P. Pufferfish has an interview and finally reviews Promise of Blood

This morning, I had the shock of my life when the search committee at the university I applied for a job with called me 3 hours earlier than I’d expected. Turns out I’d forgotten about the time difference between the East and West coasts. OOPS. It was an all right interview. Not good, but okay, all things considering. I’m glad it’s over and done with, so I can go back to reading and not worrying about it! promiseofbloodcover

Today’s featured book: Promise of Blood, by Brian McClellan (Book #1 of The Powder Mage Trilogy).

Format I consumed it in: Print, from the library where I work.

The premise: So I’m used to books about revolutions starting with the protagonist living a pretty normal life and then noticing problems with the place where he lives and realizing that there’s a lot of injustice, yada yada yada, and then ENDING in revolution. Promise of Blood STARTS OUT in the middle of a coup. Tamas, the Field Marshal and one of the strongest powder mages alive, has murdered the Royal Cabal, which is basically a group of powerful magicians (called Privileged) loyal to the king; in the process, five of his own mages were killed by a ridiculously strong Privileged who manages to escape. Tamas sends his son, Taniel, who’s known as Taniel Two-Shot (also a powder mage) and some mercenaries after the escaped Privileged while he and his co-conspirators (a council of 6, including Tamas himself, who represent the cities’ elite mercenaries, the union, the Church, the university, and the treasury) publicly execute the king, the royal family, and all prominent nobles over 17. Unbeknownst to everyone else, before the Royal Cabal members died, each of them mentioned something called “Kresimir’s promise”, which Tamas orders the private investigator Adamat to… well, investigate. Meanwhile, a laundress named Nila successfully sneaks the son of the duke she’s employed by (who is now the king’s closest living heir) out of the manor while the rest of the family is being arrested…

My thoughts: I LOVED this book! It was fascinating to see the aftermath of a successful coup. I usually read about revolutions and coups in fiction depicted in more of a big picture sort of way; it was different reading about all the details, including the difficulties of trying to satisfy all one’s allies (who have conflicting interests) AND the people. I thought the appearance of the gods was weird at first, because it felt as if the book was going to focus more on politics and the struggles of ordinary people to build a new government, and then it went and dropped gods on us (yes, I am aware it’s in the summary on the back of the book, but reading it as it happened was still strange). I eventually got used to it, though; plus, Mihali is a fun character.

One thing that disappointed me: I was hoping Ka-Poel was going to be a character of color, but then Brian McClellan started describing her freckles, light skin, and bright red hair. *Sighhhhh* I also thought the mini-romance between Nila and Olem was odd, although I hope they’ll return to this idea eventually. I am less pleased with the Ka-Poel/Taniel thing McClellan seems to be pushing. Must the main dude always, always, ALWAYS fall in love with the girl he travels with? Does he always have to have a love interest? If we’re going with yes, I honestly think Taniel has more chemistry with his best friend Bo, the exiled Privileged/Royal Cabal member who Tamas hasn’t killed yet. There is so much potential there! I even went and looked for fanfiction on it, but couldn’t find any. I thought there would be at least SOME, since the sci-fi/fantasy community always brings up The Powder Mage Trilogy, but I guess there’s “big enough to be talked about” and then there’s “so big there is fanfiction written about it”. Boooo….

Rating: 4.5/5.

P. Pufferfish’s new favorite fantasy novel

dragonbonechaircoverthumbnailI finished reading this book 5 days ago, and I still haven’t written a review for it ANYWHERE (on Goodreads, for the staff summer reading program at work, etc.); in the meantime, I’ve finished another book and started two more, so I told myself I had to get at least A review done before I go to bed tonight. I popped one of my super strong allergy pills about an hour ago, so I’m racing against the clock to finish this before the pill takes full effect and I fall asleep (because these things are fricken potent). Anyways!

The bookThe Dragonbone Chair, by Tad Williams (Book #1 of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, which I keep wanting to call the Sorrow, Misery, and Thorn trilogy; apt, but not quite right). I don’t know how I’ve gone this long without hearing about this book, considering how much sci-fi/fantasy I consume on a yearly basis. I only found out about it ’cause Amazon was offering it as a Kindle daily deal item, which is SHAMEFUL. I need to read more! This is apparently the trilogy that inspired George R.R. Martin to write A Song of Ice and Fire, which is a HUGE deal and something that I will touch upon later in my actual review.

Format I consumed it in: E-book

The premiseThe Dragonbone Chair is set in the land of Osten Ard. It starts out specifically in the Hayholt, the castle/seat of the high king, Prester John, who is dying and preparing to pass his throne on to his older son, Elias, whom he favors over his younger son Josua; according to John, Josua is too cold and removed from his subjects and would not make a good ruler. From the get-go, we get the impression that the two brothers don’t really get along (they rule lands far apart from each other and are only in the Hayholt at the same time at the beginning of the book because their father is about to pass on), although Josua tells Elias (quite honestly) that he has no intention of challenging him for the throne, which everyone believes is rightfully Elias’s.

The protagonist of the novel is neither Elias nor Josua, but rather a kitchen boy named Simon, a tall, awkward, redheaded 14-year old prone to daydreaming and fond of climbing the castle walls. He’s close to Doctor Morgenes, who’s like the Merlin of the Hayholt (doctor/alchemist/magician/etc.), and manages to get himself apprenticed to the doctor within the first few chapters. Alas, being a magician’s apprentice is nothing like what he’d imagined, and he spends a lot of time avoiding work and climbing/jumping around the walls, which results in him being in the right place at the right time more than once, and THIS is where the story TRULY begins, one year into Elias’s rule, when the tourneys and parties have started to lose their luster, a drought and a plague have caused great suffering outside the castle walls that’s being largely ignored by those within them, and Josua has mysteriously disappeared without any warning. Without any further spoilers, I move onto

My thoughts (which usually contain some minor spoilers): I read many reviews that complained about this book being too slow and having plot inconsistencies. I will admit, Tad Williams really takes his time moving the plot along, but I didn’t have a problem with it at all. It reminds me of the old King’s Quest games, where you spent hours doing chores and just going about your day, with tiny breaks in-between to eavesdrop and steal items to aid in your future escape or whatnot. You WILL be stuck following Simon around as he tends to his chores (or finds ways to get away with half-assing them), plays at being knights with his friends, serves important people at parties, etc., and nothing big actually happens up until the moment I mentioned earlier (where the story TRULY begins!), and then all the things start happening at once, piling one on top of the other, and gone are the days of sunshine and peacefully hanging around the castle grounds. Like I said before, pace was not a problem for me.

I would also like to, once more, bring up the George R.R. Martin thing, because you definitely start to see similarities pretty early on– even the scenes with Simon jumping from one wall to another to get to a high window reminded me of Bran scaling the castle towers for fun. Williams and Martin both use multiple POV-characters (although it’s obvious from TDC who the main character of MSaT is, whereas in ASoIaF, there’s more of an ensemble feel and nobody’s safe), they both include incredible amounts of detail when talking about minor characters’ houses and histories, and so on, so forth.

I didn’t spot any glaring continuity errors when I was reading, so I can’t say I was bothered by those, either. My biggest problem with the book was actually the portrayal of the two brothers, Elias and Josua, and their crumbling relationship/the reasoning behind it. [SPOILERS] Perhaps after they delve even further into the backstory, I’ll get it, but I thought the big reveal about Elias’s wife’s death (which he blames Josua for, even though Josua fought his hardest to keep her alive and even lost his hand for it) was sort of anticlimactic. I think I have a problem with the depiction of Josua’s character, period. Normally, I’d love his type: serious, cold, blunt, fiercely loyal, honorable to a fault– basically Ned Stark, but younger and more tortured (literally), but at the moment, he seems sort of like a caricature in comparison to Simon, Doctor Morgenes, Princess Miriamele, Binabik, and even minor characters like the musician Sangfugol, who barely even has any “screen time”! Elias isn’t quite that fleshed out, either, but I’m just going to assume that’s the result of a combination of lack of screen time and his shady dealings with dark magic. I want so badly to root for Josua, but I need a reason other than “he’s a good guy!” Also, what is with his relationship with Vorzheva? I hope she gets more stuff to do in the second book, because right now, she’s kind of just an extra, unnecessary accessory for Josua, and I just don’t see the point of her.

There are some female characters with real potential in this book, such as Miriamele and Maegwyn, the daughter of King Lluth. Williams seems to be setting them up for greatness, but this series did come out in the 80s, which is a bit before my time, so I don’t know how much hope I have on that front. HOWEVER! Problems aside, I actually think I like this book more than Game of Thrones (I missed having favorite characters that don’t get killed off) I already started the second book, Stone of Farewell, and the plot is moving fast with that one! Still, I really, really want Williams to get on Martin’s level when it comes to filling in characters’ backstories (I do not feel the same anticipation when it comes to learning about the Elias-Hylissa-Josua triangle as I did about the Robert-Lyanna-Rhaegar triangle) and getting the readers hyped up about them.

