Thursday, 3 December 2009

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris

Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris is the fourth book in the "Southern Vampire Mysteries".
Sookie, on her way home after working at Merlotte’s New Year’s Eve party, finds Eric, half dress and not wearing shoes running for his life. Eric does not recognize her, he appears frightened and confused, two things that Sookie has never seen in the usually confident Viking. Eric knows he is a vampire, but he does not know who he is, or why he's running towards Sookie's house in the middle of the night. Though frightened, Eric seems to know he can trust Sookie and accepts a ride back to her house with her. Not knowing what to do, Sookie calls Fangtasia. Pam and Chow arrive shortly after and explain that several nights ago a group of witches arrived in Shreveport. This group seems to be more powerful than other witches and they either want to take over Eric's businesses or make Eric pay them money to leave him alone, Eric refuses their offer and Pam and Chow watched Eric vanish from his office in Shreveport. Pam and Chow then ask Sookie to keep Eric safe while they solve the problem with the witches. Though reluctant to keep Eric at her house for an indeterminate period of time, Sookie needs the money and soon finds her self very much enjoying having the "new" Eric around. Without his old personality, Eric has become attentive, kind, sweet, and completely devoted to Sookie. At first it seems like a great situation, but Sookie soon realizes that despite how wonderful this new Eric is, she misses the person he used to be...

Spoilers ahead:
For those of us who are big fans of Sookie and Eric this book is like a fantasy, or a big tease, probably a bit of both. It's great to have them finally together, though it isn't real and he's not the cocky, self involved, sarcastic vampire we've all come to love, which sort of takes the fun out of it. Don't get me wrong, I'll take what I can get, it's just not the same. And when he doesn't remember any of it when he gets his memory back is thoroughly annoying. All in all, the Eric/Sookie fans know that Eric would not have behaved that way had he not had real feelings for Sookie, it's just his pride and personality that stop him from showing it ordinarily.

Bottom Line: A great read, lots of fun, nothing that requires much thought. Not for young readers (or readers who don't want sexual situations).

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

This is the first book in Rachel Caine's "Morganville Vampire series". It tells the story of 16 year old Claire Danvers, college freshman and teenage prodigy. Claire has a tough time in college, being two years younger then the other college freshman dorm life is already a struggle, but when the dorm's most popular girl focuses her wrath on Claire, life becomes unbearable. After being pushed down the stairs, Claire realizing that dorm life is just too dangerous and goes looking for somewhere else to live. After answering an ad she finds sanctuary at the house of Michael Glass and his two roommates, Eve and Shane.

This book is different from the all too common young adult vampire novel in a few ways, one is that the vampires are feared, not revered, another is that the book takes place in college, not high school. The story being told through Claire's eyes makes it easy to relate to being a shy teenager (which I was, so maybe that's just me), which is different from so many stories in which the main character is well liked and popular (see Elena from the Vampire Diaries and Bella from the Twilight Saga for examples).
This book is truly a young adult novel in that it has very little sexual context or violence, as in, almost none. The book manages to be entertaining without those elements. There is still some romance and slight violence.

Bottom line: A very "PG" rated young adult book, safe for almost all ages, yet still entertaining. Id recommend it, especially for young readers.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Blood and Chocolate tells the story of Vivian, a 16 year old girl who lives in a typical small town, but Vivian is anything but typical. Most atypically Vivian and her family are werewolves. This book is about Vivian's struggle to assimilate into her high school society, while still maintaining her identity and place in the werewolf pack. Life is difficult enough for her when she meets a human boy (or "meat boy" as the book calls it) who seems to understand her and love her more then even the members of her pack. The choice to date a human is further complicated when Vivian unintentionally becomes "betrothed" to a highly sought after and powerful member of the pack. Vivian is then forced to chose between the human world and the werewolf life, which is why the book is called "Blood or Chocolate".

Even in human form Vivian, her mother and the rest of her "pack", are very different then any human family. The most notable difference is that everyone is very sexual. From their language to each other and the way they interact is very sexual. Another huge difference is that everyone is very aggressive, Vivian's mother gets in bar fights for example, with other women from the pack. The reader gets the picture that this is just the way life is for werewolves, that this is normal, but I found that it just made me unable to relate to their lives. It seemed every thought Vivian had was laced with sexual content. She is also kind of mean and didn't seem to care about anyone but herself, which made me unable to care about her, even when bad things happened to her.

Bottom line: This is a young adult novel that has no place being read by teenagers, and adults will likely find it unsatisfying. I would have skipped it if I was given the chance.

Monday, 5 October 2009

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

The Host, a novel by the beloved American novelist, Stephenie Meyer (author of the Twilight series), is a highly entertaining work that needs not be overlooked. Remember the chemistry Meyer created between our fictional vampire and human characters in Twilight? And the effect they left as they lingered in your thoughts all day? Stephenie Meyer does not disappoint, and once again she has brought to life a scenario and characters that you just cant get out of your head.
Published in April of 2008, The Host is classified as a science fiction novel, however it is also classified as a romance. The basis of the novel consists of an alien human race referred to as "souls" who forcefully inhabit earth and embody the humans who live there. Our main character "Wanderer," or "Wanda" as she is later called for short, is a soul that has inhabited a human's body - a beautiful, smart and strong young woman named Melanie. Before Melanie was captured and embodied by this soul, she survived in hiding with her young brother Jamie and boyfriend, the love of her life, Jared.

