MaryJanice Davidson acknowledges in the introduction that Undead and Done is the last planned book in her long-running "Undead" series. This outing waMaryJanice Davidson acknowledges in the introduction that Undead and Done is the last planned book in her long-running "Undead" series. This outing was fun--not huge amounts of action so much as huge amounts of snarling from Queen Betsy. She provided a decent story, kept multiple story arcs afloat, and even foreshadowed details we may/may not ever be reading about. This series has been a great run, and I will always remember it fondly for introducing me to the word "asshat." What finer praise, right?...more
Prouty's first novel, Stoker's Manuscript so very badly wanted to be Stoker's Dracula. The novel's underlying concept was quite clever, it was peppereProuty's first novel, Stoker's Manuscript so very badly wanted to be Stoker's Dracula. The novel's underlying concept was quite clever, it was peppered with just enough Stoker flavor text to be interesting, but it suffered from indifferent characterization. It's tough to feel any sort of tension when the protagonist faces life-or-death choices when you've not been given enough sense of the person (vs. their lineage and pedigree) to really care whether or not they pull through, whether or not they lose their soul, etc. As a fan of vampire fiction, even the vampires seemed pretty darn uninteresting and two-dimensional. All told, I'd rate this a solid "meh."...more
I'd go 3.5 stars for Undead and Unforgiven as the story itself just didn't have much action. Betsy has all her usual sass, the Scoobie Gang of her misI'd go 3.5 stars for Undead and Unforgiven as the story itself just didn't have much action. Betsy has all her usual sass, the Scoobie Gang of her misfit pals--dead and undead--are all ready at hand, but it's pretty much just talking and snarking. The snarks about Snow White and the Huntsman, however, were both on point and appreciated....more
It took quite some time to be ready to read the last in this series for a number of reasons. As I was reading Dead Ever After last night, it occurredIt took quite some time to be ready to read the last in this series for a number of reasons. As I was reading Dead Ever After last night, it occurred to me that the only way to do it and the series of which it is the culmination justice might just be to write my review in the form of a short note to its author, who will doubtless never see this. So here goes.
Dear Ms. Harris,
I started your Sookie Stackhouse series some 14 years ago when living in the Washington, DC, suburbs. The books, esp. their heroine Sookie, became a particular favorite as she was so sympathetic and (as strange as this will sound) immensely relatable. Sookie isn't particularly book smart, but she has superb instincts. She tries to be the best person she can be. She's been dealt a complicated hand in so far as she can read people's thoughts unbidden and desperately wishes this were not the case. She knows exactly what people think of her, and it is often unkind. She wishes to see the best in people, yet their inescapable inner thoughts time and again reveal their baser intentions. Sookie's world, both the paranormal aspects as well as the northwest Louisiana (esp. Shreveport-centered) action of the books, was utterly foreign to me at that time.
Fast forward five years and several books into the series, when I have the extreme good fortune to accept my first tenure-track job as a college professor and we relocate to Natchitoches, LA. Hello culture shock! We're in Sookie's world. We have to drive an hour and a half to get to a grocery store that even stocks Tahini--let alone doesn't require that we define it when inquiring as to where it might be shelved. In making that drive regularly and research trips around the state to towns and settings where the series' action unfolds, placenames, neighborhoods, historic events and people mentioned in the books become increasingly familiar and personal. Scenes in some of the stories are carried out in towns we regularly visit, a service is held in our town's very own Immaculate Conception church, the idiosyncrasies of the characters who populate Sookie's world (at least those with a pulse) possess the very charming and/or decidedly less charming personal and/or linguistic quirks of our neighbors and those with whom we interact daily.
Fast forward another nine years and a perfect storm of defunding of public education, attempts to dismantle tenure and shared governance at the university level, hypocrisy, and political shenanigans finds us in other jobs, other states, pursuing slightly different paths having been burned along with a good many others by the very sorts of human foibles that pervade the characters of Sookie's world. Still processing those losses, it was impossible to pick up your last book when it was first published because when I finished it and said goodbye to Sookie it would forever be closing the door on the amazing possibilities, potential, resources, and opportunities that had brought us to live and work in Sookie's geographic world for an all-too-brief half decade.
Last night I finally felt ready to bid Sookie, and in many ways northwest Louisiana, farewell. Thanks for doing right by Sookie in the end. Thanks, also, for not wrapping things up too tidily and giving us lots of "what ifs" to ponder for a good long time. I hope your writing brings you as much pleasure as it does your readers and that your keen imagination brings us a comparable enjoyable and enduring series before long.
Bitten in Two, the penultimate story in the Jaz Parks series, was a super slow start. Truly, it took nearly 150 pages to establish that the crew was iBitten in Two, the penultimate story in the Jaz Parks series, was a super slow start. Truly, it took nearly 150 pages to establish that the crew was in Marrakech and that Vayl has forgotten his memory and, to accommodate his inexplicable memory loss the crew had to assume the identities of his contemporaries ca. 1777. All good, however, explaining away--or just ignoring modern intrusions (e.g., clothing, language, cars, cell phones, traffic lights, oh everything!)--didn't really seem to work. Vayl's a super intelligent vamp, so why wouldn't he have questioned those things? I suppose it was to underscore the broader message of people see precisely what they expect to see unless they make an effort to truly notice what's around them. That said, once the book's halfway mark was met most of the little threads that had been put in play wove together and the operation was underway. Finally! I had always been led to believe that the stench from tanneries was nigh on horrific, and the role one played in this outing did not disappoint. Fun stuff here, but it will require some patience waiting through the set-up. ...more
Pfffft. Weak story, characters reverting to immature behaviors they've supposedly worked past, apparent attention deficit on formerly highly detail-orPfffft. Weak story, characters reverting to immature behaviors they've supposedly worked past, apparent attention deficit on formerly highly detail-oriented Claire's part, and two significant continuity errors--one in relation to chronology (i.e., how many days Myrnin's been gone) and the other geographic in nature (i.e., the location where Eve is attacked in relation to Uncommon Grounds) makes for a disappointing outing in post-draug Morganville.
Sadly, no one seems able to keep a thought in his/her head, and I'm not talking about the folks who've been mojo'd by Naomi (who several folks have seen yet no one bothers to discuss its implications despite the fact that many of them know that, like Bishop, she can compel people to do her will). You see a big white tree in your dream and conveniently forget that there's only one big white tree in the entire town? And it's in the cemetery? And when you finally manage to make your way there to check it out you go alone? Days later? WTF, Claire?! (Seriously, maybe you should be happy with that B you're so busy contesting on that physics paper.)
That new "twist" of alternating point of view/perspective from chapter to chapter is no excuse for weak characterization, storyline, and plotting. Moreover, now that it's happened a second time--having made its debut in the previous Morganville book--I'm officially calling flag on the play for having to (re)state in the author's note that readers need to "...be sure to note the chapter headings" so as to know whose perspective they're getting. Really? Isn't that precisely what those ALL-CAPS bold font headers indicate? What else could they possibly mean? Just how stupid do you think your readers are?
Seriously, the nicest thing I can say at this point is Pfffft. ...more
I must confess that my reaction to the guilty confection known as Undead and Unstable was a bit mixed. First, the lowpoints just to get them out of thI must confess that my reaction to the guilty confection known as Undead and Unstable was a bit mixed. First, the lowpoints just to get them out of the way: (1) there is a tremendous amount of inaction for much of this book (i.e., Betsy pretty much talks you to death but largely the only one who does anything is Jessica who eats her way through the story) and (2)Betsy did so much whinging in this book that there were times that I just had to put it down. That's a problem if your main character is so very self-involved that she becomes unsympathetic. This series is about pure escapism, to be sure. And when catching up with Betsy becomes less like fun and more like other aspects of life--the very sorts of things from which one hopes to escape via books--then it loses some of its enjoyment quotient. Onward to the fun bits. There was (finally!) a fun action sequence which is almost destroyed by Betsy and Sinclair's ludicrous sex scene on the stairs which follows close on its heels. On the positive side, we learn a good bit about the Book of the Dead--which has been seemingly trailing Betsy for some time now. That, and the introduction of the term "asshattery" into my life serves to tip the balance in the direction of a third Goodreads star from me. The jumping between universes--esp. as related to the multiple epilogues which I could only imagine were written from the vantage points of the different timelines--wasn't handled as deftly as I'd have hoped. Overall, the book felt positively manic--which was interesting given that it was basically 200 someodd pages of Betsy fussing at/about people. Sticking with the three stars, but I was definitely grading on a generous curve here. I am hopeful that book 12 in the Undead series is a stronger contender. ...more
As a longtime fan of Sookie Stackhouse pre-HBO's Trueblood series, I am finding the approaching wrap-up of all things Bon Temps and Renard Parish bittAs a longtime fan of Sookie Stackhouse pre-HBO's Trueblood series, I am finding the approaching wrap-up of all things Bon Temps and Renard Parish bittersweet to say the least. Where the preceding entry in the series was truly off Harris' game, I found that the Sookie in Deadlocked was more the Sookie of olden days. That is, she is a fascinating mixture of Bible Belt, prayer-chain optimism meets a big ol' can of whoopass when her back is to the wall. Sookie's not particularly book smart, but her instincts have long served her well. That said, the fact that she ever entered Eric's house that night or went with the weres that other night (both important scenes in the plot of book #12) were entirely out of character and inconsistent for her. Part of what has long proven so endearing about Sookie is how entirely out of her depth she is, yet she manages to listen to that "little voice" we all have that is often the difference between round-trip rides and a one-way ticket to the body dump. I'm not quite sure what's happened to Eric here, but as I never found him particularly sincere I would neither question his motives in securing a strategic alliance nor would I mourn his loss as a central figure in Sookie's life. I am concerned, however, that when the world of this novel winds down that it's done in a way that is true to the particular characters and the tensions they've enjoyed. I can't say a whole lot more, other than this book was so much better than the one that immediately preceded it and I would urge Charlaine Harris to take absolutely as much time as she needs to sort out where she wants things to land for Sookie, Sam, Bill, Pam and a host of others that her dedicated readers have come to love, loathe, and tolerate over the course of our multi-year journey together. ...more
Magistrates of Hell is a decent period story that tells the tale of a former British spy's trip to China in 1912 to investigate reports of undead beinMagistrates of Hell is a decent period story that tells the tale of a former British spy's trip to China in 1912 to investigate reports of undead beings, referred to as the Others, who are feared even by vampires. Accompanied by his former mentor Professor K, the sixteenth-century Spanish vampire Don Simon Xavier Christian Marodo de la Cadena-Ysidro (a.k.a. Ysidro), and his clever wife Lydia and infant daughter, James Asher's investigation is compounded by fear of recognition by individuals he dealt with disguised as someone else on a previous mission who--in concert with the Others--would like to see him perish. As is doubtless period-appropriate, the story is liberally sprinkled with decidedly ethnocentric comments regarding the citizens of their host nation. This takes a bit of getting used to, and serves as a healthy bit of characterization as the folks spouting the most hateful invective are often not the most upstanding individuals as the story unfolds.
Layers of political intrigue serve as backdrop during a period of tremendous sociopolitical change as China emerges as a newborn republic. Bits of architectural history are provided by an amusingly pushy Russian baronness. Taken in concert with assorted early twentieth-century sensibilities, Hambly's explanation of her choice of the Wade-Giles method of transcription from Chinese into English as the historically appropriate form her characters' speech would have assumed is an informative addition. The stakes are increased as Asher is caught up in trying to investigate the murder of a young British woman by her ne'er do well finance who is a British diplomat's drunkard son. All is not well within the assorted foreign delegations, and given the social and poltical upheaval, Asher falls afoul of a local organized crime family who may/may not also be involved in the initial matter that drew him to China (i.e., the Others). Thus, the stakes are particularly high.
