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: Dawn Nicole Stevens’ ‘Forgotten (The Mystikó-lykos Series Book 1)’ – “Things between them would be different now that she remembered who she was”

So far free Kindle books are broadening my horizons – in so far as I now really understand that something which is free can still feel overpriced.

Case in point being Dawn Nicole Stevens’ ‘Forgotten’. It is basically werewolves with added twaddle.

A woman, let’s call her Jane Doe, wakes up in a US hospital with no memory, is convinced to follow a strange man to Germany – GERMANY. Good grief, even with no memory how on earth does that seem a good idea?

Then Jane decides to dwell on how fab it would be to have a mate – full on life partner territory, she has no memory and knows that she doesn’t have an existing mate … because she hasn’t been bitten… oh my goodness.

Perhaps this drivel is readable if you like nonsensical lazy gender stereotypes, for example:

“She had a pretty face, but she wasn’t really curved like a woman.”

Perhaps it is tolerable if you like your female lead to be weak, spineless and stupid:

“She wasn’t a woman worthy of a man like Dirk. She had so many dark secrets hidden away in her consciousness. She wasn’t the sweet, naïve women he’d rescued from the hospital.”

Urk, I don’t understand the appeal of this sort of story – even if I try. The entire story is written as though the author’s first language isn’t English – things are often phrased in a clunky manner and the incorrect word used (Manor instead of Manner).

Delete is a wonderful function!

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Jeaniene Frost’s ‘The Beautiful Ashes’ – “Beauty fades, but Evil Bitch is forever”

‘The Beautiful Ashes’ was recommended to me ages ago but the paperback was just under £12 – which I wasn’t going to pay for a book that I wasn’t sure about. Then I found it on Kindle for 99 pence, which combined with my flu seemed a good combo.

The back blurb doesn’t mention the large part of the plotline is demons VS angels – this isn’t something I seek out as they deteriorate into shades of grey where everyone is as petty as everyone else – inevitably over a girl, and nothing matches up to the ‘Dogma’ take on demons and angels.

I have read some of Jeaniene Frost’s Cat and Bone’s series, which always seemed a slightly more raunchy version of what I’ve heard about Spike-era ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’, so I was expecting similar bad boy antics however I also expected a strong female lead.

the beautiful ashes

Ivy isn’t terribly strong, she is looking for her missing sister and has no support network – gosh this seems to be a familiar theme for female leads these days. She is kidnapped by a strong, attractive, mysterious stranger and lusts after him even though he has kidnapped her. I suppose I should be grateful that he isn’t dressed as a pirate really.

There is nothing wrong with the book, it wanders along nicely, the descriptions are done well, the plot progresses sensibly and doesn’t randomly jump into what feels like a completely different book but nor does it throw up any surprises, the characters are entirely paint by number, the whole thing feels like you’ve read it before.

In fact if you’ve read any urban fantasy ever you probably have read it before, that doesn’t make it bad, it was just what I needed when bedridden with the flu; a nice safe, predictable read. I think everyone should have a couple of dependable books like this that are perfect for when you are feeling crappy, sort of want to be rescued yourself and don’t want the stress of an emancipated female lead who can sort her own s*** out.

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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: Stacey Jay’s ‘Blood on the Bayou’ – “We’re people who knew older versions of each other too well to ever see the new person standing in front of us”

I gave away ‘dead on the delta’ after reading it once, but it came back so I felt I should reread it to see if it improved after the shock value of needless cruelty to animals was diminished because I knew it was coming (and could skip over those sections).

Skipping those section meant it was actually ok on second read and I was curious as to where the plot was going, so I found a very cheap copy of book two ‘Blood on the Bayou’ to call my own.

It built on from the first book rather nicely, there are still mosquito-sized fairies with poisonous bites, Annabelle is still rather dysfunctional but now has the start of powers from the injection that the invisible Tucker gave her. I won’t comment on anything else that Tucker is also giving Annabelle as Cane is still on the scene…

Blood on the Bayou

Also Hitch is still hanging around – despite having a pregnant fiancée, and wants Annabelle’s help investigating what seems to be a secret government funded lab.

The book twists and turns somewhat, to the point where no one can be trusted and unfortunately it doesn’t get resolve in this book… nor has a sequel come out yet… so if you are impatient I wouldn’t suggest reading this book just yet…

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Book: ‘Hexed’ (specifically Jeanne C. Stein’s ‘Blood Debt’) – “History is just the present in retrospect. Times change but people do not”

My good intentions finally paid off and I read the fourth & final story in the ‘Hexed‘ anthology, which was Jeanne C. Stein’s ‘Blood Debt‘.

It was ok in so far as I’ve not previously considered what life would be like for a bounty hunter who is a vampire.

There was a fair bit of history to the character but it was handled in a high level so I had a decent flavour without feeling too bogged down in detail for a short story

If you’d asked me if I’d heard of Jeanne Stein before reading ‘Hexed’ I would have ummed for a bit and concluded that I hadn’t, however it transpires that I have another story by her in yet another anthology that I haven’t read fully, ‘Many Bloody Returns‘, oops.

anna strong the becoming

Then when I looked up her main series of books – the Anna Strong Chronicles, I realised that I *have* seen her books but the cover art put me off.

I have a feeling that the books might remind me of Chris Marie Green’s ‘Night Rising’, but the short story sounded interesting and if I can find the first ‘The Becoming’ cheaply enough I am willing to try it despite the cover art and despite knowing it features rape – which I usually try to avoid.

Maybe I should start reading all the stories in anthologies rather than just the one I bought it for…

Copyright © WhereEvilThoughts 2015 – 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