Showing posts with label Urban Fantasy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Urban Fantasy. Show all posts

Thursday, January 10, 2019

(2) Last Year's Disappointing Reads | Serpentine by Laurell K Hamilton



I.  Have.  Got.  To.  End.  Reading.  This.  Series.

Serpentine (Anita Blake #26) by Laurell K. Hamilton
"A remote Florida island is the perfect wedding destination for the upcoming nuptials of Anita’s fellow U.S. Marshal and best friend, Edward. For Anita, the vacation is a welcome break, as it’s the first trip she gets to take with just wereleopards Micah and Nathaniel. But it’s not all fun and games and bachelor parties…  
In this tropical paradise, Micah discovers a horrific new form of lycanthropy, one that has afflicted a single family for generations. Believed to be the result of an ancient Greek curse, it turns human bodies into a mass of snakes.  
When long-simmering resentment leads to a big blowp within the wedding party, the last thing Anita needs is more drama. But it finds her anyway when women start disappearing from the hotel, and worse, her own friends and lovers are considered the prime suspects. There’s a strange power afoot that Anita has never confronted before, a force that’s rendering those around her helpless. Unable to face it on her own, Anita is willing to accept help from even the deadliest places. Help that she will most certainly regret—if she survives at all, that is…"

SAVE US, BUFFY!  SAVE USSSSSSSSSS!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Recent Thriftbooks Book Haul

I haven’t done a book haul in a hot minute.  I haven’t actually WRITTEN a blog post in an extra hot minute.  So I said, “what the hee-hah”.  I’ll combine the two forces (go Captain Planet), and see what the hell I can get out of the experience.  Mainly, I’m looking for my mojo for writing blog posts back.  I miss it.  And, considering in July I paid for another year of ownership of my domain name, I’ve got to get something here back in order...


(Already it feels good pounding on the keys.) 

So I’m going to share my recent purchases from Thriftbooks.  I have a few criticisms with the site–as a consumer.  Yet, I still use it because the books are in fairly good condition.  Also they're cheap and you get free shipping on orders $10 and over, which takes some of the guilt of purchasing books you'll take forever to even read away.  So they–essentially–have your ass over a barrel.  Anyway, I was inspired by these picks for a few different reasons, and I’ll share those reasons as I move along in the post.  And as always, for those of you who are familiar with the books, drop me a comment concerning your thoughts (though try not to spoil them) on each.  I always love hearing from other readers.

So one overarching reason I purchased at least three of the books is because I checked them out from my public library–though I never found myself in the mood to read them.  Or, in the case of Moon Called, I started reading the book a day before J. D. Robb’s latest release [Leverage in Death] came out.  Which, essentially, halted the whole process because everything stops with a new In Death release.  And I mean EVERYTHING, bih.

Nonetheless, here goes…

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What? Some Fantasy Novels...?


I told myself “what the hell” today and grabbed these two fantasy novels out of the library used bookstore for a $1 apiece.  As mentioned in the past, the fantasy genre isn’t my strong suit; Urban Fantasy I can nail, given the right ingredients.  Nonetheless, high fantasy–as I’ve learned in the past–takes me an unbelievable amount of energy to focus and survey my way through.  Seriously, with high fantasy you’re thrown into a whole different world of concepts, systems, and ecospheres that allows you little to no reference points to consider.  So I find it troublesome when I attempt to unfold the author’s imagination through my own–at the same time.  Or at least that’s how it feels to me when an author is pounding descriptive exposition of a fantasy empire built onto a water way; congregated by humanoids and humans with varied ascetics not remitting my needing a visual clue.  So it always feels like a gamble when I take on these books.  A gamble of cohesion and comprehension of the events and narrative flow through an author's particular style.
Yet, there’s a wall I want to break to get into these alien and fantasy worlds.  And that’s how I browsed my way to Jude Fisher’s Sorcery Rising (Book One of Fool’s Gold) and the infamous Mercedes Lackey’s The Serpent’s Shadow.  Both their selling points: they feature female leads.  Nonetheless, The Serpent's Shadow's lead is a half-Indian woman named, Maya Witherspoon.  Which really caught my attention.  Other than that, both leads partake in an adventure of some sort.  Oh, and magic will be had.
So it’s going to take some patience keeping up with their respective world-building, politics, and rules of etiquette.  As well as the patience I’ll need to roll my tongue/mind in attempts to correctly pronounce names like “Sanctuarii”, “Arahai”, and “Fotheringay.”
Oh, boy.
But here goes!
Should I jump ship for whatever reason, everyone will be the first to know.
Share your thoughts on high fantasy and these authors.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sisters in Urban Fantasy

I need to do a quick share of two urban fantasy African American writers writing African American women in leads.  Both these series are on-going with me, and I'm desperately in need of reawakening my thirst.


