opusculus: Umineko's Beatrice looking superior (Witches stand above)
There are times when I find the whole urban fantasy genre frustrating as fuck. I should be its biggest fan! I love ridiculous Mary Sues, I love cities, I love female protagonists, I love adventure and mystery and yadda yadda. But I was thinking it over, with my failed run at yet another highly recommended urban fantasy (Magic to the Bone), and I think I figured out why.

Your basic urban fantasy heroine seems pretty much modelled after the traditional male anti-hero? She's tough, she's brooding, she's hot, she's utterly friendless because that would be emotional weakness and a real hero needs no emotional weaknesses. And this meshes horribly with the fact that urban fantasy generally requires that she get together with her alpha male boyfriend who introduces her to a whole new life in the underworld. Because- okay, I don't like either the traditional brooding emotionless male anti-hero or romance, so that is totally part of my problem here.

But the thing about emotionally broken male anti-heroes is that it was supposed to convey a particular type of strength. He's above all these petty emotions because he's such a great hero and maybe a hot woman will break his shell a little, but she'll be fridged by the end of the story so all it gives him is more reason to be above it all in order to not let himself be broken by the cruel pettiness of the world around him. With urban fantasy heroines, it's a weakness that they'll generally be improving at over the course of the series, largely because of their boyfriend's influence. And I mean, I can see the appeal of that to the people who like it? But in light of that I just find the heroines to be written to be immature in a way that I can't just roll my eyes, turn off my brain and ignore. I think most loner anti-heroes are fundamentally immature too, but I have a much easier time ignoring something written to be a static trait rather than a subplot, basically.

Also, while I'm complaining, can we have some more urban fantasy female protagonists with some actual female friends? I mean, come on. Average ratio seems to be 5 guy friends to 1 female friend who makes the least appearances out of any of her friends.
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Man, I haven't posted in forever. Partially because of catching a cold, and partially because of general meh at life. So! Have two book reactions, about two books about as polar opposite as things get.

Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey

I think my overwhelming reaction to this book can be summed up as lolololol. cut for spoilers for the entire book )

In summary: Mercedes Lackey writes great books for those days you're spending in bed snuffling miserably into boxes of tissues. No thought required, and everyone involved looks so silly at being miserable that it's hard to feel very miserable for yourself.

And the other book I wanted to babble happily about is The Other Brain by R Douglas Fields. This book is utterly beyond awesome, and is basically what I've been looking for for years, except infinitely more awesome. It's about glia! Glia, for those of you who don't remember what they are, are basically the cells in your brain that aren't neurons. For ages, they've pretty much been dismissed as insulation for the nerves to keep the electrical signals from getting lost, but as it turns out, there's increasing evidence that approximately 90% of your brain isn't dead weight after all! (Well. Some people's brains. I am perfectly willing to believe that for some people 90% of their brain is dead weight.)

Basically, if I wanted to sum up the book, it's just about how glia have a huge role in the brain that people have overlooked because, well, it's easier to study the parts of the brain that emit electricity than it is to study the parts that don't emit anything noticeable. It's not the best-written pop science book I've ever read by any means, and some parts dragged on for me terribly.It's not the best-written pop science book I've ever read by any means, and some parts dragged on for me terribly.It's not the best-written pop science book I've ever read by any means, and some parts dragged on for me terribly.

But! Glia! New information on the brain! With new information on how the brain works that makes the working of the brain make so much more sense to me! ♥♥♥

...Okay I want to explain that part a little more. Most explanations of the brain pretty much go "Electric signals fire and that's how we think." This is true and all but...what happens when they aren't currently firing? I can't imagine that when your memory of a flower is stored in the brain by a constantly ongoing tiny circuit of neurons firing - it just seems like it wouldn't work for all the background information that the brain has to store. (Not to mention - god, can you imagine how much energy it would take to have to constantly fire signals so even the background information could survive?) I mean, there's weirder things in nature so I pretty much went "...okay?" at the books without actually getting it. But if those electrical signals are changing other things in the brain, and that's where the bulk of everything is happening and the neurons are just the electrical wiring, this makes so much more sense to me. Like seriously. SO MUCH MORE SENSE.

