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.

mal gif
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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Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #6

Blogland,

As much as I like to complain about math, for once it just made me really happy.

Remember a few posts ago when I realized I had seven rejections in the month of January? That number hit me hard. I’m still not entirely sure why, but man, it hurt. Like… Seven? In one month? Yikes.

But then, I did some more math. *GASP*

Image result for the horror gif
Me whenever someone suggests I do math.

Guys. Thirty percent of my rejections in 2018 were personal. 30 PERCENT! That feels amazing! I did that math and I was over the moon.

But, do you know what doesn’t feel so amazing? Another fucking migraine.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 2k words on Tavi
  • Write something Santa Sarita related

How’d I Do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Nope. I started to draft a second post for Saturday, but that obviously didn’t happen.
  • Write 2k words on Tavi
    • Nope. More on this in a second.
  • Write something Santa Sarita related
    • Nope. Not even a little bit.

Weekly Word Count: 980

So, this week was rolling along just fine until Friday night. I didn’t feel well the further into my shift at the library, but I went out to celebrate the one year anniversary of a local business anyway. My first clues should have been the smell sensitivity and the hot and cold flashes. But with the weather so out of control here, I didn’t think anything of it.

By the time I went to bed Friday night, I knew there was a migraine incoming. I took a dose of advil migraine and went to bed. I had Saturday off and could spend the day nursing the headache if need be.

Except this was the worst migraine of my life. I didn’t leave my bed for two whole days unless I was puking. I tried to eat easy things, ramen. Crackers. Water. Nothing stayed. So I just lay there listening to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and wishing I could sleep or eat or something. i'll be gone in the dark

So, yeah. That’s why nothing happened over the weekend. I’d planned on writing another blog post, writing more on Tavi, and maybe even working on Santa Sarita a little.  I couldn’t even keep my eyes open, let alone look at a computer screen. But, I did have a little breakthrough on the chapter I’m working on, so at least I know where I’m headed for now.

What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 3k on Tavi
  • Work on something Santa Sarita related

I have to try and make up for lost time. We all know that as soon as I get my hands on Anthem next week it’s all over for me. I’m going to fall off the radar for awhile. That means this week will have to carry the bulk of my word count for the month. I’ll admit, I’m not feeling particularly optimistic about my odds right now.

But, I’ll do my best, like I always do, and hopefully that will see me through.

Until later, Bloggos.

 

BZ

Reading Round Up – January 2019

Blogland,

In a strange turn of events, I didn’t read any Fiction in the month of January! I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this, other than I’m a bit disappointed to have no book reviews to share with you this month. I’ve tried to write my usual, in-depth reviews for the Nonfiction I’ve read these last 30 days, and I just couldn’t make any of them work. So, instead of an individual post for each book, I’ve decided to do something a little different. Welcome to the blog’s inaugural Reading Round Up!

Title: Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures
Author: Nick Pyensonspying on whales
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator: Nick Pyenson
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: It’s about whales, so I knew I would like this book going into it. My personal bias aside, I found the author’s narration to be well done, if a little fast. I normally speed up my digital audio, but I didn’t need to with Pyenson’s narration. The book was a really great mixture of narrative storytelling and educational fact, not always told in a linear, chronological order. Facts were delivered as they related to the narrative at the beginning and ending of each chapter. I think that really helped me digest the more technical passages. That being said, it is still a lot of science speak and I found myself zoning out on more than one occasion. Not sure if that’s my fault or the book’s.
Recommended: Yes!

Title: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Author: Neil deGrasse Tysonastro for people
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator: Neil deGrasse Tyson
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This was a tough one. I liked the narration a lot, but the subject matter was still way over my head. I’d have moments of clarity where deGrasse Tyson said something that I thought I understood, only for the information to flee my brain a moment later. Also, his voice is entirely too soothing; I kept falling asleep! I’m sure in comparison to the true, complicated nature of the subject matter, this book is very approachable and accessible, but to me it was still taxing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I think you need to know your learning style if you hope to retain what deGrasse Tyson is trying to teach you. I’d go with a paper copy, personally.
Recommended: Sure.

Title: Zen in the Art of Writing zen in the art of writing
Author: Ray Bradbury
Format: Paperback
My Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Thoughts: Don’t hate me. I was… unimpressed? I love Bradbury’s fiction, especially his short fiction, but this collection of essays lacked that inarguable punch that is so typical of his writing. I think it actually comes down to the fact that this book did not age well. There are several passages that are kind of sexist (a standout one refers to an actress as a “porker”) and though he cites multiple women authors and their works, he never once refers to the reader as anything other than “he”. It’s ultimately a small thing, and really a non-issue considering the age of the book, but it still irked me. That said, there were several lines and paragraphs that stood out for good reasons. I took pictures so I could refer to them as needed. But, this book is much more a memoir on the craft than it is an actionable account of how to live your own writing life. Maybe this was an instance of an author not living up to my imagined expectations, but this book just didn’t do much for me.
Recommended: Eh.

Title: The Business of Being a Writer business of being a writer
Author: Jane Friedman
Format: Paperback
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: I loved this book! Friedman answered more of my publishing questions than I even knew I had. From querying an agent, to signing the contract, to developing your online presence and “brand” Friedman tells all. And if you’re more interested in the Self-Publishing side of the writing business, don’t fret, because it’s all in there. Even how to do your taxes! What I really appreciated, besides the sheer quantity of information, was the approachable language and conversational tone of the book. It felt less like reading a textbook and much more like sitting down for several in depth conversations with a VERY knowledgeable friend. Navigating the publishing industry is scary enough without author resources adding to the fear factor. This book gets that, but doesn’t do you the disservice of holding your hand either. Friedman tells it like it is, giving you the information to make career decisions with confidence.
Recommended: Heck yes! I will be buying a copy for my office.

Well? What do you think? Hopefully this is a quick, painless way for you to decide if a book is worth trying for yourself and I still had all the fun of writing a review, even if they were condensed versions.

Don’t worry, I promise I’ll still post full reviews for any and all fiction I read over the course of the year, but now I’ll add these Round Ups for Nonfiction and Graphic Novels.

See you in February, Bloggos!

 

BZ

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

traitor

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.

Image result for falcio val mond

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

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 50

Hey, Blogland.

I’m battling a migraine right now, as well as… well, I’ll be honest: a powerful wave of depression. Don’t know why, but I have so little energy to do just about anything these days that getting off the couch has been a very real struggle. I showered yesterday, so there’s that.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Read Lies Sleeping
  • Write 2k words

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yes! Check out my review for Skyward now.
  • Read Lies Sleeping
    • Nope. But I did listen to the Peter Grant novella A Rare Book of Cunning Device.a rare book of cunning device
  • Write 2k words
    • Haha. Nope. Not even a little bit.

Weekly Word Count: 0

It’s been a pretty dull week here. I accomplished almost nothing, had the will to accomplish almost nothing, and worked 45 hours between each job. I’ll be doing the same this week.

The one good thing about this week was that I met my Goodreads reading challenge! The Peter Grant novella just tipped me over the edge, and anything else completed from here is just gravy on the mashed potatoes. I also, thanks to this migraine, started listening to Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell. It’s been on my TBR list for an age it seems, and I’m happy to report that, so far, it’s fantastic.

Unfortunately I’ll have to return Lies Sleeping tomorrow, unfinished since I left it at Starbucks on Saturday. I meant to retrieve it today and read it during the day, but, you know, migraine and all of that.

traitor

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish listening to Traitor’s Blade
  • Write something

Just gotta get through these next two weeks. Get through this year, take stock, and start over. I can do that. Totally. Just reading, and writing, and trying to muster up some damn energy.

Eventually.

Until then,

 

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

skyward

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.

Image result for skyward m-bot

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 – 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