Friday, February 24, 2012

Review of Duncan by D.B Reynolds Book 5 of Vampires in America Series

Once again, in the interest of being fair to D.B. Reynolds, I feel that it is necessary to disclose that I am not a fan of paranormal romance, so please keep that in mind when reading this review.

Duncan, Raphael's longtime second in command is finally ready to become a master vampire.  Though he will always see Raphael as his sire, it's time for him to have a territory of his own.  With that in mind Duncan travels to Washington with a few people loyal to Raphael and is met by some of his own children.  He kills Victor and becomes not only a vampire lord, but the representative of Vampires in government because his territory is Washington.

Duncan quickly discovers that Victor, the former lord was very corrupt.  Emma Duquet, who has no interest in vampires or their politics arrives in what she calls the embassy to find out what happened to her best friend Lacey.  It appears that Victor invited Lacy to one of his special parties and no one has seen her since.  Duncan promises Emma that he will look into the disappearance of her friend.

When Lacey is discovered dead, Duncan promises Emma vengeance - the only thing that can hope to bring peace to her broken heart.  Though Emma and Lacey are not actually related, Emma considered her, her sister.  They were both children of the foster care system.  Once again, we have a woman whose parents are missing, and who had a troubled background fall in love with a vampire.  Can this trope be anymore cliché at this point? 

Review: Greywalker by Kat Richardson, Book 1 of the Greywalker Series

Harper is a private investigator. Though that sounds a lot more glamorous than it is for the small time Seattle PI. At least until one of her clients tries to kill her and her injuries do cause her to die – at least for a little while. And when she came back, she could see things she never imagined existed.

Now able to see an experience the Grey, she is faced with a world where ghosts, vampires and witches all demand her attention – and her client list has certainly become both more interesting and much much more frightening. Faced with a vampire coup, a lost vampire child trying to find his way in the world without a mentor, and a mysterious client seeking a haunted artefact; Harper has to investigate in ways she never had before – and finds her skills as a detective and a Greywalker in much demand.

Of course, this very much results in her being thrown in at the deep end – and she must learn to swim even while desperately refusing to see the water.

This book was a lot more unique than I imagined – the mystical private detective/cop has, of course been done done and done again – but I’m continually surprised by how much it can be done differently. Harper’s abilities as a Greywalker still remain very much undefined and somewhat ambiguous – at this stage her powers are probably best described as super senses as much as anything else. This makes the mystical much more a focus of Harper’s adaption to the world she’s seeing

And that world is strange indeed. I still have a lot more questions than I have answers and this book has done a great job of introducing a world but not giving too much away – hinting at vast diversity without feeling the need to enumerate every creature and spell. We have vampires and revenants and witches and ghosts all inter-twined in different ways – and even these simple labels rarely encapsulated the full power and variety of each being. We saw at least 3 or 4 vampires that had vastly different abilities and numerous hints to magic and powers for all these forces that point to a lot more to come. To say nothing of the vast and complex nature of the Grey as well. Is it completely unique? No, but there’s a lot of fascinating twists on old concepts here.

While the plot starts slow it quickly interweaves 2-3 mysteries together. I was actually irritated that we had too much going on competing with each other, but then they came together to be connected and feed off one another. It was nicely done, just as I was getting lost and irritated, we then had one storyline fed by all three tributaries. I liked it, I was impressed, it was a great piece of writing.

Characterwise, Harper has a lot of competence. But I wouldn’t say she’s an overly amusing character and I found it really hard to like her or to identify by her. She isn’t hugely funny and she, naturally, spends a lot of this book being emotionally wrung out by the revelations of the Grey and the events of the book draining her. Very natural – but it mean she spends a lot lot lot of the book telling us how terrible she’s feeling, how sad/tired/aching/overwhelmed she is etc. I don’t want to say the character spent all her time whining, because she had good reason not to be happy… but, yes, there was a the character being unhappy and letting us know. This, coupled with her shock and denial (both natural) also make her acerbic, sometimes unnecessarily so, to people around her, including people who don’t really deserve it. In fact, sometimes she’s downright unjustifiably harsh. She doesn’t make any really ridiculous decisions in a Spunky Agency sense, albeit her motives are a little questionable at times. She’s independent, wilful, determined and driven… but, well, she was more effective than identifiable.

