So, for the record, this is what my star ratings mean:
5 stars = FREAKING EPIC, gigantic story, everything works well, my mind is blown that a human being thought this up.
4 stars = love this book, it's just not as humongous in scope as a 5. But it's totally awesome and everyone should read it, it's a keeper.
3 stars = mixed feelings (this is where the "I think others might like it, it's just not for me" reviews are likely to go). Not that bad, but has some issues, or it's an okay story but nothing really stands out to me as being memorable. It was a pleasant enough read for a few days, but I'll probably just end up giving the book away rather than rereading it again.
2 stars = generally pretty terrible, but not 100% so. There was at least one thing in this book that made it not totally horrible. This book isn't really recommended to all and sundry, but you might get some value out of the one thing if you try.
1 star (rarely seen here): It's a wallbanger. Nothing is redeemable about this book, it's utter crap, and I probably only finished reading it so I could do an awesome bitchrant about it and I can't justify doing that to books I didn't finish.
This is a collection of (a) Kinsey Millhone short stories and (b) a series of "stories" that are thinly veiled slightly fictional versions of Sue Grafton's early adulthood dealing with her alcoholic mother. There's an essay in the middle about mystery writing.
Hoo boy, is this kind of hard to review given the differing content. I don't even really know how to handle this, but here I go anyway. (Note the confused category tagging on this one.)
The first half of the book are short stories taking place primarily in the early years of Kinsey Millhone's fictional life. They're short and snappy--perhaps a bit too short for my preference, to be honest, I felt like I missed the depth that the author usually takes with stories. I felt like a good chunk of them had to end specifically to fit a word count or something. But then again, I'm not usually a fan of short story collections for that reason except for the occasional story that nails it. Okay, so these pretty much do nail it, but.... overall, they felt too short and it bothered me. They are otherwise good, but I felt like I'd only gotten to eat a few potato chips and then someone took my bag away. Maybe that's just me, though.
The Kinsey stories are (all lower case titled, for the record):
between the sheets: A kinda weird client wanders in saying that she found her boyfriend dead in her child's bed. When Kinsey goes over to the house, the corpse has disappeared and turns up in the empty apartment nearby. Kinsey quickly deduces what happened once she finds out someone's occupation. She also has a bit of an odd bonding moment with the client's daughter.
long gone: Kinsey is hired by a frazzled dad with too many jerky young sons to find his missing wife. It's pretty quickly determined that his wife was having an affair, stealing money and fleeing the country--wouldn't you want to be long gone from the guy who wants more kids? Hmmmm.... This was one of the better ones to me, somehow. One of those "heh heh, crucial detail you didn't know" plots.
the parker shotgun: A pregnant wife hires Kinsey to investigate the death of her former drug dealer husband. (He quit because of the baby.) Oddly enough, his murder has more to do with a very rare shotgun and the fishy actions of a pissed-off wife, her druggie son, and her jerkass stroke victim husband.
non sung smoke: Kinsey is so bored she takes a decidedly fishy case--a party girl wants to track down the guy she "balled" last night. Kinsey does it and then the dude turns up dead days later. Kinsey does a wacky 1980's airport trackdown of her client to find out what's what. This was kind of one of those cases where it felt too short--other interesting things were set up and then abandoned once the murderer turned up. I'm still wondering about the wife, darn it.
falling off the roof: Kinsey is hired to investigate the murder of a guy shoved off a roof. She agrees with her client off the bat that the wife is super fishy, and joins a mystery book club and tries to pretend to be a suburban sort while she's there. But people who like mysteries can investigate too. This premise cracked me up a bit--it may be a bit too looney for the usual Kinsey book, but I liked it--but again, this one ended too short and it bothered me.
a poison that leaves no trace: Kinsey investigates a daughter who just came into money after her mother's death at the request of her ticked-off aunt. Kinsey trails the daughter around as she spends money, but there's something wrong with this one. A little weird and creepy, but not bad.
full circle: Kinsey witnesses a car accident/murder and is hired by the victim's mom to investigate the murder. Kinsey feels a lot of sympathy for her client, who seemed young and nice. The only people who didn't seem to like her were her roommate and the mysterious guy stalking her. That last bit is where you should pay attention....Again, I felt like I was missing a few details here and there and the author just wanted me to fill in the blanks. Which is annoying me, but oh well.
a little missionary work: This one might be the best of the lot. A bank bigwig that Kinsey knows from the gym secretly recruits her to help a famous actress deal with the kidnapping and ransom of her husband. Even a bank bigwig can't get that much money together, so Kinsey goes to an "old friend"/perennial criminal she knows named Henry to get the money in time. After doing the dropoff herself...Well, there's two twists to this one, and the second one just cracked my shit up. I am a little sad that "old friend" Harry Hovey never made it into the regular novels, he's kind of a hoot.
the lying game: I don't get this story. It's pretty much this logic problem, straight up. I was expecting there to be an ending in which Kinsey is all "ta-da, this is a thought exercise and not real life in any sense of the imagination," but it was not. Huh?
entr'acte: An Eye For an I: Justice, Morality, the Nature of the Hard-boiled Private Investigator, and All That Existential Stuff. This is a short but nice nice writeup about Sue's introduction to detective fiction and how she got into the idea of the hard-boiled PI.
The second half of the book are stories about "Kit Blue," which as far as I can tell are pretty much exactly what happened to Sue Grafton as a young woman except with the names changed. I'm not going to review each one separately. I feel very awkward reviewing them at all because they're so brutally bare and painful. I feel very sorry for what the author went through, and reading these stories were brutal. (Especially that her mother killed herself on her daughter's birthday. GOOD GOD.) And then her stepmother "Mildred" is one of those daddy-stealing pieces of work--the story about the lady who left her money to her dog and then Mildred had the dog killed within a week of the owner's death, holy shit. I can't review these or reread them again, they're agony. Not badly written, they're very sharp, but....ouch. I also have never quite gotten the point of the thinly veiled "fictional" story--I just keep thinking that claiming it's Not Real isn't doing anyone any favors and why didn't you just write it as nonfiction, then?
I've read books that take place later in this world here and here. This takes place about 150 years before Jovah's Angel.
Like I said before: this takes place on a planet where there's angels--humans who have clearly been engineered somehow to have wings, super warmth, super strength, and loud, good singing voices that they use to pray for changes in the weather and whatnot. Every year the entire planet is required to have a giant sing-along (Gloria) at the same time or their god, Jovah, will start smiting. It's a requirement that the archangel (head angel) be married within his or her first year of office holding, and that s/he marry someone of the god's choosing, which is conveyed via one of the oracles. Most of the planet also has a Kiss (computerized gem doodad) embedded in their arms upon birth so that Jovah can track if they're alive or dead and who to ah, fix people up with. Kisses flare up around someone's true love. Just so you know, archangels serve for 20 years. Oh yeah, and the angelica (female spouse of the archangel) has to LEAD the Gloria or else smiting happens. Well, supposedly.
The future archangel-to-be, Gabriel, has been putting off finding out who his future wife is. But with six months to go until his predecessor Raphael's term is up/the Gloria has to be sung, he'd better get on the stick about it. Gabriel is, according to TV Tropes, a good example of the Good Is Not Nice trope. He's genuinely dedicated to his job and nice at heart, but hoo boy, he ain't a people person. His own brother snarks that he dislikes everyone equally, or at least just isn't into parties and socializing. He's also considered arrogant--or if you ask Gabriel, he happens to be right a lot. Gabriel is disappointed to find out that his future wife is a farmer's daughter rather than a rich girl, but he's REALLY surprised when he goes to look for her village and finds out it was destroyed a long time ago. She has to be alive, but where IS she and how the hell do you find her?
