September 2010

Booking Through Thursday
If you read series, do you ever find a series “jumping the shark?” How do you feel about that?

And, do you keep reading anyway?

I love series. I want to follow familiar characters to further adventures and on occasion see how they change their world. I’ve heard about series where the quality goes down sharply but I’ve been lucky enough not to read them so far. However, a series’ focus or themes can change dramatically, and perhaps they should change so that the books aren’t copies of each other. For example, the Amelia Peabody series seems to be concentrating more on romance than adventure.

I’ll continue a series as long as I get enjoyment out of it.

However, I’m tempted to say that many comic book series have jumped the shark, some of them repeatedly. I still read some of them.

This is the fourth book in the Chanur SF series. It’s part of the Chanur’s Endgame omnibus.

Pyanfar Chanur is trying her best to keep her crew alive and the interspecies Compact intact. She has to navigate very carefully in the political waters around large scale politicking by the alien Kif and Mahendo’sat. One of her crewwomen, Chur, is badly wounded.

Even though there’s a lot of politicking and double-crossing in the story, the plot moves at a brisk pace. Often so briskly that I felt sorry for the crew and hoped they could have a moment to recuperate. No such luck, though. The Pride of Chanur’s crew is in bad shape after the earlier events and they have to keep on pushing forward. They have to do a series of jumps which wear out the body and the ship. They are all tired, hungry, and hurt, especially Chur.

Most of the book is told from Pyanfar’s point-of-view. However, there are short glimpses from the wounded Chur who is trying her best keep alive and also from the young Hilfy. She used to be the youngest crewwoman until Khym and Tully came aboard. To her surprise, she’s starting to develop feelings for the human Tully. However, this a minor subplot.

It’s revealed in the book that Pyanfar has been a spacer for forty years. After the jumps she’s feeling really old and tired. She even has hallucinations during jumps.

We get to know more about the Kif in this book and yet they seem as alien, if not more so, as ever. Their whole culture seems to be based on backstabbing and jockeying for a better position. They also don’t seem to have the capability to feel friendship or trust the way that hani, and humans, do. I really liked that because all too often “the aliens” turn out to be just like humans under the skin.

One notable thing is that even though characters become allies, they don’t become friends or even trust each other much. I mostly read fantasy and over there it’s a cliché that the traveling/adventuring group has people from races or nations who despise each other and yet, pretty soon, probably after a fight where the elf and the dwarf fight side-by-side, back-to-back, everything is sunshine and puppies. Not so here. Even though the crew of Pride has a Kif living among them, they don’t trust the Kif in general nor this particular Kif either. Instead, they treat that Kif with disdain and constantly expect the worst from him. Of course, the Kif is constantly shown to be different from the hani, from the way he thinks down to his eating habits (live creatures who even escape and try to chew up the ship).

The book ties up the plot thread in a satisfying manner. There’s one book to go, but I understand that Chanur’s Legacy is set some years later and doesn’t really seem to be necessary for the major plot arch. However, it’s part of the omnibus.

The only thing I missed was even a brief glimpse from Tully’s POV. I would have loved to see what the humans were really up to.

I’ve already found the first reading challenge I’ll be participating next year: Women of Fantasy which is hosted by Jawas Read, Too! .

The participants will read one book every month and discuss it. The books are:
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
Elfland By Freda Warrington
Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplighter
Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest
War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier
Elizabeth Bear: All the Windwracked Stars
A. M. Dellamonica: Indigo Springs
Firebird by Mercedes Lackey
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
The last book is going to be something the readers suggest.

The only one of of the list that I’ve read is “Tooth and Claw” which was quite good. I own the books by Bull, Priest, and Jemsin so it’s a good excuse to get them out of the to-be-read pile and actually read them. I’m a fan of Bear so it’s a good excuse to get her book. “Indigo Springs”, “Elfland”, and “The Gaslight Dogs” all look interesting and many people have praised “Prospero Lost”.

It looks like it’s going to be fun!

The third book in the Hollows UF series. It starts a couple of months after the previous book.

Rachel Morgan is an earth witch, who dabbles into ley line witchery as well, and a private investigator of sorts. She owns her own company with her two partners: Ivy Tamwood who is a living vampire and the pixie Jenks. They all live in a former church together as roommates. Ivy has a thing for Rachel but she’s determined to be just friends with her. Rachel has been bitten by a demon who was transformed into a vampire at the time and so, she has a vampire bite which every vampire can manipulate and arouse her sexually. Ivy is one of the most powerful vampires in Cincinnati and is protecting Rachel from all of the vampires.

