Friday, January 28, 2011

Yes, more zombies [Boneshaker]

Yes, two steampunk/zombie mash-ups in a single week. If I believed in karma, I would say that this is my reward for being generally awesome (I'm specifically awesome too, but no one likes a braggart). More zombies, more pirates, more airships, zero love story.

Set during the early Civil War, Leviticus Blue is commissioned by Russian gold prospectors to build a drill that can punch through the layers of ice in the Klondike. On its test run, the machine called Dr. Blue's Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine, destroys part of downtown Seattle and hits a vein of poisonous gas that turns the people exposed to it into zombies. The people of Seattle escape and eventually wall off the poisoned city, leaving the zombies trapped inside.

Sixteen years later, Briar Wilkes, Leviticus' widow, is living in the Outskirts as a pariah. Her son Ezekiel desperately wants to prove his father innocent of malicious wrong-doing. He sneaks into the walled city to search for proof. When Briar finds out what's he's done, she follows him in. Essentially, that is the whole story. And it's all right there on the back cover.

The world the story is set in sounds like a good time. I wouldn't want to live there, but I wouldn't mind visiting. Cherie Priest is a talented writer but the story needed some development. The pacing was well-set for the most part but sometimes the contrast between RUNNING FROM ZOMBIES and HIDING FROM ZOMBIES made it stutter a bit. Also, the bits from Zeke's POV made me feel a little stabby. Briar was a way more sympathetic character. And even though the story felt steampunk, a lot of the extras that would make it more authentic were relegated to window dressing. Yeah, we have some funny weapons, and the Boneshaker certainly counts, but it was more like eating a steampunk cookie when I wanted a meal. But I sure do the love shambling dead.

It sounds like I hate this book. I don't. I like it a lot, but if it didn't take itself so seriously, I would probably like it more. But I may be giving it more points than it deserves because, really it sounds like it should BE SO AWESOME. This may also be why I can't snark on it. Read it, but don't read it excitedly.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, The Clockwork Century, Book 1

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Zombies, pirates, and bears, oh my [The Iron Duke]

Sorry, no bears, but there are zombies and pirates. And nano-technology. And it's in a steampunk setting. I'm in love.

Set in an alternate-history England, the Horde had attacked England using nano-technology. The nano-agents were hidden in sugar and tea. Once activated, the Horde used the nano-agents to override the will of whomever had ingested them, basically making people into RC cars. The Horde ruled over England for two hundred years until their RC tower was destroyed by pirate Rhys Trahaearn. Rhys was granted a dukedom for saving the country.

Wilhelmina (Mina) Wentworth is a police inspector. She is called upon to investigate a body found at the home of Rhys, known as the Iron Duke (no, REALLY known as the Iron Duke, he's referred to as such at least once a page). Upon arrival at the house, she inspects the body, meets the duke (who is all WHOA I MUST MAKE YOU MINE), decides that Rhys wasn't involved in the murder, and goes on her merry inspecting way. Also, Mina happens to be half-Horde and is publicly scorned by EVERYONE on account of her being a half-breed. Mina investigates the murder, Rhys finagles his way into the investigation and makes repeated attempts to get into Mina's pants, Mina rebuffs him, there is a kidnapping, some zombies, another murder, a kraken, a giant conspiracy, some sweet hot loving, and some weird emotional dependency. The End.

I don't want to give away too much of the story and it's really difficult to summarize (there is a LOT of plot going on up in here). But my first reaction when I finished? HOLY SHIT-ON-TOAST this book was fucking awesome. It's got pirates, zombies, nano-technology, airships, bionic EVERYTHING, and a kraken. Meljean Brook, will you marry me? Please?

Once I stopped squeeing and started breathing properly again, I tried to think about this objectively. So, the setting is awesome, the writing is pretty tight, and above all, it's interesting. Mina is a really well drawn character. She had emotions, real motivations, and self-awareness. She didn't just exist for/because of the hero. On the other hand, Rhys, as much as I enjoyed him, was centered almost entirely around Mina. Most of his thought processes revolve around getting Mina in the sack. And most of his motivations are directly related to getting/keeping Mina in the sack. Mina's affection towards Rhys seemed to grow outwards from physical attraction then to admiration then to fondness and THEN to love. But Rhys never seemed to have a thought that didn't include Mina. EVER. I don't really buy the whole "Men think about sex only and always" so Rhys sometimes felt sort of two-dimensional. His back story is really sad and while it did add some depth to his character, he seemed more like a prop for Mina than an individual. My biggest problem was that he was kind of rapey. He was just so goddamn persistent that Mina was going to shtup him and then he actually assaulted her. She had valid reasons for saying no (not that there are invalid ones, NO is plenty reason) and he just steamrolled her. This made me angry at the book and then ANGRY AT ME for enjoying the book. Because rape is really not cool. Even if it is resolved between the characters at some point.

The next biggest problem? The Horde was basically the Yellow Terror with robots. Really, what the fuck? I realize that this was supposed to be a fictional threat, because duh, the Horde had nano-weapons, but? The Yellow Terror was really a thing. And while technically the sentiment behind that propaganda is no longer prevalent, people still kind of feel this way? Like everyone who complains about outsourcing work to China? Or who talk about JUST HOW SMART AND DEDICATED THOSE ASIAN KIDS ARE? Anyway, I get the whole xenophobia thing, but I feel like the purpose the Horde served could have been accomplished by another plot device.

