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Mon, Nov. 30th, 2015, 08:06 pm

Daniel Handler, We Are Pirates: Now I know what happens when my enjoyment of Handler’s unique voice collides with my hatred for literary fiction in which upper-middle-class men contemplate or engage in infidelity. Hatred wins. For whatever reason, this book was described as being the story of Gwen, a fourteen-year-old girl who decides to become a pirate; the other half of the story centers on her father (see above). I ended up fast-forwarding through the second half; Handler’s painful insights into the indignities of life were too much for me without the leavening of kindness/absurdity that he brings to Lemony Snicket.

 Sarah J. Maas, Heir of Fire: The evil king sends teenaged assassin Celaena to kill the ruling family of a nearby realm, but she peels off to seek answers about his plot from her Fae relatives (she’s demi-Fae, as it turns out). She encounters yet another tormented hottie—I don’t want to worry anyone, but I’m starting to get a teensy Laurell Hamilton vibe here, minus about 80% of the sexual tension. Meanwhile, back at the palace, intrigue occurs. And a new POV character, kinda-sorta bad but starting to have her doubts, who also is an amazing fighter and wyvern-trainer and beautiful despite her iron teeth and claws, unlike the other witches to which we’d previously been exposed. Maas is having fun, and so am I.

Sarah J. Maas, Queen of Shadows: Next volume, Celaena has accepted her true identity as Aelin, Queen of Terrasen, and returns to destroy the evil king, rescue his son, and return magic to the land, maybe not in that order. But the son has been taken over by a demon, possibly forever. Meanwhile, the Blackbeak witch Manon continues to work for the bad guys, but her doubts may lead her into all-out rebellion. Maas knows how to chew up plot rather than dragging things out, which is good, and I liked that even if I wasn’t going to get my threesome, Maas also acknowledges that you can love a second person without denigrating the meaning of the earlier relationship, even if that one didn’t work out. It’d be nice to have a few non-standard pairings, but otherwise this is pretty much what I want out of escapist fantasy, up to and including the fancy outfits for special events.

Cherie Priest, Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches: Lizzie Borden meets H.P. Lovecraft in a whole new explanation for the Borden murders—after killing her father and stepmother during their transformation into eldritch horrors, Lizzie and her invalid sister try to fend off further invaders from the sea, with somewhat limited success. Lizzie’s lover Nance keeps asking difficult questions. Her sister, who publishes scientific articles under a male name, has sent off an unusual sample to a colleague, with disastrous results. A local doctor and a mysterious investigator round out the crew. I enjoyed the premise, but ended up feeling that the execution (no pun intended) dragged by the end—a risk with epistolary novels.

Ilona Andrews, Magic Shifts: Kate Daniels and her mate Curran are no longer leading the Pack, so of course they find more trouble to get into. This time it’s ghouls and a missing werebuffalo. The ghouls turn into a bit of worldbuilding that I found quite interesting, and our heroes don’t lack for a power base for long. I don’t know if there’s a long-term plan, but this book at least seemed to represent progress towards Kate’s ultimate confrontation with her father, who clearly has plans for her.

 The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft, ed. Aaron J. French: Short descriptive pieces on various creatures from the mythos, alternated with stories focusing on those creatures. Martha Wells: a detective investigating mysterious disappearances has a glancing encounter with the mythos. I also enjoyed Jonathan Maberry’s werewolf detective, who’s tricked into participating in a Cthulhu cult’s ritual in classic noir style. Joe Lansdale contributes a story set at the foot of the Mountains of Madness, after a strange and bloody shipwreck. Rachel Caine writes about an Alzheimer’s patient with a terrible secret. Seanan McGuire, creative as always, offers a grad student with a very special scientific project – one she’s running on her classmates. Other stories aren’t as good, and there is one with a scene in which a possessed/influenced woman is raped by Nyarlathotep, which actually seemed a lot like Hannibal Lecter getting an explanatory backstory—it’s so trivial

Peter J. Tomasi & Doug Mahnke, Superman/Wonder Woman vol. 3: Casualties of War: Bad start: the first, midfight, lines between Supes and WW are Superman’s “You’re strong,” to which WW says “I know,” to which that asshole says, “And modest.” Then, after more hatebanter, she criticizes humanity’s fragility, as compared to the strength of her culture. So, not the WW I like either. Also, Superman has a neck-cowl that covers most of his throat, which may be why he’s being such a jerk—that can’t be comfortable even for the invulnerable. Ok, skip five years and they’re dating, ugh. A new threat arises, spouting bromides about the unknowability of women compared to the simplicity of men (“like putty, with more hair”). Then a villain whose schtick is dressing in a wedding gown starts a fight with the line “Didn’t anyone ever tell you, silly boy—never get between a woman—and her shopping money!” DNW. Also, inadvertently hilarious homophone use when there’s discussion of “step[ping] into the breech.”

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