Paranormal Cinderellas

'Cinderella's Royal Table' photo (c) 2010, HarshLight - license:

Looking at so many Paranormal Romance series the title of this post isn’t just a cheesey line from an 80s hair band (don’t judge my taste in music), but for the female partner in so many of these stories, an accurate summation of their lives. Time after time, we see these women live unpleasant, hollow, painful or just plain dull and uninspiring, hopeless lives and suddenly, all is saved and rescued by the man - who is sexy and exciting and magical and special and gives them a reason to live again! One could call it, saved by the penis. We see it so often - in JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, Anya Bast’s Elemental Witches, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter Series, Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling Series, DB Reynold’s Vampires in America Series and so many more - this post was actually getting ridiculously long from the examples we were adding

In Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter Series we have Grace Alexander (the world's most unqualified sex therapist, all sad and lonely), Amanda (messy break up, arsehole ex, actually dedicated to making her life as dull and boring as possible), Astrid (the justice nymph who has lost her faith in there being any innocent men in the world), Cassandra (literally on the run for her life, hunted by Daimons and doomed to die in a few months anyway), Bride (bad breakup, low self-esteem), Susan (career and love life in tatters): even Marguerite (living her father’s expectations, not her real life) and Tabitha (aimless and drifting) were somewhat lost.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood - I’ve already touched on in detail, but again we have Beth, Mary, Marissa, Bella, Ehlena, Cormia, Payne - the same pattern, women with miserable, unfulfilled and generally unhappy lives before their men swoop in. They’re lonely, they’re sad, they’re desperate - they’re even ill or severely injured (Mary, Payne) or shunned and ostracised (Ehlena, Marissa) and frequently they have been physically rescued from kidnapping (just about every damn one of them).

In Anya Bast’s Elemental Witches, Mira has a dead end job, has come from a messy divorce and doesn’t even know she’s a witch. Isabelle exists for revenge and has no life outside of avenging her friend (which she doesn’t even achieve!). Clare is a demon’s handmaiden and is, yes, rescued into a completely new life and Sarafina? Yes, again rescued from kidnapping.

And do I need to talk about Nalini Singh Psy/Changeling Series? The Psy women are living in societies that are slowly destroying them and repressing them. They’re cut off from their emotions and Faith and Sascha are literally being driven insane by the lives they are forced to live. In fact, except for the 2 shapeshifter women, Indigo and Mercy, all of the women of the series are being rescued or healed from something.

And after being saved? He is now their lives.Partly because their lives were so wretched before - but they are so often willing to uproot everything, completely transform their entire lives to now live the lives of their man. They often move into his house, concentrate on his life, his mission, his goals, his dreams, his purpose. They don’t make a life together, they live his life and she becomes an adjutant to that life.

And, pre-empting the excuse, yes, her life would often be secondary to his simply because her life was so empty and less important and mundane compared to his fantastic, mighty powerful life. But that is part of the problem as well, part of the trope - these women are written to have nothing but him - they’re set up to have a disposable existence that can be thrown away as soon as the much more important man comes in

Even in cases in which the protagonists are strong and accomplished women, invariably when the love interest comes on the scene, all of the hard work that she has done to establish herself goes out the window so that she can integrate herself into his life.  In the case of Lyndsay Sands Argeneau series, time and time again, we have capable female protagonists who either go to mush at the site of a man, or they are quick to exchange their very lives all of the honour of being their spouse.  Living forever and passing out each time you orgasm might sound great on the face of it, but you would think that at least one of these women would be arsed to ask about the downside of this before opting for the fairytale ending. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Being Human (US) sneak previews

Review: Shadow Fall by Seressia Glass, Book 3 of the Shadow Chaser Series

Kira is faced with a lot of revelations in this book. Balm has presented her with a package full of all the answers to the questions she always asked. Who her parents where, why she has her powers, why she was raised by the Gilead – a Pandora’s Box of answers, if Kira feels she can face them. But some truths are hard even for the hand of Ma’at to face.

