Monday, November 27, 2017

Jamie Lee Curtis, she's not.

So, before we start unpacking Riley Sager's Final Girls, let me define the term for those not versed in such esoterica. In slasher horror films, the heroine who survives the movie and takes out the killer as part of the process. Case in point, Jamie Lee Curtis, who survived three Halloween movies. (We won't mention the fourth one she was in, since it was horrible. I guess she's coming back for a fifth that will ignore most everything that's come before. But that's beside the point, since this is a book blog. You want horror movie discussion, go read Candy-Coated Razor Blades or listen to Bob's podcast.)


Final Girls centers on Quincy, a real life Final Girl who survived a massacre at Pine Cottage, somewhere in Pennsylvania, where she'd been camping with friends. In her rare company (although she's never met either in real life) are Sam, who survived a motel massacre in Idaho, and Lisa, who survived a sorority bloodbath in Illinois. Quincy used settlement money from the lawsuit surrounding Pine Cottage to buy an apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side, where she writes a baking blog and hides from the world. Sam dropped off the face of the planet following her encounter with fame, and Lisa helps at risk children as well as supporting girls who survive.

Quincy has a vanilla boyfriend, Jeff, who works as a public defender. Quincy drinks lots of wine and takes Xanax with grape soda. She occasionally steals from random strangers. The cop who ended up shooting her maniac is a friend who visits on occasion named Cooper.

And then Lisa commits suicide. Which sets Quincy into an anxiety tailspin. Particularly when she finds an e-mail Lisa had sent a few hours prior to her death that she'd missed. Followed quickly by the appearance of the long hidden Sam on her doorstep. Sam ends up staying with Quincy, which puts a few more rifts into her relationship with Jeff. Sam is a bad girl, smoking, drinking Wild Turkey, and shoplifting from Bloomingdale's. She also continually challenges Quincy on her big memory gap about the night of the Pine Cottage Massacre. (Quincy has repressed about an hour of time froim memory. From the time the first victim walked back to the cabin bleeding out until she ran into Cooper running out of the woods, with Cooper shooting the killer.)

It turns out Lisa was murdered, but since no one realized this until after the toxicology report came in, the crime scene can't be processed properly, and therefore they doubt they'll ever know who killed her. Sam's appearance, on the other hand, gets Quincy back in the papers, something she'd been trying to avoid.

A whole lot of baking and vigilantism later, we wind up back at Pine Cottage in both the past and present to reveal that the book indeed had a plot buried somewhere within.

Ah yes, the plot. The pacing was a real issue here. Much like, say, Pet Semetary by Stephen King, nothing really happens until about 75 pages from the end. Indeed, I kept expecting recipes for the blog to start littering the prose while waiting for something to happen.

Another major issue centers around the two major plot twists dealing with motives and identity. They come about 3 pages apart, not really letting the first one grow fertile. Because really, had the first one been revealed a few chapters before, it could have been a much better red herring. Instead, it promptly gets buried under the weight of the second reveal. That the second reveal happens in the final chapter also robs us of the chance to see the Final Girl of the trope in action. It really should have let us see Quincy blossom again as a survivor, but it really doesn't exactly. We find out what's going on, she resolves the problem a page later.

Now, I originally picked this up after seeing it on Goodreads picks for Horror Novel of the Year, with a bit of trepidation after seeing Stephen King's blurb on the front cover. After The Troop, I'm a little leery of reading books with his plug on the cover of a book written by another author under a pseudonym. This one is ok. I mean, yes, the book needed a bit more editing, but it's readable enough and entertaining after a while.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


I picked up Edgar Cantero's Meddling Kids with some trepidation; despite being one of the semi-finalists for's Horror Novel of the year, the Scooby-Doo set up never mixes well with the real supernatural. (Except maybe The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo. Despite what others will tell you, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island was terrible. I never figured out why.) While the original shows flirted with the supernatural as thematic elements, it was almost always a person in a rubber mask with nothing better to do that bother teenagers.

Case in point: Milissa Wilcox here is a gal in a rubber mask, but her grave marker bears the alchemical symbol of Leviathan.

Any rate, this isn't exactly Scooby-Doo. The characters aren't complete cyphers, although some overlap is obviously there. So, shell we meet Blyton Summer Detective Club, who some 13 years before the start of the story solved the Sleepy Lake Monster Mystery at the old Deboën mansion, using a trap that sent a man in a rubber mask flying down a flight of stairs on a rolling cart into a fishing net. Mind you, the kids are all 11 and 12 years old and have a Weimaraner. We have the ostensible leader of the gang, Peter, who went on to be an actor, but who killed himself in Hollywood with pills and vodka. Except his ghost (or a delusion of one) hangs out with Nate, a geek who self committed himself to Arkham Asylum in Massachusetts. Nate's cousin, Kerri had reddish orange curls and was on her way to becoming a biologist, but now she's a drunk working in various bar waitressing positions. Kerri is raising Tim , the great grandson of of the original Weimaraner. Rounding out the group, we have Andy, the tomboy who's both a criminal and military drop out.

At the start, Andy confronts the man in the rubber mask after his parole hearing. After getting answers she doesn't like, she sets off to reunite the gang to go back to Blyton, Oregon, and confront what they missed as tweenagers. This of course means breaking Nate out of Arkham using a straitjacket, an office chair, and a dog... and the budding one sided lesbian desires of Andy towards Kerri.

Any rate, after a bunch of argument, they wind up back in Blyton, a town on the Zoinx river. We find that the town bully is now a waiter at the diner as well as a deputy sheriff. The deputy they hated as kids is now Sheriff and a member of the Walla Walla tribe who knows the legends of the god beneath the mountain with an 18gazillion consonant name. 

What follows is a mix of zany adventure, with the supernatural being proven real, but the force behind it being someone with a mask of sorts on.

It works much better than I would have expected. I think the real reason it works better than Scooby's adventures in real supernatural stuff is that it allows the characters to actually grow up, not become adult cyphers of their teenage selves. Mind you, it's quite a bit like reading Scooby-Doo vs Pennywise the Dancing Clown in places, but I couldn't help but laugh at the idea of Shaggy reading aloud from the Necronomicon.

Really, it's a damn good read for those who don't mind childhood growing up and facing down the real monsters.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Makes me miss the 80's

A while back, I picked up a friend of mine some Dean R. Koontz at one of the book sales. She read Breathless, handed it back to me, and told me to read it so we can Book Club it.

Here's the problem. As I believe I mentioned, I quit reading Koontz not long after Servants of Twilight since the plots went beyond my suspension of disbelief. Breathless is kind of like that, except it's at least semi readable.

What plot there is is tied up in several sub plots, a few of which never connect to the larger narrative, and all of which end in a big ol's Deus ex Machina, emphasis on the Deus.

Let's see. We have Grady Adams and his Irish Wolfhound Merlin. Then we have Dr. Camilla Rivers, a vet. Then we have Henry Rouvroy and his soon to be dead brother Jimmy and Jimmy's soon to be dead wife Nora. Dr. Lamar Woolsey, a mathematician and chaos theorist who can also beat Vegas odds at the card tables. Tom Bigger, the homeless guy. Then the might as well be nameless serial killer and the lawyer who hires him who show up in about 6 total pages spread in the second half of the book and do next to nothing.

So anyway.

Grady walks the dog, sees visions of white animals frolicking in the glade. Camilla is a vet, who has animals suddenly going into trances and coming out of them content. Henry shows up at his brother's remote farm, kill the brother and his wife, then assumes Jim's identity. Tom has a vision on the beach and walks the California coast.

The white animals break into Grady's house and steal his baked chicken. He invites Camilla over to meet them. Camilla names them Puzzle and Riddle, since they don't fit into any known taxonomy. Claire takes pictures and sends them on to colleagues, who pass it up the food chain, thinking they're lab experiments. This gets Homland security involved, who bring in Woolsey as a consult.That Woolsey is also Grady's best friend's father is just a coincidence.

Henry is convinced his brother and sister-in-law aren't really dead and stalking him.

Tom ends up in a motel where an elderly Jewish couple gets him home.

And somewhere in this, we delve off of plausibility into Intelligent Design, since as the mathematician explains, math doesn't support the theory of evolution.

I mean, it's readable, but it's not anything I'd be inclined to reread ever. It made me long for the days when his plots involved time travelling Nazis, rich old men ripping off H G Wells, or even policemen fighting voodoo.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Hail, Hail, the gang's all here

So, I had originally intended to read something else before starting Enchanter's End Game by David Eddings, which finishes up The Belgariad (mainly because I dislike having back to back posts out of the same series), but I also knew it would be a quicker read than the next volume up before we start the library books.

Anyway, as I stated above, this is the last book of the first quintet. Likely sometime after New Year's, I'll dig up the second quintet and the follow up volumes, but for now, I'm satisfied having read the original stories.

Like the previous volumes, this opens with holy writ from one of the world's religious texts. In this case, we get a passage from The Book of Torak, who frames his narrative with him as the hero. Mind you, the idea is that if his prophecy wins out, this will be the literal truth of the world.

Then we meet up with Silk, Belgarath, and Garion as they cross from Drasnia into Gar Og Nadrak on their way to boundless Mallorea. Which is made more entertaining by the occupying Mallorean Agnaraks conscripting everyone into their army. Eventually, they make it to the land of the Morindim, another godless race. Instead of seeking UL with the Ulgos, these decided to raise demons. Eventually though, they make it to Mallorea and head to Cthol Mishrak where dead Torak lies sleeping.

Then we return to the armies of the west, as they plan a diversionary war to draw the Agnaraks to Mishrak ac Thull. Which works well until the Malloreans and the Murgos arrive at the same time. Polgara, Ce'Nedra, Errand, and Durnik become guests of 'Zakath the Mallorean Emperor who gives them over to the Gromlims for transport to Cthol Mishrak.

Once there, everything comes to a head, and the necessities meet in what's billed as the final battle (well, you know, other than the next quintet...) and we get our happy fantasy ending as just about everyone ends up happily married and healed.

As I complete this, I understand that the overall story is better than the individual books. Becauses, frankly, each book has its own problems, but the story itself is engaging. We'll return to the Bels and Pols soon, I assume, but for now...

Friday, November 10, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, The Riven Queen!

Again, proving that they're quick reads, I finished Castle of Wizardry by Davis Eddings on lunch today. (And if anyone is missing this particular volume, I seem to have an extra.)

So, we pick up with the escape from Cthol Murgos, as the party rides hard from the soon to be ruins of Cthol Mishrack. As Belgarath is exhausted from his battle, the party rests in Algaria at the only permanent settlement, The Stronghold. (The Algars tend to follow the herds and tend to be nomadic. They basically built the Stronghold to give visiting Murgos a place to attack.)

In Algaria, Belgarion meets his cousin Adara, who's in love with Hetter, the party member who can talk to horses. She ends up accompanying them back to and through Ulgoland to Sendaria, where Polgara and Garion and Ce'Nedra make a field trip back to Faldor's Farm for Garion to see once and for all his hoime is not the farfm. Which is good, since as soon as the reach the Island of the Winds and Riva, Garion is revealled to be Belgarion, the Bearer of the Orb of Aldur, and the Prophecied Child of Light in the upcoming battle against the Child of Dark, Torak.

Almost all of the royalty in the West is there, excluding Porenn of Drasnia (who just had King Rhodar's baby) and Ran Borune of Toledra.

Garion finally gets more information on the prophecies and what's expected of him. To try to save lives, he Silk, and Belgarath leave secretly in the night for Mallorea in hopes of causing the confrontation with Torak before total war breaks out for generations.

As such, Polgara is essentially left in charge of those left behind. And she's unhappy. Ce'Nedra, who as part of the betrothal with Garion (again, a condition of the prophecy), has joint ruling powers in Riva, and uses her charm and wits to join the war party. Mostly, she becomes a figure to gather together the disparate non Alorn races to join the fight against the Agnaraks.

And she does this quite well, learning and having to deal with the fact she's likely leading the armies to their deaths.

By far, it's in this book where the plot actually gets interesting. The secrets are revealed, and it's all heading to a showdown.

The one outstanding problem is one of Fate verses Free Will. As Taiba, the Marag woman and Relg, the Ulgo get closer, the prophecy itself states this is necessary and they have no real choice in the matter. Which is really kind of horrible. There's a line in Mercedes Lackey's Mage Storms trilogy that I find myself reflecting on when reading about Relg and Taiba; the idea that lifebonding (or destined love) is almost like enslavement, and love given freely without that kind of bond isn't a bad thing at all, since you have choices with it.

