Circus of the Damned | Laurell K. Hamilton

My favorite thing about the Anita Blake series is that each book builds off from the previous one, but if you happen to skip a book or two, LKH’s descriptions and recaps will helpfully fill you in, and then throw you to the wolves. Or the plot.

Circus of the Damned is one of those books that sets up one of the more far-reaching plot arcs in the story, but you wouldn’t know it when you read. Skipping it on my first read through of the series taught me the important lesson that in the ABVH world everything is of crucial importance.

 

COTD introduces one of my favorite secondary characters – Stephen Deitrich, who is absolutely delightful to read about, and who also forces Anita to acknowledge and examine her anti-werewolf prejudices. It also brings Richard to the stage which. Whatever. In book 24 now, he’s just starting to redeem himself to me, and he has a rather long way to go, but that’s fine, because in COTD he’s likeable enough, and if this is your first time reading through the series you will definitely end uo rooting for him. (Don’t trust Richard Zeeman!)

 

COTD brings to the stage a few very important players, and continues to expand the already established supernatural world, but more importantly – it sets up the continuing appearance of the Vampire Council in Anita and Jean-Claude’s life. I am a die-hard fan of the old school vampire genre, where more often than not there is some type of ruling authority established in the old decrepit halls of rotting European castles. Anne Rice brought us Mekare and Maharet and Akasha and Enkil, and to a lesser extent some Dracula adaptations brought us the Order of the Dragon. LKH gifted us the Vampire Council, who will later serve as a prototype of the equally terrifying Authority in True Blood.

 

The Earthmover is to my knowledge the most ancient vampire written in the genre – a vampire so old he isn’t even homo sapiens definitely trumps however many measly millenia Mekare and Maharet used to have on everyone else. He can probably contend for most ancient supernatural baddie period. His only competition at this point are the Biblical figures in Supernatural. Of course, given how old and powerful he is, it takes Anita the whole book to defeat him and bring him to heel, which she does beautifully.

 

There is something very satisfying about reading how the good guys win, and Anita fighting fiercely, this time not only for herself, but also for Jean-Claude was absolutely wonderful. Wether she wants it or not, she now has something to protect, and that is a huge step up for her from the first book. Slowly and with attention to detail, Hamilton begins to shape her into the character we come to know and appreciate in alter books, but it starts as early as the third one.

Even though it’s a long time until Anita actually heals for good, or even begins healing, rather than just aggresively opening old wounds, it all starts with COTD.

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Music to Write Boys To | Aka What I Listen to While Writing

I’m one of those people who really just can’t do much of anything without a good soundtrack, and I have a long long list of songs I listen to depending on what I’m doing, but really, there’s only a few that I play on loop to get me in the zone when it comes to writing, be it fanfic, original, or meta.

Here is my favorite writing and reading music, and also the characters I relate it to, in no particular order:

 

  1. Freak – Lana del Rey

The first time I was listening to this song, I was reading Venus in Furs, which is hailed as the first BDSM novel, and the origin of the term “masochist” (derived from the author’s name, Sachter-Masoch). From then on, this has been my soulful but kinky romance song, and I usually put it on when angst-filled pining-heavy sensual scenes are about to happen.

Characters I associate it with: Narcissus, Venus, Theo Decker, Boris Pavlikovsky

 

  1. Art Deco – Lana del Rey (this entire post is basically a breakdwon of Honeymoon)

Lana’s lyrics are sheer genius as far as I’m concerned. This song just has a very sad Gatsby-esque vibe, so obviously, I play it whenever I’m reading about sad young men with broken hearts and dubious morals, and when I have to write about them. For some reason I also really associate it with Nathaniel Grayson, even though the lyrics have nothing to do with him as a character. It’s just one of those things, I guess.

 

  1. Six Inch – Beyonce

Finally an anthem for the murdering club siren, thanks to Queen Bey. Every single song from Lemonade is pure gold, and the Warsan Shire voiceover is bone-chilling, but something about this song in particular just makes me want to write some good old-fashioned vampire-centric horror. I mean, the lyrics are pretty stright-forward in that regard. I’m waiting for YouTube content-makers to grace us with some Santanico Pandemonium dance edits.

