Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bayou Moon

Bayou Moon

Written by: Ilona Andrews
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Ace
Language: English
September 2010, $7.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/The Edge series

Cerise Mar and her clan are cash poor but land rich, claiming a large swathe of the Mire, the Edge swamplands. When her parents vanish, her clan's long-time rivals are suspect. But all is not as it seems.

Two nations of the Weird are waging a cold war fought by feint and espionage, and their conflict is about to spill over into the Edge-and Cerise's life.


+++++++++++++

I have been a lot of places, but I have yet to have visited the bayou which is something I would like to do before I die. I think there is something otherworldly about it. Maybe it is the Spanish moss hanging from the trees, the stillness of the night, the way it looks as if few people have ever traveled or lived there. And then there is something primal. I blame it on the wildlife because how can snakes and gators not be primal. I can see why Ilona and Gordon would be drawn to set their story there.

We first met William, the Changeling wolf, in the last book of the Edge series when he lost the heart of Rose to his best friend Declan. Since then he has been hanging out in the Edge with his comic books and action figures (which is why I think I adore him) until agents from Adrianglian Secret Service ask him to hunt down an artifact hidden in the Mire and take out the other baddies, one of them an old nemesis, while he is out there. Why help them? Well it seems that Spider and William have a past, one that has involved them trying to kill each other for years and involves something that happened to a group of Changeling children. Spider cannot succeed because if he does Rose’s little brother Jack could be Spider’s next victim. In his quest William meets Cerise, a young woman who is hunting for her parents and who thinks that Spider may have them. Add in a budding full on clan war between Cerise’s family and another the Sheeriles, a plot with Cerise’s younger sister Lark, Swamp eels, Mutant aberrations and you have one interesting book.

Things I loved: I love the wife and husband team of Ilona Andrews as they write the Kate Daniels series which is one of my favorite urban fantasy series of late. The Edge series is difficult to classify. It really isn’t Paranormal romance as I find the lead plot isn’t really about the romance despite the fact that each book’s hero and heroine eventually gets together. It’s kind of like The Bourne Identity has some romance in it which makes me happy though not the driving force behind the novel as a whole and yet a bit more heavy on the romance than your average urban fantasy. And well let’s face it, it’s not really urban fantasy either as it takes place in a backwoods swamp where you are kind of dirty, sweaty and muggy all the time. I think someone classified it is as Rustic fantasy. Maybe that is why I like my authors, they are creating their own little genres just like the magic/tech balance and loveliness of their Kate Daniels series. One thing they do amazingly well is set their stage. And the Edge is fun. So is the Mire, the swamplands of the Edge.

As I said this is what Ilona and Gordon do best, world building. The Mire is just as interesting and full fleshed as the Edge is. Like the edge families have grown up together, survived together and carry grudges like the best of them. The Mire itself is where the Weird throws anything they no longer want to deal with so the families are used to doing whatever they need to in order to survive. It’s a hard place to live but Cerise and her family have learned to survive.

This is a long book and yet a very self-contained book. Even though technically a part of a series, it is really only the setting that is constant though characters from previous books are mentioned and occasionally seen. I love that it is its own thing. I have a beginning and an end although enough room to revisit if the authors so chose to do so, but I like that it feels like a one shot because while I love series, sometimes it is nice to have a one shot and not worry that everything will make sense if you just keep reading. Yes, there are plenty of dangling plot threads, but I am ok with finishing the ending myself and not having it written to me as a massive epilogue. And the pacing is good. There was never a time when I was wishing it was 100 pages smaller. It works because I can have everything I wanted, a romance, a thrilling plot, family feuds, monsters and characters I really start to get attached to. (Kaldar’s story is next.)

Speaking of the characters, the one thing I have really enjoyed about The Edge series as a whole are the secondary characters. In this book it is Cerise’s family every last crazy one of them. But the bad guys like Spider are great too. Spider thinks what he is doing is what right no matter how demented it is, he has become the monster and the killer so that others do not have to. I was never confused or overwhelmed by the characters. I just kind of liked them all, right down to a cute little rolpie and Lark who I just want to hug a lot and Kaldar who I want to do other things with. They actually helped develop the story and the world and each other.

And let’s talk about William. I liked him from the previous book. As I said it was probably the comics and action figures that made me like him. But you felt bad when he lost to his best friend. All he has ever wanted was a family, something to call his own. And then his best friend won all of it leaving him to his trailer moping around and feeling lonely. He’s the adorable wolf with a soft spot for children. Plus I like him far more than Declan who is just a bit too perfect. Unlike Cerise, I don’t think William was a clone of Declan with some minor changes.

Things I didn't love so much: I will say that Cerise is awfully similar in some ways to Kate Daniels with her sword as William is to Curran, albeit with differences. Don’t get me wrong swords are sexy. But again it is the this woman is my mate and I must have her because my wolf has claimed her, kind of like Curran did with Kate. And again it is their snarky repartee that belies the yeah you’re sexy vibe. Kind of like the boys hitting the girls in the schoolyard because they really liked them. Only this time I think Cerise did more of the hitting. Lord Bill. Smile. And again Cerise is very similar to Rose. You have feuding families, you have Cerise carrying the burden of the family on her shoulders, taking care of her troubled sibling and then falling for tall, dark and handsome. But the problem is I didn’t like her as much as Rose mostly because I think I was feeling too much the sense of déjà vu in, oh hey I’ve seen her before.

I also really would have loved to have more dimensions to both Lagar and Spider as well as some of the other members of the Hand. I think the potential for a great backstory was there, but kind of got left behind when developing everyone else. It takes a good author for to me sympathize or like even some of the baddies in that oh my god you’re evil and misguided and I am going to go run away screaming now.

I wish I could have had a map to get a better picture in my head of it though as this definitely expands the Edge. So now we have the Weird (yeah magic), We have the Broken (no magic), The Edge is the bits between the Weird and the Broken (Little bit of everything). Then we have the Mire which is inside the Edge and then there are the two New World countries of the Weird (Adrianglia and the Dukedom of Lousiana). It can get a bit confusing and having a visual representation would have been nice.

Finally the ending was bit too anti-climactic and while it leaves room for more in the future it was bit too tidy and neat including Cerise suddenly leaving her family behind to go to the Broken to live with William who is apparently now rich. A little too tidy thank you.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. You basically have a magical Hatfield and McCoy sort of tale that is fun and easy to read. You cannot help but get sucked into the setting and yeah if you like a bit more romance in your urban fantasy this will do the trick.

Part of: A series. The Edge Series.
Book One: On the Edge
Book Two: Bayou Moon
Book Three: Fate's Edge (November 2011)

Also Recommended: The Kate Daniels series also by Ilona Andrews which begins with Magic Bites. For more less urban fare, The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, and The Mercy Thompson Books by Patricia Briggs

3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

NEW FALL SERIES: THE BEST AND THE WORST

Autumn brings a lot of things. Colder weather, kids back in school, nice sales at the local mall, and new fall television. Of course every series wants to be the next highest rated, but few rarely make it. Having the amazing invention called the DVR I tape, tape tape and then weed out the ones I like, and hate. Here is the score thus far.

THE BEST:
The New Girl: “Jess (Zooey Deschanel), a charming and freshly jilted teacher moves in with three random guys Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and Winston (Lamorne Morris). Each is at the moment where they are rebuilding their life or choosing their path. Its about four weirdos living together.” (EW) She’s going out to find a rebound. Who’s that girl? It’s Jess. Yep, I am now going to create theme songs for myself. I absolutely love Zooey. She is adorable. I have seen her concert with She and Him and if I could create my tv/movie family, she would be in there somewhere with Stanley Tucci, Emma Stone and Nathan Fillion. Seriously I have not laughed this much in a while. Eric and I were giggling far too much, we’ve decided to institute a douchebag jar and think we would be uber awesome at a Wild West party. It’s not just that Zooey is absolutely adorable, making geeky references to Lord of the Rings, but I love the other characters as well. Best new show thus far. “I like your glasses.” “They help me see.” Worth watching.

