Category: stand alone


And, in a turn of events I’m sure no one saw coming, I am late posting my postponed review. Who would have thought, right? I’d have had it if not for that sleeping curse. But it’s here now, much to everyone’s delight. Thanks to the awesome folks at Tor, here’s The People’s Police. Enjoy!

the-peoples-police-cover

When Officer Martin Luther Martin was ordered to serve his own eviction notice he didn’t expect to wind up the face for the following police strike against the loan lizards trying to foreclose on everyone. When bordello owner J. B. Lafitte called the strike on being self serving, only helping the police, he didn’t expect them to agree. When MaryLou Boudreau first woke up from dancing with a full hat and no memory of how it wound up that way she never expected to wind up as Mama Legba, television personality and horse to the Loa. No one expected Papa Legba himself to address Luke on tv or the question he would ask. “What do you offer?”

This one might get a little weird, there may also be a few spoilers so heads up. Norman Spinrad’s The People’s Police is a bit of an odd duck as far as fantasy or urban fantasy novels go. It’s well written in many respects, but I’d have a hard time calling it a fun read. It’s got definite fantasy elements, but is also almost cynical in its approach to politics and the way we’re governed. It’s got a really political thesis, but then avoids a lot of what makes that thesis political, becoming sort of a preaching to the choir deal. It’s actually a little hard to come up with much of an opinion on it because of all that, I’m really not used to that.

So, start from the beginning, does the story live up to its blurb? Yes and no. The actual blurb for the book doesn’t really say much, so it’s hard for the book to not fall into it. At the same time the book lacks a certain degree of coherency for much of its run which, in addition to making it feel like it could have been trimmed a good deal, also leads to it feeling very scattered in places. Several characters could have been worked in much better, but instead weren’t introduced until the last probably fifth of the novel. The same can be said for certain events not having enough lead up and so winding up feeling misplaced.

We also get some weirdness with the language of the book both in that Spinrad occasionally chooses to write in characters’ accents, something I’m not a fan of, and that multiple characters will more or less verbatim use really specific wording. That bit is very like being beaten over the head with propaganda, like video game levels of it that you’re supposed to know what it is so you don’t take it seriously, which doesn’t fit because it’s part of the book’s main idea. It feels clumsy or like Spinrad doesn’t trust his audience to get it.

Here’s the kicker, none of that singly or grouped together runs a serious risk of killing a book for me, at least not usually. He’s also got some stuff that’s usually near guaranteed to get me invested. There’s good character work, any number of scenes are strongly written and play well to the reader’s senses, and the weird cynical optimism often works in the book’s favor. It doesn’t set though. We get a lot of back story in the first half of the book, but a lot of its told rather than shown. The supernatural aspect is interesting and the in book discussion had potential, though I feel like maybe Spinrad could have used something other than the Loa or done more to actively show his work. I know next to nothing about Voodoo, so I could easily be missing the mark entirely on that one, but still. Even the character work falls flat in places with a later character’s focus on his religion making him feel very cardboard where he, if introduced earlier, could have been much more dynamic.

I’m sitting at the point where I can easily see people getting really into The People’s Police and any number of other people reading two chapters and reselling it. Its writing is technically pretty good but lacks flavor, for lack of a better word, and has enough little things that I’m just neutral on the whole thing. So that said, The People’s Police gets a three out of five.

Not posted on a Wednesday, but hey, I didn’t skip this week. Quick reminder that the giveaway for The People’s Police Giveaway is still going until midnight Sunday the 19th. This book’s one that I bought rather than being send to review. So, enjoy!

your-favorite-band-cannot-save-you-cover

Beautiful Remorse is your new favorite band. You couldn’t say why if asked. You couldn’t even really say anything about the lyrics. But their music does something for you. To you. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard, and their singer, Airee MacPherson. She’s fantastic, completely out of this world.  Strange things keep happening with each new track they release. Beautiful Remorse is your new favorite band, and your favorite band cannot save you.