First is Kira Solomon, the lead of Seressia Glass’s Shadowchasers series.  The series is only three books long.  Though I have the first two, I’ve only (shamefully) read the first.  Don’t judge.  I may just not want the series to end so quickly.  (At least I told myself that after reading the first book back in 2012.)  Anyway, here’s the synopsis…
Kira's day job is as an antiquities expert, but her true calling is as a Shadowchaser. Trained from youth to be one of the most lethal Chasers in existence, Kira serves the Gilead Commission, dispatching the Fallen who sow discord and chaos. Of course, sometimes Gilead bureaucracy is as much a thorn in her side as anything the Fallen can muster against her. Right now, though, she's got a bigger problem. Someone is turning the city of Atlanta upside down in search of a millennia-old Egyptian dagger that just happens to have fallen into Kira's hands.  
Then there's Khefar, the dagger's true owner -- a near-immortal 4,000-year-old Nubian warrior who, Kira has to admit, looks pretty fine for his age. Joining forces is the only way to keep the weapon safe from the sinister Shadow forces, but now Kira is in deep with someone who holds more secrets than she does, the one person who knows just how treacherous this fight is. Because every step closer to destroying the enemy is a step closer to losing herself to Shadow forever....
First, we still love and cherish you L. A. Banks.

While I’ve devoured the hell out of Banks’ Vampire Huntress series, I’ve yet to fully eat her Crimson Moon titles.  Pitiful of me, I know.  I’ve gotten through the first two books, and have yet to follow through with the third in her six-book series.  Nonetheless, Banks is a writer that stays on my heart, and I one day plan on tackling this series into completion.
The synopsis of the first book:
Sasha Trudeau knows all about working beneath the shadows, back-alley deals, and things that go bump in the night. She also knows that the world is unaware of the existence of the paranormal―and that the government would like to keep it that way. 
As a highly trained Special Ops soldier, Sasha and her team are an elite group of individuals who are survivors of werewolf attacks, now trained to be loyal to only to each other and their government. But when she returns from a solo mission, she finds that her team has mysteriously gone missing. Shocking government conspiracies, double-dealing vampires, and a host of stunning revelations about who―and what―she really is are only just the beginning…
That’s all for today, guys.  I just wanted to share these authors/books to remind us that our Sisters does do urban fantasy just as well.  And with that said, share any black female writers you know who have found or taken over an avenue of this sub-genre.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My Kim Harrison Reads Are Suffering...

If only I could find my way back to this series.  Especially considering it ended back in 2014.  You'd think I would run to wrap it up–you know, having read 9 out of the 13 books in the series.  But I just can't seem to get with Rachel Morgan again.  Yet, as this post may indicate, she keeps crossing my mind.  Over and over again.  Her voice speaks from the bookshelf grave, asking me to pick up book 10.  And actually get past the first twenty pages.  The echo of her voice is desperate for me to finish her bounty hunter/witch/demon story.  I sigh in a mix of pain and relief of my escape.  But I'll never forget those 2007 afternoons where I had an hour or two between school and work.  I would sit down at McDonald's and read these books.  Actually, I would gobble them up!  If only Rachel spent a little less time negotiating over her hormones, then things would've turned out differently.
Oh well.  Maybe this summer I'll finally pick up the series where I (swiftly) jumped ship from.  And... well... try again.  Maybe with a glass of wine to go along with the reading.  A sip for every occasion Rachel slobs all over herself over a shirtless man.  Who happens to be an elf-thing.  Who happens to be a killer somehow in need of the reader's sympathy.  The details get fuzzy as the years go by, but the inner ache remains the same.
Aw, hell.  Forget that noise!  Maybe I'll try again when I have nothing else available to read.  (Ah, let's go to Barnes & Nobles and order books today!)
R.I.P RACHEL MORGAN
(FOR NOW!)

Friday, October 30, 2015

FRIDAY READS: Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell (READING UPDATE)

Let's pray this year's Scarpetta novel makes a lot more structural sense than last year's...


According to Amazon:
Dr. Kay Scarpetta is working a suspicious death scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts when an emergency alert sounds on her phone. A video link lands in her text messages and seems to be from her computer genius niece Lucy. But how can it be? It’s clearly a surveillance film of Lucy taken almost twenty years ago.
As Scarpetta watches she begins to learn frightening secrets about her niece, whom she has loved and raised like a daughter. That film clip and then others sent soon after raise dangerous legal implications that increasingly isolate Scarpetta and leave her confused, worried, and not knowing where to turn. She doesn’t know whom she can tell—not her FBI husband Benton Wesley or her investigative partner Pete Marino. Not even Lucy.
In this new novel, Cornwell launches these unforgettable characters on an intensely psychological odyssey that includes the mysterious death of a Hollywood mogul’s daughter, aircraft wreckage on the bottom of the sea in the Bermuda Triangle, a grisly gift left in the back of a crime scene truck, and videos from the past that threaten to destroy Scarpetta’s entire world and everyone she loves. The diabolical presence behind what unfolds seems obvious—but strangely, not to the FBI. Certainly that’s the message they send when they raid Lucy’s estate and begin building a case that could send her to prison for the rest of her life.
In the latest novel in her bestselling series featuring chief medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Cornwell will captivate readers with the shocking twists, high-wire tension, and cutting-edge forensic detail that she is famous for, proving yet again why she’s the world’s #1 bestselling crime writer.

