Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

I'm back! And reading! And maybe even blogging! No promises!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

On Vacation

No post today.  I'm on vacation.  Gone fishing.  That kind of thing.  :-)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

More recap envy from yours truly:

This fellow here has been doing reviews of the billion or so episodes of He-Man, Masters of the Universe.  The humor is pretty crude, but I've been very amused, and it's been distracting me from actually blogging anything of substance.

That's my excuse anyway.  :-)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Recommend me something?

Okay, so I've finished reading a series for the third time in a row, so I think I probably ought to branch out again.  So, recommend me something?

I prefer science-fiction or fantasy, all things considered.  I like strong female characters and men who get injured a lot.  (It's my misandry.)

Any recommendations are welcome.  :-)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Something Amusing

As you may know, I've tried my hand at regularly reviewing things in the past.  It's probably not an exaggeration to say that those attempts made for glorious failure.  (As evidenced by my lovely, yet very incomplete index pages.)

However, there are people out there who, unlike me, are actually GOOD at this shit.  Here's one:

At this blog, some poor sarcastic jerk has taken it upon himself to watch every episode of Full House and blog a review of it.  As painful an experience as it is for him, it's pretty entertaining to read.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fancasting - Rambling Thoughts

I was thinking about fancasting.  Specifically, when fans of a book (or comic book) suggest particular actors who would suit characters from the book.

I think everyone does it.  Certainly I have my own list for a few, or could supply one if pressed.  :-)  Of course, none of us really have the same interpretations of characters, I'd reckon.  So I'm sure some of my choices would boggle you, and vice versa.

Heck, I even have that reaction when authors fancast their own work. (Is it fancasting if an author does it?)  And that's even funnier, really, because the author is RIGHT.  Well, sort of.  We can disagree, but considering that the story comes out of the author's head, then I think that makes us wrong.  Maybe?

One example I can think of is P.N. Elrod's Vampire Files series (which I recommend as it's far more the Shadow than it is Twilight.  I'll write a review someday.)  At one point, a while back, Ms. Elrod had said that she imagined Jack Fleming, the lead character, as played by Vincent Ventresca from the 90s Invisible Man.
(IIRC, this was back in the 90s.  Her choice may have changed by now.)

And I have to admit that, entertaining monologues aside, I really don't see this one.  Ventresca was cute, but a bit too earnest looking perhaps?  And the hair doesn't work at all!  :-P  Though, it's not as bad as some, I suppose.

Possibly the most appalling to me had to do with Barbara Hambly's Asher series..  In that series, the lead vampire ('s a weird coincidence that this has a lot of vampires) is Don Simon Ysidro.  He's described as small and slight, and deceptively young looking.  But apparently, Ms. Hambly's casting involved Nicolas Cage for the role.  Admittedly, this was, I believe, a LONG time ago.  But it was a while before I could read those books again.

I kept thinking of poor Simon punching women in bear suits.  This is not Ms. Hambly's fault, but there you go.

Other times, of course, I completely agree with author's casting.  (Ben Aaronovitch apparently suggested that Paul McGann would make a good Nightingale from Rivers of London.)  But that's not nearly as much fun as figuratively running screaming away from Ghost Rider.  So there you go.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

This is Relevant to My Interests

There is going to be a Lois Lane Young Adult novel coming out in January!

That's pretty cool.  :-)  It's nice to see DC reaching out to female readers.  And it seems cute!

Also, if it does well, I bet we'll see more.  I'd love to see a Batgirl or Wonder Woman YA novel too!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Another Odd Guardians of the Galaxy Thought:

It'd be really funny if, at some point in the future Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Earthlings developed interstellar space travel and went to Xandar.  And they heard "Ooh, Child" as 'famous battle music.'

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fantasy casting for Guardians of the Galaxy 2:

Kevin Bacon as Peter Quill's father.

Just sayin'.

Favorite Line of Dialogue

From The Siren Depths by Martha Wells:

"I do not understand how they can take a man away from his wife when he does not wish to be parted from her.  Especially when his wife has such big teeth and claws."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I would post today but...

Apparently Saturday is new Doctor Who day.  So.  Yes.

