Mother Ocean, Daughter Sea

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mother Ocean, Daughter Sea
Diana Marcellas, 2001

Recent eBook release - I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

Premise: Brierley is a healer by birth, in a land where the people who had magic in the blood were thought to have been all killed long ago. Her calling brings her into politics and danger, and she’s not sure where her destiny will lie, or what she wants it to be.

There are things I really liked about this book. I like the way Brierley’s magic works. I love her connections with previous generations of witches, knowing them mostly through secret diaries. I really like her philosophical musings about the place of those with magic, the choices they make to hide themselves. I like the hints about what could have gone so wrong between two peoples long ago. I love love LOVE her relationship with a late-introduced character, Megan.

But then there’s a romance and everything is terrible.

Some spoilers follow.

Sure, it was relatively well-handled, it could have been much worse, but it just seemed so out-of-tone, and there were so much more interesting ways to take the relationship. I spent a good portion of the book praying these two characters were never going to sleep together. They very nearly don’t! And then, spoiler, they do. Grrr.

Now, if I keep reading this series, there’s a chance that this will be brushed off as a fling by both of them, (one character is very young, and the other is married) and we can all move on.

It just disappointed me that this annoying thing was stuck in the middle of what was otherwise a book I was really connecting to, a book about one woman, thinking about her place in the world, how she can forgive her mother, seek her kin, learn from the women who went before.

And it frankly broke quite a bit of the respect I had for both characters. Primarily because Brierley, because she’s a telepath/empath, knows things about the guy and his wife that make me really want them (guy and wife, not guy and Brierley) to be happy together. Now, this might be the point, to break them both down a little, make them human and give them flaws to struggle with.

But from skimming the promo copy for the next book, it doesn’t seem like it.

Ugh, there was so much I liked about it, but that just kinda broke the thread of my emotional involvement with the story. There was still enough I liked to give it a medium score though.

3 Stars - A Good Book

Important Note: Open Road Media, who printed this e-edition, is still not so great on their quality control. At least in the galley version, OCR typos abound: mat for that being one of the most repeated.

Death at Victoria Dock (Phryne Fisher, Book 4)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Death at Victoria Dock (Phryne Fisher, Book 4)
Kerry Greenwood, 1992

Premise: Miss Phryne Fisher has been a magnet for trouble before, but it’s still startling to be shot at while driving down the street. After witnessing a killing at the docks, Phryne is determined to see the killers pay, no matter if it leads her and her household into further danger.

No, you’re not seeing things, I didn’t review books two or three. I did read them. I’ve really been enjoying Kerry Greenwood’s work for the past year. It’s great light bus reading.

I wanted to mention this one in more depth because while I liked books two and three, this one really brought the things I liked in the first book back to the forefront. In the intervening time since book one, Phryne has settled her new household, and even added to it, taking in two orphaned girls.

The double plot of this novel follows both the investigation of the murder of a young anarchist and the disappearance of a well-off young woman. Both mysteries require Phryne and her companions to infiltrate settings as diverse as a convent, a seance and a morgue to collect information.

I felt that Phryne was more dynamic in this book in some senses. I felt her passions - her anger and fear and lust - more consistently than in some of the other volumes.

I’ll definitely keep picking these up. I need more positive, not-too-brain-taxing reads on my Kindle for my commute through the dark winter.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Catwoman: Volume 3: Under Pressure

Monday, January 12, 2015

Catwoman: Volume 3: Under Pressure
Ed Brubaker, Paul Gulacy, Sean Phillips, Diego Olmos, 2014

Premise: Sequel to No Easy Way Down. Selina returns from her road trip to find that the East End of Gotham needs her help more than ever. But she’s standing alone against a tide… Collects Catwoman #25-37.

And so Ed Brubaker's run on Catwoman comes to an end, not quite with a bang. The writing is still pretty decent, although the larger plotting feels disjointed and awkward. The art however, is just bad. Paul Gulacy more or less ruined this book for me.

It isn't so much that the characters are ugly, although they are. It's that they change drastically depending on the angle and are unrecognizable. If you didn't tell me that was supposed to be Holly and Karon, I would never have known. All of the women are frightening face on, with weirdly grotesque shading. It made it really difficult for me to enjoy the story, especially when the prior volumes had such good art.

And unfortunately the story was just fine, not good enough to transcend the art problems. Each mini section, of which there were several, had its moments, but they didn't add up to anything. Selina crosses some mafia who are moving into her turf and gets a minor supervillain set on her heels. The ‘people in masks chasing her’ plot from the last volume is resolved in possibly the silliest excuse for some extra cheesecake that I’ve seen in a while. Selina disappears, then returns to Gotham in time for two good issues before the comic had to move into a crossover with the other Bat books.

A few bright spots: the War Games crossover issues, though sort of an awkward side jaunt from the standpoint of the Catwoman narrative, had some actually moving scenes between Selina and Stephanie. And right before that are two semi stand alone issues. The first has a great artist (Sean Phillips), and is mostly about Bruce and Selina's relationship, and I really enjoyed that one. The second features pretty decent art by Diego Olmos and has a neat structure.

Selina's personal narrative is a bit messy in-world as well, she's not quite sure of her place or her role, or whether what she's doing is worth it. Brubaker tries to tie it up in a empowering bow for the last issue, but the attempt at a coherent theme was just too-little-too-late.

Overall I was much less impressed by this volume.

2 Stars - An Okay Book (Mostly Because of the Art)

Tales from High Hallack, Volume 3

Monday, January 5, 2015

Tales from High Hallack, Volume 3
Andre Norton, collection published 2014

Recent Release. I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

Premise: A collection of Andre Norton’s short stories. No real uniting theme.

I read this book some time ago, but put off writing about it. Partially, honestly, under that old rule: “if you can’t say something nice…”

Was it a bad book? No. Not terrible, but neither was it great. Maybe these are the leftovers and volumes one and two are stronger? This is just a set of middling stories. Andre Norton was extremely prolific, so some of her work is bound to be just 'fine'. A few of them were quite good, but nothing that really stayed with me. At this point, I don’t even remember which stories I liked or what they were about.

I ate up her short novels as a teenager and have read and enjoyed a few in the past few years, but I guess her short stories don’t really work for me.

2 Stars - An Okay Book.