Friday, August 5, 2011

Review: Play of Passion by Nalini Singh, Book 9 of the Psy/Changeling series

Indigo is a lieutenant with the Snowdancers pack and one of the few dominant female soldiers. Third in the pack, she has few equals and even less superiors and this causes her a problem – because she and her wolf do not want a subordinate male to be a partner.

Enter Andrew, tracker for the pack. With his dominant wolf and indeterminate rank, he may fit Indigo well, if it weren't for that grey area left by the unknown rank and the looming worry about whether their excellent working relationship would be compromised by a failed romantic encounter.

They battle their mutual attraction as well as continued problems from both being dominant wolves, negotiating each others dominance, rank and control.

The Psy are on the verge of civil war, the Council fractured between those who are desperate to preserve – and expand Silence and those who see it falling as inevitable. The latter faction is now closely linked with the Snowdancer and Darkriver Changeling packs and both stand to be dragged into the war by their Psy members and simply to protect their territory and San Francisco. Already, the pro-Silence Psy are moving in force against the Changelings as the war begins.

I have to say, I was deeply disappointed with this book, though that's not entirely fair of me. This is difficult. Because part of my unhappiness with this book is genre related – therefore highly subjective, even more than most reviewing – rather than quality related.

Nalini Singh has created an amazing world here. The way Psy, Changelings and humans interact in this fascinating world, the politics of Silence, the way Changeling groups interact both in their own packs and between packs and the tension growing as the Psy are poised on revolutionary change as well as the Psy defectors integrating with the Changelings – all of it is fascinating and amazing. Not only that but the story is tense, exciting and fascinating. I want to see the plotting in the Psy Council, I want to see if Nikita and Anthony are going to lose Silence, I want to see if the Psy will split. I want to see Henry and Shoshonna's plotting and Kaleb's machinations. I want to see how the Forgotten will manage and where more Psy defectors will go. I want to see the Snow Dancers and Dark River packs integrate and ally further.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review of Vampire Empire - Book One: The GreyFriar by Clay & Susan Griffith

I was very drawn to this book the moment I learned that it was paranormal steampunk.  I could not fathom for a moment how these two genres could successfully be married.  I have long wanted to read steampunk and stumbling upon this book gave me the opportunity to deep my heels into a genre that has long been calling my name.

The world as we recognize it today is much changed in The GreyFriar.  In an even called the Great Killing vampires who had walked the earth as long as humans have declare war on humanity and end up taking over the northern part of the world.  Countries like England and America move into their colonies and set up stakes there because it is closer to the equator and vampires have deep trouble with the heat.  Over a hundred fifty years and pass.  It is the year 2020 and neither side is content with the stalemate.  The vampires see the humans as insignificant sources of food and the humans see vampires as parasites living off the blood of humans.  The vampires are confidant in their speed, sense of smell, superior eyesight, resistance to pain and difficulty being killed whereas the humans believe that their steam technology shall render them victorious.

The two are on the brink of war when Adele the Empress of the Equatorian Empire which stretches from India to South Africa was captured on a goodwill tour.  Along the way she meets the Greyfriar a man devoted to protecting humans from vampires.  He risks his life many times for her and the process love blooms between them.  This Greyfriar moves with incredible speed and is capable of feats that no human before him has been capable of, causing the reader to question if there is more to him than meets the eye.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: Death Masks by Jim Butcher, Book 5 of the Harry Dresden Files

Why, I do believe we have arrived.

Harry Dresden is dealing with the ongoing fallout of the war between the Wizard's White Council and the Vampire's Red Court. A war he started and where he still very much stands at the eye of the storm. The Red Court noble, Ortega is in town with a proposition for Harry. A duel. A duel between Harry and Ortega to the death. If Harry wins Chicago is declared a neutral zone. If he refuses the duel? His friends will be targeted and killed. Faced with this non-choice, Harry is forced to accept the duel against a vampire centuries his senior. But life is never so simple for Harry. Susan is back in town, still dealing with the affects of being infected with Red Court vampirism she must struggle against her urges and her attraction to Harry as well as forward her own agenda and the agenda of the organisation to which she now belongs.

Worst of all, the Denarians are in town. Not just demons, but servants and vessles of the Fallen themselves. They're in town and they seek to acquire the stolen Shroud of Turin and use it in their nefarious plotting (and yes, I got to use the words “nefarious plotting” in a serious sentence. Yes this amuses me) opposed by Michael and his fellow Fists of God, the Knights of the Cross and yet further complicated by John Marcone, crime boss also being involved.

Never simple, but most certainly epic.

I would say this is the book where everything this series has been promising to be has finally got into action. Every book until now seems to have been an introduction paving the way to this book, though Summer Knight was epic in its own right.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rest In Peace L. A. Banks

Tragically, Leslie Esdaile Banks has died.
She was a prolific writer in the genre we love and she was a voice we don't often hear. In a genre that has an extreme lack of WOC writers and where POC protagonists are an extreme rarity, she was almost unique and brought a much needed perspective.

To compound this tragedy she died before her time – and her family are burdened with medical bills due to lack of medical insurance. Living under the NHS, I can't imagine such a thing but my heart goes out to her daughter Helena – who has set up a fund to help her pay these bills. Please help if you can.

Teen Wolf Episode 9

Another week, another episode of Teen Wolf. Here we have the alpha finally revealed, a lot of action and a whole lot of excitement inter-spaced with confusing dream sequences. Like last week, Renee and Sparky chatted while watching this episode together

Sparky: oh darkened classroom with arsehole teacher
I didn't catch what was on the note?
OOOOH please do kill him!

Renee: what's up with the list of names?

Sparky: Is this a dream sequence? I'm totally lost, that was the teacher... he's involved? With the alpha, he made the alpha? What?

Renee: I guess the alpha is a science experiment gone wrong

Sparky: and Scott is playing getaway with Stiles in his car? What happened, did we miss an episode?

Renee: I am not sure what the hell is going on

Sparky: bonus no teen angst at least. I'll sit and watch in hope :)

Renee: a lot of action though

Sparky: Stiles still amuses me :)
Aye good action too. I was almost on the edge of my seat - and not just to reach for my drink
Claw marks are connected to nightmares - he passes on his memories through a scratch?
Ooookay, who's the doctor with the scary sharp things?
Ah Nightmare. Isn't this episode confusing enough?
Still, CHEST. Yummy.

Renee: okay it's a dream. No nurse gets out of her seat like that...

Sparky: yeah, when someone comes up and practically asks "hey let me have an illegal scan of your computer.
Oh threatening a werewolf you know is a werewolf... in what reality is that even close to being a good idea?

Renee: What do you expect from a teen show?

Sparky: Ooooh here's the teen angst

Renee: You knew you were not going to make it through a whole episode without that

Sparky: Ok. quota has been met. They can stop now

Renee: And how long did she date him to be this worked up?
That cafeteria food could have been cooked by Jo

Sparky: a month? Tops? Maybe...
Wow, playing with the werewolf senses! That's kinda cool and impressive tbh. I like how it's done

Renee: Yeah the stuff of undying love

Sparky: Ok, less impressive, now all kinds of skeevy. Someone's gonna get eaaaaten.

Renee: Yeah I don't like how they are using her body and her sexuality this way. It makes seem as though she is Scott's possession.

Sparky: yeah - she's again another thing that's only relevant based on how it affects Scott. Same as the whole "does it make him strong or weak" thing
Ooooh chest

Renee: Break up text

Sparky: Wow... y'know if he does get eaten? He totally deserves it. I'm going to start wishing for it - EAT HIM EAT HIM EAT HIM EAT HIM

Renee: Lydia alone is capable of ripping him in two

Sparky: I was going to say - I mean he's made an enemy of a werewolf and Lydia... I'd fear Lydia more!
Awww, almost sweeet awkward parenting moment.

Renee: Yeah proud cause your kid is playing lacrosse and not cause he is a smart kid. I so don't do the over emphasis on sports.

Sparky: Tell me about it. I liked how the whole awkward/distant parent thing was done at least.

Renee: Great Scott is breaking into the house of werewolf hunters. Male spunky agency

Sparky: Well the women can't have spunky agency in Teen Wolf - that would involve them actually DOING something.
Ooooh chest! chest chest!

Renee: Miguel is not liking the nameLOL Derek does fierce wonderfully

Sparky: I never knew Derek could do comic relief :) hee and be hot and fierce at the same time
Oooh teen angst is back.

Renee: Not just teen angst, gay teen angst

Sparky: I meant Scott crying over the receipt
That "playing for a different team yet play ball" thing was supposed to indicate a gay character... is that the Maris?

Renee: Up yeah that would be the Marris and now you know why he had to take off his shirt repeatedly

Sparky: that was supposed to be a bribe to make him co-operate? oh dear...
Oh yeah - you go running and decide to check out the spooky abandoned derelict house?