Scotto Moore’s Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You: a tale in ten tracks is a quick fun read that’ll pull you along right to the end. The first two thirds of the book is solid genre fiction, but then it gets to a certain point and everything starts to feel kind of rushed. Think of it a little bit like a love letter to the Cthulhu mythos through the lens of modern internet culture.

There are a few bits that needed more attention throughout the book. Without that, the end isn’t a total big lipped alligator moment, but it does still feel under supported. I’d have liked more exposition on Aimee’s plan or the music itself, though the narrator’s limited knowledge goes a ways towards explaining that away.

My other big issue is with the characters. I legitimately cannot remember the narrator’s name or much of anything about him. The same goes for most of the characters that aren’t Airee, they sort of get lost in her or the music and just don’t come up again. I could easily say that this was a purposeful thing and that a big part of the point was a collective nothingness for humanity. It still doesn’t really work for me in the long run though, at the end of the day I’m still very much invested in character over plot.

More than anything, Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You reminds me of a B movie. Despite its faults, the story is aggressively readable and fast paced. It’s eyes off the action to build tension, which works well in a lot of ways. This is a book that could have been a lot better with a little work, but it doesn’t need it to be a fun book. If that makes sense at all. It’s fun, it’s fast, and at the end of the day I still really enjoyed it.

So, where does that leave us? While Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You has some issues, I still had a ton of fun with it. So, from me at least, it gets a four out of five.

Vanishing Girls

Just like me, I’m late posting this, only a day this time though. This is kind of an older book I’m reviewing today, sent to me by the publisher for an honest review. It took me forever to get done because I wasn’t having any time of it getting my words down. All that said, enjoy and have a happy Thanksgiving!

vanishing-girls-cover

Nick and her younger sister Dara used to be best friends, completely inseparable. That was then, before Dara kissed Parker. Before the accident. Nick hasn’t seen her sister since last summer and, if Dara has her way, it looks like it’ll be longer still before she does. But she’s got a job at the local amusement park to deal with and a friendship with Parker to try and patch up. It would be better if her sister would talk to her, but she’ll have to make do.

Vanishing Girls is the first Lauren Oliver book I’ve read, though I had heard of her before. I’m honestly not entirely sure how I feel about it, so this may go a little long. This is also going to be really spoilery because of the way the book and its official description have next to nothing to do with each other, also that talking about the twist is impossible without spoilers. So spoiler alert.

Our protagonists here are Nick, who’s been gone for a year living with her father, and Dara, her younger sister who used to be beautiful but is now horribly scarred by the car accident they were both in last summer. She blames Nick and refuses to so much as be in the same room with her. Nick gets most of the screen time here while Dara gets a few chapters to foreshadow the big twist and show the reader what a bad girl she is.

I lost interest in Nick pretty quickly, she has some promising moments, but the friendship with Parker felt super cringe worthy and they danced around their mutual attraction way too much. Dara wasn’t much better, the rebellious sister to Nick’s perfect daughter, the bad girl who got into partying with much older guys and wound up doing porn as a result. The side characters, particularly Alice, were much better written in a lot of ways and tended to feel more three dimensional. That might have been a less is more thing though, none of them got a lot of screen time.

The big twist, and the scenes immediately preceding it, is where the book lost me though. The plot doesn’t really start until past the half way mark, probably closer to the two thirds mark, so when it hits it feels really rushed. Kind of like the author was reaching her page count and needed to tie it all together so she could spring her big twist and reveal all. That just doesn’t work for me. We get that Dara is the trouble sister, that she acts out to get attention because she feels left out, but then we get this child porn ring plot nearly out of nowhere and Nick rushes off to save her sister from the thing. The possibility of this plot was only mentioned in some of the mini chapters that were formatted to read like an internet comments section in relation to the little missing girl sub plot that the book really didn’t seem to care about. It just doesn’t work. Then of course, we get to the twist and it’s just anti-climactic and weak.

