Saturday, August 13, 2011

Review: The Touch of Twilight by Vicki Pettersson

I am working my way through this series at a pretty rapid rate because it is enjoyable and each book leaves unanswered questions and problems that need a solution.  Each book makes the world larger but still leaving the reader wanting more.

As much as I like this series I do have a few continuing issues.  This is now the third book in the series and beyond a brief mention in book one, the world is still all White.  This is absolutely unrealistic for a city like Las Vegas and speaks very much to the authors belief in White supremacy.  If you cannot even imagine people of colour, in a world of your creation, it means that we are less than nothing in her mind.  The same erasure of course exists for the GLBT community in this book, with the exception of the following line:

 "I wasn't going to get into a conversation about transgenders with a kid who read National Geographic for the boobies."(emphasis mine) pg. 177

The use of the word transgenders is absolute dehumanizing though not surprising considering how Pettersson through around the word hermaphrodite in the first book. If I find her choice of words upsetting, I cannot imagine how much more so people who are gender variant find them.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Review of Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead

After reading the entire Vampire Academy series, I was not exactly excited to read anymore Richelle Mead.  The only reason I gave this book a shot is because it is not Y.A.  I know, I know another adult running down Y.A.  The truth is I don't mind Y.A. if the story is good my issue is with the angst. Having gone through my teenage years once already, I don't want to relieve them. Alright so I am off on yet another famous tangent.

Let's start with the usual.  Once again we have a book set in a major city and there is no mention of any GLBT people. Georgina, the protagonist, works in a book store, but apparently no one in the GLBT community reads, or is interested in taking the dancing lessons that she teaches there. The only time same sex attraction occurred was Georgina had ingested a pure soul.  Unfortunately that was cast as even women are attracted to Georgina, as though two women being attracked to each other is a complete oddity.

In what is clearly an act of tokenism, Georgina and her dates Seth and Roman both eat at various Asian and Latino restaurants, but having an actual character of colour, with a large role to play in the book was somehow impossible.  Reducing interactions with people of colour to eating our cuisine is literally eating the other. 
Georgina Kincaid is a succubus who is not living up to her role. As a succubus she is supposed to be a part of the forces of evil, corrupting good souls through sex in order to feed her succubus urges. Instead  she avoids dating, relationships and all interactions with good men. This does not make the archdemon Jerome very happy but it is the only compromise that she can live with, that is until she find love.  When she does have sex she does so with great relish and is never ashamed of the act itself only the after effects on the innocent.  This is truly a rarity in this genre because there are many instances of slut shaming when sex occurs outside of loving relationship.

Teen Wolf Episode 11

This week brought another episode of Teen Wolf and Renee and Sparky sat down to have a snarky chat about it. On the whole it was of the good – but there's waaay more teen angst – it felt like they were making up for the last episode. We're not happy about the treatment of the gay Maris, Danny who only ever appears on screen to be useful to Scott and Stiles – and every time he's played for some comic relief. This week went above and beyond by using him and making a joke while playing on the idea of a teacher yelling at a gay student for bringing a same-sex date to the school dance.

The villain(s) are still really scary and well done – and we want them all to be eaten. And, take not True Blood, actual CGI!

Sparky: Derek's captured - vintage electro torture?
y'know the Alpha's side is seeing more and more the good side

Renee: I have to agree with you there
She called him just another damn animal.

Sparky: yup, and she handles him like meat

Renee I want Derek to eat her.

Sparky: oh please, tell me that "you are a powerful woman" is not going to be used as a reason why Allison would tolerate torture

Renee Of course how else can she be empowered.

Sparky: She becomes empowered by becoming inhuman and brutal!
The Police chief is that susceptible to tears?
"how will it make you feel better" it will because otherwise you refused to writer her a ticket because she's a weak little flower sobbing and crying

Renee Oooh Alison has got her weapons on.

Sparky: she's becoming strong by embracing violence. Would be good if she had a better target methinks
Oooh chest

Renee I hope that they explain the vet now

Sparky: I hope so.
And I wish one side would withold the creepy ridiculous threat and violence all the time. A pox on both their houses
Vet sounds vaguely bad ass

Renee Yeah the vet stepped into the alpha and showed no fear

Sparky: Daaaamn I am officially impressed
He just out bad-assed everyone

Renee Scott can't afford a new phone...I guess that is the class difference between him and jackson

Sparky: Kinda. Still doesn't explain the huge echoing house.

