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…

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Book: Cassandra Clare’s ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ – ” She looks like someone whose phone number should be on a bathroom wall.”

I haven’t read any of the six Mortal Instrument books but I have now seen the film of the first one.

If it wasn’t for the massive eyebrows and REALLY bad music it might have been an ok film, the effects were rather good at the very least.

However the snogging in the rain in the greenhouse scene made me reach for the remote.

the mortal instrumentsAnd gosh Simon is SO painfully two-dimensional in this film, judging by the book spoilers that doesn’t change for a couple of books.

clary and her enourmous eyebrows

There are some nice touches that seem to come from the books, for example the idea that Bach’s music can expose demons is rather fun, but the film feels clunky and slightly lost. And I spent far too much time wondering if her eyebrows are so HUGE in the book.

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TV VS Book: TrueBlood – “We are forming an elite spiritual army.”

I’m rereading everything I own as part of the mad dash to have less stuff to move house with and finding a surprising number of books that I don’t feel the need to keep. This is surprising, despite knowing that I am fussy about what books I really like, and I think is largely due to my Weltanschauung changed after the events of last year.

Weltanschauung can be simplistically translated from the German to mean “world view” but the real meaning is closer to “wide world perception” – a mixture of ideals, experiences and beliefs that act as a framework for how we view the world and react to it.

Wiki tells me that Michael Lind says “a worldview is a more or less coherent understanding of the nature of reality, which permits its holders to interpret new information in light of their preconceptions. Clashes among worldviews cannot be ended by a simple appeal to facts. Even if rival sides agree on the facts, people may disagree on conclusions because of their different premises.”

This allows people to see the same film but have very different reactions to it, to see one news article and understand it in a drastically different way, or to read the same book and have massively differing opinions on it. Because my world view has changed I feel differently about certain things and am reading into things differently.

Starting honestly, I read ‘Dead Ever After’ as soon as it came out and I hated it, the writing style was awful and the ending felt like it came out of the blue. I was aware that I’d felt that book 8 onwards had seemed poorer quality and that book 11 onwards had been a struggle for me to care about.

It was actually this feeling of annoyance combined with a desire to know the ending of the series that prompted me to start this blog, I wanted somewhere to scribble down spoilers and endings in order to remember why I hadn’t kept certain books and why some series I’d just walked away from before they ended.

So it made sense that at some point I would have to reread the entire set of The Southern Vampire Mysteries, aka the Sookie Stackhouse series, aka TrueBlood.

I have seen all of the TV adaptation and due to the noticeable differences between the two things I deliberately avoided rereading the books until after that was all over and I’d had some time for the memory of it to fade. However when I reread the books the series kept popping into the front of my mind.

Sookie is a waitress in a fictional town in northwestern Louisiana. She is also a telepath and over the course of the 13 books finds herself increasingly involved in supernatural hi-jinks. The TV show doesn’t really skimp on the amount of supernatural hi-jinks but thankfully doesn’t scrape the barrel by bothering with the dodgy “devil” plotline

At the start of the series the only supernaturals who are public (aka out of the coffin) are vampires. But werewolves, shapeshifters, witches, fae and similar all exist and we encounter them as the books progresses. The TV show is pretty faithful in following this.

It is a first person narrated series and I will say now that this isn’t an issue for me – I know some people who detest it as a style. It was interesting to see the TV show wasn’t all about Sookie and actually wandered off to develop other characters in ways beyond the book.

I do have a tiny little issue with having references to things that only occur in short stories that are spread over a number of other books – according to wiki there are 18 short stories that relate to this series which are all separately sold, which seems a bit cheeky to me. I’ve read seven out of the 18 and don’t feel the need to read anymore.

In terms of the plots to the first five books (please note there will be spoilers):

Dead Until Dark’ – we meet Sookie, Sookie meets Bill Compton – a vampire. Sookie and Bill start dating. Sookie’s brother Jason shags anything that moves so when women start turning up dead he has slept with all of them and looks rather guilty. But it’s actually his friend Rene who is killing women that he deems to be vampire sluts. Rene kills Sookie’s grandmother, who had raised Jason and Sookie after their parents were swept away by flood waters.