~Backup~  But is it really necessary?
Tonight I'm going in on Patricia Cornwell's latest Scarpetta release, Depraved Heart.  I'm praying on everything it's better than last year's Flesh and Blood.  I won't even plot my expectations in this post.  At the end of the day, I love Kay Scarpetta.  I just don't have any reservations for taking digs at Cornwell's story should it fall short.  So it's time to light the candles, turn on the heater, and slip under the covers for another crime-riddled adventure.  That hopefully makes some damn sense!  No seriously, last year's Flesh and Blood was so bad I DNF'ed it and skipped to the last pages.
So stay tuned for the results...
IN OTHER NEWS.  If Cornwell's latest fails, I have this interesting book to fall back on.  For some reason I went to two different stores in search of Tess Gerritsen's latest, Playing with Fire.  It was my intent to have it handy as a weekend reading back up to Cornwell.  However, I just couldn't find it.  Not even Barnes and Nobles had the book out!  Regardless, I finally got the balls to take on William C. Dietz's urban fantasy novel, Deadeye.
HAPPY READING, EVERYONE!

{Saturday - 10/31 Reading Update - 10:39pm}

Depraved Heart has been in my lap all morning.  I woke at about 8am and didn't get out of bed (officially) until 1pm.  I'm 262 pages in and I have to say I'm really, really enjoying it.  It has absolutely zero motion.  No motion or traction at all.  Characters sit around from scene to scene deducting, contemplating, and rehashing a collection of concerns and story matter.  Zero moment.  Yet!  I absolutely am hooked as to what's going on, and where the story will go.  I may be bias because I genuinely like Scarpetta's first person POV, as well as the other characters.  So I don't feel too slighted by the lack of movement in the story.  It's like sitting down with old friends and....  I'll leave that for later.  No, really.  I'm actually enjoying the book.  Besides, the weather–which is wet and chilly–helps the experience.  I'm hoping to have the book complete tomorrow.  Much, much better than last year's disaster, Flesh and Blood.  While Depraved Heart reads like a stalled jalopy, it's a lot more reader-friendly and comprehensible than the spaghetti-splaying Flesh and Blood.

Creatures of the Night BOOK TAG (Video)






CREATURES OF THE NIGHT BOOK TAG
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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Find My Kill Switch | Surviving Dead Ice

I’ve been meaning to get back to you guys on my experience with Laurell K Hamilton’s twenty-fourth Anita Blake not-so adventure, Dead Ice. The truth is I had to cleanse my reading pallet with something else in the meantime.  Now if you will, think wasabi level pallet cleansing. Anyway, this particular entry didn’t take months to read, so score one for energy drinks and those pulled pork sandwiches I mentioned in a previous post. Nonetheless, it took damn near two weeks for me to finish.  Insufferably so?  Yes, mostly toward the middle and end.  Though it suffered from the standard uselessly overtaxing furry politics and relationship soap operatic melodrama–that continuously killed the crime thriller buzz–it didn't totally shrivel up and suck.  But it didn't collect any prizes either as it continued to circle the drain.  I have a wagon full of things I want to snark about; foot jittery to serve you with them all. However, to try to sum a bit of it up, Hamilton’s camel clutching way of making her readers undergo Anita’s solar system size ego (which doubles as bloating insecurity) remains one.  Also, Anita continues to talk a very good game, but is mostly dense at the end of her barking. The many vampires, aliens, poltergeist, zombies, and animals in her life remain noncommittal. Seriously, I can’t think of one of Antia’s lovers who sparks the slimiest sense of concern or welfare inside of me. 

However, I do believe the character of Asher is now the punching bag the character of Richard once was.  Which is lame because his "issues" are obviously pulled out of somebody's ass just so Anita can have someone to fuss with, while pumping page counts on the tired subject.  The details are hardly worth getting into, as it's just daytime TV types of drama anyway.  With a supernatural spin, of course.  Nevertheless, that doesn't shake off the weariness it creates. The truth is every male character’s life only revolves around Anita's conjecture and vagina (or milky breast, or throat pulse, or whatever). Even so, in the general, I’ve long conceded that this series has turned into the author’s high school fantasy gone wild. I just can’t seem to see it any other way.  I've also long since learned to unhook myself over the majority of the relationship mumbo-jumbo-gumbo-humbo-dumbo-tumbo. 

There’s no need to get invested; all roads of angst, politics, and quarrels on sex/relationships lead simply to Anita’s vagina monologues. Again and again.  And in the infamous words of Cyndi Lauper–though nowhere near as ingeniously expressed and told–"time after time."


