Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
Furies of Calderon is the first in the fantasy series Codex Alera and I really liked it. It tells the familiar story of an aging king without an heir and a looming war of succession, placed in a world where people bond with elemental furies. The story is told by several characters and it looks like Butcher has some interesting things in store for what’s to come. And while the characters mights be a bit too one/two-dimensional, some at least are capable of being gray (such as a woman on the “bad” side helps a woman on the “good” side). At the moment, I’m most interested in Isana, the aunt of the main protagonist Tavi. It seems she had an interesting and tragic past so I’m looking forward to finding out more.
If there’s one thing I found a bit off-putting, then it’s that Furies of Calderon is a very action-driven novel and the characters always seem to end up in a place even worse than they are at the start of a chapter, following the “what can go wrong, will go wrong” line of thought. It made for a relentless pace for much of the story and that felt a bit exhausting at times.
For the Win by Cory Doctorow
YA, set in the world of multiplayer online games. For the Win looks at the economic system of these games and focuses on the lives of “gold farmers,” who work under appalling conditions to get virtual items which their employers then sell for real money. I found this premise interesting, especially because I played such a game for nearly a year until last month.
The story and the characters’ behavior in For the Win are guided by an idea/vision and “lectures” on economy interrupt the novel several times. There’s nearly no character development and because of the many POV characters, I didn’t get a very strong sense of continuity until very late in the book when all the different story lines start converging. So, interesting read in terms of idea/vision/lectures on economy but at times it felt more like a documentary than a novel. Also, I’m not exactly sure why it’s labeled YA. The premise is a big draw probably but the lectures don’t seem to fit.
This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James
I really enjoyed reading this novel. It was witty and fun and where else do you find a heroine that goads another woman into seducing the heroine’s husband? Really, I like James’s novels mostly for the interesting, non-cardboard characters and I don’t care if I would find them nice or likable in real life. So, I had fun reading this novel. But I’m not sure there is much story underneath all that sparkle.
Jemma and Elijah are married and after years of living apart, it’s time to produce an heir. Good thing they also realized in the previous books of the series that they also want to jump each others bones. So where’s the story eh problem?
Jemma realizes that she doesn’t know what Elijah likes and she thinks she’s only second (third?) best to Elijah’s governmental work and his rivalry with Villiers. Elijah thinks of Jemma as “MINE!” and his honor is very important to him. Hmm…I’m still not sure how all this translated into the coy flirtation and dancing around each other that takes up more than half of the story, especially because they agreed about the need for an heir and time is running short with Elijah illness, but it was fun to read nevertheless. The later part of the novel concerns itself with Elijah’s illness and oh, there are also some interesting developments for Villiers in the story. And that’s what happens.
So, fun to read; looking forward to reading Villiers story next.
Her Sister’s Baby by Janice Kay Johnson
This was a surprise book for two reasons. First, I didn’t know I had this book. It was a bonus book in my edition of Spencer’s Sweet Memories. Second, the story features a baby and I enjoyed reading the novel quite a lot.
The story: “Colleen will do anything for her sister Sheila, including having her baby. Sheila’s husband, Michael, wants a baby, too. When Colleen offers to be a surrogate for his wife, he’s deeply grateful. Then an accident takes Sheila’s life, and Colleen and Michael turn to each other in their sorrow only to discover an unacknowledged attraction.” (quote: Goodreads)
Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
Smooth Talking Stranger started off great but halfway through it lost the main obstacle for a relationship between Ella and Jack: Ella’s boyfriend left the field.
I say main obstacle because Ella’s insistence that she will never marry and her relationship problems didn’t seem to play too much of a role in the second half of the novel IMO. They came up from time to time then, I even believed them, but I not once had the impression that they would stand in the way of the couple’s HEA. So in my view, Ella’s boyfriend was the main obstacle and I was left with no real tension in the second part of the novel. In addition, Ella’s light bulb re how much Jack means to her comes in the way this so often does in Kleypas’s novels…
I also asked myself: 1) where did Ella get all her fabulous clothes? I thought she left with only a few to look what was the matter with her sister. 2) For two reasons I’m left with the slightly weird impression that Jack is second-best to Luke, Ella’s nephew. 3) It seems to me that Ella is a vegan only because her boyfriend is one, one who has strong views about it. From this I gather: Ella tries to please other people. A lot. And I’m left wondering: what does this say about her relationship with Jack? Jack, he who is of the tribe “MINE!”