I wouldn't expect a coherent post any time soon.  <3 p="">

Friday, August 22, 2014

Apparently the most recent search engine term that someone used to find me was "Masters of the Universe bondage."

Which...seems about right, actually.

Others of note: "nick fury fights shirtless" (which, yes.  A lot.  Enjoy Howling Commandos) and "weird boners kitty pryde."

I don't think I want to know what that means.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Finally Saw Guardians of the Galaxy

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I enjoyed it.  A lot.  :-)

Could have used more shirtless Chris Pratt though.  Just sayin'.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Guilty Pleasure Book(s) - The Wars of Light and Shadow by Janny Wurts

Okay, for the record, I am actually a good judge of quality in my fantasy/science fiction.  I know a good book when I read one, and I have a nice mental list of my favorites that I will totally blog one day.  But sometimes, just sometimes, there are books that are objectively, well.  Kind of bad.

And yet you read them.  Again.  As in more than once.  Because...something.

I have a series like that: The Wars of Light and Shadows by Janny Wurts.

I don't read the books often.  Mostly because they're each giant doorstops of books and there's about nine of them.  But...every once in a while, the urge hits.

The thing about the books isn't necessarily that they're bad writing (though I admit, there are some passages that just make me go "...what?" but that happens sometimes), but they are total massive angst fests.  I'm honestly just continuing to read to see how much ridiculously terrible shit happens to the main male character.  Every time I think "nah, she can't top that."  She does!  It's actually kind of impressive.

I have to admit though, once I got to the creepy possessed coma sex part, I very nearly tapped out.  ( Don't ask, seriously.  I will explain it if you ask and you might regret it.)  I'm glad I continued though because the ninth book ended up fast forwarding some insane amount of time later, which did change things up quite a bit.  The main character is still suffering horribly, but at least for a time there's amnesia involved, and honestly, that seems almost like a vacation for the main dude.  Also his brother might be becoming less of a douchebag.  Yay?

(Tangent: A friend once told me she thought the books were like a fantasy version of the Lymond series.  But I haven't actually read that so I have no idea if that's true.  I'm assuming there's less possessed coma sex though.)

It's my own fault really.  I could have quit any time.  But somehow I just keep going.  And I'll probably buy book 10 when it comes out too.  I'm ashamed of myself.

 Since misery loves company, I invite you to share your own embarrassing guilty pleasure books below.  :-)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Not a Post

I was thinking, if I could date any Marvel Comics Cinematic Universe character it'd be Sam Wilson.

He's hot, smart, and pretty badass.  And not nearly the emotional trainwreck that is most of the other characters.

Unfortunately, I think Steve Rogers has dibs and who could compete with Captain America?


Monday, August 18, 2014

A Directionless and Pointless Rant

You know what annoys me?

Talking with someone about e-readers (I have mine.  I love it.), only to have that person go "Well, I like REAL books."  Y'know, with THAT tone.

It's fine to not want an e-reader.  I'm certainly not going to say someone should have an e-reader if they don't want one.  But there's no reason to be snooty about it.  I like real books too!  It's not like I've gone out and burned all of my paperbacks and hardcovers just because I have an e-reader!

Yes, books are lovely.  There are wonderful things about them that an e-reader can't deliver: that smell of books.  The weight of books.  There's something so satisfying about holding a big book and being able to tell on a visceral and tactile level how far away you are from the end (page numbers aren't the same.)

Not to mention the lovely back cover blurbs which really help when you want to decide what to read next.

E-books can't do any of that.  They do however have other advantages: being able to carry a lot more books at a time, for example.  Including entire series!  No more getting to the end of book 2 of a series in the doctor's waiting room only to realize you left book 3 at home.

The search engine is nice too.  Especially if you missed a relevant detail "Wait, who the fuck is Mktag again?"   And the dictionary!  Yes, you can figure out a word from context, but it's nice to be able to find out quickly if you're right.   Not to mention the advantage of being able to change font/text size when your eyes get tired!

So...I suppose I don't really have a point to this rant.  It's just a bit of venting.  It's perfectly cool if you don't want an e-reader.  I just wish some folks wouldn't act like I'm giving up paperbacks forever just because I like it.