When the "souls" embody humans, the human mind within is supposed to become erased, non-existent, so that the "soul" can take over complete mental control of this new body and life as their own. Wanderer finds out all too soon that the human inside this new body of hers, Melanie, is a fighter and is very resistant to the takeover. That said, Wanderer and Melanie live simultaneously inside their head, tormenting each other on some levels. However what was once torment eventually evolves into a deep sisterhood love. Because of Melanie's undying presence in her head, Wanderer experiences all the same memories that Melanie has, human emotions, memories and the powerful determination to get back to Jared and Jamie.

The book is a journey of Wanderer and Melanie's search for the two people most important to Melanie, and the events and adventures thereof, eventually finding them along with the secret human colony living with them in underground caverns. Wanderer, although alien to the human race she embodies, becomes a part of them, interwoven by choice into their daily fabric, and their means of survival. Wanderer and one of the humans, a heart-throbbing young man named Ian, find an attraction but cant get past how to deal with love between two different races - human and alien. Love and companionship are tested, and in the end Wanderer finds herself left with a choice she needs to make - whether or not to bring Melanie back to existence and sacrifice herself, for the sake of both of her brother and Jared, who is still so much in love with Melanie. What she decides in the end is shocking, and completely throws a twist into the story.

The end leaves you grasping for more, to be honest I was so disappointed. But only selfishly. I wanted so badly for the story to continue, to find out how life goes after her decision had been made. Meyer definitely severed the novel at a perfect place for a sequel. Let's hope!

I don't have too many spoilers, but I will say that the familiar love triangle that Meyer created in Twilight is present in The Host too. The dynamics of the love and attraction battle between Wanderer, Jared and Ian is addicting, to say the least. It is the kind of story that keeps you up at night reading for hours. Although the book is amazing, the beginning is very confusing and can be hard to get though. Everything makes sense eventually though; it all comes full circle.

My bottom line is that I would recommend The Host, just as much as I would recommend Twilight. Happy reading!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

The third installment of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries, and my personal favorite. I think with this book Harris really hit her stride and fixed some pacing issues with the previous book. Another change was the maturing of the books protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse. When this series begins Sookie is an naive 25 year old woman who has never dated, lives with her grandmother, and certainly has never dealt with the supernatural. How her life has changed. With these changes Sookie is forced to grow up. While she is still the same person, she's more educated about the world and at same time, jaded because of all the things she has been forced to deal with. This book starts out with Sookie and Bill hitting yet another rocky point in their relationship. Bill is preoccupied with a secret project, and soon leaves on a "business trip" leaving Sookie alone with some cryptic instructions, should he not return. Sookie is soon visited by Eric, Pam, and Chow, who inform her that Bill is not where he said he'd be and that he planned to leave her. They also mention that Bill has been kidnapped and they need Sookies help to have any hope of being him home safely. Reluctantly, she agrees and is plunged deeper into a whole other world. A world full of werewolves, shifters, evil vampires, and a club called Josephine's, otherwise known as "Club Dead".

Spoilers ahead:
I love this book, it's my favorite in the series so far. One of the best things about this book is the introduction of Alcide Herveaux. Alcide serves as a reminder to Sookie of what else is out there. The interaction between Alcide and Sookie provides so much hope at this point in the story, and the idea that Bill is not the only one out there for her. Yes, Alcide has baggage (some seriously homicidal baggage), but he's such a great character, and as the reader I really felt how much he wanted to just fall in love with Sookie and have them both forget all the drama and live a normal life, well as normal a life as a werewolf and a telepath can have.

Another great element is the continued development of Eric's character. He shows actual compassion for the first time with he must tell Sookie the bad news of Bill's betrayal. Though he has every reason to be happy that Bill have done this to Sookie, after all, it has the potential to move Eric closer to Sookie as Bill is pushed further away. Instead he is concerned about her feelings, and how this will effect her. I think for the first time she starts to see him as more "human" and less vampire.

Bottom Line: This is where the book series really hits it's stride. A great book, full of interesting new characters and lots of excitement. Definitely recommend it.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Carrie By Stephen King

I read this book the first time when I was in high school. It was the first Stephen King book I read. I had seen that scene from the movie with Sissy Spacek covered in blood, all wide eyed and creepy looking. And considering the length of most of King's books, this one was comparatively short.

Carrie is a story of an awkward, unpopular 17 year old girl who, because of being raised by her fanatical Christian mother, has not been taught about puberty, or about any socially normal behavior. The story opens with Carrie getting her first menstrual period in the shower of the high school gym locker room. Unaware of what is really happening Carrie is convinced she is bleeding to death. Of course all the girl take the opportunity to mock and degrade her, some even throwing tampons and sanitary napkins at her. Even the gym teacher joins in the yelling, until she realizes that Carrie really is frightened because she has no idea what is happening.

After this incident, Carrie slowly begins to discover she has telekinetic powers, powers she has always had (as the book states incidents from childhood), but is just now beginning to control. Meanwhile the "ring leader" of the locker room incident Chris, escapes punishment because her father is a prominent local figure. She begins to plot her revenge on Carrie, who she blames for "causing her problems".

The book is written as a series of documents, rather then in the first person. This provides great intrigue and a desire to have more information. It also, however causes a disconnect between the reader and the title character, who truly lives a horrifically tragic life. This disconnect though feels intentional, for without it the reader would not see this as a horror novel. If it were written from Carrie's point of view it would be too easy to get caught up in grieving for her situation. And that's just not what the book is about, that is a small part of it, but let's face it, it's really about Carrie getting some revenge, right? And who better to be born with these powers, then a girl who has lived a torturous life at the hands of her mother and classmates?

