Friday, March 1, 2013

Uprising (Fires of Providence #1) by Dawn Jayne

Tyre was a Herald, one of only 9 in his choir, the most powerful and isolationist of the angelic choirs and the only one that is not born human. He’s willing to act more than the others, helping them put humans on their chosen life paths in which they follow their plans and try to learn and grow as people, resisting the temptations of the Fallen. He’s the only one to risk it since the Fallen hunt angels – and they all desperately need the wings of a Herald to complete their set. But his arrogance brings about his downfall when he breaks a rule that no-one can overlook. The Heralds are now down a number – which means a new angel has to be tapped and past the trials in the human world.

Rise has had a hard life, adopted by an extremely religious and abusive couple she finally flees when she’s old enough to leave. She’s now struggling to set up her own life and find her own way and put those memories behind her. With few friends, it’s difficult but she’s managing.

Until Dominic enters her life. Brand new angel and deeply wronged by Tyre, the last thing he wants is to deal with another Herald, their power and their awful attitudes. But he’s nothing if not dutiful and he struggles to guide her down her path to ascension without telling her who she is – while also using her as the one Herald who is willing to be in the human world while the others become even more isolationist with the loss of Tyre.

This book gets massive points for originality, it’s certainly very different from most Urban Fantasy, and certainly most Urban Fantasy with angels I’ve see. The different choirs all with their own roles in adjusting, planning and guiding human souls on their life paths. The humans then plan and go through several; life times, facing challenges and temptations but learning and growing for each one until… I’m not actually sure what the end game is

But that’s because of how the world building is presented. Despite seeing the many different coloured choirs, no-one sat down and explained what each one did. No-one told me why humans were ascending, or why the fallen existed or what they did or why they were tolerated or why they were attacking angels. These things just were. And they just were because every relevant character already knew. There were no convoluted info dumps, no “as you know”, information is provided only when it would be natural and sensible for the characters themselves to provide it. And until then, we don’t get it – we don’t need it. Sure, if the book went on and there was just bad guys who attacked because they were bad, it would annoy me, but it didn’t. Things we needed to know were explained – but only as and when it became appropriate to explain it.

This is especially important in a first book where it is so tempting to dump all the information about your world in one great big chunk. It was well resisted and well presented.

And I quite like the two main characters. Rise has had an awful past but, unlike so many other protagonists with terrible tragic pasts, she isn’t using it for cheap characterisation nor is it an excuse for lots of sad monologues. It’s a motivation for her, it’s part of her life and she certainly has ongoing issues that stem from it which aren’t brushed over. But it is treated with respect without it being overwhelming. I’m still rather overdosed on protagonists with tragic awful pasts, but this was one of the better ones. I’m curious as to how her nature will develop, her somewhat callous, uncaring nature is presented as an inherent part of being the Herald – but there’s no exploration of her “I have to look after myself” being a potential result of her abusive past.

Dominic is also interesting if a little too perfect. The newly ascended angel on a mission to teach the Herald. There is an issue of him being harsh, patronising and condescending to Rise because of his contempt for the Heralds and his history with them – but it’s not only unfair but looks very skeevy considering the power he wields and how he uses her.

I like Dominic’s evolution from hostility towards Rise because of what Tyre did to him to slowly seeing her as a person; it’s a nice and reasonable evolution that involves some decent growth. Except, I think we’re heading from “I see her as a person” to “I see her as a love interest.” Especially when it came to the “I see her as a love interest and now trust her unreasonably despite despising her a week ago” which has led to the classic spunky behaviour we get in these instances. I think he was evolving nicely, then he jerked forward ridiculously and led to actions that fit the ending but didn’t fit the characters. similarly the ending didn’t work so well for me with Rise, since she went from “this is all so new and confusing” to “I HAVE PERFECT SUPER PLAN!”. I liked that she resolved everything with intelligence, calmness and skill rather than super powers, but it involved another jerk of understanding, a leap forward on comprehension on her part that I didn’t follow. The ending wasn’t bad, but it felt like both characters fast forwarded their development and knowledge to reach it.

The underlying premise behind this book is troublesome. These souls map put their human lives beforehand, creating challenges and temptations that they will then face and overcome and therefore move forwards. Sounds simple until you realise that the hardships and disasters these people face are not only pre-ordained but actively chosen by the people who suffer from them. In particular we have a woman whose daughter is kidnapped by a child molester and everything’s derailed because Rise interferes and saves the child – ruining the divine plan. She is WRONG for saving that child because the souls concerned have already PLANNED the child’s molestation and murder (the soul of the child sacrificing so the soul of the mother could grow and develop dealing with the grief and pain of having their child horrifically murdered).

Supernatural Season 8, Episode 16: Remember the Titans

So we have a man driving late at night, he’s drinking and he’s falling asleep at the wheel. This is not a great combination. And he hits someone, leaving him prone, unmoving and bleeding from the head. The driver gets out, panicky, sees the blood and jumps back into his car and drives off.

