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.