Renee I agree with you there

Sparky: Now the parents are getting angst
I really want this woman to be eaten
Oooh chest and bondage! (yes I went there)

Renee Look at those eyes sexay

Sparky: MINE
Ok this woman needs to be eaten.

Renee Wait new bad guy torturer

Sparky:: Oooh look, more romantic stalking! nothing says true love like your boyfriend watching you every moment - especially when asleep and vulnerable
Heh, he fell amused

Renee Just took a page from Twilight

Sparky:I wish Edward Cullen had fallen.
Damn, I thought Jackson would have had some level of redemption
But again note them managing Allison
All hail Stiles

Renee Yeah Stiles told him

Sparky: There's motivation for you! :) ABOUT TIME he unleashed some werewolf on Jackson

Renee Well Jackson needed to know who he was dealing with and maybe now he will think twice about threatening a werewolf

Sparky: Oh gods "never frown, someone could fall in love with your smile" the worst ever saying
Oh not more highschool drama

Renee Oooh Alpha in her mirror

Sparky: Intrusive? noooo... damn stalky
Why is she still there? call security! Mace him. Knee to the balls, come on woman!

Renee She is in a public place why not just tell him to leave forcefully

Sparky: Instead of just standing there and being a rabbit
Damn, they still haven't eaten her.
They're going to draw parallels between her and Allison & Scott.
When did she go there, what kind of logical leap did she make? Intuition

Renee And she has figured out that Scott is the werewolf
It does not make sense that leap at all

Sparky: yup, psychic leap. Just ebcause Derek fell for her, why would that mean Allison has fallen for the other werewolf? this is logic?

Renee On Teen Wolf it counts as logic

Sparky: oooooooh teeen angst. Mother give him a slap. It's called a high school crush
7:50 PM me: Please she is not smart enough to realize that sewing that rip is going to make it hold

Sparky: oh could this get more saccharine?
Pass the vomit bag
So she's set him up for his clothes to rip mid dance. Y'know everyone needs a horrendously embarrassing moment at school, right?
Oh Jackson, you know how to make someone special don't you?

Renee If he is going to be sipping from that bottle all night, she cannot drive him with him

Sparky:: who needs werewolves to kill you when you have drunk drivers?

Renee Who wears Hugo Boss?

Sparky:: pretentious older men. I'm more an armani guy myself
How did this alpha even get in? Do they often let random men crash teen dances in the US?

Renee Yeah it's pretty easy to crash a dance or at least it was when I was a kid

Sparky:: we must be more paranoid over here - unknown unattended men are demonscarymonsters it is known!
Wow the guys here really know how to flatter ladies and make them feel special

Renee I know get up off your pretty little ass and dance

Sparky:: Still it's nice to have Lydia appreciated for her mind.
oh. DO NOT!

Renee Great ow he is dancing with Meris

Sparky: oh my gods, stop this.
I cannot believe they went there. Especially considering how many teens HAVE gone through crap because they couldn't bring a partner to the dance. They make it look like a teacher is angry at 2 men dancing together, at a school dance. And they use it as comic relief?

Renee He just used him and that was disgusting

Sparky: Not. Impressed.
Oooh Jackson may be eaten now.

Renee Jackson is as staggering drunk as I predicted he would be and now the mimbo is going into the forest

Sparky: Of course! Horror movie survival strategy - go off alone to dark scary places!
Oh. Ok, he could be shot. Shot's good. I'd prefer eaten but I'm flexible, the werewolf hunters can shoot him
Pass the vomit bag. More saccharine teen drama
Jackson's taking a promise from the hunters with big guns and accepting phrases like "we'll take care of him" uh-huh
Behold the power of magic saccharine words on girls! Allison's all googly now.

Renee Just like mommy said

Sparky: Are all these teens going out for a midnight stroll alone? Is it some kind of horror School convention - every teen must make themselves a perfect target for a serial killer at least once?!
Scary Alpha! that was well done. There, True Blood take note - CGI

Renee They have done a really good job with the Alpha, I hope HBO is taking notes

Sparky: Do you think the werewolf hunters know allison is there?

