Book: Anthology ‘Hex Appeal’ part 3

It was a bit of a struggle but I managed to finish all the stories in ‘Hex Appeal’.

The remaining stories were:

P. N. Elrod’s Outside The Box
Simon R. Green’s How Do You Feel?
Lori Handeland’s There Will Be Demons
Erica Hayes’ Cherry Kisses
Carrie Vaughn’s The Arcane Art of Misdirection

hex appeal

‘Outside the box’ was rather good, it felt like an introduction to a universe – in this case P. N. Elrod’s ‘Vampire Files’ universe. However when I looked at the ‘Vampire Files’ books they were set in 1930s Chicago… whilst ‘Outside The Box’ feels pretty modern.

So despite enjoying the story I am not sure I can actually read anything else by Elrod – which is vexing!

Simon R. Green’s ‘How Do You Feel?’ was odd. An unwilling zombie goes on a quest to find the person ultimately responsible for his murder years before. It is an odd story and doesn’t really make me want to touch anything else by Green – personally I didn’t think urban fantasy involved cars from the future that turn into sex bots.

Lori Handeland’s ‘There Will Be Demons’ made me uncomfortable. The female lead is  set up by multiple people and clearly used sexually, and it bothered me that the reader was meant to be ok about this setting up the wider universe. It features fairies, skinwalkers, dhampires and angels – it was a vaguely interesting premise but it went downhill very very quickly.

Erica Hayes’ ‘Cherry Kisses’ was sleazy and the female lead was not a nice person – at all. It features fairies, vampires and demons, if it hasn’t been for the sleaze it might have been ok.

Carrie Vaughn’s ‘The Arcane Art of Misdirection’ wasn’t even 30 pages long and this was a pity as Odysseus Grant is one of the most interesting characters in the Kitty books.

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Book: Anthology ‘Hex Appeal’ part 2 – “Although that very thought was more shuddersome than a pack of feral zombies invading a tea party”

I am finding the ‘Hex Appeal’ anthology hard going – the initial two stories were readable but I’m having to try increasingly hard.

This week I managed to get through another two short stories:

Rachel Caine’s ‘Holly’s Balm’
Carole Nelson Douglas’ ‘Snow Job’

Caine’s story featured characters that had previously appeared in another anthology (that I haven’t read). Holly is a witch who  can raise the dead and Andy is a witch she brought back from the dead and is now dating…

hex appeal

Basically ‘Holly’s Balm’ felt like a mashup between Caine’s Revivalist series and Kim Harrisons Rachel Morgan series. There is the zombie-loving ick from the former and the wet witch who can’t see the obvious even when it is hitting her in the face from the latter.

I really hope the story wasn’t meant to contain plot twists as every bit of plot was broadcaster loud & clear WAY in advance. I’d read worse stories (more on that in a minute), but I wouldn’t bother reading it again.

Having never heard of Carole Nelson Douglas I went into ‘Snow Job’ with a completely open mind and no preconceptions.

sugar

(Sugar – because people like you just fuel my fire.)

Apparently it is set in the world of Delilah Street – Paranormal Investigator series. There seemed to be lots of references and information dumps that I didn’t understand, probably as I haven’t read any of the series.

Lots of things happened and the writing felt as if it could have been generated by a pop-culture obsessed monkey posting on Twitter whilst on a sugar high. For example:

“Call me one weird sister, but I wasn’t too high on bailing on the Inferno, or its owner. I’ve never been into male sex symbols. I’m not talking about the planet Mars with the provocative little arrow. Blatant onstage booty calls for screaming female fans and profit insult my intelligence. Elvis would have squealed in vain. Justin Timberlake would have to get his screams and squees from some other chick.”

In a short story every word counts and that was a lot of words conveying nothing of value to the story or anything else for that matter

Apparently Douglas has written 60 novels and judging by the quality of this story I feel that she may have managed this feat in one long sugar-fuelled weekend.

