walkitout: (Default)
This is in the Elder Races universe, however, it is set in the UK, rather than being US centric.

SPOILERS HO! Run, or Isabeau will send Morgan to git you and rip out your tongue or something even worse.

Sophie got shot while working as a witch consultant for the LAPD. She is still recovering when Dr. Kathryn Shaw approaches her with a weird will/inheritance thing. If she can get into this old English manor house, it's hers, along with a substantial annuity. Sweet! Sophie was adopted by exploitative witches and left first chance she got. She had to figure out her ancestry on her own and knows she has some Djinn ancestry.

Nikolas is a Knight of the Daoine Sidhe, a dwindling crew being persecuted by the Light Court (led by Isabeau) and unable to return home to Lyonesse, where Oberon lies insensate and all but dead.

Robin is a puck gone missing, who somewhat inconveniently shows up to be rescued by Sophie and provide a point of initial conflict with Nikolas (and Gawain). Antics ensue.

Sophie _does_ get the house. And I mean, this is a romance novel, so obvs Sophie and Nik are gonna get it on (and on and on and on because he is part Wyr and Mating and blah blah blah). There is a strong thread of Who Will Betray Me involved. And there are lovely setups (is Morgan fully controlled by Isabeau? Does he need to be rescued too? Of course we need to find out!) for more in the series.

Utterly satisfying, if Thea Harrison's elder races novels do it for you, this probably will too, subject to there may well be some sort of UK errors that I am not detecting that might piss you off. But, fun! And exploring the manor house sorta like an episode of Sapphire and Steel.
walkitout: (Default)
Wow. That pretty much sums up my feelings about this book. I may go reread it tonight. Just, wow.

Spoilers! Continue and an ad-hal might get you!

Ok, so I think this is book 3 in the Innkeeper series. A chaotic ... something or other shows up as a courier and tells her her sister is in trouble. So off she goes to rescue sister and niece. She recruits the vampire to help her out, and the vampire's reaction to her sister is ... really fucking entertaining.

All these books with Team Wolf vs. Team Vampire, and this is the _first_ resolution that involves answering the question, "Do you have a sister?"

The main storyline -- why is it the Draziri have it in for the smelly guys -- is telegraphed pretty early on and pretty overwhelmingly. But who cares, when you get things like Mr. Rodriguez's son is a what?!? And the magic answer turns out to be a name that matches the initials on the cat's tag?!?

Most of the time, gimcrack stuff like this makes me eye roll. But I was cheering. If Ilona Andrews is your kinda crack, this was _really good crack_. I am so looking forward to the next entry.

Also, I _love_ the cop now! All this trouble with what to do about the cop and the answer is simple. Give him a copy of the relevant law and appropriate arms and boom. He's now enforcing the treaty FOR them, instead of interfering with them. Awesome.
walkitout: (Default)
(ETA Huge apologies for managing to spell the author's name incorrectly. BOTH first and last names wrong. I must be special or something, to cock it up that bad!)

I was reading SBTB (http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/) the other day, and there was a hilarious post about books with angry heroines. I've read some Laurentson before, and the reason I stopped reading her wasn't so compelling I was opposed to giving it another try.

In this outing, Livy (honey badger) and Vic (hybrid bear / I forget the details on which cat) get together. It is far enough into the series/universe that you could get very, very, very lost if you haven't read any of the earlier books at all, but if you understand the basic universe and how the various shifter groups relate to each other, the book stands on its own otherwise (you don't have to read _all_ the other books first, basically).

The book opens with a funeral and all kinds of honey badger drama around the funeral. Livy is sort-of depressed and mostly that manifests as not wanting to take any pictures or really do much of anything. Vic and his not-partner hire her to break into an apartment in an effort to track down someone who has been hunting shifters and stuffing them (ewww); the apartment belongs to that man's decades estranged daughter so there is no real expectation that searching the apartment will help but it's one of the few ideas they have. Alas, Livy gets a real surprise in that apartment.


Look, if you dropped in here via google, now is the time to leave. If you read this blog and you don't realize I spoil the fuck out of everything, well, you haven't been reading it for very long. So, run away! Or some honey badger will do something really awful to you probably. Because that's how they roll.

Where was I? Oh, Livy didn't really believe her father was in the coffin at his funeral; she thought it was a scam on her mother's part to collect on insurance policies she had taken out on him. He _wasn't_ in the coffin. But as her mother had come to believe, he was dead. And as absolutely no one expected, he was in that apartment. Stuffed.

Livy is too upset to talk about it, but not too upset to do some major damage. Vic gets her out of the trouble she immediately gets into, and then takes her off for some recuperation time until she is able to discuss what happened in the apartment. Once she recovers enough to talk, she calls a honey badger clan meeting and all holy hell breaks loose.

As these things go, it's kind of fun, if you're looking for a _very_ literal minded hero and a _very_ angry heroine. I think I was supposed to be laughing a lot more than I was. It was pretty dark, tho.
walkitout: (Default)
In which they finally get married! Swoon, amirite?

The writing team came up with a somewhat stilted gimmick fort his novel. The Witch Oracle has been looking into Kate's future more or less since she claimed Atlanta and they do _not_ like what they are seeing, not one teeny tiny bit. They tell Kate and Kate doesn't like it either. So she starts thinking outside the box and opens up some possibilities; it turns into one of those scavenger hunt/serial murder or criminal leaves a bunch of puzzles for the heroes to solve episodes. In 70s era crime drama, it involved payphones; in this case, it involves confusing checkins with the Witch Oracle.

On the one hand, this could really be silly and annoying. On the other hand, it works fairly well as a Kate Life Review. Each of the anchor points involves Kate revisiting a friend or family member, and the past is reinterpreted (sometimes very tragically, sometimes in a way that leads to some optimism). Kate's relationships with her close friends are strengthened and by the time the final battle arrives, I doubt anyone is particularly surprised to learn that every single one of the anchor points preserved the life of a friend whose contribution to the battle is crucial (or, in at least one case, precipitated a death that was important, or, yeah, whatever).

Neat book. I love who Kate and Curran picked to officiate; it is in every way appropriate. And I'm looking forward to more in the series and the universe.
walkitout: (Default)
This is the 7th novel, but if you want the gory details on the reading order, go look at the author's website.

SPOILERS! Run away or the evil pariah Djinn will get you!

In this outing, a human on the run from Malphas (boy, he just keeps turning up, doesn't he?) auditions for a job as a Vampyre, er, something or other. There's a cattle call (har de har har) for aides, donors, wtf, and she participates. She watches the people who go on stage before her and the audience (non) response and is fairly pissed by the time she goes up, so she's very to the point (My looks are forgettable and I'm smarter than most of you) and walks off -- to be very surprised to get a next round interview with Xavier Del Torro himself, second in commond to Julian King of the Nightkind. She gets a 1 year probationary period and then next chunk of the novel (after the desperate collect her car and drive over to the estate and be patted down security check sequence) is a training sequence. She's quite young (20s) and we learn slowly a little of her background: degrees in accounting and computer science, used to work for a casino in Vegas (owned by Malphas, natch), foster kid, rigid internal code, not a lot of friends/not any significant support system. As one might expect from a person with a broken attachment system, as soon as she and Xavier start to get along, she feels bad at relying on him for her protection/putting him at risk from the Evil Djinn and is about to run. But he's no idiot and gets the story out of her -- antics ensue.

And indeed, they are antics! Harrison has gone to some trouble to think about the powers of her Powers, and what their limitations are, and how a wily human could get around them. And Harrison has a lovely, lovely sense of humor. The whole thing with the piece of paper and the envelope and the deal with Soren is truly priceless.

Violent aftermath unrelated to that deal, and there's quite a little cliffhanger at the end to set up the next book, which is apparently a war in Nightkind demesne, Justine v. Julian and who knows who else, but involving other races as well (inevitably).

I liked how Xavier really got to thinking about the giving blood "test", and how in the past, more were reluctant (as Tess is) and now they are right up there and ready to go -- and the balance of trust has really changed, where those humans willing to offer blood right from the beginning turn out not to be reliable or loyal. I'm hoping he gets a chance to rework the ritual to better accomplish what it once did.