Nevertheless, I keep reading. It’s a thing where the real joy comes from the post snarking. What I can say is Dead Ice kind of did a throwback to my favorite book in the series (back when it was engaging, for me anyway). That book would be book number two, The Laughing Corpse.  That, I will say, was a nice touch despite long overdue.  So in keeping with all I've said, I’m not going to go any further. The truth is if you’re familiar with this series, you either share pieces of my view or don’t at all. And if you’re new to this series, I would suggest you not even bother getting to this point. So no sense in my trying to hearten anyone. 

Eventually, you’ll probably find yourself like me; jade, unconcerned, and still wondering what happened to the series after book nine. Now! This post is for those who found themselves rolling their eyes through the majority of Dead Ice. God people, I though I was going to have to get my eyes checked after this one! And the way Hamilton repeats everything to the reader page after page did not help the situation.  Not to mention her obsession with gyms and fitness. Anyway, let’s get to where I rolled my eyes, shared through a few lines taken from the book...
*Activating Kill Switch*

15
I fought the urge to sigh.  If you're a cop and a woman, never date a celebrity; it ruins your reputation for being a hardass.  I was a U.S. Marshal, but ever since we'd gone public with our engagement I'd become Jean-Claude's fiancee, not Marshal Blake, to most of the women I met, and a lot of the men.  I'd really had hopes that the FBI would be above such things in the middle of crime-fighting, but apparently not.
Two pages into the book and this ever so common subject comes up right on time.  Why does the author always–and I mean always–have to bring up Anita's obsession with gender role constructs and the this-versus-that of being a woman in her career field.  A field, which I believe, she should be removed from because of potential bias in the face of her assignments.  The truth is she does sleep with all the vampires and wereanimals in the city of St. Louis.  She's involved in their power plays and politics.  She's, essentially, the center of the supernatural communities' attention.  Yet, she gloats about the FBI needing her to kill supernatural creatures case after case, year after year.  Meanwhile, her vagina is up on the table (often pimped out by the city's master vampire, Jean-Claude) should any supernatural creature need a power boost.  Somebody, fire her!
14
'She said, these rings would be worthy of Helen of Troy, another raven-haired beauty [indicating Anita Blake]'
'Raven-haired means black hair,' Lisandro said. [Duh, dude. Duh.]
'Are you saying she compared me to Helen of Troy?' [Asks Anita Blake]
Nice try!
You are not Helen of Troy, Anita.  Cease this degree of madness, Hamilton.  Anita's not on that kind of level and never will be.
13
'I can't imagine a world where I didn't get grief for looking the way I do as a man.'
The insipidity boring (not to mention emasculated) Micah character states this because he's so short and so "beautiful."  Needless to say, the cringe for me was so real.  This line seemed shot straight out of somebody's fantasy delusions. 
12
'But the only reason I'm with Jade is that she's my black tiger to call; we're metaphysically tied to each other.  We didn't exactly choose each other.  I'm all full up on vampires.'
Is that a fact?
11 
'I did, because what if by refusing to risk screwing up my own happily-ever-after, I cause the Great Evil to rise again and destroy not only you, Nathaniel, and Jean-Claude, but everyone and everything?  The destruction of civilization as we know it seems a high price to pay for not wanting to add another person to our commitment ceremony.'
Did you just read the same thing?  Micah states this, and I've finally come to the conclusion that he irritates me more than any of Anita's other were-posse members.  Evidently, Anita has to add two were-tigers to her harem in order to keep the Mother of all Darkness–or the reportedly mother of vampires–from reviving.  That, of course, means finding two tigers for Anita to sleep with so that the Great Evil doesn't destroy civilization and mankind via some joke of a cosmic prophecy. Really.  Just step back and really, I mean really, digest Micah's statement.  It sums up the series beautifully.   I actually went to clean my bathroom after this one.  Priorities, man.  Priorities.
10
'I'm sleeping with all of you, so sex with all of us would work, but we're talking about a lot more than just sex.'
I vanquish you and your petty lies in the name of truth and justice!
9
'Lazarus was dead only a few days.  You've been dead a lot longer than that, Mr. Warrington.  Do you truly believe that Anita can do what our Lord and Savior never dared?'
First, resurrecting and raising zombies are two different things.  Resurrecting is bringing someone back to life.  Zombie raising is waking one's corpse up from the grave.  Now, obviously Mr. Warrington is a zombie Anita raised.  So let's look at it, though.  According to this piece of dialogue, Jesus couldn't resurrect the dead over an extensive period of his or her death.  As it concerns this dialogue, he wouldn't dare try.  However, Anita's power is suggested as having the strength and ease to do so?  To, quite implied, step into realms of resurrection that Jesus wouldn't even touch.  Just let that shit marinate for a second.  Got it yet?  Great.  So is Hamilton trying to use her Anita avatar to square with Jesus now?  That's only slightly not weird.
8
'I'm sorry, Susannah, really sorry; that must have been awful.'  And just like that I had my lesson.  I shouldn't assume that every woman a man bashes gave him a good reason to do it.
Girl, what!?
Cringe!  Anita states this.  Are we reading this correctly?  Is she saying that if a men beats on a woman it's usually with good reason?  Yikes!
7
'I don't understand any of this.'
She and everybody else says this a lot!  And I mean a lot!  It's actually a recurring answer within the past 5 or 6 books.  "The wall is painted purple."  "I don't understand any of this."
6
I studied his profile, because he was the only one looking away now.  'So, you're not apologizing for almost killing him, really; you're apologizing for accidentally almost killing him.'
Get the hell outta here with this nonsense!
5 
'Don't apologize for not being little; you'll be able to lift weights that I can't even imagine lifting.'
This is Anita talking to a damn lycanthrope of some sort.  Or shapeshifter.  Anyway, it's a creature that can shift into a humanoid version of an animal.  So why oh why is this conversation necessary?  I can only guess Hamilton's gym obsession again.  Otherwise, I hardly see why a shapeshifter should concern him or herself with building muscle.  Or is that just me?
4
'Your eyes better stay on my face, Benito, because one rule across all were-animal cultures is that if someone is just nude and not trying to be sexy you're suppose to ignore it.'
Anita and her mouth again.  She knows she likes the attention and she knows she wants it.  Who is she kidding?  A housefly?  Something in which she'll never sleep with.  It's attitudes like this that really screws with the inconsistent of Anita's already cruelly flawed character, from a developmental standpoint.  She demands and obsesses over her need for adoration, praise, sex, attention, and every golden sparkle she wants; however, she loathes and gets snotty by the backwash.  If this was explored correctly in Anita's development, I would accept it.  But since it's just a key-in-a-hole-to-turn piece of impulsive Mary Sue drivel, I can't.  Even the whole "rule across all were-animals" is pretty dumb when you consider they all fight to have sex with one another as power plays, and sleep naked in groups.  Per this series world-building, of course.
3
'The hell you're not; you come in here threatening to kill one of your own people because your lover chose him over you.  If you were all human, that would be first-degree homicide.  You threatened to kill Asher so that Jean-Claude will agree to you becoming my hyena to call; it's like threatening to kill someone unless a woman agrees to marry you.  Again, that's a crime; marriage under duress isn't legal, and threatening to kill people, well, the cops frown on that, too.  Then you threaten to pull out all of your hyenas and go to another city, knowing that we didn't have enough muscle to protect the city from other preternatural baddies without our guys unless we play with you.  That may not be illegal, but it's still not honorable.  But wait, there's more, you threaten to use all the soldiers at your beck and call to declare a preternatural war of a scale that hasn't been seen in this country since the 1800s.  Dozens, maybe hundreds, would die, and threatening shit like that is what makes gang task forces bust your gang up and take the leader off to jail.'
 Oh, dear. So self-righteous when it conveniences her.
2
'Sometimes, but it's more you are so powerful psychically that you just bull your way through everything, so subtle energies are lost to you because you give off so much of your own energy it makes you blind to other practitioners.'
So basically Anita is so powerful and wonderful that she overshadows everybody else in her business.  So much so that even she only sees herself.  Heh.
1
'I think they need to kiss everybody, not just me, to see if there's a spark, because I do not want to have another woman in my life who doesn't work with the men in my life.'
My blood pressure at this point.
'...The longer we keep him on [a video chat line], the better chance we have of our techs tracing this to its source.'
'You mean where they're filming?' I asked.
Nooooo, Anita.  Where they're quoting scripture and eating cold hot dogs.  Like, WTF?  Of course where they're filming–Ms. Badass Federal Marshal!  This dumb question coming from the necromancer whose power overshadows everyone else's.
Enough.  I'm done. BOOM! 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Bein and His Wind

