Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book Babblings

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle
by George Hagen

The Nitty Gritty: Young Gabriel and hatchling Paladin are on a collusion course of epic proportions. Both set on the course by the actions of Gab's father and Paladin's grandfather. Did we mention Paladin is a raven and Gab a boy on the cusp of his twelfth birthday. The two bond and began a journey to save Gabriel's father and just possibly the rest of humanity. Raven and amicus will travel to the underground city of Aviopolis to rescue his father and challenge his uncle.

Along the way Gabriel will learn a lot about himself, Paladin will learn to fly and a writing desk with dance a jib.

Opening Line: "Ravens love riddles."

The Good: For me this book was effortless. Effortless in its plot, the pace, the characters, the tension. It was a breeze and a delight to get into.

The characters were the best part for me. As a kid that was bullied I instantly connect with any kid that has to suffer under that fate, but while I fought back against my bullies with a sharp tongue and a great right hook that approach can't and won't work for anyone. And especially in this current climate its crucial for children to see behind the veil of their bullies. We have to nip this in the bud on both ends. This book showed that hurting people hurt people. Somes was a child who first was neglected by his father. He could barely see and his father never payed enough attention to realize that. When he did pay attention is was to smack his son around and verbally abuse him. Hurt from his father's unloving hand and the shame at not being able to read as well as the other children pushed him to take his frustrations out on Gabriel. I love that Abby noticed it and offered the hand of acceptance and friendship. It was just the thing Somes needed.

Abby was another character that I gravitated towards. She is kooky and weird and she owns it. Kids and even adults have so much pressure to just fit in and go with the flow that we feel awkward when we deviate from that pattern. Abby not only strayed to hopped on the Yellow Brick Road with a grin on her face and a piece of carmel in her mouth. She wore two different colored shoes on purpose, sported her glasses with pride and whipped her frizzy hair back and forth like a boss. I was duly impressed from start to finish with her.

The dancing writing desk gave me a smile so big my face hurt the next day. How delightful and extraordinary. In middle grades books we either get a kiddie book with a semi adult theme or we get a YA book with an inappropriate theme with younger characters. Its hard to find the right balance for this tween group, and I think Hagen did just that. We get adult themes with bullying, absent parents, verbal and physical abuse, but right smack in the middle of that we get a dancing writing desk and not only that its wearing a frothy pink nightgown! Hagen gives us the right amount of serious talk and silliness to satisfy the tweens and the adults in their lives.

While that plot is a workable trope Hagen goes about it in a refreshing way. We get another chosen one story, but Gabriel wouldn't have survived to even be the chosen one without the help of his friends. And Gabriel isn't all powerful or knowledgeable, hell he might even be a little too naive but that is why he realized that he needed friends to help him.

The Bad: I wanted to see more of Abby. She was strange and weird and just all around awesome. Her family seemed to be an all female version of the Brady Bunch and I wanted to see into that. We get a smidgen about her home life at the very end, but we need more.

I don't think enough time and attention was paid and put into Pamela as it was with the other children. She seemed slightly shallow, but of course that could be her upbringing showing and not her lack of depth.

My Final Thoughts: Can't wait to get into another adventure, of which I am sure there will be more, of Gab and his merry band of friends.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Babblings

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

The Nitty Gritty: Ellie's world is about to get sucker punched in the gut. First, her best friends runs off for greener pastures with the volleyball team, her father is off on a tour with his play company and her mother is a hipster looking for some fashion sense. If that isn't enough her grandfather is now a moody teenager.

Like most people Ellie doesn't like change, but her grandfather and more importantly her dearly departed goldfish, Goldie just might teach the middle schooler that change is a necessary part of life.

The Opening Line: Eleven year old Ellie never liked change. 

The Good: This was a cute and light read. Something that I would recommend to any budding scientist. Especially girls. Anything to show girls that they can be more than what TV and Twilight is telling them is ok in my book. We are really starting to question gender roles and girls are breaking out of that Victorian mold we've been regulated to since...well the Victorian era, and now authors are starting to get on the bandwagon and I am all for it.

Ellie as a main character was a bit simple minded to the point that I wanted to slap her with a better education, but then she would pop up and cook breakfast and I would like her again. Anyone that cooks is A-ok in my book. Ellie was a different kettle of fish from her other literary counterparts in that she isn't boy crazy, worrying about her looks, bemoaning her lack of social status and all that other nonsense. I like that. Women are multifaceted creatures and I like that Holm is giving us that. Especially in a younger character. Its so important to show girls that all that they are is ok. You can be the shy artsy girl, or the kooky theater girl, the math geek, the volleyball girl, the cheerleader, or the test tube chaser. Its ok to be all of those things and she still be a girl and still be awesome.

Or you can be the girl that doesn't really know what she wants to do yet. Ellie is that girl. She knows she has a fountain of passion bubbling away inside her, she just hasn't found her outlet and she wasn't rushed to find it. The "grown-ups" in her life allowed her to find it. There wasn't any pressure to be this or be that. Sure her parents wanted to expose her to the things they loved, but she was free to like it or not.