Rating: 5/5. I simply enjoyed it too much to give it any less.

In which P. Pufferfish gushes about a series which she previously spurned.

cityofbonescover

The cover that almost stopped me from reading this book

I was going to talk about The Sellout, by Paul Beatty, or The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher, today, since I just finished them this week, but I have a talk/discussion on Tuesday with my library book club, so I’m going to wait till then to talk about The Sellout. In the meantime, I’m going to discuss a book trilogy that I read last month, but haven’t gotten around to talking about at all because of life and other distractions.

It’s… The Mortal Instruments (the first three books), by Cassandra Clare! Yes, groan and complain all you want– I know it’s been reviewed and talked about to death by every YA book blogger and booktuber, but after spending a day going down the rabbithole of booktube videos (prior to this week, I’d only ever watched one booktube video, but four days ago, I started watching one girl’s channel and then kept going), I’ve noticed that most of the reviews are about how amazing the books were and how everybody loves the dudes and the relationships, without really giving any details/reasons as to HOW they were amazing or why the dudes and the relationships are so great.

I’m going to backtrack a little: I’m new to YA. I only started reading YA novels last year, so I’ve read a grand total of about ten, give or take a few. I do remember one of my closest friends handing me City of Bones in a Barnes and Noble when we were about eighteen and gushing about how great it was, me standing there reading the first chapter or two, and then putting it back on the shelf and asking her, “Pandemonium? Really? And there’s a gleaming chest on the cover! What the hell?” I’d recently read the first few chapters of Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz (I THINK that’s the title, anyway) a few months before that, and that book also started with the main character standing in line to get into a nightclub. I was equally unimpressed by that book, obviously, so the annoyingly familiar set-up convinced me City of Bones wasn’t worth my time. Plus, I was going through a phase where I read a lot of “finding yourself” novels like Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name (which is still one of my favorite books, btw). Clearly, this wasn’t going to cut it.

Fast-forward back to the present, and I’m stuck eating my words plain, no ketchup allowed, because lo and behold!– I devoured that gleaming chest-book, I am now a fan of The Mortal Instruments, I read Clockwork Angel and enjoyed that as well, and I just know I’m going to read my way through all the Shadowhunter-related books sooner or later. Oh, my. My friend who originally recommended the book to me has since lost her enthusiasm towards the series, and recently warned me not to read past the third book (in fact, she said I could get away with reading only the first two and not miss out on much, but I disagree with that, because who only reads 2/3 of a trilogy?!). “I read all six only for Magnus and Alec! They are the only saaving grace!” she said. My sister also refuses to read past City of Glass because she doesn’t want her “perfect ending” ruined. Unfortunately, I read the preview for City of Fallen Angels that was at the end of CoG and now I’m curious. What the hell’s up with that love triangle involving Simon, though? Just what I need– another love triangle in a YA series that already (arguably) had more than one.

That aside, I would recommend this trilogy (I’m going to refer to TMI‘s first three books as a trilogy) to fans of the supernatural and urban fantasy genres; it’s set in New York and revolves around a group of people called shadowhunters who hunt demons. Cassandra Clare’s world-building, while not extensive or anything, is developed and explained well enough that I found it totally believable for this secret, worldwide network of warriors to exist behind-the-scenes, fighting off demons and other threats using archaic weapons and runes drawn on their skin. Clary Frey, the protagonist and POV character, grew up in the “mundane” world (the ordinary human/muggle world that the rest of us are part of), but gets drawn into the politics and conflicts of the world of the shadowhunters because of her mother’s ties to it (which she isn’t aware of at the beginning of the series). In typical “book with a secret organization” style, we get to know the shadowhunters, their traditions, history, methods of operations, beliefs, narrow-mindedness, racism, etc. through her eyes. The shadowhunters, as another very important character notes, are a dying race, but as the story progresses, we realize, along with Clary, that they don’t have to be so long as they can adapt to the fast-changing times instead of stubbornly doing things the way they’ve always done. There’s definitely a generation gap thing going on with the young vs old characters (with a few exceptions); very relatable, imo, especially now that I’m older (but still young enough) and have found myself in similar situations quite frequently as of late.

