Friday Book Review – Notorious Pleasures

ntrpls

Since I can’t remember any of the admittedly few Romances I (think) I read in middle school, it’s safe to say that Elizabeth Hoyt was one of the first Romance  authors I read. Courtney Milan is the other. I was pretty lukewarm about the first book in the Maiden Lane series, where most of my enjoyment was predicated on side characters whom I knew would get their own books, and the setting. The character I most wanted to see have her own book was Silence. Maybe if I had read Silence’s book when I wanted to and then come back to Notorious Pleasures, I might have liked NP better? I don’t know.

I read it in September, and I don’t particularly remember it now. I do remember that it took me a few minutes to remember who Hero Batten was, and part of the memory that came back said, “Oh yeah, her.” Which loosely translates to MEH. Summary time.

Lady Hero Batten has to marry a man whom she finds dull and just plain uninspiring as regards marital relations. However, she has a bigger problem: she falls for his rakish brother. But her future is dependent on the marriage. Her brother is an obnoxious dictator who will basically disown her if she doesn’t marry this guy, and apparently the rake has already seduced one actual wife away from his brother. So there’s some family drama for you.

It was hard to get a bead on Hero. Some heroines are a little too gimmicky or easily labelled, but Hero sort of just… falls between the cracks. She’ll start to come off as or called mousey, then the impression will fade. She isn’t emotionally troubled, nor is loyalty to or love of family significant backbones of her personality. The obstacle keeping her and Griffin apart is believable, but insufficient. It also didn’t lend her character more character. Really, I don’t know what her character or development really were. I rather suspect that she didn’t undergo any growth as a character, because what it took to overcome the difficulties was something she had the whole time. And not in an Oz kind of way. She had it, and she exercised it often. She just didn’t exercise it to end the romantic conflict until the end.

Griffin is slightly better. He has a bad reputation that he’s earned, as well as one that he doesn’t deserve. Like most well-to-do men, he seems to have nothing to do but entertain women and run around after Hero as soon as he’s aware of her. His relationship with his friend Nick Barnes was moving. But he doesn’t really change any more than Hero does. They are both much the same at the end as they were at the beginning. Except for being in love. This probably counts as a major strike, almost objectively.

There is a story going on, and it does affect the characters. But only the circumstances change. People solve problems, yes, but one of the major problems has a solution that seems like something Griffin should have already thought of, and all Hero actually did was make him feel guilty enough to get off his arse and do it.

There’s still some stuff going on in St Giles, thanks mostly to GIN, but it takes a backseat to the family drama and incredibly steamy sex scenes. There is also, of course, the expected Hoyt fairy tale, but it’s one of the weaker ones. Possibly because of the lack in character growth, Queen Ravenhair manages to sound like an almost generic fairy tale and has no real link to the narrative. Still, Hoyt’s understanding of fairy tales is always nice. Shades of Andrew Lang, and all that.

This one was not a re-read for me. However, I freely admit that I may have liked it better if Hero had grabbed my attention more in book one, or if I had just not been so keen for Silence’s book.

Desiderata re-mix

Recently, Hubby started using RPGM VX Ace. I had used it before, but he hadn’t. The verdict that came back was to remake Desiderata in the newer program. It means a lot of work, especially for me, since I do all of the eventing work. Some events will change, although I’m sure a great deal will remain the same. NPCs will be easier to make, and thus will probably end up with more variety. And I’ll finally be able to get over that wizard hurdle.

Some of the new maps are already done. Including a big world map!

worldmapdsd

Oh, that reminds me. A lot of the geography is going to change.

clarionchurch

The sprites will probably be the same, although I haven’t make an absolute decision. Better maps may mean more optional events and definitely a better setting in which to tell the story. My biggest job right now is prepping to move/recreate what’s already done.

Friday Book Review – Acorna’s Search

acornasearch

How funny, I haven’t read another Acorna book since this one, and now I’ve finally reached this review to betterise. I’d better get to the next book soon.

This one surprised me. Acorna’s Search is the first book after the defeat of the major threat, the Khleevi, and overall, I think this was a good place to go with the story. The writing style improved a lot here, and there was much less Twee and Self-righteousness. Always a joy.

In a way that reminded me of post-war healing, the Linyaari return to their original homeworld with to survey the land in preparation for terraforming. But soon after they arrive, people start to go missing. This shouldn’t be a big deal for telepaths who have literally shown themselves capable of contacting one another across lightyears. Except no one can reach the missing ones telepathically.

Depending on your tolerance for the Linyaari’s tendency to complain/whine, their initial reactions to the terraforming project can either make you sympathise or throw your hands in the air and ask if they are ever happy with effing anything. Although I’m usually cheerfully the latter, this time I went with the former, because of the kinds of things they said. Nitpicks like, “I don’t remember that mountain being so high,” etc. Somehow, it made me really think about what a horrible thing happened to them (something their general behaviour tends to make you forget in favour of just being digusted with the majority), and everything that this project means.

However, I would have sympathised more if this had led to a discussion that memories are subjective, and that they can only get so far with an enormous geological project based on what people remember. Most of their records have been destroyed. Unfortunately, no one made that observation, and so leaves readers with nothing but the whining.

After they land, the first person to go missing is the annoying vizir. This is a genius place to start, because no one, and I mean NO ONE is going to miss her. Not readers or the characters. They actually assumed that she had skived off because it’s the kind of lazy asshole thing that she would do. They didn’t think anything bad had happened to her, and a lot of them really didn’t care if it might have. But then they miss someone who is not a douchebag and stuff gets real.

The horror elements were great. Although they could have been done with more emphasis, and the narrative focused mostly on bickering and helplessness rather than fear. Even so, I made up for it by wanting to the tension to affect me. If you step back and consider the idea of telepaths going missing, and even “going dark,” without the sign of fear/pain that would accompany death… You gotta admit, that’s pretty scary. They honestly don’t know whether their loved ones are alive or dead. And all of this is happening on a dead planet with extreme significance for everyone there. Telepaths accustomed to constant thought traffic are suddenly weighed down with silence.

One thing that really didn’t sit well with me was the resolution. My reaction was to close the book on my thumb, look up and say aloud, “Okay, what the heck was…. did that… No. I had to have read that wrong.” Whereupon I read it again. I hadn’t read it wrong.

Then I read it to Hubby and I think he just laughed. [So, people are lost in time. This is cool. Their method of time travel? Fall in the water. Seriously. Acorna gets trapped in time, and falls down a waterfall, then pops out… on the other side? I still don’t get this.] Probably the right reaction.

Anyway, the cliffhanger for the next book is compelling. It’s hard to talk about the latter end of the book without using a billion spoiler tags, or tagging the whole review. So yeah, first half is the expected Acorna installment except a bit darker and with more Linyaari. It’s safe to say that the Uncles have officially been replaced by Becker, who is himself probably on the way out. I mean it about the uncles, Hafiz isn’t even pretending to be retired anymore, and I don’t think anyone even said Rafik’s name.

The obsoletion of the Uncles reminds me rather dismally and uncomfortably of those RPs I have seen where, once a character ends up HEA in a romantic relationship, he or she either falls out of the RP (along with the love interest, if it was a PC) to be replaced by a new single character who will probably meet the same fate, or s/he becomes abominably boring. This impression was not helped by the fact that Becker managed to stay relevant and on-camera by breaking up with Nadhari. To be fair, it might also have something to do with the fact that three father figures is a lot to juggle, and they were never all that distinct anyway.

I struggled with how I felt about the obsoletion for a while. Like I said, all three of those characters were not terribly complex and they petered out by the end of the first book. They’re rather flat, and they fell into the romance trap I mentioned quite quickly. In the end, I’m going to stand by what I said when I first wrote the review: It’s just not very good character management, and further proof that the first book is the weakest in this series–which is a very bad thing, guys.

Still, I want to read the next book. Now that I’ve officially read more than I previously had done, I’m glad I started re-reading this series.

Big Hero 6 is Not a Team Movie

I’ve read a couple of reviews, and now I’ve seen the movie twice. One thing I couldn’t help but notice about the reviews is that the people who felt dissatisfied with the movie had the same kinds of reasons. They all said that they thought the other teammates were under-developed or under-utilised. They also admitted that the story/development between Hiro and Baymax was great.

Looking at those two statements together makes it pretty clear what happened. They went in expecting an ensemble, only to find a single protagonist narrative. The thing is, that is NOT the movie’s fault. It’s a good single protagonist narrative. A bit easy to call the plot progression, but still good.

What I think happened is that the Avengers made a huge impact, which continues to affect people’s expectations of Marvel movies. Big Hero 6 is the team name, like Avengers, so the title implies that this is about the team. But if you go in without expectations, like I did, the movie lets you know exactly what it is.

I didn’t even see the trailer until today. There are apparently two, one from about six months before release, the second about two months before release.

See? Does not look like a team movie. The team doesn’t even show up in the trailer until well over a minute in. The focus is on the main character and the deuteragonist. The second trailer also focuses on them, but then it throws a confusing bone to the team. Marketing often does not know what to do. There was more to that sentence, and yet the full stop just demanded to be where it is.

This is one of those things that I wish I could explain to lots of people and actually have them listen.

Friday Book Review – Crossed

This is one of my favourite reviews. It’s succinct, and only my opinion.

Have you ever known someone who was a perfectly good person, but you just couldn’t like them? Even if you forced yourself? For me, this book is that person. It’s wispy, overwrought, melodramatic, and obsessed with poetry. The only good thing about the wispiness is that it hides the underlying smugness at its own imagined beauty.

Honestly, the entire time I read it, I imagined the book being read by Rennet from Cold Comfort Farm.

Twirling and humming all the dang while.

I know that the poetry is a key part of the plot. I also know that whatever my opinion is on poetry itself, there are certain, shall we call them “fans” of poetry, whom I find aggravating in the extreme. They tend to have those traits I mentioned: wispy, overwrought, smug, etc. In Crossed, these fans are apparently going to save the world.

The writing is decent, and I liked the side characters. I also did not actually dislike Cassia or Ky, I just didn’t really get invested.

As such, I can’t decide if I want to read the last book or not. I just don’t care that much.

I did read the last book, mostly on a whim. My life is exactly the same as if would have been if I hadn’t read it.