It’s wintertime near solstice. When it gets too cold, pixies have to hibernate through the winter. However, when Jenks and his wife Mataline confess that they usually lose a couple of kids during the hibernation, Rachel insists that they spend the winter in the warm church. So now, the church is filled with playful and screaming pixie children.

Meanwhile, Rachel’s previous choices are biting her in the butt. In the previous book, The Good, the Bad, and the Undead, she had to make a deal with a demon. Essentially, she agreed to become the demon’s familiar. However, she thinks that she has found a way to cheat the demon Algaliarept and get out of the contract. Even though things don’t go as well as planned, she manages to free Al’s previous familiar, a thousand-years old woman Ceridwen Dulciate and give her a temporary home.

Things are bleak in Rachel’s personal life; her (human) boyfriend Nick has been distant lately and sometimes even out of town without telling her. Then, Nick says that he will be gone for several months and Rachel has no choice but to decide that she has been dumped. However, I think that Nick’s action are justifiable considering that Rachel was incompetent enough to accidentally make Nick her familiar. So, every time she taps into the ley line magic, Nick suffers.

Then, Rachel’s arch nemesis’ number two, the security guy Quen, wants Rachel to protect his boss. He makes her an offer she can’t refuse.

Once again I’m more fascinated by the supporting cast than the main heroine herself. Ivy faces a big problem; she’s the scion of the most powerful vampire and crime boss of the city, and she doesn’t want it. Unfortunately, this was a minor side plot in this book but I’m hoping it will get more time later. Jenks is always a delight with his sarcastic humor. However, he’s gone for most of the book. I also enjoyed meeting Ivy’s family.

Ceridwen is an interesting addition to the cast and I hope we’ll see much more of her. I was a bit disappointed that she was actually able to speak modern English without any trouble (her native tongue is most likely Celtic) and was familiar with modern technology without any explanation. However, I hope that she will show her ancient background more later in the series. She should also be a fountain of magical knowledge and demon knowledge to Rachel.

I guess my main problem with the book is with Rachel. She’s supposed to be a professional witch but she doesn’t actually know much about her supposed profession. Granted, she does know about law and making the runs, and this time she even learn something new about magic. She also managed to forget (forget!!) that if she leaves holy ground the demon can claim her. How the hell can you forget something like that! However, for me she made her biggest mistake with the living vampire Kisten. Kisten was pretty weirdly inconsistent in the book. In one scene he was obnoxious and flirting, and in the next he’s supposed to be open and caring? Not to mention that since he’s high ine the criminal hierarchy, he’s done pretty heinous things in the past. And in this book, too. I do have high hopes that this, too, will bite Rachel in the butt.

It was nice to know more about pixies and elves and I’m hoping that we’ll get to know ever more about them and about the other races in the Hollows. Most of the non-human characters in the book were vampires and they are already starring in quite a few other books.

Once again, some people make a big deal about the sex in the series. However, while there is a lot of sexual tension between various characters, especially vampires, there’s only one sex scene in the book.

Please don’t start reading the series with this book! There are a lot of references to the previous books in the series.

Booking Through Thursday

What are you reading right now? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it? (And, by all means, discuss everything, if you’re reading more than one thing!)

In print format: “Every Which Way but Dead” by Kim Harrison. It’s the third in the Hollows UF series. How I came to read the series was a bit unusual for me: a year or so ago I saw “A Fistful of Charms” in store, love the name (although I’m more familiar with the Star Trek: TNG episode “Fistful of Datas” than the Western movie), liked the cover, and bought it. In a fit of absentmindedness, I didn’t check to see if it was a part of a series and later I realized that it was the fourth in the Hollows series. So, now I’ve been slowly reading my way to the book that attracted me to the series in the first place. Although, I’m a little disappointed that it’s not a Western themed at all. It’s an okay read.

In e-book: Law of Survival by Kristine Smith which is also a third in the series. This one is a science fiction book about Jani Killian. I think they were recommended in the Lois McMaster Bujold email list and I’ve liked them. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who likes SF with good characters.

In audio: “To Say Nothing of the Dog” by Connie Willis. A relisten. I’ve had quite a bit of stress lately and want a light and funny listen. I might get a Pratchett book next from Audible. Hugely recommended! Time travel to the Victorian age!

In comics: Uncle Scrooge collection by Don Rosa. Donald Duck is the most famous comic book hero in Finland and Don Rosa is also very popular. So far, we’ve gotten 9 collected hard covers of Don Rosa’s comics.

This is the last book in the King Rolen’s Kin epic fantasy trilogy. The author kindly gave me a review copy.

The Usurper continues right after the Uncrowned King ended. The three point-of-view characters are far from each other.

