GreyWarden

SPOILER ALERT!

Review: Scarlet (Scarlet #1) by A.C. Gaughen

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Will Scarlet is good at two things: stealing from the rich and keeping secrets - skills that are in high demand in Robin Hood's band of thieves, who protect the people of Nottingham from the evil sheriff. Scarlet's biggest secret of all is one only Robin and his men know...that she is posing as a thief; that the slip of a boy who is fast with sharp knives is really a girl.
 

The terrible events in her past that led Scarlet to hide her real identity are in danger of being exposed when the thief taker Lord Gisbourne arrives in town to rid Nottingham of the Hood and his men once and for all. As Gisbourne closes in and puts innocent lives at risk, Scarlet must decide how much the people of Nottingham mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles have the rare power to unsettle her. There is real honor among these thieves and so much more - making this a fight worth dying for.

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Like the description says, Scarlet is an imaginative take on the Robin Hood legend, telling things from the point-of-view of a young girl posing as a boy in their band of thieves. And like all thieves, Scarlet is fleeing her past, a past filled with secrets that should they come to light, could destroy both Robin's group and Nottinghamshire as well.

 

What's Good: From the outset there's lots of showing not telling, slipping in teasers about Scarlet's past and her own innate goodness, and yes- her crush on a certain bandit leader. Throughout the story we're given cookie crumbs about Scar as the story progresses- maintaining the mystery and intrigue of her character. Gaughen does a good job of making you feel the different characters' own desperation of their situation at times, and firmly establishes Scarlet's motivations and perspective on things.

 

What's Bad: Scar's MarySue escapades: she's sure with a knife, got an eye for fat merchants when no else does (the boys can't even tell who to rob properly without her around), skillz enough to tell when a baby's turned in the womb, always knows how to break in and out a prison or a castle, etc. No explanation of how she acquired all these skills though- other than constantly repeating that she's been a thief... for all of three years. Yet Robin's as a seasoned war veteran with over ten years experience can't seem to plan half as well as this girl half his age.

 

The moments of suspense built up in the story crash like a lead balloon. At different points some of their friends and other locals are imprisoned, yet breaking them out is treated like another day's work. "Bob's imprisoned in the castle, you say? No problem; we'll break him out, oh... Tuesday after lunch? Guys? Tuesday it is, then!" And since they've been so good at it for so long, what's the point of even locking people up around here?

 

Neither Scar, her friend Much or anyone else should know anything about gunpowder; they don't even have guns yet, let alone actually calling it gunpowder. If anyone would have the faintest idea about it, it would be Robin from serving in the Crusades, and he really doesn't. And they certainly wouldn't come by it from scraping it off a cave wall- it's a chemical compound that has to be properly mixed.

 

Sir Guy of Gisbourne is a cheesy, two-dimensional villain who has nothing to do other than be a raving psychopath. Despite the reasons given for his presence he's only there because he's part of the legend, and that's it. He also wields a claymore- a two-handed Scottish sword- so well he has Robin on the ropes even after Gisbourne's been stabbed twice in his sword arm. If that ain't enough, how about the fact that at this point in history claymores won't even be invented for another fifty years or so. Gunpowder without guns and swords that don't exist- an excellent job of research by the author. And this being a YA novel is no excuse; if anything she should've worked harder to get things right since teens reading this wouldn't know much more than generalities.

 

Being a YA novel in this post-Twilight age, there's a love triangle dumped into the story. And like most love triangles that serve no real purpose not only is it forced, once Scarlet's true identity is revealed it's also pointless since you know how it's going to turn out.

 

The finale is rushed, convoluted, completely over the top and ridiculously bloody with a body count like something out of Game of Thrones. Also it's the only part where any real tension is generated but it gets lost in all the gratuitous, almost comical violence.

 

What's Left: Lots of flavor and a decent feel for the times- Nottinghamshire is a dirty, hardscrabble place in the wake of the sheriff's tyranny over the populace. Many of the lesser characters help to round things out, showing the desperation and sense of hope Robin and the group gives them.

 

Scarlet is a fun read overall, like a fresh twist on an old story often is. But it falls prey to too many cliché's and some laziness. But there's room left open for sequels, so here's to hoping for some tighter storytelling.

 
3/5 stars
SPOILER ALERT!

Bloodsong Trilogy by Asa Drake (aka C. Dean Andersson)

I’ve always been an avid reader; a quiet moment to me means a chance to get a chapter or two in.  Back in the 80s while I was in the Marine Corps we had lots of down time on weekends, and thankfully a lot of Marines were into AD&D, so there was that.  Heck- once we even brought our books with us on a week-long field deployment so we could finish a module featuring a vampire named Strahd von Zarovich.  Good times.

 

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I always wonder how much this one would be worth without all my notes marking it up...[/caption]

 

One slow Saturday I went to the PX to find something to read.  I’m a longtime fantasy fan (who isn’t these days, but I’m old so I can stake my claim!) who loves a good hack-n-slash featuring a female protagonist.  Back in the 80s that type of novel was in woefully short supply.  That day I came across two titles that seemed to fit the bill: The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon (also a former Marine- Semper Fi!) & Werebeasts of Hel by Asa Drake (aka C. Dean Andersson- a former Airman, but I won’t hold that against him).

 

Now, as much as I tried to like Moon’s book, I couldn’t.  The titular character was female practically in name only- she was asexual to the point of almost becoming her defining trait and the story plodded along like a broke down mule in knee deep mud.  Even back then I understood the issues with female leads in SF/F and making her a fully-fleshed person with loves, hates, needs & desires would’ve been tricky at best, but it didn’t even seem like there was an effort made there.

 

Then I read Werebeasts of Hel.  

 

Even though it was the third book of the trilogy, there was enough backstory involved so it wasn’t hard to follow.  Most importantly, I was now dying to read the first two.

Built from Norse mythology & history and billed as the “Heavy Metal of Fantasy” by Publisher’s Weekly, all three books even featured cover art by Boris Vallejo!  In the 80s that was pretty much the Seal of Approval!

 

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Starting with Warrior Witch of Hel, the story arc centers upon a woman named Freyadis whose village was raided by the evil sorcerer, King Nidhug, who served Hel, Goddess of Death.   With her husband and infant son killed & her daughter Guthrun taken captive, Freyadis was subjected to various abuses, bound to a tree and left to die, her infant son’s corpse tied to her breast.  Never passing up an opportunity, Hel offered Freyadis a chance to return as an undead Hel warrior if she would pray to her as she died. 

