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review 2017-05-18 03:40
The Course of Honour by Avoliot
The Course of Honour - Avoliot The Course of Honour - Avoliot

[The Course of Honour is original m/m sci-fi romance posted on Archive of Our Own. Warning: one of the main characters was in an abusive relationship prior to the beginning of the book - mostly emotionally abusive, but a little physical.]

The Course of Honour stars Prince Kiem of the planet Iskat and Count Jainan of the planet Thea. Five years ago, the Theans sent Jainan to marry Iskat’s Prince Taam in order to secure an alliance. A month before the start of the book, Taam was killed in a flybug (personal aircraft) accident. Kiem learns to his horror that, according to the terms of the treaty, Jainan must remarry and he’s been chosen to be Jainan’s next partner. Jainan’s certainly attractive, but Kiem has never even spoken to him before. Plus, Kiem figures he’s probably still grieving. Not that he and Jainan have any say in the matter - the marriage is scheduled to happen tomorrow.

Right from the start, their marriage is complicated by assumptions and secrets. Jainan and Taam’s marriage wasn’t nearly as solid as they’d led everyone to believe, and Jainan is sure he’s in for more of the same from Kiem. Kiem, meanwhile, just wants to make things as easy as possible for Jainan.

I found out about this via a recommendation that said something to the effect of “it’s m/m sci-fi romance, good, and free.” Considering how many unread e-books I have, I probably shouldn’t have clicked through, but I’m glad I did. I sped through the whole thing in a couple days and would have downloaded more of the author’s works if any had been available.

Part of me feels like I shouldn’t have enjoyed this as much as I did. As I was reading, it felt like there was some kind of background checklist going. If Character A says this, then of course Character B will eventually respond like so. If Characters A and B are in X situation, then of course Y will happen. For example, the instant Kiem and Jainan were stranded in the snowy wilderness, I knew that one of them would end up having to keep the other warm with his body heat and that it would probably lead to sex. (I was right, but I was pleasantly surprised that the sex wasn’t explicit and didn't lead to a sudden sharp increase in sex scenes.)

The world-building was extremely light, even in terms of Iskat vs. Thean culture. And some details and events were a little difficult to believe and probably would have irked me more if I’d stopped and thought more about them. For instance, it took Kiem far longer than I thought it should have to figure out that Taam had been abusing Jainan. I would have thought that a prince, even one as good-natured as Kiem, would have learned at some point not to take everything everyone said and did at face value.

Jainan, too, took longer than I expected to realize that Kiem was nothing like Taam, although I gave him more leeway. His big argument with Kiem felt a bit forced, though, like it only blew up that badly because the story needed him and Kiem to be separated for a bit. And the entire “let’s save Jainan” part felt like it’d fall apart if I examined it too closely. Even a prince with a mother who was a general should have had to do more than smile and show off a video clip of someone’s kid to get that far into a building like that without trouble.

Considering all of that, why did I love this book? The best answer I’ve got is the characters. Kiem was almost aggressively cheerful and charismatic. He remembered everyone, liked almost everyone, and could be shoved into a roomful of strangers and end up making at least half a dozen friends by the time he'd made his way out again. I was worried, at first, that he’d be a useless drunken rogue, but he turned out to not be like that at all. He spent a lot of his time networking and drumming up support for various charities, but he tended to have so much fun that it didn’t always look like he was working.

Jainan was the opposite, completely locked down and tightly controlled. While his and Kiem’s tendency to misread each other was frustrating, it was also a lot of fun - I was really looking forward to seeing them finally get onto something like the same wavelength. In the meantime, it was nice seeing Jainan gradually come out of his shell a bit and rediscover the things he’d enjoyed doing before Taam had boxed him in.

Oh, and I should probably bring up Bel, Kiem’s aide. First, I was happy that this wasn’t one of those m/m romances devoid of female characters with speaking roles. Second, Bel was just a lot of fun. Kiem and Bel made me think of P.G. Wodehouse’s Wooster and Jeeves, a little, although Kiem wasn’t nearly as silly as Bertie Wooster. I’d love to read a story about Bel’s early days as Kiem’s aide. I only had a couple issues with Bel in this book, which mainly had to do with how easily she kept getting pushed to the sidelines so that Kiem and Jainan could get bogged down by their problems without her. I imagine that her general competence and sharp eyes were a problem for the author.

All in all, I enjoyed this immensely. It had its problems, but the characters and sweet romance made up for them.

Additional Comments:

There were a handful of typos, as well as a couple distracting author’s notes that probably should have been removed before the work was marked “completed.” The one that bugged me the most was at the beginning of Chapter 25. It said something about Chapter 26 being late. For a few horrifying moments I thought I’d downloaded a work that hadn’t been finished yet, and I was going to have to wait to get more of the story.

 

Rating Note:

 

Part of me feels like I should score this lower because of the various issues I mentioned, but...nah. I can't guarantee I'd rate it the same if I reread it a year from now, and I doubt I'd have rated it this high if I had paid for it, but this is the rating I think fits it best right now.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2017-05-08 00:00
OT: My ancestry - again

Reading the results of the DNA test has made me consider my identity. Before we had the results, we assumed we were more or less 100 % Scandinavian, but it turns out we actually have about 10 % less Scandinavian ancestry than the average Swede. It's certainly given me food for thought.