Guardians of the Galaxy?

Given how expensive and time consuming movies are nowadays, I rarely go out to see one in the theater without getting a good recommendation first.

So...Guardians of the Galaxy.  Worth seeing?

I do like assholes, goofiness and explosions.  So I'm mildly optimistic.  But I do like having a second opinion.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Reminder to Myself

While straightening up the other day, I stumbled over some old Jack Chalker books (Flux and Anchor series, if you're curious) that I once stole from my dad.

This got me thinking.

Who's the weirdest author that you've read?

For me, it probably was Chalker.  I haven't read all of his books, and it's probably been fifteen years or so since I've read the ones I have.  It's possible that I'll see it differently as an adult.  As a kid, however, I mostly remember a LOT of really bizarre transformations.  Species, gender.  Really weird stuff.  Bizarre mind control.

It wasn't that the books were bad.  But they were definitely weird.

I should give them a try now...after I finish reading the Raksura books again.  Maybe.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Yet again, no post...

Too many Cake Boss episodes and dinosaur documentaries.  :-P  Maybe tomorrow.

Dinosaur documentaries are fun.  <3>

Friday, August 15, 2014

This is not really a book review - The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

(Please be warned: this review contains some spoilers, though I tried to keep them as general as possible.)

You ever read a book and realize within the first five pages that it was going to be your new favorite book ever?

That's what happened to me, reading Martha Wells's "The Cloud Roads" (the first in her Raksura series.  Spoiler: The later books are also really good.)  And happily, the subsequent pages lived up to that promise.

If someone were to ask me for a Christmas list of every thing I would want in a fantasy book so that they could write one specifically for me, I do not think they could write a book series more to my taste than this one.

This book suits my taste more than stories I've written myself.  That is how much I love this book.  

I love this book/series so much that I can't even do a real review of it!  For one, there would be way too many exclamation points.  And I'm trying to wean myself off of those.

However, if you are curious, here are some things that I really love about this book/series:

- There are no humans.  This would often be a negative for me, as I find it helpful to emotionally invest myself in a setting that has humans.  Even if my favorite characters aren't the humans, I find it to be a helpful touchstone.  In this series there are no humans though: there are groundlings, which are human-like, but depending on the race, may have scales or tusks or even tentacles. 

In this book, I didn't miss humans at all.  The groundling groups and settlements all have nice little touches that differentiate them even if they only get a single page mention.  The main characters (almost all of whom are Raksura) will never be mistaken for human but are developed and interesting enough that I don't need their humanity (or contrast with humanity) to be invested.

- The Raksura.  The Raksura, to me, are kind of like what you might get if the dragons of Pern ditched the annoying humans, created their own societies, and evolved into more humanoid forms.  While keeping scales and wings (some of them anyway), and queen-led stratification.  (No lisping names, thank goodness.)

What I particularly like about the Raksura is that while there are two types, wingless and winged.  It doesn't feel as though either are second class citizens even though they have different societal roles.  There is one major character who was born a wingless mentor (kind of like a shaman or healer) and mysteriously changed into a winged warrior, who is quite unhappy with the change.  There are quite a few major wingless characters and they have clear political clout and importance within their Courts.

I also like how the Raksura culture is vivid, well-defined and clearly alien in a number of ways.  They are possibly the most believable and detailed alien culture I have read since the atevi in C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner series.

- Reversed Gender Roles.  I've always liked how Martha Wells reverses or subverts traditional narrative gender roles in many of her books.  I think I went into this in my review of Element of Fire some years back.  In this case, the non-stereotypical gender roles are culturally/biologically driven.  The winged Raksura, or Aeriat, are born as warriors (sterile, male or female), Queens (fertile females) and Consorts (fertile males).  The Queens lead the courts, while the Consorts are generally pampered, sheltered and often treated as status symbols for the Queens.  (The Arbora appear to be more egalitarian, and are all fertile.)  The Consorts role reminds me a little of the role of aristocratic women in Heian Japan, though that is a vastly oversimplified comparison.  The Queens also tend to be more sexually aggressive.

What I enjoy most though is that even with the reversed narrative gender roles, the female characters read like women and the male characters read like men.  The Queens, Jade and Pearl, are domineering and aggressive, but they are domineering and aggressive women.  There isn't anything macho about them.  Likewise, former or current consorts like Stone or Umber, are not remotely effeminate.

Actually, I would probably describe Stone (who is a line-grandfather, a very old Consort who has outlived his Queen, and acts as a mentor to the lead character) as: Jack O'Neill from Stargate SG-1 as a dowager empress.

Which is a mental image that you possibly can't get rid of.  You're welcome. 

- The story skips ahead of the boring bits.  Everyone's read the standard "orphan goes on a quest and discovers he's actually a prince" type story.  But I always thought that the more interesting part was how said orphan adjusts to being a prince.  How does the orphan actually DO as the prince?  What about culture shock?  How does he handle everyone's expectations when he doesn't have the education or upbringing?  What about his own learned responses and values?

In this case, the lead character, Moon, discovers he is Raksura Consort and is brought to a Court in chapter 2.  Which means that the entire story is Moon learning about Raksura, trying to figure out what the hell he's supposed to do, learning to trust and trying to be accepted.  (Actually, considering the role Consorts play in Raksuran society, it's more like an orphan discovering he is a princess...which is perhaps a different kettle of fish altogether.)   Meanwhile, the Court learns to adapt to him.

- Moon.  Moon is my favorite kind of lead character.  He's a twitchy, surly bastard who, after about forty years of trying to hide in groundling society, getting found out, getting kicked out, trying to live alone, getting lonely, and starting the cycle all over again, has more than a few issues about the whole thing.   Now that he knows what he is, he really wants to find a home with the Raksura.  But it's not easy to adjust.  His particular upbringing is not terribly compatible with the whole coddled, sheltered Consort archetype, either.

This is not, however, a case of a manly man who overthrows an Amazonian society through the might of  Moon is not a Queen.  He might, however, become a very good Consort.  In his own way.

- The Queens have no human(ish) form.  It is weird that this appeals to me, but it does.  Both Aeriat and Arbora Raksura have two forms.  The first being the kind of draconic (or maybe Disney Gargoyle-like), and the second being a human(ish) form.  The Queens have two forms as well, but rather than having a human-ish form, their first form is Aeriat and the second is Arbora.  Both have spines and scales and such.  So it's not a matter of inhuman monster becomes beautiful human girl.  In both forms, the Queens are very clearly, obviously Raksura.  This means that Moon's Queen is pretty much always a bit bigger/stronger than Moon.  I enjoy couples where the girl is bigger/physically stronger, so this appeals to me.    (For his part, Moon seems to enjoy it as well.)

- Casual bisexuality and not-quite monogamy.  The only thing I hadn't really enjoyed about Element of Fire was that the only real instance of homosexuality (that I recall anyway, it's been a while since I read it) was between the King and his corrupt advisor.  That might have been only implied, but I can't recall.  I gave Ms. Wells the benefit of the doubt that it wasn't an intentional bisexuality/homosexuality = evil thing.  And I think I was right to do so, because bisexuality seems to be a normal, unremarkable aspect of Raksuran society.  It is outright stated that Queens and Consorts have warrior and Arbora lovers, gender nonspecific.  And late in the series, Moon even has a regular, if casual, male partner.  (His Queen does not appear to mind.)  

((Other books by Ms. Wells also have homosexual and bisexual characters as well, but this is not a post about those books.))

--  There are not quite enough explosions for my taste.  But I can accept that.

So yes.  This isn't a review.  It's a long rambling list of why I love these books.  If your tastes are at all similar to mine, I suspect you might love these books too.  If not, that's okay.  But we might have to argue for a while.  (at least until you distract me with something shiny.)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Another Question

What's your favorite movie adaptation of a book (comics are ok too), and why?  Or, conversely, what's the worst?

I suppose my favorite movie adaptation is the Lord of the Rings series.  Even though, to be perfectly honest, they do stretch WAAAY too long.  I tried sitting through the extended edition more than one.  It was lovely to look at, but I kept falling asleep!

It was very pretty though.  And had Hugo Weaving in a tiara.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I would have a blog post today, but I've had a long day and now I'm watching way too much Cake Boss and America's Next Great Baker on Netflix.