 

Nidhug, of course, has betrayed Hel by stealing a relic of her power called the War Skull for his own ends.  After enduring even more of Nidhug’s depravities- including in gladiatorial combat- and finding her daughter in Helheim, Freyadis- now known as Bloodsong from her arena fights- is tasked by Hel to recover the War Skull and bring Nidhug down in exchange for freedom.  Must’ve been a Tuesday.

 

Along the way Bloodsong finds allies like Huld- an elf-blooded witch in service to Freya, Jalna- a slave unfortunate enough to catch Nidhug’s attention & Tyrulf- the warrior in Nidhug’s army who’s attracted to Jalna.  Bloodsong also has a very nasty surprise waiting for her when she reaches Nidhug’s fortress.

 

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The second book, Death Riders of Hel, picks up a few years later: Guthrun is discovered to be a witch and studies with Huld while Bloodsong and her friends have forged a life in the aftermath.  A new threat arises from Thokk- a Hel-witch determined to both finish what Nidhug started and convert Guthrun to the dark side.  Thanks to her mistress, Thokk has a way of striking at Bloodsong where it’ll hurt her the most.  Bloodsong forms an alliance with a tribe of shapeshifting berserkers and is willing to pay any price to save Guthrun from becoming a Hel-witch.  But will the lure of darkness be too great for Gudrun to overcome, especially when being lured by a familiar presence?

 

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Werebeasts of Hel takes place years later, but unfolds much the same way.  Years of peace after defeating Hel, life goes on, friends & lovers… then, BOOM!  Third time’s the charm, eh?  An old adversary returns to lead Hel's armies- one who knows Bloodsong's weaknesses and she's hard pressed to stand against him alone.  This time Odin himself provides a little divine assistance and Bloodsong has to forge an alliance with an altogether new breed of creatures to help stop Hel from conquering them all.

 

The best thing about these books is they are what they are.  Nothing fancy or elaborate- it's all straightforward, fast-paced, in-your-face adventure: here's the situation, now let's do something about it!  It’s a gloriously grim & gory Nordic hack-n-slash with good doses of horror and a few splashes of romance tossed in for variety.  This is a bleak, icy world teetering on the edge of apocalypse.  Death lurks around every turn, defeat is all but certain, friends are lost, sacrifices appear pointless and at times it takes all the heroes have just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

 

It’s fucking great!!!  My copies of these are lovingly well-worn for good reason.  I’m glad I found ebook copies to help save them even more wear and tear.

 

Now I’ll admit the omnibus edition doesn’t thrill me at all.  Though the alterations fleshed a lot of things out it was also watered down and a lot of things were added that just flat out confused me.  But it’ll probably do for you if you haven’t read the originals.  If you can find the originals or individual ebooks, get ‘em!  You won’t be sorry!

 

4.5/5 stars

SPOILER ALERT!

Review: Seasons of the Moon 1- Six Moon Summer by S.M. Reine

 

 

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Packed off to summer camp while her parents get divorced, Rylie is determined to see it through and hope for the best- until that one night where it all changes and she's attacked by something she can't identify. Almost immediately she notices herself changing both physically and psychologically, yet as understanding blooms she doesn't understand how she survived the attack. An enigmatic boy at the camp, Seth, has the answers she seeks and offers to help her, but as the summer wanes and the wolf in her grows stronger, Rylie fights to maintain her self-control and hopes for a cure even as she searches for clues about the one who did this to her.

 

What's Good: The premise is intriguing- going from being a nobody to a monster and all things that happen in between. Rylie's teen angsting about her parent's divorce is what you'd expect. There's also some good secondary characters- I especially liked Louise, one of the camp counselors. I actually had more empathy for her than Rylie.

 

What's Bad: The MarySue/Speshul Snoflakiness of it all. At the wise old age of fifteen Rylie wants nothing more than to spend the summer in the art district of this nameless city sipping chai tea in coffee shops while reading and going to exhibits and summer festivals, just like the typical teenage girl she's supposed to be. Oh, and she doesn't have any female friends because they're too catty yet wonders if all her male buddies' girlfriends hate her because she's blonde and slender. Any of this sounding familiar, yet?

 

For someone who's life's been destroyed by becoming a legendary monster, Rylie's pretty blasé about it. It's all "Dear Diary: Mean girls at camp are bothering me... met a cute boy by the lake... I'm a werewolf now." Her biggest concern about it is her distaste for her insatiable cravings for meat, what with being a vegetarian. At least until the fateful night when she rips apart a fawn, then she has an emotional breakdown. She's actually more upset about eating Bambi than becoming a rampaging monster that'll want to slaughter things to begin with. But hey, we got veggie vampires nowadays so why not tofu werewolves? Plus the mysterious yet cute boy she meets knows a whole lot about what's happening to her yet she barely bothers to ask him more than a couple of questions at a time. And some of his answers don't make a lot of sense. When Rylie asks Seth what's happening to her, he responds, "The new & full moons are different. You change on the new moon because it makes the human weak, so the wolf emerges. On the full moon the wolf becomes strong. It dominates you." You kinda see what the author's trying to get at, but it doesn't come across very well. Like a friend of mine said: Heads, I win; Tails, you lose.

 

The mystery of the identities of the werewolves attacking the camp is nothing special. One's a bit of a surprise and the other one isn't, but what makes it bad is the ham-handedness of the whole situation. Rylie has questions (naturally) and is clearly a danger to herself and everyone else during her furry nights, yet the alpha wolf who bit her lets her flounder until the climax of the story. And their actions and motives are ridiculous- without going too far into it, how does this individual expect to keep the massacre of an entire summer camp secret? The second person's identity discloses more ridiculous plot holes: they've been a werewolf for a year yet apparently still lives in the city. Clearly this person was brought into the fold immediately but again, why wasn't Rylie? And how has this person been managing on their wild nights and why can't Rylie do the same?

 

And speaking of 'the city'... Wondering why I called it that? Because everyone in the book does. Rylie, Louise, Cassidy, Amber- everyone comes from 'the city'. The summer camp has a name, the mountain is located on has a name as do the river and lake around the camp, but the city, county and state they're all in don't, even though 'the city' has a North End and East Side with an art district.

 

The final showdown is a cartoon. Werewolves in human form can heal at an amazing rate- Rylie breaks her ankle yet it's well enough in a matter of moments for her to run full tilt along a mountain trail. Somehow none of this translates onto any other werewolves but her: in the final battle Rylie gets her throat ripped out but can keep on fighting since she's young and strong, which enables her to eviscerate her opponent- alpha were described as the size of a horse- to the point that he's on the verge of bleeding out. Really.

 

What's Left: There's flashes of good storytelling, especially the little insights into Rylie psyche before and after her transformations, but they're scattered and almost lost in all the MarySue-ism and silliness. Too many parts of the story feel slapped together because too much space is wasted showing how speshul Rylie is to help justify her being chosen becoming a werewolf in the first place. Which didn't make any sense, either.

