Thursday, 2 December 2010

Black Magic Woman by Justin Gustainis

This is the second "official" book the real "Supernatural Book Club" has read.
Plot Summery (from the back of the book):"Occult investigator Quincey Morris and his partner, white witch Libby Chastain, are called in to help free a desperate family from a deadly curse that appears to date back to the Salem Witch Trials. To release the family from danger they must find the root of the curse, a black witch with a terrible grudge that holds the family in her power.

The pursuit takes them to the mysterious underworlds of Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York, stalking a prey that is determined to stay hidden. After surviving a series of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself—the very heart of darkness."

When I read the title of this book I had my doubts, several of us did. "Black Magic Woman"? That's a pretty poor title for the book, and that picture on the front? After reading the book we still couldn't figure out who that was supposed to be. The title and picture did not accurately portray what the book was about, BUT thankfully we were able to get past that. The one thing that gave me hope that the book might not be so bad was the endorsement on the front by Jim Butcher, and reading int eh acknowledgments section that Gustainis aspires to write books like Butcher's. Having read many of Butcher's books I'd say that this book is in a definitely similar style to Butcher's "The Dresden Files". And Mr. Gustainis is well on his way to his goal.

The general consensus of the book club is that "Black Magic Woman" was more enjoyable then the last book we read ("Undead and Unwed"), but really that isn't saying much. It offered mystery, intrigue, supernatural beings, all the things we love. There are also several different plot lines seen from the perspectives of several different characters in different settings. All the different plot lines are connected and tie together at the end. I think this element was what we all seemed to like best about the book, it was more complex in that regard then some of the books we've read before. The one thing missing was romance, this book is really a supernatural detective novel. Not having romance wasn't a bad thing, but if that's what you're looking for, you might be disappointed.

Bottom line: An entertaining read, plenty of action and adventure. I would recommend it for fans of Jim Butcher and The Dresden Files.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Undead and Unwed By MaryJanice Davidson

This is the first book the real-life "Supernatural Book Club" decided to read.
Summery (from the back cover)
"It's been a hell of a week for Betsy Taylor. First she loses her job. Then she's killed in a freak accident only to wake up in a morgue to discover she's a vampire. On the plus side, being undead sure beats the alternative. She now has superhuman strength and an unnatural effect on the opposite sex. But what Betsy can't handle is her new liquid diet...And whilst her mother and best-friend are just relieved to find out that being dead doesn't mean Betsy's can't visit, her new 'night-time' friends have the ridiculous idea that Betsy is the prophesied vampire queen. The scrumptious Sinclair and his cohorts want her help in overthrowing the most obnoxious power-hungry vampire in five centuries. (A Bella Lugosi wannabe who's seen one to many B-movies.) Frankly Betsy couldn't care less about vamp politics. But Sinclair and his followers have a powerful weapon in their arsenal - unlimited access to Manolo Blahnik's Spring collection. Well, just because a girl's dead - er undead - doesn't mean she can't have great shoes... "

We had some slightly varying opinions, but for the most part we found the book to be silly, humorous, and utterly ridiculous. All of theses things the author intended. What she likely did not intent was the unrelatable, shallow, petty nature of the main character Betsy, as well as the plot holes and inconsistent storyline. The book club spend more than an hour going over the inconsistencies and trying to find answers, sadly their were none. Even the way "Betsy" becomes a vampire is unbelievable and difficult to comprehend, and don't even get me started on the "feeding" and the inconsistencies (and weirdly graphic scenes) regarding that... A couple of us were able to see the story on a more surface level and enjoy the book despite this fact.

Bottom line: It's meant to be ridiculous and fun. Unfortunately the inconsistencies in the plot and the vapid nature of the protagonist rained on the parade. Because of this we decided it wasn't worth reading the rest of the books in the series. There are many other "fun" reads out there, skip this one.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy is the first book in the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead.

Summery: Rose Hathaway is a dhampir, half human/half vampire and guardian of the Moroi, a race of peaceful and magical mortal vampires who can walk in the daylight, survive by feeding off willing blood donors, grow old and die. Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess, and Rose's best friend, the Moroi Rose hopes to be assigned guardian of after their graduation from St. Vladamir's Academy. There are another race of vampires out there, the Strigoi, who are undead, created, not born. They are evil, feeding on the innocent to survive. They hunt the Moroi, looking to kill or convert them. It is the Strigoi that the dhampirs guard the Moroi from.

Rose and Lissa have been on the run for 2 years when the book begins, hiding out from the Strigoi in the "real world", away from the supposed safety and structure of the Academy. Now they've been captured by the dhampir guardians and brought back to school. Gossip, peer pressure and forbidden romance are waiting for them upon their return. More than that, Lissa has secret powers that are growing and becoming difficult for her to control and for her and Rose to keep secret.

