Tag Archives: MaryJanice Davidson

November 2, 2014

Books of the Week:

  • Hidden, Benedict Jacka
  • The Winter Long, Seanan McGuire
  • Undead and Unwary, MaryJanice Davidson
  • Dear Daughter, Elizabeth Little

A jackpot of good reading this past couple of weeks, with only a couple of discards. I am always excited to get a new Benedict Jacka, because his protagonist Alex Varus is such a complex character, and thus seems all the more real. Alex wants to survive, and he wants to be a better wizard and man; but those sometimes seem mutually exclusive goals, and there in lies the struggle that keeps Alex moving. Hidden, in which Alex helps a former apprentice who is engaged in the same struggle, is just as exciting as the first book in the series, a hard act to maintain.

Since I’m also a huge fan of Seanan McGuire, it was great to be able to read The Winter Long back to back with Hidden. McGuire just keeps inventing fresh and credible perils for her hero, October Daye. A character we though long dead makes a reappearance in The Winter Long, and Toby’s romance with the King of the Cats, Tybalt, grows deeper and more serious . . . if only Toby can survive. When you’re a designated Hero, as Toby is, action is the order of the Daye. Sorry, I couldn’t resist . . . .

Just when you think MJD has done everything she can do with her Betsy, she thinks of something new. Betsy, Queen of the Vampires, is begged by her half-sister Laura, Satan’s daughter, to help in the running of Hell. Everyone but Betsy sees the problems with this arrangement. But Betsy finally answers the call of duty, and finds that things really aren’t what they seem, even in hell. Between the dead mice and pricey vodka in the freezer, Mark’s need to keep his brain occupied, Sinclair’s new ability to play in the daylight, and best friend Jessica’s vanishing baby twins, Betsy has her hands (and head) full.

Elizabeth Little’s debut crime novel, Dear Daughter, has some scathing things to say about the nature of celebrity, but mostly it’s a great crime story. Janie Jenkins, young and just out of jail due to a mishandling of evidence in her case, was convicted at 16 of killing her mother. Painted black than black by the media, misunderstood or misinterpreted by almost everyone, Janie is certainly no saint; but she also didn’t kill her mother. Probably. Her quest is to find out who did. But that leads Janie back into her mother’s past, and she comes to know her mother far better in death than she did in life. At first (I confess) I found Janie repellent, but I was also compelled to keep on reading, and I was very glad I did.

Blog:

“Reality” television, of course, isn’t “real.” If it’s not scripted, it’s at least manipulated a bit. Common sense and observation will tell you that. I used to be quite the snob about reality television, and I’m still a little proud that I’ve never watched an episode of “Survivor” or “Naked and Afraid.” I tell myself that with so much real privation and lack of basic resources in the world, it’s stupid to watch created situations in which people have placed themselves voluntarily.

But I’ve discovered there’s a niche of viewing that appeals to me: watching people with ability doing something that I could never do. I love “Chopped,” though I might literally throw up my hands and scream if I had to open one of the famous baskets and prepare a dish from its contents. I LOVE “Project Runway,” though I’m not fashionable, could not wear any of the clothes, and can barely sew on a button. That’s why it seems miraculous to me when designers can produce a wearable garment in 24 hours.  I can’t miss an episode of “Life Below Zero,” in which Alaskans live on what they can glean from the land, often at great peril. (Though I suddenly realized last season that the cameramen would save them, right?) I like “Househunters” and “Househunters International” because I just like to look at houses, and seeing how people live in other countries is interesting.

The only reality show with which I’ve had personal experience was “Halloween Wars” in 2014. I was delighted to be invited to be a guest judge on one episode. I’d never seen the show, but I watched an episode before I left for Los Angeles, so I knew what to expect, more or less. Here’s where the common sense comes in: the contestants are rehearsed on where to line up, prompted to shout encouraging things to each other, and sometimes are told the same “new” information several times to get a good shot of their reactions. This is not a shocking revelation. Their skills are still called into play in a very tense situation, since the result can have quite an impact on their livelihoods.

Since I have a bad habit of leaving on the television while I cook (I do know all the ingredients in advance and have more than twenty minutes, let me point out), I’ve seen some reality shows I’d never planned on watching. “Botched,” about plastic surgery gone wrong, which was stomach wrenching and fascinating at the same time, but not something I’d want to watch again. I admit I’ve watched episodes of “Toddlers and Tiaras” with much the same reaction. So those are off my radar.

What about you? Do you have a guilty pleasure in the thundering herd of “unscripted” television? Or do you deny that there’s any guilt involved?

