Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mini-Reviews: "Something About You," "The Sharing Knife, Volume One: Beguilement" and "Bad to the Bone"

Okay, I didn't want to do this, but what with my move and my reading slump, my reviewing backlog just got too big for me to handle. It usually takes me four to five hours to write a decent review for one book, and it's even harder when I've read the book a long-ass while ago - and it's even harder when that book I read a long-ass while ago wasn't amazingly mind-blowing or ridiculously terrible to begin with. So. In order to catch up to the review of the ridiculous terrible book I did just read, I'm going to clear the slate by doing mini reviews.

Bad to the Bone, by Jeri Smith Ready.

The Chick: Ciara Griffin. Con artist, identity thief, vampire radio station manager, and part-time college student. Possibly has magic vampire-healing blood - and severe commitment issues.
The Dude: Shane McAllister. '90s Grunge Vampire (nope, not kidding). Catholic. Misses his family. Likes Nirvana.

The Problem: Ciara: "I just want to run a vampire radio station without misogynist anti-Vampire Christian cults trying to shut us down! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?"

The Word: Okay, I was going through a lot of Moving Day WTFkery while I was reading this, and, despite the author's personal insistence (when I met her at RWA 2009) that this, the second book in her Vampire DJ series, could work as a stand alone - well, it couldn't. There were a lot of references to characters and plotlines and worldbuilding from the previous book, to the point where I felt left out and grasping at straws most of the time.

The general gist is this: vampires are real, and immortal, but they don't age very well. Mentally, they stay sane and stable by remaining connected in some way to the historical era in which they were turned. This is where our heroine comes in - thanks to some shenanigans in the last book that I don't totally understand, she now manages WVMP - a radio station where all the DJs are vampires pretending to be humans pretending to be vampires, playing the music from the decades in which they were turned.

In Bad to the Bone, some fundamentalist Christian group starts hijacking the WVMP's signal whenever they use a female DJ or play songs by female artists, replacing the original broadcast with fire-and-brimstone preaching. Ciara and her friends investigate, only to discover vampire dogs, weird cults, emo college journalists, lots of angst, Daddy Issues, and other drama. Not having read the first book, I found the overarching story to be pretty hard to keep up with, nonetheless the worldbuilding was interesting enough to make me consider getting the first book out at the library. B.

The Sharing Knife, Volume One: Beguilement, by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Chick: Fawn Bluefield.
The Dude: Dag Long-Complicated-Last-Name-I-Forgot-During-The-Move-And-Am-Too-Lazy-To-Check
The Problem:
"I just want to fight evil spirits and marry this girl who's less than half my age without society getting all up in my bidniss! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK???"

The Word: This was a weird book for me - I've read Bujold before (I enjoyed Paladin of Souls), and I thought I could expect a similar, interesting epic fantasy from The Sharing Knife, but what I got instead was...

...A romance with an itty bitty bit of fantasy-adventure thrown in at the beginning. I'm not kidding. Dag is a Lakewalker - a member of a nomadic race of people gifted with the ability to sense and manipulate "grounds" - a source of magic found in people and in the land. The Lakewalker's universal mission is to patrol the land and hunt down "malices," or evil spirits that devour and destroy "grounds," thereby causing the land to dry up and die.

SO YOU'D THINK THE NOVEL WOULD BE ABOUT DAG HUNTING MALICES - but you'd be wrong. While tracking a particularly nasty malice, Dag saves a pregnant runaway named Fawn from said creature, and Fawn turns around and actually kills the malice (the only malice we see in the entire book), which starts a chain of events YOU'D THINK WOULD LEAD TO ACTION AND ADVENTURE but really lead into a protracted road-trip romance between an 18-year-old girl and a 56-year-old one-armed man.

The book itself is very pleasant, with nice writing and some clever dialogue, and the romance itself is rather sweet, but there is little to no conflict - PERIOD - in this book, much less conflict of a fantasy-adventure kind. It's basically Dag and Fawn travelling together, meeting all of Dag's friends, having lots of info-dumpy conversations, and eventually meeting Fawn's family.

While not horrible, it's not very interesting either, and the marketing for this book is a little misleading. Even worse - I have the next two books in the series on my bookshelf, and I have no desire to read them. At all. C+

Something About You, by Julie James.

The Heroine: Cameron Lynde. Assistant district attorney. Does not like getting woken up by illicit, Viagra-flavoured hot politician sex. Likes possibly witnessing a murder suspect leave the scene of the crime even less.The Hero: Jack Pallas. The FBI agent newly returned from exile in Nevada who's assigned to protect the very woman who had him put in exile in the first place.
The Problem:
"I just want to be able to inadvertently witness a murder without having to have the studly FBI guy I screwed over three years ago come back to reluctantly-yet-sexily protect me! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!"

The Word: Okay, I'm a fan of Julie James, in novel format and on Twitter, but I have to say I was less than impressed with Something About You. It was just - okay.

Cameron Lynde is, like Julie James' previous heroines, a workaholic lawyer who loves her job but is less enamoured with how little time it leaves for possible relationships. The closest thing she had was a few sparks with FBI agent Jack Pallas a couple of years ago, when he helped her prosecute a notorious crime boss. When her sleazy boss ordered her to drop the case, she was forced to break the news to Jack, who did not take it very professionally. Their professional and personal relationship imploded, Jack was exiled to Nevada, and Cameron kept working for her sleazy boss, because he was district attorney and it paid the bills, I guess.

Cut to the present - Cameron is pampering herself with a fancy night at a hotel, only to be kept awake by what she thinks is the sound of two sex fiends getting in on like bunnies who just escaped from prison for smuggling Viagra. She calls security just as she sees a tall, hooded figure leaving the hotel room - and when security arrives, they find a dead call girl. Suddenly, Cameron's a star witness, and the FBI agent assigned to protect her is none other than Jack Pallas. Awkward.

Don't let the set-up fool you, this isn't really a romantic suspense or a mystery - we're told who the killer is right away in a long and elaborate infodump. The novel mainly focuses on our two protagonists and while nothing about the development of their romance seemed particularly wrong or off-putting, none of it was exactly memorable either.

And there you have it! And now I'm off to hurry up and write that review of the terrible romance I just read.


  1. Anonymous6:54 PM

    I'm so happy to see someone else kinda meh about SAY, I'm going to forgive how completely wrongheaded you are about Beguilement. ;-) (But I will mention that a lot more stuff happens if you read on in the series. Seriously.)

    BTW, you might want to think about comment moderation or something else to block all the spam comments you've been getting lately. -- willaful

  2. Beguilement is actually half a book; the malice hunting happens more in the second book. The whole series kind of needs to be read as a whole, or at least books 1 & 2 together and 3 & 4 together. (Bujold was pretty honest about that in interviews, and mentioned that the first book was split by her publisher, I believe.)

    Fades back to lurkdom...

  3. I read the first book in the WVMP series and enjoyed that book well enough, however this second book is still lingering in my TBR pile. I preferred the Aspects of Crow fantasy series by this author - with Voice of Crow, Book 1 as a favorite.

    The Sharing Knife has been on my TBB list for a couple of years now, but haven't bought it yet since I decided to concentrate on Bujold's SFF first and not her romance-based series. I find your take on this one quite refreshing.

    And, I absolutely agree with you on Something About You by Julie James. Not a memorable read.

  4. Jeri Smith-Ready also wrote "Requiem for the Devil" which is one of my all time favorite books, so you would think I would have checked out the WVAMP books as well, but they keep falling off my radar. Must remember to buy them soon.
    I liked "Something About You", but as you said, nothing really outstanding... except sometimes it's nice to have a reliable, amusing, sexy contemporary to read and James' books fit that bill.

  5. I listened to the 4 part of The Sharing Knife series on audio and it is teh awesome. The narrator is excellent. There is a lot of romance in it (which I think is a good thing) but the fantasy aspects really get going in last 3 books. It's hard to know how much of my enjoyment came from the narrator though - she did such a great job of it (Bernadette Dunne).

  6. Vorkosigrrl11:22 AM

    Hi, AnimeJune! Always nice to see you've posted.

    Bujold is one of my favorite authors of all time, but I have to agree with you on The Sharing Knife. All four volumes. Which I dutifully bought, read, and doubt I will ever open again. Can't really put my finger on why, but they just don't do a thing for me. I kept hoping I'd change my mind as the series went on.

    I am thrilled you liked Paladin of Souls, which is a favorite of mine. I think the romance in that is actually a lot more successful.

    As for the radio vampire story, never heard of it, but may I recommend a similar series which I think is fabulous? Carrie Vaughn's "Kitty" series. Kitty is a reluctant werewolf with a midnight alternative music shift at the local NPR station. One night things are kinda boring, and she starts taking calls about the paranormal. Pretty soon, she's got a highly rated call-in show for the Weird and Flaky. Starts with Kitty and the Midnight Hour. Vaughn is a very good writer, who manages to be both funny and poignant.

  7. Anonymous9:38 PM

    The only one I read on this list was Something About You and while I agree it wasn't earth-shattering, it was like mepamelia wrote, an easy, contemporary, fun read. I actually have the biggest problem with Jack and his super-FBI abilities...I call them into question when he sets himself up in her house and fails to do some basic surveillance. It's sets up the ending, but holy crap, you really didn't think of checking these things out and you're considered the best in Chicago's FBI office? He makes up for it a bit in the actual ending, but come on, Jack. You're smarter than that.

    Oh and FYI, not that it matters at all, but he was exiled to Nebraska.