Friday, December 23, 2016


We're approaching the holidays guys - so expect low posting for us for the next week. We will either be too busy (and drunk), in food comas (spilling drinks) or faaaaaaar too drunk to write coherent posts

Or playing with new shinies (drunkenly)

Or cooking. So. Much cooking (while drunk)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Phantom Kiss (Chicagoland Vampires #12.5) by Chloe Neill

This is an intriguing little short story. It doesn’t particularly add to the greater meta plot – which, as I’ve said before – I quite like because I don’t like short stories and novellas to be actual canon books – in that I prefer them not to be essential reading

At the same time, I do like them to add something to the overall plot: like more exploration of a minor character, or a fun look into the “downtime” lives of characters who we constantly see consumed by action or some aspect of the world building that doesn’t really fit into the major plot.

And I suppose this book kind of does that in that we explore ghosts and paranormal researchers and what it means to live in a world as a paranormal researcher where the paranormal is demonstrably real as well as the extent and damage that ghosts can do

So, yes, that is technically a new angle. I just am kind of left asking “who asked for this?” was there enough about ghosts ion the main series to leave anyone thinking “I really need to know more about this?” I don’t know, maybe it’s just because it has been too long since I read the last main book but I honestly can’t say “ghosts, I need to know about this” is really the impression I got from it

I think maybe if we’d switched out the protagonist and focused more on Annabelle the actual necromancer, delved more into her powers and the world of ghosts rather than seeing it through Merit’s lens we would have had more interesting and fuller book. Instead it was kind of weird that she was such a side character in a book that focused on hauntings. Even, in some ways, that she decided to call the vampires for help at all. I mean, she’s the necromancer – this is your specialty, lady! Necromance already!

We have a random Obligatory Bigotry Moment that reminds me of Anita Blake so much. A random guest at Merit and Ethans wedding shower decides to randomly spout a lot of nonsensical bigotry against vampires (and I don’t just mean that bigotry is nonsensical because bigotry is – but this bigotry makes no sense. I mean, vampires want to eat us all? I get that attack. But vampires are lazing around on benefits? That’s just blatantly cribbing from real world bigotry) setting herself up perfectly for Merit to slap her down and then everyone to basically say “oh how rude”. Seriously she shows up at a wedding shower and then spouts open bigotry against the bribe? Yes this kind of thing happens – but all too often in fiction this is how bigotry is presented: someone doing something so overtly terrible that everyone, EVERYONE, would gasp at how rude it is. And they do it in such a way that it’s easily knocked down step by step while everyone nods and agrees. It’s rarely that easy, that overt or that simple. This isn’t depiction of prejudice as it is – it’s depiction of righteously vanquishing easy prejudice and feeling good about it.

The Walking Dead, Season 7, Episode 7: Sing Me a Song

Back to the main plot and Jesus and Karl have decided to smuggle themselves into the Saviour camp. Jesus, being competent, is now all hidden and stealthy and going to do stuff later

While Karl, not being competent, opens up with a machine gun, kills a couple of extras and is duly captured by Negan.

Since Negan has some delusions about being a nice guy or just likes to hear himself talk or sees something in Karl so decides to give Karl the guided tour. There we see the average Saviour grovelling and kneeling around Negan and with Negan playing random head games with people. It’s clear everyone is constantly on edge around him, waiting for him to lash out with one of his sadistic games.

That includes his “wives” including Frankie who actually speaks back to him several times. But in the end, like everyone else, she is under Negan’s thrall and is forced to tell on another of his “wives”, Amber. She has been “cheating” on Negan with her actual lover. He is offended that any of his wives are scared of him as he has never ever hurt them. Which is an excellent depiction of how ignorant and shallow so many people’s understanding of abuse is. He tells Amber that she can leave him at any time – but we all know there are consequences, we all can see how utterly terrified of him she is

Frankie puts it into words – when he protests he never hits them she points out they all know there’s worse than that. Negan is an abusive rapist – and the fact he never lays a violent hand on a woman doesn’t change that.

Of course, as punishment for “breaking the rules” her partner Mat has his face burned with a red hot iron. Which pretty much tells us Frankie and Dwight’s history. Both of them are clearly torn being lieutenants in Negan’s regime

“How do you sleep at night?”
“I don’t”.