Spoilers Ahead:

Another saving grace is Sue Snell, a girl who does participate with the crowd in belittling Carrie in the locker room, but soon comes to regret this and begins to see Carrie for what she is, a trapped scared girl with no friends. Sue convinces her popular boyfriend to ask Carrie to the prom. The scene at the prom is so much worse in the book then in the movie. The electrocution of the kids on stage, the death of Tommy Ross, who was beginning to actually be attracted to Carrie. The amazing way King makes it sad for the kids burning to death in the gym after Carrie sets it on fire, though the reader knows most of them had made Carrie's life miserable.

The death of Carries mother was another intense moment. The description of her heart slowly slowing down was something that creeped me out for years after I read this.

Bottom Line: An intriguing read, if you like Stephen King, I think you'll like Carrie.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

In "Bitten" Kelley Armstrong brings us the story of a woman named Elena Michaels who is young, beautiful and successful. She is also a werewolf. In this world all born werewolves are male, as only men can carry the gene, it is only in being bitten that a woman can become a werewolf, and prior to Elena, no woman had survived the change (as many do not, werewolves don't usually leave their victims alive after biting them). This leaves Elena in an interesting situation, being the only female werewolf. Having not chosen the lifestyle that was thrust upon her when she was bitten, Elena leaves her werewolf pack to have a "normal" human life in Toronto Canada. She has a human fiance, a normal job, and despite the necessity to change into a wolf once a week, she lives a normal life. Elena tries hard to fit into the mold of normal human, until she gets a phone call from someone from her past, someone she can't say "no" to...

This book is an intriguing read and has some great characters who are relatable and seem very real, unfortunately I found it a bit difficult to relate to the main character. The story is good enough and the ending made the other issues I had with the book worth reading it.

Character development for Jeremy and Clay makes them far more interesting characters. While Clay has plenty of flaws and seems almost inhuman at times, the emotion and sacrifices he makes for those he loves makes him relatable and in the end, an unlikely hero. Jeremy is the ultimate parental figure, always with Elena's best interests at heart, he loves and cares for the members of his pack more then he cares for himself. This proves that Armstrong is talented in developing characters and making you love them, and feel what they are feeling. It's just in her portrayal of Elena that I felt there was much to be desired.

Elena is off putting in her grumpy attitude about everything. She often comes off as a whinny child not getting her way. I found myself thinking"a terrible thing happened and now you're a werewolf, it's been 11 years, get over it". No one has ever been anything but kind and accepting of her. She takes out her bad mood and sulky attitude on everyone. As far as Clay goes, it's more deserved, but Jeremy and the other characters hardly deserve it. They are nothing but kind and inviting to a woman in a place where no woman has been before, and it could be argued that no woman ever belongs. Honestly, it made me wonder if she is worth the trouble at all. Elena really only provides one unique quality, sex. Being the only female werewolf on the planet, her gender grants her a license to be a total jerk. The pack certainly would not put up with the same behavior from a male.

I was ready to not like this book, but the ending really saved it for me. While all I said in the above paragraph was definitely true, I came out of this book liking it. By the end of the book Elena had grown up and seemingly accepted her fate, and there was hope of a better attitude from what could be a strong female character that I wanted so badly to root for.

Bottom Line: A decent read. While the main character was sort of off putting initially, the supporting characters and charter development is good. I'd recommend giving it a try. Plus, there are so many books about vampires, it's nice to read something that is a bit different!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The vampire Diaries: Dark Reunion

Somehow Smith found it necessary to impart a fourth book on the reading public (remember that tag line on the cover of the last book? Guess that was a lie). I read online that this series was originally supposed to be a trilogy, and with the death of the protagonist from the first 3 books (final death, not "transformation into vampire" death) at the end of the last book, I could see how it would seen pretty definite that that was the end. Apparently L.J. Smith could not leave well enough alone and made a fourth book, and yes, I read it though none of the first three were any good. This time I had no expectation that the book would be good, I can be taught. I understand that based on the previous data that statistics say this book will be bad too. I was still shocked as to how bad it was. It just goes to show that nothing is ever so bad that it can't get worse.

This book picks up six months after the final death of Elena and is told from Bonnie's point of view. While at a slumber party the girls contact Elena using a Ouija board (as she is dead). Elena warns them there is evil in Fell's Church, and that they are all in danger (seems like evil just loves this place, why do people live here? Sounds like a gateway to hell to me). She tells them they need to summon someone to help them, but is interrupted before she can tell them who). With Matt's help, Bonnie and Meredith perform a spell to summon Stefan, who arrives back in town with Damon. The five work to find the source of evil in the town.

Spoilers Ahead
If you read "The Fury" you know that Katherine supposedly killed her maker Klause, at least she told a story that she did. Then what the heck was he doing back, without explanation, or even question from anyone? That was some of the worst story telling I have ever read. And what about the werewolves? Did that seem like an afterthought to anyone else? It was as if Smith needed a reason to make Tyler join up with Klause, an unexplained, slap-dash, ridiculous reason, or perhaps she just thought "people who like vampires probably like werewolves, oh I'll just through one in".

Of all the vampire books to make into a television show, why would anyone pick this one? Perhaps they only read the back of the cover of the book and thought (like me and so many others) "this seems promising". This is probably the only time I'm pretty sure the show will be BETTER then the book. I can't imagine it being worse.

Can you believe L.J Smith is making a new trilogy?!?! The first book came out earlier this year. No, I'm not reading it. I have been tortured enough. I did read the back of the new book, it said something about Stefan having to leave because he couldn't resist turning Elene into a vampire AGAIN! After she was miraculously brought back to life after dying, coming back as a vampire then dying again, she comes back as human (with no real explanation I might add). If any of you out there read the new one, let me know what happens, I still have a morbid curiosity...