The next day, the victim is still prone by the side of the road, there’s frost in his beard – and an eagle is eating his liver. No, really. Hark, is that Greco-Roman mythology I smell? A police car stops, the bird flies off and the police officer takes the man’s pulse confirming that he’s well and truly dead. He turns back to his car to call it in – and the dead man takes a breath, his wounds healing, his skin losing its deathly pallor, he even loses some of the frost. He gets up and wanders off, much to the surprise of the police man.

At the Winchester cave, Sam is still spitting up blood and trying to hide the fact from Dean. Pish posh, what’s a little internal bleeding? Kevin’s still busy, Castiel’s still absent (but not for long… return to me angel!) and Dean’s getting edgy and noticing Sam’s caginess

So, time for a case – and Sam has the guy who got up after his car accident, reported as a zombie. They go to see the nice State Trooper posing as FBI and the policeman is quite happy to stick with the zombie explanation, which is actually kind of refreshing. The body wasn’t dragged because there were only 1 set of footprints. And no, he didn’t go wandering out in the woods zombie hunting, there are grizzly bears in those woods.

At this point a woman at a computer passes on a report from the coroner’s office – a man apparently mauled by a grizzly. It’s the same man (not having a lot of luck, is he?) The policeman declares him a zombie and advises the Winchesters to aim for the head.

They go to the morgue and find the body – and his liver has been eaten by a bird again. Dean is very disappointed  because it seems there’s going to be no fun  zombie killing action but while Sam and Dean argue about it, poor Prometheus raises from the dead again. He runs off and when Sam and Dean turn round, the corpse is missing. They quickly catch Prometheus and Dean places a gun to his head and demands to know what he is. He doesn’t know – he doesn’t know what he is, who he is – he just dies and dies and dies and dies and knows nothing about why and he’s on the edge of despair with it. He dies once a day as long as he can remember and then comes back (something Dean calls a “real life Kenny.”)  He says his name is Shane and they drag him back for testing

Silver blade, holy water et al none of which does anything. And Shane can only remember the past few years and he doesn’t even remember his real name. He was found on a mountain in Europe (Greece, perhaps?), an assumed avalanche victim and he doesn’t remember anything before that. Sam and Dean think he may be under a curse and set him up in the motel for the night

And during that night, a woman sneaks into his room. She stokes his hair and he catches her wrist. She smiles slightly and he asks who she is which surprises her – she realises he doesn’t remember. She raises a knife to stab him and he pushes her aside, they fight and Dean comes in when he hears the noise. He tries to stab her and she knocks him down relatively easily then sends Sam flying with a wave of her hand. Shane does rather a lot better, managing to disarm her and hold a knife to her face and demand her identity. She says “now, I’m your worst enemy” grabs the knife by the blade and disappears – knife and all – into a cloud of black smoke.

After the battle Shane is almost in shock, he’s never been in a fight his whole life – something that surprises Sam and Dean since he can fight as well or better than they can. The shock’s so bad he has a heart attack and dies.

Next day while Shane is laid on the bed Sam and Dean brainstorm. Who do they know who has “Jason Borne fighting skills, dies a lot and has a history of violent women” Dean points to Sam (it’d apply to Dean as well). There’s a knock at the door and a woman with a small boy asks if they know anything about the missing corpse. She’s Hayley and the mother of Shane’s son. She’s not surprised to see Shane dead.

She discusses their history – she was one of those who climbed the mountain and found Shane. But the first time he died and came back and she couldn’t deny it she ran – and had his son, Oliver, 9 months later and couldn’t find him again afterwards and it took her a long time to be able to start looking again and find him. Which is when Shane emerges, alive again.

Where The Exceptional Woman Falls Short

A lot of Urban Fantasy has a purported strong female character as a protagonist - though we’ve said before how much that “strength” is often little more than being a weapon. But we have these strong women, they kick arse, they take names, they are as powerful and strong as any of the people around them - in fact, they’re usually better with skills, powers and possess a will that eclipses everyone else. They are super special, immensely powerful and the supreme masters of their own life. They resist all authority, they are in charge, they are dangerous and they are strong.

But are these really showing strong women? We have several doubts about whether a strong woman as protagonist means a book is showing female strength or women as strong.

Firstly, there’s the fact that so many of these women are strong because of their special powers or Chosen One status. One example of the change that having superpower brings can be found in the Anna Strong series by Jeanne C Stein. Anna becomes a vampire through a forced act but then ascends to the “Chosen One,” because we certainly cannot have a female protagonist, who isn’t a super special snowflake. Chosen One status is absolutely necessary to be declared an exceptional woman. It all began with Buffy who was the one slayer in each generation and it has only proceeded to get worse. Whether it’s Rachel Morgan from The Hollows, or Sookie Stackhouse and her very special fairy blood, or Chrysabelle and her glowing white skin and gold tattoos from Kristen Painter’s, House of ComarrĂ© series; to be considered an exceptional woman you don’t need to be driven, smart, intelligent, or pretty, you just need to have some sort of woo woo which will make you desirable to others.

