Review: ‘Autumn Bones’ by Jacqueline Carey

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Fathered by an incubus, raised by a mortal mother, and liaison to the Pemkowet Police Department, Daisy Johanssen pulled the community together after a summer tragedy befell the resort town she calls home. Things are back to normal—as normal as it gets for a town famous for its supernatural tourism, and presided over by the reclusive Norse goddess Hel.

Not only has Daisy now gained respect as Hel’s enforcer, she’s dating Sinclair Palmer, a nice, seemingly normal human guy. Not too shabby for the daughter of a demon. Unfortunately, Sinclair has a secret. And it’s a big one.

He’s descended from Obeah sorcerers and they want him back. If he doesn’t return to Jamaica to take up his rightful role in the family, they’ll unleash spirit magic that could have dire consequences for the town. It’s Daisy’s job to stop it, and she’s going to need a lot of help. But time is running out, the dead are growing restless, and one mistake could cost Daisy everything…

Anyone with a very long memory will recall that I was looking forward to Autumn Bones releasing in 2014. More than two years later, I finally read the thing — though I don’t know why I didn’t read it sooner. I’m easily distracted by shiny things, I guess!

Autumn Bones is the second in the Agent of Hel series by brilliant fantasy writer Jacqueline Carey. I read the first, Dark Currents, back in 2012 and loved it (but that was before I was regularly reviewing books so I can’t link you a review, sadly). Of course, before starting Autumn Bones I couldn’t remember much about the series except for the fact it had a main character named Daisy who was half demon.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that you can read Autumn Bones as a standalone book if you get the opportunity; you’ll be able to follow the story just fine. Daisy’s voice is such that she has a way of reminding you about things in a chatty way that makes you feel like she’s catching you up on her story over a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. It’s one of my favourite things about the book, honestly. (Also, she and her friends compare themselves the Buffy and the Scooby Gang, so you know they’re speaking my language!)

The other is the fact Daisy has a tail. Which is apparently very sensitive; she likes it when it’s scratched.

On that note, Autumn Bones is adult urban fantasy, but — despite Carey’s other books being quite, erm, intense — goes pretty light on the sex scenes. They do happen, but they are either glossed over or are described but in a very general way. We’re not talking erotica here. (Honestly, I was a tiny bit disappointed … but that says more about me than it does about the book.)

I’m not a usual fan of the love triangle story device. In this instance the book has something closer to a … love square? But Daisy is an old-fashioned and relatively wholesome girl, despite her ancestry, so it’s mostly that she notices other guys — we’re not talking orgies* or affairs or anything. It’s more that there’s the man she’s had a crush on since she was in school, who likes her but can’t hook up with her for family reasons. There’s the hot biker ghoul that she is attracted to but generally keeps it professional with. And there’s her actual boyfriend, who is fun, albeit related to some rather unsavoury types.

(*Except that one time, in the opening chapter of the book. But she’s there to break the orgy up, not take part. And she’s mortified by the experience; there’s a lot of “ew” from her, which made me giggle.)

You might be wondering about the clash between Daisy being the daughter of a demon and the fact she’s named Daisy and says “ew” at orgies. It’s because her mother didn’t set out to summon a demon; it was an accident, and once she got pregnant she set out to raise her daughter to be a good person. As well as the tail, Daisy wrestles with strong emotions — strong enough that things tend to get creepy around her if she gets mad enough — but she has been taught that to give in to the demon side of herself would fracture the wall between earth and hell, which is a lot of incentive to stay on (or at least adjacent to) the path of righteousness.

As a reader, part of me really wants to see Daisy embrace her inner demon, though. I’m imagining it’d be like Elsa in Frozen, except with fire. I’ll bring the marshmallows!

Ahem. Anyway. The story in Autumn Bones is a little meandering, and is sometimes slow-paced, especially towards the start. There weren’t any earth-shattering plot twists, but I enjoyed the story and was entertained nevertheless. I’ve already ordered the sequel, which I gather is the last book in the series. (Noooo!)

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Four-and-a-half stars


In case you missed it, last Thursday I was over at Aussie Owned and Read, talking about starting a story right.

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An update ramble (aka proof that Cassandra shouldn’t blog tired)…

So, err, January has sort of gotten away from me. I had all these ideas for blog posts — primarily to, you know, write them — but clearly that hasn’t gone well. So of course, since I got maybe five hours sleep last night, now seems like the perfect time to write an update. Mostly so you know I haven’t been eaten by rampaging drop bears or whatever.

Me, writing this blog post

Me, writing this blog post

One of the posts I was planning was going to be a “my goals for 2016” post. It can more-or-less be summed up in this short list:

  • Self-publish Melpomene’s Daughter (Isla’s Inheritance #3)
  • Write the sequel to Lucid Dreaming
  • Be awesome

Melpomene’s Daughter is going well. I have the paperback proof from KILA Designs and have maybe 50 pages left to read. My goal is to get it done by the end of this weekend, so that I can get it back to Kim before my son and I scarper down to the coast for a week of probably getting rained on at the beach. (It’s going to be awesome.) That way, when I get back, the book should be all go for a February re-release.

Melpomene's Daughter paperback title page

Such a lovely title page. I could pat it.

I started drafting the sequel to Lucid Dreaming over Christmas. I’ve got three chapters down and, well, lots to go. I’ve also got my next project lined up — one I’m super-excited about — so, aside from wanting to finish off Melaina’s story for its own sake, I’m also keen to finish it so I can move on to fresh pastures. I’m so fickle. 😉

Lucid Dreaming has been getting some great reviews on Goodreads and other review sites/blogs. If you’ve reviewed it (or any of my books), then know that I love you from the bottom of my heart.

Over at Aussie Owned and Read, I blogged about how audiobooks are the best thing since, well, books.

I haven’t been reading as fast as usual — unless you count my own books, which I have read many, many times. In fact, I’ve been on the same two books (one audio, one ebook) all year. Which is not to say that they aren’t awesome, because they are. I just haven’t had as much time lately — and my usual time to read audiobooks, on my commute, hasn’t been viable because my son has been with me more often than not. If it does rain at the coast as much as I anticipate, at least I can catch up on some stories.

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On a personal note, this month has been pretty rough for me and the boy. Close friends of mine have moved away for an awesome work opportunity; their kids are good friends of my son’s, so he has been just as sad as me about the whole thing. The difference is that, when you’re six, you process these things differently. It’s been hard, but this week has shown signs of improvement. (And the coast trip is a distraction that couldn’t be happening at a better time. Awesome parenting high five, me!)

I’ve also spent a bit of time being sucked into a casual, mobile game called Fallout Shelter. It’s based on the Fallout games, but is more of a resource-management game than a shooter. I like it … though I’m less wild about some of the decisions the game designers have made. Maybe one day I’ll have a rush of blood to the head and review the game, but IT IS NOT THIS DAY.

I’m not that tired.

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So, that’s where I’m at. How about you? Has 2016 been treating you nicely so far?


When a writer resorts to pictures…

Paris meme Tolkein

Because some days, when I really want to say something profound — something to help the world make sense or the grief ache less, something to ease the horror and despair — there’s nothing in my mind but fog. White noise and static…

Still, luckily for me, on those days there are writers like Tolkien, who’ve already said it for me.

My thoughts are with everyone affected by the attacks in Paris, and the ones in Beirut, and with anyone else who has suffered violence at the hands of another.


Web Search FAQ: 2015 Edition

A long time ago (long enough ago that we missed 2014), I did a blog post on the various search terms people have used to find my website, singling out those searches that I suspect my content was unable to help with. I decided it was time for an update. Because I’m a giver.

why people under the age of 21 shouldn’t enter talent shows

Because they are young and spry, and how can the rest of us old people compete with that? I mean, how can we?! I had a karate grading on the weekend, and there were these young’uns who were doing kicks above their heads, when I could barely kick above my knee. (Of course, their heads were down around my knees, but still*.)

Seriously, I have no idea. Still, if it’s an all-ages talent show, maybe you should just get over it and move on?

*That is a lie. I am very short.

subject of books written in past

There … were rather a lot. I think we need to narrow this down a little. I mean, how far in the past are we talking? Early on, religion featured rather heavily, but subjects have broadened out somewhat in modern times. And by somewhat I mean that if you can think of it, there’s a book that’s been written on it.

martha jones love

HELLS YES. She’s the most maligned of the Doctor’s companions, but I loved her so much. Not as much as Donna, but, you know, a lot. I really felt for her. She was fiercely intelligent in her own right, stubborn and brave. Sure, she fell in love with Ten, but have you seen David Tennant? Besides, he swept in, saved the day and pashed her in the course of the adventure. My ovaries would explode on the spot!

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sexy adverbs

I can see where you’re going here, but if you’re considering writing erotica, maybe steer clear of too many adverbs? Still, here are a few to get you started:

breathily, firmly, tightly, softly, hard (but not hardly; that’s not very sexy), lusciously, moistly

Okay, maybe not moistly. Still, you do you.

how to research a city for a fiction novel

I used Wikipedia a lot. And Google Maps. Seriously, that thing is a gift — when I was writing a scene in Melpomene’s Daughter that takes place in London, I actually found the street that the characters were standing on, and then used Google street view so that I could describe it properly. Google Maps is a gift to writers.

And stalkers.

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I’m so flattered and pleased that you asked. I never asked for this honour of supreme lordship over you, and it’s a heavy burden, but of course I will accept.

Now: clean your room!


On Martha Jones, unrequited love and female empowerment

The other day I was reading a blog post about Amy Pond, the first companion to the eleventh Doctor in Doctor Who. The blogger’s contention was that although Amy was awesome, in and of herself, the plotlines she was given were awful because they all rotated around Amy as Woman — a love triangle, a marriage, a baby.

I’ve seen this argument made many times and I’m inclined to agree, although I still really enjoyed Amy and Eleven. (Rory was a bit wet, but he grew on me.)

In the comments to this post, the consensus was that the superior companion in the reboot was Donna, because she wasn’t defined by her relationship to the Doctor, unlike Rose (who he fell in love with) and Martha (who fell in love with him). These comments were all written back before Clara and Twelve, so she didn’t factor into the debate.

Now, Donna is far and away my favourite, because of her strength of personality, heart, and the amazing character growth she experiences. Of all the companions, she had the most tragic end to her story. I mean, Rose’s was sad as far as it went, but then she got a clone of Ten to shack up with, and who wouldn’t be happy with that?! Donna lost everything. All that growth. All those experiences. I honestly think she would’ve preferred to die. *sob*

On the other hand, I think Martha deserves a little more credit. She was fiercely intelligent in her own right, stubborn and brave. Sure, she fell in love with Ten, but have you seen David Tennant? Besides, he swept in, saved the day and pashed her in the course of the adventure. My ovaries would have exploded on the spot!

BUT.

Martha didn’t just swan around after the Doctor and sigh. She didn’t pine (unlike Rose). She loved him, but once she realised he was never going to love her, she was independent-minded enough, smart enough, to realise that continuing to be around him was actually bad for her. Because she knew she wanted a partner — which not all women do, I grant you, but she did — and he would never be it.

I found Martha’s departure from Doctor Who to be uplifting, unlike all the others so far. Every time I see that scene, I clap. Because she did it with dignity.

You go, girl!

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Bloggery: 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. This probably won’t interest anyone but me, although the fact my most successful post this year was about hyphens isn’t lost on me.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Ding dong! From me to you…

It’s been a hella crazy year. I released a book with Turquoise Morning Press and prepared two more for release early next year. I self-published a novella and sent my boy to preschool, where he learned stuff and flourished. And the best thing is that I continued my friendships with a bunch of awesome writer and reader friends, and met new ones!

To everyone that’s read Isla’s Inheritance, left a review, or even just provided moral support during this crazy ride: I LOVE YOU GUYS!

It’s Christmas here and, although I’m not religious, I love it because I have a small boy and he loves it. Plus, what’s not to love about catching up with family and friends, and eating delicious food? Nothing, that’s what!

It’s a tradition (three years running now) that I celebrate Christmas on the blog with a song. So here’s one for the whole family. Merry Christmas (or other holiday of your choice).

DING DONG!