Rachel, the future wife in question, has had a rocky time of life. After her village was destroyed when she was a 7-year-old, she was adopted by a wandering Edori tribe. The Edori are freaking awesome--they're kind of the equivalent of African-Americans (they're obviously darker-skinned), Romani (they roam around the continent), and Jewish because they don't quite believe in Jovah as the ultimate authority in the same way that most of Samaria does. Rachel had a lovely time growing up with the Edori and had a boyfriend--and then her tribe was massacred by the Jansai (slave traders) and she was sold into slavery. Five years after that, she's a slave helping a sweet young bride prepare for her wedding. A wedding that Gabriel is forced to attend. Their Kisses flare up, and suddenly Rachel's no longer a slave any more.
However. I've mentioned that Gabriel could be regarded as difficult, but Rachel is, to refer to one review I read of the book here, possibly the most mule-headed character in fiction. She's had a crap life up until now that hasn't been under her control, so you understand why she's at least somewhat unpleasant, reluctant to make friends with people she considers privileged, etc. She's literally been scarred by slavery. Staying angry seems to be what has kept her alive in life. But.... she isn't nice to too many people. She makes friends with Edori, and the angels Obadiah and Magdalena, who are super friendly and sweet and adorable. But as for Gabriel....hoo boy, she's difficult to him and he's difficult right back a lot of the time. And both of them can't say shit about their feelings like, ever. Hell, Gabriel can't even bother to tell his wife when he's leaving for weeks on end. Then again, it's not like he knows she cares. A little.
Now, things sorta slowly warm up. After Gabriel's first wedding gift goes disastrously, he gives her a lot better ones and this pleases her. And he's really nice to her about things and supports her and she kind of mellows out a bit. But they really don't spent all that much time together for a budding romance, so after awhile it is kind of a "told, not shown" thing. Or at least they skip from being very tentatively cordial to each other to Sekritly In Lurve But In Denial and I have to say, it could have been done a bit better. Like, say, having the two hang around each other talking more often instead of jetting off to other places. Just saying, that's the one weakness here when writing about two blockheaded characters who fall in love despite themselves. Whether or not you enjoy this book probably also depends on how much you can stand Rachel's behavior (see spoiler space about that), since she takes a lot longer to chill out than Gabriel does. They are an infuriating couple. But the ending was genuinely sweet and earned, so yay for that.
There's a slight subplot about Magdalena and Gabriel's angel brother Nathan being very much in love--with Kiss flareup and all. One of the few prohibitions put upon angels is that angels cannot boink other angels because they produce baby abominations (or so we're told), rather than the human/angel unions that can produce normal or angel babies. Gabriel and Maga's sister Ariel feel duty-bound/obligated to keep the two apart, even though they obviously hate the idea and feel bad about it. However, they eventually are all, "Oh, fuck it, the Kiss seems to indicate it's okay." So that's nice.
However, despite the romancing, there's a deeper plot going on. Current archangel Raphael doesn't really want to lose the power and the glory, and part of why Gabriel's out of town a lot is because he's finding out about some of the crooked shit, business deals with the rich dudes, etc. he's made. He also hasn't been answering prayers for rain and things like that in certain areas. He also finds out that Raphael has been going around telling everyone that Jovah doesn't exist and he's not going to strike anyone down. Wait, WHAT? Yes, on this planet, with this setup, Raphael.... has good reason to believe that Jovah doesn't exist. I won't go into the spoiler territory to explain why, but let's just say he's pretty justified in suspecting that. While Gabriel ponders using some of the curses he knows to strike down someone or something to prove that Jovah exists to the skeptical merchants, he really doesn't want to do such a thing. And this eventually leads to a horrible showdown to prove the point: does Jovah exist, and if he doesn't, can we deal with this guy running everything?
Overall I'm gonna give it four stars. It's a good and interesting read. Rachel (and to some extent Gabriel) skate perilously close to characters that only the author could love at points, but at least you get where they are coming from and eventually both you and they are won over. And the theological implications of this one are a wowza.
I'm going to do a bit of spoiler commentary for this series AND for the entire "trilogy" now that I've finished it below the cut.
"I think it's amazing that when your world collapses, you have people falling over themselves to help you, and when mine collapses, I have people fighting among themselves to get the scraps." --Trent
I'm not gonna repeat the whole "fuck if I know how I feel about the series any more" thing that I said on the last book, but it still applies.
Rachel has been working as Trent's security for three months at the start of this book. It also seems to be some kind of pseudo-dating on their parts, as they clearly want to be dating by now but Trent is still being forced by the elf collective (or whatever it's called, I forget) to marry his babymomma/off-and-on fiancee Ellasbeth. Plus they want him to drop Rachel entirely, and not just as a potential girlfriend either. He's not allowed to marry a "barren woman" (Rachel being a different species) and officially loses his voice among the elves if he can't provide more kids--never mind the first one, it's an excuse to get him out. The stakes are high and boil down to "If Trent chooses Rachel he's going to lose all of his money and power and probably the kids too."
Trent and Ellasbeth are still feuding, shocker. Ivy's girlfriend Nina is still having issues dealing with her possesive dead vampire Felix. Oddly enough, Ellasbeth has a moment of being actually sympathetic to someone when she finds out about the latter. So that was nice.
Anyway, the big drama of this one (has nothing to do with the title, but maybe they're running out of Eastwoods to spoof) is that wild magic is roaming around and it has something to do with Rachel's personal ley line and The Goddess, i.e. the communal mind deity (more or less) of the elves. Some of the Goddess's stray thoughts--called mystics--are roaming around independently and losing that connection is making the Goddess nutterpants. And of course the mystics are flocking to Rachel like she's handing out Halloween candy, because that happens. I'll be honest with you: I found that kind of confusing. Anyway, it leads to some deaths (including a prominent elf priest), some town shutdowns, Rachel having relatively lucid conversations with News, catching a train....Oh yeah, and all of the undead vampires fall asleep and are mysteriously un-hungry EXCEPT for Felix, which leaves a whopping power vacuum and a bunch of living vamps going berserk because they can. It's all part of a fiendish evil plan.
What's good in this one? I say this as someone who thinks it's a bad idea for Rachel to date anybody but especially Trent: okay, fine, you've won me over on this. Even Jenks is caving in. "You're perfect for each other! You irritate people, he smoothes them out. You have good mojo, and he only thinks he does." And let's face it, who's not gonna melt a bit when Trent says, "I don't want easy any more. It's worthless and the shine doesn't last." There's also the priceless line from Jenks: "This is the best thing to happen to her since that boy band she liked got run over by a pack of migrating deer." I also enjoyed Newt in this one as she has saner moments surfacing.
What's not so good? The mystic plot confused me quite a lot and I had to go back and reread a lot for writing this review. I'm not feeling super involved in Ivy and Nina's relationship, though I'm not against it or anything. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to care, really. And how things resolved badly with one character is kind of a downer after all this time, though it's also expected.
I'm going to give it three and a half stars. I have to dock a bit for my confusion going on. But the relationship stuff pleases even me.
I'm putting the entire review below a spoiler cut because this one is a Big Deal, You Guys. Hell, there's gotta be layers of spoiler space. Oh, and you will want to grab your copy of Rosemary and Rue and keep it nearby to reread after this one. Or hell, DURING this one. When the author starts out the book with the Winter's Tale quote that references both of these book titles...take a hint. Also, the cover is one giant hint. See if you figure it out early....
