Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review of 'Succubus Dreams' by Richelle Mead

I unabashedly love this series, yes, yes, I do.  Succubus Dreams actually read more like a paranormal romance than a straight up urban fantasy book, but not even that could diminish my desire to find out what happened to the protagonist Georgina Kincaid.

Kincaid walks into a bar to find Carter, three angels and human sitting together.  Joel, one of the angels clearly does not like or trust her. At every opportunity he is downright hostile towards her.  Carter and his crew of angels are clearly up to something but realizing that it is pointless to question them, Kincaid stays to have a few drinks.  At the end of the night Carter asks her to let Vincent the human stay with her while they are on their secret angel mission.  Kincaid reluctantly agrees.  

Feeling left out of the angel intrigue, Kincaid continues to work at the bookstore and date her mortal boyfriend Seth.  Things seem to be going well between the two of them but they are constantly having little arguments.  Kincaid hides her painful memories and Seth complains about the lack of communication between them.  If that were not enough, the imp that Kincaid sold her soul to, comes to town with a brand new Succubus, who becomes Georgina's responsibility. Just when things seem like they could not get anymore complicated, Georgina begins to have vivid dreams about that which she wants the most - a child.  The problem with these vivid dreams is that each time they happen, they drain her of all of her energy.

Throughout each book, we are continually reminded that what Georgina wants the most is a child.  Mead makes a point of reminding her readers that this is an impossibility, because Georgina is a succubus. Even though Georgina has had a history of heartbreak with many men in the thousand plus years of her immortal life, it is the inability to be a mother that seems to haunt.  When motherhood was first mention in Succubus Blues, the first book in this series, we are told that there was social pressure for Georgina to become pregnant. It is fair to say that during that period in history, a woman's value lay strictly in her ability to reproduce.  I can understand the internalization of such ideas then but Georgina has had over a thousand years to shirk this pressure, yet all she seems to want is the 2.5 kids and the White picket fence.

Teen Wolf Episode 12

It's the season finale of Teen Wolf! We have to say this series was far better than we anticipated. We expected lots of teen angst, lots of pointless moping and the other staples of the genre – and yes there's been some – but much less than we thought. The characters have been fun, Stiles as been awesome, the bare chests have been yummy – all in all a good find. Definitely way exceeded our expectations (even if those expectations were low)

Renee: One of the few times I understand the female character fainting

Sparky: It's almost unique - a realistic and justified faint!

I have a feeling we're going to see a lot of drama and angst this episode.

Renee: Yeah but so far it makes perfect sense

Sparky: ewww a period joke. Nice to see we're mature about life and death.

Sparky: Wow, at last Argent has discovered his sister is not to be trusted. About damn time.

Renee: Throwing his sister out of the house no less

Sparky: My gods, for the first time ever I agree with him. I actually want to cheer

Renee: Where are they taking her? They said Allison needs warm coats

Sparky: Stay quiet, shut up and conform - yeah good lessons there Allison. Let's have this woman shot as well please.

Oh Allison and whats-her-name are going to go on the warpath. You know they are, no way they're going to run

Renee: The alpha dumped the nurse in the truck oh his car and announced that he got better as a way to justify killing her

Sparky: Ugh, can we have some people who aren't evil? Or can we just kill the whole lot of them

I'm in favour of mass death.

And less teen angst. Less teen angst would eb good too

Renee:: it's justified teen angst. It would be different if it were angst for the stake of angst

Sparky:: Truuue, but I still have low angst tolerance.

Blood hell, could they possibly pack in more product placement?

Oooh spooky alpha werewolf voice. Nice to see some money being spent on the scary effects

Renee:: Where is Scott going. I love the spooky

Sparky:: LOL, "his user name is allison, his password is also Allison" "still want him in your pack?" yeah, too stupid to be a werewolf :)

I don't know but the spooky and the sound track is actually kind of awesome

They're doing some great job of tension and drama building here.

