Commenting Update

I closed this blog back in May 2013, but occasionally, I'll get a comment from someone's who's found a review of a book they've read and/or are interested in, and they want to discuss it with me. The trouble is, said commenter pretty much always fails to notice the date of the review, or if they do notice the date, they seem to think I have a perfect memory and can engage with them as if I read the book yesterday.

Alas, that is not the case. This book blog started the tail end of 2005, and I've reviewed hundreds of books during my time here. I don't even remember every book I've read, let alone why I may have said something in a review.

So, rather than have to comment occasionally to remind such commenters that sadly, I do not remember and am no good for conversation, and oh, btw, the blog is closed, I've simply closed comments. It's been over a year, and if people REALLY need to get in touch, Live Journal messaging is still available, for now, and there's an email address available for you to use via my profile, if you're a registered LJ user.

I don't plan on deleting this blog. At least, not at this time. That could come in the future, though I'm loath to do so without somehow saving these entries for posterity's sake, because there were many, many hours put into the creation of this thing, and I'd hate to see that go away with the click of a button.

But comments.... it's time to close them down too. For those of you still lurking, hoping for something new, I thank you, and I promise if I ever get back on the reviewing train, you'll be the first to know.

In the meantime, enjoy the silence. :)

Closing Time....



Reviews — useful reviews, professional reviews, good reviews — are most like critiques given after it's too damn late to fix anything. They aren't there to help the author do better, but to guide readers toward books they'd like and away from books they wouldn't. For that, a good reviewer is worth her weight in gold. Reading as a reviewer means keeping an eye toward what's good and what's bad. It's an act of judgment.

Which is to say, it's practicing dissatisfaction. And like anything we practice, the more we do it, the better we get at it.

-- Daniel Abraham, Another Word: Practicing Dissatisfaction


It's official: I'm closing the blog.

Closing the blog, officially, has been on my mind a LOT lately. Obviously, I've cut back: instead of doing full-blown reviews, I've scaled down to flash reviews to some success. However, I find myself still not wanting to write reviews. I find myself not wanting to rate books, to pick apart and justify my reasons for giving a book a bad rating or support my reasons without sounding like a giddy fangirl for a good rating. I've grown beyond jaded, which is why Daniel Abraham's above quote is so apt for this occasion.

But what really drove the lesson home was stumbling upon a blog entry by one of my grad school mentors, Tobias Buckell. In his post, The Fate of Today's Book Bloggers, he talks about burnout, and what happens when book bloggers read SO MUCH that what used to be new and wonderful and exciting for them becomes derivative and not very good. He states:


When you get to a point where you’ve read an amazing number of books, you change. You’ve read so much that what may seem new or interesting to most (and even to the writer of the book you’re reading) is just a variation to you. Your expectations regarding the work change.

Due to subjectivity being what it is, many writers can mistake what’s happening and view it as the books getting worse, not their own aesthetic changing. Two things can happen. One, despair at what they perceive is the dying of quality. You see this a lot with people who hit a certain number of books read: they begin to rail against the dreadfulness of everything. It can lead to bitterness, cynicism, and outright hatred of something they previously loved.


I don't want to be bitter, or cynical, or hate something I used to love. I do, however, have to recognize my tastes and needs as a reader are changing, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the status quo for this blog. Admittedly, I could force the blog to change with my needs: you guys are actually starting to see that as I read a little bit more nonfiction.

But the truth is, reviewing has become a chore. When writing a review becomes an item on my to-do list and I'm still putting it off, then it needs to go. And it's time. If I made it until the end of this year, I would have been reviewing for eight years. EIGHT YEARS. That's a long time to be reading and dissecting books, especially now when I just want to be able to sit down, read a book, spend a few moments reflecting whether or not I liked it, and move on.

So with that said, it's time. Here's how it's going to happen:

1) Live Journal will stay open. In the next few days, I'll post a sticky note at the top to discuss how people can look up old reviews, as well as discuss a comment policy for those old reviews. I'll also touch on friending, where to find me, etc.

2) Word Press will close by June 1st. Not Calico in Transition, no, but rather the mirrored Calico Reaction site. There's no need to keep TWO archives going, and bringing Calico Reaction to Word Press was an expansion of the original blog anyway, so that's the one that will go.

3) I will still talk about books, informally: you can find me at Goodreads as well as Calico in Transition (or, if you don't want to leave the comfort of LJ, calicotransit), where you'll find really meaty discussions, should I decide to have them. I should also note if I read a book I really, really want to talk about, it'll happen there (at the blog, not necessarily Goodreads). If you're following Calico Reaction on WordPress, subscribing to Calico in Transition will be your best bet. I'll also work out a way to at least list what I'm reading on a regular basis at Calico in Transition, which will give you a chance to ask me to share my thoughts, if you're curious about a title.

4) I am, however, deleting the Calico Reaction Facebook Fan Page. Just so you know. If I ever create an author page, I'll announce that at the blog.

5) Calico's Dares: alas… I'll still be using your nominations to pick and choose what I read this year (I've gotten some great responses since June's announcement, THANK YOU!), but there will be no more announcements, no more newsletters, no more nothing. It's all going to be very informal. As for my dares to you, well….I'm gonna drop those too. I considered keeping them up, but really, that's never what this blog has been about, it's just been icing on the cake. If I'm stopping the reviews, I don't need to do the other things that keep eating up my time. However, I'm always game, so if you want recommendations, feel free to ask. Seriously: ask. I'm always happy to recommend something. :)

I do want to make one thing clear: I have loved the time I have spent here, and that's due to all of YOU. If I didn't have such an awesome community of readers, I would've given this up a long time ago. Your support is one of the main reasons I've stuck with it for as long as I have, but life, it changes, interests fade or develop, and right now, I want to get back to some basics. One of those basics is just reading for fun, without the pressure of reviews.

I'm sorry to close down the blog, don't get me wrong. Making the decision has been difficult. But it's also more bittersweet than sad, kind of like the ending of a favorite television show: I'm sorry to see it go, but I'm content and satisfied with the time I've spent with it. As regular readers, I hope you feel the same.

And I do hope that if you're interested in my ramblings, book-related or not, that you continue to keep in touch. Again, here's where you can find me:

1) calicotransit
2) Goodreads
3) Calico in Transition

Thanks so much for ALL of your support, and if you have questions, please feel free to ask: I'm still here, and I'll still comment, so don't feel like I don't want to hear from you. I do. It's been a wonderful 7.5 (ish) years, and I wish you all the best of luck in all your reading endeavors. :)

Happy Reading!

YOU DARE ME: June 2013 Dare

So after everyone who wanted turned in their ten nominations, I only had two people nominate again, giving me a total of 20 more points to add to the polling list. BUT the whole point was to give you all a chance to vote once and be done, but to also give you a chance to keep voting if you wanted. I'm assuming, at this point, you're going to keep voting if you want. Which leaves me to review the totals for each title so that I can announce YOUR dare to me for June!

We've talked about how the tallies work ad nauseam, so I'll not rehash that here. Your dare to me is determined by the year-to-date totals for each nominated book, so here's how June shook out:

1) Wren Spencer's A Brother's Price with 11 nominations.

2) J.M. McDermott's Never Knew Another with 9 nominations.

3) Two books received 8 nominations apiece, and those books were Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners and Joan Slonczewski's A Door into Ocean.

So of course, your June Dare to Me is ….






A Brother's Price (2005)
Written by: Wen Spencer
ISBN: 978-0451460387



Synopsis


On an alternate Earth, where the population is ninety percent female and a man is sold by his sisters to marry all the women in a family, Jerin Whistler is coming of age. His mothers are respected landed gentry, his grandfather a kidnapped prince, and his grandmothers common line soldiers blackballed for treason, trained by thieves, re-enlisted as spies, and knighted for acts of valor. Jerin wants to marry well, and his sisters want a husband bought by his brother’s price.



So how will it work? In June (or maybe a tick before), I will read this book. You, dear readers, are welcome to read along, but you don't have to. After all, this is YOUR dare to me. I'll announce MY dare to YOU in June, so don't worry. :) But for those of you who want to follow along, please note, I may post my review of this any time during the month of the Dare, so if you do want to read, read it on your own time and your own pace. You know I always welcome discussion at any time, so even if you're "late," it's all good!

Now that June has been decided, what about next month? Well, if your favorite didn't win, just click here to nominate up to ten titles! The tallies are cumulative, and even if you've already nominated your ten favorites for June, you can do it again for July. And August. And September! And through the end of the year! Just remember to pick ten books out of my existing TBR pile, which you can access it here: Complete Mount TBR (sorted alphabetically by author's last name)

NOTE: if you want to see what books have been nominated in the past but haven't yet won, please click HERE.

I'll announce July's dare to me as soon as I read and review A Brother's Price. So don't delay, nominate now! I'm rather hoping an SF title might pull through! ;)

Happy Reading!

SIGN UP: don't want to miss out on a single dare? Get monthly email notifications! Sign up HERE!

Flash Reviews: Caine, Faust

Apologies for posting this late, especially given that I could've written these up over the weekend, but hey, busy-ness abounded! At any rate, this week brings you the second installment to Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series (the first book I loved to pieces), and a bit of a treat for Fringe fans: the first tie-in novel by Christa Faust featuring Walter Bishop!


Heat Stroke (2004)
Written by: Rachel Caine
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 352 (Mass Market Paperback)
Series: Book Two (Weather Warden)

My Review: 7 - Good Read

When I read the first book in this series, Ill Wind, I loved it. Loved it so much I immediately bought books two and three, but if you've been following this blog for any length of time, you know what happened: no matter how much I love something, I let the sequels sit in my TBR pile for years and years, gathering dust. That's got to end sometime, right? So I grabbed book two off the shelf, blew off the dust, and settled in for a fast read (something I needed after wading through the morass that was A Dance with Dragons).

I got exactly what I wanted. Sure, I'd forgotten details from the first book (give me some credit, I read it back in 2008!), but Caine does a great job of making sure the reader has what they need to know to keep going. The book starts out fun and fast, a little more paranormal romancey than I remember book one being, but as Joanne's situation changes, as does the story, landing it solidly in the urban fantasy category by time the book ends. I'm still in a bit of awe regarding the unique nature of this series: how often does urban fantasy focus on the weather, of all things, as its main sticking point? Heat Stroke teaches us a lot more about the djinn, as well as introduces elements that will definitely be in play in later books. So far, I'm quite enjoying the ride, and look forward to book three. And if you're a reader who likes urban fantasy but wants something other than the usual round of vampires, werewolves, and fairies? You might want to give Ill Wind a shot.


Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox (2013)
Written by: Christa Faust
Genre: Science Fiction/Media Tie-In
Pages: 368 (Kindle)

My Review: 4 - Problematic, but Promising

Let's be honest: I went into this with LOW expectations. LOW because when it comes to media tie-in novels, they have a bad reputation for not being well-written, and most of the time, the authors skimp on all the usual things that original novels demand: setting, characterization, world-building, etc, knowing their readers are fans of the franchise they're writing in and will therefore fill in the blanks. Not ALL media tie-in novels are like this, but that's the reputation, and that's what I expected when I broke down and pre-ordered Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox for my Kindle. Because while I assumed it would be bad, I miss Fringe and I couldn't resist seeing what the spin-off novels would be like.

I got what I expected, with a notch above in terms of quality/interest level. The pluses: Nina was very well presented on the page (I was going to say very sharp on the page, but that would've been a grown-worthy pun), and I liked her interactions with Walter, Bell, and her housemates. I also really liked Faust's characterization and POV of the Zodiac Killer (where he comes from rocked my world), because while some of it was a little too pat and stereotypical for me, I couldn't deny feeling very engaged by his POV.

Walter, as much as I love that character, left me in confusing shambles. I kept seeing OUR Walter: the Fringe universe Walter, the Walter after he's been in a mental institute for years and years, the Walter who's missing some vital parts of his noggin. That's how he came off to me, but this story? Is a YOUNG Walter. A Walter before all that other stuff happened. And while I could acknowledge the author may be making a case that OUR Walter was the original Walter all along, but events shaped him into the hard man he became that cost him so much, and the Zodiac Killer was one of the main triggering events. I can get that as an argument, but on paper, as shown in the novel, I couldn't. I wanted a different Walter, one different from the man I know and love and cried for. I want a devil-may-care Walter, someone who might feel a bit guilty about some of the things he has to do, but is able to put them aside for the sake of science, for justice.

William Bell, as a character, came off as a sounding box for whatever needed to be said, whenever it needed to be said. I never fully bought him as a character so much as a mouthpiece, but given William Bell's role in the show, I can't say I'm surprised. The character has always been enigmatic.

The writing as a whole is mostly generic (including one painful shout-out to William Gibson's Neuromancer), with nothing fleshed out and, as expected, the reader is required to fill in the blanks. This isn't a book I'd give to someone to introduce them to the Fringe universe: this is a book I'd give to someone who's missing that universe, wants new adventures, and doesn't place too much stock in whether or not the book is considered "high literature." It's fun and fast to read, and I'll admit it: I've pre-ordered the next two books, if only to see what Olivia and Peter's prequel adventures will be like.

Flash Reviews: Martin, Brown

All right, this week, I finally get caught up on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire series (and boy, do I have a lot to say about that last installment!), and I pick up the sequel to Jeffrey Brown's absolutely adorable Darth Vader & Son, but featuring Leia instead!


A Dance with Dragons (2011)
Written by: George R.R. Martin
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Pages: 1040 (Kindle)
Series: Book Five (A Song of Ice & Fire)

My Review: 2 - Below Standard

First thing's first: OMG!!! I'M FINALLY CAUGHT UP ON THIS SERIES!!!! WOO-HOO!!!!!

*coughs*

Now that that's out of my system, can I just say that a whole lot of nothing happened in this book? It's weird: I was all prepared for A Feast for Crows to be the absolute worst, but save for a few POV sections, I was actively engaged in what was happening. I figured A Dance with Dragons would be the same, just with the POVs I missed from A Feast for Crows.

