Movie Review: Maleficent

There are things we have a capacity to carry through with stability and reliability.

Blogging is not one of mine.

On the bright side, my word count is looking fantastic this month, so, you know, there’s that. 

Saw Maleficent today, which I see as part of the trend begun by Wicked and continued by Frozen, wherein we take traditionally villainous female characters and rewrite the story with a positive trend.  All around… I’m torn on this trend.  I see the validity of it, as the Wicked Witch of the West and Maleficent are incredibly powerful female figures and by reclaiming them as moral figures, they become role models for future women.

But at the same time, I don’t think they necessarily NEED the help of a movie about how they’re all just misunderstood and hurting inside.  These are women who flat kick ass. They do what they do because they are powers in their own rights, unbound by their gender and morals alike.  If we haul them back into a prescribed model of moral right, then we’re losing the point of what those women stand for.  Which, yes, is a villains role, but equality means that women get to be villains too

Up shot is, it’s complicated.  I’m not completely against the trend, but also warn treading with caution.

And all of that said?  I liked Maleficent.  I really did. Not as a ‘redeem the villain’ movie, but as a fairytale retelling.  I am a sucker for fairytale retellings, which take a well known tale and respin it into something new and familiar at once.  Maleficent is an excellent example of this.  It reworks Sleeping Beauty in a way that is both familiar, but a new spin without losing what’s at the core of the story.  Also, it’s a fun and very pretty fantasy film.  I think we need more of those.  So, if you like fantasy movies and fairy tales?  Give it a shot.

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Review: Hemovore

This week, I come to you with a lesson in expectation.

Hemovore is a book that’s been showing up on my suggested reads for some time.  I decided to give it a shot because, as I have mentioned before, I have a weakness for gay vampires.  And ultimately, Hemovore disappointed me.

It’s not that this is a bad book.  Far from it, in fact.  Hemovore contains a well constructed world, where vamprism is the result of a virus contagious via any infected fluid.  The writing is clean and easy to follow. It’s got great pacing divided between action and tender moments of character growth.  It features a relationship both very sweet and fascinating in the issues it addresses.  There’s actually a lot to recommend this book.

But it just doesn’t feel much like a vampire book to me.  In spite of the sexy pale men with aversion to sunlight.  In spite of all the blood drinking.  For me, something was missing from Hemovore.  And when I realized that, I had a good think on just what it is I expect out of vampires.

The first thing is a sense of seduction.  I like vampires who are alluring and hypnotic.  If I’m craving vampires, I’m craving some seduction.  There wasn’t really an seduction in this book.  The characters both care about each other deeply from the start, so the relationship that develops over the course of the book is much more of a discussion than a seduction for anyone.  Which I really, really like, but wasn’t what I was expecting.

Also, this novel has no sexy biting.  No biting at all really.  If you can’t have seduction in a vampire novel, you ought to at least have sexy biting.  There’s blood sharing, but all via syringes and a little clinical.

In general, Hemovore doesn’t read like a supernatural or urban fantasy.  Yes, there are vampires and they have super strength.  Towards the end, we get some nifty vampiric powers showing up.  But there’s minimal magic in this world, just a fair amount of “This world works like x, we’re not going to bring in science to explain it, either you’re buying the world works like x or you’re not.”  The first two thirds of the book reads much more like a social science fiction or a spy thriller.  Not that these are bad things, but again.  Expectations.  The book did not meet my expectations.  These were not the vampires I was looking for.

That said, let’s talk about the book that I did actually read!

As I mentioned, there’s a lot of things going on Hemovore that I really liked and found fascinating.  The relationship resonated with me, as the two characters have worked together for years, the kind of close work where it basically feels like they live together, even if they each keep their own apartment.  Both are attracted to each other, but neither speaks of this fact or does anything about it.  The reason being, Jonathan Varga is V positive (a vampire) and Mark Jensen is not infected.  Catching the virus that causes vamprism ends in a painful, unsexy death without a second try for 85% of the people who catch it.  Therefore, as attractive as they find each other, neither is going to do anything about it, because the risks are too high.  They keep things distant, boss and employee, both pretending that’s all they are toe ach other.

