Sunday, December 25, 2016

Bookstore Laundromat, Blade Runner Reboot, Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier, The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst and Dante Valentine by Lilith Saintcrow

This is an awesome idea, and one that I wish we could create here in Maple Valley, where there is no bookstore, and a only a very grungy, uninviting laundromat.

Cool Idea of the Day: Books & Laundry

Turning the Tide in Saskatoon
Peter Garden, who has been running Turning the Tide
bookstore in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan's Broadway shopping district for 13
years, recently opened a satellite location at the Come Clean Laundromat
in Regina, CBC News reported. Garden said the new venture "was a trial
to test the waters before opening a more permanent shop in Regina."

"Maybe some people are coming to buy books and they have a basket of
dirty laundry that they can bring down with them too," said Garden. "Two
birds with one stone.... I don't expect Regina readers to want exactly
the same thing as Saskatoon and I think we're going to find out as we
get feedback as to what people are looking for."

I was a fan of the original story (I've been a fan of PK Dick since I was in junior high school) long before the movie came out, and then when I saw the movie in the 80s, I loved the fascinating visual environment created by the production company and brought to life by the actors and director, Ridley Scott. Unfortunately, it appears someone feels the need to revamp and update the movie, and though I am not sure of the quality, I will go and see this movie in honor of the original. 

Movies: Blade Runner 2049

"Some things look familiar, some things look really different, and few
things have changed a lot in this first tease from the sequel to Blade
Runner," io9 reported in featuring a trailer for Blade Runner 2049
a followup to the classic adaptation of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids
Dream of Electric Sheep? The film will be released October 6, 2017.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve and again starring Harrison Ford, the story
takes place 30 years after the events portrayed in the first movie, when
"a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a
long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of
society into chaos. K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick
Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing
for 30 years."

