Book Review – Firefly: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove

Blogland,

I’m a nerd. Between my reading habits and my video game obsessions, most of you are probably acutely aware of this fact. One of my many interests includes the early 2000s cult-classic television show Firefly, including the movie Serenity and a few of the graphic novel tie-ins. I read Mike Brooks’ Keiko series because the cover blurb sold it as “A Must Read for Firefly Fans”, and I loved it. It touched on what Firefly did so well: amazing world-building and characters that were impossible not to love.

Big Damn Hero is the first of a planned series of Official Novels™ written by James Lovegrove and edited by Joss Whedon. The books take place after the show but before the movie, which is the sweet spot that all fans want to live in. So, I had a moderate level of excitement when I saw this book come through the library.

Goodreads Rating: 2/5 Starsbig damn hero

As you might have gathered from the star rating, that excitement didn’t last long. Now, a quick word about how I rate things on Goodreads. I am a very generous reviewer. Ratings of three stars aren’t common, and anything below is really unusual. I rate based on my overall entertainment level and enjoyment of the book, whether that’s plot-based, characters, narrative style, or what-have-you.

So, let me start with the good. The characters felt true to themselves as based on the show. Mal, Jayne, and Shepard Book were particularly well done and I enjoyed my time with all of them. Particularly Book, because we FINALLY got to learn a little bit more about his past. The world-building was decent, but I feel like the majority of that work-load fell to the show and my familiarity with it. This is fanfiction. It might be printed and hardbound, but it’s still fanfic, and that means the bulk of the world- building is already done by the reader and their knowledge of the franchise.

The plot was all right. It felt true to form for the show, but was also really predictable. There were no surprises. Not one. Obviously, this might differ from reader to reader, but for me it was very disappointing. Also, the plot hinged on a character from Mal’s past, but they weren’t foreshadowed or even introduced until well into the last half of the book. I think that was intended to allow for Red Herrings, but all it really did was make the plot feel slow and plodding.

But the worst part, to me, were the tropes. So many tropes. Zoë’s in trouble with the law? Why not just unbutton her shirt a little and seduce her way to safety? (Side note: As a fan, I felt that this was wildly out of character for Zoë, which only made things worse. She actually referred to her breasts as her “bosom”. Zoë Washburne.) A dead woman was the villain’s motivation, and she only existed in the story to act as such. Yes, death of a loved one is sad, and it does change you, but that doesn’t mean you should create and then kill off your female characters just so your men can have some sort of purpose. In general, the female characters were two dimensional and just sort of blank. Kaylee may be the exception here, and River had some good moments, but Zoë and Inara definitely did not.

Knowing your tropes is so so so important. You need to know them so you can avoid them, or, better yet, so you can subvert them. When you know your tropes, you can twist them into something infinitely better and more interesting.  For instance, instead of Zoë just accepting that she had no alternative but to flirt with the Alliance officer, to the point where she actually seems sort of proud and maybe even a little exhilarated with her success, the narrative could have shown how disgusted she was that this was the only option she had. She’s hurt, she’s desperate, and she has to do something so utterly against her own ethical code. Just some internalization and we could have had so much more insight into Zoë’s character and a much more intense and impactful scene.

I know I’m barking up this Feminism tree again, but damn. I am so tired of seeing caricatures of women in fiction. I am tired of men writing as if they’ve never actually noticed that women are people too. I am sick of female characters existing solely to serve a role for the male characters. It’s exhausting.

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Me, reading this book.

I’m also angry because I know, without a doubt, that there are better Firefly novel length works posted on Archive of Our Own right now. FOR FREE. Written by fans, for fans. But this book gets added to the canon and snapped up off shelves while Titan Books and Joss Whedon make a pretty penny.

So, yeah. I won’t be coming back for the sequels. Which is a shame. They had such potential. I do sincerely hope that Lovegrove enjoys his time in the ‘Verse. According to the book’s average Goodreads rating, there are readers who like his interpretation of it. I’m just not one of them.

I’ve moved on to Lies Sleeping now that it’s back in my hands. Hopefully I’ll finish it sometime next week, since the Rivers of London books usually read quick. Barring any other important news/events, I’ll talk at you all on Monday.

Until then, Bloggos.

 

BZ

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Book Review – Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell

I didn’t plan on reading this book this year. I got it for free on Audible months ago, almost as an afterthought. It was a moment of, “I have an extra credit, what the hell do I get?” Browse, browse, browse… “Ooooooh! I keep meaning to read that!”

Well, courtesy of a powerfully nauseating migraine on Monday and Tuesday, I finally listened to it. Yep, all thirteen hours in two days. Mainly because I was confined to my bed thanks to unabating queasiness, but also because I enjoyed it that much.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

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This story is strongly reminiscent of The Three Musketeers, but less the book and more the Disney adaptation. You know, the one with Oliver Platt as Porthos, but if it had an R rating. Actually, now that I think about it, can I get that remake? Please?Image result for porthos gif oliver platt

But, really, there are a lot of similarities here. Falcio val Mond, the disgraced First Cantor of the now disbanded Greatcoats, has seen worse days. Though, by any accounts, failing to prevent the murder of the man you’re supposed to be guarding is hardly a good day. Especially when he hasn’t paid you yet. That’s how the former Greatcoats, the dead King’s judiciary force, start this adventure: on the run from a murder they didn’t commit.

Kest and Brasti follow Falcio because, well, honestly, what else would they do? The whole country hates the Greatcoats, has branded them traitors, so they might as well stick with their best friend and eke out a living. But that all changes as they rush to escape the city and take a job guarding the first caravan that would take them. And like any good story, the Greatcoats flee one sort of trouble only to tumble into trouble of another kind. Namely, foiling the plot of the evil and greedy Duchies to unite the kingdom under a false monarch.

What really impressed me about this book was the relationship between Falcio, Kest, and Brasti. They are brothers, well and truly. They care for one another, they tease each other, and they fight with and for one another. Their dynamic was everything to me as I listened to this book.

It didn’t hurt that the plot and world-building were pretty great too.

So, why not five stars? Well, I figured out the big twist really quick. Like, before it was even actually hinted at. But, the narrator (Falcio) kept on not realizing it until the very last chapter of the book. He’s supposed to be smart y’all, and he couldn’t figure it out, while everyone else around him (myself included) did.

That loses a star at minimum. Thank goodness I liked the characters, setting, and the narrator so much! This is the part where I mention how wonderful Joe Jameson’s narration was and how sad I am to have to read physical copies of the rest of the series, since the library doesn’t own the audiobooks. He’s apparently quite the prolific narrator, so I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for other projects of his.

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I’m just now tucking into the next book, Knight’s Shadow, but hopefully I can make good progress on it. I’m sure it won’t take too long, but with the holidays expect an early 2019 review on this one.

I’ll be back on Christmas Eve with the usually Goals Summary!

Until then, Bloggos,

 

BZ

Book Review – Skyward (Skyward #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Hey Bloggos,

I wasn’t able to finish reading Skyward before the book was due back to the library. The thing about Sanderson books is that they’re very popular, and holds abound. And if there are holds, you can’t renew. So, instead of accruing fines on a book I intended to buy anyway, I just went and bought the dumb thing. Which, it turns out, was a sound decision.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

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So, here’s the thing. I’ve been slowing down on my mad dash of consuming Sanderson content lately. I don’t know. I think that last signing I went to (for Oathbringer) really turned me off to his books, through no fault of his own. There’s just such a cultish fervor surrounding Sanderson and his books, and I am definitely guilty of such behavior. So, I took a step back. I still haven’t read Oathbringer. And I wasn’t even all that excited to read Skyward.

That is, until I actually got a few pages into it.