Yeah, this is a totally random review, right here. I picked this up on the spur of the moment. It doesn't even have a real named author, which is kind of a shame because for what it is, it's ridiculously entertaining in a cut-to-the-chase kinda way. I'm out of school and I'm not even the sort of person who might "need" a book like this--I mean, I've been edumacated on Shakepeare some. But even beyond that, this book tells it like it is. Why is Shakespeare considered to be so great? What do we actually KNOW about him and what do we take guesses on? How come he's so admired? Some of that is being in the right place, at the right time, with the right education. And apparently he was very good at using terminology from hard, specialized professions like being a lawyer. Not to mention that he liked to use puns and words with 3-4 different meanings. And lots of dirty jokes, sooooo many dirty jokes. The book also discusses the mysteries of Shakespeare's life, like did he hate his wife (seems likely under the circumstances) and what the hell was he doing during his twenties, poaching deer? There's a brief rundown of the presumed candidates for writing Shakespeare plays and why they probably didn't do it, for reasons like being dead and the like. There's a bit on Shakespeare's favorite sources for plots and how theater performances and royal patronage worked back in the day (hint, write to the king's interests about Scotland and witchcraft!).
There are brief rundowns on the plays, grouped by the top ten everyone should know, the plays that show you're well read (i.e. the other popular ones put on most of the time), and the ones that will impress your teacher and the hardcore Shakespeare nerds because nobody likes them much. There's a synopsis and a rundown of what to remember about each play, pointed out in specific context. Like for example, the adults in Romeo and Juliet actually start out being reasonable and start losing it later--specifically after Mercutio dies because he's the moderate voice of reason around here. And whoever wrote this book points out that there's both a "short" and "long" timeline going on in Othello--the main events of the play take place within a day or two, but characters make minor remarks indicating longer passings of time. Hmmmmmmm..... Bianca from Taming of the Shrew is called out as a skilled manipulator who gets what she wants by pretending to be docile, heh heh heh. Viola deals with her grief by basically becoming her brother in Twelfth Night--and why is it named that, anyway? Nobody really knows, must have been a timing thing? And what sold me on the book was reading the rundown of Much Ado About Nothing and how while B&B are the more interesting and romantic characters, they're also considered second-rate citizens in that world. Even the ah, less popular/more freaking disturbing plays can have some interesting discussion here and there, albeit brief because after awhile you will want to be skimming too. The anonymous writer even covers the sonnets.
Anyway, I found it to be pretty entertaining beyond its purpose, so what the hell, I gave it a review. Three and a half stars.
So this is the Big One. The one that everyone who reads the series has been waiting for. The one where...dum dum dum....Kate's entire existence comes to a head. It's so big that the authors start the book off with a note saying that this is NOT the end of the series and they have three more books under contract after this. Which is a good thing to put in, I think.
This BIG part takes awhile to happen. Kate's basically waiting at the start of the book to see what happens when Hugh inevitably outs her existence to her dad. And it starts out with Hugh waiting until Curran goes out of town and Kate's forced to cover a council meeting alone. Hugh has a shapeshifter kill one of the bigwigs of the People and throws it upon her to deal with. Kate and her people spend the first section of the novel on the run while trying to figure out the case, This eventually comes to a resolution, but Hugh pulls his secret spy (good choice on that one) and does a little teleportation and Kate and Ghastek end up trapped....where, exactly? The second part of the book ends up being a prison break in which Kate endures what's going on and then has to figure out, along with her allies, how the hell to get out of a vampire-ridden prison. And this leads to the third part of the book where....I'll go below the spoiler cut for discussion of that.
What can I say without going into the whopping spoiler territory? Well, I enjoyed reading the book a lot. In addition to Kate's voice, there's an opening chapter narrated by Barabas (Pack lawyer/Kate's advisor), laden with amusing snarky commentary on where we have been up until now. I would be very happy to read any future commentary by Barabas because I enjoy the hell out of his attitude. There's also a character list because now that the series has hit hardback status, it sounds like they think a lot of new readers are going to pick it up. And at the end of the book is a short story called "Magic Tests," written from Julie's point of view. (According to the authors, it's set after Magic Slays.) Kate (or the headmaster, or both, I'm not sure which) has a great idea for finally getting Julie interested in a school: set her to investigate a missing kid on the grounds while ostensibly on a tour. This did lead me to a bit of a mental debate as to how similar Julie sounds to Kate--there's a bit of "what would Kate do?" going on here--but we do get to see how Julie's sensate/magic-viewing ability works and how it helps her figure out what the missing kid is and why she reacted badly to some of her fellow students. I don't know how I felt about the "friends" Julie might have by the end, but I was intrigued by the character of Yu and it sounded like Julie was curious enough about this place to stick around, at least.
The issue of the werewolves--specifically Kate not getting along with Jennifer the alpha--finally gets resolved in this one. Thank goodness, because it gets downright insufferable. Ah well, some people just can't make good choices.
And there's a TON OF FUNNY in this book, especially around the start of it as Kate is running around with the shapeshifters trying to figure out the murder plot. At one point Kate is unable to rent a horse, but there is a mammoth donkey available... "Most of her kind are sweet. She's what we call in the business a freak of nature. Smart, stubborn, and ornery." "What's her name?" "Cuddles." Perfect. "I'll take her."
Kate is a donkey whisperer by making Cuddles fall in love with her via conspicuously eating carrots in front of her and then feeding her some. It's adorable. Later, Cuddles starts prancing in front of the rest of the group, causing Derek to start moaning and Desandra to laugh.
"I am ready for strategy planning now. Could you please stop prancing?" "She isn't done." It took another thirty seconds and a carrot to get Cuddles under control.
Cuddles is also awesome at dealing with vampires, just so you know. Yes, please, bring Cuddles back later. Any time.
Then there's Kate's dealings with the uber-serious Robert, who is having doubts about Kate and really, really wants to know what her secret deal is. Desandra helpfully explains this as "He wants to screw her, because she beat the shit out of him and they both have daddy issues over the same guy." Robert interprets this as, "Hugh d'Ambray is your brother and the two of you are sexually involved?" Kate is all, "Desandra, you know what, don't help me anymore."
And then there's the Derek and Ascanio Comedy Hour, in which the two of them rag on each other and it is DELIGHTFUL.
After they encounter a dragon that can be tamed by virgins.... "Quick, Derek, it's your chance to shine," Ascanio said. Derek gave him a withering look. "Desandra is a mother, Robert is married, Kate is affianced, and I'm an old soul. You're the closest thing to a virgin we've got. Get on with growing some flowing locks."
This makes Robert laugh, and he appears to not have a sense of humor usually.
Then there's the part where a guy starts taking his shirt off and Kate and Desandra start acting like he's a stripper, yelling that they don't have any cash and to take it all off. And a later part where Andrea threatens to shoot somebody and follows it up with "Everybody knows I'm a terrible shot." Or when someone tells Kate they thought she'd be more impressive and she's all, "I'm sorry, was I supposed to arrive in a black SUV, wear a two-thousand dollar pantsuit, and set my sword on fire for the encore?" Bwah.
On the deeper levels, I enjoyed Kate's arguments with Robert--Robert thinks that sometimes you need to sacrifice one person to save the rest and Kate totally disagrees with it. Robert considers that a weakness in leadership, but when Robert finds himself in difficulties later, well....that resolves well. I also enjoyed hearing Ghastek's origin story.
And now, I'm going to adjourn to the spoiler space realm to discuss the rest of the book. I'll leave you spoilerphobes and say that this book gets five stars for epic appeal. Good job, authors!
I'm not sure what to make of Charming and I've been trying to write this review for days--I swear it's taking even longer than all the others I posted this week that I took a long time at. (Hence why there hasn't been much here all month except the occasional HPMOR chapter reviews. Between The Wizard and the Witch and Lock In, there has been SO MUCH NITPICKING AND THOUGHT going on.) I'd say it has potential. There are some gleaming shiny moments. There's some lovely snark. There are a fair amount of battle scenes where I got confused and was glazing over--but then again, I've said before that I'm terrible at following fight scenes and that could be just me. And there's one major plot element that is kind of a giant "WTF?" So, mixed bag? I think I'm giving it .... well, we'll see.