And then, things change.  A series of events are set off that make them both re-evaluate their relationship and what they want out.

Ultimately, this is a novel about intimacy.  Physical intimacy is difficult, nearly impossible without spreading the disease.  The virus dies quickly when exposed to open air, but can survive several hours in fluid outside the body.  Sexual contact spreads the disease.  Kissing spreads the disease.  Sharing a glass can spread the disease.  Your partner drooling in their sleep could even spread the disease.  Basically, vamprism is like mono, only deadly.  The parallels with HIV are obvious, especially since the book features gay protagonists.

Unable to have normal physical intimacy weighs heavily on both characters’ minds, especially as they open up to admit the very real affection and desire between them.  They fight with whether they can make this work or if they’re just setting themselves up for disappointment.  How much of themselves can they share with each other, when so many things stand between them.

My favorite part of the novel is when our protagonists spend a few days with some mixed positive/negative couples and we get to see what kind of a lifestyle they have to live.  Separate bathrooms. A latex curtain between them when they sleep. I wish that our protagonists had spent a little longer here, discussing and negotiating if the two of them could handle it.  Instead, the story moves on to a different, and inevitable, phase of the relationship.  Still, I am a freak and really like complicated and awkward negotiations.

Honestly, I wonder how necessary some of these precautions are, just how infections the virus is.  It isn’t so contagious that it spreads via a positive sneezing, or else they’d all have to wear face masks. Fun fact, mono CAN spread via sneezing, though it isn’t common.  Mono is less contagious than the common cold and I get the feeling that the hemovore virus is less contagious than mono, but more contagious than HIV.  Which means that while unprotected sex is definitely out unless you’re willing to die, some of the other precautions taken might be extreme.  Considering the climate of suspicion and paranoia around the virus (it’s only been rampant in the USA for ten years), the extreme measures make sense.

And hey, better safe than sorry, when sorry means the person who loves you enough to live in this ridiculous lifestyle ends up dying horrible in a matter of months if you’re not safe.

Anyway, digression aside, it’s a fun book.  Hemovore contains little explicit sex (one scene), but has the careful unfolding of a meaningful relationship with lots of action and suspense to drive the story forward.  Worth a read, just check your vampiric expectations at the door and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

Find Hemovore here!

Review: Sappho’s Fables Volume I

You know what I haven’t done in a while?  Book reviews!

You know what there isn’t a lot of in the world?  Really good fantasy lesbian writing that has excellent and sexually charged chemistry between female characters.

Hell, it’s hard just to find any writing that pairs up two women.  And what I can find is mostly written with an emphasis on character interaction.  Maybe because the majority of writing focusing on female pairings that I’ve read is teen.

Except, no, that’s not an excuse.  There are plenty of teen novels that have entire sections dedicated to how steamy hot the male protagonist’s body is and how the female protagonist really just wants to jump his bones or at least have an extended makeout session.  There is plenty of sexual chemistry there, even if there isn’t any explicit sex.  Yet, every time the pairing is two women, everything is practically chaste.  I could be reading stories about forbidden friendship that just happens to occasionally involves kissing.

Meanwhile, het writing and male/male writing is bursting with sex and sexy times.  You can’t turn around without running into some description of handsome men and the beautiful men (or ukes) who love them.  But put two ladies, with two sets of boobs in the same room?  Shit, that’s too many boobs for chemistry to exist!

When I realized this problem, I set out to see what lesbian writing I could find, especially some with real sexual tension and chemistry between women.  I… came up with very little, but haven’t yet given up the chase.

One thing I did discover was Sappho’s Fables Volume I.  This is a collection of three novellas written by Elora Bishop and Jennifer Diemer based on fairy tales with lesbian protagonists.  I wouldn’t call them re-tellings, exactly, more like riffs.  The heart of each fairy tale is present and obvious, but at the same time, the stories take off in their own directions.  Entire worlds are created, developed, and unfolded within the novellas.  And they are fun.

Also, yes, there’s actual chemistry and attraction between female protagonists.  Hallelujah.  Since there’s only three, I’ll give a few thoughts on each novella.  Each novella can also be bought separately, if you only find yourself interested in one of them.

Seven
Hands down, this novella has the best chemistry of the three.  Sparks fly between a revised step mother and the titular Snow White.  Also, don’t worry, incest is not actually a thing in this story.  It quite nicely ducks even the “we’re not really related by blood but still” awkwardness you can find in step parent/step child pairings.

Braided
I’ve never liked Rapunzel much as a story, it’s just never had much flare to it.  This novella, though, takes the whole thing into an epic quest across bizarre and fantastic landscapes in pursuit of escaping the binds of fate. I loved the world sculpted and I loved the main protagonist, bad attitude and all.

Crumbs
Of all three of the stories, this one by far leaves the entire fairy tale model in the dust.  It’s Hansel and Gretel.  With zombies.  Yeah.  Chew on that. That said, with such a fantastic premise, the ending wasn’t quite what I wanted. All three of these stories, being fairy tales at heart, end with a Happily Ever After. This one… this one I wanted to see go outright dark. Still, it’s a fascinating setup that’s well worth the read and a very conflicted narrator who keeps the tension up through the whole story.

Review: Lord of the White Hell (OR I Like Big Books And I Cannot Lie)

Oh dear internet, why do I always pick the expensive hobbies?

Good, well written gay characters in original settings are hard to find.  If you want to find them, you have to start looking outside the box.  By which I mean small press publishers.

Now, I love small press publishers, because they’re more willing to take a chance and publish in niche material than big publishers.  The downside of small press is, well, it’s small and less likely to have many copies running around, which means less likely for books to be found at your local library.  Which, due to finances, is currently my primary source of books.

Luckily, we love in the fantastic era of digital press and ebooks can be delivered anywhere and without shipping and handling. Yay!  But small press ebooks are not that cheap.  They aren’t over priced, but small press can’t offer their books at $.99 a pop because they know other book sales will cover any loss made.  Small press has to sell the books at market price, just to make back their expenses.  Thus, my lament.  Why the pricy hobbies?  Why?

Ginn Hale is a name that I’ve seen bopping around for a bit.  It wasn’t until recently that I actually picked up some of her stuff to read, due to discovering that one book of hers, Wicked Gentlemen, won a Gaylactic Spectrum award.  And with good reason, this pair of novellas paints a fascinating world of half demons, prejudice, priests, and the balancing act between what we desire and what we can obtain.

But I didn’t get to Wicked Gentlemen until after I picked up the first of Lord of the White Hell, which I lucked into finding at my local library (yay!).  I had to send the library on a hunt to find the book, because while it was in their catalogue, it had somehow vanished off of their shelves.  But I got it, I read it, I was enthralled, and, ultimately frustrated.

Lord of the White Hell is really one book published in two volumes.  Both are thick, respectable books, but the first cuts off at something of a cliff hanger without resolving any of the central plot elements.

And the library did not have the second book.

Thus ensued my lament.  My conflict. 

I gave in.  I bought the ebook.

I have no regrets.

Lord of the White Hell has many of the ear marks of a yaoi.  The plot focuses on Kiram, the first of his ethnic group to attend the elite school of the ethnic majority.  At the school, Kiram meets his very hot sempai upperclassman, Javier, a duke who is cursed with the White Hell.  Kiram initially assumes all this hell talk is a joke being played at the foreign kid’s expense, but as the book unfolds, he discovers that the White Hell is very real and that Javier and his family are suffering for a horrible curse.  A curse that Kiram swears to break, any way he can.

Yeah, I think I watched that yaoi back during my love affair with anime in the late nineties.  And yet, Hale has no fear of leaving not only playing with the stereotypes, but leaving yaoi territory far behind her. 

  • Kiram is drawn into the struggle of Javier and his curse, not because he finds Javier really hot, but mostly through other people at the school whom Kiram comes to care about.  Javier is not the only person whom Kiram cares about in the book and Kiram is not motivated only by how hot is he for Javier’s ass.  In fact, Kiram’s motives are rich and developed.  You’d think he’s an actual character and not just a sex symbol. …Wait.
  • There is a plot.  The romance is not the extent of the plot.  And, as stated, romance is NOT the only character motivator. And, when the relationship hits hard spots, it’s because of real and genuine problems between two people of different cultures and social class.  Not dumb miscommunications, over the top drama, or any other number of contrived coitus interruptus that clutter mainstream romance, gay or straight.
  • Sometimes, Kiram tops.  Look, I’m just going to come out and state it, but this is one of my favorite facets of this book.  It’s not that Javier isn’t the seducer and isn’t often the instigator of sex.  But when it comes to sleeping with men, Kiram is WAY more experienced in the subject and is perfectly willing to show that expertise.

