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Book Review – Under Wraps – Hannah Jayne August 29, 2011

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I can’t say that I regret the time I spent with this book. I picked it up because of the controversy over the cover, and I have to agree that the cover is ridiculous as compared to the actual content. Pondering it I would have been just as likely to buy the book with an appropriate cover versus getting it just for the kick assitutude represented by the sword and leather fall back position.

This story is a highly campy urban fantasy/paranormal romance. Sophie Lawson works at the supernatural version of the DMV, the Underworld Detective Agency, where it’s paperwork and dodging slime day in and day out – usually while wearing comfortable shoes. She’s drawn into an above world murder plot and gets to hang out with the handsome and detective Parker Hayes. She’s got a fashion obsessed roommate and a kindly boss who she chains up every night…apparently it’s a werewolf thing.   Not that it always works anyway.

The world building here is all right, but nothing that blew me away. It’s campy, fun and very predictable. The interesting thing for me was that I’d recently finished Grave Witch by Kalayna Price which had a similar base plot, but it was done much better. So I think Under Wraps suffered by the comparison.

This book reminds me most in tone of the Simon Canderous novels or Touched By An Alien.. Fun, but I’ll check the next book out from the library before purchasing.

Genre:  Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Age: Older teen +

Content:  Accepted drinking, some violence and borderline torture, bad shoes, mild sexuality

Overall: 2.5/5

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Movie Review: Captain America July 29, 2011

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“He’s the star spangled man with a plan!!!”

Okay, so maybe not.

Bunneh and I went to see Captain America on Wednesday and, as my husband put it, We were “completely charmed.”  The setting was perfect, the story and plot worked beautifully, the romance was heartbreaking and the chemistry between the actors in various positions were perfect.  This was the Captain America I love.  A man who was patriotic and determined to do the right thing and defend others whether he was a scrawny 90 pound asthmatic or a buff butt kicking superhero.  He was a good man and became a better man not just because of a serum or a process, but by choice.  I love that.  I love what it represents for good people anywhere.

I could get into a lot of specific details as to why we loved it, but it boils down to all the right things coming together to create a movie that reminded us about things like courage and friendship and faith.  Not to mention Agent Carter, the love interest, kicks butt in her own right, so we had a couple who were balanced and yet put everything else in front of sex and even romance because they both knew this was war and what had to be priority.  We don’t see, or at least don’t hear about, nearly as many examples of such selflessness but it is poignant and powerful.

All in all go see this movie.  Even if you aren’t a comic book buff, go see it.  Of all the superhero movies I’ve seen in the last couple of years, this one is by far the most relatable to by both comic book fans and non fans.  And if you’re looking forward to The Avengers stay through the credits.  Otherwise, run before the lyrics to Star Spangled Man infest your brain.

Jana

Book Review – Hounded by Kevin Hearne July 8, 2011

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I was excited for this book when I saw the initial story description and having finished it I find myself seeing it as a hit and miss kind of offering. There are some great ideas which I liked very much, but also some thing that made me cringe and want to slap the narrator and occasionally the author. 😛

On a positive note I do like the pacing of the book and the wit. The widow McDunna was a complete crack up, and I like the use of the Irish mythos in a way that wasn’t over done, even if it was a bit simplistic. The explanation of why Atticus is in Arizona and what he’s chosen to do with his life makes sense to me, as does his desire to play keep away from a God that wants his head. The relationship with Oberon is good, though I do find some of the things Oberon says to be so far out of a dog’s realm of understanding that it throws me out of the story. I think if there had been more information making Oberon a specific familiar with thoughts outside of doggie comprehension that it would have made better sense, but he’s just a dog who has been affected by being around Atticus. For me that doesn’t make the jump to understanding traumatized Toto or citrus air fresheners.

I do not like how Atticus thinks and acts like an oversexed frat boy. Sex doesn’t bother me. Sex with at least two goddesses and being lusted after by others…well…kinda par for the course for the genre. Many of the heroes and heroines of UF are attractive to all sorts of folks, even if the hero/ine themselves are described as being plain or otherwise not overly attractive. So it’s a little Gary Stu, but dealable with. I despise the interactions with the EMTs and the portrayal of the same. If you are 2100 years old and as smart as Atticus is supposed to be using power you don’t have to give an EMT a wedgie twice is just plain stupid and arrogant. And I can see setting up problems with authority, again very typical, but when you get into medical folk, in particular EMTs, you’re dealing with people who work stupid hours responding to people when their lives have gone to crap. Very rarely do you find an EMT who is a jerk and even more rarely do they sit there and bicker details versus HELPING the person involved. It’s not their job to determine the legitimacy of a wound, it’s their job to save lives and treat the hurt. People who are into a job for the power over other people don’t become paramedics, EMTs or other emergency personnel. It’s fine to keep up with the times and be hip, I don’t have a problem with that. But there is a difference between acting young and keeping up appearances and thinking like a teenager. 2100 years worth of experience should, in theory, also bring with it a bit of wisdom and tolerance, Atticus shows neither.

