What I said:
I’ve been teetering on the edge of genre exhaustion. First person narration, info-dumping, never-ending series, the same characters over and over… I feel burnt out on romance, fantasy, noir and horror. I’ve never been a big fan of mystery or sci-fi. So recommend me a western! Let’s try westerns! Giddy Up! Right? Get along little doggies? Ride em and rope em!?!
What the Canaries recommended:
Dearest Librarian Friend,
A Western? Your request made us make very uncanary-like quacking sounds; it threw me completely. That link (and Oregon Trail) is the extent of my knowledge of all stuffs western. Happily, Meg came to the rescue with these tentative titles:
- All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
- A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
The first is best listened to as an audiobook, unless you’re one of the rare readers who doesn’t mind a lack of quotation marks on dialogue. The second book is “sorta westerny and actually has a plot an shit as opposed to most of the westerns I’ve seen/read which involve a lot of no-shirt-time and not a lot of plot time.”
However, that also means that these two books have little no-shirt-time (damnyou, Pulitzer!). But they might be a bit of that quality break from the fluff we love so much.
Read ‘em up!
Oh man.. no naked, shirtless protagonists at all?? Hmm..
A lack of quotation marks on dialog doesn’t bother me because I took Spanish lit classes in college! And a lot of Spanish publications (from Latin America and Spain) only use em dashes! Soo.. Cormac McCarthy it is!
The canaries have hatched a plot. You will like this plot. For the month of March, we challenge you to read a book. And not just any book.
- Send an Ask with two or three titles or authors you’ve enjoyed in the past, or a genre you’d like to try.
- We will reply with a recommended read.
- Your challenge will be to use the month of March to read and jot down a review (ie, your thoughts) of the book.
- Submit the review! (To us, of course. Whom else?)
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED BRO.
Now to think on genres…
After my review of Kresley Cole’s latest book, one of the Canaries asked me:
I’ve been considering reading this series for a while, but I have an extremely limited attention span for things that drag out. So if you could just take five-ish strong books from the series and eliminate the fluffy ones, which ones would you recommend?
…which is kind of like a trick question, because all of Cole’s book’s have basically the same cover and the same title.
To be honest, I haven’t read them all. Soooo, without further ado…
Mfred’s less than Definitive Guide to the Immortals After Dark Series:
- Didn’t read. Part of an anthology. Kinda hate those.
- Didn’t read. The heroine is described as “sheltered”. Kinda hate those too.
- No Rest for the Wicked - Had to go back to Cole’s site to figure out if I read this one. Vampire and valkerie. Excerpt seems familiar. Think I read it. And I don’t remember much else.
- Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night - Definitely read, think I liked it. Werewolf and witch. Good amount of angst, although the hero is a highlander, ye ken lassie? (Kinda hate that too.)
- Dark Needs at Night’s Edge - Liked it. Half crazy vampire falls for ghost.
- Dark Desires after Dusk - I think this is the first IAD I ever read and perhaps my favorite. Uptight math professor (almost as good as a librarian) falls for demon prince.
- Kiss of a Demon King - Continuation of characters from #6, also really enjoyed it. Evil badass sorceress and demon prince. At this point I think I started going through Cole’s backlist. So yeah, you really don’t have to read these in order at all.
- Didn’t read. Anthology again. What’s up with making me buy your crappy anthologies, romance authors of the world?
- Pleasure of a Dark Prince - Again with the Scottish highlander shite. Werewolf and valkerie. Liked it, and it does set up characters for her most recent book. But if you only commit to 6 & 7, I think you’ll be happy.
- Demon from the Dark - This is where I started to get super frustrated with the whole “it’s not quite the end of the world, but soon!” thing. This book does, again, set up a lot for the most recent book… Half-vampire, half-demon and witch, mostly set in an alternate dimension. However, I found myself slightly uncomfortable because the hero is a little animalistic/dumb (which feels exploitative)- and yet also has a fully-fleshed out inner voice (which is just weird).
- We all know how I feel about this one
Future Simon IRKS ME. He came back to fulfill a destiny [SPOILER ALERT] where everyone looses the powers and die! That is BAD TIME TRAVEL! And if I start thinking about how hot Future Simon is, then I start considering the implications of traveling back in time just to die, and how current Simon is going to have go forward in his current time in order to die in the future, and it’s like a total paradox, and then I NERD RAGE!
There is a tension in the Immortals After Dark series that is starting to wear on me. And it think it has something to do with the whole paranormal sub-genre.
On one hand, Cole is a great romance writer. She’s got an ability to balance plot and relationship-building where more mediocre books fail. Often, you trade one for the other. With historicals, I often expect the romance to be great, but the plot fairly thin— someone’s jilted cousin will kidnap the heroine, and then die in an accidental fire. With paranormals, you can get a lot of plot and worldbuilding, and thin romance— fated lovers are fated, the end!
Cole manages to ride the fated lovers line without sacrificing the swoony romance or the interesting story. The problem is, every book for 11 books now has promised End Times. And every book, for 11 damn books, has gotten nowhere closer to this damn Ascension. In fact, Dreams of a Dark Warrior goes back and re-tells events from the previous novel, just from a switched POV!
She obviously wants to keep going with a great series… but part of the reason it is a great series is because there is a real plot behind it. At some point, Cole has got to reconcile this issue and decide - endless standalone romances will ruin the impact of her worldbuilding. Ruining the impact of her worldbuilding makes the romances less interesting. Paranormals run that fine line between personal and political and I think Cole, for all that I enjoy her books, is starting to slip.
