Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday In My Mailbox - What Are You Reading - What's Beside Your Bed?

In My Mailbox, It's Monday, What are you Reading, and What's Beside Your Bed? are weekly memes hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, Sheila at Book Journey, and Nanny at Getting Naughty Between the Stacks, respectively. All three are great ways to share the books you're either reading, or shifting to the top of your TBR pile (because, let's face it, sometimes a little shifting is the best we can manage!).

New in my mailbox this week are:

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay (a nice, thick paperback - I think this will be my first big summer read)
Able One by Ben Bova (been curious about this one for a while - a used bookstore find)
Blood Rights by Kristen Painter (for review)
The Devil's Garden by Jane Kindred (for review)

Under Heaven   Able One   Blood Rights (House of ComarrĂ©)   The Devil's Garden

As always, I'm generally hopping between books as the mood grabs me. Teasing me for time and seducing my attentions this week are:

Alice in Genderland by Richard J. Novic (review coming this week)
Far Future Fembot: Bill's Story by D.B. Story (definitely looking forward to this)
Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay (not sure why it's taken me so long to read this one, but it's magnificent)
Lola Dances by Victor J. Banis (this is what's beside my bed this week)

Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age   Far Future Fembot: Bill's Story   Ysabel   Lola Dances

Well, that's it for now . . . what are you reading?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

REVIEW: Seithe & Darkroom by Poppet

SeitheI don’t normally combine my reviews, but the moment I finished Seithe (also published under a Strike under the name Gemma Rice), I absolutely knew I wanted to dive into Darkroom and work with the two at once. With Exploits being my only exposure to Poppet, I really didn’t know what to expect from either of these reads, but Seithe was such a dramatically different story that I was immediately curious to see in which direction Darkroom might go.

DarkroomWhile I’m not sure I could pick a favourite between the three – they all do different things very wellSeithe is probably the book I would suggest as her most accessible. That’s not to say that it’s tame or predictable or mainstream, just that it plays closest to your expectations . . . although I don't suggest getting too comfortable with those expectations.

Seithe is a slice of supernatural erotica, with a creative twist on the usual ‘gothic’ myths. Phoebe is the kind of character you can relate to as a reader, and that’s what makes Seithe himself so very seductive. From their first public meeting in the gorgeously goth nightclub (which, incidentally, I would love to visit), she falls under his spell, transforming herself to meet his standards, and leading her to private games of torturous pleasure in his lair. It's all to easy to see ourselves in her place, and to willingly follow her into darkness

Darkroom, on the other hand, is an outright tale of horror, complete with a viciously sadistic (and religiously disturbed) villain. Victor believes himself to be an instrument of divine Vengeance, living for the torture and murder of women. Something about Shauna, however, calls to him. No longer content with dominating her physically through torture, he also craves the emotional dominance that comes with being her saviour . . . from himself. Here, rather than wanting to see ourselves in Shauna's place, it's much easier to sympathise with her - from a safe distance, of course.

Like Exploits, all three books deal with power relationships, but in different ways. In Exploits, it was cruel and unhealthy, but still close enough to ‘normal’ to seem realistic. In Seithe, the obsession here goes both ways (creating an artificial sense of equality), and the supernatural element makes it seem so much more acceptable. In Darkroom, we’re back to a one-sided relationship, but one that goes beyond cruel and unhealthy into sadistic and dangerous.

As victims/protagonists, Phoebe and Shauna have a lot in common. Both are damaged women, desperately in need of something indescribable. They’re not weak women, and certainly not your typical damsel in distress, but are definitely susceptible to being on the submissive end of the power relationship. As for the villains, one is a supernatural force of nature, while the other is a very human expression of insanity. Beyond a shared need to dominate, their motives and their methods are as different as night and day.

Personally, I found Seithe to have a much more attractive ending, perhaps because it’s not one I expected Poppet to write. On the other hand, while I didn’t particularly like the ending to Darkroom, I can’t help but appreciate how quietly disturbing it was.