Terra Nova: Ooh dinosaurs, odd hieroglyphics, rogue Terra Nova groups and drama oh my. Terra Nova opens in 2149 in Chicago. Its not a nice place to live. You can hardly breathe, population is heavily controlled and eating an orange is like eating a $500 spoon of caviar. Things are not…cool. So it is kind of no wonder Elisabeth (a doctor), Jim (her husband played by Life on Mars’ Jason O’Mara), and their children Josh, Maddy and Zoe decide to volunteer to go on a pilgrimage to Terra Nova. Terra Nova is Earth, just prehistoric Creataceous period Earth that is accessed through a fracture in time to another time stream (eliminates the whole butterfly effect thing). It’s a one way trip but it also means a new start which is kind of what the Shannons need since they had one kid too many and Jim, a former cop got thrown into jail for resisting arrest and then promptly escaped jail…illegally and all. They get there along with the rest of the 10 Pilgrimage and find themselves under the watchful care of Commander Nathaniel Taylor (played by Avatar’s Stephen Lang who apparently is playing a similar role for Spielberg as he did for Cameron). It was fun. A nice little jaunt to Jurassic Park where you cheer when a guy gets eaten by a dinosaur and want to feed the Veggie-asaurus. But more than that it has potential. There are the Sixers (the colony that tried to stage a coup and ultimately left for their own parts of Terra Nova), what happened to The Commander for the first five years when he was living in Jurassic Park with just his knife, Who wrote the math heav hieroglyphics and what do they mean and why is the older daughter wearing River tam’s dress and boots?I think I will keep watching. What can I say it kind of makes me excited for another Jurassic Park. And what could possibly go wrong?

The Secret Circle:Apparently LJ Smith is the new hot commodity right now, The Twilight series for television, which is funny since I was a big Smith fan back when I was a teenager 16 years ago (She was right up there with Christopher Pike and RL Stine). Exec Producer Kevin Williamson brings another Vampire Diaries like teen drama. “Newly orphaned Cassie (Britt Robertson) learns she is a teen witch who must reluctantly bind her powers with five classmates and uncover what happened to their parents 16 years ago – when so many of them, also witches, died – so they can protect themselves. Naturally there is forbidden love: Cassie and already attached Adam (Thomas Dekker) are ‘written in the stars’. (EW)” Thoughts overall: I don’t do teen dramas normally, but two things made me watch to watch it. One: It made me pick up the books again which made me relive a whole bunch of adolescent memories. Two: It involves magic and being the proud pagan heathen that I am I couldn’t help but see how they were going to portray magic. I was expecting a bit of Charmed 2.0 with a new attractive cast and all of the angst and woe of shows like The Vampire Diaries. I was pleasantly surprised. Plus any chance to see Gale Harold being devilish and delicious is pretty much a plus. I am not expecting anything great, but I added this one to the Scheduled Series options on my DVR.

++++++++++++++++++++++

THE MAYBES:
RingerSarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy fame returns to the CW as Bridget, an ex-stripper hiding from the mafia who goes to seek refuge with her wealthy twin sister Siobhan who just happens to ‘commit suicide’ leaving Bridget to assume her identity. Apparently Siobhan didn’t have the plush perfect life and Bridget tries to navigate all the twists and turns Of Siobhan’s life: her husband played by the oh so pretty Ioan Gruffudd, her lover, her best friend, her stepdaughter, the FBI agent trying to find Bridget and more. Admittedly I am watching out of loyalty to Sarah Michelle Gellar and her Joss Whedon days ell that and I really heart Ioan (Solomon and Gaenor…great flick. I watch it whenever I need a good cry). We will see how it eventually plays out. I am willing to give it a couple more episodes.

A Gifted Man: “Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson) is a rich, handsome neurosurgeon running a concierge-style practice in New York City. Life is grand…until he begins to have visions of his dead ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle). Suddenly, Michael’s arrogance starts to crumble as Anna prods him to help the struggling free clinic she has left behind. The drama isn’t confined to the clinics: Michael will also sort out his strained relationship with his New Agey sister (Julie Benz), who believes Anna’s from-the-beyond visits are a ‘gift’” (EW) What can I say I am a sucker for the whole Ghost Whisperer/Medium type genre or Star crossed lovers or Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Ehle. I think it has the potential to be a great little drama that has some nice character stories, some medical drama thrown in and maybe a romance that will make me all warm and fuzzy. We will see though. I figure I will give it another couple of episodes.

Revenge:Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) has meticulously plotted her revenge on the wealthy family who destroyed her father and her life by whatever means necessary. This is her story and it is not one of forgiveness. It opens with a shooting, very much like a Who shot JR? sort of thing which will undoubtedly unfold throughout the season. This is coupled with the Hamptons setting and the lifestyles of the rich and devious like Dallas was. You like Emily/Amanda and while I am sure this is a bit Desperate Housewives like, but I wasn’t interested in the DH. I am interested in seeing Emily’s revenge as well as the vile Victoria get taken down a few pegs and really see how and why Emily’s father was accused of his wrongdoings. So far I enjoyed it. But I am curious to see how it will all come about. Too much backstabbing and I will be bored. Character development please. Somehow I think I am going to get it.

Prime Suspect: A reworking of the Helen Mirren starring PBS/British show about a strong, straight talking detective named Jane who has to deal with hostility from her male colleagues and well all of the bad guys she catches. Tact is not really in her vocabulary, but that is why you kind of like her. Its Maria Bello and I like her. She has that on screen swagger. And you pretty much hate most of her male colleagues. Production value was sleek and the actual crime of the pilot interesting as you navigate through all of the new characters and try to get immersed into all of it. I am not a big fan of procedural shows though of late unless you’re the Mentalist which I love because umm….Simon Baker. But I want to try it.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

THE WORST:
Two Broke Girls: “Exec producer Michael Patrick King (Sex and the City) brings us Max (Kat Dennings), a streetwise cupcake making waitress and Caroline (Beth Behrs) a bankrupt ex-heiress who works with Max in a Brooklyn diner and becomes her roommate. Trying to raise enough cash to start their own business, they hand out fliers while dressed as King Tut, help a hoarder organize her apartment, and curse out anyone who stands in their way” (EW) Maybe I have been living under a rock but I don’t know who cowriter Whitney Cummings is other than her CBS Fall Preview show made me not want to watch her show. There were funny moments, Kat Dennings doing most of the work here talking about waiting tables: “I’ve been waiting my whole life, okay? I’ve waited on tables, I’ve waited in bars, I’ve waited on home pregnancy tests.” Or her bit on a certain part of a guys body that makes smart girls go stupid. As a lover of those things on men like Ryan Reynolds, I hear you. Sadly these moments of brilliance were far too few, and everything in between kind of painful. Which is sad because I absolutely love Kat Dennings the way I love Emma Stone in all of their awesome snarkiness. And its not that Beth Behrs was bad, but I was expecting greatness and it fell short. I will watch one more episode in some vain hope that the pilot just kind of sucked. EW seemed to think it was one of the top five new shows to watch. Mostly right now I am wondering how drunk they were when they made that decision.

The Playboy Club: “Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian) an attorney and club key holder gets entangled with a novice Bunny (Amber Heard) after she accidentally kills a mob boss” (EW). Wow who knew Bunnies could be so boring and bland which is sad as I was hoping for something more. I thought a 60’s era drama about a Chicago Playboy Club would be interesting. Mostly I couldn’t get invested into at all and watched it mostly because of David Krumholtz, a chance to Shawn Maher (both Firefly/Serenity alumni), and well the Playboy bunnies are fascinating. It’s the costume, and note to self…amazing legs equals two pair of hose. It was just an uninteresting show. Definitely not worth the effort I am afraid and I would not be surprised if it is one of the early cancellations.