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This book reminded me why so many readers love Brandon’s books. Why I love Brandon’s books. It’s full of amazing characters, hilarious dialogue, and a plot that absolutely held me captive. I loved Spensa and the world she lives in, which I should have expected; Sanderson does world-building better than just about anybody else in the genre right now.

Spensa is the sixteen year old girl who just passed her pilot’s exam. But it doesn’t matter, because the Defiant Defense Force has zero interest in letting her fly. You see, Spensa, aka Spin, is the daughter of the DDF’s only coward. Her father abandoned his Flight during the Battle of Alta, and was subsequently shot down for his cowardice. Spensa has trained and studied her whole life to get into the DDF and prove them wrong about her dad, but Admiral Ironsides won’t give her the chance. They sabotaged Spensa’s test, and suggested she take a job elsewhere.

That is, until Captain Cobb, callsign: Mongrel, accepts Spensa into his classroom. It’s her one chance at redemption and she refuses to let it pass her by, no matter how difficult the Admiral makes her life.

Spensa is allowed to take her Flight class, and nothing else. She can’t join her Flight in the mess hall, she can’t bunk in the academy, and she can’t use the learning resources beyond her classroom. So, she lives in a cave she found by chance, sleeping in the cockpit of a crashed ancient starfighter.

Image result for skyward m-bot

In her spare time, because why not, she repairs the ship in hopes that she’ll be able to fly it when she graduates, since Ironsides is unlikely to let her fly no matter how well she does in her training. And, naturally, she’s out to find out the truth about her father, and what really happened that day at the Battle of Alta.

I’m not going to go into more details from here, because it would be spoiler-y and I really don’t want to ruin this book for anyone. There were quite a few zigs and zags that I didn’t anticipate and really enjoyed. I would prefer to preserve those for readers.

Know that this book did make me tear up a couple of times, and made me cheer out loud at least twice. My husband laughed at me as I read the last fifty or so pages on the couch, because I was yelling at the book quite a bit. In true Sanderson fashion, things do not end how I thought they would.

Thank goodness this is the first of a planned four book series, with the next book set to release in Fall 2019. I do not want to wait long to spend more time with Spensa and her Flight, callsign: Skyward.

I’m still reading Lies Sleeping. I’m having difficulty adjusting to my utter lack of free time lately. That and Red Dead Redemption 2 and a renewed fervor for all things Dragon Age is really putting a damper on my reading. But, it’s less than 300 pages and due back on Tuesday.

I’ll get it done.

Until later, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

Book Review – The Hanging Tree (Peter Grant #6) by Ben Aaronovitch

Blogland,

This is my first post written in the new WordPress editor. If you have tried it already and have any hints or suggestions, please let me know, because this is a trip. I think I like it. Image result for uncertain gifIt’s very clean, with less clutter to distract the eye. But that means I have to relearn how to navigate a system I’ve used religiously for like… seven years.

A/N: 108 words into the new editor and I already had to revert back to the Classic Editor. The new format handles content in blocks, which doesn’t really allow me to embed gifs and pictures the way I like to. Or at least, I wasn’t able to figure out how to do in a timely fashion. I’ll keep poking at it for awhile and see if I like it. As of this moment, it’s getting a thumbs down from me.

Additional A/N: Turns out, reverting back to the Classic Editor part way through royally screws with the formatting. I was unable to resolve it no matter how much I tried until I went back into the new editor and manually fixed every single error. I officially hate this “update” and I doubt I will be using it in the future.

After bouncing around the entire library consortium, I finally got my hands on the only copy of The Hanging Tree available in the whole Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service. It’s been a very popular book.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Peter Grant and company are back at it, this time investigating what seems to be a routine drug overdose. Except, the deceased shows evidence of thaumaturgical degradation (aka her brain was a bit gooey from exposure to magic). And, Lady Tyburn’s daughter was at the scene.

As if that isn’t a big enough pain in Peter’s backside, there’s a member of the demi-monde, known unironically as Reynard Fossman (etymologically speaking, Fox Foxman), has come to the Folly to offer Nightingale something he can’t refuse: Newton’s Third Scientific text, the Principia Chemica.

