Hexed Was Next

I didn’t enjoy Hexed as much as Hounded, but I’m not sure if that was because of the writing, or simply that I didn’t have time to sit down and read straight through like I wanted to. I had things going on, and only had time for a chapter at a time, which may have been why the book felt so segmented to me. I just felt like some things were included in the story that didn’t necessarily fit smoothly into the greater arc. Like Coyote and the fallen angel and Mary. That felt like a separate incident from the rest of the book and its evil German witches and their deadly hexes. And then there was the introduction of the rabbi and priest and their shadowy organization, which I assume starts to matter more in future books. I didn’t have a problem with the individual elements of the story exactly. I just didn’t feel like the individual elements flowed into a coherent whole.
I wasn’t crazy about the depiction of Coyote–it seemed to me to imply he was lazy and uneducated, at least in the way he spoke, which made me nervous. But I am not familiar enough with Native stories of Coyote to know if that’s an accurate depiction of him or not. The depiction of the Virgin Mary was much more respectful: although I don’t follow a denomination with Marian theology, I was glad that the author depicted her reasonably, as pleasantly, powerfully good. In general, theologically I can never be comfortable wit these stories, but that’s my own little personal issue. And I do like that Atticus is respectful of other religions, as well as of the Earth.
Despite my quibbles, I enjoyed the book, and have Hammered on hold at the library. I think my enjoyment of the banter between Atticus and Oberon, and my interest in the various historical, cultural, and religious information woven into the story guarantees that I will continue to enjoy the books for awhile, no matter how impossibly awesome the druid and his apprentice may be.
I actually have a theory that the author, who I believe I read was a teacher, wrote these stories in part as a way to impart fun, accidental education to a wide audience. It seems like a teacher sort of thing to do, and often a very effective one.  Readers can learn history, mythology, culture, literature, and vocabulary simply by reading a fast-paced, fun book. I know it’s working on me. I now know the meaning of the word “esurient”, among other things.

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Hound Dog

Hounded is a fast, fun urban fantasy read. Atticus and Oberon are a funny duo, and I loved the constant historical, mythological, and literary references. At first, I was a bit skeptical of how powerful and smart and handsome and everything that Atticus is, but then I realized that if a character had really survived since before the time of Jesus, he would need to be the best of the best. Survival of the fittest. He’s kind of a hound dog himself when it comes to the ladies; I suppose that is his biggest weakness, and it’s certainly my biggest annoyance. Aside from the Widow, there didn’t seem to be a female in the story that wasn’t humping him at one point or another. Being Christian, I couldn’t relate as much to his religious and philosophical beliefs either.  However, those were small gripes within the story. I enjoyed Hounded, read it quickly, and am planning to read the next one already.

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No Sizzle to Sixteen

The only reason I finished reading Sizzling Sixteen was because a good friend gave me the series up through book 19, and told me that the books get better in 18 & 19. Also, because once I read the books, I can clear the space on my bookshelf for other, more deserving books. The only reason I can think why Janet Evanovich wrote these books, however, other than money, is as a spoof of her own writing. This is some of the weakest writing, or story telling in general, that I have encountered in a long time.  At some point I lost count of the ridiculous plot elements. Wondering into a slaughterhouse factory lot and letting loose a stampede of cows? Sure, why not? Finding a pet alligator in someone’s home and accidentally letting him loose in a neighborhood? Sure. Hobbits? Why not. Shooting at someone because they ate your doughnut? Of course.  I had to stop rolling my eyes, or I was going to have a headache.

