Tag Archives: Vampires

Steam & Sorcery

Pape, Cindy Spencer. Steam and Sorcery (2011). 305 Pages*. Carina Press. $5.99**

Don’t let the cover stop you. The contents of the story are much better than the cover suggests with its cheesiness.

From the Publisher

Sir Merrick Hadrian hunts monsters, both human and supernatural. A Knight of the Order of the Round Table, his use of magick*** and the technologies of steam power have made him both respected and feared. But his considerable skills are useless in the face of his greatest challenge, guardianship of five unusual children. At a loss, Merrick enlists the aid of a governess.

Miss Caroline Bristol is reluctant to work for a bachelor but she needs a position, and these former street children touch her heart. While she tends to break any mechanical device she touches, it never occurs to her that she might be something more than human. All she knows is that Merrick is the most dangerously attractive man she’s ever met– and out of reach for a mere governess.

When conspiracy threatens to blur the distinction between humans and monsters, Caroline and Merrick must join forces, and the fate of humanity hinges upon their combined skills of steam and sorcery…

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The Dead Girls’ Dance

Caine, Rachel. The Dead Girls’ Dance (2007). 238 Pages. Penguin. $6.99

The Morganville Vampires: Volume 2

From the Back Cover

Claire Danvers has her share of challenges– like being a genius in a school that favors beauty over brains, dealing with the homicidal girls in her dorm, and above all, finding out that her college town is overrun with vampires. On the up side, she has a great roommate (who tends to disappear at sunup) and a new boyfriend named Shane… whose vampire-hunting dad has called in backup: cycle punks who like the idea of killing just about anything.

Now a fraternity is throwing its annual Dead Girls’ Dance and– surprise!– Claire and her equally outcast best friend, Eve, have been invited. When they find out why, all hell is going to break loose. Because this time both the living and the dead are coming out– and everybody’s hungry for blood.

First Lines

It didn’t happen, Claire told herself. It’s a bad dream, just another bad dream. You’ll wake up and it’ll be gone like fog…

Thoughts

I was warned that book 1 was a cliffhanger, so I had book 2 at hand to continue. I would advise doing the same, should you choose to read it.

The story definitely shifts a bit from volume 1 to volume 2. There is some major violence, and quite a bit of angst and drama in this volume, which works well, considering the storyline. Things start to get more involved, and the end result is a story which keeps drawing you in, making you want to know even more than Glass Houses told.

Things are complicated by the fact that the vampires aren’t very happy with the residents of Glass House. None of them are safe, and it’s a difficult thing to read about. There aren’t any strong females, and none of them rise to the challenge. There is a moment of potential gang-rape, and I was unimpressed by the character’s inability to help herself at all.

There is a complete story arc here, but it’s clear that there is much, much more to come.

It gets a 3 of 5.

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Glass Houses

Caine, Rachel. Glass Houses (2006). 239 Pages. Penguin. $6.99

The Morganville Vampires: Volume 1

From the Back Cover

Welcome to Morganville, Texas. Don’t stay out after dark.

It’s a small college town filled with quirky characters. But when the sun goes down, the bad comes out. Because in Morganville, there is an evil that lurks in the darkest shadows– one that will spill out into the bright light of day.

Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation. The popular girls never let her forget just where she ranks on the school’s social scene: somewhere less than zero. And Claire really doesn’t have the right connections– to the undead who run the town.

When Claire heads off campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don’t show many signs of life. But they’ll have Claire’s back when the town’s deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood…

First Lines

On the day Claire became a member of the Glass House, somebody stole her laundry.

When she reached into the crappy, beat-up washing machine, she found nothing but the wet slick sides of the drum, and–like a bad joke– the worst pair of underwear she owned, plus one sock.

Thoughts

I clearly have a strong bias towards strong female characters, which are not really present in this series. Claire is smart, but she’s a victim; she doesn’t get revenge, doesn’t stop the bullying, and the violence, she just flees. There are definitely times when retreating is the best idea, and this book is full of those times.

There’s a lot going on here; an entire town is run by vampires, and most of the human denizens live in fear, and are largely treated as livestock. They are branded by their “protector” who has control over many parts of their lives. They are required to donate blood, their movements are tracked, and they don’t even pretend to have the freedom to leave. What makes them put up with it? Fear and complacency.

Perhaps because of the fear and complacency, when Claire gets into trouble, the only people who try to help her are the loners and outsiders, the people who nobody else wants; Eve, Shane, and Michael. Things start to get really crazy when the four outcasts realize that they can’t keep running, and they aren’t safe, even together.

The novel manages to be interesting, and relatively unique. Everything fits together, and it seems cohesive, which is something. It’s hard to read about characters who are victims to everyone, who never have a true victory, and who are unfortunately at the bottom of the totem pole with no hope of ever rising from that position. There are still moments of humor which lighten the whole thing up, and which count for quite a bit.

This particular volume ends in a semi-cliffhanger, so I would advise having the second volume on hand to continue the story.

It gets a 3.5/5; it’s good, but not amazing.

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Sunshine

McKinley, Robin. Sunshine (2010 ed). 405 Pages. Speak. $8.99

Sunshine is not a vampire story the way Pegasus is not about winged horses. Sunshine is about Rae Seddon– commonly called Sunshine– a young woman whose life is forever altered by her choice to go out to the local lake, alone, and at night. It is there that she is grabbed by Others and dragged to a remote, abandoned house.

At first Sunshine is confused, because she isn’t dead yet, and Vampires don’t usually play with their food for long. However, she is not alone in the abandoned mansion; she is to be dinner for Con, a vampire no freer than she is.

To get out of this alive, Sunshine needs his help, and strangely enough, he needs hers.

First Lines

It was a dumb thing to do but it wasn’t that dumb. There hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake in years. And it was so exquisitely far from the rest of my life.

Monday evening is our movie evening because we are celebrating having lived through another week. Sunday night we lock up at eleven or midnight and crawl home to die, and Monday (barring a few national holidays) is our day off. Ruby comes in on Mondays with her warrior cohort and attacks the coffeehouse with an assortment of high-tech blasting gear that would whack Godzilla into submission: those single-track military minds never think to ask their cleaning staff for help inΒ  giant lethal marauding creature matters.

Thoughts

While Sunshine’s world is similar to ours, it is not ours. It is a sort of parallel dystopia, in which the Voodoo Wars– a battle between the Humans and the Others– have left humanity struggling to rebuild in a wasteland. This world is simultaneously eerily similar to, and startlingly different from our own*. There is a lot going on here; the human population has been decimated, Others are discriminated against, part-bloods held responsible for their heritage, cities are slowly growing, around the “bad spots,” and places like Charlie’s Coffeehouse are small havens from the insanity.

I think the world-building may be my favorite part of this book, actually. The characters come second to the world for me. I wanted more about the world, more about the why, the what, the how. Things are hinted at, bits are mentioned, there are “bad spots” where humans dare not go, left-overs of powerful magic. But why are they there? My curiosity was not completely satisfied, which was a little frustrating, because I’m usually quite content with her worlds.

I do like Sunshine, but she is not the strongest female McKinley has ever written, and I have an affinity for the strong girls. At first, Sunshine is rather inactive, she is victimized, and spends a lot of time recovering from the trauma. She struggles with her sense of self, with needing support and being afraid to reach for it, with the ramifications of what exactly she has done, and with her bond.

Something which is particularly problematic to me are the relationships in this book. Sunshine is dating Mel**, but they seem stuck in a sort of loose dating, where they’re together when it’s convenient. Sunshine never seems to talk about things to him, and though he could be there for her if she just asked, she doesn’t. There are hints about her heritage, things which her mother may have been hiding, but it is never verified, it remains Sunshine’s theory, and is never really tested. She’s surrounded by family and friends and people who care about her, and some of them are powerful enough in their own right that they could protect her, but she doesn’t turn to any of them. She instead relies upon a Vampire who she has only known for a brief amount of time.

When I first read this book, I remember really liking it. I was on a vampire kick, and I was reading everything I could. This was not a YA book then, but that didn’t stop me. Looking at it, and having read it, I wonder if it is a YA book now. There is a fairly explicit scene around page 250 which left me wondering if it should be called YA. I don’t necessarily feel that teens need to be protected from everything sexual, but I felt a little awkward reading this scene, and I’m an adult. I imagine most teens would either be titillated or would feel as awkward as I did.

It is sad, knowing that I will never know more. McKinley doesn’t write sequels. She may eventually venture back into the same world, if her muses drag her there, but this is the only guaranteed book in this setting. It’s a pity, because there is so much you can do with a post-apocalyptic world. There are options, and ideas, and worldwide locations.

Anyway, this volume gets a 4/5. There is a lot more that could have been done with Sunshine, and I wasn’t wholly satisfied (and not just because I wanted more, which is a good sort of unsatisfied.) It is worth reading, because it is enthralling, and it’s very different from what you expect, if you’ve been told it’s a vampire book, because it’s not. There are vampires, but ultimately, this book is about Sunshine.

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* It left me thinking of Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan world, actually.

** I like Mel, a lot. He’s got magical tattoos, which remind me of Pritkin’s tattoos from Karen Chance’s books.

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Soulless

Carriger, Gail. Soulless (2009). 357 Pages. Orbit. $7.99

The Parasol Protectorate: Book 1

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.

First, she has no soul. Second, he’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquitte.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire– and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia is responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart? ( From the Back Cover)

There’s a lot going on in my brain right now, largely because of this book, which I really enjoyed reading. On the one hand, I hate you– those of you who reviewed Soulless and made it sound so very appealing, so I had to start reading it, which then led to me staying up all night reading it because I just could not put it down— and on the other hand, I wonder how you guys felt about some of the issues brought up by The Book Smugglers when they reviewed it.

“It’s an awful lot like Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody.” (among other issues) which could very well be the case, and which I could perhaps agree with, if I’d ever read the series in question. Coincidentally, I have several Elizabeth Peters books sitting here– I was digging through boxes and boxes of books which my grandmother gave me last time I went to visit. The vast majority are mystery/suspense/thriller, which is not my genre of choice, so they’ve sat, largely untouched, since she gave them to me. I was going through them, trying to ascertain exactly what I had in the boxes, so we could deal with them appropriately. ( My mom and I intend to go through them and figure out which ones we each want to read, and which ones neither of us are interested in, so we can donate/sell those that we are not interested in.) So perhaps my next read will be one of those Elizabeth Peters books.

Disconcerting similarities to already-published works aside, I’m pretty sure I really liked Soulless. I didn’t notice any of the issues which so perturbed the ladies at The Book Smugglers, but perhaps that is because I had no trouble suspending my disbelief, and had no experience with similar characters. Despite the (inappropriate) Fantasy/Horror genre tag which my copy sports, it was definitely supernatural/paranormal period romance. I was expecting that, so it didn’t throw me too badly. I also really enjoyed the characters, their banter, the way it was so clear they did care about each other, even though they didn’t really know it yet.

Lord Akeldama annoyed the hell out of me. (From page 46:)

He minced into the room, teetering about on three-inch heels with ruby and gold buckles. “My darling, darling Alexia.” Lord Akeldama had adopted use of her given name within minutes of their first meeting. He had said that he just knew they would be friends, and there was no point in prevaricating. “Darling!” He also seemed to speak predominantly in italics. “How perfectly, deliciously, delightful of you to invite me to dinner. Darling.”

Gee, wonder what his sexual orientation might be? I mean, he takes more badass out of vampire than sparkling in the sun did. Ugh. I don’t have a problem with gay characters, but I do have a problem with inexplicably flamboyant, annoying characters who are described as speaking in italics. Ugh.

That aside, I think Alexia was an interesting character, to a point. She was a little too inclined to lean on being half-Italian* as an excuse for well, being blunt. What I loved was the whole idea of a preternatural, set in Victorian England. I wish this had gotten a bit more page-time, because it was perhaps the most unique and outstanding thing about the entire book, and it really got glossed over. She’s soulless– enough so that the book is titled Soulless– and per a few early comments, this has a lot to do with her ability to relate to other humans, and her grasp of emotions, but she has absolutely no problems with lust or “love.”

In Conclusion:

I’m pretty sure I liked this book. I mean, I started reading it at about 10pm, and could not put it down until 4am. That is a very good sign in a book, being that involved in it. It gets a 4.5/5 because it wasn’t until well after I was done reading that I began to even think about the flaws (which is a good sign.)

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* No love from me here. I’m basically 50% Irish, 50% Italian. Acting like that’s a handicap? Not cool.

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You Suck: A Love Story

Moore, Christopher. You Suck: A Love Story (2008) 352 Pages. Harper Collins. $13.99

Sequel To: Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story (1995)

As I have said previously: I am not allowed to read Christopher Moore in public. It has become increasingly obvious to me that I should also avoid reading Christopher Moore at work. When you’re sitting awkwardly in the corner of the break-room giggling to yourself, coworkers tend to ask questions like: “What are you reading?” Sometimes, that’s not a problem, but there are times when I just want to read, and do not want to be asked. (Nor do I want people leaning and moving to where they can read the cover without asking, because that is somehow more annoying).

Anyhow, because this is a sequel, my review will likely contain at least a few spoilers for the first book. (Though I will try to keep a lid on any spoilers for the book at hand.) Proceed atΒ  your own risk…

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Kiss Me Deadly (Anthology) Part 1

Telep, Trisha (Editor). Kiss Me Deadly (2010). 430 Pages. RunningPress. $9.95

Review: Part 1 (Part 2, Part 3)

This was a definite impulse grab. I was at Borders, looking for a specific book, though at the moment I can no longer remember which book I sought. I don’t think I remembered what I was looking for then, either. When I walk into a building which contains more than a few books, I tend to get a little sidetracked. So I was staring at the Y.A. Paranormal section, feeling a little concerned for the sheer quantity of Twilight-knockoffs — we all know them, they’re the generic vampire romance that has exploded since sparkly vampires were first published — and my eye fell upon Kiss Me Deadly. I had a moment of oh dear, not another, but I’m such a fan of anthologies as a way to sample new authors that I couldn’t help picking it up.

I know it wasn’t an author’s name that grabbed me, because I have to admit that I do not know a single author from this volume. (Though I did also grab Shiver while I was there, because as a fan of romance, paranormal, and young adult, it seemed like a reasonable combo.)I think it was the Editor’s Note which opened the volume which got my attention;

Love in the time of… Zombies?

Somehow, that just doesn’t have the classic ring of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s famous novel Love in the Time of Cholera* …Β  my bet, after titles like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter**, is that this is likely in some publisher’s pipeline somewhere, probably slated for publication next year, or the year after that. (Intro)

Anyway, in a sort of gimmick-y “paranormal = horror” way, there are 13 stories in this volume. Because I do intend to talk at least a little bit about each of them, I’m going to cut this into several posts.

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