A couple of minor twists in the story will keep you entertained but all the fudging to keep our girl the centerpiece of the story drags it all down.

 

The romance between Rylie and Seth is forced. Rylie knows he knows more than he's letting on yet she never asks him more than a couple of questions at a time- she's too preoccupied with flirting with him to remember why they're sneaking her away from camp during full moons.

 

There's a good premise here but it's bogged down by some absolute nonsense. The old adage of keeping it simple applies here, and simply put the series needs to be what it says it is: the story of a girl who gets turned into a werewolf.

SPOILER ALERT!

Review: Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

 

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'Please Look After Mom' by Kyung-sook Shin is an intriguing, if sometimes difficult, book to read. A best-seller in her native Korea, it's the chronicle of the dynamics within a family after their elderly mother goes missing in Seoul. Told in four segments- each from POV- a daughter, an eldest son, her husband, and a conjecture about the missing woman, each person struggles to come to terms with what it meant to be the mother of their family, and what it may have cost her.

 

The difficulty comes not from the shifting perspectives, but from the narrative. Often slow and ponderous, their memories, emotions and angst are the meat of the story as you'd expect. But without a true sense of urgency to push it forward, it frequently gets bogged down by weight of everyone's personal baggage as they reflect upon their personal moments with her, finally beginning to understand what her life was like and what she gave up for her family's sake. But that's where it often shines- long buried insights and sudden revelations combine to reveal much about the woman they knew so intimately and yet not at all while also providing a vivid picture of the demands of life in a rural Korean community.

 

There's not much more to add that hasn't already been said, so I'll end with this: W.E.B. Dubois once wrote a book titled 'The Souls of Black Folks'. This one could well be called The Souls of Koreans.

SPOILER ALERT!

Review: Shades of Gray (Jude Magdalyn #1) by L.M. Pruitt

 

 

Shades Of Gray is the debut UF novel by L.M. Pruitt that stands out more for its ridiculous scenarios and inane characterization than anything else. Virtually every trope and cliché is displayed in full unpolished glory and drags the whole thing down into head-shaking wonder.

Jude Magdalyn Jeffries has been on her own since she was fifteen; now twenty-five she's an accomplished street hustler in New Orleans with a touch of magical power- she can feel it on the edges of her perception, like intuition, but can't manage it. But it does come in handy for the occasional scam. A tarot reading for some wealthy clients goes wrong when she feels an instinctive loathing for a man at the party and she leaves, only to discover him following her. The man, Hart, is revealed to be a vampire but Jude is rescued by a mysterious group of people called the Covenant- an alliance of magical families and of late, vampires- whose existence was only whispered about. Jude is revealed to be the Prophecy- her coming foretold centuries ago- and is the last descendant of those who ruled the Covenant. They need her to finally win the war against Hart, who has his own ties to and designs upon the Covenant. Jude quickly assimilates the lessons and skills required of her, making both enemies and friends and even gets embroiled in a love triangle with Williams- a vampire who rescued her from Hart, and Theo- a worldly priest. Hart maintains the pressure, always waiting to strike, and lands a decisive blow that threatens both individuals and factions within the Covenant. Now vulnerable, Jude must find a way to stop Hart before he can achieve his ends.
 
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This book goes wrong in so many places it's hard to know where to start. In the pdf copy I read the text was improperly formatted and riddled with typos and misspellings- copyediting was sorely lacking here. Unfortunately, that's the least of my concerns. Jude herself is a complete mess of a protagonist, just all over the place. She starts out as Stock UF Heroine #43: Twenty-Something Edgy But Caring Orphaned Loner What Had It Rough, until it's revealed that she ran away from the orphanage and the nuns who raised her so she could live on the streets stealing, selling drugs and even whoring herself out. Because it makes more sense to lose your virginity in a back alley to some sleazebag than to get a solid education and forge a decent life for yourself. And she never misses an opportunity to get Smart & Sassy with everyone, even when there's no reason to- except just to be annoying. Yet Jude constantly falls back upon all the things the nuns taught her- like archery (good for hunting vamps) and quoting Shakespeare (nice for those romantic moments), which makes it even harder to understand why she ran away. None of this makes her seem like a flawed hero so much as a stupid, self-centered bimbo.

This is underscored by her ironclad status as a MarySue. As the leader of the Covenant, Jude is elevated from hustler to trust fund baby, with millions at her disposal and a magically reinforced mansion to dwell in, complete with enchanted training room. Within a week of being brought into the Covenant Jude can cast magic spells by synonym instead of incantation, mix heretofore unknown compounds, stop time, heal people, astral project, alter the genus of plants... do I need to go on? The magic and mixing is particularly grating; the compound she puts together could've been done by anyone in junior high, yet is a revelation to the most learned members of the Covenant. And instead of reciting the entire tract of a magic spell to conjure gale winds she simply substitutes the word 'hurricane'- and voila! Did I mention this all happens within a week? One of the characters sums it up best: "Well, it looks like the Prophecy can do any little thing she sets her mind to. How lucky we all are." Too bad half the time she never seems to know what to do with any of them.

And what would a MarySue be without her utter sex appeal and complete lack of common sense? In one scene, Jude awakens to find a vampiric assassin in her room watching (instead of killing) her. She distracts him with snappy banter, cleavage and come-hither looks until he decides to put his weapon down (!) and get some, but still tells her he'll kill her after. One guess how this all turns out. Then in spite of making out with Williams at every opportunity she has what amounts to polite small talk with Theo and immediately wonders about him naked. After that Jude decides to leave the mansion- alone,but during daylight. While she wanders the streets trying to sort things out she starts to get the feeling that something's not right. It takes her a full TEN MINUTES while standing next to the Mississippi River to understand that the sun's gone down and Hart will be coming for her. Yes- the Prophecy is too stupid to realize when night falls. It takes four days to recover from the beating she gets- during which she's assured that's she totally worth the trouble and not an utter moron. At this point she uses Paris Hilton logic to decide which man she wants: since Theo stayed to hold her hand while Williams was out hunting for Hart, he's clearly the man for her. Afterwards the happy couple leaves the safety of the mansion and goes out on a date... at night. Because that's just what Chosen Ones do when vampires are hunting them.

After the death of a Covenant member, Jude and Williams find themselves alone together and end up having Insanely Awesome Sex While Emotionally Vulnerable. Yet Jude not only feels guilty for betraying Theo she resents Williams for using her solely to soothe his own pain (at least that's how it seemed to her). But wait- after she confesses it to Theo he rationalizes she was raped despite the fact that she let Williams finger her, they undressed each other and she willingly laid down for him simply because she never verbally said yes. Like any true hero, Jude eagerly seizes upon this foolishness so she can push Williams away and have a guilt-free relationship with her true love... that she just met last week.

The other characters were supplied through Central Casting- Gruff Yet Wise Terminally Ill Mentor, Hot-N-Sexy Man O' Mystery, Ebil Blonde Haterz, Big Bad Guy Who Always Avoids Killing The Heroine, etc. As bad as this is, some of the names are worse- a Blonde Hater named Wily has twin girls named Lies and Guile. Seriously. Williams is always referred to as such, and no one ever bothers to ask what his given name is. God only knows why.

The plot points are so implausible they're almost a parody. The world is apparently full of magic yet it never seems to impact daily life. Jude herself heard whispers about the Covenant on the streets, so how do law enforcement and government bodies deal with it? At the funeral representatives from virtually every local governing body are paying their respects, yet none of these agencies ever impact the story. What's all their influence for when it's never used in the war against the vampires? And why wasn't it used to help Jude while she was on the streets? Heck, why was Jude not with the Covenant in the first place?

Hart has several opportunities to simply kill Jude outright, yet doesn't. And what's his connection to and interest in their group? Why are Williams and his followers all good vampires? Several members of the Covenant harbor an intense hatred against Jude- particularly the blonde members, since blondes are always up to no good- but there's not even a hint as to why. Even as answers get dumped into your lap in the last few chapters via villainous monologues not only are half of them more clichéd nonsense, you're probably not even reading it anymore. It all wraps up in a half-baked casserole of overused tropes including- but not limited to- a magical weapon convenient for literally any occasion, some blatant disregard for vampire mythology only to insert it when necessary, and a little magical martyrdom throw in for seasoning.

And if you think this all sounds silly here, imagine over 400 pages of it.

Shades of Gray is a disastrous UF novel. Sorry to pile upon a new author, but there's nothing to recommend about it other than blowing it up and starting over.
 

Review: The 100 Best African American Poems- Edited by Nikki Giovanni

 

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'The 100 Best African-American Poems' compiled by Nikki Giovanni is a very fine work, a kaleidoscope of images, emotions and observations of the Black Experience in America. It's an anthology of some of the works by various poets including titans like Amiri Baraka, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sonia Sanchez, Langston Hughes and Giovanni herself.

 

Ego Tripping (there may be a Reason)

 

I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad

 

I sat on the throne
drinking nectar with allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to europe
to cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is nefertiti
the tears from my birth pains
created the nile
I am a beautiful woman

 

I gazed on the forest and burned
out the sahara desert
with a packet of goat's meat
and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
so swift you can't catch me

 

For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son hannibal an elephant
He gave me rome for mother's day
My strength flows ever on

 

My son noah built new/ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
as we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
jesus
men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save

 

I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
semi-precious jewels
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
across three continents

 

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission

 

I mean...I...can fly
like a bird in the sky...

 

Such collections are always subjective- you'll always wonder why something was left out, and I noticed a couple of absences myself- but that's part of the fun, and I discovered a few gems I'd never seen before such as Old Lem, Mercy Killing, Freedom Candy and those Winter Sundays, as well as the immortal standards Harlem, Nikki-Rosa, Lift Every Voice and Sing and of course Giovanni's own magnum opus: Ego Tripping- There May Be A Reason Why, which I will always consider to be one of the finest examples of not only African-American but American culture ever created (see above). The cd is a treat- readings of about a third of the selections done by the authors themselves and notables like Ruby Dee and of course, Giovanni.

 

It's an excellent collection of poetry and very much a time travel device, taking you for a look back to those days when... though sometimes they don't seem all that distant. This would be a wonderful gift for anyone of any age or race but especially to African-Americans. Like singing in the cotton fields it's a chorus of bright, strong voices from our past to lighten the load a little and help guide the way as you ease on down the road.

 
5/5 Stars

Review: Chronicles of Steele- Raven by Pauline Creeden

Human life has value.
The poor living in the gutter are as valuable as the rich living in a manor.
The scoundrel is no less valuable than the saint.
Because of this, every life a reaper takes must be redeemed.


Raven has lived by this first tenet since she was trained by her father to become a reaper. But since his death, she’s been spending years redeeming the lives she’s taken. By her count, she’s even and it’s time for that life to end. If she settles down and becomes a wife, she might just feel human again. But on the way to the life she thinks she wants, the baron of New Haven asks her to complete a task which she cannot ignore… Just when Raven decides to give up on her life as an assassin, she’s pulled right back in.

 

***Disclosure: I received a free copy in exchange for a review.***

We're introduced to Raven as she's saving the duke's youngest son from drowning, only to be arrested once her identity is revealed. Seems Reapers have been outlawed for about a half a generation, but the duke's eldest son has need of her services. She's to protect his nine year old younger brother, who may or may not be possessed by a demon, from their father who wants the boy dead. Hot on the trail of Raven and young Darius are the very guards who arrested her after rescuing the boy, led by Captain Jack Grant- who's grudging respect for Raven's skills and his own innate decency clash with his duty to the duke. Along the way they'll both discover more layers to their respective missions than they imagined and things aren't always what they seem.

Reapers aren't magical warriors- just highly trained and disciplined ones usually able to find something within any situation to turn to an advantage. In order to avoid descending into sociopathy they've adopted a mantra that all life is sacred and whenever they take one they must then save another, redeeming themselves by striking a balance- much like the axiom 'the life you save will be your own'. I also liked how the author weaved bits of personality and characterization into things- such as a reaper lamenting the lack of discipline in this new generation of wannabes who abandon the training once it becomes difficult. Art imitating Life.

Raven's past is a bit mysterious, of course, and remained so at the end of the book. Bits and pieces of her history were doled out during the story, revealing her character and her motivations. Jack Grant wasn't as developed as he could've been and the romance seemed forced as suddenly they're in love with each other. Whatever happened to liking someone/being interested and just wanting to see where it goes?

There's plenty of action and angst to feed your head, but the world needs fleshing out in order to get a clearer grasp of what's going on. The main problem I had was the sudden switches of POV. One moment Raven's upstairs about to confront a witch, next sentence Jack's charging up the steps and finding Raven laid out due to the witch's magic. Things like this kept happening so much I had to re-read several passages a couple times to make sure I had things straight before continuing.

The extras included are an excerpt about young Darius- whom will soon receive his own story- some pointers about writing from the author and the author's thoughts on what Steampunk is and why it should appeal to female readers.

This is a fast, fun read with a couple of twists to it. Pauline Creeden's crafted a nifty tale that teases you with future potential but needs fleshing out and more backstory. Enjoy.

SPOILER ALERT!

DNF- So Much Wangst, So Little Action and Immersion

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

I tried to get into this one and struggled for literally months to finish it, but I give up. This book doesn't hold my attention at all.

 

What intrigued me to pick it up forces me to put it down. Tying the Guy Fawkes legend into an urban fantasy Victorian/Gregorian English setting is an appealing idea, but the lack of urgency in the story, the endless inner monologues and piecemeal explanation for what Color Magic is all about and why there's such trouble between the differing factions will have you losing interest fast.

 

A big letdown for me was the characterization, especially Emma. While the whiny, emo protagonist Thomas was bad enough- granted he had a sense of urgency with his condition, but that only seemed to come whenever the author arbitrarily decided she needed to insert some drama- Emma almost felt like a betrayal. Maybe I missed something, but the sudden reveal of Emma as a black woman killed any further interest I had. It felt cheap & forced, especially when there was not even a hint to this beforehand, so why the deception? To make Thomas seem more sympathetic and juxtapose the rivals/bad guys as more eeeevil. When you club your readers upside the head with cheap tricks to try and make them feel for the characters, you've lost.

SPOILER ALERT!

Review: Bum Fight- an Unlikely Journey from Hopeless to Humanitarian by Rufus Hannah & Barry Soper

 

 
'A Bum Deal: A Memoir' is the story of the man who was the face of the infamous website BumFights, Rufus Hannah, aka Rufus the Stunt Bum. It chronicles his journey from early alcoholism and social misfit into a symbol of unrestrained greed and disregard for human life and finally a voice for others with similar troubles. It's a story that sounds clichéd in our times but still occurs all too often. And as is often the case, a human face and voice are what's needed to drive the issues home.

It almost seems Rufus was doomed from the start. Coming from southern working class parents with alcohol problems, he was born jaundiced due to his mother's drinking. Even so, they often resorted to the old southern remedy of lacing the baby bottle with vodka to keep the child quiet. Yet the parents instilled a work ethic into all of their children that served him well when little else did.

His journey takes him through failed marriages and jobs lost due to alcoholism across country and finally to San Diego where he meets Donnie, a fellow vet with similar problems. They migrate to Donnie's hometown of La Mesa where they manage an existence as the only homeless men in the town and are somewhat absorbed into the community. At the insistence of another resident they're hired on as handymen by Barry Soper, a local businessman. The three men are mistrustful of each other but over time they develop a real friendship- especially Rufus and Barry.

A chance encounter with a HS student with a video camera- Ryan McPherson- sets them on the path to notoriety together. Ryan's callousness towards the two men is apparent to Rufus from the start but as he supplies them with the necessities, namely booze, they feel obligated to go along. Heat from the cops forces Ryan to move operations to Vegas, where things start to spiral out of control. Rufus and Donnie realize the danger they're in and contact their friend Barry, who helps spring them and gets Rufus on the road to recovery.

This reads as a complete stream of consciousness work, as if Rufus simply talked about his life and the notes were sorted out. Events leap around a few times, especially in the beginning, as people and events are suddenly thrust upon you with little preamble. There's also some gaps left open towards the ending- especially his attempt to repair his relationship with his children, that's never followed up and leaves you wondering.

'A Bum Deal' is not exceptional but intriguing at times and insightful into the mindset of an alcoholic. Rufus' emotions are raw and unfiltered, underscoring his helplessness, frustration and acceptance of his situation as well as his struggle to get them under control to save himself. It also provides a few details about the BumFight phenomenon, but more importantly, it's about the redemption of a man who fell too many times to pick himself up without the help of someone who cared enough to do so. And who doesn't need a helping hand once in a while?

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Review: The King's Mistress by Emma Campion

 

 

 

 

"When had I a choice to be other than I was?"

This quote foreshadows the constant barrage of wangst in store for you when reading The King's Mistress by Emma Campion. This is a historical fiction of the life of Alice Perrers, who's regarded as one of the more infamous ladies ever to keep royal company. She was the longtime companion of Edward III, whose rule was once considered glorious but was later encompassed in fiscal and political scandal. The above statement is inserted at the start of each section of the book, reminding you how poor Alice was ever a victim of powers beyond her reckoning. Might as well have been Gwen Stefani singing, "I'm just a girl... in the world..." It would have been interesting to see her as she's been portrayed: a woman surviving by her wiles in the shark-infested waters of the royal court, instead of as a helpless leaf blown in the storm winds.

Our heroine was born Alice Salisbury, simply the bestest daughter ever. She's pious, humble, loves her father, honors her mother, cherishes her family, rescues kittens, feeds the homeless, cures the sick, negotiates peace treaties... and blossoms into such a flower that of course, her own mother is utterly jealous of her. This thing wasn't written in ink, it was High Fructose Corn Syrup.

This fairy tale is delivered in four purple-tinted segments:
 
Part I/An Innocent Encounters The World- Where Alice comes of age and her father arranges a marriage for her to a widowed merchant, Janyn Perrers, whom its discovered has complicated ties to the scandalized Queen Mother Isabella, who helped overthrow her husband the king and set her son, Richard III, upon the throne. The Perrers family fortunes are intricately bound to the royals, but with privilege comes peril, so much so that Janyn ensures her safety by placing her in the Queen's service. What choice does she have? Her husband wills it!

Part II/The Queen's Handmaid- Alice becomes established in Queen Philippa's retinue and comes to be noticed by Edward III, king of England. As Philippa's health declines, the queen is driven to seek an amiable companion for her husband, someone she can trust... What choice does she have? The King & Queen desire it!

Part III/The King's Mistress- Alice and Edward form a deep, abiding relationship, and she even bears him children and he bestows lavish gifts of land, jewels and whatnot upon her. What choice does she have- the king made her take them! Yet the more she becomes a fixture in Edward's life, the more she is targeted by the differing factions at court. What choice does she have? She's but a commoner at court!

Part IV/Phoenix- In the wake of the king's passing, the nation is left in some difficulty from Edward's excesses and a scapegoat is needed. What choice does she have? She's but a woman alone who's blamed for leading their beloved king astray, taking the realm down with him! Yet Alice manages to rise somewhat from the ashes of her ruination.

There are two overwhelming problems with this story. One, the character of Alice is an uber MarySue- an embodiment of author's wish fulfillment whom every man must possess and every woman either admires or despises, and of course any characters that dislike this person are obviously up to no good. Alice is so much this she could almost be her own trope. The author has clearly fallen prey to what seems to be a trend in historical fiction- falling completely in love with the character and somehow trying to redeem them through fantasy instead of simply telling their story. Alice is so overflowing with compassion that at the end of the book she can even forgive everyone who's ever wronged her. Campion even goes so far as to give Alice a new life with another man while admitting to having no evidence that they ever did anything more than conduct business together- can't have a fairy tale without a happy ending, right?

Two, nothing much happens. For a person so embroiled in political scandal and panned by history Alice is spectacularly uninvolved in events; Campion always keeps Alice on the periphery, supplying the true love and support her man needs until she's swept along by the tides of fate simply because she's there. Beginning with her own arranged marriage to Janyn, we're given exposition-delivered intrigues filtered through Alice's limited perspective, all making for very dull reading. For someone constantly in the eye of the storm, she's often caught unawares despite constantly being warned about what's happening (But what choice does she have? She is unused to such manipulations, even after living at the palace for almost twenty years!). Yet with every step you're expected to cry with her pain and laugh with her joy, except you won't. You'll just want it to be over with. Despite a few insights into the social mores of the times, I suggest you don't even start.
 
1.5/5 Stars

Review: Pagan- an MPRD Novel by Andrew Chapman

***Disclosure: Andrew's an ex-pat Brit who's been an online friend of mine for several years.***

 

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PAGAN: An MPRD novel is the anti-emo of the Vampire/Urban Fantasy genre... and its about damn time! If I gotta hear about one more curly-haired, hemoglobin-challenged, eternally tortured soul who can seduce anything that breathes but somehow still can't find true love while wearing his religion-revealing ballet pants... I just had to get that out.

 

The premise is straight forward: vamps have been playing humans for the past 20+ years with all the Twilight/Interview crap, softening us up for the worldwide sucker punch known as Black Tuesday. Five years later, there's still some disparity as to how to deal with being at the top of the menu instead of the food chain, but not so much that governments aren't swinging back. Enter the Ministry of Paranormal Research & Defense and their best bloke- Jack 'Pagan' Henderson- a former SAS turned fangbuster who also possesses a unique trait that prevents him from being controlled by vampires. The other fearless vampire killers comprise his team- as both comrades in arms and friends for life. Two are a bit of a surprise: Anna, who was turned into a vampire after she'd been a hunter, and Marie- a full-blooded werewolf who also doubles as Jack's sweetie.

 

The antagonists are cruel, nasty, vicious and bloodthirsty- in short, they're vampires! This one adds new flavor to the stale recipe of vampires and werewolves, introducing some intriguing sub-classes into each group. And in this world the lycanthropes are out in the open and siding with humanity, making for a nice twist. And there are a few vamps working for the Ministry itself, setting the stage for current and future intrigues. After our boys and girls finish clearing out a rural area, Pagan is brought to HQ for a Special Ops assignment: a hit on one of the most powerful vampires in England. Though it struck me as a little too easily accomplished, the aftermath of the mission leads to some unexpected developments whose ripples are felt all the way into the finale.

 

There's a wealth of detail- maybe a little too much- about guns and ammo; someone else joking referred to it as 'gun porn'. Ordnance fetishes aside, it's a fun read with lots of depth and humor. Jack's a likable enough guy but I kinda found myself more interested in the other team members as things progressed. Being former military I appreciated the jabs and snaps aimed at the upper ranks and bureaucratic types, as well as the crude and crass tension-breakers just before a fight.

 

PAGAN is a worthy first effort, nicely crafted with a few dull spots; the ending was too neat and pat, and there were parts of it I'd already seen coming. But I'm expecting the spit shine in the sequel.

 

3.5/5 stars

SPOILER ALERT!

Author's Agendas Overwhelm an Interesting Tale (Review: Boudica #1- Dreaming the Eagle)

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(This review also contains an overview of the entire quadrilogy.)
 
As a fan of historical fiction I have no problems with creative license and exploring ideas, especially when there is a shortage of reference material on a topic- in this case regarding the woman known as Boudica, who led a rebel campaign against the Roman legions in Brittania in the 1st century AD. Though we know the eventual outcome, as the saying goes: it's the journey that matters, not the destination.
 
This journey feels like a family vacation you're forced to go on with your new step-parent/siblings, so you brought your stash...
 
There's not a lot of factual info on Boudica herself so author Manda Scott flexes her worldbuilding muscles admirably and fashions a layered Celtic society that starts out exploring themes but quickly turns into pure propaganda. Which is a shame, `cause it coulda been a contender.
 
It's easy to see why Manda Scott is considered one of the better crime drama authors in the UK: multiple story threads weave together creating at times a compelling drama but at others can be obtuse, but not overly so.
 
Real characters and events get submerged beneath the author's iron-willed agenda. There's a clear metaphor of Rome as the Great Western Male-Dominated Ordered Society trying to bring the Celts as the Groovy Bisexual Spiritually-Free Goddess-Loving Individuals to heel. Given that the author is openly lesbian and an advocate of Dream Interpretation, you understand why you're being hit over the head.
 
Instead of Druids and Bards we're treated to Dreamers and Singers- and Dreamers never seem to be wrong... about anything. Along with this comes page after page of spiritual mumbo jumbo centered on animal symbolism, mystic interpretations, moonlight reflections on water, hair in every imaginable hue of yellow- pass the bong, please.
 
The main problem I had with the Dreamers is the lack of explanation for their skills. Yeah- there's some divine power at work here, but for three plus books they're infallible, and only at the end when you know things go wrong do their interpretations suddenly become ambiguous- it's like being at the George Lucas School of Revisionism.
 
**SPOILER ALERTS**
 
There's also the subject of sexuality. Lots of evidence has surfaced regarding Celts and their casual attitudes towards homosexuality, and while I expected it as a sub-theme and incidental to the story it almost overshadows it. Boudica herself is bisexual: her first love is her best friend Airmid, whom she's already having sex with when they're both in their early teens. After endless passages about their longing gazes and vows of eternal devotion there's a teenage breakup spat after which she starts to notice boys, especially Caradoc, son of Cunobelin, the most powerful king. Skip to young adulthood and we suddenly meet Ardacos, who becomes a prominent supporting character and happens to be her first male lover, except that she's already kicked him to the curb... No need to bother with all that messy `coming of age character development' crap while your girlfriend is still hanging around!
 
Marriages are deliberately replaced with sexually open relationships regardless of how many children a couple has- it's entirely up to the woman as to what happens. If it weren't for the historical fact that Boudica did have children, I seriously doubt she would have been given any male lovers in this story. The fate of the children's father shows this- the aforementioned Caradoc- another historical figure whose true final fate is uncertain. His removal from the story, while factually based up to a point, honestly felt like the author didn't know what else to do with him, but needed him to leave. You can hardly run back to the arms of your one true gay love with the father of your children hanging around, now can you?
 
'Tagos, a member of the Eceni (read: Iceni) tribe who grows up with Boudica, turns coward in battle and eventually loses his sword arm and the respect of his peers. His emasculation is forgettable until you realize that he's actually Prasutagos, who is historically known to be the Roman client king of their tribe and whom Boudica is known to be married to (here they only shack up for political purposes) and whose death triggers events that lead to the final assaults against the legions. This ham-handed hack job and attempt to shade his identity from readers is a clear author manipulation to facilitate Boudica's rise to power later in the story: no more weak male rulers, here's a real woman to lead us! 
 
Then there's Cartimandua, a queen who likes to play both sides and another pivotal historical figure who's mentioned and never seen. Needing her support the rebels send emissaries, firstly Caradoc, whom she holds captive for the winter. Caradoc never elaborates about his captivity, though there's lots of innuendo. Venutios tries to use his influence to sway her and marries her to cement ties to the rebels, though she still does as she pleases. Given the significance of these events, it would've helped to see them unfold instead of being referred to in passing... but that would've been heterosexual.
 
I read through the entire series and can't recall one single healthy, nurturing straight relationship that survived the story- if someone doesn't die, it just plain ends badly. Whereas every gay/lesbian pairing is of soul-friends and soul-mates and... well, you get the idea. Case in point: Dubornos, an old friend and rival, likes Airmid, Boudica's lifelong lover. After that disaster there's Cygfa- Caradoc's daughter from another woman- who wants him, yet he doesn't reciprocate. When Dubornos finally develops deep, abiding, lifelong feelings for her, she's long over him and well into... wait for it... a lesbian relationship! You can't make this stuff up... but Manda Scott did!
 
The characterization of children of this story had them so far beyond precocious, I had to laugh. Repeatedly. As another reviewer pointed out- are these kids five or forty-five? A pre-teen boy defeats a grown man at a chess-like game like he's a master strategist instead of playing against one. Boudica herself displaces Venutios, a man over twice her age, as the pre-eminent warrior of the times... because she had a good day of hunting. Boudica's young daughter at the tender age of eight is so wise and prescient that the legendary warrior princess actually defers to her judgment on multiple occasions! Trees died for this shit!
 
The final battle was very poorly handled: in the book the Celts outnumber the Romans by about five to one, and have them hemmed in a valley... and they still lose?!? Even though the Romans had to win, this fight simply made no sense!
 
Lastly, there's the death scene that wasn't. Boudica's final fate is open to conjecture- Roman historians claim she poisoned herself to avoid capture (the author argues that this could be a conceit, as that's what a proper Roman woman would do). Here we get another all-too confusing battle scene to save her daughter's life resulting in a fatal, self-inflicted injury(!). After all, no true heroine could ever be beaten in honorable combat by the male enemy, oh no- far better that they die stupidly! We're not even given the payoff of a final scene: after a hell-ride to reach a final resting place for her all we get is another vision where Boudica bequeaths her legacy to her young daughter before crossing over. Pfft!
 
I know it doesn't seem like it, but there's a lot to recommend here. There's a wealth of detail, flavor and feeling to the story and I always enjoy a different take on a subject. And there's times when the imagery is amazing: in the final book there's a symbolic moment involving a hare that was simply a stroke of genius! I just wished there were more moments like that- less propaganda and proselytizing, and more prose.
 
2.5/5 Stars

So Many Books, So Little Time... Early October 2018 Edition

I think I need an intervention.

 

I love books & reading- always have.  Reviewing is a bonus and the advent of ebooks was a mixed blessing.  As of this moment I have about 30gb of ebooks sitting on an external drive...

 

Not a typo: 30 Gigabytes. And I'm always acquiring more.  

 

Between purchases, giveaways, ARCs, freebies, NetGalley, Kindle listings & promos I've got a TBR pile that would make Sisyphus shake his head and wonder what the fuck was wrong with me.  It's only Wednesday and check out what this week's haul already looks like:

 

37792766

38136877

33898873


AlS
42036782

36995589

7066033
37503259

 

Oh, and did I mention I'm getting ready for NaNoWriMo?

 

...send help... or at least a shitload of coffee.

Review: Read & Riot- a Pussy Riot Guide to Activism

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Written as a stream of consciousness, Nadya shares her experiences and thoughts on the state of things and how we as individuals can still have our say and try to make a difference in the world.

 

It's a fast read and easy to digest, with each chapter (aka Rules) broken into three segments: Words, Deeds & Heroes.

 

Words covers various topics like Questioning the Status Quo, the Prison Industrial Complex and What Putin Has to Do with Trump.

 

Deeds encompasses things we can all do- Dadaism, If the Kids are United, Art in Action and Pussy Riot Church (a Russian church that was more like a mini-mart or a venue hall).

 

Heroes explores the figures who've influenced Nadya's life and outlook- King, the Berrigan Brothers, Bell Hooks, Emmeline Pankhurst and Aleksandra Kollontai.

 

Equally intriguing is the recommended reading list at the end of the book, which offers up some pretty good stuff to feed your head and free your mind.  If nothing else, you'll end up with a crash course on activist ideas and a view from the front lines delivered by a person who's still there.

SPOILER ALERT!

Review: Anita Blake- Serpentine

A brief note: I submitted this to Amazon literally at 3:12 AM this morning and it just went through 10 minutes ago- obviously to give all the Verified Purchase reviews exposure first. So, if you're of a mind, I'd appreciate a little voting help to push it up the list.  Thanks.

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RDTQTS4X0K36U/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0425255689

 

 

 

 

I hadn’t read the last two books… actually I stopped reading the last two books about 20% in because I completely lost interest in them that fast- so when the chance arose at an early copy of this one I figured: what the hell, maybe there’s been some changes and improvement.  Maybe there’s been some actual developments, revelations and repercussions from these character choices and events.

 

Let’s put it this way: No.

 

Remember all the buildup for the plot of Bullet?  That assassins were gunning for Anita and the crew, and even Belle Morte was high-tailing it as fast as she could, only for the book to be about everything else but assassins?  How a story featuring cold blooded killers only dedicated about 19 PAGES right smack in the middle to said murderers? How the synopsis ended up getting revised because turns out there were virtually no assassins in the book, and would’ve been false advertising to keep saying it was all about them?   Well, if that was your gold standard for storytelling, if that muck thrilled you to the stars and back- boy, has Laurell got a story for you now!

 

I’ll give her credit; it took some serious gall to write this.  She had a lotta nerve pulling this again.   In a 500 page book about cursed snake people, they get mentioned in the beginning, referred to in the middle-ish and never brought up again until the finale.  Take one guess what’s on the rest of the dead trees sacrificed for this drek.  You got it: relationships and all the baggage they come with!

 

*** Mini-Spoilers Ahead***

 

There ain’t a K-Drama in the world that can hold a candle to this!  It’s everything all the other Anita Blake books have given you the past fifteen years, yet somehow less.  The paint by numbers scenes of gratuitous boob/crotch flashing, jellus haterz who deep down want to be just like Anita, hawt zexxy zex with the sweeties, fifty pages to leave town, forty pages to get to the hotel from the airport, recycled & rehashed pissing contests with cops, identifying friends from enemies by their boob size and curves, bad guys who suddenly can’t function without literally giving themselves away, rushed & compressed ending with tons of exposition in order to get back to the real story- troo wuv with the boyz.  It’s all there, y’all!  Knock yourselves out… or at least get a friend to do it.  Not so messy that way.

 

The one real surprise is the return of a character we hadn’t seen in a while- Olaf.  And despite being as boring and repetitive as everyone else, still manages to be creepy and somehow able to sneak a bit into Anita’s good graces.  In hindsight, an appearance from him is overdue but under the circumstances you wouldn’t expect him to be there, which makes the reason for his being there utterly contrived.  But given the implausibility of everything else, why the heck not?  Toss in Bernardo Spotted-Horse and it makes for a reunion of the Four Horsemen, which could’ve been a tour de force, but instead plays like an investigation by Scooby-Doo & the gang. Because, yeah- the baddie would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling U.S. Marshals and their were-buddies.

 

By the time Hamilton returns to the supposed mystery/curse to solve, you flat out won’t give a flip because it hasn’t mattered in so long you forgot all about it.  Far more important are the sudden appearance of Donna’s jellusy about Anita’s special bond with Edward, Donna’s BFF Dixie’s seething jellusy about the wedding, the cadre of bimbos jellus about Anita’s men, Olaf’s jellusy about Anita boitois… you might be sensing a theme here.  Jellusy even has a place in the motives of the bad guy- go figure!

 

Another theme is Hamilton’s ridiculous fixation with superhero metaphors.  Man, did she just love comparing Edward/Ted to Batman/Bruce Wayne; even Superman/Clark Kent a few times just to mix things up a bit.

 

No LKH novel would be complete without the sheer idiocy that’s Anita & Co- in both the classic and contemporary sense of the word.  Early on they ask a particular character if they know anything about the snake curse; they deny it, only to discover in the end just how much they did know.  Why such pertinent info was withheld is neither explained nor explored- just tossed in to avoid thinking something else up.

 

In the midst of an investigation into some missing women, Anita & co. come in contact with someone who’s obviously tied to the disappearances, but just plain fail to alert anyone about this in time to prevent other problems.  Why?  Why ask why.

 

There’s really not a lot to say about Serpentine-all the endless inanity, vapidity, vulgarity, insanity, mendacity, fragility…  It’s just plain bad, lazy, dull, self-indulgent, writing.  The usual, but somehow worse. 

 

Sorry for the lack of snark.  But I got nothing for this thing.

SPOILER ALERT!

Book Flog- Anita Blake: Serpentine, Chapters 47-50 (79% AND FINALLY A DEAD BODY)

 

Crapter 47:

 

Capt. Tyburn’s a pretty big guy; big enough to get Anita’s attention… know what I mean?  Rankin’s still trying to catch Dalton’s eye but Anita stumbles against him, breaking his concentration.

 

They run into Olaf in the lobby, and he wrangles himself into tagging along for the meeting.  All they needed was Bernardo and it’s the Four Horsemen again! 

They go into side room barely big enough for all of them and Tyburn unloads on Rankin, demanding answers.  They’re connected to the missing women and Nate’s background makes him a suspect.  Good answer; what do you have to say, Blake? 

 

Nate was a victim, not a perp; he was a child and we got him help.  Pffft!- of course he’d say that; he bats his pretty little eyes and tells a sob story and you all fall for it.  Whoa- did you just slut-shame a child victim of pedophiles just because he was a pretty little boy?  Uh-no?  Sounds to me like you damn sure did!  Tedward asks if Rankin has any connection to Nate.  Lots of non-denials before he finally just says no.

 

Anita remarks it’s pretty bad when a cop slut-shames an adult rape victim, but attacking a child…? WTF?  Nice try, Blake; you’re just trying to make trouble for me.

 

Olaf comments that lots of men say stuff like that would be rapists if they thought they wouldn’t get caught… so I gotta wonder what you’d do if you thought you wouldn’t?  You accusing me of being a pedophile?  Nope; just accusing you of thinking like one.   Anita figures that Olaf would know a thing or two about that.

 

Rankin shoves Olaf against the wall, and it’s on.  373 pages.

 

Crapter 48:

 

Olaf open hand slaps Rankin, staggering him.  Rankin tries to fight back; Tyburn opens the door so the rest of them can escape.  Next thing Rankin goes flying and crashing into the hallway.  Olaf lands an elbow to the temple and that’s it.  Anita now realizes she *never* wants to mix it up with Olaf.  375 pages.

 

Crapter 49:

 

Rankin gets sent to the hospital (still without anyone knowing about his powers- nice job breaking it, heroes) and Tyburn treats Anita & co. like co-workers instead of busybodies.  Dalton comes into the lobby, trailed by Micah, Nate, Rodina, Ru, Nicky, Bram; she needs to talk to Tyburn.  Tyburn tells a cop to escort the Four Horsemen to the crime scene.  While calling Bernardo, Micah explains Dalton thought she was in love with Rankin; he had his claws deep in her.

 

Bernardo struts in, with his zexxy self and it’s time to go.  Anita’s brain (such as it is) finally engages and she realizes Rankin’s gonna be at the hospital with Peter and Donna; she sends Rodina & Ru to check on things, keeping the main boitois with her.  Bernardo is bemused that starting a fight with Olaf got them a look at the crime scene; so is the cop escorting them.  380 pages.

 

Crapter 50:

 

It’s Anita’s first crime scene by the ocean- yay!  Tyburn’s given them the go-ahead; just want to know what they find out.  It’s officially Bettina; she’d been gutted like a melon, skin peeled back and hollowed out.  No spatter along the beach, no smell of decay or offal from the bowels and no marks they can recognize- human or otherwise.   How was this done and why?

 

There’s a bite mark along the ribcage- possibly a were did this.  Maybe, but looks more like human teeth; real question is how’d they get the organs out so skillfully.  Need a lot of practice for that.  Olaf doesn’t even detect the scent of a were- as far as he can tell in human form.  So what the hell?  390 pages.

 

 

79%, 50 chapters, 390 pages and I honestly can't remember the last time I saw or heard anything about a fucking snake person.