This is the cornerstone of the whole book, the thing that this entire novel is written in service to. The twist hits at the height of the action and just kills all the momentum. So, spoiler alert again, but this whole time Dara’s been dead and Nick has trauma induced dissociative identity disorder and has been alternating between being herself and being Dara throughout the novel. Reading Vanishing Girls the first time through the foreshadowing for the reveal just wasn’t there. It took sitting around after finishing the book to start seeing hints. That combined with the momentum halting way the twist was introduced made it feel very, “surprise, she’s crazy!” To my mind at least, that means the twist was just not worth it. Better lead up would have helped, as it stands it feels very tacked on despite being the central key to the entire novel.

So, all that said, where does Vanishing Girls land? The book has good bones, they just weren’t filled in very well and it reads like a couple of them were shoved back in at the last moment. Some of the side characters are fantastic, which only serves to make the main characters that much more lack luster. I also take issue with the big twist being that the main character isn’t sane, that feels like a really outdated thing to use as the big twist and, again, it wasn’t pulled off well enough to justify itself. That said, I actually kind of enjoyed my initial reading of the book, kind of a turn off your brain thing. So, while I don’t know that it earns it, I’m giving it a three out of five.

The Family Plot

So, this seems like a good opener to Halloween season. I admit, this one feels a little rushed to me because I was trying to hit a deadline instead of just getting it done when I could. But I’m happy with how it turned out and hopefully you all will enjoy it.

the-family-plot-cover

Music City Salvage is in a bad way. Their stock has been standing on the shop floor for months and their last two big sales haven’t come through with payments yet. So it seems too good to be true when Augusta Withrow shows up offering the salvage rights to her family’s mansion and all its outbuildings. In a last bid to keep the lights on and stay in business Chuck Dutton, Music City Salvage’s owner, snaps up the rights and sends his daughter Dahlia and a hand full of workers to break down the site. The place is beautiful, an absolute gold mine for the struggling company. Unfortunately, once they arrive the team discovers that someone or something never left the house.

Cherie Priest’s The Family Plot is not what I would usually grab first on a trip to the bookstore. I’ve just not found a lot of horror that holds me for the long run. After this book, I’m going to have to reassess that.

A lot of the horror I’ve read in the past has relied on a gimmick to make the scary happen, which makes it pretty hit or miss if the gimmick works for you particularly, the scares work. The Family Plot doesn’t do that. It builds its ambiance and characters slowly, letting the reader get used to things and introducing minor bits. Then it builds.  This works really well for me. It also doesn’t shy away from its supernatural aspects; the ghosts are there right from the beginning just as a matter of fact. The house is old, so it’s haunted.

I’m also a big fan of what the author did with the characters. Because she took that same slow build approach she used for the horror aspects and applied it to character interactions and development as well. We start out with the main character Dahlia, her lay about Cousin Bobby, his son Gabe, and the new guy Brad. We don’t get huge blocks of back story on them, most of what’s told rather than shown is told using Brad as a window for the reader. Then that’s pretty quickly replaced with what’s shown and we get more in-depth.

That does bring me to one of the only issues I have with the book though. For all the good the author does with her build up, the follow through feels kind of scattered. Once the main plot hits we get some really cool ideas, but then it seems like they get passed by on the way to the climax. There’s also a bit near the end that the book could have done without, but that’s my only other big thing.

So, how does it all add up? I did really enjoy this book and would like to see more like it from Ms. Priest, but there were just those couple of things that prevent it from getting a full five. Tightening up some of the ideas used would have gone a ways, but could have also gone a bit far on the other side really easily. I think I would have also liked to have seen more of the team discovering the Withrow family back story. That said, the writing is good and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. So I think The Family Plot earned a four out of five.

After I don’t remember how long and don’t feel like checking to see, I return triumphant with a review of a book set in the world of one of my favorite video games. I did wind up having a few minor spoilers in the review, but it isn’t for anything big.

Valya is part of a group of mages on the run from their Circle, trying to save themselves from rogue templars by seeking refuge with the Grey Wardens. When they arrive the Warden Commander asks them to prove their worth through research, and find something anything of use to the Grey Wardens, so he has a reason to keep them there.

.
In Liane Merciel’s Dragon Age: Last Flight we have a book that feels like it should tell two separate stories, one of Valya the elven mage in the present and one of Isseya the elven mage, sister to the hero of the fourth blight. It feels that way, but then we get woefully little of Valya’s story in favor of letting Isseya’s story take over. Ideally both stories would have been entwined in such a way that each supported or even mirrored the other to some degree and lead to more development for all the characters involved . I actually kind of wish that the author had been able to split this into two books so we could get Isseya’s story in better detail, instead of with the big time jumps that I’m sure are from the diary format, and then the next book with Valya finding the diary, getting to know some of the other characters mentioned, and then going on her hero’s journey.

.
The story as it’s told is a nifty piece of lore, giving us the reason that griffins no longer exist in Thedas and giving the reader a story of the fourth blight. It gives the sense that the blight has been dragging on for years. Some of the battles are amazingly well done. Unfortunately it falls flat because of the switches between time periods and the time jumps in Isseya’s side of the story. The diary framing ties the story entirely to Isseya and the people directly around her at any given point in time, normally this isn’t a bad thing, but in this case it restricts the scale of the story making it feel less epic. It also has the tendency to make Isseya herself kind of flat, we aren’t reading diary pages with the book, but since it focuses so heavily on her trying to make the griffins more effective and the repercussions of that it leaves out a lot of who she is as a character. There are moments when character shines through but , again, they just serve to make me want more. Another facet of the focus being so heavily on Isseya’s story is Valya being there almost entirely to bring Isseya’s story full circle. She solves the puzzle, but we aren’t really shown her doing it. She befriends one of the former Templars, but we get one conversation when they first meet and the next time we see her they’ve been friends for months. It’s frustrating and it left me not caring about that set of characters.

.
All that said, the story is enjoyable and it is a nifty addition to the world of Dragon Age. It has moments where it gets bogged down in itself, which slows the plot, but brings focus to the hopelessness of the character’s situation. And when Merciel chose to focus on other characters for any length of time, she did a really good job quickly developing them and making them interesting, I’d like to read more of her if she does that in most of her books.

.
So, over all, I enjoyed Dragon Age: Last Flight and would probably read Liane Merciel again, but the book has some serious issues with over focusing. It’s a decent addition to the world’s lore that could have implications for Dragon Age: Inquisition or a later game, but that isn’t required reading for either one. I give it a three out of five.

Long, long after I initially decided to do this, I’m finally posting something about it. I’m going to be breaking this down a bit in terms of what I’m covering.  Because of the nature of the thing this is going to be full of spoilers, so, you know:

Spoiler Alert

General Feelings:

All You Need is Kill:  I covered this in my review, the book is a decent, solid piece of genre fiction.  It isn’t the best thing out there, but it’s also far from the worst.

Edge of Tomorrow:  I haven’t reviewed the movie, so this is the first time I’m saying much about it online.  It’s a summer blockbuster with more budget than it really needed and enough changes made from the source material that I’m not sure of the reasons behind.  It feels less like Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt as vehicles to tell the story and more like using the trappings of a story as a vehicle to use Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt to make money.  It was entertaining, but it wasn’t good.

Keiji vs Cage:

All You Need is Kill: Keiji starts the book a totally green, untested private who has to grow into a competent soldier over the course of two days with painful deaths as the reset point. He knows the people in his unit at least passingly even if they aren’t used much in the book, little things early on that serve to tell the reader that.  The loops change that, locking him in to trying to get a little better each time so he can get out and survive. Keiji can feel more than a little disconnected from the rest of humanity at times due to the time loop, but I feel that he’s shown to be a more or less heroic figure at the end when he takes up where Rita left off and vows to wipe out the Mimics once and for all.  He’s been forced to kill the only other person who understands what he’s been through to break the time loops.  He’s left an outcast for his actions during the battle, having not only killed Rita but also done tremendous amounts of damage to both the base and his fellow soldiers.  The thing is though, even with that, he’s going to keep fighting until the Mimics are gone or it kills him.

Edge of Tomorrow: Major Cage starts the movie seeming just kind of slimy.  He’s the guy shilling jackets to the world, talking about how they let someone as inexperienced as Rita Vrataski fight the Mimics and win. He’s a media suit with respectable rank who, when told he’s being sent to the front lines, jumps from trying to weasel his way out of it to trying to blackmail the General giving him his orders.  Cage isn’t a character I can really believe as keeping fighting after the first couple of loops, he’s the guy who thinks he can talk his way out of anything even as he digs himself in deeper and deeper.  Meeting Rita could be a tipping point there, he doesn’t become more heroic or anything like that, but he has a goal to work towards.  He finally sacrifices himself to kill the omega, ending the war and saving humanity, but even that winds up ringing hollow.

The Mimics:

All You Need is Kill: The Mimics in the book are these drowned frog looking things that were sent out by another more advanced race to teramorph the Earth and make it habitable for them.  So they look a little doofy, but they eat dirt and poop poison and when one dies so do all of the humans in the area unless they’re wearing proper protective gear.  It’s kind of cool.  They all look the same, but the ones that out put the signal to cause the loops stand out somehow.  It isn’t really covered how they’re identified, though it is revealed that if that one is killed the signal will switch to another mimic. So they keep that going and win anyway, unless a human gets caught up in it and keeps fighting until they manage to kill the signal mimic and all of the others that the signal could bounce to.

Edge of Tomorrow: I’m going to admit, the mimics in the movie look way more intimidating than drowned frogs, but they also seem to have replaced the just creepy poisonous innards with just speed and strength.  The movie also added two other types of mimics, a sort of alpha that has the time loop signal in it’s blood somehow and an omega mimic that sits and directs all of the others.  The alpha types I get, in a more visual medium it’s necessary to show that the signal mimics are different from the others.  The omega type just bothers me, it only exists so that the movie can have a clear cut happy ending.  The movie’s mimics also have to bleed on someone for the loops to pass on to them, so that’s different, but it also just seems to be there to make sure that the ending is happy enough.

Rita Vrataski:

All You Need is Kill: Book Rita is the Full Metal Bitch, and she earns the title from her first appearance onwards.  She turns up as Keiji is dying and makes meaningless small talk so that, when he kicks it, she can take the battery from his Jacket.  She distances herself from the other special forces members for thirty some hours prior to every battle, because she needs to distance herself from them in case she winds up in another loop.  But she’s also had her jacket painted bright red so that she’s the one the mimics are going after first.  She’s a lonely figure, unable to tell anyone about what she’s gone through because they could never understand.  When Keiji talks to her about the loops for the first or second time, she cries because she isn’t alone anymore.  She connects to him in that one day because he gets it.  The next day is the final battle of the book, she figures out why the loops continued after the two of them had killed the right mimics the last time, and she goads Keiji into a one on one duel because she knows one of them has to die to end it.  This is honestly something I had really wanted to see in the movie, because that would have been awesome.

Edge of Tomorrow: Movie Rita is the love interest, while she does get some really cool moments and is the one to ostensibly teach Cage to actually fight the mimics instead of just trial and erroring his survival, she isn’t as big a deal as book Rita is.  Part of this could be that we don’t really see the people in charge reacting to her like we do in the book, but I honestly thing that a bigger part is that she’s mostly there as a mix of the love interest and exposition.  Cage doesn’t wind up broken because they never win.  He gets broken by never being able to save Rita at the helicopter, no matter how many times they go through it or what he does, so he stops going to her for help until he realizes that the mental images he was being sent were a trap by falling head first into it.  The movie itself goes out of its way to give them semi-romantic moments because Cage is written as falling for her, the bit before her heroic sacrifice in the final loop is the worst offender.  They also made her British instead of American for the movie and got rid of most of her back story.  She really didn’t get a part of the movie where she was the hero instead of Cage.

