Onefinemess

The blog formerly known as Onefinemess.
  • book review: Priestess of the White

    Posted By on April 2, 2014

    I have no idea why the cover says “Destiny demands sacrifice.” Seriously that had like, nothing to do with the book.

    by: Trudi Canavan

    I’m not sure where to start with this one.  I’ve heard it referred to positively so many times that I think I came in with my hopes a little high – although, to be fair, every time I read the back cover copy I put the book back down again because it sounded so bland.  I had to skip that this time and just dive right in…

    Unfortunately, it was pretty bland.  The world was fairly interesting but I kept hoping/expecting the author to do something subversive, especially with the gods.   Hint: she didn’t.

    I don’t know why I had this expectation – maybe I’ve read so much non-standard fantasy that it’s baked into me now?  Offhand, I can’t think of a fantasy that feels more generic than this one.

    With the almost-exception of the MC, of course.  It’s a (positive, strong, etc.) female. I think this may be one of the reasons it came recommended so highly.  The heroine was indeed strong and positive and free thinking and such (although, to me as a reader she still came off as ignorant and unable to think hard about her world although I get how this makes sense in the context of the world, it still kind of turns me off as a reader).  And she wasn’t blonde (still white though, deffffffinitely white.  This might even be one of those series where everyone “human” is white.  Ugh.), so there’s that.

    Anyway, the MC, while being non-negative, still came off as very bland to me.  And the way she “powered up” a couple times was just kinda really random and… I dunno.  There are hints that it’s not random, but ..meh.  And the last time it happened (during the last battle) it was just… it should have been explained better or elaborated on or something.  I mean, I get how the whole gods thing hampers everyone’s thinking (at least from my perspective)… but it makes for a really frustrating read.  [Which is interesting, because I have a similar world in my most recent novel, so I'm curious how my take will come off to others.  Maybe I didn't do so hot either...].

    [SPOILER]
    The main romance came off a bit squicky (and maybe a little marysueish)  to me as well.  I mean, the dude was basically her teacher for years as a child…then she gets with him when she’s 25?  Maybe I’m old fashioned?  Even aside from that, I didn’t really feel it either, I mean, other than the teacher-student and ex-teacher-grown-up-student vibe between them, I didn’t really feel anything.

    There are some weird bits of foreshadowing and, while I am curious where they are going (is Auraya on her way to goddesshood?  What’s up with Mirar and all the time the author spends on The Hag?  Leaving the enemy sorcerers alive and free seems… I mean, is that what happens?  Do you let the enemy generals go free when they are also the nukes??  Maybe??), I am not curious enough to  move through the series at the pace prescribed by reading them.
    Sooooo I’m kinda hoping someone just dumped the plot up on wiki.  Let’s see about that…

    TWO AND  A HALF STARS

    Rather bland fantasy that colors safely between most of the lines.   Could have been much more interesting (to me).  And might be, later in the series, but there wasn’t enough here to make me care enough to continue..

    [EDIT: OK I just wiki'd the series and it looks like the author does finally flip things with the gods.  Which is what I kept expecting (in pretty much the exact way I expected)...she just took too long to get to it for me.  I think this book would have been much stronger if there had been a closing reveal, or something more than clues that can later be assembled to support the actuality, but don't force the issue.

    I guess it's a 3 book series instead of 5...so maybe I will read it eventually.  Less to plod through.  But can I read something when I already know the ending?  I've had a really hard time with that in the past.  We'll see.]

    back into creation

    Posted By on April 1, 2014

    No, not -ism.

    As in the creation of things.  Like worlds and words.  Sometimes worlds with words.  Rarely words with worlds; that part is much tougher.

    I guess it hasn’t been that long – as my hiatuses from writing go.  After all, I did do that whole nano thing last year. [Sidenote: I wrote that in Scrivener and then tried to export it to Word.  It wasn't the worst thing in the world, but it was more difficult than it needed to be.  I'll think twice before using Scrivener again because of that].  [Sidenote the second, side note harder: I just started the first re-read/edit pass on that.  I think it's sat long enough.]

    The weirdness comes from getting back to something I/you are/were in the middle of.  And don’t exactly remember where you were going.  Which is why I take extensive notes and outline moderately ferociously.  So what usually happens (and what happened in this case), is that I went:

    That’s stupid.
    Why would I do that?

    And then I re-did part of the outline.  Then I ran into the same problem I must have hit originally (because my worlds tend to be internally consistent – at least to me)  and went

    Oh.Well, that’s why I did that.
    Not so stupid.  Good solution, really.
    Same thing I would have done myself.

    annnnnd we-wrote the outline that I messed up back into something like its original form.  And hopefully I’ll remember this for next time.  I mean, it was only an 8th month gap.  Not too long to hold the middle book of a series’ plot in your head intact, right?

     

    book review: Heir of Sea and Fire

    Posted By on March 13, 2014

    by: Patricia A. McKillip

    As far as faults go (might as well start with the bad), this book suffered from the same strange malady I remembered from the first book – there were, occasionally, scenes that I just couldn’t make sense of.  A paragraph or three that I would read three or four times then finally shrug and move on.  These odd patches of editorial failure felt like I was missing a sentence, or even a paragraph.  Like the author got lost in the richness of her words for a bit and forgot to fill in the blanks, and the editor was asleep or didn’t care.

    That being said, I really liked this book.  The world continues to enchant and expand.  The characters are, well, they are the kind of characters you get in a 200 page fantasy.  Driven by plot as much as anything, but not bad.  I wouldn’t have noticed had I read this as a kid, when I should have.

    I did find it annoying how people were always talking down to the MC, right up until the end.  The world didn’t seem particularly sexist – at least one head of state was female, and respected, so I had a hard time believing that so many would treat the MC so disrespectfully.  However, for the most part it just seemed to be her – there was respect enough for her primary female companion.

    The actual arc of the story was a bit odd too – chase something for half the book->realize it isn’t there->wander aimlessly. WHAT?  But it’s cool, it worked.  The world is rich enough with potential that I’m hooked, and curious.  I think I’ve solved at least one riddle.  We’ll see.

    THREE AND A HALF STARS

    My review makes it sound worse than it is because the faults are strange.   Thankfully, the compelling strangeness of the story itself overpowers.

    book review: Who Fears Death

    Posted By on March 4, 2014

    by: Nnedi Okorafor

    “Most books say hello and hold the door open for you.
    This one punches you in the face. But the door is still open.”

    -me

    Yes, I’m plagiarizing my own Goodreads status update.  That was my first impression.  It holds true throughout.

    This was a good book.

    It made the desert feel full of life (and violence, and death!) and interesting.  Not since Dune has a desert been so interesting!  OK, that’s kind of sideways praise since I haven’t read many books set in the desert since Dune… but still.  What I’m getting at is Okorafor made her desert world vibrant.  Gripping.   That kind of thing.  No idea why I started with that point.   The big desert shot on the cover, I guess.  I usually hate photo-realistic covers, but this one works.  It’s not stupid or cheesy and, although it does the ‘fantasy overlain on top of the real’ bit… I dunno, it just works.  Somehow the desert makes it both real and fantastic.

    This is a fantasy in every sense of the world, although post apocalyptic.  You know, like Saberhagen’s Ardneh books.  (YES.  EVERY POST APOCALYPTIC FANTASY REMINDS ME OF ARDNEH.  IT’S OK.  TAKE A DEEP BREATH.)  The magic is bigger than life, painful, mysterious and out of reach.  The characters are human in every aspect of the word.  Luyu :(  Well, hell, lots of :( actually, but Luyu :( too.

    The ending is kind of a [SPOILER] but, I mean – they earned it, RIGHT?  I really think they did.  And it’s not like it wasn’t set up properly.

    I don’t have much else to say.   If you like fantasy and mystery and magic – and confronting both real and fantastical evil – Well.  Books.  Check ‘em out.

    FOUR AND A HALF STARS

    I think the only complaint that I have is that I would have… been more satisfied if the final confrontation with Daib had played out differently… but what had to happen happened.  And satisfaction is not always what you really need.  Dig?

    OK, wait.  Here’s another complaint: it was too short.  Like ~400 pages.  650 would have been good!  <.<   Greedy, I know.

    book review: Kingdom of the Gods

    Posted By on February 19, 2014

    by: N.K. Jemison

    Ehhhhhhh merrrrphhhhhhhhhhh.

    That’s kinda how I feel.

    I thought she was gonna flip about at the end and smash all the second trinity foreshadowing into paste and “break the cycle”, as it were.  That would have been something.  A bittersweet ending I might have remembered more than a month.  I have a feeling I won’t remember the one she settled with.  Because it’s the same as everything else.  It’s exactly as you expect.  And those things don’t really stick with me.

    Cycles.  Maybe that’s the point?  Maybe not even a writer setting out to do new things can break a cycle.  Or something.

    I thought she did a good job getting at loneliness and family and how those things might figurefactor into godhood.

    Nothing here felt poorly written.  Plotting and technical aspects were solid.  Things make sense.  They just didn’t amaze (me).  I found some details quite annoying – like how Sieh wouldn’t examine the “secret” hidden within himself (which just might have cut the whole fucking thing off at the pass…), but I understand – to a degree – why he would not.  It just didn’t quite work for me.  The details all made sense from a plot perspective (Of course X plugs into Y because B, C and D were set properly!), but didn’t quite work for me the way the characters were written and presented.

    THREE AND A QUARTER STARS

    Because it was good, but not great.

    book review: Two Serpents Rise

    Posted By on February 4, 2014

    Dude has written two (good) books. Why is his name bigger than the title?

    by: Max Gladstone

    This was a good book.

    One of the best I’ve read in this new urban/fantasy tradition/style/framework/slash.

    There was a nice, if entirely logical, twist, and some painful being human-ing.  I enjoyed (while simultaneously cringing – don’t hate!) the way this world’s social struggles echo our own (sexuality, religion) and the sort of interesting take on how to resolve theism and ?capitalism?, although I’m not sure how to convert that metaphor into our world.  Maybe it can’t be done.  Fine either way.

    I love the world, love the magic system (even though it’s quite similar to some of miiiiiiiiine!) and enjoyed all the characters.  It’s rare to feel so sympathetic toward the villain(s), but I felt like I understood where pretty much everyone was coming from here.  Convincing arguments all around.

    I’m very, very curious where this series is going next. I have to say, if there were some way for book three to be about Caleb and Tara (from Three Parts Dead) meeting well, that would be just sick.  It seems like a logical progression too…unless the books set in this world are just going to be a string of unconnected interludes.  That being said, I don’t see a unifying “big bad” tying the books together, but maybe that’s actually a good thing.

    This book was just as short as the last one, but didn’t feel as short – it seemed to hit enough of the right notes and had very few misfires, making economical use of the similarly limited page count.

    FOUR STARS

    Can’t wait to see what’s next!

    book review: The Fall of Hyperion

    Posted By on January 28, 2014

    by: Dan Simmons

    Hyperion – what a cliffhanger, right?

    And now here we are.

    I wasn’t a fan of the way the action pulled away from Hyperion’s protagonists so much, but I understand why it was done.  The perspective and tensing of the scenes with the pilgrims should have bothered me – according to my own preferences it shouldn’t have worked – but it did.  So that’s a testament to something.

    I think I can say that the resolution was satisfactory on most levels, if still a bit confusing.  I’m hoping some of that confusion is sorted out in the two books to follow, but I’m not sure how or why they would be.  Like, I still don’t get why the shrike was all crazy looking, what it was actually doing, or where the empathy circuit wound up (Was it supposed to be —–?  That’s what seemed strongly hinted, but then when it wasn’t…. huh?).  I feel like an idiot.  I need to googles.  I did read a bit faster towards the end…  But I LIKE complexity in my books.  No complaints here.  Things to harvest on re-reads, dig?

    I spent a lot of time reading new things last year.  New writers, new series.  Lots of hits, enough misses to be annoying.  So this year I’m going focus on reaping the rewards of my sometime-labors: lots of sequel reading!  Can’t wait to hit the next two books.

    FOUR STARS

    Because I didn’t find it as immediately gripping as its predecessor.  Which is weird, as I usually like sequels (especially ones that bring a level of closure) better than the setup.

    book review: The Broken Kingdoms

    Posted By on January 14, 2014

    by: N. K. Jemison

    I tried not to jinx it!  I did!  But from the beginning I knew the MC was going to have mind blowing sex with a god.  And not just any god – one of the biggest, bestest, gods ever.  Please forgive me for being cynical.  I feel old just complaining about sex in a book. I mean, I like sex.  I’ve even written a sex scene or two.

    No, just one.

    But for some reason, the vast majority of the time it just doesn’t work for me when I read them (especially multiple sex scenes in a book – honestly that feels like a bit much for something not tagged a romance or urban fantasy (aka supernatural romance a decent amount of the time)).  The scenes in this book happen to fall under the “not working for me” umbrella.  They might work for you.  You might be after something a little closer to a romance plot than a fantasy plot – and this book might be more for you than me.

    Aside: If the 3rd book follows this trend, it should be about a “normal” (but still stunningly beautiful) human who gets to have sex with the 3rd member of the trinity – AKA the MC from book 1.

    Alright, all that aside, how was the rest of the book?

    Not bad.

    Not great, but not bad.