When these women decide to accept these powers (yes, I said accept, because there’s always a process of denial for the sake of angst) they need to decide how to move forward. This is where most writers will not only throw the Bechdel test out of the window, they will then drive over it with a steam roller to make sure that it is well and truly dead. We all know that there are no two snowflakes which are ever identical, but just to ensure that there is no competition for the title of Queen of the Woo Woo, exceptional women typically abhor all other women. This means every other woman is either competition, or a villainous “bitch” in some way. It took Anna Strong seven books to find a woman whom she could tolerate, who was not a blood relative. Of course, all of the women she has problems with are in some form of relationship with her male friends - but it’s not jealousy honest. Anita Blake started off with a friend but alas, like all relationships engaged in by exceptional women, it was short lived. Chyrsabelle has female servants and one female acquaintance....I suppose that’s marginally better than being an enemy to all women. Jaye Wells proved it’s possible that an exceptional woman can have a friend in her Sabina Kane Series, but they had better be a demon who is thousands of years old and of course male.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Blessed by a Demon's Mark (Kat Richardson #3) by E.S. Moore

 Kat has found some measure of peace in the strange town of Delai, even if things seem so very strange there. But she can’t remain – she made a deal with a demon to return and that demon is now using his mark to reel her in. With no choice she leaves her unusual haven, even though it feels more like an escape than leaving, and her old life with all its chaos and its pain rushes back in.

Ethan, in her absence has cemented even stronger ties with the Luna Cult. Worse, in her absence one of her brother’s murders has been pinned on her – and a powerful vampire countess has Kat in her sights – just as she is getting more people she cares about, more people who are vulnerable to being used and hurt to make her obey.

Then there’s Adrian, the Luna Cult rebels determined to drag Kat into their plans; the Left Hand of God is back in town, killing vampires and things remain eternally complicated between Kat and Jonathon. It’s almost enough to drive her back to Delai – until the demon shows her the truth about her erstwhile haven.

I think there’s probably one storyline too many in this book. or possible two or three too many. We have Kat’s ongoing issues with the demon, we have the revelations of Delai and what Levi is actually up tp. We have some unresolved issues with Adrian the rebel Luna Cult dragging Kat into her schemes. And then we have the evil conniving plots of the vampire countess who is gunning for Kat. We even have another vampire count that Kat pissed off for shits and giggles. There’s even the human hunters back for more killing and complications

That’s a lot of issues to deal with. I think part of that is intended as a way of showing how overwhelmed Kat is and to drive home the theme of the book which is Kat being pulled in too many directions with too many people having a hold on her. Still, I’m not sure if the return to Delai couldn’t have been handled in a later book, or Adrian pulled his grand plan in the next book. There’s just so many of these different threads that they distract each other and sometimes feel forgotten – I forgot Adrian was even looking for Kat until near the end of the book.

There wasn’t anything resolved in this book either. Now I love meta, meta is what keeps me plugged into a story, but it’s rare that a book can be nothing but meta; you usually have some sub-chapter of the book being concluded and there wasn’t one here

Still, the stories that are presented are great fun with lots of devious plotting I enjoy. I love the demon’s manipulations, Delai and its revelations are definitely intriguing and we all knew there was something sinister underlying it. I really want to know exactly who and what Adrian is and what he is plotting – I’d also kind of like to know why Jonathon tolerates Kat all things considered and if he has his own agenda. The ongoing theme of Kat becoming more and more beholden to more people, each of them having a lever against her is really well done as well – and shows how much her friends and loved ones are a weakness to her and leave her open to this manipulation.

Throw in some excellently well written fight scenes and a splash of gruesome horror and there’s some very fun moments in this book.

Unfortunately, this is the book on which I finally break on Kat as a character. I didn’t like her endless melodramatic angst in the previous 2 books and felt it swamped whatever vestiges of character she may have had. This book is the same - but even the angst is overwhelmed by Kat’s constant rage.

Kat is angry, really angry, all the damn time. No, she’s not angry, she’s rabid. She’s like a savage animal snarling and lashing out at everyone around her. No-one can speak with her without her snarling, snapping or advancing on them menacingly and that definitely includes Ethan, the human house mate she’s supposed to care about and value. I think she actually spends more time talking to her enemies than her friends, simply because her enemies have taken more precautions against her constant violent outbursts.

And the writing is still extremely long winded. We have endless monologues about just how very angry Kat is, her rage being sparked again, her fury rising etc etc.