Charlie’s Angels: So what do the Smallville creators do after their show ends, remake a classic of course. “Eve (Minka Kelly) the car theif, Abby (Rachael Taylor) the cat burglar, and Kate (Annie Ilonzeh) the corrupt cop – find a new mission in life working for an unseen financier named Charlie (Victor Garber) along with their man in crime Bosley (Ramon Rodrguez).” (EW) It is never a good thing when I can hardly get through a pilot because the show is so bad. Shiny gold star for confusing me and killing off one of the Angels in the first fifteen minutes, but lets face it hot chicks in designer duds cannot detract you enough from the bad acting. In fact Victor Garber’s (Daddy spy from Alias) disembodied voice does the best of the bunch. I wanted to enjoy it but I long for the days of Jacklyn Smith or even Drew Barrymore and Lucy Lui. And is it really wrong for me to wonder that no super woman can actually run after the bad guys in four inch heels? It just doesn’t work. I speculate the same way as my feet will fall off of my feet after the first set of rounds. Yes, we woman do a lot for the sake of looking fabulous, but some things just make me roll my eyes. I really do long for some kick ass heroines on primetime though. These girls just were not it.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

COMING SOON:
Because I haven’t quite watched them yet, or because they haven’t aired. The ones loaded on the To Watch List are: Person of Interest, Pan Am, American Horror Story, Homeland, Bedlam, Grimm, Once Upon a Time, and The Layover with Anthony Bourdain.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kitty's House of Horrors

Kittys House of Horrors

Written by: Carrie Vaughn
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Language: English
January 2010, $7.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/The Kitty Norville Series

Celebrity werewolf and radio host Kitty Norville is sceptical when she’s invited to participate in a reality TV show about the supernatural. Being trapped in a remote lodge with an assortment of vampires, psychics and lycanthropes is hardly her idea of a time (especially the vampires!). Still, she can see that making the show could help viewers understand the supernaturals living amongst them are real people, instead of just a freak show, and she agrees to leave her husband and the safety of her pack to join the cast.

At first, it all goes well – until the morning they wake up to find the electricity’s been cut off, the phones are dead, and the crew has vanished. They’ve walked into a trap, and now someone’s about to start picking them off, one by one…

Can Kitty marshal a set of psychics, were-creatures, and starving vampires to escape – or fight back – before they are all killed?


+++++++++++++

I am a pop culture junkie. It’s an affliction I have had since I was a child. I love to watch TV, read books, listen to music, play games and all of that good stuff. When it comes to television, admittedly I am a TV whore and I thank the gods for the wonderful invention of DVR so that I can do all of my running, jumping, climbing up trees and dancing instead of missing all of that good boob tube stuff. The shows I absolutely love are things like House, How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Fringe, Haven, The Mentalist, game of Thrones, Dexter, Walking Dead and Leverage among far too many others. I have never really gotten into the whole Reality Show genre. I have never seen an episode of the Bachelor or Big Brother, maybe half an episode of the Amazing Race. The reality shows I watch are things like Dirty Jobs, The Colony (It was on Nat Geo or one of those channels which dealt with a hypothetical apocalypse…awesome in short cause I could easily insert zombies in there), and yes America’s Next Top Model and oh yes So You Think You Can Dance (love love it). Occasionally I have watched an entire season of Survivor, usually while I am doing laundry or playing on the interwebs. Anyway, reality tv not really my thing. However I loved the idea of a Big Brother with supernaturals. It makes me smile. This is probably why I picked it up, well that and curiosity about this series.

This is the seventh book in the Kitty Norville series (I know, I know bad from to start in the middle. I just didn’t know it was the middle when I picked it up). Kitty Norville is a popular radio show host who just happens to be one of the most famous werewolves in the country. When she gets offered a chance to be on a supernatural themed reality show, she is hoping that it will be what the brochure says: a chance to meet up with friends in a posh cabins in the middle of Montana while convincing one skeptic that there are things out there that may be above the normal. But apparently if you’re Kitty things are never that easy.

Kitty’s housemates in this new version of Supernatural Big Brother are what I think are returning characters from previous outings. There are Tina and Jeffrey (mediums and psychics extraordinaire), Odysseus Grant onstage magician but a bit more than that, Ariel (a fellow talk show host), a former wrestler werewolf, two beautiful vampires and their companion who have a bigger part in the scheme of things, a were-seal (yep I said it, were-seal), and one very cranky skeptic. Everything is fine. Kitty worries about doing something stupid on camera and trying to make the best of a situation. But then people begin dying and Kitty finds herself being part of an 80’s horror flick rather than a heavily edited piece of reality television gold.

Things I loved: One: I think it is hilarious that there is a werewolf named Kitty. It makes me smile. It might be why I picked up the book as I figured the humor would be there. And Kitty is just a great character. Even when people are dying and the situation is grim, she definitely tries to lighten the situation even in an utter act of desperation or the only reason why Kitty doesn’t go screaming off into the night. She just tends to say stuff audibly whereas I keep it all in the head…usually.

I think one of the reasons I liked this was it could have worked as a stand-alone and yet intrigued me enough that I want to read the others. For instance I am assuming both the husband and Cormac have played heavily in previous books and while they were mentioned I didn’t need to know everything about them. Same goes with the impending war. It felt like an X-Files or Alias episode where you had an episode of the week but an overall arc and events that will come to head in later books. Which is nice. However, I will say that I am sure the deaths that occur in this book probably would have had more impact if I had gotten to know them in earlier books. And yet minus a couple of guys, I felt invested with quite a few of them and the way they were picked off was kind of shocking. I love when authors and others (yes I am looking at you Joss Whedon or George R Martin) are willing to take away the characters you want to stick around.

Speaking of characters I kind of loved how normal Kitty’s life was despite all of the action. She is a newlywed with a husband who is a lawyer, despite the whole werewolf bit. They have a friend in prison (nice that someone actually gets consequences for their actions which doesn’t really happen in books especially if it is a character you really like) and for the most part they are kinda normal.

One of my favorite scenes in this book was when Kitty meets up with a bunch of actual wolves (well that and the Anita Blake ssmackdown earlier in the book that made me giggle out loud). It is nice to see that off little juxtaposition in there of the werewolf and the wolves. It was a great little scene but ended far too quickly and had so much potential but then nothing really happened with it. It would be nice if she added something like that and then went with it in some of her latter books.

Things I didn't love so much: If I hadn’t started in the middle I might have felt more of a loss in the secondary characters that did not make it since presumably they are from some of Kitty’s other adventures like I said. I also think Grant was a bit too much of an enigma and easily was more of a hero than Kitty was, but I wonder if I would have understood him more if I hadn’t started in the middle. This being said I still loved all of this subtext going on between Grant and Anastasia (ooh can I please learn more).

I am also curious why in urban fantasy the vampires are always the big bad. There is never really anything above them or equal to them in the preternatural food chain. I understand why this is the way that it is and yet for creatures who are handicapped fairly heavily during the daytime, you figure that some sort of creature could top them and keep them in check.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow if you are new to the series, just to see what you think and if you want to read more. Buy if you are a completest of the series like I am. While yes this book is a bit fluffy in the sense that it is more episodic rather than a heavy hitter when it comes to character development as well as overall arcing plot, I enjoyed it enough that I am curious to read more about Kitty. It was a quick fun read, every bit like the horror movies I love to watch where the monsters are hunting the human ones. I don’t think it took itself overly serious either which was nice. It is what it is and that is fun, quick paced with a lot of humor added in for good measure.

Part of: A series. The Kitty Norville series.
Book One: Kitty and the Midnight Hour

Book Two: Kitty Goes to Washington

Book Three: Kitty takes a Holiday
Book Four: Kitty and the Silver Bullet

Book Five: Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand

Book Six: Kitty Raises Hell

Book Seven: Kitty’s House of Horrors
Book Eight: Kitty Goes to War

Book Nine: Kitty’s Greatest Hits (Short Stories)

Book Ten: Kitty’s Big Trouble

Also Recommended: of course there are the rest of the Kitty novels. For strong urban fantasy heroines Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs is one way as is Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews. For more werewolf goodness there are the women of the Otherworld by Kelly Armstrong though I do like something a bit different in the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ghost of A Chance

Ghost of a Chance

Written by: Simon R Green
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Ace
Language: English
August 2010, $7.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/The Ghost Finders Series

A brand-new series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Nightside novels! 

The Carnacki Institute exists to "Do Something" about Ghosts-and agents JC Chance, Melody Chambers, and Happy Jack Palmer will either lay them to rest, send them packing, or kick their nasty ectoplasmic arses with extreme prejudice...

+++++++++++++

Simon R Green is a clever, clever man. He has created a world I love in the Nightside novels which are chock full of forgotten gods, preternaturals of all types and occasionally giant teddy bears that probably just want and need a really big hug. His new series steps away from the Nightside just like his Drood series, but of course even in the real world there are still things that go bump on the night, quite possibly the day as well.