Even simpler truths abound – such as exactly what she feels for Khefar, the 4,000 year old Nubian warrior who remains the only man she can touch and who is sworn to destroy her if she falls to shadow. And then there’s her friends – and what they feel about her after her many brushes with shadow magic.

But more than that, she has to face a shifting understanding of the world – of the shadow magic inside her, as a part of her and with both the Lady of Balance and the Lady of Shadow having a claim on her as much as the Light did. And if these questions weren’t hard enough, she suddenly finds her advisors silent – Balm, Ma’at and Anansee. What she does have in their place is the Lady of Shadow – and Set, the Egyptian god of Chaos who is also staking his claim on Kira

Story wise, I’m afraid I wasn’t enthralled. A large section of this book is spend with Kira realising she has Shadow magic in her as well as Light magic and that it isn’t infected into her, it’s actually hers through her ancestry. She has to deal with recurring nightmares of Set, the very avatar of chaos in her own pantheon. And this is huge. I mean, after so long believing all things shadow is evil (and for good reason. In fact, brief tangent, if we’re going to talk about “order” and “chaos” and “balance” it would help if the shadow weren’t presented as entirely and utterly evil) and then realising that it makes up part of her ancestry? Believing she has this evil in her blood? Believing she is going to be inexorably pulled towards this evil – something she fears so much that she asked Khefar to not just kill her but unmake her entirely should she succumb? Yes, this is going to disturb Kira. She is going to spend a lot of time very upset about this, very worried about this and spend a lot of time being, well upset and worried.

So I’m not concerned with it being realistic… but it is a lot of the book spent on this. And while it makes sense that she would be rather overwhelmed by it, I just don’t find it a particularly fascinating read – as the turmoil just keeps going on and in great detail. And it doesn’t help that there isn’t a great deal of other plot to balance it or hold it down. It’s ironic really because Kira continually laments how little time she has but doesn’t seem to actually do an awful lot.

We also have a scene were Kira decides to witness the werehyena challenge for succession. Which she does and it’s interesting, gives an insight into a few things and general fun to read but… it adds nothing to the story. It’s just this orphan scene dropped in there for no apparent reason. There are other similar scenes – like the big tense showdown with the banaranjan on the top of the Gilead building. I’m not saying they’re bad scenes – they’re not, they’re good, they’re interesting they add to the world and I enjoyed reading them – and normally I wouldn’t mention them. But these scenes, added to Kira spending so much of the book in self-analysis and worry and general little attention to the main plot line until the end of the book. The plot line, when it arrived, was epic, powerful and full of great climactic scenes of awesomeness – but it was a bit late coming

I repeat again, these weren’t hard or boring scenes to read. Nor was Kira’s upset unrealistic, out of character or in any way wrong. But I would have preferred more focus on the main plot, reaching the main plot earlier and generally more involvement of the main plot. I still enjoyed reading all of these scenes and thought they were well written and added to this wonderfully rich and complicated world. I love this world, I love the forces of light and shadow, the three ladies of light balance and shadow. I love the ancient Egyptian pantheon, love the different magics and the vast number of different hybrids and not just following the same tropes of vampires and werewolves.

Cover Snark: Weapons Are A Girl's Best Friend

So this week we’re going to look at that most essential of accessories - weapons. Yes the shiny killy things. After all, so many of the protagonists in our series are fighting for their lives against the very worst that the magical world can throw at them, it’s reasonable that these people should be carrying something to keep them safe.

Unfortunately, even this simple necessity can be done so very... oddly.

Now this cover is actually several kinds of shiny... buuut, what does she actually intend to do with that sword? At the moment it seems to be mistaken for a handbag. This is my long sword by Gucci, isn’t it fabulous? While few action poses work well on these covers - all too often they’re an excuse to display T&A. But actually holding it as a weapon would be nice - a bit less dainty.