I just wish I knew a neurologist so I could ask if I'm completely off base here or if my reading's right :( Or at least had an affordable brain textbook. Why do textbooks have to charge so much. ...So basically in conclusion I am a giant dork for information about the brain. This is not news. Also if I bother finish reading this book on Christianity I am so ranting about it here. You know that any book about Christianity that starts with them turning a skeptics' group into a bible study class with the power of their totally new and insightful arguments about the nature of God is going to be awesome, right? (Hint: Scientists did not doubt the Big Bang because it was too religious. Scientists doubted the Big Bang because if you don't doubt theories and test them and instead take them on faith because they match a possible reading of the Bible, you are a bad scientist.)
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For everyone who I've told to read the Vorkosigan series who hasn't read it (and if you're reading this and haven't yet read it, consider yourself told): The entire series is now available online. For free. Legitimately. Go read it.

(Except, for some reason, Memory. Goddamnit, that's the one I've been wanting to reread and can't find. It's also a really key book in the structure of the series, so I can't advise starting Komarr until you've read that.)
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...well that was intelligent of me. So! If you have made a comment to me for the last couple of weeks that I haven't responded to, it's because my LJ/DW/JF email address had stopped forwarding to gmail because the forwarding service I used changed and stopped forwarding. I was wondering why all comments had suddenly ceased! So I just set up a new gmail account at limemeringuepie, if anyone for some reason had sarracenia@devils.com in their email address list and wants to update that. Sorry if you commented/emailed and wondered why I didn't respond.

In other news, I picked up a book about how religions might have evolved: The Invention of God: The Origins of Religious and Scientific Thought by Bill Lauritzen. It is absolutely terrible. It's vaguely like if Erich von Däniken was an atheist and talking about religion and had a strange obsession with volcanoes as being what everyone talking about gods was actually referring to. Though I'm only 12% of the way through so I guess it could improve! Somehow. Maybe. I am highly doubtful of this, really.


Dear programmers of video games for the iPad:

Women exist. We even exist outside of prizes for the male hero! SHOCKING, I KNOW. Also penises are not magic learning learning devices.

Though I suppose I do almost admire how quickly you managed to make it clear that despite the mage being capable of using the Most Powerful Spell, she was really a sweet, charming, helpless girl who'd stay at home and cook for the hero and needed the help of someone with a penis to access any power. I mean, driving me off by the end of the first cut scene takes some skill.

No love,
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You know you've been hanging out on fandom_wank too long when you have a dream about a fandom that has people who kill anyone who snarks on it. And since I was taking a class on it and couldn't stop making sarcastic comments about it, I was thus doomed. Except for the fact that I was a werewolf and could therefore probably eat them. I woke up and wtfed a lot. The book was the most pretentious vampire Victorian steampunk you have ever thought of, though.

Also I read Pratchett's new book! God I love his brain.

And this morning I stopped off at a donut store for breakfast on my way to work. It's a bit depressing to realize that you start work early enough that your donut is still warm. But at least it's a tasty sort of depression.
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Man, I still feel really crappy. This is annoying.

Anyway! In order to deal with the crappiness, I have been reading mindcandy urban fantasy, and I finally figured out what's really been bugging me about Carolyn Crane's Disillusionist series. Which, if you haven't read it or heard of it, is basically about a group of mentally ill people going around projecting their mental illness into evil people until the evil people are so broken they give up on being evil and become good people. It's actually a pretty fun and interesting read in some ways, but there's a lot that bugs me about it.

cut for overall series spoilers )
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Books that have made me happy lately \o\ )

Also man, a site that I get my bras from (Decent Exposures) just emailed me a day after my order to tell me that I qualified for 10% off my order since I'd bought from her before and the multiple bras discount thing was cumulative. \o\ Less money after I've already ordered makes me happy.
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So, I finally read Blameless by Gail Carriger, after the second book in that series succeeded in seriously pissing me off with the kind of cliffhanger ending that made me stop shipping the main couple forever.

And I have thoughts on this. Spoilery thoughts, for both Changeless and Soulless )
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...It's always nice to know that the fact that I tend to spend September feeling bitchy as hell outlasts my school career. Bah.

Books! )

Also, the demonverse game was awesome and I think it jarred me out of my RP funk \o\ Srsly I didn't even grocery shop this weekend because I was too busy either playing it or stalking threads in it. I should dig up some of the old threads so I can write porn for it in the kink meme without being bugged about getting characterization wrong.
opusculus: Digital Devil Saga's Angel showing her atma (Second safest cleavage)
It occurs to me that I am apparently incapable of finding any character named Gale a good candidate for a love triangle. Because if a Gale is involved in a love triangle, I expect that love triangle to be resolved into a healthy poly relationship, where each person in it is as emotionally healthy as they can be given their circumstances, and also the obstacles standing in their way haven't just been demolished but probably eaten (with the help of the rest of the Embryon, of course). Because Gale is just like that.

...This could lead to interesting things if I started applying this to, say, Dorothy Gale. Oz could use more cannibal demons, right?

(The Gale that brought this up was from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Post apocalyptic, reality show meets Roman gladiators meets Theseus' tribute. Good book, and well done, but honestly I'm not terribly inclined to read the rest of the series and I don't know why.)
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Cryoburn is out! \o\ At least if you're willing to pay $15 for an unedited electronic copy, which I so am.

Cut for spoilers, including a big one for the very end )
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You know what I want Mercedes Lackey to do? Stop dancing around writing a male non-human character/female human character who loves him despite his appearance, and give the next human character who falls into that situation a furry fetish rather than trying to write it as "OH SHE JUST LOVES THE BIRDMAN BECAUSE HE SINGS PRETTY AND THEY'RE BOTH OUTSIDERS". They can love their personality while being hot for their furry and/or feathery body, too and I'd actually be less weirded out by it.

I mean, if you've got a weird fetish and you fall in love with someone and that person happens to be one of the very few people on the planet who can satisfy your fetish - awesome! Good for you! But there's this underlying presumption that all these women are totally okay with screwing a half-wolf or half-bird because they love their personalities just that much that just makes me go "Uh. Pretty sure not everyone would be willing to bang a half-man, half-wolf. I'm also pretty sure that there's a lot more people who would think all there dreams who just came true if offered the chance to do so, so please stop acting like she's unique in her ability to look past her love interest's body into his soul."
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Bah, I'm going to get absolutely nothing done today because everyone I need to talk to is busy or not here. So I might as well catch up on my book list while I can actually remember it, I guess.

Half-World by Hirumi Goto, about a girl who stumbles into...call it a fairyland, I guess. I really liked this by the end, but to be honest I almost gave up repeatedly halfway through because it was such an ugly world. I mean, I got that that was the point, and what she was trying to do, but I still found myself getting squicked repeatedly, and I'm not a huge fan of authors trying to gross me out. I liked the fact that the main character was unapologetically everything we don't expect out of a heroine (fat, Japanese, ugly, poor, no special talents, etc.), and was still completely awesome and capable of heroism. You don't see that enough in fiction, really.

Call of the Mall by Paco Underhill, a book by a retail anthropologist and shopping scientist on malls. Lacked focus and generally kinda sucked, to be honest. I thought his first book was really interesting and have been vaguely meaning to get around to reading this book for years, so this was a disappointment. It was mostly him going with people on trips to the mall and interviewing them interspersed with his research on malls, and never really felt like it had a coherent theme underlying it. Also, he assumed that you'd read his first one at a couple points when it would've taken a few extra sentences to avoid it, which was just clumsy. Mostly, it felt like it needed a lot more editing, a lot less padding, and a lot more material.
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Guys, I went out and got my passport photos today, and I didn't look like a zombie axe murderer in them. I am shocked and stunned and amazed! And if my passport photos end up being the best photo I have ever taken I will laugh forever. I am the least photogenic person on the planet.

Catching up on my booklist! )
opusculus: Black hole (Default)
You know, it's a sad commentary on the state of assassins in literature when your first comment on discovering one is "Oh my god, an assassin who kills people without remorse? And isn't a retired and regretful badass? HOW UNUSUAL." ...So of course the assassin retires at the end of the first book, and picks up a hobby of saving innocents in the next. Is it so much to ask for the occasional assassin protagonist who's actually a remorseless killer without being a bleeding heart for anyone in trouble?

Although urban fantasy seems to have gone past the whole "it centers around a woman! Romance is always required to be just as important as the main plot!" since the last time I dug around for some shortly after I gave up on LKH for good. And I'm the kind of person who's happiest when the author never bothers resolving any romantic relationships, so it was a frustrating trend for all the entertaining Mary Sue badasses to care more about their relationships rather than kicking ass. I mean, shit man, badass Mary Sues are fun if you can identify with them at all. Why do you think equally badass and usually even more bland Gary Stus are pretty much universal as the protagonist in thriller type novels? (Seriously, do thriller authors have something against giving their protagonist a personality besides generic badass or something? Jack Reacher had to be one of the blandest protagonists I have ever read about. I hate the idea that you have to make a protagonist boring in order for people to project themselves into their heads. ...Actually, now I totally ship Jack Reacher/Bella. PersonalitylessProtagonistTP!)

I'm three quarters convinced that the entire reason paranormal romance/urban fantasy is so popular right now is because it's the first genre to really figure out fantasizing about being an impossible badass is a fun activity for all genders.
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So, I just finished reading The God Engines, by John Scalzi. Way too much horror and not enough fleshing out for my taste, but he did some interesting things in there too that I want to ramble about.

Cut for some pretty big spoilers )
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Yes, my ear infection is finally actually dying! \o\ Now if only my other ear would pop already since I still can't hear worth crap out of that ear and it's bugging me since I can finally hear okay out of the other one.

(And of course, I forgot my antibiotics before I left this morning. SIGH. Oh well, missing one won't kill me, I assume.)

In other news, I caught up on Jennifer Fallon's latest series, at least as far as it's out yet (sigh I choose to catch up ten days before the last book in it comes out. I know I'll forget about it after it comes out too). And as much as I love political epic fantasy, I wish she'd cut down on the woman with an active sex drive = evil, heroine = damaged sex drive because she's been raped trope. I mean, she manages to write some seriously awesome female characters despite that! ...Usually. The women in the Wolfblade series were all pretty much awesome and avoided that trope entirely iirc, and the chameleon spy was in the Immortal trilogy was awesome. And I have a weird fondness for Marqel who's like the bastard love child of both those tropes because I like unapologetically sociopathic and ambitious female characters and the use of religion to gain power. In some ways the entire Second Son trilogy feels to me like an dissection of the saw "Pretty women have more power than men because they control sex!" and what it would actually take to be even temporarily and partially true (hint: it involves combining religion, sex, and convincing the most powerful ruler on the planet to kill his firstborn child for your religion, because after that that guy will never allow himself to doubt in that religion. And it's still made clear that that's an innately fragile source of power). But those tropes still piss me off.
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So I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin last night! And...idk, I really enjoyed it, but I really enjoyed it in that way where some things really bug me.

It's an unusual book with an interesting style. The style reminds me a bit of Lies of Locke Lamora, and I think it really does suit the book well. A lot of the book's about gods and divinity in general, and it's one of the few books in fantasy I can recall that genuinely managed to convey a holy sort of feeling when dealing with gods, and I think that jumping around had a lot to do with it. And I really enjoy well-done inhumanity and humanity, especially where they're very close to human but they never quite work off the same underlying assumptions, and I thought the book handled that very well.

But there were a lot of things I didn't like about it, to be honest. Even the well-developed characters never quite caught me. Her dialogue isn't all that good, and I can see frustrating amounts of potential in there, but they never quite drew me in. I enjoyed Sieh and Nahadoth and Itempas, but they never quite...felt real? I mean, for me a lot of liking characters is getting into their heads and seeing what makes them tick. And I can do that with them, but it feels....flat and shallow.

And the main character just doesn't work for me. I don't dislike her, but I don't have any real opinion on her. I think the problem here is in the very tight focus. The book takes place in two weeks, after she's arrived in the palace that rules the world. Even when she was focusing on dealing with the things that she grew up loving...I never really got a sense of her outside the situation she was placed in, and since she was so lost and overwhelmed by the situation, I just never really got a good idea of who she was. I guess I never found a good way to place her in her context, and I need that to get a good understanding of characters. And so reading the book with that giant gap in the characterization when it's written from her perspective just kind of frustrated me the entire time.

Also, I realized reading it that I am starting to get really sick of hot guy/in between girl/cold guy threesomes. I mean, I still enjoy them? But I'm somehow simultaneously really sick of them while enjoying them idek. I think what bugs me is always putting the girl in between the two guys as a sort of bridge, rather than letting her be her own sort of extreme. And not all of them do that, but I really don't like this underlying expectation in a lot of these kinds of threesomes that of course it's the girl's job in a threesome to make sure that the boys are getting along, and girls are never allowed to be the extremes.

I mean, overall I really enjoyed the book! It has a really interesting mythological feel and I really enjoyed the ending and a lot of the subtle touches and I do plan on rereading and getting the second one. But I think the author got so caught up in the mythology that she neglected the world, and that kept bugging me the entire time.
opusculus: Black hole (Default)
So I think I'll try to actually keep track of what I've been reading by writing up a quick review of the books I've finished lately. WHAT A NOVEL CONCEPT.

cut for length )


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