So let’s talk a bit about the characters. I personally like Clary and didn’t find her annoying, which was a huge relief, because I find so many YA heroines to be unbearably annoying. There are moments, especially in the third book, where I wanted to join some of the other characters in yelling at her for being reckless and stupid, but hey, which protagonist doesn’t do at least one stupid thing in a series? I thought her accomplishments outweighed her transgressions, so I give her a B+ as a protagonist. The main dude, Jace Wayland, aka he who everyone swoons over in reviews, is my favorite character because he is HILARIOUS. I laughed out loud at some of his lines– I honestly didn’t expect for him to be that funny, because I’m used to the lead male in a YA series being more like Edward Cullen (UGH, don’t get me started) or the dude from Fault In Our Stars. Even while brooding and being angsty, Jace’s sense of humor doesn’t really waver, and I appreciate that about him so much. Another character with some funny lines is Simon, Clary’s mundane best friend who is (*dramatic gasp*) in love with her. Unfortunately, Simon is like Mal from the Grisha Trilogy (but funnier), so his existence and actions are almost entirely dependent on Clary. Then there are the Lightwood siblings (aka the only other young shadowhunters in the New York Institute), Alec and Izzy. I adore Izzy– I love how confident and bad-ass she is. She’s beautiful and aware of it, and nothing really gets to her; she just shakes it off and keeps going, the one truly stable character in a cast of sometimes irritatingly unpredictable and angsty people. Alec, as most of us know, is one half of Malec, the famous ship that compelled my friend to read three whole books that she didn’t want to read. I find him endearing, but also kind of annoying at the same time. He’s beautiful like Izzy, but shy, insecure, cautious, gay-but-closeted– very much a product of his upbringing. He takes a long time to warm up to Clary, he talks down to Simon, and I honestly didn’t get why Magnus was so enthralled by him in the first book (although I strongly suspect it was initially a purely physical thing), but good news: there is character development in the works here! He IS only eighteen, and considering when this book came out, his fear of being outed makes a lot of sense. I grew up in the dark ages, i.e. I’m the same age as Alec, if we stick to book timelines/dates, and I remember LGBTQ acquaintances in high school behaving the same way he did. There was this sense of uncertainty when it came to how people would react, and people like me, who supported them, would show that support by treating the subject of sexuality as if it were a non-subject (yikes), and kind of not talking about it to be polite/show that we were cool with it. It’s hard enough being an awkward teen without having to deal with that shit on top of everything. But yes, Alec is one of the few characters who does change as the series continues, so I was cool with him by the time I finished CoG. Which brings us to the other half of the Malec ship, Magnus Bane. Magnus isn’t really a part of the quintet, because he is Alec’s cool older “boyfriend”/more of a consultant figure that shows up from time to time, but he’s a scene stealer and can give Jace and Izzy a run for their money when it comes to standing out in a crowded room. He’s funny, sexy, and very intelligent. He’s also an immortal warlock, and this here’s my favorite thing– it’s not just mentioned once and then brushed off, it’s actually an essential part of his character. One of my biggest problems with immortal characters, particularly immortal love interests, is that they usually behave exactly like the other, actual young adults around them, but have the label of “200 years of age” or whatever attached to them, and then it’s all illogical and doesn’t make sense. Stefan from The Vampire Diaries TV show is like this (and I am a TVD fan), and so is Edward Cullen. They’re dudes who seem to have been hanging out, not doing much, biding their time for years upon years upon years until their love interests show up– it’s as if their lives have been in stagnation all this time. Not so with Magnus! This is a guy who’s been very busy for the past couple of centuries, sort of like Lestat from Interview With The Vampire. I swear, The Vampire Chronicles have ruined me for all other series featuring immortality– nobody has been able to capture the complicated nature of it quite like Anne Rice did. I think Cassandra Clare has managed to dig past the surface, but she’s still not there yet.

In terms of plot/writing/pace, City of Bones felt like a first novel– some of the dialogue and narration was a bit awkward and/or repetitive, especially Clary’s responses to things. The pacing worked, though, despite Cassandra Clare choosing to tell rather than show us a good chunk of the book. The characters were much more likeable in City of Ashes, thanks to the developments in CoB, and there were some classic humorous scenes, but I was so bothered/turned off by the borderline not-incest-incest that I didn’t enjoy it as much (it also took up like thirty pages or something throughout, so I couldn’t just ignore it). City of Glass is probably the best of the three– the villains are great, the way the book is split up (multiple narrators, parts, etc.) worked well, and all the characters play important parts in the way events unfold. I did think the final battle was a bit rushed, but things were resolved in such a logical way that I can’t really complain about it. Overall, I would give the trilogy combined 3.75/5 stars, because I liked it a lot (going by Goodreads’s ratings system), but it did have its problems, which make me hesitate to give it a full 4 stars.