Renee:: Yes and the background scenery is awesome. I hope Alan Ball is taking notes

Sparky:: Spend some money HBO!

Allison's in the hospital seeing Lydia? Wasn't she supposed to be on the run?

Renee: That's what I though. How did she get to the hospital

Sparky: oh her aunt's indoctrinating her to loathe all werewolves. Tell me Allison isn't going to fall for that?

Renee:: Also she neglected to tell Allison what they have done to werewolf families

Sparky:: yup.

Alpha: I'm not the bad guy here. Well, y'know if it weren't for the random dead nurse and mauled Lydia, I'd ALMOST agree with him. Almost

Renee:: He is offering to make Stiles a werewolf

Sparky: Stiles would be an awesome werewolf :)

Yes yes yes!


Ah well, he'd be a lesser side-kick if he were a wolf too

Renee:: I suppose he would but I think he would have had so much more fun with it than Scott

He bit Lydia...dear lord the last person who should be a were is her

Sparky: I'd actually kind of like to see Lydia as a werewolf. I think she'd be great at ripping off Aunty Argent's head

Ooooh torturer going to get eaten. There's one off my list

Renee: Yeah and Scott is looking bad ass

Sparky: people have snapped. Let's get some killing please!

Y'know I doubt Aunty is going to live through this episode - or she'll probably end up on the run

KATE! That's her name!

Renee:: I want to see her eaten

Sparky: "stupid little teenaged crush that means nothing" OH MY GODS AT LAST! AT LASSSST! SOMEONE SAID IT!

Renee: How very true

Sparky:: I'd like to see him eaten as well - in fact all the Argents can be killed and eaten

Oooh chest (almost forgot)

Renee:: Looks like Peter is not that innocent after all

Sparky: No surprises there.

Stiles is about to lay some serious truth down on the Argents

Renee: OOOOh, Stiles is telling on Kate. Good for him for finally standing up to the Argents. I am sick of him bullying people.

Sparky:: Allison and Aunty are hunting. That's it - Allison can be eaten as well

Anyone that indoctrinated to hate so simply can be doggy chow for me.

Renee:: Here is worried about saving Allison and Allison is the one stupidly shooting them.

Sparky: Yep - wouldn't waste the effort saving her. The whole Argent family can be killed

Allison is shocked that Kate intends to kill them? Ye gods could Allison be more ridiculously stupid?

Oh and brother has finally clued in to her sister's behaviour?

Renee:: screw the warning shot, just shoot her

Sparky: Wow is the whole Argent family drinking funny water? The whole lot need putting down or at least locking in a cell

Oooooh big tense show down!¬ ZOMG TRUE BLOOD TAKE NOTES!

Renee:: I know and Scott should not fight to save Allison after she shot at him

Sparky:: So should not, if I were Scott I'd move to a nice safe distance, get myself some pompoms and start cheering. Give me an A, give me an L, give me a P, give me a H, give me an A!

Y'know when he tells his story like that, I kinda want to be on Peter's side. Shame about the random deaths

Renee:: Now Allison is cluing in

Sparky:: YES! She's dead! Kate is dead! Completely agree with it! Allison get a grip she was the greatest monster on this show.

Renee:: I know and then dumb ass just stands there after her aunt gets killed

Sparky:: And she has to be saved... ugh. Scott WHY? kill the Alpha AFTER he's killed the Argents

Still I do like me a good fight scene! And this is a good fight scene :)

Renee:: Wow the effects are freaking awesome

Sparky: Someone send this to Alana Ball NOW. SPEND SOME MONEEEEEY!

This is what we demand to see

Wow Stiles delivers quality smackdown to Jackson whining about his car "did you pay for it?" Niice

Renee:: I know I love that.

Sparky: Oh gods, please Allison tell me you're not going to spend all this fight whimpering in a corner

Renee:: With is Allison still doing there?

Sparky: Throw a rock, find your bow, shout obscenities, run away, DO SOMETHING?!