I enjoyed the first part, but I think the book really shines in the second half.  The first part stays closer to a common model.  It’s a fantasy land academy, complete with bullies and allies and hot upperclassmen.  It’s the story of two people coming to know each other, steadily over time, becoming friends, and then more, with school yard style plot points to keep the story moving and a bigger plot looming that never quite materializes.

Book two is a lot more daring.  It jumps straight into the big plot mentioned.  We spend a significant portion of the book outside of the magic academy, exploring cultures we haven’t seen before.  Javier and Kiram know each other at this point, or think they do, so instead the book becomes about self discovery, about the ways each of them must change to actually grow into people capable of an adult relationship.  Where book one was an enjoyable yaoi-esque romp with enough thought put into the tropes to keep me happy, book two is a fascinating exploration of culture, boundaries, and some kick ass fantasy.

I am still, however, kind of annoyed that it has to be two books.  Oh well.  Not that there isn’t enough territory covered between the two of them, but readers, be aware that if you buy one, you’ll probably want to buy the other, if only to get the actual resolve.

Anyway, you can find these books, and others by Ginn Hale, on her website.  Wicked Gentlemen is also a lot of fun, though an entirely different tone with more grit and drugs.  Less explicit sex, though, amusingly enough.  She’s also continuing to explore the world of White Hell in a new release this fall.

Yeah, I’ll be squeezing the book budget to get my hands on that too.  I’m such a sucker for good gay characters.

Review: Sacrificed In Shadow (OR My Fascination with Starting In The Middle)

I have always wanted to write a novel that starts in the middle of everything.

I’m not just talking in media res, where you start in the middle of an action sequence. Where you open the book and the first line is somebody taking a swing at your character’s head or the firing squad is taking aim or there’s a car chase and the reader has no idea how we got here, but they now very badly want to know how our main character got to that position, because come on, firing squads and car chases!

No, I like in media res just fine, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a book dumps us in the heart of someone’s complicated, messy life and then don’t go back to trace the details of ‘how I got here and why’ but instead moves forward with the complicated and the messy with a plot that doesn’t lean backwards on the things we don’t know, but builds on a future that contains the mess without being ruled by it.

This is an impulse I blame entirely on Dragon Ball Z. I was in high school when this monolith of anime started playing on Toonami. Anyone familiar with the anime knows that it had a predecessor, Dragon Ball, which was a lot sillier and based on Journey to the West. It centered on a boy, Goku, striving to become the world’s best fighter. Dragon Ball Z was the continuation, which had less people being turned into giant carrots, fewer poop jokes, and more long, gratuitous fight scenes.

But when Dragon Ball Z came on Toonami, I didn’t know about Dragon Ball. For me, the story started with these weird spiky haired guys landing on earth and a group of fighters coming forward to face them. And this group of fighters had an obviously complicated and convoluted history with one another, friends and allies and even enemies, all of whom were coming together to deal with a much bigger problem that had reared its head. And from that, everything else unwound.

Really, if you want the summation of what watching Dragon Ball Z was like, Team Four Star summed it up beautifully in Dragon Ball Z Abridged. Goku turns to Piccolo and asks, “Weren’t we enemies or something?” and Piccolo replies “Nobody watched Dragon Ball.”

And it was true. We hadn’t watched Dragon Ball. Hell, we didn’t even know that Dragon Ball was thing!  For American watchers, it first only existed with the Z at the end.  And so, for me, and for many others watching Dragon Ball Z, it started in the middle. We didn’t know what any of these characters had to do with each other, only the history we could glean from watching them interact, the things they said or they didn’t say. It was immensely attractive to me and still is.

