Friday, September 25, 2015

The Miniaturist—Jessie Burton

The funeral is supposed to be a quiet affair, for the deceased had no friends. But words are water in Amsterdam, they flood your ears and set the rot, and the church's east corner is crowded. (1)
Marin has swallowed time, and on the map of her pale skin, Nella cannot find the clue of when she sank and how she disappeared. (351)
I've been hearing a lot about this book since it came out, I have seen it repeatedly on the recently arrived section at my local library, and the cover is entrancing. So I finally picked it up and zoomed through it. It was so intriguing and perfectly mysterious and juicy, showing us a little slice of life of—we discover—a rather unorthodox Dutch family.

In Amsterdam in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman has arrived in her new role as wife or a Dutch businessman. She's barely met him and has never met his surly sister or servants/household members. She's had even less experience with men. But she knows that her new husband, Johannes Brandt, should be coming to her room to take care of his husbandly duties—and so she can take care of her wifely duties. But he doesn't, instead gifting her with a miniature version of her new house to fill and use as practice for managing the larger version. While pondering this, Nella also has to navigate her relationship with Marin, Johannes' sister, who is used to managing the household, and keeping secrets. Otto and Cornelia, the two servants of the house, complete the strange little family; Nella is especially surprised that Otto is African, as she's never seen an African man before. But perhaps the biggest mystery is the miniaturist, to whom Nella sends away requests and receives more than she asked or bargained for.

Oh boy, this book had so much more going on than I could have anticipated. There were a couple of reveals that I guessed hundreds of pages earlier—like Marin's pregnancy, which isn't hard to guess at if you have any experience with recognizing symptoms of pregnancy.

But despite some later predictabilities, I was caught right from the beginning with that beautiful piece of metaphorical imagery—"words are water." Although it does lose its impact a bit when used multiple times—Burton uses the same phrase again on page 149—it is the perfect metaphor for the occasion and for the setting in Amsterdam, a city surrounded and built upon water.

And despite those predictabilities, there were a number of reveals I did not see coming. Perhaps the most poignant fact of this book is how similar the issues are that Nella is dealing with to the issues that we still deal with and debate today. When Nella first finds out that *spoiler* Johannes is actually gay and she is his unknowing beard, she immediately recoils and remembers all of the vitriol she has heard against men in relationships with men. (It probably doesn't help that Nella isn't just told that Johannes is gay, but discovers him in his office receiving oral sex from a younger man...) But after approaching Marin with anger and rage at being pushed into an arranged marriage that will never allow her to live "as a proper woman," this exchange occurs:
In the heavy silence, Marin collapses slowly like a puppet, arms and neck slack, chin to chest. "Do you know what they do to men like my brother?" she says. "They drown them. The holy magistrates put weights on their necks and push them in the water." A wave of devastation seems to draw down Marin's body. "But even if they dragged Johannes back up and cut him open," she says, "they still wouldn't find what they wanted.""Why not?"Tears start to strand on Marin's pale cheeks. She presses her hand to her chest as if to ebb her grief. "Because it's something in his soul, Petronella. It's something in his soul and you cannot get it out." (150)
And later, Nella thinks to herself that although she was taught that sodomy was a crime against nature, "how right is it to kill a man for something that is in his soul? If Marin is right, and it cannot be removed, then what is the point of all that pain?" (156)

Unfortunately, this debate over the nature and "rightness" of homosexual relationships still continues. The uncomfortable feeling that is Nella's impulse when she discovers Johannes' secret is still present in a large number of our population. However, we don't quite have to worry these days about institutionalized death penalties as a result if it is discovered that someone is gay, which is what Nella has to deal with. Just as she comes to respect and admire and even love her new husband, she must deal with losing him when he is accused of sodomy and sentenced to death by drowning.

Further, we find out that Marin and Otto were in a relationship, and Marin is pregnant as a result. Interracial relationships are much more acceptable now in the United States than they were forty or fifty years ago, but there are still places where interracial couples get stares/glares in public. The struggle for Marin in thinking about the quality of life for her child as a mixed race baby is also something that is especially relevant to today's life. As much as we hope and wish that we lived in a "post-racial society," it's becoming ever-more evident that is not the case. Marin wonders how she can consider bringing a child into a world that is only going to despise and misunderstand it, which is a sentiment I hear often from mothers of mixed or minority children.

Although the miniaturist is a mystery that is never quite solved, it is perhaps the least interesting happening in the story—which is saying something, because it was pretty darn interesting. Nella sends away for a few things to start occupying the doll house that Johannes has given her, and receives more than she requested—including some eerily familiar pieces, like exact replicas of the chairs that sit in the dining room, or perfect miniature versions of Johannes' two dogs. Has the miniaturist been here before? Is he watching them? I actually thought that it might have been that the miniaturist had a relationship with somebody in the house, and thus had intimate knowledge of its details, but turns out several people in Amsterdam had been ordering with the miniaturist and getting extra special pieces. So that couldn't be it. Then we find out that *gasp* the miniaturist is actually a woman. A woman? Working on her own as a tradesperson? Shocking! But how does she know about these little things that go in people's houses? Well, we never really find out. That remains a mystery.

Even despite the fact that one of my least favourite things, an event that is almost always sure to make me hate a book, happens here which is violence towards animals. There's a point at which Johannes' lover comes to the house to threaten Nella and Marin, and as they're finally getting him to leave, he stabs Johannes' favourite dog in the skull. What?! What is wrong with you, man?!

That's three or four big revelations right there, but there are still secrets to discover in this book.

Pepper a surprisingly relevant 300-year-old story with remarkable words and imagery, and you'll get five stars from me every time.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Magic Study—Maria V. Snyder

"Of course. I chopped Yelena's bow into firewood," Leif joked.
"You took me by surprise. I didn't want to hurt you," I shot back.
Leif looked dubious.
"How about a rematch?""Anytime."
Valek stepped between us. "I'm beginning to wish that you were an orphan, love. Can you both manage to focus on the task at hand without trying to catch up on fourteen years of sibling rivalry?" (375)
I read the first book in this series, Poison Study, as part of VF Rewind, and loved that one, so I wanted to continue in the series. After this one, I'm not sure I'll be so eager to be moving forward because it just did not live up to that first book.