YES! She's not a complete waste of skin!

Hmmm, he's totally not dead. No, really, totally not dead. We know he's not dead. Future episode, he is SO coming back.

Great effects though

Renee:: Now time for angst and mushy music

Sparky:: awww, it's the epic post battle scene, I guess they're allowed

I take it back, it's been quite angst free

Renee:: oh oh daddy is waking up

Sparky:: Scott loves being a were really, you know it

They actually have a decent pack now - Lydia, Scott, Derek.

Lol, Stiles fails at stealth so much.

Renee: He's like a bull in a china shop

Sparky:: She's not a werewolf? I wonder where that's going. Maybe because the Alpha who made her died before she turned?

Renee:: oh what did Lydia turn into

Sparky: Jackson's STILL looking to be turned?

Renee: what an jackass

Sparky:: darwin award. Eat him

He's been drinking the Argent water supply

Ooooh red eyes and wild smile suits him

Renee: Yes it does and of course that is when Jackson starts to shiver

Who is this mean red headed chick

Sparky: I have a horrible feeling, they're swapping Kate, the violent dangerous, unstable woman for this new woman.

I sense a trope forming.

Renee: Yes, I think so as well

Sparky:: Allison, beware, all your female relatives are violent, murdering monsters.

Aww it's over

Ok, that finale? Kinda rocked. yeah I'm going to go with rocked.

Renee:: that was a great season finale

Sparky: several kinds of awesome. I will so be checking out the next season.

Renee: You will have to wait until next summer

Sparky:: what? damn sooo unfair :(

I'm being deprived! It's cruel!

Renee: Did you ever think that you would say anything like this about a show with the word teen in the title?

Sparky: Especially considering the tripe it was based on? I thought we were dooming ourselves to sit through another Vampire Diaries, with Elena's derath wish, Stefan's gloom and Damon's 3 facial expressions

Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep. Book 1 of the Elemental Assassin's series

Gin, the Spider, is an assassin. She kills people for money and she's very very good at it, even in a world with vampires, elementals, dwarfs and giants – she hardly even needs to use her Stone and Ice magic, her knives and training are more than enough.

Until a job goes wrong. Her employer has double crossed her and is now out to kill her and her loved ones to continue to frame her for a death she didn't cause. Working with her remaining family and a reluctant police officer who complicates things by being both extremely hot and enraged by her previous job killing his partner, she must find out who is after her, why – and avenge the dead.

I loved this book. No, I really did though for a while I didn't think I would. The characters are very real and very well developed, Gin herself is a wonderfully deep character with a nuanced and full portrayals. She mixes the vulnerable street kid she was, her familial angst (and yes, it's another Urban Fantasy protagonist with the Tortured Past. AGAIN) her desires, her drives and being a cold blooded assassin extremely well to form a full character. I found her interactions with Finn funny and very real – and even her interactions with detective Caine, even if the sex was a little contrived.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review of Raphael by D.B Reynolds

This is yet another book of the month selection from one of our reading groups on Goodreads.  This is yet another book that I would not have chosen to read because it is paranormal romance.  Unlike Love Bites by Lynsay Sands, there really is nothing to redeem this book. 

Cynthia is a former police officer turned private investigator. Normally, she does things like background checks and following cheating spouses, and so when Raphael and his vampires enter her office wanting to hire her to track down a kidnapped vampire, she jumps on the opportunity to do something new and interesting. The existence of vampires is sort of an open secret socially, but even with all the secrecy, Raphael's place in vampire hierarchy is well known.

What follows is the most contrived search for Raphael's sister, while he struts around glowering and showing just how strong and masculine he is.  Oooooh.  Of course, in typical alpha male fashion, Raphael sets his sights on Cynthia, who he calls Cyn ( isn't that an imaginative pet name), because she is resistant to him, though he can smell her desire (eau de wet pussy everyone).  Finally, in the middle of a gun fight no less, they find timeto deal with their desire - yes, I said the middle of a gun fight.  I know that this may seem inconvenient, but it's perfect for Raphael who only want's to deal with women who respect themselves.  If you doubt me, check out the following passage:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher, Book 7 of the Harry Dresden Files

There are some new big bads in town – necromancers, some of the darkest wizards out there, have arrived and they're all looking for the Word of Kemmler. Kemmler, the greatest and most horrendous necromancer that ever lived, left his remaining knowledge in this book – a book that could bring untold power to the most evil of people.

And in addition to the Necromancers, Marva of the Black Court also wants the book – and if Harry doesn't get it for her, she's going to ruin Murphy's life. To further complicate things, Bob the skull has a disturbing past and even more disturbing secrets with Kemmler.

The war between the vampires and the wizards continues with the Wizards suffering a major defeat, the remains of the Warders must turn to people they'd shunned to try and prop up their numbers and can't offer Harry even a tenth of the support he normally could expect.

And to make things even more complicated – the Fallen Angel Lasciel has formed a bond with Harry, a bond she desperately seeks to develop through manipulation, illusion, confusion... or simple helpful bargaining. And while Harry does all he can to resist her – how easy is it to resist such power and knowledge when it could help you save so many lives?

Harry has to juggle all this and prevent a faerie god of the hunt from ripping his head off or all of Chicago may be destroyed. A busy Hallowe'en indeed.

Review of 'Dead Iron' by Devon Monk

Dead Iron falls into the category of paranormal steampunk.  I really looked forward to this book when I saw that it was chosen as the book of the month by one of my Goodreads reading groups; however, that excitement quickly turned to dust, and I found myself looking for anything to do but read this book.  How do you know when a book is bad?  When you find yourself thinking after reading a few pages, hnmmmm,  I suddenly have a desire to clean the kitchen, or a do a load of laundry.  Yes, housework is more amusing than this book.

One of the major faults with Monk's work is how convoluted the story is.  First we have a werewolf named Cedar Hunt, who is considered an outsider in the small Oregon town of Hallelujah.  He has moved to Hallelujah in an attempt to forget his past. Hunt believes that he killed his brother, one night when the wolf's blood lust blocked out his ability to reason.  His wife and child are also dead.  Out of the blue, Rose Small, the General Store owner's adopted daughter tells him about a missing child named Elbert Gregor, and he decides to hunt him down.  Because Rose has told him that she believes that the boogeyman took the child, he decides to pay a visit to the Madder brothers, who seem to have a special skill working with stone.  Even though he has no connection with this child, he is willing to owe the Madder's a favor in order to secure their help.

If that were not bad enough, we learn that Hunt is a werewolf because he was cursed.  When asked what he had done to cause a God to be angry enough to curse him he said, "I walked on the wrong land.  Pawnee land. I did no harm other than to be under the wrong go's scrutiny." (pg. 193)  He then goes on to say, "Told me there were Strange rising in the land.  Told me I was to hunt them. Kill them."  Okay,  keep in mind that this is the 1800's, and that White settlers and the government are busy slaughtering, raping, and starving Native Americans.  It is absolutely problematic that the only time First Nations people are mentioned, is for one of them to choose a White man as their champion.  Has Monk ever read a history book or had an actual conversation with a First Nations person?  Somehow I doubt it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Zinzi December is a animalled – aposymbiotic. She has done something bad in the past – she has killed someone – and since the mid 90s that has caused people to manifest their own animals. The animalled all gain a special power upon having their animal, but it doesn't compare to the widespread prejudice and hatred society shows them – nor to the constant threat of the Undertow. A darkness that chases and hunts down animalled when their companions are killed and stalks them until then.