I think that is a great lesson for kids and parents.

The Bad: Ellie and her mother just accept that this teenage boy is her grandfather/father without much ado about nothing. There's no discussion, no screaming, tears, denial...nothing. He just walks in the door and everyone accepts it. I call BS on that. If my 90 year old grandfather suddenly turned up in the body of a 13 year old I would have a few questions and a hard time swallowing that. And I write fractured fairy tales for a living.

The chapters ended abruptly and they started off in weird places. There was a bit of a disconnect there.

This book was a tad hard on the "soft science" or the creative arts. Though it did have a redeeming moment in the kitchen between Ellie and her grandfather as they looked through her late grandmother's recipe book. I thought that was a very Southern thing. Don't get me wrong I know people in the North have recipe books, but for a girl in the South getting her mother's or grandmother's recipe book is a right of passage. When I got my grandmother's cast iron skillet I cried. That scene for me tugged at all my heart strings.

This book would work better in 3rd person. Everything is on the surface with the characters and their development. Sure Ellie does go through a change as all growing kids do, but I didn't feel it was genuine.  I would have loved to have really gotten into the head of her grandfather. This is one character that had one foot in the grave and now he gets to do it all over again. All we got from his was black hole hunger and sullen teen. We got that in Twilight. I just wanted a little more. The first person POV hindered that.

Final thoughts: All in all it was a cute, entertaining book that had hidden layers of depth.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Babblings

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter 

The Nitty Gritty: It's Kate Murphy's first day as a beat cop in Atlanta, GA circe 1974. This is not the Chocolate City we all know and love where minorities rule the roost as much as any privileged white dude. No, THIS IS SPARTA! I kid, but this Atlanta is as foreign as Thailand cross-dresser.  Cop Town's Atlanta is brutal, filthy, sexist, racists to the extreme, and cowering under the murderous rampage of a cop killer. Murphy is looking for a balm for her ravaged soul. She is a widow jumping into the work force to take her mind off things.

In Cop Town the police crack heads and ask questions when the suspect stops breathing. So a cop killer it going to be meat for the grinder when the Atlanta PD finally catches up to him. Maggie Lawson follows her uncle and brother onto the force hoping for a way out of her of ironing and cleaning up after her uncle's drunken afternoon booze feasts.

When her brother is almost killed by The Shooter Maggie, with the help of the tag along rookie, Murphy sets out to solve the case. If anyone will bother to take the word of a slit about anything that matters. With the help of the wizened cop Gal Patterson of the plain clothes division Maggie thinks she has what it takes to bring this bastard in.

Opening Line: "Dawn broke over Peachtree Street."

The Good: I'm not one for reading about cop dramas. I watch them on TV and I love them. Law & Order, in all its reincarnations, The Closer, Hawaii Five-Oh, I could go on and on so I figured I would give Cop Town a gander. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. Now to be fair it took me a few chapters to get into the book and really enjoy it. The first few chapters of Cop Town were depressing as hell. I had to dose myself with half a pound of chocolate and a pint of ice cream to keep from weeping uncontrollably. I have to tip my hat to Maggie Lawson for not swallowing a bullet when they issued her a gun. Or better yet killing her mother and her uncle and then bathing in their blood. Seriously people kill for less these days and she put up with those two for years. Lawson has an iron constitution that is going to turn her into one hell of a cop one day.

Once Kate falls into the women's locket closet at the APD station the book really gets rolling. Slaughter doesn't give her book the Michael Bay treatment of splashing action across every page just for the sake of the action, which I am eternally grateful for.  Every action scene in her book has a person and a precise reason for being. Which I hate to point out might be because she is a woman. For us gals things have to have a reason, no whether or not its a reason that makes sense to a rational person is up for debate, but there has to be a reason.

The men in Cop Town are deplorable, despicable, devious and delinquent. Ok now I've ran out of mean D words to call them, but I think you get the picture. I don't think Slaughter wrote them as a searing indictment on the male population. I think her intention was to give the rest of the world a look behind the curtain of 'The Man' and I have to say she confirmed what the rest of us have been thinking for years. Those guys are pricks that deserve to be put down. I can't believe that any of them are allowed to carry badges, but then it flows true to form what we black folks think about cops. They are all crooked jerks that sooner shoot you and plant evidence than actually investigate a crime. The few men that weren't totally disgusting still weren't knights in shiny armor. It makes me wonder if Slaughter likes men (that is a joke people), because she sure as hell didn't give any of them any redeeming qualities. Well maybe Jimmy Lawson, but it took the entire book for us to get there.

The women in Cop Town can be just as bad as the men, but for a different reason. They are mean and pushy because the men are, and if any woman has the balls to carry a badge in Atlanta they damn well better be prepared for the flack you  are going to get from your fellow boys in blue. Other than Maggie's mother, the women weren't mean or hateful. They were tough and hardened by life and their circumstances for sure, but any survivor will tell you that armor is the only way to survive a war. And they are in a war ladies and gentlemen. The men of Atlanta aren't just going to sit back and let the women take over. They are going to punish them every chance they get for thinking they are be cops. Slaughter let her female characters be women. But she also let them be badass when the situation called for it. Sure Kate burst into tears on her first day, but she also slugged out a former football player and pulled the trigger when she had to. Even if she still played dress up with her mother's pearls.