P.S. I do not watch Shadowhunters, the show, because I tried watching one episode and couldn’t get past the bad special effects and the weird way the scenes are filmed/paced. It’s a pity, because it looks great from the gifsets I keep seeing on Tumblr. I’m also one of those annoying book purists, so it really bothers me that they made so many changes (like introducing technology to the institute WTF….).  The City of Bones movie’s pacing/line delivery is much better, but I prefer Katherine McNamara as Clary, Matthew Daddario as Alec, and Emeraude Tobia as Izzy, so it’s books and imagination only for meeee…

In which P. Pufferfish discusses Romance and the Chosen One trope in Siege and Storm

siegeandstormcoverI never thought I’d say this, but I finally managed to slog through Siege and Storm (thanks, Spring Break!) after two weeks. No offense to Leigh Bardugo or anything, but the Grisha Trilogy just doesn’t have the same oomph that Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom do. They’re all pretty dark books, but the casts are very different in how they handle all the darkness and the shit they’re forced to deal with. Quick summary time (spoilers abound!).

The book: Siege and Storm (book 2 of the Grisha Trilogy, by the amazing and talented Leigh Bardugo)

The genre: Fantasy, YA

What it’s about: I’m going to assume anyone who happens to be looking at this has read Shadow and Bone already, sooooo… this book started off slow for me. Alina and Mal are on the run, working the equivalent of a migrant farm labor job to pay for a bed (singular) in a room in a shady boarding house. I forgot that they’re about seventeen years old, so I kept rolling my eyes and wondering how the hell they thought they could just run away from their problems and attempt to live a peaceful life in a foreign country when Ravka’s conflicts are just going to bleed over the border sooner or later. Anyways, since it’s from Alina’s POV, there’s a lot of musing about Mal and his good looks and his loyalty, and then the Darkling shows up and captures them again, taking them aboard a ship he’s commissioned for the voyage home. He uses Alina and Mal against each other, forcing them to do things ’cause “if not, I’ll destroy her face!” or “I’ll throw him overboard!” Typical threats like that.

I should mention that here, things get a bit more interesting, because they introduce a new character, the notorious Sturmhond, privateer and captain of the ship they’re all on. Sturmhond is all about the money, but that’s okay, ’cause he also seems to have morals and a sense of honor (of sorts). So without any further spoilers, the rest of the book involves hunting legendary creatures, war plans, behind-the-scenes battles for the Ravkan throne, the overturning of traditions and convention, fanaticism, etc. “But wait!” you say, “This totally sounds like your kind of book, P!” It does, and in a way, it still is my kind of book, but there’s the glaring issue of

The romance: There is a lot of romance in this book. It’s not in the background, like it is in Six of Crows. It’s very in-your-face, and unfortunately, it’s kind of interwoven with the plot, as in, if this romance did not exist, I don’t think events would play out the way they do. This is also the reason I took so long getting through the damn thing, ’cause Mal and Alina are so meh as a couple. They don’t have much chemistry. When I was reading Shadow and Bone, I kept hoping Mal would get with Zoya and Alina would get with the Darkling, but of course the Darkling turned out to be pure evil and no longer a romantic possibility (*siiiggghhh*). It sucks, ’cause Leigh Bardugo wrote so much chemistry into the Alina-Darkling “relationship” that now everything else pales in comparison. Even her strange not-really-romance with the other male character that plays a prominent role in this book (I wonder who?) doesn’t work– I personally prefer the two of them as friends/a power duo in a professional sense, so I hope she doesn’t go down that path in the third book.

Towards the last twenty or so pages, though, I did start reevaluating my stance on the Alina/Mal romance. I wonder if the reason why I don’t ship them is because I’m so used to the Chosen One character (in this case, Alina, obv) being destined for a greater romance than just her childhood best friend. You all recognize the familiar fantasy tropes, right? Usually, it involves a male Chosen One who more often than not does show interest in one of the village girls (a laundress or something– pretty, kind, would make a good wife) and then has to leave his old life behind to go on his quest/fulfill his destiny/save the world, and along the way, he meets somebody else, somebody more “worthy” (a duchess! A princess! A sorceress!), and everyone knows he’ll end up with that person in the end because halfway through the book, he’s no longer the poor, insignificant village boy he was at the beginning. Mal is by no means an ordinary person himself (he’s extraordinarily gifted and would probably have risen pretty high in the ranks if Alina and her destiny hadn’t gotten in the way), but he’s no Grisha lord or prince. And both Alina and Mal realize this. It comes up a lot in their arguments. They spend the first half of this trilogy fighting against the roles they’re expected to play in a traditional Chosen One fantasy story arc. It would really be something if they managed it. Huh. Perhaps I can get behind this pairing after all. More on that in the review for book 3.

Overall, would I recommend this? Uh, considering that it’s the second book in a trilogy (which was off to a great start!) and ends in a cliffhanger, yes, I think you have to read it, if only to know what happens to everyone. Also, one word: NIKOLAI. Read it for him, if anything.

P. Pufferfish revisits old friends and meets potential new ones

ravenkingcover***This post contains major spoilers for The Raven King and some minor, non-plot related ones for Star Trek Beyond. Proceed with caution! 

Let’s start with yesterday night. I had a lot to say yesterday night, but TWC chose to misbehave right when I turned on my computer, not letting me load any pages, and I was too annoyed to post on my phone. I’d never had any real problems with TWC up until about two months ago, when it started slowing down and then outright shutting off once or twice. It’s like a darling child who suddenly started acting up in her late teens/in young adulthood. Sort of like me. My parents must be so disgruntled.

Two nights before this, I finished The Raven King. I wanted to gush about it then, but it was 3 AM, so I went to bed and now all I can think of to say is “A++!!!” Seriously. I spent the last twenty pages going HOW WILL SHE CONCLUDE THINGS IN JUST 20 PAGES?! But she managed it, even though there were a few loose ends with the supporting cast that I would’ve liked to see tied up. Also… the subject of Ronan’s mom. This was my only problem with the book, the fact that Ronan, who is such a fucking mama’s boy, completely forgot that his mom was living inside the corrupted magical forest that was being eaten faster and faster every minute, the place where all the action was taking place! Well… I don’t think he actually forgot, but it was strange that he didn’t immediately freak out about the danger she was in the moment it was evident that shit was going down. Then again, even if he did freak out, there wasn’t much he could do about it, since she has to stay in Cabeswater in order to stay awake. I guess he could have driven her to a safe location, let her sleep through the action, and then driven her back afterwards. Though Cabeswater became just another ordinary forest in the end. So she would’ve been stuck in a coma again until he finally got around to building Cabeswater II (which it’s implied he will in future, which makes me wonder if Mme. Stiefvater might be up for writing a sequel series, perhaps with a different cast of characters, w/ cameos from this cast, someday?), but that’s better than what happened to her in the end, imo. Does this make me love the series any less? NAY. It remains in my list of top 10 books (I’ve taken to listing entire series as one book, because the individual books in a series sometimes blur together into one book for me).

Yesterday, I made quite a bit of progress in both The Golden Compass audiobook and Alice Isn’t Dead. I checked the box to see which version of the audiobook I have, and it’s the one “narrated by Phillip Pullman and cast”, which should be this one (conveniently the first option on Amazon): https://www.amazon.com/Golden-Compass-Dark-Materials-Book/dp/B0000W6SPE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1470282999&sr=8-1&keywords=the+golden+compass+audiobook I especially like the voice actress for Serafina Pekkala, though Lyra herself is pretty good as well. I mentioned before that I disliked Lyra when I was her age, but now that I’m an old hag, I appreciate her ingenuity and resourcefulness. She makes several mistakes that made me scream in frustration, but overall, she is remarkably composed for a little girl. I know I would’ve probably been in so much shit if I were in her place, even as a “grown-up”.

I am considering spending what I consider to be a shit-ton of money on a t-shirt with the Alice Isn’t Dead icon in front. The only thing stopping me is that I can’t decide between orange and black, colors that I look equally hideous in (everyone looks good in black, my ass). Maybe they’ll come out with more colors if I wait. But yeah, the fact that I, the person who goes shopping maybe twice in a year (and one of those times is always for socks and/or underwear, in packs, from Wal-mart or Target or Costco), am about to spend money on an Alice Isn’t Dead shirt tells you how much I am enjoying this podcast. Like Night Vale, there are some very strange supernatural moments, but unlike Night Vale, there is SOME logic to this. There were also some moments that were genuinely emotional, where you can feel how much the narrator misses her wife. I’m a sucker for adventure/suspense/sci-fi/fantasy/mystery stories that are capable of evoking real emotions in me as I’m reading/listening to them. My normally cold, unfeeling heart likes to be moved!

But anyways, back to yesterday night. I met up with a close friend after work/dinner to see Star Trek Beyond. This is the first time I haven’t seen one of the new Trek films on premiere night. We also had to sit in the front section and crane our necks a bit, which is what we get for coming right on time on discount night (we weren’t aware it was discount night and still don’t know if this is going to be a weekly thing). The good thing is that she had a buy one-get one free coupon, so we didn’t feel so bad about our shitty seats. And once we got into it, we forgot about the awkward angle. AND BOY, DID WE GET INTO IT. I liked the first two J.J. films, but after my premiere night excitement over them had died down, I always ended up feeling that they were more entertaining than genuinely good. There was a very reboot-y feel to them. Not so with this one! I don’t know if it’s because they chose to introduce new species and a completely new storyline that this installment succeeded the way it did, but I felt that it was a new Star Trek film that was made for a Trekkie/Trekker audience and not just to fit a mainstream, Hollywood mold. Yes, it was big and bold and full of action scenes, but there were little moments in there that paid homage to TOS, the show, while still belonging to this alternate universe timeline. It also had the feel of a Trek film like The Motion Picture, partly in the way some of the scenes were filmed.

In addition, I feel the need to comment on some more fandom-centric things, such as the introduction of the new character, Jayla. My friend and I, who both grew up watching Trek (it’s the only franchise I own shirts for), were so nervous about an original character, especially an original female character, being brought in, ’cause heaven knows they always fuck that up somehow, but she was AWESOME. Her backstory was all right, she was interesting, she was incredibly skillful and useful, and above all, she wasn’t annoying or extraneous! She fit right in as part of the already existing ensemble cast, and everyone knows I love good ensemble casts!

As a faithful K/S shipper, I’m still meh about Spock/Uhura, although I do see how they would work as a couple (it helps that I love Uhura). I just wish it weren’t so! Kirk and Spock have so much chemistry together! As soon as they stepped into the turbolift together, the air felt charged! I really think they should have made Kirk bisexual if they were going to switch up a main character’s sexual orientation instead of making Sulu gay with an existing partner and daughter. It’s sweet, but I want to see Sulu picking up chicks in his chivalrous, dramatic manner and making them swoon! Seeing him settled down as a family man this early on feels like part of his character has been altered. It’ll take some getting used to. I also focused a lot on Chekov whenever he was on-screen, because this is the last time I’ll see Anton Yelchin in this role! It’s so sad what happened to him. I’ll never get over it. I’ll bring it up all the time in the future, when I’m forcing my nieces/nephews to watch the Trek series/movies with me.

The best thing about Beyond being good is that it reaffirms my undying belief that Trek will live on for the enjoyment and benefit of a new generation. Most of the people my friend and I met when we were at the convention in Vegas last year were older than us, although many did bring their children. Everyone we met was cool, but I hope that the continuance of Trek as a mainstream franchise, in the form of the upcoming Discovery, will mean that I have many more people to fangirl with over the next few years, including those in my own age group, which is apparently the majority age group at the Star Wars conventions.

P. Pufferfish works another day

What happened today: Arrived early to work (shock of the century). Boss was nowhere to be seen. Turns out she’s out interviewing potential new employees. If only she could’ve been out last week, when I ran in 6 minutes late due to unexpected traffic. Still not sure if she saw me (she probably did), and I’m already at my max number of tardies for the year, so this time next week, I might be out of a job. I did apply for another job last night (not just because I think I’m going to be fired) that I really want, so I hope I get an interview. Sibling and coworkers think I’m being overdramatic as usual. Perhaps. I like to be as negative as possible when it comes to my own life in order to avoid being blindsided. I do love my current job (location, coworkers, boss, everything), and being fired would make things very inconvenient, so deities, please let me stay. *Clasps hands*

crytoheavenOver the weekend, I finished Cry To Heaven, a lesser-known novel by Anne Rice that I found randomly on a list somewhere. Boy, was it something different! As a (very open-minded) fan of The Vampire Chronicles, I thought I was ready for anything Anne Rice threw at me. Sex? Gay sex? Promiscuity? Obsession? Bring it on! Was still bewildered as fuck by some of the scenes in the book. The first fourth of it was pretty calm, pretty interesting. Two boys, Guido and Tonio, “narrate” the story (it uses 3rd-person POV). Guido is a castrato, sold into the life by his family. He does very well for himself up until he hits puberty, when his voice changes and his chances of becoming a world-famous singer vanish. Tonio is the heir to the wealthy, powerful Treschi family of Venice. His mom is decades younger than his dad. She’s a gifted musician/singer, but she suffers from depression and spends most of her time sleeping, drinking, and neglecting Tonio (unhappy mothers– seems to be a thing with Anne Rice’s books). The only time she hangs out with him is when they’re practicing music, which he also excels at. In fact, the only escape these two have from their isolation and misery is music. Teenaged Tonio starts roaming the city with some musician friends, singing for the masses and sleeping with a barmaid. He starts to really garner attention and this is where all the trouble starts! The reveals in the earlier parts of the book are predictable and Guido is all scowly while Tonio is understandably timid and unbearably dutiful/dull, and thus, I wasn’t super into the story until the second chunk of it, when the two characters actually meet (it was a predictable meeting with a predictable outcome, but that’s when the story starts getting better). I won’t say anymore about the plot, other than that I liked seeing believable character development and growth on the part of Tonio. He changes as a result of his experiences, but he still remains essentially himself. As usual, Anne Rice does an excellent job of bringing the world of singers/performers/musicians/artists to life. The protagonists and many of the supporting cast are linked together by their passion for their work, whether it’s songwriting, singing, or painting (I have an addictive personality, and I totally get it), and for one another (this, I don’t get as much, because like Lestat, Tonio falls in love every other chapter or something).

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads because I liked it (I’m also an easy grader), especially the middle chunk of it. I also have to add that I downloaded the ebook from my library/workplace’s Overdrive collection, which gave me more incentive to read faster, since it forces you to renew/return the book after one week. Speaking of the library,

during my commute today, I continued listening to The Golden Compass audiobook I borrowed. I’m 2/3 of the way through, and it’s so much better this time around! The audiobook cast is also great. I originally read this trilogy for class years ago. I was the same age as Lyra then, and I thought she was sullen, obnoxious, and disrespectful. Listening to it again in my twenties, I think she’s hilarious. She’s quick-witted and gutsy, way more capable than I was when I was her age. I’ve  recently “reread” several books I read as a child/teenager, and it’s fascinating how one’s perspective/opinion changes with age. I’m definitely going to get the rest of the trilogy on audiobook.

During dinner, I ate leftover mostocioli and drank a glass of Sterling Vintner merlot, 2013 (delicious). Then I ate some lemon thin Oreos and continued drinking the merlot (not so delicious– can you ever pair Oreos with wine?). I also finished watching ChristopherOdd’s walkthrough for We Happy Few on Youtube. It’s an early access version, so it cuts off abruptly, but his walkthrough, and SplatterCatGaming’s, have provided me and the sib with our (sometimes laugh-out-loud) dinnertime entertainment for the past week. We’re considering buying the game when it comes out.

After dinner, I took my customary nighttime walk while listening to ep. 1 of Alice Isn’t Dead (a new-ish podcast from the Night Vale people). It was brilliant! The episodes are narrated by a female truck driver (I have never seen a female truck driver in my life, so this is a big deal here) who is delivering deodorant and searching for her missing wife, Alice. It starts out pretty normal. She’s driving on the interstate. She thinks about her wife. She goes to a diner. She sees a monstrous-looking fellow diner. She watches the monstrous-looking fellow diner eat someone in the parking lot and drives away in fear. It’s crazy, and I’m into it already! I saw (did not read) an article this morning about getting more people to read with serialized fiction. Looks like we’re going back in time by a couple hundred years. Wasn’t Count of Monte Cristo released in chunks in a weekly publication? And with the new podcast obsession, it’s like radio plays never left. Am I complaining? Nope. I am thrilled. I love storytelling through different mediums (the way Overwatch is doing with their game/trailers/comics).

Right now, I’m going to go back to The Raven King. I actually pre-ordered the book, but didn’t get it until halfway through finals week, so I put off reading it “until after finals”. Then my typical “can’t let go of fictional characters” mindset (see Downton Abbey, which I finally finished two weeks ago after much internal strife) kicked in and I ended up not picking it up again until 3 AM on Saturday night. I read through most of Sunday, but ended up going out with a friend, so I still have about 80 pages left to go. But do I want to finish? Not really. Maggie Stiefvater created such amazing characters! Where will I ever find such amazing YA characters again?

I’ll keep you posted here.