Dark Angel Season 2, Episode 13 Harbor Lights

 Max and Logan are having a full blown angst fest after they got all excited last episode and never got to actually have sex. They are now very Frustrated and to deal with those frustrations, Max is trying to leave town for the day.

This involves a long queue for petrol while reading news stories about genetic mutants rampaging and even then the tanker is out of petrol before Max gets any – worse, a man demands patrol, asking how he can get to Portland and the cop tells him to prostitute himself to truck drivers (this constitutes the closest Dark Angel gets to touching on gay male sexuality in 2 seasons. Enjoy) and draws a gun in response. A stray bullet hits Max when she tries to save a child.

Max is rushed into hospital having lost a lot of blood. On the operating table she woozily tries to leave and demands the doctor do no tests, grabbing her arm with her super-strength until she is sedated.

A nurse calls Logan and lets him know she’s in hospital and he quickly arranges to visit and calls his doctor contact to get Max a proper false identity as Linda Eastman and checking whether anyone noticed Max is different.

The doc doesn’t have much trouble since the tests haven’t come back yet with their backlog (the doc who was working on Max complains that they ran out of sterile gloves the other day) and the only anomaly anyone noticed was Max’s vice-like grip. Logan arrives to reassure Max she doesn’t have to head for the hills, she can stay and heal, he has everything covered.

Except there’s a mix up in the samples and the lab tech mixed up Eastman with Eastwood. He tests Max’s blood and finds a super dangerous virus that is mutating! Panic panic panic! The CDC is called, quarantines and White’s group gets information about a woman with a barcode on her neck and sends a team. And Max wakes up to CDC people she isn’t especially happy to deal with.

White barges in pretending to be FBI to take Linda Eastman, which shows that, for a secret government conspiracy he knows sod all about how these things work. The CDC people inform him in no uncertain terms that when it comes to quarantine what he says goes. White is forced to crawl out but he’s worried about Max exposing them to the world.

Cult: Season 1, Episode 2 In the Blood

We’re on the set and Kelly is being showed a body by her partner (can we get a name for him, already?) who has been buried face down vertically. As in, they’re looking at the soles of his feet. Time for a 7 year old flash back to Kelly in a hole, head down, feet up with water lapping around her forehead (aaaargh, this, right here may be my very definition of Hell).  She’s raised up with a rope around her ankles, pulling her out of the well into the rainy night and swept into Billy’s arms. She’s really happy about this unconventional hair care treatment as he welcomes her to the family. Billy, I have to say right now if this is your initiation right, I don’t care if you’ve got immortality, a pet unicorn and the power to manifest bacon from the ether to all new initiates, you’ve lost me.

Returning to the present Kelly tells her partner that Billy is behind the murder and that it’s a message, for her because she was the closest person ever in his cult. On the floor, Kelly finds a coin – at which point Jeff, watching the show, pauses it.

He goes looking through his brother’s notes and desk – and finds a coin that looks a lot like it. At which point Skye wakes up from where she’s crashed on the sofa. They discuss hidden messages on the show, Nate’s notes and the fact the news hasn’t reported Miriam’s suicide (is the Los Angeles news likely to? Is it big enough news?) Jeff repeats that Nate told him to talk to Miriam – well, unless you have a medium it isn’t going to happen.

Jeff goes to Fandomain but finds the back room for Cult fans has been locked up after a second person was found inside with a concealed knife.  Jeff asks after Nate but the barman says he’s never heard of him. He notices Cult is on again and asks if they play it all the time – Creepy Eyed Fan regards him with Creepy Eyes. She’s Kirsty and she works there (Creepy Eyes suits her better).

Jeff gets a phone call – from Billy who says “I’m glad you’re one of mine now” when a pink haired woman says “boo” behind him and actually scares him. It’s E.J. a co-worker of Jeff’s who he asked to meet him. He wants her to check his laptop to see what identify theft software is in it (she is duly contemptuous of his “let’s load up this random dvd!” habit) and to check his phone to see if she can find out where the call from Nate came from – she’s also blatantly crushing so extremely hard on Jeff. She also has Miriam’s last name – Livingstone.

E.J./Jeff/Skye? C’mon you know there’s going to be a love triangle. It’s CW, there are rules! C.W. without a love triangle would be like HBO without gratuitous nudity.

At work Skye is approached by her colleague Paul who tells her about the Network exec who was going to lay down the law disappearing. This makes her get all worried and thinky and he tells her she needs to stop obsessing over the creepy creepy fans – shows need an edge and Steven Rae, the show’s creator, is obsessive about stopping all spoilers leaking and she may end up being suspected if she keeps poking fandom. The fans are fine

Time to see Kirsty, the creepy fan, in a warehouse full of dead animals with a Network executive tied to a chair, wrapped in cling film with his lips sewn together. I think she’s graduated well beyond creepy now. She promises someone on the phone she’d do anything for them, kisses the exec then tells a guy lurking with a knife to “do a good job on him”.