The Institute has been mentioned in both the Nightside and the Drood series, but this is our first fleshed out, here is the details sort of outing. JC Chance: arrogant leader, Melody Chambers: techno geek who will kick your ass and telepath Happy Jack Palmer, who never really is happy (who can blame him really) make up our fearless team. They are so not Venkman, Stantz and Spengler. After finishing a job at the local supermarket the team heads to an underground tube station where the shiteth hath hiteth the fan…eth. Top of that, the Crowley Project has sent their own team and they really, really don’t play well with others

Things I loved: Ghost stories these days are fairly rare to find. Most urban fantasy primarily deals with the other supernaturals creatures: werewolves, vampires, faeries, etc. But ghosts…yeah they are not exactly urban fantasy and horrors new poster children. And I do love a good ghost story which is why Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series makes me all giggly. Or why I absolutely love movies like The Orphanage, The Others, or the Devil’s Backbone. Far better than sparkly or vinyl clad vampires. So I have to give Mr. Green a couple of gold stars simply for doing something fresh and new to the genre I love so much.

Another thing that Green is really great at are his descriptions and one wicked imagination that creates some truly horrific things that go bump in the night. Seriously that tube station would have me screaming and then possibly running head long into a wall before curling into the fetal position just to make it all go away. And then I would never ever take the tube again. His monsters and his settings are amazing. You can picture everything in your head and then it all gets ruined when characters open their mouth or the descriptions are about the characters themselves in an utterly stereotypical sort of way.

Things I didn't love so much: Which brings me to the things of course that kind of irked me. Overall this book didn’t work for me. I didn’t like JC, not even in a love to hate him and his convinced superiority (similar to Conan Doyle in the Menagerie series). He was just kind of boring and one dimensional. It was also fairly apparent of how you were supposed to love to hate him. Too forced, too already seen that and read that. And sadly while his descriptions all things oogy boogie, his bios on each character as they were introduced was just jarring and made me like them even less. This is probably because they are all characters without little depth and each of them has the I’m so much cooler than you attitude. And the villains, ok so they are evil because they are all pretty much carbon copies of JC, Melody and Jack except that they all are apparently social deviants of some sort and were supposed to hate them cause the book says so.

I also had a hard time of believing the relationship JC has later in the book. Really? Cause that made sense and was realistic and totally had me rooting for them. Ummm, no…that was my sarcastic blogging just in case you missed that.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. I didn’t hate the book completely as I actually read the whole thing. I think I mostly disappointed because of how much I really do love Mr. Green and his tales. I wanted to love it and recommend it, but I can’t really do that. I certainly wouldn’t rush out to buy it or lend it. Though I am really hoping that the next will get better. Maybe Simon just needed a holiday or his muse had left for her own holiday in Azerbaijan. In the end the book was poorly written with stereotypical and unlikable characters, and some plot devices that made me want to scream and bang my head against a wall.

Part of: A series.
Book One: Ghost of a Chance
Book Two: Ghost of a Smile

Also Recommended: Please please do not think this is how the Nightside Series which I truly love also my Simon R Green. For more ghostly mayhem I would read the Felix Castor series by Mike Carey or The Matthew Swift Urban Magic series by Kate Griffin.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks simply because what Green does best is his descriptions of baddies and monsters

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Reapers are the Angels

The Reapers are the Angels

Written by: Alden Bell
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
Language: English
August 2010, $14.99
Genre: Dystopia/Zombie/Young Adult

God is a slick God. Temple knows. She knows because of all the crackerjack miracles still to be seen on this ruined globe. For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can’t remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.

+++++++++++++

As per usual I am on a zombie kick, though I do not know if it counts as a kick when I try to read as much as I can when it comes to zombie fiction pretty much the entire year and not just as the weather turns colder and I am looking for some thrills and chills. That being said I do know that zombie books are a dime a dozen these days whether it is in young adult or adult fiction. There are so many zombies that they even did Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. A lot of them are not very unique, but occasionally you do find a stand out. Sometimes they surprise you with the way they are written and the characters themselves (Forest of Hands and Teeth), other times on how you see the zombies themselves (Rot N Ruin) or even how realistic a portrayal may be (World War Z). There are also funny ones and then sometimes, just sometimes poignant ones. This is the case for the Reapers are the Angels.

I found it in the young adult section, though I am not quite sure I would have put it there. Now as much as I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, admittedly I am a visual person and I cannot help but be drawn by titles and pretty covers. It is one of the few things that will get me to pick up a book and actually read the back and then of course maybe a page or two in the middle to see if the prose is worth anything. I picked this up at Borders because I loved the title. And then I saw the cover and was intrigued even further with the simple design and yet creepy and interesting at the same time. Then I read the pack, chose my middle page within the book to see if its prose was worth anything and knew I had to bring it home with me.

Like many of the good ones, the zombie apocalypse has already happened. Civilization has collapsed, the world changed into something far different than the one we have now and yet real enough, relatable enough that you can picture every last detail. Twenty five years ago the zombies rose, but that matters little to fifteen year old Temple. There has never been a time without the meatskins. She hasn’t the luxury to dream of a world she one knew and yearn for it because it has never existed if but through pictures and photographs and tales from those who once lived it. Left on her own a long time ago through acts of others and sadly her own, she has traveled the desolate and blighted world in search of redemption and hope and something beautiful because surely such things must still exist amongst all of this death. Through her journey she meets many different characters: a group of men who have learned to survive in new ways, an isolated rich family who has forged on ahead pretending that nothing has happened, a community of survivors who live in a city frightened of each other as much as the landscape that exists outside their defenses and a family of mutants. Normally a solitary young woman Temple accepts Maury, a mute who cannot save himself, into her company as a way to seek redemption for herself and hopefully by the God she feels she has wronged; but also to give Maury a chance at family and a home, something she tragically threw away. All the while Temple is pursued by Moses, a man who feels that Temple’s death is the only way to balance the scales, and that will show Temple that sometimes trying to forget your past isn’t quite as easy as it seems.

Things I loved: Temple is a great character. Again like Mary from the Forest of Hands and Teeth she is not entirely without flaws. Sometimes you do not like her and that makes her all the more real because let’s face it sometimes I don’t always like myself either. She has done many things in her short lifetime, things that she regrets. Of all the monsters in the world, she sees herself as the most dangerous and vile, even worse than the meatskins that prey on human flesh. We never really know the true extent of the horror that she lives with, why she is filled with such self-loathing. She is a wanderer by choice simply because she is too afraid of herself and what she might do, not what the zombies may do to her companions. You cannot help but like her though. She is fiercely independent and strong, clever and intensely tragic because of how damaged and flawed she is. Through it all though she strives to find something beautiful, her desire to see something wondrous like Niagara Falls one of the few things that spurns her to go forward, that keeps her alive and not give into the darkness she is convinced shrouds her soul. It is amazing how she finds beauty and miracles in nature, in the way that an abandoned carousel still stands proudly and yet broken in an old town. This makes her interesting and tragic and beautiful. God I love her.

Moses is similarly a character you both love and hate. In this new world, he truly feels that the only way to make the world right again is Temple’s death. He was a man without purpose until Temple killed his brother. It matters not that it was an accident or an act of self-preservation. For Moses he now has something he must do, a destiny he must fulfill. And yet as the book unfolds the similarities between Moses and Temple starts bubbling to the surface. Not only is Moses her pursuer and assassin, but a father figure, a friend and one of the few people in the world that truly understands her. I think Moses sees a lot of himself in Temple. He too has made some difficult choices and does not absolve himself of a lot of them. Even as he pursues Temple, he does so with a code of honor. Though he is convinced of what the final outcome must be, he respects the younger woman, understands her and in some ways loves her flaws and all.

Of all the characters Maury is the most underdeveloped and one dimensional. In many ways he exists only to show just how alone Temple has been and that she needs companionship as much as she fears it. He helps her even in his quiet helpless way that Temple is a good person and he helps her discover all the things she was convinced were lost to her.

One of the other reasons I loved this book were the undead themselves. The zombies in this book are just background creatures, the set dressing really. It doesn’t matter why the zombie apocalypse happened or how other parts of civilization have crumbled or arisen from the ashes. What matters is Temple. This is her journey, her fate and her future. And yet the way the zombies are depicted is a nice change. This isn’t a world where zombies are around every corner and the driving force of the novel is merely survival. Temple is already a survivor burdened by the guilt of how much she has done in order to survive. The undead are just there, the way that a fly or a mosquito exists. She does not really fear them or hate them, they simply are. They do what they are intended to do, what nature has made them. And indeed she feels some regret in killing them, the way that we might kill a wild animal in self-defense.