After having found out that she was kidnapped and brought to the north in Poison Study, and having found that she has magic, Yelena is on a quest to learn more magic and to be reunited with her family. However, every experience that she thought would be groundbreaking and life-changing seems to fall flat: when she meets her family, it doesn't really seem to fit; when she gets to the magic school in Sitia, she feels isolated and derided. To be fair, part of that may be that she seems to always be getting into "situations," the fact that she is basically considered Ixian (of the north), and that she seems to have a strange affinity for magic that rivals even the Master Magicians. Interestingly, the other magicians don't seem to mind when she has skills that are helpful to them. She must navigate the new politics of her situation—including an Ixian prince wannabe. It's definitely not going to be easy.

Many of the things that I loved in Poison Study were completely negated or nonexistent in this sequel. Valek, who was one of my favourite characters and whose relationship with Yelena I found really interesting, is barely present in the book. When he is present, rather than the cunning adviser and strategist, he seems to be—as one of the reviewers on Goodreads put it—a "stud stand-in" for Yelena, following orders and providing her his strength. It was completely un-interesting to read.

Yelena fell into a Mary Sue situation for me, with her immense power that she seems to be able to tap into with little to no training. And she has ALL the powers that magician's possibly possess. I am willing to be flexible when it comes to magical prodigies, because prodigies exist in the real world, but when you make it entirely unrealistic even with any stretch of the imagination, I just can't get on board with that. One of the most compelling things to me about her in the first book was that she so clearly DOESN'T KNOW. She doesn't know about poison, and then Valek trains her. True, she learns pretty quickly, but not automatically. She doesn't know any self defense or have any training, so she asks Ari and Janco to train her. She still is not great at running, but she finds a particular style that suits her and builds on that. All of that industrious, curious, inquisitive nature seems to have gone completely by the wayside.

But without Yelena, we would never have been introduced to Kiki, and she was one of my favourite characters. Kiki is Yelena's horse and because Yelena can do everything, she can also communicate telepathically with animals. As such, we get an inside look at Kiki's thoughts, and she was just sarcastic and short (as animals with limited vocabularies are wont to be). Loved her.

One other thing I really liked was the juxtaposition of politics in the north and the south. In the north, where Yelena spent most of her life, everything is very regimented and controlled; it's basically a dictatorship, with some meritocracy thrown in. BUT all of the citizens are cared for and nobody goes hungry or has to beg for assistance. So it's a bit of culture shock when Yelena comes "home" to Sitia and is immediately accosted by dirty children begging for money. It's more of a democracy in the south, but for some reason that also means that those who are in need are not heard. (Sounds familiar...) It was interesting because in each of the locations, it is emphasized to Yelena that the other is completely worthless and has no value. Her reflections on the two situations reveal that neither is exactly true.

Perhaps one of my biggest problems is how easy Snyder seems to be with the raping. Everyone is getting raped, and it is dealt with in a completely casual, offhand manner. I understand that, in this book's setting, rape is probably a fairly regular occurrence, as awful as that is. (Let's be honest, even in our modern-day setting, rape is a fairly regular occurrence.) But even so, it could be treated with a modicum of the gravity that it is owed.

If that wasn't enough, all of the "bad guys" in the book are entirely one-dimensional. Everyone that is fighting Yelena is very outspoken about being so, with no attempt at cleverness or subterfuge. And I have to say, I'm done with the torture-loving, raping magician scenario. That was exactly the case in the last book, and one of the villains in this book was almost a carbon copy. Find something new and interesting, maybe somebody who has other motivations than rape and who is more secretive about coming after Yelena.

Finally, the last 100 pages or so felt VERY disjointed, and almost like an entirely different book. I just...maybe there's some set up there for something that's coming down the pike, but I did not understand what purpose those pages served.

As I said in my initial Goodreads review, I gave it three stars for the potential of the series, and would have probably given this book a two star rating on its own. I'm hoping the next book will redeem this one, but I probably won't find out for a while.

Moon Called—Patricia Briggs

A Vanagon resembles nothing so much as a Twinkie on wheels; a fifteen-foot-long, six-foot-wide Twinkie with as much aerodynamic styling as a barn door. (66)
I was initially drawn to this book, and voted for it in the VF forum on Goodreads, because it's set in Washington State (love) and the protagonist is a VW mechanic. I don't love the cover, but I forgive it because of those two things; my dad grew up in my grandfather's exclusively VW-bug shop mechanics shop, so VW mechanics hold a special place in my heart.

But after that first instinct to be into the book after reading the description, I realized that there had been a Mercy Thompson story in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe (last December's alt pick) and I remembered not loving it. At one point, the characters refer to Africa as "The Dark Continent" which I have a real problem with, and also refer to people of Asian descent as Oriental. So not exactly a politically forward author, it seemed.

However, I didn't notice any issues like this with the full-length novel version of Mercy Thompson, so I'm hoping that was an anomaly and the rest of the series will be racism-free.

I went back and forth on how I felt about Mercy. I like that she's tattooed, I just wish it wasn't quite so stereotypically done. I like that she's a mechanic and independent, but I'm also a little fed up with the isolated supernatural ladies. Why do they so often have no friends, let alone any close female relationships? Ugh. It made a bit more sense for Mercy, as a woman in a mostly male-dominated world, with fellow shifters, but still...

There are some interesting and different mythologies here with some supernatural beings that are sometimes VERY tired (namely vampires and werewolves), so that was nice to read. I love urban and supernatural fantasy, but if I read the same sad vampires and werewolves one more time, with absolutely no creative eye to their natures, I'm going to throw that book across the room. There were also some exciting action-filled moments in this book, which was awesome, and they were handled well and easy to follow, which is not always true of urban fantasy action sequences.

There were a few issues I had with geography, like when Mercy says that her mom tried to guilt her into driving UP to Portland, when in fact Portland is south of the Tri-Cities...although maybe that has more to do with regional language in relation to the author than anything else. I also didn't appreciate the tiptoeing around the swearing. Damn isn't even a curse word (at least in my mind) and yet characters apologized when they used it. Really? Can't we all just be grown ups, especially if there are going to be intimate situations happening.

I thought Samuel's treatment of Mercy when she was a teenager was completely messed up. I mean, I understand his reasoning, but still, children above all other considerations? Are you really that vain? Ugh.

When you get right down to it, I felt kind of meh about the book, even though I rated it four stars on Goodreads. That rating was reflective more of the potential in the series rather than my thoughts on this first book. Despite my ambivalence, I decided to continue with the series anyway. They're quick and they're like popcorn. Like the junk food of literature. Thus far I've read the second in the series, Blood Bound, and have the third, Iron Kissed, on my Kindle waiting to be read. I'm interested to see what happens with Stefan, and to hopefully find out more about Mercy's origins and the nature of walkers (since she seems to be the only one still in existence).

