Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead (When Your House Tries to Kill You)

Hm. This one was a tricky book for me. On one hand, I thought the snappy tone was refreshing and fun. On the other hand, the plot wobbled from insanely interesting one moment to a three page diatribe about what she ate that day. On the plus side? Gus is hell of a lot of fun. He's a positive, lively character and without him the book would fall flat. The draw with the house, the possession and all of that lead up was immensely nail-biting and I loved the creepiness and struggle as she explored the house from messed up cellar to creepy attic with a side room. On the negative side...Mara causes a lot of her own problems. Yes, she didn't ask for any of it directly, but at the same point, she invited all of the problems in and served them tea with her best china. There are a lot of points that she's just as well informed as the reader and I'm wondering why she wouldn't just get the hell out.


Mara's Genius Move #1: The girl's got some issues. The book starts out in a really interesting way when the building manager decides she's evicted, pretty much just because she's Wicca. Great intro, good, gripping start with a plausible problem. But she's having these crazy dreams she just can't ignore and the ghost of her father tells her not to use her magic. What does she decide to do? Use her magic of course, because gee golly, listening is for idiots. She uses it to bring her money. WHICH begins most of her problems.
Mara's Genius Move #2: So, midway through the book after a fun roundabout of Gus involved escapades, Mara finds out her spell delivered. The impending housing situation? Solved since her Aunt Tillie passed away, leaving her the cottage. Perfect solution, happy ending. Except that the cottage had been cropping up in her dark, horrible dreams all along. The logical solution? Get a job, figure out the money situation and sell the place from a distance. Mara's solution? Let me go LIVE there. Absolute genius, I tell you.

Mara's Genius Move #3: After moving in and getting tormented by the ghost of her Aunt Tillie until she's hospitalized, she finds out Tillie's trying to keep her safe from something. Something her mom tried to protect her from. Something that wants her in the cottage. Since Mara's the munchkin in the patch, she decides to stay and play with the big bad energy. After all, it couldn't really want to harm her, right? Duh. Her ancestor Lisette had some powerful mojo and wanted to reunite with her lover, Lucien. So when Mara invites her crush over and they mess around in the haunted rooms, Lucien and Lisette possess their bodies...which has been the plan from day one.

Luckily, there are smart characters like Gus who come and save the day, performing some demon expelling magic along with a bag of tricks including zombie powder. Happy ending, demons destroyed, guy she likes pretty shaken and hey, she's pregnant from all the boinking Lisette did while borrowing her body! While the plot's a bit all over the place and Mara isn't a great heroine, the other characters are interesting and the fun tone is what really drives the story. However, if you're not picky, like witches and want a fun read? This would fit the bill.

Rating: 3

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Stolen Throne (Welcome to the Loghain Pity Party)

So, I went into this book pretty hopeful. After all, Dragon Age is one of my favorite video games and the writing for it is absolutely phenomenal. However, translating that to fiction didn't work as well. I felt like half the time I was skimming through trying to get past the dreadful pacing of the story with the action scenes that were kinda static. It felt like they were trying to describe the video game rather than reaching for something more.
On the plus side, it was a nice companion to the game. I learned a lot of backstory about Loghain and Maric that makes me want to play again, so did it achieve its goal? Probably.


Misery thy name is Loghain #1: While Maric is the main character, the one of real intrigue is Loghain. The entire book sets up a perfectly logical explanation for his behavior in the game. In fact, I think on replay, I'll probably be rooting for the poor bastard. So Maric starts off bumbling, like Alistair, but without the witty dialogue and any real charm. He's naive and innocent like a dumb puppy and his existence lends to a shitfest of problems to anyone around him. Starting when Loghain runs into him in the woods after Maric's mother was murdered. Poor Loghain tries to do a good deed by bringing him back to camp and gets punished for it by the outlaws who swarm his home looking for Maric, resulting in Gareth, Loghain's dad, biting it.

Misery thy name is Loghain #2: Spurned with a capital S. So, Maric has a betrothed named Rowan. They're BFFs of course, but dense Maric doesn't even see her infatuation and instead boinks some random elven assassin. Go Maric. Meanwhile, Loghain's been getting to know Rowan and comes to care for her deeply. He finally confesses his feelings for her, right when she finds out Maric found a new fuck buddy by way of exotic elven temptress. However, when Loghain tries to leave in the morning, fully mortified and embarrassed, Maric has a hissy fit until he agrees to stay.