I like the overall setup. There's a giant spell on the world called the Pax Arcana (the series's overall title) that keeps the mundanes from figuring out/acknowledging that supernaturals exist unless their survival is threatened. The Knights Templar are under a mental geas to police this world, and they run in family lines. Our hero, John Charming (yup, I'm sure he's heard all of the jokes) is from one of these families. However, his mother got attacked by a werewolf while nine months pregnant with him, so he's inherited a dose of werewolfiness, even if the geas has so far prevented him from shapeshifting. While John is a hereditary knight, the Knights are also big on human purity, and after some of his werewolfy traits started coming in, they drove him out of the order and want to kill him for being different. So he's been lying low ever since. After his fiancee got killed, he's been avoiding everybody.
Then while he's working a bartender job, out of all the bars in all the world, she walks in. She is Sig (named after a gun), a Valkyrie with some talking-to-the-dead powers, and she's chasing after a rogue vampire roaming around the city. This gets John involved in her quest, which eventually leads to John joining up with Sig and her associates.
The actual plot of this is...kinda so-so. It's about taking down a vampire pack that's formed around a recent vampire, a scheming teenage girl named Anne Marie who has all kinds of bad potential. I'll admit that I found her interesting in a sad sort of way when she finally comes onscreen (her lack of enjoyment of vampire life is pretty clear!), but I'll be honest with you: I wasn't really feeling this plotline so much, for whatever reason. Might just be me, it's hard to say, but it felt like pretty generic stuff or a filler-y episode of Supernatural.
Sig has an interesting mix of good and bad guys on her team. On the good side we have Choo the exterminator/exorcist who's fun to read, and Molly, an Episcopal priest with a Christmas fixation who's kind of wackily adorable. There's also Cahill the detective...in all honesty, I forgot about the dude for awhile in the plot, but upon rereading he does have quite a scene in which he half eggs John on to hook up with Sig and then tells him to stay the hell away. On the bad side is Sig's mentor/boyfriend Stanislav, a psychic/kresnik, and his twin nephews. Which leads me to the biggest problem in the book besides it having kind of a same old, same old plot:
WHY IS SIG WITH THIS INCREDIBLY UNPLEASANT DUDE?!?l!?! Is she really going out with him, indeed. There is nothing not terribly ugly about this dude in his looks or behavior. He's incredibly unpleasant on a good day. Admittedly we are hearing about him from John's POV and it's pretty much hate at first sight for both of them and it's obvious from the getgo that John has a whopping crush on Sig and it's mutual, and Sig and Stanislav's relationship is circling the drain anyway, but... He's an unmitigated asshole and it only gets worse from there. I like Sig and I don't get why she is with a guy who's this awful. At one point she tries to explain--it boils down to "he's my mentor and saved my life"--but if he's always been that unpleasant, it seriously makes her look like she has no taste. It also sets up a creepy dynamic in which John is coming onto a lady who's taken, which is rather skeezy even if the guy being cuckolded is awful. Okay, so John is pretty much like, "Look, after I get my life shit taken care of, I'm going to ask you out again, hopefully you'll have broken up with him by then," and he's pretty polite about the rejection he gets, but it's still weird. Oh yeah, and during a scene where Stanislav is threatening John with death, this is John's response: "I told her how I felt. She rejected me. I took it. She told you she was staying with you, and you flew off the handle." So it's pretty clear that the dude is baaaaaaaaad. Not without reason regarding Sig, mind you, but still, ugh.
But overall, I like John's personality. Sometimes it shines out more than others, but there's some darned good lines in here, especially the chapter titles. (The shortest chapter in the book is particularly priceless, as well as the chapter a bit later that fills in the holes, a la the show Leverage.) And there's a scene in which Sig uses her psychopomp powers to pass on messages from John's dead fiancee that actually made me TEAR UP, and that's saying something for me. There's a pretty good balance between his feelings for his fiancee and the new ones for Sig, or at least it didn't weird me out too much given the circumstances. And there's potential for future series books and the ending is very pretty, combined with honesty.
There's also setups and lines like this:
"She used magic to get me naked the first time we met." "I was just trying to get change for a twenty. I didn't realize he worked at that kind of a bar."
"Why is it that every time I see you, you're either taking off all your clothes or telling some story about taking off all of your clothes?" "Seriously. Should we warn the waitress?" "I think I can restrain myself until after dessert."
Or on a more serious note....
"I'm not writing this for Sig, or the knights, or even myself. I'm writing this for you. That's why I've larded this book with background lore and survival tips….I don't know if the Pax will finally break tomorrow, or in a decade, or in a century, and I will do everything I can to preserve it as long as possible, but the truth is that magical nap time is almost over….Anyway, this is the story I wrote."
But overall, I think I'm giving this three and a half stars. Some good points and some bad points are in this one.
Unlocked can be found in its entirety here for free. I highly recommend reading it before you start reading the book, Lock In. (And perhaps reread it after reading, like I'm doing.) I'm just gonna combine the review together the way I've done a fewothers.
"Unlocked" is a very good piece of writing that I dearly hope is included in future printings of this book, as it is essentially a prequel/explanation of the world created by Haden's Syndrome. (The book, by comparison, doesn't do a whole lot of backstory.) It talks about the "super flu" variant that started that spread everywhere but Antarctica out of nowhere, lead to billions dying, and it attacked its survivors multiple times, the second time with a version of meningitis that rewired the brain. And a small subset of those people ended up having locked-in syndrome. The medical details of the spread have details that would make Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant drool with joy. It's overwhelming and you really get the point of how terrible it all was--especially since the author is great at funny, sharp, to the point quotes even when writing depressing sci-fi situations.
After the First Lady Margaret Haden (hence the name) came down with it and became locked in, the President made it a top priority to divert money to working on what to do about it. Since the disease was universally effecting everybody, this actually got progress made. And he, by god, made things happen.
The first major development is a neural network, and experimenting to see if implanting one worked or not. Eventually they allowed Haden's folks to communicate again. Then comes poor Charlie Sebring, who came up with the idea to create a machine that could integrate with the neural networks so that people could walk around...and Rebecca Warner, the boss's daughter who found out about it and smelled an opportunity and IMMEDIATELY put it into action. Which is scary but impressive. The first two prototypes are designed for the First Lady and for Chris Shane (narrator of Lock-In, a toddler at this time) and suffice it to say, that company makes billions. Sadly, Charlie Sebring didn't cope with success well.
Threeps ("I 'look just like C3PO!"--Margaret Haden) take off, but lead to interesting social dynamic changes in the culture. Haden's folks become their own subset and have their own culture, especially in the Agora (mental Haden-only webspace), where one might perfer to spend their time in ah, Second Life. Then there's what happens when Hadens date, marry, and decide they want kids--which sounds like an interesting story. Integrators--people who recovered from Haden's and got the brain changes without the incapacitation--are discovered that can let Hadens pilot their bodies. Meanwhile, a pissed-off political rival eventually gets all subsidized government funding for Hadens cut off... which leads up to our book story. I give it four stars, it hooked me, and it made me want to read the book despite being totally freaked out about locked-in syndrome because that kind of thing happened to my dad.
"Lock In" takes place twenty-five years after threeps have been implemented. Chris Shane is the only child of billionaire, award-winning jock and generally smart dude Marcus Shane, and has grown up as a Haden celebrity. (This leads to all kinds of interesting thoughts about being a celebrity who can show up in different bodies--you'd only get recognized if you left your public identity announcement thingie on!) Chris is a rookie FBI agent starting work with a new partner this week. Leslie Vann is a former Integrator who got traumatized doing the job and abuses cigs and booze and sex just like any 1940's hardboiled detective dude would (this amuses me), but is still excellent at doing her job. While one wouldn't expect the first week of working for the FBI to be easy, Chris has a harder time of it than most. Not only are most Hadens walking out of their jobs in protest of the Abrams-Kettering bill being passed, which will utterly screw up most of their lives, Chris and Leslie start investigating a murder which was done with the body of an Integrator. But who was piloting poor Nicholas Bell? Did he do it, or did someone else--and if so, who?