The prose is also amazing. There is no conventional dialogue that you would find in a traditional novel nor chapter breaks and the like. Temple is telling you her story, in her words and in her way. Seriously, this book is worth the read just for the writing alone the way I felt the Thirteenth Tale was.

Things I didn't love so much: I didn’t like Millie nor the family at the end. They didn’t seem to fit with rest of the book. Probably because I felt like I had just walked into The Hills Have Eyes instead of the great book I had been reading from the start. It’s more of a nitpick though not something that made me stop reading. I really did wish for a different ending and yet in many ways I cannot imagine another. It just works.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. Though you may find it in the young adult section of your bookstore, I really think it should be in regular fiction. This is not due to the violence or the sexual themes and situations that do occur, but because I think anyone could enjoy it, its story and its themes. You have a mix of horror and violence, beauty, good and evil and more. I would recommend it to any horror fan, those who love zombies and books similar to The Forest of Hands and Teeth or The Passage.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: Of course The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. The Passage by Justin Cronin, Feed by Mira Grant, and World War Z by Max Brooks

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Friday, September 23, 2011

Austenland

Austenland

Written by: Shannon Hale
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Language: English
May 2008, $12.99
Genre: Fiction

Jane is a young New York woman who never seems to find the right man — perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

+++++++++++++

I love my friend Finn. Why? Because she knows that even though I don’t read the whole cotton candy chick lit genre, she also is well aware of how much of a Jane Austen whore I am. I will say this now, I have a tendency to fall for fictional characters; Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy being one of them. Who wouldn’t? And yes Colin Firth helped this along quite nicely. So did adaptions of Mansfield Park, Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. As much as I love my oh so modern life, I cannot help but sometimes wish I lived in Austenland. Maybe it’s because I live by certain Austen rules such as my fault of treating every dating relationship like I hope it to be my last. I am a die-hard romantic. I want to be wooed. Granted wooing might involve horror films, video games and a long discussion on which Star Trek Captain in the best, but the wooing bit would be nice. There is something undeniably romantic about the heroes of Jane Austen’s novels, of the Regency era with the dresses and…well all of it really. Plus I wouldn’t have to really work. I could read, be all crafty and take long walks all day with balls put here and there since no one in Jane Austen’s world actually seems to have a job and even the poor live in manors. I think I also really enjoy that most of Austen’s heroines are spunky. They are not your damsel in distress. Sure they can be fickle and too head strong some times, but they don’t just wait to be married off as society tells them they should. I dig that. I also understand that most of Austen’s novels were social satires not chick lit romances. And yet, if given the choice, especially as a nice Christmas/Birthday sort of gift I would love to go on an immersion holiday. I am really not picky either: Austenland, Tolkienland, Dresdenland, DoctorWhoverse, Harry Potterland, TruBloodtopia, or Holmesverse, Exit to Eden….you name it. I am okay with that sort of gift. Please. Can I have?

Jane Hayes is a thirty something graphic designer who lives in New York City. She is also in love with Mr. Darcy. In fact she blames her lack of love life on Jane Austen and Colin Firth. How can any man compare or really compete with that? Thankfully her great aunt was thinking of her and provides an escape into the realm of all things Regency with a month long vacation in England. But not just any England. An exclusive resort where she will dress, dine, and interact in her very own little Austenland. Immersive therapy is the only way to go and so Jane decides that Mr. Darcy and Jane Austen in general are about to have one last hurrah before the real world makes her finally stop daydreaming and start living. And maybe, just maybe Jane can stop dreaming about Colin Firth and find her own Mr. Darcy.

Things I loved: The perfect little beach read, where happy endings abound and I find myself sighing and asking the PTB, why not me? Jane is in her early thirties, taking the long way around when it comes to finding Mr. Right, convinced that she is utterly going to end up alone and with millions of cats. I get it. So with you and feeling your pain. Her little fangirly secret…Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth which he hides in a potted plant (okay, so you lost me a bit because I sometimes quite obviously let that fangirly flag fly.) But I understand the crush. I feel the same way about Austen, Shakespeare, David Tennant and a certain Canadian named Ryan Reynolds. Oh and there are more: anything remotely related to Joss Whedon, zombies, chocolate and peanut butter, the French language, books, gaming, etc. I understand the need to reign the fangirl in every now and again, especially around less pop culture savvy mortals. Anyway, Jane gets to live out her fantasy and geekiness for three blessed weeks in what will be Regency England. Sadly I don’t get to participate with her, I just get to read about it and nod my head and hate her in the end. It’s what I do. How I cope. How I seethe with jealousy. To be honest minus those bits I just mentioned, I didn’t really love her. She was bit too air heady and neurotic and I couldn’t relate to her at first. Maybe it was because I had to get to know the girl a bit more. Maybe because there was a part of me asking why I was reading chick lit.

When she gets there, Jane can’t immerse herself in fantasyland. Not supposed to have a cell phone, well she cannot imagine living without it for three weeks so she hides her smart phone in her bra. I also understand that. As much as I may want to and love to play pretend for a month, I would be lost without at least a bit of technology. I kind of live and breathe it sometimes. Even after she gets into the empire waist and the bonnets and such, she still isn’t quite there in fantasy land. I get you sweetheart. I would try to affect and English accent but sadly probably sound like the other American woman there (what what, bloke, etc) which is why I would do a crash course with my good friend Merry so I sounded sort of authentic. Even though it was probably with a bunch of people I would never see again I would be self-conscious. So, yes, immediately related to Jane once again. But I loved that the other women in the story had varying degrees of comfort at Pembroke. And that you were not quite sure who was an actor and who wasn’t. Which is why I understood her getting with the ‘gardener for a bit’. If you dig someone and then you keep suspecting that it is all an act because he is paid to live out your fantasy as opposed to the cute actor who is willing to watch the game with you. The resort even understands this. Not everybody is so awesome at the hard core LARPing.

Jane is nervous and scared and funny without really meaning to. She wants a happily ever after, still hopes for it even when she is being far too cynical about herself. Now some people said that they hated that here we have a nice, successful woman. Does this mean she cannot have her happy ending without a man. No, what it means it that sometimes you just want to share your life with someone. If I had wanted the husband and 2.5 children thing, I could have. Instead I chose to discover who I was. I know now. And now it would be stellar to find my Mr. Darcy or My Time Lord or my Malcolm Reynolds. Or to be honest that fellow geek who will go folfing with me, not get mad when I find myself reading a book or playing a videogame for more than an hour, and who likes sushi. I understand that dream of wanting someone to sweep you off your feet, though if I found my knight in tarnished armor I would be more than happy to sweep him off of his feet. I don’t think it is wrong to be a hopeless romantic. I don’t think it is wrong to want to find that happily ever after or hope for that bubbly warm fuzzy feeling when you find that special someone. It is wrong to stop living your life and trying to find that special someone just because you need to have Mr. Darcy and only Mr. Darcy. I don’t think Jane was doing that. I think Jane was like me. Frustrated because she wants the romance which is hard to come by when you are a modern woman. But she never stopped trying even when she told herself, this is it. No more.

And oh how I loved the past relationships breakdown that are spaced throughout the narrative. Yes I could definitely relate. Like the been on three dates and now it has to be a relationship faux pas committed in my youth. Though I will spare you the sordid and not so sordid details of some of my finer and not so finer relationships.

Things I didn't love so much: Admittedly some of it did come off a bit cheesy. And yet I am not expecting Tolstoy here. I am not expecting huge dramatic plot or character depth. It’s like reading one of those chick flicks Finn watches too many of. You know how it is going to end. And you don’t care because it is fun and you smile a lot. But yes the prose isn’t amazing, the dialogue a bit cheesy and forced, certain plot elements contrived, etc. So yes, if I were really a nitpicker I could go on and on about those. But as I said I kind of knew what I was getting into.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. And yes even though in the end it is a light fluffy almost saccharine story, I cannot help but like it. And figure if there is a happily ever after for Jane. My happily ever after is out there somewhere.

Part of: A series. Midnight in Austenland comes out in January of 2012

Also Recommended: Of course anyone who loved this and hasn't read any of Jane Austen's work, shame on you. Please go read my favorites are Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma with Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion close seconds. Shannon Hale has also done The Princess Academy, The Books of Bayern and The Actor and the Housewife all of which I haven't read yet but would like to since I loved this so much. Also, this will be a movie in 2012 starring Keri Russell as Jane.