Misery thy name is Loghain #3: This was the heart clencher and seals Loghain's future villainy. So, they're taking down the big bad usurper and Maric finds out his elven wench was a spy. Even though it was obvious to everyone else from the start, its all OH! BETRAYAL! WANGST! So to pull Maric out of his depression, Loghain gives up the one good thing he had, Rowan. Oh yeah, they hooked up. Fully in love. But Fereldan needs a queen and Maric's obviously not fit to rule. So Loghain convinces both of them to go for it, despite his own feelings for Rowan. And does Maric finally learn how to be a good friend and lets Loghain have her? Of course not. He marries Rowan and they sire Cailan.

I spent most of this story annoyed with Maric and sympathizing with Loghain. While it's not the best written thing out there, if you wanted an alternate perspective on the bad guy, it's worth it, just to feel for Loghain when you replay the game. Because knowing Cailan is the lovechild of his best friend and old flame, it really helps you understand why he's constantly annoyed with the kid from the start. Plus, Cailan has the same idiocy that plagued Maric throughout the story. Theirin family crest: But daddy, I want to ride the pony!

Rating: 3

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Throne of Fire (Kane Family Vacation, complete with doom, doom and more doom)

While the stakes come off kinda cartoonish at times (You have 5 days or else Chaos/End of the World/Boom) it works because of the fun, campy tone to the stories. Sadie and Carter's constant bickering and acting like the teens they are promotes the kind of story where even with high stakes, you're reading less for the drama and more for the fun. Snappy and sassy? Yes. Actually nail biting? Not really, but the tone is more reminiscent of Indiana Jones with kickass adventures and tomb raiding.


Gambling for Tweens #1: Once the Kane siblings find out their all important mission, they head over to Russia with Bes, the dwarf god. However, part of the Book of Ra belongs with Menshikov, who's on board with operation evil. So of course, while they're sneaking around trying to steal the book, he's having a one on one with Set, long distance, Egyptian magician style. When Menshikov realizes they're there, the kids make the first big bet of the book--summoning Set, to save them. Since he's on his own track, neither theirs nor Apophis', the kids take a big risk, but it pays off and he buys them enough time to escape.

Gambling for Tweens #2: The real time gambling took place with Khonsu, over a game of senet where they bet their souls. Craziest part of all this? Parent approved. Actually, parent provided. Khonsu's a creepy, kinda jerk of a dude. He lives for gambling and is known for it and when they bet their souls, trying to play for a couple hours, it results in a really intense game. Worst part of it is when Bes sacrifices himself so the kids can win and Khonsu devours the dwarf god. Even though Khonsu isn't supposed to be the big bad, he comes off way more menacing than anything else in the book.

Gambling for Tweens #3: The biggest chance they took was that with Ra, the doddering old grandpa of a god. This made for a ridiculously hilarious final battle, complete with Ra blowing raspberries at the enemies and asking for weasel cookies. It's hard to maintain any sort of terror with those antics going on in the background.

But the Kane sibs defeat Apophis for the time being, with the help of...well, not Ra, that's for sure. Regardless, the book ends on a fun note again where the entire thing has been another message sent to try and rally more people together for an army against the all powerful Chaos.

Rating: 3

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Lies of Locke Lamora (More costume changes than FFX-2)

Upon first introduction to the book, you need to look no further than the name of the series: The Gentlemen Bastard Sequence. That about encompasses the entire book and what a brilliant book it is. Scott Lynch juxtaposes levity with hard knocks seamlessly. While you spend half the story delighted at the sheer cleverness of Locke and his group of thieves, the other half is spent in horror at the dark depths the story takes. The landscape is alien and fantastical and you remember the characters long after the novel ends. The Gentlemen Bastards may not be paragons of honor and virtue, but they're one of the most entertaining groups I've seen in a long while.


A Villain Jamboree #1: First on the list is Don and Dona Salvara. They're not really the villains, just the nobles that Locke and his crew of Merry Men are stealing from. This beginning portion of the book where Locke becomes Lukas Fehrweight and ALSO a Midnighter showcases the brilliance of the Gentlemen Bastards as well as displays the camaraderie of the gang. This section is light, happy and frolick-y.

A Villain Jamboree #2: The Capa Barsavi's section introduces a seriousness to the story, perhaps because when they enter his chambers, he's brutally torturing a man. Now the fun little romp through Camorr suddenly seems to be more dangerous than they originally let on. Barsavi's a little off kilter, but genuinely not that bad by way of crime lords. Nazca's a great character and even though the Capa wants Locke to marry her, you still feel confident that they'll manage to get through all of this based on Locke's cleverness. 

A Villain Jamboree #3: Once we meet the Gray King, it's the figurative long beginning of the end. Where we lose all hope. Where we're desolate, horribly upset. Where the Gray King uses Locke, makes him turn against his Capa, has him beaten within an inch of his life and left for dead. Where the Gray King destroys the Gentlemen's Bastards by stealing their fortune, but worse, by killing the Sanzas, Bug and trying to kill Jean. His brothers. This was a hard bit to read and it keeps getting worse and worse until you're absolutely positive that everyone is going to die. The Gray King manages to knock off half the characters introduced in the book and reduce Locke to a soggy mess. But Locke stops him, and fights him one on one at the end, taking vengeance on his fallen brothers.

Some of the finest scenes involve the rituals of the Gentlemen Bastards, the prayers they say to the Crooked God, their repeated sayings. All of it makes them such a tight knit group which is why it all crumbles. The theme of this book is definitely revenge and it's threaded into the very marrow of the city they live in, Camorr. And when Locke takes his revenge? It's a triumph that nearly knocks you breathless.

Rating: 5

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Red Pyramid (Percy Jackson with Egyptian Flair)

One thing Rick Riordan is good at is telling a fun adventure tale. This one does not disappoint. Sadie's sassy and Carter's honorable and both of them squabble like the sister and brother they are as they share the stage and the POV shifts. Also, the hieroglyphics intermingled in the text are a cute touch. For a Middle Grade book, the story's really entertaining with a huge array of gods just like Percy Jackson. What I appreciate too (having read the Percy Jackson books) are the not-so-subtle references to the Greek gods hangin in Manhattan.


Isn't it fun to be Egyptian #1: The first big change that both Sadie and Carter deal with after the demise of dear old dad and the rise of big bad Set is all of the Egyptian studies crammed down their throat when they go to Brooklyn with Amos. They learn about the shabti, that they have magic, and that their parents were involved in something way over their heads. Oh yeah and that Sadie's cat Muffin is actually the goddess Bast. There's a lot of "I can't believe this is happening" going on, but luckily they're forced to get in the swing of things fast because the Brooklyn mansion is ambushed.

Isn't it fun to be Egyptian #2:  The next big dealie that Sadie and Carter get bomb dropped on them is the whole "hosting gods" thing. When they talk to Iskandar and all the magicians, everyone's pretty anti- the kids because of how powerful they are from hosting gods. Turns out Isis took up residence with Sadie and Horus with Carter. Both kids fight to keep the gods from overpowering them, but there are a lot of scratches and dents along the way. However, while the power of the gods gives them advantages against the enemies they're fighting, it also multiplies their enemies to include all of the magicians.

Isn't it fun to be Egyptian #3: The book is a big crash course on Egyptian gods, legends and culture in a big way, so the ending makes sense with a whole lot of family (god) drama going on. Sadie and Carter deal with Set, but the whole thing seems like a repeat of the millions of other encounters and fights the gods have had with each other. I mean, brand new to Sadie and Carter for sure, but it seems like fights to the death are pretty common over Thanksgiving dinner. What they do establish through defeating Set though is a groundwork for magicians and gods working together. When Sadie and Carter give up the powers of Isis and Horus, they make a huge step towards eventual unity, which is good, because big snakey monster Apophis wants to devour the world for dinner.

So Sadie and Carter leave off their recording requesting anyone else with weird Egyptian experiences to contact them so they can begin to rally for this fight against Chaos Monster of Doom. Cool style to do it and Sadie and Carter interrupting each others' passages make for a really unique style in the writing. Best part? The recording isn't a throwaway gimmick, as it's actually prevalent in the next book.

Rating: 3