97. The Bone Lady – Mary Manhein
One of the jobs I would most like to have but can’t because of my allergies is forensic anthropologist. I love that bones tell stories, I love fine detailed research, I love that bones are always going to be primary source materials, and I love figuring things out that aren’t obvious. If I never had to touch anything or breathe, I could have had many opportunities. Anyway, The Bone Lady is an extremely short telling of case tales with memoir and it is awesome if you want an overview about what bones can tell you and the kind of career that is not for everyone, yet haunts my dreams.
Ozma’s an investigative bone ladypig at heart too.
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46. Nightmare Inn – T.S. Rue
A one-woman red-headed jealousy-killing machine ghost – and Sebastian knew about her the whole time! Sheesh.
Anyway, this book starts off with some super teen dramatics coming out of Sarah – she’s done something. Last night. It was something she feels really guilty about. It makes her sick to think of going on the fishing trip with her sloppy boyfriend and her best friend and her neat boyfriend. Oh no! I mean, I don’t like camping, but nature is trying to kill me, not my guilty conscience.
Finally, after much mental hand-wringing, we find out Sarah likes her best friend’s boyfriend better. Okay then. She kissed him last night and now her hormones are overwhelming her and she’s kinda out of it, calling her friend Jodie by the name “Ellen” even though she knows no Ellens. Then she sees a phantom pink school bus when they’re driving on a rutted out road in a rainstorm and now there’s no fishing trip to go on because she leads them to The Arcadia Inn, this series’ version of the Hotel California, and her like sister-ghost the red-headed jealousy-killing machine. If only she hadn’t kissed Adam like every dramatic teen who realizes their feelings are leading them to a different boy!
Ozma has nothing to feel guilty about.
79. Dime Store Magic – Kelley Armstrong
In the Otherworld there are two major female protagonists – there’s Elena of the first two books and werewolves, and there’s Paige the witch. Paige is introduced, along with several of the characters in Dime Store Magic, in Stolen. She’s just been thrown into a large amount of responsibilities after the death of her mother. Paige is now taking care of the young witch Savannah who was imprisoned with Elena in Stolen. Savannah is a totally big deal to everyone in the Otherworld because she is so powerful and also is not in control of her powers. And Paige is a good witch and Savannah is wanted by the not-good magic peeps and so there’s like conflict there and stuff. The cabals of the Otherworld make a big splash in this one, including Lucas Cortez of the Cortez cabal. He’s there to help! Or is he…
I’ll be honest as usual, I find Paige to be uninteresting. She’s scattered but thinks she knows everything and she and Savannah seem more like roommates- and it was a bit of an obvious set up with Lucas, but at the same time it felt forced. There’s an odd lack of chemistry with the characters considering this book involves witchcraft. It’s like when someone tells you a show is really good, but to avoid the pilot. In the Otherworld, if Bitten and Stolen are the first two seasons, Dime Store Magic reads like an ill-advised spin off series.
Ozma was also a big deal based on being powerful, despite being very small.
80. Counterfeit Magic
This one’s a novella, so it’s real short, which helps me since I’m not the biggest fan of these witches. And it involves a supernatural fight club. Like in Angel. Or Thor: Ragnarok. Or one of those things that happen when you have an inventive and bored special effects crew. Has this been a challenge on Face Off? Can your make up survive supernatural fight club and will anyone be able to talk about it?
Finny and Ozma’s “no, we weren’t just fighting” faces.
84. Industrial Magic
The other early full length Otherworld witch book involves Paige’s more bureaucratic and diplomatic sides. Yes. A new style of coven sounds like a great idea, but if only she had brochures or a Power Point presentation. Thankfully, that is not the main focus of Industrial Magic and there are more characters who are more interesting who show up; even Lucas becomes more interesting in this one because we find out some backstory about his family disagreements. Phew. No offense to Paige, but in this case even though there are maybe too many characters in this one, they are a bit of a blessing. They require action.
Ozma and Finny required lettuce-based action.
81. Certain Dark Things – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Vampires in a slightly futurized version of Mexico City! I really like this author. I’ve only read two of her books, but she’s absolutely great. The first book of hers I read had very little fantasy element to it but this one is vampire noir and that’s quite a change. However, she builds her world basically seamlessly. I was never taken out of the narrative by exposition or any other aspect of world building and I’ve never even been to Mexico City (just border towns for me thus far). That’s quite a feat when you’re writing about yet another selection of different kinds of vampires, but Moreno-Garcia’s vampires are actually interesting- even to me, who has been reading vampire stories for a very, very long time now.
Some are really classy noir ladies with their ability to push those who care for them away and enlist the help of puppy dog-style humans, like Atl; some sound like someone I used to know who is particularly fond of being sleazy and ravenous for getting what they want, like Nick, whose mouth is also full of really nasty bacteria; and then there’s the super old dude one that lives in a house in the Roma and seems like he looks like Diego Rivera but maybe shorter, Bernardino. Of course, none of these vampires are even supposed to be in Mexico City and there are human perspectives on the various conflicts and details of the rules for vampires as well. And still it doesn’t get boring or wander around in human moral issues or crying or ever get confusing despite how many characters are involved. There’s an underlying drumbeat to the entire story.
Finny would serve as Ozma’s Renfield if they were vampires; but Ozma would make a good noir lady regardless.
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.
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.
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.
16. The Walls Around Us – Nova Ren Suma
The Year of the Pig is not over yet, but for my pigs it has been the year of Pig Death. Granted, one was terminal illness and two were really old age-related if you want to get down to it, but still. Three. I really should be reading and writing about A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck, as an aspirational thing or an impossible new year’s resolution, but, that would just be a title thing and a thing I want in year form. Instead, I have chosen a magical realism tale about a wrongfully imprisoned teen, her rightfully imprisoned cellmate, and the conscience-less ballerina who made their meeting happen…right before everyone in the child prison died and got all ghosty. Spoiler. Everyone dies. That’s a life spoiler.
The Walls Around Us is also a reminder of how talent makes people jealous. Even other talented people who are just insecure and need to realize that another talented person existing, especially one who does not have the advantages of money and support, is not going to hurt them. Advantages hurt people all the time, the ones who don’t have them, anyway.
Being born into or forced into a bad situation hurts too, which is why Amber the murderer in the story gained my sympathy to a large extent. Plus I totally get why she wants to dominate the book cart in juvie. Ori, who gets thrown into juvie for a crime she did not commit, well, she wasn’t born into good circumstances either and she is a massively talented ballerina. So she apparently has to pay, so that Violet the haver of all advantages and also technically a talented ballerina doesn’t have anyone to outshine her or make it clear she’s a criminal around.
The language in this book is beautiful and poetic in a way that did not bother me for once. I believe it’s because of how grounded it seemed. It didn’t seem like Nova Ren Suma was trying to avoid character development or the realities of these characters so she could wax lyrical about guilt or make life in prison an escapist fantasy (suck it, Suckerpunch), but it’s still a very unsettling story, both in plot and reading experience.
Also unsettling – how perfectly Ozma posed with paintings of herself, even at five years old. She was too cute. Too cute.
96. New Year’s Evil – Michael August
It seems this is an overly easy play on words to make. Everybody’s done it from Eazy-E to the 1980 slasher film with the best opening song not to have a wide release full soundtrack to back it up to this 1994 entry in the Z*Fave Scream series which doesn’t even really have much anticipation in relation to the holiday. It easily could have happened on any other holiday when teenagers usually have parties. Or, like an equinox, or any exciting day for astrology. I mean, there’s no anticipation about who is going to secure the beer, if there will be murders in different time zones, or whether or not there will be a kiss from a super-crush at midnight. They also did not paint the town.
It starts with goody two-shoes Tess Ryan trying to buy candles for a ritual the new girl says will keep the local ne’er do well off of her and her friends’ backs. The new girl is from New Orleans and is apparently very, very old for someone attending high school.
Tess wants mostly normal 90s teen things – to date the boy her father looks at like he’s the one beating kids up (He wears ripped jeans. And black! Oh horror of suburban horrors.), to hang out with her friends the bubbly one and that other nerd boy, and to research witchcraft at the local library when it seems like something’s up. It’s tubular.
I’ll be honest, their solution to witchcraft-based attacks is a little weak, but, the witch did manage to take most of the good books out of the library before they got anything useful. Sinister shit.
When it came to Horace and Ozma, she really didn’t have to worry about whether she’d get her NYE kiss either.
71. Cold Earth – Sarah Moss
What if the archaeological dig is haunted? By personal failure? Could you dig it? Or, as is more accurate in terms of this book, can you make it? As in survive on classic novels, crackers, and sad noodles? While still pretending that your excavation matters? Can you listen to the jackass who didn’t check to see if the satellite phone they brought even works tell you not to “disturb the site” while you are developing scary symptoms of being deathly cold and it has a shelter?
I’m asking many questions, but many questions are raised by this book – especially at the end. It is a bit of a confusing ending and I can’t tell if I felt like it was rushed or if it was just too optimistic when throughout the book they keep mentioning a virus that’s spreading in not-remote Greenland areas. It seemed like when the internet went down whole hog that virus might be way more than just something to stoke their isolated paranoia.
Also, to establish my baseline for how reading this felt, Nina was soooo annoying, and she’s both the voice allowed the most space and the main one hearing and seeing ghosts. AND she’s not even an archaeologist or an anthro student, so, somehow, she wins the annoying olympics without bringing much expertise. I mean, she has expertise, but a lot of it is about food – which is not helpful on a remote dig when the “food” is dwindling. But I’m definitely not on Ruth’s super-bitch side either, or Iowan Jim’s (nope, he’s not a similar Iowan to me, he had like no fight in him), or optimistically painting terrified Catriona’s, or agreeable Ben’s, definitely not Mr. Lack of Preparation/Don’t Touch That Turf Mr. Yianni’s. I am on the side of the sheep who kept randomly bothering them. Those sheep were on to something about the intersection of curiosity and knowing your limits. I need to know if that virus was zoonotic in case the sheep didn’t make it.
Ozma and Peregrine demonstrate their work methods in this dramatic recreation of an archaeological dig on the couch. When you find “bones,” put your little teefs on them.
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