    There are some solid bits (Allegories?  Direct parallels? I Suck at words these days… and I was never a good literary critictator.) in here for the real world experiences of minorities – one bit about appropriation (if I’m not reading too much) I wish she would have dug deeper into.  The scenery and the world feels vibrant and believable (if small?).  I love the worldbuilding and most of the characters, although, as I parenthesized just moments earlier, the world somehow felt smaller than it should.  The first book was called The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – and yet, I didn’t really feel that in this book.   Maybe the kingdoms are all quite small?  Minor quibble.  The world has legs and promise.

    That being said, there were certain things that just set me off, and I have a feeling they’ll stick with me longer than the things I liked.  The first was the aforementioned sense that the MC would bang a god, just like the MC from the first book.  The second was when the MC had one of those “everyone tells me I’m beautiful” moments.  GOD.  GO AWAY.  Or, as my kids might say “NO THANK YOU!  NO THAAAANK YOU!”  (Imagine it in a throaty, angry kid-howl).

    She’s definitely a special snow-flake.  Most genre MCs are some seriously fucking special magical snowflakes, so that’s not an issue.  I just want to point it out.

    There were also some really odd bits of dialogue that felt completely out of character for “Shiny”.  He had two or three lines where I had to go back and make sure someone else wasn’t speaking.  Like the voice switched over to the MC’s or something.  Simple mistakes that an editor should have caught, or the author should have addressed why he was speaking like that.

    The book ended with two whimpers and half a bang, which was also a little bit…um… frothy?

    And Jemison gave Itempas an “out” for all the terrible things he did.  I don’t know how I feel about that.  I’ll give her this: it makes perfect sense in context.  I’m just not sure if I like it.  Same thing with the final ending.  It was almost rough, but then it came too easy.  The action climax portion of the first ending was kind of out of nowhere too – after the first whimper of stuff happening off camera.

    THREE STARS

    I wanted more than it could give, and it gave me more than I wanted.  I think I liked the first one better.  But – I’m hooked; I’ll read the final volume.

    2013 in Marvel Minorities

    Posted By on January 11, 2014

    It came from here: 2007!   And here: 2010!   And even here: 2011!  And then shit got pseudo-exactly the same in 2012.

    There’s some other things I want to look at but, as usual, I probably won’t get around to it.  So, here’s the list (please let me know what I missed):

    Avengers

    • The main Avengers book, ran by Matt Fraction, had a huge cast, including Falcon and Sunspot and Eden Fesi aka Manifold, Shang-Chi, a black female Captain Universe (who didn’t seem as much of a character as she was some kind of a cypher) and also introduced a new Nightmask (who has stuck around so far):
    • Black Panther hung out with the post-Illuminati folks in the New Avengers book.  His sister, Shuri, turned up a few times as well.  They’re no longer on good terms.  [understatement]
    • A new Mighty  Avengers book launched, again headed by Luke Cage.  Included in the cast (among a few others) are the new Power Man, White Tiger,  Monica Rambeaux (FINALLY!), an undercover Blade and…dun dun dun…the Blue Marvel!   Double finally.  So.    Unfortunately.  AND I MEAN VERY, VERY, VERY UNFORTUNATELY, Greg Land is the artist on the book.  Jesus Fucking Christ Marvel.   GRRRRRR.   Well.  It’s a well written book.   Vote with your dollars people.   Fucking Greg Land. I hate the idea of putting $$ in his pocket, but in this case…
    • Marcus Johnson, aka “Nick Fury Jr.” AKA “New Nick Fury” ran the Secret Avengers team.
    • There was an X-Men/Avengers combo book (Uncanny Avengers), but it spent all its time killing and resurrecting white people (and Daken, who is even more annoying now).
    • Avengers Arena was just as offensive as I thought it would be, and killed off ReptilMettle (and a bunch of other kids).  I think Nico and Hazmat made it out.   But they’re all edgy and extra-damaged (and wearing less clothes (OK, this one is different)!  I’m guessing it will be a Rogue kind of argument aka “couldn’t touch/show skin forever so now going crazy once shit is under control”  MEH.)  now.  MEH.
    • There was a terrific Young Avengers run this year, which included (and heavily featured) Miss America (who we learn also had two mothers) as well as Wiccan & Hulkling.  Prodigy (one of my favorite new x-kids left in limbo) also joined the team (and came out as bi).  Young Avengers really seemed like the place to be if you were a more modern reader.  The writing was top notch and the artist(s?) were absolutely killing it. Every time.  Looking forward to a full-run Hardcover or something.
    • Victor Mancha is over in Avengers AI, as is a new AI character, Alexis:

    Defenders

    • The Fearless Defenders series was a lot of fun.  It didn’t make it to its 20th issue.  A diverse, all-female cast.  Well written and (mostly) well drawn.  Really clever covers (google them).  Such a bummer.   Dani Moonstar spent the year there, as did Misty Knight, along with a couple new characters – two of which were gay women, one of which was a minority (Ren Kimura – newly “born” inhuman with odd powers involving dancing and ribbons), and one of whom (Dr. Annabelle Riggs) had a thing for Valkyrie (as in the shot below) – and wound up sharing a body with her a la Thor/Dr. Blake – an interesting twist on the doomed love angle, IMHO.