Charlaine Harris

April 14, 2014

Books of the Week:

 

  • Nightshifted, Cassie Alexander
  • Possession, Kat Richardson
  • Night Broken, Patricia Briggs
  • Sparrow Hill Road, Seanan McGuire
  • Derek’s Bane and Wolf at the Door, MaryJanice Davidson

 

Nightshifted was an unexpectedly appealing book. It sounded interesting, and I bought it on a whim. Paid off in spades! Cassie Alexander’s first book about Nurse Edie Spence is dark and energetic. Edie Spence works at much-despised County Hospital because she has made a deal with the Shadows who inhabit it; her addict brother’s life is safe as long as she works on ward Y4. Y4 has its own elevator, it’s so secret. This ward is for supernatural creatures with medical problems. Edie is new, and she makes mistakes. Mistakes on Y4 can have dreadful consequences. You’ll really enjoy this book; I’m looking forward to reading the others in the series.

 

Kat Richardson is long-time friend of mine, and I’m an admirer of hers. I think Possession is the best book in her Graywalker series in a long time. Not that any of them have been slouches, because Kat is a very good writer – but Possession is baffling and exciting. Three “vegetative” patients suddenly start exhibiting talents they’ve never had, with no awareness they are acting. Harper is called in by the sister of one of them, and as she explores this phenomenon she becomes more and more aware that something terrifying is going on, something that must be stopped at any cost.

 

I hesitated over reading Night Broken, because I personally dislike old girlfriend/first wife reappearing plots. But Patricia Briggs can make such a tired trope sing. Mercy’s Adam has a first wife that is so frustrating you want to scream, because Christy has a talent for making other people love her and want to help her. And she’s not evil. She’s “just” manipulative in the extreme, perhaps not completely consciously. There are pack members who still think Christy was a more desirable wife for Adam than Mercy is. Of course they’re wrong, and we proceed to find out in the course of a truly harrowing book why Mercy is the lead female in the pack, though she’s a coyote.

 

Sparrow Hill Road is Seanan McGuire’s May book. In fact, it comes out the same day mine does. This is a departure for McGuire, as “Midnight Crossroad” is for me. Other than that, they’re completely different. Sparrow Hill Road is about a ghost, Rose Marshall, and her struggles to live in the ghost world and to avenge her own death. It’s fascinating, the way anything by Seanan McGuire is, but it’s not as lighthearted as her Incryptid books. Enjoy the story of Rose and her tribulations in the afterworld.

 

I needed a dose of funny last week, so I reread MaryJanice Davidson’s Derek’s Bane (werewolf Derek is charged will killing Dr. Sara Gunn, whom a visionary werewolf believes is the reincarnation of the evil Morgan le Fay), and Wolf at the Door (werewolf accountant Rachel is sent to Minnesota to spy on the Queen of the Vampires, our very own Betsy, but in the process meets another accountant, Edward Batley, who is trying to make his life more interesting. He succeeds beyond his wildest dreams. Davidson is always fun, and somehow I feel more optimistic about things in general after I’ve read a book of hers.

 

 

THE WORLD IS WATCHING

 

While watching the news recently, I saw a few minutes of testimony in the Oscar Pistorius trial in South Africa. I’m sure most of you are familiar with this case, that of the Blade Runner and the young woman he shot to death, Reeva Steenkamp. Whatever your opinion of his state of mind at the moment of shooting (Did he truly think there was an intruder in his house, or did he knowingly kill Steenkamp?) you have to be aware he’s putting on the performance of his life.  So is the prosecutor.

 

How much does being watched change the event being watched? Do you think televising a trial make it a different event altogether? While theatrics in the courtroom are nothing new – lawyers have been summoning up the drama since there was such a profession – having a crowd of onlookers in a courtroom can’t compare with the thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, who are passive participants in a televised trial.

 

Is it remotely possible to block that from one’s awareness?

 

Since the words said in that courtroom are echoing around the world, in effect, the defendant is on trial twice: once in the courthouse, and in secondly in the court of public opinion.

 

Sure, it’s always been that way, at least to some extent. I don’t imagine Lizzie Borden was a popular dinner guest after her acquittal – but most likely if she travelled, she would not be recognized. Reaching further back in time, probably no one was anxious to sip tea brewed by Scotland’s Madeleine Smith, who ended her days in America in secret. And these two were acquitted, as possibly (though not probably) Pistorius may be.

 

Now that we have such universal and instantaneous information networks, I don’t believe there’s any way for the verdict reached in a courtroom to be the final one. I think we’ve all joined in being judge and jury.

 

Charlaine Harris