|Three in one review: the Barnes and Nobel Nook and two books by Mercedes Lackey
Note: I'm actually pretty horrible at writing book reviews so there will be spoilers. Those not wanting to read them should probably just stick with the Nook review.
Welp, yesterday I broke down and bought a Nook. It's something that I've been wanting to do for awhile, my ultimate plan is to get rid of all my physical library (or as much of it as I can... hah) and replace it with digital copies. This is because I have way too much stuff for my studio apartment, and I think the less stuff I have the easier it would be for me to clean my shit up. Anyway, with the Nook I can now start doing that.
So far I like the nook. The e-ink is just like reading print and is much less of a strain on the eyes than reading a computer screen. The buttons are easy to push, but not so easy that you accidently turn the pages just by holding the device. The screen is fairly sensitve, but it's still fairly easy to keep your place. I'm having some difficulty reading some pdfs on the Nook, although I'm not sure that's an issue with the nook itself or with the formate of the pdfs. I may have to edit some of them. It seems to be reading epub fairly well, so far no issues with that format at all. The one thing I don't like is how you have to turn off the device before installing or removing an SD mini card, that adds a layer of difficulty to importing your own files that I'm not happy with. But other than that it seems to work fairly well. The device, despite it's small size (it's the lightest ereader on the market right now) seems faily robust, nevertheless it's definitely recommended to get a cover for it, a screen-protector, and a the two year extended warrenty that covers accidents. Given my past history with electronics I elected to do all three.
Overall it's a nice little device and it will be replacing my entire library. Likely most of my books will be donated to the local women's prison to provide them with some nice reading.
This is volume three of the Colligum Chronical trilogy, set in her Valdemar series. I'm still a bit undecided on this one. Mercedes Lackey has long been a bit of a comfort read for me, and I find the quality of her works ranging from great, to passible, to outright mind-candy. This one is is the passible to mind-candy range. In this book we get some resolution as to who the badguys are, at least on the surface, but there are a lot of unanswered questions, such as who Mags' parents actually were.
The hero of the series is fairly likeable, (unlike, say, the Owl triliogy), but the rest of the good guys are kind of meh. The villians are better than some of her other villians, simply because we are not allowed to know that much about them. They're actually somewhat scary, and very intelligent, which is more than I can say of some of her other books (as we will see in the next review today). They aren't evil, nor are they good. They're doing a job that they were paid to do, and that makes them scarier than some of her other villians which are outright sadists. These guys don't enjoy hurting or scaring the people they kidnap or kill, nor do they hate it, they are businessmen whose business is assassination and downfall of nations. That makes them actually more interesting than some of her past villians who were evil for the sake of being evil.
The heros for the most are rather bland, Mags being the sole exception. I simply couldn't bring myself to care about Bear and Lena's issues with their families, and Amelia's decent into paranoia was nothing more than irritating (it's a baaaad sign when the main love-interest becomes massively irritating in the book where they actually officially hook up I'm just sayin'). The only point of interest with the good guys is The Web and the Heartstone. It is very clear that the Heartstone is aware to a certain extent (as any good Heartstone is) and watching the Heralds learn how to communicate with it when they didn't know what it was was facinating.
Other points that might be irritating or interesting depending on the reader:
As I have noticed in past books of this series Mercedes Lackey seems to be a fan of the Harry Potter series, and in this book we get an expanded look at Kirball, her Quidich equizilant. I'm not going to really go into the details, but Kirball is basically Quidich on horses, with a bit of Capture the Flag thrown in for good measure (instead of catching the Golden Snitch the Kirball equilant has to capture the opposing team's flag and make it back home. Points can also be scored by making goals with the quaffle equivilant (simply called 'the ball'). Companions and horses are both used as well, although the field seems pretty risky to me on for horses. There is something like the Bludgers as well, but since I skipped over that part of the game I can't really describe it. Later on Mags' experience with having shit thrown at him and Dallen (his Companion, the white magical intelligent horses the series is known for) actually saves their lives though when a wooden seat is thrown at them from a carrige they were chasing at high speed.
Another similarity to the HP series is the secondary character of Gennie, Mags' captain of his Kirball team. Personalitys-wise she's close to late-series HP Ginny, and in an earlier book she even wanted to name the team "The Gryphons" (Ginny. Gryphondor, get it?). Other than that she doesn't show up too much outside of Kirball or when Mags needs a second Mindspeaker who isn't his mentor to do something. She does kickass when she shows up, so I find her presence forgivable.
What I don't find so forgivable is Lackey's apparent inability to Show, Not Tell. About half the book (or more) is spent explaining things, as if to say 'hey look! I did RESEARCH and THOUGHT THINGS OUT :D :D :D' which, okay, whatever. For the most part fans of the series will already know this shit, and non-fans may find it irritating to be constantly explained to. Let the story tell itself, don't fucking explain everything. Valdemar has a Mideviel society (albliet one with some modern sensibilities like equality of the sexes, slavery being Bad, etc) so shit like child labor should be par for the course. You don't need to explain that most kids work for a living. Simply tell the story and let the reader decide if the good guys were justified in what they did. Mags' constant guilt trip about bullying three kids for a couple days in order to save their fucking lives was unneccessary. Constantly explaining and analyzing it doubly so. I think the reader is capable of figuring out whether he was justified in doing so or not, thank you very much, and the author wasted page space that could have been used to actually show what he was doing with the kids. Heralds are good guys, I get it, but nothing in the rulebooks says they have to be nice.
What can I say, I started reading this series when I was 13, and it immediately kicks me back to being a little girl again. For all it's faults I love the series and can't wait until the author brings out another, which she totally will.
This one is ehhh. I don't know. The 500 Kingdom series has thus far been a disapointment (other than the Snow Queen book, which was fucking AWESOME. The Sami afterlife. RIDING FUCKING REINDEER FUCK YEAH, omg), and this book is no exception. It falls prey to the same desire to Explain Everything that I wrote about above, for one thing, and in this case it tended to be about the magic system of this paticular series (in which the magic of that world tried so shape the lives of everyone living there into fairy tales, ie Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Pea, etc). It would be nice for once if a character reacted with a 'meh' when they found out about The Tradition, instead of outrage. The Tradition is how their world works, getting mad at it is like getting mad at gravity for causing someone to fall to their death from a cliff instead of floating mid-air. And it's better than gravity, because it's easier to manipulate to do what you want. So I don't know what the main characters are complaining about half the time. Meh I say. MEH.
The basic story is a miss-mash of Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast. It's also pretty clear that Mercedes Lackey is playing on Team Jacob. I am not making this up. The heroine's name is Bella FFS. This Bella is much less annoying than the other one, thank goodness. She's not really that whiney, for one thing, and doesn't spent much time angsting over shit. When she's upset and crying it's usually pretty justified too. One day while visiting the city's main witch (who lives out in the woods and went by the name 'Granny' HAH I C WAT YOU DID THAR) Bella runs into Woodsman (or Gamekeeper) Eric, who promply accuses her of poaching and tries to bully her into having sex with him. She tells him off and threatens legal retaliation (she's the daughter of an important merchant, although he didn't know that at the time). Embarrassed he leaves. Later on her way home after dark a lone wolf starts hunting her. Lackey's MUST. EXPLAIN. EVERYTHING impluse kicks in and tells us that Bella knows that wolf packs aren't dangerous because they don't hunt people, but lone wolves in winter are dangerous because they're hungry and usually have aggression problems (which is why other wolves don't tolorate them). Or something. Really, I'm not reading this book for a lecture on wolf behavior. Anyway, this Bella shows that she really is more awesome than the other one by picking up a huge ass stick and getting her ass to a pile of rocks so she can club the shit out of the wolf when it gets near her. The wolf is HUGE and continues attacking her. She manages to fend it off for awile with her stick before it grabs it and bites her ankle. When she starts screaming at it something seems to change in the wolf, almost as if it didn't realize it was attacking a human. It backs off as she continued to yell at it, and then tucks tail and RUNS.
The next day the King sends his soldiers to fetch her and take her ASAP to the remotish castle of one of his Dukes, Sebastian. Bella is pretty fucking upset to be seperated from her family (she adores her little twin stepsisters and gets along well with her stepmother, completely contrary to The Tradition) and rightfully yells at Sebastian (who admits to being the werewolf) for biting her. Sebasitan, for his part, is not a Jacob clone thank fucking god. He's something of a geek and is truely sorry he escaped as a wolf and bit someone. NO ONE spends any time pondering why he backed off after she started yelling at him in his wolf form, btw. That's like... ignored. It also turns out that Sebastian's bastard brother is Eric the Gamekeeper from earlier, and that Eric, despite only being a Gamekeeper, was Sebastian's gaurdian until Sebastian grew up.
It turns out that Sebastian didn't become a werewolf by any of the usual routs, he wasn't bitten, he didn't play around with any transformation spells (despite being a wizard) and as far as they could tell there were no gods pissed off at him. Which left a curse by Someone (guess who) who had reason to be angry at him. I mean, just guess. I had it within 20 pages.
Eric actually manages to redeem himself somewhat for most of the story. He was a dick/possible rapist in the beginning, but in the middle and almost to the end I was almost hoping that he would turn out to be the Hero (albiet one who had really screwed up with his life thus far and cast a curse on his little half-brother out of anger). Bella and him seem to hit it off as he taught her how to ride and took her on patrols to look for poachers and traps. Despite his earlier rapist leanings he treats her with a sort of rough respect, acting more like she was his apprentice than the girl he tried to murder with a werewolf because she wouldn't put out. Sure, he was rough with the poachers he caught, but he was actually quite mercyful considering what would have happened to them had he turned them over to the Sherrif. Getting beat up and having their head shaved and an ink stamp placed on it is better than getting beat up, whipped, imprisioned for a couple months, and then branded, which is what would have happened to them otherwise. Also he let people who were clearly subsistance poaching go, provided they didn't start trapping out a valley (and even then they were simply told to hunt somewhere else for awhile). Eric was definitely a flawed character, but it was really hard to absolutely hate him.
Sebastian, on the other hand, was boring as hell. It was difficult to see Bella's attraction to him other than the fact that he was nice. That's basically all he was outside of wolf-form. Nice. Oh, and a bit absent-minded in an amusing wizardly way. He and Bella studied magic together, Bella thought "He's nice. I'm not really in love with him, but we're friends. I can see marrying him and being friends forever," basically. Which, okay fair. That's the relationship my parents have (or as my dad said, "Passion comes and goes, but friendship endures"). But it's not really exciting. But then later she fell in love with him? Or something? Meh.
The most interesting part was the relationship Bella had with Sebastian's invisible servants. As per the usual Beauty and the Beast storyline some (not all) were human servants who had been enchanted by Eric (actually he tried to murder them, but they ended up going to the Spirit realm where Sebastian accidently summoned them from instead). My favorit character of the whole book, in fact, was Saphire, the personal attendant of Bella, who even as an invisible servant and armed with only a chalkboard and armband, managed to be snarky, and tender, and brave, and just about everything you could want in an invisible servant.
Anyway, yeah, that's that book. Now, if you'll excuse me I'm going to go read about RIDING FUCKING REINDEER instead. Because. REINDEER.