And there were not enough zombies. There are NEVER enough zombies.

Romance is a major part of this story but I don't think it really fits well into Paranormal Romance as a whole. If I had to call it something, I would say it's Science-Romantasy. Hardcore Sci-fi fans or Romance purists need not apply. But I say read it. Read it twice.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Books without a point [Circus of the Damned, AB:VH, Book 3]

As usual, the story starts off with Anita at work, interviewing potential zombie-raising clients. (Look! Anita has a job doing stuff! This is a reminder that she is a regular person! Also serves to present a unifying theme!) This time, these clients don't want to raise a zombie, they want Anita to help them kill a vampire. Specifically, the Master of the City (they are not aware that this is Jean-Claude and Anita ever-so-politely declines to tell them). Dudes Jeremy and Karl are part of an anti-vampire group called Humans First that wants to kill all vampires despite the legal protections that vampires now enjoy. Anita tells the dudes to fuck off, she's not interested in helping. Mostly because their plan sucks.

Anita gets called to assist Dolph (his name is Randolf, why does no one call him Randolf? Oh, right, everyone in these books is quasi-German) with a murder investigation. Male victim with multiple vampire bites is found on someone's lawn. Anita identifies that the victim has been bitten by multiple vampires which rules out the possibility of him being turned. Anita doesn't believe that this murder is the work of Jean-Claude (him being such a nice guy and all) but goes to see him to find out if he has any information about the attack. At the Circus of the Damned (it really is a circus, if a circus could be said to smoke massive quantities of crack) she meets a couple of shifters, sees a giant snake, and has a confrontation with a psychotic lady-vampire. Then the giant snake goes berserk and eats a few people. Anita, Jean-Claude, various shifters, some Naked Dude, and Psycho Vampire fight the snake and kill it. Jean-Claude tells Anita that he does not know who killed the Murder Victim but would she please stop fighting against the vampire marks he placed on her against her will and also, get naked for some sexy vampire loving. Anita tells Jean-Claude to please STFU and proceeds to plan a date with Richard (previously known as Naked Dude). Then there is a pointless interlude with Edward "I love to kill things" Nolastname and one with Ronnie "I exist to fill page space" Sims.

Later, another Murder Victim (this time a lady) is found with multiple vampire bites. When Anita firsts shows up at the crime scene, this lady is merely dead. After a little while Anita notices that the lady is now dead AND pretty. She realizes that the first Murder Victim must by now be turning into a vampire. Because, apparently, a powerful enough vampire could turn someone even with bites from many vampires. Anita remembers reading this in an article, but neglected to mention it at the first crime scene (where she assured everyone that the victim was really really dead). There is another pointless interlude at the morgue where the NOW-NOT-DEAD dead man has been sent. There is much mayhem and carnage.

At Anita's behest, a new animator is hired by Animators, Inc. ( the zombie-raising firm Anita works for). New guy Larry is sent out by himself to do some zombie raising. Anita meets him at his 3rd job, where he has over-extended himself and proceeds to save his ass. She gives him a TOUGH-LOVE talk. As they are leaving the job site, Anita and Larry are attacked by Humans First. Then they are attacked by a group of vampires. Then they are saved by Karl(of Humans First). It turns out that the vampires who attacked are the rogue vampires who have been biting people a lot and the master of this group, Alejandro, wants to be Master of the City of St. Louis. He has placed the first vampire mark on Anita in an effort to weaken Jean-Claude's power. AND THEN it turns out that Karl is the human servant of Mr. Oliver who also wants to be MotC. And Mr. Oliver is a million years old. Literally. And he has a pet Snake-Lady who is also immortal. Mr. Oliver offers to free Anita of all of her vampire marks if she tells him who the current MotC is. She tells him she'll think about it.

Snake-Lady later comes to Anita and tells her Mr. Oliver wants to see her and gives her a ride to some cave in the middle of nowhere. Melanie (Snake-Lady's name, wtf) then tries to kill Anita. She gets bitten by one of Melanie's snake buddies but manages to escape and is picked up by Edward (just in case your brain has not yet turned to mush, this is merely another implausible coincidence in a series of implausible coincidences) in THE MIDDLE OF FUCKING NOWHERE. Now Anita nearly dies from the poison in her bite but is saved by Jean-Claude giving her yet another vampire mark. This makes Anita very angry and she tells Mr. Oliver who Jean-Claude is. Then she finds out that when Mr. Oliver takes over as MotC, he plans on a very public killing spree to force vampires back into hiding. So she calls Jean-Claude to tell him she has betrayed him. Jean-Claude tells her that Mr. Oliver has already challenged him to a duel. Then there is a giant fight at CotD. Alejandro (who is nominally working for Mr. Oliver) forces the last vampire marks on Anita. She uses her extra-special super-sort-of-vampire strength and rips Mr. Olivers spine out through his neck and also stakes Alejandro. Anita and Jean-Claude both survive the epic battle. And then Anita re-schedules her date with Richard. Oh, and Richard is a werewolf. A very sexy werewolf.

Here's something that annoys the piss out of me: each book reads like Anita is telling her story to herself but then WHAM, all of a sudden she's talking to the reader or asking the reader questions. This juxtaposition is both off-putting and obnoxious. But mostly it's obnoxious. Talk to the reader or talk to yourself. PICK ONE.