Interview with Diana Rowland!

Today we have a very special podcast - an interview with Diana Rowland! One of the authors we love to fanpoodle and author of:

My life as a White Trash Zombie

And the Kara Gillian Series:
Mark of the Demon
Blood of the Demon
Secrets of the Demon
Sins of the Demon

All of which we've loved :) Let the fanpoodling commence

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Alcatraz: Episode 7: John Mckee

We open with the mysterious threesome. Emerson Hauser and Dr. Beauregard are standing over the comatose form of Lucy Banerjee/Dr. Sangupta who will not wake up. I am so curious about these three –how much does Hauser know? And how come Beauregard and Banerjee be in both the past and the present without having aged? These constant hints, clues and mysteries in Alcatraz really make the show. Dr. Beauregard suggests Emmerson read to her to try and encourage her to wake up – give her a reason to. But it’s far too emotional for Emmerson. I’m impressed, this episode started with such an emotionally powerful scene.

And this weeks’ villain is Johnny McKee, a poisoner who likes playing with cyanide and wiped out most of his high school reunion back in the day. And in Alcatraz poisoning his preferred targets as well – and in the present day bar patrons, a swimming pool and… the subway

He quickly comes to the attention of Dr. Soto (playing Starcarft geek love) and his computer skills with his poisoning going viral on youtube so the chase is very quickly on. Starting with speaking to Jack Sylvane, the man they caught in the first episode who had the cell next to Mckee. Questioning him makes it abundantly clear the prisoners don’t know how they came back (and gives a hint to Rebecca about Beauregard and her grandfather giving blood all the time in Alcatraz – I love these little hints of the story coming together)

Review of Purification by David Moody: Book 3 of the Autumn Series

When last we had left the survivors, they had managed to find shelter at a hidden military base.  Here they believed that they would finally have respite from constantly being surrounded by the dead who seemed to want nothing more than to tear them apart. With nothing left to do but think about the future thanks to the fact that they have been sectioned off from the military the survivors being to hope for the day when the zombies will finally finish rotting and stop being a plague. They worry that the day will come when they are sent out to get more supplies because the soliders embedded at the base are still subject to the poison in the air that they are immune to and they wonder about how this terrible event all started. 

The safety of their new residence quickly comes into question when they discover that they are so surrounded by the dead that the air purification vents aren't functioning properly, thus forcing the military to look for a solution.  When this turns out to be successful the military attempts to push their advantage, leading to disastrous results that cause the survivors to leave and search again for somewhere safe.  Is there anywhere left where they can potentially be free from the continuing threat of the dead?

Fortunately for them, the have a chance meeting with a helicopter pilot who tells them of a small island, which had a tiny population.  Suddenly a ray of hope is presented to them.  Could they actually find a place to build a life and finally stop running?  Is this humanity's last stand?

For the the first time since the virus was unleashed, the survivors think about what the future might hold.  It is then that they realize that simple things like running to the corner store for a pack of smokes. Not running and not fearing for their life every moment of the day, forces them to process the things the horror of everything that they have seen, and those that they lost. Even blunting these emotions with alcohol is not an option as the days of a jot down to the local pub is no longer possible.  With each passing page, as a reader I could feel the weight of loss and change even as I kept rooting for the survivors not to give up.

Being Human U.S. Season Two, Episode Six: Mama Said There'd Be Decades Like These

I don't about you, but I really liked this episode.


Josh is cleaning rooms at the hospital when he realizes that one of the patients is actually Sally's mother Rena.  When Rena finally dies and runs into Sally in the hallway, it is clear that Rena is actually happy to be dead because she lived a life of so much pain.  She wants to go off exploring but Sally reminds her that they need to check in her father.  At the funeral, Sally catches Rena making out with her former neighbour Jerry Patterson.  It seems that they had an affair for years and when Jerry died, Rena was forced to mourn in silence because of the illicit nature of their relationship.  Sally is horrified with the knowledge that her mother is an adulteress and while she stays away from slut shaming, there is a level of clear disappointment.

For the first time ever, Sally is forced to realize that Rena is a complete human being.  This really struck a nerve with me. Rena says, "It hasn't occurred to that you parents could be individuals, you know have a life of their own." All Sally sees is that her father did not abuse Rena the way that Danny abused her.  She feels betrayed by her mothers love for Jerry. Sally is further hurt that Rena had no idea how she died and to her it seems that though she has been waiting for her mother to comfort her, all that Rena is interested in is Jerry. Rena makes it clear that she loved her husband and Sally but that she is entitled to this. It may have seemed selfish to Sally but I think that there is so much pressure on mothers to put themselves last.  I don't agree with having an affair but I do understand the need to find some happiness in this life. Once one becomes a mother, that is expected to be the entirety of our identity.

In the end, the two women come to some sort of closure. Rena feels that she has failed Sally because Sally lived in an abusive relationship and died because of it.  She feels that though Sally is dead she is still holding on because she is residing in the same house that she died in.  In this she sees nothing but sorrow for Sally and I think that she has a point.  

Wednesday Reboot: Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider was released in 2007 and stars, Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes and Sam Elliott.  It's Marvel character, stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze. I really didn't expect much from this movie, as Nicholas Cage has been appearing in everything and anything recently to try to regain some of his lost fortune, however I must admit that I was pleasant surprised.

The movie begins in the old west with Carter Slade, who is that generations ghost rider.  His job was to pick up the signed contracts for Mephistopheles, until he comes across a contract that contains 1000 souls and realizes that he cannot let the devil get his hands on it and so he did what no other ghost rider had ever done, he outran the devil.

In present day, Johnny Blaze is a young man working as a motorcycle jumper with his father at a carnival.  He is in love with Roxanne Simpson and is desperate to run with her.  Johnny realizes that his father is desperately ill and in his dreams, Mephistopheles convinces him to sell his soul to save his father's life.  Johnny believes that this is a dream until he wakes the next day to discover that his father is healthy.  With his father healthy and Roxanne's family about to move her away, because they feel that he is not worthy of her, Johnny makes the decision to leave and build the life that he wants.  His father goes on to do the stunt by himself and falls, dying in Johnny's arms.  Instead of meeting with Roxanne, he drives right be her, leaving her standing in the pouring rain.  He sold his soul for love, but it got him nothing. 

Fast forward to the future and Johnny Blaze is not a bit of a celebrity for his skill of jumping motorcycles.  He takes riskier and riskier jumps, trying to prove to himself that it is him doing his stunts and out of a determination not to live in fear. What he does not know is that Mephistopheles still wants the contract and that he is competition with Black Heart to get it.  Black Heart wants the scroll to have enough power to take over Mephistopheles' roll.  When Mephistopheles realizes that he cannot defeat Black Heart in this sphere he decides to send his rider after him.  This is when he strikes a new deal with Johnny.  If Johnny destroys Black Heart and hands over the scroll, he promises him that he will return his soul.

Interview with Diana Rowland

Today we have an Interview with Diana Rowland, author of My Life as a White Trash Zombie and the Kara Gillian Series both of which we have fanpoodled muchly

Come join us at 6:00pm EST at our usual podcast address

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kitty's House of Horrors by Carrie Vaughn, book 7 of the Kitty Norville Series

Kitty Norville has been given a new opportunity to garner more publicity for her radio show – reality television. Yes, some rather dubious studio has a plan, gather the few celebrity supernatural beings together – werewolves, vampires, psychics, sorcerers, put them in a cabin in the remote wilderness while filming them all as if it were Big Brother. Sounds like fun?

Well, things get considerably less fun when people disappear. And the power goes out. And the phones stop working. And then people start dying.

Suddenly the monsters are the hunted ones and there are booby traps and guns and bombs and a hidden enemy lurking the forest trying to pick them off one by one.

At this point, the only thing left is to try to survive and try to escape.