Tokyo is about to find itself in the grips of a stream of terrorist attacks driven by a religious zealot named Joko Daishi. Joko is dedicated to his beliefs, those of which circulating around how society needs purification through a baptism of fire. However, the unconcerned citizens of Tokyo are too wrapped up in their bustling lives to give a damn about his message. And not “giving a damn” may be the reason Joko found himself released from police custody after his last terrorist event (check out book two in the series, Year of the Demon). And while Tokyo’s police department may have turned somewhat of a blind eye to Joko’s terrorism, Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro has not. Unfortunately, there’s not much she can do.  Having thwarted Joko in the past, Mariko's petition for her Captain to detain and hold Joko eventually causes her her badge. (You know, because she’s a woman and can’t be vocal.  That type of bullshit.)

Without the support of the Tokyo Police Department, Mariko has to find other resources to stop Joko from destroying Tokyo.  What Mariko doesn't know is that she's already drawn the attention of an underground syndicate known as The Wind. The Wind once harbored and trained Joko Daishi and, in effect, is responsible for him. Regardless, they need Mariko’s help.  She carries an Inazuma blade, handed down to her by her deceased senshi.  Inazuma blades are centuries old and cursed; The Wind believes this is their means of stopping Joko.  So Mariko's choice becomes simple–yet highly complicated.  She can join The Wind to stop Joko Daishi, or go at it alone before her city is destroyed. And the longer she contemplates her choices, the more personal her decision becomes.

Wow. Now where do I really start with this one? First, this is book three (and I believe it’s the last) in Steve Bein’s Fated Blades series. As I've mentioned in previous posts about previous books, the series is part contemporary crime thriller and part historical fantasy. It switches time and space.  A lump of chapters are told in the today's world, viewed through Tokyo Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro.  Her chapters focuses on her role as the owner of one of the various cursed Inazuma blades crafted in ancient Japan, and how she uses the blade to stop terrorists. Meanwhile, the counter chapters follows the story of a young, crippled samurai named, Daigoro. During Japan's Azuchi-Momoyama period, Daigoro is the owner of the same Inazuma blade as Mariko. The majority of his narrative revolves around him using the sword as a means to protect his clan.  With a mother suffering from a nervous breakdown after the death of his father and brother, adjacent clans use political manoeuvres and intrigue in attempts to take what little honor and status Daigoro has.  Naturally, they want his blade as well. 

These two have carried the series since the first book. However, in the second book came a new character named Kaida.  

Kaida was a pearl diver who turned away from her family to become an assassin working for The Wind.  Unfortunately, the continuation of her story isn't in Disciple of the Wind. So I was a bit disappointed.  Clearly her portion was meant to give readers the history behind the origins of The Wind, origins that would've been beneficial to Disciple.  But for Disciple's length purposes, her story is available in a Kindle novella.  I'll probably get to it at a later date.

Despite all that, I'm happy to say that there is more Mariko in this entry. And more Mariko means far more action in the form of shoot-outs, sword fights, and a healthy dose of detection and crime boss confrontations. In Year of the Demon my biggest complaint was the lack of her presence, so I suppose it worked to cut out Kaida’s story. Nevertheless, that’s not to say that Daigoro’s portion isn't as strong, as it draws to its own conclusion within the series (his opponent is easily the most interesting and best). I love his bits in particularly because they're all about ancient Japanese political intrigue.  Careful navigation of politics operate better than a flat-out sword fight, if you want to save your family and save your ass from a beheading. But trust me, there are still plenty of sword fights and action in his story as well.

Now I still have to mention how–after three books–some of the characters in the series come across as slightly overblown. One example comes in how Mariko’s Captain was an unapologetically drawn bigot who did a lot of fist-waving and kowtow-demanding of Mariko...still.  It just got old with him shrieking at her, and no amount of head-bowing could save Mariko or my patience.  Also, I know I just said that I was happy to see more Mariko, but even she suffered from moments of overdrawn-ness.  She karate chopped and sprung her way through some scenes where she didn’t appear threatened or in immediate danger.  So yes, there were times when I wished she would chill out for a second on the Zero Woman act.  

There were also moments where action scenes were muffled and scrambled with disorienting choreography. A bad guy leaping from a hail storm of bullets manages to hide undetected behind the leg of a pool table inside of a bar, meanwhile Mariko and her partner are underneath that pool table unaware of him. And when they finally notice said bad guy, he jumps up and leaps out of the window.  You can only wonder if the bullets stopped raining over the place enough for him to take the risk. Or still, how and when did he get behind that pool table’s leg undetected?  Lots of scenes came across like this.  Those hazy, semi-teleporting characters and scene transitions that aren't quite clear.

All in all, I highly recommend the Fated Blade series. Especially for those interested in Japan, Japanese culture, crime fiction, and historical fantasies.  Additionally, if you're like me and have mostly given up on the urban fantasy genre, this may be your ticket back in.  Give this series a greenlight.  

Lastly, if this is the last book, I can say I'll miss the series.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The OSI Gone Bye-Bye-Bye



I forgot to mention Jes Battis back when I made posts related to urban fantasy authors whose series I've loved but are no longer in operation. So besides the lovely Lynn Benedict, Battis is definitely up there. Battis wrote a five-book series surrounding a young Canadian Occult Special Investigator named Tess Corday. I know. I know. First, you'd like to know exactly what an Occult Special Investigator or OSI is. Well, it’s an investigative unit that specializes in the occult, or occult rattled cases. It’s like an alternative division to the whole CSI mechanic and how it pertains to law enforcement. Therefore, Tess’s job usually has her castigated by unruly vampires, necromancers and other nightly fiends. Well, opposed to murderous humans and the occasional blue-collar criminal. So it‘s all about the world she lives in, and one that Battis painted quite nicely (until it sort of fell apart in the last book).


