Category Archives: Review

Yes, there really can be only one.

3. Sabbath – Nick Mamatas

Like a knockoff Highlander, Hexen Sabbath has a cool name and a lady helping him through the modern world in addition to some knowledge drop from an angel into his 11th century head. What he does not have is an original plot to hang out in. The seven deadly sins are brought up frequently enough, Supernatural did them in with one episode, they were more dingy in the 1990s, and I did not find Sabbath had enough charisma or punch with his “I don’t die today because it’s not the right day, but maybe I do” thing.

I also had high hopes for the art gallery owner, but was disappointed that the show she’s trying to push was just a bullshit show even she knows is bullshit. Blank canvases? But you have her identifying 11th century crosses seconds earlier. Why doesn’t she have a show she really believes in? Wouldn’t that maybe make her more of a person who would be helpful and a solid lady character? Instead, there’s a drop-in angel who then peaces out and the gallery owner’s sometime hook up who at least knows some theology, but is also pretty one note…not unlike the choices for the sins, even if one is an obvious and disturbing political allegory for someone I’d like to stop reading about (not the author’s fault, just, it’s so now and so UGH).

The best parts really were the fight scenes. They were nicely choreographed and at least gave me something I’m not used to reading for a while and don’t have to take as fun on faith. If I can’t have a heroine who is both a forensic scientist and expert in metallurgy (or someone similarly informed), then I’ll take clangy and snazzy fight scenes.

I wanted this to be much more fun than it was. Carrying around a bag of heads should be more fun.

When Thorfinnur gets up from his nap, he’ll be ready to take on the other six deadly sins, forge some swords, and experience the quickening.

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This ain’t no Candlemas.

1. Spell Bound – Kelley Armstrong

The series is almost over, so it’s time for the character cameo rodeo. And making Savannah, the young witch, the main character again sort of takes the edge off the stakes of the supposed build up to the grand finale. When the world you’ve created has a shitload of characters, many with very similar traits of running at trouble after finding it, it can be just a little fillery. I have seen some reviews that pegged this entry in the Otherworld series as YA, which I think is an apt comparison. Savannah’s wanted to be the poster child of the Supernatural Liberation Movement, she wants Adam to see her as more of a potential love interest than just a whiny kid and his best friend, she lost her powers and needs to get them back, she’s being chased by a witch hunter – all of these are normal YA/coming of age sorts of topics. So it was a little weird to have this as the penultimate entry. Oh well.

As ladypigs, Peregrine and Ozma know some penultimate book of the series level-intrigue and you can see it on their sweet little faces.


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“This is what we fought all night to get back to?”

72. Swan Song – Robert McCammon

The electric blue in this one is strong. As are the rocky keloid facial coverings. Swan Song is vast in scope and yet, works very well. A surface-level reading might say, hey, The Stand goes nuclear, but that’s very surface (Plus I haven’t read The Stand, although I have most certainly seen the TV movie a number of times. Geraldo the guinea pig is still stuck in that medical facility. Someone go get him. Gary Sinise did not take responsibility for him like a jerk, even though he’s a hero character. What the hell?), and the goals are similar but they are the product of the same kinds of overarching fears that North Korea’s random nuclear tests bring. What happens when the U.S. gets nuked? Apparently the answer is electric blue magic from a girl named after The Warriors’ second war chief. Not really. Well, kind of. Sort of really. It has all the grimy, gnarly McCammon reality that one expects, and even though Boy’s Life might be his best, I liked reading this one better.

There is a font called Electric Pickle. It was therefore my Pickles’ destiny to grace a review of Swan Song, the one with the most electric blue.

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Mater Suspiriorum

64. Heartsick – Chelsea Cain

It’s the talking to a serial killer who is in prison to stop a new serial killer trope, with the usual genders reversed, and more zazz. Instead of the detective or vulnerable FBI trainee having to establish a new relationship with the serial killer, they already know each other…from the inside out, as Ms. Gretchen the killer held Det. Archie Sheridan for ten days and tortured him into the broken man we follow for many parts of the story.

The other main character is Susan, an also somewhat broken newspaper reporter who is following Archie to get the scoop and is more connected to the story of the new serial killer to track down than she realizes. Ah, thriller novels, sometimes it’s like everyone lives within a three block radius of each other.