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell—John Crawford

I went to the gas station yesterday to buy some cigarettes. An Arabic man was working behind the counter. He turned when he heard the door chime and gave me a broad smile. I walked out. I never wanted to hate anyone; it just sort of happens that way in a war. (157)
I was watching the Month of Zen, The Daily Show's month-long retrospective before Jon Stewart left (which gives you an idea of just how long this draft has been just sitting, since he left the show over a month ago, and I read this book two weeks before that...) John Crawford was one of Jon's guests in the mid-2000s and talked about this book that he'd written. I had this same problem throughout Jon's reign, which was that I just want to read ALL THE THINGS that he ever talked about or had guests talk about on his show. (To be fair, I always want to read ALL THE THINGS, and The Daily Show just gave me an excuse to indulge.)

So I decided to check my local library and find a number of the books featured and try to read them all. Somewhere I'm sure there's a wiki or something that includes all of the books that were ever peddled on The Daily Show. I will find it, and I will read them all. But I started with this one.

This book was difficult to read, partially because it's about war (which I continue to not completely understand) and partially because Crawford has a remarkably candid way of showing how callous war can make perfectly normal, caring people.

John Crawford was barely out of his teens when 9/11 happened and he enlisted in the military. Then, through some series of unfortunate events, got stuck in the Middle East for almost three years.

In a series of semi-connected chapters, Crawford shares memories of his time in the Middle East. From his deployment, to his multiple and extended tours, to the difficulty of returning to "regular" life, he is unapologetically crass and forthright. He doesn't sugarcoat the lack of empathy that many soldiers have for the civilians in the areas where they are stationed. As the pull quote above notes, nobody plans to hate anyone, but that's what happens during war sometimes. I would imagine that people who survived World War II had similar feelings —unintentionally or otherwise—about Germans, even if they had no connection to the Nazis.

I have very seldom found a book that is written in this style, from the point of view of someone who was actually a soldier in the war—rather than stateside making the decisions. It was quite the insight, and one of the best looks into the boots-on-the-ground, infantry-level military men that I have ever read.

I'll end with a quote from the book, which was in turn pulled from Hermann Goering's testimony at the Nuremberg Trials. It feels especially poignant in light of the nature of the United States' involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Naturally, the common people don't want war, but after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.
Hermann Goering, Speaking at the Nuremberg Trials after World War II (171)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My Life as a White Trash Zombie—Diana Rowland

"Yeah, I know my damn name," I snarled. "It's Angel Crawford." I wanted to add, And you can write it down with the pencil that's stuck up your ass, but I managed to hold it back. I knew that nurses had the power to make your life suck worse than it already did, and it was clear that this bitch considered me to be one step away from starring in my own loser reality show. Screw her. I was at least two steps away. (2)

Part of Vaginal Fantasy Rewind

This was the main pick when Dearly, Departed was the alt. I have to say, I didn't think I was going to like this one, because generally something naming itself white trash is not something I'd be into. But I really enjoyed this one. Also, how badass is this cover?

If you look in the dictionary under "loser," you'd find a picture of Angel Crawford. She can't hold down a job, her dad's an alcoholic who occasionally verbally abuses her when he's had one too many, she has a sort of boyfriend who she doesn't really care about. But for some reason, her life seems to get back on track after she dies and wakes up in the hospital after having been found naked on the side of the road. Angel's now a zombie, although it takes her a minute to admit that to herself. Now, she has a job in the coroner's office—procured for her by a mysterious entity—she has easy access to life-sustaining brains, she's actually able to pay some bills, she's moving away from the deadbeat boyfriend. But working in the coroner's office, she can't ignore the corpses that keep showing up sans heads. As a zombie, she has an idea of where those heads, and their delicious delicious contents, may have gone. Angel thinks another zombie is behind the deaths, but she couldn't be more wrong.

I definitely started out not liking Angel, but that's kind of the point. Although she doesn't have her life together—which I can totally relate to—she's also not doing anything to change it. Until she's a zombie, she continues in the same self-destructive patterns over and over. For example, when she relates about one of her criminal encounters before zombie time, when her erstwhile boyfriend hooks her up with a guy who sells her a "nearly new Toyota Prius" for 500 dollars. Angel says she had a "feeling" that it wasn't a legit business deal. Really? You had a "feeling" that 500 dollars for a basically new Prius wasn't legit? What insight.

But after Angel is zombified, she really works on getting her life together. For the first time, she has a steady job. She has a legitimate paycheck. She has the opportunity for a long-term career that she actually enjoys in a field that is perfect for her...situation.

She also has the chance to get away from her sometimes boyfriend, who, similar to Angel before zombie, has no desire to change his life. Luckily enough, there's also a cute sheriff's deputy who *spoiler* is also a zombie, the one who set her up with the job at the coroner's office, and ends up with her in the final battle against his zombie hunter best friend.

It also reminded me a lot of iZombie, which the ladies talked about a bit during the Hangout. At the time the book club read White Trash Zombie, iZombie was still a comic and wasn't yet a television series. But that's how I came to it, and found it a really intriguing premise. So really anytime that I get a different vantage point or mythology related to zombies, I'm into it.

I agree with Felicia that it took me a little bit to get into, but once I got into it, I was excited to see where Angel ended up. I'm looking forward to reading further in this series, but I'm not desperately scrambling to get to the second one. I also agree about the texture of the brains...but I think you'd figure it out eventually.

Watch the Hangout below!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Uprooted—Naomi Novik

Our Dragon doesn't eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that's not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he's still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we're grateful, but not that grateful. (1)
Uprooted was the main pick for Vaginal Fantasy in the month of August, in the year 2015. It was a forum pick this month, and I have to say, good job us!

Agnieska is one of the girls in the valley, the valley from which the Dragon makes his pick once every ten years. The people of the valley allow the Dragon to take one of their girls, because he in turn protects them from the corrupted Wood. But Nieshka's not worried—everyone knows that the Dragon will take Kasia when he comes. So although she's not worried for herself, Agnieska mourns that she will soon lose her best friend in Kasia. But Agnieksa fears the wrong things, because when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will take.

The pull quote above is  the opening paragraph of the book. Along with it's following paragraph, they are the most intriguing beginning to any book that I've read in a long time. Uprooted is also the closest thing to an old school fairy tale that I've read in a long time, maybe ever; not just with regard to content, but also with regard to writing style, level of prose, and structure. Instead of using an overabundance of dialogue in order to explain things, there were actual descriptions, exposition. It was one of my favourite things about the book. I find that many authors rely on dialogue to tell the story for them, which feels lazy. Of course it's easy for a character to say, "I'm just going to monologue for a while to give you background about myself in a covert way, rather than having any sense of discovery there." Likewise, the setting and choice of language were deliberate and added to the fairy tale feeling.