I have some advice for authors too: continuity is really important. Characters should not be described as having longish hair and then 10 pages later described as having short hair. Unless you have specifically mentioned them getting a haircut. Also, don't make a point of saying that people can be turned into shifters only by the violent attack of a shifter-in-animal-form and then say that they can also be turned by a bad vaccine. Hire an editor. Pointing out shit like that is their JOB. Continuity might not make your story GOOD, but it will make your story better. I PROMISE.

Here's a link. But please remember that I read this so that YOU DON'T HAVE TO. Save your money. Or better yet, use your money to buy me a present.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Yes, yes, YES.

I've only read halfway down the thread but I already agree with all of.

Back in school, and this quarter promises to be extra brutal, so the reading/writing will be fewer and farther between. Eeeep. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Appearing to be lazy

I am supposed to be writing a review of AB:VH, Circus of the Damned. I have every intention of doing this but I want to actually re-read it and I need to finish like 4 other books first. I don't know WHY I want to re-read it, but as I've said before, I am clearly a masochist (albeit one suffering without any hope of a big pay-off).

I am nearly finished with Shadowheart, TRIUMPHANT CONCLUSION of the Shadowmarch series by Tad Williams. I will not even make a cursory attempt to review it. After 4 books and 3000 pages, the best I could do is this:
Book 1: Storyline is established
Book 2: Storyline continues
Book 3: Storyline keeps continuing
Book 4: Storyline is concluded, but not totally
As reviews go, that would be wholly unsatisfying. And utterly fucking pointless. Suffice it to say, it is the epitome of Epic Fantasy. Fairies, walking, fighting, magic, swords, crazy monarchs and crazier gods. Plus 1000 pages more than are necessary.

I am reading The Butterfly Revolution by William Butler, which is similar to Lord of the Flies. I'm only a third through it, but it's interesting. I'm not reviewing this one either. It's only 200 pages long, go read it yourself.

I am also reading The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg, but I'm only 50 pages in so maybe this doesn't count.

Plus, I have to start reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. I would rather eat my own eyeballs for breakfast.

I'll be back soon-ish.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Eagle by day [Immortal Warrior, The Immortal Brotherhood Series, Book 1]

I was one sentence into Immortal Warrior when I came across this name “Hakon IronToe”. Once I stopped laughing, I seriously considered lighting the book on fire and then throwing it out of the window. I managed to check the impulse, but that’s mostly due to the fact that it’s a library book, I’ve already been banned from using the library like 4 times (I meant to return those, I swear) and I am trying REALLY HARD to keep my record clean.

Once I got past the shock of Hakon fucking IRONTOE, I got sucked into the story fairly quickly. A bunch of Norsemen (IronToe makes slightly more sense now, but I still wouldn’t want it for my handle) are trying to get their hammers on some treasure. Cwen, a witch, is all like HELL NO. There is a MIGHTY BATTLE and Cwen’s son is killed. She is majorly pissed and curses the warriors to live as men by day and beasts by night (or beasts by day and men by night, because consistency is clearly not Cwen’s strong suit). And they get to live forever. After an unspecified amount of time has passed, we meet Ivar Graycloak (eagle by day) who is a high-muckety-muck vassal of William the Conqueror, Jr. He does some vassal-y stuff for the King, is given some land as a reward and off he goes to see to it (also, he gets a wife, Alaida, whose grandfather owned the land Ivar was just awarded). Ivar scoops up his buddies Brand (bear by day) and Ari (raven by night) on his way to his new place. He meets Alaida and is all HEY BABY and Alaida is all OUT OF MY FACE JERKBAG. She marries him because she has been commanded to by the King, but she is not happy about. She does have sex with him, because hey, now that she’s married, why not? Ari has a vision of a baby turning into an eagle and flying out of the window and tells Ivar (by note, on account of them never being people at the same time) to stop swiving his wife unless he wants to pass the curse on. Of course Ivar has not told anybody about the curse and freaks right the fuck out. Alaida, who already doesn’t trust Ivar because she’s never seen him by the light of the sun, is now supremely pissed because not only does she have this husband she didn’t want but now he won’t even be a sexy-funtime-husband to her. Anyway, so as not to spoil the story, the rest of the book goes like this: Angst, sexual frustration, suspicion, SURPRISE, side story, PLOT TWIST, the end.

The Good Shit

My expectations for Paranormal Romance* are low. REALLY low. But the characters here are nuanced and subtle and they behave like real people. The hero is a regular guy who happens to have shit luck. He is certainly capable of some douchbaggery but he is trying to be a good guy and make up for it. The heroine isn’t a ridiculous bit of fluff with more hair than sense. She’s smart and stubborn and she isn’t afraid to be herself in a time that wasn’t exactly friendly to willful women. She also genuinely cares for the people she sees as under her protection. The love between the hero and heroine comes on gradually, not like a lightning strike of instant TRUE LOVE (which is rarely believable). The characters speech is neither too modern nor extremely old fashioned (thankfully, no thee’s or thou’s) but peppered with some medieval terminology that adds to the setting. I didn’t see the plot twist coming until a few pages before it happened. The sex scenes don’t overwhelm the story and are descriptive enough to be interesting without being too crude.

The Bad Shit

The third-person viewpoint switches between characters without warning, often in the middle of a passage. The plot twist required a number of amazing coincidences with a HEY IT’S MAGIC as the means of explanation (or utter lack thereof). The ending was satisfying but a little too neat.