Renee I don't think that they do but I wonder if Scott is going to blame Allison


Renee The best part of that episode was the reveal if ask me

Sparky: I don't think they knew, her dad didn't want to tell Allison
The reveal and the alpha threats
The rest was a bit... teen drama-y. Not a lot happened

Renee I was going to say that it was almost worth all of the angst.

Sparky: yeah I think so - I still enjoyed it, butit sdid feel a bit like I was hanging around waiting for the good stuff

Renee I know and they didn't really explain the vet

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thoughts on Season One of Supernatural

When Sam Winchester is six months old, is father walks into his nursery to find his mother stuck to the ceiling burning.  Sam's father John, orders his brother older brother Dean to take Sam outside.  After Mary's death, John raises Sam and Dean to hunt supernatural predators in the hope of one day killing the demon that is responsible for Mary's death.

In the opening scenes Sam retrieves Dean who is attempting to get into law school and create a different life for himself because John has gone missing.  Sam promises to help for one weekend but quickly gets drawn back into the life. They move from town to town hunting and killing predators for no pay.

I know that this show is set in the mid west but it is extremely White with the exception of episode 9  and episode 13.  In Home (episode 9) Loretta Devine makes an appearance as a wise cracking psychic.  Devine is an extremely talented actress and she is absolutely wasted in this role because she is nothing but a sidekick with sass. To make matters worse the entire episode is spent trying to save a White woman and her children from a spirit living in Sam and Dean's childhood home.  Apparently, Devine has spent years watching over that house, while John, Sam and Dean were out kicking immortal ass.  She knew the Winchester men would need her help one day.  Yeah, I am not impressed by this at all.

In episode 13 Supernatural decided to deal with race.  It was enough to make me thankful for the previous erasure.  In this episode, Dean was contacted by his girlfriend.  Her father died under mysterious circumstances and this concerns him.  It seems that there is a racist truck killing Black men in the city.  When the ghost tries to kill Dean's girlfriend her mother reveals the awful history of racism in the town and tells everyone that her father killed a White man who was disturbed with their inter racial relationship.  To make matters worse the ghost that is killing Black men also burned down a church filled with people before he died.  Does anyone else recognize the history?  For me it brought up visions of the bombing of the 16th Street Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  In fact, I am quite sure that this is where the writers got their inspiration and it is wrong.  How dare they appropriate from one of the most heinous civil rights era terrorist acts to tell one of their little ghost stories. To virtually erase Blacks from the story only to have them hunted by a ghost and then saved by two White men is absolutely racist fuckery.

Review: Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas

Our hunt for new series to read is ongoing and often on our blogs, or the podcast we request new titles.  We are especially looking for books that are progressive and have good representations of marginalized people.  Because all of our blogs are social justice related we have a tendency to trust the recommendations. The following is the recommendation that we received for the Vampire Tapestry

I also recommend The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas for vampire fiction fans. I read it years ago but it's a very interesting take on the Vampire mythos with just scary good, brilliant writting..”

We need to thank you. Up to this point we were forced to constantly refer to Charlaine Harris’ Aurora Teagarden series as our example as the most fail possible.  It was awkward, because we were constantly referring to a book outside the genre and justifying it based in Harris’ urban fantasy series. But no more, now we have a book that is worse than Teagarden – a book within the genre that sets a new limit for awful. So, thank you.

I’m sorry, this review does descend into a lot of snark - but oh gods this book was PAINFUL. Honestly, we got through this only by emailing each other in snarky glee. This is also why this review is a collaborative effort. I warn for MILD spoilers but not many.

Ok, before we get to that I suppose we should write a brief synopsis. This book is several short stories linked together, following the life of Weyland, the vampire. The vampire is different from most in that he is presented more as a scientific, evolved creature more than a mystical being. He’s also the only supernatural being/entity/force in the book. In truth, the lack of any mystical elements makes me question if its even properly Urban Fantasy.

Anyway, Weyland is strong, heals well, agile and feeds on blood through a  spike under his tongue. he lives a long time through several periods of protracted hibernation, making him in some ways a time travel since he moves from era to era, separate by long periods of sleep. As I said, this story follows the vampire through 5 short stories. In many ways the story focuses on the people in these short stories rather than the vampire himself, yet again making me doubt the Urban Fantasy element because there’s so little focus on the vampire himself and far more focus on these normal people who, frankly, aren’t very interesting and we move on to a next set before they can becoming compelling - or even more boring

The book is also full of fails and because of this we’re going to have to address each story separately.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Teen Wolf Episode 10

Another week is another episode of Teen Wolf. We're continually impressed by how this teenage show keeps the angst levels down (occasionally anyway)  and how it remains both dark and with a deep nuanced story. It continues to hold our interest and this is one that was well worth our time. What follows is our discussion on episode 10.