The Bad: The overt racism, sexism, physical and psychological abuse that was spewed across the pages of this book was uncomfortable at best. Horrifying in most parts. I'm from the Black Panthers school of hard knocks. When you encounter stupidity in any form you speak up and back yourself up with a loaded gun. I just couldn't imagine remaining silent as men I have to work with groped my breasts or my butt as I tried to walk to my locker room. I cringed every time I saw the word colored. The N-word still stings don't get me wrong, but colored is more insidious than the n-word. That one digs a little deeper for me.

If I rolled my eyes anymore while reading this book they were going to get stuck. I was glad I had my eyedrops handy. The caricatures of everyone and everything in this book was over the top for sure, but it played well. She could have really botched this up, but she masterfully navigated the potholes.

The Atlanta Slaughter wrote makes New York City look like Mayberry. Its hard to think of one of my favorite cities as the churning cesspool in Cop Town. I know she took creative license and I have to tip my hat to her because she did her job beautifully. I could almost smell the burnt heroin permeating my living room.

Final Thoughts: Seeing as this is my first foray into the mind of Karin Slaughter I have to say that I am intrigued to read her other works. Or at least continue with other books if she keeps going with more books in the Cop Town series.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Babblings

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

The Nitty Gritty: After a self imposed vacation on his new home away from blown up home, Demonreach, Harry is called upon by the Queen of Ice and Bitchery to fulfill a debt. Harry knows all about fulfilling debts. His debts have been passed around more in the Nevernever than a $5 hooker in Las Vegas. This time Mab is pawning him off onto Nicodemus Archleone to pull of a heist of epic proportions. Yep, the Black Denarians are back up to their old tricks and Harry is going to send several sets of eyes to walk out of this one with all his body parts attached.

The job....Harry has to break into the personal vault of Hades.

Yep, that Hades.

And actually steal the actual Holy Grail. Yes, that Holy Grail. And he has to do that without a bullwhip and a fedora. Though I am pretty sure Harry could pull off the Indiana Jones look. And he has to do it with a crew handpicked by Nic himself. Like that won't be the tiniest bit dangerous.

Opening Line: "There was a ticking time bomb inside my head and the one person I trusted to go in and get it out hadn't show up or spoken to me in more than a year." 

The Good: 14 years ago Jim Butcher, introduced us to Harry Dresden in Storm Front. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't get hooked to Dresden till 2010 I believe, but when I finally did it was an epic Disney insta-love scenario for the ages. Harry was snarky, sassy, sarcastic, lived and worked by his own moral code that sometimes turned him into a misogynistic super save a damsel, he was loyal to stupidity, and above all his was bad ass enough to be listed in the phone book as Chicago's only professional wizard. Over the years he has made mistakes, gotten people killed, lost loved ones, killed and or thwarted some pretty bad monsters, found a brother, fathered a child, destroyed an entire race of vampires (they had it coming believe you me), and taken on the mantle of the Winter Knight. Never once did he stop being Harry. Since the beginning he has gotten more Harry, if that is at all possible.

I've started out with some very awesome book series. The Southern Vampire Mysteries, House of Night, Blackdagger Brotherhood, just to name a few. They all started out with great intentions and better writing. The characters had distinct voices that resonated deep with me. Who doesn't love a hulking vampire in tight leather pants and penchant for burning buildings down with a touch? And, yes I am talking about you Vishous. I fell in love, as indicated by my overflowing bookshelves, and my bulging Kindle account. However something happened within these series. I can't pinpoint in each instance the book where it happened. The author fell out of love with their characters. They stopped investing in their development, their story, their lives. They became products to be pushed onto addicts.

Don't get me wrong here, I am attempting to break into the published world myself, I understand writing for money. Its what I want to do with my life. I want to wake up everyone morning, brew a cup of hot chocolate, switch on my Netflix, sit down at my computer and bleed all over the page and hope its something another person will pay to read. I would never in a million years suggest that any artist give away their masterpieces for free. But when you invest years, YEARS into something or someone you have to love it. Anyone can be a one trick pony. Anyone can write one book and then walk away. But to take something, pour your heart and soul into day in and day out for years takes dedication. It takes love.

The same sort of love the people in the fandom have for the series.

So when I say these authors have fallen out of love with their characters I mean just that. Over the years they have stop spending time with their creations, investing in them. They are just churning our stories out of obligations to their publishers at this point. Oh sure they will say they still love them and they still care, but actions speak louder than words and the words on the page speak volumes. And they are talking in languages I don't understand. I've long since abandoned House of Night when it dissolved into soft porn for teens. I turned my back on Sookie when she went from a barmaid blazing her own trail in the supe world to a jealous dingbat with nothing going on between her ears than suntanning and why Eric doesn't love her anymore. I've just recently given up on The Blackdagger Brother. I must say I feel that lose more keenly than the other two.

Jim Butcher is a lily among the valley. He is still in love with Harry. He is still investing in Harry and giving us the best Harry he can. Which in this cloud of crap is rare a gem indeed. Harry Dresden just gets better with age. Not in the sense that he still doesn't destroy at least three lives and several building with every outing, but in the sense of a fine aged wine. The longer he sits the better time we have when the cork gets popped.

Can I just say that outside of the Percy Jackson lexicon Butcher's Hades is my favorite. The Lord of the Underworld, the master of death, the wielder of the Helm of Darkness has a three-headed dog names Spot. I snorted milkshake all over myself when I read that. Hades has a dog names Spot, a thing he found just as funny as I did.

Butcher is the best in the game with characterizations. The best. Even the red shirts in the Dresdenverse get nuanced. They get personalities, backstories, backgrounds, and reasons for being even if they were simply cannon fodder. Few authors bother to do that to a character they are going to kill three pages later. It might take a lot of work, but we as readers appreciate it.

The Bad: I didn't get my Thomas itch scratched. I fell in love with Thomas in Grave Peril. He is a sexy vampire that feeds on the sexual energy of others. How could I not fall in love with him. But over the years Thomas has proven himself to be, dare I say, the king of all vampires. I know that is a atomic bomb to drop in this bloodsucker laden society we live in, but there it is. He is fangs above Bill Compton, Eric Northman, Edward Cullen, Lestat, and even Louie, and all those creepers in the Anita Blake series. Thomas is all vampire all the time, but at the same time he has instances of humanity about him. He never hides who he is, nor makes excuses for being a vampire. He doesn't hate who he is, just what he is forced to do to the ones he loves. I've been missing him for nearly a year and I want more of him. I need more Thomas in my life I really do.

In Cold Days the mantle of the Winter Lady was thrust upon Molly after she put Maeve in her place. I say good riddance to star spangled crotch. She was a little over the top for me. After centuries beside her mother she didn't learn how to be subtle. You don't have to hit a fly with a sledgehammer to show the fly who's boss. I like Mab's style. She can chill your blood with a look, or a raised eyebrow. Maeve pounced like a polar bear. I wanted to see the transformation going on in Molly. We get a few glimpses of her in Skin Game, but I wanted her centrally located this go around. For me Molly is one of the few white female characters that doesn't make me grind my teeth. Her and Karrin Murphy that is, and I want to see the evolution from grasshopper to Winter Lady. Hopefully Butcher gives us more Molly in the next book. Oh and I want more Maggie. I have a feeling I'm going to the love the little mite. And we need more Mouse too. That dog has literally grown on me.

My Hope for the series: That Butcher keeps doing what he is doing. In the direction that he is going. We have fallen into the abyss with Harry and I for one am in it for the fall.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Book Babblings

Monster Hunter International: Nemesis by Larry Correia

The Nitty Gritty: Have you ever wondered about the origins of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein? No? *pout* Well whatever, troglodyte, this fifth installment of the MHI series introduces us to the real Agent Franks. Short for Frankenstein. We've seen Agent Franks in the previous books, but it was usually at the business end of a very large gun. However Nemesis is all Franks, all the time.

After the clusterf**k in Las Vegas, thanks to Unicorn and Stricken, everyone is scrambling for containment. All the monster hunters, the MCB, Franks, everyone but Unicorn. Because we all know that unicorns don't exist, right. Stricken is taking this chance to screw the MCB, Franks and Myers over royally. Stricken has something up his sleeve that is sure to piss of Franks in a bad way. He needs Myers and especially Franks out of the way if he is to take the country in a direction that he sees fit.

He sets Franks up to take the fall on a murderous rampage through the MCB headquarters. Franks goes on the run to clear his name. Along the way Franks gets it on with a succubus, kicks a gnome over a fence and generally kills a lot of things for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Opening Line: "There's innocent blood on your hands."

The Good: Well I know more about guns than I ever wanted to know that's for sure. Correia's obsession comes through loud and perfectly clear in this book. Not that he was ever subtle about it in other books. As a gun carrying American myself I do appreciate the second amendment I just don't need to wave my gun around like a rachet hood to prove I've got the balls to pull my gun if the situation should ever arise. Seems like Correia is itching for an excuse. It is nice to see his enthusiasm for all things Smith & Wesson.

In Nemesis we are treated into the lives of the MCB. In the previous books we are lead to believe they are nothing more than a bunch of a badly dressed idiots with guns and licenses to screw up the lives of people terrorized by monsters they are supposed to be protected against. From the other books it seems only right that Grant ends up as a Fed. Seems fitting after his showing in MHI. Well for once the Monster Control Bureau gets a decent rap in Nemesis. Not that Franks is any more forgiving in this novel than he has been, but now we understand the reason for his brutality. I for one throughly enjoyed Franks destructive power when its directed at Stricken and all his ilk.