Ok, after a brief problem in the beginning (which I’ll get to) I liked this story. I liked the novelty of it – the monsters being confined and hunted so. I liked the tension of it – it was really well paced and the suspense was built beautifully. I liked the character dynamics, everyone was unique enough to be interesting without any convoluted tension or dubious interactions that made no sense. Everything was natural, tense and a little scary

And speaking of scary, I’m impressed by how the enemies were made to be scary. Considering the powers in the house, the different kinds of preternatural creatures, it would be easy to just think “why doesn’t Kitty and Co just walk out the house and eat them?” but we never get that. The enemies, normal humans, are always threatening always a danger and never once do you just think “they’re just human, eat them!”

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 13: What Happened to Frederick?

I think this is going to be a romance episode as we begin with Princess Abigail (Kathryn) who is betrothed to be married to Prince James (David) meeting with James’ fake father – remember of course that James (David) really loves Snow White (Mary Margaret).

Wow that beginning sounds awfully soapy.

Prince James is doing a runner from his own wedding day, avoiding his father’s guards only to be ambushed by other guards – Princess Abigail’s. See, she knows Prince James loves Snow White and she isn’t all that fussed about marrying James either so is quite happy for him to escape and for both of them to be free from matrimony. Because she is also in love – with a Frederick.

But Frederick was a knight who bravely saved her and her father from being attacked and, unfortunately, got a bit of the Midas touch in return and is now a very very shiny statue. What will save him? Lake Nostros’ special water guaerded by a fierce beast – which Prince James will go seeking to grant Princess Abigail happiness (since James is doomed to unhappiness since Snow White told him she didn’t love him last time – long story).

The fierce beast is a siren, of course. And she turns into Mary Margaret to make with the seduction but James is too in love for such silliness and makes with the stabbing, collecting the water and freeing her true true love.

Meanwhile, considerably less exciting, in Storybrook, Kathryn (Princess Abigail) and David (Prince James) are having a most awkward meal together. And Kathryn has applied to and been accepted for Law School – and wants to move them to Boston, to a fresh start – and, of course, away from Mary Margaret (Snow White). Time for a walk with the woman in question who wants them to be honest and tell her! After all if they can’t be honest with other people how can they be honest with each other… ok, I admit that the logic of that statement somewhat bemuses me and I don’t understand why Mary Margaret doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to grasp the idea of telling someone the truth but lying to other people – I mean, she’s a teacher! You’d think she’d be smart enough to grasp the concept of selective honesty – but let’s just go with it for now.

Review Lost Girl Season Two, Episode Seventeen: The Girl Who Fae'd with Fire

I was completely thrown for a loop with this episode.  Finally, finally we have some back story involving Hale.  

The clan leaders are slowly being killed off.  It begins when Marisol is immolated in her office and Dyson and Hale show up to investigate.  Hale has to immediately recuse himself because he is the heir to clan Somora, a rival clan.  This leaves him time to talk Kenzi about his issues with Dyson and to convince her to be his pretend girlfriend at the once century summit.  Kenzi says no, until Hale pulls out a list of all of the things that Hale has done for her. Can I just pause to say that the tendency to refer to friendship between men as bromance is annoying.

Bo talks to the Ash and he wants her to partner with Dyson to figure out what is going on.  He tells her that the timing of these attacks is critical.  The Ash is hoping that she can gain their support to help fight off the Garouder. 

When Kenzi meets Hale's family it is clear that they are not pleased to see Kenzi.  Val even refers to Hale as a human hugger, and Kenzi as a cheap, ill bred mortal. They see Hale's involvement with Kenzi as a stain upon their family, and for his father, yet another thing to deal with from the disappointing son, who turned out to be a siren. It is clear that Hale's father sees being a siren as effeminate.

Santiago is clearly charmed by Bo and is quick to blame Dabner for the death of Marisol. As they discuss who may be the guilty parties, Val has her hand on Dyson's leg under the table.  When Mr.Santiago makes a toast, Val tells the maid to "wash the silverware the human uses at least twice."  When Hale attempts to correct his sister, she changes her instructions and tells the maid to "just pitch it".