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rot N Ruin

Rot N Ruin

Written by: Jonathan Maberry
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Simon and Shuster
Language: English
September 2010, $17.99
Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Zombies

Nearly fourteen years ago a freak virus swept across the world turning those infected from the living into the undead. Benny Imura has grown-up never knowing anything different; his last memories of his parents tainted by the image of them becoming zombies. Now Benny is fifteen, and his brother Tom wants him to join the "family business" and train as a zombie killer. The last thing Benny wants is to work with Tom --- but at least the job should be an easy ride. Then the brothers head into the Rot and Ruin, an area full of wandering zombies, and Benny realises that being a bounty hunter isn't just about whacking zombies. As he's confronted with the truths about the world around him, Benny finds his beliefs challenged and makes the most terrifying discovery of all, that sometimes the worst monsters you can imagine, are human...

+++++++++++++

Anyone who knows me, or at least if you’ve been reading Confessions long enough, know that I dig zombies. Yes, I know they are the new craze (anyone excited about the World War Z movie that is currently being filmed), but I would rather have desiccated flesh than sparkly vampires any day. Point is I love zombies so I was excited that we chose Rot N Ruin from YA book club. It has been sitting in my TBR pile for at least 6 months or more. And the closer I get to autumn, apparently the more I want to read about the zombie apocalypse. Apparently the other girls in book club were excited to read this as well. Though we latter learned that some of them would be utterly screwed if Z day happened. Natalie did say that we can siphon her gas though if we would be so kind to kill her as she will undoubtedly be a zombie. I figure I would do okay. I have camping gear, live in a two story place near the mountains in Montana, own a nice selection of swords and blades, and have at least 2 weeks’ worth of food in my pantry. Though no one can tell how you really would react if it came to pass.

Now with most apocalyptic stories I always find myself wanting to know more about what happens later than I do the actual First Night or even first months or years. Its how society changes with the aftermath, how the way of life we cling to so desperately will undoubtedly cease to exist. Now I have been disappointed in young adult fiction of late. Maybe it is because I am getting older and *gasp* have ceased to relate to the average 15 or 16 year old. For me YA fiction has been frivolous and boring with its prose. I don’t relate to the one dimensional characters and I swear I was neither than vapid or completely shallow like so many main heroes and heroines. I am not sure what I was expecting with Rot N Ruin. Probably more of the same. An Empty but with zombies. I was very pleasantly surprised.

The story begins nearly 15 years after the First Night when the dead no longer stayed dead. Benny has just turned fifteen and finally must choose a profession and join the ranks of the adults or he gets his rations cut in half. He is moody, petulant and knows only one thing….the zombs ruined everything. He was only a baby when the dead refused to stay that way. And all he can remember is that his brother ran away leaving their mom and dad. It doesn’t matter that Tom Imura is one of the best zombie hunters in their town or even area. Benny doesn’t think he is all that especially since he seems to try to avoid violence at all costs not like cool zombie hunters like Charlie Pink-Eye and the Motor City Hammer. Benny tries every other profession, but in the end he becomes his older brother’s apprentice and not only learns the truth about his heroes, but that sometimes the worst monsters in this world are the ones still living.

Things I loved: I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this, especially after reading the first couple of chapters and seeing the “zombie” cards in the front of the book. But I absolutely loved the world Mayberry created. It’s a world 15 years after the zombie apocalypse where two brothers are trying to survive. Normally when you read about zombies, it is all about survival. The zombies are just flesh eating monsters. You are trained to forget that they were once people. It is an us vs them mentality. So while yes, there is a need to clear outlying areas for trade routes, etc, but what is the real purpose of a zombie hunter? The crisis for the most part has passed. Now what do you do once the dust has settled? Now I think if given a choice I don’t think anyone would want to be all zombified. And every zombie in this book was once a person. Admittedly like Benny I had an idea of what the zombie hunters did. I was biased. Then I started thinking about the emotional ramifications, the social, and the spiritual of the First Night. Tom Imura recognizes that each of those souls that he hunts and then peacefully lays to rest was once a father, brother, sister, mother, friend. Their lives were taken from them. So he strives to put them to rest and finally give both the dead…and the living a sense of peace. It’s a hard job. One that would test the limits of anyone. With carpet coats, rendered zombies that forms a liquid to mask your scent, religious cults that fight for zombie rights, and rules of the zombies (such as they gravitate downhill really makes this world seem real. The zombies here are not just a plot device nor are they merely some scary little set decorations. They serve a purpose in the story and because of them we get to see character growth. Exciting.

I also loved that this was less about horror of the zombies, but more about the horror of the humans still living. Humans can be cruel. Sometimes we are worse than the monsters we tell ourselves don’t exist. But let’s face it evil exists. I see it when I watch the news. Which is probably why I don’t watch the news all that much. And after the dust of First Night has ended, who do you think became the hunters. Not your average cubicle worker. I don’t know how to shoot gun. And I would have a hard time killing anything even if it was a zombie because lets face it would still have a face. It would still be human shaped. So I think it would take a certain sort of person to be a zombie hunter. There would be those who would get a perverse thrill, enjoy the freedom of killing and then there would be others like Tom. In a way Charlie and Hammer remind me of the biker from Falling Skies. When the aliens attacked, he had guns, bikes, and knew how to fight back. He’s in charge, not the CEO or the housewife or even the mechanic. He will do what the polite folks will not. But he is not a good man, neither are Charlie and Hammer. It’s not hard to believe that a thug suddenly not only feel that he deserves a free pass on everything, but that normal folks will let him have it because they need him to survive and keep that other world out of their deluded existence safe behind walls and gates.

This is Benny’s story but I cannot help but think that this is Tom Imura’s story as well. He has sheltered his little brother from so much in an effort to protect him. But everyone must grow up and realize that not everything is as it seems. Everyone needs to discover who they are, what their place is in this world and find out what matters and what doesn’t. While yes I do have my zombie plan, I am 88% sure that I will probably die. Mostly because I would be that idiot who wouldn’t notice that my neighbor is looking pasty or have the good sense to use someone I didn’t like as bait and trip him at the right moment. I also know that I want to live. So, if Z day happens I need to find myself a nice sweet samurai like Tom Imura to be all sweet on me. Or Simon Baker’s character from Land of the Dead. You understand what I am saying. I’d even become besties with Lilah because any girl who keeps a cave full of books after the zombie apocalypse needs to be my new BFF.

I also want to applaud Maberry for writing some decent female characters. Nix is not your typical damsel in distress and Lilah certainly is not. It was nice to have that small balance between the largely male cast.

Things I didn't love so much: More of a nitpick. The writing for Benny seems fairly young almost as if Mayberry wanted to write for the Harry Potter age group with his protagonist being more like 12 than the 15 he is supposed to be. Maybe he had to change the age due to the serious violence, themes, etc by his publisher. Maybe he forgot what it was like to be a teenager. Who knows? I do know what I was like when I was 15, despite being the fairly shy, bookish, half tomboy, half artsy little darling. I noticed boys. Yes, probably a bit self-involved and I hate the whole world sort of attitude….I blame it on hormones. But Benny’s age seemed to change with each chapter. I can seem him being this petulant, rebellious young teenager, but only noticing girls for the first time? Really? Plus he has introspective, yes I can see him as a teenager trying to figure out what is real and what isn’t in his world, really discovering who he is, then acting like a ten year old about a pack of zombie trading cards. It was just too up and down as far as the writing goes for him at least in regards to his age. I just couldn’t buy it half of the time.

Also I really didn’t feel that Nix and Benny had any chemistry, so their little romance was a little flat for me. Again I think this is largely due to the writing of Benny as a fifteen year old boy that seemed like a 12 year old a lot of the time. There are some good moments with the romance though such as Benny not understanding why Lilah staring at him in the hey, you’re a guy sort of way might bother Nix.

Some of the characters are a bit flat at the beginning of the book such as Charlie and Hammer who are more idiots with guns rather than cold calculating kidnappers and zombie killers. After all they did start Gameland (which reminds me far too much of the Hunger Games but with zombies, not that this is bad…just saying).

In the end there wasn’t too much of the bad minus some minor plot holes, nit picks. I imagine some of these might get answered in the next book so I wont dwell on them.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. If you are a zombie fan and if you enjoyed other books such as The Forest of Hands and Teeth, this would be good addition to your library.