Bottom Line: Don't even ask.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The Vampire Diaries: The Fury

Book Three of the Vampire Diaries. Yes, I kept reading it. If you've read either of my previous reviews of these books I'm sure you think I'm crazy for subjecting myself to more of this torture and wasting more of my time. I think you might be right, perhaps I am crazy. There have been plenty of series that I never read past the first book, so it isn't an undying desire to finish what I've started, I quit stuff all the time, perhaps it's that as ridiculous as this book was, it was not boring.

This book starts out right after Elena has "died" and woke up a vampire (a side effect of having unknowingly ingested too much of both Stefan and Damon's blood over a long period of time). Somehow during this transformation Elena has forgotten that she loves Stefan and is convinced she instead loves Damon, whether this phenomenon is a result of having more of Damon's blood then of Stefan's or if it's just a fluke, it's not really explained. Surprisingly, Damon does not take this as fact and instead shows the first bit of chivalry and kindness and stops Elena from killing Stefan (as Stefan is trying to harm Damon), and tells Stefan we have to get to the cause of her change in behavior before they take anything she says seriously. This is a total un-Damon like thing to do, all things point to him being overjoyed by this turn of events and not caring what caused it, just wanting the "win" against his brother.
From this point Damon becomes a different character, I suppose it could be seen as a more "likeable" character, as he is far more helpful and no longer, above all else, desires to destroy his brother. To me it just seemed bland and fake. I almost prefer the total jerk, at least he seemed somewhat interesting. This new version is like a robot.
Spoilers ahead:
It is revealed at the end of the book that the town founder's wife Honoria Fell was a witch and since her death has been protecting the town. One would think that if that were the case she's obviously doing a terrible job, as a teacher is killed and vampires have come and settle in "her" town. Plus, the whole "mystery presence" in this book. So when she tells the gang "I'm done now, the coming battle is yours", they should be thinking, well great, as you were providing so much help to begin with. Whatever.

It is finally revealed that the cause of all the terrible occurrences is Katherine (not Damon as Stefan and Elena thought), who actually is not dead but faked her own death to make Damon and Stefan "sorry" all those years ago when she "turned" them both. Katherine is also responsible for Elena's "death", but did not count on her having had Damon and Stefan's blood and therefore becoming a vampire.

In the end Elena (without her "magic" ring that protects vampires from sunlight in these books) leaps at Katherine, removing her pendant that is protecting her, and they both burn in the sunlight. Elena's dying words to Damon and Stefan are to take care of each other. The book ends with Elena having sacrificed herself to save Stefan, Damon, and the town. Seems simple enough. A definite ending to a trilogy, it even says "The final conflict" right on the cover of the book, seems pretty definitive to me...

Bottom Line: This book does provide closure, and if you've read the first 2 books, the 3rd seems like a definite end...

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Untamed by PC & Kristin Cast

The fourth book in the House of Night series sees Zoey abandoned by her friends and her loves. After Damian and the twins found out about Zoey’s secret relationship with Loren and her keeping Stevie Rae’s being alive away from them; they pulled away from her. Erik dumped her for cheating on him and left the House of Night as a newly changed vampyre. Her blood bond with Heath was broken through her imprint with Loren and he, too, is out of her life.

Fortunately for Zoey, she still has the unlikeliest of friends in Aphrodite. She returns to the House of Night, appearing to be the same fledgling she’s always been but there’s been a change. She’s no longer a fledgling at all. She gave up her earth affinity and her vampyre characteristics when Stevie Rae bit her. She’s now a human, albeit a human with the gift of premonition and the love of Nyx on her side. She and Stevie Rae meet with Zoey and tell her about a terrible vision that Aphrodite has. She’s had two visions of Zoey’s death; one at the hands of Neferet and the other by a strange raven-like creature. Zoey’s death will plunge the world into war, humans vs. vampyres, and it must be stopped at all costs.

Neferet is intent on said war, she’s called in The Sons of Erebus, skilled vampyre warriors, to protect the school from the humans she claims murdered two professors. She’s also arranged for a new student to transfer to the school from the Chicago branch of the House of Night. His name is James Stark and he’s the most skilled archer in all of the world. Whatever he aims at, he hits. Zoey & James are introduced and seem to have a bit of chemistry before he is consumed by fits of coughing and he succumbs to death. But death is not ever permanent at this House of Night and Zoey knows that she needs to be there when Stark awakens. If Neferet gets her hands on him, who knows what would happen?

In order to face Neferet, Zoey is going to need all of her friends. Fortunately Aphrodite is on her side and she’s more than willing to tell Damian, Erin and Shaunee why Zoey had to keep secrets from them. Once they understand the threat to Zoey, they all band back together to try face the worst darkness yet. Aphrodite foresees a new prophecy about an evil queen and the rise of a fallen angel, Kolona. With the help of Stevie Rae and the red fledglings, Zoey’s grandmother and even a Catholic nun, can Zoey and her friends keep a powerful evil from being unleashed on the world? Read and find out!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Fantasy + romance + historical + sci fi. Outlander (or Cross Stitch as it was published in it's UK homeland in 1991) is the first of a series of (currently) six novels by Diana Gabaldon. This first novel starts during the 1940's in Inverness, Scotland, but quickly transports you (and of course the main Character Claire) to eighteenth century Scotland. Claire, who is a nurse in the British Army during WWII, and her husband Frank, reunite after the war by way of a second honeymoon in Scotland. After an errie stormy evening, Claire ventures alone to a cluster of large standing stones and finds herself suddenly transported through time to eighteenth century Scotland, where things - and people are very very different. Clueless to what just happened, Claire struggles to find her way back and to make sense of her surroundings when she is detained by a highly notorious and brutal British captain named Jack "Black Jack" Randall, who unbeknownst, is the six times great-grandfather of her husband, Frank. On the brink of attack she is saved by a Scotsmen and transported through the old rural countryside where she finally delivered to the clan and shortly thereafter introduced to our main hunk of a hero, Scots warrior James Frasier. Jamie is young and built like an ox with fiery long red hair and muscles like steel. His clan dubs her "Sassenach"- an outsider to Scottish Highland culture. Through a series of events, "already married in the year 1940 Claire" and 20-something Jamie find themselves bound to each other in an arranged marriage, partly to keep Claire out of the hands of "Black Jack Randall." It's a horrible thing for both of them... or is it?


