fantasy · reading

Coffin Not Broken When Zombie Rises

I was reading an Anita Blake book. She’s raised a zombie, put it back and now they are digging up the grave, to see if there are problems with the zombie.

So the characters dug and talked. If this was a modern grave, they would have to open the coffin. Even if something had gone wrong with putting the zombie back, they were perfectly safe because it would be in the coffin. Modern coffins are steel.

I am thinking: The zombie would have broken the coffin, steel or not, to get out in the first place. When you put it back, the coffin would still be broken.

It is so weird. So very, very weird.

Book Review · reading

Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

I never had to read To Kill A Mockingbird in high school. Just as well. The bulk of the books I was forced to read in high school were boring. To Kill A Mockingbird doesn’t really have the blood and mayhem like the Anita Blake books or the In Death series or David Weber’s books.

But, for banned book week, from September 30 2012 to October 6, 2012, I decided to read To Kill A Mockingbird.

It’s not as boring as I expected. It doesn’t have nearly the same level of suspense and tension as my preferred reads, but it wasn’t boring. Having said that, I don’t know if I’ll ever read it again.

To Kill A Mockingbird is supposed to be a first novel. Frankly, that’s hard to believe. It may be the first (and last!) novel published, but that doesn’t mean it’s the first novel Harper Lee wrote. To Kill A Mockingbird is written very well. It shows the growth of Scott – yes, despite the reviews stating none of the characters grew at all, there is character growth. It is gently shown, gently depicted, so gently you hardly notice it at all. It is all so well-done I can’t believe this is a first novel. I can’t even believe she stopped writing after she finished To Kill A Mockingbird.

I knew from the first sentence that the book took place during in the Depression. The family must have been truly rich before the Depression, to be able to afford a cook and housekeeper during the Depression.

At first, I thought Scout was a boy. Scout isn’t a name I associate with a girl. Plus, it’s the 1930’s, and she doesn’t act the way I imagined girls in the 1930’s acted. She’s a tomboy. I only realized Scout is a girl when someone says her full name. Than I thought: wow, she’s a girl. How wonderful.

I found a couple of things odd in To Kill A Mockingbird:

1)      Scout and her brother call their Dad by his first name: Atticus

2)      On her first day of school, Scout’s teacher is upset because she can already read and write. Part of me is not surprised because I, too, had a teacher who told me not to write in cursive since it hadn’t actually been taught yet. But I don’t understand a teacher who would be upset because her student could already read.

To Kill A Mockingbird is known for being a coming-of-age novel and it is banned for offensive language and racism.

I don’t think anyone can deny there is racism in the book, but the main characters are not racist. Quite the opposite. Many of the other characters are racist, and yeah, that undoubtedly influences the feel of the book.

Scout’s aunt’s group of ladies are supposed to be good, Christian women but in one breath they praise god, the next breath they make racist comments. They don’t see it, and yeah, I think that’s deliberate. I am not sure how Calpurnia (the black cook) stood it. I suppose she wasn’t causing waves, doing her job, stuff like that. Still. I am surprised Calpurnia was able to hold her tongue.

Then there is the whole trial involving Tom Robinson. It was a real trial, and the some of the characters say that was odd. Still. Apparently Tom Robinson never stood a chance. That’s probably what prompted his escape attempt – he didn’t believe justice was possible. The white girl was clearly lying, possible being molested by her own father (she did say kissing her father didn’t count, didn’t she? I don’t know. Possible child molestation there. Not sure.) But lying for sure and no one on the jury cared. It’s not hard to understand why Tom Robinson didn’t believe justice was possible for him.

So, yeah, there is racism in the book. But it’s not really depicted in a positive way. More tragic and sad. I really don’t think that is a reason to ban or try to ban a book.

Offensive language – yes, there is offensive language in To Kill A Mockingbird. Most of them involve race. Many times they are directed at Scout’s father for actually defending a black man. Scout uses offensive words to try and get out of going to school. (She fails in this attempt.) The offensive words don’t show up for no reason, and they don’t show up all that often, either. I really don’t think that is a reason to ban or try to ban a book, either.

