Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: Uriel's Fall by Loralie Hall

Uriel's Fall (Ubiquity) (Volume 1)
Loralie Hall  (Facebook) (Twitter) (Blog)
Urban Fantasy
Acelette Press
ARC  from Author (EPub Edition)

What's a corporate demon to do when the voice in her head is devouring her sanity from the inside out, and the hosts of heaven and hell would rather see her destroyed than surrender a power no one should possess? 
Ronnie has the job any entry-level angel or demon would sell their soul for--she's a retrieval analyst for the largest search engine in the world. Ubiquity is a joint initiative between heaven and hell. Because what better way to track all of humanity's secrets, both good and bad, than direct access to their web browsing habits.
She might appreciate the position a little more if a) she could remember anything about her life before she started working at Ubiquity, b) the damn voice in her head would just shut up already, and c) her boss wasn't a complete control freak. 
As she searches for solutions to the first two issues, and hopes the third will work itself out in performance reviews, she uncovers more petty backstabbing than an episode of Real Housewives, and a conspiracy as old as Lucifer's descent from heaven. 
Now Ronnie's struggling to keep her sanity and job, while stopping the voice in her head from stealing her life. She almost misses the boredom of retrieval analysis at Ubiquity. Almost.

So, in the interests of full disclosure, make sure you read the following:

1. All links go to Amazon unless otherwise specified. If you follow that link and buy the book, I get a small percentage, as outlined in my Disclaimers page. 
2. I've known Loralie for nearly seven years (and that makes me feel really strange. I've known her since I was sixteen.). We're pretty good buddies. She has not bribed me for this review, however. 
3. I've read several incarnations of this story. I actually squealed when she announced it was getting published! 

The first thing I loved about this book is that the "romance," while an integral part of the story, was not the focus. Normally, I'm all about the romance, but I really enjoyed the fact that the issues Ronnie was having with this extra voice in her head was her #1 priority, not her feelings for Hot Stud and Sexy Manmeat. (My nicknames for them, obviously.)

When I began reading, I was initially worried that the Inner Voice and Ronnie/Uriel's voice would get confusing and I wouldn't be able to tell them apart. Well, that concern died pretty quickly. The difference, not only in tone, but attitude and flow between the two characters was easily defined and I always knew who was "talking."

The interactions between Ronnie and Lucifer were a pleasure to read, in my opinion, but I'm a sucker for Lucifer in general. The fact that you can tell that Lucifer does genuinely care for her warmed my heart.

Michael...I had a hard liking him, but I think maybe that was on purpose? You're supposed to initially like Gabriel; he's cute and relaxed and he's like the Guy Best Friend...until he's not. Michael is reserved and hard to pin down, devoted to his sense of duty as any Original Angel should be.

As someone who has never worked in an office in her life, I can say that I no longer want to. The company of Ubiquity -- the Cherub-Hunting Search Engine our dear Main Character works for -- has a nefarious undertone and an asshole boss. (and it's not Lucifer! Go figure!) The way Loralie weaves the main plot with the secondary issues of the company is really well done and I actually didn't see the connections until the last second. The mythology and the bureaucratic way that Heaven and Hell work was beautifully inspired, and never felt forced or awkward.

While I was pretty sure that it would end as it did, I had a few moments thinking, "Is she going to--nah. No. She wouldn't...it looks like she is...oh thank gods, she didn't." So, congrats, Loralie, you kept me on my toes!

All in all, I love Loralie's work (you should check out her work under pseudonym Allyson Lindt) and she has not disappointed me with this long awaited book. It's entertaining and filled with action and politics and sexiness. The conflict between Ronnie and her Mental Roommate is perfectly balanced, and I can't wait to read the next books in the Ubiquity series!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Unfortunate Misuse Of Words

You keep using that phrase and I do not think it means what you think it does.

So, while scrolling through my facebook dash this afternoon, I came across this article (I've since lost the link, sorry) about "Strong Female Characters" -- I'm sure if you googled, you'd find it amid many others of its ilk.

It's one of the plethora of articles lamenting the "Strong Female Character" and how it's detrimental to feminism, etc and so on. Now, before anyone starts yelling, I will tell you I am a staunch feminist. Not man-hating or a rad-fem. I simply believe strongly in equal rights and responsibilities across the gender identities.

But every time I see these articles, I cringe. Because when I think or say "Strong ___ Character" (male, female, etc) I don't think of a physically or emotionally "strong" person.