Jeff meets Skye to go and see Miriam’s husband (she’s there because she saw a woman commit suicide in front of her, she wants to know why) and Jeff shows her the call he got from Billy – she assures him it’s standard from the website of the show and nothing to worry about. Mr. Livingstone is packing to leave and is very hostile and won’t talk to them – when they push he’s so on edge he points a shotgun at them and demands they leave.

They go to the police station and for a second Jeff thinks he sees Kelly (who only plays a police detective on television) to see Detective Sakelik (and her Cult tattoo). They tell Sakelik about Livingstone leaving, his fear and extreme reaction but she tells them to back off, stop harassing the man and let her get on with the investigation.

Back to the show and Kelly meets Billy at the crime scene, she says he normally kills people with the upside down burial for betrayal and asks what he betrayed. Billy denies killing anyone and Kelly scoffs – he always uses surrogates to commit all his crimes. Billy says she’d know all about that – given how much she did for him and he wonders what her boss, Captain Brazil, would think about her record.

Back to the real world and Jeff asks more Cult fans about Nate who claim to know nothing. Skye checks Miriam and her husband out and they’re normal normal normal and more normal, nothing suspicious – except Miriam’s funeral is already scheduled, already for this afternoon. Jeff thinks this is a great thing since he can crash it and grill grieving relatives! This is totally not an awful idea guys

Which is when E.J. shows up, introductions follow, Skye meet E.J., E.J. meet Skye. E.J. become jealous angry and snippy, of course. While E.J. digs out her tech stuff Skye clearly clocks on to the huge crush and how Jeff’s “she’s a kid” is so inaccurate. On actual technical news, Jef’s lap top is now a paperweight, all data replaced with a squillion teeny tiny images that when enlarged turn out to be triskelions – of arms holding swords.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Strange Fates (Nyx Fortuna #1) by Marlene Perez

Nyx is the only son of the fourth fatem Lady Fortuna.  Unable to die and filled with rage, Nyx has decided to track down his mothers murderers, who happen to be his aunts - the three Fates.  For much of his life, his aunts have tried to kill him and now, Nyx is not only tired of immortality, he is tired of running.

After learning that his aunts have setup a business in Minneapolis, Nyx travels there but his mission to finally avenge his mother and die peacefully, are quickly sidelined when he meets Elizabeth.  Before he knows it, Nyx is not only working for his aunts in disguise, he is also hunting down Elizabeth's missing brother.  Time however is not on his side because the tracker is still looking for Nyx intent on killing him.  Can Nyx help his new girlfriend save her missing brother and stay alive long enough to finally get the revenge he has waited centuries for?

The setting for Strange Fates is very unique. Descendants of the Roman Gods all exist and practice magic in the present day.  They all bear markers of their allegiance, like a trident for Poseidon for example.  We are told that the Gods are missing, but the descendants manage to continue to wage their petty wars and disagreements nonetheless.   The concept itself should have been extremely compelling, especially for someone like me who is a bit of a mythology buff, but I found in many places that Strange Fates just fell flat.

Perez has an extremely repetitive writing style. The entire premise of Nyx being in Minnesota is to get revenge on his aunts and yet we are reminded of this continually throughout the book.  To make matters worse, Strange Fates is set up as a sort of mystery, but a toddler could have figured out who the bad guy was long before the story ended.  When this added to the convenience with which Nyx just happens to run into people, it makes the story absolutely simplistic.

Cult: Season 1, Episode 1: You're Next

We open with an interview of Billy Grim, a cult leader who provides “connection” to his “family”.

Cut to a man and a woman in a car, at night, driving to Myers Wood. She believes the place they’re going belongs to Billy – and that he has her sister and her sister’s son. And apparently the last victim said “well hey, these things just snap right off” they’re very very clear about the wording. The continue to be dramatic – because Billy wants her out there that night since she left the cult (more ominous music!)

They arrive and get out, she recognising a car from the cult compound. Inside the dark building there are clippings of her, Kelly a police detective, escaping the cult. She closely examines one of the walls covered in scrawl – and sees a face, there’s someone trapped in the walls. Yelling at her partner to cover her, she rips the plaster away, pulling him free. It’s Meadow’s husband, Douglas  - her sister’s husband. She desperately asks him where her sister and nephew, Andy, are. He says “well hey, these things just snap right off” then dies.

Cut out to the credits. Yes, everything we just watched was a television programme. But one fan in a cafĂ© (Nate) who is studying the show with waay to many notes tells his friend, Miriam, that he’s found something; she gasps that he’s “unlocked the next level”.  He leaves hurriedly.

