Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Book Review: Darcy's Passions

Darcy's Passions: Pride and Prejudice Retold Through His Eyes  by Regina Jeffers

Every so often I like to read a Not Good book.  That is, I pick something that requires nothing of me, that's easy to read and easy to forget.  Since I am an admitted lover of Jane Austen's work, I have an unfortunate addiction to all the assorted sequels, variations, and other fan fiction that finds its way into print.  Most of it falls into the circle of Not Good.

This does not equal Bad.  A Bad book is another creature entirely.  I avoid Bad Books.  I resist giving them my time.

So, here we have a fan service novel where the writer goes into the territory Austen herself did not feel qualified to enter.  There are no surprises here -- the writer slips in how she would have tied up the various loose threads in the original story, and then continues the weave beyond the final line of Austen's work to imagine the first few months of Darcy and Elizabeth as a married couple.

The worst I can say of this particular book is that it could have used a better editor with more of a grasp on 18th and 19th century language.  Many anachronistic slips occurred, especially when Jeffers is creating dialog for the characters.  These were jarring, because otherwise she managed to keep things smooth and predictable.  She did a good job of that otherwise.

Yes, the various side characters she chose to amplify tended to have very modern ideas.  Her ideas of character development tended to be restricted to "Strong but weak.  Confident but unsure.  Kind but cruel."  However, all the real character development was done by Austen in the original novel, so she didn't need to do any heavy lifting.  Tensions between characters already existed and she just gave a view of them from different eyes.  Nothing was going to change.  Her biggest problems began when she moved away from the solid ground of the novels into her extensions, where everything took on a sheen of Teen Angst and Young Love.

None of these problems interfered with my enjoyment of the book while it lasted, however,  It' a Not Good book, as I said.  It fulfilled its purpose in letting me relax before bed, not putting any negative thoughts into my mind, and being entertaining enough.  It didn't contradict the original novel or my ideas about it, it didn't commit any egregious errors, and it didn't take itself too seriously.  In all, a satisfying Not Good book experience.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Summer Book Report

As usual, I took a pile of books with me on vacation, and, as usual, I read one of them.  Also as usual, I got interested in sometime else entirely and had to get books on that subject.   Now I'm on a tear, gathering up books on my particular passion until I get sick of it (which happens occasionally) and I move on to something else.

So, this summer, I read

Jane Slayre by Sherri Browning Erwin -- for a second time.  It far surpasses Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, but didn't get nearly the attention.  Someone should make it into a movie.

Shrill by Lindy West reviewed previously

The End of Faith by Sam Harris  -- I was curious about his podcast, and he was reading from this book, so I had to read the book, and thus an obsession began.

Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

Godless:How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan Barker

The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism by A.C. Grayling

And I'm nearing the center of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett.

With in the last few years I read Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth and Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and a number of other books about how our brains work, all in my search to understand why humans believe things.

I have an equally tall pile of books I intend to read -- Karen Armstrong's A History of God and The Argument for God, Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and How the Mind Works, more Sam Harris, several books by Victor J, Stenger, and of course Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great.  I plan (if my energy and interest hold out this long) to delve deeper into Dawkins'.  Oh, and for fun, I have Penn Gillette's God, No!

Just in case someone out there wants to debate and argue with me, lemme state it here.  I am not Christian and have not identified as such for about 30 years. I've read the Bible more than once. I spent time on my knees in prayer.  I am not -- right now, at least -- an atheist.  If I have to have a label, I'd call myself a deist.  I have plenty of little things I do that are, at the bottom, quite irrational, but they don't extend beyond myself and occasionally small groups of like-minded people.  I try to be quite rational about my irrationalities. So, please, don't even bring it up.  Talk about the books instead.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Book Review: Shrill by Lindy West

Shrill:  Note from a Loud Woman by Lindy West

e-book

I heard about this one on a This American Life podcast. It's nonfiction, because I'm on a nonfiction kick right now (because, of course, I have piles of fiction I had planned to read so of course now all I want is nonfiction).

I could say a lot about this book, but I sort of don't see a point in saying much at all.  I liked the book -- well, I liked most of it.  Some parts smacked of sourness.  Some of the humor left me making a face of "really?"  Some of the ideas felt hammered into my head.  But I did laugh, and I got choked up, and I smiled, and I nodded my head at other parts.

I share a lot of qualities with West.  I've lived the life of a fat woman, knowing that my body was not the acceptable sort of body (interestingly enough, I have pictures of me as a teen that demonstrate I was NOT fat.  I was so much NOT fat -- I was healthy and flexible and strong, but I wasn't a match for the then-current ideals of beauty.  I had it so firmly fixed in my head that I was fat that eventually I worked to make it so.).  I would have liked to have had the bravery to Just Be Myself 30+ years ago, before I fell down the rabbit hole.  Ah well.)  I didn't have the defense of humor as she did, but I did have a lot of boyfriends and relationships with men who wanted to keep me out of sight for various reasons, or just used me as a convenient vagina owner.

I also remember the shitstorm about West's confrontation with Jim Norton.  Now, I like Jim Norton and I know he's had his own battle with weight and sex and relationships, and he's a thoughtful man, but, yeah, I thought he swung his white cis/het man privilege around during that debate, unable to imagine himself as either a rape victim or a rapist, unable to extend his mind into the experience of being a dehumanized sexual object.  I think he's wiser now.  But, yeah, not a high point for him.

Still, I got a bit bent over West's rejection of those comedians who did try to say "Hey, I totally did not get this and now I've been thinking about it, and I gotta say I'm sorry for not getting it before and being a dick."  Yeah, she has a reason to be bitter, because she's still taking loads of internet abuse (she apparently has a lot of power in some people's minds, that she can mess up whole realms of stuff people like by pointing out problems and requesting respect.  Gotta admire her for being so restrained, what with all that power.)

Still, my overall reaction to the book is more tepid than enthused.  It's a scattering of stories told out of order and yet not separate and discrete.  It reads more like a collection of articles than a cohesive biography, but it isn't set up like that -- at least, I didn't pick up the cues.  That drained impact from the overall story and left me without a firm place to hold on.  West is a fine writer, but I'm not certain that long form is really firmly in her grasp.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Dammit!

I'm trying to get things packed up and cleaned up, so I'm moving "floor books" to whatever space I can find on the shelves.  So what happens then?

You know what happens then.  I see another stack of books that I just KNOW I'll read this summer.

Yeah.  Sure.

Dammit!


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Summer Reading Ambitions

As usual, I'm packing books to take north for vacation reading.  Maybe I should put that in all caps:

VACATION READING

which means a pile of books I probably won't read, but that I have all kinds of intentions to read.  So, in a way, I am lying to myself about this whole thing.  Or maybe I'm just super ambitious.  
  • The Six-Gun Tarot -- R.S. Belcher
  • Outlander -- DIana Gabaldon
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep -- Philip K. Dick
  • Old Man's War -- John Scalzi
  • The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower 1 -- Stephen King
  • Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs -- Molly Harper
  • The Monkey Wrench Gang -- Edward Abbey
Those are the books I really, really intend to read this summer.

  • Day Watch/Twilight Watch/Last Watch -- Sergei Lukyanenko
  • Ancillary Mercy -- Ann Leckie
  • Johannes Cabal, The Detective -- Jonathan L. Howard
  • A Darker Shade of Magic -- V.E. Schwab
  • The Inner Reaches of Outer Space -- Joseph Campbell
  • Girl on the Moon -- Jack McDonald Burnett
Those are the book I am ABSOLUTELY going to read this summer.

  • Pride & Prejudice: Manga Classics -- Jane Austen, Po Tse, Stacy King
  • The Novel Cure -- Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin
  • Aspects of the Nove -- E.M. Forster
  • Romeo and/or Juliet -- Ryan North (I'm already reading this one)
  • Uprooted -- Naomi Novik
  • Winterwood -- Jacey Bedford
  • Monstrous Little Voices: New Takes from Shakespeare's Fantasy World
Those are books I really would like to read this summer.