Sparky: so mooore lacrosse.

Renee: Yeah I don't know why I should care
Sparky: And teen drama. Awww they're cute, like puppies.
Can we drown them now?
Is he ill?

Renee: No he is excited about going to the state championship

Sparky: Oh look, Allison is an object and a prize again
Why isn't Scott eating this guy yet?

Renee: I knew you were going to say that.

Sparky:I appreciate me some good mantitty :P

Y'know, I'm sure he has a full team of special effect guys to ensure dramatic entrance

Renee: Interesting that they can acknowledge the origins of lacrosse, but cannot have POC on the show

Sparky: Yup - is this the cookie?
Yeah, spooky guy doesn't have a great sales pitch, I'm just saying

Renee: Oh okay, the attack was to show him what they did to him

Review: Blood Rites by Jim Butcher, Book 6 of the Harry Dresden Files

The war between the White Council and the Red Court of the vampires continued to rage (in fact, it seems to include all 3 courts of vampires) and Harry Dresden remains at the heart of it as well as maintaining his limited income doing what jobs he can as Chicago's only wizard in the yellow pages.

Harry's life remains excitingly complicated. The Black Court is in town, perhaps the most dangerous and magical of the vampires and his old enemy Mavra is gunning for him with her followers. He has to take the fight to her before they succeed in bringing him down – especially since the Black Court can multiply so quickly and kill so many people. Meanwhile a new job pushed on him by his old almost-friend Thomas of the White Court leads to him trying to protect a porn studio from a powerful and random death curse as well as dropping him neck deep in White Court politics - and those pretty vampires are so much more devious and often more dangerous than their more brutal cousins. To top it all off, he finally learns more about his missing family – and how they're not all as missing as he had previously thought.

And as an added bonus, he also has to figure out how to pay a mercenary before that mercenary extracts his own payment and disturbing revelations about his mentor. Never a quiet life for Harry.

Yet another book in this series that I loved. Harry Dresden continues to grow as a character and managed to avoid annoying me when I thought it was inevitable in so many places in this book. But both his family angst and his working in a porn studio were handled surprisingly well – I wasn't bored and put off by the angst and Harry didn't skeev me out with all the pretty ladies. He still has a habit of over describing women, but the porn studio was actually handled with a level of respect and dignity I didn't expect.

I love how these books manage to have so much going on yet not feel crowded or padded. Too often when a lot is happening I feel there's a lot of extra nonsense getting in the way of the main plot, in this case everything seemed balanced, linked and, above all, relevant to Harry as a person, the meta plot and the world. I think this is the key to why I love the books – there's enough happening to keep them exciting, keep the pace going, keep it interesting and bring it all together without having all the excess waffle that is so common in the genre. The pacing and content balance is just marvellously done. It makes everything – from family angst to his mentor's revelations to the White Court machinations all just fit together really well.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, Episode 27

This week we discuss True Blood "Cold Grey Light of Dawn", Yasmine Galenorn's Darkling from the Sisters of the Moon series, Lauren Beukes' Zoo City, Kelley Armstrong's Bitten from the Otherworld series and Rachel Caine's Glass Houses from the Morganville Vampire series

Review of The Taste of Night: The Second Sign of the Zodiac by Vicki Pettersson

When we last left Oliva/Joanna she had rooted out the spy in the light, met the Tulpa and come to terms that are life had changed forever.  In The Taste of Night, Oliva/Joanna must live with the results of her decisions.  Though she has developed an attraction for Hunter, her heart still belongs to Ben.  The fact that she belongs to shadow and light continues to cause friction between her and the shadow warriors.  She fears that they will never trust her. Within the turbulence of all the conflicts, chief among her concerns is to seek vengeance for the rape that she just barely survived at the tender age of fifteen.