Immortal Warrior was entertaining and well written and I’ll probably read at least the next two books. I’m not pissed that I read this and don’t feel like I wasted my time even if it is a pretty fluffy book. I sincerely doubt I would have bothered with any of it, but I had managed to snag a free copy of book three for my Kindle and my compulsive habits demanded that I start from the beginning.

If you are Fantasy purist, don’t bother with it. If you like Urban Fantasy, you’ll probably like this.

Immortal Warrior; The Immortal Brotherhood, Book 1

*I've read some good paranormal romance, but the majority has been overwhelmingly awful

The Laughing Corpse [AB:VH Book 2]

Fine. Let's get on with this.

I started re-reading this for the purposes of this review, and was admittedly pleased at how refreshing the earlier books are in their ... I don't know, potential? Like, the train hasn't slammed into the sedan yet, and Bobby Junior did not have his braces melt to the back of the seat in the flaming wreckage (a la Fight Club), but knowing that this horrible hot mess is coming makes the whole affair reek of a doomed kind of solace. And really, it's much too soon to even consider re-reading these books. So I'm cheating and using this summary as a guide, because they do all start to blend together in their awfulness.

There are a couple of different plot branches in this one that naturally end up all being interrelated and relevant by the end (get used to this formula, she uses it a lot.) And you'd think that since this is the second book in the series, we'd be out of the woods as far as obnoxious introductory stuff, but YOU WOULD BE WRONG. So just assume that as I'm going through this, we are spoken to frequently of her endless polo shirts, stuffed penguins, affinity for guns, and "witty repartee" - direct quote.

SO. We kick off with a Scary Rich Dude who wants to hire Blake to raise some super crazy old zombie (Remember? When she took a break from having sex with creatures and raised zombies from time to time?), which of course would require a human sacrifice and he's all 'I got this, yo' and she's all 'Fuck you, pal, you ain't killing no bitches on my watch.' and she, you know, storms out all indignant and he's all rageface.

While Scary Rich Dude is presumably off plotting all sorts of Scary Rich Dude things to persuade Blake to help, she gets called off by the fuzz to go look at some grisly crime scenes (and these grisly crime scenes are the driving forces of pretty much every book, so please enjoy the nuance of her descriptions of such this time, because you will soon want to drag a rake through your eyes every time she gets a beep [yes! beepers!] from DOLPH, the police ... guy ... who's name will always be in caps because it needs to be yelled in your head). Some sweet little family was all butchered, and we are treated to three pages of her talking about whether or not she will puke, what the implications of her puking would be, and what she is wearing that will either impact her puking or not. She gets all EXPERT at the scene and decides it's a flesh-eating zombie doing all this nasty damage, even though we have been told that zombies don't eat people on more than one occasion (get used to this as well - I'm sure it's written with the intent of being SHOCKING, but it feels more like waffling to me)

So she takes one her partners, who you feel is going to be relevant throughout the series but pretty much disappears after Book 4 (and in my head he is Don Sanchez from Assy McGee, but that's neither here nor there), goes to meet with a voodoo priestess who's all Looks Like Grandma, Acts Like The DEVIL and finds out some stuff, like it was probably her who set this murderous rampaging creature loose because that's what she does. For fun. And somehow Blake pisses her off and starts some vendetta. Because that's what SHE does. For fun.

Later we get introduced John Burke ... and I don't know why I'm telling you this, because he is another "totally will be relevant!" character, you think, but ... not so much. He is IN the later books, kind of, in an irrelevant way. BUT he's some big shot zombie raiser from New Orleans who was a suspect for maybe 30 seconds before that plot choked on its own bullshit and died. Moving on.

Later still, two Hell Grandma zombies break into Blake's apartment and try to eat her face, which we assume is retribution for offending her by standing in her basement and passing judgment on her soul zombies. Because I'm sure the most badass voodoo queen in like the whole fucking world is totally affected by what Anita Blake thinks of her. Sufffice to say, Blake kills the zombies and fucks up her penguins with zombie gore and we are treated to another three pages of the implications this mess will have on her lease, and how DOES one get blood out of a stuffed animal. Apparently you shouldn't use the bathtub. WHO KNEW.

We circle back to the original plot of Scary Rich Dude, and finally get to hang out with Jean-Claude some more and ... you know what? I can't even type "Jean-Claude" without cringing. He will heretofore be known as JC, like jesus, because he might as well be. Anyway, she needs a bodyguard (??) to go talk to a prostitute named WHEELCHAIR WANDA (that is her name, really) because she used to date Scary Rich Dude, who evidently has a hard-on for cripples, and will have information on how super sinister he is. JC is all, to Blake, YOU HAVE MY MARKS BE MY SEX SLAVE I AM WEARING VERY TIGHT PANTS and she's all "No" but she totally wants to do him like right there. Oh, and this is happening at ... wait for it ... The Laughing Corpse! Which is a comedy club! Owned by JC and operated by vampires! GET IT? Titular line! Clever, amirite?!

She finds out Scary Rich Dude wants to raise a dead family member for some kind of treasure, or something, as revenge, or something, and the details don't matter. Oh, and he is trying to kill Blake, too. Of course. Because no one in this universe can just accept a polite refusal of an offer without MURDEROUS RAGE.My chronology is fucked, but this also doesn't matter. At some point we learn that the flesh-eating zombie that is killing families is a relative of Scary Rich Dude, and was raised by Hell Grandma, who is working for Scary Rich Dude, but apparently fucked this up hardcore and now he's all YOU'RE FIRED, even though she's not (again, ??). The flesh-eater was, in life, a necromancer, which apparently pre-disposes you to kill families when you become a zombie? I guess? And Blake discovers all this on an epic flesh-eating zombie hunt at another crime scene, when she is struck by the brilliant idea that our flesh-eater hides ... in a fucking trash can. Not like, a dumpster. A trash can, that you put in front of your house for sanitation workers. Like, this was her A-HA moment. Because it's plausible, you guys!

Her and the fuzz kill the flesh-eater, and she goes to the hospital for whatever reason, zombie vaccines or something, and then gets abducted - along with Wheelchair Wanda - by Scary Rich Dude. Who is hanging out with Hell Grandma, because clearly he has not learned his lesson. He still needs his zombie raised god-fucking-damnit, and he will rape/maim/torture to get it. And he has provided Wheelchair Wanda as the human sacrifice needed to raise this zombie! How economical of him!

End scene has all the happy band of freaks in this cemetery, where Blake uses her amazing MacGyver skills to get her ass out of every impossible predicament and kills Scary Rich Dudes two bodyguard-goons instead of Wanda, which is OMG TWO SACRIFICES, and apparently that kind of craziness is enough to raise THE WHOLE CEMETERY and then she sets off her pack of now killer zombies (because you can do that, LKH forgot to mention before, when she was changing the rules again) and takes out Scary Rich Dude and Hell Grandma, who went down surprisingly easily considering she just spent the whole book making her as practically immortal with her badassness.

This whole scene is enough to make JC go "You are scary, bitch, but I still want to fuck you" and she is all "No, still" and OMG I AM TOTALLY A NECROMANCER TOO! This is the first instance of GUESS WHAT ELSE I AM, YOU GUYS that is prevalent throughout the series (honestly, by book 9, she's pretty much confessed to being everything amazing that ever existed as a means to explain unnecessary plot points). Oh, and she can technically be put to death by the law for killing people with "magic" regardless of whether or not it was in self-defense so let's not tell anyone about that whole Slaughter In The Cemetery thing.

If you have read this book, you are already tits deep in the fire, but you can still turn back! If you haven't ... oh, why am I bothering. Here is a link to buy it, but I recommend borrowing/pirating/stealing, because please don't give this woman any of your money.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Clearly, I must be a masochist [Guilty Pleasures, AB:VH, Book 1]

Just for background: Urban Fantasy is not my favorite genre. Give me some epic Fantasy and I’m a happy camper. Six or more books in your series? 800+ pages per book? Dragons, swords, and magic? I AM ALL OVER THIS. But I do like vampire stories. And I really like werewolf stories. And, sweet mother of Christ, do I love fairy stories. Or faerie, if you prefer.

When I read Guilty Pleasures for the first time, some of it troubled me but it didn’t make me want to eat my own face off. Everything was just interesting enough to continue reading the series. The writing wasn’t great, but a lot of that is just the headvoice. Anita Blake has all the scholarly learning and emotional complexity of a febrile guinea pig. I blew through 16 of what was 18 books in 4 weeks. By book 6, I was pissed. By book 12, I had permanent RAGE FACE. It’s impossible to think about each book individually now because I know what’s coming next. And it isn’t pretty.

At any rate, Anita, oh Anita Blake. I wish, really wish, that I liked you. You are all sorts of things that I like. Bad-ass lady? Check. Majorly independent? Check. Weirdly idiosyncratic? Check. Plus, you raise zombies. WHY DON’T I LOVE YOU? I should be all with a case of puppy dog love. But somehow, all of these things together conspire to make me utterly loathe you. The bad-assedness, and the independence, and the penguins!!! Christ, you are trying SO HARD to make me feel sympathetic towards you whilst pretending not to give two shits about my opinion.The thing is, I like the world you live in. Vampires are citizens? You can become a shifter because of a bad vaccine? Zombie raising is an acceptable business venture? This is awesome. And a lot of the reason I’ve read all nineteen books. But instead it’s all about YOU. Which fine, whatever, the goddamn series is called Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter. But it’s written in your own POV, which I hate. Because your head is not a good place to be. You say things like “naw” which makes me want to body-slam a cactus. You talk about your clothes. I DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU COLOR MATCHING THE SWOOSH ON YOUR NIKES TO YOUR T-SHIRT. Socks are socks, and nobody cares if the stripe on the side is “tasteful”. IT’S A FUCKING SOCK. You have lived in St. Louis, presumably, for your whole life. Why are a penguin t-shirt and running shorts the only clothes you have to camouflage your guns in the summer? YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE A PROFESSIONAL. And then, the penguins. I think the penguins are supposed to make you relatable. Like “I’m a bad-ass with 30 guns and I’m covered in scars but look! I collect stuffed penguins! Aren’t I cute? Don’t you want to be my friend?” NO, Anita Blake, YOU ARE NOT CUTE. And I would rather be friends with flesh-eating bacteria.

