r The Farceur Trilogy

The Farceur Trilogy

Mostly reviews of fantasy and sci-fi books, oftentimes romantic fantasy and sci-fi, with a little of this and a little of that thrown in for good measure.

REVIEW: Wildest Dreams (Fantasyland, #1)

Wildest Dreams (Fantasyland Series) - Kristen Ashley

This was my first Kristen Ashley book. This may upset some people to say, since I know that she has a big fanbase, but I don't think that KA is that good of a writer. Some of her sentences in this book were worded in such way that it made my brain hurt. I often had to re-read sentences to try to figure out what she was even trying to convey. I also found a lot of typos, and personally, I hate when an author has to consistently use curses to convey strong emotions. But, while KA may not be a strong writer, she is definitely a strong story teller, which makes up for a lot of weaknesses in the prose itself.

Wildest Dreams is a fantasy/adventuremance, centering around Seoafin "Finnie" Wilde (from our world), and Frey Drakkar (from a parallel world with fantasy elements). Finnie trades places with Princess Sjofn, her "twin" (so to speak, even though there's no actual relation) from the parallel world. What Sjofn didn't tell Finnie before the switch, however, was that she was slated to wed The Drakkar, who is a pretty intimidating dude. Once the switch takes place, that becomes Finnie's fate. But, once The Drakker (Frey) figures out that Finnie isn't Sjofn (whom he really dislikes), he warms up to her pretty quickly, and adventuremance ensues.

While I really enjoyed the story, I had a few issues with this set up. For one, I find Frey's reason for hating Sjofn so intensely (prior to finding out about the switch) a bit unfair. While I understand the situation (basically being that Sjofn is a lesbian) would cause a lot of frustration and maybe even a bit of anger, the outright hatred he seems to have toward her (or Finnie, thinking that Finnie is Sjofn) seems unfair and unwarranted. If anything, I think a bit of sympathy might be warranted toward Sjofn, and I really hated that Frey was such a dick about it. It was kind of hard for me to reconcile the jerk that he was in the beginning versus the amazingly sweet guy he was with Finnie throughout the book, making his behavior the beginning seem more like a plot ploy than anything else.

As for Finnie, I really enjoyed her. It did get a little grating how everyone just couldn't help but love her (ugh), except of course for the most evil characters, and that this was often shoved down our throats. But, for the most part, she was a fun protagonist that's worth rooting for.

While the strength of the story and world-building made this book good, the writing and pacing kept it from being great. Some parts of the book made me impatient to find out what happened next in Finnie's adventures, while some parts seemed to just drag. Furthermore, there were constant time jumps in the book (two weeks later... one day later... one month later... etc.) that I found really jolting and distracting.

As for the romance, it was mostly sweet and enjoyable, with a lot of hot smut as well... but overall, there was nothing all too memorable about it. Frey just seemed to fall in love with Finnie so quickly, and I think it would have been more believable if he took a bit more time trying to discover and understand his feelings.

I think my overall takeaway from this book is that Kristen Ashley is the kind of writer who will deliver a book with a great and engaging story, a sweet romance, and fun adventures. I'm not sure if she can deliver a book with quality writing and layers of depth, though. With that said, sometimes you are just in the mood for these light, fluff reads (as I am now), so I definitely am going to go and check out more of KA's works, even as I finish writing this!

REVIEW: Drink of Me

Drink of Me - Jacquelyn Frank

A pretty decent paranormal romance.

The Good:
-The book is engaging from the start, and stays so for a while. I didn't want to put it down for the first half.
-There's a palpable sexual attraction between the two main characters.
-Frank developed an interesting world, with different tribes and "pathic" traits.
-There are no love triangles or ridiculous misunderstandings between the two main characters to create any forced drama in the romance.
-The book is easy to read. And, while I know that it's not for everyone, I really enjoyed Frank's descriptive writing style.

The Bad:
-Mystique is a hardcore Mary Sue, Reule is a hardcore Alpha Male. Yeah, I get that that's a standard romance trope, but it'd have been nice for Frank to try to get away from that formula a little.
-The majority of the characters have pretty dumb names that sound like they could have come from the show "American Gladiators" (Reule, Mystique, Darcio, Saber, Rye, etc.)
-The second half of the book was kind of all over the place, and the final climax seemed to have too easy of a resolution.
-I'm confused about the Sange language. Where do words like "Sange bautor mo" and "kebe" come from? And if those words are Sange, why isn't everyone speaking Sange, and where is the rest of the language?
-The Jakal storyline was just completely dropped halfway through the book, which was both disappointing and too convenient. I would have liked to have eventually seen, for example, what would have happened if Mystique had tried to cure a Jakal bite.

REVIEW: 11/22/63

11/22/63 - Stephen King

11/22/63 is a very enjoyable and entertaining read, but personally I didn't find it to have much depth. Maybe it's because I wasn't alive during the Kennedy assassination, and due to that, I might not have as strong of a connection with this book as some others.

Essentially, though, here's the message that I got from the book: The past is obdurate, but well, so is love in its own way. While it's a fascinating message that accompanies a fascinating story, I personally didn't find it to be a particularly awe-inducing message. I guess what I'm saying is that, although I really enjoyed reading 11/22/63, it's not the kind of book that I'm going to think about a lot (or at all) now that I'm finished with it.

For those who are considering reading this book, don't be daunted by the length. Yes, it's almost 900 pages (according to my Kindle), and some of those pages could have probably been cut without detriment to the story, but the book is so unique and intriguing that the pages fly by.

My only critique with regard to the writing is how Jake speaks when he's in the past. Perhaps the way he speaks and the phrases he uses sound right for the late '50s, early '60s setting ... but unless he happened to watch a whole lot of '50s/60's films in his time, how would he know that? He certainly didn't sound like someone from 2011, and if I went back to the past, I'm sure that I wouldn't be speaking like that. This may seem like (and is only) a minor critique, but since it bothered me, it brought me out of the story a lot when Jake spoke to others.

Major spoilers coming:

I think I would have enjoyed the book more if Jake had gone back in time to kill LHO and discovered that Kennedy's killing was, in fact, a conspiracy. King says in the afterward that he's 98% sure that LHO was Kennedy's killer, who acted alone (Occam's Razor and all that). But to me, whether true or not, the Kennedy assassination is so interesting from a historical perspective because of the possible conspiracies.