This has been a surprisingly strong and consistent series, despite the variety of protagonists, the many romances, the novels and novellas, the sense of humor, etc. I'll be sad when I run out of books and am stuck waiting for the next one.
walkitout: (Default)
Thea Harrison's "Elder Races" series starts out with novels, but includes many shorter works, more or less novellas. Several of these novellas are linked by a Powerful Tarot deck that passes from one couple to the next through a variety of mechanisms purchase, theft, gift, etc.). A variety ...


... of characters speculate that the Tarot deck is one of the God Machines mentioned in some of the novels, Powerful objects cast into the world which takes different forms to work the will of a god. Har de har har. Kudos to Harrison for naming these things what they are.

_True Colors_: somebody is killing Wyr, specifically, rainbow chameleons. A former army, now cop (particular variety of cop, but cop) Wyr shows up a little late to save one rainbow chameleon, but in time to save another one, a school teacher. So we have here a cop-school teacher romance. The _details_ are not realistic, but the pairing is very realistic. Alice, the school teacher, bought the Tarot deck some years earlier.

_Natural Evil_: Claudia Hunter, ex-special forces human with some telekinesis, is given the Tarot deck by Alice, because the deck wants to go to her. This particular transition is one of the most forced, but it works well enough. Claudia finds a very large dog by the side of the road and rescues it. It's not a dog, obvs, it is a Wyr and there some kind of weird thing going on in the very small town of Nirvana. It involves magical silver from a pocket of Other Land. Hunter, the Wyr, and the local vet manage to get it mostly squared away. As Claudia drives away, a goth Medusa teen steals the Tarot deck from the back seat.

_Devil's Gate_: The silver magic/Other land discovery starts a gold rush, a tent city, and a jurisdictional dispute that is not resolved promptly. Our friend the medical examiner Medusa, Dr. Telemar, has to go rescue her niece, the goth from the previous novela. She has been accused of murdering Dark Fae who was trafficking and other things. She is being held by first gen, pariah Djinn Malphas when Dr. Telemar and Vampyre lawyer Duncan Turner show up to rescue her. The plot is thin in this one, but Telemar/Turner are a ton of fun, so that's just Fine. Xanthe volunteers to take the Tarot deck with her back to Adriyel.

_Hunter's Season_: Xanthe takes some time off before going back to work for Niniane and Tiago. Since too many people might recognize her now, she won't be doing more undercover work (she was working for the Dark Fae guy in the previous novella, on assignment for Tiago). She's been crushed out on Aubrey Riordan for decades if not a century or more, and seeing him while she works for Niniane as a guard just makes that oh, so much worse. Riordan is attacked and Xanthe gets to guard him in secret at her cabin a long ways away from everyone else, while he recovers from his wounds. Yum. They do actually deliver the Tarot deck to Inanna's temple where it disappears when they aren't looking (which happened to Claudia Hunter, but probably this time it isn't being stolen by a goth teenage Medusa).

This next novella is not part of the Tarot series.

_The Wicked_: Carling's library in the abandoned house on the island in the Other land in San Francisco Bay needs to be packed up and packed out through the underwater tunnel. Three symbologists and a security team head out to take care of it. One is Olivia, librarian friend of the Oracle of Louisville. Another is Phaedra, repaired but still kinda weird, even for a Djinn. The team leader is Sebastian Hale, who was cursed and is going blind and is NOT happy about that at all. One of the other symbologists makes some trouble. Hale and Olivia go see the Oracle and THAT IS SO HYSTERICALLY FUNNY. Honestly, I love the Oracle. The Oracle is hilarious, particularly _after_ she's done something amazeballs and then comes out of it and goes Oh Gross. Having a Djinn -- or better yet, two -- around is Handy.

There are more novellas, but I haven't read them yet, and they seem to involve the Pia-Dragos-Liam family.

I'm enjoying the choices that Harrison is making to have some stories be full length novels, and other ones be novellas. There are connections, but everything reads okay standalone, and the reading order is quite forgiving.
walkitout: (Default)
I've been sick for over 10 days now -- I have been getting better for a while, but it was bad. It was respiratory, and I suspect it was the flu, because it started with horrible bone and joint pain. Maybe I _will_ get the flu shot next year. I don't often get this sick.

Anyway, I have pretty well defined phases of Being Sick, one of which is Too Sick to Read, and then there's Only Beloved Rereads and next is Trashy Fiction from a Reliable Source. After that is Trashy Fiction But Willing to Take a Small Risk and after that is healthy and back to walking and too tired to do much more than play Farmville 2: Country Escape. (It's a sad, sad life, but I enjoy it so.)


I tried to read JAK's _Smoke in Mirrors_, but I was pretty ill and I had reread it too recently so I did not finish it as I started to recover.

Here's what I read during the Trashy Fiction from a Reliable Source phase.

_Eye of the Beholder_ This and the next one were JAK novels that I liked from the 1990s (and at this point, I have bought them new in hardcover, in paperback, used in paperback and in kindle. Nuts!), but had such a high price in kindle form that I just couldn't bring myself to buy them. I was waiting in hopes they would drop in price but they never did. Oh well. Good news: I hadn't read it for probably 10 years. There's some high quality banter.

_Flash_ Neither this one or the previous is quite old enough to be a "historical contemporary" (a contemporary with enough age on it to qualify as historical fiction). But I can see that it is only going to take another few years for that to happen.

_Stormy Challenge_ I didn't buy this one for a long time because I had read it in paper (probably close to 20 years ago now) and the reviews were pretty negative (it is perceived as rape-y and there is definitely a lot of ambiguous consent in the book, altho I think it falls firmly on the right side of the line once you factor in all the non-verbals being described. Not everyone is going to be okay with that). Definitely a historical contemporary. It got me rethinking a lot of other books which start with a deception and then proceed through a couple hundred pages of arguments interrupted by sexual activity that isn't every fully consummated (if you're thinking this feels like a reworking of Taming of the Shrew you are Not Wrong). Reading these three in a row and thinking about the depiction of women running their own small businesses in contemporary romances during the 1980s and 1990s is really, really thought provoking.

_Legacy_ Again, deception and arguments, altho the arguing is not quite as sustained. This is another one of JAK's (possibly the original one of JAK's) books in which the offspring of business partners who may or may not have betrayed and/or killed one another get together, figure out what happened, figure out who each other is, etc. With horses. The small business run by the woman in this novel is so in the background you might miss it entirely.

_Serpent in Paradise_ Vacation fling, HQN structure (So, a couple weeks together temporarily, separate, are reunited, work through difficulties, family formed -- this is a really well defined structure and widely discussed in the industry so if you are reading one of these books and are surprised by anything, you are clearly new to this game). Because the woman is on vacation, her business is very backgrounded for the tropical part of the story. Then she's back, but has a lot on her mind, so honestly the party gets more paragraphs than the business (I'm not complaining). When they ultimately move back to paradise (HEY I WARNED YOU GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE), there is no contemplation of the fact that kiddo might need to go to school in a few years. I don't mind that dad's job won over mom's job (I think it was a good call, given what was gonna happen to the rent in SF for mom's lingerie stores), and I like that mom had plans for opening boutiques to cater to the cruise liner trade. I don't know if I ever thought about things like, where is the kid gonna go to school, when I read this sort of stuff 20 years ago. I was probably too busy being mad at mom giving up her gig in favor of paradise. Oh, and if you are thinking homeschooling, or the whole school thing is overrated until the kid is 10 or so, I don't disagree, I just don't see how homeschooling is compatible with running a bar AND a shop, unless you take a child labor approach or a real hands' off approach, both of which could actually work out really well if you've got the right kind of kid. This book also has the Grotto Ambush sequence that appears in various forms in many JAK novels AND the Must Hike Across Country to Save Ourselves sequence. These are great sequences, and it is fun seeing them in their original, historical contemporary setting, after having seen them more recently in various Rainshadow books.

At about this point, I was looking at some JAK historical contemporaries that had even worse reviews, and I was feeling better. So I switched to reading Thea Harrison's Elder Races series, which has been, IMO, very uneven. I found it an incredible slog to get through book 3 (Carling's story, _Serpent's Kiss_). But I figured I'd give it a shot.

_Oracle's Moon_ File under Calgon Take Me Away. The Oracle, currently living in a run down house in Louisville, KY, with her young niece and infant nephew, is still grieving over the death of her sister and brother-in-law, and her own near miss with death which left her with significant movement problems. The story begins right after Carling and Rune show up and talk to the serpent lady through the Oracle, so the Djinn is hanging around feeling contemptuous. Another book with a lot of arguments in it. I felt like the whole trucker with lapsed insurance, mean witches not being very helpful and so forth felt a little off and it turned out that was intentional. Harrison did an interesting thing, in which she took a plausible situation In Real Life, which is NOT plausible in a powered context, and used the disconnect to create a mystery in need of solving to catch the bad guy. It's bizarrely satisfying. Along the way, the Calgon Take Me Away thing is the Djinn falling first for the kiddos and then for mum (so this is Ready Made Family, also), and calling on his significant resources to make her life more fun. Also, a truly excellent bar fight. A lot of the elements of Harrison's books are hackneyed in form, but she does a really nice job breathing life and color into some old structure.

_Lord's Fall_ is Pia and Dragos separated for part of the book. Pia is becoming a leader of her own team within the Wyr demesne; that is depicted in just about the right amount of detail and with a lot of humor. I guess you could ask, how did Pia get smart enough to do this given how much of a loner she is/was growing up, but that's the worst thing I would say about that. I LOVE the basic joke of having actual objects in the storyline called God Machines, and one of the God Machines in the hands of an elf with a lot of power is the central problem that must be solved. Hilarious! Which is good, because this is a very dark story of a charismatic leader dragging an entire race? culture group? off to destruction. Ends with (HEY WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING HERE) the wedding, honeymoon, and Liam's birth.

_Kinked_ is the harpy and Quentin (old sentinel and new sentinel) getting sent off to check up on Numenlaur (emptied out land from previous book), because their fighting has gotten completely out of control. A little light DS, lots of psychoanalytical speak associated with it. They rescue Linwe and a couple others (and are helped in turn by them) and then go after a magic user after a resurrection spell. They take a lot of damage (a LOT of damage) along the way but survive, so part of this is about the difficulty of surviving the aftermath of physical trauma. But because this is an HEA and because this is fantasy, the harpy does get to fly again, which of course IRL maybe not so much. I got a huge kick out of this, because it felt like a weird mashup of postapocalyptic hellscape/bombed out After the Fall fantasy landscape -- but a two day's hike back to your iphone working again. Dark and still fun.

There's more in the series. I'm not sure if I'll be reading more now, since I'm back to walking again.
walkitout: (Default)
The Night Huntress series is basically complete, altho the ancillary series about other characters in it continue. When the last book in the series came out, I reread the rest of the series, so it is all relatively fresh in my mind. I cannot imagine reading this book without having read the series, and if you haven't ever reread, just read the series book by book as it was rewritten, you'll need a sharp memory to make sense of some of this.

What is is: Frost did something that you aren't ever supposed to do if you are going to be published, but of course, you don't _know_ you are going to be published before you are (or at least, that's how it used to work). She wrote multiple books in a series before selling the first one. She recognizes this, and describes how she got started during that period before self-publishing e-books became a viable option, and how having the first several books written both worked for and against her (it is utterly amazing to me that she sold them all). Her publishing/editorial team obviously wanted a lot of rewriting, and Frost's narrative style borders on chatty, so it is unsurprising that there would be cutting. This book isn't all the individual words that got cut -- it's big scenes, whole chunks of subplot that was removed and/or reworked, usually over pacing concerns. These sections might actually work as standalone short stories. They are funny, character driven and have a beginning/middle/end with a point to them (har de har har). Other sections, including the one which is at the end of the book, were removed or extensively reworked because Frost made other choices as an author.

HEY YOU! Patra and Gregory are working together to get YOU if you care about spoilers and keep reading. Yeah, I know you _think_ they're safety out of the picture . . .

Turns out Frost wrote a version in which Gregory didn't just compromise Cat's memory. He got to Bones, too, leading to a very, very different stuck-in-New Orleans sequence, and a lengthy get-to-know-each-other-again storyline. Frost discusses on-and-off through the book how her own personal experience (as she characterizes it, but I suspect it is more representative of her region/sociodemographics than she is implying) leaving home and marrying at 19 led to her write a heroine who is a lot younger than is typical for the genre. One of the most captivating aspects of the Bones-without-memory-of-Cat storyline is the idea of Bones meeting Cat once she's actually grown up. I really liked it, but I agree with the author that it was just way too mean to the characters to actually leave in the official arc of their storyline.
walkitout: (Default)
I read a sample or teaser for this a while ago, but then never pursued it. But after reading _Secret Sisters_, I was in the mood for more trashy fiction and less trashy iPad games. So I bought it and read it. It was good enough to result in me buying and reading book 2, and buying and partially reading book 3 (I haven't abandoned it -- I've just gone back to the games).

In yet another paranormal romance series, we got our shapeshifting Wyr (some as old as the formation of the Earth), our Vampyre (spelled with a y), human Witches, Goblins and other Demonkind and I forget what all else. They've divvied up the planet. In this outing, our heroine is probably Wyr, isn't really sure what she changes into, because she's never changed, an orphan. She has some intrinsic powers that make her very valuable and that caused her mother to raise her to keep herself a complete secret, but of course, living closeted sucks so she does tell someone and she does choose poorly so the book opens with her having to go steal something from the Most Powerful Wyr Of Them All. Antics Ensue.

The usual interspecies and crossover to human politics are present and handled in an average way. The slapstick humor is _amazeballs_. There are a ton of laugh out loud moments. The create-sexual-tension-and-sustain-it is somewhat above average. And it is clear right from the beginning where this series is going to go in terms of future couples.

If your other series have run their course, and humor is important to you, this is pretty good. Best of all, while it has the One True Mate thing (gah), the One True Mate thing applies to Wyr and not to mates of another species, making for some entertaining risks on the Wyr side (altho not for this couple). While the age thing is kind of extreme, it isn't explored in any sort of creepy way.
walkitout: (Default)
_On the Edge_ SPOILERS RUN RUN RUN or Casshorn or one of his monsters will get you.

I was unable to get into this when I first bought it, I think in 2009 shortly after it came out and I was desperate for more in the Kate series, and it wasn't out yet. The heroine of the book cleans offices for money and she is undocumented, altho her younger brothers have legit birth certificates. Her particular kind of alien isn't from any country that we are familiar with; while the setting is somewhere in the American south, the setting is also in a version of the American south that is partly magical, and yet another version of the American south that is entirely magical: the Broken (ours), the Edge (where she lives with her brothers) and the Weird (where she will, predictably, get her HEA).

For all the other reviews on line that say how this isn't a typical romance novel (nope, it's paranormal romance, and that's its own thing) or a typical urban fantasy (I believe rustic fantasy gets tossed around), it is, actually, quite typical for Ilona Andrews. Young woman with way too many responsibilities. Hot guy shows up, they come from seemingly wildly different backgrounds but turn out to have a lot of things in common. They find each other's competence super hot. Their foreplay is kinda violent. Then they have to solve a super serious problem together. Which they do, and then they have some sort of misunderstanding that gets resolved for an HEA, in this case, all within one book (not necessarily all within one book for other couples by this author).

The family background is soooo dysfunctional that it is depressing (right down to grammy giving just the worst possible advice it is just _amazing_ that someone that old can be that foolish), as is the relentlessly grinding poverty. OTOH, Rose has a bunch of powers that compensate, and with two guys competing for her attention and "helping" out, it is fairly clear throughout the book that at some point, the whole crowd is just gonna walk away from this hot mess and find their HEA somewhere Better.

_Bayou Moon_

Of course, because these are monogamous het romances, the other guy doesn't get his HEA in book one, so he has to find his mate in book two. In this outing, Cerise's parents are alive, but have been kidnapped by a guy so awful he makes the supervillain in book one seem kind of tame by comparison -- I mean, he just had a world destroying device, but was otherwise a total fuckup. The bad guy in book two is amazingly scary.

Cerise has to go get a document being held by her uncle (who turns out to be a closeted shifter I DID MENTION SPOILERS WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING HERE SPIDER IS GOING TO BE HERE ANY MINUTE) and return in time for a court date to try to get the property back that the clan their are feuding with stole at the same time her parents went missing. The goal there is to get access to the house so they can try to figure out where the hell her parents were taken and by whom. She runs into the shifter from book one on her return trip, and they team up and it's a good thing, too, because neither would have made it back without the other, never mind in time for the court date which was moved up.

That should give you a sense of how this book works. In a typical Ilona Andrews outing, there is either not enough/missing family or there is Way Too Much family, and this book manages to simultaneously pull off both at the same time.

The relentless mud and creepy flora and fauna are a bit of a bummer, not to mention the awful choices for shifters (abandonment and child soldier lifestyle in Adrianglia or infanticide in the Dukedom of Louisiana). As if that isn't bad enough, we really get a glimpse of the slaver issue in this book, with the explanation for Lark/Sophie's PTSD.

Two of Cerise's family members, Kaldar and Richard, get books 3 and 4 in the series. I'll get to them, possibly soon (I read these on the kindle while waiting in line at kiddie amusement parks).

I think the very _best_ scene in both books is when Emel shows up and gives away the Mars family next to the Thoas burial ground/pond, and starts the epic battle between Spider and his minions, and the Mars clan and William. Emel is so reminiscent of Roman that I loved him instantly.
walkitout: (Default)
This will be the first of a batch of Ilona Andrews reviews (okay, technically the second of a batch, since I reviewed the Kinsmen pair last week).

_Clean Sweep_ has a sequel-in-progress that you can read for free at the Ilona Andrews website.


I haven't read it yet; I believe it is so far incomplete and it is not clear when it will be finished (unsurprisingly, after churning out an incredible amount of very high quality material in the last few years, Ilona Andrews is taking some recovery time).

_Clean Sweep_ is a fun romp. Suburban Texas setting, the heroine is a young woman whose brother is out searching the universe for missing mom and dad and the Inn they grew up in. Sister is married and has a family of her own. The heroine is following in the career footsteps of mom and dad, and is running an inn of her own. She has a war criminal as her lone guest, and then something bizarre shows up and starts killing neighborhood dogs. When the werewolf in the neighborhood acts like its not his responsibility and pretends he's human, Dina decides to break protocol and do something about the Monster.

Only it is not that simple, because, after all, this is an Ilona Andrews book.

There's a vampire -- sort of, and a werewolf, sort of. Dina is sort of a witch, but not really. The advanced tech explanation is remarkably satisfying. When the wolf finds out about his history, his response is priceless (When were you planning on telling me, Dad?). The house's ability to support CSI type digging around in bodies to solve puzzles is hilarious.

Extremely enjoyable. I'm looking forward to more, but then I say that about everything produced by Ilona Andrews.
walkitout: (Default)
This is part of the Hearts and Thrones Series, and events of this book overlap with events of the Lucien/Vitala story in _Assassin's Gambit_ (which I read and enjoyed, but I cannot seem to find any review of by me). Particular scenes appear in both books (conversations between Lucien and Rhianne.

Published by Penguin (I guess that would be Random Penguin now?)

SPOILERS the Kjallans are invading RIGHT NOW RUNNNNNN!!!

There is a really well developed world in these books -- different countries with different climates, ecosystems, cultural mores, languages, but with some shared culture as well (the Cataranga game, the three gods Soldier, Sage and Vagabond, altho Kjall places the Soldier at the top and Mosar has them co-equal, Soulcasting, altho Kjall casts into Riftstones and Mosar casts into familiar animals, etc.). While the primary characters (at least in these two books) are top-of-the-food-chain, Raby puts some effort into showing what the world is like for people further down, and in both books, the protagonists learn more about the scale of their privilege in the course of the story. The values and behavior of the characters in each book are heavily influenced by their culture -- these aren't late 20th/early 21st century imports from our world -- even when the characters begin to see the flaws in their belief system through exposure to another, they cannot simply shed those values. Also, the sex is really well written.

In this outing, Jan-Torres, heir to the Mosar throne and a shroud (invisibility) mage, has sneaked into Kjall to try to find another shroud mage who was spying and sent a message that he had intel that could win the war with Kjall for Mosar, but then never followed up. Turns out (I DID MENTION SPOILERS. OH BY THE WAY, AUGUSTAN IS RIGHT BEHIND YOU.), he's dead. While infiltrating the palace, Janto strikes up a friendship with Rhianne, the niece of the Emperor (I keep hoping that Rhianne eventually gets a chance to track down her mum and her upholsterer dad that she ran off with to Florian's great anger). He helps her improve her Mosar language skills -- she's supposed to move there with Augustan, her betrothed, after Augustan wins the war and gets the governorship. Obvs, Janto would like all of that not to happen.

Little side comment here: I LOVE that Rhianne is comprehensively contemptuous when Augustan attempts to shame her by saying he'll forgive her for the circumstances of her birth. Someone else has to _explain_ to her exactly the game Augustan is playing (which isn't working at all), because it is so foreign to her. She's been abused, but she is utterly confident in her class/status, _which she should be_. If she weren't utterly confident in her class/status, she'd be a clear import. And Augustan _should_ be playing the kind of grind-her-down game that he is, because he's a climber, and he is _not_ at all confident in his class/status. He knows what went into getting to where he is and he correctly figures out Florian's intent in picking him for Rhianne, and knows just how fast he'll be destroyed if he mis-steps at all. Augustan expecting the Imperial Princess to be "more retiring" just shows _how_ out of his depth he really is.

There's a side story about a Mosar slave overseer (male) raping women slaves and how Janto and Rhianne can put a stop to that without killing the overseer. The crux of the book occurs when Augustan returns from Mosar, victorious, and with Janto's parents heads in a box which he pulls out (you know, this is one of the most depressing detached head moments in fiction I've experienced. The Lois McMaster Bujold head rolling down the table, complete with Winterfair gift reference, was easily the best. Same basic idea, really -- I win, you lose -- but it feels so different which side you are on.). This forces Rhianne to expose her feelings; she walks out and life pretty much goes to shit for her. Janto has been exploring the hypocaust that Rhianne helped him escape via, and gets caught so things aren't going to good for him. Lucien (predictably) comes up with a solution that appears to put everything to rights: Rhianne will go willingly with Augustan, Janto will be magicked to forget everything that happened and get dumped on/in Dori, Florian gets the marriage, everyone is happy.

And it almost works. Except Janto fakes that the magick works, and it turns out his brother's fleet is at Dori along with some rebellious Riorcans who took over the Kjallan ships they were on. Bro wants to take the fleet to Mosar, where it will be slaughtered, but Janto knows exactly where all the troops and ships are in Kjall from his spying in the palace (found a report in Lucien's drawer) and has a Much Better Plan.

The moral, of course, is very simple. Florian is Not Nice to anyone (neither, for that matter, is Augustan). Also, Florian is more than a little simple-minded (as, for that matter, is Augustan -- really, a brindlecat kitten as a betrothal gift? So perfect how THAT turned out!). Lucien and Rhianne are basically fair minded people with a lot of power that they try to use to Do the Right Thing, and because Florian is Not Nice (and, basically, simple minded), Florian interferes, enraging them both. Also, Florian preferred the older boys who are dead, so there's historical sibling cray cray. Both Lucien and Rhianne grow up with essentially zero love, affection, etc. to Florian, which, in a succession situation is stupidly dangerous. When Janto, who _is_ trained in diplomacy, shows up, the loyalty to family and state that has been ground into Lucien and Rhianne is not nearly enough to counteract their immediate, deep connection to him, which is based on their shared ethics of the responsibility that comes with power and the importance of compassion and fairness. Even _without_ anyone intending to commit treason, this profound friendship that develops (and the love between Rhianne and Janto) influences several successive decisions. Janto would have been careful to restrain the Mosar when attacking Kjall -- but with Rhianne Kjallan and at risk, he is outrageously careful. Lucien is less influenced by Janto, but once he perceives Janto's ability to maintain what he takes (and that Janto recognizes he cannot himself rule Kjall), Lucien does not make any particular effort to subvert post-battle negotiations (and we totes know he could have!). And Lucien is not at all sad to see Florian exiled prison on Mosar.

