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review 2018-03-18 20:11
An epic-story, which will make you reconsider what you thought you knew about angels, demons, and everything in between.
The Fall of Lilith (Fantasy Angels Series) 1 - Vashti Quiroz-Vega

I have seen this book described as “epic” and I agree, not only for its length (it is two books in one) but also for its topic. It does talk about all things in Heaven and Earth, near enough, from the creation of the angels and the battle of good and evil to the fall of the angels and their revenge plans once on Earth (that don’t bode well for humanity).

The author’s writing style in this book is reminiscent of the Bible, although the story is told from quite a different point of view, and it deviates from the narrative most Christians are familiar with (I am intrigued to know how the story will resonate with readers not familiar with the Christian tradition, although the world building is detailed enough for anybody to be able to follow the events). I am not a bit Fantasy reader, mostly because I am not that fond of lengthy descriptions (I admire authors who do it well), although this story has the added interest of providing a major variation on a story many of us are familiar with. As typical of the genre, there is plenty of telling (in fact, all the characters are storytellers, and we get to hear the angels’ voices often, narrating their own adventures, or even fictional ones, like a fascinating story Lilith narrates in book 1), and beautiful descriptions of Floraison, the part of Heaven inhabited by the angels, of the angels, and also of the creation of Earth, and of Earth itself in book 2. We follow the story in a chronological order, from the time when the angels are quite young, growing up and learning about their powers (this part reminded me of YA books set up in special schools for young people with special abilities, and also of parts of The Hunger Games, when the characters had to train for the battle ahead), through to the battle between good and evil and their fall to Earth. Although the story is narrated in the third person, we follow the points of views of a variety of angels, mainly Lilith, the main character, but also most of the others at some point.

These angels reminded me of the Greek gods. They are not the celestial beings many of us imagine, but more human than human. They have their personalities, their peculiar characters, their flaws, their desires, and they are far from goodie-goodie-two-shoes. Even the good angels have faults… (Oh Gabriel…). We get to know Lilith’s cunning and devious nature better than that of others (she is rebellious, proud, has a superiority complex, and does not seem to feel true affection for anybody, even her supposed friends), but we see that Lucifer is proud and is not a good looser from early on (when he is following the rules), and some of the other angels are weak, easily manipulated, and only worried about their own well-being and interests. The God of this story does not tolerate rebellion or deceit, and he severely punishes his children for their misdeeds. The author excels at writing the punishments and tortures the angels are subject to, and these parts of the book are not for the faint-hearted. I know she writes horror too, and this is quite evident in her penchant for devising monstrous characters and pretty cruel and sadistic tortures.

As is often the case, the bad characters are more interesting than the good ones (that we mostly lose sight of in book 2, apart from some brief appearances). I would not say any of the characters are very sympathetic. Lilith is put to the test and punished for being what she is (and considering angels are given free-will, that seems quite cruel), but she displays psychopathic traits from the beginning and it is difficult to blame her nasty personality on her experiences. She is strong and determined, but she abandons her friends, is manipulative, and goes to extremes that make her exceedingly unlikeable. I have no problem with having a truly horrible character as the main voice of a book, although I missed something that helped me connect with her (there are moments when she hints at a weakness or hurt, but I did not feel they were particularly convincing. Perhaps a sense of humour, no matter how dark, would have helped, but other than some instances of silly behaviour very early on, there are moments of wonder but not many laughs). Gadreel is perhaps the easiest character to empathise with, and she grows and develops during book 2 (to begin with she is constantly complaining and moaning, but she gets more confident, although she is not traditionally good either). Satan does horrible things, especially to Lilith (who is not blameless by a long stretch, not that such abuse could be ever justified in real life), but he is an interesting character and quite loyal to his friends. And he also does much of what he does out of love, however misguided. I don’t know what that says about me, but I really like Dracul, Satan and Lilith’s child. He is described as quite an ugly thing, but I find him cute. There you have it.

For me, book 2 is more dynamic and moves faster than book 1. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the adventures of the fallen angels on Earth allow us to read about their first impressions of the world as it would appear to somebody who had never been here, a totally brand new place. Such estrangement and sense of wonder are fascinating and the writing captures it well. The fact that the fallen angels find themselves in a hostile environment and have to learn to work together to survive adds to the interest. Of course, Lilith has her own plans, and she makes sure she convinces others to follow.

The character of Lilith reminded me of the typical figure of the femme fatale in film noir (or the spider woman, or… well, I’m sure you can think of many epithets such females have received over the years), who is powerful but her power consists in manipulating and deceiving males, convincing them that they are in charge, while she pulls the invisible strings. I do admire such characters, especially when the circumstances are dire and that seems to be the only option to get ahead. There is always a difficult balance to maintain between creating a strong negative female character that can hold her own and ensuring it does not reinforce the usual story tropes that blame women for all of world’s ills from the beginning of times.

This book made me wonder once more about the well-known narrative (and let me tell you, there are some twists that will keep readers on their toes) of events, which amounts to a civil war in Heaven, where there is no reconciliation and no possible redress or forgiveness for those who rebelled against the established order and lost. I also had to wonder about the rules imposed in Floraison and what seems to be a bias against LGBT (sex is bad, but same-sex sex is worse and is more severely punished), which has always been an issue that has caused much religious debate.

This book is a tour-de-force that I’d recommend to readers who love to be challenged by narratives that push the limits of well-known stories and make us rethink and reconsider the stories we have been told. And one for those who love strong and wicked female characters. And baby demons…

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review 2017-03-17 08:00
Femme Fatale
Femme Fatale (Little Black Classics #15) - Guy de Maupassant

Femme Fatale combines the title story and three other short stories from French author Guy de Maupassant. I can only say that they felt rather explicit and openly contained lesbianism which quite surprised me since it was being written in Victorian times. Something else I notices was that it had a French-ness that I can't really explain any better.

The stories themselves were okay, but none of them left a real impression with me. Rather, they felt quite flat, but I'm not sure some of it was lost in translation. Since I don't read in French, it would have to be in translation again, so I don't think I will be reading more of this author.

Little Black Classic ~ 15

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review 2016-05-17 18:55
A Terrible Sort of Beauty
Fatale, Vol. 1: Death Chases Me - Ed Brubaker,Sean Phillips

This is definitely hardboiled horror. I read this during the day, but I wouldn't read this before bed. It's very dark and some of the aspects and imagery are pretty disturbing. I couldn't tell if the author was going for a Lovecraft mythos kind of vibe or more of a Satanic/black magic kind of thing. Maybe both. There are many questions, particularly about the lead female character. What is she? Who is she? Why does she lead every man she encounters down the road of destruction. The author who is a prominent character did not inspire my sympathy in any way. The sad results of his choices did bother me, but moreso because of the innocents who were hurt because of his obsession with that woman. I am not sure if I will continue this. Part of me is curious, but I didn't like the way this made me feel as I read it. I've learned to go with my gut in my reading choices. Having said that, if you like the strange intersection of genres, particularly hardboiled/noir crime thriller and horror, you might pick this up. I would give this four stars because it's very well-written.

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review 2016-04-18 23:17
Maestra - Hilton L. Root
ISBN:  9780399184260
Publisher:  Penguin
Publication Date: 4/19/2016 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 2 Stars 

A special thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

L. S. Hilton's MAESTRA --What is not to love about art theft, a female fatale, a psychological mystery crime thriller? Right? Unfortunately, not what I received. Had higher expectations.

Many of you may not agree with my review. To each their own opinion; however, rather than glossing over, my honest thoughts.

The set up was great. The first part of the book, was entertaining and grabbed my attention. You see Judith as a young woman, trying hard to excel and make her way in the art world. She wants to do the right thing. She is a lowly receptionist at a well-known art house. She wants respect, and has debt. She lacks money. She is poor. She is vulnerable. She desires to gain entry into the upper echelon of the art world and society.

Through an old acquaintance, she persuades Judith to take on a second job, working as a hostess at a champagne bar. Here she learns how to manipulate. No salary, only tips. So the goal is to get the guys to buy expensive champagne. However, James, old pasty, overweight gross man does not drink, but buys the champagne and has money. She collects money and builds her savings account. No sex at first. All is good. She is able to buy some nice clothes. (give me hot, good looks, not pasty, and fat)

At the art house, things go south. She stumbles upon a conspiracy-- art fraud with misdeeds of her boss, Rupert – she is fired along with her accomplice.

OK, now at this point, you can see the need for female vigilante – Justice. Was really excited to see how this would unfold. However, not in the way I had envisioned. A let down. No real plotting to seek revenge. Just a lot of killing and sex.

When she goes on the trip with her friend and James, an accident-- not really her fault. She runs to escape. Even the next guy Steve .. I am still hooked. However, thereafter when getting to the next guy, and brutal murders – it is downhill from here until the end.

Judith does a complete 180. Out of nowhere. She is now a cold-blooded killer. If you are going to create a sociopath, lead up to it. Create flash backs of her childhood, what made her turn into a killer. Thoughts, processes. Nothing here. It is supposed to be the journey which carries the reader.

Also what makes a good thriller, is the chase. No real investigation. No forensics. No imagination. No one really much on her trail. Just a trashy girl who has crazy sex, gets high, and goes on to kill more people for no real reason. Where is the hook? You keep reading hoping you will get to the good part, which never comes.

Judith/Judy (is a 50-60s name); not a name for a 30 something. Does not fit the character. When I think of a femme fatale ---I think of a good classic noir film.

A femme fatale, a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. She is an archetype of literature and art.

Her ability to entrance and hypnotize her victim with a spell was in the earliest stories seen as being literally supernatural; hence, the femme fatale today is still often described as having a power akin to an enchantress, seductress, vampire, witch, or demon, having power over men. A woman with both intelligence, glamour, sophisticated, and sex appeal that uses these skills to manipulate poor helpless men into doing what she wants. May cause death. Not trashy.

Per Urban Dictionary: Trashy (women) are characterized by a hollow arrogance born out of insecurity and stupidity. Because deep down they know they are trashy they overcompensate in numerous of ways, and #1, to satisfy their own needs. They are insecure and tend to follow the latest trends, no matter how stupid, for a need to be accepted.

When I think of the Greatest Femme Fatales in Classic Film Noir, women were either of two types (or archetypes) - dutiful, reliable, trustworthy and loving women; or femme fatales - mysterious, duplicitous, subversive, double-crossing, gorgeous, unloving, predatory, tough-sweet, unreliable, irresponsible, manipulative and desperate women. Usually, the male protagonist in film noir wished to elude his mysterious past, and had to choose what path to take (or have the fateful choice made for him).

"Invariably, the choice would be an overly ambitious one, to follow the dangerous but desirable wishes of these dames. The goadings of the traitorous, self-destructive femme fatale would lead the struggling, disillusioned, and doomed hero into committing murder or some other crime of passion coupled with twisted love."

Instead of: Sexy, seductive, glamorous, provocative, erotic, passion, alluring, tasteful, enticing . .

You get: Trailer trash, x-rated porn, gross, disgusting, revolting, distasteful, obnoxious, poor taste

With this being said, when I think of art, culture, wealth, European travel—I think “Class”. With the heavy usage in the book, of designer fashion names, wealth, ritzy hotels, yachts, and name dropping---it wipes out all the glamour and class---when replaced with bad trashy sex scenes.

Does not add up. Falls apart midway. Even though I am not an erotic fan, I do enjoy good psychological thrillers and have no issues with graphic sex scenes if done in taste. (otherwise, why bother). For example: A. R. Torre (Deanna Madden Series). She can get down and dirty with her sex scenes, but they are tastefully done, and her protagonist is someone you sympathize with, due to her horrific abusive past. So when she is evil, you still root for her.

By 50% into the book, I wanted Judith to be caught--put me out of my misery. I was not even rooting for her. Disliked her, in fact. As far as the next two installments – no desire to read further. However, maybe I should skip to the final installment to see if we learn of Judith’s past, and she gets away with her murders. By the end at 3 am, was glad it was over. Unrealistic, To be continued. Don't think so.

I had pre-ordered the audiobook; however, cancelled. Not up for a repeat performance. poor character development. In my opinion, does not compare to The Talented Mr. Ripley nor Gone Girl, nor contains ingredients I look for in a a good psychological crime thriller. 
Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/#!Maestra/cmoa/56fe129c0cf2d8d402fd77a4
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review 2016-03-12 22:01
Milk out nose time people
Femme Fatale (Little Black Classics #15) - Guy de Maupassant

Not to everyone's taste. The most interesting are the title story (which is at once anti and pro lesbian) and "Cockcrow" which was really great (though guys might not like it).

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