Dead Ever After & After Dead (CBR9 #25-26)

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I had divorced myself from the world of Sookie Stackhouse following the terrible twelfth book in the series, Deadlocked, back in 2012. It was, to me, a complete destruction of all the reasons I had been gamely reading along with this series since my friend Meika can across it in 2007 and we rapidly consumed all the available books. When I reviewed Deadlocked I thought I’d eventually read this book because I have series completion OCD, but in the intervening years I’ve avoided it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Southern Vampire Series, the character of Sookie Stackhouse, or HBO’s True Blood series these books have always been a bit of paranormal mystery fluff with a romance angle put in. These books are the definition of frothy, cheesy, relaxing reads that you can mostly turn off the world around you and sink into. In the beginnings of the series, Harris put in some social commentary, and that was fine.

The mechanics were never very good. My biggest problem with Harris as a technician is that she cannot naturally move a character from one place to another without a paragraph of exposition. Also, Sookie tells you exactly what she is thinking all of the time. There is no subtlety or nuance. The reader is also quite often treated to her daily to do list while Harris is working towards the next plot point.

However, as mental palate cleansers? Who cares!

So why did I read this book? Because ingres77 recently read the first book in the series,  Dead Until Dark, and it reminded me that I never did finish. There was a small amount of peer pressure from he and narfna, and here we are.

I drank a lot of beer while reading this. It was really the only way.

Listen, these aren’t good books. They aren’t all bad either, but other than bonkers werewolf, shifter, vampire, witch, and fairy shenanigans and a protagonist who cannot find the good in her ability to hear other people’s thoughts there isn’t much left. I’m sure there are better avenues to get your were/shifter/magic/vampire fix.

Or you could just watch the show, since for at least the first couple seasons it took and improved the core of the book series. Then it too went off the rails. However, it gave us Lafayette, so I cannot be mad.

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You’ll notice that this is actually a review of two books. Harris, bless her, couldn’t fit all the characters in her 13 book series into the end, and because fans are rabid things, she wrote a compendium which lists off many of the characters in alphabetical order and gives you their epilogue style update. When I found out about it I also requested it from the library because maybe my favorite character in the entire series, the only one I truly wish well (besides Sam) is the vampire Bubba. You know, Elvis. He did not make it into the last book so I checked out the other one just to get this half page of closure:

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Save yourselves the trouble, skip these.

With that, I have completed this year’s half cannonball and am one third of the way to my overall goal. Viva la Cannonball!

 

 

Maskerade (CBR7 #31)

“you started being a witch… when you opened your mind to the world and carefully examined everything it picked up” (146-7)

We’ve found the first Discworld novel that I haven’t loved. I’m a bit perplexed, really. I know that I have a deep and abiding distaste for The Phantom of the Opera but generally I find riffs on it to be pleasing enough. But… there just wasn’t enough of the story outside of the Phantom satire. I wanted more Witches, is what I think it boils down to.

I made myself a goal of reading one Discworld/Terry Pratchett book each month this year. In my efforts towards that goal I’ve been working my way through the Witches books. The witches’ books have delighted me thus far – they are wry and about women’s power and agency, while being just the littlest bit dark around the edges. Perfect for me. But this one didn’t have enough of the things I loved about the witches themselves to keep me interested. It was too much about the Opera and all the goings-on therein.

The seemingly intentional misspelling of masquerade in the title uses Mask to point us in the direction of Pratchett’s larger meaning. We are all hiding behind something (Nanny using a pseudonym for her cookbook, Greebo as a person, Agnes going by Perdita, the literal mask on the ghost(s)). Pratchett also uses various forms and functions of his writing technique to point to ideas he’s playing with – there are the ubiquitous footnotes, but also a rather sublime fixation on exclamation points and just how much enthusiasm it takes to turn the corner to madness. All of these things should have pleased me, as they have in other books. This is Pratchett being Pratchett, as far as I’ve understood his writing in thus far (admittedly I’m only five books in, but five books for most authors is a definitive sample).

Mostly, I missed Granny Weatherwax. As I started reading the novel I thought that the quandary over choosing what is Right versus what is Wrong, and how Granny’s character was setting off on a path of being like  Black Aliss with all the power she’s accumulated and the experiences she has had. Sure, by the time we get to how Granny chooses to deal with Salzella Pratchett is dealing with that question again, but for large portions of the text it’s being ignored. Granny, and by extension the rest of us, learn there would have been easier, less painful ways to defeat him (the Black Aliss ways) but Granny recognized that overcoming evil without becoming evil must often come at a personal cost. But it didn’t feel earned.

The other problem was that for the first time in my Discworld experience I was meeting characters who are recurring characters in the Discworld whom I’m running into for the first time, but have been introduced elsewhere, and I felt the lacking. I knew there were jokes and innuendo that I wasn’t catching because I hadn’t read any of the Watch books, or the Death books yet. So I think instead of wrapping up the Witches run with Carpe Jugulum next, I’m going to go back and read Mort.

 

Witches Abroad (CBR7 #10)

Being that Witches Abroad is a Discworld novel written by Sir Terry Pratchett there are literary tropes to be abused and social mores to be jumped up and down on. For our enjoyment this time Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick are off to stop a bad fairy godmother from unleashing a terrible torrent of stories all over the poor city of Genua. That sentence of plot description, admittedly, makes very little sense, but I promise you Pratchett has a certain way of weaving it all together so that you can’t imagine the story, ahem narrative, going any other way.

To be honest, I picked up Witches Abroad simply because I was in desperate need of 1) a palate cleanser following What She Left Behind and 2) something upbeat – my reading of late, All the Light We Cannot See, Station Eleven, and The Line of Beauty  coming up, have all been a bit heavy on the sad emotions. Thankfully Pratchett delivered right to my expectations – a book of humor that is not brainless that I could happily cackle away to on the couch for a few evenings and harass my roommate with quotes and discussions about which of us is who (I am very definitely Nanny Ogg to her Granny Weatherwax).

And while the humor is lovely, this is a book with substance. My main takeaway, and there are surely many layered into these 350 pages, is that no one is immune from a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have to change the story, because stories will make themselves happen if you don’t act accordingly. There’s also a whole bit about mirrors, and multiplying your power while stealing your soul, but that wasn’t as interesting to me, personally.

I’m definitely having a love affair with Pratchett and Discworld and am so happy that there are so many books for me to continue to enjoy. Next month I’ll be tackling Lords and Ladies.

Equal Rites (CBR7 #3)

Folks, we need to talk about how I think I’m falling in love with Discworld. Equal Rites is only my second book in the series, but it made my heart happy while I was reading it, and considering I read it while preparing to go back to work after a two week vacation, that was a tall order.

In my review of Wyrd Sisters I mentioned that I wasn’t sure whether not picking this, the starter book for the Witches books, was going to be a problem. Having read it now, I think I was better off having read Wyrd Sisters first, since it gave me a bit of who Granny Weatherwax is, and this story gave me a more in depth experience with her, and her student Esk.

So what ‘s the story? It’s about a wizard on the brink of death who comes to the small town of Bad Ass to pass along his staff and power to the eighth son of an eighth son. The problem is, the son is a daughter, and no one has any idea what to make of that. Eskarina, possessed of significant innate magical power and the old wizard’s staff, ends up in the care of our lovely Granny Weatherwax, the witch of these environs. Granny, being Granny, distrusts wizard magic and decides to try to raise Esk as a witch. In Granny’s book, that means learning things, not just having magic, so Esk gets a thorough introduction to herbs and headology before she gets any training in magic. But Esk’s innate magic isn’t going to settle for that, and neither is her staff, so finally they set out for Ankh-Morpork and the Unseen University to try to enroll the first female wizard.

But that isn’t really what the story is about. Because this is Pratchett what we really have is spot-on satire of gender roles and institutionalized idiocy, all set in a venue we’re familiar with – school.  His satire works because he has love, and not scorn, for his subject — to wit, human nature and all its foolishness and foibles.  In Equal Rites no one can imagine a female wizard, or a male witch for that matter, because everyone’s ways of doing things are so different. Some of my favorite scenes are when view of the world collides with the ways of the Unseen University, culminating in a great twist on the magical battle from The Sword in the Stone.

While this is in many ways a stock fantasy (or any genre, really) coming of age story, it also has the Pratchett deliciousness of word play and humor. Pratchett has a talent for playing with the English language in subtle little ways so that the simplest sentence (“The conversation wandered away like a couple of puppies.”) had me giggling along as I read.

The only detractions I can really make are that occasionally the story races along and threatens to run away from you (seriously, how much time elapses in Ankh-Morpork, Pratchett?). I also thought the ending was a touch weak and just sort of plopped down there on the page. I literally turned the page expecting more, and alas there was none.  I’m sure I’ll be finding my way to Witches Abroad before too long.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.