It is also, however, not without its problems. Watching only Dragon Ball Z, I never cared as much about many of the characters as the show seemed to think I should. This Goku guy dies in the first three episodes? Well, obviously he’s not that important, right? …What do you mean he’s the central character even while dead? Oh, the creepy doll guy sacrificed himself? I am sure this is very sad, but it’s not like I ever cared about this character. And, come on. Creepy and doll like. We’re all happier without him, right? Are you sure we have to wish him back?

To be fair, Dragon Ball Z wasn’t trying to make us care about these characters. It assumed we had already seen Dragon Ball and already cared. Because for its original audience, that’s how it happened. It wasn’t the creators’ fault that America decided DBZ would be way more appealing to their audiences (and not without reason) and thus we got it in an odd order and therefore gave WAY more of a shit about Gohan than the Japanese ever did.

Still, that style, this idea of picking up in the middle, it has always lingered for me as something I want to try.

I picked up Sacrificed in Shadows by S. M. Reine on a whim, as I do many of my books. It is, as far as supernatural novels and self published novels go, not at all bad. If you like demons and werewolves and women kicking the butts of the above, give her a shot. It’s not even terribly problematic, in terms of gender roles and subtler messages, as many supernatural books are. Well, Sacrificed in Shadows isn’t, I can’t promise about the rest of her books. But I enjoyed this book as good, chewy junk food reading.

It also starts in the middle.

The novel’s main protagonist, Elise Kavanagh, is a demon. She has an awful lot of history, things that happened to her that gave her awesome demon powers and a great deal of emotional baggage. Much of this history impacts the story, but we get told it in cliff notes version, the details that matter for the moment and without gloss or drama. It’s fascinating to slowly have this character revealed, one incident after another. And she’s not the only character we see this happening with.

I later figured out that this was because the book is much like Dragon Ball Z. There’s a seven book series that proceeds Sacrificed in Shadows, documenting in detail how Elise got where she is. Sacrificed in Shadows begins a whole new series with Elise as the central character, while also drawing in characters from other series of Reine’s.

I doubt I’ll pick up the books that come before Sacrificed in Shadows. The things that happen to Elise are… well, ridiculously drama and treachery filled and rather rape-tastic at points. I am dubious on how much I’ll enjoy these books. I am, however, probably going to pick up her Six Moon Summer series. Because it’s winter and winter is the time for me to read about werewolves. Why, I don’t know, though it’s probably Patricia Briggs’ fault. But I like some good (and bad) werewolf lit, so we’ll give it a shot.

 And I did enjoy reading Sacrificed in Shadows. I’m not in love with it, the way I was with Kyle Murchison Booth, but my time spent with Elise was fun and entertaining.  And I really liked starting in the middle of her life.  I enjoyed getting the cliff note version and watching her, the new demonic her which is the only one I’ve met, getting sucked into a new kind of trouble.

 As for my own writing, well.  On writing this blog, I realized that the vast majority of my stories do exactly what I’m describing.  Especially, in many ways, the novel that I’m planning to edit this winter.  I know, in detail, a lot of what happens to my main character before the novel begins.  And maybe some day I’ll write those stories too, but I’m starting in the middle of her long, complicated history, with the ghosts of her past occasionally popping up, but mostly staying in the closet as much as she can keep them.

So I should probably stop blogging and just go work on that story, huh?

Review: The Bone Key

Dear internet, I have fallen in love.

I have fallen in love with one Kyle Murchison Booth.

Er.  Not a romantic love, because that would be awkward, since that I’m pretty sure he’s gay and uninterested even if not and I’m definitely gay and we probably wouldn’t actually get along if we met and he’s more than a little bit cursed besides.

But beyond all of that, internet, it is definitely love.

Kyle Murchison Booth is the main character of a series of interconnected short stories written by Sarah Monette.  One collection of short stories starring him has already been published, The Bone Key, with more stories floating around in various publications and more still yet unwritten.  (Actually, technically it’s two collections, but one collection was a limited run for a fundraiser, so pretty much impossible to find and thus not counting it.)

I’ve read Monette before, specifically her Doctrine of Labyrinths series, which devoured a month’s worth of weekends, and A Companion To Wolves, written with Elizabeth Bear.  All of which I loved and highly recommend and will probably chatter about at some point later.  But this was the first time I plunged into her short stories, probably because I never realized she had more work out.