I think that if you removed descriptions of characters’ (even the most minor, incidental characters) clothing choices and any writing pertaining to  food, there would be about 20 pages left in the book. I appreciate a vivid setting, and Lula does need to be described to be believed…but come on!  Also, Lula, aside from being really annoying, is completely unrealistic. Anyone who fired off their gun so recklessly and so routinely would lose their gun, and possibly be in jail. Especially if the offender were a minority with a criminal record. There was one moment in the book where, were there any reality in this book, Lulu would have been killed or seriously injured, and honestly, I was hoping that she was. But no, not even a hint of realization from the characters or author that being knocked down in front of a stampeding herd of cattle might be dangerous.
By contrast, Stephanie has become really boring by this point in the series. There’s constant teasers of sex, and lots of crazy schemes, but no actual action on her own part, because the only thing Stephanie does anymore is react to people. She hangs out with batshit crazy Lulu and Connie, saying “no, we shouldn’t do that. oh, all right.” and spends the rest of her time moping about whether she should be with Ranger or Morelli, and describing what everyone is wearing, and eating enough junk food to make her obese many times over. I don’t care which romantic interest you choose. Just pick one and settle down. Any man in his right mind would have moved on by now, much less two very attractive and eligible ones. Of course, any real person who was in a career as long as she is supposed to to have been a bounty hunter, would have learned a few skills, not to mention some common sense and self confidence, by now, instead of screwing up the same way every time, time after time after time…
All of which leads me to conclude that this is a spoof. Must be a spoof. Can’t imagine that any self-respecting publisher would print this otherwise.

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Another Fair Assassin

I started Dark Triumph yesterday. That’s right; for the first time in a really long time I finished almost 400 pages in less than 24 hours. It’s not that it’s rare for me to read that fast; I just rarely love a book enough to merit that kind of focus. But this book, after a few chapters, just demanded to be gobbled up. So I did.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I had the same reaction to LaFever’s first His Fair Assassin book, Grave Mercy. I just wasn’t sure how Sybella and Beast’s story would compare to Ismae and Duval. Sybela turned out to be an engaging protagonist, though, despite her defensive shell, and Beast is just lovable from the beginning. Almost too perfect–but I love him anyway.

As I said, the first few chapters were slower reading for me than the rest. Not because they were slow or boring, but simply because they were so very dark and disturbing. I had almost as little will to keep reading as Sybella did to keep living–which is to say, just enough. And totally worth it. HOWEVER, if you are someone who has been sexually or physically abused or assaulted, if you avoid things labelled “TRIGGER WARNING”, you may want to think twice about reading this book. Sybella, and those she’s loved, have been through a lot, as covered throughout the story, much of it not for the faint of heart, however well written. It’s often via implication or vague details, but I wouldn’t feel right posting a review without mentioning it.

There was A LOT of action in this story, of the adrenaline-packed, exciting kind (as opposed to disturbing) as befitting a story about an assassin and a beserker warrior. The action isn’t told in a very gory way, though, so I was able to follow it without being totally grossed out. The storytelling was fast-paced and kept me guessing, worried about the main characters at several points and desperate to see how things turned out. I was so happy to encounter Ismae and Duval again, as well as the Duchess, and enjoyed meeting a number of new characters, including the strange but fascinating charbonnerie people. Several characters, such as D’Albret, were just absolutely horribly evil people. Other characters were more nuanced, so that even characters that were creepy and that initially seemed evil ended up being more sympathetic in later parts of the story. The only character that confused me was Tephanie, who seemed to be involved in the story and developed as a character more than her actual importance warranted.She was nice, but didn’t seem necessary.

My only complaint about the story is a few inconsistencies in action scenes–one moment, there would be a group of twenty or more people fighting, and then suddenly there were only three to four of them, traveling elsewhere on a totally different mission, with no explanation of where the greater group went or what it was doing. And there’ was one scene near the end where a character is specifically mentioned as being involved in the action. Mentioned many times as part of the process. Then simply isn’t mentioned or acknowledged, as having either gone away or being present, for a page or two, before suddenly being mentioned with the main party again, in a totally different area . It was strange and inexplicable, and because of that, briefly distracting from the story. However, the action still moved quickly and held my attention, so I guess it really wasn’t a big deal in the long run.