Byren is struggling to find experienced warriors who could fight for him and win back Rolencia. Instead, he mostly gets women, children, and maimed men. The Merofyinas have started to cut off Rolencian mens’ right hands. Byren is also struggling to feed his growing group of people while fighting the invaders. He has no choice but to ask for help from one of the warlords who used to be loyal to Byren’s father. Unfortunately, the warlords respect power and Byren’s group doesn’t seem powerful.

Fyn Kingson is aboard the sea-hound ship Wyvern’s Whelp. The sea-hounds are the equivalent of privateers in this world and the ship’s captain, Nefysto, seems to have some allegiance to Ostron Isle which is a third big power in this world. Fyn’s trying desperately to find a way to help his brother against the invaders. However, he can hardly help them alone. So, he just might have to look for more allies. Also, the sea-hounds respect fighting ability. Fyn has been training as a warrior monk but he hates violence. Still, he has to defend himself when needed.

Piro Kingsdaughter is masquerading as a maid and she’s now a slave to a Merofynian Power-worker, Lord Dunstany. She has started to like and even trust the Power-worker a little. However, Overlord Palatyne claims her as his slave and then gives her to Merofynia’s Kingsdaughter Isolt. Lord Dunstany has no choice but to agree. However, Dunstany orders Piro to spy on Isolt. Piro decides to spy but on her own behalf and so that she might be able to avenge her family.

Some new characters are introduced in the book. The most prominent of them is Isolt who is only thirteen but already well versed in court intrigue because it’s all she has ever known. However, she turns out to be a bit more complex character.

Florin, the tradepost keeper’s daughter, is a major secondary character in this book. She’s apparently the only Rolencian woman who is willing to take up arms to defend her country and the men resent her for that. Expect that one of the warlords, who rules her own land next to Rolencia, is a woman and it’s apparently a well-known fact that among the people of the spars the women fight alongside the men. I would have thought that Rolencia was in such dire straits that any person, a man or a woman, willing to fight would have been welcome. Byren is attracted to her and so wants to protect her. She doesn’t want to be protected. Unfortunately, this makes her a poor soldier because she can’t be trusted to obey orders to stay out of anything dangerous. Byren also suspects that his (gay) best friend Orrade is in love with her which causes even more tension between the two friends.

This book has more sexism than the previous ones; the men want to protect any woman they know personally and unfortunately, that “protection” is exactly the kind that robs women of independence and any real choices in their lives. Fortunately, the women won’t have any of that. Also, there’s a weird sexual double standard; previously Byren has been only too happy to bed any willing woman (or so we are told, it wasn’t shown) without any strings attached, but now he thinks that when a man has sex with a woman, she’s now “claimed” by him and therefore his property. This doesn’t even have to really happen; it’s enough that he thinks that a man has “taken” a woman and therefore the woman is now out his reach.

There are a few romantic subplot is the books, as well. Unfortunately, they are of the kind which could have been resolved quickly if the characters just sat and talked for five minutes instead of going around moping and assuming things.

The pace is again fast and furious, and the book is quick and easy to read. There is a lot of fighting and courtly politics, although this time in the Merofynian court.

Unfortunately, there’s only one unexpected twist in the book (which I did rather enjoy) but Daniells handles the classic epic elements competently. However, most plots are left unresolved and everything is wide open for sequels.

This is a short story collection about fairies. It also has Windling’s introduction about fairies’ literary history and further reading lists of novels, short stories, collections, and reference books.

The fairies in these stories are the more classical ones; the mischievous and downright nasty beasties who have their own agendas which humans don’t know and, perhaps, can’t understand.

I liked all of the stories but these I liked the best:

Gregory Frost: Tengu Mountain: young and proud Ando travels to his aunt Sakura’s hut on the mountain. It takes him a while to notice the strange happenings around him.

Kelly Link: the Faery Handbag: Genevive’s grandmother Zofia brought her faery handbag with her when she came to America from Baldeziwurlekistan which doesn’t exist anymore. Zofie tells many tales about her countries and the handbag.

Holly Black: the Night Market: an elf has put a curse on Tomasa’s sister and she has become very ill. Unfortunately, the elf refuses to cure her and so Tomasa must go to the infamous faery Night Market to find the cure.

Hiromi Goto: Foxwife: Yumeko has been called unlucky all her life and the others in her village shun her and her family of her heartmother and cronemother. One day, she falls into the swamp while fishing and finds herself in another world.

A stand-alone SF romance set in the Liaden universe. Part of the Dragon Variation and Partners in Necessity collections.

Priscilla Delacroix y Mendoza is the Cargo Master aboard Liaden space ship Daxflan. She’s also running from her past and dodging the unwanted attentions of the second mate Dagmar Collier.

Shan yos’Galan is the captain of Dutiful Passage and the thodelm of Clan Korval. He’s the half-blooded son of Er Thom and Anne whom we meet in Local Custom.

Priscilla finds out that someone aboard the Daxflan is smuggling illegal goods. In short order, she’s sent down to a planet to load goods, which isn’t the cargo master’s job, and is knocked unconscious and left behind. Her record has also been falsified to show that she’s a thief who reneged on her contact. This would make her pretty much unemployable. However, she’s very lucky because the Liaden ship Dutiful Passage is in orbit. She manages to convince the captain, Shan, that she has been betrayed and Shan takes her on board as the pet librarian.

Shan sees great potential in Priscilla and he also sees how emotionally wounded she is. He sets out to gently coax her out of her shell and to heal her emotionally.

For the first time since Priscilla left her home world ten years ago, she starts to make friends. She even gets a lover, Lina, and starts to open up to the people around her.

I admit that I was a bit worried when the book started with female Dagmar sexually harassing Priscilla. The characters in the previous books had been heteros so I was worried that non-heteros would get a bad treatment. I didn’t need to be worried however; both Lina and Priscilla are bisexuals and the good guys.

Once again I liked the characters and the setting. Shan had clearly similar sense of humor to Daav (“My dreadful manners!”). Unfortunately, once again, there wasn’t really tension in the story. Once Priscilla got on board the Dutiful Passage, it was clear that she wasn’t in any danger. This is the story of her mental healing and journey of self-discovery as a competent professional. But she needs the help of a man to do it.

Unfortunately, once again, the heroine is in trouble and it’s the job of the hero to charge in and save her. Shan (or rather the clan Korval. Shan is just the easiest target) and the captain of Daxflan, Sav Rid, have a previous quarrel, and it almost felt to me that Priscilla wasn’t the center of the plot. Shan and Sav Rid’s fight was.

This book had more fantasy elements than the previous ones. There are three characters who can use spells: Priscilla, Lina, and Shan. Priscilla has been taught according to her customs and differently than the Liadens which was great! She was taught that only women can use spells and was quite shocked to find out that Shan had also powers.

The characters are charming and likable, well the good guys anyway. The worlds and the customs are interesting and I’d like to see more of them. I was intrigued by a world where the gender roles were reversed: the women were the heads of households, did all the trading, and had as many husbands as they could support financially. In this world, the priestesses are gathering more power and have so declared that their traders can only work with female off-world captains. The local trader is very worried about the trend. This was left unresolved, however.

This week at Larissa Bookish Life Tanya asks (on behalf of Larissa who is away meeting many authors!) about guests at a Dinner Party.

Think about all the authors you’ve ever wanted to meet, the conversations that could be had, and the dirt you could find out before everyone else. Okay, so you may have to serve up a couple of extra glasses of wine, but still, I think it would be worth the shot! Or maybe it’s the unique, dynamic, and fantastically developed characters you wish could pop off the page and hang out with you for the evening! Whoever, or whatever, the case may be, I’m sure you have a list of “Need-To-Meets”. I know I do!

Who would be your six dinner guests? Why? 
Having trouble coming up with six? Can you at least think of one or two?

It’s difficult enough to limit myself to six so I’m going to have just characters. I’d never know what to say to an author.

1, Aral Vorkosigan from Lois McMaster Bujold’s scifi series. Aral is a master strategist and a very honorable and ethical man so he’s sure to have lots of insights.
2, Cordelia Vorkosigan, Aral’s wife who is a very practical and wise woman.
3, Rachel Morgan as a representative of the typically smart mouthed urban fantasy heroines who really need a long talk with Cordelia…
4, Aeryn Sun from Farscape.
5, Vlad Taltos from Steven Brust’s fantasy series. He’s an assassin, a (former) crime boss, and a witch, and I’m sure his discussion with Aral (not to mention Aeryn) would be fascinating.
6, Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Like Vlad, she’s sort of an antihero.

Booking Through Thursday

You’ve just dropped your favorite, out-of-print book into a bathtub, ruining it completely … What do you do now?

Well, this is very unlikely to happen. You see, I live in Finland and Finns don’t use bathtubs; we have showers. The first time I saw a bathtub in real life (instead on TV) was when I went to England.

But in general, I’d first try to salvage it. If that wasn’t possible, I’d see if I can find a copy on BookMooch. I’d try to find a copy on audio from or as an ebook. However, my budget for anything is very limited these days, so I wouldn’t be able pay much.

Thankfully, none of my favorite books are out of print, yet.

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