I’d heard To Kill A Mockingbird is a coming-of-age novel, but I don’t think it is. At least, it doesn’t go far enough. To me coming-of-age means you are growing up and going through the worse trials of growing up. It’s the transition from childhood to adulthood.

At the beginning of the book Scout is 6 years old and 9 years old at the end. She grows a lot, learns a lot in those three years. 9 isn’t grown up. She still’s a child. At the end of the book, she’s puts herself in Boots’ shoes and regrets she never paid him back for all the little gifts he gave them.

But she still has a lot of growing left to do. She still has to go through the teen years, still has to go through High School. High School will likely be more difficulty than her life so far. Not least, because she still has to yet learn girl skills. Or maybe she doesn’t. But in the time she is living, being a tomboy will only draw criticism. Which sucks, yeah, but gender roles were a lot more fixed back then. I suspect stepping out of gender roles would be very very difficult and likely require all the wisdom she learned from her father. (He raised her to be who she is.)

Book Review · reading

Book Review: Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton

Blurb from Goodreads: When a fifteen-year-old girl is abducted by vampires, it’s up to U.S. Marshal Anita Blake to find her. And when she does, she’s faced with something she’s never seen before: a terrifyingly ordinary group of people—kids, grandparents, soccer moms—all recently turned and willing to die to avoid serving a master. And where there’s one martyr, there will be more…

But even vampires have monsters that they’re afraid of. And Anita is one of them…

So  . . .  I am done with Kiss the Dead. It didn’t take long to finish. As always, it moves fast and quick. I talked about it here when I just started.

What I liked best: the beginning.

She gets her butt kicked by a new vampire in the opening pages. 😉 It may be wrong of me, but I enjoyed it. It gave me hope for the rest of the book.

That hope was, by and large, fulfilled. Maybe because my expectations were low to begin with. LOL

Mostly, I just wanted a book that wasn’t driven by sex. That’s what I got. Oh, make no mistake, there was sex. But the first happened half way through the book and the second shortly after. I can’t tell you much about them; I am afraid I skipped past them. I don’t feel like I missed anything. As near as I can tell, there are no new guys.

I did pick up that by the end of Kiss the Dead, she has reached new levels of comfort with the youngest guy, the one she got as a kid in one of the previous books. (He’s eighteen now and about ready to graduate from high school. I cannot tell you much this relationship creeps me out.)

What I disliked: how Anita feels the need to point out she is small and tough every couple of paragraphs. Sometimes several times in the same paragraph.

The thing that surprised me the most is that they banished Asher for a few months. At the end, Anita has doubts about whether or not JC can really banish him. But I am hoping it happens. It’ll shake up their happy little life.

About the mystery: Anita does a lot of shooting. She does some things to scare the vampires into telling her what she want to know.

Some of the investigative part? I don’t know. Some of it feels iffy to me. Like it happens because the author needs to happen and there isn’t enough explanation.

I didn’t like the end. I didn’t dislike it, either. Oh, the mystery is solved; she goes deeper into her relationships. But it didn’t really satisfy. Something is missing, but hell if I can figure out what.

So . . . I am still going to read the next book.

General

Reading Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton

So I am reading the latest Anita Blake book: Kiss the Dead. (Also, I am really disgusted by the mental picture I get of Anita smooching a corpse.)

I started Kiss the Dead only yesterday, but it looks promising. A baby vampire gets the better of her in the first few pages. Amusing, since she usually kicks master vampire ass. Sometimes seduces them, too.

Anyway, there is one thing she repeats over and over: I am small and tough.

As if I had not read the same thing a few paragraphs up, a few pages back and in every single book that came before this one. Over and over and over. I am small and tough, small and tough, small and tough, small and tough . . . .

But anyway. My irritation isn’t enough to keep me from reading this new Anita Blake book, too. In fact, it looks more promising than previous books. I. E. she fights the baby vampire to the ground instead of seducing him into submission.

Not that this cover image exactly pushes the idea of the kick-ass vampire hunter. It’s looks more damsel in distress to me, but maybe that’s not Anita? I am not sure.

This line made me laugh:

Jesus, some people don’t enough balls to be undead.

As if balls are a prerequisite for being undead.

No sign of Olaf yet, but I am hopeful. Full review next week, when I am done.

General · reading

Favorite Reads of 2011

John is hosting a bloghop where you list the best books your read in 2011. Not books that were published in 2011, but ones I read this year. That’s good, as I read a few older books this year. 😉 I am listing them randomly.

I was going to post ten, but I can’t make up my mind on the last one. Decided to leave it out. I was between Bound by a Vampire Queen by Joey W. Hill or New York to Dallas by JD Robb.

  1. Hit List by Laurell K. Hamilton. In high school, the Anita Blake series was on my automatic read list. (I spent months waiting for the library to get me her backlist! Months!) But not lately because, well, the sex kind of took over. But this book is different; there is only 1 sex scene and there are signs the old Anita Blake is back. I put this book is on this list out of sheer relief. Hit List isn’t my last AB book! Plus, Edward and Olaf are in it. My favorite assassin and the smitten serial killer.
  2. Play Dead by John Levitt. This is the fourth and possibly last book in this series. Play Dead is on this list because he totally destroys his characters at the end. He takes away their magic. How many urban fantasies are there where the main characters lose all their magic? Not many. Got to admire that. Plus, it’s just a really good adventure.
  3. Twilight’s Dawn by Anne Bishop. This is a short story collection by Anne Bishop, set in her Black Jewels world. It is fantastic. It came out this year, but I’ve already reread each story several times. I even blogged about it here.
  4. Divide & Conquer by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux. This is the fairly intense romantic suspense,  fourth in the series and the last one Madeleine Urban is cowriting. Abigail Roux is on her own from here on out. The main characters, Ty and Zane, are FBI agents and partners. Zane finally admits he loves Ty. Ty thinks it’s passion talking at first, but he believes Zane the second time. 😉 IMO, it’s got just the right mix of romance and suspense. Bombs and robberies and mischief. Plus, Ty comes out to his friends from when he was a marine.
  5. Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay. This is the first book I’ve read by him and it blew me away. It’s hard to describe.  The world is inspired by China’s Tang dynasty. The premise sounds ridiculous – a gift of 250 horses turns the main character  into a target – but it’s not. The world is gorgeous, I like the main character. It’s not the fastest book in the world and the ending is a bit rushed, but it is still pretty amazing. The way he switches between present and past tense is pretty interesting. I am going to read his other stuff soon.
  6. Carnelians by Catherine Asaro. This is the latest in a series I’ve been following for a long, long time. Don’t recall how many books there are, but a lot. It brings together ideas from books she wrote a long time ago. With this book, I can believe peace is finally possibly in this world. Maybe not in the character’s lifetime, but at some point.
  7. Dune by Frank Herbert. Still as good as the day it was first published. 😉
  8. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. This is the book I wanted all of last year (and the year before that!). It is a middle book and has some of the symptoms of a middle book, but I am not disappointed. Considering how long I’d wanted it and how excellent the first book was, that’s saying something.
  9. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen. I posted something on G+ and a few people recommended this book to me. I read the preview on Google Books and then decided to get the whole thing. I learned lots and lots of things I never knew before. Some of it bears a little more investigation on my part, but still worth reading.
reading · Writing

No Plot? No Problem?: What You Like In A Book

The book No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty poses this question: What, to you, makes a good novel?

This is supposed to a pre-NaNo list, and this is probably a bit late. Not only am I deep into my NaNo, but so are a lot of other people.

But I like the question and even if I wasn’t doing NaNo, it is still good to answer it, huh? Or come as close as I can.

  1. vivid description
  2. interesting characters
  3. good world-building
  4. interesting premise (i.e. something that doesn’t make think: Oh, it is like that book/movie/show)
  5. at least one character I would love to follow through the whole book/series.

Having made this list, I realize one thing: plot isn’t in this list.

Oh, yes, I say something about premise. But that’s vague and could be almost anything really.

The books that I remember, that I talk most about, are the ones with something else.

When I tell people about the Anita Blake books, I say: Anita Blake raises zombies for a living. Sometimes they are used for legal issues, wills and insurance, even criminal cases. She also kills vampires, but they are legal, so she needs a court order before she can kill them. I also tell them to avoid the later books, just stick with the first 8 or 9.

I say nothing about the plot. Well, those things could be plot points (and are sometimes) but I almost never describe a whole plot to someone.

So I guess plot isn’t all that not important to me in the books I read. That is just such an odd thought.

Does anyone else describe books like that to other people?

Book Review · fantasy

Book Review: Hit List by Laurell K. Hamilton

Warning: spoilers ahead. Do not read if you object to being spoiled. Repeat, do not read if you dislike spoilers.

Old Anita is back! At least, this is the closest to Old Anita Blake I have seen, well, I can’t remember since when. LOL

I cannot tell you how happy I am. This whole book, there is only one sex scene. Count it, just one sex scene with one guy. Okay, yeah, he’s a new guy, but I am too happy to look this gift horse in the mouth. It’s such a relief!

She’s away on Marshall business; the Harlequin are killing people. They (Anita and Edward) can’t tell anyone who the killers are, but it’s their job, so they need to do something. Lots of action ensues:  firefights, chases. As always, Edward packs a tremendous amount of firepower. I always enjoy seeing what new weapons he will bring out.

I think Edward is one of the reasons why Hit List is so good. She is out-of-town. Her usual sweeties are not there and she’s better at controlling the ardeur (explains the lack of sex) . Plus, there is Olaf to mix things up. The bodyguards actually guard Anita instead of doing other stuff.

I really like Edward. He and Anita have both changed since the first book and this book makes clear their relationship has changed, too.

The ending sort of uses the ardeur, but also the power from the insane vampire from the last Edward book (OB). It wasn’t a huge fight scene, but not that bad.  Think it lacked firepower. Also, the way she was kidnapped was a little disappointing.

The biggest surprise:  Olaf becomes a weretigter. The usual end-of-book summary says this and that he’s kidnapped an Anita Blake lookalike. The next book might put an end to the Olaf situation once and for all.

But Anita can call tigers to her . . . what odds do you give Olaf will be able to resist Anita’s siren call?

Grade: B

reading · Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday: Bullet

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser:

Her eyes widened and she struggled. I leaned on the joint a little more, and it stopped her moving. I couldn’t grow claws and discipline her like a real queen, but I could do something most dominants couldn’t do. It was a rarer gift, and depending on how you did it, it hurt more.

– Bullet by Laurell K. Hamilton

reading

Wondering if I Should Finish Reading Bullet

I’ve had Bullet by Laurell K. Hamilton for months now. I just haven’t read it because the last book, Flirt, was so disturbing. But the next book comes out soon, so I figured I should give Bullet a try.

The picture is promising; no where as suggestive as some of the covers. So is the beginning. They are at a kid’s function and not even Anita Blake would risk sex when a bunch of little kids could burst in on her.

Than she gets home and it becomes all about sex. Asher starts posturing (he’s not feeling the love!) and JC almost, almost does him as a way to make him feel better. I am surprised he’s not already doing him. But not that surprised, because who knows what AB will do? She does react oddly sometimes.

Lo and behold, Richard walks in. He’s being all nice and accommodating and not at all like himself.  I am just, WTH? Than, then, all of them start doing it. Richard goes further with Asher than I imagined possible for him.

I stopped there and started skimming through the book. I found nothing but sexual touches, scenes, stuff like that. As I haven’t actually read any more, I can’t say if there is any actual sex.

But I am not sure I want to continue reading. I’m afraid of what I’ll find. The last book involved a minor and I am almost off this series. I really am. If I finish reading Bullet, it won’t be for a while. If I never finish (a distinct possibility!) I will not be getting the next book. I will be done. I discovered Anita Blake in high school, but I’m nearing the end.