This period story, quite promising in my estimation, is held back a bit by a few things. First, it is only in the last six pages that much of the story's details fall into place. While quite clever, they do appear a bit rushed. Second, to reduce Prof. Karlebach to little more than an obsessed Van Helsing was disappointing--particularly given his role as something of a surrogate father figure in Asher's own life. Moreover, James' seeming relief to be free of Ysidro's pull is inexplicably short-lived in the face of the peace he quickly finds in a dream-sequence revelation about the vampire's fate. Third, why were neither James nor Lydia--both of whom were duped, drugged, and/or framed by select members of the Peking diplomatic Legation--ever worried about the safety of their infant daughter Miranda? (Admittedly, she'll have plenty of opportunity to be ransomed in future installments in the series, but her parents' seeming complacency regarding her safety was something of a puzzle.) And finally, the cover art--admittedly, something for which an author cannot be held accountable. While quite intriguing--think BtVS' Spike in Victorian garb with blood dribbling from the corner of his mouth--it had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the events or characters contained in the book. ...more
I have had Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt books on my to-read list for some time, and was thrilled to have finally come across one of them. I scooped it upI have had Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt books on my to-read list for some time, and was thrilled to have finally come across one of them. I scooped it up, only to discover after-the-fact that I had just read the final book in the series. I'm not at all disappointed, as I'm glad to have gotten the wider sense of Huston's story arc without having invested the time in a style that isn't my cup of tea. Mindful that the very things I didn't care for will be precisely to someone else's liking, I wanted to try to sort out why my review landed on the "meh" side of things.
If I had to pigeonhole the book, I'd characterize My Dead Body as urban vamp noir. It was not at all my thing, but I wanted to finish it to sort out precisely why that was the case. The best I can do is say the answer is two-fold: (1) the sheer senselessness of the violence (i.e., it's just not my thing to read the extremely descriptive knuckle-by-knuckle account of our antihero, Joe Pitt, having a thumb and a couple additional fingers removed by cable cutters) and (2) the dialogue. In my estimation, this style of dialogue would have been super effective had it been limited to the oh-so-very annoying Chubby Freeze's kidnapped daughter. In that instance, it would have served to underscore how naive and what a romatic Vamp Fangirl she was. Instead, most characters spoke in this fashion.
Stated baldly, the dialogue drove me nuts. It was like listening to urban Valley Girls unable to finish their thoughts. Here's a sample: "-I mean, real scientific proof that you. She waves her hand at all of us. -Exist. Or whatever. She pulls the chain over her head and drops in on her desk. -Images of all the known mutations of the Vyrus that I've catalogued. Including the ones that I. She points at the floor. -The ones that I, cooked up myself. Which, I mean, I may have gotten carried away and played a little god. Sorry for that. Or not. I could do it. So I did it. Because. I don't know. I just did it. And you. She points at Predo. -You pissed me off just enough to set them loose. Because the idea was just to destroy them. Experiments. But you had to starve us. You couldn't just. What was so hard to accept? A cure? What was so hard to do? It's not like anyone would have made you take it if you didn't want to. I. Gah. Anyway" (p. 228).
Short story anthologies are often mixes of truly inspired, good, and mediocre stories, and this one is no exception. Among the better tales, I would cShort story anthologies are often mixes of truly inspired, good, and mediocre stories, and this one is no exception. Among the better tales, I would count (excuse the pun): "The Black Opal Cross," "Cold Turkey," "Pas du Mort," and "A Temporary Vampire"--at least those are the ones I most enjoyed of the 13 (13, get it?) contained in this volume.
My experience of the collection titled Louisiana Vampires, is that while I wished to be, I was never really good and scared. In several instances, I came within spitting distance, but it never quite worked out for the same unfortunate and wholly avoidable reason. As a reader, I'm not sure whether the fault is fairly laid at the feet of the volume's compilers, Schimel and Greenberg, or its press (i.e., Fall River Press of New York), or both parties. Regardless, the biggest stumbling block to actually enjoying this collection of New Orleans-based vampire stories is the fact that the book is riddled with typographical errors. Seriously. You're being lured in to the atmosphere and unfolding events, and then there's not just a typo, but the text actually makes no sense as the wrong word appears--frequently multiple times on the same page.
I felt that the authors--who doubtless provided clean copies of their works--deserved far better from their compilers and the press producing the book. And the readers, regardless of whether they paid full price or purchased their hardback book on a bookseller's bargain table (and I may now understand why the latter came to be the case for my own purchase) deserve far better care. The mood was never achieved because the words--and frequently altogether the wrong words--got in the way and formed persistent stumbling blocks to the creation (let alone maintenance) of atmosphere. Not good under any circumstances, but truly a death knell when trying to create suspense. Instead, the lack of care/copy-editing just created mounting frustration on this reader's part....more