I wasn’t crazy about the cover art, either. Something seems off somehow with Sybella’s face and hair, like the model is wearing a bad wig or was awkwardly photoshopped. Aside from the face, the cover art/ costume is great, though. Sets a perfect mood for the book.

I also loved the hints about Annith’s story, and the further development of the Abbey politics, including the creepy Abbess. I loved learning about the other “saints” and their followers as well.  I CANNOT WAIT for Mortal Heart. I hope it’s not a long time coming. I’m only sad that there’s only one more book planned for this series and its characters and world.

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Cheesy Fun

Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm is an interesting graphic rendition of the first book in the other set of spin off novels from the TV show Castle. I didn’t enjoy this story or these characters as much as I do the Niki Heat stories, probably because of the setting and subject matter. I haven’t read the actual Derrick Storm novels yet, and based on this, I probably won’t. While Derrick Storm DOES investigate things, and is somewhat interesting, he’s not working in the same police procedural format as the Niki Heat books and the Castle TV series. The private investigator angle was initially interesting, but then it quickly gave way to CIA spies and international missions, and felt overblown and silly. Clara Strike was pretty generic, and actually not as hot as Derrick’s flirtation of her might imply. Kudos to the artists for creating a normal-looking female protagonist. And after Jennifer Beal’s role on Castle as Castle’s muse for Clara Strike, I find it difficult to like Clara much anyway. This story is written with the same self-aware cheesiness as the Niki Heat books, and I enjoy a book that can not take itself too seriously. But I think I’ll stick with Niki Heat and Rick Castle & Kate Beckett from now on, and their regular police investigations instead.

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We Were Left Behind

Picking up Those Left Behind was like picking up another episode of Firefly, just in a different format. It was the same characters, using the same kind of words, in the same settings. (The Chinese curses seem to lose a little in print, though, probably because I can’t read or even sound them out.) The artists rendered the characters’ appearances a little differently than the actors, aside from the beautiful cover. But once I adjusted to that difference, I was back in the beloved world of Firefly. The story isn’t huge or exciting, just good and familiar and bittersweet, as it traces the time between the last episode of the TV series and the movie Serenity. Because the events of the movie were impending, this couldn’t end on an entirely cheerful note, just a beautifully bittersweet one that is in ways another farewell to the characters.
I also really enjoyed the second, smaller section of the book, the pre-production memo from the Serenity film. I appreciated how it fleshed out a lot about the universe and the characters that I either didn’t know or didn’t fully understand from watching the series, things like Mal’s life before the war. And the concept art from pre-production of the same film was equally interesting, and often quite beautiful.
I enjoyed this book, and I’m definitely planning to read the rest of the graphic novels in this universe.

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Bugs, Bugs, Everywhere!

Good  Bug, Bad Bug is a very handy little book about bugs. I’m trying to have a successful organic garden, for the second year in a row, and living in southern Maryland, we’re just swamped in bugs, good and bad. Last year I made the mistake of not realizing that I needed to attract the good bugs, and instead got decimated by the bad ones. This year I’m being a lot more proactive. So this guide helped me be more aware of which bugs I need to look out for, both good and bad. I don’t recommend reading through it before bedtime, like I did–you’re bound to get the shivers and creeps, with so many creepy crawlers depicted and described. But it is useful information, for sure.  It should be appropriate for gardeners in any area of the continental USA, as well: the bug descriptions include their current common areas, but bugs from various areas are covered.

I will say that this book is probably better purchased as an addition to a gardener’s library, than just borrowed from the library like I did. I am sure I’ve retained some of the knowledge in this book, and definitely the principles (attract good bugs by having plant habitats that they prefer, for example. And repelling bad bugs with plants they don’t like.  I bought a lot of flowers and herbs to add to my food garden this year.) But I know I’ll have bug damage later this year, and won’t be able to remember which of the bad bugs it sounds like, and will need to research it again. This definitely seems like a good investment, especially for the beginning organic or natural gardener.

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