Part of: A series. Dust and Decay (Book 2) is out now.

Also Recommended: The Forest of Hands and Teeth and the rest of the series by Carrie Ryan, The Walking Dead comic series by Robert Kirkman, Patient Zero also by Maberry.

3.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Left For Undead

Left for Undead

Written by: LA Banks
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Bantam
Language: English
January 2009, $7.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/The Crimson Moon series

Secret government operative Sasha Trudeau earned a long vacation with her lover and fellow Shadow Wolf, Hunter, after the brutal wolf-like attacks that left New Orleans in uproar. But when her team calls with news of vampire slayings, Sasha knows its only a matter of time before another war breaks out among the supernatural denizens of the world…

The vampires are nobody’s allies, but the cold hearted deaths of their own make them even more bloodthirsty…!


+++++++++++++

I was sad to read of LA Banks passing recently. Many years ago I picked up her Huntress novels and absolutely loved them. They were fun and exciting and I loved the world she had created. I hadn’t picked up any of her Crimson Moon novels for some reason though. Maybe I was bored with the werewolf thing, or maybe too distracted by the rest of my ever increasing TBR piles (yes there are more than one, possibly more than 5 or 10 actually) created. When the local bookstore closed and I picked up far too many books, I jumped at the chance to pick up some books I might not have otherwise just due to my current lack of fundage. I know it is bad form to start a series in the middle, but when Borders shut down this was the only one on the shelf.

This is the sixth book in the Crimson Moon novels. I know it is bad form to start at the end, but like I said, but I couldn’t help it. Sasha Trudeau and her lover, Hunter, are trying to relax and recuperate from their last adventure. But of course there is no rest for the…heroic? Shogun, Hunter’s brother wants to talk about his mate and Sir Rodney of the Seelie Court needs to help prevent World War III among the supernaturals. Someone is opening up high profile vampires’ resting places and all fingers point to Queen Cerridwen of the Unseelie Court. Insert faeries, werewolves, vampires, gargoyles and ancient Greek monsters…oh my.

Things I loved: Admittedly I was a bit lost. The secondary characters are less fleshed out, presumably because you already know and love them from reading the previous five books. So it took me a wee bit to try and fill in all of the blanks especially when the main plot revolves around baddies and events that occurred in the previous outing.

I will say the mythos was interesting. Apparently there are shadow wolves and then there are werewolves. The Shadow wolves are able to travel through shadows and into the Demon Realms. An interesting concept. Let’s face it if I cannot have my transporter, I will take some shadow gateways for easy travel. Okay maybe not really easy travel with the nausea and the whole Demon thing.

I also did like aspects of the story. Of course I am a sucker for anything fey. Plus you add some Greek mythology in there and I was quite happy. The whole thing between Sasha and Hunter’s brother was interesting and I was a bit sad that I hadn’t read the previous books so I would have understood that a little more. I did like the whole main plot as well, and yet I didn’t feel like this was anything new. Which is a bit disappointing. The pacing was okay, and I loved falling into the vernacular and prose that is distinctly Banks. I don’t know I was just a bit meh about the whole thing when it was over though. I am going to chalk this up to starting at the end rather than the beginning. Bad Smirking.

Things I didn't love so much: I will say that this is fairly similar to the Huntress series as far as secondary characters. Not only do you have a seer, tactical support, leader, etc except this time it is werewolves instead of a vampire hunter. So in that way I was a bit disappointed. I would have loved to see Banks go out of her comfort zone and try to have some very distinctively new archetypes when it comes to her characters. As I said, read it before.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow. In the end it was too similar to the Huntress series and I was far too lost to really feel any real connection to any of the characters.

Part of: A series. The Crimson Moon novels.
Book One: Bad Blood
Book Two: Bite the Bullet
Book Three: Undead on Arrival
Book Four: Cursed to Death
Book Five: Never Cry Werewolf

Also Recommended:If you are looking for some nice werewolf action, I would go with the Kitty series by Carrie Vaughn, Bitten by Kelley Armstrong or for a coyote the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. I would recommend LA Banks' Huntress series.

2.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Friday, September 2, 2011

Side Jobs

Side Jobs

Written by: Jim Butcher
Hardcover: 432pages
Publisher: Roc Hardcover
Language: English
October 2010, $25.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/The Harry Dresden Series

As Chicago's only professional wizard, Harry Dresden has had cases that have pitted him against insane necromancers, power-hungry faerie queens, enigmatic dark wizards, fallen angels—pretty much a "who's who" of hell and beyond—with the stakes in each case ranging from a lone human soul to the entire human race.

But not every adventure Harry Dresden undertakes is an epic tale of life and death in a world on the edge of annihilation.

Here, together for the first time, are the shorter works of #1 New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher—a compendium of cases that Harry and his cadre ofa llies managed to close in record time. With tales ranging from the deadly serious to the absurdly hilarious—including an all-new never-before-published story—this is a must-have collection for every devoted Harry Dresden fan.


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So I have a problem for falling for fictional characters. It started with Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, has continued with numerous great characters. Surprisingly enough I was and still occasionally am quite shy. I remember sitting outside with a book when I was a kid wanting to be part of Nancy Drew’s little circle of friends so I could help her fight crime and solve mysteries. I wanted to be a member of the Babysitter’s Club, fall in love with Fitzwilliam Darcy and explore Middle Earth. Oh and the characters. Sometimes I want to be their friends, or have them fall madly in love with me. Other times I want to live in their worlds or just be able to say ‘hey, I know that guy’. I kind of want all of the above with Harry Dresden. I first began reading Harry after James Marsters did the audiobooks. So of course bonus there. But I fell in love with the books. Here was Harry, reluctant hero, snarky little bad ass that quite frequently got his ass handed to him. He had a great cat, a dog I could possibly ride like a small horse but whom I would lavish tons of affection on, and was just plain cool. He had flaws (you know like starting a war with some vampires), and an inner monologue that quite frequently sounded like my own sometimes. Plus he was tall. I like tall men. It means I can still wear high heels. *smile* And did I mention the snark. Harry has it in spades. Which of course in my head equals sexy along with his self-deprecating humor.

Jim Butcher created an amazing character and an amazing world in his Dresden series. And then of course he pulled a Joss Whedon on me and pulled the rug right from under me leaving me crying with his last book. I know that sometimes a series can go on forever even past its prime, but I have not felt that way about Harry. I could read about him for quite some time. I worry that this is the end. And am petrified to pick up Ghost Story. I don’t want things to change. I don’t want the magic to end. Which is why like Phoebe from Friends have put the latest novel in my freezer so nothing can change (well not literally, but you get the point and those of you who have seen that particular Friends episode just smiled).

In an attempt to go back to the good old days, I finally decided to pick up Side Jobs which had the ‘Aftermath’ story that takes place a few hours after Changes ends. Thank goodness it was the last story of the book. I was worried. I kept avoiding the back of the book. It scared me. I will admit this is silly. Couldn’t help it. And then I started reading about Old Harry, long before his hand was scarred or he had an apprentice, and definitely before things changed. It was awesome. Still don’t know if I have the courage to read the latest, but somehow I have faith in Mr. Butcher. Gotta have faith, right?

Side Jobs is a collection of the many short stories involving Harry and his brother and even Murphy. I have read a few of them as I have a soft spot of Anthologies and there have been Harry stories in things like Blood Lite, Strange Brew, My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding and more. I own a lot of them, but I am a completest when I love something, plus all of my other Harry books are Hardcover, so now this can go right next to them. There are some new ones as well that I have not read, plus the aforementioned aftermath story that is from Susan Murphy’s perspective. We have Harry before he became the wizard we all know and love, we have Harry trying to have a day off and really not succeeding and we even have a view of Harry from Thomas’s perspective.

Things I loved: I really do love Harry and I love little Anthologies/Collections especially when they involve Harry. I absolutely lobed the little notes from Butcher that tell how the story came to pass, any little tidbits, where it falls in reference to the rest of the Harry Dresden universe and more.

I love that I haven’t got bored with Harry. Even after a decade and more of books, Harry is still Harry. He’s been through a hell of a lot, but at the core he has still held onto his ideals and his morality. He is a good guy, sometimes to a fault, and even a bit chaotic good when I think about it but you love him. You can’t help it. Things have changed, but he really hasn’t which is evident from even the first Dresden story (unlike other fictional characters…cough, cough Anita Blake…cough cough who is now a supernatural porn star rather than snarky necromancer I loved).