What we know at the end:
Garion is Belgarion, whom prophecy foretold.
Belgarion must face Torak, the Dragon God of Agnarak.
The child Errand is the only other one who can touch thr Orb of Aldur currently.
Ce'Nedra is fulfilling prophecy on her end by raising an army to keep the three headed East safe.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Smiling faces beautiful places...oh wait, wrong side.

I finished Michael G. Williams's Attempted Immortality this afternoon as I was trying to plot out my next few books, thanks to a combination of the goodreads awards and the library. I say this mainly since I've been reading The Withrow Chronicles interspersed with The Belgariad, and this book is currently the last one published.

Anyway, we open on Roderick and Withrow in a beach town on an island on the North Carolina/South Carolina border searching for the ancients who made a deal with a demon back in the day. They seem to have gathered to raise an ancient the cousins dub The Rhinemaiden, after the singing trollops that start Valhalla in Wagner's Ring Cycle. (For those unfamiliar with it, it's four operas about drunken Norse Gods. Google or YouTube Anna Russell and get the short version.)

Anyway, since it's winter, nobody seems to really be in town other than the ancients, their thralls, the technopagans, and Withrow and Roderick. Well, there is one realtor, but she generally just shows up twice and makes nasty commentary.

Anyway, most of the Asheville vampires end up in Sunset beach to help draw out the elders to stomp them out. We also find out the techopagans have utilized magic to do one of the tricks that was ever popular in Mage: The Ascension, wherein flashlights and car headlights now cast sunlight.

Much is gleaned here, such as an understanding that the Last Gasp isn't the last power a vampire is going to get, and indeed, vampires evolve as they age.  We also keep getting hints that Roderick is more than he appears to be, although what he is has yet to be defined.

There's a lot of cross and double cross, and Ross, last seen making out with Withrow in the back room of a big box store is back negotiating on behalf of the ancients. One should also mention that regardless of whether he's a tulpa or a demon, thanks to Dungeons & Dragons, he's vulnerable to silver.

Overall, the theme here is that the ancients are just as divided as the ancillae are in terms of who's doing what to whom. Because, as it turns out, almost no one really wanted the Rhinemaiden to wake up. (In OWoD terms, it's a bit like reading about Sabbat Tzimisce trying to take out the Voivodate. Only with less Vicissitude.)

Honestly, I look forward to volume five, the presumed end of this, since I'm curious as to what horrors await our anti heroes in Charlotte, where no one wants to go.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Not quite like Remy LeBeau

I technically finished David Eddings's Magician's Gambit yesterday, but a very long day at work crossed with a lack of sleep meant not updating until now.

So, We pick up with out party leaving Nyssia and heading to Aldur's Vale. (Aldur being the god of Sorcerers.) Unfortunately, due to a bunch of Murgo interference, the party instead rides through the remains of Maragor, where the God Mara eternally weeps over his slain people. (Seems a few millennia ago, the Tolnedrans invaded and slaughtered the Marags wholesale. Whether it was due to an odd quirk of religious cannibalism or the amount of gold that that Marags weren't using lining the streams remains open to debate.) A visit with Mara yields no real results, other than another discussion on prophecy and the dry voice in Garion's head informing Mara that his sorrow is not far from ending.

The trail to the Vale is treacherous out of Maragor and they end up finding the cave where the Gods met to talk during the creation. Garion pulls a new colt back from death in the cave.

More than a few conversations happen in the Vale, most of which involve getting Garion to understand his Sorcery. We find that Polgara talks to the birds, and Ce'Nedra, who is half Dryad, talks to trees. Alder again refers to Garion as Belgarion, and much is made of finding people to fulfill roles as foretold in prophecy. We also get to meet the other Sorcerers who serve Aldur, Beltira and Belkira (twins) and Beldin, the dwarf. Beldin is one who shows affection through insults, which Polgara and Belgarath understand, but most of the rest of the party doesn't at first.

From The Vale, The party enters Ulgoland, Home of the Ulgos. It seems after the creation, the Gods chose their people, leaving at least one group godless. (We meet a few more of these groups later on, although the Dryads technically count.) This particular group petitioned the gods to take them in, but they told them to seek their father UL. Whom a man named Gorim finally found, and persuaded to take his people and the animals unclaimed as his. Since the time when Torak took the orb and cracked the world, they've lived in caves under the ruined city of Proglu. All leaders of the Ulgo have taken the name Gorim after their founder. I should mention that one the way to Proglu, the party encounters a monster whom Belgarath met many eons ago. During the fight, Polgara and Garion manage to bring the spirit of her mother into battle, which makes Belgarath mildly upset.

Anyway, the upshot of the visit to Ulgoland and Proglu winds up being that Ce'Nedra stays with Gorim and a diviner (one who can sense caves and traverse through rock) joins them for the journey into Cthol Murgos. This would be Relg, who's a fundamentalist of the worst sort, who spends much of him time after being told by UL to get his ass out of the cave and help praying and abasing himself. He does however start loosening up after seeing Murgos (particularly their King, Taur Urgos) in action. After silk gets captured, Relg actually drags Silk out of the pit through solid rock to free him. Later, his unique ability becomes both weapon and body disposal.

Any rate, the entire thing comes down to Rak Cthol, where Ctuchick  waits along with the child who bears the orb.

While that particular confrontations comes out predictably, they do discover what may well be one of the last of the Marags in the dungeons. We close on Relg, who seems to think her nakedness is a sin against UL, leading the party back to her for rescue.

What we know by the end:

Garion is actually Belgarion.
All the members of the party have titles as defined by the prophecies.
There are two proecies out heroes are using, while the Agnaraks have one of their own.
This also is the first real mention of the Mrin Codex and the Darine Codex.
The only one vulnerable in Rak Cthol was The Queen of the World (Ce'Nedra), thus why she stayed in Ulgoland.

We'll return for book for in a little while. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Big problems

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne is a real departure from his soon to finish Iron Druid series. Among other things, at over 600 pages, it's his longest published work. It's also high fantasy, coming closer to George R. R. Martin world building than say, Mercedes Lackey.

The known world here has six countries, of which five have kennings from their patron deity at the outset. Five are at peace, with one, Hathrir mostly at detente with the other five. (The Hathrir have the kenning of fire, and are generally larger than the other peoples in the world. Thus one part of the title plague.) 

Since it's part of the series title, a word on the Kennings. Kennings are magics granted by the gods based on a particular element. The elements in question differ a bit from both Western and Eastern elements, as we have Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Plants, and about midway through, Animals. Rumors abound about a Seventh Kenning, but it as of yet remains undefined. Kennings are granted in a fashion where you either get blessed or join the gods. The first we witness, in Forn, involves tree roots sucking seekers into the ground, where they either become blessed or become fertilizer. The others aren't particularly easier sounding, as Air involves throwing one's self off a cliff and Water involves drowning in a tidal pool. Blessings occur in different degrees (as discussed in the book, it seems like most of them have 3 levels), and overusing the power causes the body to age. (This is all more than what the reader is given at the outset, since we more or less jump right in to the book without explanation . We meet our narrator in Brynlon, and he starts relating tales told on Survivor's Field by the bard from Rael.)

See, in Platonic fashion, what we're reading in the journal of Dervan, a recently unemployed historian at the university in Pelemyn. He's good friends with the Pelenaut (leader of the country), who gets him to follow around Fintan and record his stories as well as occasional spycraft.

Finatn's tales give us a view of one of the Hathrir clans sending an invading force into Ghurana Nent to establish a new settlement after a volcano erupts on the old one. This upsets both the Nentians and the Fornians to their south. (Forn is home of the Kenning of Plants. Therefore, the Hathrir burning trees is abominable to them.) In the meantime, what come to be known as Bone Giants start showing up in the East. a single giant winds up in Kauria, where a linguistics expert is brought in to communicate with him.

North of Kauria, invading hordes of Bone Giants arrive on the shores of Brynlon and Rael. The problem being that no one knows really where the giants came from, since the seas are filled with krakens that eat boats since something called The Rift.

And on the Plains of Nent, a young boy discovers the sixth Kenning after being mauled by giants cats.

Fintan tells these stories using his Kenning, which includes a special stone that allows him to take on the appearance of each individual narrating character. And there are a lot of them. Which is good, since it gives us just about everybody's perspective on the simultaneous invasion.

As an added note, two of the narrators are gay men, which was not something I expected in this volume.

It's a good start to however long this series is supposed to go. I'll be interested to see how this progresses, particularly since most of the map remains unexplored.