  • The Sculptor -- Scott McCloud
  • Writing Down the Bones -- Natalie Goldberg (already reading)
  • Wild Mind -- Natalie Goldberg
And if I have time, I want to squeeze in those three.

None of this counts in the books on my e-reader or the audio books I want to read.  I figure if I manage a book every two days I might get through the list.

Ambitions.  I have 'em.



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Scariest

I try to stay away from politics, because it's icky and sticks to my paws. Nevertheless, as much as I try to stay in my protective shell. it seems politics will follow me anyway. There is no escape.

So, Trump. So much noise about Trump. Facts don't even apply to him. His long line of business failures, his gutting of Atlantic City, his scam of a university, the verifiable falsity of so much that he says, and the utter hatred and bigotry he exudes -- why does this appeal to some segment of the US population to the point they want him as President? He's never really been poor, he has no connection to people suffering from economic hardship, and he has benefitted from the schemes of the GOP to reduce taxation on the small percentage of people here who have all the money. (I mean, seriously, if you are going to tax someone, doesn't it make sense to tax the people with all the money?)

But aside from the tissue thin ideas he presents, my big problem is the hatred he validates. Those comparisons to fascism aren't lost on me. I've read a lot about WWII written by people who were there and who were writing about it while it happened. I've watched a lot of documentary footage that delved into why Hitler was able to win over the German people, the techniques he used, the staging, the rhetoric. Trump is certainly playing that same game. The faces of people at his rallies are reflecting the same light as those German people in the newsreels. Hitler had a small but fervent following in the US before the war (the Amerikadeutscher Volksbund), so it's not like being in the US makes that impossible.

I've read a lot of people trying to delve into what makes this attraction happen. The gist of it seems to be -- and what I've thought for a while now -- is that Trump legitimizes and validates all the base emotions and expressions of emotions that our broader society tries to suppress. He plays hard on the quandary the US feels about money and education -- that those with a lot of money don't deserve it because they didn't earn it/deserve it because they earned it; that those with education don't have any common sense or practical skills/that a college education is the way to get ahead in the world. He plays with our feelings about immigrants with we are nearly all the children of immigrants who came here for a better life/immigrants who come here for a better life will take away what we have. He lets us hate women because they aren't men (Hillary is, of course, set up for this. There is certainly a line of thinking for women that disowning other women and criticizing them for not being "womanly" or "feminine" along certain sets of rules will help them be favored by men, since men have the power. Trump digs in and makes those ideas seem attractive, even practical. It's far easier to hate than to love, easier to reject than to accept, easier to throw beer bottles and wave signs than to seek to understand and to share. Trump's words tell us that we aren't the ones who need to change. It's "Them" (whichever "them" he's targeting at the time). "They" need to change, to stop trying to take our stuff, to stop coming to our country, to give us what we want because we want it. Our jobs went away because of "them".

And we get led along that path that says we are just fine as we are, we have all the truth we need, we don't have to look into ourselves or look into anyone we think we like for truth or facts. We can have a good time and hate, ride the energy of hate, expand and expound on hate, and Trump makes that ok.

There's no secret about it -- thinking is hard work. There is so much information to be sifted out of piles of crap. We can get fooled by the crap and feel embarrassed, humiliated, ashamed when we are proven wrong. We want to be right, for pete's sake. Being right is the best thing. Even if we are left standing on a crumbling levee while the water rises around us sweeping away all we love and know, as long as we are right, we're ok. Once we've decided we are right, we don't want to be bombarded with alternate views that might shake our fortress of rightness. We don't want to have to think anymore. If we find someone who makes us feel right, who plugs into the more unexamined but emotionally fueled parts of ourselves and says "Hey, those feelings that everyone says you should really examine and maybe change? You don't need to! You're right!" we are going to follow that person. We go with our gut, get primitive, be basic, be salt of the earth, all that stuff that is at one time praised and yet is treated with contempt and...

It's a whirling mess. A downright whirling mess.

For myself, I had hopes for Bernie but I was never sure his particular brand would make it. He's dragging our right-skewed politics back to center (Isn't it odd that "right" has so many meanings?), for which I am glad. He's planted a new idealism and I hope to see new representatives of his ideas sprout up to run for office.

I'm not completely enamoured of Hillary, but I've long thought she has the experience and know-how. She knows where the bodies are buried, probably because she buried some of them herself. She's causing a lot of controversy because she's Establishment. She's got dirty hands -- I find it heard to believe that anyone in politics doesn't have a little dirt under their nails, even Bernie (I am not comfortable with Saints anyway) because there's not a lot clean about politics. Leadership isn't really designed for people who don't know how to deal, to compromise, to make the choices that leave a queasy feeling in the stomach. There are a lot of conflicting agendas in this world, a lot of groups who wants totally divergent things and who have totally divergent things to offer.

Hillary and Bernie both have not played the same hate card. They both have some practical ideas based on having experience with the mess we call government. Neither of them scare me nearly as much as the GOP extremists. I'd like to see the US edge back from the cliff, get some self control. Yes, I do think there are some important ideas in the past (like the taxation rates pre-Reagan) that need to be revamped and put in play again. We have infrastructure to shore up (jobs!) and technologies to explore (more jobs!). We have an education system in serious need of help (yet more jobs) and it would be nice if we started making more of the stuff we consume here instead of relying on cheap and often exploitive overseas labor. I'd like to see focus move from the success and wealth of the CEOs and board members of companies back to the people who do the work (no one fucking needs a $10 mil house or 18 cars or a maid for their dog. Can't people be content with, say, a $2mil house, 4 cars, and walk their own dog?)

See how long I've run on? No one will read this and I don't blame them. Nothing new in my ranting. But I'm honestly worried about the next 4 years. I'm getting older and my life will be more difficult, and I'm scared. I want to have a strong, proud country again, full of citizens who don't have to hate and shoot other people and scream blame, who can be honest with themselves and rise above the base parts of their nature.




Monday, June 13, 2016

Go Read This

Oh, and this says important stuff.

Male Rape is No Joke

Rape victims can be ANYONE.  There are no particular protections from rape provided by social or economic class, race, gender, location, education, body type, or age.  Rape is about power over another person. treating a human as a thing.  It is about causing pain, humiliation, and trauma.  It is about power.  It's not even about sexual power, but power pure and unmixed with qualifiers or excuse.

That the rapist is often the one more subject to the protections (or lack thereof) provided by race, gender, age, sociol-economic level, public status, etc. is just more evidence of what rape is not.  For those people who our culture on the whole sees as rightfully and deservedly powerful, who embody power (in this case, white males) they can never really be rapists or rape victims -- they can't take power from someone because it already belongs to them, and that power cannot be taken away from them by another because power belongs to them.

Reality, by the way, in the truth of trauma, suffering, and the pressures brought down on victims of any gender, aren't considered.

So, yeah, go read the article.

Letters to my Imaginary Friend

I think I've mentioned it before, but some time last year I decided that Patton Oswalt was my imaginary friend, and I started writing letters to him.  Now, let me be quite clear -- I am in no way connected with Patton Oswalt.  I am not stalking him, and the couple of times he responded to tweets I made are rather treasured, but in that way of a fan thinking "Hey, I got 5 seconds of attention from someone I admire who entertains me, woot!" and not much else.  I look upon the entire thing as something I do to entertain myself, so hold up on the tranquilizer gun and the special jacket.

With that said, yes, I have written several very long letters to Mr. Oswalt.  I wrote them by hand, with a fountain pen on nice stationary (you have no idea how hard it is to find nice stationary these days, or how pricy a decent fountain pen is, so, yes, this is a hobby sort of thing).  I even mailed some off to an address I found where one could request an autograph.  I expect they are somewhere being reduced to pulp or compost right now, unread and unnoticed.  I'm ok with that.  One doesn't expect responses from an imaginary friend.

And I fully understand that the version of Patton Oswalt I hold in my head is imaginary (as are, quite frankly, the version most people who do not know him well hold in their heads -- his fans, his haters, those who know who he is but are more or less indifferent -- none of us have a real, fully developed and multi-dimensional version of him available to us.  That can be said for most of the people we run into in this world, so it's not anything special.  Some of us don't even have fully realized versions of ourselves in our heads.)  I built it up via his comedy performances (all seen on video because he's far too smart to ever perform anywhere near where I live, and even if he did, there would be too many people in attendence for me to tolerate.  I have solid reasons for preferring imaginary people most of the time, but we shan't go into that right now.)  This imaginary version has a connection to me that I made up.  The original actual person doesn't owe me a damn thing ever.

So, why am I even talking about it?  Mostly because I want to, because the whole concept interests me, and I like romping through my own head pulling out things to look at and talk about.  Don't roll your eyes.  I'm no different from most of you except in my choice of topic.  I could be geeking out over tiny details in Pacific Rim or the whole Godzilla canon (which does NOT include the 1998 Giant Lizard Breathes Tuna Breath on New York movie).  In fact, I have and will again go into deep discussions about both these things and many others.  But this, this imaginary friend thing, that's what I want to talk about now.

It's soothing to write letters to Patton Oswalt.  I have the little conversation going in my head where Craig Ferguson is talking about how getting a "happy ending" from a massage therapist is never going to happen...but it might happen.   It doesn't exist in the realm of probability, but it exists in the realm of possibility.  Patton Oswalt could possibly one day read one of my letters, could be moved to respond, could enter into conversation with me...and he could rent a plane to fly a banner over my house telling me to leave him alone.  Not probable.  Yet it teases there on the edge, just like most day dreams and vague longings.  But I don't bank on it, don't spend much time entertaining it.  I just write my letters.

The letters go on about whatever is in my head, including the letters themselves because that's how my brain works.  I talk about my life, about things in the world, wondering what his take on them might be, about books, movies, my struggle with depression and anxiety, about dogs.  In fact, to my imaginary friend version of him there is little I could not write about.  He's a very good imaginary friend.

And because he's imaginary, there is no need to wait around tensely for a response.  There won't be an answer (if there were, I think I would be torn between giddy delight which might include dancing around the room and horrified anxiety which might involve hiding under the bed and peering out fearfully at whatever form the response took.  Either way, I would likely spend days debating on reading it.  Maybe I'd enshrine it somewhere, or enlist someone else to check it for explosives (not all bombs involve chemicals).

I'm considering writing another such letter.  It's been almost a year since the last one (still in my desk) where I pondered if I was over the fit, if I'd satisfied whatever urge I felt.  Now it's stirring up again.  In part, it is because of his own recent loss, the pain of which I can imagine but hope not to experience (scrap for some other writing).  In part, because it is summer and I am about to head to my own corner of peace and paradise where I can happily do such things without spending a lot of time wondering if I should be doing something else instead.

Mostly, though, it is because I did something a bit illegal recently.  I recorded (in the clumsiest manner) a short segment of one of Oswalt's audio books to share with certain friends, in part because I find it delightfully funny, and in part to encourage them to buy and read the books/listen to the books themselves.  I kept it very limited for fear of the Furies of DRM and Copyright going after me.  Now, though, I'm contemplating posting it publicly because, damn, I want more people to read his books so that I can reference them in the best of geeky ways and know someone else will get it.

And this makes me want to write a letter.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Review: The Rook

The Rook: A Novel by Daniel O'Malley

Audiobook narrated by Susan Duerden


For the record, if it is necessary to label your book "A Novel", perhaps someone thinks you didn't do a good enough job in making it obviously a novel.  Pet Peeve and it just makes me feel like publishers think I'm stupid.

Onward.  The Rook is built along my favorite lines -- a bit science fictiony, a bit superhero-y, a touch of paranormal, and a whole lot of "whodunnit".  It's a good book to start the summer.

Now, the reader.  Susan Duerden does a respectable job with voicing the characters.  My big problem -- something that actually irritated me and made me pause the book more than once -- was her "neutral" narrator voice.  The book is written as a combination of 3rd person limited and 1st person epistolary.  She gave the main characters (yes, plural, for reasons I'll explain) a good, reasonable voice that worked.  But the neutral voice...gah!  Every sentence ended on an uplift, a vocal inflection that is not uncommon with women because it lets each sentence, no matter how obviously declarative, sound like a question.  Each line has an echo of "Is this all right with you?"  It's not the full questioning uplift, just a hint of one, but so frequent that it became noticeable. Now, this is the expositive part of the book, which is quite certainly declarative in nature.  The narrator/author is not asking the reader questions.  However, that slight uplift, that ending of each sentence on a place higher up the scale by a note, a note and a half, so repetitively, got supremely irritating.  It may not bother anyone else, but it bothered the hell out of me.  It was also unnecessary, since she did quite well voicing characters, including male characters, with distinct voices, inflections, and vocal mannerisms.

Then we have the story.  I got hints of Jasper Fforde in this, not just from the British setting, but from the very evenhanded, unexcited way very bizarre parts of the world were just..accepted.  I enjoyed that in the Thursday Next books, and I enjoyed it here.  We start the book with Myfanwy Thomas, or at least a woman who used to be Myfanwy Thomas and who choses to be her again.  The question presented to us is a nice twist on the classic dead body in chapter one -- who "erased" Thomas's personality and memory, and why?  Thomas knew it was going to happen and has prepared with meticulous detail a series of letters and a binder of information, among other things, for the person she would be if she survived whatever it was that would happen.

And from there, we are off.  The comedy is sharp and cynical and, at certain moments, a bit overdone, but not so much that it threw me off the story.  Myfanwy is interesting, not only as the detective AND the victim in this sort-of murder mystery, but as someone trying to take up someone else's life without that someone's particular problems and coping mechanisms.  Thomas (the old personality) had some serious damage.  Myfanwy (the new personality) doesn't have the memories of those traumas, and so isn't hedged around with defenses.  It's a marvelous sort of "What If?" story.

The frosting on this layered story cake is also quite delicious, as we discover (yet another) secret agency charged with saving humanity from the dark, alien, and mysterious parts of the world that would seriously upset the normal, reality TV show watching citizen.  There are deadly enemies, weird dangers, and problems with finding something suitable to wear for various important agency events.  I was surprised that Myfanwy, who is not in the usual heroic "strong female character" mold, didn't really need anyone to save her, but was just fine when someone did.  She will stand up for herself when she feels like it, but she doesn't always feel up to it.  That worked for me.

Short version -- worth the reading.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Book Review: Skinwalker

Skinwalker:  Jane Yellowrock 1 by Faith Hunter

Audiobook

A G+ friend , +Curt Thompson , talked this series up a few weeks back, and so I had to try it out. He did a good job selling it and I'm sold.

Yes, this is yet another action packed vampire and spooky thing series.  I'm fine with that -- it's obviously my favorite current genre.  And I'm picky -- I've given a lot of different series a try  in the last 10 months or so and not everything thrills me.

So, I'm excited by this one.  First, a female lead who is NOT drop dead gorgeous, is NOT being chased into the bed of every man (or really any man -- or woman) in the book, and who is NOT made up of simple parts (tragic past, basic flaws, needs curing).  Jane Yellowrock is one of the better leads I've run into for a long while (I could make a list of all the ones I've fallen OUT of love with, but I won't.)

Second, she's a person of color -- a Cherokee Native American, specifically.  The author seems to be doing a good job on the research and -- as far as I can tell -- is doing a pretty good job honoring the culture she's given her character.  I know there are a lot of assorted feelings about cultural appropriation, but I also think writers are writers specifically because they can extend their imaginations into the lives of other people.