Throughout all this, Negan switches between scaring and playing head games with Karl and trying to impress him. Negan has a weird relationship with Karl – seeming almost impressed by someone who, in his own words, should be battling teenaged angst but instead is so dangerous. He hears about Karl having to kill his mother and forces Karl to take off his eye patch and expose his empty eye socket. Karl alternates between being tough-as-nails and slightly scary and being scared and vulnerable – even Negan feels bad when he sees how upset Karl is when he describes how disgusting his empty eye socket is. Negan forgets he’s a teen but encourages Karl to embraced his badassery

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Moon Chosen: Papercuts Podcast

I recently had the immense cathartic and immensely traumatising fun of discussing the... details of Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast at the excellent Papercuts Podcast

I joined the usual awesome commenters: Cynna, Ollie and Robin at Papercuts along with Paige from The YA Kitten, and Maverynthia of who came together in suffering and snark to tackle this dread beast of a book

We suffered. Oh How We Suffered. Come listen to the horror

The Librarians, Season 3, Episode 5: And the Tears of a Clown

I’m not a fan of this episode. It had a rather heavy handed, trite message and not a great deal of character development. Oh we have some useful moments – a reminder that DOSA still exists (remember them?). And the concept that new Artefacts are being created and they have to build a whole new wing of the Library to house them. After all the ancient Artefacts are ancient because magic hasn’t been in the world for a gazillion years. Now magic is back – so new Artefacts can join the fun. This makes a lot of sense and also adds a whole new dimension of stories to open up.

We also have a really wonderful moment where Eve tries to keep Jenkins out of trouble because with the big bad darkness coming (which we seem to have lost for a few episodes) if the Librarians are taken out she can think of no better person to save the world than him – which I definitely agree to. But he also says there’s no way he would ever not come from her

Because he’s awesome, she’s awesome and they're so very awesome together

Ezekiel’s abs are also awesome which is pretty much the last awesome thing about this episode

They are amazingly awesome though

Anyway, we have a guy who has got his hands on one of these shiny new Artefacts and he promptly uses it to magically create a carnival. Anyone who objects to sudden carnivalness is brainwashed to become clown minions, fanpoodles or jugglers all declaring it to be the best thing in the world as well as causing themselves severe injury through over juggling.

You already know you’re dealing with a disturbing personality who wants to live in an eternal carnival and doesn’t think he’s in a lower circle of hell. And there’s some powerful magic at work that can have you live off carnie food for more than a month and not just die from horrendous health complications.

So, beyond a disturbing love of clowns and candy floss, why does this magically powerful man decide to spend his life in a carnival?

Because when he was an awkward teenaged boy he had a crush on a teenaged girl who liked carnivals so clearly creating an awesome carnival will make her love him forever.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Unbinding (World of the Lupi #11) by Eileen Wilks

Kai and Nathan are still in San Diego while Kai tries to heal some of the damage caused by the rampaging magical dagger in the last book

But it’s soon clear that destroying a magical artefact imbued by a god of chaos has ramifications. They may have foiled his plans, but the god of chaos is now out and he may be dead but he is powerful and looking to change that

All the while Kai still has decide what she wants to do with her life. She loves Nathan and she has a unique powerful talent the elves can help develop – but does she want to be the human in the Court of Winter, separated from her friends, divided from her culture and often derided by the oh-so-superior elves?


Definitely hmmmmmm.

This is my brain on this story:

Brain 1: It’s a book without Lily and Rule. This is going to be interesting because we’re going to get to see this world through a different lens. We’re going to see a different mind set and excellent part of the world setting that Lily would otherwise not notice. This is an excellent way to open up this world when we’ve excellently established Lily is the central protagonist so it isn’t a distraction

Brain 2: But but but, Lily was established as protagonist because she’s super awesome and amazing. And I’ve had several books of back stories to make me not only be invested in Lily but be thoroughly cheering her every move. Who is this Kai and Nathan and why do I care? They’ve had, what, one short story and a couple of cameo appearances? I am not invested enough in this people for them to displace my awesome Lily. They’re far too external to the main plot, the main battle etc to be really relevant to the rest of the series. It feels more like a spin off series – hey an awesome spin off series –but now these people are stood in Lily’s space. I don’t know half of these people We keep getting revelations and shocks about these people that completely miss because I feel like I’m supposed to have read 4 other books to actually know who they are