So far ‘Hex Appeal’ is on a strong downwards spiral and I’ve got another five stories to get through, I’m praying that it gets easier!

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Book: Becca Mills’ ‘Noland’ – “None of that meant a thing to the beast. Either blood would be shed over the matter, or it would not.”

I picked this book up because I read about the author’s recent experience with a malicious use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and because this book was free – book 2 costs money but I was open minded about paying for it if I liked the first one.

Beth has panic attacks and no real support system. She lives alone in the small town she grew up in and barely sees her brother or his kids due to his wife’s rabid dislike of her.

Beth takes photos on a non-digital camera and develops them herself, one day she sees a monster foot in one of the photos – but she swears it wasn’t there when she took the photo. Then weird stuff starts to happen and she finds herself dealing with powerful forces who think she has skills they can use.

nolander The start of the book was rather good, Beth was ok, the plotline was interesting, the characters were developing – even if Williams was clearly a pyscho,  and then the book got odd.

I think it probably got odd around the time statutory rape was mentioned and that the quasi-demonic creatures could, I’m paraphrasing, “make you want it even if you don’t”.

This seems a bit rapey for what had been reading like a Young Adult book, but I tried to ignore that feeling. I continued through the  MASSIVE plot jump and getting lost in the jungle bit and the random octopus bits – seriously I don’t know why we need to know the octopus’ gender.

By now I’m over 60% through the book and increasingly aware that this wasn’t the plotline that I started with or one that was strong enough for me to suspect my disbelief – increasingly I was getting a  bored and creeped out.

The odd phrasing of talking about characters who are searching for Beth but Beth is commenting on their actions as if she is there with them and using the word “me” was jarring.

But I got through that speedbump and was on the home stretch only to find that the end of the book seemed random too, it was as if the book wanted to be a slaves and masters romance but felt urban fantasy might be a more modern genre.

‘Nolander’ isn’t a bad book, but it feels like two books accidentally got spliced together and just had to roll with it. I was personally more interested in the original story than the one I fell into, so I won’t be continuing with Beth’s adventures.

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Book: Laurell K Hamilton’s ‘Obsidian Butterfly’ (Anita Blake 9) – “If you only believe when it’s easy, you don’t really believe”

I’m there! I’ve got to book 9! I’ve had to read several things that I really wasn’t happy with but now the payoff… right?

Please don’t read the below if you are under 18 or over 18 and easily offended/immature, the book isn’t suitable for you at all and it’s impossible to comment on the book without touching on some of these themes. There may also be triggers… but but but this is meant to be the GOOD book, why are there triggers in the GOOD book?!

‘Obsidian Butterfly’ was the ninth book and the last Anita Blake book that I owned, I knew that I didn’t like where it went after this point, which is why I stopped here. What I didn’t remember was that the downhill decent had started before this book, the sex and sexual violence was entrenched well before the horror of book ten.

I have a soft spot for Albuquerque and Santa Fe, I liked living there and even the school experience was only mostly weird – swearing allegiance to the TV because you don’t have a flag in the classroom is still creepy though. So I was happy when the book was set there, but it could be set anywhere, there is no real attempt to give the book flavour – apart from there is some desert.

obsidian butterfly

Plotwise, Edward has called in the favour that Anita owes him from ‘The Killing Dance’, there have been some murders and some mutilations. There is a very old Vampire who claims to be an Aztec god and lots of running around.

Anita ends up in hospital a couple of times, there are two chaps who seem interested in getting into her pants – we have no real mention of J-C or Richard in this book as Anita is avoiding them.

Then things go rapidly downhill, one of Edward’s other helpers is a rapist and serial murderer who really doesn’t like women. Anita is very disparaging towards women and burns a lot of bridges with the local law enforcement for no good reason.

And unfortunately we also have surprisingly graphic child rape and child torture (not waterboarding torture but the deliberate infliction of physical pain – which is still torture). I had totally blocked out this part of the book, upon revisiting it I find it is distinctly unnecessary and the children could have been put in adequate peril without this level of detail.

The rest of the plot was ok I guess and Edward having a major role is nice, but I won’t be reading anything by Hamilton again, this is my personal choice and is largely fuelled by her casual use of rape as a plot device across multiple books.

The fact that the rest of the Anita Blake series deteriorates into her sh*gging anything that moves – no it doesn’t have to have a pulse, doesn’t help make me want to join Anita on her journey.

I’m very happy if people like these books and gain enjoyment from them, however they aren’t for me, nothing more, nothing less.

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Book: Laurell K Hamilton’s ‘Burnt Offerings’ and ‘Blue Moon’ (Anita Blake 7 and 8) – “When you apologize, try not to smile at the same time. It ruins the effect”

Nearly there with what I own of the Anita Blake series, I remember book 9 being fab so I just need to get through these last two then I am in for the good stuff… if my memory is accurate and I am beginning to wonder after the last few books.

Please don’t read the below if you are under 18 or over 18 and easily offended/immature, the book isn’t suitable for you at all and it’s impossible to comment on the book without touching on some of these themes. Oh yeah, may contain triggers, sorry about that but Hamilton seems to frequently uses rape as a plot device to show that someone is in peril.

‘Burnt Offerings’ starts so promisingly, Anita is approached about a case, an actual case that doesn’t involve bonking the vampire Master of the City, that doesn’t involve her dating him or the now properly alpha werewolf Richard. Weee…. And then crash down to earth as there is some vampire politics going on, specifically Asher (J-C’s long lost male lover) has returned to town and is an unhappy vampire about so many things – including the holy water scars that cover one half of his body.

burnt offerings

The plot is not terribly robust, actually it is window dressing for the rape, gang rape, descriptions of Anita’s sexy outfits, torture, heavily implied sexual use of a possessed body without the original occupant agreeing to it (which is rape), rotting vampires, rotting vampires threatening to rape people, more torture, did I mention rape? That pretty much covers it – apart from Nathaniel which then starts going into S&M sex and gosh I’d honestly forgotten that occurred before book 10, I am not comfy going there.

If the sex had actually been consensual then this could have new genre – paranormal smut. As it mostly wasn’t consensual (or necessary) then that just makes it charity shop fodder. I am not really happy with reading about this much rape and it doesn’t feel like entrainment at all.

Additionally it is getting annoying that  Anita thinks she is the centre of the universe by this point in the series and all the men let her carry on that way.

‘Blue Moon’, I was not looking forward to reading this after the rape-fest that was the last book. But at least we start with ALLEDGED rape rather than actual rape.

blue moon

Not that Richard did it, but he has been shagging all sorts and probably is horribly infested with STDs by now. We also have Nathaniel’s creepy demands for S&M sex, were-leopards are not healthy and well-rounded individuals in these books and I find it actually pretty disturbing to have a main-ish character who is too messed up to stand-up for themselves or use any common sense. For example, if the nice people want to cut you up whilst ***king you it might be a good idea to walk away before they gut you and leave you for dead. Or at least have a safe word and a minder to enforce it for you.

I am so done with rotting vampires, just die the true death already!

Anita has super powers, everyone is in awe at her, she randomly does something stupid and now all the werewolves are chasing her to ***k her… erm wow I wish I was making that up.

Origanlly when I read this books I must have either not actually connected them to reality or I was a silly little girl then and events of the past year have made me grow-up. I am personally mortified to own something that is this flippant about sexual violence and consent.

This series is miles away from a healthy relationship with sex, even when it isn’t rape-obsessed it’s unhealthy’ it’s all guilt and worrying about what people will think, without actually engaging your own brain and working out what is best, what is a good idea and what sort of compromise will be needed to ensure a healthy relationship with these people – be it as friends, as lovers or as casual sex.

The message seems to be  that Anita surrounds herself with men and her self-worth seems to be about how she has these two men that she loves and she can’t pick just one, so instead she runs around making crazy impulsive choices and everyone treats her as if she is special.

I am not keeping either of these books as there is too much rape for me to want to reread them ever again.

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Book: Laurell K Hamilton’s ‘Bloody Bones’ and ‘The Killing Dance’ (Anita Blake 5 and 6) – “Big, fanged, carnivorous bunnies that’ll eat your eyeballs if you’re not paying attention.”

I’m STILL working through the Anita Blake series and increasingly wondering how Anita functions on so little sleep and food… oh wait she doesn’t, she just collapses from her injuries and is then unconscious for days at a time.

Please don’t read the below if you are under 18 or over 18 and easily offended/immature, the book isn’t suitable for you at all.

‘Bloody Bones’ starts with zombies but rapidly goes all vampy. On the were-beasties front there is barely any Richard and a tiny bit of Jason – in the role of Jean-Claude’s servant.

There is no Edward. There is some Larry, but in a disposable sort of way. We start to see Anita butting heads with local police, in particular a female one – it honestly feels like Anita starts randomly being a b*tch to people.

bloody bones

I was half tempted to keep this one, but the rotting vampires trying to ***k Jason really puts me off. I really hadn’t remembered the earlier books having this much sex, rape and attempted both in them, there is still a crime scene related plot in the books but it is starting to feel almost incidental.

‘The Killing Dance’ has Edward in it and he basically single-handed saves the day – yay! BUT it also has rape/attempted rape – more than once (yes men can be raped by women so I am counting it), cannibalism, rotting vampires and lots of Richard drama.

Richard is now an annoying character, he can’t reconcile his human self and his werewolf self, then acts surprised when Anita can’t. He is prone to tantrums – which is dangerous to innocent bystanders given he has werewolf strength, and he just some really rubbish dialogue.

The impressions that I got about Richard in this book (book six) still hold true by book twenty and they are not complementary! This is a pity as I don’t think it was necessary for Hamilton to dumb him down to a jealous ex-boyfriend who could be a current boyfriend if only he’d not mind her shagging other guys!

I was already aware that I disliked rape being used as a plot device, there are plenty of ways to put people in peril without it, pre-blog I did stop reading a series by Rachel Vincent as rape/attempted rape was used too often for my tastes. I do want to get to book 9 in the Anita Blake series but I am finding it harder going than I expected.

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Book: Laurell K Hamilton’s ‘Circus of the Damned’ and ‘The Lunatic Cafe’ (Anita Blake 3 and 4) – “You are an abomination before God”

Still working through the Anita Blake series and I am finding that my memory had declined to retain some key details.

‘Circus of the Damned’ is VERY vampire heavy. Edward is back again, briefly but usefully – he gives Anita dangerous toys.

We get to meet Richard, we even find out what Richard is, but there isn’t much Richard drama yet… I’m enjoying the lack of drama, it won’t last.

We meet Larry, we wonder how long it will be before Larry gets chewed by something.

This book is basically setting up the love triangle between Anita and Richard and Jean-Claude; the bad vampires act as a plot device to let Anita see Jean-Claude to be less monstrous, the were-beasties almost start getting personalities too – allowing for the big reveal at the ending.

It is a good bridge book, stuff happens and it gives a feel for how the larger game is played, nice to have read but not good enough to keep when I am desperate to clear down what I own.

circus of the damned

‘The Lunatic Café’ is surprisingly weak overall – I mean no one really wants to read about a were-monster snuff film. There are missing shape-shifters and Richard has been keeping secrets – namely that he is in the midst of a war with his pack Alpha but has declined to kill him. Richard also proposes to Anita but without her fully understanding him and his beast – and so begins the Richard drama.

Edward is involved again – which should be a reason to celebrate but Richard’s drama overshadows it, that and the giggling at someone being cursed to change into a swan.

The Richard drama promises to continue as a) Anita is dating both him and Jean-Claude and b) Richard didn’t kill the pack alpha in this book.

No zombies in this book, in fact Anita pretty much plays normal human in this one – admitted an armed human… but in this company who wouldn’t be armed!