Zinzi has the power to find things people have lost, following the connections of them to their objects. She has had a hard life, an ex-journalist who fell into drug use, the spiral of which eventually ended up with her brother dead and her carrying around Sloth, she now ekes out a living in the slum Zoo City, a derelict, crime ridden and poverty stricken area of Johannesburg with a large animalled population. Trying to get by in the face of prejudice, her severe drug debt she is pulled into a swamp of the music industry trying to find a missing pop starlette who is tipped to be the next big thing – but has gone missing.

Then suddenly there are deaths, homeless people being murdered and going missing and a shadowy underworld to the music industry and her employers she never imagined.

Ye gods of mercy, this book was hard read. It's a crying shame since we were excited to find a book with a black protagonist and then it turns out to be such a damn battle to get through (Renee quit early, light weight!) It's LA Banks all over again, alas.

This book spends a lot of time providing insight into the world by having every chapter start with excerpts from documentaries, from scholarly articles, from magazine articles – even a 419 scam email. It illustrates the world well and it's actually an interesting way to both add world building and to add a lot more flavour and theme to the world. The problem is that they were very very long and completely broke up the flow of the plot which already had problems. We didn't need a long magazine article about a fictitious music industry. We didn't need an article explaining the troubled past of a music entrepreneur, we've already seen he has one, we don't need the details. We didn't need documentary excerpts explaining things about the animalled when we'd already been shown these things – you've shown us, you don't need to tell us. We didn't need an entire 419 scam email (and it's longer than any I've received!) and when we get random emails through the story we don't need all the details – To: from, cc etc etc quoted. Honestly, my gmail knows better than to show me all this excess info, so why is this author? We didn't need all this. It was long, it was excessive and it was distracting.

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, Episode 28

This week we discuss True Blood "Spellbound", Darkling by Yasmine Galenorn, Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep, Dead Beat by Jim Butcher, the Succubus series by Richelle Mead, Raphael by DB Reynolds, Dead Iron by Devon Monk and Love Bites by Lynsay Sands

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review of 'Succubus On Top' by Richelle Mead

After reading Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series, I did not believe that she would ever write anything that I would read, let alone absolutely embrace.  I read the first book in the series because a book club that I am involved in selected as the choice for the month and now I am absolutely HOOKED.  Who knew that she was capable of creating such a wonderful world.  This really makes me wonder what the hell went wrong with Vampire Academy.  Okay, maybe it's not fair to compare the two because the Vampire Academy series is YA and her Georgina Kincaid series is definitely ADULT. (yes lots of sex but at least it doesn't pretend to be anything other than vanilla)

Having promised to corrupt humans using sex to save Seth's memory of his love for her, Kincaid must balance her commitment to the Archdemon Jerome and her desire to nurture her budding relationship with Seth. Throughout the book there is a lot of discussion as to whether or not it is possible to maintain a romantic relationship with a man and not actually engage in sex.  This is an absolute necessity for Kincaid and Seth because every time she is sexually intimate her succubus drive takes over and she drains energy and life force from her partner.  Honestly, I see quite a lot of gender essentialism in this because of the constant real men need lots and lots of sexay times to be happy.  This approach also ignores that asexual people have romantic relationships all of the time.   

Once again there are not GLBT characters in this book.  In a town like Seattle this is absolutely ridiculous. I would understand if the book was set in a half a horse town in Iowa but this is not even remotely reasonable for a large urban center.  The book does have a saving grace however.  An incubus named Bastien comes to town with the idea to seduce Dana, the leader of a local fundi Christian group. We are told repeatedly that Dana is not only racist, she is rabidly homophobic.  I think that it is great that homophobia was addressed in this book.  At point Kincaid says, "I wanted to argue right there that I didn't think homosexuality was a "choice" for all people, nor did I believe there should be laws about who people loved. " (pg 165) Even as Dana tries to push Kincaid in to saying that she believes that gay marriage should be banned, Kincaid cannot bring herself to support her though she knows doing so may very well risk their opportunity to catch Dana in a compromising position.  I think this really makes a strong social justice stance and is the only time I have seen homophobia so directly confronted in the genre.