Alchemy. It was rumored that the genius had worked out the laws that governed transmutation and the like, but that the text was lost to mankind. Until Reynard waltzes in and tries to sell it to the highest bidder. Because, why would he only offer it to Nightingale?

And guess who else has his metaphorical eye on the prize? Yep! None other than the dastardly Faceless Man himself.

Which, it’s about stinking time! My biggest gripe about the last Peter Grant story I read was that there wasn’t enough substance in regards to the Faceless Man and Lesley. I wanted MORE! Well, this book delivered, let me tell you.

All the things I’ve come to expect from a Peter Grant book remained true for this one. Fantastic dialogue that begs to be read aloud, a wide and dynamic cast of characters, an intricate and compelling plot told in a voice that is self-deprecating, fun, and clever as hell.

All that being said, it took me longer to read than I would have expected, mainly because I’ve just been too tired to stay up and read lately. Which, as I’ve discussed, is really shit timing. Every book under the sun seems to have a release date this month, and here I am too swamped and too sleepy to do a darn thing about it.

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One of those November releases is the next book in this series, the long anticipated Lies Sleeping. But, DO NOT read the synopsis for this book before you’ve read The Hanging Tree, otherwise you’re in for a giant spoiler.

I found that out the hard way while I conducted research to recommend the library purchase a copy of the newest book in the series. Whoops!

Also, my library doesn’t own any of the Peter Grant books, but several of the smaller libraries in our consortium own copies. But, none of them had purchased Lies Sleeping yet. Two weeks before the book is out and no one had bought it yet?Not acceptable. So, I recommended the purchase, and now I’m first in line on the hold list.

Image result for napoleon dynamite yes gif

So, in summary, this book was another solid entry in the Peter Grant series and the perfect book to read just a week or so before the newest installment is released here in the US. It’s nice to be caught up.

I’ve got a slew of books queued up for the rest of the year, which I mentioned in yesterday’s goals summary post. I’ll be a busy reading bee all the way through the new year.

Just the way I like it.

I’ll see you all again on Monday, maybe sooner if I have something to talk about. But we have a friendsgiving celebration on Saturday, so don’t expect much from me the rest of this week.

Until later, Bloggos.

BZ

Book Review – Rosemary and Rue (October Daye #1) by Seanan McGuire

Blogland,

The last half of this book went much faster than I expected, and I am so happy to bring this review to you this week.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars

rosemary and rue

October Daye is more than she seems. Half Daoine Sidhe, half human she’s what’s known as a Changeling. She can cast simple illusions, which is a good thing since she can’t really pass for human with pointed ears and violet eyes. But, while her fae nature makes blending in difficult, her human blood makes her a second-class citizen in Faerie. As if keeping her nature a secret from her husband and child isn’t enough, there’s a lot of prejudice against changelings by the pure-blooded fae that Toby has to contend with.

She does this by remaining faithful and boundlessly loyal to her Liege Lord, Sylvester Torquill. He’s the only pure-blood she’s met that she actually likes, and she refuses to fall into the flighty stereotype of changelings by abandoning him. That is until his less than honorable brother curses her to life as a koi fish.

For FOURTEEN YEARS.

She returns to herself in 2009 only to find that the world has changed and her family has long considered her dead. Now she has to pick up the pieces of a life everyone thought was over and learn who she is in a whole new millennium.

I struggled with the first half of this book. Mainly because it picks up six months after she wakes up and is back in her body. We don’t see her try and reconnect with her family, we don’t see her navigating those first awkward, and shocking moments when she discovers she was a fish for fourteen years. We just see her as angry and reclusive, trying to avoid Faerie as much as possible.

It was alienating because it was such a hard shift from who Toby was in the prologue. She was a loving spouse, devoted mother, and incredibly loyal knight to the Torquills. But when we see her again she is so shut off and so angry that I had a really hard time liking her. She was a bit of a bitch, to be honest, and though she has good reasons, they aren’t made apparent until much later in the book.

