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I’m Late, but there are Vampires!

May 28, 2012

ImageSo, you may have noticed that there was no blog last weekend.  Sorry about that.  The play I was stage managing had its closing weekend and then I had to start getting ready for a sci-fi convention I was selling my jewelry at.  The con was tons of fun.  It was the Alabama Phoenix Festival’s first year and I think they did a great job.  Here’s a picture of me in my costume from Sunday.  I was going for kind of a steampunk sari sort of thing.  The booth I’m in is the Silver Cicada Designs booth.  You can see the totally awesome masks over my shoulder.  The artist is awesome!  I’ve got a Medusa mask from her that is out of this world!  She also does really pretty hair slides.  I got one with dogwood flowers.

So, on to the reviews:

#28 A Caress of Twilight by Laurell K. Hamilton

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This is book #2 is the Merry Gentry series.  I read book 1 in college longer ago than I really want to admit.  It was pretty good, but I was getting frustrated with Hamilton in general during that period and quit reading her shortly after A Cress of Twilight came out.  In this volume Princess Merideth is set up in L.A. trying to get pregnant so that she can be named heir to the Unseelie court.  That is certainly on the table, but takes a back burner to local issues. 

Firstly, someone has released the Nameless, an intangible monster made up of all the darkest fey powers.  It is assumed that the Nameless will be coming after Merry and her companions.  Secondly, murders are occurring in the L.A. area.  The Grey Agency, Merry’s employers, are brought in.  The deaths are clearly supernatural in origin, but the officer in charge of the scene has such a strong anti-fey bias that he chases Merry and her entourage off the case.  However, before they are barred completely one of her guards recognizes the style of the murders.  They are being committed by hungry fey ghosts.  Which means that the person controlling them must be close by.

The third thing that occupies Merry’s attention is a personal appeal from Maeve Reed, the golden goddess of Hollywood, who happens to be an exiled Seelie fey.  She begs Merry to conduct a fertility ritual for her so that she and her husband can have a child.  There is also a great deal of political maneuvering between Merry and the various courts.  She negotiates with the demi-fey, the goblins, as well as dodging barbs from the Seelie and the Unseelie courts.

Overall, I like this series quite a bit.  I read the first ten or so Anita Blake books before they took a direction I didn’t particularly want to follow.  The books added a great deal of sexual content, which didn’t bother me that much, but I didn’t  like where the characters were going along with that.  Nothing wrong with that, just not what I was interested in at the time.  The Merry Gentry series starts off with a fairly high sex level.  So, at least you know what you’re getting into from the get go.  I don’t find the sex scenes particularly compelling, but I like the characters and I’m intrigued by the political shenanigans that are going on.  Merry is one possible heir to the Unseelie court, but she has to have a child and survive in order to claim her crown.  That’s kind of cool.

The one thing that I do have a bit of a problem with in this particular book is that the end happens very abruptly.  It’s like in a video game when you’re building up the story and then all of a sudden you turn the corner and there’s the final boss.  You fight, you win, the end.  Ok… There’s a sense that the build up was way bigger than the final payoff.  I felt a bit like that in this book.  I’ve felt that with some of her other books as well.  Narcissus in Chains out of the Anita Blake series springs to mind.  My boyfriend has read the rest of the Merry Gentry series.  He tells me that while this isn’t necessarily alleviated in later books the timeframe of the action compresses so much that it’s not really a problem.  The action in the later books stacks much closer chronologically, with days or even hours between books.  We’ll see.  I haven’t gotten to the rest of the series yet.

My only other complaint is particular to the audiobook.  The narrator, Laural Merlington, does a pretty good job with the pronunciation until she gets to the name Siobhan.  It’s really, really not pronounced like it looks.  It has a ‘v’ in it.  It’s an Irish name and they do weird things.  But the narrator pronounces it just like it looks.  I almost had to turn off the iPod.  I couldn’t stand it.  I find it really weird that of all the names, that’s the one she gets wrong.  So, something that drives me crazy, but may not matter to the vast majority of readers.  All in all, I will be continuing the series, but it’s not at the top of my to read pile.

 

28.  Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

So… Sookie.  Every single time I think of that name I hear it in Stephen Moyer’s… interesting southern accent.  Sookie.  Just think about it for a minute.  I’m pretty sure you’ll start cracking up.  Or maybe that’s just me.

So anyhoodles, as my friend Torrin says.  This is #12 in the Southern Vampires series.  And from what I hear will be the penultimate (how fun is the word penultimate?) volume of the series.  On the one hand, I’m sad, because this series has brought me a great deal of pleasure.  On the other hand, I’m kind of glad.  I want Sookie settled.  There’s only so long that she can get bounced around between men, between emotions, and between political factions.  The girl’s earned a break.