True Blood: Spellbound

I really looked forward to this week's episode but in the end, I found it quite disappointing.  Jessica got quite a bit of screen time this week.  The episode began with Jason bursting through the door to save Jessica from the sun.  I suppose this makes them even, because now they have both saved each other.  Jason cradles her and takes her back downstairs. While she is sleeping she dreams of breaking up with Hoyt.  The Hoyt of her dreams is pathetic and begs her to stay, but she bashes his head in, and then goes outside where Jason is waiting for her in a truck.   When she finally does tell Hoyt, he tells her that she is not good enough for him and that he wants a woman that isn't an eternal virgin and can give him children. He then revokes her invitation when she tries to reason with him.  Though what he said was absolutely cruel, he certainly has come a long way from the Hoyt who couldn't take a breath without his mother's approval.

Believing that she is free, Jessica then approaches Jason.  To his credit, he tells her that Hoyt is his best friend and that nothing will happen between them.  He then revokes Jessica's invitation and she goes flying out the door.  I have to admit that I really do feel sorry for Jessica.  She went from a controlling home with her parents to becoming a vampire.  She never really had a chance to get a firm knowledge of who she is and what she wants. It's so easy to over look the age difference between Jessica and Hoyt but he is asking things of her that she would have a hard time being ready for even if she wasn't a vampire.

In our musty moment of the episode, Sookie offers Eric her blood.  I never thought the day would come when seeing Eric on the screen irritated me.  It was particularly rough because Skarsgaard provided a lot of eye candy this episode however, the drug trip that they both took due to consuming each others blood really did not do anything for me.  Listening to Eric once again declare how much he cares for Sookie and his desire to run away with her, really turned me off.  It was almost a relief when Sookie told him that he is a warrior and would never forgive himself if he ran.

Alcide and Debbie participate in a pack gathering, where the alpha tells everyone that they need to stay out of the budding war between vamps and witches.  Debbie makes Alcide promise to stay away from Sookie but no sooner do the words pass his lips than he is off to make sure that Sookie is safe.  I have to say that I know that Debbie is not treat.  She is possessive, violent and quick to anger but I don't understand what is so special about Sookie that all the men in the area drop anything and everything to come to her rescue. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review of Love Bites by Lynsay Sands

For the purposes of disclosure, I must admit that had I known that Love Bites was a paranormal romance, I never would have agreed to read this book.  I am normally not a fan of paranormal romance, and try to avoid the genre altogether.  That said, I must admit that I kind of liked the book.  Yes, it had the usual boy meets girl, girl runs away from boy, and boy and girl get together storyline.  It was extremely predictable for a lot of the book, but I still found it entertaining and when it comes to reading anything, the ability to hold my attention is extremely important.  Unlike many paranormal romance books, I didn't find myself stopping because doing laundry seemed more interesting than reading this book.

I suppose I should give you a little background now.  Etienne is a three hundred year old vampire who suddenly shows up in Rachel's morgue with a gunshot directly to his heart.  Immediately Rachel finds herself attracted to the corpse however she calms herself when she realizes that what she is thinking about actually amounts to necrophilia.  Rachel is sick with the flu and when Etienne sits up and begins to speak to her, she believes that she is having a fever induced hallucination and promptly passes out.  Days later when he arrives in her morgue yet again he burned from head to toe but this time, a man intent on finishing the job actually mortally wounds Rachel when she attempts to save Etienne from having his head shopped off.  To be clear, she intervened because she thought she sensed a heart beat coming from him.

When she awakes next she is in Etienne's home and he is faced with task of telling her that he has made her vampire rather than letting her die.  What follows is one of the most humorous exchange that I have read in a paranormal romance book ever.  With references to neck sucking and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Rachel attempts to understand what has happened to her. Next comes a series of interchanges with Etienne's vampire family and I can tell you that in between the mushy lovey dovey vanilla sex, that the laughs keep coming.