Were-monster snuff films are a good reason to NOT keep this book.

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Book: Laurell K Hamilton’s ‘The Laughing Corpse’ (Anita Blake 2) – “All I had gained so far was a wider variety of nightmares”

‘The Laughing Corpse’ is a slightly stomach-churning book, I had remembered as much but I’d forgotten how much half eaten babies gross me out.

We get to meet Manny Rodriguez who want Anita’s mentor – although that was before she found out he’d made human sacrifices. Anita’s Christian faith (Episcopal) is mentioned lots in this book, it is interesting to see how she balances that with raising zombies – which the Catholic Church has deemed unholy.

There are very few vampires and lots of zombie-related ick. No Edward either.

the laughing corpse

This book reinforces why the series was marketed as “Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter’, the zombie stuff is either very dull or very gross.

This book was never a serious consideration to keep and rereading it enforced that, it is too grim for my tastes, babies being half-devoured whilst they are alive and monstrous constructs are too nightmare-inducing to keep.

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2014 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book: Laurell K Hamilton’s ‘Guilty Pleasures’ (Anita Blake 1) – “An atheist waving a cross at a vampire was a truly pitiful sight”

It’s been ages since I read any of the Anita Blake series, I am not even completely up to date as I’ve only read up to book 20, ‘Kiss the Dead’, I actually read it twice as I completely forgot that I had done so – the plot was *that* good.

I own books 1 to 9 and I am going to reread them back to back to see if a) my memory blocked out certain aspects of the books and b) the future books leak through and cause inadvertent amusement.

guilt pleasures

For those who wonder, the book titles some from a location used in the book, the following may also contain spoilers – although the main spoiler that I could possibly impart about this series is that Anita doesn’t start shagging everything that moves until book 10 onwards.

‘Guilty Pleasures’ is the first book in the series; I really hadn’t consciously known that it was published in 1993 and I haven’t remembered that we were in a vampire strip club by page 14. I’d forgotten about poor Phillip the blood whore and perpetual victim, that whole plot line is a little disturbing on rereading!

Plotwise there aren’t as many zombies as you’d expect from a book where the main character’s day job is a zombie animator; it more police procedure with some minor supernatural elements – mostly vampires as Anita gets uncomfortably close to Jean-Claude… uncomfortable for her that is. However at this stage Anita is very aware of being a good Christian and feels that vampires are monsters.

I don’t feel that “the sisterhood” binds all women automatically purely based on gender, but it isn’t a fab sign when someone female seems to have massive issues with other women with little reason – although Anita tries to justify it in this book under the banner of disliking anyone who sells out humans to the monsters.

On the plus side we get to meet Edward – aka Death. Edward is less fun that I remembered in this book, but still fantastically scary.

To sum up it is an OK book but fundamentally acts as light scene setting for the other books – it mostly acts to reinforce that these vampires don’t sparkle or want to be your friend. Overall the book featured more inappropriate sexual situations than I remembered so I don’t feel comfortable giving it to anyone I know.

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Book: Kalayna Price’s ‘Grave Witch’ – “while I’m sure your charming personality endears you to many people, is there anyone you know who would want to kill you”

‘Grave Witch’ is the first book in the Alex Craft series. Alex is a private investigator and sometimes consultant for the police. As a Grave Witch she can speak to the dead and raise shades, which is certainly neat.

Due to a couple of unexpected bills Alex is more desperate than usual for work, so she reluctantly accepts her sister hiring her to look into the death of the Governor – with the added complication that his death having put her estranged father in the top job. Naturally the death is anything but natural and things snowball from there.

grave witch

This is urban fantasy rather than romance which means the plot and characters have to stand up to a certain level of scrutiny – which they mostly did. The plot was interesting and the setting gave a slight twist to the familiar pairing of two people who don’t really get on but need to work and solve the case together.

The book wasn’t perfect, but for the first in a series is was pretty good and better than I remembered.

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2014 – excluding pictures! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WhereEvilThoughts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content