Okay, it seems I didn’t like this novel, but that’s actually not true. I thought the way it delineated and constructed gender (roles) very interesting. Just look at that vegan business, for example. And there are things I liked: Kleypas’s contemporary voice, the beginning, Jack’s willingness to do everything for HIS woman (very nice fantasy!) Or how the novel looked at how damaging parents can be to their children. There’s good stuff but I missed something in the second half.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
I read the German edition of this novel. Different from other editions I know, it doesn’t reference a character in the title. The German edition is called “Verblendung” (~ delusion). Somehow I thought I would get something along the line of La Femme Nikita (the original, not the US remake) with this novel. Not so. There is a female character, Lisbeth Salander, and she’s not your usual female character, but she’s not the main character (maybe that changes in the other books?). That honor belongs to Mikael Blomkvist, the author stand-in who is in love with brand names and himself and so naturally have all the women fall at his feet; that is jump into bed with him right away.
There are two stories in this novel. The mystery of the missing Harriet (what attracted me to the novel) is solved way before the end and it wasn’t all that difficult to get an idea why Harriet disappeared (helpful little statistics fronting each part of the story) or what happened. The last hundred or so pages are spend on solving Mikael’s problem, the one that made him lose his position at his newspaper and so enabled him take up Harriet’s case in the first place. (You go, Mikael!)
I actually enjoyed the novel in the beginning. It was a bit slow, yes, but I was willing. Then the brand names started to bother me. I swear each time a laptop was mentioned, its brand name was mentioned, too. Same with other things. I was reading that novel on my vacation at the pool (spotted three readers with the same book!) and because the brand names annoyed me, I told my boyfriend each time I encountered one. It was like a game. (Later he knew just by my huff and lowering of the book that I’d found another one.)
Anyway, besides in brand names, the story is bogged down in exposition, unnecessary details and bland characters IMO. Admittedly, Lisbeth is a cool character but she goes the way of the big boobs later in the story, thinking how she likes to have that option or something like that (Who thinks that? Is it really the cool and not-giving-a-damn Lisbeth?) And of course, Lisbeth also realizes she’s in love with Mikael (yeah Mikael!). So no, while Lisbeth is easily the most interesting thing about this novel, she didn’t save it for me.
There is a decent mystery buried underneath that all but it was hard to find. And I think I missed the social criticism completely. The abuse of women was presented too sensational and over-the-top. I couldn’t view that as criticism.
The Shy Bride by Lucy Monroe
I don’t remember much about this one. The heroine is a pianist and a recluse, the hero’s a self-made millionaire. Oh wait, that’s probably billionaire. Anyway, I thought the heroine’s anxiety attacks were done quite well and I liked Monroe’s voice. So I’m actually tempted to read the book that features the hero’s best friend.
Slave to Sensation, Visions of Heat, Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh (re-reads)
I read a review for another novel in this series and I was interested in reading it. But because I’d tried the first three novels in the Psy/Changeling series and we didn’t click, I didn’t. This set me to thinking about why I didn’t enjoy this series as much as most other readers and so I read the three novels I already had again.
I came away with a clearer grasp of why they don’t fit me completely. It’s the characters. They seem too much an illustration of their race traits to be complete individuals to me, with the conflict centered around the Psy/Changeling differences and what kind of Psy is part of the pairing. It makes characters and conflict look like part of the world building which makes the world building and the way it’s done more interesting but it also makes the characters (and story) less so for me. Yeah, I think that’s it.
So, maybe I’ll buy the next one in the series one day to see how the world building goes. After all, I liked Visions of Heat better than the first time so there is hope.
Sweet Memories by LaVyrle Spencer
I found Sweet Memories to be a nice and sweet story about a woman who’s wary of men because if they show interest, they show interest in her big rack. The novel’s a bit dated (not that I minded) and at times it felt slightly too sweet for my taste. Also, the story seemed a bit thin, concerning itself for the most part with Theresa’s anxiety and worry about her big breasts. But at the end Theresa’s made some changes to her life and seemed more grown up, so altogether I was fine and enjoyed reading it.