Brain 1: But this let’s us examine so much of the world building is accessible here! Lily sees the elves as an annoying enemy and is pretty much not that involved or invested in elven culture or world building and her practicality makes her tolerate the need for Cullen’s theorising but definitely not being willing to run with it. Kai is front and centre in elven culture, sidhe realms, dramatis personae who are constantly mentioned actually appear in this book. We meet them and the depiction of elven society is awesome – we have such an awesome building of a completely alien culture, different standards and values and ethics. As well as a really really interesting take on the concept of the Fae Queen of Winter – not just a queen of cold, but a queen of hard truths and a queen of the warm winter hearth. Definitely an original take

The Walking Dead, Season 7, Episode 6: Swear

I actually kind of forgot that Tara and Heath hadn’t actually been part of the Saviours storyline at all – and, in fact, for most of this season they were separate from the rest of the group because they were both on a harvesting expedition.

I think that’s a comment on the fact that both of these characters are such background characters with little or no real attention paid to them and definitely with no storylines of their own. They were there to fill in the crowd scenes and, this being the Walking Dead, to fill some inclusion quota before their inevitable tragic demise. So I was quite impressed and shocked by this episode that focuses so much on Tara

I like how this episode opens with Heath and Tara having, basically, an existential crisis. I think it reminds us a lot of some boiling issues that were happening on the show before the Saviours arrived and consumed everything

Health is horrified by the fact they outright murdered a group of Saviours on the say-so of the people from Hilltop. This reminds us, though it can be hard to remember at this point, that the Alexandria group is actually the aggressors against the Saviours. It was Rick who launched the massacre, it was Rick’s group that decided to be mercenaries and hire out their services as killers to make a trade with Hilltop. I think that’s important to remember, if not least of which to remember the direction Rick was heading in – which wasn’t a million miles away from where Negan is

It also reminds us of another division in the Alexandrians. The old Alexandrians led very sheltered lives. Heath and his fellows, are in many ways several steps behind the others in realising what then world is about now. His horror over what they’ve done and his realisation that it’s all kill or be killed now; a lesson Tara et al learned a long time before. But he’s still in the shocked mode and just seeing the world now all as every man for himself, the brutal story of survival. Of course, Tara has learned this but she’s also survived as part of a group and had chance (and happiness) and hope rekindles. It’s a comment really that Alexandria represented hope for Rick’s people – but their arrival shattered the naivety of the Alexandrians and brought despairing reality to them

This is an episode that does the whole broken timeline thing – which I hate so I’m going to shuffle things back in order. While scavenging, Tara and Heath are separated and Tara ends up in the river and washing up on a beach where she is found and helped (secretly) by Cyndie

Monday, December 19, 2016

Savage Prophet (Yancy Lazarus #4) by James A. Hunter

Yancy carries the Seal if the Horseman of War. His mind is being colonised by the demon Azazel and it’s a battle he’s losing

It would help if he could stop drawing on the dark power the demon offers. But with the world in the balance and another seal possibly falling into the hands of their enemies, he seems to have no choice. As he drags himself through horrendous, torturous experience after another, faces agony and horror and watches the Guild of the Staff completely collapse around him – can he really say no to the demon’s magic?

But if he accepts the demon’s help, does he risk being a greater threat than the very thing he’s fighting against?

The ongoing meta plot of this series now goes into high gear as the seals of the apocalypse and the archdemons who guard them are now front and centre to the storyline. We don’t just have Yancy stumbling across a situation that happens to be related to the epic ongoing battle on which the world rests.

This feels much more directed because of this, the grand fate of the end of the world and the consequences there are much more central. Even though that has been on the cards for a while, the last book felt more local, focusing on the Big Foot (big feet?) rather than the very world being in the balance. We definitely have the broader focus here. Along with all the epic conflict and fight scenes I expect from a Yancy Lazerous novel.

Perhaps because it is so focused, I don’t feel like this book is jammed with unnecessary fight scenes – not because there are less of them, but more because each fight as actually relevant to the overall plot line. In previous books if Yancy went to a bar, asked someone for information, pretty much anything, there would be a battle. I think one of the problems I have in taking Fast Hands Steve seriously as an epic enemy (beyond the awful name) is that he was introduced in a completely random unnecessary fight. Building a whole vendetta enemy out of a fight in a bar because Yancy can’t even play music without there being conflict going on really fails as a back story. Sometimes I feel Yancy eats BBQ in restaurants all the time because he can’t go to the shops to buy groceries without fighting ninjas, demons, and vampiric girl scouts.