Leaving LHO as the sole assassin in 11/22/63 is also frustrating because we spend all this time with Jake in the past following LHO, only to find that the past is obdurate, have Jake un-do his work, and for it to be worth nothing. Yes, I understand that it's his relationship with Sadie that makes it it all actually worth something, but it bothered me that Jake's "relationship" with LHO amounts to nothing in the end. After Jake returns to the present, he doesn't even mention LHO, or lament that he invested so much time obsessing with LHO that ultimately amounted to nothing. It just seemed strange to me, like a loose end that wasn't satisfactorily tied.

(show spoiler)


Yet, all in all, this is a good read that I immensely enjoyed in the moment, which is a lot more than I can say about most books.

REVIEW: Jellicoe Road

Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta

This is the kind of book that it's hard to rate or value based on the story, characters, and all of the things that you'd normally take into consideration when you review a book. It's a very odd book, especially when compared to normal "young-adult" fare. After all, it's not linear; the beginning is a bit jumbled, and it takes a while for anything to start making sense; there are no overly likable characters (at least, in my opinion); and, a lot of the time, the dialogue and narrator's stream-of-consciousness make it seem like the book is trying too hard, as if the writing came from the script of a Diablo Cody film.

But still, I'm unabashedly giving this book 5 stars. Why? Because it's the kind of book that just scrapes your soul raw and makes you feel something. It's the kind of book that makes you hurt all over. It's the kind of book in which, even if you don't necessarily like the main character, you get her - you've thought the things she's thought and felt the things she's felt, even if only for a brief moment on your darkest day. And yet, no matter how much this book makes you ache, by the end of it you come to realize that no matter how much someone has been through in their life, wonder never truly dies.

All I can say is that [a:Melina Marchetta|47104|Melina Marchetta|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1277655889p2/47104.jpg] is amazing, to be able to evoke these kind of emotions in her readers. Previously, I've only ever read her fantasy stories (The Lumatere Chronicles series, which I loved), and I'm not a huge fan of contemporary stories generally, so I didn't know what to expect going into this read. [b:On the Jellicoe Road|1162022|On the Jellicoe Road|Melina Marchetta|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1212708945s/1162022.jpg|6479100] is completely different from The Lumatere Chronicles, in a way that's very impressive - the fact that an author can stretch herself to write books so completely different from each other, and yet are still all brilliant in their own way.

This read will test your patience at times but more importantly, it will test your emotions. And, in the end, that's what's going to stay with you. That's what you're going to remember. That's what you're going to want to never forget, even if you somehow could.

REVIEW: Quintana of Charyn (Lumatere Chronicles, #3)

Quintana of Charyn  - Melina Marchetta

I've come to be a huge Melina Marchetta fan since picking up her Lumatere Chronicles series. Yet, although I enjoyed Quintana of Charyn, I don't think it was Marchetta's best work. I'm still giving this book 4 stars, because this book is still amazing, and if this was any other author that I don't hold to such high standards, this book would have blown me away. I can't help but compare Quintana of Charyn to Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles, though, and since I thought those two books were absolute perfection, it's almost perversely disappointing to get something "just" near perfection from Marchetta. But, I digress.

Unlike the transition from Finnikin of the Rock to Froi of the Exiles, in which the focus really shifts from Finnikin's world to Froi's world, Quintana of Charyn doesn't shake things up from its predecessor. The title seems to imply that the series will now focus on Quintana, but it's a bit of a misnomer, since Froi is still the centerpiece. I adore Froi, so I didn't mind that the book focused on him. In fact, I can't get enough of Froi. (Did I mention how much I frakking love Froi?) However, you do get the occasional point of view from Quintana, as well as a lot of insight into the lives of other beloved characters such as Lucian, Phaedre, Finnikin, Isaboe, etc. Yes, in Quintana of Charyn, you'll find the same beloved characters you found in Froi of the Exiles, and with 500+ pages of books, they get flushed out and grow as people even more. But, that's a lot of book devoted to character development, with not enough book dedicated to plot development (in my opinion). The story in Quintana of Charyn is very slow moving, and I found myself impatient for resolution. Then, when resolution finally, finally came, I thought it felt a bit rushed. There's really not much more I can say than that without getting spoilery - I wish I could give you examples, but since they'd all reveal what happens in the end, that wouldn't be very nice - so you're just going to have to take my word for it, or not.

With that said, I still found my self satisfied by the book's ending, and felt that the series was wrapped up nicely in Quintana of Charyn. Even so, I crave more from the land of Skuldenore, and can only hope that Marchetta will return to that realm at some point in the future. She's built such an amazing world, that it would be such a shame not to! If she doesn't, though, at least she gave us the gift of Quintana of Charyn, and a perfect ending to her fantastic Lumatere Chronicles series.

At least I still have Ferragost to read! Even if it's just a short story, I will take what I can get.

REVIEW: Warrior (The Blades of the Rose, #1)

Warrior - Zoe Archer

This book was okay, I'd say about a 2.5 star showing. It's definitely more of a romance novel than a fantasy/paranormal/urban fantasy novel (or however you'd define it), which is fine, but I thought it'd be a bit more balanced going in.

The main problem with this book was that there's nothing particularly interesting or original about it. The plot is uninspired, and the characters are mostly vanilla. Props to Archer for including a smart, strong female lead who can fend for herself, but when 90% of Thalia's thoughts are about her desire/worry for Gabriel, and when 90% of Gabriel's thoughts are about his desire/worry for Thalia, and when Gabriel/Thalia's thoughts make up 90% of the book - well, it leads to dull characters, and a repetitive book. Also, the magic in the book was too all-over-the-place to be interesting.

I also had trouble getting absorbed in this book because of the writing - specifically, the language the characters used. I don't know if it's Britishness, 19th-centuryness, or British 19-centuryness, but I found myself getting distracted when Gabriel kept busting out curses like "blue-blooded bungholes."

Be aware when reading this book that there's a lot of sexing, a lot of erections, and a lot (a LOT) of Thalia getting instantly "damp between the legs" from simply looking at Gabriel.