Unsurprisingly, I really would like a piece of cake right now.  :-P

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Here's something interesting:

I stumbled on this after seeing the trailer for the new Fifty Shades of Grey movie:

Peter Tupper of The History of BDSM has written a chapter by chapter critique of the Fifty Shades of Grey books here.

Full disclaimer: I've never read the books themselves, so I don't really have an opinion about them*.  I do not know if the reviewer is being fair in his treatment of the books or not.  I just find the point of view interesting.

(*The movie looks awful though.  Just saying.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Watching Old, Bad TV (again)

Rather than do anything notable this weekend, I ended up watching the first serial of the 1970s Tomorrow People.

These are some of my observations:

Unlike the 2013 show, Stephen is actually played by someone age appropriate.  He looks 12, basically.  I'm guessing a love triangle is not in the works.  At least I hope not, because John is like twice his height.

Carol is kind of stupid.  "I have to go rescue the others!"  "Don't forget your stun pistol!"  "I don't have time to get my stun pistol!  I have to rescue my friends!"  (Okay, this is not a direct quote, but that is definitely the gist of the scene.).

John is kind of hot.  I don't feel bad saying that because while Stephen is age appropriate, John obviously hasn't been a 17 year old for at least five years.  He's also uptight and vaguely robotic.  He might be my favorite (I'll know for sure if he blows something up.)  He should probably lose the incredibly tight white turtleneck/trousers ensemble though.

Kenny is a cute kid.  Though he probably should stop pretending to jump off bridges.

No one seems to have any problem with the fact that a seventeen year old kid apparently invented an entire science fiction laboratory and an AI that runs off "biological fluid".

Jedikiah, in this show, is a shapeshifting robot.  His robot form is an aluminum box with arms and legs sticking out.  I am not kidding.  It's still an improvement on the 2013 version.

The special effects make old skool Doctor Who look like new school Doctor Who.

I like how as soon as they rescue Stephen, John goes to his house and tells Stephen's mom what's going on. Most tv shows have the kids having to run around in circles keeping things from their parents.  This makes more sense.

Everyone has seventies hair.  It doesn't matter how much danger everyone's in, up to and including being trapped in hyperspace, they still have beautifully conditioned hair.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Link!

Here's a link that made me laugh, and sharing it will save me from having to think of another blog post for today.  :-P

Confused Cats Against Feminism


Saturday, August 09, 2014

On Agents of SHIELD and really unfortunate comparisons

It's interesting.  I'm not a very big fan of the show.  (I'd stopped entirely before the post-Captain America: Winter Soldier reveal made things interesting again.)  But I find myself interested in the conversations after the finale.

One point of discussion I've seen a lot is Jeph Loeb's comment that compares Grant Ward and Bucky Barnes, which seems to have upset quite a few people.  I can understand why, but I found a few of the counterarguments a bit upsetting.

It seems like a lot of reaction to Jeph Loeb's comments consist of: "It is not the same, because Bucky was brainwashed and Ward chose to serve HYDRA."

And honestly, that's a bit over simplistic.  And has some really unfortunate implications.

It is true that Bucky never had any opportunity for choice.  He was brainwashed via machine, tortured, and so on.  That machine certainly appeared to have wiped out his memories and any sense of self.  Of course, he's not responsible for what he did.

Grant Ward isn't (at least as far as we know) in that position.  But to say that he "chose" is a bit much too.  Grant Ward was an abused fifteen year old child who was pulled out of the legal system by an older male figure who then isolated him in the wilderness, subjecting him to tests, and remaining his sole human contact.  And yes, he did "choose" to go with Garrett to begin with, but when your choice is go with the strange government dude, or be a fifteen year old kid in prison...that's not much of a choice.

In his backstory episode, we see John Garrett using real world brainwashing and indoctrinating techniques on a 15-year old child.  Long before the kid ever gets any sort of real introduction to SHIELD or HYDRA.

This is where the Bucky-Ward comparison, or rejection thereof, starts having some really bad implications.  Because what you're really doing is trying to compare a predator targetting, isolating, abusing, and intentionally instilling Stockholm Syndrome to a fifteen year old child to a supervillain shoving a grown man into a mindwiping device and rewriting his entire being.