Not so. Jon Snow's arc was the only one that really engaged me, as did the very few snippets we got from Arya, Jamie, and Ceresi. Okay, Reek's sections were interesting too, but the rest? Even Daenerys' chapters were full of WTF-ery. Maybe it's because I've slept since reading A Storm of Swords, but her motivations are completely muddled to me, and I can't say I agreed with a single thing she did. She's reversed as a character, lost some of her hard-earned growth from A Storm of Swords. There is one, just one, awesome moment for her, but it's minimized by her last chapter in the book.

And Tyrion's sections? Totally anti-climatic. I'm serious: NOTHING HAPPENS. We learn an interesting factoid about another legit contender in the Game of Thrones, but really, I can't say I'm invested in how it plays out: it'll either end badly for the contender, in which case, why did Martin even BOTHER, or it'll end well, which feels like I've wasted a lot of time for a character I didn't meet until now to win. No, that's not a spoiler. If you want spoilers, and if you want a really good breakdown about what's WRONG with this book, you should read fantasy author Marie Brennan's post here. Seriously, it's really good, and far more articulate about the glaring problems (and why they're there) than I can be.

But I can say this: as a unpublished writer who's been through many a workshop, who's had many a critique, I've often been told that every chapter needs to move the story FORWARD in some way. If it doesn't move the story forward, the chapter isn't doing it's job and needs to be cut and/or reconsidered. I've always took that advice with a grain of salt: I think there's room for chapters that allow for character growth only, but here, with Martin? THIS IS WHY THE RULE IS IN PLACE!!!! If Martin were in my shoes, or any other unpublished writer's shoes and getting workshopped, he'd be raked over coals for this crap.

Oh, I could go on and on. I'll say this: I didn't believe in the cliffhanger, if that makes sense. I also don't mind waiting however many years for the next installment. I need the break, and I'm not even worried about forgetting stuff: very little of importance happened. A very few choice things happened that were awesome: that one moment for Dany, and Arya's arc is becoming very satisfying. A few other tidbits of interest, but all of that's already forgotten due to the pages upon pages of description of food, of heraldry and banners and armies, of rumors from different people saying the exact same thing. Of a single character's mantra being repeated over and over in all of their chapters, and each character has their own mantra. This was a drudge of a book, and it felt like it took forever to read (possibly symptomatic of reading it on the Kindle -- there were lots of formatting issues there too). This book could've been a novella for what little really happens, and that's a shame. At this point, I just want to know where it all ends up. At this point, I'm starting to think the HBO show will do it better. But despite my dissatisfaction, I'll probably keep reading. It's just that the excitement is gone, so I'm in no hurry.

I guess that's a good thing, considering the publishing schedule….


Vader's Little Princess (2013)
Written by: Jeffrey Brown
Genre: Children's Lit/Media Tie-In
Pages: 64 (Hardcover)

My Review: 6 - Worth Reading, with Reservations

So I was utterly charmed by Brown's previous Star Wars contribution, Darth Vader and Son, and absolutely had to pre-order Vader's Little Princess as soon as I was able. Because Leia! And the art, yet again, is cute and a lot of fun, but I had one quibble with this book: the author has sons, and his Darth Vader and Son, while obviously showing father & son activities, really felt universal, stuff that you could see doing with your dad whether you were a boy or a girl. With Vader's Little Princess, I couldn't help but feel the author was having to reach for daughter stereotypes: the dad hating the boyfriend, the daughter listening to loud music and wearing clothes that are too revealing. Like the daughter looking at a closet full of clothes and complaining of having nothing to wear, or dragging her father to the ballet. Some of it was cute, mind, and there's a reason it's a stereotype, but it just wasn't really Leia. Leia, who's tough as nails. That bothered me a bit, but I could be overreacting. However, one thing I noted: in Vader's Little Princess, Leia has to share 8 panels with Luke. In Darth Vader & Son, Luke shares a grand total of one single panel with Leia.

Erm….

I'm sure I'm overreacting. I just wish THIS book was as clever as the previous one. For those of you who've "read" both, thoughts?
The other morning, I had a 6 am epiphany. Of course, being 6 am, it may not be so much an epiphany as it was an interesting thought.

I've made the conscious decision to catch up on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire series. Right now, I'm working on A Dance With Dragons. I was Skyping with a friend of mine the other day and she's also caught up on the series and we were talking about some of the problematic issues (pacing, where it's all going, etc), and I mentioned that once Martin's series is (if it is) completed, you could use the books as a college course called "How to Write and How Not to Write Epic Fantasy." And for those of you who've read Martin or even watched the show, this should make sense: Martin does a lot of things right. But in both writing and publishing schedules, there's also a lot of things to learn from.

The pacing is a concern because the fear that we won't get an end (or in my friend's case, that she and her husband might kick the bucket before the end is published) is a very real one. Look at what happened with Robert Jordan. While I've never read the Wheel of Time series (and no, I really don't have an inkling to do so), Jordan's death really threw epic fantasy fans in a tizzy: fans of the series wondered how in the world they'd ever get an ending (something they finally have as of this year, thanks to Brandon Sanderson), and other epic fantasy readers wondered if we might be seeing the same fate for George R.R. Martin and A Song of Ice & Fire.

All of this is what got me thinking when I woke up, thanks to the cat, and couldn't go back to sleep: the nature of epic fantasy, and how these big name writers are writing them, and how it's a very real, legitimate concern, that the project won't be finished and said writers will kick the bucket.

Which got me thinking about another epic fantasy writer. One who's been publishing his original fantasy series since the late seventies and has 24 books published and more coming. One who's name just doesn't come up very often unless a book blogger is listing latest releases for the month.

That writer is Terry Brooks.

A few disclaimers: I have no nostalgia for this series. I didn't start reading it until 2002, and I stopped reading it in…. hell, I don't know. 2004? 2005? And I'll be honest, I stopped reading because I'd reached a saturation point: I was so familiar with Brooks' world and style that I found his surprises predictable and therefore unenjoyable. I was tired of having something that was supposed to be a BIG MYSTERY for the reader, but already knowing what the mystery was because Brooks' works are so choreographed they can be transparent. So I don't want to say that Brooks is a better "writer" than, say, George R.R. Martin (I can't compare to Jordan) by any means, though it's probably fair to say that Martin has his strengths and weaknesses, and Brooks does too. It's just that Brooks' weaknesses finally made me stop reading.

But while Brooks isn't very popular because his series, at least in the seventies, was pretty much a blatant rip-off of Tolkien, he came onto the fantasy scene at the right place at the right time. He does have a career, and whatever your thoughts are on his fiction or writing style, I sure wouldn't turn up my nose at his royalties.

The epiphany I had, aside from realizing that NO ONE TALKS ABOUT HIM, was simple: he's got a long-running fantasy series, but do any of his readers really worry he's going to kick the bucket before it's done?

I think not, and I'll tell you why: it's because he's written his series in chunks. In a set of stand-alone and trilogy-sized chunks that tell complete stories before the next stand-alone/trilogy comes along. I stopped reading at the High Druid of Shannara trilogy, but one thing I admired is that Brooks' story arcs were almost always separated by a generation or two. He was writing, in a sense, a living history of his world, rather than focusing on the same characters for several books at a time.