There was a lot of world building in this book, but it did not slow down the action in the slightest.  We learned how the comics are made which document the actions of the Shadow and Light warriors.  We learned that it is possible to kill the Tulpa and that we are quickly approaching a time when Oliva/Joanna will bring light to the world if she manages not to shift to the dark side.  In some ways the play between the dark and the light reminds of Star Wars and the Matrix. Of course, even when this approach was taken in Star Wars, it was not new, because it very much is a spin on the bible.  What makes Pettersson's Zodiac books different, is that this time, the chosen one is a woman.  I find this transgressive, because 'woman' has always been constructed as the downfall of man, rather than the savior.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Darkling (Otherworld Series #3) by Yasmine Galenorn

I’ve just finished Darkling, book three in Yasmine Galenorn’s Otherworld series. It is the first book in the series that I can claim to like. is too strong a word...let’s go with: I didn’t hate it completely. Not sure whether my semi-enjoyment of this book, as compared to Witchling and Changeling, is due to a more compelling main character or whether I have developed Stockholm Syndrome--that I have been held captive by this series for so long (These short books are loooonnnng reads.) that I am beginning to feel positively toward it.

The Otherworld series follows the half-fae, half-human D’Artigo sisters: Camille, a witch, Delilah, a weretabby, and Menolly, a vampire. The trio are Earthside representatives of a supernatural intelligence agency, and, at least in the inaugural books of the series, the only thing that stands between Earth, Faerie and a demon named Shadow Wing that is bent on domination of multiple worlds. If, as I hinted in the first paragraph, I find the series painful, why ever was I inclined to read the third book in the sequence? I find the foundation story of the Otherworld series compelling: Three sisters with varying supernatural abilities, refugees from a world in political upheaval, balancing personal lives and romance, while kicking ass and keeping the world safe from a demonic big bad. I can get down with that. It’s the writing that made Witchling and Changeling tough reads. Darkling is no exception.

Flame-haired natural acrobat and vampire Menolly is the protagonist in Darkling. Menolly is darker and more complicated than her sisters, which gives this book some weight. As we begin the tale, Menolly is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (though the book doesn’t call it that), trying to heal from the vicious attack that turned her into a blood sucker--a creature that even other supernaturals disdain. And now, Dredge, the vicious psychopathic vamp who turned Menolly has escaped imprisonment and is Earthside, hunting for Menolly and her loved ones.

The ambivalent vampire fighting her true nature is a mainstay of urban fantasy, but there is something compelling about Menolly. Any affection I have for Darkling is down to her, because the book has plenty of problems.

Review: Glass Houses by Rachel Caine, Book 1 of the Morganville Vampires series

Claire is an ultra-bright 16 year old college student. Away from home for the first time she arrives in Morganville – a Texas University town that happens to be controlled by vampires. And, having pissed off some vampire lackeys, she now has enemies – some of them with fangs.

Fleeing the dorm she arrives at Glass House, home of Michael, Shane and Eve all with their own secrets yet none of them in the vampire's pockets and all are willing to help her navigate the murky and dangerous politics of Morganville life.

Now she just has to find a way to get the vampires off her back, make her enemies back up and negotiate some kind of peace for her life.

True Blood: Cold Grey Light of Dawn

The very end of last night's episode left me screaming noooooo at my television.  Alan Ball, you sir are a supreme tease.  With Jason stopped by Bill's security will he manage to get away long enough to pull Jessica inside the house?  There are a lot of characters that I think are extraneous to the show but Jessica is certainly not one of them, though I could do without the Hoyt, Jason, Jessica love triangle.

Last night we got a lot of Eric and Sookie getting it on in various positions.  I wonder if Sookie has enough peas for her yahoo palace after that much shagging.  I don't know about you but the whole Eric mooning over Sookie thing has gotten old.  I love bad ass, take no prisoners Viking, and not the musty I don't want my memories back because you may not love me anymore Eric. Perhaps Sookie just brings the musty out in men.

When we last left Tara she was in the middle of a huge fight with Pam.  Fortunately for Tara, humans arrive and start taking pictures, causing Pam to leave.  After sending her girlfriend away Tara wonders along the road until she is stopped by Marni/Antonia and asked to join the coven.  As I watched Tara chanting in the circle I could not help but wonder if this is going to be her last season.  There have been rumors that someone big is going to die this season, and now that Tara has aligned herself in a real way against the vampires, I fear it might just be her.