 

  1. Hal –Yasmin Hamdan

I am only putting this on the list because it’s my favorite moment of Only Lovers Left Alive, and it’s a very beautiful song and melody. It’s a reverse mirror of Sanatnico’s dance scenes in From Dusk Til Dawn, and it’s also so wonderfully shot and choreographed. It’s really less about the song, and more about the feel of it.

 

  1. Gasoline – Halsey

The official Joseph Kavinsky anthem, as far as I’m concerned. Also, my favorite song from Halsey. Incredible lyrics, combined with her beautiful voice, and just an very haunting all-around feel. I put it on when I write introspections or freestyles. It really gets me going.

 

  1. Control –Halsey

The official Andrew Miniyard anthem, for obvious reasons. My other favorite song from Halsey, and the one I listen to during introspections and freestyles if I feel like I’m bored of Gasoline. They have a very similar feel.

 

  1. Me and the Devil – Gil Scott Heron

Pure poetry. The beat, and the lyrics, and the uneven rhythm, combined with his deep raspy voice make for a great listen when doing pretty much anything at all. This is my “bad guy writing” song, but since pretty much all my characters are bad guys, it’s more of a “character is dealing with the fallout of a bad action” song, and it really makes me feel some type of way.

Characters I associate it with: Lestat, Spike

  1. WILD – Troye Sivan

Soulful childhood romance featuring a queer couple – more like, Troye’s entire discography waxing lyrical about suburbia. I love it, and it really sets the mood for just straight up (but not straight) non-genre fiction.

Characters I associate it with: Gregory and Stephen Deitrich, Jason Schuyler, Adam Parrish

  1. Lorde –Glory and Gore

Historical settings and violence, and dissatisfaction, and a deep sense of having be cheated off of something, and pretty much every time I write old souls in young bodies, I just can’t not put Lorde on. “I’ll show you what this big word means” yes, please, please show me, I’m drowning in SAT vocabulary trying to elevate my style.

Characters I associate it with: Armand, Henry Winter

  1. Bedroom Hymns – Florence and the Machine

Is this the desginated sexytimes song? It should be. Everything over PG-13 pretty much happens to the tune of the Bedroom Hymns. Florence’s music in general is great when I’m writing more spiritual things.

Characters I associate it with: Hannibal Lecter (don’t ask), Francis Abernathy

I like listening to the same music over and over, so the list is rather short – these are the songs I’ve been listening to the most lately, when I write. If you liked this post, and want to see similar, please let me know. I’m still figuring out what I want this blog to look like exactly, so any feedback is appreciated.

The Laughing Corpse | Laurel K. Hamilton

I am hopelessly behind with reviewing the ABVH series, and at this point I probably won’t be able to catch up, given that I’ve just started an internship, and have also committed to reviewing some other books (and I have also increased my reading list by about eighty titles). That having been said, I am not behind on the reread, and so, let’s dive right into the thick of it – the laughing corpse that is.

 

In pretty much all my ABVH rereads I always end up glossing over it, skipping parts, and overall just not paying much attention at all, and I’ve never been quite certain why. While I love all the ABVH books, there are some I definitely like more than others. TLC is not one of them. This time I forced myself to pay attention and finally realized why – the villain is just too creepy, and too unsettling, and so he throws off the whole experience for me (kind of why I have a thing about the books that feature Olaf more heavily, actually).

 

It is definitely a testament to LKH’s writing genius, that she’s been able to craft a villain so incredibly upsetting that it’s stuck with me for over six years. In fact, it’s even more impressive because when I first read TLC I was a lot younger and had a much bigger tolerance for cringy stuff that I now avoid at all costs. Gaynor is absolutely deplorable. Some villains you might try to excuse, try to find a redeeming quality. He is not one of them. Echoing the disturbing portrayal of the Joker in The Killing Joke, Gaynor is, simply put, absolutely certifiably terrifying in and vile in his treatment of women, and of everyone in general, and nothing felt quite as satisfying as Anita smoothly (or not so) dispatching him at the end of the book.

 

The ending is actually my favorite part of TLC. Anita’s jump in powers, but also in ruthlessness and the cold calculated savagery of her actions is what hooked me on this series to begin with and this is one of her more gruesome actions. Violent and merciless, she shows once more why she will later earn herself the name “War” among preternaturals. Her cold and unbothered behaviour when questioned by Dolph and Zerbrowski is even more impressive. This is definitely not the Anita of the first book – in this Anita we already see some of Obsidian Butterfly!Anita peek through, and it’s sufficiently terrifying.

