Of Musings and Wonderings











smoke and mirrorsI have to admit, I do love a good collection. Whether it’s by the same author or stories from a variety, there’s something pleasurable in moving from one story to the next, in a vastly different way than diving into a good novel.

In Smoke and Mirrors, Gaiman presents to us a number of different stories and poems, with a couple of cross-overs, some nods to Lovecraft, and some very, very strange scenes and stories that leave the reader scratching their head. Gaiman’s fantastic style and voice come through in all the pieces, but they all remain different and strong in their own right.

Delights, wonders and horrors – seriously. Some really creepy horrors that make me wonder what must be going through Gaiman’s head. But all of the stories are enjoyable, and the majority are memorable; what happens when humans can no longer test on animals, what happens when a radical cancer treatment causes people’s sex to change, the melding of memories during sex, a disappearing grandmother and a mysterious fox. Among these there are also the stories of a small town plagued with cultists, a writer trying to work on a screenplay and a twist on the traditional troll under the bridge tale.

Each tale captures the reader in a different way, and Gaiman does a brilliant job of introducing characters and settings quickly, allowing the meat of the story to really flourish. There are no punches pulled here and nothing really held back. It is, essentially, Gaiman doing what he does best. The whole collection feels like fairy tales for adults, even with a couple of warnings sprinkled throughout. He draws you right in, exploring different worlds and ideas and making you really believe in the magic, even if it only is for a few moments.

Smoke and Mirrors is brilliant, a wonderful collection, each story tied together in some small way yet still standing strongly out from one another. Well worth a read for any fans of fantasy, magic and, of course, of Gaiman himself.

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{February 16, 2014}   Hit Girl [Graphic Novel]

hit girlI haven’t seen Kick Ass 2 yet, though I desperately want to. But I have read both the Kick Ass graphic novels, and I have to admit, I was over the moon when I unwrapped my present from my brother at Christmas and found Hit-Girl. I read it the same day, but its just taken me this long to realise I didn’t actually write a post for it. (Silly me)

Hit-Girl acts as a bridge between Kick Ass and Kick Ass 2. It’s the story of Mindy, trying to cope with fitting in at middle school, trying to be normal while also sneaking out and training Kick Ass to be her sidekick in the night. While doing all this, Mindy also has to avoid the local police, including her step-father.

This isn’t just a story full of heroes beating people up and working for the greater good. Sure, there are those moments – of course there are – but there’s a lot more to Hit-Girl, and at the heart of it, there’s a lot more emotion, too, something I felt more strongly with Kick Ass 2 than the first one. The storytelling in these seems to be getting better and better, packing more of an emotional punch along with all the fun stuff.

imagesCA7P311WYes, there are some downright gruesome moments in the book. But we also get to see the real struggles of these characters, especially Mindy. It’s easy to forget, seeing her take down gangsters and mob bosses, and even going on a killing spree on death row, that she is, essentially, a kid in middle school. More importantly, a girl in middle school, who has to try to, for the first time, navigate the corridors of school politics, keep her grades up, and keep her parents happy.

And in Hit-Girl, it becomes apparent that it’s not the bad guys who are the only problem Mindy has to face. There are also the stuck up bitches who seem intent to put her down and single her out from her first moment through the door. And although she knows how awesome she is outside of school, she still wants to fit in. Mindy, essentially, wants what any girl her age her wants. Along with the guns and knives, she wants acceptance and normality, even if she only wants them as a front to present to her parents.

Kick-Ass does offer his advice on how she can fit in, but these all backfire, until Mindy uses her own skills to become OMG BFFS with the queen bee. And, honestly? As brutal as it is, it’s brilliant to see her gain the upper hand. After all, throughout the novel, she’s the one that we, as readers, root for, in all aspects.

There are parts of it that also show Red Mist, and we see him go from the spoilt brat in Kick-Ass to the villain we see in Kick-Ass 2, as well as getting glimpses of just how much of a dick he is, how naïve he can be at times, and the way his mind is clouded, completely, with getting revenge for his father’s death. Although he is a little whiny bitch, it’s good to really see him evolve, and see his own journey between the two, while Mindy and Kick-Ass make theirs.