This case turns into one where a bunch of people are getting murdered, and secret technology is figured out that can totally mess with Integrators in disturbing ways. Since Chris has the abililty to use threeps in different locations, it's easy to travel across the country or to the Navajo Nation and borrow threeps there to do quicker investigation--and go through a ton of bodies because that's a useful thing when someone starts shooting at you! (For those of you who love movies where all the cars keep blowing up, imagine what it's like when you keep having your bodies destroyed and shot up in fights! Good thing Chris is rich.) Hadens have a lot of super abilities that certainly come in handy as an FBI agent, like secret phone calling, recording software, and the aforementioned threep-sorta-teleportation thing. But what about the poor folks who don't have disposable bodies? Or what happens when someone's trying to kill one of your bodies and you're trying to fight them off with your other one? That's kind of at the heart of this scheme...
I will admit that this is not so much of a "whodunit" mystery so much as a "howdunit." There isn't exactly a list of suspects to work off of other than the guests at a scene early on, and your most reasonable suspect(s) are who you think they are. But the how of it all is what's interesting with this book, especially when the characters discover disturbing ways that one can be hacked and the implications that come up for people. I found it all very intriguing and whipped through the book very quickly. My only real complaint is that it's too short--216 pages in e-book! (Under that circumstance, might I suggest purchasing e-book rather than paperback....I get annoyed paying full hardback price for short material.) I would have liked more, please, because the ramifications of this universe are very fascinating. Also, I'd like to see more of Chris's roommates** and the mysterious Cassandra Bell.
I'd be delighted to see another sequel in this world--sounds like the author is interested! Shane and Vann make an excellent team that I'd like to see in further mysteries, especially at the end of this book when they're dealing with their suspects. Very smart and amusing scenes there :) I also liked how Chris approached Leslie with a totally open mind and no judgments, especially after a detective enemy of Leslie's ragged on her a lot. Chris promptly reports the entire conversation to her the next day because honesty is the best policy. Good on ya, Chris. Another fun detail I enjoyed was hearing about the entire award-laden career of Chris's dad Marcus--seriously, he's an Olympian, he's got a presidential medal, he's been a Pulitzer finalist...."There are maybe three people in the world more interesitng than Marcus Shane. They're not one of them." The family nickname for his trophy room is "the vet's office" because that's where Dad brings people to take their balls. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.
Another fun aspect of the book that makes you think is how you see things through a Haden's eyes. Chris isn't much for physical descriptions of folks (other than noting how expensive your threep is! Hadens are snobby about this!), and since I'm not really into those either I didn't really notice or think about that through most of the book. Like, do I have any idea what Leslie looks like other than she's female and seems to constantly be smoking or drinking? Not really, but I'm fine with that, hah. Then I read one description, which I'll refer to below the spoiler cut if you're curious*, and that made me start thinking about things and my own preconceptions, and it led to me immediately rereading the book again after I finished it the first time. Because there's something about this book (beyond its lack of semicolons) that the author did that most reviewers aren't noticing, and I'm wondering how many folks will figure it out. I look forward to hopefully seeing some interesting Internet discussion on this topic. Either way: good move, Scalzi.
This is one of the juiciest oral histories/autobiographies/biography (whatever this is called) that I've ever read. Please do not mix it up with the turdalicious children's novel by James Patterson with a similar title that I could not finish. I was pondering buying this book and borrowed it from someone, and I think I'll have to get my own copy to save, because it's gooooooood.
I should probably say before I get farther into this that this is not a book for the general population--you won't have heard of these folks unless you're a pagan sort and most of the people who read this blog casually (whoever you are) rather than finding this review via search engine will not be into the subject matter. But I found it to be entertaining in the extreme. I was interested in it because I've met a few of the folks interviewed in the book, including the main subjects of it, a few times. However, I assure you they could not identify me in a police lineup, so there's no real personal bias going on here other than "I liked those people, they seemed cool" on my part.
Oberon (a.k.a Tim Zell, Otter Zell, Oberon Zell, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart--dude likes changing his name) is a Big Name Pagan. While I'm generally not into ancient pagan history, this book covers the 1960's, back before paganism became more well known in America. (This review goes into a bit more detail about the situation.) At the time of young Tim's entry into college, it was pretty well out of vogue. But when Tim started reading Heinlein, well...he got inspired to get more involved, and he has been one of the big movers and shakers of neopaganism and polyamory. He founded the Church of All Worlds, has off and on published a pagan magazine called Green Egg, and more recently founded the online Grey School of Wizardry as an American equivalent to Hogwarts (dude's a nerd!). He eventually met his future wife, Morning Glory, and they were together for forty dang years. (She died a few months ago, sigh.) This is amazing given what they've been through AND the fact that according to both of them, they fought a lot! Morning Glory also became a big name in the pagan community, teaching about Goddess history and lore and coming up with the term polyamory. Both of them have been/were polyamorous all of their lives and the book goes into detail about a lot of the folks they dated and partnered with for years. If you're interested in/curious about any of this, this is an excellent book to read about all of what they went through.
This book chronicles pretty much everything. The author did it as an oral history, compiling tons and tons of interviews from a lot of people that were involved in the lives of the Z's, from good friends to ex-boyfriends and girlfriends to the occasional enemy. I'm impressed that Sulak (the book's narrator) got as many folks as he did under the circumstances at times. Because hoo boy, do these folks ever LET IT HANG OUT.
"I did a lot of soul-searching before I made the decision to rake over these old coals in this book; and though I have made my peace with many of the people who disowned me at the time, I felt that there were lessons I learned from these experiences that needed to be shared lest others make the same mistakes."--Morning Glory.
They are not shy about talking about the things they did in life, even the bad stuff. Like for example, the time when after a giant Beltane orgy, twenty-three people came down with an STD and the medication they were all on made them all very irritable and paranoid beyond the usual--and Oberon ended up slapping his girlfriend and breaking her nose when she insulted another lover of his. Not something most of us would mention, though he has been horrified and sad that he did that ever since. There's also plenty of talking about infighting and betrayals throughout the years with the CAW organization, which booted the Zells out at one point entirely. And the Zells tended to befriend a lot of folks, including a few guys who turned out to be skeezy creepers and even one guy who later became a serial killer! Oops.
Other things they've done involved creating unicorn goats (you can move the nodes in their skin right after birth to adjust the horn placement), starting a sculpture company, and creating polyamorous families with their lovers, most notoriously the Ravenheart family in the 1990's. (Which, for the record, is when I heard most of them speaking about their relationships at an event at Harbin Hot Springs. I got up to interesting things in college once in a while.) At the time I was pretty impressed that they were making it work, but the book reveals that there were a lot more dramas--or more specifically certain people not getting along--than I had heard about. Oberon and Morning Glory freely admit their mistakes in handling relationships and raising their kids, but it sounds like they have done their best to make up for it later in life, and as the other review I linked mentioned, it kinda makes you like them for it. They cover the good points and the bad points and the questionable points, all in the name of honesty.
Overall, the book is one long, strange trip of interesting things to read about. You can't say that life was dull with them, I suspect. There's also an afterword by their editor saying that the first draft of this was over a thousand pages long(!), as well as a timeline and helpful cast of characters list in the back, which you may want to consult as you read.
"They moved to the woods because they thought it was going to be all groovy and harmonious, and all they did was try to kill each other."--Gail Salvador, Morning Glory's daughter, on them living out on farmland.
