Assorted

Sep. 15th, 2011 11:46 pm
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
[personal profile] cyphomandra
When not having video game-induced existential crises, I have actually been reading. However, the earthquakes have completely disrupted my already somewhat shaky book tracking. At this point I am just going to go through the lists I have and do brief commentary, with a few noble exceptions…

Books I would like to come back to in more depth, but let’s be realistic here:

Karen Healey’s The Shattering, which I read in ARC some time after the February earthquake, and which is now out officially. I liked Guardian of the Dead (her debut YA novel) but felt it went off-track; this is much better. Perfect NZ town (somewhere Nelson-ish, I think) has dark side, uncovered by trio of teenagers with interesting assortment of identities. I particularly liked the use of emotional control as part of the magic system.

Jordan Castillo Price, the Psycop series (Among the Living, Criss Cross, Body and Soul, Secrets, Camp Hell, GhosTV, and an assortment of shorts that fit in around the first three books, of which I like Thaw but am not all that keen on the Crash ones). These are ebook psychic cop thrillers (hard to believe from the name, I know), in a version of the US where psychics are real but not all that understood and the main character, Victor Bayne, is an endearingly awkward medium who has spent much of his life running from any deeper contemplation of his abilities, mainly via a vast variety of licit and illicit pharmaceuticals (I think he’s the first protagonist I’ve seen who’s sniffed glue, though, rather than go for all that glamorous intravenous stuff).

The series starts when Vic’s partner retires (Maurice is black, happily married, and looking forward to retirement, and much to my relief and surprise does not die at any stage of all the books so far) and Vic has a cheerfully explicit encounter at the retirement party with Jacob, a vice cop with a kink for psychics.

The books have a fair amount of gay sex in them (with description more towards the anatomical than my personal taste, as I start thinking someone might expect me to draw diagrams) but I’m not sure I’d class them as romance, as it’s the psychic/case aspects that drive the plot, even while the relationships between the characters (which are important) evolve. The supporting cast are particularly strong, and I’d happily read books about pretty much any of them except Crash (Jacob’s ex, low level psychic, runs a occult shop), for whom I have finally developed a grudging respect for at the end of the sixth book but could have lived without prior to that (why no Lisa short? Lisa’s great!). The plots are great, and the integration of the psychics in the world is also good, and I’m particularly glad Vic actually sees himself as a cop as well as a psychic; I am also intrigued by the ending of GhosTV, which complicates all these factors in a way that makes perfect sense but that I did not see coming. I am now reading one of the author’s other on-line novels (Zero Hour) and actually contemplating trialling some of her other backlist, which I would have leapt on earlier were they not Plagued by Vampires, arrgh.


Wendy Wan-Long Shang, The great wall of Lucy Wu. Chinese-American girl dealing with heritage. I read this months ago and liked it a lot; it gets a lot done in a little space, and gives all its characters a chance to breathe without making them into obvious stereotypes. Also, it made me desperately crave noodles.

Gene Luen Yang, Prime Baby. Resentful older brother is convinced there is something strange about his new baby sister, confirmed when she starts babbling in primes. I don’t think this quite pulls off the dislocation effect, and as with American Born Chinese this story still sees all its female characters as objects rather than subjects.

Megan McCafferty, Bumped. YA dystopia where falling fertility means that only teenagers can get pregnant. Melody is holding out for the best contract she can get when her separated at birth identical twin (Harmony, naturally) shows up, having escaped from her religious upbringing. I liked the slang and the moment when Melody declares to a vast array of paparazzi that she has been having Non Reproductive Sex (“with condoms!”) with her contract partner, but too little of the world had changed, and the lead’s avoidance of all sexual activity (and bookwise, being rewarded for this) felt too much like the same old thing.



The disadvantage of ebooks is that they often don’t have blurbs and they’re hard to flip back through, so these are pretty much whatever vague impressions I have retained some months down the track. Sometimes I bookmark things using Stanza, but I have a bad habit of going for the cryptic. These are all marketed as m/m romance, because I do run out of fanfic at times and every so often I hit something with a plot that works for me.

JB MacDonald, By Degrees. I like the emotional development between the characters in this one, but the main plot needed more action and less predictability for me.

TA Chase, Why I love geeks. Pretty much all I remember about this was that it was atrocious! The main characters are Chuck, a homicide detective, and Herb, the geek of the title, who works at a pharmaceutical company and is one of those exceptionally unrealistic scientists. Skimming it just now has revealed that I’ve put in a bookmark saying “Living under Communism makes you vindictive”, which is Chuck’s insightful observation when one of the many helpful side-characters tells him the next bit of the crime plot with too much emotion, and there’s also an appalling bit with an invisibility serum that I previously blacked out, which is the other disadvantage to skimming.

Josh Lanyon, The Dark Horse. The idea of a movie adaptation of Mary Renault’s The Charioteer gave me enough warm fuzzy feelings to carry me through the remarkably obvious plot, but there’s not much else there. Apparently there is a prequel/get-together story, which actually might work better for me.

Josh Lanyon, Don't Look Back. Amnesia fic with art collector and yet another cop. I have forgotten too much about it to give it a fair review, but I think I thought the pace was a bit slow and the resolution obvious, although I do like the whole “discovering you’re someone you don’t like much” theme.

Josh Lanyon, The Dickens with Love. Again, I have warm fuzzy feelings about Dickens (although not so much the Christmas stories), and I like books. Probably my favourite of these three, but still not up to the series books.

Josh Lanyon and Jordan Castillo Price, The Art of Dying. This is two novellas rather than a co-write. Lanyon’s is Lovers and Other Strangers, which has an artist convalescing on the island he and his mysteriously missing twin brother grew up on, and while Finn is likeable enough the plot, again, lets it down. I ended up wanting to re-read Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar, which is unhelpful as it’s currently in the wrong house. Body Art is by Castillo Price, and has a tattooed drifter taking a job as a driver at yet another isolated house; again, I like the support cast, and this story works better for me than the other one, although the romantic interest didn’t do a lot for me.

Laura Baumbach and Josh Lanyon, Mexican Heat: Crimes and Cocktails. Co-write, and whoever was responsible for the description has a admirable knack for picking just the wrong phrase. I have flagged: a tall blue-eyed blond described as classically Sicilian, a ring which covers “the entire segment of bone on [still living and not skeletonised character’s] ring finger”, an unfortunate typo in which a bomb sends the characters tumbling downstairs due to its “force of denotation”, and a use of the phrase “palsied channel” in the middle of a sex scene that really wasn’t doing anything for me even before that (and afterwards, ew). Two undercover cops meet on their various drug/gang stings and fall in very, very sappy love, with a massive overlay of seme/uke dynamics and pet names in Spanish. The more fragile delicate one then gets blinded by the unlikely method of having a bag of cocaine cut with chloroquine explode over his face, and then there’s a lot of over-protectiveness and fiery independence, and a shoot-out in which the back-up plan is described (the security company phoning if the power gets cut) and then completely forgotten. Not recommended.

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