And they're not really comparable because, while both are horrific, one could happen (does happen) in the real world.  One absolutely cannot.

There is no device in the real world that operates like the HYDRA brainwashing device.  None.  Period.  No real human person can suffer what Bucky Barnes has suffered in the Captain America movies.

When people start making the comparison and saying "Bucky had it worse!", it gets a little awkward.  Because fiction isn't bound to what is actually possible in the real world.  Someone can, in fiction, be completely atomized and rebuilt from the ground up.  I would completely accept a story that portrayed this as a form of torture.  But if someone were to argue that this is worse somehow than real world torture techniques, I'd be very uncomfortable.

To be fair, I don't think anyone would go up to a real person who'd suffered real world indoctrination or torture and tell them "your suffering isn't as bad as Fictional Character A".  But I do think that we all need to be careful about comparing real world to fantasy.

I'm not trying to excuse what Grant Ward has done as a character since the reveal.  (I do think he has the advantage over Bucky in the eyes of some viewers because we never really SEE what other things the Winter Soldier has done in the name of HYDRA.  We get a first hand view of Ward's.)  Right at this point in time, he is a villain and rightly so.

I'm not ruling out a redemption arc however.  And honestly, I'd like to see one (provided it's written well.)  This isn't because he was my favorite character pre-Reveal.  (Full disclosure: he was.  I like them awkward and violent.  But there are quite a few awkward and violent protagonists I enjoy, that I can spare one.)  But because at heart, I consider myself an optimistic person and I want to believe that someone can seek/find redemption, even if they are the worst monster in the world.  It shouldn't be easy, but I want to believe it's possible.

I'd much rather see yet another attempt at a redemption story than a cynical yet another villain dies as a villain kind of thing.  We see that often enough as well.  And honestly, "abuse victim gets recruited to be a villain, stays a villain, and dies" is kind of a really depressing narrative, isn't it?

Something that annoys me:

Reading a fairly decent, though not spectacular, six book series and never learning the main love interest's first name.

I mean, at one point in book 3 or 4, when said love interest is looking for information on his dead sister, the lead character realizes that she doesn't know his first name.  But she does not do what any normal person would and just ask "What is your name?"

It just bugs me, you know?

Friday, August 08, 2014


I'm just curious.  I've solicited recommendations on this blog before.  But now, I'd like to know:

What are some books that you absolutely, without a doubt, HATE?

Thursday, August 07, 2014

A Sadly Vague Recommendation: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Have you ever really wanted to recommend a book to someone, but you couldn't really explain why without massively spoiling the entire experience?

I have that problem with one of my very favorite books: Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief.  It's actually the first book in a series and it is a lot of fun, but I can't even really write a review for it.  I can't even really recommend the subsequent books because of that.

It's a pretty basic young adult story about a young thief in a pseudo ancient Greek setting who is yanked out of prison and conscripted into helping in a quest for a special religious artifact that would assist the king in conquering a neighbor kingdom.  It's cute and fun and has some interesting surprises.  

Really though, where it really triumphs is in the way the author uses the first person narrative structure to frame the story.  It isn't quite an unreliable narrator story, but there are many things that take on entirely different meanings in a second read through than they do in the first.  Everything fits together so solidly too.  Some books that try to surprise you are sloppy in execution: they pull things completely out of the blue.  They leave in messy contradictions, things that make no sense on reread.  This book doesn't do that at all.  A second read through makes as much sense and is as much fun as the first, in a different way.

Honestly, reading the book made me appreciate books.  As a medium, I mean.  I've always loved to read, but generally what I love is the story.  I enjoy wordplay, but in general, it's the plots and characters that I love.  It's the same way that I love a television show or a movie, though the advantage of a book is that you get so much more content for your buck that they could never fit on screen.  

But there's an interesting aspect to books that I've never really considered before.  I've always considered books more freeing, in a way, because you're not bound by someone else's vision.  We can read something about a crystal castle with delicate spires and all have a different idea about what that would mean.  When we watch a television show or movie, we are more constrained: the Starship Enterprise does not look like a Star Destroyer, and never will.

But at the same time, and this is the part that is a new idea to me: a book controls and limits your perspective so much more than a television show or movie ever could.  EVERY part of the experience comes directly from the author(s) mouth.  Or pen.  Whatever.  Our only source of information for sights and sounds are what we hear from the author.  

In a television show, we can disagree with the writers.  An episode might tell us one character is the most beautiful girl in school, but the viewer might think another character is more beautiful.  In a book, you can't do that.  If a character is described as the most beautiful character in a book, you have no real way to contradict them   You can generally think blonds are prettier than brunettes, but if a brunette is explicitly described as more beautiful than a blond, you have to go with it.  In this case, THIS particular brunette is more beautiful than THIS particular blond.  The author is the Voice of God.

Generally this doesn't make a big difference in the story itself.  Plenty of great books work just fine on television or as a movie.  But sometimes, it DOES make a difference.  Because the author controls everything we see or hear, she can lie to us.  She can distract us.  She can misdirect us.  The most beautiful girl in the room might be a cyclops among cyclopses for all we know.  If the narrative never mentioned eyes, we wouldn't even think about it!  The club might have been a giveaway, though.

So anyway, I definitely recommend the book.  I've probably gone too far here even in terms of spoiling, because now you know to keep an eye out for something.  But that's the way of it.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Decided I was too tired/lazy for another review tonight.  Instead I leave you with this:

Literally Unbelievable

In which people react to stories from the Onion.  Without, y'know, realizing that they are stories from the Onion.

(I laugh only because I've totally done that before.  :-)  Hee.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

I am about to be very sexist here:

So, I've been reading Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghost series recently.  I've been enjoying it a lot.  Especially book 3 and afterward, when Mr. Abnett apparently realized the unit was a massive sausage fest and introduced a bunch of female characters.

The odd part about it though is that the series belongs to the Warhammer 40k series, of which I know nothing.  Well, I know there are hideously expensive miniatures and the setting seems to be some unholy orgy involving elements from Tolkien, Lovecraft, Space and the Inquisition.  I'm still not sure that I completely understand what's going on in the grander scheme.  That said, shit explodes and the lead character is manfully stoic and gets injured a lot.  So I'm enjoying it even without the background knowledge.

Some setting specific things do throw me though.  Like, for a period of time, the lead character uses what's called a chainsword.  I remember distinctly thinking: "that cannot be what it sounds like."  So I googled it.  And found this.  Apparently it is what it sounds like.

I stole the main image from that page so that you can see it too:

And this is where I'm going be sexist.

A man invented that.  I'm not saying I don't think it's awesome.  I do.  I love that it exists (fictionally), in its completely ridiculous, implausible awesomeness. But...that was designed by a man.

I'm just saying.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Book Review: The Decoy Princess by Dawn Cook

Okay, so the first book I will talk about is  The Decoy Princess by Dawn Cook.  Please be warned that there are some spoilers.  It's also more incoherent than I'd like.  I've apparently forgotten how to blog.  Hopefully, I'll get better with practice.

The book was written in 2005 (the sequel was written in 2006) but there's something about the tone and style that feels a little older.  It reminds me of the books I read as a kid (most of which had been published in the late 70s or early 80s).  It gives me a pleasant nostalgic feeling.  Not that I have anything against more current books, mind you.  But I digress.

The Decoy Princess is a fantasy novel about a princess named Tess.  Tess is short for Contessa, which strikes me as a weird name for a Princess.  Doesn't that mean "Countess?"  Her name is "Princess Countess"?  Really?

Anyway, for the first twenty years of her life, Tess was raised as the crown princess.  Then things happen which lead to a very surprising revelation (Surprising for Tess, I mean, as she is not aware of the title of the book): Tess is not the real princess.  She is a decoy.  The real princess is off being raised by nuns in some Briar Rose type shit.  Things go to hell when the Princess's intended fiance turns out to be batshit insane and murders a bunch of people, including the King and Queen.  Tess escapes and goes off to try to find her mentor (the court Chancellor) and the hidden princess.  Adventure ensues.