"Actually, much to Oberon's disappointment, the world did not change itself instantly on the reappearance of Unicorns. Realism has never been his strong suit, let me put it that way."--Alison Harlow, former friend/landlady.
"I am not sure what it is about him that inspires women to madness, but if I had to guess, I would say the talent for holding an irrational position unswervingly under any and all circumstances."--Liza Gabriel, Oberon's former partner and a member of the Ravenheart family.
"He was never happier than when he was running hell-bent-for-leather five feet away from the lynch mob. In short, he was what we call a "Weenie Wagger."--Morning Glory on one of the aforementioned creepers she dated.
"There were complete genealogies of Oberon and Morning Glory's families and a recounting of every summer job either of them had had. There was a reincarnated cat, a cat who liked to ride on the roof of the car, and at least three sad cat burials.....There were three stories that had to do with people being naked and getting poison ivy. There were pages and pages of drug trips."--Elysia Gallo, senior acquisitions editor at Llewellyn Worldwide, the book's publisher.
In short, this is epic good juicy fun to read. I think I'm gonna give it five stars.
I'm not sure what the heck the plot of this book was. Honestly, I found it to be very action-packed and confusing. I'm not sure if this is a just me thing because I'm not good at following action scenes and picturing things in my head, but I saw at least one other review that didn't really get it either, so maybe it isn't just me. Anyway, I'm going to quote from the book rather than attempt to recap it:
"Five hundred years ago, some of the students of Bi Sheng were able to preserve their thoughts and memories in books. Their descendants have spent centuries protecting these books, and searching for a way to restore them. When Harrison hacked inot my private notes, he found the answer."
"August Harrison forced Ms. Greenwood to restore a woman named Bi Wei. In her time, Bi Wei would have been a rudimentary libriomancer of limited ability, but time in her book gave her a more direction connection to magic. She was a part of magic, able to manipulate it without books or other tools. While she appears to have retained this power, the greater danger is whate else Lena brought forth. Bi Wei had been touched by what the followers of Bi Sheng call si gui jun dui. The Ghost Army."
Got that? I hope you do. I'm still not sure I do. But anyway, what this boils down to is: the evil father of a now-dead bad guy Porter from the last book is using the guy's magic-eating bugs to...do something, well, he's hoping his dead son can be resurrected, but the plot doesn't get that far. Where it gets interesting is that he's enlisted the aid (more or less?) of an ancient rival group to Gutenberg, creator of libriomancy and the Porters organization. This is the group called the followers of Bi Sheng, who originated a different form of book magic. I was never exactly clear why Gutenberg HATES these people, but hoo boy, does he hate 'em. And he's suppressed information about them from the Porters--which as a total info-sucking nerd, Isaac hates and does not approve of.
These folks have managed to get themselves magically saved in books for thousands of years, with their descendants reading their books over and over (just think of THAT one) to preserve them. Their current head of the organization (I think?) is a woman named Bi Wei. This whole mess of a plot somehow leads to a lot of people dying all over Copper River, Isaac's current place of residence. However, Isaac feels sympathetic, and HUGELY CURIOUS about, Bi Wei and does his best to help her try to get out of this. ("You've just been tortured, you're surrounded by people who wouldn't hesitate to kill you, and to top it off, you're standing in front of a naked woman. If I'm not mistaken, all you can think about is the history lessons you could learn.") This turns out to be a whoppingly bad idea when it comes to the big boss, which leads to whoppingly huge consequences by the end of the book that I'll discuss below the spoiler cut.
Another plot element in this one is that a teenager named Jeneta has become the first Porter who can work with e-readers in order to produce magic--she's introduced briefly but it looks like she'll be a big factor in the next book. Jeneta has also had experience with some terrible magical entities that are referred to as "the devourers," and she and Isaac and pretty much anyone with magic are terrified of them encroaching. Isaac finds out during the course of the book how those creatures are originating, and they are a definite threat--though again, they will probably be more of one in book three.
By this point in time , both Isaac and his now ex-therapist Nidhi are dating Lena. Lena really likes seeing two people because due to her particular magical origin/creation, she has the ability to think for herself a little more and disagree with her lovers. Both Isaac and Nidhi haven't really done the polyamory thing before as far as I can tell, and they're a little weirded out--but they are doing their best to be gentle with each other and share without too many problems. I really, really like that polyamory is a plot element of this series and that it's a beneficial thing, especially for Lena. Lena gets more spotlight in this book, which is delightful because clearly she's the most fascinating character in the series. I'd love it if she got a book to full on narrate. She has brief narration at the start of every chapter about her life, starting with Frank and the kind of woman she was with him (simple, naïve, brutal) and the kind of woman she's been able to morph into with the aid of Nidhi and Isaac. And it's beautiful. More, please. Lena also gets more plot focus because one of Albert's evil schemes is to get another acorn out of her book, Nymphs of Neptune, and he wants his own slave lover. Lena desperately wants to get involved in dealing with her new sister, since they are the only two that can really understand each other. (Sadly, this kind of gets short shrift, though.)
There's a lot of mechanical automatons, talking to the dead, dragon fighting, and werewolves in this book too. It's a very, very busy book with not a lot of downtime.
Generally speaking, I liked the book, but not as much as I expected to because the plot is convoluted and pretty hard to follow. I also was hoping to see more of Nidhi, since for obvious plot reasons she wasn't in the last book much. I get how super important she is to Lena, and Nidhi is more involved in the action and chasing her girlfriend and metamour around and making sure they're all right, but...I still never got much of a sense of what Nidhi is like as a personality. She's very low key. Very, very very low key. Kind of reminds me of the crap Anna Torv got at the beginning of Fringe for being a stoic character. I...well, I guess that's what she is, but it makes her pretty unmemorable compared to everyone else. I found that disappointing.
On the other hand, I loooooove any plot to do with Lena, and the consequences that happened at the end of this book were a giant shocking whammy that will definitely require book 3 to be written under spoiler space. I thought that was pretty ballsy of the author to do, so that was impressive, and I shall wonder how he remedies things later.
This is a short but fun book featuring the author's research into the topic of mail-order brides and pen-paling across the country, back in the days of the Wild Wild West when all the women were on the East Coast and all the men were on the West. She has plenty of short snippets of ads for you to read, along with historical context, old photos, and various stories of love gone right and wrong. My favorite ad was the lady who wanted, "if mutually agreeable, become friends with proclivities tending ultimately to the great ambition of women." FRIENDS WITH PROCLIVITIES. BWAHAHAHAH, THAT'S SO PRECOCIOUS. I hope she got some.
On the side of matches gone wrong, there's plenty of folks who bailed on first sight, or took the money to take the train in that never showed up. (And one poor lady who almost missed her husband because she got her shoelace caught on her seat.). My favorite was the story of the Widow Jones whose potential husband didn't show up, and she said she'd go home, stand on a stump on the front yard and blow the dinner horn, and get fifteen different men to show up. "That's me, and that's my way, and if any of you want to kiss the bride, now's your golden opportunity." There's the fellow who thought he'd found the perfect woman and she turned out to be his aunt. There's plenty of short-lived marriages because a guy was too attached to his mother or decided to become a hoarder to drive wife #5 out of the house. There's guys who ran off with the bride's sister or cousin (or money). There's the lady who poisoned her husband three days after the wedding.
There's plenty of marital bigamy going on-- the most memorable is the story of the supposedly single matrimonial agent who falls in love, showers the bride with gifts--then keeps putting off the wedding date and banging on her door for sex every night, which she won't do until he marries her. Of course he's already secretly married--with three previous wives and seven illegitimate children with six different women!
As for the ladies who wanted to go West but remain single, they had a hard time doing so--some women discovered that they were being fixed up without their knowledge. "Out of fear of being killed by the suitors, most women went along with the arrangement." YIKES.