At this point, Kenzi cannot take it anymore and begins to storm out of the estate.  Hale stops her and tries to calm her down, but Kenzi feels used by Hale.  Alright, there is definitely some class issues going on, as Kenzi is poor, and Hale's family is rich, but I think that the attempt to round this down to bigoted fae people hating humans simply does not work -- especially considering the treatment of race in Lost Girl.  

As much as Lost Girl hates to label things, there was a race dynamic in this setting that made me uncomfortable. It played too neatly into the whole, but Black people are bigoted too defense, that is often engaged in by Whiteness to excuse its behaviour. Because we are talking about the fae, as viewers we are supposed to suspend belief and take a leap of faith and trust that isms don't apply to the fae world.  I think I could have taken this leap, had the writers not waited until a full season and half to give Hale some backstory. The writers may feel that their work is free of racist influences, but that is an impossibility, because anything produced in a White supremacist state is infused with race. Making race invisible, and then having people of colour act as tokens repeatedly, is a sign of race, or more specifically racism in action.  When this is added to a scene in which a Black family hates Kenzi based solely on her identity, it is a complete reversal of identity politics. In many ways, the behaviour of Hale's family absolutely negated their presence on the show. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, episode 53

This week we discussed Vampire Diaries where Elena got told repeatedly (thankfully), being Human (US), with issues about consent and domestic violence and the Walking Dead which has Shane who is not yet dead (alas).

And of course, our book of the Week, Sins of the Demon by Diana Rowland whom we fanpoodle muchly

We also discussed who had read the most… difficult books. And which ones we should make make Tami read

Review: Sins of the Demon by Diana Rowland, Book 4 of the Kara Gillian Series

People are dying around Kara Gillian again… though apparently from natural causes. Except, they all died the same improbable way, and they all have one connection – Kara. People Kara had every reason to want dead.

Then we have portals, hidden portals around the city, all of them linked both to each other, and to the mysterious deaths. There is something big behind them – but who and what that is a long and confusing mystery.

Along the way we learn so much about Ryan, about Kara herself, about the world and all with more surprises than I ever imagined to come.

All in all, I can’t summarise more of the plot without giving important things away, because it’s so subtle and so wonderfully put together. It’s also very focused with limited side plots and distractions.

I did not see so much of this book coming. I’m still kind of shocked from it. It’s rare for any kind of detective story to so completely catch me by surprise, but this one blind sided me. I didn’t even come close to imagining the bad guy was the bad guy – but nor was it ridiculously convoluted or unimaginable. More, the clues were beginning so early and they were there and I could see them – little things she did, little changes, the sort of thing you don’t realise the significance of until looking back and then you go “oooooh, I see it now!” And isn’t that a classic sign of a good detective work?

And the story and the mystery was perfect. Honestly, this was a complete “can’t put it down” moment. There’s so much to the world and the pieces are all there but they’re not coming together and I was just driven to keep reading to find out what exactly what's happening, what’s behind everything, what are all the secrets. The whole huge world is coming together and revealing more and more of itself in fascinating ways, the mystery, the demons, the plots of the demon lords – it’s fascinating and intriguing and exciting and fun. A great combination of police drama with fantastic supernatural elements

Some of the praise I have for this book is praise that I’ve said before for the series, but it needs repeating because it’s just as good in each book. We can clearly see that Diana Rowland has police experience. I don’t think there was as much class commentary in this book, but nor do I think there was the opportunity for it though we did see, yet again, a powerful official trying to abuse his position and how common and easily it is done unless the rank and file (and police chief) are furiously resistant to corruption. If anything, this book was much more personal to Kara, it was more about her than any of the other books and very much about cementing her relationships as well. Interestingly the pacing for this book was still excellent, and I say excellent because the story didn’t have a large number of side-plots to fill the gaps either. Usually any detective story has quiet moments that need filling to keep the story moving and tense – but here we had Kara’s own life and relationships to fill the gap that were more than entertaining enough to keep things moving.

The Walking Dead Season Two, Episode Nine: Triggerfinger

There were a lot of things that bothered me about this episode.  Instead of doing a recap, I think that we would all be better served if we talked about the issues.