Sometimes it’s nice to get a thriller with virtually no virtue signaling and this one is also quite gruesome at times. It’s definitely an interesting start to this six book series that’s supposedly focused on Archie and Gretchen when you consider that Gretchen is more of a haunting presence pervading the whole story with her pageant queen sadist essence than a participant.

Danger Crumples didn’t have to visit Merricat in prison to learn her secrets, but she was only available to play mind games with him for a very limited time.

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“It must have been something you said…”

74. If I Die Tonight – Alison Gaylin

An 80s punk has been’s Jaguar ends up in a hit and run crash, a very small police department tries to solve it, the town wants to blame that one weird sensitive kid, and how that one weird sensitive kid’s parent reacts to how little she knows her son the weird sensitive kid are all major components in this story of small town bullshit and its insidious effects on people. Gaylin might not have thought, “I’m writing about small town bullshit,” but there’s so much of it in here that it overtakes anything else.

My favorite character, Pearl the police officer who resents that she is willing to hook up with someone who wears Axe body spray and doesn’t like the super cocky officer who lives with his parents and acts like high school still matters (not the same person who wears Axe, that one’s an EMT), is the person most capable of cutting through said small town bullshit so I was glad to have her in-head perspective.

There was also a major undercurrent of the thing that can turn everywhere into that expression of small town (or here I should say village, really) bullshit that used to lead to pitchforks and torches…social media. Now instead of the pitchforks and the torches, there are comments. And comments that get deleted. And comments that get screenshotted. And these comments do more psychological damage than the Lottery (you know the one) or being chased out with those pitchforks and torches ever could. At least those throwing the stones and carrying the traditional implements to burn “the monster’s” house down on a hunch and a whim had to actually be present and visible.

Ozymandias did not read the comments. He also didn’t expect me to quote Cutting Crew when not also quoting Kyle Kinane’s cemetery joke.

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“I do cater to unusual affairs.”

24. Relics – Tim Lebbon

A perfect couple – one American criminology student and an English male human named Vince who is very affectionate. In London. Tragically torn apart by the black market trade in artifacts. It’s an age old story. Not really. Trying to find a missing person and ending up in a completely bizarre version of the world you thought you knew and realizing they weren’t who you thought they were is actually an age old story, but this version of it was quite fun and clicked along at a fast pace.

Relics is like what would happen if China Mieville’s bizarro-London was trimmed down and forced to make sense all the time. Lebbon does a great job of including different elements of the supernatural and not overdoing it so he can show you he’s heard of some more types of creatures. The only area where it’s heavy on the random creature information is well contained within a collection and a later a “nice” dinner, so it’s much easier to process.

This is the start of a series and I very much hope that Lebbon doesn’t go kitchen sink in the other books. I mean, it’s not like the scope isn’t widened at the end, but, I hope not to the point of “I did research on mythological creatures and I want you to know it” madness that happens with some authors.

Mortemer did a lot of research on mythological creatures, but he never bragged about it.


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Haunting research

63. The Grip of It – Jac Jemc

If I’ve learned anything from all the haunted house books I’ve read and all the haunted house shows I’ve watched is that if a really cool house is cheap – something is desperately wrong with it. New, old, it doesn’t matter what decade you’re buying it in either, it’s probably haunted. By something. Perhaps the ghosts of architects past, perhaps the ground is sour and there’s no specific ghost, perhaps somebody’s really favoritist mother- who knows?

In this story there are no clear explanations. There are hidden rooms, weird stains, drawings that show up on the wall, an encroaching forest, a creepy neighbor who lives with cats and an ammonia smell that was palpable through the pages, some creepy kids in a tree, burgeoning medical problems, algae, a cave scene that I thought was actually going to go somewhere but didn’t… It was interesting but I’m about as clear on how I feel about it as the book was clear about exactly what was happening and there’s an extent to which I wanted more.

I mean, they looked at newspaper on fiche (insane, it should have been microfilm, looking at newspaper on fiche is a nightmare if you don’t have an exact date for what you’re looking for and sometimes even if you do – librarian tip) and they still didn’t have a specific and clear explanation. Well, dude was a beginning fiche user.

Ozma hides her head at the thought of looking for newspaper articles on fiche. The endless grocery cart motions to get through the pages, never knowing which side of the fiche goes down and then having to pull out the tray to flip it like every time you need a new one, getting to the end of the row and forgetting which direction you’re actually supposed to push and then pull to get to the beginning of the next row, your eyes going bleary from trying to catch the one detail you need to confirm the article … I mean, it’s okay if it’s the index to the paper, but not the actual newspaper. That’s just brutal. Brutal.

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“I don’t see any other handy takeout corpses around here.”

92. The Day Is Dark – Yrsa Sigurdardottir

I have read a couple of books lately that involve Greenland and as I am a fan of stories like The Thing and scared of latent bacterial diseases that are definitely going to come out of the permafrost and kill me off if I finally get to move somewhere I can breathe without my allergies being a major daily concern…well, this book worked for me. It’s bleak and there are several unlikable characters, even if none of them is an alien-infected dog.

It’s another story of Thora, the lawyer who gets to do more than most lawyers I’ve heard of, traveling to Greenland because of a possible failed operation and some missing workers. Is this still monetarily viable for the company? That is, um, not intriguing to me at all, but the rest of it was. There was a lot of cold, messing around with bones (not the best idea here), a dead guy in a freezer, some elements that were supernatural via religious ideas, and a lot of unpleasant conversation. It also touched on how awful it is to be the odd one out in a group of workers, so, much is covered. Oh, and Thora packed like a total moron for the trip while trashed. Nice. Very human.

In this herd of golden pigs – Horace, Ozma, Finny, and ultimate ruler Peregrine, everyone was an odd one and that’s why they were all so wholly lovable as a group.

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“The world’s most pissed-off snow cone!”

75. Snowblind – Christopher Golden

In Coventry, everybody gets twitchy before a snowstorm. Because in that one big snowstorm, a lot of people died and a lot of people saw things that didn’t make sense. Like white walkers, basically. I kept picturing the scenes from the early seasons of Game of Thrones where that White Walker with the beard and no shirt kept showing up alone. I can tell you from much experience with the public, if some dude is wandering around shirtless, some bad or stupid shit’s about to go down. Granted, in Snowblind, it is not established whether or not the ice demons represented wear shirts. They made quick appearances when they dragged Isaac out of that window or just creepily peeped in, so, they could have been wearing shirts.

Anyway, everyone’s lives have changed as a result of that one big snowstorm and now there’s some ghosty weirdnesses happening and “the one that got away” for Isaac’s brother Jake, Miri, feels pulled back to Coventry. Everybody’s got to reconverge for the next big storm. And…it was okay.

I did not get as drawn into Snowblind as I did Ararat (the only other Golden I’ve read that isn’t a Buffy story) even though there were some very similar themes running around in the snow. The threat in Snowblind didn’t seem as threatening for some reason, which, since I’m me is probably because nobody did any research…or those ice demons were wearing shirts.

Snuffy is on alert for any and all snow monsters – shirtless or wisecracking or not.

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They probably needed a montage here.

54. Frostbite – Richelle Mead

Ski trip! When I was in middle school it was not at a vampire academy, of course, however, our ski trip was only for the day and it was supposed to be a reward- as opposed to a way to keep students safe from an amassing bad vampire attack. For me, it was not a reward because I did not understand skiing in several ways. I definitely french fried when I should have pizzad and could not for the life of me get the hang of that rope thing that pulls you up the hill. Thankfully I had other friends who got bored easily and we pretended we had the money to play video games for a good part of the day. The Moroi and dhampirs of the Vampire Academy series don’t even find the video game room. They’re too busy acting older than they are (like lots of high school kids) and scheming of how to fight back against the bad vampires, the Strigoi, who act like Danny Huston in 30 Days of Night, and getting their romantic feelings all torn asunder.

Rose did not irritate me even half as much in this sequel as she did in Vampire Academy. I guess she’s sort of growing up, sort of, or I’m less concerned with teenage ridiculousness. Either way, I did enjoy reading this one and when the foundations have already been set there’s room to move around. Even her being jealous of her tutor Dmitri’s having a lady friend who he could maybe end up guarding or end up with romantically didn’t seem overwrought. And the vampire court stuff that I mostly find pretty dull was not as intrusive, most likely thanks to the actions of some very impulsive novice guardians who almost get themselves killed. They also french fried when they should have pizzad.

Peregrine and Merricat would find the blankets in the ski lodge and never come out. Skiing antics are not for these ladypigs.

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