Review of “Magic to the Bone” by Annie Bellett

The Twenty Sided Sorceress #7

29558243.jpgBellet, Annie. Magic to the Bone. Doomed Muse Press, 2016.

Content advisory: scattered F-bombs, some violence, and innuendo. (if you are a long time reader of this blog, you should be used to that.)

 

Holy crap on a cracker it is boss fight time, but before we get to that let’s talk about what we know beforehand and what is going on with the characters. (scattered spoilers ahead) First off we left our girl Jade Crow in the hands of her father. A Dragon, whatever the hell that means, to basically level up her character. She needs formal training badly. Her friends, the paper characters, are all back at the druid-ranch playing catch-me-if-you-can with Samir’s bodyguards and hired mercenaries. Her ex-boyfriend, the biggest jerkface on the planet, is about to try and make himself a god. He wants to bring back the era of high magic and gods and get rid of all of us puny mortals. Grand plans, but Jade can’t let that happen because of..reasons. We also know that the story arc is coming to head like a giant magical pimple. Most of Jade’s power derives from something deep down into her bones. This is generally glossed over in the first few books, she basically bounces around like she is a magical bubble. Now we know though that deep in her bones is the magic answer to her problems. I am going to try and not give too much away. But it rhymes with pragon. Plot wise it is almost a bit Deus ex machinea for me. She seems very much like an overpowered character in a beginning level. It is anti-climatic and rushed as hell.  Annie Bellet does try to set limitations on her training and power, but they are fuzzy and useless. The guidelines for being a sorceress have always been a bit mutable in this series, but this is ridiculous. What is the point of having the main character so overpowered that it really doesn’t matter? The boss fight that we have waited six books for is over so quickly and easily. There is no drama, at that point, you are really just going through the motions.

Now that I have almost finished this series, inexplicably there is another book, we can talk about how it feels overall. As far as a series goes, it feels a bit uneven. Some books were wow! Others, especially book seven left me feeling very flat. It was way too rushed to be enjoyable. To much has been taken for granted and the build-up really lost steam. What was the point of having all these subsidiary characters if they serve no purpose in the finale? They did nothing to offer anything to the story except a place for the main character to quip off of. It is really disappointing because the first novels were so exciting. One thing that the writer did do well kept to the very serviceable plot device of novice building and growing, discovering something badass about herself, and then killing the big baddy. I can think of a handful of series off the top of my head that does just that. Sookie Stackhouse, The Hallows, Illona Andrews, and even to some extent Dresden Files. It works as a plot device even though it isn’t refreshing.

I know that it sounds like I didn’t wholly like the book, that’s not true. I did like the book and in extension the entire series. Save for the eighth book. I am not even sure what I am supposed to do with that unless the author plans on another story arc. I liked the series, even if it was uneven and ended oddly. It is fun and a quick read. It allows you a couple of hours of fun. It is worth it.

 

Review of “Hunting Season” by Annie Bellet

The Twenty Sided Sorceress – Book 4

23303229.jpgBellet, Annie. Hunting Season. Doomed Muse Press, 2014.

Content advisory: scattered F-bombs, some violence, and innuendo. (if you are a long time reader of this blog, you should be used to that.)

Yaaaassss. Queen. Slay all day. This series keeps getting better and better. Jade Crow is just killing it. (pun intended)

This book has more of all the fun stuff. More magic, more gore, more action and definitely more backstory. We are learning a bit about her past and that maybe

‘”We fight with what we have,” he murmured. “Not what we wish to have.
“Okay, Obi-Wan.” I nipped his chin and settled into his arms.
“I am not quoting Star Wars,” he said, glaring down at me in mock annoyance.
“No, but you sound wise for your years.”
“Protect you, I will,” he said. “Love you, I do.”‘”

there is something special about her. Ya. I know, not exactly the most original plot device. But, you know what that is ok. It is a plot device because it is useful. Bellet is not slamming us over the head with the fact that there is something unknown about Jade. There just is. Deal with it and we will find out in due time.

Also, I have to say that I totally dig all the gaming and pop culture references. On one hand, it gives a subtle nod to those of us out there who appreciate geekdom, on the other hand, it might make it so this book doesn’t have the longevity for reading that other series might have. It is one of the reasons I enjoyed “Ready Player One” so much. I am a child of the eighties and totally got the references. It was a roller coaster in pop culture awesomeness.

Also. Unicorns. My head just exploded a little.

Go ahead start at book 1, I’ll wait.

Review of “Pack of Lies” by Anne Bellett

23365287.jpgBellet, Annie. Pack of Lies. Doomed Muse Press, 2014.

 

Content advisory: scattered F-bombs, some violence, and innuendo. (if you are a long time reader of this blog, you should be used to that.)

 

Let’s hear it for independent publishers and let’s hear it for writers who get better and not worse from book to book. I thought the first book in this series was serviceable. Decent. Fun, but obviously Anne Bellett was snuggling in, and getting comfy with these characters. Book three is an entirely different and better offering than the first two books in the series. She is happy with the personalities she has created and they just keep getting better and better. The love angle is also a whole lot more enjoyable to read and more believable. He is not some cardboard cutout but is evolving into a more fleshed out person.  Less of a go-to hot guy and more of a person with feelings and personality.

As far as the story goes, I think Anne Bellett excels at both pushing the main story forward inches at a time while having a contained separate story arc for each book. This is no exception.

“Recovering from a broken heart and coming to terms with her family history, all sorceress Jade Crow wants is to resume running her comic book store and gaming with her friends. With a town full of strange wolf shifters, a hundred-and-fifty-year-old peace accord hanging in the balance, and the Justice who broke her heart back in her life, Jade’s plans go out the proverbial window.

Wolves are killing wolves, innocent human lives are caught in the crossfire, and not everyone in town is who they appear to be. As the bodies stack up and the doubts build, Jade and her friends race to find the true killer. “

Talk about exciting action. Wolves, 150-year-old peace accord, and a weird baddy to deal with; this story really had it all. I totally dug it.  Plus it was short and mighty. Perfect for winding a couple hours in the afternoon away. Check it out.

O’ Children – The Orphans of Harry Potter

The influence of a song on a scene in Harry Potter

I was laying in the tub today trying to grasp a slippery thought. I have most of my semi-deep, to semi-ridiculous ideas while neck deep in the suds. Goes back to my deep and unabiding love of bath bombs from Lush. The problem was that I had had a song on repeat in my head for two days. It was maddening. Especially when it is only a few bars of it. It was as if the thought was made of eel and Vasoline in equal parts, and every time I got just enough of it to push the song into coalescence it slipped through my mental fingers. By the time I had become sufficiently pruned, and the last of our sad little hot water heater was sputtering its last blessed drops, I had figured it out. I had the epiphanic moment.

The song was “O’Children” by Nick Cave, and the Bad Seeds and the scene was the dance scene from Harry Potter 8.

The connection that had been maddeningly bouncing around my neurons for two days was it’s connection to Harry Potter. Weird right. But I

Hey little train! Wait for me!
I was held in chains but now I’m free
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
In this process of elimination

have funny thoughts pass through my brain a lot while nackt in der Badewanne (naked in the bath – practicing my German). There is a scene in Harry Potter 8 that is both lovely and mellow; until this point, I wouldn’t have described it as brilliant.  But it is utterly brilliant, and wonderfully written. When Harry and Hermione are waiting together in their tent. Ron had just left their expedition in a fit of madness and rage. Both Ron and Hermione are feeling down in different ways. It is an exceptionally well-acted scene, showcasing the talents of Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliff. They are listening to the radio, waiting for news, for death, for anything, when Nick Cave comes on. His voice is melodious but dark and deep and slow.  This is definitely not music you would usually dance to.

Do you remember where you were when you saw this scene? Did you hate it? Love it? In the Harry Potter film universe, it is one of the most divisive scenes ever written. On first watching, you could assume that it is hinting at a possible romantic connection between the lead characters. But, not everything has to be about romantic love. Harry and Hermione are completely worn down like butter scraped over to much bread. The body language of the scene suggests this. Hermione is almost fetal while Harry is at the far edge of the scene. The lighting of the scene suggests a somber dark and shadowy environment. Harry walks over to Hermione and takes her hand and begins to dance in a goofy way. For one blissful moment, they escape their lives

O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

and dance together in the joy of friendship. A way that two friends would do to cheer themselves up. To bring a moment of levity into their world that is falling apart. The music is, for me, one of the best selections in a cinematic scene ever done. Bold words.