Oh you thought I was going to give you spoilers did you? How could I possibly spoil one of the most romantic and blood bubbling love stories of the eighteenth century? It may cause my cheeks to turn pink trying to explain it. I will say that the care, companionship and eventually deep love that ensues the couple, cannot be spoiled by my review. If anything it will make you want to read the book!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Vampire Diaries: The Struggle

This book is the second in the Vampire Diaries series. If you purchased this book after 2007 you received "The Awakening" and "The Struggle" as a packaged deal. If you suffered through the first, you probably read the second, and know from experience what a "Struggle" reading it was. The second book starts up right where the first left off, as a result "The Awakening" and "The Struggle" feel more like one really long story rather than two separate novels. In the opening pages Elena is screaming for Damon to answer her and demands to know what has happened to her boyfriend, and Damon's brother, Stefan. Damon tries to use his vampire "influence" on Elena to get her to forget about Stefan and come away with him. Of course, she refuses, Damon parts with some ridiculous line about her being "his before the fall of winter" or something similar. Elena calls on her friends for help and they are able to locate Stefan, who is badly hurt. Elena offers him her blood to help him heal.

Unlike many other vampire novels the exchange of blood between humans and vampires is not a prominent part of this book. It only occurs in dyer straights (ie serious injury), or by force (though this is sort of glossed over and treated as if it isn't a big deal, when all characteristic of the characters involved indicate it should be).

There is more action in this book than in the last, so that is an improvement. There is also less of Elena being "Queen of High School", and more of her hanging out with her friends and caring for them and her boyfriend, which is also an improvement as well.

Spoilers Ahead

As I mentioned before, this book is better then the last one, but really that's like saying eating cardboard is better then eating wood, neither is actual food, one is just slightly less painful to chew. It is an improvement that there is more of Damon in this story. I really wanted to like Damon, and he had such promise. If Smith could have just made him a bit more likable and been more convincing in his feelings for Elena, but all of that fell short. I suppose it's telling about the character developments that the one "likable" character is the one who stalks the heroine and forces her to drink his blood, causing her to become a vampire upon her death. Which brings me to the next issue. Why would Stefan not be upset when he finds out that his brother ha been drinking his girlfriends blood against her will? Also, why is it suddenly a "love triangle"? Elena never gave any indication that she had feels for Damon, nor did he give her any reason to care about him at all.

Bottom Line: More of the same "Struggle" as getting through the first book, only with slightly more action (but no romantic action, so look elsewhere if that's what you're after). I still recommend reading something else.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

We get two mysteries for the price of one in the second installment of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries. After a night of drinking in Merlotte's Bar, Detective Andy Bellefleur leaves his car in the parking lot and gets a ride home from his sister. When Sookie arrives for work the next day she sees an unexpected surprise in his back seat, the body of one of her friends.

A few days later Sookie is summoned to Shreveport at the request of Eric, the vampire sheriff of the area, as well as owner of the popular vampire bar "Fangtasia". As part of her agreement with Eric to spare the lives of the humans she questioned about the theft of money from the bar in Dead Until Dark, she must agree to come when ever he calls and use her telepathic gift at his request. Sookie honors her agreement and she and Bill drive to Shreveport. On the way Sookie encounters a strange creature in the woods, this creature uses Sookie to send a "message" to Eric, a very painful and bloody message.

At Eric's request Sookie and Bill travel to Dallas, Texas to investigate the disappearance of a "brother" of the vampire sheriff of the Dallas area. Once there, the job proves to be much more work then she anticipated when she finds out the reason for the disappearance of Farrel and who is behind it.

Spoilers Ahead

Living Dead in Dallas is the first book in which Harris takes her Southern heroine and her vampire entourage on the road. After arriving in Dallas, Sookie and Bill realize that Eric has traveled to Dallas as well to check up on Sookie. This is the first time we really get to know Eric and more of his personality is revealed to Sookie. Eric is shown to be straight forward and refreshingly honest about his intentions in various situations, a stark contrast to the controlled and secretive Bill. Eric is also charming and witty, but also always out for himself, which is the way he has always lived his life.

The relationship between Sookie and Bill that was such a huge part of Dead Until Dark begins to unravel a bit in this book. Sookie sees more and more of Bill's "vampire side" and further evidence that he is not, in fact human like she is. While I am obviously not a big fan of Bill in general, I do think it's hypocritical for Sookie to fault Bill for being what he is. Isn't the same type of discrimination that has plagued her most of her life? Bill can help the fact that he's a vampire about as much as Sookie can help that she's a telepath. I think it's a growing experience for Sookie in the end. She must learn to accept that vampires are what they are or stop hanging out with them.

Bottom line: Between the two mysteries to solve there is plenty going on in Living Dead in Dallas, the mysteries are pretty good. The characters outside of the principle characters are just average, making this book less interesting then many of the others in the series. I know, that's similar to what I said about Dead Until Dark, but keep reading, I promise it'll get better.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Chosen by PC & Kristin Cast

Book three in the House of Night series sees enemies become friends and friends become possible enemies. Zoey Redbird continues to struggle, torn between two boys and a man who intrigues her. Secrets threaten to tear apart her friendships and the only person she can trust fully is the one who was once her enemy.

Zoey finds that Aphrodite has been chosen by Nyx to represent the earth, in absence of Steve Rae. Aphrodite is also the only other fledgling whose mind High Priestess Neferet can’t read, which makes her the only one she can tell about Stevie Rae. Everybody thinks Stevie Rae died, but she’s back, along with all of the other fledglings that had passed away. These fledglings are more of the stereotypical vampyres of lore; have to drink blood and kill to do it, can’t go into the sunlight, and truly soulless. Aphrodite reluctantly helps Zoey with Stevie Rae, getting her blood and shelter and ultimately trying to help restore her soul. They are the only two who know that Neferet is not what she seems.

To complicate matters even more, one of their professors is murdered and left outside the school walls with a note about repenting. All signs point to the People of the Faith, the church that Zoey’s stepfather belongs to. The death of the vampyre causes the Sons of Erebus, great vampyre protectors, to be called in; complicating Zoey’s ability to sneak in and out of the school to help Stevie Rae.

If that weren’t enough, Zoey is still torn between her human imprinted boyfriend, Heath, and her fledgling boyfriend, Erik. Loren Blake, professor and Poet Laureate, is also drawing closer to her. She has no idea who to choose and failing to do so brings complications with all three.

This whole book you can truly feel Zoey’s conflicts all coming to a head. Then men, the secrets, the pressure; all of those are weighing down on her. I spent the entire book just begging her to confide in Damian and the Twins, knowing that the longer she waited the worse things would be. Zoey may be a powerful future high priestess but she’s still a kid and she makes big mistakes. Being so powerful often means going it alone. Will Zoey have to do that? The next book will shed some light!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Betrayed by PC & Kristin Cast

Darkness does not always equate to evil, just as light does not always bring good. These are the words that the Goddess Nyx whispers to High Priestess in training Zoey Redbird several times throughout the second novel in the House of Night Series. As the title of the second novel makes clear, not all is as it seems at the House of Night.

A month has gone by and Zoey has settled into life at the House of Night with her friends and her sort-of boyfriend, Erik Night. She's also imprinted her former boyfriend, a human named Heath. If that wasn't enough, she seems to have caught the eye of teacher Loren Blake. Zoey's angsting over her man issues takes a back burner to the news that a human boy she knew is missing. When his body turns up drained of blood, eyes turn to the House of Night. Another teenager she knew also ends up missing and suspicions start to turn to Zoey herself.

As if that wasn't enough, Zoey keeps seeing the possible ghosts of fledglings who had passed away recently. Dead is dead, isn't it? Or is it? They don't look like ghosts or like any vampyre that Zoey's ever seen before. Solving the mystery of the missing youths and the ghost fledglings is something Zoey takes upon herself, not including her friends in the matter. In fact, she turns to her enemy to help her find out what is real and what is really happening at The House of Night.

Zoey has observed several tense interactions between her mentor, High Priestess Neferet, and Aphrodite, the girl she displaced to become head of the Dark Daughters that have her questioning whether or not she truly knows her mentor. Is Neferet as good as she seems or is she the darkness in the light that Nyx is warning her about?

While the first book in the series emphasized the importance of acceptance, I think this novel highlights the importance of opening oneself up to others. By keeping secrets from her friends, Zoey is setting herself up for some heartbreak down the road. If you can't trust your friends, who can you trust? When something truly heartbreaking occurs, who will she have to turn to?

Betrayed is a good second novel in this series, advancing the plot greatly and bringing some real emotion into the fray. The many "loves" of Zoey can be overly taxing at times but Zoey maintains a sense of humor about it that makes it less grating than in some other series. I recommend this, as I do the whole series.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Many Bloody Returns By various authors

This book is an anthology of short stories from various authors in the fantasy genre. All the stories involve vampires and birthdays. I've reviewed a few of the 13 stories individually, with a general statement overall at the end.

"Dracula Night" By Charlaine Harris:
This is a short story involving some of the characters from the "Southern Vampire Mysteries". Much to her delight telepathic barmaid Sookie Stackhouse finds herself invited to a birthday party for the most famous vampire ever, Dracula. The party is being thrown at the vampire bar "Fangtasia" by it's owner and drop dead gorgeous vampire Eric. Chaos ensues when Dracula shows up for his party... This short story was better then any of the other short stories I have read of Harris'. It's cute and entertaining. No where near as good as Harris' novels.

"It's My Birthday Too" By Jim Butcher:
This is a short story from Butcher's "The Dresden Files". Wizard-for-hire Harry Dresden is looking for a missing vampire on his birthday, naturally he come across some trouble when he visits a local shopping mall. Trouble that is complicated by the fact that Harry has left his wizarding "tools" at home.
This story is good, though I have yet to read any of the Dresden novels, this story was enough to make me want to.

"The Mournful Cry of Owls" by Christopher Golden
A mysterious coming of age story about a teenage girl who's always felt a bit different. On her 16th birthday she learns about her unique heritage, and the explanation behind her always feeling different and struggling to fit in. This story was perhaps the best of the book, though it didn't really pertain to vampires. It was strange and intriguing with an ending I would not have been able to anticipate. It was also written in a beautiful almost poetic way.