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I don’t read a hell of a lot of graphic novels and comics – it’s unfortunately something I can’t really afford – but I do admire the work, the storytelling and the art that goes into them. Hit-Girl is no exception to that. There are images that will have you staring at the page for ages, just trying to capture everything in the panel, and there are moments where, like in any good novel, you just have to sit back and marvel at what happened.

Hit-Girl now sits on my shelf beside Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, and it feels like it really does belong there. A brilliant graphic novel, enjoyable, easy to read, and like I said before, packs a punch in every way.

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imagesCAWJ4247 Like most of the Stephen King books I’ve been reading recently, I haven’t seen the film for this one. I had absolutely no idea what the storyline would be. I knew it involved pets, and I had some sort of idea that it would involve pet resurrection, but, as anyone who has read this would know, there is a hell of a lot more to this book. The Creed family move to a new home, and everything seems perfect. Physician father, starting work at a local college campus, beautiful wife and adorable children, along with the family’s pet cat. Their neighbour takes them for a walk on the land behind their house, taking them to the local Pet Sematary, where children have buried their pets for years. The family think no more on it, and Louis Creed begins work. However, on his first day, a young college student dies, a bad omen for what is about to come.

Louis Creed’s job involves helping people, saving people. And right from the start, he is presented with events that make it impossible for him to do anything, impossible for him to do his job and fulfil his role. As this builds up, it becomes easy to see why Louis makes the choices he makes, why he goes to such extremes to try to keep his family happy and together.

Although King is known as the master of horror, one of the things that keeps me coming back to his work, time and time again, are the emotions he pumps into his characters. He has a knack of really drawing you inside the head of whoever he is writing about, of laying out their thoughts and feelings and ramping up, not just the tension, but the emotions throughout the novel. Pet Sematary is a brilliant example of that.

After reading the introduction, by King himself, I did have a suspicion of what was going to happen to the little boy in the novel. But even that didn’t detract from the suspense built up before that scene. And the way King handles it, the way he draws you right into the emotions of the family and especially of Louis Creed, and the impact that one, single chapter has, where he manages to convince the reader that everything is actually okay…

I mostly read in work and on my way to and from work. And I had to put the book down, just for a few moments, just to stop myself from breaking down and blubbering in public.

Pet Sematary is a brilliantly written novel, dealing with death and grief and the extremes humans will go to when pushed. It’s a book that lingers in your mind afterwards, and really makes you wonder if you would do the same as Louis, if confronted with an untimely death of a pet or loved one, even knowing the risks involved.

It’s basically King doing what he does best; showing humans, going through human lives, but revealing the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves, those parts we don’t want to face, the parts we try to keep hidden. If it’s not a book you’ve read yet, I’d strongly recommend it.



night circusThe Night Circus starts off with a bet between two very unique men. In it, they agree that they will each put forward a protégé for a competition, testing which of their methods of teaching is the best. The protégés do not know of one another, and until the right time comes, they are unaware of the stage on which their competition will be set.

The Night Circus becomes that stage, a wonderful, magical place full of amazing displays and acts that leave the spectators spellbound. The circus is open from sunset to dawn. It arrives with no warning, and usually disappears just as fast. It attracts casual visitors and a group who follow it as much as they can.

And Cecile and Marco, the protégés, are the ones holding the circus together, their powers combining to make the circus what it is, though they do not know the power is held in the hand of the other. The game is played out like a game of chess, where the player cannot see the other make their moves but only the results. One creates a tent and the other responds with their own. And around them, the circus grows.

The one thing that struck me with this novel is how beautiful it is. Seriously. It’s mainly description, which is something I don’t usually like, but it’s description that is breath-taking and wonderful, drawing the reader in totally and completely. The circus itself, the scenery, even the weather, they all become characters in their own right, as Morgenstern lends them a weight rarely seen in other novels.

Of the two main characters, Cecile comes across the best. She feels stronger, more able, while Marco – due to circumstance – simply slips into the background and watches from the side-lines. As he does what he needs to do, Cecile keeps the circus going and faces up to her father, the man who set her out for the competition in the first place. Even when not quite there, he’s a constant presence in Cecile’s life, but one she is able to confront when she needs to.

Between the chapters of the story itself, there are sections dedicated to allowing the reader to almost explore the circus, as Morgenstern uses second person POV to walk us through parts of the circus, sometimes dragging us along to the next event that holds the key to what happens next in the plot itself. And the ending…well, it’s bittersweet and sad and joyful and manages to pump all these emotions out.

The Night Circus is, to put it simply, a wonderful, delightful and unique read. If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, I’d strongly urge you to do so.



danse macabreI’ve touched on the Anita Blake series before, where I had a little bit of a rant about the amount of sex in the books. Specifically, sex with guys with long hair and big dicks. Truth is, I was way too invested in the series before it got to that point, and I carried on reading because sometimes the plot made me want to keep reading, even if it got pushed by the wayside for all the sexual antics of Anita. But Micah, to me, feels like it made a bit of a turning point. It wasn’t all about sex. Instead, it was about Anita’s relationship with just one of the men, and showed a point where she actually had to confront what was happening in her life.

Similarly, I feel like Danse Macabre shows a point where Hamilton actually manages to balance the sex and plot, blending them together so the sex scenes actually make sense and aren’t just thrown in there for the sake of erotica.

Anita Blake, the Executioner, is preparing to go to a meeting with some out-of-town vampire masters. They’ve brought with them possible candidates for Anita. See, she needs to feed off sex, after inheriting some powers from Jean-Claude, and in trying to gain favour and allies, Jean-Claude allows the other masters to bring in people who Anita could possibly feed off. But that’s not the most important problem in Anita’s life.

She thinks she might just be pregnant.

But that’s not the only problem. There are a few different possible fathers, and the questions are raised on whether the kid could be a vampire or shifter. Hamilton has put a lot of thought into the world she has created – the questions of children fathered by supernatural creatures has been raised before, with syndromes and diseases, carried by the potential children, having been mentioned. Of course, Anita worries that her possible child could be infected with one of these.

Danse Macabre also shows the strengthening of Jean-Claude’s power base, and the impact this has on those around him and Anita. Anita seems to be growing stronger, and having sex with a few of the visitors has consequences beyond what we’ve seen in previous books.

This novel, the fourteenth in the series, also explains some of Anita’s previous, seemingly out of character choices. We see another side to her, see a vulnerability that hasn’t really been revealed before, and get to see why, exactly, she attracts the men she does. Why Micah seemed to appear, almost magically, in her life when she needed someone like him. Why others are drawn to her and why she seems to just lose it at times.

But not all of the men are perfect. Any one reading the series will, by this point, be getting pretty fed up with Richard. Richard, the alpha of the local werewolf pack. But, and this is crucial point, Richard’s arc has been done really well. He acts like a downright bastard at times, but Hamilton lets us know why he acts like he does and why he gets so damn pissed off all the time. And it works. Annoyingly, it works, and it’s made clear why Anita may still love him, even when she hates him.

Danse Macabre shows the men of Anita’s world coming together to support her when she needs it most. It also reflects the tension between the men and Anita herself, building on the relationship aspects and the real complexities Anita faces with her current lifestyle. And there are some moments of downright creepiness, especially when the child vampire comments on how nice it would be to have someone smaller than her around. As well as the usual vampires and shifters, we get to see a bit more of the supernatural world in these books, with Anita meeting mermaids and trying to navigate the politics of a world she’s still not quite used to.

This book makes me feel glad that I didn’t give up on the series. Although it’s missing the crime scenes and monster hunts that made me originally fall in love with the world, it still adds a lot to the series as a whole, has some interesting character development and manages to blend the plot and romance more effectively than previous books. I just hope it’s kept up in the next books.



et cetera