Let's begin with Lori, and her killing of the walkers.  After she gets out of the car, she goes back to retrieve her gun and then she shoots them.  This did not make any sense to me at all.  At that point, Lori was clear of them and she was more than capable of out running them.  I don't understand why she would risk a shot, when it has become a well established fact in the cannon that loud noises attract walkers.  It seems to me that the sensible thing would have been to only use the gun when cornered.  I think that this plays into yet another example of a woman on The Walking Dead making ridiculous decisions.  Granted, this one is not nearly as bad, as her getting into a tizzy for absolutely no reason, and deciding to go after Rick, Hershel and Glenn in the first place.

Speaking of Glenn, why oh why is he always the one put into a position of endangering his life?  Rick doesn't even ask Glenn how he feels, he simply orders him out of the bar to go and get the car, though he knows that there are armed men outside, and the place is crawling with walkers. In and of itself, this scene wouldn't have been that bad, if Glenn were not constantly used as bait.  It is further telling that he is one of only two regularly reoccurring men of color.  

If that were not enough, when Glenn finally returns to the farm, he feels guilty about letting Hershel and Rick down.  He feels that because Hershel saved his life and he froze, that he did not pull his weight.  From the very beginning, Glenn has been very active for the group.  When they were still camped outside of Atlanta, it was Glenn who saved Rick's life.  It's also worth noting, that if Hershel hadn't gone on a bender in the first place, none of them would have been in that situation. But yeah, Glenn feels guilty for letting them down - this in an episode in which Rick said he had no guilt for killing two human beings.

When Glenn gets outside, he is shot at by a Black man, who is quickly taken out by Hershel.  My first thought was that this incident is yet more proof of the race problem on The Walking Dead.  Not only was this man shot by Hershel, he quickly became walker food.  It was Tony, the other man who was shooting at them that Hershel, Rick and Glenn end up saving.  Once again, the White man prevails.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Shit Kenzi says while flirting!

Because we love us some Kenzi and she has some of the best lines in Lost Girl

And a great inside look at Lost Girl:

Review: Sleight of Hand by Jason Salafali & Jennifer Hopkins, book 1 in the Immortal Champions Saga

I started reading this book with a fair amount of hope – I often find co-written books curious. I like to see if the styles blend well together and if those 2 people work well together you can have an excellent book. It’s almost like having an inbuilt proof reader, everything written is re-read and checked almost as soon as it reaches the page.

As I read, I clung to what did seem appealing. The characters are extremely diverse racially and there’s a broad cast each with their own issues and agendas. There’s a teenaged romance in there which, I expect, would bother me over time but apart from that the underlying concept of the story is an intriguing one – a demon born as a human, unknowing of his past and his heritage, coming of age and into both his power and his memories. As well as facing the actual agenda of his demonic siblings.

The world also looked interesting. While not unique, it had definite suggestions that it was going to be rich and truly epic with one of those grand “the world hangs in the balance” conflicts that always appeals. Yes, I like the epic, I do.

Unfortunately, after 100 pages, I’m afraid I just couldn’t continue. These characters, the plot, and the world is all depressingly defeated by a writing style that wasn’t so much a barrier to enjoyment, but a giant brick wall to understanding.

The sentence structure is stilted. With lots of short sentences. Written like this. Over and over. And it’s really annoying. It’s also very over-written – a man is running down stairs to confront the mob breaking into his home, and we get an elaborate description of the bannister. The wording is, frequently, ridiculously melodramatic and everything is described in excessive, grandiose terms. It actually feels very immature, with its convoluted style, excess description, excess inserts and general difficult sentence structure, and some of the most stilted and clumsy conversations, and most awful info-dumping (including a classic “as you know…” dump) I’ve ever seen.

I have to transcribe a couple of passages to adequately convey why I had such trouble reading this book
“These two figures stood within the expanses of the Underrealm. It was a place veiled in total darkness. No human new what form it was in. If you were one of those who screwed it up, up there, then you went down, down there, where they were waiting for you.”