On the happier side, there's a few profiles of long-married couples. Asa Mercer put together a group of perspective brides, not thinking that he'd acquire his own--along with eight kids and a lot of moves and job changes. And at one point she hit a guy with a spitoon for beating her husband into unconsciousness. Tough lady. There's the couple who were friends at one point and then the guy moved away and got married and she started an art career. After his wife died, he put out an ad looking for her, which she didn't see until someone pointed it out to her. There's the hypochondriac whose doctor suggests he get married, but the fellow's not interested in "courting." The lady he writes to says he "thinks himself ill, but isn't," and within two months of marriage he'd perked up nicely.
It's a fun, short read. It could have been organized a bit better--the subject matter tends to hop around--and the descriptions of the relationships are pretty brief and summarized. However, I would guess that it's pretty hard to make the relationship descriptions vivid when you're working with limited coverage from the 1800's, so maybe that's not entirely fixable in that regard. So overall, I'm giving it three and a half stars.
"Professor Quirrell's office hours consisted of 11:40 to 11:55 AM on Thursday. That was for all of his students in all years. It cost a Quirrell point just to knock on the door, and if he didn't think your reason was worth his time, you would lose another fifty."
On the one hand, this is evil. On the other hand, I love this idea. I love the idea of discouraging people from bothering me and dearly wish I could do anything to stop people from doing so at work. But then again, being bothered constantly is the point of my job, so what can you do when you're stuck? Okay, done with my whining, back to the reviewing:
Quirrell is all, "I am in a BAD MOOD RIGHT NOW" and Harry offers assistance, or at least someone sane to talk to. Okay, sweetie, for you that's kinda debatable.... But anyway, Quirrell is mad because one of his sixth year students cursed another one with a bad curse without knowing what it did. Deducing that Muggleness was involved, Harry says that the Muggleborn kids need some kind of obvious (to the magic-born) safety lecture. Quirrell sets an inkwell on fire to do something with his rage. This doesn't make Harry run out screaming, and Quirrell wonders why. Harry says he has too much control to accidentally hurt someone and Quirrell is all "Taking suck-up lessons from Malfoy again?" Actually getting on to business, Harry says he's ready for a tutor now, and Quirrell agrees to doing that along with a little outing.
All the girls are giggling and pointing at Harry. He reasonably assumes this has something to do with the Rita Skeeter plot, and keeps himself ignorant for a few more hours so as to not spoil the surprise. He and Quirrell head off to Diagon Alley via teleportation. Quirrell goes off to do something or other and Harry heads off to buy the paper. Which announces that Harry is engaged to Ginny. Well, that was a sudden romance, wasn't it? Okay, but seriously now (okay, as serious as this gets), here's the logic behind it as explained by Harry to Quirrell:
"It would seem," said Harry, awe in his voice, "that one Mr. Arthur Weasley was placed under the Imperius Curse by a Death Eater whom my father killed, thus creating a debt to House Potter, which my father demanded be repaid by the hand in marriage of the recently born Ginevra Weasley. Do people actually do that sort of thing around here?"
After hearing Harry say "don't worry, it's all fake," the shopkeeper knocks over his merchandise. Presumably by keeling over. But why is he so shocked? Because supposedly this setup is impossible:
"They walked in silence for thirty seconds before Professor Quirrell spoke. "Miss Skeeter viewed the original proceedings of the restricted Wizengamot session." "Yes." "The original proceedings of the Wizengamot." "Yes." "I would have trouble doing that." "Really?" said Harry. "Because if my suspicions are correct, this was done by a Hogwarts student."
Quirrell tries to think out how this could have possibly been faked, and Harry's all, "Beats me, but they had a budget of forty Galleons to work with." Quirrell is totally flabbergasted, but doesn't poke Harry when he refuses to say whodunit. He eventually guesses it's the Weasleys, though.
Harry and Quirrell dine at Mary's Place, where Rita loves to eavesdrop. They have just come from Harry trying to get money out of his bank, which he's not allowed to do without permission, blah de blah not gonna recap that. But the room they're dining in is special: "Mary's Room is used by two kinds of people. The first sort are engaged in illicit dalliances. And the second sort lead interesting lives." Muahahahahah! So what shall we be up to today? Quirrell spells the crap out of the room, then congratulates Harry on pulling it off, mentioning that Lucius was behind Rita and he will not be happy with her. which means he'll do something terrible....Harry hadn't thought of that and feels like shit about it. Quirrell is all calm down, too late now, she'll just have to flee and get a new name, NBD. After reiterating to Harry that Rita was an enemy and he won and he deserves a reward, Quirrell gives Harry the diary of a famous person, which he ah, probably got through bad means. Harry debates the ethics of this vs. book-drooling. Book drooling wins! The diary is of Roger Bacon.
Oh, I forgot to mention that Quirrell gets up and stumbles at one point: "Nestled up against the wall, where Professor Quirrell had stumbled, glistened the crushed remains of a beautiful blue beetle."
Heh heh heh.
Three stars--I'm not super into the chapter for whatever reason, but it's not bad either. Maybe I'm just not feeling it today?
Infamous Quote Corner:
"Let the stupid ones die before they breed." *Darwin applauds*
"If the bookstore burned down, Harry was going to stick around in the middle of the fire until Professor Quirrell got back."
"Forty Galleons will pay a competent ward-breaker to open a path into a home you wish to burglarize! Forty thousand Galleons might pay a team of the greatest professional criminals in the world to tamper with the proceedings of the Wizengamot!" Harry shrugged helplessly. "I'll remember that the next time I want to save thirty-nine thousand, nine hundred and sixty Galleons by finding the right contractor."
I suppose I'm going to have to put this entire review below a spoiler cut because the revelation from the previous book is a huuuuge influence on how this one operates. Darn it, but there it is. This book also relates to some of the spoilery stuff from Doubletake, so take note of that as well. I'll just say that this one gets three and a half stars--some things are great, a few aspects could be improved. But overall, this is a crucial book in the series to me.
So what makes you a wizard? Harry ponders the genetics of it all. I'm not going to recap it all.
"And just like a computer program wouldn't compile if you made a single spelling error, the Source of Magic wouldn't respond to you unless you cast your spells in exactly the right way. The chain of logic was inexorable. And it led inevitably toward a single final conclusion. The ancient forebears of the wizards, thousands of years earlier, had told the Source of Magic to only levitate things if you said... 'Wingardium Leviosa.' Harry slumped over at the breakfast table, resting his forehead wearily on his right hand."
There you go.
Draco summons Harry using a minion. Harry doesn't like how it's done:
"Excuse me," said an expected voice from behind him in very unexpected tones. "At your convenience, Mr. Malfoy requests the favor of a conversation." Harry did not choke on his breakfast cereal. Instead he turned around and beheld Mr. Crabbe. "Excuse me," said Harry. "Don't you mean 'Da boss wants ta talk wid youse?'" Mr. Crabbe didn't look happy. "Mr. Malfoy instructed me to speak properly." "I can't hear you," Harry said. "You're not speaking properly." He turned back to his bowl of tiny blue crystal snowflakes and deliberately ate another spoonful. "Da boss wants to talk with youse," came a threatening voice from behind him. "Ya'd better come see him if ya know what's good for ya." There. Now everything was going according to plan."
Bwahahahaahah. But we don't get back to this at all for the rest of this chapter. I forgot to mention that this chapter is divided into Acts, and seems to skip about in time.
Next, we cut to Harry explaining to Dumbledore exactly what he did to Draco to fuck him up by destroying his entire belief system. Dumbledore is fairly well disgusted.
"Dear me," said the old wizard, "I do feel silly. And here I was expecting you might try to redeem the heir of Malfoy by, say, showing him true friendship and kindness." "Ha! Yeah, like that would have worked."