ARGH KRESLEY COLE ARGH! If Cole was a lesser writer, I wouldn’t really give a damn. I would focus on the romance and feel fulfilled with each happy ending. However, since I have found myself interested in the outcome of the whole series, I CARE.
Wouldn’t it be even more interesting to have a couple come together during the end of the world? Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see some of the alliances and factions created by ELEVEN HAPPY ENDINGS actually do shit during the end times?
So here is my not-quite-review of Dreams of a Dark Warrior:
It was good. Not my favorite pairing in the whole series. I don’t think Cole did the best job of turning the villain into the hero with this one, and I found Regin a little flat & boring, actually. One thing that really drove me up a wall— Declan is supposed to be somewhere in his 30s, right? Grew up in Belfast? So WTF is he doing saying “ken” and “lass” and “no’ goina hurt her” like some Scottish MacLaird in plaid on the highlands? I’ve never been to Ireland but even I know that’s some serious bullshite.
BUT I’M READY FOR THE NEXT LEVEL. I need some serious EVENTS to happen! BRING IT COLE I CAN HANDLE IT.
3 of 5 stars.
I HAVE SO MUCH SELF ESTEEMS RIGHT NOW YER MAJESTIES. Yay, Internet!
You two should read the Steel Remains, and then we can drink wine and live blog the sequel! (It comes out in October, I think). Everyone want to read us liveblogging reading books, right? Right?
I just went back and read all of my own reviews and I agree— I AM GREAT!!
No, truly— thank you! I’m glad all my asides and dashes and run on sentences are understandable to the outside world. And I’m so happy to have more genre reading & reviewing tumblr-ites to share books with!
Richard K Morgan’s The Steel Remains is gritty, bloody, violent, and explicit. It’s 400+ pages but reads fast, especially once all the serious dying starts.
In the first half, I found his prose a little florid; his descriptions a little overly dramatic. It’s not just the action that is gritty— it’s also the scenery, the clothing, the smells and sounds… Morgan spends quite a bit of time building up his three characters, crafting lifetimes of detail for each one. Sometimes, the detail became tedious.
I got a little lost in all of it, and later— as conspiracies mounted and events spiraled out of control— I didn’t have as firm as grasp on plot as I did on Ringil’s internalized anger, Igar’s detachment from his cultural home, and Archeth’s lost sense of self.
However, I loved the action. And all that detail does contribute to keeping the characters real as people even as they swing swords and chop up bad guys. At the halfway mark, the book ramps up a whole notch. Which is really kinda amazing! The first half may be slow, but it is by no means boring. There was never a moment where I was left wondering who was holding what sword or which fist punched whose lights out. I’m still not clear on what exactly everyone was fighting for, but I totally followed when everyone died.
But let’s address the pink elephant in the room shall we? GAY BUTT SEX.
Descriptions of this book (see above, add “profane”, “dark”, “twisted”, etc.) could be used to underscore the violence of the story, yes. But frankly, in a lot of reviews, I got the sense that it was more about the gayness. Instead of saying “hey this book is SOOOO gay y’all”, a reviewer will say “shockingly explicit” and “not for the faint of heart” and everyone tries to act like they are not thinking about all that gay sex they just read.
Yes, Ringil is gay. AND he has sex! AND he kills everyone, with the gutting and the garroting and the guts spilling! It is both explicitly gay and explicitly violent! Ringil’s gayness comes up early, and often, and usually quite violently. I found it pitch perfect, to a tee.
Morgan has crafted a world that rings a lot of bells for our own — where being a hero and being gay are seen as mutually exclusive. Except in our society, we don’t go around gutting people with our alien-steel swords for every homophobic slur. I certainly didn’t think The Steel Remains contains some kind of subliminal liberal agenda that bashes religion, raises taxes, and makes Ronald Reagan weep. It’s part and parcel of Ringil’s environment to be constantly confronted about his sexuality by all and sundry around him, and to be violently angry, lewd and/or shocking in return.
I guess, what I am saying is - the book is not apologetic about its violence or its gayness and I don’t think the reader (or the reviewer) should be either. And if you want to pussy-foot around the violence or the gay, then I’m not sure you should read this book. It’s too good for you.
Bottom line: Morgan writes sincere, character-driven action. Often with fantasy novels, it becomes all about the tropes or stereotypes of the genre— the epic hero on his hero’s journey to the heroic end, defeating villains, talking to dragons, and saving princesses on the way. And with noir, its often the just the shock factor. Just how violent can we make the third death in this chapter? Just how low can we drag the protagonist with this fifth betrayal? Instead, Morgan has three characters all on the brink, in a world itself on the brink, in a way that is both dramatically exciting and emotionally interesting.
4 of 5 stars.
- Friend: What kind of music should I listen to? I've run out of ideas.......
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- Me: sometimes i wish utube was actually "utube" so i didnt have to type those extra letters
- Friend: um so i went to youtube and typed justin, but its some other person singing the song i wanted to hear
- Me: i think i found a playlist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOrnUquxtwA&feature=list_related&playnext=1&list=MLGxdCwVVULXcLm_XlxjDAe9nYOG_NLABN
- Friend: sweet. I always worry about his vevo cuz one time it said it was blocked in our country... i was like, justin is from MY country bitches! lol
- Me: AMERICA FTW
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