I’ve seen a lot of comparisons with Jim Butcher, and I’d say Herne has some of the same flow, but it’s definitely Butcher lite. I’m willing to give him a couple of books to hit his stride, I’m not so turned off that I won’t pick up another one, but it could go either way for me right now. I want to see that up with the times Druid with power and a nifty sword and a soft spot for an Irish widow, but I want to see him tempered by the years he’s lived and to show wisdom through humor. Otherwise what’s the point of him being a 2100 year old Druid instead of a newbie, except that he gets to make esoteric historical references?

Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Age: 15+

Content:  Abundant fantasy style sword and sorcery fights, werewolf maulings, etc.  Some sexual content, mostly FTB and nekkid goddesses, mild drinking

Overall: 2.5/5

Book Review – Right Hand Magic by Nancy A Collins June 3, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Book Series, Romance, Urban Fantasy.
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I finished Right Hand Magic a couple of weeks ago, and I have to admit I found it charming.  It it the best, most dramatic urban fantasy I’ve ever read?  Nope.  But it was engaging and really fun, and sometimes fun is exactly what I’m in the mood for.

In Right Hand Magic we meet Tate, who is a trust fund baby defying her socialite parents by choosing the path of an artist, in her case an artist who builds sculptures out of metal.  When the book begins Tate has recently broken up with her boyfriend and is looking for someplace new to live, particularly if the rent price is right and she finds the right rent in the area of the city known as Golgatham.  We’re not given a LOT of background about how magic came into the world, but it’s enough to know that the supernatural exists and that it is untrusted and generally confined within Golgatham.  Usually humans aren’t welcome there, but Tate is desperate for change and at $750 a month she figures it’s worth trying something a little weird.

From this beginning Tate meets her witch born landlord, his obnoxious winged cat familiar, a cellar dwelling seer and a new housemate in the form of a were cougar escaped from the underground fighting pits.  The plot is fairly predictable, but I didn’t mind going on the journey to see just how it’d be achieved.  Tate is a really fun heroine with a spunky attitude, that never crossed over to being mean.  She is not a ‘kick ass’ heroine in the traditional UF sense of killing everything that gets in her way.  More she’s just confident in herself and works hard to achieve her goals and to take care of the people around her.  At one point she’s captured by the protagonist and even though she can’t do much, she does take the opportunity to stomp his foot and kick him in the shins, which is pretty much what I think most people would do.

Likewise the romance is cute and sweet.  You can tell it’s coming, but Tate and Hexe are cute together and it’s satisfying.   I appreciate Hexe’s characterization and his strength of person as well.  In fact the majority of the secondary characters are well done, which really rounds out the world and makes the bits that would be less believable something I’m willing to suspect disbelief for.

The magic system is fun consisting of natural abilities that come with race and then the witches, who practice Right Hand Magic, Left Hand Magic or some combination of the two.  Right Hand Magic is gentle magic, usually used for healing and blessing and undoing dark magic, where Left Hand Magic would be the a fore mentioned dark magic.  Most witches tend towards Left Hand Magic or the middle ground, but Hexe has chosen a path of only Right Hand Magic, no matter how hard it is to hold that road.

This book read fast and I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Genre:  Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Age: Late Teen/Adult

Content:  Very mild Sexuality, violence, language

Overall:  4/5

Book Review: Of Saints and Shadows April 29, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Urban Fantasy.
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Of Saints and Shadows by Christopher Golden caught my eye as it was an urban fantasy series with a male protagonist.  These are often too rare and I loved the cover and the description of a series that combined a different take on the vampire mythos with secret societies and the underground life of the Vatican.

The set up intrigued me and the writing is good.  It flows well with some interesting characters and ideas.  However…after about 130 pages I’m putting this book down and it will be a do not finish for me.

You have to understand that I consider myself a fairly open reader and most content doesn’t bother me overly much, except I dislike gratuitous and explicit gore or sex.  in some books if I can easily skip said content I’ll finish the book anyway and just note it here for other readers.  In the case of Of Saints and Shadows the main antagonist gets off on killing other people and the more graphic and artistic it is the better.  As well it, thus far, has all the horror themes of sex=death and never go anywhere alone ever.  After seeing the death methods escalate really fast from guns to demons sucking off men’s genitals and crawling up to gore out eyeballs…  I’ve had enough.  I’ve done some forward skimming and the plot looks like it picks up from where I’m at, but I’m just not willing to wade through more blackly exploding bellies and doggie guts to get there.  Particularily not when my TBR pile is deep with books I really want to read.

For some people it may be their cup of tea and I wouldn’t say the series is unreadable, but not for the faint of heart, or those that don’t like their UF served with a large helping of artistic death al la slasher films…I’d give this one a miss.

Genre:  Horror/Urban Fantasy

Age: Adult

Content:  Sexuality, violence, language, explicit killings and torture

Overall:  DNF


Book Review: Fairest – Gail Carson Lavine April 1, 2011

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Fantasy, Uncategorized.
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Whew…another month almost over.  I don’t know how it happens so fast…no one asked my permission.  Though here in Utah the winter is stubbornly holding on and it’s still freezing and cloudy.  Spring in Utah is a fight between Winter and Summer which Summer will eventually win, usually in about a 48 hour turn around from cold to scorching.