The Ending:

All You Need is Kill: Keiji is out of his time loop and the battle is won, but Rita is dead and the mimics are still out there.  So he winds up with the American Special Forces to be their new weapon against the mimics.  The book ends with him essentially vowing to Rita that he’s going to keep fighting and planning what he’s going to do to keep going.  It’s sort of bitter sweet. I honestly really like this because the main character’s victory isn’t the be all end all win for humanity.  It’s a big win, but it isn’t THE win.

Edge of Tomorrow: It was all a dream.  The mimics mysteriously died before Cage even gets to meet the General and humanity is saved.  None of the sacrifices mean anything because they never happened.  No one but Cage remembers anything because it never happened.  There is no continuing threat to be overcome.  Nothing.  The omega is dead, it’s blood got on Cage’s body before he finished dying.  Everyone lives and Cage, now a Major again and out ranking her, goes to find Rita because he’s fallen for her.  End film on Cage giving a little smirk. I don’t like this for all sorts of reasons. Again, the sacrifices mean nothing in this ending so why should I care?  Cage doesn’t seem to have learned anything except maybe that he can get out of even that and, hey, Rita’s still alive this time.  That bit kind of plays to my issue of Rita seeming to have been down graded to love interest.  She doesn’t know him, has never met him, is out ranked by him, and without the mimics as a threat there really isn’t a reason for them to get to know each other beyond his having a thing for her. He holds all the cards here, she’s never met him but he knows all this stuff about her.  It’s weird for me, but the movie presents it as part and parcel of the happy ending, bad guys are dead and the hero gets the girl.

Ending Thoughts:

I liked All You Need is Kill, it was sparse and kind of dark and even where there was hope there was still further to go. Edge of Tomorrow,I liked OK, but it was less intelligent and more explosions and Cage getting shot in the face that made it fun.  I hands down don’t like Cage as a character and I don’t like how they handled Rita, but I did like the design for the mimics and the fight scenes were pretty awesome.  I’m gonna say that the book wins this one but that I would watch the movie again if it was on TV and I didn’t have anything better to do.

After at least five months, closer to six, of losing interest in the middle and general ambivalence towards everything I’ve finished reading a book.  This probably doesn’t mean a ton to the rest of internetland, but holy shit does it feel good to me.

So how was the second half of Edge of Tomorrow?  I really enjoyed the part focusing on Rita becoming the Full Metal Bitch.  I liked seeing her and Keiji connect and work together, it was kind of nice to see them both having someone who understood what was going on.  What I’m not a big fan of was the ending.  It isn’t that it was poorly written or that it didn’t fit the rest of the book, in fact if I’m being honest I don’t know that anything else would have really worked properly, but it wasn’t my favorite ending to a novel either.  It also struck me that revealing what the Mimics were made them feel a bit less, not threatening, but just less as a thing.

Overall, I enjoyed the book though and would read more by this author.  Not sure that I’m gonna go see the movie though.

So, I’m a bit late with this one.  Blame the kitten, Jonesy seems to have decided that the best toys ever are my hands and the cables to my laptop. It would be adorable if it didn’t make me worry that she was going to electrocute herself.  That aside, I’m back to working again and have another review partly done for either later this week or early next week.  All that said, this is a review for one of the books that I got last summer, so it isn’t entirely current.  Enjoy the review!

During World War 2 a group of English children were sent to a small town to keep them safe from the war.  In the time they were there each of them was entrusted with one of thirteen ancient artifacts for safe keeping.  These artifacts are all that stand between humanity and a realm of flesh hungry demons.  Fast forward to the present and the septuagenarian keepers are being killed off one by one and their artifacts stolen.  It will be up to bank teller Sara Miller to take up the broken sword and stop nothing less than the end of life as we know it.

