Daggers and Steele by Alex P Berg

I finished this series, three books, in two days, and I loved them. Great setting, great writing, and best of all I hate the main character. Sometimes I get too invested in the characters I read and so can’t finish the book, I’ve got a dozen sitting on my shelf for this reason. But since I hate the rude and cruel main character I am not worried about him, if Berg has him kidnapped, murdered, or humiliated I will simply cheer. I read the book for the other characters Steele, even though she disappointed me at the end of the first book, and the others. I enjoyed the books very much even despite the fact I spotted the killers in each book on their first scenes. But like Shakespeare, even though I knew the ending, I wanted to read the rest.

Ready Player One

I’ll preface this by saying I’ve yet to finish it and I do intend to finish it. Someday.

It’s kind of pathetic. Not the writing or anything like that; good plot, good settings, good development. I stopped right as the main character was going to a party which could only end only one way. The pathetic part is James Halliday. A multi-billionaire whose anti-social tendencies resulted in him dying lonely and alone. He has no heirs so he makes it a prize in an online game. The story takes place when some real progress in this quest is made. As each clue is revealed we learn more of Halliday’s history. So since he dies lonely he forces millions of hopeful games into reading his autobiography and studying his past to decipher his clues. Pathetic.

Character development through conflict

For a lot of books you have to adjust your mindset to accept the inevitable. The inevitablity of the author’s imagination to cause your beloved characters a lot of pain. It is through their pain and tribulations that they grow in ability and personality. They discover how far they are willing to go and what they can accomplish. Of course everything is only healthy in moderation; too much of anything is poisonous, even water. Which is why I hate Sol Shall Rise by G. P. Hudson. It’s a future scifi space travel story where everything goes wrong for the humans all the time. Nothing goes right; yes I know no plan survives contact with the enemy but that doesn’t mean you can heap nothing but abuse on your characters. Nothing they wanted even came close to succeeding. Bad luck plus illogical plot twists screw everything up. Like Lady Luck tripped down the stairs plus Murphys Poltergeist at the same time. It’s ridiculous. And offensive. I didn’t read the last few chapters, just skimmed through to the end so I think I know why the author did this. Hudson had the end already in mind and had to shoehorn the story to bring it about, which is the same reason I stopped reading The Dresden Files after Changes. I believe that kind of behaviour causes a deliberate, illogical, and clumsy plot. And I think that cause I can feel it when I’m in the middle of the book. I had that sense with Changes, and now with Sol Shall Rise.

The best thing I can say about this books is it gave me a reason to post again. Least it’s a Kindle unlimited book.

Kindle Unlimited

I’ve decided is a win cause when I read a book like Meta and get half way through I can get rid of it when I can’t tolerate anymore idiocy. He’s practicing in private and accidentally gets spotted, instead of hiding he gets closer so they can get a better ID, something he was specifically avoiding. I wanted to read more to see him get chewed out by his mentor but before that happens he does another stupid thing. So now I’m returning that book. Good riddance.

I give up, it’s so hard to find a tolerable book, I think I’ll just read Veller or Liaden Universe again.

Note: I might pick this book up again if there’s a sequel that can significantly attract my attention. I almost never forsake books; I did after all get through 56% of Meta.

Stupidity

Heir to the Sundered Crown is a sword and sorcery about good vs evil, monsters, assassins, and civil war. One of the main characters is a boy mage. Supposedly he likes magic, supposedly he studies magic, yet when there is danger he doesn’t use magic! Why do so many mages in books not use magic!? It’s so stupid, he’s supposed to be powerful, but only as a plot device. I couldn’t imagine a beginning swordsmen walking around with a sword and not using it when he’s attacked. Instead this ‘mage’ grabs his dagger, how stupid is that? He can throw telekinesis, fire, and lightning, but his first instinct when faced with a midgit with a spear is to grab his three inch knife.  When I read about magic I want to read about magic.

Perhaps he’s suffering the lead-male-in-literature curse. Most male characters in books suffer from it. They become stupid, slow, unimaginative, naive, cowardly, and boring. It’s intolerable. I think it’s supposed to be part of their charm; it’s not charming. It’s supposed to be their start before they can experience character development; it doesn’t have to start so bad. Or maybe it’s supposed to be a common archetype that sells books; there is something to be said for the road less traveled. The last male lead book I could actually read was The Tiger’s Eye, and he is clever, smart, and confident; he’s also a mage who casts spells! They do exist!

I have Kindle unlimited now (it’s too soon to say if it’s worth it) but I have been able to pick up books I have previously decided were too expensive or had too many bad reviews or had a poor synopsis. It’s a plus cause now I can dump books like Superheroes in Prose and Dragon Hero Cursed Dragon Armor and not have to read about a boy who can’t plot a game of tic tac toe or about a boy who is led around like a sheep and can’t get his priorities straight. It’s no wonder female leads sell books, all the male leads aren’t worth any attention.

Perspective

I prefer reading first and third perspective stories. With 1st: I read the characters first thoughts and reactions to people and situations, whether they are right or wrong. And that’s part of the story and character development to watch the characters learn how they got it wrong and right. Like the Action Figures series, the main character made same false assumptions about people, but she learned from it.

With 3rd: I have to think about how they are acting and why they are acting that way. I don’t know their thoughts, I have to learn from their actions and their words. Probably my favorite perspective, which could be because my favorite books use it.

It’s a problem when the author mixes those. I stopped reading the Reawakening Saga because Thad was analyzing every word and action of the other characters right after they did or say something. It was like going to an art gallery and studying some impressionist art work and thinking it’s a beautiful image of peasants overcoming an overlords cruelty then someone else comes up to you to tell you exactly what it is supposed to represent. Part of the experience is making your own conclusions.

A friend recommended me a zombie book which I never seriously tried to read because it was written like the man’s journal. Each chapter was a journal entry. I like reading dialogue, feeling like I’m there, in that moment with those characters.  So I was initially a little disappointed when Stray (Touchstone) by Andrea K Höst turned out to be a journal entry story as well. I only stayed with it because the summary was so enticing. I was worried I’d never see any dialogue but eventually the main character finds a way to put full dialogue into her journal entries so I got what I want. Also I’m finding that this type of writing is giving me the opportunity of seeing how the character thinks, what is worth writing down, what is worth going over again. I’m finding it very interesting.

Alright, I was thinking of this post when I was in the middle of Stray, now that I’ve gotten it down without forgetting anything I’m getting back to the book.

Backtracking “too strong” characters

I just finished Lessons in Etiquette (Schooled in Magic series) by Christopher Nuttall, one of my favorite authors,  in two days. Great book with one small problem I’ve seen before. In the first book Emily (main character) got in a big fight, since she is a human from our world using magic in a medieval world she uses modern science to make spells no one in her new world could conceive of. This can make them unstoppable, until one of her enemies sees what she can do then copies it, which is why she can’t use them openly. Maybe you can imagine, and fear, one of those spells. But she does use two that I can’t imagine could be abused, and those I’ll mention: compressed light into a laser, and compressed air in an explosion.  (For the scary ones, you’ll have to read the book). Compressing light and air never occurs to a medieval man so they don’t think to guard from it. Now, she doesn’t use them in the next book, could have saved her some trouble. Seems to me almost like Nuttall thought she might have gotten too strong so she forgets them. I’ve seen this in other books, while it is not nearly bad enough to make me consider dropping this series, this is a plot device that made me drop the TV show heroes.

In Heroes first season one of the characters grows super strong at the end and when season two starts, they nerf him by giving him amnesia. Come on,  that’s so lame. And lazy, instead of making him revert they should have tried crafting situations that can still challenge him.

In Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros series Cal develops a very cool ability, the ability I’d want if I was superhuman. Later in the series he used this ability to dominate a crowded fight, it was very awesome. In the next book: backtracking. His ability gives him side effects so he has it crippled. Again it seems to me a better option is crafting a situation that challenges him instead of crippling him. I dropped this series too.

Pure power isn’t everything; control and wisdom are also very important. Schooled in Magic series understands that a bit, Emily doesn’t use her strongest spell because she’s wise enough to know how it can be abused. Heroes didn’t try and Cal Leandros lost it’s balance.

Attachments

Sometimes I get too attached to a book, I’m too invested in the characters and the world, so I stop reading it. I like the characters too much, I see the trouble they are headed for and I’m too afraid to know what happens. So I set the book down with the full intention to finish it later. Like The Maestro Chronicles, which I stopped last year.  I’ll get back to it eventually, usually what can kick me into finishing those books is the synopsis of the next book. With To Be A Maestro, I’m attached to the characters, I know what they are headed for. Pain. So I can’t finish it.

Sometimes a book is not only really good but full of characters I don’t really like. Like Super Powered. In the first book, I liked the world and the characters made me curious, as did the plot. But each character had flaws, which made them human, and made them almost expendable. after one character is given a scene I would think, ‘oh that was cool,’ and ‘did (s) he have to do it that way?’ I really wouldn’t have been bothered if they died off half way through. The story was good enough I would have kept reading anyway. Of course they stayed alive and at the end of the second book they had grown to be admirable characters, but I still wasn’t too attached to them. Which means I was OK with them falling into danger, I wasn’t worried what they might face. Which means I trust the author with their souls.

My trust in the authors are probably based on how they drove the story up to that point. That bears thinking. How the characters handle adversity? Both finding and resolving? What happened to other characters previously and so what could also happen to them? Patterns of behavior? Probably all of the above and more.

Pet peeves

There are some plot devices I’ve seen and read too often, so now when I see them in story’s I immediately set the book down and leave it for months at a time. Sometimes it feels like the author has lost ideas and is just rehashing someone else’s.  Most of the time it’s because I already know how it will be resolved, and without that mystery of knowing where the story is going I loose interest.

Kidnapping children.
The main character has a child; oh how cute and exciting, something any family person can relate to. And then the kid gets taken and our protagonist gets blackmailed into doing something unsavory. I hate this, I know how it ends, our hero does what the bad guy says, gets double crossed, then barely saves the day. This peeve of mine is why I’m so worried about the next Ell Donsaii I book.

Body swap.
The author wants to put the main character into an uncomfortable position and role, so body swap. This usually breaks any world constants in the story so far and is full of uncomfortable moments. Plus they never go into how disturbing the bathroom breaks must be.

Love potions.
A jealous boy drugs our hero so he falls out of love with his girl and in love with another. As if breaking the girls heart makes her open to the green-eyed one and she’d never discover the deception. It ends with heart brake, righteous anger, and either a rare cure, or a sappy cure. This is the reason I wrote this post. And this is the reason I’ve stopped reading Infiltration, Kid Sensation.

Frey, re: grudges

Why don’t more characters hold grudges? I see what they go through, and if it was me, I wouldn’t let it go so easy. I’m reading Frey by Melissa Wright, and while I like Frey’s stubborness, there’s a point in the story where she meets another character. This new character poisons her, insults her, humiliates her, and hurts her. And the next line has them calmly sitting on a log together. I would be pissed and not hiding it. Why can’t she hold a grudge? I’ve noticed this in other books, characters not holding onto a feud. I’d love to read a book where one character stays mad at another character, then later in the book the antagonist realizes they were an ass and shouldn’t have done that, that they ruined on opportunity. That they caused a lasting harm and now regret it.

Do they not hold grudges because it’s an impediment to the story? That sounds like an opportunity to me.

It’s always annoying to me when I read about a character that isn’t reacting like a human (even if the character is an elf). I don’t usually stop reading I’m the middle of a chapter but I think I’m setting this book aside for the day. I’ll get back to it definitely, but later, much later.