Sunday, October 19, 2014

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear


A Novel of the Promethean Age

I love Elizabeth Bear's work. I love how she layers sentences into paragraphs. I love her way with dialogue. I love the atmosphere with which she imbues her stories. For anyone looking for a juicy read in the fantasy, urban fantasy, mythology turned on its ear she would be one of the first authors I would recommend.

That being said, when she writes in her Promethean Age universe, I always end up feeling as if I've missed something vital in the tale. The "Ahhh... THAT'S what's going on," moment. It's like wine, okay? See... I like wine. I like to think that I can tell the difference between a lousy bottle and a good bottle. But the thing is, once we get into the Really Good Stuff, I don't taste the difference from the good stuff. It's like I have a plateau. *LOL* And that's how I feel about Elizabeth's Promethean Age books. (For the record, I don't get this feeling with her other worlds/universes.)

One-Eyed Jack is really a fun read though, don't get me wrong. Media ghosts... I love it.. media ghosts from early 60's TV join up with American legends and there's a battle over who is going to control, be the genii, the caretaker of Las Vegas and Los Angeles. I think. See this is where it gets... foggy for me. Is there magic? There is to an extent, I'm pretty sure, but the weapon of choice is a selection of guns and the abilities of a pair of the American Legends. But see... I don't really understand or 'grok' the stakes - what will happen to the cities if group A wins... what if group B wins... what if there are no winners? Maybe I need more backstory? I don't really know, but I do know that I'm not as clever as Elizabeth thinks I am.

But still.. imagine how good it is if I still enjoyed the book while feeling as if I just wasn't clever enough to get the whole picture. :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How to Train Your Dom in 5 Easy Steps by Josephine Myles


Fun, sweet, sexy, touching... Josephine Myles does it again, this time, turning one of BDSM Romance's most prevalent tropes on its head.

Most of the time, it's the all-knowing Dominant and the young (usually), exploring submissive he takes under his wing. The sub is usually confused, coming to terms with what he likes, worried about giving up control and every other uncertainty you can imagine. And the wise Dom shows him the way, breaking the hard, world-weary shell around his own emotions at the same time.

Not this time! Jeff is the Dom and he's new to kink, hell, he's new to gay! After breaking up with his long time girlfriend - long time being 14 or so years, he's all about exploring the things Sarah would never allow - except he's not very skilled at it. Enter Eddie, experienced, gay, good-natured, happy sub, totally willing to show Jeff the ropes because he finds Jeff just that hot. :) Which would be all well and good except that Jeff doesn't like boys. :)

And thereby hangs the tale. :)

Jo, as always, writes with her lovely British voice. These are real people, who do real jobs, and have real families and if their love affair is a little shiny and sparkly, I didn't care at all. I loved how both the physical side of their relationship bloomed as their emotions grew. And it wasn't all about the Hawt Sex, Jeff and Eddie found things to talk about, moments to share out of the bedroom and were just totally charming together.

I really appreciated how the kink was written so matter-of-factly - sometimes it comes across as very um... titillating and voyeuristic - and not in a good way. Not here. Jeff's glee at being allowed to do all sorts of things to Eddie and have Eddie love them all, well, it was a lot of fun as well as being steamy hot. I don't get the attraction for having my partner trussed up like a Christmas turkey, but Jeff certainly liked it and THAT made it very hot.

Funny thing... I discovered a personal squick in reading this book. I don't enjoy it when a Dom calls his sub, "bitch". Maybe it was the frequent use by Jeff in this book? I don't know, but I did find it bugging me by about halfway through and even said as much to a close friend I was talking to online in between chapters. But that's a very personal thing.

So, if you're up for a sweet love story that's peppered with humour and enjoy the BDSM aspect, the exchange of power et al... well, this is a great one!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan


This was an odd book, I must say. I didn't feel as if it got going much before the last third. The first two thirds were basically set up for us to get to know the characters and all their 21st century quirks. I kept wanting something... anything to happen. Anything other than more puzzlement. I think this was a book that was trying to hard to be clever, maybe.

To quote Blair on GR (whose description I thought was excellent and right on):

It's a mystery/adventure set in San Francisco, revolving around an out-of-work marketeer and web designer who takes a job as a clerk at the odd little bookshop of the title. He soon realises that there is more to Mr. Penumbra's than meets the eye, and together with a group of his friends, he embarks on a mission to get to the bottom of the shop's real purpose. What follows is a fantastical series of events involving an international secret society and almost impossibly complex codes hidden inside a series of books. It's a collision of ancient mystery and very modern, internet-savvy characters.

Except none of that really starts until the last third of the story. I loved the ideas and I really liked most of the characters that the author created, but something never quite gelled for me. There are some great passages like the following:

So I guess you could say Neel owes me a few favors, except that so many favors have passed between us now that they are no longer distinguishable as individual acts, just a bright haze of loyalty. Our friendship is a nebula.”

So while I wasn't as enthralled and OMG as I had thought I'd be, I did enjoy the read for the most part. The juxtaposition of books vs the internet/technology gave rise to some humourous and thoughtful insights and the important thing to take away from all this is an imperative READ!

(NB: I paused in the reading of this book so I could read Kingdom of Scars.)