I enjoyed this book. It was interesting, entertaining and intriguing. The main character, Rose is unpredictable and kept me guessing as to what she'd do next. She is irrational and emotional, as you'd expect a 17 year old girl to be. I found this authentic and compelling. Rose very much reminded me of "Anita Blake", which is a good thing, since I really like Anita. Though Rose's decisions often frustrated me, I found myself really wanting hoping for her happiness and feeling her emotions with her.

Spoilers Ahead:
The one element of this book I didn't care so much for was the relationship Rose has with her best friend and Moroi charge, Lissa. It really almost bordered on lesbian. Rose is really jealous, in an unnatural way, of Lissa's relationship with Christian (speaking of Christian, why is it that Lissa saving Rose from death gave her a psychic bond, but Lissa saving Christian did not do the same with him?). She seems to love Lissa too much. The other thing I dislike about it is that Lissa is sort of a weak baby. She'd fragile and shy and soft spoken, and well, weak. Which is the opposite of Rose. I found myself wondering how much stronger Rose would be without Lissa weighing her down. On the plus side, Rose's relationship with her mentor, and possible love interest Dimitri was complex and intriguing.

Bottom Line: I'd give this book a B (for a YA novel). A great start to a series. Intriguing, really made me want to see what was going to happen next. An entertaining book for older teens, as well as adults.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Dead is the New Black by Marlene Perez

This is the first book in Marlene Perez's "Dead is..." series.

In my never ending quest to find another engaging teen series like "Twilight" I found this book while shopping at Target last year. I liked the bright colored cover, and the description on the back sounded a little different, and like it could be cute, so why not, right? Read on the see exactly "why not".

I'm not sure if Marlene Perez is herself a teenager, or if she simply is not giving them, as her intended audience, enough credit, but this book is written as if the audience is stupid. There are "hints" to upcoming plot points and by "hints" I mean all but saying the exact words. I will give you an example. We are introduced to a man who is described as having hair the color of a dog the main character once had and eyes like a wolf, but "oh, it's probably nothing", until a chapter or two later it's revealed that he's a werewolf. Big shock. The book is FULL of these "twists and turns" and no one is shocked.

In addition to being very predictable, the book also lacks description and detail. Characters minds are changed with little to no discussion and the plot is rushed along. Not that the plot is that deep anyway, but it would have been nice to understand why the main character went from not liking cheerleading to wanting to be the "best cheerleader ever" in one paragraph.

I know people complain about Stephenie Meyer being a "bad writer", but she's hardly the worst and they all can't be Tolkien or even Stephen King. Perez is in a different league then even Meyer.

Bottom line: Much like the Morganville Vampire Series this series is very "vanilla". It's not violent, or sexual. It would be approved for jr. high age teens. Adults would likely find the writing terrible and the plot lacking. I give the book a C-, not the worst I've read, but far from being good.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Preacher: Gone to Texas By Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

"Preacher" is a series of comic books, and graphic novels, this is a review for the first graphic novel and comics 1-7, "Gone to Texas". "Preacher" is known for being offensive, extremely violent, and sacrilegious. I can see this as being a valid argument, but really if we spend all our time being outraged and offended, we miss a lot of good stuff. It's fiction, if we take it as such and not a direct attack on God Himself or on the Christian faith, we'll all enjoy a fun ride.

Reverend Jesse Custer has lost his faith and his congregation (in a hail of blinding light and flames), now he's on a search for God Himself. The reason? After the "incident" at his church Jesse becomes aware that he has been given the power to deliver commands that no one can resist. Armed with these new found attributes, he sets out on a quest to find God who is missing from heaven.

Joining Jesse on his quest are Tulip, Jesse's jilted ex girlfriend. Tulip is street smart and carries a 45 mm in her hand bag. Once she sees Jesse she is hell bent on finding out why he left her years ago. And Cassidy, a beer chugging drifter who is impervious to bullets and sleeps all day.

The three set out to find God and the reason behind Jesse's new found abilities. Along the way they meet the truly sick and depraved, both human and not so human...

Bottom line: If you like graphic novels and horror, you'll like this. It's got a little bit of everything, from demons and angels, to decapitations and severed limbs. I thought it was a fantastically good time.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The Laughing Corpse by Laurell K. Hamilton

This is the second book in Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series. This book begins very soon after Guilty Pleasures ended, and like it's predecessor, this book begins with Anita talking to a perspective client. This time the client is a wheel chair bound billionaire named Harold Gaynor. Harold would like to hire Anita (who is a professional animator) to raise a 300 year old corpse, a task that Mr. Gaynor will pay a million dollars for, and that requires a human sacrifice. Anita refuses the offer, she doesn't do human sacrifice, no matter how good the money is.

Shortly after her meeting Anita receives a call from the police, there has been a murder, they need her supernatural expertise. She visits the murder scene, and it appears as if the murders were perpetrated by a zombie, and a zombie must have a master. Anita believes there are only two local people powerful enough to raise and command a flesh-eating zombie - herself and vaundun priestess Dominga Salvador...

This book like so many others is across several genres, it's part detective fiction, part fantasy (um, there are zombies, crazy zombies), and part horror. But really this book is mostly horror. It's graphically violent. From the descriptions of violent death to the decomposing zombie flesh, it's not for those with a weak stomach. That being said, I did enjoy the story and the action and there was plenty of both. With lots of suspense and twists and turns I found this book easy to read and tough to put down. Hamilton continues to make Anita a character we want to root for and fight along side.

Bottom line: If you like horror and detective fiction, you'd like this book. Just don't read it while eating.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

This is the first book in Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series. "Guilty Pleasures" is the name of a vampire strip club operated by Jean-Claude, a vampire the protagonist, Anita Blake becomes involved with.

Anita Blake is a 24 year old single woman living in St. Louis, Missouri. In Anita's world vampires, shape shifters, werewolves, ghouls, and even zombies are not only a reality, but known to the public. Anita is an "animator," which means she has the power to raise the dead. Why would someone do this? Many reasons, but Anita is usually hired to settle disputes, solve murders, give families closure. When not at her "day job" (which takes place mainly at night), Anita works as a "vampire executioner," killing vampires by order of the courts and advising the police on any crime with a supernatural twist.

In "Guilty Pleasures", Anita is blackmailed by the master vampire of St. Louis into investigating a series of vampire murders. During the course of this investigation, Anita begins a strange relationship with Jean-Claude (worst name EVER, I could not take him seriously), another master vampire, in order to save her life, but gaining two "marks", which push her close to being Jean-Claude's "human servant." This part of the book was sort of rushed to me and I was not entirely sure why these "marks" had to happen, it seemed as if I'd learn more about it in later books. It was also unclear as to why Jean-Claude would make what was obviously SUCH a big sacrifice for Anita. It seems to sort of just be something that happens and we move on. Luckily the story was engaging enough that this was not that difficult.

This book took a little bit of getting used to for me. Anita is a bit harsh and initially less relatable then other literary female protagonists I have read about. Once I got used to her personality though I felt that I could understand her decisions and while they might not be something I could do, I was able to equate them to her character and she became more real to me. And honestly that was the one thing that stood out for me about this book, how realistic it was. Now, let me better explain. What I mean is that despite a pretty far fetched story and some frankly ludicrous situations, Anita keeps the reader grounded in reality. This realism might be in stark contrast to the situations happening, what whatever it is, it works. I found this book very enjoyable.

Bottom Line: A good story with A LOT of supernatural goings-on. If you can get into a world where zombies and shape shifter and vampires are common place, then you'd probably enjoy this story.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The Historian By Elizabeth Kostova

A review thanks to special guest blogger Rameau:

When a young girl finds a book embroidered with a picture of a dragon and a letter beginning with the words "My Dear and Unfortunate Successor" in her fathers library, she's unaware of the Pandora's box she's opened. She has stumbled on a legacy of evil, an obsession, which is handed down to selected few in each generation. It's a mystery that intrigues the historian within her and leads her on a journey following the footsteps of her parents. That journey starts with a story the girl's father tells her about the disappearance of Professor Rossi, about the expedition to find him together with Helen and about the terrifying figure behind it all: Dracula.

In "The Historian" there are several timelines told concurrently, each revealing a little more of the truth buried under the weight of the history. It's a great way to keep the reader guessing what will happen next, but it's also confusing and prevents any true character development. The history itself is the main point. The girl, her father, Professor Rossi and others are just empty templates for the reader to insert real people into and ask the question: "What if this happened to me?"

The book is also long for a condensed edition, but the short chapters make it easy to read the story gradually. This is also its weakness. If the reader isn't used to dry and factual text, they can feel tempted to abandon the story before it really starts. The slow introduction and the careful layering are essential to the culmination of the plot. When the author finally presents her first description of Dracula instead of a litany of facts, it's shockingly realistic.

Bottom line: If you like facts and history, and if you would like to read about vampires without overly sexual plots, this is the book for you. Just don't pick up any old books with dragon pictures in them.