For those of you that are video game fans, this book reminded me a lot of Assassin's Creed. The Blades = The Brotherhood (uh, without the assassinating, that is); The Heirs = The Templars; and Sources = Pieces of Eden. But, I'm a big AC fan, and the world shown in [b:Warrior|7199027|Warrior (The Blades of the Rose, #1)|Zoe Archer|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1264553344s/7199027.jpg|7860127] wasn't as exciting for me as the world shown in AC.

So, all in all, it was an okay book. I probably won't continue on in the series, but, you never know.

REVIEW: Froi of the Exiles (The Lumatere Chronicles, #2)

Froi of the Exiles  - Melina Marchetta

After reading Froi of the Exiles I have the same feeling I had after reading Finnikin of the Rock, the same feeling I have after reading any wonderful book. It's that feeling where a part of you wants nothing more than to keep delving into the world you just read (or if there are no sequels, then any book that will give you this same "high"), but another part feels the need to just take a break and enjoy it, let it simmer. Ah, how I love these conflicting feelings.

You see, I read Finnikin of the Rock ten months ago, in July. I loved it so much that even though I wanted to find out more about the world I'd just left, I wasn't ready to leave Finnikin and Isaboe behind and move onto Froi. I couldn't imagine loving Froi as much as I loved Finnikin (the character, *or* the book), so I waited. Finally, ten months later, I finally got around to picking up Froi of the Exiles.

And oh. My. Lord.

I don't think there are adequate words for me to explain how Melina Marchetta is a complete master of her craft, but I will try.

Take a character like Quintana. Quintana has, well let's just say, been through a lot. In order to deal with the trauma, she pretty much became batshit crazy. And not in a "crazy/cool" way, just in a batshit crazy way. Her appearance doesn't help matters either - she's not pretty, has a tangled mess of hair, and wears ridiculous pink dresses.

Initially, the character of Quintana was really uncomfortable for me. I pitied her, but didn't really think I could ever come to really care for her, in the way that I feel I should care about a main character in books that I read. But slowly, ever so slowly, I found my opinion of Quintana starting to change. I think Froi describes her best when he says:

“Until three years ago, I couldn’t read and write, I couldn’t ride a horse or shoot an arrow and didn’t know the difference between a turnip seed and grain. The men who have taught me everything back home, they often say to me, ‘Froi, what if all your talents were left undiscovered?’” He looked up at them. “It’s the same with her. Imagine who she would be if we unleashed her onto the world. I think she would rip the breath from all of us.”


And that's exactly what happens in Froi of the Exiles. Marchetta slowly unleashes Quintana's character onto her readers, making us understand more and more who she is, who she can be, and who she will be as the series progresses.

Then, of course, there's Froi. I said before that I was hesitant to read this book, because I didn't think I could like Froi as much as Finnikan, especially after some of the things Froi did in Finnikin of the Rock. But, to my surprise, I found that I loved Froi's character so much more. You see, Froi is really complex, and he's as far from perfect as it gets. That's what makes him so great though. For one, he's never boring, and furthermore, his flaws and profound internal struggles just make him seem so much more real than Finnikin. And, despite his flaws, he has one of the most admirable traits you can find in a character - a fierce loyalty and need to protect the people he cares about.

There's a plethora of so many other wonderful characters in this book as well. Finnikin and Isaboe, of course, who are flawed in their own way, in that they are unable to see past their hatred for Charyn and its people (as understandable as it might be). Lucian and Phaedre, who were two of my favorites and kind of quietly stole the show. Trevanion, Gargarin, Arjuro, Lirah, who are strong secondary characters. The only character I couldn't find myself connecting with was Beatriss, and I felt the same lack of connection with her in Finnikin of the Rock. I can't explain why, so maybe it's just me.

So yes, Marchetta works her mastery on you, through the characters, and through an exciting story involving politics, intrigue, suspense, revenge, and a bit of romance. Marchetta's writing itself isn't especially adroit - her writing style is easy to read and yet mature, and is good enough to help her evoke a pleasurable reading experience, but she isn't one for flowery or impressive prose like Guy Gavriel Kay or Vladimir Nabokov. Yet, the writing serves as a more than sufficient vessel for the plot, characters, and events, which are her true strength.

As for the story itself, there were some moments when things felt a little slow, and the book did drag a bit here and there, but, overall, the plot was well-crafted and well-executed. After the events in Citavita, it was also a bit difficult to tell what else Marchetta was building up to - you just had to trust her that it was building up to something, and oh boy, did she ever deliver. Not just with the main story arc of Froi and Quintana, but in all of her character arcs.

My biggest issue with the book was that sometimes the world itself, all the locations and varying politics, felt a little overwhelming. I wish the book came with an appendix or something of that nature, to refresh myself on some of the kingdoms, provinces, and terminologies used in the book. There was a lot of information being thrown at you, and I think there was also a lot of details that I couldn't remember from Finnikin of the Rock.

But, these are just minor complaints. The truth is Froi of the Exiles dragged me in and never let me go, and rather than let it simmer for another 10 months before I delve back into Marchetta's world, I'm going to jump back in as soon as I can and let myself tear into the next book in the series.

(NOTE: Also, just a warning - I said this about Finnikin of the Rock, and I'm going to say it again about this book - I really don't think these fit into the "young adult" category. Just be careful if you're recommending this book to young readers, because a lot of dark and horrible things take place. I mean, I found this book really disturbing, and I'm 27.)

REVIEW: Endgame (Sirantha Jax, #6)

Endgame - Ann Aguirre

What happened to this series?

I remember reading Grimspace and being completely entranced - entranced by the universe, the action, the writing, and most importantly, the characters. So, it pains me to see the series fall so far, but I don't necessarily hold it against Aguirre. She probably got burned out with the series, or stuck, or unsure how to end it... and well, Endgame is the result.

But, alas - gone is the snarky heroine I've come to love. And without her, this book just crumbled.

It didn't take long upon starting Endgame for me to become uneasy with it. It becomes evident pretty early on that this book is about Jax leading a terrorist-esque guerilla movement against the Nicuan nobles in La’heng, in order to free the enslaved La’hengrin people. Essentially, the La’hengrin are enslaved because after a conflict, the humans put a gas in their atmosphere that made all La’hengrin unable to commit violence. So, some advantageous humans moved in and took the La’hengrin as slaves in order to "protect" them.