Here all the action was on point

There’s also some devastatingly dramatic tension with Yancy confronting Fotuna after the horrendous things he suffers in this book. It doesn’t downplay or minimise the trauma nor expect Yancy to just breeze past it – it’s devastating and presented as such.

I also like Darlene

When we first met Darlene and Yancy dismisses her as an office worker way out of her depth, I waited for him to be proven gloriously wrong. I waited for this to be proven wrong. I waited for her to pull out some ninja magical nuclear powers and leave Yancy gasping at her violent awesomeness.

And I was wrong. She was out of her depth. She absolutely fell apart in a combat situation and generally Yancy’s first impressed was confirmed in spades

This isn’t a bad thing. Why wouldn’t a fully experienced combat veteran like Yancy NOT recognise someone with combat training. Plus waif-fu – or awesome fighting power houses who don’t remotely look the part – is an annoying trope that is kind of elated to the super-hot-thin-people-eating-fried-chicken-covered-pizzas-and-not-exercising trope. Actually being an active, experienced combat fighter generally comes with a level of physical fitness and muscle tone. And that’s aside from demeanour, grim bitterness etc – there’s every reason why Yancy should have been able to accurately peg Darlene

On top of that, Darlene isn’t terrible. I mean it would be tempted to shame her, hate her, demean her or otherwise reduce her because she isn’t a fighter. But she isn’t. Her skills, her administration and her encyclopaedic knowledge of the Guild’s procedures, reports and previous events is an asset and in the end definitely gives her some extremely useful input to saving the day

I like this. I like that Darlene can be capable, useful, respected member of the team without being a combat monster. While being, yes, a soccer mum. Especially since we still have Ferraldo who is, as I’ve mentioned in several previous books, a definite, skilled, dangerous combatant and tactician. We see two female characters, both adding awesome strength to the plot in very different ways.

We do have some very dubious elements that come with the world building. This is something similar to what Supernatural faced: when you have a world setting which moooshes all kinds of mythologies together, there’s a lot of dubious tropes you can follow, along with things like colonising, appropriating and generally raiding other cultures and belief systems which are all issues we’ve covered before. This book takes those issues and then sets up, the White King, a pretty blatant Judeo-Christian mythology god, as basically above them all. We have an excellent story of Indian naga and Buddhism which seems nicely done – and then jumps into this with angelic intervention and a seal of the apocalypse. We have this whole Buddhist based legend and story and just stuck in a quick “subordinate to Christianity” in there. Aside from this then ending up as part of the story lead by Fortuna and the Fates, again, restricted and controlled by the White King. Similarly when the gang travel to Haiti we have the Loa treated the same way – with Baron Samedi being pretty much completely erased as a loa and replaced by one of the seal bearers.

Which adds into the ongoing trouble of the whole Haitian and Voodoo depiction in the genre and in media in general (and in general societal awareness for that matter). Voodoo is constantly portrayed as evil, dark awful darkness with whole lots of racist undertones and exotic/savage otherness.  And in this book? Baron Samedi is literally a demonic horseman of the apocalypse. Voodoo is all about zombies, mind control, torture, gangs, child soldiers and death. All of it – there’s no counter example at all. More, the whole power of voodoo which the mage council doesn’t understand? That’s Nox. The special demonic power which is the very antithesis of

And Haiti? This is set in Cite de Soleil, a shanty town in Haiti, that is presented as basically a lawless giant violent hell slum of child soldiers, voodoo warlords, torture and awfulness.

Look, Cite de Soleil is a terrible place, it’s on record of one of the most dangerous places. And no, I’m not saying that Haiti should be presented as wonderfully wealth and prosperous and stable without gangs and crime. No, you don’t have to present Haiti has a utopia, or Voudoun as this perfectly serene religion whose followers are all enlightened saintly people.

The there’s no counter-narrative here. Everything about Haiti, voodoo and Haitians here is presented as evil, dark, horrific and generally awful. Also with absolutely no inclusion of the very relevant history behind Haitians history here. No, I’m not expecting Yancy to give us a nice historical recap of Haiti being the first (and only?) nation founded by rebelling slaves or the crippling, punishing debt that was then imposed on it by the international community in response. However, I also don’t condone a book to take a country, culture, people and religion and turning them basically into a hell-scape for Yancy to run around killing things in. You could literally have turned his entire time in Haiti into some hell-realm controlled by goblins and made no real change to the plot because nothing about this depiction acknowledge or treated Haiti as an actual place or tried to treat any Haitian as an actual person

Also I’m going to sideswipe here at the naga Buddhist monk who was basically serene and peaceful in between dishing out kung fu and, really, really? Y’know I said that it was excellently done to incorporate Buddhism into this story was nicely done? Well it would be nicer if the depiction of the one actual Buddhist person wasn’t cribbed from a 1980s kung fu movie.

This is pretty much the POC in this book – we have some other side POC who are part of the guild, but they’re not exactly major players or hugely influential on the book or plot line which does nothing to counter this… We continue to have no LGBT characters.

This series continues to have a lot of awesome moments, a lot of epic battles and an excellent meta plot. I think this book has all of that in excellent, amazing degree – but it also has a really terrible diversity problem that is, if anything, only exacerbated by it drawing so heavily on different cultures and mythologies

Lucifer, Season 2, Episode 10: Quid Pro Quo

Ok, I am almost torn on this episode. By the first half I was vaguely annoyed. Last episode we had some pretty major things happening in Chloe and Lucifer’s relationship and then we seemed to have a huge distraction with a resurrected storyline suddenly ambushing this excellent development

And then we’re quickly back on track onto the story again, hitting this relationship development hard and awesomely with some truly excellent character moments and development blowing the whole series wide open so well that left me applauding this episode.

So obviously there’s a bit of a rift between Chloe and Lucifer after last episode when Lucifer skipped out on their date because of his ultimate avoidance issues. (Lucifer goes to see Linda over this who, excellently, pinpoints why Lucifer fled from this dinner with Chloe)

Building on that rift we now have the court case where Perry Smith, the man who orchestrated the murder of Chloe’s father. And it all goes kind of sideways when a) the key witness on trial gets brutally murdered and b) Charlotte decides to step in on the side of the defence using inside knowledge of the case.

Things go sideways quickly – Lucifer steps up as a witness to prove to Chloe how much he’s dedicated to her, using his supernatural charm (which we seem to have skipped for a few episodes) to make the whole court love him (including the judge). But Charlotte, Perry’s defence lawyer, is of course immune to his charm and uses insider knowledge and Lucifer’s utter refusal to lie, to cast blame on Chloe, imply she was the real one who murdered her father’s!not murderer.

Chloe is obviously furious with Lucifer because who else could possibly have fed Charlotte this compromising information?

This is because Chloe doesn’t know that Dan has slept with Charlotte (Ella knows. Because Ella is awesome and fun) and while he was asleep she went through his phone. Dan now has All The Guilts.

I wonder what Charlotte’s play is here. I mean, ostensibly she says it’s to destroy the link between Chloe and Lucifer so Lucifer will join her and Amandiel in heaven. But Amandiel has already convinced Charlotte that killing Chloe will make Lucifer hate her forever and ever. So does she really think that Lucifer is going to let her sabotage of his relationship with Chloe go? That doesn’t really fit.

Anyway, Charlotte offers Chloe one chance to get her father’s killer in prison, an offer to completely sabotage her own client. Chloe has to go up on the stand and call Lucifer a liar. Lucifer’s honour, his adamant refusal not to lie, is a key part of his identity. To have Chloe disparage that honour in open court and have her declare how terrible he is as a partner, she doesn’t value him and how, basically, the court should deny everything he says

I think this is true but also needed foreshadowing a bit more – how Lucifer’s honesty is not only constant but so vital to him and how much impugning that would affect him. They could have built it into his deals – a deal with the devil is sacrosanct because Lucifer’s word is inherent to his sense of self. I don’t think they’ve really done that good a job of establishing Lucifer’s sense of honour

Chloe is faced with a real choice – does she stand up for Lucifer, his honesty and how much she values him but see the case against her dad’s killer collapse. Or does she disparage and dismiss him and see her dad’s murderer go free

It could go either way since Chloe and Lucifer rebuilding their relationship after this would perpetuate the endless “will they won’t they” – but instead we have a really beautiful moment where Chloe emotionally declares how much Lucifer means to her.

I think this is made more poignant but the lack of a Hail Mary Pass. We don’t get a last minute save. Perry isn’t found guilty. He walks free. It was legitimately a choice, a sacrifice, for Chloe that had meaning and wasn’t just magically put right