14 November, 2013


Hey everyone,

Sorry for the long silence. Work clicked into overdrive toward the end of October, our big conference was the first weekend in November, and I decided to do NaNoWriMo. So my brain cells, to put it mildly, are few and far between.

I haven't read much new since I finished Scott Lynch's long-awaited The Republic of Thieves. I decided on a whim (because the leadup to Halloween always puts me in a spooky, magical mood) to do a full reread of the Harry Potter books. I'll have some thoughts about them eventually, but for now I've just been reveling in the re-immersion. It's astonishing how repeated watchings of the movies have altered my sense of the books, their quality, how much I enjoy them, especially the first two. I'm just starting Prisoner of Azkaban, which is one of my favorites, so I'll probably blog a bit about the first three when I'm done with it.

Also, in my very little spare time (ie: the times when my eyes are crossing at work and I need to zone out on something) I've been catching up on the Great Wheel of Time Reread over at tor.com, which has been hilarious. I first read the series my first year of college, when I had very few friends and a lot of time on my hands. I got really fed up with them around book 6, I think, but I persevered until book 9 just to see if they'd get better. They didn't. But there is so much that's good and interesting about the series, so the reread blog is like doing a supercondensed reread of my own-- I get to remember all the good parts without killing a hundred hours and handfuls of the aforementioned scant brain cells.

So that's where I'm at. I'm hoping to finish the few reviews I had started before work exploded, but I probably won't get to them until I hit the 40k mark with NaNo (don't want to jinx myself!) and I might end up skipping over them entirely and moving on to whatever book I kick off December with.

But seriously, if you've been thinking about The Republic of Thieves, read it. It was worth every second of the wait. AND I saw Scott Lynch speak at the book's premiere in Boston, and he promised that the 4th installment will be in our hands by Christmas next year. To which I responded, "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" So that's good news for all Locke and Jean fans.

If any of you guys are doing NaNo, what are you doing to stay focused? I discovered @NaNoWordSprints, which has been immensely helpful... especially after I didn't write all last weekend on account of it being my 30th birthday and getting kidnapped by my besties for a weekend of eat-drink-and-be-merry. In case I needed the confirmation that I've definitely outgrown the "get wasted three nights in a row" stage of my life... yep, I got it.

Okay, back to work. Love!
<3 emily

10 October, 2013

On shipping, and being wrong

I came across a Tumblr post the other day with a set of gifs from a recent movie, showing the two nerdy scientist characters (both male) grinning and hugging each other from the moment in the movie right after they help save the world. The OP's tags were quoted below the gifset, saying something like, "I actually thought they were going to kiss", or something similar.

The person on my feed who reblogged the post had amended it with tags of her own. Paraphrased, she said that she didn't understand "why a fandom refuses to just let dudes who are friends be friends", that not every fictional friendship "involves touching penises".

This made me, to understate, a little mad. Not because I happen to enjoy that particular ship (though I do) but because of the self-righteous queer-phobic sentiment behind the tags. It's the nature of the fan world that you'll come across ships that make you go "Huh?" or "Yikes" or downright "Ew." It's just a fact of fanworks, and being part of fannish culture. Some people see a ship where you cannot imagine one existing. Eat your vegetables, kids; some people like things that you don't like.

So I'm not taking issue with the fact that this person doesn't ship these two characters. That's her gods-given right as a person; to ship or not to ship, as she sees fit. But I am taking issue with her castigation of "a fandom" seeing a ship where she doesn't see one-- of her taking the fact that people ship these particular characters and turning it into a general interdict against ships she doesn't enjoy. I don't personally understand why people ship Draco/Hermione or Mal/River or Dean/Sam or any number of the roughly five million ships that scroll down my Tumblr dash every day. But frankly, it's not for me to judge.

Because here's the thing about shipping. Non-fannish people often have a hard time with the concept, because they don't tend to be the types of people who think a lot about fictional canons and characters when they're not watching/reading/playing that canon. But fannishness-- broadly speaking, and shipping in particular-- is about seeing the possibility of the story to go a different way, for it to contain more than just what's shown on the screen or the page.

To date, one of my favorite things the internet has ever churned out to talk about slash fanfiction is this post by dreamwidth user Cimorene, in which she talks about representation (gay characters and relationships in the textual context of the canon) versus slash (queering the canon through your own interpretation). A few years ago I also wrote a post about queer representation in media, especially genre fiction, and my participation in fan culture-- specifically fanfiction, even more specifically slash. If you're new to the concept of shipping or slash, those are good places to start.