In the previous book (Aftermath), Sirantha commissioned a doctor to make a cure to the gas, that would allow the La’hengrin to be violent again. Now, stymied in her attempts to administer the cure to the La’hengrin through legal means, she and her loyal followers decide they have "no choice" except to start an open rebellion on the planet.

Okay well - that's a bunch of crap. Sirantha can't get a permit to begin trials on the drug because she's not a citizen of La’heng. She applied for citizenship, but it was denied due to her, erm, colorful past. Rather than appeal the denial ("He knows that will take turns, damn him," [Sirantha indignantly thinks]), let's start a war! Here's an idea, Sirantha - appeal the denial, and in the years it takes to get it overturned, how about you get the drug fine-tuned so that it doesn't have a 5% casualty rate?

A few have died taking Carvati’s Cure; they succumb to the bloodlust and have to be put down. So far, our casualty rate is holding steady at 5 percent.


Is it me, or does it almost seem like Sirantha is boasting about this? Oh, 1 in 20 people have to be put down, but we're holding steady at that, so, yay! I mean, even if she did get a permit to begin drug trials, does she think the cure would be allowed to be distributed with this high of a casualty rate? So, I think taking a few turns to fine-tune the drug might be a good thing.

But, taking that many years out of her life would be a major inconvenience to her - she's already getting restless for grimspace, of course - so, let's start a war instead. (NOTE: Why couldn't she had an actual citizen, like Loras, apply for the drug trials permit? Or, if a La’hengrin doesn't count as a citizen, why not have someone like Tarn apply for citizenship? They'd have a much harder time denying him. Or, if that fell through, how about trying to bribe a citizen to apply for the permit? I'm just saying, it doesn't seem like they exhausted all their options before deciding on WAR.)

[Tangent: While we're on the subject, why are they talking about the war and all of their war plans in front of a twelve-year old boy?! This should be "after bedtime" talk, people. /Tangent]

Okay, so here's where things get tricky. I'm not saying that freeing an enslaved people isn't something worth going to war over. But, the way that Jax was just so callous about the whole thing chilled me.

For example, their treatment of a prisoner of war:

The machine she used on him is wildly addictive. If we cut him loose at this point, he’ll go mad wanting that pleasure again. He’s ours to keep, now.

 

Stay of execution for the centurion. He won’t be beaten or killed while Vel needs to learn the lines of his face.

 

“I will prohibit the free La’heng from making sport of him until after you complete your assessment.”


Are you frakking serious?!? He's "ours to keep?" Plans to execute? Letting the La’hengrin make sport of him? This is the Sirantha Jax that I thought I knew and loved, this is, as a reader, what I'm expected to rally behind?!?

No thanks.

I marked this book as "abandoned" because after that (about 21% in), I could only skim the rest.

But regarding the Jax/Vel/March situation, which has to be addressed... oh man, but did this ever piss me off. Don't kid yourselves, and don't let Aguirre fool you - this is a love triangle, even if it's different than the norm. And, in a way, it's even worse than an "actual" love triangle, because due to the differing nature of the relationship between Jax/Vel vs. that of Jax/March, Aguirre doesn't have to grow a pair (or make Jax grow a pair) and force Jax to make a choice.

So, of course, she doesn't, and instead takes the safest route possible - Jax gets to end up with both March and Vel. There's even a March/Jax/Vel group hug at one point - kumbaya! And, on top of that, Sasha is conveniently written out of the picture, so March is now free to travel the stars with Jax, just like she always wanted. Everything wrapped up in a neat little bow, just how Jax always wanted it!!!

Worst. HEA. Ever. Or, if not the worst, at least the most cowardly and vomit-inducing HEA ever. And don't even get me started on the March/Jax "matching tatts," because then I really will vomit.

(show spoiler)


Just, avoid this book if you don't want to see the destruction of all the characters you've come to love. Know that whatever "satisfaction" and "resolution" this book may bring, it's all just superficial. You can determine whether or not that'll be enough for you - I know that it wasn't for me.

SPOILER ALERT!

REVIEW: Aftermath (Sirantha Jax, #5)

Aftermath - Ann Aguirre

***WARNING: This is more of a rant than a review, and contains some parts that people might consider SPOILERS.***

I must admit that, as much as I have been relentlessly plowing through this series, I was pretty nervous to start reading Aftermath. Based on the plot summary, I knew that this book was going to be more like Doubleblind (my least favorite book in the series) than the more action-centric books.

I wish I could say that this book proved my fears to be unfounded, but, in truth - it didn't.

I think the worst part about reading Aftermath is that, for the first time, I started actually disliking Sirantha Jax (the character). For the first four books I've been Jax's biggest fangirl, and after reading Grimspace I couldn't even fathom why some fans of the series had such a love/hate relationship with her. But now, I think I get it.

You see, Jax is pretty selfish. And I was more than willing to accept that as part of her character in Grimspace, when she did things like blasting Canton Farr without a thought to the well-being of Baby-Z, or like almost leaving March for dead. But by the time we get to Aftermath, all we hear about is how much Jax has changed since then - and, to be fair, she certainly has in the sense that she's willing to sacrifice herself for the people she loves or for the greater good, which is pretty significant. Yet, she's still emotionally selfish, and what's worse, there seems to be no accountability for it.

In fact, instead of accountability, she finds convenient redemption. Jax feels guilty about having blasted Baby-Z? No worries, we'll make a clone and bring him to Marakeq. Problem solved! She feels guilty about her past with Loras? It's all good, a brilliant doctor can easily make a cure for Loras and his people as long as she pays enough credits! I just feel like she never really earns redemption, but that it's just easily given to her by gracious writing.

And it's not just the convenience of it that makes her guilt sabbaticals so hard to swallow. It's that she also thinks things like:

"I want to do this for Loras to prove I’m not a selfish ass. And there’s some self-serving agenda tangled up in it, but doesn’t it matter more what you do rather than why?"


I don't know - maybe it's just me, but personally, I think the why is pretty damn important.

And, speaking of the cure for the La’hengrin, does she never once stop to think that creating a cure for them might actually be a bad idea? She wants to give a planet with a grudge against humanity the ability to be violent, and can't think of how that might possibly backfire? I have no idea what will happen in Endgame, and I'm sure that Aguirre will prevent the curing of the La’hengrin from having any dirty repercussions for Jax to feel guilty about - and I'm not even saying that wanting to cure an entire race of people is wrong, because it's not - but geez, can Jax for once just think something through, at least? She spent the first third of this book on trial for not thinking about the consequences of her brashness (I mean, even if she was too cowardly to trust March, I don't get why she couldn't have warned Tarn before she started changing the beacons to not let people jump, and why it had to wait until after - it's not like he'd have been able to stop her), and it's like she hasn't learned a damn thing from that. It's perfectly possible that the La’hengrin could use their new-found cure to attack humans as payback for what they did. How many people have to die before she learns her lesson?

In Aftermath, I felt like Jax's only redeemable moments were those she spent with Vel - ah, sweet, wonderful Vel. Somehow, Vel is the only person that Jax isn't completely selfish with, although to be honest, I think it's because he's so willing to bend to her wants. Vel is willing to go where Jax wants to go and do what Jax wants to do, with seemingly no other desires in the world except to act as a companion to Jax, so that makes it easy for her to not be selfish with him. So, I'm not sure that her treatment of Vel really holds much weight when dissecting her character.

Instead, compare her treatment of Vel with her treatment of March. Unlike Vel, March has obligations to keep him "dirtside," which completely clashes with Jax's dreams of adventuring in space. I think it's more than fair that Jax isn't willing to give up her dreams for March. She says:

"I won’t change my dreams to fit his needs, nor do I think he should do so for me. If we can’t find a median that makes us both happy, then— Well."


And, I couldn't agree with her more! Amen, sister. If she feels that strongly that she can't give up her future in space, then she should be selfish about it. My issue, though, is not that she's being selfish, but that once again, there's no accountability for it. Instead, she gets Vel willing to learn how to be a pilot so that he can accompany her, and March willing to wait for her for another 8 years (after his 5 years of previous waiting, making that 13 years waiting for Jax). Talk about having your cake and eating it too. We should all be so lucky.

And ugh, March. I didn't understand why he loved Jax so quickly and fiercely in the first book (aside from her "grit" and the fact that she was honest about her thoughts, I don't think it was every really explained), so I don't understand now why he's so willing to accept her selfish needs. It just makes him seem really pathetic . Jax thinks:

"Maybe it’s cold, but I cherish no attachment to his sister’s child ... Ever since I heard about the kid, I’ve had a bitter, stark feeling, and it’s not getting better."


I mean, how can you think that a woman who has such open disdain for a child of your own flesh and blood is worth your unfaltering love, is worth waiting for for 13 years? How do you not even resent her just the slightest bit for this?

Jax also thinks:

"I don’t doubt March still loves me, but I fear there might not be room for me in the new life he’s built."


And this is why Jax's selfishness annoys me - because not even she can hold herself accountable. There's room for her in the new life he's built, she just doesn't want any part of the new life he's built. It's not wrong that she doesn't want that life, but it's certainly wrong that she has the gall to portray herself as the wronged party in their relationship.

But in truth, I think that the Jax/March relationship has been the weakness of the entire Sirantha Jax series, and I really wish that Aguirre had just never gone down that path in the first place. It just makes both of their characters so unlikable . We are constantly being fed lines telling us how much these two looooooove each other, without much reason as to why, and with their actions completely contradicting this throughout most of the series. If these two end up together by the end of the series I'm sure I'll scream, but I can't imagine that that's not where Aguirre is going.

Vel is the one shining grace of this entire book. I loved reading about his past with Adele, and I just love him in general.

“To my mind, one thing does not lessen another. The heart is not a glass of water, but more like an endlessly pumping spring.”


Sweet, perfect Vel. Sirantha does not deserve you.

But Vel alone could not save this book for me, and I'm starting to wish I had just quit the series after Killbox. Now, I have only one book left, and I can't see how I can not read it, but I don't have any hope that I'll end up feeling satisfied by the conclusion of this series. I would love for Aguirre to surprise me and prove me wrong - I suppose we shall see!

REVIEW: Killbox (Sirantha Jax, #4)

Killbox - Ann Aguirre

This is my favorite book in the series yet.

Yes, there are some things that bugged the hell out me. Like how, for example, everyone Jax knows happens to be the most brilliant person in their field, and the only person in the universe who could figure out "X." March is the bestest pilot ever, but wait Hit is also the bestest pilot ever; Saul is the master of medicine, Evie is the master of science, Vel is the master of electronics, Dina is the master of engineering (oh, and also, guns!), and so on and so forth. (Speaking of which, how come ship mechanics are always the gunners as well? Shouldn't these be two separate jobs held by two separate people? It's pretty ridiculous that, while under attack, the "gunner" would have to take a break from attacking to fix the engines, and the "mechanic" would have to take a break from fixing broken, vital parts of the ship to shoot guns. This made sense in Grimspace back on Lachion since they had such a small outfit, but now they're an Armada with a whole crew to run a ship! Anyway, I digress.)

Also, although Grimspace worked really well through the single-person narrative of Jax, now the universe is becoming too vast and the plot too epic for this to be sufficient anymore. So many of the characters we've come to love are strewn out about the universe, and we have no idea what's going on with them while we're confined singularly to Jax's mind. Even the ship's crew is too large-scale for this narrative, resorting to Jax spying on characters for the reader to know what's going on.

My last gripes are *major* spoilers, so, be warned...

Jax's almost non-reaction to her mother's death annoyed me a bit. Yes, they were by no means close, but her mother died saving her and an entire planet and who knows what else, so maybe Jax could have at least shed a tear for her before jumping into the sack with March.

And then, the way the book ended made me want to pull my hair out. I mean, at the very end of the book, when Jax is redirecting the beacons or whatever, she realizes that she *has* to live, otherwise a lot of humans will probably be screwed and unable to navigate the beacons along with the Morgut. Uh, didn't you think of this before, Jax? But no, instead she just jumps into some half-cocked plan, which she seemed to decide was absolutely necessary for the survival of humanity after only one minute's thought, and which would of course require her noble self-sacrifice for the greater good. *rolls eyes*

(show spoiler)


So yes, I'm grumbling about a lot of things, but I think the biggest takeaway from all this is that, in the moment, I didn't really care about all the stuff I mentioned above. The book was just so fun and good and exciting all the way through that, I didn't worry about all the things that bugged me, I just wanted more. I've read four of the Sirantha Jax books in as many days, and I feel like if there were enough books for me to read for every day for the rest of the year, I'd be happy, especially if they were as thrilling as Killbox. As it is, I'm deeply depressed to know that I only have two left to go before the series is put to rest.

But as for Killbox, it was one of the most action-packed out of all the books in the series, and I've really come to love the action in this series. The action was also sorely missed after the more politically based plot of Doubleblind, so I felt as if I finally got what I was missing, what I was craving. If Jax is a junkie for grimspace, then I'm a junkie for the action sequences in these books.

I thought that Jax/March were a bit more tolerable in this book as well. Ever since Wanderlust, I really haven't been much of a fan of March, and that really hasn't changed. The intense hero-complex thing just gets old, in my opinion. But, I did appreciate seeing him in the role of Commander. And, as much as it seems to have pissed some people off, it really is common in the military for the Commander to be off-limits to the crew romantically (at least according to my exposure to other books, TV, movies, and video games - I can't attest to know how things work in the military in reality). I mean, in truth, Jax should have probably even been assigned to a completely different ship. So, I didn't mind as much as other people that he laid down the law with Jax when they went to war. At least he never lied and said he didn't love her to push her away or anything melodramatic like that. The circumstances were unfortunate, but necessary for war, and that's the bottom line.

So, Killbox - I loved it. And even though I'm loathe for the series to end, if the next two books are anything like this one, I can't wait for the ride.

REVIEW: Doubleblind (Sirantha Jax, #3)

Doubleblind - Ann Aguirre

I wouldn't call Doubleblind a satisfying entry in the Sirantha Jax series, but it's a decent one, none the less. It's my least favorite of the three books so far, though, for a few reasons.

For one thing, I guess it was nice to see a more mature side to Jax... but, ultimately, the diplomacy stuff was a lot less exciting for me than the space adventures of the previous books.

Next, the Jax/March "romance" - ugh. I know I'm in the minority here, but, ugh. Granted, I wasn't on board even back in Grimspace, but in this book, their relationship was even more twisted than usual. They're just so toxic, and not *just* in and of themselves, but also to each other, that I just don't get it. Plus, it's like angst central with those two. Perhaps this relationship gets redeemed in the later books, but I'm not going to get my hopes up. With that said, their tender moments are really sweet, and their steamy moments are really hot, so I guess there's that.

Of course, even when this series stumbles, it succeeds in a lot of other ways. As awful as the Jax/March relationship was in Doubleblind (in my opinion, anyway), the Jax/Vel friendship more than made up for it. I know a lot of people have been comparing this series to Mass Effect... well, the Jax/Vel friendship really reminds me of the Jane Shepard/Garrus Vakarian friendship in Mass Effect. Just perfect, in a word.

PA 245 was also a highlight for me, although, I can't for the life of me understand why she would choose to go by the moniker

Constance.

(show spoiler)

Um, no offense to anyone named that who might be reading this...

So, yes... you take the good, you take the bad, and well, this book has both.

In the end, I'd say that I only "kind of liked" Doubleblind, but I'm still more than eager to continue on with the series and follow the adventures of these characters that I've come to love.

REVIEW: Grimspace (Sirantha Jax, #1)

Grimspace - Ann Aguirre

Awesome book. I'm so mad at myself for constantly thinking about reading this, and then, for whatever reason, deciding not to. I'm glad I finally pulled the trigger, though, because Grimspace was one hell of a ride.

What I liked:
(1) The characters. First off, Sirantha Jax? One bad-ass chick. Not just bad-ass, but snarky, crazy, flawed, brave, strong, and downright awesome. I can't see how some people have a love/hate relationship with her, because I just completely loved her. She definitely reminded me of a Joss Whedon-esque, strong, female character. Now, did I agree with everything she did or thought or said? Hell, no. But that didn't mean I wasn't behind her all the way.

As for the rest of the crew, they were (almost) equally awesome. Every character had a distinct personality, which made them all memorable, even the ones who didn't get much page time. Hell, even 245 was great.

(2) The writing. Aguirre has a cool writing style - fragmented at times, but always meant to deliver a punch. I really enjoyed it. The book worked well through Jax's POV, especially with Aguirre's style of portraying her internal dialogue. Also, Aguirre uses some great vocabulary throughout the book. I just love it when I have to bust out my Kindle's dictionary when reading (note: you may think I'm being sarcastic here, but I'm being totally serious).

(3) The story. While the overarching plot was a bit tired (evil corporations, conspiracy theories, yadda yadda), the story itself was fast-paced and exciting. I love when books find a good balance between action and character-building, and Grimspace hit the nail on the head there. I couldn't put this book down - enough said.

(4) The world building. Grimspace itself, jumpers, pilots, and the unique relationship between jumpers and pilots. The planets, the different kinds of aliens, as well as the idea of some aliens being "less than human" and xenophobia. Aspects of alien culture. Terrifying, killer animals (or, whatever you'd call Teras). Clan relationships. So many things made the world (er, universe) in Grimspace really exciting, with seemingly endless possibilities for future exploration in future books.

What I didn't like:
(1) The romance. Gah, don't hate me! I mean, I love Jax, I love March, and since they're both crazy and broken, I can definitely see that they're perfect together. My gripe with this relationship, though, is that it just seemed to get too intense too fast. Yes, it wasn't insta-love, which is a plus, but the "all-consuming" level that their relationship eventually gets to just seems like too much for one book. I just didn't really get it. Maybe I understood somewhat on Jax's side, since we follow the book through her POV, but a lot of March's feelings seemed to come out of nowhere for me, with no good explanation of why he felt the way he did or when he started feeling that way. I just couldn't buy into their relationship all the way, and even thought that it got a little distracting at times.

(2) The ending. I'm not saying that I didn't like how the book ended - there were just a lot of weak aspects to the ending, namely, the pacing. It just felt so *rushed* in the last few pages, and as far as some characters' actions are concerned, there was a lot of WTFery in that regard as well.