At the film set, boss man Gary Fisher is approached by Skye, the super eager new researcher who has been surfing the net on some of the fan sights and found ones that actually try to hide. She describes them as having a special connection to the show and some of them seem kind of… scared. He dismisses her because, well, she is being several kinds of ridiculous.

Hah, Skye, welcome to fandom. If you aren’t afraid, you will be!

Move on to Jeff, a frustrated reporter who seems upset that his editor cut his piece on parking conspiracies (uh-huh) when Nate, the spooky fan and Jeff’s brother, calls him. He’s freaking out, which Jeff isn’t very impressed by, but agrees to meet him in a diner. They have a nice info-dumping conversation about how their parents are dead, Jeff being a semi-parent afterwards and how Jeff isn’t impressed with what Nate’s life, oh and I think Jeff has just come out of a relationship, I think. Info dump aside, he’s made contact with “them” last night and now they’re after him. Jeff assumes drugs – which is apparently a past issue with Nate. No, it’s not drugs it’s a TV show – but it goes beyond that. Amazingly enough, Jeff isn’t that impressed by this. Nor by Nate panicking when a red car appears – the same car from in the show that Kelly recognised.

Jeff refuses to listen to Nate, having dealt with his obsessions before and Nate tells him that if anything happens to him, find Miriam and he gives Jeff some glasses with red and blue lenses.

Cut to Skye and she’s working late- well, she’s obsessing over the fan websites she’s found. I know the feeling, sometimes you google your favourite show and 10 minutes later you’re cowering in the corner, staring at your computer in horror gasping “whyyy… bu- whyyyyyy?”

Jeff watches an advert for Cult at the petrol station and gets a staticy calls from Nate, trying to warn him, between the static we hear “hey these things just snap right off” then he disconnects. He doesn’t answer his phone when Jeff rings back

He goes to Nate’s house to check on him and finds a chair saturated in blood, Cult is on the television with Billy looking out.

Cut to later with him explaining things to the police and Detective Sakelik where he spills a lot of his journalist knowledge of crime scenes and is questioned about his relationship with his brother. And they find drugs – Jeff says Nate’s been clear for over year, perhaps not. He tries to convince them it’s about the odd things Nate discovered but the police think it’s more likely to be a disgruntled drug dealer. The television is still on, showing a recording of Cult

On the TV, Kelly is in the Cult grounds talking to Billy about her missing sister and nephew and he tells her she’s been warned about harassing him. She accuses one of his cult members, Joey, who will do anything Billy says – Billy turns around and points out Kelly used to be the same. She demands Joey returns her family but Billy says he has a lot of followers out there – pointing to followers working on the internet – and even he doesn’t know how many. Billy turns up the creepy and gives her a set of red and blue glasses, saying they could be handy. Watching the TV, Jeff pulls the glasses Nate gave him out of his pocket. The credits role, and show the programme’s creator – Steven Rae.

At the studio a man from the network talks to boss man Gary Fisher to try and get access to Steven who is something of an artistic recluse; he wants to meddle with the show to make it more marketable but Gary doesn’t think Steven will want anything to do with him. All of this is watched by frowney researcher Skye who also watches as Jeff is lead in, purporting to be the Post and writing a piece about the show. He tries to get to see Steven Rae but before he gets any further he’s quickly rumbled as an EX-Washington Post reporter. He protests about his brogther to try and stop him being evicted but they give him his marching orders – but not before he runs into the actor who plays Billy – and sees the red car his brother was afraid of.

Before he can leave, he’s grabbed by Skye and taken aside, she asks about his brother disappearing. He says all his brothers calls and texts have been deleted but she knows that’s easier said than done and retrieves them – he has a lot of recent call history and texts from someone called Meadow (that would be Kelly’s sister on the show).  They begin with “don’t do this, you don’t know what they’ll do to you,” before repeating “where are you” over and over. He tells Skye that he’s all his brother has and if he doesn’t try to find him no-one will

Being Human (US) Season 3, Episode 7: One is Silver and the Other Pagan

Aidan is lying on the floor looking all kinds of nasty from the werewolf blood Teen Wolf slipped him, Josh is heading home – which makes Pedigree Liam, Alpha Werewolf and Vampire Slayer (but only when they’re weak and helpless because he’s not THAT alpha) decide to drive on and not help Teen Wolf with her vampire slaying (what, you were facing down Josh with a gun earlier, but Josh with 2 cans of whipped cream is to terrifying a thought? Are you lactose intolerant wolfy? Because that artificial stuff hasn’t been near a cow). Maybe he’s afraid of Aidan because even full of wolfy blood he still manages to kick Teen Wolf into a wall of shelves. Which is when Josh comes in to find Erin unconscious and bleeding from her ear and Aidan unable to talk on the floor with werewolf blood seizure.

To the hospital with Aidan and Josh watching the unconscious Erin, Josh worries about making sure Erin comes up human on the testing, then asks Aidan what happened. Aidan tells him his supply was spiked with wolfy blood and that Erin likes to carry around a wooden stake and attacked him. Josh doesn’t get it and has a full on flail “she likes you more than me?! She likes you enough to make me irrationally jealous!” He’s very confused but thank gods we don’t do the whole “zomg Aidan you ate her!” foolishness.

No, Nora arrives to do it instead. She decides to blame Aidan and not listen for a second to what he has to say because… because… actually I have no damn idea why. She decides to threat Aidan for daring to defend himself – she’s really dropping in my estimations of a character. Time for a sit down with Nora and Josh at Erin’s bedside with Nora worrying about what they have to do and worrying about the collateral damage that comes from Aidan trying to be a better vampire. Yeah, that and the pesky self-defence thing. Which Josh explains – Nora doubts it instantly but Josh remembers that when Erin ran away it was Pedigree Liam who brought her back.

Hey this makes a lot of sense. But Nora asks why he can’t admit that Aidan has done something wrong… because it doesn’t make any sense. Aidan wouldn’t attack Erin to drink werewolf blood and why would he just randomly attack her? I ask Nora why she’s so determined to make Aidan the bad guy even in the face of common sense? Someone go home and pick up the damn stake already. Nora asks which one Josh would choose – her or Aidan. Aidan, love, because you’re annoying the hell out of me.

Elsewhere in the hospital Aidan goes to see Kenny and meets Blake – a vampire and she’s also dipping into Kenny’s blood. She tells Aidan that Kenny has finally met his maker. She says she’s been following Aidan –and any other vampire left standing, to find safe blood and believes it’s time for vampires to take blood with consent. Also, she wants to give Kenny the gift of eternal life. Aidan goes with the whole “no bad, bad idea no, no no no,” because Blake hasn’t told Kenny the cost of the “gift.”

As they leave he grabs her and makes threatening sounds if she’s compelled him. She points out he’s a 17 year old boy and she’s the first scrubs-free woman he’s seen in years, he doesn’t exactly need compelling. And the reason she’s doing the whole “eternal life is fun!” kick is because she may believe it – she’s 11. She thinks he’s jaded and he’s also special, sat at Mother’s side, son of war, purebred wolf killer. Seems Aidan has some almost worshippers among the younger vampire crowd- and she thinks the deal with Kenny is mutually beneficial.

Sally, meanwhile is off reconnecting with her friend Bridge (Bridget). Who thinks she’s managed to contact the other side and seen a ghost, to begin with, before heading off for lunch together. Bridge is taking things amazingly well and quickly leaps to the idea of Sally being undead, though she doesn’t like zombie. She wants to talk to her because she heard Sally, on some level, even when she was a ghost. But since that experience, Bridge has now become a wiccan and wants Sally to come with – which Sally is all kinds of doubtful about, but since it apparently is Bridge’s new life, she ends up agreeing

At the house Aidan pours away his tainted blood and Kat, Nora’s friend/tenant arrives to complain that her plumbing is acting up and she can’t get hold of Nora. After much awkward do-si-do Aidan offers to fix her pipes (not a euphemism). He turns out not to be a great plumber being archaic but they do have lots of awkward there’s-no-sexual-tension-in-this-room-honest and she’s capable enough to fix it. Oh and she’s a history buff and they have a geek-sexual-tension-moment over the Revolutionary war (is this is where we pretend that their sexual attraction is based on a meeting of minds and not on the fact Aidan is so hot he’s a fire hazard? Uh-huh)

At the hospital Josh has another empty confrontation with Pedigree Liam and Josh’s sister, Em, drops in because she had a lunch meeting with Nora where it becomes subtly clear that Em isn’t exactly Nora’s biggest fan but Josh wants them to be friendly because Em was so close to Julia. Em has put 2 and 2 together and realised Josh is close to asking Nora to marry him – so gives him their grandmother’s engagement ring, that Julia had returned to her when she thought Josh was never coming back. They have a discussion about marriage and divorce and how their parents’ break up was ugly and Josh wasn’t there and how she’s totally on Josh’s side.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

David Ullman is a professor and has spent his life studying literature about demons.  He is particularly interested in Milton's Paradise Lost.  From the very beginning he finds himself identifying with Milton what he does not know is that this identification will later lead him on a journey in which everything he has come to view as theory will be revealed to exist.  It's one thing to notice evil in this world, but what happens when that evil notices you back?

It is the end of the semester and David is asked to travel to Venice to give an expert opinion. Not only will this trip be all expenses paid but it comes with a payment equal to a third of his yearly salary.  This is not enough to tempt David until his wife informs him that their marriage is over.  David hops on a plane with his daughter Tess, not expecting that this trip will put him to the test and potentially cost him that which he loves the most - his daughter. 