Third, the whole first book managed to be great and tense and interesting without any real sex scenes.  That's pretty unusual for this particular corner of the genre.  Oh, there's steamy sex promised in future books, but just that little break in the tropes was very nice.  Hunter does a pretty respectable job bucking tropes, or at least giving them little twists.

So, there are 9 more books and a bunch of short stories in the series.  I have them all on my wishlist.  I owe Curt a cookie.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Book Review: Staked

Staked: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

Print and audio book

I had this book on pre-order from the day it was announced.  I'm a huge and dedicated fan of the series and of Kevin Hearne.  I've read the books multiple times.  It's one of my geek things.

I just now finished reading the book, weeks after it arrived.  I'm not completely happy with it.  It isn't a happy book, really, although it is busy trying to tie up loose ends and plot threads.

I tried listening to the audio version first, and the things that had started to get on my nerved in Hunted and Shattered, the changes in Luke Daniel's reading, made me quit within the first chapter.  It was grating on me terribly.  So I started with the print version and I've read it in tiny bits for weeks now.

Why?  Why didn't I rip through it as quickly as I did the first 6 books (Yes, I read the first 6 books in less than a week and I've listened to the audio versions so many times I can recite parts of it.  I was less thrilled with Shattered, not because I don't like Owen, but because the splintered narrative kinda got on my nerves.  I like it well enough -- Owen is fun -- but it doesn't work as well because it does sprawl so much and lack a centering point in the plot.

Staked is the same -- multiple plot threads running around trying to be ended, and the actual ending of most of them was, shall we say, underplayed.  Sometimes almost incidental, despite the huge build up and importance.  I feel a bit as if the author is thinking "Damn, I gotta finish this up so I can go on to this other project."  Maybe it was because there was so much to be done that the actual doing of any of it was rushed, short-hand, even skipped over.  

There are a lot of important deaths in this book, and compared to deaths in previous books, these were...I dunno...edited for TV? Fight scenes felt rushed, banter was forced, and nothing had much depth to it.   I really didn't hook in like I did before, and that disappointed me.  I'm not used to that from this series.  Even the books that I like less felt satisfying in a character driven way.

Of course, there were in-story reasons I got my feathers ruffled.  I've never liked Greta, for instance, not because she dislikes Atticus, but because her anger and grief lead her to blame Atticus for the choices made by others than lead to their deaths.  She's always irritated me in her persistent denial of Gunnar Magnusson's agency, his choices and decisions that lead to his death. Atticus never encouraged Gunnar to go to fight Thor.  In fact, he tried very hard to get of it.  Gunnar made that choice (with Lief's encouragement, yes, but she seems to skip that conveniently) and she refuses to accept that.  Makes me want to slap her around.  There are events in this book, too, for which Atticus is saddled with blame that, as a reader, I felt more told than I saw was his fault.  Greta needs a solid ass kick, in my opinion.  I don't see her getting it, and so I don't like her or care about her, and that bleeds over onto Owen and....well, it's all in-story stuff, choices the author made that I can't agree with.  That's always a knock against a book, when as a reader I'm balking at the choices of the author.

The book does have some positives -- we find out a bit about vampire biology (it's supposed to be funny although I didn't laugh or even smile).  We see the Hammers of God as good guys, at last (still don't know what those beards are about).  The number of problems Atticus has to solve is not really reduced, but they are grouped a bit better.  I'm rather hoping that Owen will be too busy with how his story has developed and that his Grove is a writerly method for reducing his presence in future books.  Not having the werewolves involved would be interesting. Other characters have new goals, too, so despite not being enamoured of this entry into the series, I am never the less looking forward to the next book -- I can't imagine it as the last because, unless it is one huge book, there is still a great big lot of stuff to be handled.  I can see this series expanding to twelve books.

I'm still jazzed for the series, too.  I mean, I bought this book in two formats, and I bought a copy to send to a friend, so it's not like I'm walking away from it.  This book was just a book full of final chapters of story lines, clearing the way for the big story line brewing for the future.