When we talk about slash, we're talking about dragging the lens from mass media's obsessively heteronormative view to something that feels more like what we experience in reality. I love this blog post, which discusses the "script of desire", the expectations we're taught to have and the incredibly narrow roles men and women are "supposed" to fill when interacting with each other.
Heteronormativity isn’t just about the presumption that everyone is heterosexual. The expectation that boys woo girls feeds into your mind the expectation that relationships are necessary for fulfilment, and you are less than if you are not having particular kinds of sex with a particular, and a particular kind of, person at particular intervals.
And if you don't have that kind of sex, if you aren't even remotely interested in it, then what? Where do you find those people that you remind you of yourself? When I watch a movie and I look for someone to cast myself in the role of, it's almost never one of the leads. It's usually the socially awkward geek; the brainy bookish kid with the sharp tongue; the withdrawn angry kid with the enormous chip on her shoulder.

And when I see that character form an attachment to another character, especially one of the same sex, I can't help but wonder how it might grow beyond attachment to attraction-- because that's how I've experienced attraction, sex, love, in the past. That's the story my brain tells, because it's the story I've lived.

So what's the basis of this Tumblr user's bashing of this ship-- and not only this ship, but a group of fans who choose to look beyond what is only textually a friendship? Why the resentment that exists from someone who doesn't ship a particular pairing, towards the people that do? Her tags came off as not only self-aggrandizing but also snobbish-- as though just knowing that some people enjoy shipping these two characters was threatening to her, was somehow tainting what she saw as the "right" interpretation of their relationship.

I talk with my friends periodically about what makes a geek a geek. We've basically boiled it down to the fact that being a geek, at least in the current hipster culture of detachment and "ironic" enjoyment of things, has a lot to do with not being afraid to get excited about stuff. I'm a geek because I get excited about wizards, werewolves, made up worlds, giant robots fighting monsters in the ocean, and a host of other things. I get excited by shipping. And I think people who get down on others for their ships are not only betraying the spirit of geekdom, but seriously detracting from the safe space that most of us consider our fannish lives to be. Like I said in the post I linked above; fandom is where I come to find people like me. And it's contrary to that fraternal feeling to tell someone their ship is lame, or wrong. You wouldn't want someone to do that to you.

In the immortal words of Vin Diesel: Don't be a dick, Dick.

Sure, not all friendships between two dudes involve sex. But the point of participating in a fandom is that you have a platform from which to posit that it could-- that any friendship could turn into romance, regardless of the gender of the characters involved. That if you want to, you could read the friendship between these two secondary characters as being the prelude to, or simply the outward expression of, a romantic relationship. That that's a story that's just as valid to tell as any other.

And if you read a piece of fanfiction that speaks to you-- that tells you the story of someone you relate to, having the kind of sex that you want to have, falling in love in a way you can imagine yourself falling in love-- who the hell is anyone else to tell you you're wrong?

Till next time, geeks, stay frosty. And incidentally, if you're on tumblr, you can see my incredibly nerdy collection of reblogs at opentheyear. :)

02 October, 2013

Cool shit I found to cure the common cold (and by cure, I mean distract from)

this is about the level of involvement i have
with my surroundings today.
It's happened to all of us, I'm sure. The seasons change, you wake up one day and your sinuses are tight, and you think, oh great, allergies. Then you get a little chest raspiness and a sore throat, so you cough sometimes, sounding not so much ill as pathetic.

That was yesterday. Breathing hasn't been much fun, which for me at least, kind of gives me a lackluster outlook on life in general. Breathing being, you know, sort of important. So now I not only sounded like Howl's wheezy alter ego, but I basically had the same level of excitement for my surroundings as him too.
Then this morning I woke up to find my nose was doing its level best to win a faucet impersonation contest, my sore throat had gone from zero to full Tim Curry in the night. Am I sick? Yes. But sick enough to miss work? Ehhh.... I figured I'd suck it up and come in. I need the money, and I need to continue making a good impression on my new boss.

yes i am very perky and would love to
HACK WHEEZE assist you today!
Besides, I worked retail for four years, I know how to slap on a smile with the best of 'em.

