Tuesday 25 August 2009

When Do You Give Up On a Series?

Ever since I realized how far behind I was getting on the series I follow, it's crossed my mind that maybe I should drop a few, even though I'm reluctant to do so. Some of these stories I've been following for years. Reading KMont's blog When Your Favorite Fails You made the question pop back into my mind.

Truth be told I've only given up completely on one series - Anita Blake Vampire Hunter - I'm more of a straight urban fantasy fan and I love the PI twist. But when the style of the stories changed I stopped following the series.

Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series I've kind of fallen into an apathy with. I've got To The Nines and Ten Big Ones on my TBR pile but I don't feel any kind of desire to put them on the top. And currently I have no intention of buying any more books in the series. Maybe it's because the storyline seems to be ongoing with no destination.

Anyone who read my TBR post knows I love my series books but at some point do you just give up?

If a series changes drastically from book 1 to book 7, how long do you give the author the benefit of the doubt that they know what they're doing. I know of readers who have got rid of all but the first three of their Black Dagger Brotherhood books. I'm hanging in there at the moment, but I have gone from inhaling the latest book as soon as I've got it, to abandoning it on my TBR pile. I still haven't read Lover Avenged.

When Lynn Viehl announced that Stay the Night would be the last of the Darkyn series, part of me was disappointed. It was a ride that I didn't want to end. But having finished the series (which I think will carry on in some form in the new Kyndred series) I can't help thinking that in some ways she had the right idea. Having a strong over-riding story arc kept the story fresh and vital.

I don't think that's a method that would work for every writer, and nobody wants to read books that are cookie cutter. But I think staying on target, staying on plot, staying on mission (call it what you will) is important not only to readers but also to the coherent development of characters within a story or series.

Another good example of this is Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series. Her books standalone (or in pairs) but are filled with characters whose lives overlap with each other and plots which continue from book to book. The style of writing stays fresh and so does the story.

Are there any series that you've just lost the will to follow? Or are there any new series that I shouldn't miss out on? Yes, I am always looking for more. lol

Series I have no intention of giving up on - Mercedes Thompson by Patricia Briggs, The Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong, Jaz Parks by Jennifer Rardin, Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews.

Monday 24 August 2009

Biting the Bullet by Jennifer Rardin, So Far

Absolutely bombing through this one. It took me a little longer to get into that the previous books - I wasn't hooked til page 17! lol

I have got to pick up the next couple of books in this series. I've got Bitten to Death but think a couple more have been released.

Complete review will be up in the next couple of days.

One of my favourite lines, mainly because I'm just sooooo not a patient person. I try to be, I really try but I suck at it.
I'm sure the cosmos has a greater purpose for surrounding me with patient people. But mostly it just makes me want to scream.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Stupid Heroines

My character might be wrong. My character is allowed to be wrong, she is not allowed to be stupid. (Lucy Lawless on Xena)
“…some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can't act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door, it's insulting.” (Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott in Scream (1996))
How many times is it acceptable for a heroine to do something stupid in the course of a book?

For me personally - like the use of the word literally and the big misunderstanding plot device - I'd say a heroine can be stupid once. After that it's a problem.

Ever since reading the Lucy Lawless quote, (which I think she may have used a few times in different interviews as I've seen different versions), I've always kind of measured my heroines by that. I think it's a good yardstick.

And I think the important word is choice. A heroine needs to decide what she is going to do, have a plan of action that she is able to adapt to changing circumstances - is she going to run up the stairs or out the front door?

It can be a subtle thing. If before she accepts a drink from a stranger she thinks - this is not a smart thing to do - then she should listen to that voice. There is something telling her that there is something wrong with the situation. If she ignores the voice and accepts the drink she is being stupid. If she listens to the voice and accepts the drink, she may or may not be making a mistake, but she is making a choice. She is not letting life or - in the case of fiction - plot just happen to her. (Of course if she repeatedly ignores the voice she's got some kind of problem).

And that's where I think it causes a major problem in fiction. If the plot is just something that happens to characters, rather than being something that they engage in and are affected by, and which they in turn affect, then it isn't going to work as well as it should. Even if, as a reader, you can't always explain it or put your finger on it and instead you end up saying 'Oh that heroine was TSTL'.

I'm lucky in that most of the books I read I've not been left with the feeling that the heroine is stupid. A heroine can be wrong. A heroine is allowed to make mistakes. But she shouldn't be stupid. Being stupid once is a mistake, being stupid repeatedly is a lifestyle choice.

Wednesday 19 August 2009


Check out my new widget in the siderbar. lol (I shall just add here that these aren't my favourite books they are the ones I've finished reading recently. But being technically illiterate I have no idea how to change it).