Michael Scott and Colette Freedman’s The Thirteen Hallows had promise.  It wasn’t treading any new territory with the plot of hapless heroes with a magical MacGuffin trying to stop some big mysterious evil from destroying the world.  But there was way too much gratuitous stuff for it to be good, and it can’t all be attributed to the villains’ demonic alignment and the dark magic that they’re using to get at the hallows.  Plus, the characters each seem to be clutching their own personal idiot ball whether it is the detective who insists that Sara is an insane serial killer despite evidence to the contrary or the evil sorceress who can magically track our totally mundane heroine but can’t kill her and take the sword.  This is going to be one of the ones that I get a little long winded about because there’s a lot that could have used a second look.

So, the gratuitous stuff, it’s mostly violence and there’s some sex.  The violence could have been hand waved by saying that the levels of brutality used were necessary in every case that popped up, I think it was mentioned that the keepers had to be terrified and in agony for the magic to work.  But it wasn’t needed for the murder of Sara’s family or the random neighbor who tried to help the first on screen victim.  The sex might have been used once or twice for magic stuff, but mostly it seemed to play into the main villain’s being oh so evil just because they can be and sex is apparently the best way to show that.

Following that, the characters were flat.  The villains were evil because why not, the heroes were only the heroes because the plot needed them to be, and the police were really really dumb.  I can’t stress this enough, the characters were just poorly written and that bothers me.  I like my fantasy novels, or any novel I read for that matter to be character driven and these guys didn’t cut it. The main characters where flat enough that I almost started cheering for the villains, but they somehow managed to be even flatter again, evil for evil’s sake.  The worst case for me was the senior cop, Detective Inspector Fowler.  The writers needed a reason for Sara and Owen to stay on the run rather than turning to the police, this could have been accomplished by having the police laugh them off after they told them everything or by having the villains frame Sara for killing one of the officers that were investigating her family’s murder or any number of other things.  Instead, old cop digs in almost immediately and decides that Sara must be some kind of psycho killer despite her reactions indicating otherwise and the sheer number of statistics that suggest that women generally don’t kill people in that violent a manner.  If he had jumped on after the evil junky’s death, then I would be fine with it because people saw her do that.  On the other hand, the comparison between him and his partner, Sergeant Heath, made her one of the only characters in the book that I came anywhere near liking.

Speaking of Heath, the quality of descriptions in this book were also all over the place.  The reader gets lovingly written scenes of violence and gore and yet the only descriptions we really get for her were that she’s blond, butch, and nicer than her partner.  Again, if there had been better reason given for the attention to gore, like if the police were checking the crime scenes and slowly piecing together what was happening with bits of ritual that were left behind among all the blood and viscera.  That would have been cool, and could have given credence to Fowler’s insistence that Sara was a crazed killer until evidence piled up that it was the Dark Man and his sorceress accomplice or one of their underlings.  But it wasn’t, and that seems like a waste.

So, where does this leave me on The Thirteen Hallows?  It had potential, I can say that of it, but that potential was squandered on hollow characters and overall mediocre writing.  It was a fast read but more in a “when does this get good” way than a “this is amazing” way.  This was the first thing I’d read by either author and, while I’ve heard good things about both in reading to see who they were, it may be the last thing I read by either of them.  The ending left room for more books and anything I can find online suggests that there’s supposed to be a sequel at some point but I have a hard time seeing where I could go from here.  I’m giving this one a one out of five for characters that I couldn’t bring myself to care about and a story that couldn’t seem to decide what it was or what it wanted to be.

So, I’m back after only, what two months now?  I’m not dead.  A little zombified sure, but not dead.  So, behind schedule as always, being crushed slowly by work and classes and all that.  Nothing big, just the usual.  But I do have a review for you lovely people, isn’t that exciting.  Here we go and don’t mind the rust.

Amateur detective Anne Marshall and her fiancé Jason Perry are headed down to Florida for Thanks Giving vacation with his parents only to find that his mother’s best friend Maude has been murdered.  The only clue is a fragment of a nursery rhyme pinned to her shirt.  “Pocket full of poesies.”  Anne dives into the mystery, finding out that the victim’s brother had been killed months earlier with a similar note attached to his body.

Jackie Fullerton’s Ring Around the Rosy is, at its core, a book that doesn’t seem to quite know what it is.  It combines the out matched heroine of a cozy mystery with urban fantasy’s just kind of there magic with a romance novel’s dead end love triangle.  Anne makes for an interesting heroine because she knows that she shouldn’t be digging into the police’s investigation.  Her friends tell her not to, her dead father tells her not to, but she does it anyway apparently because she’s the heroine.  So she stumbles around trying to figure out what could cause someone to try to wipe out an entire family.  And of course she’s torn between the comfortable love that she has with her fiancé and the shock of lust she feels for Detective Reynolds.  She’s also teamed up with her father’s ghost who, despite later in the novel revelations about the nature of the other side, seems to mostly exist to be a plot dump and to comfort her about her attraction to Detective Reynolds.  So the book kind of feels mushed together between several genres in ways that don’t really work for me.

The villains are also a bit of a problem.   Carl Martin is teamed up with his own ghost, Jeremiah, in trying to murder this family.  This could have been awesome if the protagonists had been aware of Jeremiah earlier in the novel.  As it stands, Carl is being pushed to take revenge for Jeremiah because of their mutual dead families and grief, but Carl and the reader are the only ones aware of Jeremiah for the first three quarters of the book.  It makes it impossible for the protagonists to figure much out, so they spend pages and pages spinning their wheels until accidents happen to move the plot along.  Plus, again, Anne’s father was following people to find out as much as he could why, after they identified Carl, wasn’t he aware of the other ghost?  Especially given that Jeremiah seems to have known everything he needed to regardless of whether he should’ve or not.

Given all that, Ring Around the Rosy winds up being just sort of flatly mediocre.  It isn’t bad even with a few instances of overly romanticized dialogue and plot troubles, but it isn’t good either despite decent side characters and what could honestly be an interesting dynamic between Anne and her father.  So where does this leave me?  I’m honestly not sure.  As I’ve said, it isn’t a bad novel and some of my issues with it almost definitely come from having read it out of sequence, but I don’t think I would read the other two based on this one.  All in all, it’s a three out of five book that could have used some whittling down and focusing on its plot.

Scary School

Yet again, I’ve managed to be late with my review because of academic stuff and losing time to random friend things.  All in good fun, but still late.  On to the show!

Class is in session for Charles Nukid at Scary School where monsters run amok and being sent to detention could easily land you as lunch for a hungry T. Rex.

Derek the Ghost’s Scary School is an account of a year at the eponymous school, introducing the students and teachers and leading up to the much anticipated (and feared) Ghoul Games.  The book takes a chapter with each major character, focusing mostly on Charles but also spreading out so that each character including Derek himself gets some screen time.  This tends to make it feel more like a series of vaguely linked short stories rather than a novel.

I have to admit that while I enjoyed Scary School, I wasn’t a fan of how much it referenced itself.  While bringing something up and then referring to it coming up later does feel true to voice it gets annoying rather quickly when this is done in several chapters in a row.  I’m not terribly big on the insistence that certain things are or were scary but, yet again, it fits the voice.  I would definitely give Scary School to my little cousin when he learns to read on his own.

As far as rating Scary School goes, it’s enough away from what I usually read that I’m not entirely comfortable giving it a number rating.  It’s good enough that I’d want to share with the younger members of my family and it’s good enough that, aside from the annoyances I mentioned earlier, I don’t have any issues with it.  That said, I’m going to give Scary School a four out of five.