Since I’m supposed to be talking about Guilty Pleasures, here it is: Something is killing the vampires in St. Louis. And not just the ones on the bottom of the pecking order, but powerful vampires. Willie the vampire (what the fuck?) tries to hire Anita, known as The Executioner, to find out who or what is killing the bloodsuckers. She refuses but is coerced by Jean-Claude, super-supremo-sexy vampire, into accepting. Jean-Claude and Willie the Vampire are working on behalf of Nikolaos, who is Master Head Honcho Vampire Princess of St. Louis. Anita starts digging around, pisses off a lot of people, including Nikolaos, and raises a zombie. There is some fighting, an appearance by were-rats (holy fucking hell), then an undercover sting operation with a vampire-addicted stripper, some more fighting, BUILD-UP, more build-up, final fight scene, the end. Also, Jean-Claude starts the process of making Anita a human servant, which is like a super-special gold-star vampire lackey who has many of the strengths of a vampire and few of the weaknesses. Sounds like a sweet deal, but Anita is not happy. She never is, but this is especially sad-making for her. Even though, despite a one-thousand year old vampire trying very hard to make her dead, she is very much alive because of Jean-Claude and his vampire marks.

Go ahead and read it. But I’ll just say I told you so now.

Note to editors: A garter belt is not the same thing as garters. Why someone would wear garter BELTS is beyond my comprehension. It sounds monstrously uncomfortable. And one person wears one leotard. Their legs are not covered in leotards. I guess you could layer them, but really, that makes no sense. Also, tireder? This is not acceptable. Not even in your own head.

Edited for formatting 

On finding the crux ... part II

Moving on.

I think my main issue with fiction written in first person is tenses. Most authors who write FP go for a kind of vague present-past (there is probably a literary term for this, but I go to culinary school) where the action is primarily assumed to be happening either right now or some hazy five-minutes-ago period. This stretches believability for me - it makes me think, for whatever reason, that this character is somehow taking time away from being a character to be a narrator in their own stories. I'm not sure I'm making myself clear, but this is the best I can explain it. The best stories written in FP, for me, establish when the story is taking place in relation to when the story is being narrated. Margaret Atwood, for example, pulls this off all the time, seamlessly. The story-telling feels natural, not forced and not muddled with stupid headvoices and their inescapable need to make stupid observations.

Headvoices, you know. The ultimate downfall of FP, and one of my major grievances with AB:VH. Anita Blake's headvoice is dumb (see blog tittle!). There is a reason people do not say every thought that pops into their brain - because no one is particularly interested in your white noise. If I spent my day talking like Anita Blake thinks, someone would surely put me out of my misery. LKH allows Blake to prattle on and on about shit that I don't care about, or shit she's already told me a million times, or most often, shit I don't care about AND she's told me a million times. I get it! Dolph never says goodbye on the phone! You are really into your Browning Hi-Power! Your shoulder holster chafes! YOU DON'T WEAR BASE, AND FOR FUCK'S SAKE IT'S CALLED "FOUNDATION" YOU DUMB TWAT.

You see? I'm raging just thinking about it. There are sentences in these books that genuinely make me want to burn everything she has ever written. She has this overwhelming need to repeat the most irritating turns of phrase (like ending any mention of her own much lauded smart-assery with "who me?") and most offensively, ANSWERING her own STUPID QUESTIONS. "Could it be? Naw." "Would I do that? Ri-ight." Yes. Yes "Ri-ight" [sic] shows up all the time. In some books, it's "Ri----ight." In others, it's "Riiiiight." Why would anyone do that? What about that obnoxious late 90's parlance would make anyone think it is okay to put that in a written work that does not feature David Spade?

Anita Blake's - despite her shallow yet frequent existential crises - biggest fan is herself. I've never met a more undeservedly self-involved main character. It's like the character is so self-involved that the rest of her fictional world is consumed by her gaping face hole like a fucking vacuum. It's hard to watch the potential of this series fall into that sucking abyss. For all her faults, LKH did manage to build an intriguing alternaverse. It's not a new idea by any stroke of the imagination, but there is enough nuance in her world to make it different and interesting. And yet? And yet. Everything she could have done with this world and these characters is more or less destroyed by the epic lameness of it's heroine/psycho cunt/sniveling pansy (depending on the book, you see, because although one of Blake's many favorite phrases is "At least I'm consistent" - the absolute opposite is true.)

So the big question becomes: Why? Why am I doing this to myself? Because I must. It's train wreck syndrome at it's finest. I also am pretty incapable of starting a series and not seeing it through to it's gory end. I did not seek this series out on purpose - it found me. A dear friend answered my request for some good and solid trashy book with Guilty Pleasures. Like, it's CALLED Guilty Pleasures. I would think it was almost a wink, but I can't give LKH that much credit. And it really does start off ... not great, but not offensively bad. It starts off like a silly and fun jaunt through a silly world with silly characters. There is no sex in the earlier books. None! They are a huge tease, because really, you pick up these books thinking they will be full of blood and sex and terrible dialogue. You get the blood and dialogue, but the sex isn't there. So you feel cheated, insistent that if you keep going, if you plow through just one more, your payoff will arrive all wrapped up in a leather harness and a ball gag. Well. You know. It does. But by the time it gets there, you realize this was all a horrible mistake and you are too far gone to turn back.