In Raby's world, Machiavelli's lessons are turned on their head (I realize this is an oversimplification of Machiavelli). Rhianne and Lucien very much respect and fear Florian, but he does not have their love. And that means that they are just that much more careful and sneaky when they do something they know he wouldn't approve of. Had Rhianne and Lucien loved Florian -- had Florian been even remotely lovable -- Janto would have been dead the second Rhianne figured out he was a spy, or, at the very least, within seconds of Lucien meeting him.

There are more in the series, and more books by Raby. I'm sure I'll get to them. (oooh and author bio stuff says she got her CS degree at UW. If my public records searching found me the right person, I think she probably went through shortly after I did. But see! Another woman who left tech! And _what_ a tragedy that was, her leaving tech to write these lovely books for a major publishing house. <-- a little sarcasm there. Women leaving tech to do something else is NOT a tragedy)
walkitout: (Default)
Published by Hijinks Ink Publishing, which _looks_ like it may be a single-author press, but they've got an anthology out with a bunch of authors so it's hard to be sure.

Whether you consider this a small indie publisher, or a layer concealing self-publication, the important point is that there are approximately the same amount of grammar awkwardness, wrong word (typically homophone, but not always) and so forth that I have grown to expect from Big Publishing Houses in the post cheap spell check error. So the editing is competent.

The writing is not anything amazing, but it isn't distractingly bad. Again, competent.

I think the biggest problem I had was in the North Dakota setting. There are a number of scenes in Bismarck, and some driving between Bismarck and her home (an aging farmhouse), a few hours drive away. North Dakota is described, early on as: "North Dakota is known for its farming, badlands, and good people." No mention of oil. No mention of the last several years boom. No "Bakken Formation". Also, no Minuteman Missiles. No Minot AFB. So there was a little cognitive dissonance, between the list of things _I_ think of when I think of North Dakota (I've removed from my list a bunch of other stuff, that I only know because an ex-boyfriend's parents were from Minot, and only including what I immediately thought of otherwise), and what was in that list and depicted as the background of the book. Oh, and trains.

Imminent SPOILERS Run away or that Harpy will Get You!!! Also, some possible triggery stuff about torture. Among other things.

Anyway. Rylee Adamson is a Tracker. Her sister (this isn't a spoiler, it is backstory) was Snatched by vampire(s) when Rylee was watching her at Deerborn Park at dusk. Rylee (adopted) was blamed for Berget (bio)'s disappearance by their parents and kicked out. An FBI agent named Liam O'Shea has been more or less chasing Rylee around ever since. Rylee has made a decade long career or Tracking other kids Snatched by supes, after bonding with Milly, a witch, and trained by Giselle (some sort of seer, increasingly nutty). This first entry in the series starts with Milly being accepted into a Coven and being required to cut all ties with everyone non-witchy. Obvs, that's a culty sort of thing to do and you, the reader, recognize that and know it won't turn out well. Rylee gets a job, worries about Giselle, and is tracked down by her pet werewolf (he left the house and hitched a ride on a semi because his Pack is trying to hunt him down and kill him). Then things get exciting. She gets warning messages on her bathroom mirror. A bunch of witches attack her at her house. O'Shea runs smack into a bunch of supernatural stuff, including a spell. And here we encounter the next problem in the story.

Protagonists can't be _too_ awful right off the bat. Once the reader has bonded with the protagonist, the protagonist can go off and do really awful, awful stuff, and, up to whatever our limit is, we'll justify it. Adamson walking away from the bespelled O'shea is a little iffy. Not too iffy, because she doesn't actually know what happened to him. But he went to a fair amount of trouble to save her, and she just walks away. (Extenuating circumstances, so this didn't trouble me too much.)

Adamson next does a series of things that walk right up to the TSTL line and then pee on it. She drives to New Mexico to see a Shaman she knows. The Shaman she knows is Gone, and replacement Shaman somehow cons her into giving him some of her blood (this really does not seem wise. At all), and she overdoes it and nearly passes out. Peeing on the TSTL line, for sure.

Anyway. Antics ensue. The Arcane Division of the FBI starts actually intruding on the action, as opposed to being repeatedly almost in the action. (Also, it sort of bugged me that Adamson went to all the bother to spend 2 hours at the hacker house printing out files on the Arcane Division, but never did get to read them. One way to avoid the infodump, I guess) Harpies show up, and that gives Adamson yet another child to rescue. There's an enormous showdown involving an insectoid demon, the coven of Bad Witches, a rep from the coven of Good Witches that makes the Bad Witches look like Decent People and I forget.

Fortunately, that really awful rep from the Coven's behavior finally convinces Milly that, in fact, joining the Coven is not the beautiful, wonderful experience she had hoped it would be. The team is back together, a couple kids have been saved and Rylee gets a job offer. There are a lot more books in the series if you want to find out what happens next AND there is at least one spinoff series.

Alas, I'm not sure I want to participate. True, the Bad Witches are pretty awful people, however, Rylee poking around in the internal organs of the Bad Witch to torture information out of her made me go, seriously? She's gonna die before you get anything useful out of her. What is that all about? It was the worst torture scene ever. On the one hand, Rylee _is_ definitely an action heroine who can really dish it out. On the other hand, her eating habits are terrible and would in no way support the amount of action she is engaging in. On the third hand, really awful torture scene. I'm pretty sure I can find something else to read that will be more satisfying; if I decide otherwise, I'll pick up book #2 (also .99 on Amazon, so, hey, cheap!) and review it if I finish it.

(I've edited the spelling of the park where Berget was snatched to Dearborn and then back again. Hmmm. I should just quit now, altho it is a question I had all through the book where that park even was.)
walkitout: (Default)
I was over looking at recent reviews at the Smart Bitches, and this book got an A+ from Elyse:


It was available from kindle unlimited, so my response was more or less along the lines of, what could I possibly lose by giving this a try? Answer: some sleep. I _did_ manage to put it down at about 11 p.m. last night, so not too much sleep anyway.

Part of the appeal was that this was, like Cindy Spencer Pape, Victorian Steampunk + vampireswerewolvesetc. And Elyse's review, which is better than anything you're likely to get from me, made it clear that it was much less plot-y and much more descriptive, character developing, ambience -- all that novelistic description that people sort of notice by its absence in the shorter, plot-heavy Gaslight Chronicles.

Like the Gaslight Chronicles (and like many addictive romance series), there is an extensive family-by-choice and some family-by-blood, offering the opportunity for sequels exploring their life-arc and finding an appropriate Significant Other.

This entry is set in Whitechapel, but there's some description of how the Craving Virus got to western Europe from China's White Court, and its interaction with politics in various regions in Europe, along with clashes between Blue Bloods (infected with the Craving Virus, blood consuming but not yet intolerant of light and not yet _totally_ nuts) and verwulfen. Nice to have some international variation.

SPOILERS! Run or the Drainers will GET YOU! Or maybe the Slashers, or Vickers, or other members of the Echelon, or possibly the Inquisition or . . .

Obvs, there's a Top Dude in Whitechapel, and this is the story of him approaching The Fade (transition to totally nuts and must be Put Down, arrangements have already been made with his verwulfen thrall/second in command/man-of-few-words buddy Will) with trepidation and fascination with the newly arrived in Whitechapel Honoria Todd, currently going by the name Miss Pryor. Dear old dad is believed dead. Younger brother Charlie has been infected and the sickening process looks suspiciously like TB but isn't. Mid-child Lena misses the Good Old Days working for the Echelon but is working hard as a seamstress and caring for Charlie.

Things deteriorate rapidly for Honoria from page 1: Blade (Top Dude in Whitechapel) sends her a message. Charlie gets a lot worse and the doctor declines to provide further treatment. Blade takes her into town for a meal, someone sees her and reports to Honoria's boss, who then checks a reference and fires her. Mostly, tho, there is a lot of angsty conflict because Honoria doesn't want to accept that she can't save Charlie, doesn't want to make any kind of arrangement with anyone and is generally displaying bad judgment driven in part by a lack of adequate food. And then a vampire fixates on where the Todds are living in Whitechapel.

Along about the point where an alert reader is stepping back from the headlong run from one disaster to the next, wondering whether the well-written but weirdly not that compelling (to me) sexual interactions between Blade and Honoria (CONSENT ISSUES! Seriously, consent issues. Also, I am apparently pretty much done with the sucking on arteries is sexy thing. I knew that it had mostly run its course, er, for me, but I am _really_ just about completely done. Which is sad. It had been such a nice 20 years of trashy, trashy fiction.), the vampire doesn't hurt Lena much, and declines to hurt Honoria at all. Which on the one hand really pushes one over the Mary Sue horizon, but on the other hand, turns out to be the key to figuring out how to save Blade from The Fade.

Phone call; I may or may not finish this later, with remarks about the irony of Vickers and the ultimate cure.

ETA: Amusingly, given that this dates from 2012, there is a bunch of stuff about vaccination in this book. The Big Bad, Vickers, sponsored Artemus Todd's research both into vaccination (to prevent accidental infection primarily) and a cure (to put off The Fade) for the Craving Virus (I really want to put TM here). But then something bad happens that causes the Todd children to go on the lam and convince them that Vickers killed Artemus (there's a real lack of clarity on precisely who saw what, when). Ultimately, the person responsible for Artemus dying (well, THAT is debatable) is someone else entirely, and that simultaneously explains all kinds of things like, why did Charlie get sick when the Todd sisters did not, why did Artemus' attempt to vaccinate himself with what looked like a sure thing fail, etc. And that, in turn, provides the cure that Vickers canceled the vaccination research in order to focus on. Ironies abound! And all that irony is buried in the rooftop encounter between Honoria and the vampire that conspicuously does not kill her.

Turns out that set piece on the roof was really more all about WOULD SOMEONE ANSWER THE CLUE PHONE PLEASE and less about Honoria being Mary Sue. Altho she still is.

There is more to the series, and it looks like it may be winding up? So this might be a rare opportunity to read the whole thing when it is still fairly new but after it is complete and thus not actually have to wait for subsequent volumes to come out. There's just those nagging consent issues that I had. . .
walkitout: (Default)
All by Cindy Spencer Pape. Apparently _Ether & Elephants_ will be coming out in a few months, altho the pre-order button was not up for me yesterday.

The Gaslight Chronicles is a series of Victorian Steampunk with vampyres, werewolves and Magick, including the Order of the Round Table and Lovelace College founded by Ada Lovelace. There are Babbage engines and smoke tinted goggles and all sorts of wonderful things.

Judging by the reviews on some of the books, a few caveats are in order.

(1) There is, generally, sex. So if you tend to read historical romances because of their comparative chasteness, you might not find this to your liking. (Also, if that is you, you should probably not be reading my blog.) (Also, these aren't historicals. You did see the bit about vampyres and werewolves and dirigibles and Magick and all, right? They aren't even properly alternate history, because it's a combination of paranormal and steampunk.)

(2) This is a series in which secondary characters from earlier novels becomes protagonists in later novels and protagonists from earlier novels continue to be present, on-stage and off, in later novels. If that sort of everyone-knows-each-other-already thing tends to bother you, don't drop into a book in the middle of the series.

(3) These are very plot-y books. The characters _are_ distinct and not interchangeable, but there is not a lot of character development in any given book. To the extent that you really get to "know" people, it is the core crowd that appeared as older children/younger adults in the first book and that is gradually finding their romantic partners later in the series. And the reason that is working is basically for the same reason that Sherlock Holmes and other series characters work -- you don't get inside their head for any length of time, but you do see them in action over time and that is what character development there is. Hence, plot-y.

(4) If your preference for world building, in the speculative fiction sense, is parsimonious, this place is gonna piss you off, over and over and over again. Like ST:TNG, new crap is invented in every book and may never be mentioned again. As much as you might like to see that particular item re-appear, it probably will not.

The books themselves are novella length, more than novels, which given all of the above is actually a good thing. The arc of the story is basically, Hey, Here's a New Person! in spectacular trouble. In the course of trying to deal with their trouble, someone we already know shows up (obvs not in book 1! Where we are first meeting everyone), they have some amount of instant reaction to each other, which they conceal poorly. They then work on extracting the New Person from the difficulty, and discover that it is a Problem for the Order (of the Round Table, natch), more people show up and the crowd investigates, deals with further attacks, wins out in the end.

AND NOW THE SPOILERS! Sort of. Run away or the Witchfinder will get you!!!!

So: in Cards, Belinda has been convicted by the village of witchcraft and is supposed to burn in the morning. Her Great-Aunt Zara (who we met in an earlier book) has a vision (or similar) and Connor is dispatched. Connor attempts a variety of things, and ultimately extracts her, brings her to Kay Tower where they marry, and then a crowd proceeds from the wedding to investigate the conspiracy against Magick, track it to its source, etc., obvs using the circus as a cover. Because, circus!

In Ashes, Minerva (there's a thing: it was "Linnie" in the previous book and "Minnie" in this one. Boy, watch out for anyone with the surname Engle, too!), ventures out into a winter storm to find help for her feverish four year old (with pointy ears who has never been sick a day in her life -- oooh! We've seen this before!) and fetches up on Sebastian Brown's doorstep. When Seb and Minnie return to where Jane is keeping an eye on Ivy, they are horrified to discover Jane murdered. Fortunately, Ivy is just covered inside and out with black dust. Weird. Everyone troops back to Seb's place, cleans up, sleeps and then we gotta find out what's up with the black dust oozing out of Ivy.

In Dragons, Melody Mackay (Connor's remaining unwed sibling) crashes an experimental airship at Black Heath, with what may well be the best opening paragraph of all time. Inevitably, sprained ankle (come on, it's a romance novel. What were you expecting? A broken back and ensuing paralysis? That would be a _very_ different book!), carried to the house by the burly Victor. Like a certain island in the Hebrides in an earlier entry in this series, Black Heath has been under sustained if somewhat covert attack for a while now. Victor's brother has already died in a steam car accident that knocked his daughter unconscious for a couple days. But Emma is still around, altho both her parents are gone. Do you smell instant family? I DO! This is the most problematic book of this trio, because of the racial stereotypes that appear surrounding the villain. Racial stereotyping is trigger-y throughout the series, mitigated in part by the very, very assimilationist nature of the extended families that provide the glue that binds the series together (lots of adoption, not everyone is hetero, biracial children, etc.). The big issue that I am noticing is that biracial relationships in this series tend to involve white men and brown women, and the women are ... long list of non-positive characteristics. Seb's past fiancee, Vidya, I could probably have excused, but Fleur (who is Chinese) has all the exotic/erotic/treachery/grasping stereotypes going on. Not sure whether I will continue with the series, but for sure you should be aware of it going in. I don't want to oversell Teh Evil here, because it's roughly on a par with stuff that people manage to excuse in movies like Big Trouble in Little China and similar, but it is much more recently written and thus less okay, imo. YMMV.

One of the things I LOVE about the series is the certainty possessed by so many of the characters (<-- not sarcasm. I am serious about this). They will _blithely_ make decisions that turn out to be incredibly bad in retrospect, and, honestly, not that hard to see as bad ahead of time (I'm going to bundle you off out of the action to be safe ... where you will promptly be kidnapped or worse). They _instantly_ trust people who turn out to be incredibly duplicitous. And then _instantly_ trust someone else, next, who turns out to be fine. Certainty -- even when wrong -- allows for definitive, aggressive action, which makes for a rollicking tale. When you try to write an action tale and fill it with people who suffer from Hamlet-level indecisiveness, it is a fucking chore to read. This is a much better and more believable approach. Do the characters sometimes take a step back and go, how did I not see that coming? Sure! But as soon as they get distracted by the possibility to go do something, the game is, once again, afoot.
walkitout: (Default)
Sometimes, when I'm a half dozen or a dozen books into a universe of a particular author, I have a moment where I sit back and I go, do I really want to continue with this? In some cases (notably, Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series), I go, oh, hell no, not ever again. Yuck. Authors can offend me so deeply that I not only quit reading, I wish I'd never _read_ those books that I once loved (and in some cases reread many times), simply because the author took that long arc to a place that I will never voluntarily and knowingly go. (Think I'm confusing the author with the work? Well, _someone_ is responsible. Books don't write themselves. I subscribe to the author-is-goddess-of-their-universe theory. Bad goddess, no worship.)

Frost got really close this time, close enough to make me seriously think about pre-emptively bailing before I get so mad I can't reread the series any more. Which is _sad_, because I really have enjoyed reading -- and rereading her books, especially the Cat and Bones books.


Everyone gone? Excellent.

The Leila Dalton series (the Night Prince series, the ones with Vlad, etc.) has had real problems all along. Vlad is BAAAADDD. I really enjoy reading books with a lot of violence, but this guy is sufficiently awful that I kinda worry about whether I should be reading these anyway (YES dude actually does impale people, especially vampires, so they hang around and don't die and just hurt until he takes them down).

Speaking of which, there are a couple reasons (okay, many) why people might be drawn to fictional depictions of violence, and they really come down to the same one in the end, in a chicken-and-egg form. People are drawn to violence -- real or imagined -- because they have been done unto and would at least like to if not have actually done unto others. I've blogged on many occasions in the past about the appeal of DOOOOOOMMMM to me, whether Y2K or Peak Oil or Climate Change or whatever the fuck, and I (because I'm slow like that) eventually realized that was just kind of a hang over from when I was a JW and diligently praying for Jehovah to come kill all the non JWs pretty please quick m'kay?

Old Habits Die Hard.

Fictional depictions of the protagonist being imprisoned, tortured, raped, etc. to motivate them doing unto the perp have never made me happy, and when a Woman is Put in Jeopardy to motivate an already violent guy to Take It To Another Level, I don't react well. I get that this is a way to induce moral clarity, but I'll actually sacrifice moral clarity if you can establish that someone is awful without having them kidnap and torture people. A serial hit and run driver, say, as the Bad Guy, and a squad of Vigilantes as the good guys would, in some ways, be ideal.

Leila Dalton, over her not terribly long series, has been kidnapped and tortured repeatedly. In her favor, she self-rescues about half the time, utterly destroying her captors (I applaud!). Going against Frost, however, this time Szilyagi kidnaps her, maneuvers Maximus into raping her on video, oh, and did I mention that he (Mihaly not Maximus) skins her? And I don't mean some kind of rug burn abrasion type of thing.

The skinning thing is super weird all by itself, partly because Vlad uses the video of it to coerce Dear Old Dad into begging to restart a relationship with Leila. BECAUSE THAT'S NOT FREAKY AT ALL. Because at least in this universe, vamps can regrow limbs (OH WAIT I FORGOT THAT HE RIPPED HER ARM OFF AND SHE THOUGHT SHE LOST ONE OF HER SUPERPOWERS WITH IT), never mind skin, the effect of skinning Leila is that she's now got completely perfect, gorgeous skin, whereas before she had a huge scar from the event that gave her her electric super powers that triggered all kinds of pity reactions and interfered with her forming healthy relationships with people (YOU KNOW, THAT AND THE CAN'T TOUCH PEOPLE WITHOUT KILLING THEM THING).

Where was I?

Oh. So post torture/rape/arm ripped off capture, Leila is way more beautiful than she was before, and has far less evidence visibly on her of what she's been through in life. I could not help but remember Angelina from Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat, series, with her locket of ugly girl she used to be on a chain around her neck.

Cat, from the main series, and Leila, in this series, both have enormously fraught relationships with one parent, and the other parent is/gets dead. Both women take sides in the parental relationship and both find out that they didn't fully understand what was going on at all. Most importantly, Frost novels are characterized by people dragging around all the troublesome people from their past along with them. In a more typical paranormal series, the protagonists have a fraught past, and they stay the fuck away from the fraught. Or possibly, it has all died anyway.

JAK novels are not even remotely violent on the scale of Frost other other paranormal novelists, but JAK novels are also characterized by people with fraught pasts. Maybe half of JAK novels involve staying the fuck away from the fraught, but a lot of the older categories involved going back to the fraught and applying leverage to extract better behavior from the bad actors. I distinctly remember more than one character telling parents that if they didn't shape up, they weren't ever gonna see the hypothetical grands. Meanwhile, Frost novels are characterized by people who don't get to have kids cause they become vamps (there are some interesting weird exceptions to this) -- and a lot of later JAK novels dodge the kid question as well.

The thing that tempts me to continue with Frost's _Night Prince_ series is the family part. I'm morbidly fascinated with where she's gonna go next with the family theme, and I'm really interested in whether she does anything with the heinous-but-erased-or-forgotten-past-with-a-beautiful-powerful-exterior thing. But if she's gonna get there on the let's rape and torture the heroine repeatedly train, I'd like to get off now.

Finally, Leila hitting the spell on Mihaly and then trying to kill herself, especially occurring shortly after she is rescued from him, smells of reworking the kind of self-destruction that is common among many victims of imprisonment/torture/rape. I worry that this referencing? working through that theme? may trivialize it. But sometimes, externalizing the trigger -- saying the self-destruction was caused by a spell associated with the evildoer -- can make it easier to think about and understand.

This book is right on the hairy edge of too-torture-porny for me to continue. Frost has included enough psychologically resonant material to make it still interesting to me, but goddess help you if any of these issues might trigger you. Cause the author isn't providing an enormous amount of support or a framework that translates easily into Real Life, other than, One Day At A Time.

ETA: Oh, goddess, how did I forget to mention this? Because this is actually sort of important. Leila tricked Vlad into not killing Maximus in a previous book, and that is sort of key to not only the whole Maximus thread, but the Radu thread that is set up at the end of this book. Radu is stepson (I DID MENTION SPOILERS I KNOW I DID WTF ARE YOU READING THIS FOR?) and nephew of Vlad by his evil brother and his second wife Ilona. He's also the necromancer whose spell used by Cynthiana triggered the need to convert Leila into a vampire AND the spell on Mihaly that causes Leila to try to kill herself in this book. In an effort to weaken that spell, Leila says, hey, it connects skin to skin and blood to blood so just skin me, okay, hubs? Yeah, because victims always think that reliving the experience is somehow gonna change it. *sigh* I mean, if you get the relive it thing done right in a therapeutic context, maybe, but it often just redamages ... look, you know all this. Anyway. They decided that burning her will work better, take less time and Vlad can do it while she's asleep. So they do that -- and later discover that actually just made the spell even stickier. The necromancer YAY SIDE EFFECT was tortured by all this, and figured out he'd better dim down the suicide part of the spell if he wanted to survive, but basically, the current big bad and Leila are now deeply connected necromantically -- you do anything to one of them and the other one apparently feels it? And if you kill one, it's unclear but probably the case that the other one will die, too.

On the one hand, this could lead in all kinds of interesting family theme directions. On the other hand, it's just a huge nuisance, and I am unconvinced I want to play along. The best outcome would be psycho-surgery on Radu to make him Not So Evil any more (a la Angelina Digriz).
walkitout: (Default)
Arguably, this is sort of a Kitty Universe book. Kitty and Ben appear in the book, but Cormac Bennett and Amelia Parker take the protagonist slot(s), with some shady characters from Cormac's past with his father performing as opposition.

The initial goal

HEY SPOILERS! RUN RUN RUN or Milo Kuzniak will GET YOU. Maybe Roman, Dux Bellorum. Or, you know.

Where was I?

The initial goal of the book is to decode Amy Scanlon's journal, which Amy gave to Kitty when Amy and Kumarbis were all in those caves in book 12, just before the whole thing came crashing down. Ahem. Since crowdsourcing isn't working, and since no one else is able to make any headway, Cormac goes to visit Amy's aunt in Manitou Springs, coincidentally where Amelia was accused of murdering someone long ago. Amy's aunt and partner say they can help, but won't, unless Cormac proves himself worthy by dealing with a long-ago death outside of town. Augustus Crane dropped dead in a duel with another magic user, Milo Kuzniak, and the pair would like to know how.

Cormac and Amelia go out to where the duel occurred, where they encounter some shady characters from his past who threaten and then attempt to recruit Cormac. Oh, and btw, they have another Milo Kuzniak, great-grandson of the first one, in the group. Shockingly, some time later, the second Milo drops dead as well. Cormac briefly gets ahold of Milo's journal, but turns it over to Layne and tries to walk away from it all, before getting talked into returning to steal it back.

Inevitably, the dropping dead thing turns out to be


one of those reflection things BECAUSE THAT IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS. The only real surprise is how freakishly long it takes Cormac and Amelia to figure it out, which I chalk up to Amelia and Mollie and Kitty stirring Cormac's long dormant libido also Amelia has the attention span of a gnat the the accumulation tendencies of a packrat, at least when it comes to magical stuff.

Did I mention naked Cormac?

Where was I?

Ah. There's some stuff about weapons stashes and a skinwalker and Cormac being subtle. And Cormac and Amelia finally "touch" in the meadow (not exciting, really, but it could be). Cormac turns the mirror thingie over to Amy's aunt in exchange for the code book, Amelia decodes the journal and then

duh duh duh

Turns out their low key efforts to find some wisdom online have inadvertently resulted in them exchanging email with Roman. Okee then.

It's an odd book, because it is so much in Cormac's head, and Cormac is a man of few words. I have mixed feelings about whether I think he is a realistic portrayal or not. I'll have to think about that for a long while. Inevitably, because he spends so much time alone, it is a little claustrophobic. But there are a lot of fun moments, because Cormac, while careful and somewhat sneaky, is very much about direct action. The bit where he and Amelia figure out not to cast a spell, and Cormac just does a beatdown on Layne is priceless.

As always, don't start here. Also, there are references in this book to stuff covered in the short story collection, so keep that in mind.
walkitout: (Default)
The Tower will protect us, right?

This is book 10 in the Chronicles of Elantra. Kaylin Neya is living at the Imperial Palace with Bellusdeo since their apartment got all blowed up by the Arcanists. Neither is happy there. Over the course of the book, Kaylin and a variety of other people explore possible new places for Kaylin and Bellusdeo to live. Antics ensue.

Kaylin is recently returned from a visit to the West March with Teela, Severn and Nightshade/Calarnenne. They brought back some of Teela's lost compatriots from a previous, much more tragic visit to the regalia and it turns out those compatriots have sort of ... changed. Kaylin brings Bellusdeo and once of the old buddies on patrol and they stop in at Evanton's, where Mandoran (you know, I would not be surprised if I spelled one or more of these names wrong) manages to piss off elemental water. Then, it turns out that Annarion, who is visiting older brother Nightshade in Nightshade, has sort of woken up that tower a lot more than Nightshade ever intended to. So Kaylin gets soaked a couple of times, first calming the water down and then using the water route out of Nightshade after rescuing Annarion.

Alas, that isn't the end of trouble out of Nightshade. Those Barrani looking scary guys from many books back? They get out and start stomping around making trouble. One heads over to the High Halls intending to suck all the names out of the lake (HEY I DID MENTION SPOILERS HERE DO NOT COMPLAIN NOW) and the other one heads over to Helen.

Evanton gave Kaylin an address in a Really Nice Part of Town as a possible place to live when earlier efforts to find an apartment that Kaylin could afford and would satisfy Emperor criteria for keeping Bellusdeo safe had comically failed. The address turns out to be a sort-of Tower that is improbably named Helen. Nice place, very welcoming, however, the Ancestor attacking has to be dealt with first, and in the usual way: runes come to life on Kaylin and she has to put them in the right spot, and then she has to figure out why _that_ didn't work. Inevitably, singing is involved.

With Helen squared away, it's time for an epic battle in which the Dragons and the Barrani and the Swords and the Hawks and Kaylin's motley crue all fight the other Ancestor. While name-based communication is crucial to all aspects of this novel, the relationship between Ynpharion and Kaylin is probably the best developed of all of them and quite amusing.

By the end of the book, Kaylin has a suitable place to rest her weary head, and plenty of space for all her friends to move in with her, or at least crash when they don't feel like going home/home isn't very safe for them. And there are all these basements with research in them to explore; maybe one of them will help us figure out what to do about Ravellon . . .

I'll keep reading. Don't start here.
walkitout: (Default)
Well, this isn't sacred, consecrated or holy ground, but it'll have to do. I think we are safe from people who fear spoilers, amirite?

This is book 7 in the Charley Davidson series, set in and around Albuquerque. Charley and Reyes move from expecting and "affianced", as Charley says over and over and (over and over and over) you get the idea. Charley's use of "affianced" as a verb and a noun is so relentless and annoying, that I'm really thinking about giving up on the series at this point. I'll probably change my mind some time after book 8 comes out and I have another cold. I seem to read these books when I am sick.

Where was I? Oh, they get married, nixing Gemma's improbably complex plans for a wedding.

Charley develops new powers. She _has_ healed people in the past; in this book, she gets past her total denial of that ability and starts using it consciously, not to say wantonly, up to and including resurrection. Rocket comes to chastise her about it because he has to erase names from the walls of the asylum. Poor Charley.

Bunch of stuff with dogs, including Artemis and the hellhounds. The demon killing knife gets deployed in improbable and, when it happens, you definitely expect the outcome ways. More confusion surrounding the prophecy. Garrett as baby daddy gets to reconnect with the mommy and kid.

But the real theme of the book is basically the theme of the whole series: Charley, you need to set better priorities. Charley, you risk yourself for really dumb things. Charley, you need to start acting like a real grownup now. It's like this thing is squarely marketed at the quarter life crisis crowd. Since I'm middle aged, and I don't think anyone has ever told me I need to grow up any more than I already have, this isn't really aimed at me. Which is a pity, because there is some high quality violence in this series. I continue to find the sex kind of meh, especially as it gets more and more supernaturally involved. Turns out I like my sex scenes to be high on the biological detail and low on woo woo stuff.

Don't start with this book. And make sure you've knocked your IQ down a few points (sleep deprivation, illness, mind altering substances all should work fine) before attempting to read them. Because if you think about them for any length of time at all, they don't make sense. [ETA: Specifically, given Charley's life history and powers, if Charley didn't engage in relentless self-stupidification, why would she need anyone else? So why do her friends want her to "grow up"? The author and Reyes are both aware of this, which actually makes it even less fun.]

Also, it turns out that the sentences in Dutch that Reyes periodically utters towards Charley Do Not Amuse Me.
walkitout: (Default)
I am really not kidding about those SPOILERS so you should RUN AWAY NOW BECAUSE

are we safe down here?

Steampunk cybermen and

Steampunk cyber DOGS are gonna getcha!

I suspect, but am not entirely certain, that this would be a really confusing standalone novel so maybe you should read the earlier part or parts of the series first. Your call. If all you want is Victorian Steampunk Cyber Dogs, well, they are here For You.

As always, there is a romance and there is a Problem To Solve that the nascent dyad and others are attempting to solve. You can either view this as a mystery with romantic interruptions or a romance with mysterious interruptions or accept the two as a way of showing that human relationships are really there to enable us to collaboratively get through life a little more successfully.

The romance, in this case, is a non-triad. Connor loves Winifred. Winifred loves Liam. Liam is convinced he is Not Safe to Be Around and is thus trying to foist Winifred off on Connor. Speak For Yourself, John or shades of Cyrano or however you want to think about it ensue. Obvs, duh, Liam and Wink are gonna get together and Wink will be the instigator.

The mystery, in this case, is two-fold and unsurprisingly, both halves are closely related. A bunch of younger sons are agitating against primogeniture. And there are people and dogs disappearing from Wapping along with sightings of Cybermen (and Cyberdogs!). There is believed to be a threat against the Royals to occur on race day (true!) and that's pretty much where the plan comes together and then promptly falls apart.

We get some additional backstory on Winifred and the rest of her adoptive sibs time in Wapping. A lot of this feels weirdly like Chronicles of Elantra, and, to add to the confusion, I read _Unraveled_, either before or after and THAT felt like Chronicles of Elantra so I assume that the originator of this particular slum-with-mysterious-overlord thing dates back to some Dickens I haven't read and should have or something similar.

Look, this is not great literature. And it has some real problems as alternate tech. But seriously: vampyres, werewolves, Sidhe, cybermen (cyberdogs!), mechanical dogs, etc. If this is the kind of thing that you like, have at! And if you just think this is ridiculous, well, duh. It's just a particularly lovable form of ridiculous.

September 2017

      1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1011 12 13 14 1516
17 18 19 20 212223


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 02:28 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios