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.