Renee: That's Derek's house

Sparky: Someone get this woman some horror films already!
I think we're going to see the recruitment pitch for the werewolf hunters

Renee: Why is Scott sitting there and putting up with the third degree. He should just get up and leave the house

Sparky: But then he couldn't be part of the manly deciding how to protect the delicate little flower
I'd have been so out of there. And have eaten him too.

Renee: This dumb ass believes in werewolves but somehow werewolf hunters are weird.

Sparky: The uncle is the alpha? oooooooooooh that's good.
Though I have to say I'm not sold on another "scarred villain" trope

Renee: I'm confused

Sparky: Fight scene! the uncle is the alpha it seems. Not sure how they guessed - but the email bringing Alison to the school was from the hospital (which apparently has A&E and long term psychiatric care)
He BECAME an alpha - ahhhh the plot and world thickens. Moooore exposition *sits back and takes notes*
Well y'know when I go out to drinking I totally discuss murders and arsons with hot strangers.

Renee: So the science teacher made the alpha with some kind of chemistry? What the hell does the necklace have to do with it

Sparky: No, the science teacher taught a woman wearing that necklace how to make untraceable arson - and the woman (Alison's aunt) went to the Hale house and burned it down.
Ooooh, instant plastic surgery.

Renee: Oh okay get it now

Sparky: and then uncle apparently healed his injuries when he became an alpha - he got promoted or something.
Aww it's over. I liked that one. Lot less teen angst, a lot more action and a ton of exposition!

Renee: Yeah it was pretty good.

Sparky: Though I could do without "Alison is only important because of how she affects Scott" and "you can make a gay man commit crimes for you if you take off your shirt." but otherwise, of the goood :) and I looove me some world building :)

Renee: I will say that even though I am irritated it was good to finally put a face to the gay Maris but it sucks that he was only brought in to be used and teased.

Sparky: Makes me both intrigued and worried as to what'll happen in the future. Not sure if I want him to go back to being a Maris, tbh. Still I score this highly.

Renee: I suppose it will depend on what else they do with character

Review of "Bitten" by Kelley Armstrong

Kelly Armstrong has been on my to read list for quite sometime.  I really like the idea of rotating protagonists and hope that it will make the Otherworld series feel bright and fresh with each new book I read.  The first book in the series focuses on Elena, the only living female werewolf, and her struggle to hold onto her humanity, while being drawn into the pack, or even more specifically, drawn towards the love that Clay has to offer.  While there is a good deal of romance in the story, it would be wrong to say that the book is completely about Elena's relationship with Clay.  For the record though, I do feel I should say that I am tired of seeing the name Elena in urban fantasy books.  Come on, you have the imagination to create a book about werewolves, but not enough to come with a name that has not been overused.

I digress....

Before we get further into the review of Bitten, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that once again we have another straight, all White world.   It is ridiculous when we consider that Elena lived in Toronto before moving to Stonehaven, which is one of the most multi-cultural cities in Canada, as well as one of the largest GLBT populations.  I guess there is nothing like erasure to really give the reader a sense of the setting.

Elena is called back to the pack after mutts (werewolves with no pack identification) encroach on pack land.  Before leaving Stonehaven for Toronto, to escape Clay (the werewolf who lied to her and turned her), Elena's job had been to keep track of the wereabouts of mutts.  She is very reluctant to return when Jeremy the pack leader calls, because she has developed a long term relationship with a human male named Philip, as well secured a job.  To go to Stonehaven she must confront her past with Clay, as well as answer the call of her werewolf nature.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, Episode 26

This week we discuss the latest episode of True Blood as well as the article we spoke about here as well Vicki Pettersson's Signs of the Zodiac, Lauren Beukes' Zoo City and Yasmine Galenorn's Sister of the Moon series.

Hey, Brian McGreevy: Vampire Pam beats Don Draper any day

How much gender fail and homophobia can one pack into a brief online essay? Screenwriter Brian McGreevy takes a break from doing keg stands at the frat house to show us. In a guest blog for Vulture, McGreevy, who is currently adapting Bram Stoker’s Dracula for Warner Bros., complains that modern vampire books, film and TV shows have “taken the Romantic vampire and cut off his balls, leaving a pallid emo pansy with the gaseous pretentiousness of a perfume commercial.”

