Book Review: Undone by Rachel Caine

Two years ago I discovered Rachel Caine who wrote the Weather Warden series about a universe where Djinn and humans with supernatural abilities, called Weather Wardens, fight each other over power. The Djinn were enslaved by the Wardens because the Djinn enhance the abilities of the Wardens. I read several books in that series and reviewed the first of them, Ill Wind. You can read the review here. You can read more about the Weather Warden novels on Caine’s website.

Recently, I discovered another series based on the same universe with some cross-over characters by Caine. The Outcast Season novels revolve around an outcast Djinn, Cassiel. In Undone, Cassiel is sent to earth to live among the very humans she despises so much after being cast down by her ruler, Ashan. From demigod to mortal human flesh, Cassiel has to learn how to live with her human body, emotions, and limitations while being hunted by an unseen force. undone

While Joanna in Ill Wind is a Weather Warden, human, trying to understand the Djinn, Cassiel is the opposite, a Djinn trying to understand humans. I was afraid that the two female leads would be so like each other as to make the two series so similar as to be indistinguishable. But, I was wrong. Cassiel is quite the character, I love her non-human reactions to things. I love how she tries to make sense of the world she has been thrown into while trying to stay aloof from the mess of knowing a human. And she fails, in the beautiful emotional sense of failing to keep emotions separate from the mess of life.

The mystery of the unknown foe was well played throughout the story as little pieces are revealed and Cassiel’s past problems hunt her down on earth. But there is more at play than past wrongs, the abilities of the Wardens are being used against them. Cassiel and her partner must figure out who they can trust while they track down kidnapped children. The action never ends. In fact, neither story is wrapped up by the end of the book and I was glad I had the second one in my possession when I finished the first. Though, that only managed to make me want to read the third as the twist keep coming and the story continues to evolve.

I wouldn’t recommend taking on this book unless you have time to take on the series. There is so much going on that very little gets resolved, but especially not Cassiel’s new found romantic interest. A hard to put down book that leads into a hard to put down series, clever, imaginative, well written, Caine’s Outcast Season novels is an unforgettable urban fantasy series.

Day in Denton

Here in Texas, we believe bigger is better. This goes for antique malls and left over independent book stores. Dallas is surrounded by a bunch of cool towns with little fun shops in them, and we decided to take a trip to Denton this weekend to check it out. Upon arrival we entered into a humungo book resell shop that also had an impressive record collection.

Did I tell you about the 1970’s record player we bought a while back? It functions as our TV stand as well. Slowly Chris has been collecting records and occasionally we play them a little too loud at night and dance around our living room. 

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The only qualm I had with the bookstore was that there were no price listings anywhere, and only a few items had stickers on them. So, I went up to the counter not knowing exactly how much everything was going to cost. I try to live life in the now, with a sense of free spirit, but no price markings makes me a bit anxious. I got the books anyway. 

We also went into three antique malls all within two blocks of each other. Texans take their antiquing seriously! Well sorta. Each antique mall is divided into booths were various individuals display their wares. Or in some cases, their junk. 

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Some of the shops are well organized and hold cool items, gems, or hidden treasures that make me want to buy all the things!

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Chris really wanted to see inside the sarcophagus, but it was locked up tight.

Chris really wanted to see inside the sarcophagus, but it was locked up tight.

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Not surprisingly, there are a lot of Star Wars collectibles in these antique malls. 

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One fun thing about antique malls is all the weird and random, sometimes scary, items that we find. I’ve seen a baby doll head on a lamp, a white fake Christmas tree with blue feathers springing from it, and a lamp stand that looked like a porcelain bottom with a rose tattoo. In Denton we found scary clowns and dolls that come apart at the seams. 

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His head, arms, and legs came off. Yes, he is eating another doll and the pin on his lapel says, "I'm the Boss!"

His head, arms, and legs come off. Yes, he is eating another doll and the pin on his lapel says, “I’m the Boss!”

One booth that is in almost any antique mall, and usually my favorite spot ever, is the hidden book corner. So many books! So little time to look around and see what treasures may be hidden and waiting to be read. 

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Book Review: Hunted by the Others

Last week as I was walking into work with a book under my arm, a client stopped me and asked me, all excitedly, if it was a Harry Potter book. I stopped and held it up so he could see it, “No, it’s another YA fiction series. But often scifi/ fantasy series use the same font and similar cover art, so it can be confusing!” In fact, font often plays a big part in why I will pick up a new series as I’ve come to recognize certain ones that invoke memories of other series that I love. Font is one of the reasons I picked up Hunted by the Others, by Jess Haines, when I was at the library the other week.

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Summary from Amazon

Shiarra Waynest’s detective work was dangerous enough when her client base was strictly mortal. But ailing finances have forced her to accept a lucrative case that could save her firm – if it doesn’t kill her first. Shiarra has signed on to work for a high-level mage to recover an ancient artifact owned by one of New York’s most powerful vampires. As soon as Shiarra meets sexy, mesmerizing vamp Alec Royce, she knows her assignment is even more complicated than she thought. With a clandestine anti-Other group trying to recruit her, and magi being eliminated, Shiarra needs back-up and enlists her ex-boyfriend – a werewolf whose non-furry form is disarmingly appealing – and a nerdy mage with surprising talents. But it may not be enough. In a city where the undead roam, magic rules, and even the Others aren’t always what they seem, Shiarra has just become the secret weapon in a battle between good and evil – whether she likes it or not…

Shiarra is an interesting urban fantasy heroine. Her parents and brothers are still around and supportive, she works with her best friend doing what they both love, and money problems are her biggest concern. Often urban fantasy heroines come from broken homes, bad backgrounds, and find their only support network is the vampires and werewolves in their lives. But not Shia, and I think that is what makes this series interesting. Yes, she has more to loose, and that can be played against her, but she also has a reason to live and to find a way around the maneuverings of the mages and vampires. However, one of Shia’s flaws is her bigoted thinking of Others, influenced by her family’s phobia, so having a strong family network does not always help. While she does learn to set aside some of her prejudices as the book develops, the process was a bit clunky. While I’m all for the badass huntress thing, Shia’s is more window dressing than anything real substantial as she grapples with her new place in the world. But, seeing as this is the first book in the series, I will give some latitude to her learning curve and save final judgment on her character for a couple more books. 

I quite enjoyed the cast of characters in this book from the sexy vampire to the geeky mage. Some of their characteristics were predictable, especially Alex the mysterious and overbearing vampire and Chaz, the ex-boyfriend, with a puppy-dog like desire to follow her around. But despite the sexy vampire being a dark brooding vampire and the hot werewolf being all hairy and manly, nerdy Arnold the mage is my favorite secondary character. He is intelligent, sneaky, and willing to help when it suits his purpose. While he has ulterior motives up the wazoo, none of them include sleeping with Shia which was refreshing. I mean the whole triangle thing is obviously going on with the werewolf and vampire, but if the mage was after her too, I was going to be a bit – le sigh all the boys want Shiarra. I found Shia’s partner and best friend, Sara, interesting and the brief look into her unusual past only whetted my appetite to learn more. I’ll admit by nerdy and law interests bias me in favor of these characters, because I like how they think and act. I especially like that though nerdy, Arnold gets into the thick of things. Sara wants to use her brain for good and struggles with moral gray areas. What? A lawyer portrayed with ethics? Yes, and thank you. 

Speaking of lawyers.. after the reveal of the Others in the wake of 9/11, legislature became very important to try and stop the Others from committing atrocities toward the poor humans (no wonder Shia has some biases). One way is through the requirement of a Contract between the Other and the Human stating that the Human has willingly given over to the Other and that if the Human is killed, the Other is not legally responsibly. This plays into Shia’s first case with Alec because he insists she sign a Contract with him. How she handles this is the most surprising part of the book, and one of the reasons I kept reading the book and want to continue with the series.

While this series is not as dark as some of the other urban fantasy I’ve ready, as it does have its lighter moments, it was not a light-hearted romp, by any means. If you like police procedural urban fantasy with a dose of chuckles check out Hunted by the Others

Read a review by Love Vampires, The Happy Logofile, and check out the author’s site for a list of more reviews and the other books in the series. 

Whedonistas

A book created by a collaboration of women who explore Whedon’s body of work. You can buy it in Amazon.

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Audio Book Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Unabridged)

I recently read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams in audiobook form narrated by Stephen Fry. The audiobook is 5 hours and 51 minutes long and I listened to it via Audible. 

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Summary via Audible

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last 15 years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”) and a galaxy full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; and Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

For some reason I thought I had read this book some years ago before the movie came out, but as I listened to the story unfold, the mysteries of the universe weave themselves in circles and found out why bringing a towel along on a hitchhiking adventure is a good idea, I realized I remembered nothing. Either I never read the book, or it was so long ago that I completely forgotten it, or memorizing Bar Exam information and pushed it out of my brain. 

What I loved about this book was that all the random pieces of information meant something. It all came together beautifully, and as things fell into place and little universal wonderings revealed, I came to understand why this book is such a cult classic piece of geek history. Arthur Dent is the perfect eyes through which to view the unexpected. His character is so rather bland that the rest of the crew are unusual and beautiful spinning planets around him as center. And I loved the author’s explanation for why pens disappear, it really all makes sense now. 

Stephen Fry did an amazing job as narrator. He was excellent at creating different voices, accents, and cadences to give depth to the characters. It was easy to tell the characters apart by the voices he created even before the narration indicated who was speaking. A couple of his voices sounded similar, but for the most part they were easy to tell apart. 

I also found myself lulled asleep on occasion by the soothing familiarity of a well written story. On nights when I couldn’t get to sleep because I dreaded getting up the next day just to work and study some more, I would play The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and fall asleep smiling at some of the more ridiculous parts of the story. This meant going back in the morning and finding the part where I fell asleep (and honestly the only thing I hate about audiobooks is that this is not easy to do), but it was worth it. 

If you haven’t picked up this classic book or have thought about re-reading it, I recommend letting Stephen Fry tell you the tale in this audiobook version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 

Whedon: The Biography – It’s a Thing

A journalist and friend of Whedon’s has written his biography. While I generally prefer autobiographies, for being slightly more intimate, and humorous ones at that, I will admit I’m intrigued. I’ve been a fan of Whedon’s work for a while, though not always in agreement with everything he does. Everyone has flaws, even our heroes.

A biography about the man should be interesting, perhaps a view into how his mind works and what his close friends think about him. Hopefully it’s as funny as the scripts he writes. Check out the forward by Nathan Fillion:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/popcandy/2014/08/01/joss-whedon-nathan-fillion/13454323/

Dead Mann Walking

I recently borrowed Dead Mann Walking by Stephan Petrucha, a comic book writer who worked on The Walking Dead, from the library, and actually finished it. I know, what? More than the feat of actually finishing a book, because lately that has been a hard road to hoe, I actually enjoyed it as well. Bonus.

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Dead Mann Walking is the story of Hessius Mann a zombie detective. That is, he’s a zombie who used to be a cop and is now a detective for zombies and anyone else who will pay. At some point in the not too distant future, a way to eternal life emerges, a miracle, people can be brought back to life. Wrongful convictions don’t mean permanent death and those wrongly killed at the hands of the State are brought back to life, including Mann who was exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of his wife’s murder.

But then people realize that the dead brought back to life start to decompose after a time, they don’t feel pain like a liveblood and some of them even go feral. The new type of being is called Chakz and they don’t have the same rights as those with blood rushing through their veins. Mann lives and works in a condemned building, he cleans his wounds with bleach and super glues broken bones back together.

One day the Eggman (not his real name, it’s the name Mann comes up with to remember that he has a client) shows up at Mann’s door with a proposition, find a Chakz for him and the Eggman will give Mann a lot of money, but he needs the zombie detective on the case right away. Mann sets off to find the lost Chakz and discovers the case is more complicated than he first thought, which is a problem. Mann used to have a photographic memory, but since he has been brought back from the dead his brain is not as sharp as it used to be so he uses a recording device, that is, if he can remember where he put it.

It took me a bit to get into the book as I’m not the world’s biggest zombie genre lover, but once I got into the thick of things, the story really picked up and takes off faster than a half faced zombie’s feral run. Petrucha’s writing is excellent and his universe well plotted. Personally, I liked that the zombie apocalypse happens because of science. That depending on their emotional state the zombies have different states of being. It’s not just monsters eating people.

I also loved all the twists and turns the story took. I tried to figure things out before Mann since he has a bad memory and all. Unfortunately, as the narrator he also forgets to tell parts of the story, so while I figured out a few things, there were twists I didn’t figure out before they happened. Which I love! Mann does solve a mystery or two in this book, but there are a lot of questions left at the end which is why I practically ran to the library to get the second book in the series.