I love that Correia has taken creature tropes that every SCI/FI and fantasy geek has grown up reading about and totally flushed them down the toilet. In MHI we got trailer park elves in mumus. In Nemesis we get gang banging gnomes with counterfeit 'ghetto cards'. Its a much need repurposing of tired tropes.

The Bad: Not to spoil anything, but a few of the characters that bit the dust I would have liked to have seen them continue on in the series. I thought they made a great addition to the story line and though it helped push some of the mains to their breaking points they could have been useful down the line.

Correia makes no secret of his disdain for government oversight into the daily lives of American citizens, which is fine. To each his own, its just that it got old in MHI: Vendetta. Yes we know how you feel and how your characters feel, we just don't need to see it every other page and in every single book. Give them something new to bitch about.

Larry should really stick to what he knows. Which is red neck gun nuts in Alabama. Anytime he steps out of that realm I get the impression he got his research done from MTV. His gangster gnomes are the worst caricatures of urban culture that I have seen in a good while. Sure they would have fit right in during the 90s, but in this day and age the hood has evolved, and so should Correia. Though I can't really expect a white author to authentically capture black culture. Especially if said capture is not for a positive spin.

My hope for the series: Nemesis had a ton of foreshadowing and the shadowing for the rest of the MHI series. I am looking forward to the next installment. If nothing else I want to see what sort of baby Julie is going to pop out.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Babblings *spoilers*

The King by J.R. Ward

*Contains Spoilers*

The Nitty Gritty: The First Family of the Brotherhood is back with a vengeance with a side of baby fever. Wrath and Beth are trying to find time to just be Wrath and Beth and not the Bling King and the Half Blood Queen, but the Band of Bastards and the Glymera are trying their best to ruin the royals good time.

Assail is on a mission. His female has been kidnapped and he is going to find her. No matter who he has to ghost in the process.

Trez is running from an arranged marriage and trying his best to screw his way out of it. the s'Hibe is working hard to drag the shadow back into the Territory and his destiny, but the Chosen Selena has wormed her way into his head and his heart.

Opening Line: "Long live the King"

The Good: The sex was adequate in this book, but its starting to become a little interchangeable.

The Bad: There is and was no reason for this book to be 573 pages. Just no reason. None at all. In her earlier books that were 250 pages she packed more in between those pages than she managed to slap in 573 pages of this book.

I am just at the point where I don't gave a rat's furry behind about anyone or any vampire that's not in the Brotherhood. I mean these other side stories took up half the dang on book. I mean yeah Sola is the bad girl or whatever but frankly I don't care about her. I mean we hardly get to see the Brothers that we fell in love with. V gets a few talking point and a vision. Rhage gets a two liner in there book. Butch gets a one liner and oh we finally get a see a bit more of John Matthew.

Its just all the side line plot stories and characters are over shadowing the main characters. Which I think Ward is wasting a good opportunity for spin off series featuring the whole cast of characters that we are getting in the books about the Brotherhood. I mean she has created an awesome little community around the Brotherhood that she could make an entire series about. But give me the Brotherhood. I mean this is the first book that we've seen Rhage actually speak since Lover Unleashed.

I'm just sick of the main characters only getting 30% of the book.

So Beth goes to bed one night and wakes up the next morning and wham she had a baby bump and she's four months But oh that's explained away because she is a half-human vampire. So yeah there's the answer.

No I don't think so.

The shower scene with Sola and Assail.....yeah I need to take a clorax bath after reading that. I'm not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but a guy that comes on your face without at least asking doesn't respect you and that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I thought the scene was beyond the pail for me.

I've got my panties in a wad over the Shadows. Not with them personally other than them hijacking the storyline, but I've got a problem with them as "not" black characters.

Yeah, yeah I read Ward's flimsy excuse for why they are black but not really black because they aren't humans and Shadows don't prescribe to the human connotation with race, blah, blah, blah.

Sing that song for someone else sweetheart. I'm not buying. You have caucasian characters in your story and not once did you ever make a point of them separating their species from their race. But the one time you veer of the white default party line and give us characters of color you slip their wings. Then we get that "Shadows think anything white is ill" BS but then Trez screws anything white and bonds with Selene who happens to be white.

But it doesn't stop there. Everything that she uses to describe Trex and iAm are African American characteristic markers. Thick full lips, dark skin, close shaved faded hair. So everything about them screams black but they aren't black. Oh and I love the little race card pulling you threw in there. We get a whole internal monologue from Trez about how he isn't black and that if humans want to call him black and treat him accordingly they are going to get dealt with *cue eye-roll*

So come on Ward if you are going to dip your toe in the ethnic pool you might as well jump in.

You are giving your white characters the chance and the space to be white. Even the gay ones get to be gay in all their colorful glory, give your characters of color the same space.

Final Thoughts: Well I hate to say it but I think its truly hard for an author to maintain a book series past 7 or 8 books. This is the 3rd series that I'm having to drop because I can't take it anymore. The author just gets lazy and starts slapping together anything to give us. Yes I know how much work goes into writing any book. I'm an aspiring author myself. So I get it, but I also know how much writers fall in love with their characters and Ward is doing the brothers a disservice. I'm going to give her one more book because I stuck it out with Harris and True Blood, but that's it. I expect better from her because she has given it to me in the past.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Babblings

The Seduction of Phaeton Black by Jillian Stone

The Nitty Gritty: When things go bump in the night, who are you going to call? Phaeton Black of Scotland Yard of course! That's if he's not tits deep in a wonton harlot.

Then try him again in a couple of hours...if he's not drunk or high.

Phaeton Black is the Crown's only Special Branch investigator, and the Casanova of the British Empire, and not necessarily in that order. Its his job to hunt down those unique cases dealing with the paranormal set when the Yard is stumped.

While on the case of a London blood sucker he runs into America Jones, the daughter of a British father and Cajun witch mother. Miss Jones is on the trail of the pirates who stripped her father's shipping company of his cargo ships. There first meeting is anything but PG.

On the trail of Jack the Ripper and a new vampire in town Phaeton falls under the spell of the devilishly beautiful Miss Jones. America is more interested in finding her father's ships than she is a bedmate. Till Phaeton introduces her to the Kama Sutra. Then all bets are off as the pair race around England looking for pirates, vampires, and Egyptian death gods, oh my.

Opening Line: "Oh, Please No Madam, he is a beast," The harlot wailed."

The Good: America Jones is at least a character of color. I wished she could have been just a character of color without the British invasion. I am sure there were a plethora of Black and African people in England during the Victorian era. Though it makes sense for her to have a British father to cut through at least that red tape. I do like that Stone didn't just toss away the racism aspect. A lot of authors who have characters of color never address that fact. I don't care who seamless a transition that character has into white America, Britain, ect... there is always that undercurrent of racism. Its a fact of life and its stupid to ignore that. Even in fantasy.

However I wished it could have been further explored. Not as a social exploration of racism in Victorian England; this just isn't the book for that, but just a little more. As tough as America is I expected more of a fight out of her when confronted with racism.

The Bad: Where should I start? Well how about the beginning. There is a school of thought about fiction that you should begin a story with action. No me I have seen authors who start slowly and then smack us with their genies as the story unfolds. Then there are authors who begin in the middle of action, go back and give us background and still have a fanciful tale that will entertain the masses.

Then there is the Seduction of Phaeton Black, which strives to be shocking by starting out with the madame of a reputable whore house trying to convince a girl to take on Phaeton Black. Literally. Some people might find this interesting or even great. Me, I think its a page out of the Miley Cyrus 'build a grown up' play set. I really think Stone is trying a little too hard. Um....yeah, I meant that pun.

When I open up a book that boasts to be a fantasy book I just don't expect to be slapped in the face with a sex scene. Especially one when the girl (even if she is a working girl) has to be pushed into doing the deed.

Second problem. The first meeting between the protagonists is a tad rapey. Remove the tad and you have Black and Joneses first encounter.

I mean all Phaeton had to do was pretend to kiss Miss Jones. We've seen that ploy in plenty of romantic comedies and want to be spy movies with a bumbling lady detective. It works. The audience gets a laugh and the protagonists stay alive.

Instead Phaeton grabs ahold of her, hikes up her skirts and plunges his staff into her honeypot without so much as a 'hey how you doing'. I mean I don't know maybe in this 'Blurred Lines' culture we seem to be living in its ok for the consensual sex thing to be blurry. Mer personally, I would have stabbed him. Repeatedly. Till I got tired.

So after this America manages to knock herself while trying to punch Phaeton for taking advantage of her. Stone sort of knows that that scene was a tad iffy, so she gives us America's fiery side. We cheer, all is right with the world. Well Phaeton takes her home, proceeds to tie her up, for no reason at all. He was in the wrong, not America.

Then he turns around and has the nerve to have sex with America again when she's tied to a chair because he didn't do his best job the first time. I gather the author thought that would make their chance meeting mysterious and heart stopping. I wanted to call the constable myself. I don't find rape, nor forced sex funny at all.

Maybe that is just me.

Problem number 3. Why the hell is this book 34 chapters long? And I saw long because this book dragged out from the word go. It could have been over and done with by chapter 20 to be honest. This book meandered from sex, to fellatio, to the opera, to airships, to vampires, to Jack the Ripper to Anubis with a riding crop banging his wife in a crypt along the Thames, back to pirates.


I've been to tax law seminars that made more sense than this book. I still have no idea what this story is really about. It mashes together two and three plot lines that really should have been stand alone books just for the sake of having an actual plot to fluff up the sex.

Well Ms. Stone, you could have just written an erotic novel and saved us the trouble of believing this was an actual novel. I wouldn't have been mad at you. I promise.

Phaeton Black is a man whose only life's ambition is to drink and whore his way through London. He is a well off man who chooses to live under a brothel. So that the ladies are always close at hand when he needs a good shagging. He had more motivation to have sex with America and the other ladies than he did to do his job. I can see that Ms. Stone went with the James Bond archetype. Well Ms. Stone 007 was as much about the job as he was about looking good while doing it and leaving broken hearts across the globe. Phaeton Black is just a sorry excuse for a Bond want to be.

Thoughts on the Series: My libido wants to keep reading the series for the sex, but my brain can't keep up with the mashed potatoed plot lines and convoluted plot twists. I think my brain is going to win this battle.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Book Babblings

The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson 

The Nitty Gritty: Cameryn Mahoney is the teenage daughter of the town corner. Now many girls her age would put as much distant between her father's profession and her social life. Who wants to hang out with a girl who's father drives dead bodies around in the family station wagon?

Not Cammie. She fully embraces the science of death and wants to follow in her father's footsteps. Much to the chagrin of her Irish grandmother.

In a stroke of genius she offers to work as her father's assistant to get a feel for the job before she rushes off to college to cast her lot with forensic science.

She is still standing after her first body pickup. An unfortunate natural death left to ripen in a grubby motel bathroom. Cammie thinks she is ready for her first case. to her horror its the body of a her good friend, Rachel. To make matters worse its looking like her friend is the victim of the serial killer known as the Christopher Killer.

Determined to get justice for her now dead friend Cammie pushes her way into the investigation. She has to match wits with a dictator of a medical examiner and a television psychic who is already predicting another Christopher killing.

Opening Line: "Yes I can be there in half an hour. Any idea of when he died?"

The Good: The premise for this YA book I have to say is wholly original. In an age of fang bangers, vampire bodyguards, shadow hunters, and Divergents and its a breath of fresh air that a female protagonist wants to actually use her brain for something other than thinking about a golden haired teen god.

Forensic science is not the field of choice for a lot of people and even less for females. Even looking at the CSI shows there is one female to every three male characters. So I love that Ferguson came at the YA genre with a brand spanking new twist. Its a refreshing vacation from the lusty werewolves and sultry vampires.

I just wish this book was based in a larger city where Cammie could have actually done some investigations. It could have really progressed to something fantastic.

The Bad: As a devout follower of all CSIs I love a book about the science of crime and murder. Though this wasn't as much CSI as I had hopped. Well frankly it was a single a chapter during the autopsy of Rachel. I think Ferguson missed a great opportunity to introduce children to the science of investigation. Camyrn and her father are the town's only crime scene investigators and they just didn't do any investigation. She opened a few drawers and took some pictures.

A book hailed as a forensic mystery just fell short on that aspect. As much research as the author claimed to have put into this I didn't see any of it. I mean the majority of this stuff could have been picked up from Law & Order.

I think Ferguson remembered that this is a YA book and had to water Cammie down to give her mass appeal. Its never a good idea to write for the market. After all you're book isn't put on the shelf as soon as you get done with it. With a neophyte author there could be years between your finished book and its new home on the shelf at Amazon or Barnes and Nobel. Writing for the market could put you behind the curveball with a lag time like that. Ferguson should have just given us a brilliant girl wanting to get into murder and death and left it there. There was so much potential for Cammie to get right up there with Katniss Everdeen or Hermione Granger or LEP REcon officer Holly Short or even Enola Holmes.

She could have introduced the tension between her age and her chosen profession in the book at a more climactic time.

I hate when I read a non fantasy book that has fantasy elements. Though I am sure this was not by design of the author. The plot point of brining the mother back into the picture was sloppy and lazy and it forced me to suspense all disbelief in a book with too much science to make that plausible.

Please allow me to explain, Cammie lives with her father and her Irish grandmother who forgets that she is not Cammie's mother, but is for another argument. Her mother left some years ago without any explanation. She just packed up her little suitcase and blew through town like a drunken tornado. Rightly so the entire family has written her off. With good cause if you ask me. I don't want to keep anyone around who doesn't want to be around. Well during the course of the book we discover that the new deputy in town has been given a task that rips open the old "mother" wounds for Cammie. Which makes no sense whatsoever. The mother has been a none issue for the family for years, I just don't understand trying to reintroduce her back into Cammie's life at this juncture. Then to use a character that had no reason to be in the story but to be a dues ex machina.

It smacks of sloppy writing and irritatingly soap operay. Yep, that's my word and I am going to own it.

Unlike the more famous of amateur sleuths like Jessica Fletcher, Miss Marple, Phyrne Fisher, or Harry Dresden, Cammie is not good at detecting. She is actually really bad at it. Like my first Tonka CSI kit from Toys R Us, bad. She stumbles blindly from one theory to the next with no concrete clues to lead her other than the culprit looking different from the mainstream. As a black person who often times finds herself in the company of no other person of the dark persuasion I take offense to this overused reasonings. It keeps the different on the fringes of society because it reenforce the irrational fear of the different or the unknown.

Oh Ferguson tries to give her credibility by having her trip over an "important" clue in the motel room of her first body. Nice try honey. That might have worked during the heyday of Jiggly TV favorite Charlie's Angles or Miami Vice, but after a steady diet of crime drama during prime time the public isn't that easily fooled anymore. She could have sent a prayer up to Richard Castle and gotten a better trail of clues if she were really pressed for plot help.

I guess I'm spoiled because of Law & Order, CSI, NCIS, Castle and the like. Murder is more flamboyant than the Christopher Killer and I was looking for that. Not over the top SAW sort of murder, nor the Murder, She Wrote, sing you a lullaby before I tap you on the back of the head murder. Just a little more. Somewhere in between. This was too Murder, She Wrote for the modern age of serial killers.

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed the parts of the books that didn't revolve around Cammy's whining about her missing mother. Which came more frequent that I would have hoped dealing with a book about the death of a her good friend. If her mother can be shelved till I no longer care about keeping my sanity I would pick up the second book.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Babblings

We'll Always Have Paris by Jennifer Coburn 

The Nitty Gritty: Jennifer Coburn is a woman feeling the icy breath of the Grim Reaper down her back. The death of her father at the age of 19 introduced her to death far earlier than she would have liked. Though with his weed addiction and smoking habits I cannot fathom why she was not prepared for his passing.

Her fear of death prompted her to abandon real life, her husband (only for the summers spent traveling), snag her passport and daughter and trek through Europe like a star-eyed teenager seeking to truly find themselves, before she does the dance with the devil. 

This is the story of a perfectly healthy woman hellbent on learning to let go of her fear of dying, by learning to live. 

Opening Line:““Jail?!” my husband William shouted through the telephone.””

The Good: Any reason to get back to Europe and I’m on board. I grew up in the ancient ruins of Germany. Bavaria was my playground and I throughly enjoyed every minute of it. So much so that I am embarking on a masters program in the United Kingdom simply to reunite with Europe. 
Jennifer recalls that she has “never heard anyone talk about Paris without sighing,” the city of lights invokes a deep seeded love affair with all who grace her quaint streets and sidewalk cafes. I do love it when Americans embark on seeing more of the world. We are one of the few first world country where its citizens cannot recall all the state capitals let alone all the countries that make up Europe. The geographical education of our students is severally lacking and I for one think a healthy dose of traveling would do wonders to cure that.  

This book is a wonderful, little travelogue for those neophyte travelers who want a bit of hand holding as they experience their first overly aggressive TSA grope.  

The Bad: I myself, like many others, have sat down and written out a bucket list. After all I am only 33 and I feel that I have more than enough time to get all the things done that I want to before I die in a bed surrounded by my loving family, my collection of books and a life sized cutout of the 10th Doctor. 
So I understand the appeal of just getting up one day, saying ‘The hell with being a responsible adult’, snagging my passport and running off to find myself. Then reality sets in. I have bills to pay, responsibilities that don’t wait for me to find myself. Turning 18 is not just a mark of the passage of time. Its the closure of the childhood door. The time in every person’s life when they have to put on the mantle of adulthood and all the trappings that come with it. Though I have the responsibilities of an adult I do enjoy frequent flights of fancy into immature and childish things such as Spongebob Squarepants and Dylan’s Candy Bar. 

For me this book was the trip you fall into when you take bad acid. It just wasn’t realistic. This was a child’s petulant tantrum at having to experience real life. Instead of dealing with her problems she sets out on a series of avoidance trips that she undertakes under the guise of giving her daughter precious mother-daughter memories for her mental photo album. 

The opening gambit has our intrepid traveler calling home to alert her husband to her detention by the French police for jumping the fence to a locked playground. Her excuse for this crime? She didn’t understand the local culture. I am pretty sure that a locked door in the United States means do not enter the same as it does in France.

I found this anecdote neither amusing nor enduring. I have been detained in a foreign country and merely annoying my jailer did not result in a I Love Lucy bit, nor a laughing matter to be shared at a dinner party of my closets friends.   

We’ll Always Have Paris, is the musing of a woman that needed to take advantage of the excellent healthcare she seemed to have had with all of her unnecessary doctor visits, to go see a mental health profession for her death obsession and her Munchausen Syndrome. Oh she masked it well with her witty quips and beautifully applied anecdotes, but I believe that Mrs. Coburn would have benefitted greatly from seeking the counsel of a trained professional.  

This memoir just didn’t resonate with me. When I think of memories of my mother, who is very much alive and kicking anything in sight, that I’ve squirreled away in my mental scrap book, the everyday life lessons and smiles far outweigh those spectacular Supermom moments. I can recall the scent of her favorite perfume which is no longer made more readily than I can our harrowing elevator ride into the salt mines of Hitler’s Eagle Nest in the mountains of Germany. I can rattle off her favorite episodes of Murder, She Wrote easier than reciting her favorite Germany haunts on the streets of Stuttgart.

I concede that possibly I’m not her target audience as I grew up in Europe, and walking along the Rhine River were an every day occurrence for me and thus are not part of my bucket list, but I like to think that I should still be treated to a terrific story nonetheless. 

Final Thoughts: Jennifer Coburn, much like Michael Bay, thought a lot of explosions and splashes help people to remember your story. Contrary to popular belief, that just makes it harder to see as you stumble blindly down memory lane. I will always remember Paris, but after this book it might not be with such fond memories.