    FF

    • Onome is still hanging with the FF kids.

    X-Men

    • Astonishing X-Men got cancelled, taking Cecilia Reyes, Northstar, and Karma (and Marjorie Liu, for the moment at least) along with it.
    • X-Factor shut down, so the Rictor/Shatterstar relationship is off camera for a while.  Monet moved over to the X-Men book.  Darwin was around for most of the year, but is in limbo now as well.  It was re-launched.  With only (straight) white people.   GOOD TIMES.
    • There was a new X-Men book launched (relaunched… image above) with an entirely female cast.  Jubilee lives there, as does Storm and Kitty Pryde.  Karima Shapandar also wound up there eventually, sans her Sentinel powers.  She’s sticking around for a bit at least.  As mentioned, Monet wound up here towards the end of the year as well.  Bling is around on the supporting cast as well.
    • Wolverine & the X-Men: Idie Okonkwo may be the only minority student getting regularly featured.  I think Armor is around, but she doesn’t do a whole lot (she turns up in the other X-Men book above a bit too).  Storm is an official cast member as well.  There’s a new Chinese Sprite who got some decent screen time in a few arcs as well.  Shark Girl got an occasional panel, but not much since her introduction.
    • Forge lived over in Cable and X-Force for the year.
    • Bishop came back (not as a villain) in the other X-Force book (Uncanny X-Force), where he hung out with Puck and Storm.  I dunno, I think he was kind of ruined past the point of use, but I guess another generation won’t remember that.   Just like all the other crazy comic shit that passes by.  So maybe it’s for the best that he’s back.
    • There are a couple new minority cast members in Uncanny X-Men’s curren crop of students: Fabio Medina, aka Goldballs, a kid who can shoot…gold balls,  Benjamin Deeds, a shapeshifter, and Christopher Muse, a healer.  I think the girls so far have all been straight and white.

    Ultimate Marvel

    • Miles Morales is still Spider-Man, and he’ll be surviving the Cataclysm drama.  Ultimate Cloak & Dagger were introduced this year, I think and been it the books with Spider-Man quite a bit.  Here’s the upcoming Ultimates re-launch:

    Other

    • I know I saw Arana (aka 616 Spider-Girl – did she ever get her powers back or is she just using a web shooter or what?) pop up a couple times with reference to Captain Marvel.
    • Aracely Penalba, a new supporting character featured in the entirety of the Scarlet Spider run.

     

    Creators

    Marvel still has ZERO ongoing series with black writers or illustrators, as far as I know.  On a lark (A LARK, I TELL YOU!) I went through Marvel’s December 2013 preview and googled every writer and many of the artists and cover artists.  I didn’t do the TPBs because I got bored by that point.  I should have counted but, sorry, I didn’t.  I think you can guess at the results.

    Out of a bazillion (or maybe 60? However many titles Marvel pumps out in a month), there were NONE written solely by (racial/ethnic) minorities.  Kevin Grievioux has a writing co-credit on Spider-Man 700.5.  I suspect without that, Marvel would have gone the whole year without a black writer.   (They did haveGreg Pak & Marjorie Liu at the start of the year, but both their series were cancelled by the end and Pak is now with DC.

    There were two titles written by (white) women.

    Artists were a bit more varied, but still primarily white.  I noted Turkish, Italian, Mexican, Croatian, Korean? (I’m not sure of In-Hyuk-Lee’s nationality), Chinese-American and I think Brazilian in there as well.

    THE TAKEAWAY

    Ehhhhhhhhhhhmmmmerpflsh.

     

     

    I read some books last year

    Posted By on January 6, 2014

    Not bad?

    That’s the new stuff I bought that I need to shelve – I fought against the urge to organize it for a WHOLE YEAR!  Crazy times.  I re-read a handful of stuff as well.  It was a good year for books.  Might slow this year.  We’ll see.

    Goodreads list here.

    I was gonna say a bunch of stuff about them, but I haven’t had the energy for blogging lately.  Behind on some reviews too.  They’re probably not going to happen.  I know, I know, you’re bummed.