I enjoyed the story for the most part.  Tess is a very appealing heroine.  I like that Ms. Cook doesn't go with the usual cliche of "Princess ends up lost and alone in the wide world and needs her ass saved by a roguish hero who can protect her and teach her the way the world works."  Blech.  Instead, Tess does very well on her own.  Tess does actually meet a handsome roguish love interest, but she meets him when she catches him cheating in a card game at a tavern.  She then subtly blackmails him into losing the game to her so that she has money for her quest. It's pretty great.

Tess's princessly education comes in handy a lot, actually.  She already knows how to ride and has some basic self defense skills.  But even the less practical skills get use.  For example, Tess uses diplomacy to talk her way onto a ship, where she offers her math skills to the Captain to help balance his books.  Even her shopping hobby ends up useful.  Tess knows how to spot quality merchandise and negotiate prices.

I remember being a little nervous about how Ms. Cook would handle the meeting between Tess and her counterpart.  The girls have reason to be tense around each other, but I really didn't want to see yet another rehash of "noble heroine clashes with awful bitch."  And at first, it seemed that was the way it was going: they start fighting immediately.  The Princess says some horrible things and Tess tries to beat the shit out of her.  But this, thankfully doesn't last long.  And the Princess is actually the first to apologize.  She's had her world torn out from under her, as well.  She's scared and confused, and she's jealous that Tess has all the poise, skill and training that she'd never had.  Tess also apologizes, and the girls are able to be friends.

The relationship between Tess and the Princess is the strongest and most interesting part of the story.  Sadly, they don't actually get to interact as much as I'd like.  (Plot reasons.)  They're sisters and interestingly compatible for all of their differences.

The biggest flaw of the book is the premise.  It simply does not make sense.  The king and queen decide that their baby daughter is in danger because of a prophecy.  They send her off and raise a decoy.  But they don't tell the decoy she's a decoy.  So she's raised with the reasonable expectation that she will one day rule the kingdom.  She's also raised with all the skills necessary to rule the kingdom.  The people of the kingdom, or at least the people of the capital city, have all become accustomed to this girl being the princess.

Honestly, the King and Queen basically created a potential supervillain.  If Tess were a different sort of person, she could well have decided to take over the kingdom in her own right.  It'd serve them right.

Ms. Cook also clearly wanted us to see the King and Queen as good people who really loved both daughters.  They explain that they actually hoped that the assassination attempts would have died down when the girls were still infants, and that they could bring both princesses home and raise them as sisters.

One problem with that though: the Princess's name?  Is also Contessa.  This is the real reason that Tess ends up snapping when she meets the princess.  She'd come to terms with being a decoy, but she hadn't realized that she didn't even have her own name.  (Her mentor explains that he'd actually named her Tess first, and the royal family named the baby princess Contessa to accommodate, but that really doesn't make sense either.  How long did the baby go without a name?)  How the hell were they intending to raise both girls with the same name?

That's not even getting into the fact that Tess was one of three decoy babies.  And the other two decoys didn't survive.  "We really do think of you as a daughter.  You're just our expendable daughter.  And we're not even going to give you the courtesy of telling you the truth."  The King and Queen are basically horrible people.  I was glad they got murdered.

The other major flaw to the book is that the magic system is not explained very well.  And there's a very confusing player/game dynamic involving Tess's mentor and the Prince's Captain of the Guard that really needs more explanation as well.  Especially since Tess will supposedly have a future role in this game as well.  This is apparently part of her happy ending.  I like the heroine, Ms. Cook.  I would like to actually understand her happy ending.

Despite these complaints, it was a decent book.  I enjoyed it.  There is a sequel, which I have mixed feelings about. But I'll blog about that another time.  :-)

A New Direction! Maybe! Or not!

I have come to the conclusion that I want to blog more often.  Possibly not about comics though.  It's not that I don't like comics, I still do!  But my reading time is sporadic.  I pick up comics in batches, a couple of weeks at a time, and fall behind very quickly.

On the other hand, I've been reading a lot of books.  (E-readers are the best inventions ever!)  And, as I don't belong to a local book club, I don't get to babble at people nearly often enough.  But, I remembered recently, I DO have a BLOG! I will blog about BOOKS!  YAY!  Maybe?