I sort of concur with that assessment, but still, yeah.
And now we cut to Fred and George roaming around the secret Hogsmeade passage. They don't talk because they're twins and are pretty much thinking the same thing anyway, so most of the time they don't need to chat. We're told that once upon a time, magical twins had one of them killed at birth for this. Geeez. Basically, they're sneaking off to their dealer. They show their contact, Ambrosius Flume, a copy of the Daily Prophet and tell him that Harry needs their help. Oh yeah, and Flume thinks Malfoy sent Skeeter after him. Fred and George assume Harry doesn't know this or he would have mentioned it.
Cut to Rita Skeeter having a literal run-in with "the disguised Death Eater training Harry Potter to be the next Dark Lord." Who she doesn't recognize and he gives her a reasonable amount of shit for that. Rita's off to eavesdrop on her next target, but Quirrell shows her his Dark Mark-free arm and wants a retraction printed. She blows him off, and he announces that it will be a pleasure to crush her. She doesn't care.
Cut to Harry holding a meeting of the Order of Chaos, which pretty much becomes him and the twins because Lee Jordan isn't into this shit. He's only into silly pranks. Harry discusses the Skeeter issue with them and Harry says he wants the twins to come up with a plausible rumor that she'll buy. It has to be ridiculous enough to make her look like an ass when it's outed as being fake, but plausible enough for her to publish it. Harry wants to be surprised. The twins, however, can't think of anything. How disappointing. Harry explains to them how to think, specifically that it should take longer than about two seconds to do so--take at least five minutes. The boys still don't get it, but they perk up when Harry provides them with a budget to work with. The ethics of trickery are discussed, but in the end I guess they take the money. Harry's only request is that Quirrell be left out of it, whatever it is. This request unfortunately inspires the twins to want to use Quirrell in the story, but they end up saying they'll do him separately. They're gonna have to outthink Harry being Harry to retain their top trickster title....
Three stars. Kind of weird to follow and not a lot of action. Not sure why it jumps around.
Infamous Quote Corner:
"Harry might not be done with this problem by the time he graduated Hogwarts. He could still be working on this problem when he was thirty years old. "
"Harry's mind briefly considered whether to get on a gut level that he might never solve the problem at all, then decided that would be taking things much too far. Besides, so long as he could get as far as immortality in the first few decades, he'd be fine."
"And this is the hero. We're all doomed."
"When Rita Skeeter was intent on a tasty prey, she didn't tend to notice the scurrying ants who constituted the rest of the universe,...."
Draco and Harry meet again, nervously. Harry's hand is limp, but Madam Pomfrey says it'll be fine tomorrow. This is when Draco freaks out because he assumed that nobody would go to an adult about anything a Malfoy did. Harry says he refused to say who put the dark hex on him to Professor Flitwick, but claims he told the Headmaster. Draco really starts freaking. Harry is all, "He already guessed it was you." And Harry then says, "I explained that it would be in his best interest not to do anything." An argument broke out between the headmaster and professor--
"and the Headmaster interrupted him and said that as the Boy-Who-Lived I was doomed to have weird and dangerous adventures so I was safer if I got into them on purpose instead of waiting for them to happen by accident,"
Hahahahahahahahah, and Flitwick threatens to throw Harry into Gryffindor House if he keeps this "Dumbledoring" up (GOOD POINT), and Harry finally ends the argument with "I promised Professor Flitwick that nothing like this would happen again, and if it did, I would just tell him who did it."
But why didn't Harry tattle (this time, anyway)? Well, Harry feels bad about hurting Draco worse. Also, because BROMANCING. Harry asks Draco not to do it again because he doesn't think he could forgive him a second time, and Draco is all, "Wait, is he still trying to be friends with me?!" Yeah, I don't get that life choice either. Draco is all, "Was this your plan all along?" and Harry is all, nope, didn't expect it to go like this.
And then we get to the part that reminds me of one one of the seasons of Supernatural:
"Well," Harry said, "you're Lucius's heir, and believe it or not, Dumbledore thinks I belong to him. So we could grow up and fight their battles with each other. Or we could do something else."
Draco is all, "Seize power after they're both exhausted!" and Harry is all, no, but we could make everyone think we're on the other person's side...or something, it's getting all Heel Face Revolving Door here. Then Draco has a flashback to the time he saw a play with his father and his father ripped it the hell apart for being badly written.
"And Father had finished by saying that plays like this were always unrealistic, because if the playwright had known what someone actually as smart as Light would actually do, the playwright would have tried to take over the world himself instead of just writing plays about it. That was when Father had told Draco about the Rule of Three, which was that any plot which required more than three different things to happen would never work in real life. Father had further explained that since only a fool would attempt a plot that was as complicated as possible, the real limit was two. Draco couldn't even find words to describe the sheer gargantuan unworkability of Harry's master plan. But it was just the sort of mistake you would make if you didn't have any mentors and thought you were clever and had learned about plotting by watching plays."
Allrighty then, good points there. Does that mean Xanatos Gambits don't work in real life, then? Just wondering. Anyhoo, Draco doesn't really get how Muggle friendship works so much, but he elects to go with it and change his mind later.
"And Draco realized with a note of horror and despair, that although it was a terrifying fate indeed to be Harry's friend, Harry now had so many different avenues for threatening Draco that being his enemy would be even worse. Probably. Maybe. Well, he could always switch to being enemies later... He was doomed."
After they don't kiss but make up, Harry asks how he can get some more money because he's used up most of his Gringott's stash, and Draco offers him money. How much? Uh...that will be most of Draco's spending money for the year. But: "All he had to do was write Father and explain that the money was gone because he had managed to loan it to Harry Potter, and Father would send him a special congratulatory note written in golden ink, a giant Chocolate Frog that would take two weeks to eat, and ten times as many Galleons just in case Harry Potter needed another loan." Allrighty then. What's this plot for? Rita Skeeter.
Draco wants to know if they shall be public equals should anyone else enter the Bayesian Conspiracy, and Harry gently says no because he's still learning the methods of rationality. This leads Draco to once again debate friendship vs. revenge on Harry...
"If Harry tried to carry out his plan of playing Dumbledore and Father for fools, he would die. That made it perfect. Draco would take all of Harry's dreams away from him, just as Harry had done to him. Draco would tell Harry that it had been for his own good, and it would be absolutely true. Draco would wield the Conspiracy and the power of science to purify the wizarding world, and Father would be as proud of him as if he'd been a Death Eater. Harry Potter's evil plots would be foiled, and the forces of right would prevail. The perfect revenge. Unless... Just pretend to be pretending to be a scientist, Harry had told him. Draco didn't have words to describe exactly what was wrong with Harry's mind - (since Draco had never heard the term depth of recursion) - but he could guess what sort of plots it implied."
As Draco thinks this shit over, Harry ponders the evolutionary origins of human intelligence.
Reading this chapter, and trying to parse it out and recap it, made me tired. Three stars, I'm ready to move on from this drama.
Infamous Quote Corner:
"Father had warned Draco against people like this, people who could ruin you and still be so likable that it was hard to hate them properly."
"He was having trouble hating Harry Potter. Harry had been trying to be friendly, he was just insane. And that wasn't going to stop Draco's revenge or even slow it down."
"There had to be a limit. The Dark Lord himself hadn't been that twisty. That sort of thing didn't happen in real life, only in Father's silly bedtime stories about foolish gargoyles who always ended up furthering the hero's plans every time they tried to stop him."
HAHAHAHAHAH SINCE WHEN DOES LUCIUS WATCH GARGOYLES? Seriously, between that and the gom jabbar I'm thinking the Malfoys have been corrupted by Muggle culture more than you'd think. Or the author hasn't realized how much he's throwing in with the wrong characters.