But, I really liked the side characters (particularly Tybalt, the King of Cats) and the politics of the Faerie court were fascinating. It was enough to keep me invested in the story and willing to open the book time and again.

By the end I was much happier with the book, and actually enjoyed October as a character quite a bit. I definitely plan to read the next book, though I wouldn’t call myself a fan just yet. I’ll reserve that judgement for further reading.

Image result for october daye

This is another urban fantasy novel that seems to thrive on the strength of its side characters. Dresden didn’t start out that way, but has definitely relied more and more on its broad cast to keep readers engaged as the series has gone on. The Peter Grant books have a large cast, but I think Peter is still a good narrator and main character; he’s holding his own. The October Daye books might end up being the opposite of The Dresden Files in that the side characters carry the story early in the series, but Toby warms up and becomes stronger as the novels progress.

I hope that’s the case. I want to love this series. Right now I’m happy with it, but not in love.

Next in my reading list is The Hanging Tree, the sixth Peter Grant book. Just in time for the new book’s release in November! After that is Hounded by Kevin Hearne, which I’m excited for since it’s set in Tempe, Arizona. Then I’ll look into reading the next book in the October Daye series. And that’s if I don’t get sidetracked by some other book. I think Sanderson has a new YA releasing in November, so I’m sure I’ll sneak that in somewhere before the new year.

I’ll be back on Monday for the usual goals discussion, but you probably won’t hear from me again before that. I’ve got social engagements tonight and tomorrow that will keep me pretty busy.

Until then, Bloggos!

 

BZ

Book Review – War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

Blogland,

First stop on my Urban Fantasy tour is the book that’s credited with spearheading the genre. The War for the Oaks won the Locus Magazine award for Best First Novel in 1988, and I can definitely see why.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

war for the oaks

Eddi McCandry is sick of her boyfriend and frontman Stuart. He’s a mess. Too drunk to play his parts, and too busy pissing off bar managers to get their shitty band another gig. So she leaves the band, and him, taking the drummer with her.

Breaking up is hard to do, so it was already a rough night. But a terrifying encounter with fairy tale creatures on the midnight streets of Minneapolis leaves Eddi caught up in a war she knew nothing about.

The Seelie Court has selected her to be their bound mortal. With her on the battlefield the Fae will be rendered mortal, and their wounds will be deadly. And she will be a target, no matter her opinions on the matter. So, the Seelie Court sends a literal guard dog.

The Phouka is a Fae who looks like Prince by day and can turn to a dog at will. He’s a trickster, adorable, witty as all get out, and posted up at Eddi’s apartment until further notice to protect her from their enemies, the Unseelie Court.

prince phouka

He’s silver-tongued and devious. She’s stubborn and pissed off. Hilarity ensues.

I was worried about this book holding up over the years. Released in 1987, it’s older than I am, and you can definitely tell. The lack of cell phones really stood out to me, because there were a few situations Eddi found herself in that only happened because she couldn’t contact someone unless she was home or used a payphone. There was a slightly racially insensitive moment in which Eddi “pulls at the corners of her eyes to see what she’d look like if she were Chinese” that was mostly jarring because why did that line make it through editing? And dear lord the clothes.

Yes. This book lives solidly in the 80s. But, it was no less engrossing because of it. I loved every minute with this story and felt that the setting development of Minneapolis was very well done. Dialogue was solid throughout, and though the ending was a little cliched, it probably wasn’t in 1987.

I also appreciate that The War for the Oaks isn’t trying to be anything it isn’t. It’s a fun, pretty indulgent, fairy tale come to life. It set the expectations of Urban Fantasy pretty high when it comes to entertainment value, but kept the literary pretensions out of the mix. Sometimes, you really need to turn your brain off and just have a good time. This book is very good at that.

It was also nice to see a different take on the Fae. I’ve only really experienced them through the Dresden novels, and while they’re very similar, I don’t think Jim Butcher has ever featured a Phouka. Also, the Fae aren’t as malignant in this book as they often are in Butcher’s series.

Now I’m seeing another view of the Fae as I read the first October Daye novel, Rosemary and Rue. Goodreads has recommended this book to me for years, probably because of all the Dresden books in my “Read” list. We’ll see how it goes.

I don’t think I’ll be back this week. I’ve got the next two days off and they are going to be busy with catching up on my weekly goals and house chores. Then it’s the Hozier concert on Saturday night!

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If ever there was a Fae among us, it would be Andrew Hozier-Byrne. I can’t wait to be thoroughly enchanted by him once again.

Until next week, Bloggos,

 

BZ

Book Review – Legion: Lies of the Beholder by Brandon Sanderson

Bloggos,

If it’s been awhile since you’ve read the first two novellas in this series, I recommend checking out my reviews for Legion and Legion: Skin Deep before delving into this one. I know I needed the refresher before I tucked into this book.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

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Stephen Leeds is back, and so are his aspects. Ivy, J.C., and Tobias are still front and center, but a few others come in to play over the course 105 page novella. Personal faves were Lua and Jenny, an all new aspect intent on harassing Stephen as she follows him and writes down every bit of his adventures. His own personal biographer, all in his head!

In this story, Leeds and Co., are on the hunt for the elusive Sandra, who recently texted Stephen a single word: Help. Leeds panics. Sandra hasn’t contacted him in years, and now she reaches out in apparent distress? His anxiety is through the roof, and Ivy and J.C.’s distrust of the situation does nothing to help. But that’s what Tobias is for.

To make matters worse, Leeds is losing control. Two of his aspects have disappeared, turning into Nightmares. Spectral/undead versions of themselves, intent on harming Leeds and his remaining aspects. Turns out, his personas can kill one another. And that’s a painful lesson to learn.

This lack of control only ups the stakes for Stephen. He has to find Sandra. She was the one that helped him gain control in the first place, maybe she can help him again. But as the hunt continues Leeds begins to question who and what is real, and whether the price of ‘normal’ is really worth it.

I have a lot of warm fuzzy feelings for this story. It’s the first Sanderson book I’ve read in quite a while, and it really reminded me why I love him so much. It also struck a resonant chord in me, because Legion is a very personal story for Sanderson and it really showed in this novella.

Leeds is a man with voices and characters in his head. People as real as the neighbors you wave to each morning or the barista who hands you your coffee when you’re running late to work.

And that’s how it feels to be an author. You create these people, often times without really meaning to, and they are suddenly vibrant and demanding and so much more real than you ever anticipated.

The end of this novella actually brought a tear to my eye. And while that’s not unheard of for Sanderson stories, I definitely wouldn’t say I expect to get emotional from his books. This was a bittersweet tear, a feeling wholly satisfied and melancholy.

It was beautiful.

I know Sanderson is widely admired for his giant works of fantasy. Books like Mistborn, The Stormlight Archive, Elantris, and Warbreaker. And they are wonderful. I love them all. But man, I think he’s actually at his best when words are at a premium. All three Legion novellas were powerful in their own way, and let’s not forget the Hugo award-winning The Emperor’s Soul.

Legion: Lies of the Beholder is available in a few different formats. As a standalone e-book and in a hardbound collection of all three novellas called Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds. This is the copy I read courtesy of the library, and will eventually Image result for legion lies of the beholderpurchase, once we catch up from our expensive vacation. The cover art is phenomenal, and even better are the ink-blot chapter illustrations that change over the course of the series.

I was impressed with this book overall. Can you tell? I was impressed with the clever plot, and the depth of emotion Sanderson put into so few pages. I was impressed with the book design, both for the cover and the interior and would greatly recommend the series to fans of detective stories with a slight Sci-Fi spin.

I’m making good progress on War for the Oaks, and am optimistic that I’ll be able to review it next week. After that I’ve got a few more Urban Fantasy novels queued up, so we’ll see what strikes my fancy.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