I don’t buy many books these days.  I don’t have a lot of money and I own a sizable stack of books as it is.  Plus, any new book that I buy is one more book I have to pack up and move sometime in the next couple of years.  Thus, I practice restraint as much as I can and spend a lot of time at the local library.  When I do buy a book, it’s either one I’ve been wanting to read, but couldn’t get my hands on, or a book that I know I love enough to actually spend money on and haul it everywhere.

This past week, I bought a copy of the Bone Key.  It is one of the few that ranked joining my permanent shelves, and it achieved this ranking within a week of being read.  This doesn’t happen often.

The Bone Key is a collection of horror stories.  But it’s an understated horror, built on atmosphere and complex psychology.  This isn’t Hollywood horror, where things lunge out of closets with chainsaws and blood sputtering out of orifices as they wave chainsaws in your face.  There is, in fact, minimal gore, though many and varied horrible things happen to the characters contained in the pages.  And always, Kyle Booth is on the sidelines, horrified, terrified, and sucked in quite against his will.

The thing about Monette’s work that always strikes me is her ability to write wonderfully flawed characters which readers are either going to utterly love or utterly HATE.  She can also write characters who are quite impossible to dislike, as seen by Mildmay the Fox from the Doctrine of Labyrinths.  I am fairly sure that no one can outright hate Mildmay (and if I am wrong, do not inform me for it shall shatter my world).  But the characters she writes that truly resonate with me are the ones that can so easily be hated.  Yes, I liked Mildmay, but I was really reading for Felix, even when he was being an utter and impossible bag of dicks (which was often, see all of book three and most of two for that matter).

Booth is not detestable the way Felix is.  But not everyone is going to like Booth.  He is a weak willed, wishy-washy, and painfully passive character.  He rarely acts, he’s so dreadfully socially awkward that the reader is left wincing as he stutters his way through one agonizing social encounter after another.  He is no dashing hero who sweeps in to save the day.  In fact, in the fine tradition of horror, the day is rarely saved.  Bad things happen to, well, not always good people, but people who arguably didn’t deserve their fate.  A fate that Booth either can’t or won’t turn aside.  He is, by his own words, not really a good person.

But he tries not to be a bad one.

I think that’s a lot of why I like Kyle Booth.  He tries.  He has a deck stacked against him when it comes to interpersonal interactions and he has an unfortunate allure for the supernatural, which keeps dumping him in one situation over his head after another.  But he does try.  And he usually fails and is thus left with a mess to clean up or walk away from and a life to get back to living when it is all done.  But he continues to live, which is a testament in itself to either an impossible luck or an ability to survive that defies bravery.  And, if you read the stories in, more or less, chronological order, Booth does grow as a character.  He’ll never be the Dashing Hero, but he is slowly facing who he is. And sometimes he runs from that self knowledge, but you can’t undo the act of looking in the mirror. Slowly, subtly, and in spite of himself, I’d say he’s growing as a character.

Kyle Murchison Booth is also attracted to men and asexual.  As he is asexual, the attracted to men bit comes up rarely.  His sexuality is explicit in only two stories in The Bone Key, but it colors him subtly throughout the rest of the stories.  The theme of marriage keeps reoccurring around Booth, a theme that is complicated by a curse on his bloodline, but also by the fact that he isn’t all that interested in the first place.

I love the handling of Booth’s sexuality.  It’s not something that we are told every story.  It isn’t italicized or hoisted on a flag pole so that we definitely notice that yes, this is definitely a defining aspect of Kyle Murchison Booth.   Because Kyle Booth isn’t a Gay Character.  He’s a character who seems to only be attracted to men, if he’s attracted at all, but mostly is not interested in marrying or getting involved with someone else.  This is not always convenient for him, but it’s also not usually a central issue, not in the face of ghosts, monsters, and other supernatural.

The fact that he’s asexual also delights me.  In our romance obsessed society, asexuals are few and far between.  It’s not a positive reflection of sexuality, by any means, as Booth is not a healthy character capable of having a relationship, with a man or a woman.  But his stories have an honesty to them and the fact is, being gay/asexual is not all happy times.