 

While far from my favorite in the ABVH series, The Laughing Corpse is an excellent continuation of Guilty Pleasures that will doubtless endear itself to anyone who enjoys a classic thriller with gruesome murders and an “interesting psycopath” as the main villain.

The Strong Female Character in Corruption Ridden BulgariaI Mike Wells Review

Lust Money and Murder, Mike Wells

When Mike Wells approached me on Twitter, offering me a free ebook of the first novel in his series, I was initially suspicious. After googling Mike, and ensuring that he is in fact a person, and his books are the real deal, and not a twitter scam to part me with my private information, I downloaded it, still rather uncertain, despite the overwhelmingly good reviews that I had already seen. As somoene who has a personal preference for only certain genres, I wasn’t entirely sold on the whole crime thriller thing, especially since my tastes there run more towards the supernaturally-inlcined mysteries, or the classics that everyone is familiar with, like Christie.
Mike Wells seemed determined to prove me wrong from the very first line and from the on it took me only a few pages to believe the people who had called his style “unputdownable”.
I was pleasantly surprised by his cadence, and his word choice, as well as the fact that he had chosen to write a female character – and – to write one well. His fleshing out of Elaine is what really sold me on the series. Very rarely do you see a well-written strong female character in the male-dominated kingdom of the hard-boiled crime thriller genre, and very rarely, one written by a male author, without any of the stipulations of her becoming a sex object of some sort for her male counterparts.
The plot of the novel is classic, as much as a revenge story can be, and Elaine’s determination is written into her in such a powerful and affecting manner that her captivating voice stays with the reader long after they’ve finished the book. In fact, the close third person narrative makes the story all the more personable, without any of the negative stipulations that sometimes come with a first person perspective.
As a Bulgarian, I had my reservations the moment I read my country’s name on the page, already expecting the usual representation of my country as a mob-infested crime ridden third world mess that has somehow found itself in the corners of the EU. In fact, that is a representation that I have grown so used to in western literature, that it takes me by surprise when an author takes their time to go beyond the surface of media reports about government corruption and high unemployment rates or criminal activity. Wells impresses with an in-depth beautiful portrayl of Sofia, which feels all the more familiar for my knowing all the places that he names, and in fact having been in some of them. Objective, without being unnecessarily harsh, he weaves the picture of a Sofia that were I foreigner, I would want to visit. Of course, the representation of my home town leaves something to be desired, but given the care and attention to detail that have clearly already gone into it, I can safely say Wells has left me feeling rather good about myself as a Bulgarian.
The plot itself doesn’t depend so much on the setting, as it does on the characters, and the way Elaine handles herself regardless of her circumstance is beautifully done. As a woman, I want to commend Wells on his handling of Elaine’s sexual assault – portraying it as a brutal and crude action,without attemptint to sexualize it, and furthermore, accentuating the challenges a woman in Elaine’s position would face based on her choice to report it or not, and the messages it internalizes. In fact, the portrayal of Elaine as a woman who is not necessarily comfortable with sex and relationships is something that I am sure a lot of women will be able to, and having written it without stigma, and without having it affect her choices and behaviours, Wells actually creates a very believeable and realistic character, who reads very much like a real person. The occasional mention of her close friends, and their appearance in her life also adds to a more fully fleshed out character, as authors oftentimes forget that in order for their story to be believable, their characters must have a life off page, and cannot realistically interact only with two other secondary characters and the murder victims on their cases (yeah, I’m looking at you, Stephen Moffat).
The chosen centric to the story crimes – corruption and counterfeit currency, are rather original in a market dominated almost entirely by griesly murders, kidnappings, and the like, and give a more elegant sound to the rest of the books, setting it apart with a sense that this will be more than a simple whodunnit mystery. In fact, the attention to detail in the counterfeit plot, almost entirely makes up for the fact that the story does in fact start with a murder. But even that is set up and written so clverely and with such a sense of finesse and propriety, that it redeems itself as an attention-grabbing first chapter almost immediately.
The story is dynamic and fast-paced, and the details that set it up are woven in cleverly and with attention, building a fascinating read and setting up the rest of the series, which, if they keep to the same high standard, promise to be a wonderful read. I can definitely say that with this book, Mike Wells has won me as a fan and you can definitely expect to see more reviews of his work on this blog.