(3) As for Jax/March/the initial Lachion crew's mission, and the reason they even busted her out of Corp prison in the first place -

uh, for a jumper academy?!?

(show spoiler)

- I just didn't get how that was something worth dying for. Maybe I missed something? But, it just didn't resonate with me.

(4) Spoilers here...

Speaking of dying, I had a gripe with some of the character deaths. I'm totally in favor of offing a character when it works well for the story, but I got the impression that Aguirre had a few characters that she didn't know what to do with (Baby Z, Loras, to name a few). Rather than figure it out, it was more convenient to kill them. Plus, they were a great vehicle to add more guilt upon the main characters. Maybe I'm just being cynical here, but that's just kind of the impression that I got when a couple of characters bit the bucket.

(show spoiler)


------------------------------

All in all, even though Grimspace certainly had its flaws, this was a blast to read, and I can't wait to continue on in the series. It has everything that a sci-fi lover would want in a book, especially female sci-fi lovers looking for a kick-ass female protagonist. So, if you're doing what I did, and are dragging your heels when it comes to reading this - don't. Go and read it now, because you won't regret it. I can't even describe the pull that this book will have on you, so I guess you just ought to find out for yourself.

REVIEW: Children of Scarabaeus (Scarabaeus, #2)

Children of Scarabaeus - Sara Creasy

Like the first book in this duology (Song of Scarabaeus), this was a quick, fun read for me. However, although I ultimately liked it, I definitely did not enjoy Children of Scarabaeus as much as I enjoyed its predecessor.

For one thing, Edie seems to have developed a pretty annoying martyr complex in Children of Scarabaeus. A good chunk of the book seems to consist of Edie's internal angst about having to sacrifice her life/love/needs/wants for Finn/the children/Scarabaeus/the galaxy (you can just mix and match from those two sets to get an idea of what 1/2 of the book is like). On top of that, most of her martyrly angst just seemed unnecessary, overdone, and over-the-top. I definitely got tired of Edie's repetitive internal melodrama around the book's halfway point, but unfortunately, it continued well beyond that. And, if she wasn't angsting about what it would cost for her to help/save [insert X], then she was angsting about what it would cost her to NOT help/save the [insert X] - it was like reading an endless loop of angst.

I also found it hard to truly care about Edie's plight, because the book never really laid the groundwork that it needed to for most of Edie's decisions to make any sense. For example, unlike Edie's relationship with Finn, which was so strongly established throughout the two books that you could understand why she'd be willing to risk losing so much for him, her relationship with the children was superficial at best. She was willing to make huge sacrifices for them, but why? Simply because it was "the right thing to do" (arguable), or because she could empathize with their situation (also arguable, since unlike Edie in her childhood, these kids at least appeared to be relatively content)? Although her motives were plausible since her heart was in the right place, they weren't necessarily realistic since the book didn't develop the relationships it needed to, which made Edie harder to relate to in Children of Scarabaeus.

In addition, I felt like there was a lot of stuff about Finn that we never found out. In the first book I could accept that, since I knew there would be another book coming in which Finn's past could be explored. But, since this was the final book in the series, I would have loved to have been able to learn more about him. Instead, we get a bare-bones picture of his childhood,

(Oh gee, he had a dog! How happy he must have been!),

(show spoiler)

as well as a one-sentence explanation of his past relationship with Valari, and that's really it. I get that the book is from Edie's POV, and that Finn isn't much of a talker, but c'mon, man.

Furthermore, I thought that the middle of the book was kind of messy - a lot of events happened with no real resolution, and with no understanding of how any of the characters (except possibly Edie) felt about the way things went down.

For example, the failed attempt to escape from Natesa's ship... it goes horribly wrong, Valari even dies, and yet no one ultimately seems to be too bothered by it, and we get barely any reaction or insight from Finn about how he feels about the whole thing

(show spoiler)

Also, a lot of things happened in Children of Scarabaeus that were very similar to things that happened in first book, making Children a bit more stale than its predecessor.

But, by the end, the book really came together. It definitely started strong, and even though it stuttered a bit in the middle, it eventually seemed to find its way again. And yes, I know that I focused a lot more on the negative than the positive in this review, but rest assured that a lot of what Song of Scarabaeus did well, Children of Scarabaeus continued to do well. If you can forgive some imperfections, if you can tolerate all of the angst, and if you enjoyed the first book, I don't see any reason why you shouldn't pick this one up as well.

REVIEW: Song of Scarabaeus (Scarabaeus, #1)

Song of Scarabaeus - Sara Creasy

I don't think of Song of Scarabaeus as a *memorable* book, per say, but it is definitely a very, very enjoyable one. I zipped through it in less than 24 hours, and just couldn't put it down. It had action, suspense, and romance, and never seemed to suffer from any slow or dragging moments.

Essentially, Song of Scarabaeus is great sci-fi/young adult/romance fare, and it reminded me at times of the universe from the video game Mass Effect (which I love), as well as from the TV show Firefly (which I also love).

Edie (the protagonist) is a character you can root for, a character with a strong moral center but also the desire for freedom. As for Finn (the other lead), I felt that he really grew as a character by the end of the story, and enjoyed going on that journey of development with him. The secondary characters weren't as strong, though, and perhaps with the exception of Cat, were much more one-dimensional.

As for the romance aspect, it was just the kind I like in a sci-fi or fantasy book, in that it exists, but it's not the main focus. The book doesn't really go into depth on how the two lead characters (Edie and Finn) *feel* about each other. Rather, you, as the reader, infer a lot based on their words, actions, and concerns (and, in Edie's case, thoughts, since the book is told through her POV). Don't get me wrong, the connection between Edie and Finn is a major part of the story, but while the bond between the two characters is highlighted, I like that it doesn't shove the characters' emotions in your face. Also, this book is mostly about the build-up, so don't expect anything too steamy.

All in all, this was a great book - a very fun and exciting read. Everything was done well, and I will definitely read the sequel soon. But, I don't think there's anything particularly deep or remarkable about Song of Scarabaeus so that, five years down the line, I'll think of this book, or be dying to re-read it.

REVIEW: Eternal Pleasure (Gods of the Night, #1)

Eternal Pleasure (Gods of the Night, Book 1) (Leisure Paranormal Romance) - Nina Bangs


(Read for the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout book club)

"In a series inaugural from Bangs (One Bite Stand), the Gods of the Night are incarnated for the first time in 65 million years, summoned to protect humanity from an all-encompassing evil that is coming in 2012, at the end of the Mayan calendar. While currently incarnated as deadly, handsome men, they have the ability to assume their prior forms—those of gigantic dinosaurs."

Anyone reading the above synopsis should immediately be able to identify both the appeal and strength of Eternal Pleasure, which is, in essence, its ridiculousness.

The thing is, the pretense of the sheer amount of ridiculousness crammed into this book might actually get you excited for it, if you're not the type of person who needs to take everything seriously. For example, please watch this book trailer for Eternal Pleasure and tell me that this book doesn't look awesomely bad.

In addition, this book contains:
1) A dinosaur-cum-stud hero who can assume the form of his prior incarnation (the dinosaur) when necessary
2) Character names like Ty (for Tyrannosaurus Rex), Al (for Allosaurus), Quetz (for Quetzalcoatlus), triplets named Utah, Rap, and Tor (for Utahraptor), and so on and so forth
3) Vampires
4) Werewolves
5) Mayan calender lore
6) Amazing quotes such as, "If Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships, then Fin’s smile was good for the launch of at least a million rockets." and, "His silver hair gleamed, and against the backdrop of the sparkling Houston lights, he looked like some cold, beautiful Christmas tree."

I'm mostly disappointed that the author didn't throw in any T-Rex jokes based on the T-Rex's stubby arms. There were some fun missed opportunities there, especially in the bedroom... [wiggles eyebrows]

My other big gripe was that the author chose to go with a Liopleurodon reincarnate (named "Lio") as her sea dinosaur rather than the much more badass Megalodon (she could have called him "Don!"). Again, another missed opportunity.

Anyway, the silliness factor brought this book up from a 1-star book to a 2-star book in my review, and if the author had really, truly *embraced* the silliness, I would have probably brought the rating up even higher.

But, since the author seemed to take this book somewhat seriously, I guess I have to as well. So, here's what you need to know:

***The plot is ridiculous and pretty much makes no sense. For example, Fin reincarnates all the dinosaur souls into (hot male) human beings, giving them an ESP-based crash course in everything they could possibly need to know about being human, except, for uh... how to drive? Seriously, he explains Dr. Who to them but not driving? He also forgets to tell them about vampires, for some reason, who are kind of a big deal in the book. Oh, and don't even get me started on the whole musical brain waves thing...

***Ty and the rest of the eleven dinosaurs, as well as some other characters, too (vampires, werewolves), were ALL alpha males. I mean, this book had so much alpha male in it, that it was exhausting. The whole book basically seemed like a penis measuring contest. (And you know what they say about guys with tiny arms [wiggles eyebrows]... see, Nina Bangs?! Missed opportunity.) Ty's alpha male reactions occurred about every single page, and more likely, about five times per page. It sure GOT OLD FAST.

***The love story wasn't believable (shock, gasp!). The characters fall in love in about two seconds, and I'm pretty sure that they actually just don't know the difference between love and lust. After about a week of knowing Ty, Kelly is also ready to throw her entire life away for him. Damn, dinosaurs sure move fast... I'd have thought that they'd be more old-fashioned? (I'll be here all night, folks! Try the veal!)

***The writing itself isn't too bad, but there are some ridiculous lines in this book (see my examples above), and also, the shifting third-person point of view can get confusing at times.

***There are so many characters, and none of them are really developed well (no, not even Ty and Kelly, unless you call creating a one-dimensional alpha male and a Mary Sue "character development").

Anyway, if you find the blurb amusing and can get Eternal Pleasure on the cheap, it might be a fun (and quick) read for a rainy day, based on its sheer ridiculousness alone. But, otherwise, it's really not worth your time or hard-earned cash.

REVIEW: Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)

Assassin's Apprentice  - Robin Hobb

This was actually my second run-through of Assassin's Apprentice. I remember being more absorbed with the book five years ago, but back then, I blew through the whole trilogy in succession. I think that Assassin's Apprentice is better as a part of a trilogy than when analyzed on its own.

During this reading (which was actually 1/2 of audiobook listening, 1/2 of reading due to time constraints), I had a lot of trouble connecting with the characters and the world. I think the main reason for this was the first-person POV narrative. Now, I have to warn you - if you've read through some of my other reviews, I pretty much always have the same complaint whenever a book has a first-person narrative, with a few exceptions. So, with regard to my relationship with the book, this might be more of a "it's not you, it's me" thing. But, the fact of the matter is that we miss out on a lot by being stuck in Fitz's brain the whole time, and well, Fitz's brain-prose? Somewhat dull. Now, to be clear, the events/story aren't dull, but Fitz's matter-of-fact assessment of them sometimes is.

The other issue I had was that there was no real build-up to anything. Rather than the story building up to one culminating moment, the story seemed more like a compilation of lesser events. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but possibly another factor contributing to my overall sense of detachment from the characters and world.

With all that bad stuff out of the way, the book really had its shining moments. The sense of adventure, the world-building, the interesting/unique concepts (the Skill, the Wit, the forged people) - all of these factors blended into a fun, fantasy story. On top of that, I enjoyed the characters. You'll find no Mary Sue or Gary Stu tropes in Assassin's Apprentice. They are (almost all) believable, and you can imagine a real person acting the same as any of the characters in the book if they had been in the same situation and circumstances.

I also really love the whole idea behind the book - being an *assassin's apprentice*, I mean. You follow Fitz's journey to see how he becomes said apprentice, what kind of lessons and tasks an apprentice performs (no, you don't just start killing people right away), what skills an assassin needs, and how Fitz ultimately puts some of these skills to use.

As a final note, I'd like to say that I really enjoyed the audiobook version, a lot more-so than the dead tree version. I think the air of performance in the audiobook really spruced up Hobb's somewhat mundane prose.

In any case, most fans of the fantasy genre will enjoy this book, and it's definitely worth a read, as is the entire trilogy.

Currently reading

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