Saturday Miscellany — 11/22/14

A pretty light load this week, it’s like there’s a holiday around the corner or something. Bet things pick up next month.

Still, there were a few odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle by Kaja Foglio and Phil Foglio — the third novelization of the webcomic. I’ve only read the comics up through the 2nd novel (no, there’s no good reason for this), so this will be all new material for me. Looking forward to it.
  • The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg — Evanovich. Goldberg. Fox. O’Hare. That’s all I need to know.
  • Superheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne — looks to be an entertaining take on Superheroes

In Medias Res: Us by David Nicholls

House of Hades
Us

by David Nicholls Typically, I use an “In Media Res” post to check in on a book I’m really excited about, usually about the halfway point. But, thanks to some poor time management on my part, I’ll check in here, as I had to take this back to the library today. I’m on page 120, just a couple pages into Part 2.

In a thumbnail, this is Rowell’s Landline from the male perspective, but without the magic phone. Similarly to Landline, we examine the beginning of the relationship from the protagonist’s present POV, as well as how things progress from the time that his wife tells him she thinks their marriage might be done. In a few months, their child will be leaving home, so she considers their work done — and maybe they will be, too.

This comes out of nowhere (as far as he’s concerned), and strikes poor Douglas like a load of bricks. He latches on to the probability she’s expressed rather than the certainty. He still has a chance, he just needs to make certain changes. He has no idea what those are, but he’s going to try to make them.

At this point, I can see why 1980’s Douglas would be attracted to 1980’s Connie, and maybe why he’d fall for her. I’m not convinced present-day Connie is worth that much effort (but I’m not married to her, so it’s hard for me to say). As for their work as a couple? On behalf of the people of Earth — you’ve done a lousy job. Albie is a questionable human being and a lousy ingrate of a son.

This is well-told — with heart, with wit (frequently a bumbling wit, but that’s Douglas’ charm). As much as I loved Nicholl’s One Day, I couldn’t finish Starter for Ten, so I was a little worried about dipping my toe into this one. But, I have every intention of plowing through this one, as soon as I climb back on top of the library wait list.

When I do, I’m sure I’ll learn to like present-day Connie a bit more, and find out what happened between 1980’s Douglas and present-day Douglas to turn him into someone Connie’s not sure she wants to stick with. I fully expect it to be understandable and may even result in my not liking Douglas too much for a bit. Will he figure out what needs to change and do so? Maybe. I’m not sure Nicholls is going for a happy ending. Who knows? I might even find a redeeming quality in Albie. That will come as a surprise, but I’m open to the possibility.

Good start — I can imagine this book getting 5-stars from me. Also can imagine it getting 3. Who knows?

Saturday Miscellany — 11/15/14

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Release I’m Mostly Interested In (next week looks like a strong/wallet killing week):

  • Sons of Anarchy: Bratva by Christopher Golden — I’m mostly over this show, but I’m curious about the tie-in idea, and this one features Trinity and Opie, so I’ll end up giving it a shot.

Pickles and Ponies: A Fairy-Tale by Laura May

Pickles and Ponies: A Fairy-TalePickles and Ponies: A Fairy-Tale

by Laura May

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kindle Edition, 263 pg.
Kindle Direct Publishing, 2014
Read: November 1 – 3, 2014

Everybody knows that good princesses are always pretty, just like wicked step-mothers are always ugly and covered in warts: and Melodia was no exception to this rule. By this time she was nearly nineteen, and she was tall and healthy, with rather a wistful look to her. You probably want to know her hair colour as well, because you’ve heard how that impacts upon personality. Scientists all over Raduga (with the word ‘scientist’ being used somewhat loosely) have conducted several studies into the effects of hair colour. They’ve found that while it seems to matter very little for the princes of the realm, for princesses it’s quite the opposite. Blonde hair indicates beauty and fragility, while brunettes are supposedly street-smart and intelligent. Of course, these studies were all funded by the Prince of Hairdressers, who was allegedly running a hair dye cartel…

If Douglas Adams were to write a fairy-tale style story for a YA audience, it’d sound a lot like this. Which is at once the strength and the weakness of the book. Once you start with this voice, you’re stuck with it — it’s a commitment you have to follow through with. May does a fine job of that. But, unlike Adams, she sometimes lets her voice, her storytelling style, get in the way of the story.