The Demonologist is not the sort of book that you can fall asleep to because it demands your attention from the very beginning.  The themes are extremely complex and though Pyper avoids the use of academic language, the themes he explores absolutely require critical thought.  It is the sort of book that will leave you questioning long after you finish the last page. 

Because this horror is based on demons, to those who at least have a passing belief in the unseen world, The Demonologist will be terrifying. The tension slowly builds and each visitation of a demon becomes more and more intense.  It's the kind of book that you think twice about reading at night and that makes The Demonologist the best kind of horror. It is quite startling because at first, it reads like a book which could have been written by Dan Brown, and then shifts into something that is filled with Pypers own unique and talented voice.

Trickster (Ustari Cycle #1) by Jeff Somers

Lem is a trickster, which means that he uses his own blood to perform magic. This usually amounts to conning the non magical around him. He is always looking for the next big score but when he follows up on a tip, Lem ends up on the magical radar of an archmage, who is far more powerful than him. Suddenly, Lem finds himself in way over his head.  The archmage is planning a massive spell for which much blood must be spilled but Lem's interference, which led to the escape of  Claire, one of the intended victims, has put everything in jeopardy.  Lem must now balance his need to stick to his magical morals and his desire to stay alive.  Will he turn Claire over to save his life?

I am going to admit that I didn't get very far in this book.  After reading one hundred pages, in which women essentially were either whores or dead victims and Lem's sidekick person of colour reduced to a simpleton, I simply could not read another page.  Though it is obvious that Claire's character is meant to evolve into something more, the treatment of the women who had appeared thus far in Trickster, simply didn't give me hope for a good portrayal.  It felt like Claire was being set up to be a heroine that Lem saved. 

Lem said repeatedly that he is different from the other mages because he only uses his own blood. It's clear that this a moral choice but at least as far as I had read in Trickster, no explanation was offered.  We were told repeatedly that Lem's way of life is extremely difficult and it is clear that he is barely surviving and so I could not help but wonder why he remained involved at all?  Would it really have been that bad to get a job? I think that question needs to be answered, especially because Lem outright refused to go any further in his training despite being told he is capable of so much more than the cheap tricks he engages in to survive.

Lem's side kick is Mags - an indigenous person. It's absolutely not original to have a person of colour reduced to a sidekick to a White protagonist.  From Somers description, it's clear that Mags is meant to be viewed as neurologically atypical, yet throughout the book, he is described as a simpleton, who seems to be lucky be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Throughout the novel, Mags is only praised for his strength and is continually attacked for his lack of intelligence. This is absolutely racist, abelist and offensive. In fact, Mags is essentially led around by Lem and seems to do his bidding like a helpless puppy.

This novel has been described as gritty, but from my understanding, all that makes it so, are the dead women and the disgusting treatment of Mags. Lem is drawn as a sort of anti-hero, but there is nothing that about him that is even remotely compelling.  His constant treatment of Mag made him unlikeable. 

I simply could not finish this book.  Between the virulent sexism and ableism, it was simply one fail after another.  If after 100 pages and the author has not given us a significant well drawn female character, there is little hope for change.  I have no interest in seeing women constantly described as victims and whores.  The story itself wasn't strong enough to overlook the social justice failures and in the end, I found myself wanting to do anything but finish reading this book.  Dealing with darker elements in any society does not have to be about bolstering privilege and oppression, but you wouldn't know that from reading Trickster.

The writing itself seemed to move slowly and read like a cheap B movie.  The kind that is so bad you're sorry that you paid money to rent it.  At some point, you just have to accept that you've wasted your time and move on and that is why I have decided to DNF this book.  

Time for some Angelic Fanpoodling

It is always wonderful to have some good news in these dark times. Something to brighten even the darkest day, something to have parades about.

It’s not world peace

It’s not the end to world hunger

It’s not even a signed pledge from Stephenie Meyer never to write another book ever, nor is it a collective effort on the part of humanity to pretend that 50 Shades never ever existed

No, it’s better

Happy Dance Time!
This means I don’t have to leave the blog for a little trip to America. I don’t have to ‘invite’ Misha Collins to my specially prepared cabin in the woods, and I don’t need to try to plant those subliminal messages into the brains of the Supernatural writers. My schedule just opened up!

I am reserving the right to hug the screen and whisper “my precioussssss” in every scene he appears though.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Fangs for the Fantasy Episode 106

This week we discuss The Walking Dead, The Vampire Diaries and Being Human (US). We also discuss out book of the week, the Kingmakers by Clay and Susan Griffiths.

Our next books of the week are:
28th February - 4th March: Brilliant Devices by Shelley Adina
4th March - 11th March: Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
11th March - 18th March: Summoning the Night by Jenn Bennet  
18th March - 25th March: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare  
25th March - 1st April: The Struggle by L.J. Smith
1st April - 8th April: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger