Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dead Until Dark

Title: Dead Until Dark
Publisher: Ace Books
ISBN: 9780441008537
Author: Charlaine Harris
Category: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

My Rating: ★★★

When urban fantasy readers think of staples in their genre, the Sookie Stackhouse series is usually one that springs to mind. As a UF reader myself, I figured I ought to read the series at some point. Having finally nabbed my own copy, I gave Dead Until Dark a try. After finishing it, I'm left with mixed feelings. It has a strong paranormal romance aspect (a genre I'm not overly fond of) and mystery elements (which, while apparently the main focus of the story, somehow never seem overly urgent). It's an odd balance and it didn't work for me.

Pros -

I liked the vampire culture Charlaine Harris developed. They're nicely recognizable as traditional vampires, but just different enough from most vampire stories out there. The back story and synthetic blood is a nice twist. Also, some of the vampires acted decidedly not human. I enjoy stories that keep monsters acting like monsters, or at least not like us.

I liked Sookies' narrative … kind of. Explanation: I'm not a big fan of Southern accents, and boy does she have one, but the way she thought and spoke helped bring life to the story. It really did sound like a three-dimensional person speaking to me, adding nuances and flare to the narrative.

Cons -

I didn't understand Sookie. She seems like an innocent country girl (a virgin, no less), and she jumps straight into the kinky sex with no problems. And some of the sex scenes were awkward, to say the least (the cemetery scene, anyone?). Reading them, all I could, “No thanks.” Given her supposedly innocent history, I had problems believing she'd accept all the things in this book in such a matter-of-fact way.

Please, please, please don't introduce everyone at once! I spent a good portion of the book not knowing most of the side characters because they were lump-introduced in the first chapter or two. When they reappeared, I had to hope Harris would give some hint who this person was.

This book is better suited for vampire or paranormal romance fans. It's not a hardcore romance, but there's enough sex, I think, to please the paranormal crowd. It does have action and gore as well, so anyone who doesn't mind some sex thrown in with their vampire stories may enjoy this.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Transformers: Exodus

Okay, this is off my blogs normal theme, but I'm endulging in a little guilty pleasure of mine: my inner nerdiness. I love Transformers, the movies and the cartoons. So now I'm reading the novels too, and subjecting everyone else to my nerdiness. I hope you enjoy.

This appears to be based in the Transformers movie universe. I haven't read any of the comics (although I plan to rectify that once I find where to start), and only barely remember the old TV shows, but I don't remember any of the events mentioned. The book specifically mentions events and characters from the movies (the Allspark being launched into space, Bumblebee's damaged voice, and the Transformers cast, mainly the Autobots). There were other Transformers mentioned, but the ones that appeared in the movies were more prominent. I haven't seen the third movie yet, so it'll be interesting to see what new characters (to me) play a role in the new film.

Overall, I enjoyed most of this book, although it had it's dry spots. One chapter, an archivist is describing the early battles in the war. What could have been intense battles sequences, bitter loses, emotional trauma, all that good stuff, read like a history lesson. I wish the author had taken the time to explore those battles, although it would have been a much longer book.

My favorite part of the book was the interaction between Megatron and his underlings, especially Starscream and his plotting. It was a side story, but it added extra depth to the story, and let us see different aspects of the Decepticons, besides their desire to blow everything up. They had their own personalities. Shockwave, and his constant experiments, were distrurbingly amoral, even to his fellow Decepticons. Starscream was fun to read; not the sniveling coward from the old cartoons, but a cunning planner always looking out from himself. Soundwave was the spymaster, watching everyone and with his fingers in everything. By comparison, Megatron seemed kind of one dimensional, once he started the war. The Autobots had their own strengths, but for some reason they didn't seem as interesting.

Transformers: Exodus became more interesting once the war started. The first part dragged a bit, although I found Megatron's character intriguing. I was interested in his and Optimus Prime's early history, but I didn't really see how they came to rely on each other before the war. The first part of the book had too much "telling," and not enough "showing" why they became friends.

After reading this, I'm even more interested in reading the original comics and seeing how true this is to them. I think people who enjoyed the movies will enjoy this. I would assume that the comic/TV show fans would also enjoy it as well, but I can't say for sure, since I'm fairly certain this is for the movie universe.

Friday, June 24, 2011


I have a dilemma. I recieved an ARC of Serenity Volume 2 from NetGalley to review, which I've finished. Their page shows the release date of the hardcover to be September 7th, this year. Most publishers want the reviews posted near the release date. However, Goodreads shows that it was originally released back in 2008. I'm guessing it's being re-released. Sooo ... do I post the review now, or close to the new release date? I'll plan to post later, but it makes me wonder what the policy is.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Title: Sandman Slim
Publisher: EOS
ISBN: 9780061976261
Author: Richard Kadrey
Category: Urban Fantasy

Favorite Line:
James Stark (internal dialog): The smell of the burned bodies makes some of the Vigil crew gag. I smelled enough of it Downtown that it's familiar and even sort of comforting. I really hope there aren't any mind readers with us.

My Rating: ★★★★★

When I first started this book, it reminded me a lot of the movie The Crow, but with demons and magic. Thankfully, it didn't rehash that plot line, although there were similarities. Guy comes back from the dead (or, in this case, Hell) looking for vengeance for himself and his girlfriend. But Sandman Slim quickly spirals away from the movie's straightforward plot. The main character is unique, and I enjoyed reading from his point of view. James Stark is no hero. He's been through Hell (literally), and doesn't give a damn about anything but his revenge. Through the course of the book, he grows and begins caring again … somewhat. He's a far cry from many of the protagonists I've read recently. The story is dark urban fantasy at its best, gritty and imaginative.

Pros -

Uniqueness. The story and its protagonist are wonderful new additions to a genre that can get repetitive. Although, the beginning did remind me of The Crow, it rapidly broke new ground, following its own path. And what an enjoyable path it was.

For an urban fantasy, Sandman Slim stayed very believable. Oh, there was magic, angels and demons, but everything worked within its own rules, and Kadrey painted his world in such detail that I felt as if I were living it. I loved all the minutia he added.

The characters, not just Stark, all had their own quirks and personalities. I'm looking forward to seeing where everyone will fit in with each other in future books.

Cons -

Sandman Slim, like most urban fantasies I've read, is told from first person point of view. However, Stark's internal dialog can be hard to follow sometimes. He would enter a room, and then talk about being on the floor. A paragraph or so later, he would explain how someone knocked him down. It got confusing at times.

I really enjoyed Sandman Slim, and recommend it to most anyone who wants an in-depth dark urban fantasy, with one stipulation. There are parts that might offend the very religious. It's not very complimentary to either side of the Heaven/Hell conflict. Just a warning.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Feature & Follow Friday!

Feature and Follow Friday is here! Head over to Parajunkee's blog to participate.

Q. Genre Wars! What's your favorite genre and which book in that genre made it your favorite?

Urban fantasy is by far my favorite genre. As for which book, that's hard to say. Can I choose a series? Or, at least, the first nine books in a series? I love the early Anita Blake books. They introduced me written urban fantasy. (I watched, and loved, Buffy the Vampire Slayer before reading any UF.) If I had to choose one book from that series, it'd be Obsidian Butterfly, the ninth book. It features my favorite UF character of any series, Edward. I love him. :)

Freaky Friday: the Banshee

Today's Freaky Friday creature: the banshee.

Also goes by bean sidhe (fairy woman or woman of the mound), bean-nigde (washing woman), bean chaointe (keening woman), Washer of the Shroud, Washer at the Ford, Washer at the Banks, Dames blanche

The legend of the banshee may be traced back to an old Irish tradition. During a funeral, a woman (know as a "keener") would sing a lament, or caoineadh, for the deceased. When a member of the five great Gaelic families died, they were said to be lamented by a fairy woman. The fairy woman, with supernatural insight, would know if a family died even if they were many miles away. The fairy's lament would be the first indication they would recieve of the death.

The banshee was often described as an old woman or hag. She could also appear as a lovely young woman, or dignified matron. These three appearances mirror the three aspects of the the Celtic goddess of war and death: Badhbh, Macha and Mor-Rioghain. She is sometimes said to carry a comb, which she runs through her long hair. If a traveler found a comb on the ground, they should never pick it up. If it belonged to a banshee, she would steal the person away. The comb imagery may have been borrowed from stories of mermaids, and incorporated into the banshee legend. She could also appear as a crow, weasel or hare (animals associated with witchcraft in Ireland).

Hearing a banshee's wail (or keen) would foretell a death in the family. Actually seeing the banshee would foretell that person's own death. If several banshees sang their lament together, it signaled the death of someone of great importance.

The wail is discribed in several ways, depending on the region. In the southwest of Ireland, in Kerry, her wail is described as a "low, pleasant song." However, in Leinster, her keening was sharp enough to shatter glass. Other areas describe it as two boards being struck together (Tyrone, in the north), or a screeching sound like a cross between the wails of a woman and an owl (Rathlin Island).

Another portrayal of the banshee is of a woman washing bloody clothes or graveclothes. The clothes belonged to someone about to die. Passersby must not be seen by the washerwoman. If they are noticed, they must help her with her washing. If they do this correctly, the washerwoman will grant three wishes. However, if done wrong, she will instantly kill him or her. In Scotland, if a person can move between the washerwoman and the water, she will grant three wishes in exchange for three questions truthfully answered.

The banshee has a rich history. For more information, check out my sources at:
Wikipedia - Banshee
Monstropedia - Banshee

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 8, Vol 4)

Title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 8, Vol 4): Time of Your Life
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
ISBN: 9781595823106
Author: Joss Whedon, Jeph Loeb
Category: Graphic Novel
Source: Advance Reader's Copy from NetGalley

Favorite Quotes:
Melaka Fray, “I fig we stake some lush haunt, lurks come out, we skin 'em for stories. Yeah?”
Buffy, “Does any part of that sentence involve me beating something up?”

Tree person-thing, “Let us show these abominations the forest's rage!”
Xander, “Followed quickly by the forest's denial, bargaining, and then short, painful acceptance.”

My Rating: ★★★

I enjoyed this book, but not quite as much as the previous three. I can't connect to a lot of shows or books that jump into the near future (flying cars and all, but no spaceships). They seem a bit cheesy and it's been done before. But the events here will resound into future books. Right after finishing it, I really didn't understand why the main antagonist did what she did. After some thought, I figured it out … I think. If I'm right, there will definitely be consequences.

Pros -

The 'future speak' was different enough from our current speech that I could believe they were in a different time, but still understand what they said. Whether language/slang will change that much in one hundred years, I don't know. But it's an overlooked detail many books/shows forget when doing a 'future' episode. People will talk different in one hundred years. It added an extra touch of believability to those scenes.

As with the previous Buffy Season 8 graphic novels, the humor and art were amazing. I keep saying that every time I review one of these. But really, it's true. I feel like I'm watching another episode on TV.

Cons -

I did have one problem with the artwork. One of the future characters looks a lot like Buffy, and it was a bit confusing (especially when she's first introduced, and we don't know who she is). When they're in the same scenes, they're dressed different and Buffy's hair is a wee bit shorter, so I could tell them apart. But they're just a little too similar looking.

Some of the speech squares (where there was dialog in a box, but the speaker's not in sight) were confusing, and I had to go back and figure out who was speaking. The worst incident happened when the internal dialog boxes switched suddenly between Buffy and the future slayer, Fray. The color of the box changed, which is usually an indicator of a new narrator, but it was similar enough that I didn't notice. For several frames, I thought Buffy was still 'thinking,' but her comments made no sense for her character. Eventually I caught on, but it ruined the flow of the story until I did.

This graphic novel is probably necessary for the continuing story arc, but it's not as good as the past ones. I think fans of the series should read this, but it doesn't do the series justice for a first time reader (in fact, it'll be very confusing).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 8, Vol 3)

Title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 8, Vol 3): Wolves at the Gates
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
ISBN: 9781595821652
Author: Joss Whedon
Category: Graphic Novel
Source: Advance Reader's Copy from NetGalley

Favorite Quotes:
Evil henchman (referring to Buffy), “You didn't kill her.”
Head bad guy, “That's been done. To little effect.”

Dracula (insulted at the idea anyone could steal his powers), “The very idea that some two-bit, run-of-the-mill vampires could just come and … take them from the … Lord of … Darkness … (long pause) oh balls.”

My Rating: ★★★★

Anyone who's read my previous reviews knows I love Buffy and Joss Whedon. So this review shouldn't come as any surprise. This volume stays true to the TV series and Joss' own brand of humor, which equals instant love from me. There was one moment that pushed the corny-meter a little high (*cough* Dawn's adversary at the end *cough*). And Buffy's possible romantic interest came from left field. I didn't see that one coming, and I'm not sure it made sense. But Buffy's made “unique” romantic choices before when strung out (sixth season, anyone?), so maybe it's in character for her. In this one, we also see the return of Dracula. I didn't much care for his episode in the TV series, but he does better here. Not spectacular, but he has his moments.

Pros -

I really can't get enough of Joss Whedon's humor. He takes a typical scene you might see anywhere, and twists it just so, and suddenly its unexpected and hilarious. Banter between adversaries is rarely the normal back and forth you might see/read anywhere else. He makes it unique. Example: in this book, Buffy and another slayer are fighting some baddies while discussing person issues. The bad guys repeatedly try to start up the typical bad guy banter (“Your blood will taste so sweet...” etc.) and Buffy keeps telling them to shut up, she's talking to someone else. All kinds of conversations get the Joss Whedon “tweak.” And it never sounds forced, or artificial. The man's a master.

Like the previous two installments, the artwork is superb. The faces and expressions blew me away. I could almost see the actors on the page. I haven't seen the rest of the comics after this one, but I sure hope they keep this artist. Beautiful, just beautiful.

I mentioned this above, but it's worth repeating. The graphic novel stays true to the show. Granted, because of the different medium, they can plan things one a grander scale (like the final battle – that would've been very difficult to manage for the TV show). But the characters, the back story, dialog, everything is like watching the show again. As a huge Buffy fan, I love it.

Cons -

Also mentioned this above, but Dawn's adversary was a bit, um, yeah... The TV show got goofy sometimes, but still managed to pull it off. This pushed my suspension of disbelief, even for Buffy.

As for Buffy's person life choices, she's never shown that kind of side before. Or anything even remotely leaning towards that type of side. I have no problems with that life style, it just seemed a bit out of character for her. Makes me wonder where that'll go.

Like the previous two graphic novels, if you enjoyed the Buffy TV series, you should read the comics, preferably in order. They're entertaining, they continue where season seven ended and well worth the time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Happy dance!

Thanks to FictFact*, which emailed me today, I know when the next book in Patricia Brigg's Alpha & Omega series is coming out! (Pause for fangirl squeel...) Fair Game is due out Febuary 7, 2012 (one day after my birthday - Happy Birthday to me!). Both the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series are on the top of my Must-Read list. I can't wait to read this one!

Links for Fair Game:

*If you've never been to FictFact, and you like series, you really should check it out. It's a great resource. You imput your series, and it tracks them for you and emails you when the next book is coming out (or, as in this case, when the next one is revealed). I love it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Feature & Follow Friday!

Feature and Follow Friday is here again! Time to meet new bloggers and explore new sites. :) Come join the fun. Go to Parajunkee's View to sign up.

Q. The magic book fairy pops out of your cereal box and says "you and your favorite character (from a book of course) can switch places!" Who are you going to switch with?

If I could live one character's life, I would go with Mercy Thompson, from the amazing mind of Patricia Briggs. What's not to love about instant shapeshifting into a coyote? Okay, not the most powerful shifter out there, but she has more control than most of them, and no painful transformations. Poof, coyote. And Adam and his pack are good people to have around. Not to mention, if my car ever broke down, I'd have some clue what to do (which is more than I can say now). Of course, that would leave the real Mercy living in my boring life. Surely, she wouldn't mind, right? Right?