Things I didn't love so much: I will say that normally short story collections are a good way to introduce yourself to a particular character or world. However, new fans would be pretty lost despite the chronological order of things. But true blue Harry fans such as myself will be quite pleased.

There are weak stories in this collection, which Butcher admits to, such as “Restoration of Faith” where Harry isn’t even really Harry yet. The writing is a bit poor. So it is wonderful to see how far Mr. Butcher has come not only with Harry Dresden but as an author.

Buy or Borrow: Buy if you are a Dresden completest such as myself. Borrow if you have already collected all of the other already published stories and don’t feel the need to make all the series on your shelf all hardcover or paperback.

Part of: A series.
Book One: Storm Front
Book Two: Fool Moon
Book Three: Grave Peril
Book Four: Summer Knight
Book FIve: Death Masks
Book Six: Blood Rites
Book Seven: Dead Beat
Book Eight: Proven Guilty
Book Nine: White Knight
Book Ten: Small Favor
Book Eleven: Turn Coat
Book Twelve: Changes
Book Thirteen: Ghost Story

Also Recommended: Tales from the NIghtside by Simon R Green, The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, and the Felix Castor series by Mike Carey.

3.50 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sleight Of Hand

Sleight of Hand
Written by: Peter S Beagle
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Language: English
March 2011, $14.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Fiction/Anthology
ARC from Tachyon Publishing

“Magic is back. Peter S Beagle returns with an inspired collection of new fantasy tales that showcases his incomparable mastery and range. In these tales – with settings as different as an impossible reconstruction of the Berlin Wall and the kitchen of Mrs. Eunice Giant (72 Fairweather Lane, East-of-the-Bean, Sussex Overhead) – warrior, monsters, and utterly ordinary people struggle with possession and forgiveness, life and love, hate and death…and the choices that come after everything else has been stripped away by Fate. Inside these pages:

The daughter of a Shark God leaves her Pacific island home, determined to find her mysterious father and hold him accountable for the curse of her own existence.

A dilapidated dragon, a frustrated cop, and an unapologetic author square off over a dangerously abandoned narrative.

An enchantress-to-be sings of power, desire, and the ultimate betrayal of her heart.

In a nothing diner, in a nowhere town, a woman lost in grief learns how to fool Death with one artful shuffle of the deck.

Featuring a brand new Schmendrick tale set before The Last Unicorn, plus twelve other wonderful stories, Sleight of Hand is suffused with a luminous misdirection that moves the soul as much as it fools the eye. Always ready to delight his readers, Beagle proves yet again he is a master magician.”


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Like most young girls, I was obsessed with unicorns when I was a kid. I had my unicorn sticker book, the stuffed unicorns (one that actually played a tune as well when you wound her up), I had figurines and posters, all of which went so well with the Who, and David Bowie posters and a variety of other things that seemed to go well in my oh so eclectic room. So of course when I saw The Last Unicorn movie I was smitten. As far as I was concerned it was up there with Unico and later Legend. How could I not love it? The animation was beautiful and in it a lovely tale a unicorn who learns to love and regret. It makes you smile and cry. Completely magical and still remains one of my favorite movies. It wasn’t until later in life that I actually picked up the novel that Peter S Beagle wrote. Again completely smitten.

I am not sure why I haven’t read any more of Beagle’s works as I really, really should have. When Tachyon Publishing let me know about few of their new anthologies, I shook my head and raised my hand screaming pick me, pick me. Because lets face it free book sis awesome. Seriously I should work in a bookstore then again I would never make any money. Anyway, glad they picked me. I am not sure what I was expecting though out of Mr. Beagle. I suppose I expected more Last Unicorn type fantasy. I certainly wasn’t expecting to love it so much. Each story just worked for me, even the ones you only like just a little. I found magic again in this set of short stories. That is a wonderful feeling to have.

Now I love urban fantasy. Anyone can tell that it is definitely my preferred genre, but it has been a very long time since I read something that made me want to believe in magic again. You know the feeling - that childlike innocence that anything is possible and that magic and faeries and the impossible do exist no matter how many times someone tells you that they do not. We all had that as kids. I had my insisting that unicorns did exist, but were invisible to anyone who didn’t truly believe they existed and I remember trying really hard to believe when I was a kind. There was something about this new anthology that brought back those feelings. It made me smile and in a way just a little bit sad. Sad, because I am an adult now and perhaps too rational and cynical despite my enthusiastic imagination to really be able to go back to that time.

As the summary says there are quite a few different stories, each with a small foreword letting the reader know a bit of history behind each short story.

Things I loved: My favorite stories were Sleight of Hand, The Children of the Shark God, Bridge Partner and The Woman Who Married the Man in The Moon which was a Schmendrick tale. The prose was great, the stories imaginative and as I said before, it really made me long to have that magic you believed in when you were a kid.

I always find it hard to briefly summarize short stories and tell you why I loved them so much without giving them away, but I will say the stories range from humorous to heart breaking, witty and magical and I really did enjoy the majority of them. I also went and picked up my Last Unicorn DVD and watched it. Even as I write this review I suddenly have America in my hand singing about our lovely last unicorn. It gets stuck in your head. It really does.

As I said I really do love the short story format, they is when they are done right. It helps when you have someone who can master them beautifully. I am not sure why I like them so much. Maybe because it is like an episode of the Twilight Zone, they are short (which is great when you are tired and know that about a chapter and a half is all that you will get before you pass out) with a usually solid beginning and ending. It takes a talented writer in my opinion to write just a few short pages, but in those pages have created solid characters, amazing worlds and a story you don’t really want to end. I wanted more from The Shark God. I loved each of the characters so much, but it was a lovely tale with a beginning and an end. It was enough and yet not. Beagle proved to me that he is one of those writers that can bewitch you in the first few paragraphs and immerse you in worlds you forgot to believe in.

Oh and I loved the cover. Not that this means a lot, but pretty covers are nice.

So I will give you a brief overview of some of the stories. “Children of the Shark God”: yes I loved it. It is a beautiful folkloric style tale of a Shark God who falls in love with a kind yet rather unremarkable young woman. She knows that he is not of her people and who he really is, and yet she loves him all the same with such a brutal sweetness it makes you all gooey inside. She does this despite only being able to see him once a year when he collects his yearly tribute from her people. Their children however want more than just a yearly visit from an absentee father. You could say they are none too pleased with the arrangement. And as they grow older they want to understand their father. The Shark God broke my heart just as his was broken. Beautiful story.

Another stand out was “ The Bridge Partner” which was both funny and creepy with a nice Hitchcockian flair to it. “Sleight of Hand” as I said was another of my favorites. It is about a young woman who has lost everything and in her grief, anger and sorrow strikes a bargain with a dinner theatre magician who is not at all what he seems to be. And it doesn’t turn out the way you expected or how she had planned. After all it is a sleight of hand. It is a heartbreaking magical tale and anyone who has lost something dear to them can relate to its themes.

Despite the serious tone of some of the stories there is some lighter fare which is nice. “The Best Worst Monster” was automatically an adorable animated Pixar like creation in my head as I read it. The giant’s wife from Jack in the Beanstalk recounts her side of the famous tale in “Up the Down Beanstalk. And in “Oakland Dragon Blues” a fictional dragon gets angry with his creator.

Things I didn't love so much: Admittedly there are a few stories I didn’t quite love, but that is going to happen whenever you read an anthology or collection. Of course, the stories I absolutely love might be stories that others didn’t care for as much and the ones I didn’t like they love. There is also part of me that would have loved a bit more explanation on some of the stories, but that is because I really wanted to more about Beagle himself. In all there wasn’t much that I didn’t like and I immediately gave it to my friend to read because I wanted to talk about the Sleight of Hand story.

Buy or Borrow: Buy if you like collections, Peter S Beagle or The Last Unicorn. It’s a worthy addition to any bookshelf. If anything please borrow and read some of these amazing stories, which might be in print elsewhere but I hadn’t read them until now.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: For more Beagle I would of course recommend The Last Unicorn. Beagle has also written Tamsin, A Fine and Private Place and The Line Between among some of them. I would also recommend Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman which is a collection of his short stories.

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks