Monday, 27 June 2011

Howl's Moving Castle

Level: Youth
Genre: Fantasy > High Fantasy
Obtained: Borrowed from a friend
Reviewed by: Nic Echo
About the Book: 
In this folklore like book, Sophie has already determined she is doomed to fail since she is the eldest of three children so it seems to be only fair that she is going to be the one to be stuck with tending the hat shop. It could be much worse, and worse it becomes when the evil Witch of the Waste comes to visit the hat shop and places a terrible curse on Sophie. This curse ends up turning Sophie into a ninety year old woman, unable to tell anyone about the curse. Sophie then ends up at the castle of Howl, a wizard known for eating young girls' hearts, and there she meets Calcifer, a fire demon who has a contract with Howl. Calcifer ends up noticing the spell on Sophie and says he will remove her curse if she figures out how to break the contract between Cal and Howl, which is just the beginning of Sophie's magical journey.

Rating: 10/10
I originally found this book from the Miyazaki film. Having loved the movie, I wanted to read the book, and I was not disappointed. Although I still think the movie is excellent, I found the book more wonderful. Jones did an excellent job of mixing both adventure and humour into her world. Also, the head nods toward the general fantasy genre are excellent, such as how Sophie is doomed to fail since she is the eldest. The characters are also fun, and you get a great sense of them without going into nitpicking details yet there is enough details that the character isn't bland or boring. The plot was a page turner through out, even if you have seen the movie. There are plenty of twists, some which are fairly clear to see and others that jump out at you, such as where the black portal leads. I seriously cannot recommend this book enough. It's an easy read with a punch that both kids and adults can enjoy. Jones can bet that I will be picking up more of her books in the future.

What I'm Reading Next:

Monday, 20 June 2011


Level: Explicit
Genre: Fantasy/Horror > Vampires/Urban Fantasy
Obtained: Borrowed from a friend
Reviewed by: Nic Echo

About the Book:
In the 19th Anita Blake novel, our heroine is struggling with several dilemmas.  First off, it turns out that Marmee Noir is not dead and is now possessing members of the Council. To add to that, there are also issues going on inside of the Circus. Haven, one of Anita's lovers and werelion, is throwing jealousy fits to the extreme so much that he is even hurting some of the lesser lions. Then, Anita is also having to help with a police case while assassins after after Jean-Claude, Richard, and herself.

Rating: 2/10
Wow, I honestly don't know where to start with this. There is just so much that I think I'll actually go through the book instead of my overall view that I tend to do. After that, I will probably do some more overviews. This book was just a mess.  First off, I'd like to say it had almost nothing to do with the official blurb that is on the back of  the book. 
Anita Blake is back in St. Louis and trying to live a normal life-as normal as possible for someone who is a legal vampire executioner and a U. S. Marshal. There are lovers, friends and their children, school programs to attend. In the midst of all the ordinary happiness a vampire from Anita's past reaches out. She was supposed to be dead, killed in an explosion, but the Mother of All Darkness is the first vampire, their dark creator. It's hard to kill a god. This dark goddess has reached out to her here-in St. Louis, home of everyone Anita loves most. The Mother of All Darkness has decided she has to act now or never, to control Anita, and all the vampires in America.

The Mother of All Darkness believes that the triumvirate created by master vampire Jean-Claude with Anita and the werewolf Richard Zeeman has enough power for her to regain a body and to immigrate to the New World. But the body she wants to possess is already taken. Anita is about to learn a whole new meaning to sharing her body, one that has nothing to do with the bedroom. And if the Mother of All Darkness can't succeed in taking over Anita's body for herself, she means to see that no one else has the use of it, ever again. Even Belle Morte, not always a friend to Anita, has sent word: "Run if you can..."
I am not even going to touch the atrocious grammar for that blurb (which was just as horrible in the actual book). However, reading this blurb you would think most of the book would revolve around Marmee Noir trying to take over Anita. It doesn't. Seriously, I think maybe an eighth of the book related to Mommy Dearest, and even then, it was never her directly. Mommy Dearest worked through three people: Belle Morte, Padma, and Morte d'Amor. You would also think that Mommy Dearest ends up possessing Anita from the blurb. Nothing even close.

In fact, ignore the official blurb, because only a smidgen of it actually occurs in the books. Actually, the entire Bullet novel seemed like nothing more than a whole bunch of short stories put together. Few of them had little to do with the overall plot. For example, we open up to Anita and company at a dance recital that ranges from tiny tots to high school seniors. So why is she there? One: she is dropping off Matthew's hat because his mother, Monica, who hasn't even been mentioned since book six (and I had to look that up so you can tell how important she has been), forgot it. The other reason she is there is to watch Jason and Nathaniel dance with some of the senior girls. Yes, apparently, there are no older men in this dance school so they had to get the local strippers, and, of course, they are the best there easily.  Now, maybe this dance recital wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't three chapters. Yes, Hamilton drags us through three entire chapters of nothing but useless crap that has nothing to do with the plot.

Hamilton then brings us to a problem we have seen in her past novels. Asher is being whiny due to the fact that he is getting nothing from Jean-Claude. This is because JC thinks Anita would leave him if she saw Asher and JC shagging. Now although I can see where Asher is coming from, the way Hamilton writes it, I just want to throw the book across the room. For one, this problem has been brought up several times in the past. Let it die already.  Secondly, Jean-Claude actually ends up apologising as if it's not Anita's fault at all. What? Just what? Jean-Claude apologised because ANITA would most likely leave if the two men decided to get jiggy with it without her? Fuck no. Thirdly, this just seems like an excuse for all of them to have sex. Of course, this is a recent Anita Blake book so  it is expected that there is going to be some random sex in there, but it gets worse. Richard shows up.

Now, the good news is Richard does not show up and start one of his usual tantrums. In fact, he is here to try to make things better. Okay, I can see that. In fact, it makes sense that Richard would eventually try to be easier eventually, but again, this just seems to be an excuse for Richard to be more intimate with men. No, he doesn't have actual sex with any of them, but he does dominate and flog Asher, and that just seems anti-Richard. Also, for some reason, Anita and Richard need to change to kinky leather to have sex. Anyway, so sex ensues when suddenly they get a metaphysical visit from Belle Morte and Padma, the Master of Beasts, and they are not alone. Each of them carry a piece of Marmee Noir in them. Now, I will say I enjoyed this part of the book, especially when Belle Morte becomes free of Mother of All Darkness and Belle runs off, telling Jean-Claude and company to run if they can. I could see the old Hamilton peeking through here. I could feel Belle Morte's fear. Sadly, this is a very small piece of the book.

So after the big visit, Anita starts getting some calls from some Masters of the City, who also received visits. One of these calls ends up with Chang-Bibi, or Queen of the weretigers of Las Vegas, on the phone. She tells Anita that she or Jean-Claude needs to become Master of the Tigers. Of course, it'll probably end up being Anita, because she gains every metaphysical power ever. Bibiana also tells Anita that she needs to bring the tigers into their true power so they can call on the elements. That's right. The tigers have elements they can control so not only do we have a rainbow of tigers, they can control nature. I couldn't help but roll my eyes here. It is ridiculous.

The next story Hamilton brings us to is about Haven. Apparently, he is not sharing Anita well and is getting pissy about it. Apparently, this has been going on for a while, but we, the readers, don't get to witness any of it. There is one mention of Haven attacking Micah and Nathaniel in Anita's bedroom. I was highly confused, because I could not recall any of this happening so I checked the Anita wiki and asked some other Anita Blake fans. Apparently, I was correct because it had happened in between books eighteen (Flirt) and nineteen (Bullet) so we don't get all the emotion and build up that could have been there. Instead, we are just plopped into the middle with Haven trying to burst in. Oh, and he has also beaten up two of the submissive werelions, Noel and Travis, because he thinks Anita slept with them. So Anita is having a "dilemma" because having sex with Haven would help, but she doesn't want to reward his bad behavior. Whine. Whine. Bitch. Bitch. Blah blah blah. I don't care.  Also, get this. Anita's code name is Black Queen. Yep, because that is so original. But, you know, Anita is so daaaark. Ugh. Just ugh.

Anyway, continuing on. I honestly cannot recall what happened with that bit of Haven drama. It was that uninteresting, but I do believe the next big thing after that is that Morte d'Amor (with Mommy Dearest) shows up while Anita is healing Noel with her lioness. He tries to make it where blood and flesh lust rise so that they will end up killing and he and Marmee Noir can gain power. Anita and Jean-Claude manage to turn it into the ardeur though and everyone in the circus ends up joining in a giant, black out orgy.

The next day, it seems no one can remember much of anything. Enter Haven drama again.
 So Haven starts bitching to Anita again about how he is not her one and only and how she is sleeping with lesser lions and she won't let him be a man. She knows Haven needs to be taught a lesson, but apparently Anita is too much of a wuss to fight him now. She's too short and all these other excuses that she never gave before, but since two other female werelions and Claudia, a wererat body guard, join her, Anita is suddenly rearing to go. Eventually, it becomes a gun fight of sorts between Anita and Haven, and Anita ends up killing him, but Haven also ends up killing Noel and shooting Nathaniel.

Now, I have several problems with this scenario. I already mentioned one above. The second one is the fact that this entire scene seemed to just be randomly put in there. Some people theorize that Haven was the avatar for Hamilton's old body guard, Charles. Who knows? But either way, the scene seems useless. The next thing I had an issue about was the killing of Haven. Now, this wouldn't normally have bothered me except the fact that Hamilton made a huge deal about how a main character was going to die, and this is what we get. Haven, who I would like to point out is NOT a main character but a supporting character, and even then, we barely got to know him so why should we care about him dying? The other thing I strongly disliked was Nathaniel getting shot. Again, I normally wouldn't care.  In fact, I may even be worried, but Hamilton has told us that she will never kill one of her main characters in the books therefore there is not tension there. You know he is going to be okay so what was the fucking point of even writing it?

So after that, Anita gets a call from some Nicky's old Rex from the last book. I cannot remember his name for the life of me. Anyway, he calls to warn her that there is a hit out for her, Jean-Claude, and Richard. Blah blah blah. They have a conversation about how she holds power over him, and he doesn't think he couldn't not call her, even if he wanted. Blah blah. So it turns out Richard already left the circus so Anita tries calling him. When he doesn't pick up, she has Nicky send him a text from her iphone, because she is too stupid to figure it out. Tell me, if you are so technologically impaired, why would you buy an iphone? So Richard finally gets the message, but ends up getting shot. Don't worry. He is saved though that was already expected since Hamilton refuses to kill any of the main characters off. By the way, this is the last we hear of the assassins. Another pointless story.

So the next thing that happens is Anita gets a phone call from the police. It turns out that a kiss of vampires massacred a bunch of people in Atlanta, GA and they would like Anita to take a look at a video and see what she can make out of it. So she goes into the computer room with Nicky, her werelion Bride (someone who has no will except to his/her master) and Damian, her vampire servant. Why are they with her? For one, Jean-Claude doesn't want her being alone since there is a hit one them and two, because Anita does not know how to turn on a computer. Yep. Again, why does she have an iphone? Well, in the room is the little girl vampire, Valentina. It turns out she was looking at massacred bodies and torture. Maybe even sexually. So Anita muses over that a bit and then turns to the police video. It turns out Morte d'Amor was the one who caused it, and Anita warns the police that they need to burn the bodies because they are rotting vampires.

Now, Anita still needs to meet the gold tigers that someone brought over so she can boink them and make them her gold tiger to call or whatever, but supposedly she is in shock over what she did to Haven and needs to release her anger so we get several chapters of her working out. This is just as pointless as the dance recital. Oh, and she gets another nickname. Negra gatita (which should be the other way around, but this is how Hamilton put it in there) which means black kitten. Yep. More black. And it's supposed to be fierce because cats eat rats and one of the wererats gave her the name. I don't know about you, but I don't think fierce when I hear kitten.

So after those pointless chapters, we meet the new weretigers, who happen to have the most ridiculous names ever: Mephistopheles, Pride, and Envy. I am not kidding you. Then, more sex ensues. After that, more non gold weretigers show up. These chapters were just full of clunky writing and dialogue, making it confusing. Oh, and there is more sexual magic. Follow this up with a chapter summary of getting rid of the Atlanta Master of the City and hit men, and you have Bullet.

Okay, I am sorry you had to sit through that length. It just shows you how sparatic this novel was.  It's just there is no overall arc to this book so it's hard to make an overall summary, but here are some other issues I had with the book. First off, I really hate Anita's character. She's a hypocritic and sexist bitch. In the first few chapters, she seems to have a vendetta against blonde women. Now, this has been around since the beginning of the series, but it seems to become more and more obvious. Anita is always constantly saying what the proper guy and girl thing is to do throughout the entire book. Why must this be pointed out to us all the time? And what is worse she makes girls seem shallow and weak such as when Anita is getting ready to meet all the weretigers. Someone mentions that most women will swap out their entire wardrobes once or twice a year so they are in fashion. What the fuck? Also, Anita is too powerful therefore I never wonder how she is going to defeat the bad guy. All she does is fuck someone and/or she gets some new mystical power and huzzah! bad guy defeated!

The other thing is I did not feel she truly felt guilty about Haven. It keeps getting repeated and she ends up in supposed shock because of it, but never do I actual feel her guilt about it. It feels like she is just telling herself that.

Actually, all of Hamilton's characters feel like cardboard now. They all seem to look similar ( long hair, striking eyes, extremely tall or short, lean build, and well endowed), but when they talk they all have the same voice. The only reason I could tell one from the other most of the time is because Hamilton told us.

Another thing that occurred in book is you find out that Nathaniel and Micah have some sexual situations when Anita is around. Now, I love me some guy on guy, but this highly offended me mostly because it felt like it was just thrown in there for the kink factor. Although I though Micah and Nate were very comfortable with each other, I didn't think the rest of the books ever pointed to the fact that they were intimate or wanted to be intimate with each other but suddenly they are kissing in public and you find out that Nathaniel has given Micah head. You also see Nate go down on Asher in the book. It seems like every guy (except Haven) has turned bi (or in Richard's case taken a large step). It felt incredibly forced and pissed me off greatly.

The book was also extremely repetitive. Seriously, how many times do we have to be told what colour eyes and hair Anita's men have? Not only is it repeated throughout the book, it is repeated in the chapter. Now, I like visual descriptions of the characters, but there is a point of too much, and Hamilton zoomed past that line.

The other thing (that I recall. There was a lot) that I hated was the way Hamilton had things explained to the reader. Most of the time, she used dialogue, causing it to become cluttered and clunky. What's worse is she repeats and rephrases what was just said, making her characters seem incredibly thick.

So all in all, there was no overall story arc, and it felt like we were just hopping from story to story. The characters felt flat and had no voice of their own. The main character is the ultimate Mary Sue: most powerful, everyone wants in her pants, supposedly smarter than everyone else, best at what she does. The book is nothing but repetition and bad dialogue.  This book is just bad on so many levels, and I only found one thing I actually liked in it. Don't waste your money.

What I'm Reading Next:

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Definitely Dead

Level: Explicit Lite
Genre: Fantasy/Horror > Vampires/Urban Fantasy
Obtained: Purchased at Borders
Reviewed by: Nic Echo

About the Book:
The Sookie Stackhouse series continues in its sixth novel, Definitely Dead. This time Sookie is getting mixed up in royal affairs, and more death surrounds her. She is also introduced to a new romance when Quinn, the weretiger, asks her on a date.   While on their date, Quinn and Sookie end up getting attacked by bitten Weres. The question is are they after Sookie, Quinn, or both? Because of the disaster, they set up another date, but that has to be cancelled when Mr. Cataliades, the Queen of Louisiana's lawyer, calls to say he will pick up Sookie soon so she can settle her now deceased cousin's affairs. The fact that Sookie needs to be ready is unexpected since it turns out the Queen's messenger ended up being murdered. 

Things only get worse once Sookie gets to New Orleans. She gets attacked by a newly risen vampire Were, attacked again by more bitten Weres, and ends up in the middle of a battle at the Queen's estate. Sookie also ends up getting some vital information that concerns her bloodline and her first love, Bill Compton. 

My Rating: 5/10
Perhaps I am just growing bored of Sookie now, but this book did not hook me.  I honestly had to think back to what happened in the book's first half. It was just unmemorable to me. Although there are different plots in the books, each one boils down to basically the same thing: main plot with a couple subplots and then Sookie's current romance. Although this is a common thing, and perhaps I wouldn't be bothered by it as much if I wasn't reading the books back to back, but I am done with Sookie for a while.

As for the actual context, I found the romance dull as usual. There seems to never be any tension in any of the romances, even when they are having issues (such as Bill and Sookie). I just never feel the emotion behind it though the fact that all the characters seem to use the same mundane pet names such as babe and honey. It doesn't help that these type of pet names grate me extensively since I feel like there is never emotion in them. Granted, I understand that it could be the character. In fact, since Bill was Sookie's first real boyfriend, I could see her using these terms. Don't most young teens end up using such terms when they first start dating after all? However, it gets hold after a while when it's not only Sookie but Bill, Eric, and now Quinn are using such endearments. 

Speaking of Quinn,  I find him incredibly cheesy. He seemed like he might have been an interesting character, but in this book, I could not stand him. Adding on to his overused pet names, he is constantly using cheesy lines on or about Sookie such as when Quinn says "Who would want just one night with you?" when replying to Sookie saying she is not a one night stand kind of woman. If it was just that one line, it would be fine, but he is constantly saying crap like this. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-romance, but this is worthy of eye rolling. Also, Quinn is, of course, a great and powerful fighter. He, like every other supe Sookie has dated, seems to be perfect. The other issue I had with the romance is it moves way too quickly. Quinn was only introduced to us at the end of the previous book and he ends up asking Sookie on a date in the beginning of this one, and of course, hormones are high between the two. Oh, don't get me started on the "sex" scene between Quinn and Sookie. Supposedly, Quinn ends up having one of the best orgasms just by rubbing his clothed pelvis against Sookie's, which is covered by thin Spandex (yes, Spandex). Yes, that is all they do, but apparently it was more wonderful than sliced bread. 

As for the actual plot, I could not put my finger on one main plot, but it was fairly interesting, at least. I was curious as to who sent the bitten Weres after Sookie and who killed the demon messenger and why. As for the backstabbing of Queen Sophie-Ann, well, you can see that coming from a mile away. The Debbie Pelt plot also makes an appearance in this book though I am happy to say that it is actually going somewhere. It is more of the Pelt family wondering what happened to Debbie, but it is kept brief enough throughout the books that you are not bored with it. We are also introduced to more supernatural creatures though we don't get much insight into them: demons. 

Spoilers for those who don't watch True Blood:
You also find out in this book that Sookie is part fairy, which seems slightly ridiculous, but isn't all together surprising. I am happy to see that there might be actual tension between Bill and Sookie now though since you find out that Bill was told by Queen Sophie-Ann to seduce Sookie. Now, we shall see how emotional this becomes, but I am guessing I'll be bored of it fairly quickly since emotion does not seem to be Harris' strong suit.
End Spoilers.

As for the writing style, it hasn't changed much, but I find myself getting more fed up with the poor similes such as "crisp as a celery stick" or "her eyes shown like dark lamps."  It does go with what the book is: simple, but some of the ones you come across you have to ask yourself, "Really? Dark lamps?" So all in all, the writing itself is still not the best, but that should be expected by now. The little plots are still interesting, even if some (if not all) are obvious as to where they are going. Then, there is the romance, which seems too rushed, but if that is your cup of tea, go for it.

What I'm Reading Next: