Spoilers for everything, I believe.
First is George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows, and while this is not my favorite book in the series, it is one of the best books I've read so far this year or expect to read. It just happens to be exactly the sort of book I love.
The previous books established a new standard for "books I enjoy." While reading those books, I literally laid awake at night, thinking about the characters' problem and how they should be fixed. I wanted to jump into the book and straighten their shit out.
That didn't happen with this book, mainly because my favorites among the POV characters were excised for the next volume. Tyrion is, in my view, the heart of this story. He's damaged, twisted, and he's reviled by everyone, including his own family. He has every disadvantage, including a sense of fair play, but he has the one advantage that trumps everything else: He can accurately judge the strengths and weaknesses of the people around him.
So many of the characters in this story live or die based on their assessment of their friends and enemies, and so many manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Theon Greyjoy had captured Winterfell. If he'd taken Bran and Rickon back to the Iron Islands he would have been hailed as a hero, inherited the Sea Stone Chair and could have returned in strength to conquer the north. Instead he rushed to his final goal and was betrayed and murdered. Robb Stark won every battle, but he trusted the allies who betrayed him and infuriated the allies who would have supported him. Cersei had all the power of the Iron Throne behind her, but her scheming was so ridiculously incompetent that I could only shake my head as I read her chapters. Stripped of the family members that have kept the Lannisters in power through four books, she's losing everything.
At the same time, Jaime is coming into his own. He's grown wiser now that he can no longer rely on his sword hand, even though the life he's lived so far has made him an object of contempt. And what are these books about, anyway, if they aren't about the way people strive to better their place in life, or even just to preserve the life they have.
Reading through these books, with all the cataclysmic changes going through the story-world, all the people desperately struggling along as best they can, I'm struck by all sorts of things. There are so many places in the book and I never get them confused, so many characters and I never get them mixed up. Sure, I have trouble with the names often enough. But Martin has done an amazing job with this story.
It could have been tighter, sure. Some of the Brienne chapters could have been reduced without much loss. How much time can we spend with her while she travels through the woods? And I'm frankly hoping that Cersei loses her head--I really don't like spending time with her voice. Still, I recommend them to everyone.
After that, perhaps it was unfair of me to jump straight to Melusine by Sarah Monette. A Feast for Crows so closely falls into my areas of interest, and this one... not. After finishing a book where war had turned people out of their homes and tortured, it was hard to care about a guy who has had his sordid past outed, where all the good guys were earnest and sensitive, and the bad guys sneering and bitchy. Honestly, it was like the fantasy version of Blow Out (the cable tv show, not the movie).
And I couldn't stand the voice. I just wasn't interested in Felix's melodrama. I didn't care about the cutting remarks he made to his friends. I wasn't entranced by his self-destructiveness. When Felix slapped his boyfriend's face and then considered giving him a backhand smack to cut him with his rings, all I could think about was the people who were being dragged off to be hanged, or poisoned to the point of blindness, or imprisoned and tortured in my previous read.
There was a second, more forgettable storyline that was playing out in a very predictable way. A cat burglar is hired to steal something for a beautiful woman, and he's getting sucked in deeper and deeper into her problem. It was mildly interesting, but not enough to keep with it.
Oh yeah, and I kept bouncing off the names. I didn't make it past page 37. All in all, not the book for me.
We have rented some movies lately, too. SERENITY came off better in the movie version than it did on TV. Maybe it was the lack of commercial breaks, but all the "I reckons" didn't bother me quite so much this time. Also, the story was just fine, if unremarkable.
Unfortunately, Mal continues to be a blank space for me. He quips. He's honorable (within reason). He hates the government. That's it. I needed more to pull me in and never got it.
We also watched VAN HELSING, which was dreadful. I know some folks who thought it was great campy fun, but the tone was at war with the art direction, and the over-the-top performances annoyed the hell out of me. I blame the director. He did not have a coherent way to address the monsters, the tone or the performances. Bleh.
It was TERMINATOR 3 that honestly surprised me. It was miscast, especially John Connor and new terminator roles, but the story was told with some style and originality. I'm not surprised that it went over badly, though. The leads left me cold and the ending was a bold choice, but not exactly thrilling Hollywood escapism.