Now you might be asking yourself, what's my problem? Why don't I just pull up my pants, take a Day-Quil and move on with my life? Ohoho, if only it were that simple.

You see, lieblings, most people see those histamine-blocking medications as the go-to for the sorts of illnesses that can lay you out for a few days at a stretch. I, on the other hand, apparently have the immune system of a Regency heroine (the annoying Caroline Bingley type, natch), because what antihistamines do to me is not make me better. They make me high. High, high, higher than a kite with a jet pack attached to it. Sure, my symptoms are gone, but I'm basically in a coma of drugs that renders me incapable of interacting with my environment beyond eating and drinking what's put in front of me, and occasionally blowing my nose.

All of which means it's really difficult to medicate myself when I'm sick, lest I end up a drooling, gibbering mess. Most of the time, like my British forebears, I medicate with tea, Advil and willpower. Sometimes that works. Most of the time, my illness then progresses on to the stage where I lie on the couch moaning about how terrible I feel in the hopes that someone will take pity on me and bring me chicken soup or something. Usually I just succeed in making the people who live with me find very important things to do outside the house.

Without finding the magical correct combination of medicines to stave off this hell-plague, I predict we will reach this stage by tomorrow night. Which could be cool if I end up not going into work on Friday, because hey, three day weekend. But a) I could use the money, and b) no one wants to waste a sick day actually being sick, amirite?

So my normal mood when October finally arrives in my life, which is basically summed up by this cat :

has now been replaced by a feeling of general malaise and a desire to get back in bed. This is bad for several reasons. One, I joined The Kitchn Cure (because I'm obsessed with The Kitchn and if you're not... why not?? It's like internet Disneyland for foodies!) and am supposed to be merrily cleaning and purging my kitchen this week. Yeah, like that's going to happen when I'm a snot factory. Also, my mom's coming up on Saturday to help me with projects around the apartment, and on Sunday I'm going to a wedding expo with my two best friends who are getting hitched in a year. Yay weddings! Hope I don't hack up something gooey on any expensive dresses!

On the upside, if I do take a day off on Friday, at least I'll have a lot of good books to keep me company. :D

Now here, have some links. They're totally taking my mind off wanting to crawl under my desk and take a nap. I promise.

Okay darlings, it's nearly 5pm, which means it's nearly time for mama to go take some Advil, make a cuppa and crawl into bed with the fat flumpy cat and a book. Till next time!
♥ emily

30 September, 2013

An immortal wizard walks into the World Series of Poker... : "The Incrementalists" by Steven Brust and Skyler White

It sounds like the setup to a bad joke. A guy sits alone in a bar in Vegas, waiting for his next poker game to start. He flirts with the waitress, has a drink, thinks about the fact that his ex-girlfriend recently committed suicide; nothing really to set him apart from the sludge of humanity around him. But underneath his baseball cap sits a mind that's been reincarnated through dozens of bodies over the course of many centuries-- a mind that remembers every era of history and every time he used his magic to change things for the better. And the best part is, our wizard isn't alone. He's got 200 friends just like him-- a secret society who's been magically nudging people toward working for the greater good, operating between the lines since the dawn of time. This is the premise of Steven Brust and Skyler White's The Incrementalists-- the foundation for a story that is simultaneously fantastical and everyday, mixing magic both wondrous and mundane. 

25 September, 2013

Punch-Drunk and in a Funk: 'Crux' by Ramez Naam

The year is 2040, and the latest drug to hit the streets is Nexus, a bionic enhancement that allows human brains to network like computers. Kade, Rangan, Ilya and Watson are the geniuses behind the newest upgrade, and they're living like kings-- until a secret branch of the government sends an agent to shut them down. You can read all about that in Nexus, the first book in Ramez Naam's cyberpunk trilogy; this review deals with the sequel, Crux, which finds two of our hacker friends dead, one imprisoned, the other on the run for his life, and the government agent who started it all working against her former employer just as hard as the hackers she once tried to subdue. Throw in a few guys with ties to shady government agencies, some terrorists, some freedom fighters, and some people who are some or all of those things at once, and you've got a recipe for a whirlwind of a book that, unfortunately, came out sort of half-baked.

18 September, 2013

Heaving over the Hump in Hump Day

So there will be some Cool Shit I Found Online here, but first I have to say something. 

Right now I'm trying to shove lunch in my face one-handed while answering a work email and approximately a billion personal emails, calling my hairdresser back to confirm my haircut for Saturday, and writing this post. You guys, my life has gone from zero to sixty in the best way possible. I started a new job as a project assistant at a local university, and I. Fucking. Love. It. It's the perfect job for someone who's anal retentive with a little bit of ADD-- my job is basically to come in, let my boss dump a to-do list on my head, and then put on Spotify and take care of business. Armed with FileMaker, Photoshop, and (I shit you not) an entire room full of office supplies, I am helping an entire department get ready for their big event of the year (a conference that happens the week before my birthday) and I am kicking ass at it. Not to toot my own horn-- well, actually, I heard my boss tell her supervisor that I'm "awesome, really really awesome" today, so I think horn-tooting is well within my rights. XD

Anyway, the upshot of this is that the past few weeks have been a major whirlwind, with insanely busy work weeks bracketed by weekends full of actually Doing Stuff-- going to visit my grandmother, going to Ikea to buy a wardrobe and dresser, putting the wardrobe together and realizing when it was 80% done that we had put the legs on wrong and had to back up to being 30% done and fix it, that kind of thing.

This is kind of a big deal for me, because (as some of you may know) in the spring I was let go from a job I adored for what amounted to political BS reasons, and it left me sort of at loose ends for a while, wondering what was next for me. And it's a huge relief to feel like I've found a niche, a job I am just as good at as I was at my old job, maybe even better. The pay isn't quite as good, but I work two miles from my house so I'm getting outside and getting exercise regularly, I'm no longer spending upwards of two hours a day in the car, and-- this is really the clincher-- I never have to go to a mall on a Saturday again unless it's to buy things.

Can you hear my sigh of relief? I kind of give one every time I remember that I can enjoy weekends again.

The downside of all this activity is that I haven't had as much time to surf the internet for treasures with which to delight you in between my reviews. Hopefully now that I'm past a big part of the training stage of the new job and am settling in to the actual doing the job part, that'll change. But for now, here! Have some links!

10 September, 2013

'A Thousand Perfect Things' by Kay Kenyon

Hey everyone, sorry for my absence the past few weeks-- I went on vacation and then started a new job, and it's taken me until now to get my blogging brain stuffed back inside my head. :)

I'm returning with a review of A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon. I want to start by saying that this book surprised me. I've never read anything by Kay Kenyon before, so when I got the ARC of her newest book I didn't know what to expect, and my reaction was mixed.

Like a lot of books, I started it on the train on my way to work, which made it really awkward when I started crying less than twenty pages in. So, something I haven't talked about here is that my grandfather passed away in July, at age 85 and after a long battle with heart and lung disease. We were very close; I'm still trying to metabolize the fact that he's gone, and I'm pretty sure I'll be trying for a long time to come. So reading about our protagonist Tori and her bond with her grandfather was a wrench-- even more so when Sir Charles takes sick and dies (the part that had me in tears-- good work, Ms. Kenyon), leaving behind a family who thought he was crazy, and an idea that consumes Tori's focus and is the basis for the entire story to come.

15 August, 2013

The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

So it's been a little while since I read Guillermo del Toro's The Strain and The Fall, but after finishing The Night Eternal I had to go back and do a little brush-up to see if I was remembering them accurately. I'd rated The Strain four stars on Goodreads, its successor three, which are solid ratings that mostly held up under a second scrutiny. I had high hopes for The Night Eternal, but sadly it didn't live up to the hype, and forced me to reassess my rating of the entire series.

It starts off so promisingly, too. The Strain was touted upon its release as "the book that makes vampires scary again", a bounceback from the supposed decline the neckbiters have been on since Bela Lugosi first donned an opera cape. And while I agree that the Cullens, Salvatores, Spikes and Erics of the pop culture world haven't been balanced out by an appreciable weight of run-for-your-fucking-life scary vamps, Del Toro and Hogan sought to tip the scales and ended up overbalancing them. As the series goes on the emphasis is very much on quantity rather than quality-- the characters devolve into predictable tropes; the plot gets bogged down in sidetracks that are boring, transparent or both; and the lion's share of the work seems to have gone into describing battles in as much cinematic detail as possible rather than giving any emotional weight to the characters' development. It is possible to have scary vampires and still tell a good story, and I'm going to point out the main areas where I think GDT and CH went off the rails.

05 August, 2013

cool shit i found online, part 2

pretty sure 12-year-old me chose French
because of the food. but in my defense,
i didn't know what a burrito was back then.
Happy Monday, lieblings! After listening to a dude on the bus this morning chattering away on his phone in German, I'm wishing I hadn't let all my foreign language chops fall by the wayside. I used to be nearly fluent in French, dammit, and I knew some really horrible-sounding Russian curses for awhile there too...

But I digress. It's time for round 2 of Cool Shit I Found Online. Any suggestions for a name for this series would be appreciated, otherwise this runs the risk of sticking. And I can do way better than CSIFO for an acronym.

  • Good timing! Not long after posting my Casino Royale review, I came across this list of 5 great spy books and this list of 10 international crime noirs, none of which I've read. Yet. 
  • Like Tor books? Well, at Tor.com they're celebrating their fifth birthday by letting you download all 151 stories published on the site for free. :D
  • The Atlantic spawned a discussion last week about favorite and memorable first lines. The Guardian jumped in and now I'm curious what you guys have to say. One of my all-time favorites will forever be from Lois Lowry's inimitable The Giver: "It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened." What's one that's always stuck with you?
  • Feminist Yog-Sothoth.

    Yeah. That's a thing now.
  • In "Charles Dickens is a wanker" news, he's probably responsible for popular imagination's concept of scary clowns. I knew I hated him for a good reason. Other than Great Expectations, I mean.
  • And in "Oh my god, my childhood" news, the actor who voiced Mr. Freeze on Batman: The Animated Series passed away this week. I think Freeze and Magneto were my first introduction to the deliciously murky world of bad guys you can't help loving (as opposed to Clayface, who just straight up scared the shit out of 8-year-old me).
  • Speaking of scary, reading this article about 25 years of Hannibal Lecter made me remember that I hadn't ever gotten around to those last 3 episodes of Hannibal. So I did. And then I remembered why I never watch TV shows as they're first airing; I frakking hate cliffhangers. I hate waiting. Damn you, Tumblr, for sucking me into this mess!

    To slake my rage, I had to go look up some spoilers about what Bryan Fuller has planned for future seasons, but it only made me more impatient. Anyway, the article is really good, especially if you're a fan of crime novels and psychological thrillers. (And if you're a fan of 'Hannibal', this article on the food styling for the show is pretty cool.)
And that's your lot for today. Got any cool shit you found online you think I'd enjoy? Drop it in the comments!

02 August, 2013

'Casino Royale' by Ian Fleming

I was in middle school the first time I saw a James Bond movie. My brother and I were hanging out at our grandparents' house on New Year's Eve and some network had on a marathon. "For Your Eyes Only" was, to my twelve-year-old brain, a feast. Dramatic, suspenseful, ridiculous, full of explosions and just enough sex to get all my hormones and adrenaline fizzing at once. I was enthralled, not only by the spectacle, but by the character of Bond-- this dashing rake who charmed his way into opium warehouses and ladies' ski suits with equal felicity, fought bad guys while running, driving or rock climbing, prevented the sabotage of the British navy and looked great doing all of it.

In that light, maybe it's weird that I'm only just now digging into his source material-- starting, of course, at the beginning. Casino Royale happens to be one of my favorite Bond movies, so I was excited to sink my teeth into the superspy's origin story. As much for my own self-analysis as anything else, I was curious to investigate the source of Bond's popularity. What is so engaging about this man, this figure, that he's managed to occupy a significant place in our cultural consciousness for over half a century? Based just on Casino Royale, at least, the sad fact is that I have no idea.

29 July, 2013

'A Matter of Blood' by Sarah Pinborough

Sidebar question : the series is called The Forgotten Gods in the US and The Dog-Faced Gods in the UK. Which do you like better?
The opening act of Sarah Pinborough's urban fantasy horror trilogy is dark. It's gory, it's harsh and unflinching in its descriptions of an ugly world; no romps with city-dwelling fairies here. It's urban fantasy at its most brutal, illuminating a bleak potential future where-- as our killer makes a habit of pointing out-- nothing is sacred. It's that idea of the sacrosanct that winds its way throughout the book, touching each of the characters in turn, leading the jaded Detective Jones to a thorough examination of not only the ways in which his society is broken, but in which he is as well.

25 July, 2013

cool shit i found online: part 1 of a series

I'm gonna try doing something new here at P.O.P., and every week or so (maybe more frequently, if warranted) I'll post a bunch of links to posts around the internet that made me go "Huh", or "Ooh", or "THIS THIS THIS" while accompanied by manic handflapping. With the stipulation that they will be at least tangentially related to stuff that this blog talks about-- geek culture, sci-fi/fantasy, YA lit, feminism, queer representation, etc Maybe eventually I'll come up with a catchy title for these linkdumps (your suggestions appreciated, of course) but for now, here's the goods.
 Happy Thursday, kittens. Today after work I'm going to go get the last dregs of my possessions out of my old apartment and take them to the new one, so I never have to see the wretched place again. And then drink a huge glass of wine in defiance of my 6AM wake-up call. :D

<3 emily="" p="">

22 July, 2013

'Doll Bones' by Holly Black

Still working on my review of Sarah Pinborough's A Matter of Blood, but I finished Doll Bones this morning and couldn't stop myself from writing about it instantly.

25 June, 2013

'Bronze Gods' by A. A. Aguirre

So, in complete contrast to my reaction to Fade to Black, Bronze Gods surprised me by how much I loved it. I won't say I didn't expect to enjoy myself, because a crime fighting team in a steampunk universe with magic sounds like bona fide enjoyment material in my book. But I expected fluff-- a quick read, nothing heavy. I was pleasantly surprised to discover instead a wholly engaging read with characters that leapt off the page and a world I wanted to explore every nook and cranny of.

14 June, 2013

Fade to Black (Rojan Dizon #1) by Francis Knight

Holy funemployment, Batman, two in one week! 

So I hope that whoever wrote the jacket copy for Fade to Black has their own publishing deal, because they did a great job. Based on a quick scan, the book sounded edgy, dangerous and exciting. It was featured on bn.com the week I bought my new nook, and I was SO close to paying for it... But, luckily for me, I borrowed it from a friend first. It turns out I would've been pretty mad had I shelled out money for it. 

The book isn't terrible, and there are some aspects of it that are great-- okay, actually, I take that back, there is one aspect of it that is great, and that is the worldbuilding. The city felt real, the descriptions vivid even when they weren't overly verbose, and the atmosphere thick enough to taste. It's clear that Francis Knight put a lot of thought into her world, that she knows it well down to the small details. But it's useless to have a great world if you don't populate it with great characters, and in that Knight failed pretty spectacularly.

There are three main characters in the book-- the protagonist, bounty hunter and pain mage Rojan; the girl swordfighter Jake; and her best friend / would-be lover Pasha. Pasha is easily the most interesting of the three. He's a pain mage like Rojan, with a painful past-- he was sold into slavery to be used as fodder for another pain mage's power and endured years of constant abuse, all when he was mostly a kid. He's in love with Jake, but she's got the same past trauma that manifests in a deep aversion to being touched, therefore taking intimacy of any kind off the table. He sticks by her because it's their secret mission to find other people who've been sold to the mages (like Rojan's niece, which is what crosses his path with theirs) and get them to freedom. He's pretty badass and bold when it comes to acting on behalf of others, but emotionally passive when it comes to himself; a nice duality. He got flatter and more predictable as the book went on, but he was the only one who made me feel any real sympathy.

Jake has all the trappings of an interesting powerful female, but unfortunately she isn't any of those things. She's a statue on a pedestal to Rojan, not a person. Some reviewers have compared this construct to the archetypes found in classic noir, but that's not a comparison I can get behind. She's certainly no femme fatale, and while it seems Knight intended for her to play the part of the elusive ice queen who gets under the private eye's skin, she misses the mark. She doesn't need Rojan's help, so there's no give and take in their relationship, and she's so closed off emotionally that most of Rojan's response to her seemed to be based on physical attraction-- which is fine, but isn't a carrier for the intrigue and emotional desire Rojan claimed to feel for her.

But my real problem with Jake is that Knight had a great opportunity to paint the picture of a strong, independent woman who had overcome adversity to take control over her life, and didn't. Jake is a pit fighter, really strong and agile, and she's a subversive freedom fighter working behind the scenes to go against the rule of law. But in the moments I most wanted her to shine, she caved. Pasha kills a man so Jake doesn't have to (she's very proud of her no-kill record in the pits) and she drives him away, a disproportionate response that's clearly a device to get her and Rojan alone, and one that makes her look unreasonable and unstable. 

Then, in spite of her explicitly stated aversion to touch, Rojan kisses her and she doesn't even fight back. Instead it's like an eye-opener-- oh, I really was fine with making out all this time, who knew? Probably pretty disturbing to read if you're a survivor of that kind of abuse. And the icing on the disappointment cake was that she never overcame her fear and got back at the man who enslaved her. Instead, another clumsy plot device had Rojan step in to do it for her. I liked Jake alright, but she didn't grab me either as a heroine or as a love interest, and in terms of the power and agency of women in the book she left a lot to be desired.

She got a really kick-ass entrance, though, I'll say that much.

And Rojan. Oh, Rojan. I can't decide if this is how the author thinks jaded and world-weary men actually think and talk, or if she personally knows someone who's simultaneously this misogynistic and this boring, but either way, he doesn't play well. He hovers in this limbo between actually being a womanizing sleazebag and only pretending to be one-- it's like the author wanted to make him unlikable and have a bad attitude towards women, but didn't have the stomach to take it all the way. He isn't like Barney Stinson or Han Solo-- I never once bought the image of Rojan as a cad who treats women like they're disposable because he's afraid of emotional intimacy. The book opens with him getting notes from the three women he's seeing who've all just found out about each other and trash his apartment for it, and he talks a lot-- incessantly-- about how bad he is at relationships, how much of a womanizer he is, etc. But we never meet any of the girlfriends, or even see first-hand what they do to his apartment, so there are no consequences for his jerk behavior. There's never even a hint of the fact that he might want something more out of relationships, just more casual contempt for the idea of them.

All this means that when Jake finally appears on the scene and Rojan suddenly starts spouting off about how much he likes her and how she makes him want to be a better man, the intended revelation falls extremely flat. Because Jake isn't as well rounded as I'd like, and certainly neither is Rojan, I didn't feel the supposed connection between them at all. The author kept talking about it, but it never grabbed me in the gut. Especially when contrasted with Mikani and Ritsuko in Bronze Gods (which I'll be reviewing next), who had chemistry and tension enough to drive me to drink, I felt like both Rojan and the author were just going through the motions of the typical transformative falling-in-love experience, rather than actually... well... experiencing it.

I didn't completely hate this book. It was a quick read and it wasn't the worst urban fantasy I've ever read. But it disappointed me so much in relation to my expectations that it left a sour taste in my mouth. Ultimately I wanted the author to delve into Rojan's actual weaknesses-- his fears, his self doubts, his shitty relationship with his brother (which is the only arena in which I really felt sympathy with him), his dead mother-- instead of having them all glossed over and then neatly tied up at the end. I'm not even sure how the author plans to make a sequel happen, since so many of the problems were resolved by the end of the book. Hopefully the next one won't give such token nods to Rojan's issues, and will have a supporting cast that's a lot more fleshed out. Unfortunately, unless it's recommended to me by someone I trust, I won't be taking the time to find out.

12 June, 2013

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

So, what's a little ridiculous about this is that I actually read an advance copy of this book in March and had the review ready to go at the time the book was released, which was mid April. And then real life interfered in a big three-strikes-you're-out sort of way, and I sort of forgot about the internet for awhile. SO. Here, at long last, is my review of Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers. It's a bit shorter than my last few have been, because as it's probably clear I'm still struggling with posting more frequently here, I'm going to try a few shorter reviews in the hopes that they'll go faster.

05 March, 2013

'Daughter of Smoke and Bone' by Laini Taylor

For my first review back from what was, admittedly, a hiatus that stretched the meaning of the word past its breaking point, I wanted to come back with a bang. And Daughter of Smoke and Bone is nothing if not full of bang.

24 January, 2013

and we're back!

Well well well, what have we here?

Hello constant readers-- I'm back. It's been awhile-- almost exactly a year, in fact-- but since we didn't all die last month, I figured I had no excuse not to dust off my reviewing gloves and get back in the ring. (For the record, the reviewing gloves are less like boxing gloves than you might think, mostly due to being fingerless and made of stretchy cotton.)

I've got a few doozies to review for you after I get back from my trip to San Diego in February, and a prodigious to-read pile I hope you'll be as excited to hear about as I am to read. Either way-- thanks for being here. And if there's anything you think I ought to be reading, let me know in the comments and I'll add it to the list.

Cheers, and see you soon!
<3 emily="">