Of course, this observation is limited to epic fantasy. After all, urban fantasy focuses on the same characters for several books at a time, but those authors tend to produce a book per year, and none of those books are doorstoppers. And I know: technically, Martin only has five novels in his series, but when you add up the pages, I think you could get about 3 books (page count) per one of George's books, which would, based on page count, make the series about fifteen books to date.

And obviously, there are a TON of epic fantasy writers who aren't talked about. I'm not trying to say Brooks is under-appreciated, because if he's not being talked about, there are plenty of reasons why. But I bet regardless of those reasons, if his Shannara series was one long-running story featuring the same characters for 24 books? He'd be right up there in the discussion with Martin and Jordan.

So really, this post boils down to a question: is there a right way to write EPIC fantasy, when it comes to structure? People bemoan of the trilogy format (and hell, Martin meant this series to BE a trilogy originally, before it got away from him), but at least with a trilogy, you know how many books you're waiting for (hi, Rothfuss!). I'm always on board for a solid stand alone, but I want to open the discussion up to you: when it comes to epic fantasy, do you think there's a preferred format? A right or wrong way to tell your tale? There's always going to be exceptions to the rule, but what rocks your boat when it comes to epic fantasy? What authors do you think aren't discussed enough, and is the format of their series part of the reason?

Flash Reviews: Richardson, Fey

Let's get a little bit back to normal. A little bit in that it seems the nonfiction bug keeps demanding attention, so today you get an urban fantasy review for Kat Richardson's debut urban fantasy, Greywalker, and the Tina Fey's autobiography (memoir?) Bossypants.


Greywalker (2006)
Written by: Kat Richardson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 341 (Trade Paperback)
Series: Book One (Greywalker)

My Review: 6 - Worth Reading, with Reservations

I've been eyeing this book and its author ever since the debut in 2006. To this day, I'm not sure why I never splurged and bought it. I know that as time went by, I was reading other urban fantasies and general apathy was setting in and I didn't want to pick up another, and as time went by, I wasn't hearing great things about this book, but I wasn't hearing bad things either. However, a friend of mine discovered this series when a friend of hers gave it to her to read, and she promptly asked me if I was interested in borrowing them as she finished. Sure, why not? Next thing I know, I've got the first four books to read, so I settled down with Greywalker to see how well it'd click.

And I enjoyed it. This book is very clearly a debut, but in a weird way, it's a refreshing read compared to what's being published now. It's refreshing in that it doesn't depend on a romance to keep the tension going, and it also relies heavily on real-world investigation, as Harper is a private investigator. She fights the notion of the supernatural and paranormal, despite the fact that she was, technically, dead and that death has given her insight to the Grey itself, a kind of parallel world but not where all kinds of magical things and stuff resides. While I appreciate her wanting to cling to the real, I did find myself a bit frustrated at her constant lack of acceptance, yet I get it: the author was really trying to portray how a real person would react in that situation. I thoroughly enjoyed the supporting cast, especially Mara, a witch who's trying to guide Harper through the Grey itself. We also meet vampires, at which point I had a private giggle when two of the main vampires in the book were named Edward and Alice. No, the vampires were not necessarily nice vampires. And no, Richardson wasn't making a comment on Twilight: her book was at the publishers when Twilight debuted. It's just really funny in hindsight.

Greywalker does a pretty solid job setting things up, and I look forward to seeing not only the author improve with each book (it is currently a seven book series, going on eight, so she's clearly doing something right), but also seeing how the world fleshes out and watch how Harper deals with it all. It's definitely worth reading, so long as you keep in mind it is a debut, and so long as you aren't expecting a romance component to drive the story.


Bossypants (2011)
Written by: Tina Fey
Genre: Nonfiction/Autobiography
Pages: 289 (Kindle)


My Review: 5 - It's a Gamble

This rating means one thing: I'm rather ambivalent about the book. It also means that whatever you think you'll feel about the book before reading is probably how you'll feel about it after reading. If that makes sense.

I will say this before explaining the rating: I hear the audiobook, which is read by Tina Fey herself, is fantastic. If I hadn't been lured by the super-cheap Kindle sale of $0.99, I would've sprung for the audio version, because I think that would've really heightened my experience, especially in the cases where I was reading along and questioned whether or not Fey was joking. And that's just it, if I were to compare Tina Fey to someone like, say, Jenny Lawson (the Bloggess), the difference is staggering: Lawson's humor is all about the written form and how her personality influences the written form (not saying she wouldn't be a riot in person: I bet she is, but my experience with her humor is all written); Fey, on the other hand, is an actress and visual comedian. In that I see her jokes and I hear her jokes. I've not been introduced to Fey on a blog. Writing, even though, ironically, she wrote for SNL and 30 Rock, is not her performance medium. She writes humor that's meant to be performed, whereas Lawson writes humor that's meant to be read. And really, I have no business comparing the two, so let's move on.

That's not to say Fey doesn't say some very funny and poignant things in her autobiography: she does. I grinned a few times and enjoyed myself. I especially enjoyed those sections where she talked about SNL and her Sarah Palin skits. I never watched 30 Rock, so while that was interesting from a television perspective, it wasn't as engaging as it might've been had I watched the show. Also, Fey as a feminist I want to read loads more about. I think she'd be amazing to talk to in person, especially on this topic. :)

But your mileage may vary. It's certainly an enjoyable read for $0.99, and I'm glad I finally got to read it. But it didn't make me clutch my sides laughing my ass off, and for some reason, I was hoping it would. Maybe we should chalk this rating up to misplaced expectations? Still, if you're a fan of Tina Fey, you should get your hands on this: but get the audiobook. Because I'm pretty sure that would've had me clutching my sides laughing my ass off. :)

But I'll be honest: reading this book just for the chapter about photo-shoots is freaking worth it. :)

However, I hate this freaking cover. I would've bought this sucker in hardback if not for the cover, yo!

Ladies First: May 2013 Dare

Happy May, and welcome another installment of Calico's Dares 2013: Ladies First! This is where I select a book that I have already read (and loved) and dare YOU, my readers, to read it and share your thoughts.

Here are some ground rules:

1) Read on your own time. Don't feel obligated to finish this book by the end of the month or even the end of the year. Read it when you want, when you're able. The only thing I ask is once you finish it that you fill out the poll and then discuss the book at my original review (and to be nice, I've provided links to both the Live Journal and Word Press versions of the review). That's it!

2) If I'm daring you a book you've already read, you're obviously not expected to re-read the book unless you want. Feel free to read the sequel to this book, or another book by this author. Or check out the current month's "You Dare Me" selection and following along with your dare to me. Or sit back, do nothing and tell me all about your thoughts reading this book at the provided link.

3) For those of you who HAVE already read this month's dare, or other books by this author, I have one request: if you're not a fan, do not comment here. You are welcome to visit my original review and rant your heart out, but please, do not do so here. I don't want to discourage anyone from reading a book they might be interested in because a few people are grumbling about it. After all, I'm daring it because I loved it, and with every book, some people will like it, and some people won't. That's fine. But don't try to sway readers away from the book. They can go to Amazon reviews for that. ;) And the only reason I bring this up is because in 2011 when I did Calico's Dares, the lowest participation for a book happened on a book that a few people said they didn't like from the start, which was a shame, because I really loved that book and wanted to share it with others, and those that did take up the dare ended up loving the book too. So please, comment on my review, not here.