Here me out, and take a look at the lyrics.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – O’ Children

[Verse 1]
Pass me that lovely little gun
My dear, my darling one
The cleaners are coming, one by one
You don’t even want to let them start

They are knocking now upon your door
They measure the room, they know the score
They’re mopping up the butcher’s floor
Of your broken little hearts

O children
Forgive us now for what we’ve done
It started out as a bit of fun

Here, take these before we run away
The keys to the gulag

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

Come on, come on, come on, come on

[Verse 2]
Here comes Frank and poor old Jim
They’re gathering round with all my friends

We’re older now, the light is dim

And you are only just beginning

O children

We have the answer to all your fears
It’s short, it’s simple, it’s crystal clear
It’s round about and it’s somewhere here
Lost amongst our winnings

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

[Verse 3]
The cleaners have done their job on you
They’re hip to it, man, they’re in the groove

They’ve hosed you down, you’re good as new
And they’re lining up to inspect you

O children
Poor old Jim’s white as a ghost
He’s found the answer that we lost

We’re all weeping now, weeping because
There ain’t nothing we can do to protect you

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice
[Outro]
Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
And the train ain’t even left the station

Hey, little train! Wait for me!
I once was blind but now I see
Have you left a seat for me?
Is that such a stretch of the imagination?

Hey little train! Wait for me!
I was held in chains but now I’m free
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
In this process of elimination

Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
It’s beyond my wildest expectation

Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
And the train ain’t even left the station

The lyrics talk of a world being destroyed by the adults of the system, and it is up to the children to sort it out. It is hopeful. The bombs may be dropping, the world might be ending, but lift your voice children for there is always hope. Rejoice in that.

This is what the Harry Potter story is. I think it is even more powerful when you think of Harry and Hermione as lone orphans. Harry against his will, and Hermione to protect her parents. Both children, fighting a battle and losing. Alone in the world, and now abandoned by their third. Lift your voice children and dance.  Rejoice.

It is a really damn powerful scene, and I have so much more appreciation for it now that I can look at it through the lens of time.

Clashing Perspectives – The Beach by Alex Garland

Why paradise is impossible to maintain.

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You ever look back at something you read 15 or 20 years ago and have that “A-Ha” moment.

Not the ridiculously good band from the eighties A-Ha (see above), but the mind-altering epiphanic moment when you realize that a plot point that was salient to the whole freaking novel zoomed right the hell over your head. Yup, I had one of those.

I read this book when I was right out of high school and entirely in love with the idea of a wild wonderland. A paradise filled with gorgeous people and no responsibility. I wanted to see, do, and experience that life. I still do now. However, those ideas are now tempered with age, trust,  and hopefully, some integrity.  I think in the end, the soundtrack sealed it for me. Does anyone still like the group VAST? They are one of my favorites still to this day because of that movie. From that moment on I set out to read the book “It will change my life,” I thought. Maybe I could eternalize a little of this wild abandon that I so desperately yearned for.

The problem was that when I read the novel, I was left unsettled and feeling dirty. It felt like someone had taken my brain and used it to scour pans for an afternoon. The book was like a beautiful Honey Crisp apple sitting on a shelf, but when you cut into it,

“Trust me, it’s paradise. This is where the hungry come to feed. For mine is the generation that travels the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite & never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience— And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.”
― Alex Garland, The Beach

the apple had a rotten core filled with maggots. It had not lived up to my fantasies. I felt cheated and weak.  What was actually weak, was my perspective and understanding of life beyond my hometown at the time.  “The Beach” has nothing to do with paradise, but the outlook on what actually constitutes a paradise, the darkness in people, and the lengths of which one would go to protect it.  It is a smart book, and subtle in its narration.  Its overall gravitas was not something I could appreciate at the time, but it is something that I can look back on now and understand.

After discovering a seemingly Edenic paradise on an island in a Thai national park, Richard soon finds that since civilized behavior tends to dissolve without external restraints, the utopia is hard to maintain.

Plot summary – goodreads.com

One of the key things that garland does it keep the undercurrents flowing within the language of the everyday life of the travelers. He describes the day to day tasks that they need to accomplish; Fishing, farming, and partying. While subtly hinting at the darker parts of the characters psyches. Reminds me of a much less ham-fisted and more eloquent “lord of the Flies,” but for a much older audience.  In the end, the characters are scarred both mentally and physically.

“The first I heard of the beach was in Bangkok, on the Ko Sanh Road.” ― Alex Garland, The Beach

If you are looking for a book that tears you up inside a bit, look no further. It is worth the second read, especially if you have some life experiences behind you.

Weird Beauty Products, and why you should just give up and Use Lush

Lush is so, so good.

Don’t you feel a little confused about all of the beauty products out there? From a seaweed bath soak that comes complete with dead crustaceans attached, to an eyebrow product that literally stamps your eyebrows on, it is hard to know what you can use that makes you feel good and is not made of crap. Sometimes literally.

For me personally, that means drastic simplification. I enjoy wearing makeup and usually when I wear makeup I don’t look like a clown. Except when I attempt winged liner.

You are bathing in suds and glory.

That is a whole bunch of next level crap I haven’t mastered. My life just doesn’t seem to allow me much time to do a full face of makeup except on date night. Even then.  Sorry hubby, get used to it.  I do however search out for products that smell good and make me feel right about my very limited beauty routine. Specifically, they are bath bombs and the Whoosh shower gel from Lush.

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Yaaaas queen. Let me huff you. (Image courtesy of lush.com)

The bath bombs need no explaining. They are a bomb of awesome that is plunked with anticipation into your bathwater. They fizzle, glitter, and smell amazing. Cleaning your tub sucks. But who the hell cares! You are bathing in suds and glory.

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The aptly named sex bomb. Jasmine lusciousness. (Image courtesy of lush.com)

The shower gel is for me the most perfect smell and this is coming from someone who has a pretty extensive perfume collection. I sometimes sit in the restroom and just huff it. There is something about the herbal/citrus smell that gets to me. I have searched pretty hard for something that smells like an equivalent, and have yet to find anything.

The third beauty product I am going to mention here is perfume. I like to smell like a french whore. Yes, I love myself. Yes, I know that that is not something that is generally aimed for. Yes, I am ok with this.

I think I have pretty good taste in perfumes, but what the hell do I know. Fun fact about me: I am slightly anosmic. Which means that I have very little to no sense of smell. It is not entirely gone, I can smell some things. But generally, they have to be very strong or very specific. This carries into they way perfumes smell for me. Belk.jpegMy very favorite fragrance that does not wholly annoy my ultra sensitive nose of a husband (aren’t we a pair) is by MAC cosmetics. It smells like I have slathered honey and sexiness all over my body. It is called Velvet Teddy. See see, french whore.

Sometimes I sit in the bathroom and huff it

Close second concerning smell is all class, Coco Chanel. I feel so fancy wearing it. Two very different price points. Depending on the day and if I want to feel a little low-class slutty, I wear the Velvet Teddy. High-class “Pretty Woman” slutty, it’s all Coco Chanel. If I want to keep it all to myself, just the shower gel after a shower.

The Importance of To-do lists

Eating the Frog

Hannah Brencher on productivity and to-do lists: “Locate the task that is the most important but also the one you’re most likely to procrastinate on. That’s your frog. Your frog is the thing that NEEDS to get done . . . I try to ‘eat the frog’ every week, early in the week.”

Via Mapping My Weeks — Discover


I live and die by my to-do lists. I came across this great and straightforward way of tracking your ideas and what needs to get done via a notebook on my feed this morning and had to share. It is much easier getting things down on paper, and yes paper, electronic stuff does not work for me when it comes to lists. I can’t keep something in my brain and juggle a hundred things at once. Try it out. It has made a world of difference to me. For me eating the frog is phone calls to places like the utility company, oy.