The result is a character that feels real, complex, damaged, and utterly fascinating.  Not everyone is going to like him, but reading his stories becomes an experience of wandering down painful, twisted roads that some of us know too well and finding that the real monster isn’t always the supernatural.  Sometimes it is the human things, the psychological things, that are the true things to fear.

Perhaps someday Monette will write one of her complex and multi-pronged characters and I shall hate them.  Or maybe I just have a terrible tendency to like the people everyone else hates out of sheer pig headedness.  Either of these things may be true.

Until such a time, I’ll wait until she publishes more Booth and pine.  And look for other excellent gay characters to read.  When I find them, I’ll let you know, blog.

Since it is just past Christmas time, here are the links to all of the Kyle Murchison Booth stories that can currently be found online for your reading (and listening) pleasure.  They are, as far as I can tell, in chronological order.

Wait For Me

Elegy For a Demon Lover (podcast)

The Replacement

To Die For Moonlight

White Charles

The Yellow Dressing Gown

Review Criteria

I really want to start doing some book reviews, but trying to pull things out of my head is actually pretty hard.  So I’m coming up with some categories I want to brush for different books.  Ratings will be out of ten for all categories.  Spoilers in reviews will be common, but I’ll try to note when/if I need to discuss something majorly spoilery, I’ll mark the appropriate section.

Plot:
Did it have a good plot?  Was everything strung together, with subplots adding instead of distracting or bogging things down? Did it surprise me?  Was it supposed to surprise me?  How many times have I read this plot before?  If so, did it do anything new with an old plot?  Did it at least do a good job with straight run of an old plot?

Characters:
Did I like the characters?  Were they interesting and well rounded with flaws and personalities?  Were there any characters that didn’t fit my expectations?  Were there any ‘Pants’ characters present?  Who were my favorite characters? The last will not directly affect rating, but I’ll make a note because I find that fun.

World Building:
How well designed is the world?  Did I have fun with the world?  Does it feel like a complete world, even if I didn’t get all the details?  Did I buy it? Where did it break?  Did it break to the point where I spent an hour bitching at my roommate about the breakage?  High score indicates a well thought out, carefully constructed world that adds to the story instead of distracting.  Low scores indicate something fundamentally broken in the world that kept distracting me.

Clinical Quality:
Straight up, how well written is it? I will also include the narrative style (first, third, etc), because that can actually change my mind, as a reader, on whether I want to pick up some books.  (Third person limited is my favorite, but hardly a deal breaker if its not.  And clinically well written first will get lots of smiles out of me.)

Gibbs Grin Points:
This is a category to cover how much I flat out enjoyed or didn’t enjoy the book.  This is because sometimes a book can be clinically awful, but be an utter delight to read.  This category will also get bonus points for having some of my favorite things.

Creep Factor:
How healthy are the relationships?  Are unhealthy relationships treated as unhealthy and problematic in the work, or are bad behaviors rewarded?  This isn’t a matter of how creepy the book is supposed to be.  A horror novel can have a low creep factor, because this category is about unintentional creep.  Horror novels are supposed to be full of warning stories and bad relationships.  Creep factor here is about things put in the story that are creepy or deeply unhealthy that the author doesn’t seem to be aware of.  Twilight, for example, has a ridiculously high creep factor.  Not because of vampires. But because stalker-abuser as the Perfect Man is a terrible message to give to teenage girls, making the book incredibly creepy.

Ase-Scale:
Is there romance?  How central to the plot is it?  Does the romance feel more important than the world saving that is supposed to be the plot?  High ase-scores mean less romance.  Ten would be a complete plot with no romance whatsoever, relationships are all familial or platonic.  Nine might have already withstanding married characters whose relationship is not the focus of the story, but are present as romantically involved.  Anything with romance as a significant piece of the story will get no higher than a five.  Most things put on the romance shelf will get a very low ase-score.  This is not because they are bad books, but because they have a lot of romance.  And I am sick of the vast amount of romance stories in the world, so I’d like a category to highlight works that are not romance focused.  Some books may score a twee higher in this category for putting in atypical romances, such as poly relationships or homosexual romances.

Overall:
I will average the above and give a final rating, as well as any last thoughts I have on the book.