Monthly Archives: September 2014

Review of Dark Moonlighting, by Scott Haworth

Dark MoonlightingAuthor, Scott Haworth sent me a copy of Dark Moonlighting.

Description from Goodreads:
Nick Whittier, having been alive for six centuries, has had plenty of time to master three professions. In a typical week he works as a police officer, lawyer and doctor and still finds time to murder someone and drink their blood. He used to feel guilty about the killings, but now he restricts himself to only eating the worst members of society. Few people in Starside, Illinois seem to care about the untimely deaths of spam e-mailers, pushy Jehovah Witnesses and politicians. However, the barriers between Nick’s three secret lives start to crumble when a mysterious man from his past arrives in town seeking revenge. Nick must move quickly to prevent the three women in his life, and the authorities who are hunting him, from discovering his terrible secret.

Dark Moonlighting is a bit hard to review. It’s satire and as satire it’s quite funny. If I hadn’t known going in that it was meant to be sarcastic, I’d probably be accusing the author of having the sense of humour of a 5th grader, but as purposeful humour it’s pretty good. I’d recommend the book for anyone who’s familiar with or has a love for TV cop and medical dramas.

The problem is that the joke got old at about half way through the book. At about that point, two things happened roughly simultaneously. One, the jokes (for lack of a better word) became predictable and thus lost their lustre, and two, the satire went from being relatively subtle to openly interacting with/through the characters and story. This made the whole thing feel slapstick and clumsy instead of cleaver and satirical (even when some of this same clumsiness was, in itself, a satire). Dr. Condo and the FBI agents were especially heavy-handed and groan-inducing.

The writing is pretty good. I found it to be well edited. I enjoyed the autobiographical nature of the story and especially liked the ending. All and all, an enjoyable enough book, even if I preferred the first half to the second.

Review of Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1), by Aleksandr Voinov

ScorpionI bought a copy of Aleksandr Voinov‘s Scorpion.

Description from Goodreads:
Kendras is a casualty of war: injured, penniless, and quite possibly the last surviving member of the only family he’s ever had—the elite fighting force known as the Scorpions. When a steel-eyed mercenary offers him medicine and shelter in exchange for submission and a secret task, Kendras has no choice but to accept. He is a Scorpion; he’ll do whatever it takes to survive.

But his true goal is to rebuild the Scorpions. Neither Steel’s possessive nature nor Kendras’s shattered foot can keep him from finding the last of his brothers, or the mysterious leader of the Scorpions, the man who held Kendras’s heart long before Steel tried to take it for himself.

The goal is simple, the situation anything but. To rescue his leader and escape from Steel for good, Kendras must fight through a morass of politics and intrigue where enemies may be allies and even allies have hidden agendas. But Kendras isn’t only fighting for his lost lover and tribe—he soon realizes that nothing less than the birth of an Empire is at stake.

There is plenty to love about this book—lots hard men, loyal soldiers (one of my favourites), hot sex, PoC MCs (I’ve had a wonderful run of these lately), a twisty-turny plot, a little master/slave, some gentle love, more barely scraping adulthood acolytes/novices/servants/etc gagging for it than you can shake a (your) stick at, atmosphere, wonderfully descriptive writing, good editing, etc. A lot to love. It’s dark and gritty, with an ending that I suspect only seems happy(ish). Yep, lots to love.

I thought the beginning was a little shaky, but it stabilised satisfactorily. And while I know this isn’t meant to be set in the modern west and thus can’t be expected to live by our mores and customs, I did think the pervasive sexual victimisation felt overplayed. It’s not that I have a problem with it in a plot; it was just EVERYWHERE here. Every organisation, from the prisons, to the army, to the church, to the nobility seemed to blithely rape or train for ‘service’ their powerless. Thus, most of the characters had been raped at some point, some to more effect than others and many ritualistically (rape being institutionally scripted before X occurs, etc). It’s one of those books in which there only seem to be predators and prey, no…you know…normalish people and that left it feeling monochromatic as a culture.

But the characters were marvellous and there were a lot of small sparkly moments, like Steel’s odd emotional desperation or Widow’s anomalous love or Kendras’ constant low-level want or Sylvan’s ‘weakness.’ Yeah, not a perfect read for me but certainly not one I’m complaining about having spent an evening with. I think ‘yum’ is the appropriate descriptor

Review of LieSmith, by Alis Franklin

LieSmithI was granted a copy of Alis Franklin‘s LieSmith from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Working in low-level IT support for a company that’s the toast of the tech world, Sigmund Sussman finds himself content, if not particularly inspired. As compensation for telling people to restart their computer a few times a day, Sigmund earns enough disposable income to gorge on comics and has plenty of free time to devote to his gaming group.
Then in walks the new guy with the unpronounceable last name who immediately becomes IT’s most popular team member. Lain Laufeyjarson is charming and good-looking, with a story for any occasion; shy, awkward Sigmund is none of those things, which is why he finds it odd when Lain flirts with him. But Lain seems cool, even if he’s a little different—though Sigmund never suspects just how different he could be. After all, who would expect a Norse god to be doing server reboots?
As Sigmund gets to know his mysterious new boyfriend, fate—in the form of an ancient force known as the Wyrd—begins to reveal the threads that weave their lives together. Sigmund doesn’t have the first clue where this adventure will take him, but as Lain says, only fools mess with the Wyrd. Why? Because the Wyrd messes back.

I thought that this was quite clever. That alone would be enough for me. But paired with how darned CUTE Sigmund was, makes it’s a real winner for me. I just wanted to grab all his über-geeky, low self-esteem (what he would call realistic self-appraisal), hipster envy, good boyness and hug it and love it and call it George. I adored him. Plus, he’s a not a cookie-cutter, Ken-shaped, white main character. He’s plump and dark. Maybe with some Maori ancestry, but that’s never clarified. I loved it, even more since this was played all sorts of cool, as if it wasn’t some rare gem to be treasured when found in a book.

The story itself is quite convoluted and, honestly, readers would be well served to have at least a basic understanding of Norse mythology. I’m not saying that it’s not understandable if you don’t, but I think it will be more enjoyable if you do. But beyond the story of the machinations of the gods there is a lot to enjoy here. The romance is slow and sweet. It never progresses beyond a kiss, but it’s obvious the end goal is love not lust. *sigh* And there is just tons and tons of Gamer/Trekkie/Trekker/Ringer/comic book/Star Wars/DnD/etc nerddom to revel in. It’s glorious in its own way, but not over-played. Plus, Sigmund is never disparaged for his interests. In fact, he’s quite comfortable in who and what he is.

With the tangled plot, I did find it a little hard to keep up with on occasion, it seemed to slow down and drag for a while in the Helbleed, friends accepted the impossible with aplomb, and the ending is left a little ‘we’ll figure it out eventually’ open. But for the most part I found this a really enjoyable read.