So, for those of you who have not read the book, I’m probably going to spoil some things.  I won’t put huge ones in, but you may want to skip ahead, especially if you haven’t read the previous book, Dead Reckoning.  If you’ve seen the tv show, but haven’t read the books… they’re really, really different. 

I had a weird moment at the very beginning of this book.  At the end of Dead Reckoning, it is revealed that Eric’s maker had signed a marriage contract between him and the Queen of Oklahoma.  It is a binding contract and Eric is unsure that he can get out of it.  That leaves Sookie in a pretty precarious position from a relationship standpoint.  So, when Deadlocked opens and Sookie is calling him her vampire honey, I was a little confused.  The issue of his forthcoming marriage is apparently tabled for the time being. 

However, even without the pending nuptials all is not well in Sookie’s world.  The King of Louisiana has arrived to investigate what happened to the manager he sent to look after his territory.  The manager Sookie helped Eric to kill, as it happens.  While entertaining the king Sookie catches Eric snacking on a strange girl.  A girl who later ends up dead on Eric’s lawn, surrounded by police.  Sookie is unclear as to whether someone is trying to frame Eric for murder, or just cause trouble for him and for the King. 

On the home front, her cousin Claude and her great-uncle Dermot are having trouble controlling all the restless fey that have been drawn to them.  Some of the fey are slipping out to hunt on Sookie’s land and coming dangerously close to discovery.  Add in the fact that Sam’s girlfriend seems to hate her and Sookie is having a pretty rough time of it.

I liked this book more out of nostalgia than out of conviction.  There are several relationship paths open for Sookie by the end of the book.  The one that would make me most happy seems to be off the table.  Of the three(?) left, I only really like one of them.  I think I know where it’s going and I wouldn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t like it either.  Eric seems like more of a calculating ass in this one than he has in quite some time.  That makes me sad.  I really like Eric.  Bill is around.  I don’t like Bill.  The interesting thing is that a few other men from Sookie’s past pop up as well.  

So, we’ll see where that goes.  I don’t have tons to say about this book.  It was ok.  I’m glad the series is ending.  I’d like that last book now please.  That’s about all I’ve got. 

 

 

#30.  Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Plain Kate takes place is a hypothetical Russia.  The location is never firmly established, but the architecture and some of the words say Russia to me.  I’m always interested in Russian stories, since I majored in Russian Lit in college. 

Kate is the daughter of the village carver.  He is talented, and kind, and wise.  Kate herself is very talented.  At 10 she is carving better than most journeymen.  Some people say that perhaps she has some witchcraft with wood, but most take her as she is.

Eventually, during a very hard winter, Kate’s father dies and leaves her alone.  The house and shop belong to the woodworkers’ guild and Kate is too proud to take charity from the replacement carver they send.  She is already better than him.  So she moves into her father’s stall in the market.  There she acquires a kitten she names Taggle.  The village recovers from the winter and the sickness it brought.  Kate makes a little money from people who would rather have her carvings than a guild master’s.  She is content.  Then one day a stranger comes.  He is an albino and a gypsy.  He commissions Kate to make him a new bow for his fiddle, but there is something wrong with him.  Taggle hates him, but he pays well so Kate takes the work. 

Soon, he is cropping up everywhere and strange rumors are flying about Kate.  When she goes to fish in the river hundreds of fish fling themselves at her though the fishing boats come home empty.  When she puts her fish in the village smokehouse all the others burn up and only her fish are left.  A fisherman sails down the river and returns in a coma.  People begin to mutter about witchcraft.  When Kate is attacked in the night she makes a devil’s bargain with the gypsy; one heart’s wish for her shadow.  He needs it, he says, to right a horrible wrong.

The next morning Kate sets off on her own with a shadow that is slowly unraveling and a talking cat.  Kate is taken in by a group of gypsies, but she must hide herself even from this new family.  She is afraid to tell them about her shadow or about Taggle.  Her fears increase as a mysterious sickness begins to spread over the country.  It follows the river and rides on the fog.  People fall asleep and never wake up.  Kate is convinced that the fog is connected to her shadow, but she cannot imagine how or how dangerous finding out will be.

This book is a young adult novel.  I was expecting something much lighter than it turned out to be.  It’s actually very dark.  I had a hard time with several scenes in the book on an emotional level.  I’m not saying it’s too dark for a teenager, but I’d be careful about which teenager I gave it to.  I thought it was good overall, but I doubt I’ll read it again.  I like my books to either be a bit more light-hearted all the way through, or at least to give me a little more happy in my happy ending.  But that’s just me.  It’s very well written.  I enjoyed the Russian folklore elements quite a bit.

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