Of Musings and Wonderings











harlequinAnita Blake and her men are threatened by a very strong, powerful force, a group that are so scary their name cannot be spoken. They act as police in the vampire world, sent by the council to punish vampires who don’t follow the rules. When they are contacted by The Harlequin, Anita and her group are put under threat. They can manipulate the emotions of humans, vampires and were-animals alike, almost causing Jean-Claude and Richard to kill each other. Anita must save them using the power of, what else, sex.

Of course it’s sex. It’s always sex. At this point in the series, it always comes down to sex. To Anita’s power, to the ardeur, inherited from Jean-Claude. Admittedly, it feels like, by The Harlequin, there’s a sort of decent balance between sex and plot, and rather than it just being jammed in there, it’s actually used to advance things and makes sense with what’s going on. Although, to be honest, I miss the earlier books, where Anita was given some sort of case which she had to help solve, while also dealing with her personal life. Now, it’s more about the vampire/shape-shifter side than the police side, and I sort of miss those guys.

When I first started reading the series, I loved Anita as a character. She was strong and fiercely independent. She had her own opinions, but they always seemed suited to her and her situation, felt like it made her a better character. I’m not saying that her romantic situation has made her less independent, by the way, but as the series has gone on, it feels more and more like a lot of what was so likeable about her is going by the wayside.

Plus, she’s so damn hypocritical. Her best friend Ronnie has a few problems during the course of the last few books, mainly to do with her relationship, the rate it’s moving at, her fear of commitment. And Anita basically tears her up. Rather than being there for her, when she expects Ronnie to be completely there for Anita, Anita just seems to dismiss everything and get angry because Ronnie’s problems aren’t as big as her own. She jumps on Ronnie for not wanting commitment from one man, when Anita, to be fair, has a number of them living at her house and is sleeping with a lot more.

Which brings me to another point about Anita’s hypocrisy. In The Harlequin, in order to get enough power to save herself, Jean-Claude and Richard, Anita must feed off the shapeshifters. If she feeds off the head of each shapeshifter group, she can feed off them all. They come to her, and she sleeps with them. Now, there have been issues with the werelions. Another werelion was brought by a vampire master, and Anita found herself attracted to him, putting it down to having yet another beast inside her, seeking a mate. Haven is sent away, because the local werelion pack is weak and if he were to take them over, it’s likely he’d kill many of them.

Anita does not allow the men in her life to have other partners. Not the ones she is closest to, anyway. Despite the fact that she – obviously – has multiple partners. Right. Okay. But the head of the werelion pack, Joseph, refuses to come to her, as he is faithful to his wife. And yes, there are other issues surrounding this and the general weakness of the pack. But instead of trying to get them to fix that or just telling Joseph to get out, it’s hinted that Haven, after permission from Anita, kills the leader, his brother and his wife.

Yes, something needed to be done about the lions. But killing them? Seriously? Little bit harsh! And just because he wouldn’t sleep with Anita and betray his wife? Ugh!

So, The Harlequin isn’t the best book of the series, but it’s not the worst. Yes, Anita’s beginning to grate on me a little, but it feels like the balance between plot and other things is, at least, getting a bit better. The characters are pretty much the same as always, and the last scene between Anita and the Harlequin does feel like it was squeezed in there just to have some sort of conclusion to it. Honestly? With this one, I’m left feeling pretty much the same as I always do after I finish one of these books. I want to know what happens next, I want to see how it all turns out, yet there are parts that just really annoy me and make me wonder if I really should carry on with it. Well, we’ll see. Worth reading if you’ve stuck it out with the series so far. Actually, yeah, if anyone else is reading this, what are your thoughts on them? Think the earlier ones are better or think they’re improving as the series goes on?

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legends of windemereBeginning of a Hero tells the story of Luke Callindor, a young adventurer determined to prove his worth outside of his family name. His chance comes when he meets a royal messenger, and convinces him to hire Luke to protect the heir of Duke Solomon. Unfortunately, Luke has no information on what the heir looks like, no clues as to who they might be except that they are currently at the Hamilton Military Academy, a school run by former mercenary Selenia Hamilton. Luke has to avoid suspension, discovery and death at the hands of a demonic assassin, all while trying to work out who, exactly, the heir is, so he can protect them.

Admittedly, it took a while to really get into the book. Mainly because it’s a style that I (and I suspect most people) aren’t used to, the use of third person present tense. If not done well, it can be horrible. But luckily, Charles manages to pull it off, and after getting past the first few chapters it becomes much easier and enjoyable to read. I have read some third person present books that have been horrendous, and it’s great to see a writer who can actually do some good with it.

The characters themselves are nicely written, especially the characters that populate the academy around Luke. Some serious, like Selenia, others funny and comedic, adding a nice bit of humour into the plot. Luke forms his own group, made up of the people he trusts and likes, to help him in his quest. The characters balance each other out, and add something different to the action scenes later in the novel.

Possibly due to the use of present tense, some of the action scenes do get a little muddled. In places, it is a little dialogue heavy, and the dialogue is used for explanation purposes perhaps a little too much, detracting a bit from the story. But it’s definitely a novel where it feels like the author is getting better and better with each page, and it’s easy to enjoy reading it.

I’ve read a few self-published novels in the last few months. Some have been terrible. Others have been actually, pretty damn good. Maybe not as polished as traditionally published novels, but then again, these authors don’t have a whole team of editors behind them. And I’m very, very glad that Beginning of a Hero falls among them as one of the best self-published novels I’ve read, and it’s the strongest present tense one I’ve seen. If you like fantasy, and want to read something a little different, I strongly suggest picking this one up.

Oh! And what excellent timing! The novel’s free for the next three days, so go check it out and check out Charles’ blog while you’re at it, too.



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.



the limits of enchantmentThis was the first book I read that I got from Scardiff. It’s not horror (although I got it at a horror expo). It’s more a mix of realism and fantasy, the two blending together to make us, as readers, question what’s really going on.

The Limits of Enchantment tells the story of Fern, a young woman on the verge of discovering her place in the world. Fern was raised by Mammy, an old wise woman who has helped the people of the village more times than anyone could count. Fern’s world is turned upside down when one of Mammy’s patients, prescribed a potion to induce abortion, dies. The village turns against the old woman, and after a bad fall she is put in hospital, leaving Fern to fend for herself when the owner of the land threatens to kick her out of the only home she has ever known.

Joyce manages to convey what Fern is going through quite brilliantly. In some ways, she is very naïve, and there’s the impression that Mammy has, perhaps, shielded her away from the worst of the world. It really is a story of discovery, as Fern comes to terms with the world around her, the changing landscape of the 1960s and herself. She is left confused, for most parts, by the actions of others, but slowly comes to realise what they have done and why. Fern has a fascinating voice, and as a reader, I was totally drawn into what was going on with her and the way her mind works.

Joyce uses the idea of an unreliable narrator to its full extent, leaving us to piece together parts of the novel ourselves, sometimes coming to the right conclusion before Fern and sometimes, like her, heading down the totally wrong path altogether. We only get glimpses of what’s really going on, and even when things begin to become a little more clear, it’s never really explicit.

The Limits of Enchantment is a wonderfully written, beautiful novel that shows a young woman struggling in a changing world, dealing with things beyond her years and coming out of it just a little bit stronger. Pick it up and you will not be disappointed. 



et cetera