We've always been different and considered different by others, but is this the explanation? That we're partly Irish (and Iberian)? Because being partly Karelian and Wallonian is no different than most people here.

All this has made me wonder what actually makes us who we are and if this new knowledge in some way influences what I consider 'home' or where I'm going in life. Has our family been shaped by our 'exotic' DNA?

My conclusion, that is by no means final, is that while it's fascinating to find out more about our past, it's not where we come from that matters, it's where we belong - and that's a whole different question. In short, this hasn't helped me decide what to do with my life, but it's been a lot of fun.

If you're the least bit interested in your family history or indeed any kind of history, I can really recommend taking this sort of test.

Source: crimsoncorundum.dreamwidth.org/179131.html
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review 2017-05-01 00:00
Death's End (Remembrance of Earth's Past)
Death's End (Remembrance of Earth's Past) - Cixin Liu All kinds of weird, all kinds of wonderful.
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review 2017-04-21 22:55
FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT Review
Four Past Midnight - Stephen King

There is an old Family Guy cutaway which depicts Stephen King meeting with his publisher to pitch his next novel. Obviously desperate for an idea, King quickly looks around the office and grabs the publisher's desk lamp. "So this family gets attacked by . . . a lamp monster! Ooooh!" he waves his hands, trying to convey the scariness and shock of his laughably bad offering. Of course the skit is satirizing King's prolificacy. The publisher sighs, defeated, and asks when he can have the manuscript.

 

Four Past Midnight feels a little like that. None of these stories quite plummet to the lows of an evil, murderous lamp come to life . . . but this is not King on his A-game. These stories were written in the late '80s, when SK was getting off alcohol and drugs; that can have a huge impact on a person's life — especially a person who has to live up to the expectations of millions. King once said of this time period that everything he wrote "fell apart like wet tissue paper," and that self-consciousness and unease is very evident here. The writing is clunky and oft-uninspired; few of the characters come alive. The excellent characterization is why I pay the price of admission. Even if the story gets bloated and the ending disappoints, King's characters are typically reliable. Not so here.

 

In essence, it feels like King studied what worked best earlier in his career and incorporated those elements into the novellas, with diminished results. We have the small band of survivors fighting for life against an apocalyptic setting a'la The Stand and The Mist (The Langoliers), a psychic child (again, The Langoliers), the tortured writer (Secret Window, Secret Garden), repressed childhood memories/using the innocence of childhood to fight a shape-shifting monster (The Library Policeman) and a boring-as-shit Castle Rock tale about a murderous dog (The Sun Dog). All of these stories feel like they're stuck in tired, been-there-done-that territory; I almost never accuse King of repeating himself, but this collection is nothing but reheated leftovers of plot points from earlier, better novels and novellas.

 

My ratings for each story are as follows:

The Langoliers: 3
Secret Window, Secret Garden: 4
The Library Policeman: 3
The Sun Dog: 1


That puts the average at 2.75, which rounds up to 3. This is a totally average book. <i>Secret Window, Secret Garden</i> is easily the best of the lot; I don't care to ever reread the others.

 

King Connections

 

The Langoliers features a shout-out to The Shop.

Secret Window, Secret Garden partially takes place in Derry; The Sun Dog takes place in Castle Rock. Both towns are, of course, very important to the King universe.

 

Favorite Quote

 

“'I'm not taking that,' Mort said, and part of him was marvelling at what a really accommodating beast a man was: when someone held something out to you, your first instinct was to take it. No matter if it was a check for a thousand dollars or a stick of dynamite with a lit and fizzing fuse, your first instinct was to take it.”

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review 2017-04-19 12:00
REVIEW BY MERISSA - Hunted By The Past (Psy-IV Teams #1) by Jami Gray
Hunted By The Past - Jami Gray
Hunted by the Past is the first book in the Psy-IV series (pronounced cipher), and from the first page you are introduced into a world of the military and psychics, which is not the usual combination! Cyn was injured in a mission gone wrong, but when it comes up for trial, the rest of her team leave her hanging. This obviously upsets her, and she leaves, trying to put as much physical and emotional distance between her and them as she can. That works for so long, but then things take a turn for the worse, and she is thrust back into their lives, whether she wants to be or not. So now they are trying to catch a sociopathic killer before he kills again, as well as Cyn trying to figure out just who she can trust again.
 
This is brilliantly written, with no editing or grammatical errors to disrupt the reading flow. It is absolutely action-packed, from the very beginning right the way through to the end. This story is wrapped up nicely, whilst still leaving the door open for plenty of other stories too. The characters are in-depth and well-rounded, with tension (both normal and sexual) between our two main characters from the word go. It was nice to see that although they had a prior relationship, they still took things slowly this time around. And you could actually see when Cyn's walls started to crack. Excellent writing. With a whole slew of talents, abilities, and names, there is plenty here to get your teeth into. I've thoroughly enjoyed this one, and I'm looking forward to the next. Definitely recommended by me.
 
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and my comments here are my honest opinion. *
 
Merissa
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
Source: sites.google.com/site/archaeolibrarian/merissa-reviews/psy-ivteamsseries1-3byjamigray
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