Saturday, April 27, 2013


I talked a while ago about how despite some interesting ideas, I was unable to get myself invested in Toriko, a manga about a world obsessed with gourmet food and the people who brought it to them and prepared it.

Now this week, I started another series with a lot of elements I've seen a lot of times before - its about modern-day ninjas, a pretty teenage "chosen one" over whom the ninjas are fighting, there's a perky female sidekick, a steady friend, a dotty mentor, a main character thick with apathy...

But I really liked it. It seized me the way some of my favorites did in their first volume. I don't know that it will become a favorite - I suspect it very well may let me down later - but that feeling of hitting the first book and being yanked into the story so thoroughly is an amazing feeling I'll always adore when it happens :)

Things like this make me hyper aware of how difficult it is to determine what'll be good. I think the writing in this series may be better than in Toriko, or maybe the translation is? But from the outside I would have felt like I'd definitely like Toriko more. And yet... I guess that's why we really can't judge a book entirely by its cover.

I'll probably write more about the series as I get further into it, but here's the Goodreads review of the first volume

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Pull List: April 24

This week's books are: Earth's Mightiest Heroes 13, Avengers Arena 7, Alpha 3, Demon Knights 19 and Jonah Hex 19. May be more later today as I didn't get through my books yet this week. As always, spoilers may be beyond the cut.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Retro review: Watership Down

This review can also be found at Goodreads. As always, there may be spoilers behind the cut.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I thought I'd like more or less than I did

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started and run by the awesome Broke and Bookish blog. This week's lists are the top ten books you either ended up liking more or less than you thought you would going in.

1. The Thirteenth Tale (Liked less) - I was VERY excited about this book in book club, and in the end, this is one of the biggest literary disappointments in my life. I didn't find it compelling, or well written, or possessing of particularly interesting characters. The mysteries were awful and it was less homage to classics than it was stealing plot points to the point it ruined its own plot.

2. The Help (Liked less) - Everyone talked about how amazing this book was. I got about halfway in and wasn't terribly gripped. It felt like the book wanted me to applaud a pretty basic understanding of institutional racism, and I thought the characters were kind of flat and left me uncomfortable and not in the thought-provoking good way. It's one of the few books I stepped away from without finishing, and I don't regret it. I read "A Lesson Before Dying" instead, which I found far more engrossing.

3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Liked better) - A friend in college loaned me this book. I'd been heading about this Harry Potter thing for a while and stayed away because of the hype and because I felt like I'd already read this premise twice before - both in the Circle of Magic books and the Wizard's Hall book. but I was bored, out of other books, and gave in to her urgings. SO glad I did, it's now one of my favorite series. :)
4.  One Piece (Liked better) - This looked SO stupid! A pirate made out of rubber having cartoony adventures on the high seas? I caught some of the 4 Kids dub of the anime and that only cemented my opinion. But then I had a chance to read the first volume, and I fell in love. In love with Luffy and his outlook, with the quirky cast of characters, and most of all with the sense of hope and optimism that threaded through the manga. 

5. The Secrets of Jin-Shei (Liked less) - A story set in a fantasy version of China, populated by female characters and focused on their interactions and friendships, lives and struggles? Count me there! But some writing decisions that just didn't work for me left me pretty ambivalent about this book by the end.
6. Hogfather (Liked less) - I'm a fan of Terry Pratchett, and Hogfather is widely considered one of his best books. Everyone I knew who liked his stories liked this one and recced it. So I finally read it and... it was okay? I mean, it was well-written and engaging, the characters were fun and the themes it explored were very interesting to explore. But it just never grabbed me.

7. Kushiel's Dart - I hadn't ever read a fantasy book that read so much like a romance at the time. I didn't think I'd like it, but I was very, very wrong. And while Carey isn't one of my top five authors or anything, I've enjoyed to one extent or another everything I've read from her since.

8. Santa Olivia (Liked less) - After reading the Terre d'Ange books, I was ready to give anything Carey wrote a go. and while I liked Santa Olivia and its ties to superhero literature, it never captured me the way Kushiel's Dart had.

