adaline. Maybe I’m just a history nerd, but I love a movie that acknowledges the past and the touches it leaves behind for all of us to discover. Plus they wove it into to Adaline’s history, and her own personal struggles, that you just felt like this movie couldn’t have been set anywhere else and been the same.

The characters are quirky and I love them. Adaline never stops learning, and she is so much fun to watch her use that knowledge to beat the ever loving tar out of the boys. I love how she holds on to her routes back in time but isn’t living in the dark ages of technology either. (I made a comment to Ginny about pluses of being a vampire, you hold on to your stuff until it becomes vintage and in and then you just have to refurbish/adjust it.) And Ellis doesn’t try to change her, he doesn’t want her to be anything less than who she is. And he can stand on his own too, as proven by his date choice, and he’s just as stubborn as she is which is probably a good thing. Even William hit you close to home because he was trying to grapple with this thing he thought he had dealt with and now it’s coming back at the absolute worst possible time.

I am a known hater of most modern romance movies, but this one is a smart one. There is definite humor, but it’s smart humor, not people being gross or overly sexual or idiotic. It’s little things like Adaline making the joke that she was reading Norwegian in Braille just to screw with Ellis, or really the entire Trivial Pursuit game, that was priceless. And what this allowed you to do was really focus on the emotionally moving parts of the movie. About Adaline still trying to mother her daughter, only to get the tables flipped. About the past, and how there are several great loves in a person’s life. Just…ugh. I could gush forever about this story. Is some of it really annoyingly vague, like what Flemming is supposedly doing in her life or has done in her life, and who the men who came for Adaline at one point were working for? Yeah, but at the same time, it kept its focus on what it wanted. On conquering fears and remembering the past without being afraid of it, to truly live.

As someone who has held on to parts of her past and struggled with healing, this movie really spoke to me on a personal level. I’m not surprised how hard it was for Adaline to stop running because I’ve been there myself. And she got a happy ending, which puts this movie about a couple of others I can think about that do similar things but go all tragic at the end. If you haven’t seen Age of Adaline and you like some smart, gentle romance, I highly recommend it.


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: Miraculous Ladybug

I live! And I have a new fandom I am gushing over. So I thought I would review the first season with my loves and (of course) my nitpicks.

Miraculous Ladybug (or alternatively, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Chat Noir) is a French cartoon, the story of two teenage superheroes, Marinette and Adrien, also known as Ladybug and Chat Noir, respectively. They fight to protect Paris–yes, that Paris–from the corruption of Hawkmoth and his akuma, using the power of good luck and bad luck (three guesses as to who has which power, and the first two don’t count). Most of the background plots focus on the love square with our heroes…which unknown to them, only involves two people. Because they don’t know who each other is.

Ugh, the love square. It has made this fandom sickeningly sweet and fluffy (like give you cavities sweet), or heartbreaking angst (so much character death, and no one ever tags it properly). And yet, I love it. The two people in question are so oblivious in the show and yet heartsick over it, even if I differ from canon and think Adrien has at least a clue about how Marinette feels about him. She’s just too obvious, and he’s too flirty for it to be coincidence. Regardless of your stance, you just want to shove them in a closet when their powers are fading and get the reveal over with so there can be fluff! Considering how old and cliche this trope is, the writers still have you sucked into this show with it. That’s good writing.

…Not perfect writing, mind you. They have been following the monster-of-the-week formula for the most part, which worked well to establish the world regardless of when you start watching. But we’re running out of side characters to turn into akuma, and the last few episodes introduced some plot hooks that are too interesting to not flesh out. I hope they start easing out of their formulas to follow up on them. Otherwise, it’s going to grow stale very quickly. I can only take so much obliviousness and teen drama before I want story to pay off.

The characters themselves are actually in balance for the majority, which is always a nice change. The various side characters are built well without trying to compete with the main characters, while the two leads are multi-faceted without getting cluttered or overly perfect. The superhero aspect just fuels this, since it allows the hidden selves and subtle traits of the main characters to show themselves. Awkward, overly excitable Marinette becomes confident and focused as Ladybug, but her kindness and cleverness shine through in either form. Cool and slightly aloof Adrien as Chat Noir is showboating and flirty (err, flirtier, yes Adrien, I’ve got all those little winks of yours), but his loyalty and sincerity are undeniable regardless of which one you are dealing with. The traits are there in both forms, but the hero-forms just bring them into focus to let the audience appreciate them better.

The villains need some work, though. We love to hate that one spoiled teenage blonde, hell I’ve got one of my own to write at some point, but Chloe’s antics are getting old, especially since she never really faces consequences for them. And now we’ve had a full season of Hawkmoth terrorizing Paris, but with no real idea about his plan and motivations. I respect needing that first season to get the basics established, but now we need growth, or even just depths that are already there to be revealed to the viewer. (Sorry, I’m harping)

Aesthetically, there is so much about this show that is so pretty. Seriously, so pretty. All the little details in the background are so perfect, and you almost see a new detail every time. The animation is smooth, and while graceful, they aren’t too overly exaggerated. I know the 3-D aspect annoyed fans who were following the creation process, but I can’t find it in me to care. I love all variations of animations equally as long as it is pleasing to the eye, and this style serves the show just fine.

There are some quirks I could do without, though. The two kwami (the transformation creatures that remind me a lot of PreCure) could have used a little refining. Plagg is fine, Tikki just seems really dumpy looking to me sometimes, depending on what they are doing with her. Similarly, let’s compare Chat Noir and Ladybug’s costumes, shall we?

Look at how intricate his is! He is very clearly built to be a tank, the front line fighter. He’s also got the stealth aspect. To put it simply, Chat is meant to be in the thick of things, and his signature attack and weapon reflect this. (Okay, the bell is just silly since as far as I can tell it doesn’t even ring, but it amuses me, so I don’t complain.) Now let’s look at Ladybug. Very streamlined and simple (actually too simple to me, but we’ll get there, trust me), the yo-yo can attach to her costume. She is the mage/cleric/ranged to Chat’s tank. So…why is she in eye-catching, distraction costuming? I understand wanting her to look like a ladybug, but the all-over polka dots is an eyesore. Even ladybugs only have those on their backs, and some care definitely could have been needed. Hopefully there’s a costume edit in her future.

Overall, the series is great so far. It’s silly and goofy, heartwarming and cute. The concept feels fresh, even though they really could have gone wrong and over-used. Do I have problems with some parts? Oh yes. Could it go horribly backwards in later seasons? You better believe it (just look at the travesty that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has turned into for proof of that). But for now, enjoy the first season, and if you want any recommendations for between-season reading, here are three of my favorites:

Meeting with Master Fu
Little Princess
Stupid Kitty


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: Willow

…I wish I was reviewing something cool titled this. (I can think of a couple things that share this travesty’s title.) Instead, I have to delve into George Lucas’s insanity. Super. /sarcasm

Okay, so what exactly is this 80’s wonder movie about? A special baby is born, destined to bring about the end of a cruel queen’s reign. Obviously, the queen doesn’t want this to happen, so she sets out to kill the baby. A few shenanigans later, and she is put in the care of a humble farmer named Willow who has aspirations of being a great sorcerer…just struggles with the execution. He has to deal with a bumbling “great” swordsman, a warrior daughter of the queen, and a great sorceress who has been turned into an animal…which one tends to change throughout the film. They have to bring an end to this queen (despite it being the prophecy that the baby is supposed to do this), and… I don’t know. Live happily ever after?

Now, let’s get this out there. I have issues with George Lucas. I think he contradicts his own canon in everything he writes, which is one of my Cardinal Rules (Obey your own rules!), he tells stories about how things went in the story-planning process (or at least that’s the impression I’m under, I could be wrong), and he basically has no idea how to tell these great premises that he comes up with. And there is almost always a lot of potential in everything he touches. But then he just…throws it at us in this big blob and expects us to do half the work for him.

Where does that leave us for the plot of this movie? Well, in a quagmire from minute one and it just sort of gets worse from there. Seriously, it takes forever to find out who exactly Elora is, what impact she is supposed to have on this world, or even how we know that she’s the right baby just by looking at her. Characters go unnamed far too long so you’re left going, “That guy,” or “that girl,” rather than getting attached to them as characters. It takes most of the movie to get any proof that the evil queen is the one actually doing these horrid things, rather than just characters saying so (and seeing as they flip flop so much on what they are going to do, reasonable doubt can be given until that point). Most of the movie is Willow running around with the baby strapped to his chest or in his arms. And a young Van Kilmer running around in drag, half-naked, or in armor.

That helped make up for the rest. A wee bit.

Speaking of characters… Sigh. Not only were there severe portrayal issues that I’m not sure how to even describe without offending some ethnic or socio group. Not only could they not make up their darn mind what culture they were drawing from, either for armor or for culture. Not only did none of the characters show enough depth for me to really get attached. The one character who I almost started going, “Okay, I can work with this, there is potential here…” She was also his primary female protagonist. So she had to be involved in some romance. And since Lucas can’t write romance, he instead settles for ruining this strong, powerful character because she “falls in love” with Van Kilmer’s character and not only becomes an idiot, she becomes incompetent after a few lines of trite poetry. Just gag me. I like sap as much as the next person, if not actually more so, but it needs to make sense or at least have some build-up to it!

You may notice I’m not saying any of the character’s names. That’s because I have no idea how to spell them. I can guess. But this is what happens when you go with overly complicated fantasy names. People aren’t certain of the spellings, or in case of books, pronunciations.

The world was equally confusing. Again, no real cultural basis. Lucas did what Lucas always does and has to put “his” stamp on every single thing. So the humans aren’t humans, they are some clanky word. The magic chants are long, equally clanky, and even the characters couldn’t keep them straight. And while yes, I respect the facts of the technological limitations of the 80’s… The trolls were just sad. I got extremely grossed out by the way the magic transformations were done, since they were done just to be grotesquely as possible. I got frustrated with the swordsman juggling of his sword, trying to be fancy and show off that he was as great as he said. Every time he did it, I went, “Aaaand, you’re dead.” Weapon work as a whole though was far more realistic than usual, though some of the rest was comedic as all get out. There, there’s a minor pro to it.

So overall, I cringed and snorted my way through it. But Ginny has promised that the three books that follow the movie are love (okay, not the first one, but the other two!), so those are next on the list.


Review: Dresden Files 15–Skin Game

Sorry this is a day late. I had a bit too much good news yesterday, and the excitement wore me out. So. The final Dresden File book! At least until Peace Talks comes out. 😛 BTW, a friend and I have official reached the level of, “Okay, we’re going to make this crack fanfic verse out of FRUSTRATION!” And because I’m a King Arthur story nut. Anyway.

Skin Game starts off with Harry running around the prison doing…Parkour. Yeah, you read that right. But it doesn’t last long. Mab needs him to step up as Winter Knight to work with Nicodemus. And to insure it, she has leverage over Harry. If he doesn’t, he will die from the parasite living in his head that helped save his life during his attempted suicide. So he has to struggle to keep his white hat on straight. In the meantime, he worries over the effect the mantle is taking on him and how it is going to change him. Will he become a monster, or is he just too much in his head? (Though he’s obviously not that either!)

So, to begin. Butcher gets huge props for this book. Seriously. Okay, the tone starts off a little weird and disjointed from the rest. But it gets better, and I mean lots. It was exciting, constant surprises and conflict. And the ending was perfect. I knew something was going on, this time, but Harry was suitably quiet about it. Did it sometimes irk the tar out of me that Butcher used the same turn of phrase the entire book? Yes. I wanted to whack him if he mentioned keeping something close to the chest one more time. But I didn’t suspect what the twist was, and yet it didn’t feel out of left field. He finally found a balance to the suspense and mystery aspect.

Character wise, the little girls stole the show. Maggie, obviously, and the parasite. (Yeah, I’ll spoil you on that one.) Maggie seemed a little too young at times (she’s supposed to be ten, Butcher, not seven), but her personality was great. She was very much her own character, and I worried she’d be too much like Ivy. A concern I no longer need to have. I like how she was this source of conflict for Harry and the worries he now has as a father. Though speaking of being a father.. The parasite, we didn’t get to see much of her, but the entire concept of it was hysterical. I just hope Butcher gives her an actual name in the next book. (I’ve been calling her Suli, an epithet for Minerva. It seems appropriate.) I have to wonder where he’s going with this creation. Was she just a loose end? Is she a part of something much bigger? I don’t know.

Shout out, because I am also a Greek myth nerd. I loved Hades. Absolutely loved. And this makes how many of us now who subscribe to the theory that Persephone willingly married Hades…?

World building wise, I thought that this actually did some good things. Once again, he brought in one new element, worked on some others, and that works well for him. It seems like as long as he doesn’t devote the whole book to a new aspect, he does better about keeping the information from being completely overwhelming. However, as much as I love Hades… I don’t know how I feel about the Greek myths being brought into the Dresden verse. It was already horribly complicated, and now adding yet another layer to the Nevernever and the power of belief just… It just might be more than even a series this long can handle. We’ll see.

I didn’t have as much bad to say about this book, but now I’m going to talk about the series as a whole. Maybe it’s because I never really got into huge series outside of the Saddle Club, The Babysitters Club, and Nancy Drew, but it seems to me that this is all a really big project that honestly, without a devoted fanbase, would have fallen apart books ago. It’s very hit or miss as far as whether the plot is going to work or the world building elements will be overwhelming or not. I think Butcher is doing the same thing I’m currently doing, where I throw things at the wall and see what sticks. And I think kind of learned what not to do from him, as far as how much new stuff can be handled, how many times can you really almost end the world in three days… I think Butcher really needs a reader who reads a book and knows what they are doing so they can tell him honestly what they think about it. Not an agent or his publisher, but a beta reader. I know without mine, I’d be lost.

Alright, next week I’ll be back with some sort of RPG or writing thing, and then I have a new YA book to read and review. I’ll review Peace Talks as soon as it comes out though, and keep making it a regular occurrence when it happens. See you Thursday!