This is especially true in the last fifty pages or so, when the origin of the Wood is revealed. The lore and mythology that was created was so heartbreaking and touching. As a tree hugger, I empathized with the Wood, and had I been Agnieszka, could see myself reacting similarly following the final battle. It's summed up when the Wood-queen explains, "They cut them down. They will always cut them down. They come and go like seasons, the winter that gives no thought to the spring." (419) Even though this is a fairy tale, it still rings true to the way that we humans treat nature and the world around us in general. Treating our resources as neverending is going to come back to bite us—already is, really—just as it did for the valley folk in this book.

There were some in the forum who felt that Dragon's background wasn't fleshed out enough. I actually didn't have a problem with that. I thought the one story that we got about his past gave us a fair amount of background. Use that, and a little bit of understanding about human nature and reactions, and you can figure him out with not much trouble. After all, we'd all probably be surly and antisocial if we were consigned to a tower in the woods, constantly fighting a losing battle by yourself, with no assistance, and ordered to train young women with magical aptitude. And if you only ever interact with a person who is essentially your captive, you probably aren't going to be super interested in explaining things, or even really remember the subtleties of human interaction. I also think that Sarkan was surprised and frustrated by Agnieszka's powers, because he had worked so hard and so long with his own style and then everything seemed to come so easy for her. Somebody like that would probably be quite frustratingly intoxicating and alluring. I saw it as his way of dealing with these foreign and uncomfortable feelings that he was constantly antagonizing her. Kind of like a second grader who pushes the girl he likes into the dirt. I don't think it's necessary to get a dissertation on the Dragon to understand why he is the way that he is. Agnieszka even says it towards the end: He wasn't wrong, and the Wood-queen wasn't dead anyway; she was only dreaming. But he wasn't going for the sake of corruption or the kingdom. His tower was broken, he'd drunk Spindle-water, and he'd held my hand. So now he was going to run away as quick as he could, and find himself some new stone walls to hide behind. He'd keep himself locked away for ten years this time, until he withered his own roots, and didn't feel the lack of them anymore. (423) Pretty stereotypical man in that way, running away from his feelings.

Like others mentioned in the forum, it did seem as though Agnieszka's powers manifested quickly and powerfully, but I didn't see that as such an outlandish thing. A big part of it seemed to be that she was more free, less restricted when it came to the magic. And there are examples of prodigies such as her even in our own mundane world. I appreciated her sense of agency and independence. When she and Sarkan finally get steamy, she is the one who initiates. She also is the one who takes her own path, and decides to work on healing the Wood after its history is revealed. She cares little for how others may perceive this choice of hers, doing instead what she feels is right and is within her power to do. I admired her for that.

The only things I didn't love were Agnieszka's time at court—which seemed to last about fifty more pages than it needed to—and the very end, when Sarkan comes back. I didn't think that was necessary, and likened it in my mind to the epilogue in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Even with those few small caveats, I LOVED this book. I'm glad that I bought it in hardcover, because I will treasure it, recommend it to others, and read it regularly throughout the years, I'm sure.

Watch the monthly Hangout below to see what the VagFan ladies (and Veronica's Sword and Laser co-host and special guest, Tom Merritt) thought. I have to say, I love the main four ladies, but I am digging the guests, especially the Toms the last two months.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Georgina Kincaid Series—Richelle Mead


In the last few months, I'd found nicotine was one of the essential things helping me cope. Other things on the essential list: vodka, Nine Inch Nails, a steady supply of moral men, and an all-purpose bitchy attitude. (Succubus Heat, 1)

I read Succubus Blues, the first book in this series, for VF Rewind, and it was so quick and interesting that I immediately read the remaining five books in the series. (The fact that it's partially set in a bookstore in Seattle had nothing to do with it...said the liar.)

Boy, was I disappointed by the time I finished the series.

The second and third books were okay, but it was pretty much downhill from there, with a book that was entirely useless to the overall plotline of the series.

In the second book, Succubus on Top, Georgina and Seth are making a go at a relationship. A few caveats: they can't actually have sex because she'll steal parts of his soul, and on top of that, she still has to have sex with other people in order to gain energy and fulfill her responsibilities to Hell. But even with those obstacles, things are going okay until Georgina's old incubus friend Bastien comes to town. She's known Bastien for centuries, and now he needs her help to corrupt a local conservative radio show host in order to get him back in Hell's good graces. Unbeknownst to Bastien, that host has no interest to him and will never succumb to his incubus charms, because she's actually a closet lesbian. But you'll never guess who does succumb to Bastien's incubus charms? Georgina. When he morphs himself into Seth, she just can't resist. And you know who's totally cool with the whole situation? Seth. Because he's not a human person, he's actually an android without human emotions, like jealousy or anger. (That last part's not true. Seth is totally a human. He just seems to be the perfect man for Georgina.) There's also a B story line about a god who's in town and is spreading drugs in order something nefarious, and Georgina's friend Doug gets caught up in the drug situation, leading Georgina to try and find the god and destroy him. The battle is over in about two seconds. You finish it and think to yourself, "Wait, what? It was really that easy?"

So that was an interesting follow up to Succubus Blues, which I really loved. I think in this second book, I had already gotten used to Georgina and didn't find her quite as charming or lovably flawed as I did in the first book. Instead, I found her kind of selfish and awful, which is kind of how I felt about her for the rest of the series. But Mead did something really smart, teasing small bits of Georgina's past throughout the remainder of the series so that you're compelled to keep reading to find out what is actually going on with her, and why we get all of that back story to begin with.

In Succubus Dreams, Seth has forgiven Georgina for sleeping with Bastien (in Seth's form) in the past book, and they're doing well. Georgina even says that she likes to think that Seth has "improved a bit since we got together, but he had a long way to go." (22) Not insulting at all. In this book we got more about Seth and Georgina's relationship, which I honestly do not understand at all. (Okay, maybe now that I know the ending, I understand why they were drawn to each other so much, but really? Saw no reason for it until that point.) There's this quote from the book: "Seth pressed another kiss to my forehead. 'I'm sweet because you make it easy to be sweet.'" (117) I mean, I like Georgina and all, I think she's interesting, but in what way does she make it easy to be sweet? I don't even see what she contributes to this relationship. And it doesn't even have to do with being a succubus or not being able to have sex. I'm talking about all of her secrets, her lack of trust in Seth, the focus on pretty much everything above Seth. I just don't get it.

Anyway, in this book, there's somebody around who is messing with people's dreams, including Georgina's. She's not pleased, especially considering the dreams seem to leave her completely drained of energy, even if she's just had an erotic refill. Add to that there's a new succubus in town, and Georgina's having a hard time. The dreams did serve to give us more insight into Georgina's background and history, which is essential to the endgame. But other than that, this one felt like a bit of filler.

At the end, Georgina and Seth decide to break up—more Georgina decides to break up with him because she wants him to have a normal life—and Seth decides to do what Georgina has been encouraging him to do the entire time, which is sleep with somebody else in order to basically even the score for all of the (job-required) sleeping around that she's been doing. Of course, Georgina didn't anticipate that he'd sleep, and start a relationship with, one of her dearest friends Maddie, so that's a bit awkward.

Then we're on to the fourth book, Succubus Heat. This book is basically wish fulfillment for Georgina. Jerome, her resident demon, gets kidnapped and taken out of his main area, which means that all of the supernatural beings under his purview are temporarily mortal and have no powers. Too bad that Seth has started a relationship with Maddie, otherwise he and Georgina could finally consummate their relationship. Oh wait, Maddie doesn't matter. Georgina and Seth are going to get it on anyway. Because that's not at all out of character for Seth. Also, Georgina just happened to have been dating a guy, a fortune teller Dante, but that doesn't matter either because she doesn't actually have any feelings for him and he ends up being the bad guy, so who cares, really? We also get the return of Damon, who was the bad guy in the first book, and Jerome's bastard nephilim son. I was excited about that. Although I found Damon creepy in the first book, that was because he was creepy because he was trying to hide his evil-ness. But once he comes back to town and *spoiler* starts living with Georgina, I actually really liked their friendship. Eventually they find Jerome and it was his second in command that helped to facilitate the kidnapping, and all the supernatural baddies get their powers back, but that's incidental to the entanglements of personalities in this book.

Then, of course, Seth feels badly about cheating on Maddie—coincidentally, he starts to feel bad right around the time that he can no longer bone Georgina without having his soul slowly stolen from him—and so he overreacts to that guilt and proposes to Maddie. Because of course he does.

Succubus Shadows was entirely a bridge book if I've ever read one. Georgina is helping Maddie to plan her wedding to Georgina's ex (who she's still in love with). Meanwhile, Georgina is living with Damon and attempting to have something resembling a normal life, but she keeps getting pulled into bodies of water by siren songs that she can't seem to avoid. That's literally all I remember about this book, other than the big save, because there's nothing that happens. Eventually, they realize that it's Nyx's kids who are mad because of something Georgina once did to their mom, and so they're attempting to destroy her. Georgina gets taken into the shadow lands, and Seth is the only one who can save her. Even though nobody should be able to reach her, let alone a human. What?! What is happening?! Don't worry, all will be revealed in...

Succubus Revealed! Yeah, kind of an on-the-nose title...

In this final installment of the series, we finally find out why Georgina and Seth have felt so drawn to each other and it's because...drum roll...he's actually the reincarnation of her husband from her original life. And also the young man she loved in Paris. And during World War II. And basically every other man that she's loved during the course of her long life. Turns out, he remembered that there was something missing from his life after she made her deal with Hell, and made his own deal that he'd get ten lifetimes to try and find her and be together with her again.

Ugh. Gag me. I thought it was actually going to be something interesting. I was really hoping that she'd get together with the angel, Carter, because I liked their relationship, and found it much more interesting than the "soul mates destined to be together" thing that ended up being Seth and Georgina's relationship. Of course, everything ends happily ever after because Georgina's deal with Hell was that nobody remember her from her old life, and since her husband obviously remembered her enough to make his deal, it made her deal null and void. So they both get to be free of Hell and live together, and try again. Maybe this time, she won't cheat on him with his best friend.

Ugh. I was so excited to see where this ended up going after reading the first book, and it just felt like such a let down. But even so, I didn't give any of the books in this series less than three stars, which is sort of saying something. And I kept reading them, so there was obviously something drawing me back. And they were quick to read, I finished all of them in four days, so I don't feel like I completely wasted my time. But just...ugh.

Poison Study—Maria V. Snyder

I remembered my last offer, to be the food taster or to be executed. "What could you possibly offer me? I have a job, color-coordinated uniforms and a boss to die for. What more could I need?" (154)
Part of Vaginal Fantasy Rewind

Yelena is awaiting her death in the dungeons when she is called to the office of Valek, the Commander's trusted adviser, spy, and assassin. Valek gives her a choice: she can either be executed as planned, OR she can be the Commander's new food taster. By law, he is required to offer the position when it is open to the next prisoner to be executed. What can Yelena do, choose death instead of possible/probable death by poisoning? She agrees to become the Commander's food taster, and Valek starts training her in the ways of detecting poisons. And Valek keeps her from trying to escape, now that she's got a bit more free reign, by deliberately poisoning her with Butterfly's Dust, a poison for which he has the only antidote, which she must take every 24 hours or die. As if that weren't enough for a young woman to handle, Yelena starts developing magical powers, and in Ixia that's a death sentence in itself.

I loved this book. There were so many little pieces and tidbits, in addition to the larger plotline being well put together, that made me give it five stars on Goodreads. I don't want to say that I'm stingy with my five stars, but unless I absolutely loved something and basically had no big complaints about it, I never give books five stars.

I did guess right away that Butterfly's Dust was bullshit. Maybe I've read or seen enough situations with poison, or maybe I clocked Valek the second we met him, but I just knew that wasn't actually a poison. I didn't guess the part about the "antidote" itself being a poison, so that was a twist for me.

The thing I loved most about the book, I think, were the relationships. I thought that Yelena's relationship with Ari and Janco—the two soldiers who help train her in some self-defense techniques and become good friends—was really touching. The protectiveness they felt for her, without being romantically interested in her, was lovely and not something you see a lot with books that have a female protagonist in such a vulnerable position like this.

Yelena's relationship with Commander Ambrose also takes an interesting turn when she discovers (with her magic) that he was born a woman. Yelena relates this information to us thusly: The Commander's reasons for hating magicians was as clear to me as glass. He was a she, but with the utter conviction that she should have been born a man. That cruel fate had chosen to burden him with a mutation that he had to overcome. And the Commander feared that a magician might pull this secret from his mind. (284) That whole storyline of Commander Ambrose being trans was really surprising and refreshing. Not something you see often in fantasy books, and especially not treated with such grace and explained in such a natural way. The way that Yelena hides this secret information from the rest of the world, including her eventual lover Valek, speaks a lot to Yelena as a person as well as her respect for the Commander.

Last but not least, Yelena's relationship with Valek was almost perfect for me in this first book. They didn't fall into bed together immediately, and in fact, didn't get together in the time (or place) that you thought they would. But the development of the relationship, Yelena's growing trust for him and desire to understand him, was perfect. Valek respects Yelena, and doesn't treat her as less than she is merely because she's a woman, which would have been the easy choice given the book's setting. Specifically, I'm thinking about the big battle at the end. There's a point where Yelena is fighting someone, and she tells Valek to go and find Mogkan, the big bad magician they're ultimately fighting, and Valek actually goes. He doesn't stick around and try to help Yelena when she told him to go. He knows that she's capabl, and also what's at stake if he doesn't do as she says. Then, Yelena even ends up saving Valek from exhaustion and defeat when she finds him fighting Mogkan in the corridor. It was just so nice to see not a helpless female—or one who's treated that way regardless of her actual skill set—in a fantasy book. Usually when women are not treated helplessly, it's because they act very hard and are longtime soldiers or have a background in battle or whatnot. But Yelena was vulnerable, even weak at times, and still treated with respect and trust.

I immediately went and read the second book, which I didn't love as much, but I do want to continue on in the series.
I obviously was not in alignment with the ladies in this Hangout, because neither Kiala nor Bonnie loved it. I actually had no problem with the lack of sexy times, although I can understand their opinion on that because that's one of the basic features of the book club. But that particular feature—or lack thereof—spurred a conversation about what constituted "Vaginal Fantasy," so the ladies talked about that a bit. I don't know that I necessarily agree with their definition of what the books need to be (not that my opinion matters, because I didn't start the club), and I don't think that they've necessarily kept to this particular definition, but it was interesting. I actually disagreed with Bonnie about the Commander being trans and focusing more on that; I liked that it wasn't overblown and focused on, that it was just treated as a normal thing (as it is). And I agree with Veronica about the steamy scene in the dungeon when they think they're about to die.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Ill Wind—Rachel Caine

Part of Vaginal Fantasy Rewind

Powering through the VF Rewind books/posts that have been sitting in draft form for weeks...

Ill Wind was the main pick during a month in which the theme was djinn. Oh boy, do I love me some djinn.

Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin is on the run after being accused of murdering a fellow Weather Warden, Bad Bob Burlingame. What those after her don't realize is that she has been invaded by the same evil that caused Bad Bob's death, and she's searching for the one person she thinks can help her: her old love, Lewis. Joanne knows that Lewis has three djinns, and she only needs one to take the black spot off her soul and save her from death. If only it were as easy as it sounded...

I really liked that Joanne wasn't the Chosen One, or imbued with all of the Warden powers. In fact, that character is pretty clearly another person altogether. It's not often that the protagonist in a fantasy book isn't the one who's considered the most unique snowflake, so I appreciated that. I also liked the different ways to indicate skills. When we get a flashback to Joanne first finding out about her powers, and the other Wardens deciding who is going to manage her, this conversation happens:

"I'll take her on. She can't cut it, it's my responsibility. I think she's going to be a damn good Warden someday."
Martin winced. "Not quite yet, though."
"Yeah, well. Who is, at eighteen?"
"You were," Martin said. "I was."
Paul shrugged. "We're fuckin' prodigies, Marty. And neither one of us ever had half the power this girl does coming into it." (50)

So, sure, she's not a prodigy, but she has more power than those who were. She's not the Chosen One who has all the Warden powers (that's her old friend Lewis) but she IS extremely skilled at her Weather Wardening.

I also liked the style of writing, with the occasional story from Joanne's past to help us understand her present. We see her background with the Wardens, we hear more about the mythical Lewis, we find out more about her history with Bad Bob. Sometimes when books have this structure, it can be hard to follow or distracting, but I enjoyed it.

And then there was a random flashback about losing her virginity. Why? To emphasize that all of her major life events have been precipitated by a storm? And that story includes the phrase, "And with the tearing of my hymen..." Ugh. Gross. Is that really a moment that you acknowledged during the event? I hope you said that out loud while it was happening so that everyone involved knew what was going on. Especially considering the preponderance of "losing my virginity" scenes in books with romance, and the overwhelming majority of them which focus entirely too much on hymen-tearing—to the point of falsehood in what that experience actually looks like. Just ugh.

Stopped taking notes about halfway through, which is either a really good sign or a really bad one. In this case, it was more that I just started to feel kind of indifferent. I really liked the idea of the story, and the writing style was right up my alley, but then it seems like Joanne is irresistible to all men and can't seem to focus on anything other than that, even when she's on the brink of death.

In addition to that frustrating throughline, I also spoiled it for myself by looking up the next book in the series about halfway through this first one, and it tells you in the first sentence of the summary that Joanne was killed and reborn as a djinn. Stupid me for looking that up, but is that really how you want to structure your summary? You can't think of any other way to introduce the next book without blatantly putting that out there? Alright.

And the straw that broke the camel's back was barely a straw at all, but Joanne is in love with this purple velvet number that she wears. She thinks she's hot shit when she's wearing it. Now, I know this book was written in 2003, which is a completely different decade at this point, but even back then, purple velvet was not "the thing." You're not stylish in purple velvet, Joanne, and you're not nearly as cool as you seemed like you were going to be.

I may go back and read the rest of the series at some point, but I was feeling so meh about the whole thing by the end that I have plenty of other things on my list that I'm going to read first.

Nineteen down!
This was the first Hangout after VF switched to Geek & Sundry (rather than Felicia Day's personal channel). So that was interesting. I agree with Veronica about it feeling like one long road trip that never really went anywhere. Felicia did say, though, that you need to read the first three in order to get to the actual meat of the series.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Spymaster's Lady—Joanna Bourne

Tonight, in the long quiet hours, he would put his hands upon her and confuse her until she made the answers he wished, softly, in the intimacy of the covers. In the end he might make her want what he did to her. She was not strong and sensible when it came to this man. (58)

As with Storm Winds, I read this book a while ago for Vaginal Fantasy, but am just now getting around to reviewing it. Actually a draft of it with notes has been sitting in my blog for over a month now. Le sigh.

Anyway, this was the main during the month of July for Vaginal Fantasy. I have to say, I enjoyed it more than Storm Winds, but that's not really saying much because I abhorred Storm Winds. (To read more about that, click here.)

In this first book in a non-continuous series—by which I mean there are different characters within the same universe who are featured in the different books in the series—we meet Annique Villiers, aka Fox Cub, an infamous French spy. She starts out really badass and interesting, as we learn that—SPOILER—she is blind. What?! How could she possibly be an effective spy if she is blind? We'll get to that. Unfortunately, Annique has recently been captured by the British, and she escapes, but only with assistance from a set of British spies, Adrian and Grey. Reluctantly, they work together to try and prevent even worse spies from obtaining Napoleon's plans to invade England. Set primarily in Napoleonic France, the story ends in London, so it's got that international flavour that all spies love. Speaking of love, you'll never guess it, but Annique falls in love with Grey. Oh and also she gets her sight back. Because why maintain a unique character trait when it's just easier for her to regain her sight?

Let's start off with the first thing you see: the cover. This cover, guys. I can't even. Why? Wouldn't it make sense, with a title like The Spymaster's Lady to have, I don't know, a lady somewhere on the cover? Even a cheesy, typical romance novel cover here, with a scantily clad bombshell embracing a studly gentleman would be better in my mind.

And on that subject, WHY IS THIS BOOK CALLED THE SPYMASTER'S LADY?! If you read the book, you would understand that this is not an accurate title at all. Annique is just as important, if not more so, than Grey? I understand that, to some extent, it was to accommodate the series name, but come on. It relegates her to such an inferior role when that is not the reality.

Getting past that, this book started out with such promise. You don't know until a bit into the book that Annique is blind. She just seems super competent and an amazing spy, until you find out that she hasn't been able to see for the last several months following an accident. It just makes you like her and admire her more. She also has this amazing photographic memory, which is incredibly useful for a spy. You find out that she's been spying for the French since she was a child because of this particular gift and it makes her incredibly effective. There's even an amazing scene where she does surgery to remove a bullet from Adrian's torso because she's served on many battlefields and even blind is better equipped than either of the men. That scene was five star worthy. Espionage is always sexy and exciting, so that was a good start, too. And Adrian, Grey's friend and fellow spy is by far one of my favourite sidekicks and characters in any historical fiction. Really, Annique should've been with him. He understands her better, he's not a complete asshole, and he's charming. Grey is surly and possessive and grumpy; I found absolutely nothing compelling about him.

Then about halfway through the book, something incredible happened. IT WENT ENTIRELY DOWNHILL! Before the book jumped the shark, if it had continued in the same standard as before, I probably would've given it 4.5 stars. As it was at the end, I BARELY could muster three stars, and that was being generous.

Here's what happened: Annique separates from Grey and Adrian and their cohort Doyle and travels to London to give the invasion plans to someone there, and as she's traveling by herself, her horse goes by a tree, a tree branch clotheslines her and she falls from her horse. She's been told that her blindness is caused by some nerve impingement or something, and that any jostling will basically end her life. So she lays on the ground, awaiting what she is sure is her impending death, only to realize that her eyesight is returning. What a miracle! Or, if you're a discerning reader, what a cop out. I actually would've found her a bit Mary Sue in the first half if she hadn't been blind, because she was touted as being so phenomenal and amazing. But then the second half of the book happened. Like, what? It actually felt like two completely different books. After she got her eyesight back, she seemed to lose every modicum of skill she ever had.

For example, she runs into Grey and, after months of honing her recognition skills as a blind person, doesn't realize that this is a man she's been spending a lot of time with and reveals her entire background and plan to him, this British spy that she should really be against now that she doesn't need his assistance. I made this note: "For someone who is supposed to be such a skilled spy, she's a stupid fucking idiot." She even says it herself, TO GREY, several times as they travel from the coast to London: "If I would keep my mouth closed, I would not get in these situations." (192) Actually, though. Or when she tells Grey—as the alter-ego he's told her he is now that she's seeing, Robert—that he's just said something remarkably similar to a man she knows (remarkably similar because SHE'S TALKING ABOUT HIM!): "That is what he said to me. Almost exactly that. The man in France who was unkind to me and whom I loved in a way—he said that. You are a bit like him, did you know?" (209) To which I noted: BECAUSE IT IS HIM, YOU WORTHLESS EXCUSE FOR A SPY!

Not only that, once they get to London, Annique is essentially held captive in the London offices of the British spies, as they scheme how to get the information they need from her. Part of this strategy is Grey taking her virginity in a bathtub. Because that's sexy. Also, turns out the head of the British spies is her grandfather, and actually both her mother AND her father were British spies, and actually she's been a British spy her entire life. No big deal, just her entire identity brought to its knees.

Oh, it's been weeks since I read this book, and my ire is still high. At least it's over now.

Dearly, Departed—Lia Habel

I imagined walking with a young man in the dark, and bit into my sandwich viciously. All of the boys I knew were fast turning into unimpressive adults. They had let me play soldier with them when I was a girl, but now expected that I would smile and nod brainlessly at whatever they said. Amazing, how quickly they had fallen in step with society's rules. (42)
Part of Vaginal Fantasy Rewind

Moving right along on the VF Rewind train! Dearly, Departed was during a month that was focused on zombies. (The main was My Life as a White Trash Zombie, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Further thoughts on that one coming soon.)

Set in a dystopian future. As the book jacket relates, "The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era." Which is a great, pithy description of a book. Nora Dearly is living a pretty normal life in New Victoria, although she has been having a bit of a difficult time since her father died a year ago. Now she lives with her aunt. After having finished her school year, she's returned to her aunt's house, and is planning a normal summer. Until she's almost kidnapped and/or killed by a horde of zombies. But she doesn't know they're zombies, because she's never seen them before. Nora is saved by a different set of zombies, ones that are as close to sane and intact and human as zombies can get. (Unfortunately for New Victoria, the crazy, virus-spreading zombies are left behind and start spreading the zombie plague.) The good zombies take Nora away to their military base, where she learns that her father is still alive...sort of. Although he did die last year, he died with the zombie virus running through his veins, which means that he's still ambulatory. As a scientist, he's the one who has been helping to maintain the good zombies' states, and is actively searching for what he believes may be a cure. But now, it's getting harder and harder to keep their zombie existence a secret, especially with the increase of non-maintained zombies, so they will have to fight for their right to remain undead.

This book held such promise. I really like the steampunky, revival of old ideals concept. You don't often see a setting like that in books set in the future. But as the story went on, it kind of lost it's steam (no pun intended). I found Nora charming and Bram lovely, the secondary characters were engaging and interesting for the most part. I liked Pamela and Chaz especially as kick ass ladies. I did find the constant change of point of view a bit off putting, but I got used to it eventually. I agree with Felicia and Bonnie though, that I didn't care much about some of the points of view.

But ultimately, this one didn't stick in my head much after I finished reading it. It could have been amazing, but in my mind, it ended up being just okay.

One more down!
Felicia said during the Hangout that this is one of the only books ever that she's lemmed (which means that she didn't finish it).

Monday, September 7, 2015

In Bed With a Highlander—Maya Banks

She was his to take. From the moment she'd set foot on his lands, she was his. Whether she married him or not. (94)
Part of Vaginal Fantasy Rewind

Back on the train in a real way with this next book in VF Rewind. In Bed with a Highlander was the alt during the month when the main was Outlander, which I've actually read independent of VF Rewind and haven't had a chance to blog about yet. But will soon. Anyway, thank goodness I love Outlander so much because this one was...not my favourite.

In this first in what is called the McCabe trilogy—each book focused on one of the three McCabe brothers—we meet the eldest McCabe, Ewan. Ewan is bent on revenge after most of his family was killed eight years ago following an attack perpetrated by the big bad guy of the area. But it seems that all of his problems are solved when Mairin, the illegitimate daughter of the late king, falls into his lap. And she will marry Ewan—whether she wants to or not. After all, it's the best thing for both of their sakes. It will help to keep her safe, and it will endow Ewan with the large swath of land that was left for her and the connection to the crown. But who could have guessed that from this marriage of convenience, "love" would grow?

Everyone. Everyone could have guessed. Even though she's ill treated by Ewan, it's gotta be better than being raped and murdered as soon as she carries to term the seed of aforementioned big bad. Obviously. Plus, us ladies love a firm hand and domineering males.

There was little to no character development here, which is interesting considering that these characters are part of a trilogy. Yes, Ewan is strong and laird-like, and Mairin is perfect parts stubborn female and doting wife and mother. But they're archetypes of characters rather than fully realized people in and of themselves.

Although, to be fair, even if there had been character development, I wouldn't have been able to focus on it because of the completely unhealthy relationship which was represented. (That seems to be a theme with books that I'm reading lately, and it's no coincidence that I've been reading more "romance" books than I usually do...) A prime example is the pullquote above. She was his from the moment she entered his property, even though she did so under duress and basically to escape the man who is planning on raping and murdering her. Not that this situation is much better.

Ewan had no interest in Mairin until he found out that she was the dead king's daughter. And then he really only tried to make the sexy times good for Mairin because she insulted his prowess, not to actually please her. In fact, on their wedding night, he basically raped her, stole the bloodied marriage sheets, and ran off to prove to the big bad that she had been claimed and was no longer available. Romantic, no? When he first contemplates making her his, he thinks this to himself: The image of her swollen with his child flickered through his mind, and he found himself very pleased with the image. Very pleased indeed. (78) Ugh. What a cave man. Then there's this, when Ewan is negotiating with Mairin to try to convince her that it's best for everyone involved if she agrees to marry him: Still the perverse part of his nature wanted her to come to him. He wanted her to accept her fate and bind herself to him of her own accord. Aye, the taking was far more satisfying when the lass was willing. Not that he couldn't have her willing in a matter of seconds. (95) Perverse part of him wants consent? What a creep for wanting that!

In addition to that nonsense, there was also another trope of romance books: Mairin was almost immediately pregnant. Because that's how it works. Ugh. Then there's this gem: Towards the end of the book, their marriage is designated invalid, Mairin is taken away by the big bad. As she's pulled away from Ewan, he tells her: "Listen to me. Survive. You survive! Endure. No matter what. Endure what you must but survive for me. Survive for our child. I will come for you. I swear it on my life. I will come for you!" (314) In other words, let him rape you as long as you and most importantly my seed within you physically survive. Because that's all that matters. I just can't with you men anymore.

There were actually a few of the sex scenes that were well done, but since the rest of it was so disappointing—especially in consideration of the historical delight that is Outlander—I really did not care for it. more off the list!
The ladies only talked about In Bed with a Highlander for two minutes at the end, because Outlander and also I think there was some issue with the video because it just cuts them off at a weird place, but that two minutes was the perfect amount for me.

Succubus Blues—Richelle Mead

I shook my head, still amazed at how he had managed to weasel his way over here. "This isn't a date."
He cut me a scandalized look. "Obviously. I'd bring Count Chocula for that."
"I'm serious. Not a date, "I maintained. (137)
Part of Vaginal Fantasy Rewind

Seattleite Georgina Kincaid has a pretty normal life: she works in a bookstore, she hangs out with friends, she drinks copiously. Oh, and she's a millennium-old succubus. Things in Georgina's life get thrown out of whack when her favourite author moves to town and a mysterious, handsome man unwittingly saves her from a tense social situation. Not to mention that other supernatural people keep dropping dead, and they all happen to be people who Georgina had beef with, leaving her in a delicate state with the powers-that-be.

Most importantly for this, I loved the Seattle placement. I believe I saw that Richelle Mead lives in the Seattle area now, so it made sense that it was pretty (accurately) specific. Those little details always make me know that either that author did a lot of good research or they've lived around here. Add to that the fact that Georgina works in a bookstore, and you've got me hooked.

I like the introduction of a succubus into the lore of the supernatural, which is happening more and more these days but still felt fresh in Mead's take. The plotline was a bit predictable; obviously Roman was the bad guy. If there's somebody who shows up in the story and has no discernible reason for being there and doesn't seem to have any connection to the story, he's probably going to be the antagonist. But I didn't mind that predictability so much because everything else—the characters, the relationships, the setup for the rest of the series—was on point.

I love Georgina. I love her sense of humor, I love her moral dilemmas (being a succubus but also trying to be a good person and not send too many souls Hell's way), I love her love of books, I love her friendships. I found the relationships between the different kinds of supernatural beings very interesting, especially the dynamic between Georgina and Carter, Seattle's resident angel. Carter was a fascinating character to me, in general, and I think more so because we don't know a whole lot about him. I actually wanted Georgina to get with Carter a bit as the series went on, and I have to say that I was actually a bit disappointed by the outcome.

I liked this enough to go and read the remaining five books in the series, more because they were like candy than anything too rich or dense. (Blog post on the remainder of the books will be forthcoming. Although up front I'll say, the first three or four books were fantastic, but the last two were a bit disappointing...) I figured I could finish the series since it only takes me a few hours to finish a book like this.
The ladies got SOOOO off track in the VF Hangout this month, but I almost enjoy that more than when they stay the course. Enjoy!