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier is the third book in the Blackthorn and Grim fantasy series. I read the first of her B&G series, Dreamer's Pool, when I was given an ARC by the Ace/Roc publishers in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed it enough that I was delighted when I got a copy of the sequel, also in advance, and was able to review it. Den of Wolves I bought new in hardback, however, because now I know that Marillier isn't going to let me down and will provide some fine prose and storytelling for my book buying dollars. Here's the blurb: Feather bright and feather fine, None shall harm this child of mine...
Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life
Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies...
Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone...
There were so many layers to this book, that I hardly know where to begin to discuss them. Suffice it to say that the story of the troubled teenager, Cara and her fathers (real and adoptive) were heartbreaking and riveting, a study in what happens when a man builds a relationship on lies. The secondary storyline of Blackthorn finally getting her day in court was equally riveting, however, and when Conmael the fey releases her from her 7 year debt on pages 400-402, I cried like a baby. This highlights one of the many things I loved about this novel, the lovely, lyrical prose and the beautifully drawn characters. They made the story so mesmerizing that I finished the novel in one sitting, though I was loathe to do so, since I was enjoying it so much. Blackthorn has grown from an abused, angry and bitter woman to a compassionate, loving healer who never fails to help her companion Grim, who in turn helps her in ways both large and small. Grim's journey from angry prisoner to kind and gentle craftsman has also been amazing, and the way that he loves Blackthorn, without any thought to himself or his own needs, is rare and wonderful to behold. I give this novel an A and highly recommend it, and the whole series, to anyone who is a Patricia McKillip fan, or a fan of fantasy novels with flawed but fascinating characters. 
The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst was recommended to me by someone who knows I enjoyed YA fantasy series by Maria Snyder and Ericka Johansson (Queen of the Tearling) and Victoria Aveyard. This is book one of a new series, so we begin by learning that this world is not as easily inhabited as other fantasy worlds, since the "spirits" or "fey" of the world do not want the humans to live on their planet, and would, if possible, kill them all off in various gruesome ways. The only thing keeping them in check is the Queen of Blood, who is trained to use her mastery of the elements to force the spirits to do no harm to the populace. The current queen is, inevitably, vain and corrupt, however, and has been  making a pact with the spirits to uplift her flagging powers so that she will not be deposed, in exchange for the spirits taking out a village or two and killing as many humans as possible. Into this horrific situation steps the young queen candidate Daleina, who, though she doesn't have the power and mastery of the elements that her classmates do, she has the ability to get others with greater powers to work together in a common cause. She can also delegate and think strategically, and she is under no illusion that she is the strongest or best candidate for Queen. A disgraced champion (the men and women who train the queen candidates) named Ven, who has been wrongly slandered by the evil and manipulative queen, helps Daliena learn to make the most of what she has, and when the queens treachery comes to light, Ven and Daleina must work together to save their people. Here's the blurb: Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow…
But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still only human, and no matter how strong or good they are, the threat of danger always looms.
Because the queen’s position is so precarious, young women are specially chosen to train as her heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Meanwhile, the disgraced champion Ven has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. When Daleina and Ven join forces, they embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land…before it’s bathed in blood.
Though I enjoyed a somewhat fresh take on the magical fantasy genre, I found myself knowing what was going to happen long before it happened, and I thought that Ven's innocence in thinking that the queen was redeemable (just because they'd been childhood sweethearts) was more that a bit ridiculous for a grown man.  Still, I found the prose to be well wrought and the plot swift. I'd give this book a B+, and recommend it to those who liked Hunger Games or Divergent, and are interested in magical fantasy.
Dante Valentine: The Complete Series by Lilith Saintcrow is a massive omnibus of over 1260 pages that I happened upon at the Half Price Books warehouse sale. I'd read another steampunk series by Saintcrow, (Bannon and Clare) and enjoyed it enough that I assumed this series would be just as well written. I have a feeling that this is Saintcrow's early works, however, as the books are somewhat uneven in plot and the characters not as well drawn as her later works. Dante is basically a feral half-demon bounty hunter with claustrophobia and severe abandonment issue who navigates a dystopian future in which religion is dead and magical powers are real. Here's the blurb:
Necromancer. Bounty hunter. Killer.
Dante Valentine has been all three in her life. But in the beginning, she was a Necromancer for hire. And while she was choosy about her jobs, there were just some she couldn't turn down. Like when the Devil showed up at the door and offered her a deal. Her life - in exchange for the capture and elimination of a renegade demon. But how do you kill something that can't die?
Dante Valentine, one of urban fantasy's hottest series, is compiled into one volume for the first time. Included in this omnibus edition are: Working for the Devil, Dead Man Rising, The Devil's Right Hand, Saint City Sinners, and To Hell and Back.
Like most who have read this series, I found myself liking Dante/Danny at first, because she'd come from an abused and disadvantaged background, and she'd managed to become a decent person with a code of honor and a job bringing back the dead to answer legal questions for the living. The fact that she's also great at martial arts and is surrounded by good friends who are like family also helped make her seem like a female Harry Dresden.  Unfortunately, also like most who have read this series, I found myself becoming increasingly dismayed and disgusted by Dante, the further into the novels I read. 
While she seemed to be strong and smart, once she hooked up with Japhrimel the greater demon, the Devil's right hand and assassin, she regresses into a big, whiny child who has to be physically and emotionally rescued at every turn, though of course she doesn't see it that way, and plunges herself into suicidal situations repeatedly in defiance of her demon lover. She constantly pouts and complains that he won't talk to her and explain what is going on, what he's doing and why, and she somehow thinks that he's not going to be like other demons, and he won't be abusive, (he nearly throttles her at one point), possessive and cruel, in addition to lying to her and forcing her to do what he wants her to do to keep her "safe." Nearly all of her friends are killed, and she still manages to be blind to what is really going on because she's such an emotional infant and so selfish that she can't see beyond her own sulking. Japh is this dark and brooding almost father-figure (which is nauseatingly  incestuous) who claims Dante's safety is paramount to her regard of him...insert raised eyebrow of disbelief here. It's odd, too, that much text is given to Dante complaining that Japh can't communicate honestly with her, yet she can't seem to tell him how she feels, either, or to tell him about Gabe's daughter or anything else going on in her head. She's too busy being needy and insecure. In several scenes, she even acknowledges that she's acting childish, but she doesn't do anything to remedy the situation, going as far as to hide under a bed and talk in a high pitched childish voice, and waiting for her demon lover to go into the bathroom and break the mirror for her so that she doesn't have to face herself and what she looks like while bathing. It's pathetic. I only kept reading in the hope that Dante would grow up and learn from her mistakes and be the heroine that readers hope she will become. 
When she's raped, again, by Lucifer himself, and Japh is once again not to be found when she really needs him, and he takes her to have a "worm" removed from her abdomen (Seriously? Anyone with half a brain is going to know that this is a metaphor for a fetus, because Dante is terrified of having children), it is obvious that Dante is never going to mentally recover from a second round of abuse, and that she will mentally and physically implode at some point, probably at the worst moment. All of the other men who are magical, including an immortal, seem to have nothing but contempt for her as a female, and yet at the end they all suddenly want to be "friends." So in the end we're left with a severely mentally traumatized woman who is left in charge of a child that she's promised to raise, and she's vanquished one devil in favor of another (and readers aren't certain it's an improvement). Another problem I noticed was that each book had on average of three obvious typos in the text. I find it hard to believe that no one at Orbit/Little Brown/Hachette could spring for a copy editor or a proofreader. And I am only talking about really obvious typos, like spelling mistakes or using the wrong word. Any decent copy editor could also have trimmed out all the redundancies (such as the constant reference to the "burnt cinnamon smell" of demons) and saved readers at least 150 pages of recap.  I'd give this series a B- (and in some cases it slides down to a C) and recommend it only to those who are so into urban fantasy that they don't mind misogynistic characters and trigger situations among the profanity-laden text. 

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