*side eye*

The problem, according to McGreevy, is “the female gaze.” It has given us vampire stories that are mere “pornography for tweens.”
Just as the Frito-Lay Company has created virtually nutrient-free vehicles of corn syrup and salt that make our youth fat, slow, and indiscriminate, the Castrati vampire is a confection that has the same impact on the psycho-dramatic imagination of today’s youth. Think of the message here: What is the consequence of falling in with a Romantic vampire? Death, either yours or his. What is the consequence of falling in with the Castrati vampire? Long and torturous (at least to everyone around you) conversations about feelings. This is not what really happens when you fall in with attractive monsters.
McGreevy isn’t feeling Stephanie Meyer’s sparkling undead abstaining teens. But he has equal disdain for the sexed up vamps on True Blood, which, in his words, is “like Tennessee Williams fucked The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” See, blood suckers should be real men “ideal men” like Mad Men’s Don Draper.


Yes, McGreevy reckons Don Draper is a far better vampire than any of Twilight’s or True Blood’s.
Of course I refer to Don Draper on the AMC series Mad Men, the purist’s vampire of choice for our time. This one has teeth. And adding an extra layer to the mystique is his position as an advertising executive. A more elegant embodiment of the metaphor could hardly be asked for: He is an engine of want, creating the illusion of fulfillment while sucking you dry. No is not in his vocabulary. Neither is yes — yes is implicit. He knows this, he is past needing to hear you say it. He knows the private and unmentionable place that cries "yes" when the bottom drops out of an amusement park ride and suddenly you are in free fall, and, like the ideal man, he is listening.
When Mad Men first premiered, much of its appeal was attributed to novelty factor: What a different time it was, when the American male was an unrecognizable breed of scandalous, id-driven malefactor; heedless, rapacious, just waiting to slide off his doe-eyed secretary’s pencil skirt and show off his executive account.

Men are predators at heart. Any refutation of this is also a refutation of evolution, or the common sense conclusion of observing a typical 3-year-old boy at unstructured play, his wake of destruction the envy of a Visigoth. It is a killer’s heart that is the motive force of masculinity and predation its spirit. This is not to suggest nature is immutable, or that one ought to act in blind obeisance to it, but that “ought” is not in the vocabulary of want, and choosing is meant to have consequences.
Vampires should be real ideal men. Ideal men are amoral. Ideal men kill and destroy things. Ideal men don’t think; they do. Ideal men don’t take “no” for an answer, especially from women. Ideal men are always rampaging heterosexuals, by the way. We can’t argue with this. McGreevy says it’s evolution.

True Blood: I Wish I Was The Moon

Spoilers Ahead

My nickname for last night's episode is rapepoloza.  In just under an hour Ball managed to use rape twice to advance the plot.  The first occurred in a flashback sequence of Luis feeding on the witch Antonia.  After his maker points out that she is not afraid of him, and that fear makes the blood sweeter, Luis viciously rapes Antonia.  The second occurs when Tommy manages to shift into Sam Merlott.  When Luna shows up at Sam's door, she bares her breasts and Tommy appearing to be Sam, has sex with her.  Luna thought that she was consenting to sex with Sam, not his brother Tommy, and that makes this scene rape by deception.  How many times is Ball going to use rape as a plot device this season?  It is bad enough that he has appropriated an event like the Spanish Inquisition and blamed it on vampires, instead of the Catholic Church, when so many women, Jews, and Muslims died, but the idea that rape can be simply used as a tool is horrific and belies the seriousness of the offense. 

 This episode Bill finally confronted Sookie about the fact that she was hiding Eric.  She rightfully told him off when he dared to bring up her deceit, saying "you have a hell of a nerve lecturing me about lying." What I did find interesting is that in the physical battle between Eric and Bill, clearly Eric came out on top because of his age.  This makes me wonder how it is that vampires so much older than Bill so easily come to heel at his command.  We saw this last season with Sophie-Ann and Eric.  It does not make sense that all of these weak vampires end up in the position of Kings and Queens. Sookie saved Bill's life by telling Eric to stop and letting him know that Bill was the king.  Bill of course took advantage of this and had Eric imprisoned and sentenced to the true death.  When Sookie suggested that he was only imprisoning Eric out of jealousy he answered saying, "believe it or not my entire existence does not revolve around what, or who, is between your legs."  I didn't expect Bill to release Eric but I knew when I saw the spike her certainly was not going to kill him.

In a holding cell together Pam tried desperately to reconnect with Eric, but he clearly wanted nothing to do with the vampire that he used to be.  I have begun to wonder if this new Eric, or should I say Eric sans his memories, is what Eric was like when he was human. Is it the vampire nature that brings out the killer instinct?