February 2011

Today the topic of Larissa’s Bookish Life is Best Gay Characters in Fiction.

1, Dr. Ethan Urquhart in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Ethan of Athos.
Ethan comes from a planet Athos which was inhabited by a male only religious sect. They use artificial wombs to increase their population. Ethan has to leave his safe planet and face the rest of the galaxy – full of women.

2, Carl and Tom from Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series.
They are powerful wizards who live together and nobody comments on it. Great!

3, Warren from Patricia Briggs’ series.
Warren is a gay werewolf.

4, Kit Marlowe from Elizabeth Bear’s “Ink and Steel” and “Hell and Earth” duology.
In this story, Kit is a sorcerer and a secret agent for Queen Victoria. He’s very loyal to his lovers.

I really need to read more books with non-heteros in them. The first gay characters that came to my mind were from TV and comics.

The first in the urban fantasy series about antiques dealer Kira Solomon.

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Allyson Johnson
Running Time: 9 hours, 6 minutes

Kira Solomon never knew her parents. She grew up in an orphanage but was adopted by a nice family. However, when Kira’s powers manifested when she was 12, her parents can’t raise her anymore. They brought her to Balm who is the mysterious leader of the Gilead Commission which protects the world from the Fallen and the demons. Kira grows up in the Commission and becomes one of their best Shadowchasers.

When Kira touches an object, she can read its history and possible magical power, but when she touches a human with her bare hands, she will suck the life right out of him or her. Thanks to the Commission’s training, she’s also an expert fighter. She can fight with any weapon but her favorite is her Light Blade because she can channel her power through it. By day, she’s a freelance antique’s dealer and by night she hunts demons. Oh, and she’s black.

Antiques dealer Bernie Comstock is one of Kira’s closest friends and also her mentor. He has found an intriguing dagger and brings it to Kira so that she can find out if it’s a genuine Egyptian artifact. After Bernie leaves the dagger to Kira, she finds out that the dagger is genuinely over four thousand years old and very powerful. Also, the dagger’s original owner is alive and looking for it.

Then, Bernie is killed. Kira uses her powers on Bernie’s blood and finds out that a powerful demon is after the dagger. She swears to avenge his death. She’s also upset because she though that Bernie knew nothing about magic or her life as a Shadowchaser. Now, she finds out that Bernie had been her handler and employed by the Commission.

Khefar is four thousand years old Nubian warrior and he wants his dagger back. He’s immortal after a fashion and he’s been fighting the darkness for a long time. He’s finally close to atoning for his deeds and finding rest. But in order to do that, he has to get his dagger back and get back to work. His guide is a wraith called Nansi.

As an Indiana Jones fan, I loved the concept of the book. However, Shadow Blade isn’t really similar to the movies. The people stay in the same area instead of traveling all of the world, raiding tombs. But, there’s plenty of excitement in the book. There are some pretty intense fight scenes between Kira and demons, especially near the end. There are also some secrets and mysteries to discover.

Kira herself is a typical tough gal UF heroine. She dislikes her closest supervisor who tries to limit Kira’s actions and tie her more to a desk than a motorcycle. However, I liked it that her powers have personal drawbacks. She can’t eat food that is made by anyone else and is a strict vegetarian. Since she can’t touch another person, she’s had only one lover in her life and they had just one weekend when her lover gave her a potion that neutralized her powers. (Although, I found it really hard to believe that Kira never wondered where that potion had come from or tried to get more herself.) When Kira notices that she can touch Khefar without killing him, she’s naturally drawn to him.

She’s somewhat worried about the state of her soul because battling Shadow creatures puts her near magics which can corrupt her.

Khefar has surprisingly modern attitudes but of course, he’s lived through history and has had to change with the times. He’s atoning for the horrible things he’s done in the past. Before he became immortal, he had wife and kids, but has no problems having a relationship now. Also, when he dies, there are certain conditions that have to be fulfilled or he dies forever which makes the process more interesting and might make a good plot twist in a sequel.

Their relationship starts perhaps a bit too quickly but at least Khefar isn’t an arrogant asshole.

I really liked the supporting cast. Kira’s best friend, Wynne Marlowe, is a metalworker and a witch. She and her husband are Kira’s backup, too, and they know about the Commission even though they aren’t on the Commission’s payroll. Khefar’s guide Nansi is a fun character who looks like an old black man. He likes to cook and party, and seems to have an agenda of his own. Then there’s the psychic vampire Dimaas (spelling?) who owns the bar DMZ where people, and creatures, both from the side of Light and Shadow can party together. Normal humans can also interact with non-humans there. Dimaas is one of Kira’s information sources and a shameless flirt. Kira’s foster mother Balm is a mysterious figure. She doesn’t tell anyone about her past, or even her real name, and Kira is determined to find out who Balm is. However, it’s clear that Balm cares for Kira deeply.

There’s a lot of Egyptian mythology in the book. Kira follows Ma’at: she prays to her and has her altar in her house. Khefer is the follower of the goddess Isis. I love Egyptian mythology.

The world has at least two types of magic: Light Magic which the good people use and Shadow Magic which apparently smells of chaos and evil. Normal people can’t sense magic at all. The Fallen don’t have their own bodies but instead need a human host. However, they have half-breed demons and Shadow Magic workers on their side.

Johnson is a good reader. She uses different voices with different characters. However, her reading pace is unhurried which might make some listeners impatient. To my surprise, it made me pay more attention to the reading (I usually do other things while listening a audio book so sometimes I get distracted). With Nansi and some other characters, she uses a little bit of slang (which I presume is in written in) and a intonations that I associate with black people. (I don’t live in English speaking country, so I don’t have much personal experience with spoken English.)

All in all, this was a entertaining read and I will be getting the sequel where we’ll hopefully get an established couple

Booking Through Thursday

All other things being equal–do you prefer used books? Or new books? (The physical speciman, that is, not the title.) Does your preference differentiate between a standard kind of used book, and a pristine, leather-bound copy?

If I was able to buy as many books as I wanted and store them without a problem, I’d prefer new hardbacks.

Currently, I prefer audio and ebooks which I can download to my computer. I haven’t seen used downloads sold anywhere so I guess I still prefer new books. For print books, I like new paperbacks but I have no problem reading used ones.

Collects issues 26-30

Written by Jane Espenson
Art: Georges Jeanty, Andy Owens
Page count: 145
Publication date: 2010
Publisher: Dark Horse

In contrast to the previous collection, this one is all about the season’s main plot. Buffy is worried because no matter where the main Slayer force goes, the bad guys always find them. Now, the attacks seem to be escalating. Faith and Giles are hiding in a former Nazi bunker but a demon horde still finds them, Andrew is back in Rome and leading a Slayer cell. They are also trying to hide underground, but a horde of goatmen finds them and attacks. Andrew is also confronted by his old “friend” Warren who tries to persuade Andrew to change sides, again. Fortunately, the goatmen attack before Warren’s plea succeeds.

The hounded groups manage to join Buffy and the main Slayer force. They are all under attack by demons with tanks and catapults. Willow has woven several magical shields around their hiding place but they fall under the attack and the Slayers are forced to flee – on a submarine.

In the middle of fighting, they managed to get a prisoner and after Willow interrogates it, she knows how the bad guys can find them. The group of Slayers and Wiccans are highly magical so, Twilight can trace the magic. When Buffy hears that, she has a plan: they need to find someone who can make the magic go away. So, the group go the Tibet to find Oz.

Oz has moved on with his life: he has a wife and child. His wife Bayarmaa knows a way to make a person’s magic go to the Earth. That’s how Oz got rid of his werewolf. Buffy is convinced that getting rid of their magic, and so making all the Slayers into ordinary girls again, is the only way to hide for Twilight.

Also, Buffy and Giles are finally reunited, and she tells him what happened to her in the future in “Time of Your Life” collection.

I have really mixed feelings about this collection. I loved seeing Oz again and finding out what had happened to him during the years he was away. His spouse is a great character and the kid is great, too. I though I would like it when Faith and Giles rejoined the rest of the cast; unfortunately, they were mostly diminished into faces in the crowd.

However, I had big problems with the plot. Frankly, I think that Buffy overreacted big time. She didn’t really think about the consequences of getting rid of the magic for all of them. Would they be hiding from Twilight for the rest of their lives? What about the other threats around the world? What would happen if Twilight managed to catch them without their powers? She didn’t consider any of these questions (on-screen) and none of the other character raised them either. That was very much out of character for Faith and Giles at least. Or Dawn who should have been concerned for her sister possibly being in danger. None of the nameless Slayers and Wiccans resisted, either which I also considered weird.

I also thought that the way the depowering (because that’s what it is: lots of powerful girls are being robbed of their powers) was done was also weird. The Slayers were told to do physically exerting stuff and not use their supernatural strength. I wasn’t aware that a Slayer can just choose not to use her strength. How on Earth would that work? I mean sure you can not use your full strength when hitting someone but when shoveling or moving large boulders? Only use their pinky fingers?

Then, Oz’s domestic bliss made Willow speak about how she could never have kids of her own (because of the magic). This seemed a bit weird to me, too. She’s never said before that she would want to have a “normal life”. Granted, the whole gang was very young during the show but even when Xander was getting married, Willow never said a thing. So, it seemed wildly out of character to me. Also, when did Xander and Dawn become experts in rocket launchers and radars?

There’s also the kissing scene. I didn’t recognize one of the characters so for a while I though things were really different than they actually were. I’m still not sure how I feel about the prospective couple.

There are also two short stories, each a couple of pages long. The first is Harmony’s public interview and the second is Buffy’s dream. In Buffy’s dream Spike and Angel start making out, and I would have enjoyed the hell out of that except that they were spouting misogyny about dirty girls.

Oh, and the collection ends with a big time cliffhanger.

Today, the topic of the Top Ten Tuesdays is Top Ten Book to Movie adaptations.

1, Lord of the Rings trilogy.
It’s not perfect but it’s as good as can be when the books were adapted to screen.

2, Alice in Wonderland, (Disney)

3, Jurassic Park
I was surprised how different the book was but the movie works wonderfully.

4, Much Ado About Nothing: the Branagh version

5, The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Excellent adaptation and I really like the teen actors.

6, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The book and the movie are quite different, but I enjoyed both.

7, Interview with the Vampire

8, Be Cool

9, Pinocchio (Disney)

10, The Bourne Identity
I think the movie was pretty faithful to the book.

Collects issues 21-25

Written by Jane Espenson, Steven S. Deknight, Drew Z. Greenberg, Jim Krueger, Doug Petrie
Art: Georges Jeanty, Cliff Richards, Andy Owens

Page count: 145
Publication date: 2009
Publisher: Dark Horse

The first story starts with Harmony Bites: Harmony’s reality show where she bites people on camera. The Hollywood people are interested but they think that the show needs a villain. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to a new Slayer. The nameless Slayer was part of an all-female, Hispanic gang and was only able to leave when she got her powers as a Slayer. Buffy’s offer of “Togetherness! Unity! Sisterhood!” doesn’t appeal to her and she starts to look for vampires to kill on her own.

The second story stars the lesbian Slayers: Willow’s girlfriend Kennedy and the Japanese Satsu. Kennedy advices Satsu to forget about Buffy and move on to a girl who actually likes girls. At the same time, she’s evaluating Satsu’s new job as a leader of a Slayer cell and helping her fight… Vampy Cat dolls!

Next, Andrew gets a lead on the rogue Slayer Simone and especially on Simone’s closest aid Nisha. Buffy and Andrew expect to just get Nisha out of a demon trap but instead they have a showdown with Simone herself. It seems that she’s gathered her own gang of Slayers and is terrorizing the countryside. Of course, Buffy has to do something about it. Also, Andrew’s been more sinister than usual.

Then we finally get a new Faith and Giles story. One of the new Slayers tells them about a town which is a Slayer Sanctuary and they have to investigate it. Handelstadt turns out to be quite a strange little town.

In the final story, Dawn is missing, and Buffy and the gang are trying to find Dawn’s previous lover so that he can dispel the spell that has changed Dawn into different shapes.

First of all, I loved the reality show! It was such an off-beat and fun idea. The trade has two fake covers about Harmony’s magazine, Harm, and a couple of pages of Harmony’s interview and “information” about Slayers and why they “hate America”. The Slayers, however, are horrified especially when it turns out that the show is making the Slayers into villains. I’m not convinced that most of the viewers know or believe that Harmony is a real vampire. Most likely the viewers think is just a special effects so the Slayers overreacted.

Most of the stories are one-offs and don’t really advance the main plot which a bit frustrating. Well, except for the first story.

I really love the painted covers which are added as a bonus. While Jeanty’s art is okay, it rarely looks like any of the cast. This actually became a problem for me in the next volume. The male characters are more recognizable because there are fewer of them and, well, Xander has the eye patch.

I’ve never liked Andrew and I still don’t. I was amazed that Buffy let him stay after what was revealed about him in the third story. But Buffy has a tendency to keep the people she’s adopted as part of her family, unless they turn completely to evil and even then there can be redemption.

The volume is pretty light and fluffy, and it’s clearly aimed at the fans who already know the characters and the world.

Today, the topic of Larissa’s Bookish Life is Favorite Fantasy Movies.

I made things a bit easier for me and decided to exclude science fantasy movies such as Star Wars and Back to the Future.

1, The Princess Bride.
One of the best movies ever, IMHO.

2, Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy
They’re certainly not historical movies. 😉

3, Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring.
I love all of the movies, especially the extended versions but the first one blew my socks off with the visual effects.

4, Willow
One of the first fantasy movies I ever saw.

5, Ladyhawke
One of the most romantic movies I’ve ever seen.

Next Page »