Tombstone Blues by Chadwick Ginther – Book Review

Catching up on book reviews here.

After beating back the might of Surtur, Ted Callan is getting used to his immortal powers. The man who once would stop at nothing to rid himself of his tattoos and their power might even be said to be enjoying his new-found abilities.

However, not everyone is happy the glory of Valhalla has risen from the ashes of Ragnarok. With every crash of Mjolnir, Thor, former god of thunder, rages in Niflheim, the land of the dead.

Now that Ted’s woken the dead, there’s going to be hell to pay.

Even better than book one. If you thought Ted’s sort-of romance with Tilda was going to go smoothly, you’re worse than wrong. I love that the relationship between the two of them seems so real. I mean, he’s a middle aged guy, hooking up with a teenager. And on the one hand, she has a lot of wisdom she’s gained from what happened in book one, but on the other hand, she’s still a teenager, and she ultimately acts like it. She’s not emotionally ready for the things she’s dealing with, and helping her cope is a task greater than all the power Ted’s been given.

The handling of the mythology too is one of the things that makes this series stand out. It picks up where ragnarok left off, rather than being a retelling. That gives the author a lot of freedom to introduce plot twists, and yet, Ginther seems to be trying to be as true to the source material as he can, playing on the emotions of the mythical characters in logical ways, like Loki’s anger and sadness over the Asgardians murdering his children. Many interpretations put characters like Thor up as a heroic nice guy, but Ginther makes him a villain, and when he reminds the reader of some of the awful things Thor did, according to the stories, he’s really not stretching at all, from the perspective of modern sensibilities.

Loki has significantly less presence in book two – in fact, you spend most of book two wondering every once in a while where the hell is Loki in all this? But the raven’s, Huginn and Muninn actually do a good job of filling in for comic relief, which is important in a story where the emotions run so dark. The scope of the book is a little more epic, since rather than trashing a little town in Manitoba, Ginther’ has the minions of Hel trashing Winnipeg itself.

I’m looking forward to book three in the series. We’ve made a request that the Winnipeg Human Rights Museum* be destroyed, and I do hope he gets to that at some point.

*Before you think I’m a horrible person for taking joy in the destruction of a human rights museum, this building went horrifically over budget, which all came out of taxpayers pockets. On top of that is the controversy that it’s not actually a *human* rights museum, it is a remember-what-happened-to-the-jews-in-wwii museum, and when people asked why the place wasn’t going to be exhibiting anything to do with human rights violations towards black people or first nations people, they just said that’s not what this museum is for.

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Throne Of The Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed – Book Review

This was another book I’d been meaning to read just because it was a non-eurocentric traditional fantasy, and also because it was recommended by a friend. Beneath Ceaseless Skies had a twitter contest that I entered and won an audiobook copy, which was great – I love audiobooks, but they’re so expensive!

There’s a bunch of 1-star reviews on this book on good reads, and almost all of them justify it by saying they didn’t like the amount of blessed this and by the grace of the almighty god, etc. I don’t think that’s fair at all. I think those are all prejudiced Americans who are terrified of other cultures. I rolled my eyes at those reviews.

It was a great book, and nice to see something set in a middle-east inspired setting with such a balanced cast of characters, not to mention not being filtered through a lens of western hatred of Islam. Not only is there a variety of different character personalities – from the uptight, uber-religious Raseed right through the irreverent Doctor Adoulla, but also represented are varying cultures within the middle east, to remind us that there is as much, and probably more, variety of cultures within the middle east as there are in North America. From the crowded city, to the nomads, to ancient empires, I’d say it was richly imagined, but I don’t think it’s far from the reality of the region.

Aside from the golems and alchemists and child eating man-jackal, of course.

As far as the plot, I’ll say what others have said – it’s a good old fashioned traditional fantasy. The author doesn’t hide behind any bullshit “Women didn’t do anything important back then” and has several prominent female characters. I loved that the main character, Adoulla is an aging wizard, and yet he’s not pushed to the background and denied a romantic plot for being the age he is.

The reader was great and I think he did the story justice with different accents and voices. Thanks go out to Beneath Ceaseless Skies for providing the audiobook.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment.

Find it on Goodreads.

Book Review: Mockingjay

People warned me that I might not like how this story ends. I have really mixed feelings about this book. It has some aspects that kind of drag – I get that Katniss is suffering from some pretty severe PTSD, and through the whole book, she’s barely holding it together. It does get to be a bit much, though, and I wonder if it might have been better written in third person point of view, and switch POV characters every so often, to give us a break from Katniss’s slow mental degradation. It wasn’t a problem in book one – it wasn’t old then. But in book two it was getting old, and in book three it gets tiresome. The author had already established that this was a first person, single POV series in book one, though, and it was probably too late to change it. I think that’s why many people have found the movie, especially the second one now, more palatable. The movies don’t drag you through Katniss’s mental anguish ad-nauseum, however plausible that mental anguish is.

The story itself – I though was great. The last book really puts the finishing nails on a theme, and it’s not just a theme about oppression, or poor versus rich, or even about reality TV. It’s a theme about media, and the massive amounts of power that control over information gives the people who have it. In this book, Katniss is no longer a pawn of the Capitol, she’s been rescued and brought to district thirteen. Where now she’s a pawn for district thirteen.

Her act of defiance in book one makes her a mascot for rebellion in book two, which she desperately needs to suppress, but fails miserably. Now in book three, she’s asked to embrace that role, but finds, as in book two, that she can’t act to save her life. They end up taking her into combat situations in order to force something genuine out of her, because her acting is so terrible, they can’t otherwise put together any footage of her that would inspire people.

So now we have the Capitol and District Thirteen in a media battle, with Beetee periodically wresting control of the airwaves to broadcast inspiring footage of Katniss, while the Capitol is trying to vilify her.

I couldn’t help but think that District Thirteen’s leader was given a name like “Coin”, with it’s capitalist connotations deliberately as foreshadowing.

I won’t bother spoiling the climax, but the climax was great, as was the followup to it.

Then there was these last five pages tacked on the end that fucking ruined it all.

*spoiler alert*

Of course she had to resolve the Peeta/Gayle thing, right?

No. No, she didn’t. Katniss spent the entire story progressing towards a mental state where I couldn’t believe she could ever have a healthy relationship with anyone, let alone either of them. The story ends with her a shattered human being, the world and the war having left her that way. She gave more than her life, she gave her sanity, to fight for a better world, and she paid a price and that’s the way the story ends.

And then there’s the last five pages that basically go “And then a couple years later, I got over it, Peeta was still around so we got married and had kids and lived happily ever after. Gayle? Who’s Gayle?”

I felt betrayed by the author, but have a theory. My theory is that the author submitted the manuscript without that tacked on the end. And my theory is that her editor or agent told her, “You have too many fans who won’t be satisfied with that ending. You have to resolve the Peeta/Gayle thing.” And I think they made her add that. Or maybe it wasn’t her editor, maybe she just felt so much pressure from fans to give Katniss a happy ending, that she caved, even though she knew how the story should really end. Because that bit on the end feels tacked on as an afterthought – it’s so out of sync with the rest of the book, it doesn’t feel like it’s part of the same story.

That’s what I think, and I’m just going to keep imagining the book without that bullshit last couple pages.

Finished Edits – And Title Change!

This has taken longer than it would have if I were just working, rather than working and flying, but my planned revisions on the novel I had been calling The Eyelet Dove are done. I’m pretty happy with it overall, though revisions have a tendency to take the shine off of things.

I’ve been considering changing the title for quite some time though, despite The Eyelet Dove being a phrase that nicely rolls off the tongue. The thing is, it makes it sound more like a novel aimed at female readers, and it’s really not. Not at all. I mean, there’s female characters, but they like to blow a lot of shit up, you know? Which is not to say women won’t enjoy it – I just want to make sure it doesn’t sound like something that only women would enjoy.

At the time I came up with the title, I hadn’t come up with a call sign for the character Michel. When I finally realized that I had subconsciously cannibalized my very first novel (practice novel – will never see the light of day – I can’t even look at it without cringing) for a lot of the themes in this one, I decided I might as well use the same theme for call signs as I had for code names in that old novel. Which was songbirds, and Michel’s call sign became “Redwing.”

Redwing makes a much better title, I think. The feel of it reflects the type of story it actually is, so I’m going with that.

Anyway, I’ve revised my query letter, and I’ve sent out a couple queries. And I’m done that in time for NaNoWriMo to start. Those who know me know I do that every year. I don’t know how well I’ll do this year – I’ve made it to 50k the last four years, but not the three years before that when I was going to school while working. Now I’m in school again, so that has to come first, but I’m hoping I’m prepared enough to be able to make it again. After all, I have a 20 chapter outline already. But I’ll post more about the next project closer to November.

In other news, I’ve posted a review of Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer on the Punkettes Blog – go check it out – the book was everything I was promised and more. I think I’d call it the best steampunk related work I’ve ever read. Book two just came out yesterday, so I’m off to go pick up an e-pub copy.

Safe landings, all!

Book Review: Catching Fire

I finished this one a while ago, just haven’t got around to the review. There’s lots of reviews on this book out there, so I won’t go too in depth – this will just be a weigh in.

Most people have said that the second book wasn’t as good as the first one. And you know what? I do agree with them. The Games themselves, the arena, the spectacle, the first time around, it was all new. This second time around, it’s not new anymore.

The first half of the book I enjoyed more – the victory tour and the emotional turmoil involved in that. The political maneuvering, and the whispers of revolution promised me something. Only it promised me something that never got going in this book. I was waiting for it to build into a revolution, and instead, it’s back to the arena.

But the thing that bothered me the most about this installment is that in this one, very little that Katniss does has any effect on the story. It’s not as if her desperation and helplessness isn’t believable – it is. But it’s her helplessness that’s frustrating as a reader, because I like to read a story where the main character takes action, an in this book, Katniss is an oblivious pawn in a game played by those around her.

That said, it’s not a total wash by any means. It’s just not *as* good as the first book. I’m heading into book 3 now, and I’ve heard two schools of thought on the third – one is that the books get less good as the series goes on, and that the third one isn’t even as good as the second, and the other, that the second book is less good, and the third is better. From what I hear, the revolution I was promised is going to be coming into fruition, so I expect I might be leaning towards the second opinion.

I’m curious to see how things turn out on the Gale vs Peeta front, not because I’m really into the love triangle, but because I’m curious to see why some people were upset by the ending. I’m not really a “Team Gale” or “Team Peeta” sort of person. If anyone asked me, I’d probably say I was “Team Katniss” because that girl has more important things to worry about than which guy she’s going to have kids with, especially since she’s made it quite clear so far that she does not want kids.

If I were writing it, I dunno, I think I’d probably kill both of them. Actually, no. I’d kill Katniss. And she would die a heroic, fiery death as a martyr doing something that will seal the rebel victory, or at least make sure they have a shot. Or I’d kill all of them. Yeah, I think I’d kill all of them.

Chad Ginther’s Thunder Road Launch

Last night was Chadwick Ginther’s book launch for his debut novel, Thunder Road. His post on it is here, complete with pictures: http://chadwickginther.com/2012/09/07/thunder-road-winnipeg-launch-roundup-part-the-first/

Now, I know people who have had book launches, where there’s a couple people show up. I know one who did a book launch, and nobody showed up. When Chadwick took the stage, a packed crowd of people cheered him like a rock star. It was awesome to behold.

And I’m not a bit jealous. You know why? Because seeing a fellow Winnipegger succeed means that I could do that too. More than anything, it was inspiring to see such support for a local author. From the social networking I’d seen him up to, I figured it was going to be a success, but it was more than I think he dreamed. It looked like there must have been two or three hundred people packed into the store. It’s nice to see that the effort put into networking has paid off for him – I know those people with small book launch turnouts didn’t really do much research into the marketing side of things. (ie; it helps, if you’re sending out emails about your book launch, to, you know, tell people what your book is about.)

Anyway, here’s me, hugely excited and inspired and motivated by another’s success, and I should get back to revisions!

P.S.: Review to come.