Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I’ve been reading Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate books lately, in between other stuff. I described them to a friend as the “cream puffs of the book world” and I stand by that description.  They’re quick, fun and easy reads, but they don’t have a whole lot of weight to them (at least the first and most of the second) and consequently don’t really stick with you for very long.

However, there is one thing these books do well that is rare enough to warrant a mention and a bit of praise. They have something that so, so many steampunk stories and urban fantasy of many stripes don’t.

They have Ivy.

True they also have Madame Lefoux, but there are some issues surrounding the treatment of her character so far that make me uncomfortable with heaping praise on her, so it is on Ivy that I wish to focus – on the woman whose part in this series is simply that of a friend, a companion, a supporter and cheerleader and hat-sharer and gossip partner.

Why don’t we have more Ivy?

I have heard it said before that the reason there is so much romance and so little friendship outside the plot-functional in so much creative media has to do with friendships simply not being as interesting to read about. (The actual argument is that stories like that are for women, but we all know what “for women” is usually code for, I suspect).

But when we do get friendships, somehow it always feels like we get the guy friendships – the always-got-your-backs, the epic bromances, the we-can’t-admit-our-friendship-is-importants, a whole range. Whereas, it often feels like female friendships are limited to gossiping together, or using one another and, if your character is sufficiently modern, perhaps business associates as well. There aren’t that many Kirk and Spock-style friendships, a lack of Frodo and Sam devotion. In short, it feels like there is a lack of depth. It might just be that the spread of fiction I read happens not to include them and the fault is entirely mine, but some part of me feels like that’s not likely the case.

Which is why I love Ivy and Alexia’s relationship. They gossip. They both complain about things the other does they find tiresome. But they make time for one another. They share their thoughts and observations, both trivial and personal. And they show, through little gestures, that they truly care about one another. And you know what? That was NICE to read.

Bonus points also go to Jim Hines’ princess series and Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye books for also making time for the female leads to have actual, real and meaningful friendships!

Anyone out there have any recs on this front?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Most frustrating characters ever

As taken from Broke and Bookish! Here's a list of the characters that just made me want to throttle someone or throw a book across the room.

1. Margaret Lea from The Thirteenth Tale - One of my least favorite characters of all time, from one of my least favorite books of all time. I finished reading this and was hard pressed to think of a single decision this character made, a single action they took other than the completely banal, that didn't make me long, YEARN for a different and better protagonist. Her endless whining about her lost twin, her drifting through her investigation, even her decision to do the autobiography in the first place left me wanting to claw furniture.

2. Felicity from Changeless/Blameless - In the first book, she was a flighty socialite with her eyes on the prize - not my favorite thing, but an interesting counterpoint to her sister, our main character. But when we get into the second book and thus far in the third (I am about 15% done) she has made a hard turn at being-a-jerk-ville. She's needlessly nasty to those around her, undercutting others just to spite them while never really seeing to have any goals of her own. It makes her frustrating and bothersome.

3. The male leads from the Vampire Knight manga - I can't believe I got 9 volumes into this series. It was completely the background characters that kept me engaged - if I'm actually said my piece to the leads, espeically the two blokes, I would have been forced to say "You're acting stupid" or "That was foolish" or some variation roughly every five pages. It was like they were trying to out-angst one another in some strange Olympic-level self-defeating competition.

4. Horace Slughorn from Harry Potter - Now this character I actually quite liked, but I kept hoping he would actually grow a backbone and do something instead of hemming and hawwing and trying to deflect blame for his own mistakes on others rather than admitting to the knowledge he'd given Riddle back in the day.

5. Perrin Aybara from the Wheel of Time books - When this series started, I really loved it, and I found a lot to like about most of the cast, but Perrin.... eh. And you'd think him becoming a wolf brother would help, but ... eh. You'd think Faile, a perhaps divisive but certainly interesting woman, coming to be part of his story would help, but... eh. I just found his internal conflict completely lacking in impact and emotional connection. and in a series as wordy and retready as this one got I had a LOT of time to ruminate on him, to the point where he frustrates me more than most characters of this type normally would.

6. Romeo from Romeo and Juliet - I despise the main couple in this play, but out of the two, I find myself frustrated with Romeo a bit more. Juliet at least had the excuse of this being her first love or lust or whatever. Romeo had all the information to help him realize he needed to take a step back and ask himself if maybe he wasn't going a little overboard since his emotions seemed to pretty much just transfer to a new woman. Gah!

7. Thomas from Eyes of the Dragon - I get why he turned out the way he did. Flagg is a powerful persuasive force. but there were so many moments - SO many moments in this story I wanted to reach in and throttle him while screaming "Thomas! Look at your life! Look at your choices! You are better than this!"

8. Superman - I'm going to come out and say it - I don't like Superman. It feels like the DC world is separated into people who like Batman better than Superman and who like Superman better than Batman, and I am definitely in the first category. He works best when he is being an ideal, a person for us to strive to emulate, but those same traits that work best on him are also some of my least favorite. I've read stuff with him in it I enjoy, and there are objectively a TON of fantastic Superman stories, but of all the characters in all of comics, he's probably the one whose name being on the cover is most likely to give me second thoughts.

9. Marco from The Night Circus - This one is a little like Thomas, in that the frustration came from wanting and expecting him to be better than he ever was. He used people, looked down on them in a detatched way, messed with their minds and almost never seemed to have an inkling that maybe he was behaving poorly.

10. Bella from Twilight - I think she doesn't belong at 10 based on annoyance factor, but since I didn't actually finish the book, I didn't feel right putting it any higher. As for the reasons, there's a whole internet worth of people who have articulated it well and at length. No need to be repetitive.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Romance is not my thing

I've never made a secret about not being particularly fond of romance. I don't tend to read romance novels without a rec from someone whose taste I trust and who knows my taste as well. I don't even usually care much for the romance that get shoehorned into many non-romance stories. I've been accused of being a failure to my femininity for that fact, but eh, I don't care.

Still, fond or not, if something is well written, it's well written. I've found some romantic stories I liked very much - Lions of Al Rassan comes to mind, or the Kushiel books. And I found something like that in Saga. (Link goes to Goodreads review. As always, possible spoilers under the cut.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reborn! and Cerberus Syndrome

I've been in the mood for a certain style of manga that only shonen series seem to satisfy. As such, I've been doing a reread of Reborn! lately, and have gotten just over halfway through the American releases this month (Through volume 8). If you're familiar with the series, you know that's when Cerberus Syndrome hits the series full force. (As always, spoilers may be found after the cut, so proceed with caution.)

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Pull List: Jan. 23

Two new ones this week! (Well, three, but I'll probably get to that third one later, as it's a book I have three months worth of issues for but haven't read them. Ahh, DC Comics apathy...)

This week's issues are Gambit #8 and the first issue of the new Young Avengers ongoing. There may or may not be spoilers below the cut, so if you don't want to be spoiled, avoid clicking - you have been warned!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Back to the scene of the crime

This year, one of my goals is to get back into the swing of writing, and not just 50 words here and there, or the 50k scramble that is NaNo, but to the tune of at least 3k words per week, to get back into the creative shape I used to have.

And you know what? It's been good so far.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Revisiting Mid-world

I try to reread at least one or two of my favorite series each year. I know some people are forever going ahead, reading new books, but for me, there's a sort of wonderful joy in returning to these old series. So the first series revisit this year is the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. There will be spoilers. You have been warned.

I'm going slow, sprinkling these books in between book club selections and other reading. But I finished the first book, The Gunslinger, today (review at Goodreads) and had a few thoughts about Roland, Jake and the concept of Ka.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Settings I'd like to see

I'm thinking I may restart this blog with a bit of a meme, to ease back into trying to keep it up on a regular basis. And so, I decided to take a crack at this week's Top Ten Tuesday. This week the list is focused on the top settings you'd like seeing more in books.

I'm not sure I can come up with 10, especially since I'm mostly a fantasy reader, so I'll go with my top 5. :)

1. Snowy or icy countries: I grew up in upstate NY, so while we had plenty of warm times during the summer, there was also a great deal of snow. A GREAT deal. There are so many ways snow could be used to shape a plot and affect the atmosphere. Heavy snows that bar people inside can give you a claustrophobic feeling. The simple difficulty of walking down the street can add to tention. Let's see it!

2. Deserts: Same as above, but with a whole different set of difficulties. People sometimes go into a desert in fantasy, but a good chunk of the time it's just to have them almost dehydrate to death for some drama. But if something were largely set in a desert, with the different sorts of buildings, the different survival skills, etc? Fantastic opportunities.

3. Industrial Revolution New York: So much steampunk takes place in England! Why? I know they got much cooler and more fancy clothing, but I'd love to see some set in the fantasy-romanticized version of NY!

4. Grasslands: Open spaces, Hissing winds. Why are there always so many trees in fantasy? Everywhere people go, there are trees! I want to see the lands opened up, the horizon stretched out. I want to see what sort of towns would spring up without a lot of trees around. I want to know what sort of cultures would grow up around there. That could be fun.

5. Kitchy restaurants: A lot of fiction and urban fantasy takes place in diners, and some of it takes place in the nice, upscale restaurants, the sort of $30-plus-a-plate places that display the means of the characters involved. But we almost never get someone chowing down in an Applebees, surrounded by families, with the ballgame playing in the background. and I feel like this sort of setting could offer a lot of both humor and characterization (Especially for characters who might not usually choose to be in such a setting!)