4) The most important thing: HAVE FUN. If you're not interested in the dare, don't read it. No worries. If you are, I hope you get around to it. No worries!

And now, with all that in mind, let's see what I've got in store for you this month….



Kushiel's Dart (2001)
by Jacqueline Cary
ISBN: 978-0765342980


Synopsis

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good...and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission...and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair...and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

Set in a world of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and a truly Machiavellian villainess, this is a novel of grandeur, luxuriance, sacrifice, betrayal, and deeply laid conspiracies. Not since Dune has there been an epic on the scale of Kushiel's Dart -- a massive tale about the violent death of an old age, and the birth of a new.


Why Read It?

Okay, I'll admit: I'm being lazy. BUT in my defense, I almost dared you all to read this back in January, and seriously: you dared me to read the sequel, Kushiel's Chosen. So why not dare YOU to read the first book? Some of you may have tried Carey's later work (Saints Astray, Dark Currents) and been turned off, but trust me, this debut is worth it, so long as you're aware of two things going in: there will be violence, and there will be sex. Often at the same time. But lest you turn your nose away, know this: when I finally started interacting with other SF and Fantasy writers, any time book recommendations were thrown around, Kushiel's Dart was right up there with A Game of Thrones. Honestly, I'm surprised HBO hasn't picked up this franchise already, but maybe the violence squicks them out (that's why they passed on The Walking Dead, btw). That's neither here nor there: this debut had be glued to the pages, and the only reason I didn't keep reading the trilogy was because I was going to residency and would have no time for reading. I loved this to pieces, so here you go.

Once You Read It, Please Do The Following:

Discuss the book: HERE on Live Journal or HERE on Word Press.

And that's it!

I'm dropping the poll because people aren't really filling them out anyway, so why create more work for myself and for you? Besides, it's the discussion I care about!

Happy Reading!
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Weekend Update: Necessary Info

I've not been doing much around here short of weekly flash reviews and the Calico's Dares announcements, so I wanted to take a moment to bring a few things to your attention, some of which has to deal with where to find me on the internets now that I'm not 100% doing the book blog thing.

But first:

VOTE FOR THE HUGOS!!!! There was a lot of talk encouraging people to sign up to nominate for the Hugos, but I haven't heard much regarding signing up to vote. The nominees have been announced, and the supporting membership gives you the Hugo Voter Packets (which is stuffed FULL of material, more than $60 worth) as well as the ability to nominate next year. And I'll be honest: I found the voting process to be far more satisfying than the nominating process, simply because when I nominated, I had a very difficult time narrowing my choices down to the five that I felt most deserved to be on the ballot. With voting, my choices are limited! I review the choices, rank them, and if it's a category I'm not into or don't feel qualified to vote in, I just skip it.

Last year, I think I voted in more than half the categories, but I made a point to read ALL the fiction-related categories. While I may not agree with everything on the ballot, there's something deeply satisfying to sit down and really analyze what I've been given to determine whether or not it should win. And if your pick wins? That feels pretty damn good.

And if there's a category you're really invested in? I'll just go ahead and say the supporting membership is worth it just so you can vote in it this year and then NOMINATE in it next year. I might be kidding myself, but hey, Fringe finally made the ballot this year, didn't it? I'd like to think I did my part. :)

Anyway, I signed up to vote again for the Hugos, and the reason I'm encouraging you all NOW is because according to LoneStarCon's website, the deadline to sign up for the supporting membership is Tuesday, April 30th. At least, that's the deadline for the current pricing. So don't miss out.

So if you want to vote, the time to sign up is NOW. Just click HERE.

Now, the important part of this post. ;) Where to find me on the internet!

Flash reviews: are going to remain here. Right now, I envision a scenario where I move those flash reviews to Calico In Transition, but hopefully, that won't be until next year.

TV/Movie Talk: this I'm transitioning now. If you enjoy my babbling about the television shows I watch or want to watch, and/or the movies I watch or want to watch, then hop over to Calico in Transition and you won't miss a thing. Again, for LJ users, you can follow the blog by friending calicotransit, but I personally find it's easier to follow my non-LJ blogs by signing up for an email subscription, so new entries are delivered directly to your inbox. You can do this by clicking here.

By doing this, you'll also be treated to my attempts at baking, tales of jury duty, of cats battling dentists, and the woes of being a homeowner. And writing too. :)

But what about all those features I had HERE but I'm not doing anymore?

If you're interested in what I'm getting every month to read, aka new acquisitions, you can follow me on Goodreads or my Facebook Fan Page.

Goodreads also lets you see what I'm reading, while I'm reading it, as well as reviews.

Facebook will provide you with reviews too, but I also post interesting book-related links there, as well as cover art from my favorite authors, or from books I'm looking forward to.

Calico's Dares: to you make sure you don't miss a MOMENT to nominate, sign up for the monthly newsletter HERE. Also, I'm still taking nominations for June, so if there's anything in my TBR pile that you're DYING for me to read, nominate it HERE!

I think that's it. However, it's been one of those weekends and my brain isn't firing on all cylinders, so if there's something you miss from Calico Reaction, comment here and I'll direct you to where you can get your fix! :)

To the newbies, welcome! There's been a lot of you lately. To those of you who are still sticking around, thank you. :)

Flash Reviews: Martin, Goldstein

So last week's reviews might've been a bit weird, but this week's set takes the cake. To ease the weird-factor of the second review, which is a nonfiction book that implies more about me than most of you would care to know, I've also provided the long-coming review for George R.R. Martin's A Feast For Crows. Four books down, one to go! Well, at least one more that's been published. But then I'll be caught up! YAY!!!!!


A Feast For Crows (2005)
Written by: George R.R. Martin
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Pages: 1104 (Mass Market Paperback)
Series: Book Four (A Song of Ice & Fire)

My Review: 6 - Worth Reading, with Reservations

I had been warned. I knew, going into A Feast for Crows, that I would not get Tyrion's POV. I would not get Daenerys'. Or Jon Snow's. Or a few others. I heard, long before picking this up, that because of these omissions, this was the worst book of the series. Well, I'm here to say that for whatever reasons, this was not the worst book in the series for me (that honor goes to A Clash of Kings, which would've made me quit the series if 1) I hadn't already had books three and four in my TBR and 2) I hadn't already heard that book three was the most awesome thing ever).

So how'd I get through it? One, my expectations were in check. Two, I was really looking forward to POVs like Sansa's and Cersei's, as well as favorites Jamie's and Brienne's. Three, this is the second book I've read in the series since HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation came out, and if there's one thing that can reliably get me through big, thick epic fantasy books, it's already having a visual in place for the characters and the landscapes. I swear, having seen The Fellowship of the Ring five times in theaters was the only reason I was able to get through Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Anyway, that really helped.

But your expectations have to be in check. And you have to wrestle with a bit of frustration when you suddenly get POVs of characters in Dorne (where we learn what's going on with Princess Myrcella and Princess Arianne, and believe me, I really didn't care in either case) as well as the Iron Islands (again, short of one particular interesting event, I did not care). I know all of these additional and sudden POVs are developing and enriching the main story to come: I can already see where the Iron Island POVs are going to intersect with, say, Daenerys, and while I don't know what's going on with Arianne and Dorne, I'm interested in finding out.

Still, I couldn't help but wonder what this book -- hell, what this whole SERIES -- would look like if it were abridged. Because I get tired of meeting characters and learning what the coat of arms is, the colors worn, etc, etc. The details that so flesh out this world become tiring by this point, and I just want to move on to the story. Yet Martin takes his time, treating each character POV chapter like . . . I don't want to say a novella. But I can say that these books are truly character-driven, and each POV is like getting your own individual, character-driven story. They just all take place in the same land.

There are some interesting pieces moved into place and set up. I can't wait to find out what's next for Ceresi, and I'm dying to know what's next for Brienne and Arya. Every time I think I have a handle on how things are going to end up, Martin throws a twist. That being said, at this point, I'm ready for Dany to get her ass in Westeros and start showing everyone who's REALLY boss. Maybe book five will give me that? I'll find out soon!



When Sex Hurts: A Woman's Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain (2011)
Written by: Andrew Goldstein, Irwin Goldstein, Caroline Pukall
Genre: Nonfiction/Women's Health
Pages: 272 (Kindle)

My Review: 0 - No Rating

This is a rare rating so I need to clarify: "No Rating" doesn't mean it's a bad book. It means that it's just not the kind of book that I feel comfortable with REVIEWING. I want to talk about it, but I can't look at it critically. I do this if I know the author, or if the book is COMPLETELY outside of my regular reading wheelhouse, and let's face it: have you ever seen me review a book that's so obviously about womens' health? I thought not.

So this is what I'll say: I discovered Andrew Goldstein through The Dr Drew Podcast (you can download for free here), wherein Drew and Goldstein talk about birth control and some of its surprising but little-known side effects. Hearing about those side effects made me suddenly feel they were making this podcast for me personally, so when I learned that Goldstein has this book out, and that the book would talk about those specific issues (among other things, as indicated by the title), I decided I'd read this as a bit of homework before going to see my own personal physician about my own reactions to oral contraceptives (because it all makes SENSE now!).

Yes, that's deeply personal, but I'll say this: if you're a woman (or a doctor or gynecologist or someone in the field) and this title resonates with you at all? Read this book. If you're shy about doing so, listen to Goldstein's podcast with Dr. Drew first (just click here) and see if it speaks to you or not. The book is NOT a self-help book, but rather a book of guidance: it gives you the tools you need to talk to your own physician, and if that doesn't work, it gives you the tools you need to seek out one who can help.

So yeah. That's all that needs to be said about that.

Flash Reviews: Vaughn, Karpyshyn

Last week was a weird one, reading-wise. I bring you a Star Wars/Mount TBR read that would've been a DNF if it hadn't been an SW book, as well as my reward for getting through it, Carrie Vaughn's latest Kitty novel!
Kitty Rocks the House (2013)
Written by: Carrie Vaughn
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 324 (Mass Market Paperback)
Series: Book Eleven (Kitty Norville)

My Review: 7 - Good Read

As I said above, Kitty Rocks the House was my reward for getting through the Star Wars book below. And aside from Star Wars, I think the Kitty Norville novels are the longest-running series I read. This current installment clocks in at book eleven, and later this summer, Vaughn's releasing book twelve, Kitty in the Underworld. I rather enjoyed last year's Kitty Steals the Show, and while I know not every installment is going to be a home run, I can at least count on a comfort read.

Kitty Rocks the House brings Kitty and company back to Denver, and things are getting a bit hairy, no pun intended. I enjoyed seeing a new crop of problems arise and I found myself impressed with how Vaughn resolved those various sets of problems. We also learn a key fact about Roman and the Long Game, and that's even more surprising. I enjoyed this installment quite a bit, and tore through it in a day. Fans of the series should have fun with this, especially fans of Rick, who gets an interesting storyline, and Cormac, who's clearly getting closer to his own spin-off. ;)


Star Wars: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction (2006)
Written by: Drew Karpyshyn
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 389 (Mass Market Paperback)
Series: Star Wars

My Review: 3 - Not My Cup of Tea

This is a tough one to rate, because honestly, I feel it has a lot in common with Star Wars: Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine, in that both main characters are Mary Sue/Marty Stu. I gave Dantooine a "2 - Below Standard," and I had to think hard about this rating, because again, a lot of this book really felt like wish fulfillment to Stu-ish levels (and I'm allowed to apply that term to media tie-ins, because they are, by nature, authorized fan fiction). Of course, being the greatest Sith ever isn't exactly MY kind of wish fulfillment, but to each their own. And honestly, if this wasn't a Star Wars book, I probably wouldn't never finished it, let alone picked it up. Be that as it may, while it's clearly history of the Sith, I felt coming back to the fact that this just doesn't feel like the Star Wars universe in any form or fashion, not even the prequel era. Sure, this takes place LONG before said prequel era, but it just didn't click the way I wanted history to do so. Maybe it's because the story is primarily told through the Sith viewpoint, rather than the traditional Jedi one. We get a lot of telling instead of showing, a lot of summarization. The description often gets clunky, and there's ANOTHER PROPHECY!!! Which I'm sure applies to Darth Bane, because why would this trilogy feature him otherwise?

I think the biggest problem with this book is it relies too heavily on what the reader brings to the book. You're expected to understand the conflict between the Sith and Jedi going into the book, which means the author really doesn't have to world-build like he would in an original novel and, you know, justify the war between the Sith and the Jedi and what they're fighting for and why. But even though I, as a fan, am armed with that knowledge (though let's be fair, this is yet another game spin-off, and I'm not and never have been a Star Wars gamer), I found the whole conflict to be weak and uninteresting. I was interested in learning more about the Sith, seeing how they came to be what we know and love in the prequel movies, but beyond that, I was pretty bored with the whole experience. I would not recommend this book except to the most hardcore of Star Wars fans, especially those fans obsessed with Sith legend and history. Everyone else, this is an easy pass. Newbies? Do not start here. The only reason this gets a "3 - Not My Cup of Tea" over a "2 - Below Standard" is because despite my issues with the writing, it doesn't make the same outright mistakes that Dantooine did, and it's a more solidly constructed story as a whole. Obviously, because I'm a glutton for punishment, I'll be reading the rest of the trilogy. I know, I'm insane. Fortunately, Darth Bane: The Rule of Two is several books away in publication order. :)

YOU DARE ME: May 2013 Dare

Expanding the number of books you can nominate has done wonders for the polling, so I have to say, I'm pleased with that change: 10 people made 76 nominations (not everyone chose to fill all ten slots), and you all have been nominating since… well, for a while now! I decided to announce your May dare to me now that my review is up for your April dare to me, which gives anyone who wants to follow along a few weeks to get the book before May starts.

We've talked about how the tallies work ad nauseam, so I'll not rehash that here. Your dare to me is determined by the year-to-date totals for each nominated book, so here's how May shook out:

1) Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Chosen with 11 nominations.

2) Wren Spencer's A Brother's Price with 10 nominations.

3) Five books received 7 nominations apiece, and those books were Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon, Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners, J.M. McDermott's Never Knew Another, Alistair Reynolds' Revelation Space, and lastly, Joan Slonczewski's A Door into Ocean.

So of course, your May Dare to Me is ….





Kushiel's Chosen (2003)
Written by: Jacqueline Carey
ISBN: 978-0765345042


Series: Book Two (Kushiel's Legacy)

Synopsis



Mighty Kushiel, of rod and weal
Late of the brazen portals
With blood-tipp'd dart a wound unhealed
Pricks the eyen of chosen mortals

The land of Terre d'Ange is a place of unsurpassed beauty and grace. The inhabiting race rose from the seed of angels and men, and they live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.


Phèdre nó Delaunay was sold into indentured servitude as a child. Her bond was purchased by a nobleman, the first to recognize that she is one pricked by Kushiel's Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. He trained Phèdre in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber--and, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze.

When she stumbled upon a plot that threatened the very foundations of her homeland, she gave up almost everything she held dear to save it. She survived, and lived to have others tell her story, and if they embellished the tale with fabric of mythical splendor, they weren't far off the mark.

The hands of the gods weigh heavily upon Phèdre's brow, and they are not finished with her. While the young queen who sits upon the throne is well loved by the people, there are those who believe another should wear the crown... and those who escaped the wrath of the mighty are not yet done with their schemes for power and revenge.



So how will it work? In May (or maybe a tick before), I will read this book. You, dear readers, are welcome to read along, but you don't have to. After all, this is YOUR dare to me. I'll announce MY dare to YOU in May, so don't worry. :) But for those of you who want to follow along, please note, I may post my review of this any time during the month of the Dare, so if you do want to read, read it on your own time and your own pace. You know I always welcome discussion at any time, so even if you're "late," it's all good!

Also, please note: Kushiel's Chosen is the SECOND book in a trilogy. If you haven't read it, but still want to follow along, I highly suggest reading Kushiel's Dart instead.

Now that May has been decided, what about next month? Well, if your favorite didn't win, just click here to nominate up to ten titles! The tallies are cumulative, and even if you've already nominated your ten favorites for May, you can do it again for June. And July. And August! And through the end of the year! Just remember to pick ten books out of my existing TBR pile, which you can access it here: Complete Mount TBR (sorted alphabetically by author's last name)

NOTE: if you want to see what books have been nominated in the past but haven't yet won, please click HERE.

I'll announce June's dare to me as soon as I read and review Kushiel's Chosen. So don't delay, nominate now! I'm rather hoping an SF title might pull through! ;)

Happy Reading!



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Flash Reviews: Sagara, Carson

Another busy week, which means my reading gets slower and slower. The only reason you get two reviews this week is because I snuck in a novella! So today, I bring you 1) Mount TBR selection AND your dare to me for April, and 2) a recent purchase written by one of my favorite YA voices. Onward!


Cast in Shadow (2005)
Written by: Michelle Sagara
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 512 (Mass Market Paperback)
Series: Book One (Chronicles of Elantra)

My Review: 6 - Worth Reading, with Reservations

I've been wanting to read this book for quite a long time now. I was familiar with the author through LJ, and when this came out, it seemed like it'd be right up my alley. But I never got it. I waited forever, kept it on my wishlist, but never got around to picking it up. But a couple of years ago, the Christmas fairy delivered it to my doorstep, and it's been waiting on my attentions ever since. Thanks to all of YOU, dear readers, I've finally gotten the motivation to give it a go.

The world-building is fascinating, and the crafting of characters is very well done. Each of the characters stand as individuals, with their own demons driving them. Even if I don't know entirely where they're coming from, I don't get the characters confused with one another, not even the minor ones. That's impressive, because the book is told predominantly from a single POV, so there's a lot of secondary, tertiary, and very minor characters to keep track of. And as I said before, the world-building is fascinating. I was quite impressed with the way the world and its magic and races were crafted, and I can see why this book has garnered quite a lot of praise.

However, and you knew this was coming due to the rating, I can't say I ever really connected to the material emotionally. Or intellectually. It took me a while to warm up to the book. I recognized that this is well written, and Sagara doesn't bother spoon-feeding her readers: she makes you wait for your revelations, and furthermore, she forces you to figure things out for yourself. Whereas some writers would come out and just explain what's happening and why, Sagara uses character-building moments that build the tension, so that when the information is given that reveals what's happening, you really feel like you've earned it. My trouble is I felt like I was kept as such a distance the entire book that I really wanted, at some point, was for someone or something to give me a quick pat on the head and confirm what I thought was revealed. I don't need it info-dumped or spelled out in neon lights: just some kind of little confirmation in certain cases would've been great. This may be a me-thing, but it's weird when I finally think I figure out what's going on but feel unsatisfied because the author's been so deft, and so coy with the revelations that it's not like a light bulb turning on with all its dazzling brightness; instead, it's like one of those florescent bulbs that slowly brightens, but flickers while doing so and you're not sure if it's going to die or not.

But there are moments of great beauty in this book: the description of the Dragons (and they're not what you think they are) was utterly fantastic. Then there's the hard-earned relationships that Kaylin has with her co-workers: I really feel those relationships, and the end rang on a fantastic note. So while I'm not rushing out to buy the next installment, I am sufficiently engaged to consider glomming onto this series when that mythical day of my conquering my TBR passes. For those looking for a unique take in the epic fantasy sense, you should consider this.


The Shattered Mountain (2013)
Written by: Rae Carson
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Novella
Pages: 78 pages (Kindle)

My Review: 7 - Good Read

While reading my latest Star Wars pick, I realized I wouldn't finish it in time for my Wednesday flash review post. So in order to ensure I would have at least TWO reviews for you all today, I decided to put the SW novel aside and pull up Carson's latest novella on my Kindle. The Shattered Mountain takes place in the Girl of Fire and Thorns world, and in many ways, could be considered a prequel to the events in The Girl of Fire and Thorns. However, I don't feel this story stands on its own two feet: you really need to have read at least the first book in the trilogy, better still, the second, The Crown of Embers, to really appreciate the events of the story, which focus on Mara's history. The novella is utterly fast-paced: I finished it in a single sitting, and I constantly admire how Caron puts her heroines in horribly difficult situations and makes them do HARD THINGS. She makes her heroines make HARD DECISIONS, and poor Mara, she's no different. And even though this story was fast-paced, I'll be damned if Carson didn't make me all teary-eyed near the end, something I don't think would've happened if I hadn't read the first two books in the trilogy to date. So in short, if you're caught up on the trilogy and need something to tide you over until the third book, The Bitter Kingdom, comes out this fall, this is great. If you're new to the series, hold off until you're caught up, because the payoff is much more satisfying if you do.

Flash Reviews: Brennan, Wilson

It was a slower week, but it was also a busy week, so I've only got two reviews for you today! I'm also trying to work through my new purchase pile, because there are SO many good books coming my way, and I feel behind! So both of these reviews are from 2013 purchases, though only one of the two is a new release. :)


A Natural History of Dragons (2013)
Written by: Marie Brennan
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

My Review: 6 - Worth Reading, with Reservations

The moment I saw this cover, I knew I had to get this book ASAP. Sure, I'm behind on my Brennan books (I've only read the first in her Onyx Court series), but seriously, guys, THIS COVER. I had to get it! So pre-order it I did, and when I decided to get caught up on my new purchases, this was at the top of the pile.

It took me a tic to warm up to Brennan's writing style here: I've been spoiled by Gail Carriger's flighty fun when it comes to this kind of era, and my brain kept expecting a Carriger-esque turn of phrase, and that never came. I finally shook off those unreasonable expectations and came to enjoy the heroine and her narrative for what it was: an insight into a woman in a fantasy world, based heavily on our own Victorian period, who doesn't fit in with the social expectations for women and dreams of dragons. But I recommend this book with reservations for one very important reason: the title. The full title is A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent. Such a title led this particular to believe we would be getting the heroine's life story. We did not get the heroine's life story, but what rather felt like volume one of it. It gets painfully obvious as the book goes on that there's no way we're going to get the FULL life story of Lady Trent, and therefore, we won't get the FULL story of all her adventures with dragons, and I don't mind that, save for the fact it doesn't say "Volume 1" in the title. I also don't recall seeing any promotion indicating that this book was the first in a series, which I sorely hope it is. I enjoyed this quite a bit, and Isabella, our heroine, has a solid, grounded narration that lends itself to smooth reading. So I may have missed the memo indicating one way or the other, but I sincerely hope this is the first in a series. It's an enjoyable read with enjoyable characters. It's just a wee bit misleading due to the title.

And you GUYS!!! THE COVER!!!!!!!!! It's made of awesome!!!!!


Vortex (2011)
Written by: Robert Charles Wilson
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 368 (Mass Market Paperback)
Series: Book Three (Spin)

My Review: 7 - Good Read

It feels like forever since I read and fell in love with Spin. The sequel, Axis, didn't pack the same punch in terms of sense of wonder, but there was no doubt I'd read the third and final installment of this trilogy, Vortex. It's not as good as Spin, I'll be honest, but it's a lot better than Axis, and the last part of the book packs a wonderful punch in terms of sense of wonder that I had a hard time putting it down once I got into those final pages. Vortex kept me guessing: while I have forgotten most of Axis, it kept my memory refreshed, but trying to put together what happened there with what's happening in Vortex was a fascinating exercise and a lot of fun. The story felt more accessible, because by now, I understand the world-building pretty well, despite what I've forgotten, because I've had two books introducing and reinforcing it. Putting the pieces together while reading two narratives: near-future Earth and the far-far future (I won't give you a setting, so no spoilers) was a smooth read, despite getting three to four alternating POVs over the course of the book. We learn so much more about the Hypotheticals, and by time I finished, I found myself wanting to re-read the trilogy back-to-back-to-back. Vortex is definitely worth reading: there's plenty to consider, to chew on, and to wonder about. I'm glad I finally got around to it.

Ladies First: April 2013 Dare

Happy April, and welcome to Calico's Dares 2013: Ladies First. This is where I select a book that I have already read (and loved) and dare YOU, my readers, to read it and share your thoughts.

Here are some ground rules:

1) Read on your own time. Don't feel obligated to finish this book by the end of the month or even the end of the year. Read it when you want, when you're able. The only thing I ask is once you finish it that you fill out the poll and then discuss the book at my original review (and to be nice, I've provided links to both the Live Journal and Word Press versions of the review). That's it!

2) If I'm daring you a book you've already read, you're obviously not expected to re-read the book unless you want. Feel free to read the sequel to this book, or another book by this author. Or check out the current month's "You Dare Me" selection and following along with your dare to me. Or sit back, do nothing and tell me all about your thoughts reading this book at the provided link.

3) For those of you who HAVE already read this month's dare, or other books by this author, I have one request: if you're not a fan, do not comment here. You are welcome to visit my original review and rant your heart out, but please, do not do so here. I don't want to discourage anyone from reading a book they might be interested in because a few people are grumbling about it. After all, I'm daring it because I loved it, and with every book, some people will like it, and some people won't. That's fine. But don't try to sway readers away from the book. They can go to Amazon reviews for that. ;) And the only reason I bring this up is because in 2011 when I did Calico's Dares, the lowest participation for a book happened on a book that a few people said they didn't like from the start, which was a shame, because I really loved that book and wanted to share it with others, and those that did take up the dare ended up loving the book too. So please, comment on my review, not here.

4) The most important thing: HAVE FUN. If you're not interested in the dare, don't read it. No worries. If you are, I hope you get around to it. No worries!

And now, with all that in mind, let's see what I've got in store for you this month….



Maledicte (2007)
by Lane Robins
ISBN: 978-0345495730


Synopsis

From a dazzling new voice in fantasy comes a mesmerizing tale of treachery, passion, intrigue, betrayal, and an act of pure vengeance that threatens to bring down a kingdom.

Seething with decadent appetites unchecked by law or gods, the court of Antyre is ruled by the last of a dissolute aristocracy. But now to the kingdom comes a handsome, enigmatic nobleman, Maledicte, whose perfect manners, enchanting charisma, and brilliant swordplay entice the most jaded tastes . . . and conceal a hunger beyond reckoning.

For Maledicte is actually a woman named Miranda -- a beautiful thief raised in the city’s vicious slums. And she will do anything–even promise her soul to Black-Winged Ani, the most merciless of Antyre’s exiled gods -- to reclaim Janus, the lover whose passion still haunts her dreams. As her machinations strike at the heart of Antyre’s powerful noble houses, Miranda must battle not only her own growing bloodlust, but also her lover’s newly kindled and ruthless ambitions. As Ani’s force grows insatiable and out of control, Miranda has no choice but to wield a weapon that may set her free . . . or forever doom her and everything she holds dear.


Why Read It?

I had to do a little research. Your April Dare to me is Michelle Sagara's Cast in Shadow, and I thought, originally, it was straight-up urban fantasy. A little research told me otherwise, that while it's urban in the literal sense (the story takes place in a city), it's more secondary world fantasy (secondary world being based on our world, but not our world), and more to the point, it's dark fantasy. How true that is, I won't know until I read it. However, in deciding my dare to you, I gravitated towards an author whose work needs far more attention than it gets: Lane Robins. Her debut novel, Maledicte is both a secondary world and dark fantasy. Too dark for you to swallow? You won't know until you read it, but when I rated it back in the day, I slapped a "Must Read" label on this book. It's a wonder I haven't read the sequel yet, Kings and Assassins, but I don't feel TOO bad: Robins also writes under the pen name of Lyn Benedict, and I've read ALL the books she's published under that name!

Once You Read It, Please Do The Following:

1) Fill out the poll: HERE

2) Discuss the book: HERE on Live Journal or HERE on Word Press.

And that's it!

Happy Reading!
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