Anyway…bookwise I’ve been listening to many books on CD or MP3 lately as the job requires a bit of a commute.  This last week I listened to Fairest by Gail Carson Lavine.  I was in the mood for something light with a happily ever after kind of thing after reading a lot of darker bits.  I kinda wonder if that’s partially because I’m so ready for spring and happily ever afters tie into good weather in my brain.

Fairest is a retelling of Snow White and takes place in the same world as Lavine’s Ella Enchanted retelling of Cinderella.  The maid Aza is abandoned as a baby and raised by an innkeeper and his family.  Unlike the usual spin on step families the family truly loves her and she truly loves them.  (As a step mom meself it appealed immensely to me to see a happy step relationship.)  Physically Aza is an ugly kid, both in her own eyes and the eyes of other, and that theme of chasing beauty and what it means to be beautiful on the inside and the outside is really what the book is about.

The language is not overly difficult save for some of the names, the fantasy spellings are occasionally horrid, but easily readable by around 10 and up.  In a month where I just needed a little ‘and they all lived happily ever after’ this was a fun feel good listen.  The one problem I had with the audio book is that they sing all of the singing parts, which are abundant.  Initially it was kinda cute, like listening to a Bollywood film, but some of the songs are LOONG and I didn’t like the melodies they’d chosen enough to listen.  I became grateful for the fast forward button at a few points.  Despite some of that annoyance, I do really like the full cast audio for this type of book.

A great book for a lazy sunny afternoon or while on vacation.

 

Genre:  Young adult fantasy/retold fairytale

Age: pre-teens and up

Content:  Very minor violence, one character gets turned to stone but recovers, a plot for poisoning

Overall:  4/5

To Boldly Go… May 12, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Critiquing, Movies.
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So I was one of the rabid fans who went to the preshowings of Star Trek on Thursday. I am not ashamed of this. We were the geeky couple who were second in line and even skipped dinner to make sure we were there early. This lead to mass popcorn consumption but that’s a post for another blog.

Anyway…in a phrase I loved the movie. From the sets, to casting, to special effects, to writing…I loooved this movie. It was a movie that paid homage to where it had come from, but still blazed paths into completely new territory and set things up so that the franchise is given new life.

As a writer I’m impressed by the message of Star Trek and the pacing. The pacing ran well between character moments, action, drama, romance and humor. It never let you go or had you glancing at your watch. The plot was kept simple so that the focus could be on this new crew and how they come together and why. Each of the lead characters had a moment to shine and to show why they are important to the crew and the beginnings of why they will become more and more important to each other. The message was one of hope, friendship, family and love and how people react to loss. For some they become the villains and others the heroes. Everyone has a reason for doing what they do.

Six days later I’m still pondering this film. The story, the fan service and the links to the past… I need to see it again, but if you haven’t gone I encourage it. Even if you aren’t a Trekker or a big fan of the original this is a show worth seeing and it’s not so seeped in its own mythology that you won’t be able to follow along.

It’s one heck of a ride.

Jana

“Wednesday” Review: Airs of Night and Sea March 19, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Book Review, Fantasy.
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Well it turns out this is actually the last book of a trilogy, which I didn’t realize when I picked it up off the shelf. Regardless I didn’t find it difficult to get into the plot or follow the story, but I might have understood the motivations of the villian a little better. Airs Beneath the Moon and Airs and Graces are the first two novels of the series, and I’ll certainly be reading them. The strengths of Toby Bishop’s novel are an engaging writing style and a swift moving plot. There’s the intrigue of kidnappings, political problems and near war. Also the idea of incorporating flying horses into an otherwise classic fantasy world is a unique and interesting twist. The protagonist, Larkyn, is intriguing and likeable. Some of the characterizations feel a little flat, particularly with the Ultra Evil Duke Villian. His motivations and cruelty are a little hard to take, because there’s little redeeming to his personality. He’s motivated with power lust and hatred, and often acts irrationally. Another secondary character, Amelia, seems to have inconsistent characterization but as the book progresses she becomes more likeable; and fits her persona as the calm and wise daughter of a politician. All together it’s a good series, and I wish I had read them in order. Take some of the reviews with a grain of salt because I may have missed back story. Bishop is good at hinting at previous events but not leaving readers lost who do not pick up the trilogy in order.

Genre:  Fantasy
Age: Preteen, teen, adult
Content: Mild Violence, obscure references to a rape/incest
Overall:  Buy or Borrow

Airs of Night and Sea

Driven by insane jealousy, Duke William is determined to found his own flying school, where the valuable flying horses of Oc will learn to bond with well-born young men—instead of arrogant women. Now, Larkyn Hamley and her beloved Black Seraph must gather all of their allies from the air to the ground. For if they do not soar now, none will ever see the skies again.