Whilst trying to solve the murders Sookie goes to a vampire bar called Fantasia and meets the Vampire’s area sheriff Eric Northman.

Blood and sex are pretty much the same button for vampires.

Living Dead in Dallas’ – Sookie and Bill squabble, Sookie gets attacked by a maenad and Eric is primarily responsible for saving her. Eric asks for a favour, Sookie ends up infiltrating the Fellowship of the Sun Church – they don’t like vampires very much. Sookie meets werecreatures.

Club Dead’ – Bill goes missing after lying to Sookie about where he is. Eric suspects Bill’s maker Lorena might be involved, so sends Sookie to investigate Mississippi accompanies by a werewolf whose father owes Eric, the werewolf is called Alcide and this book is the most charitable portrayal of him – his later appearances are not overly flattering. Alcide has a violent ex-girlfriend called Debbie Pelt.

Elvis is a vampire. Bill rapes Sookie after he is tortured and deprived of blood. Eric saves the day repeatedly. Sookie dumps Bills.

Dead to the World’ – Sookie is driving home from work and finds a naked Eric running along the road, he seems to have lost his memory and Pam suggest that he stays with Sookie for a little while – at least until the witch coven responsible are dealt with.

Despite her brother Jason having gone missing Sookie has sex with Eric. Jason transpires to have been kidnapped and turned into a werepanther.

Alcide had the poor judgement to be date Debbie again and she decides to kill Sookie, she fails, Sookie kills her and Eric hides her body.

Dead as a Doornail’ – the shifters and were-beasties come out of the closet. Not everyone is happy, some get shot. Sookie’s fairy godmother Claudine has to work overtime.

After some contrived and silly circumstances Sookie is effectively blackmailed into telling Eric what happened during his stay with her.

Despite having waited sometime after watching the show I am remembering how much better certain aspects of the show were – for example in the show Eric and Pam were fantastic in a way that the book only alludes to.

I do need to crack on with reading the other books, but I was surprised that ‘Dead to the World’ wasn’t as good as I remembered and was handled more entertainingly by the TV show.

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Lisa Shearin’s ‘Magic Lost, Trouble Found’ – “I wouldn’t be comfortable, but at least I’d have marginal protection against pointy steel objects that went stab in the night”

I bought this, very cheaply, because someone whose writing I like recommended another of Lisa’s book. I read the recommended book and wasn’t too sure what to think – it is overdue a reread, but I read the first chapter of ‘Magic Lost, Trouble Found’ online so when I found it cheaply it seemed worth a go.

Raine Benares is a seeker, basically a low skilled sorceress who finds things for people. Her friend Quentin sometimes helps her find things – usually because he is in possession of them having been hired by someone else, however he has a poor sense to accept the job of stealing an amulet from a necromancer and ends up swarming with Goblins.

The Goblins are after the amulet due to its links to a soul-sucking stone, unfortunately the amulet likes Raine better…

magic lost trouble found

Raine is likable enough, she has some interesting friends already, she makes some new ones and the plot wanders along nicely. However whilst I like the book I don’t love the book, I don’t even overly care what happens in the next books – there are a total of six in the series, I don’t care which one of the two potentially eligible (and interested) men she ends up with and I am unsure if I even want to keep this book.

I don’t usually have such vague feelings towards anything – for example at this split second I currently hate the disorganised person who is buying my home, I am looking forward to watching a specific TV show later and I am craving home-made sausage rolls, so I am a bit confused that I’ve read a book and have no emotion whatsoever apart from the knowledge that it exists.

I think this is probably grounds to get rid of the book and maybe see if I can find the rest in a library at some point. Whilst I am at it I may as well get rid of ‘Kitty Goes to War’ as the evil 24 hour convenience store chain is a cooler idea than the book was able to utilise. In fairness even the Japanese film Cursed (aka ‘Extremely Scary Story A: Dark Crow’) didn’t really know what to do with the idea.

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