9. Crimson (Liked more) - I always thought of comics in a particular and not terribly flattering way in my high school days. But after graduating from college, I had a local comic book store which I sometimes went into for some of the games and other stuff they offered. And in there as well was the first trade of Crimson. I bit back my pride, bought the book, and started not only giving comics books an equal chance, but to check out anything Ramos did.

10.  Goblin Tales (Liked less) - I love Jim Hines' work. I loved the Jig novels, I loved the Princess books and to only a slightly lesser extent, I loved Libriomancer. But for some reason, I just couldn't get into this collection of short stories. Probably part of the issue being that I don't really like reading short stories. I want a story I can immerse myself into for a while.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dry and dusty

There's something about fantasy books set in the desert that I like. They always seem a little fresher than otehrs. Don't have to try as hard to get me invested.

I think it's because fantasy writing in general doesn't make nearly enough use of them in the West. Everything is wrapped up in that typical fantasy setting - the temperate climate with four distinct seasons, forests and rolling hills. No grasslands, no deserts, rarely even long passages at sea. The typical fantasy setting is to history what the "good old days" are to America's culture. It existed in parts, in details and pieces, but not in any meaningful and complete way in the manner most people seem to see it.

And like the Good Old Days, people tend to forget the worst parts in favor of their own mental setup.

But stories written in the desert tend to be harsh. People know it's not all flowers and bard songs on the desert. So things are automatically different?

I don't know. Maybe I'm just getting jaded about it in my old age. :)

The book that set all this off, incidentally, was City in the Desert, which I reviewed over at Goodreads this week. I duplicated the review below the cut. I highly recommend the book if you like slightly off-beat comics with a good sense of humor.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

women's stories

I finished The Color of Heaven last night, the last book in a  lovely trilogy about a girl and her single mother as the girl grows up and discovers womanhood, love and sexuality.

this series wouldn't be for everyone, but I was so glad I read it. It's not a fast read, but I found it to be gripping all the same, sweet and personal and focused on the incredible feeling of finding someone and loving them - whatever sort of love that may be. It's about waiting, about disappointment, about happiness in the midst of sadness. 

Its worth reading. Loved it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Edits and rewrites

I've finally gotten to a point where I feel my edits are making positive progress. Its not great, but I figured out an answer to something character-wise that's been bothering me for ages. So, there's that.

I've also found myself adjusting dialogue. I think I did a good job on the first pass of making everyone's speaking voice unique in text, but I've taken it a little further in this one, adjusting word choice and even cadence. Tiktela's impatience and disinterest in the interllectual pursuits means he tends to use shorter words and sentences and plainer words as well - no similies for this guy. But his brother, who under other circumstances would be a professor at uni instead of a mercenary, speaks slower, longer and more varied, with more precise word choices. It's actually been kinda fun putting their words under the microscope. 

Another thing I've been working on is the physical gestures. I was good about my slimier characters, but Ferrana and Xyltzel both lack most of what it would take to make humanoid gestures - no shoulders for shrugging, no hands for certain gestures, etc. I'm surprised at myself over how many I missed.

So I guess what I'm really saying is all clear on the editing front!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

En Media Res

I've done it again. I've picked up a book in the middle of the series and end up spending a while trying to work out what's going on.

In this case it's "Pirate King" by Laurie King.  For the first time, I actually had to step away from a book I was reading in this manner and go look up one detail - why Sherlock Holmes was in it and what his relationship was to our hero. 

That worked out, I've been enjoying the book thus far, but there's a part of me that's bothered at finally having been bested by a serial series. Most books are written such that things you can't work out are also not that important, and who knows, maybe this sticking point would have been addressed later in the book than I've gotten too. 

Of course, its not enough to make me start series at the start all the time. But it may make me a little more careful.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Rewind

Top Ten Tuesday is a regular feature on the Broke and Bookish blog. This week's list is rewind - we get to pick an earlier topic we missed. So I picked top ten literary jerks.

1. Courtland Gamboge, Shades of Gray series - Nothing redeemable about this guy. Heck, in the story I didn't even like reading about him. I never got the feeling he was going to win. I never got the feeling he'd do serious harm. He was just a hateful, horrible jerk without purpose for me.

2. Luke, Freakangels comics - Only reason he's not no. 1 is that he serves as an actual tension-building character in the series so his jerkness serves a purpose. But this guy... ugh. he obtains the ability to control minds, so just guess what he uses it for. Just guess. :-/

3. Matoba Seiji, Natsume's Book of Friends series - You work for him? It means you're expendable and he'll use you as he sees fit. You're a yokai captured by him? It's slavery or death? and you're completely unattached to and unafilliated with him but he wants your help? He'll make it happen. Whatever he has to do, say or threaten, consider it done. Ugh.

4. Cordelia Delgado, The Dark Tower series - Sold her neice to a much older man to bear his child, against her wishes and by coersion, likely to get a comfortable life for herself. she's terrible to Susan all the time , she's horrible to most other people around her, and at the end... just ugh.

5. Joffrey Baratheon, A Song of Ice and Fire - Perhaps the paragon of jerks. Only this far down the list because he's in a world that sort of manufactures jerks, and you can see how his came about and was fostered.

6. Carcer, Night Watch (Discworld book) - One of those guys who never cops to understanding just what it is he did. Oh, he knows. He gets that he's a murderer. Revels in it even. But drapes himself in claims of innocence like a robe, and it's infuriating.

7. Izaya, Durarara series - He's willing to do just about anything for his own amusement.

8. Percy Weasley, Harry Potter series - Here's my moment of shame - I actually really like Percy. I found his arc pretty strong. I sympathized with someone who loved his family but didn't want to be like them, didn't want to live so poorly, to be laughed at by people with power, to be harnessed by his name his whole life. So he struck out on his own, and while he made massive mistakes and made choices that made him a true-blue jerk, he learned from it and I can't hate.

9. Hal Jordan, DC Comics/Mr. Fantastic, Marvel Comics - I'm sorry, I can't help it. They're jerks!

10. Quentin Coldwater, The Magicians - I don't necessarily mind when a jerk is our main character. But I want the jerk to have some redeeming qualities. Quentin managed none. I hated him by the end and wished for nothng more than his death. Alas, I was disappointed in even this.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The book is better

I've said this often of movies, but the same is true of comics.

I recently read the new Gambit series in its trade form, and while I liked it as a series of issues, I definitely liked it *more* as a collected whole. 

I think part of it is the immediacy of the story. you don't have a month in between pieces to forget details of what happened, slip out of the mood the previous book had put you in, etc.

But I also think part of it is pacing. A good comic should end on a beat that makes you want to find out what happens next, but with individual issues it incites that feeling and then laughs at you for weeks. The collected book definitely feeds into a sense of immediacy, helping it feel like everything's happening on a realistic timescale.

Sometimes I swear I'd be better off  by just waiting for trades.... but then how would I know what to get *in* trades? :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Books for March

Didn't get to as much as I'd hoped to last month, due in large part to an agonizingly slow read, one which I didn't even manage to finish up in March and will be on next month's list. Still, this was a moth with a lot of new and a lot of GOOD. I was very pleased :)

As always, there may be spoilers behind the cut.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

One step forward, two steps back

I am now working on editing my sgi-fi story, and things are proving... difficult. Now with actually editing, with cutting and changing and moveing and cutting some more. All that's going just fine.

But the problem is, I'm starting to lose a sense of things with regards to the edits. It's like, at this point I feel that every edit I make is as likely to make things worse, more awkward, harder to read, as it is to improve the flow and characterization. 

I'm not sure what the next step should me. Logically I know I ought to put a bit of it in Show Your Work at AW and just see if  the people there can rip it apart and give me an idea what direction to go in so maybe I can finally settle with chapter one and move on to chapter two.

I never thought that the editing would go this much slower than the writing!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Across the down

I'm rereading Watership Down for book club this week. I really wish I understood why this book appeals to me so much.

I guess part of it, like many of my favorite books, is that I remember it as a first - the first time I understood that I was reading an unreliable and limited narrative. There are many things in the world Hazel does not understand. There are many other things he initially mistakes or misreads. He makes mistakes and then comes later to the understanding of the truth.

I love that aspect of storytelling and wish more writers used it solidly and clearly. There's been a tendency in many of the books I've read recently for the POV character to either almost always be right or, when they are wrong, for the narrative to make it obvious and clear what the real truth is.

Of course, I can't accomplish that myself in my writing so I don't suppose I have any place to complain about other people. But I guess it's true what they say, those who can't do, criticize? :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books I Read Before I Was A Blogger

Top Ten Tuesday is a regular feature on the Broke and Bookish blog. This week's list is a look at the  books I read before I started blogging that I count in my top 10.

I'm not really sure where to take this one. I've been blogging as far as a personal blog since about 1997, gbut only started writing in earnest about books and reading in maybe 2011. So I'm going with that second number, since the first would make forming the list VERY difficult.

1. The Waste Lands, Stephen King - My favorite book of all time, at this point in my life. I reread it regularly - just reread it last month as a matter of fact! I love the characters, love the setting, love the tension of many of the scenes, the only thing I hate about it is the memory of having to wait for 4.

2. Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynn Jones - not for Howl, but for Sophie and, to a lesser extend, Michael and Calcifer. I read the book because of the movie, and loved the book so much more than the movie. I loved the wonderfully practical and yet deprecating way Sophie looked at the world, and I loved the language. Wynn painted pictures with words.

3. Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavrial Kay - A love triangle? Usually a massive turnoff for me, but the way it was woven around a tale of love and loss and trying to find something to cling to in a world that feels like it's falling apart around your ears was incredible to me.

4. Candide, Voltaire - Satire is not always my thing, but the flow of this narrative just irresistably drew me along.

5. Watership Down, Richard Adams - A tale about a bunnyquest. Somehow, this always seemed more vibrant and harrowing and exciting to me than any number of lost princes on save-the-world quests. Everything seemed scary and their triumphs seemed all the more worthwhile for that fear.

6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling - I know a lot ofm people hated this book, but for me, it was the one that most fleshed out  one of my favorite characters, Neville, and therefore positioned itself firmly at the top of the series for me.
7.The Last Unicorn, Peter Beagle -the atmosphere of whistfulness and a memory of things lost and out of reach permeated this story. Even as a kid, it left me with a bittersweet, melancholy feeling and a tendency to consider the meaning of immortality and of life. And you know? Even now, I can read this book and be left with that same feeling.

8. Eyes of the Dragon, Stephen King - Another fantasy from King, but this one a standalone. I love his fantasy far more than his horror, and I think the only thing that kept this book so low on the list was that I wanted MORE from it.

9. The Perilous Gard, Elizabeth Pope - I don't often like romances, but at its heart this isn't really a romance, but a story about a young woman coming into her own, finding ehr own strength, and accepting romance as a part of it.

10.  Mattimeo, Brian Jaques - Yeah, yeah, Redwall, but before I found Discworld, the Redwall books were my brainless candy, the ones I read when I needed something unchallenging and comfortable but wtill with a little bit of excitement and fun (and food porn, yummmm),

Monday, April 8, 2013


Let me just say this up front - I love Princeless. I think it's cute and clever. I love the art. I love the characters. I'm very excited to see where the story goes from where it left off at the end of the cirst collection.

I also like  Demon Knights, the current ongoing from DC. I love that it still clearly feels like a superhero comic, but set in a fantasy setting (that sort of vaguely Europe-ish setting with a lot of hedging about the real world at the time).

Overall, I really love the things that comics can offer to fantasy stories. I'm always surprised that there aren't more. And yes, I know there are many, many more than the two I named. Heck, last week's Wizard of Oz post was about one such, as are the GoT and Fables books. But as compared to the number of superhero books, or even horror books it feels like, there just aren't as many.

It feels like they'd be a natural fit. The ability to paint the strange and wondrous is a hallmark of fantasy, and comics allow a person to do it in a much more literal way. But I guess, we've sort of given fantasy a bit more of an "adult" pass over the decades, where comic books still struggle to be seen as anything but a child's medium. 

Alas. At least the numbers seems to be on an uptick. Perhaps I'll find many more such that I can embrace in the cominc years.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Briefest post ever

First draft - done! 81k words!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Retcons for the win?

Nothing specific here, but I've been hearing reports that Booster Gold will start appearing in issues of a bunch of series in DC comics, leading up to a new solo series.

Now, this excites me. I love Booster Gold. He was on yesterday's crush list, but that's sort of... obligated? That's not the right word, but its sort of close. But I will try any series with Booster in it. I may stop getting it after a while. But the idea of something focusing on him, even the stunted, watered down version of him, is pretty exciting to me.

BUT... there are additional rumors associated with this. People are saying that Booster may start remembering the old universe.

Now, I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I dislike massive swaths of the reboot. Part is just that I thought the whole idea was dumb, but I tried. I started out with subscriptions to ten of the new series and gave them all at least three issues to hook me. the only ones that I actually liked enough to stick with were Demon Knights and Batwing, and there wasn't much in either that couldn't be done under the old system.

So on the one hand, I'd love to go to the old, more complex characters and get back some of the now-departed characters. but on the other hand, the fact that so far DC had stuck to their guns about the reboot was really the only shred of credibility they had left with me. So I may buy more DC if they eventually revert to the old universe... but I don't think I'll ever be able to take DC seriously as a company again.

Though maybe the joke's on me for taking them seriously in the first place...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Would Crush On If I Were Also A Fictional Character

Top Ten Tuesday is a regular feature on the Broke and Bookish blog. This week's list is a look at the  characters I would crush on if I were also A fictional character.

1. Eddie, The Dark Tower - I love this series, and Eddie was a large part of it. He's not perfect, not terribly gentlemanly some of the time, and can be a right idiot at times. But he's funny - so funny! - and once he can care, he does so genuinely and deeply.

2. Talia, Jim Hines' Princess books - I love this woman. She was focused and immensely capable, and while she didn't always know how to express it, she cared fiercely for her friends and would do anything for them without smothering them with that knowledge.

3. Michael, Howl's Moving Castle (BOOK please!) - First off, I'd have to assume myself back in teenage-ness like I was when I first read this because otherwise... ew. I suppose this one is more of a product of the story in which he appears, but there was something charming about the way he was trying to figure out his own life and keep Howl's on track as well.

4. Booster Gold, DC comics - Yeah, yeah, a man in spandex.A man in spandex who's known, essentially, for being a humbug and, in private, often highly insecure. But when the chips are down he gets the job done regardless of what everyone else thinks, which I think is great.

5. Aoki, X/1999 - Definitely a distant crush in this case, as he has a family already and cares about them very much. He's kindhearted, brave and honest, with a willingness to put himself on the line for others but a manner of doing it that doesn't feel quite as aggravating to me as those types sometimes can, especially in manga.

6. Christopher, The Perilous Gard - Another one of those strong-willed sorts, but the one who also comes across as a verbal sparrer, one who enjoys fencing wiht phrases. It's that largely, his wit, that puts him on this list.

7. Robin, One Piece - This lady's aloof and studious and more than a little pessemistic - at least about the possibilities. But I think that's part of what makes her so fun. :)

8. Genevive, The Parasol Protectorate - Smart and curious and loyal and totally willing to step outside the box of approriate behavior tom see her ends met? I find that very attractive, thank you. :)

9. Jez, Tales of the Ketty Jay - I almost feel like I could cut and paste Robin's entry here, except that Jez has a different skillset and is less self-assured.

10.  Kohaku, Grand Guignol Orchestra - In a sort of tongue-in-cheek way. With a CLAMP boy on the list I needed one of Kaori Yuki's as well for fairness.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Three cheers for the jerk

I sometimes surprise people by saying my "favorite character" in some story or another is someone widely agreed to be a jerk. But I've often found jerks to be some of the most interesting characters, the ones that give you the most to think about. And the characters I like the most are the ones with depth and layers, the ones you can think about after the story is done and worry out how and why they acted that way.

As always, spoilers behind the cut.