But, while occasionally distracting and annoying, it’s not fatal. And if you read this in smaller chunks — I read it in two sittings — you might not even notice (at least not as much as I did).

This is a cute YA take on fairy tales, a tale of magic, friendship, and a search for true love in a land where everyone is a prince or a princess (if they’re not a King or a Queen). There’s really not much else to say. She’s not giving us fractured Snow White or Cinderella, etc. May’s working from a blank canvas — what’s happening in the castle to the right of Prince Charming’s.

Again, like Adams, I’m not entirely convinced that May’s world is really that coherent — but it doesn’t matter, the world she’s put this in is just a place for her to tell jokes and have silly things happen. Like this:

By the time nine months on the island had passed, Melodia was bored out of her wits and sorely lacking in company. She tried talking to rocks, but they were stoney in their silence. She tried talking to the moss, but it just wasn’t a fun guy. The trees asked her to leaf them alone, and eventually the princess was reduced to talking to her own reflection in the lake.

I laughed, I chuckled, I groaned, I was charmed — and I was entertained. What more could you want?

—–

The author was kind enough to provide me a copy of this book, providing me relief from the murder and mayhem I’ve found myself reading this year.

—–

3 Stars

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

The Slow Regard of Silent Things (Tales from Temerant)The Slow Regard of Silent Things

by Patrick Rothfuss

Hardcover, 159 pg.
DAW Books, 2014
Read: October 30 – 31, 2014You know what? I’ll be honest here. It’s been so long since I’ve read The Wise Man’s Fear that I’ve forgotten everyone’s name except Kvothe and Bast (although I frequently think Bash). So when I heard that this little book would be focusing on Auri, I thought Denna instead. A couple pages in I knew I was wrong, so I took a quick trip to http://kingkiller.wikia.com/ and got my names straight. Finally having the right character associated with the name, I was probably more excited than ever about this book, more time with the mysterious and strange Auri? Yes, please.

There’s no real plot-line, no story — it’s more of a slice-of-life kind of thing. How does Auri spend a week — in what seems a representative, yet atypical, sample. It’s truly rewarding to see how Auri’s mind works — and to get an inkling of an idea how she fits in (or, at least, fit in) to The University.

The voice isn’t that of Kvothe, it’s nothing like Kvothe’s voice — which is a huge relief for many who wondered if Rothfuss could sound any other way. No, it’s just how Auri should sound. He (not at all surprisingly) captured her essence so well. For someone we know so little about, it’s astounding to me how often I read a line or paragraph or whatever and said, “Yes, this is her exactly.”

It’s tough for me to know how to say anything about this (in case you hadn’t noticed), so let me just stop trying: The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a nice read. A light, sad, whimsical read — with bit of darkness in the background (it only shows up in the vaguest sense). Just a pleasure.

I don’t know if Rothfuss has more things like this planned, or if the next things we’ll see out of him is the end of the Kingkiller Chronicles. While hoping for the latter, I’ll take either after reading this.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

Personal by Lee Child

Personal (Jack Reacher, #19)Personal

by Lee Child

Hardcover, 353 pg.
Delacorte Press, 2014
Read: November 10 – 11, 2014Someone took a pot-shot at the French president — and by pot-shot, I mean “almost impossible” sniper shot — it didn’t work, didn’t even break the “invisible armor” glass in front of him. But still, bad form, and people are expected to do something about that. Various and sundry intelligence agencies across the globe come up with a short list of snipers capable of making the shot. Disturbingly enough, most of them are employed by various and sundry nations across the world, but there’s a small handful that are just tracked (almost infallibly) by the same groups.

In this case, there were four unaccounted for at the time of the shooting. A British sniper, a Russian sniper, an American, and (I think) a French sniper (clearly doesn’t matter…minor spoiler). Each respective government gets someone to track down their potential suspect. Once upon a time, MP Jack Reacher arrested the American. So someone in the upper echelons of the Army reached out to Reacher in some cloak and dagger-y way to get him involved in tracking down the U. S. sniper.

Reacher has nothing better to do — no longer on his mission to meet Maj. Susan Turner (and wasn’t really given a choice, anyway) — and he owes the Brig. General. So “Sherlock Homeless,” as he’s been dubbed by the Army, heads off to Arkansas, Paris and London to track down his prey. The requisite purchases of replacement clothing, fights, and Reacher-ness ensues.

There was one particular highlight for me. There’s a London gangster, Little Joey — a giant of a man, makes look Reacher look like . . . well, like Tom Cruise standing next to the book’s version of Jack Reacher — Reacher’s initial internal description of him makes the whole book worth reading.

The most disturbing thing about this book is the constant, universal, assumption that governments will cover up, manipulate media and spy on everyone they choose to. In other novels — Gone Tomorrow jumps to mind as the best example — Reacher’s resented this kind of thing, complained about it. But this time, he uses it, takes it for granted — this could just be Reacher the pragmatist and we could get a return to form next time. But the way that everyone else — no matter their nationality or role in the investigation — assumes this, and doesn’t care about it, disturbed me. Mostly because I figure it’s fairly realistic.

The first few chapters are riddled with Reacher describing himself as “Predictable.” And, yeah, he is — both in his world and as a character in novels. He’s going to act a certain way, he’s going to shoot, punch, elbow and kick a certain amount of people. He will win the day, leave a few bodies in his wake, and at least charm a lady or two along the way (at his most chaste). Predictable. But satisfying. Scratching a particular itch for readers in a way only Lee Child can.

This seems to be a pretty divisive book amongst fans, for reasons I don’t particularly understand — on the whole the complaints I’ve seen about this one could be applied to 12-15 of the others, it’s just the way Child works. Maybe my expectations are different than others, but this one checked all my “Reacher” boxes and provided a few hours of entertainment.

Predictable can just be another word for Reliable.

—–

4 Stars

Poison Fruit by Jacqueline Carey

Poison Fruit (Agent of Hel, #3)Poison Fruit

by Jacqueline Carey
Hardcover, 437 pg.
Roc, 2014
Read: October 7 – 10, 2014This one just made me mad.

Yes, there was some very good character development. Some of the backup stories that we’ve been waiting 3 books to get resolved, gets resolved. There’s even a great, epic climactic battle. Daisy gets to be kick-ass on more than one occasion.

But…but…but. It started with her being terrible, careless and incompetent.

And even then, I’m getting ahead of myself. Things start off with Daisy and her closeted werewolf partner, Cody, investigating what seems like a pretty run of the mill case (from the point of view of the reader, not the people being terrorized by the supernatural person). While they’re moving on that, there’s some follow-up on the events of the last book — namely a class action lawsuit against the local governments due to the pain and suffering that the bystanders and spectators weren’t protected from.

Now basically, due to miscellaneous shenanigans, if the settlement reached is too large, the city of Pemkowet will have to sell off a bunch of land — Hel’s demesne. And things will get bad from there. So, basically, it’s all about stopping the trial — or winning it. Which will be difficult as the opposing lawyer can bend the wills of whomever he wants.

So, what do Daisy and the rest do? Highlight to see the spoilers if you want: They cook up one harebrained scheme that may work, and then they wait months for the trial to start. That’s it. And sure, the scheme works — for a day or two, until the opposing lawyer proves he’s not an idiot, figures out what they’re doing and stops it.

Could they have come up with other things to try? A back-up plan, maybe? Could they have investigated just a smidgen to figure out who was behind these antics and maybe find a way to stop things before it got to trial? Nope.

So because they don’t do enough, a big battle between Daisy and the eldritch community and the people that Daisy couldn’t bother herself with investigating, and it is an awesome battle featuring nifty and tragic things — like any good climactic battle would. And trust me, I’d like to spend time talking about and thinking about how great a lot of what happened at that battle was, but I can’t. Because the only way we got there was through Daisy neglecting her duties as Hel’s liaison. It’s not apathy, and I give her too much credit for being distracted by her love life (and how distracting can it be, really, with one date a week?).

You know what Ivy Tamwood, Rachel Morgan, Toby Daye, Kitty Norville, Harper Blaine, Kara Gillian, or Anna Strong (to name a few of UF’s better female characters) would’ve done in this situation? Something. They wouldn’t have waited to see if Plan A would work, they’d have done what they could to prevent Plan A from being necessary.

Oh yeah, and the love story ends up concluding the way we all thought it would — with a little Deus ex machina thrown in to get it there. At that point, I didn’t care, really.

I was initially disappointed to find out that this would be the end of this series, but now I’m absolutely okay with that.

—–

2 Stars