What does LKH do right? There are things. Some things. Her pacing is more or less spot on. If she could get past the redundancy and the headvoice, there would never be a dull moment in any of her stories. Like so many of her FP brethren, she gets caught up in unnecessary details, so will often spend too long talking about furniture (hello, Anne Rice! I have missed your 14 page love letters to an ottoman). I could get past it. When the sex does show up in full frontal force, it is ... surprisingly ... not badly written. There are - I won't so "no" but - very few corny adjectives or euphemisms like I was wholly expecting. They don't ramble on, but they're not exactly clipped. They last as long as they need to. And you know how some sex scenes in books practically radiate the discomfort and awkwardness of the author? Hers do not. She is confident in that, at least.

Otherwise? Uh. Right.

I'm sure I've already made clear that I'm, at this moment, only halfway through the series. I may be forced to redact some or all of the above once I get through the whole thing. After having glimpsed the wiki for her already-ridiculous variety of were-animals, I am pretty sure things will only get worse. My plan is to hold on to my rage for as long as possible, because once I just start accepting all of this bullshit I'm being thrown, I will see no other recourse but to hang up my hat and blow my fucking head off.

So! Audience of none! The ultimate question is: should you read this series?


Are you fucking stupid? Have you learned nothing? KEEP YOUR PURITY AND RUN, FOR FUCKS SAKE.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Look, I have a dragon! [Star Of The Morning]

Just finished reading Star of the Morning by Lynn Kurland. A straight up fantasy novel, my favorite kind. No vampires or werewolves. Which, honestly? A relief. No angsty bloodsuckers and overly aggressive shifters? That’s awesome. I needed a break from those douche bags. Especially if I’m going to start working my way through AB:VH again.
The basic story goes as such: Dude (King of someplace with a funny name) is attacked by something and loses his ability to use magic and his magic sword (this is not a euphemism, it really is a magic sword). Dude has another magic sword (if it was a euphemism, I don’t know if I would be thrilled or appalled, but that’s beside the point) and he needs to find someone who can wield it. Dude’s brother, Chief Magic Man, sends Dude on a Quest to find the wielder. Enter Lady Mercenary who is sent on her own Quest to bring Dude a magic dagger (yes really, a magic dagger). And then: QUESTING. At some point, Dude (traveling incognito) and Lady Mercenary (with her gang of Mercenary Bro’s) meet up. Followed by: MORE QUESTING. Chief Magic Man (also incognito) eventually goes off to find his brother who has been gone for a couple of months. He finds the not-so-happy group, sees Lady Mercenary, is all OMG Yur beeyootiful, and joins the Quest. Now with MORE QUESTING. Plus, a LOVE STORY. Also: CLIFFHANGER. And a DRAGON.
If you like fantasy with some romance thrown in, give this a whirl. There is no naked business in the story and I doubt anybody’s nether regions will come into view, but hey, I’ve been surprised by that stuff before. The dialogue is pretty well written and the main characters are mostly interesting but there isn’t always a lot in the way of self-reflection, so sometimes they (and the secondary characters) come off a little flat. The fight scenes are extremely vague, but I’d rather vagueness than 6000 pages of battle scenes. There is some descriptive scenery but not really a lot of world building. Keeping the names of kingdoms and cities gets a little tough, but maybe that’s because there is no map. And maps of PLACES THAT DON’T EXIST are extremely helpful. What kind of fantasy doesn’t have a map? But there are a couple of anthologies with stories that are set in this world, so maybe I just need to read those first? Or maybe all the background info is going to be gradually introduced because it’s a series and it’s the first proper book. Whichever, I’m reading the next one once the Kindle price drops, because when I checked it was $11.99.
Series info: Star of the Morning, The Nine Kingdoms, Book 1

Tuesday email chain

Dani: I started the review for Laughing Corpse, but was focusing on my magnum opus, which is a kind of general overview of why I love/hate this series as a whole, thus far. It’s kind of turning into an angry manifesto, but I’m just letting it go where it needs to.

I think after I finish Obsidian Butterfly, I am going to take a break from her. I’m starting to lose my shit. I swear when I read the sentence “there is not much they can do to chicken to make it uneatable” I almost broke the Kindle in half.

Janet: But Obsidian Butterfly is where it starts getting ultra. Ultra what, I don't know, but it's certainly spectacular. I'm with you on the magnum opus though. It's harder to think about the books separately than in aggregate. Like, GP isn't HORRIBLE but it sure as shit ain't good. But knowing what's coming actually makes the beginning of the series seem like a paragon of good taste and superior storytelling. (Now I will be looking out for "uneatable chicken" HOW DO I NOT REMEMBER THIS?) I don't know how I actually feel about it anymore.

Dani: She uses “eatable” or “un-“ at LEAST three times that I can remember. It’s UNBEARABLE, JANET.

I thought the one right before O.B. (I don’t even remember the names anymore, honestly, they just blend) was where it got ultra. I was seriously saying WHAT THE FUCK like every 10 minutes. With the leopards! And the sex healing! And the TRIUM-FUCKING-VIRATE (you did not lie – I now hate that word) My cats were terrified of me. It gets worse than this? I will die.
I’m with you on the earlier books, and I’m not even half way through. Re-skimming LC is like breath of … I won’t say fresh air, but less fetid air. Hey, remember when the main character made sense, kind of? Good times.

Janet: I feel like I really need to check it out from the library. Just to make sure. Because I ran across some weird grammar in GP that make me go "wha?". So I kind of keep hoping that it's just the formatting on the copies I have, but I know when I checked out "Divine Misdemeanors" (from the Merry Gentry series) I was kind of floored by the HORRIBLE HORRIBLE editing. Does it really start before OB? I thought it was the book after. But the LEOPARDS!! OMG. JUST FUCKING WAIT until she gets to the rest of the goddamn zoo. (I will say that I love Nathaniel later in the series)

Dani: I have just gotten to the jaguars, and I was so resigned that all I could do was be like … of course, jaguars, OF COURSE. OB is almost dull thus far in the WTF department, which would be relieving if it weren’t for the grammar/spelling problems that are making me rage.

Nathaniel is … (one of) the little submissive leopard people, yeah? I am honestly losing track. There were so many ridiculous tertiary characters in the last book -- all with equally stupid names -- that I have pretty much given up on trying to differentiate.

Janet: Yeah, Nathaniel is a submissive leopard (and writing that sentence made my head explode) but later in the books, I don't know why, I LOVE him. It might be the pearls. I know a lot of AB fans loathe him, but he makes my insides go "SQUEEEE". But, ugh, leopards. Then pandas, penguins, and Thompson's gazelles. This is a joke, but there are swans, so why the fuck not a penguin?

Dani: Submissive Leopard = my new band name. Seriously, I’m crying. AND I want to be a were-penguin.

THE SWAN GUY. OMG I FORGOT ABOUT HIM. Um. Another stupid name. Um. I want to say, like, Rochester, but that is not it.

Kaspar. It’s Kaspar. I fucking Googled “wereswan” and got this page:

Someone wrote that! Someone! Sat! Down! And! Wrote! That! (facepalm)


I've glanced at the AB wiki but there is a separate wiki just for the were's?  THAT'S AMAZING. Although, I would not be surprised if it was LKH. 

I'm pretty sure that LKH is a BDSM'er (actually this is complete conjecture and based on zero facts whatsoever) and maybe she thinks that these weird ultra-german names make everything sound like black leather. Kaspar. Dolph. BERT. If I could type a german accent I would.

Can you imagine a werepenguin? How awesome would that be? Make Joe draw one. And then we can get tattoos.

Dude, I have so many ideas about LKH that are all complete conjecture but I’m absolutely convinced are true. Her being into BDSM is the kindest of all of them. And you know she’s a bottom but totally wants to be a top. I want to have a cocktail with her. I might have to slap her once to get it out of my system, but I really just want to sit down with her and be like WHAT THE FUCK WITH YOU, LADY.

All of her crazy/dumb exotic names are like … the kind you can’t say without either having GUSTO or, are German. Like OLAF! I have recently been introduced to Olaf and I hate both his name and her development of his character more than anything.

On finding the crux, or why I hate AB:VH in 5000 words or less

Official Kindle ownership sorted; celebrated by spending 3.5 of the four days I had off absolutely cut off from all communication with the entire world apart from occasional nods to my husband and occasionally feeding my cats. Nice fuh me.

Over the long weekend, I finished books five through most-of-nine of the AB:VH series, treating this task as something to be endured and put behind me as quickly as possible. I am not savoring these books, you guys. I am speeding through them with frequent twitching and very frequent mutterings of “seriously?” and “what the bleeding fuck” to my empty living room.

Before I unleash my recap/review of Book 2, I wanted to try and put out there exactly why I have a barely-love/mostly-hate relationship with this series. Bear with me on this one, it could get messy.

Let’s start with the character of Anita Blake, whom as I get further and further along have realized is not so much a real character but simply a projection of what the author’s, like, fantasy life would be. LKH didn’t really invent Anita Blake – Blake is just a super-maxed version of everything LKH wants to be, and it is obvious enough to be embarrassing; especially since the character is so ridiculously flawed in both personality AND execution. It’s narcissistic, but kind of pathetically so.

Like, I get that this character is the center of the story. I understand that these are tales spun to me in that glorious First Person voice (more on that later) of this character, so yes, of course it is going to be All Her All The Time, and of course she (as a character) is going to feel that it certainly should be that way. What bothers me is that every other character, great or small, seems to feel the exact same way. I can believe in this alternate universe of vampires and were-fucking-everythings. I can believe in the completely-not-real details of this world, of these people in it, their politics and laws. It is called suspension of disbelief, and it is what you expect out of any piece of fiction. What strains my suspension is not the zombie raising or the black magic or the unnecessary overuse of fake words – it’s the concept that not one single inhabitant of this story has mild or neutral feelings towards the main character. Every person or –thing that crosses her path is either hopelessly in love/lust with her, thinks she’s the second coming of Bad Ass Murder Christ, or hates her with a passion … that burns in their loins. It doesn’t make sense. She has not been fleshed out enough as character to be remotely that compelling, even just to other characters. She wears polo shirts, like, a lot! No one who wears that many polo shirts is that fucking attractive!

And she continues to get more and more ridiculous as the series goes on. Now she’s a necromancer! Now she’s a witch!  Now she controls the shapeshifters with nothing but her unmitigated powers of SHEER AWESOMENESS. It feels like a cop-out. It feels like LKH has made this woman some kind of preternatural (yet human! Still human! LEST WE FORGET) superwoman because she’s too goddamn lazy to figure out a way to explain how Anita Blake could possibly A) still be alive, and more importantly B) why anyone should actually give a shit.

[to be continued ... ]