I have now finished getting my TBR pile up onto Goodreads and currently it stands at 185. (This is probably minus a few books that I have somehow missed). Kinda interesting, I thought it was larger than that, though having nearly two hundred unread books in the house probably suggests that I should leave off the buying of new books for a while - if only that were possible. :)

I shall add here that I also sorted out a load of books to go whilst I was doing this. So at least I now have a little bookshelf space free.

I've just been catching up with a few blogs and can empathise with Kris over at Kris 'n' Good Books. Who has also just gone through the process of uploading books and been blogging about it too.

I have not as yet uploaded all my 'read' books. I think that's a process that's going to take a while, putting a few books up a day.

Monday 17 August 2009

Fallen by Claire Delacroix

When Lilia Desjardin's estranged husband's death is declared an accident, she knows that it will be up to her to discover the truth. Life in the Republic is lived under a cloud of suspicion and fear - a future dystopia where those unaffected by the radiation from multiple nuclear strikes live at the expense of those who were mutated and scarred (shades). The former angel Adam Montgomery sacrifices his wings in order to complete an earthly mission. His path will intersect with Lilia's and the two of the them will work together to find out exactly what is being kept hidden.

I think the last time a book had me this conflicted was Ghostland by Jory Strong. This is quite a long review and has some slight spoilers in it.

Things I liked.

The cover. :)

Adam's story was by far the stronger of the two. From the moment his wings are amputated, he is a character that you want to know more about. As is Raphael the second angel to come to Earth during the course of the story.

The majority of the worldbuilding (with one exception, see below). I thought the future dystopia was an absorbing and fascinating world. How the author had set up a unique class system based on mutancy and gender. And how the angels infiltrated the system, as shade, as cop.

The mystery was well thought out and multi-layered, revealing a corruption that will require heavenly intervention to overcome.

Things I didn't like

Whilst these are personal dislikes and it's a much longer list than the likes, I stress here that the likes and dislikes ended up balancing each other out. Which should give you an idea of how much I liked the worldbuilding and mystery aspects of the book.

We're back to genre labelling again. This is not (for me) paranormal romance. The hero and heroine spend the majority of the book apart. So when they suddenly decide they are in love it doesn't feel organic. It feels more like it's happening to serve the plot rather than because the characters feel an emotional attachment. At the beginning when they first meet Adam thinks :-
More than her physical assets, he liked the spark of her intellect.
He's only just met the woman. I wish that the author had felt able to let the relationship develop over the course of the trilogy - if that were possible, obviously I don't know what is intended to happen in future books, but this felt rushed.

I liked their relationship at the end.
Montgomery couldn't be dead, not when she was starting to count on him.
But it feels like we skipped an awful lot of steps to get to that point. Also the blurb for the next book seems to suggest that Raphael has got his own designs on Lilia, I'd be interested to see just how far the 'paranormal romance' label is going to be stretched.

Initially I did have a problem with the city being called Gotham. Mainly because for me that name is synonymous with Batman.

The Sumptuary & Decency laws - whereby women are not allowed to cut their hair, have to be covered up when they are out in public and have to wear corsets. This narked me for a couple of reasons. At a couple of points in the story Lilia runs about both to lose Adam, and to chase after a Shade, all whilst wearing a corset which didn't seem to cause her any problems. Women not being able to cut their hair just seems silly to me. I think there are other ways to show the subjugation of women. (I also wonder about the gender ratios? Women being built for survival and already being the majority gender on the planet. It seems to me that there would be an even greater disparity following an apocalyptic event - leaving women in the vast majority.)

The story took a long time for me to get into. At page 118 the story settles into itself as Lilia comes into her own as a character. But I didn't really get absorbed into the world until page 216. This is a long time to wait to get pulled into a story.

I felt that there were gaps in plot logic, especially in the first half of the book. The angel shades don't talk so how does everyone know their names - did they write them down? If so, why don't they write down what else they want to say. Adam thinks he recognizes Lilia because it was her face on her husbands tattoo p.53, which he saw on the body. But it was mentioned that Adam was on the team that informed Lilia of her husband's death p.22.

Maybe my main problem was that for most of the book I didn't like Lilia. The reason for this being that she keeps doing stupid things. She doesn't get the relevance of the ugly necklace - this is supposed to be a reasonably intelligent woman. She drinks with people she suspects of being involved with her husband's death. For the first half of the book she keeps assuming that the things that keep happening to her are Montgomery's fault.

If this were the first in an openended series I don't think I'd pursue it any further. However, according to the author's website this is the first in a trilogy, and I am intrigued enough by the mystery, by what Raphael's mission may be, by what Adam and Lilia may do next to want to check out the next book. I hope with the worldbuilding set-up out of the way, that the next book takes a lot less than 200 pages to pull me in.

Friday 14 August 2009

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Magic Strikes is the third Kate Daniel's novel. When Kate's werewolf friend, Derek, is discovered nearly beaten to death she determines to find who did this to him and make them pay. However, this means going against the law of Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta and takes her undercover into the world of the Midnight Games. This time she'll be at greater risk than ever before and the reader will finally have her secret confirmed. (Did anyone else wonder why Kate has got such a nasty bruise on her arm on the cover?)

I admit this one took me a while to get round to - which I'm sure amazes a lot of people. It's just underground fighting rings - not really my cup of tea. I still don't think I'm wrong about that, lol, but I do think I made a mistake leaving it so long to pick this up. Mainly because the Midnight Games are more of a backdrop allowing the plot to happen rather than taking over the book. What's more interesting is the interaction between the characters and how relationships develop here as Kate and friends have to fight in the games to find not only Derek's killer but also to prevent a catastrophic shift in power in Atlanta.

As always the banter between Kate and Curran is worth the price of the book alone. I love how their relationship develops here. Particularly further evidence of Curran's courting technique.
"I thought you were some sort of maniac!" I growled.
"I am."
If I had to single out a favourite scene it would be the discussion between Raphael and Kate about different alphas courting rituals. Robert the rat alpha and the M&M's, the courtship of the Hyena alpha and the incident with the cat. It's these little titbits that make the Kate Daniel's books required reading for the urban fantasy fan. It's what makes the characters come alive and the worldbuilding seem so real.

We finally get confirmation of what Kate's secret is. I say it this way because I'd pretty much guessed what it was - mainly to do with the ritualistic way she disposes of any bandages she has to use. It makes me very interested in the next book in the series - Magic Bleeds.

I like the individual development of Kate and Curran here. We find out much more about their back story (and also Saiman's). And it's interesting what Kate says about how she puts her friends into danger
"Everyone I dared to care about died, violently and in pain."
(also thinking back to the first book when she was something of a loner), and now she seems to have an expanding circle of people that she cares about. Which makes her life more complicated and makes her personally more vulnerable.

Favourite new character is Dali. The description of her - the vegetarian, cross-eyed were-tiger - is so endearing. And am I alone in sensing chemistry between her and Jim?

In a way I'm glad I left it so long before picking this one up, because it means the interminable wait until the next book will be that much shorter. And predict I'll be tearing into that one rather than let it linger on the shelf.

Friday 7 August 2009

Fallen (So Far), Updates and other Stuff

I am stuggling with Fallen by Claire Delacroix, for a number of reasons. At least one of them is probably trivial and stupid, but there you go.

  • It's set in (New) Gotham City, so I keep expecting Batman to show up. I don't care if Gotham is a real city in the US. If you are writing an original story don't set it in a place so synonymous with such a famous urban fantasy character.
  • In the frontispiece there's a quote from another author which describes the book as 'perfect'. Being a glass half full kind of person I guess this immediately puts me on the defensive as a reader. I think even if someone does describe your book as perfect - don't put it in there.
  • There's conflicting stuff going on - by that I mean the plot is contradicting itself. And the prose is quite heavy.
  • It's labelled on the spine as paranormal romance. Now from what I've read so far, that's incorrect genre labelling. I'd say this is urban fantasy, verging on (future dystopia) science fiction.

I'm not even on p.100 yet and I am struggling. I don't like to write a review if I haven't finished the book so I am going to persevere for the moment.

I will add that the hero is interesting. His part of the story is more engaging, the first scene where his wings are amputated is harrowing. The heroine is more two-dimensional, hopefully she'll improve. And the intercuts of newspaper articles and legal pronouncements - I like, it fleshes the worldbuilding out. The story I think though is somewhat reminiscent of Lyda Morehouse's (hope I've remembered her name right) Archangel series. Will keep going for the moment.

Magic Strikes review will be up at the weekend. :) Loved it!

I am now on Goodreads. As soon as I work out how to put the widget on my sidebar I will be doing that.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

TBR 2009 Challenge

I'm going to withdraw gracefully I think.

There is just no way at the moment I can keep up with the challenge. Not at specified times. So if a book has come from my TBR pile and has been there for a while I'll tag it as such, but otherwise I'm going to just try and get through the mountain one book at a time.

Speaking of the mountain - I am still cataloging it. When I have a definitive number I'll post it here. On the plus side, I don't think it's as big as I thought it was, but on the minus side it's still more books than I could possibly read in a year, if I read continuously!

Monday 3 August 2009

Magic Strikes - So Far

I'm currently about a third of the way through and very much enjoying it.

I do remember why I didn't pick this one up straight away though. I am not really a fan of the whole underground supernatural fighting ring as a plot device. It's one that has been done over and over* and has never really appealed to me.

But I had forgotten how much I love the characters of this series, and so far it's much more about them. I am so glad that Ilona Andrews has a new series coming out shortly so I don't have to wait too long before getting my hands on another of her books.

* - Star Trek, Angel, Sanctuary, Torchwood. I'm sure there are others.