Despite his set-up, Battis's protagonist is very much human. Although later her father’s genetic truths come to light. This becomes an overarching plot, unfolding next to the case-by-case format spanning the five books. And while all that is tugging and momentum-filled, Tess isn't alone in her journey.  There are secondary characters with their own stories to tell. Her best friend, Derrick, is gay and telepathic.  He also works for the OSI. Additionally, his boyfriend is a hearing-impaired profiler of sorts. Nonetheless, the two (gradually more) share an apartment with a teenage pseudo-vampire named Mia.  Mia bears a striking personality resemblance to Buffy’s sister Dawn, although Mia isn't nowhere near as insufferable.  Tess and her best friend become Mia's guardians after the first book, Night Child. I was always confused about Mia's circumstances, but there’s something about her breaking out into vampire mode and ruling the underworld one day. It’s hazy, but somewhat of the gist of her story. Nonetheless, while these three jump-start the series, there is also Tess’s boyfriend and local chief necromancer, Lucian Agrado.


So the cast is wide and diverse, and generally different. Especially with the tie of the hearing-impaired character. You don't see these characters too often in urban fantasy, or I can't recall a time. Furthermore, while Lucian gave great body and sex appeal, he wasn't like other male characters in this genre where their bod and sex appeal becomes the focal point of the protagonist’s obsession. No. Lucian very much kept Tess in check, and her likewise. Together the cast got into plenty of trouble. Each with a sort of ability and charm that compliments the next, leading to the resolutions behind many of Tess’s cases. 

I truly miss and enjoy the series, even though the last book was just this long, morbid monologue/meditation provided by Tess regarding her values and that of her father. Though sadly, I think the series really started to pick up with the third book (that’s when I solidified my love of Battis work), but didn't get the chance to really shine.

All that aside, you can tell Battis watches a lot of Buffy, my personal favorite TV show.  So if you like Buffy, you may love this charming and humorous treat.  Interesting investigations, a slice of love, friendship-driven, and mysterious family secrets abound.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fix It, Jesus. Urban Fantasy Gone SUPER BAD

I am about to depressurize a little frustration here concerning why I decided to abandon Cassie Alexander’s Nightshifted, after managing to plow through a mere 43 pages.  You're probably thinking that it was just too dreadful to continue; and while I try to refrain from using such an adjective to describe a book, the fact is that it was. Dreadful and awkward. Aimless and just plain ridiculous.

I bought the book last May thinking it was time for some new urban fantasy authors to try. But as always, my reservations were for the level of sex that this genre is known for. Even so, the difference, concerning Nightshifted, lie in its premise. It sounded new and potentially polarizing to other urban fantasy books. I figured it would make an exciting read, though it took me a year and a half to get over my trepidation of the possibilities of "sexi timez with monsters" overtaking the plot (I should have listened to that trepidation). 

See, Nightshifted is about a nurse with a cool name (oh yes, Edie Spence is she) who treats supernatural patients in a secret hospital ward deep underneath the traditional. Supposedly, she’s new to this specialized practice, having yet to understand the blend of her nursing abilities and its role within the supernatural community's healthcare. Now, the book opens with Edie treating a vampire servant who was found lying in some unspecified street during some unspecified time. I honestly don't recall what happened to him, and nor did I get far enough to find out.  Nonetheless, the point is that as he’s dying, he utters the words “Save Anna” to Edie. Before long, he turns to dust. (Don't only actual vampires tend to do this and not their human servants?) So somehow it’s Edie’s fault that she lost her patient, and I’m still unclear how/why besides her jumping on his chest to try to shock his heart into a cardiac beat.  Or some mess like that. So, conversely, the actual details were lacking.  Medically as well as supernaturally.  It just is what it is, I guess.  Anyhow, Edie goes through the vampire servant’s belongings. She discovers three cologne bottles filled with holy water, and a pocket watch with a photo insert of a family (how tiny did the photo have to be?). Later, at home, Edie takes the photo out, and discovers an address on the back. That’s when things got stupider and stupider.  


Because I didn't read the entire book, I'm going to sort of bullet point my issues leading up to my abandoning the book.  Within 43 pages, I had to stop at each scenario before it all got to be too much. THIS AREA IS SPOILER HEAVY!  Though I don't think you'd care if you got this far into the post. 

Issue #1: What’s the point of throwing out the names of medical drugs and further medical terminology if you don’t filter their purpose and definition to the average reader? I don't know what fentanyl (pain reliever, apparently) and Versed (sedative, double apparently) are.  Let alone do I understand how they would affect the treatment of an aged vampire servant, who evidently can disintegrate after death as well as sport fangs just as your standard variety definition of a vampire.  Yet he's a human servant... in pain. In any regard, have your American Medical Associates and Coder book handy! 

Issue #2: Speaking of vampire servants, how did I get to page 43, meet about three other vampires, and still never quite understood what kind of world Edie operated in where she felt the need to confront each one of them while armed with three bottles of holy water and a photograph?  Now, I remind you, she is a nurse.  Not a slayer or demon hunter–at least this early in the book.  Therefore, did she stand to reason with them? Were there any stakes (both the pointy kind and the claims kind) involved with her amateurish investigation? Evidently not on either front, considering she flipped out and began to spray one in the face because he wouldn't let her through a door. There’s a slight disconnect with the world-building as well as the medical theme. And I got this odd, peculiar realization that Alexander was more concerned with writing this sexy, brave heroine instead of a smart one. And one who obviously lived in a world with little rules.

