BOOK REVIEW: ANGELIC- by Kelley Armstrong

BLURB: As a half-demon master of the dark arts, Eve Levine isn’t what anyone would call angelic. That’s exactly why the Fates chose her for the job. She’s their secret weapon against the forces of evil.

However after five years, Eve is tired of being the designated rebel of the angel corps, expected to break the rules, then penalized for it. When the leaderless djinn stage an uprising, Eve sees the perfect chance to get herself fired. As she plunges deeper into the demon world, though, she realizes she’s in danger of losing a lot more than her job.- Kelleyarmstrong.com

REVIEW: Eve has always been my favorite character from  Women of The Otherworld , and ever since Haunted, I’ve been dying to read another Eve book which never came. When I found out about this short story, I was ecstatic and downloaded it instantly. I couldn’t wait to read about another mission with Eve kicking ass as an angel of justice with a giant sword. I liked Angelic, it was an enjoyable read, but it was essentially Haunted Abridged, as it follows a similar formula and doesn’t really progress the meta story, change the characters particularly or give us any new information.

Eve is summoned by the fates, she’s sent on a mission after a rogue supernatural, she reluctantly agrees, is assisted by Kris, meets Dantalion, figures out how to stop the threat and is back to her starting position. We have the fates, some old friends, the library (I love the concept of that library and the cerberus- but they were mostly the same people and places that were featured in Haunted.

But that’s not to say that this book was bad by any means. It still had all the heart and passion of the other books that Armstrong’s written; it was fast paced, had the classic Armstrong wit that makes all her books great reads . I loved Eve’s arguments with the Fates, I loved how she got one over them in the end, and I found it amusing how she was planning to (mis)use her epically cool magic angel sword as a cosplaying accessory for her pirate costume.

Her relationship with Kris was nice as well- my favourite in the entire Otherworld series- and there is a genuine sense of warmth and camaraderie that makes it feel like a great long term relationship.

It had a great structure, and it was good, I just don’t think Armstrong has anywhere left to go with Eve and the ghost world.

The story only really struggled from the length when we got to the action sequences. Kelley Armstrong is the master of action, and in Haunted some of the action sequences had me gripping the edge of the book and rushing to see what happened. Here, a fight or conflict would be set up, and we would get what felt like the wikipedia summary of the fight. One of the most intense, heart wrenching conflicts was… kind of conveniently dropped thanks to deus ex machina.

I don’t know if Armstrong’s word limit was set in stone, but I’d have been up for it being a few thousand words longer in exchange for a few of her characteristically awesome fight sequences. Hell, I’d have gotten rid of the plot twist, gone for a more simple but intense plot that focused on the action. But alas, for what we got, we had a very well paced story with a satisfying conclusion that possessed all the charm of the main series.

Sadly, this is still a very white series with no LGBT people and no POC except the Djinn (who briefly appear, get defeated and are very briefly are described as being copper skinned), Jeremy is half Japanese, which you’d only know if you read Men Of The Otherworld- (and how that was handled is a whole other can of worms), and Katsuo. Katsuo is an angel who was a Samurai in life. Though he barely had a role in this story at all, he was handled pretty decently. One mercy was that Armstrong avoided the exotic Asian stereotype by having him appear in modern dress, as opposed to Marius who wore the clothes of a gladiator. However, Eve does use his Samurai nature to handwave and explain his motivations- relying on a shallow Asian stereotype to characterise him  isn’t great. But still, compared to what we got in Men Of The Otherworld, its a definite step up.

It’s a shame, because with all the interesting characters and supernaturals Kelley Armstrong creates, she isn’t too hot when it comes to including any kind of human diversity, and most of the characters feel very samey when it comes to their social/ cultural background and a lot of the leading ladies have a very similar voice.

Verdict: Because Kelley Armstrong is such a strong writer, for the flaws of the novella, its still better than 90% of what you would find out there. It doesn’t really add anything to the main series, and if you’re not a great Eve fan, there’s no reason why you have to read it. If you are an Eve fan, and would like a quick enjoyable read to kill a couple of hours, I’d definately give this a shot.

RATING: 4 good girls gone bad/ 5

SPOOKTACULAR BOOK REVIEW: OKINAWA HAUNTINGS- by Ron L. Dutcher

Beware fellow readers, this is not your ordinary book of ghost stories: not only does this book contain a collection of genuine (or believed to be genuine) tales of hauntings from Japan, this book also contains a spell to summon a ghost. Apparently, if you sit in a darkened room with 14 large lit candles, snuff  one out after every chapter and, upon completion of the book, say ‘Au nowa wakari no hajimari’ before you put out the final candle, you’ll summon a ghost. Well, either that or set off the fire alarm- and since I live in accomodation where one fire alarm will cause the whole building to be evacuated, I decided to give the ghost summoning part a miss.

I admit initially I was a bit disappointed when I opened this; I thought it was going to be a collection of Japanese ghost stories, but instead I got a collection of paranormal sightings and the myths behind them from Okinawa Japan- and most of them pretty similar to sightings and ghost stories we find in the West.

In one story, a cab driver named Mr Miyagi- no, not that Mr Miyagi- comes across a ghostly passenger, who spooks him with her flashing eyes before disappearing into thin air- leaving a puddle of water behind; another is about the victim of an English sailor who drowned during a ship wreck in 1840 and whose screams can still be heard on a stormy night in August; another is about a marine on an American military base who still appears to people asking for a light. There’s 14 in all and they’re all in that vein.

karate-kid-2-kesuke-miyagi
But wouldn’t that be awesome?

While I was disappointed by the lack of Kage Onna and the fascinating creatures found in The Hour Of Meeting Evil Spirits, it was pretty interesting for what it was (plus it had some Shisha statues in there, which cheered me up).  The ghost stories are recounted in a very unbiased, matter of fact way and each story comes with a picture of the location that where the tale took place.

According to the author, in the original version there were maps to the locations given which were removed, but given the photos and descriptions, its unlikely that any of these places will be hard to find if you go to Okinawa .

The tales themselves are not the only thing this book has going for it;  we also have some snippets from two ghost hunters- Jack Fletcher and Junko Yamaguchi- who went to visit some of the haunted locations at night.

Their part certainly adds some atmosphere and some creepy fun to the proceedings: they bring the place to life with their descriptions and their description of the Shah Bay resort is definitely enough to send chills up your spine. However, a google search told me the Shah Bay resort has been torn down, so it the ghosts there have been defeated by the power of industrialization.

Apparently they also heard strange voices in the other locations, which they caught on tape,  but since as of the time the book was written, they are using the footage as a bargaining tool for a television series, whether the footage is truthful or whether its a fake to make money is up to the reader to decide. The optimist in me who would love to believe in life after death hopes the former, but the realist in me suspects the latter.

VERDICT: Whether you’ll enjoy this depends on whether you’re interested in paranormal sightings and shows like ‘Britain’s Most Haunted’ interest you. If they do, then this is as good as it gets. This is a series of well researched, evenhandedly told collection of tales, which while resembling paranormal sightings from the West, do also offer a bit of an Eastern variety. If you’re going to write a ghost story set in Japan, these stories also provide a good authentic base to build upon.