"The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" by Rachel Caine:
This story is part of Rachel Caine's "Morganville Vampire Series". Morganville, Texas is a small town run by vampires, but inhabited by humans, the humans belong to clans protected by certain vampires. In return for protections these humans are under the rule of the vampire protecting them. Eve is turning 18 and with that comes a choice. She must chose to sign with the vampire with "protects" her family, or become a free agent. I have never read any of the "Morganville Vampire series", but like the "Dresden Files" story, this story made me want to check out the series.

Other authors include:
"I Was a Teenage Vampire" by Bill Crider
"Twilight" by Kelley Armstrong
"Grave-Robbed" by P.N. Elrod
"The Witch and the Wicked" by Jeanne C. Stein
"Blood Wrapped" by Tanya Huff
"The Wish" by Carolyn Haines
"Fire and Ice and Linguini for Two" by Tate Hallaway
"Vampire Hours" by Elaine Viets
"How Stella Got her Grave Back" by Toni L.P. Kelner

I have read several anthologies about vampires and this one was one of the best, overall. Not all of the stories were great, but it was an easy read and entertaining.

Bottom Line: If you like short stories and you like vampires, this one is worth a read.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening, by L.J. Smith

This is the first book in the Vampire Diaries series. The series tells the story of popular high school student Elena Gilbert. Elena has it all, good looks, long blond hair, the attention of all the boys in school. On the first day back at school after Summer vacation, Elena notices a new student, Stefan Salvatore, a handsome and mysterious new student from Italy. Elena immediately sets her sights on Stefan as her new romantic conquest. She will stop at nothing to make him notice her, but everything she does he completely ignores. This has never happened to Elena, what boy at school wouldn't want to date her?

After a school dance Elena finds herself in a dangerous situation while partying with drunken fellow student, Tyler Smallwood. At a frightening moment in which Elena is fighting Tyler off, Stefan appears to rescue her. He takes her back to the room he rents, and tells her why he has been ignoring her. Stefan explains that Elena reminds him of his first love, Katherine, who has since died. Elena feels terrible for doubting him, and so sad at his loss. From that night on they are in love (yes, it happens that fast). Elena begins to feel that Stefan is keeping secrets from her, and soon learns he is a vampire. Shortly after learning this, Elena is visited by a beautiful stranger who seems hell bent on seducing her, a stranger that Stefan is all too familiar with.

Spoilers Ahead.

The premise of this books sounds intriguing. Beautiful young girl caught between a handsome vampire and his dark and mysterious vampire brother. Sounds great, unfortunately this book was nothing like it sounded. First issue was that Elena was not relatable as a character. It's difficult to root for the beautiful popular girl who is used to having the attention of all the guys around her, when she finally finds one who isn't instantly enthralled with her. Very few people had that experience in high school. She feel rejected, but of course, it isn't her cocky attitude that is keeping Stefan away, it's the fact that she looks like his old vampire lover from hundreds of years ago.
I was hoping that once we met Damon, Stefan's vampire brother he'd be the breath of fresh air and fun that this stories so badly needed to counteract the overwhelming teen angst. Sadly, Elena never connects with him, she is still so devoted to Stefan, though the reader never sees why either loves the other. It's literally something that seems to just happen, without explanation or any sort of courtship. It just IS.

Bottom line: There are so many good vampire books, young adult and otherwise, DO NOT waste your time on this one.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Marked by PC Cast

What do you get when you cross Harry Potter with The Sookie Stackhouse Novels & Twilight? You get the House of Night Series from PC & Kristin Cast. There’s more to it than that but that’s the easiest way to boil it down for the uninitiated. The first book in the series, Marked, starts out in a typical high school. Zoey Montgomery is walking the halls with her best friend when she notices a vampyre at her locker. He points to her and tells her that Night has chosen her, her death will be her birth. Night calls to her and she must find her destiny which awaits her at the House of Night. Her head explodes in pain when he points to her and she passes out. When she awakens, she finds that she now bears the blue crescent mark that all fledgling vampyres wear.

Vampyres are clearly recognized in the real world in this series, they’re not hidden and in fact many of our top celebrities, including Nicole Kidman and Leonardo DiCaprio are known vamps. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the people in Zoey’s life are thrilled or accepting of her fate; her best friend cringes away from her and her mother and step father refuse to let her head to the House of Night, choosing instead to activate a prayer tree and call a psychiatrist. Zoey goes to the one person who always supports her, her grandmother, and while there she is overcome by fits of coughing. If a person is marked and fails to show up at the House of Night in a timely fashion, they will die. She falls and hits her head on a rock and meets up in her mind with the Goddess Nyx, Goddess of Night and goddess of the vampyres. Nyx tells her that she is special and that she has a great and important future ahead of her. Upon awakening, Zoey finds herself at the House of Night; her grandmother had taken her when she found her marked. Since she met with Nyx, though, Zoey’s mark has changed. Her mark is now filled in like a full-fledged vampyre’s instead of open like a fledgling.

This is where the Harry Potter comparison comes in; the House of Night is a school for fledgling vampyres. They go for 4 years and during that time learn about how to be a vampyre; for being marked does not necessarily mean one will achieve full vampyre status. Some of them reject the change and die; just not cut out for the life.

Zoey’s mark catches the eye of the High Priestess, Neferet, and she decides to become her mentor. Zoey has an inner voice, Nyx’s, warn her not to let anybody know what happened and why her mark is different from the other students. Zoey is taken to her dorm where she meets Stevie Ray, her roommate who quickly becomes her best friend. Through her, Zoey is introduced to Damian, Erin and Shaunee and they all become tight. Zoey quickly runs afoul of the queen of the school though, Aphrodite, leader of the Dark Daughters. Aphrodite is jealous of Zoey’s mark, her closeness with Neferet and her attraction to Erik Knight, Aphrodite’s ex.

Zoey decides that Aphrodite and her crew need to be taken down a peg and she and her new friends set out to do it. The majority of the rest of the book is about Zoey discovering and embracing her powers and her destiny as a future High Priestess.

I don’t want to spoil the whole book by giving away the big things, but I will say that there’s an interesting mix of vampyre lore, American Indian beliefs and witchcraft. It’s a fascinating mix that kept me interested. Blood lust for humans, the calling of the elements, purifying the soul; all of them come in to play. But that was not the only thing that I found appealing. The main theme running through all 5 books thus far seems to be one of acceptance. Zoey hates being different from the other fledglings but she finds people who genuinely like her for her, not for her potential power. Damian is gay. Erin and Shaunee are such best friends that they’re referred to as The Twins, despite the fact that one is black and one is white. For books written for the young adult genre, I think that’s a wonderful message to spread. I highly recommend the series for that alone. Plus it’s an easy read with some likable characters and a good storyline. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz

Harry Lyon is an officer for the Multi-Agency Law Enforcement Special Projects Center in the city of Laguna Niguel, California (in other words he's a police detective handling difficult cases, like serial killers and gang violence). He is compulsively neat, overly organized, always follows every run and regulation to the letter and has never been late to work a day in his life. His partner, Connie Gulliver, is the opposite, she's lives her life minute to minute, she's disorganized, leaves messes to be cleaned up, has piles of papers all over her half of the office they share, and is often late for work. The two could not be more different, but they're about to go through an experience that will bond them forever.

It's a typical California day and Connie and Harry are having lunch at a restaurant when a man with a gun enters and begins shooting. The event in it's self is not unheard of in the line of duty, but a vagrant Harry encounters after the shooting says something strange to him. "Ticktock Ticktock, you'll be dead in sixteen hours" the vagrant says, and repeats "Dead by dawn". Harry is confused but thinks nothing of it, until other strange events begin to make Harry question his own sanity.

Spoilers Ahead:
If you're a Dean Koontz fan you'll recognize some of the themes in this book, small group of people bond why trying to overcome unimaginable evil, with an abundance of description and detail of there trials and tribulations. These themes have obviously worked well for Koontz, you can't enter a grocery store of even a gas station without finding at least one of his novels for sale (he has more the 100 of them), but this time the description and tedious detail proves to be too much. The book is a bit slow and it's sometimes hard to stay engaged with the switching back and forth between the different characters.That's not to say that the book is not entertaining, it is. There are some great scenes in which the evil entity stalks and toys with Harry and company.
Another common theme in Dean Koontz books is a helpful and lovable dog (usually a lab, this time a medium sized mut), I really love dogs so I always welcome the help of "man's best friend", but it becomes a little bit redundant as well.
After the long descriptions and the switching of narratives and story lines, the reader really wants a big show down at the end, what we get instead just seems to fall short.

Bottom line: The book is decent, if you're a fan of Dean Koontz it's worth a try, if not, there are certainly other books out there (and certainly some by Dean Koontz) that are more worth your time.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

This is the first book in Charlaine Harris' "Southern Vampire Mysteries", which inspires the television show "True Blood". The book begins the tale of a fictional small Louisiana town called "Bon Temps", a town in a world where not only do vampires exist, they don't live in secret. Upon the Japanese developing a synthetic blood for medical purposes, the vampires "came out of the coffin" as they say, and began to integrate into mainstream society. Humans react in very different ways to the realization that a stronger, faster, and more attractive race of beings have shared their place at the "top of the food chain almost as long as humans have existed. One human who can't wait to meet a vampire is small town waitress Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie is anything but average, and she understands a thing or two about being different from the "norm". Sookie is telepathic, that is, she can read the minds of others. While it sounds like an interesting and useful ability, the reality of the constant noise of the human mind is an exhausting reality for Sookie. This "talent" makes her first encounter with a vampire all the more alluring, for the first time she meets Vampire Bill, Sookie hears the one thing she's always wanted to hear from the minds of her companions, silence.
Romance, humor, suspense, and lots of Southern charm, if you like vampires and supernatural beings, I highly recommend "Dead Until Dark".

Spoilers ahead!
If you've not read this book, do not read the second part of this article!
The casual way Harris brings the reader in after all the "logistics" of the vampire realization makes the story move quickly and avoids the slow start many books have while the author gets the reader acquainted with the situation and characters.
The main character and narrator of this story, Sookie, is not the sharpest tool in the tray and she doesn't always make the right decisions or say the right things, but she's funny and charming therefore gets away with theses faults, plus it makes her seem more relatable.
The romance between Sookie and Vampire Bill is a big part of this story, and Harris tries hard to make the reader root for this love match. Vampire Bill is Sookie's first boyfriend, her first love, her first sexual relationship. She falls head over heals for him like a teenager. The problem is that there really doesn't seem to be anything interesting about Vampire Bill. Sure, he saves her from being killed by a drug dealing, vampire killing, couple (after she saves him, I might add). He makes her feel safe and protected, he devotes all his time and energy to her, much like "Twilight's" Edward. This would all seem far more intriguing and romantic if Harris could manage to make us care about Bill. The real saving grace is the world that Harris creates and the other characters that live there, from Sookie's shapeshifting boss Sam, to her dumb but beautiful older brother Jason, to the mysterious vampire sheriff and bar owner Eric.

Bottom line: This book is good and a good start to the series, but the best reason to read "Dead Until Dark" is to get to the later books!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


Please post your suggestions for book reviews in the comment section. We will do our best to read them and review them. Just make sure the books have a supernatural element! Thanks!