Monday, 30 September 2013

Soon I Will Be Invincible, by Austin Grossman

In need of a super-power fix, this looked the perfect distraction while waiting for Agents of SHIELD to air, but didn't live up to its early potential and left me wishing I'd just watched Megamind instead.

Doctor Impossible is an evil genius, languishing in prison after yet another attempt at world domination has seen him once again bested by his nemesis, CoreFire, and the super powered members of the Champions (since disbanded).

When CoreFire mysteriously disappears and Doctor Impossible escapes, the Champions need to join forces once more and welcome some new members to the team - former supervillain Lily and Fatale, a woman transformed via an horrific accident into a half-cyborg super-soldier.

Told through the alternating viewpoints of Impossible and Fatale (who I became wildly jealous of for a moment when it was noted that her kicks were modelled via motion-capture on Bruce Lee. Yes, I'm really that sad) this cast a knowing wink in the direction of the many stereotypes and cliches of the superhero world, but while it had some nice moments (particularly when dealing with the mundanity of day-to-day super powered life) its tongue wasn't anywhere near as firmly in cheek as it needed to be to be real fun, and while Grossman ensured his heroes showed a bit of angst, there wasn't enough depth to make it very powerful.

Building a world and history via flashback also didn't entirely work for me, with more than one moment of confusion as to when exactly we were now, and the allusions to past events and relationships didn't do enough to illuminate those relationships in the present day.

This all added up to a very muted feeling, and while I kept anticipating a reveal and climax that would dial everything up, instead it all ended in a bit of a shrug.

Now, where's my Megamind DVD...?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Black Dagger Brotherhood, by JR Ward

Odds are that if you’re into vampires, you’re already read this series. But just in case you haven't, let's take a moment to talk about the Black Dagger Brotherhood.

 One of the first paranormal ‘romances’ I’d come across, I read it (well, 5 of them, anyway. There are 11 of them to date) a few years ago. You probably ought to know that when I say romance here, what I really mean is it's really this kind of book:

I was pleasantly surprised with the first few instalments and tore through one a month, but found my ardour rapidly cooling and all of the little things that had bugged me from the first soon became insurmountable obstacles to my enjoyment – the ridiculous names, the meek ladies and dodgy sexual politics, and the deadly boring Lessers who’d take up half a book plotting to be rid of the Brotherhood, but who only really existed to injury a lady so the lads could act ragey and swoop in to the rescue.

Starting well with Wrath and reaching a high (for me) with the third instalment – that of the damaged Zsadist – below are my thoughts from my BDB journey…

Dark Lover - 3 stars
(read June 10)

I came to this book with very high expectations after seeing how many people were in love with this series, squeeing all over Goodreads, and while I wasn't as head-over-heels crazy about it, it was still entertaining and (ahem) enjoyable enough for me to want to continue.

When the leader of the Brotherhood, Wrath, shows up in the bedroom of Beth one night, she doesn’t instantly start screaming the house down or trying to disable her intruder. Instead they head to Sexytown and Beth is soon whisked out of her life and into that of the Brotherhood, where they all live together in their swanky mansion complete with weird servants, and where the Brothers are all far too interested in and forever pass comment on one another’s love lives.

Less a vampire story and more a story with vampires in it, it's certainly not one I'd be lending to anyone on the basis of it being well-written literature. It was at times cheesy, predictable and overblown, with the romantic bits some of the worst offenders …

...and I also had trouble not rolling my eyes at the names and mythology, but let's face it - it's about hot people having sex and on that front it delivers, and often. 
With the Brotherhood set up as it is with different personality types, looks, etc I can certainly see this series growing on me as I read on, at least until I get to Zsadist (who's by far and away the most attractive at this stage, which probably says something worrying about me).

Recommended for anyone who sat through Twilight wishing someone would just ram someone against the wall and...

Lover Eternal - 2.5 stars
(read July 10)

We're back for another round of vampire-porn (sorry, romance!), this time with a little more angst as we're taking on the 'gorgeous' womaniser Rhage and his lady love, Mary.

After Rhage falls instantly in love with Mary (as you books) he struggles with controlling his beast around her (the dragon inside him, that is, not the pants-beast that is forever straining to get out), while battling her reluctance to open up to him as she struggles with leukaemia. While it was never in doubt that they'd get their happy-ever-after, it was quite enjoyable getting there (Mary's initial reluctance went over a lot easier with me than Beth's eager panting from the very start), although I must admit that after the few tantalising snippets of Zsadist and Bella I found myself way more interested in them than in our current leads.

So, while the subservient female vampires and the rubbish that is spouted by the Brothers about 'females' is really starting to rub me up the wrong way, it won’t stop me from at least reading the next instalment.

Lover Awakened - 3.5 stars
(read August 10)

By far and away the best in the series so far as Ward takes on my favourite brother, Zsadist. Considering the awful things that have occurred to him in his past it seems slightly off saying that he's hotness itself, but so it goes.

Far less cloying than the preceding two thanks to Zsadist's horrific backstory, his relationship with Bella is far less instantly lovey-dovey than we've encountered before and with his own journey being just as important as the romance it felt like this instalment had a lot more depth. With a very un-BDB like tragedy also occurring, this book also seems to promise that there will be a little more meat to the stories that follow, which can only be a good thing.

There are still several elements of the series which annoy - I really couldn't give a toss about the Lessers, the gender politics still rankle, and it also seems blindlingly obvious to me who John Matthew is, so I hope that story strand isn't going to be built up into a long-drawn out, unmystifying mystery. Worst of all is the language that Ward has come up with - sticking random h's in words doesn't seem like you have a fully realised world with its own language, it's nahff and ahnnoying and just loohks as though the wohrds are spehlt wrong.


That said, I couldn't put this book down and each time I had to (why is it that people always seem to want to bloody talk to you just as you've got to a really good bit?) I couldn't wait to pick it up again.

Lover Revealed - 1.5 stars
(read Sept 10)

Meh...another instalment of erotic nonsense, this time in which Butch gets his happy ending (and another, and another, fnar fnar) only this time I'm finding it harder and harder going (this time, no pun intended) - slightly surprising as I'd have ranked Butch as my next in line after Zsadist.

In this issue (dear me, I'm seeing puns everywhere now) Butch gets super special soldier status as he joins the Brotherhood, only with an added bit of Omega in him. Thus his ridiculous new name, Dhestroyer. Obviously, he also ghets to screhw Marissa even though clearly he should have ended up with Vishous.

Although this time around Ward actually tried a bit harder and put in an extra bit of plot, my interest really started to wane and in between feeling like the book was starting to drag I found I was encountering more and more 'Oh for fuck's sake' moments (not that there weren't tons before, but this time mine were far more violent reactions).

I believe I may well be done, but like all nasty little addictions a little voice in my head keeps piping up 'maybe just after we read about Vishous, then that's it, I swear...'

P.S. Is it just me or would it be a bloody nightmare living with that vampire Brady Bunch? Everyone's either stomping about like the world's ending because their lover has misunderstood their intentions, getting violently possessive with their friends, or dry humping their lover at the kitchen table. I'm getting more and more annoyed the more I think about it.

Lover Unbound - 1 star
(read Oct 10)

Oh, give over...

I've officially had enough with this series. After being disappointed with the last book, I didn't think I'd encounter anything that could top the lameness of Butch's conversion to super special Omega-infused Brother, but then I hadn't banked on Ward being willing to well and truly take the biscuit in this one.

And it had all been going so well...I'd initially enjoyed this one much more, what with a slightly spunkier than usual love interest, an un-vanilla sex life and an apparent willingness to throw something painful into the story when the Lessers make their only appearance. If we'd ended before the happy-ever-after, the series might have just started looking up. But then Ward goes and lets Vishous have Jane after all, as a ghost.

At this point, go back and replace my entire review with this:

So there you have it. A fun novelty at first, but soon far too much for anyone who fears that bad books will rot their brain.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Tawny Man, by Robin Hobb

5 stars

This isn't the first time I've talked about Robin Hobb here, and it probably won't be the last, but before you read this series, you need to go and read The Farseer Trilogy (Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin and Assassin's Quest) as this follows the events and some of the characters we met there. Go on, I'll wait....

Done? Good. Now go and get yourself a box of tissues. Also, consider this a warning - mild spoilers will abound...

Fool's Errand

Crying rating: 

In the long years since the events of the Farseer Trilogy, Fitz has been living a quiet life as Tom Badgerlock. Away from Buckkeep and all he loves save for the now elderly Nighteyes and Hap, a foundling he's taken in, and with no visitors save for the occasional tryst with Starling (who's become even more of a selfish, nasty bitch in the intervening years) he's become an old man before his time. A sort of peace has settled over the Six Duchies in the wake of the Red Ships War, but the legacy of the cruel reign of Regal still haunts the land, with the persecution of those suspected to be Witted now more widespread than ever before.

So when Prince Dutiful (heir of Verity and, kinda, Fitz) goes missing before his betrothal to an Outislander narcheska, there's more than just the uneasy truce between those previously warring lands to consider - the Prince is rumoured in certain quarters to be Witted, and may have become a unwitting tool to be used against the Farseer line.

Heralding a welcome return for my two favourite characters - Nighteyes and The Fool - this was just as engrossing as the previous series, and perhaps even more bittersweet. Hobb never hurries to tell her story, but lets it unfold at its own pace and gives us enough time with her characters for us to feel they're more intimate acquaintances than figures from a book. Once again I found myself hollering at people, or wanting to jump into the pages to either protect or (especially in the case of Starling) smack them in their nasty mouths. This time spent with our characters also let my sense of foreboding grow in regard to Nighteyes (though he would have hated my stealing his 'now' with worries of what was to come) and by the time we reached the inevitable I'd become something of a watery-eyed emotional wreck.

The Wit remains for me one of the strongest points within this series, and I loved the different voices given to various animals, all with their own distinct identities and thought processes that seemed true to them rather than as humans cloaked in fur (the amusingly arrogant Fennel reminded me of my own cat).

With Fitz, as Tom, now drawn back into the life and intrigue of the Six Duchies, I had to dive straight in to the next book.

Golden Fool

Crying rating: 

The second book in the series and the plot not only thickens, but upsets me more at every turn.

Prince Dutiful has been returned to Buckkeep in time to meet his potential future wife, Elliania - an imperious young girl from the Out Islands - along with her entourage. Fitz as Tom is struggling to get used to life without Nighteyes, while being pressured to become Dutiful's tutor in the Skill and trying to protect Nettle from being called into his service. A delegation has arrived from Bingtown, needing an alliance against Chalced and help raising Tintaglia's fledgling dragons, and the Queen is struggling to stop the persecution of the Witted within her realms as the Piebalds try to stir up further resentment of the Farseers from within their ranks. And to make thing worse, Fitz is busy alienating those around him - and none more so than The Fool, which makes me want to jump into the book and slap him silly.

Containing a ton of action, a wealth of emotion, and enough tantalising and yet terrifying hints as to what might be coming next, I both can't wait and dread getting stuck in to the last in this series. 

Fool's Fate

Crying rating: 

The final instalment and my, what an ending it is - I must have spent virtually the last third sobbing, until I ended the day with swollen eyes and a slightly throbbing head, and minus a whole roll of tissue.

Still serving the Farseers, albeit in his guise of Tom Badgerlock, Fitz leaves Buckkeep to join Prince Dutiful's betrothal quest to behead the dragon Icefyre - a quest that turns out to be rather unpopular with the rest of the Outislanders, adding another worry to Fitz's already huge burden along with the nursing of Thick (who's really not a fan of sea journeys and is making Fitz pay for dragging him on one) keeping an eye on Swift, Burrich's Witted son (whom he's sworn to protect) and dealing with his betrayal of the Fool in an effort to protect him from his fate.

Hobb continues to excel at buidling and developing her world, tying together things that have happened in past series as well as adding new angles from which her world and characters can be seen, letting them grow in new and sometimes surprising ways. Her attention to detail carries over into the characters' relationships, and I'm hard pressed to think of any world I'm quite as emotionally invested in as this. And while she tends to like making things bleaker and bleaker at every step (this instalment was no slouch in that department) she still manages to somehow pull you back from the brink by the end, wrapping the story up with a satisfying, if bittersweet, end.

If I've got any quibbles they're with myself rather than the books - as noted above, I am ridiculously emotionally invested in these characters, to the point that I've found myself nearly overwhelmed with depression during some of their hardest times. This time around I nearly scurried back to the doctors for better antidepressants until I realised that my depression had lifted a few hours after finishing....oops!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Where's my reading time, dude?

For as long as I can remember, I've been a book lover. One of my favourite ways to spend any of my time, I'd read during any spare moments I had and would frequently finish one book only to dive straight back in to another.

I've been home from Spain for 5 days now. During this time, I have mostly been steam-cleaning my house (when I'm not at work, that is) ready for us to put it on the market. Do you know what I haven't been doing during any of this time?

That's right. Reading.

There used to be time when, if I wasn't getting any reading time at home, I could at least guarantee half an hour a day during my lunch break. Sadly, in my brave new Midge-less work life, it seems lunch breaks are a thing of the past. 

I also used to get a guaranteed block of at least one hour when I got home from work and before I cooked tea. This is now taken up with staying at work, and then fitting in a burst of housework before I cook tea. 

With plans for every night after work this week, it's starting to look as though my next block of reading time will be at the weekend. If I'm not still sorting out the house, that is.

As I'm currently a quarter of the way through the last book in what's been a brilliant, thrilling trilogy, if I don't get to finish it soon it's entirely possible that this will be TheShitWizard that everyone gets to deal with for the foreseeable future:

I never thought I'd be glad to see football back on the telly, but as it's now my last reading respite I'm praying to all my gods that it's on constantly for the next six months...

Monday, 16 September 2013

I'd rather be...

I'm back.

I'm really happy about this. Especially the bit where I have to go to work again. 

I love my job. I love it so much that I would rather be doing any one of these than heading in to the office today:

1. Dodging traffic

2. Dreaming of this guy

3. Taking a dive into the world's worst toilet

4. Tightrope walking the Grand Canyon

5. Being set on fire

6. Being punched by Bruce Lee

7. Eating a live octopus

8. Bobbing for sharks

9. Taking a watermelon to the face

10. Hanging out with this asshole

Monday, 2 September 2013

Transfer Deadline Day

NikNak's watching Transfer Deadline day. A few hours ago, one of the presenters announced that £520 million had been spent so far today. £520 million. Five hundred and twenty million pounds. No matter what way and how many times you you say it, it's obscene.

So, to every club owner and to every player who earns far more than my yearly salary in one week, this one's for you: