46. Stolen – Kelley Armstrong
Adding witches, vampires, demons, a mad scientist, and a sadistic billionaire to her urban fantasy (but this one’s mainly set in an isolated compound) series may have seemed like a good idea at the time for Kelley Armstrong. Second book in the series, throw in everything. And in fact, the Otherworld books are usually fun to read regardless of how many types of supernatural characters have been thrown in – besides, Charlaine Harris did the same thing and it happened on Buffy and Monster Squad and there are so many, many more. If one supernatural thing is real, they all must be! Here’s a kitchen sink for your trouble! It does get tiresome having to learn everyone’s powers over and over – oh you’re not all demon, you’re just half demon and a jerk- okay. On something else, you’d be super tortured and whining about not being able to find love or something…
In the context of Stolen, which came directly after Bitten – a novel dealing entirely with werewolves – it’s quite the expansion on what I thought was going to be a series dealing with the issues of one main species. And in the setting it has – some jerk billionaire uses his resources to capture and hunt different supernatural species, it makes it work. Armstrong’s female characters are very strong and very capable and I appreciate that. Even the imprisoned witches and Elena the werewolf are resourceful and making the effort to make do with their circumstances while finding a way out. It’s far more realistic than panicking and waiting for male characters to help them out…and sometimes it seems like stories have to be set in a fully supernatural universe for that to be truly understood.
Ozma, planning her escape from the couch full of pumpkins.
56. City of Devils – Justin Robinson
Long time, no see, eh? Let’s just say that moving, starting a new job, renewing my ongoing battle with eczema (Now on my neck! Very visibly! You can’t see me!), most of my allergies, and trying not to engage with the fatalist part of my brain every second has been distressing. However, October is my favorite month and this book was FUN and I’m trying very hard.
When reading a book that engages heavily with pop culture, as this one does, I cannot help but think back to every writing workshop I’ve brought part of Night of the Squirrels to with the “But will everyone get it? Why are you referencing anything at all if everyone won’t get it?” questions. I get why people ask that. I get why workshops are concerned with that- they typically seem designed to make everyone’s work as accessible and therefore generic as possible. Some people don’t like pop culture, won’t appreciate references, have no sense of humor, etc. That’s fine. They’re fine. I believe the generic story with broad emotions and no pop cultural references humans are already being catered to very handily by several writers. Not me. Not Justin Robinson in City of Devils.
I do have to say I was initially skeptical when a vast variety of monsters were mentioned and I was especially skeptical when one of the characters was a gremlin named “Brows.” Full disclosure, probably not a surprise, I adore Gremlins (and Gremlins II) and I don’t want to see anybody mangle anything about either of those films, including the gremlins that scared me to death when I was little. Hi ho. Thankfully, Robinson has enough respect for this subject matter and the necessity of red herrings in mystery stories and not leaving loose ends (or maybe I should say stringy, pulpy ends as I was pretty happy with how the pumpkin-head, not the Henriksen movie one with too big scapulas -more like Jack from Return to Oz, ended up being more than just a lawn visitor). Maybe he also has a Gremlins lunchbox. Even if he doesn’t, I really appreciate having a solid example of how smoothly references can work to truly deepen the possibilities of appreciation in a funny, original story.
The meshing of horror movie monsters (the werewolves vs. wolfmen distinctions were particularly amusing to me) with noir tropes and humor in sweaty post-war L.A.’s secretive studio system and underworld really worked for me. I was expecting it to be like what the movie Dylan Dog wanted to be and it easily met and exceeded that expectation, which makes it seem like I’m lowballing but I had high hopes for the Dylan Dog movie. City of Devils was more fun. I am also now concerned about the whereabouts of a toad.
If Thaddeus ever eats after midnight and becomes a Gremlin of the scariest kind, his name will be “Bolt.” I will not allow him to move to L.A. though, not even Louisiana, where I have spent many extremely sweaty days and nights.
35. Book of Shadows – Alexandra Sokoloff
I enjoy reading Alexandra Sokoloff’s books. They tend to be spritely and have quickly paced stories, which makes perfect sense as she is a screenwriter as well. They are also a little easy to dismiss, which is the problem I have with mysteries in general. I don’t read them terribly often, but from what I’ve experienced recommending them, one-shot mysteries can be very disposable and what people are really looking for is someone to follow – the DA, the Miss Marple, the bounty hunter, the two weird guys who will go into the swamp or the abandoned house, or the woman who keeps hearing random dead people telling her where they’re buried. The victims are rarely all that interesting. Sure, they tend to have sordid pasts or have been in the wrong place at the wrong time…but they’re not the focus unless it’s Twin Peaks and even then Laura wasn’t the end focus thanks to the awesomeness of Special Agent Dale Cooper. So maybe I just prefer to watch mysteries. The Killing, though, man, I just can’t say anything about that end result yet except a hearty, “Sheesh.” Bookwise I’ve dabbled into categorized as mystery novelists Elmore Leonard and Joe R. Lansdale and Charlaine Harris (although none of what I’ve read of any of these authors was very straightforwardly mystery). I’ve been told I might enjoy Janet Evanovich like masses of people across the nation but a. that’s a hamster and b. I’m not ready and I’ve got a lot of other books to go through. There are a lot of dead people to read about.
Anyway, Book of Shadows is definitely a mystery but it has supernatural elements like a sexy witch and ritual murder. There were some trips to the dump and the subtle harassment of a super-tool goth musician who was a red herring and that was so shocking. Overall, I would have watched it if it was a monster-of-the-week episode of Supernatural and enjoyed it a little more because there would have been some trusty guides to deal with the circumstances. Reading it was all right, a bit of a brain candy-style experience and I do not remember the name of the main character but the story flowed and the ending was a tad on the cheesy side. The ending of The Harrowing was a bit on the wonky side for me as well, so maybe Sokoloff has Stephen King’s ending syndrome where every so often, the reveal just blows for no good reason.
Snorecery. Twiglet prefers Leonard’s brand of problematic magic.
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