A Strong Character does not equal a Strong Person.

A Strong Character can mean a Weak Person. A Weak Character can be a Strong Person.

For me, a strong character is a character within a creative setting (movie, tv, book, etc) that is integral in relation to plot, or characterization of others within the story; or a character that grows and changes within the setting of the story.

I consider Peter Pettigrew to be a Strong Character, if a Weak Person. You cannot sit there and tell me that Peter was a strong person. He was easily manipulated, happy to fall in line with those he saw as authoritative or "better" than him. He was greedy for what little power he could rummage from the crumbs of his master, selfish  in many ways but also selfless for whoever was taking care of him. See: the sacrifice of his hand to return Voldemort to his body.

Peter Pettigrew changes, through the series. It really may not look like it, but he does. If you look at his story arc, in the order of his life's events, he changes significantly. As a young boy, Peter was the weakest of the Marauders; physically smaller, quieter, prone to disappearing behind the brains of Remus, the rebelliousness of Sirius, and the charm of James. As an adult, he not only joins Voldemort, but he retains the trust of his friends even as he betrays them to the one person who has the most reason to kill them. Unlike Severus Snape, Peter is never seen as a threat. After the death of the Potters, Sirius hunts Peter down, and Peter fakes his own death. He cuts off his own finger in order to make it believable that he was murdered by Sirius. This lands Sirius Black in the dreaded Azkaban, wizard prison.

Sirius spends twelve years in Azkaban. Peter spends twelve years as a rat. In a way, they were both imprisoned because of Peter's actions.

Later on, when Peter is revealed as Ron Weasley's pet rat, he attempts to emotionally manipulate, first Harry, and then Ron. It doesn't work, but it shows that he knows how. I wonder how differently that scene might have went without the presence of Remus Lupin as something of a calming influence and bolster to the children's courage.

Strong Character; Weak Person.

This next bit may garner me a bit of hate, but I think I'll deal.

An example of a Weak Character who is a Strong Person is Anita Blake, from the same-named series by Laurell K. Hamilton. Now, full disclosure: I once loved and devoured this series.

It was around BULLET that I stopped reading. Because at that point, the main character had grown so powerful, it no longer felt like she was ever actually in the danger that she was supposed to be.

Anita Blake is a short, curvy, half-Hispanic, Necromancer with ties to Vampires, Werewolves, Wereleopards, Wererats, Wereswans, Werelions, Werebears, Weartigers, oh my gods please stop. 

And I'm pretty sure that list has probably expanded. She begins as your stereotypical heroine--self-confident, full of brass and sass, with a chip on her shoulder the size of Cleveland. She works with cops, so she learns how to walk with the men and talk like the men. She embraces her sexuality in a big bad way throughout the series. (no shaming here, like, totally, go get 'em, gurl, but, damn, can we make it feel a little less like a bukkake scene?) (if you don't know what that is, do. not. google. it.)

Anita Blake is a strong person. She gets a lot of shit thrown at her and always manages to save the day. But she doesn't really grow as a person. She still has the same issues with her appearance--her former fiance apparently ruined her for her own beauty and no matter how many people in her life tell her she's gorgeous, and how many of those people she sleeps with, she just can't believe it. She still wrestles with her feelings for the harem of lovers she has managed to accumulate over the course of the series. She fights against her own rapidly disintegrating morality in regards to, not just sex, but also the ease with which she kills.

Frankly, Anita Blake "grows" into a sociopath.

It's bad when the actual sociopath, Edward aka "Death", is pretty sure he'll eventually have to put her down--and he's not sure he'll succeed.

I find it very disappointing when a character doesn't grow in any real way. Anita (as far as the last book I read, and that was several ago) never really changes much.

I consider that the definition of a weak character who is a strong person.

When I say, "I want a strong female character" I do not mean "carnival strong men with tits" -- I want real women. Women who cry, women who faint at the sight of blood, women who yell when they're frightened, women who throw things when someone pisses them off, women who present a poker face when, in reality, they are cowering children inside.

I want these things because they do not make a female character weak; it makes her human. These are characteristics that everyone can identify with--feeling frightened but pretending to be brave. Being sad but smiling at your family. Being violent when angry, without thought or reason. Because that's real, regardless of their gender.

Does gender play a role in how a character is developed? Of course. It's part of who they are. But it is not the Be All End All of who they are. It is one aspect, and it is not the pivotal aspect.

I want realistic people who happen to be female.