Ain't nobody got time for that

Issue #3: If within twenty-four hours two different vampires (one being a vampire servant–which seemed no different if you ask me) have managed to sink his or her teeth into your hand all the way down to the bone, you do not, I repeat, you do not flash a photograph in the face of the second vampire's attack in an attempt to be released.  Your hand is already injured, which whom he/she is furthering into a state of total mangled-ness. Despite the circumstances, a photograph the size of a silver dollar is not a weapon. Like, come on! What're you doing and why are you doing it this way?  I just wasn't connecting with the functions involved in all of this.  My first instinct would be to fight the vampire off me with force, not attempt to reason with it with a photograph while the SOB is chewing on my metacarpals.  What's even more stunning is that the author tried to play off this scenario by claiming "narcotic vampire saliva" kept Edie somewhat in her right mind to have done otherwise.  STOP THIS!

Is this bish high?
  
Issue #4: You don't call your junkie big brother to meet you at the hospital so that you can hand over the keys to your apartment.  Why did Edie do this?  So that he can "watch" over her apartment and cat while she slides into the hospital to get her bloody hand treated (stitches?). Now, you especially don't do this if he has already tried to hit you up for cash earlier that day via a nasty, distant phone call! HELLO! 

She dumb

Issue #5: Additionally, you don’t steal a camera from a potential crime scene and, afterwards, give it to your junkie big brother with the distinct demands that he pawn the item. But first, (no listen, FIRST) what sense does it make to remove the film from the camera at the crime scene, burn the evidence, and then take the camera itself only to give it to a drug addict? With no instructions regarding the money he receives after pawning the camera, what the hell were Edie’s expectations of him again? BLEACH MY BRAIN!

BLEACH!

Issue #6: Why did Edie call her brother before she went to get her hand treated, anyway? It wasn't an overnight-at-the-hospital situation and, as a nurse, you would assume that she knew this.  However, what’s even more stupid is how she gave her brother the keys to her apartment, and less than a page later, she comes home to find some of her furniture missing. Her cheesing junkie brother peeks around the corner proclaiming, "I was performing an experiment" and "I needed to sell them to afford my final test". Somebody bleach my brain now! 

Fix it, Jesus

Issue #7: When Edie called her brother to watch over her apartment while she got her hand treated, it came with the promise that she would allow him to stay at her place for a few days to keep him from having to stay in a shelter.  I suppose this is her way of considering her inconveniencing him.  Even so, she booted him out once she found out her furniture was pawned. Dear Lord, read her thoughts: 
"It was cold out this morning, tonight'd be freezing for sure. I hoped he made it to the shelter in time. I watched him till he turned at the end of my apartment complex's parking lot, my healing hand throbbing in the cold." 
Besides the fact that it's so obviously freezing outside, and she's safely at home, does she not realize that in order for someone without a home to secure a bed in a shelter, he has to be there at some pre-determined time before 7pm? Really, bish? Really?

I detest you so hard right now

I was creeping along with the squinty face at this point. Knowing good and well that I was about to throw this book. Nevertheless, I went ahead anyway. Just a little. Then this happened… 

Issue #8: Within a day Edie has accidentally “killed” a human servant under her care. With an injured and possibly infected hand, she proceeded to visit the address printed on the back of the photo in his pocket watch. It leads to his apartment. It leads to disturbing photos of young girls in compromising positions. Great. Now let Edie solve this mystery, right? Well, I'm not sure how she ended up at a vampire den, but she did (I zoned out somewhere in there). So what happens there?  She finds the aforementioned Anna chained and being filmed by two vampires. Edie kills one vampire; the other flees. Anna bites Edie.  Anna flees. Edie goes to the hospital to get her hand treated, and in steps in all that fuss I just mentioned regarding her junkie brother.  Once she kicks the brother out, here’s what happens next after a moment of her reasoning with the fact that she's not on-call for the night:
"The ten pounds of weight night shift had put on me hadn't sized me out of my favorite skirt just yet.  I pulled it on, then found a matching shirt that clung in all the right places.  My hair was wavy, shoulder length, generically brown.  My eyes were complimentable blue, and I had a good smile.  I knew when I went out that I wasn't the prettiest girl in the club–but I also knew I could hold my own in someplace with a few shadows where the cocktails were reasonably priced." 

That's right. She went to a nightclub.

This bish has lost it.  I'm done.

Quite possibly one of the dumbest books I've ever read. I now understand why it took me a year and half to pick it up, and why I'm slowly giving up on the urban fantasy genre. The sad thing is that, concerning the genre, I would rather read another Laurell K Hamilton book than finish this. And according to a few reviews, it gets worst, as Edie decides to have sex with a zombie. 


So yeah. I totally can't wait to donate this book to my public library’s bookstore. Thank God I jumped this ship ahead of time and can move on.


Buffy, the Vampire Slayer gifs are not mine.  I don't know the owner, I just know the site in which I'll thankfully credit them.  HERE.

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