If you’ve yet to experience Poppet’s unique style, her flair for language, and her psychological mastery, I urge you to give her a read. She’ll challenge you as much as she entertains you, and she’ll never make you feel safe within the story, but she’ll ensure you come out the other side. Whether or not you come out unscathed, unchanged, is entirely up to you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

REVIEW: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 8: Last Gleaming

First of all, let me be clear - I love Willow, Angel, Xander, Buffy, Giles, Spike, and Faith . . . generally, depending upon my mood, in that order. I was a huge fan of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel when they were on TV, passing up dates, missing appointments, and blowing off family gatherings to catch each new episode. I was a bit too old to have grown up on the Whedonverse, but it definitely shaped much of my teenage years.

I cried like a baby when both shows ended. Buffy, I thought, ended very well, wrapping up 7 years of television with an ending that was every bit as empowering as the show itself. Angel, I thought, ended even better (even if it was sadly before it's time), with a final few moments that still take my breath away.

So, you can imagine my insane delight when I first heard that not only would each show be getting another "official" season, but that Joss himself would be at the helm. It wasn't a new season of televised glory, and it wasn't the movie we all wanted, but it was something - and it was to be "canon" (rather than just somebody else playing in then Whedonverse).

Season 8 definitely had its moments but, sadly, they were in the first 3 volumes (Long Way Home, No Future For You, and Wolves at the Gate). From there, it's been an uneven ride that began going downhill with Twilight (Volume 7) and has mercifully ended with Last Gleaming (Volume 8).

Okay, if you haven't read Last Gleaming, then stop reading now because SPOILERS ABOUND!

Still here? You've been warned . . .

Let me sum up what was wrong with this final chapter:

  1. Superhero powers, for both Buffy and Angel. Nope, sorry, just too much.
  2. The failure to correct the mistake of revealing Angel as the Big Bad. Come on, really? It was an absolute cheat to have Twilight turn out to be Angel . . . with a twist that ridiculous, I'm sure another could have been manufactured to counter it.
  3. Faith being wasted. This girl has potential! If you're not going to exploit it, then at least give her a great exit . . . don't just leave her on the sidelines.
  4. The senseless death of Giles. Yeah, Xander and I both saw it coming, but it was still an unnecessary bit of drama. Giles is . . . well, Giles! If he had to die, then it should have meant something.
  5. On that note, Xander being wasted. He had his shot at being a hero. He could have stopped Giles, taken his place, and turned a senseless death into a noble sacrifice. Instead, he stands by and watches.
  6. Resurrecting The Master, only to neuter him by making him a pawn of some other force, and then giving him a quick death that accomplishes nothing.
  7. Buffy saving the world by destroying the magic in it. This was huge. This was the classic no-win situation she faced so many times on TV . . . except she always found a way to create a third choice, one that usually involved her own sacrifice. Here, she picks the easy out, betraying Willow in the process, and does it without a moment of thought. Where's the angst? Where's the internal debate? Where's sense of sorrow and helplessness that have always accompanied those choices? This was lazy and it was wrong (even if it does erase a lot of mistakes and set us up for a return to normalcy in season 9).
  8. Giles rewriting his will, leaving everything to Faith. Excuse me? WTF? Yeah, we know he's kind of taken Faith under his wing, but this reeks of just another betrayal. This whole season seemed to be about dividing him from his Slayer, and I don't like the implication that he's lost faith in Buffy.
As for what was right about it:

  1. Spike was awesome. He looked like Spike, he talked like Spike, and he acted like Spike. He played a significant role and, despite all the hints, never did betray Buffy.
  2. Um . . . really, that's about it.
At this point, I'm not really interested in a Season 9, but I suspect I'll give it a shot - if only because Joss himself owned up to some of the failings in Season 8, and admitted he has already changed his direction for Season 9 because of what we, the fans, have said.

All I can say is it better be good . . . at least Angel good, if not better.