Showing posts with label vampire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vampire. Show all posts

Friday, May 4, 2018

My Pretty Vampire by Katie Skelly

Rating: WARTY!

This was a waste of my time. There is no story here, just female nudity and random bloodletting. The inexplicably named Clover isn't in such. She's a vampire who demands blood. Her brother kept her confined for several years in order to protect her and humanity both, but Clover is hardly the sharpest canine in the dentition.

She breaks out and seeks fresh human blood. No excuse is given for why she simply doesn't drink her brother dry. She clearly has no morals, yet for reasons unknown, she leaves the man who has imprisoned her for years, untouched, and picks-off assorted, random innocent people she encounters. She's too stupid to know she must get out of the sunlight until she starts broiling herself. She's not remotely likable, and the ending makes no sense at all mostly because it's not really an ending in any meaningful sense. Story? What story? Art? What art? At least it was short.

Comic book writer Jaime Hernandez recommends this. I have no idea who he is so you'll have to remind me never to read anything by him if he thinks this is so great. He either hasn't read it and therefore is completely clueless, or he's just completely clueless. I don't get why idiot publishers think a recommendation by a writer most people have never heard of somehow carries any weight. I honestly do not give a damn what other writers think, even if they're writers I like. I want to make up my own mind, and I did. I certainly cannot recommend this waste of time.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The First Taste is Free Pixie Chicks - Tales of a Lesbian Vampire by Zephyr Indigo

Rating: WORTHY!

Not to be confused with The Pixie Chicks by Regan Black, or with the Pixie Chicks' Writers Group, this story was so whimsical (and very short, but it's free - as an introductory overture) that I was lured into reading it and in the end, it was not a bad temptation at all. I'd be interested in reading more, but the story is an episodic one, and there are ten episodes, which means you'll end up paying nine dollars for the whole book. Is it worth that?

Only you can answer that question, but consider that there is no page count offered for these 'episodes', only a file size, which is a cautionary omission! This one (excellently titled 'The First Taste is Free!) is 174K. The next one is only 211K so that means it's hardly longer than the free book - maybe 25 - 30 pages max, depending on font size. So all ten can't me more than two hundred to two-fifty or so pages. For nine dollars it had better be good for as slim a volume as that would be.

Mega-vendors like Amazon have forced authors into this world though, so it's what we as both writers and consumers have to deal with. Will it work? Does it pay? I guess we'll find out! At least with this method, the author gives you the option of buying bite-sized pieces and you can quit any time, so you don't find you've laid out the full price for a novel that you can't stand to read past page twenty! Frankly, I'm wondering if I should try that with one of my novels. I had this weird idea for a humorous story just a couple of days ago, and I'm wondering if it might be worth experimenting with this technique: write it as a short set of episodes for ninety-nine cents each. It's worth a try, but I would never run it to ten volumes of twenty pages each, so you can relax on that score!

I'm not familiar with the author at all, but I seriously doubt that Zephyr Indigo is a real name. I also have my doubts that the author is even female. It's a sound marketing ploy to have a female front for this kind of story, but I feel like it's probably a guy; however, I do not know, so I could be completely wrong on both scores. I often am!

That said, and though I was skeptical about this story, it did win me over, so there is something there. You;'re quite free to disagree of course, but for me, I thought it was pretty darned good for this genre. The story was fresh and different, and though the sex is rather perfunctory, which may displease many female readers, it really did feel like it counted as erotica. It's about a lesbian vampire. Much of what is termed erotica these days is nothing more than smut, but this wasn't like that. I know it sounds cheesy, but the erotic bits are decently if somewhat clinically done and the story that links them is actually an interesting one.

The vampire is sick with herself and looking for a cure or for the vampire hunters to find her and finish her, but she meets this pixie one night, alone in the forest, which is a dangerous place to be when vampires are loose. The vamp of course get the hots for her, but the pixie, who goes by the amusing name of mint (but who may as well have been called catnip) will only give in to her desires if the vampire meets with Ariel, the pixie goddess. Ariel has a mission for the vampire - to work with the pixies in finding a cure for vampirism.

For me it made for an interesting story, even though it was only some twenty pages. I am sure this is what the author wants, to lure readers in, but you can't blame him or her for that in this ebook world we've created for ourselves, and this is a good lure. Maybe I'll be lured into reading more. We'll see.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Vampire Academy Graphic Novel by Leigh Dragoon, Emma Viecelli

Rating: WORTHY!

For a graphic novel created by two female writers/illustrators, I found this to be rather more sexualized than it ought, particularly regarding main character Rose. Emma Viecelli's artwork aside though (and the art wasn't bad at all in general terms), the adaptation by the curiously-named Leigh Dragoon was faithful to Richelle Mead's original, and overall, the story was told well. As usual I could have done without the ridiculous and pathetic "romance" between Rose and the academy's pet gorilla, but other than that, I liked this adaptation and I recommend it for anyone who likes the original or who is interested in getting up to speed on the story without reading the original, which I reviewed back in May, 2014.

There was one bit of unintentional amusement, which is when Rose has one of her trips into Lissa's brain. The illustration clearly shows Lissa from a third party perspective, climbing up through the trapdoor into the attic where she meets Ozera, but the text confidently states: "And there I am seeing the world through Lissa's eyes." No, you don't see the world through Lissa's eyes looking directly at Lissa, unless she's in front of a mirror! Sometimes I wish writers were a little more intelligent than this - or artists, whoever is at fault here, but they're no worse than movie or TV depictions of such things which are routinely in third person perspective and which look utterly ridiculous because of it.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Night Owls by Lauren M Roy

Rating: WORTHY!

The vampire bookseller! Yes, that was what lured me in! I picked this up on spec from the local library (bless their little cotton pages!). Books are just like relationships, and if you've been bit as many times as I have by book blurbs, you tend to get book-shy, especially if it's a book in a genre that you're not given to reading. In my case, I am not a fan of vampire stories, but once in a while one comes along which shakes things up enough to keep it interesting. This was such a novel.

This is clearly intended to be the start of a series, and I am not inclined to follow series because they are way too repetitive and uninventive. They're a really lazy way of writing novels, and I have little time for them, with few exceptions, so this will be the only one of this series that I read.

The basic premise is that there are two factions on the side of good. One is Valerie McTeague, the bookseller, and the other is Elly Garret, who has been trained by a member of an order which destroys vampires. To make it really interesting, there are tow kinds of vampire,s and this come right out of Vampire Academy. I liked the first couple of novels, and I loved the movie, but I went off the series pretty quickly because Le Stupide was strong with that one. So Elly is really Rose, but there is no Lissa.

There are strigoi and moroi here, but the bad guys are called 'jackals' or 'creeps' - and at least they have some motivation for their behavior here, although how the two groups a differentiated into each class of vampire is a mystery. They are, and we're expected to accept it on faith. One group is suave, sophisticated and trope vampire, the other is stinky, primitive, savage, and low-life. It's really just class warfare, royalty v. peons. Differentiation between good and bad vampires is nonsensical to me, and represents nothing more than a ridiculous modern trope added to vampire lore for the benefit of undiscriminating teen readers.

Trope runs rife through this story: vampires live in hives and are allergic to holy water, can't cross hallowed ground, can't come out in daylight, are allergic to silver, allergic to holy water, and can be killed with a wooden stake - but it has to be Rowan wood! Why, I have no idea. None of this lore makes any sense to me (and isn't explained here) so any attempts to put vampires on a pseudo-scientific basis by talking of virally-transmitted disease and what-not, is bullshit. Vampires are cold (yet move superfast?!), they have no heartbeat, no blood circulation, so how does their body receive nutrition from the blood they drink? By magic! That's the only "explanation" so as far as I'm concerned, paranormal writers can shove their bullshit science! It makes no sense, so don't insult me by trying to make it make sense. Just tell the freaking story!

This author does bring in one or two new items (at least new to me, maybe these are ripped off from elsewhere, too. I can't say), such as a magical element, whereby "runes" are used as wards against vampire incursion, but they're pretty useless since they really don't hold the vampires back. The driver in this story is that there's a magical book which the bad vamps want, and which has fallen into the possession of the good guys. Why this book is not immediately destroyed is the biggest plot hole in the entire novel. It is of no value in fighting the vamps, so there's absolutely no reason whatsoever for keeping it around, Burn the book and everything that follows, including death and destruction, will never happen. Obviously this is why the book isn't burned (there would have been no novel otherwise!), but it made no sense and was a huge disbelief inducement! If you're going to do this, please find a reason why it cannot be destroyed, don't just let this hang out unquestioned, and unexplained!

That said, I liked many of the characters in the novel, especially Val and Elly, who I thought might become an item, but who did not. I liked that the story moved fast and there wasn't any vampire worship going on. I liked that Val wasn't a thousand years old and absurdly falling for some teen-aged guy. She wasn't and she didn't. There was no dumb-ass romance here, for which I was ludicrously grateful. I liked the two succubi (yeah, it's that kind of kitchen sink story). A novel about them might be worth reading, but this is about this novel, and was it worthy of my time? Overall, and despite the issues, yes to me it was and on that basis I recommend it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Crossroads by Sophie Slade

Rating: WARTY!

I picked up this book as an advance review copy from Net Galley. I'm not a fan of vampire stories, werewolf stories, or paranormal romances, but I've read one or two, and this one promised to be different in that the vampire was married to a human female (at least he was after the first few screens), and contemplating reverting to human if only his wife's concoction could be perfected. I should have known better than to trust a blurb! It's hard to believe that a series like this which depends upon the vampire character would actually cure him anyway. Now that would be a story, but I'm guessing, sadly, that it's not the plan for this series.

This was volume two in a series (and it has a prologue! wasn't volume one the prologue?!), and I have not read volume one, so it's possible that I was missing something from that, but having read ten percent of this, which was more than I honestly wanted to, I don't believe I've missed anything at all! Lance and Leila have a half-human, half-vampire child, and they get married in the beginning of this novel. Lance is the leader of one of the vampire clans in England, and ridiculously rich in addition to being, as Derek Zoolander might put it, really, really, ridiculously good looking. His wife was voluptuous and beautiful, because there cannot be ordinary, everyday people in these novels.

So much for hoping that this novel would eschew trope and venture onto new ground. Every single vampire trope save one was here. It was the typical centuries old vampire falling in love with the mortal human, which doesn't work and is frankly disgusting. It's the old vampires and werewolves don't get along trope. It's the old vampires are ageless and beautiful, which is tedious, trope. It's the old vampires are organized in hierarchies with leaders or queens or whatever, and the country is divided into organized territories, which is a tired cliché. It's the old vampires are inexplicably rich story. There was absolutely nothing that was original. There was nothing to set any atmosphere, and there wasn't a single piece of descriptive prose worth the name, not in the part I read. It was all talk and movement.

The one exception I mentioned was that despite all this vampire trope, they seem to have no trouble going to Aruba for their honeymoon, and being out in the bright sunlight. If you're using all the other tropes, why not that one? Who knows? The most serious problem as that if you removed the paranormal element, this same story could have been told about a rich businessman and his trophy wife. There was nothing her that really required vampires and werewolves. The guy could have simply had an ordinary illness. The entire Harlequin romance catalog could have one of the characters be a vampire, with nothing else changed, and republished! What would that give us? Nothing we didn't have before!

The novel is supposed to lean towards the erotic, but there was nothing erotic to be found here. Not that I find vampires erotic at all, but the love-making here was full of cliché and frankly, was boring. The funny thing is that at one point we're told that the sun was starting to set. The couple had sex three times, and then decided to sleep all afternoon. Wait, wasn't the afternoon already gone if the sun was setting?! Maybe the sex was so great that it turned back time? Wouldn't it be great to have sex like that?!

Part of eroticism is playing-out the love-making, making it last, teasing, slyly stimulating, being a playful bit mean by withholding and denying from time to time. There's an old joke that erotic is using a feather; kinky is using the whole chicken, but there was neither here. This sex chickened out. It was much more of the 'slam-bam thank you ma'am' style: an urgent drive to orgasm, avoiding the scenic route like the plague,, and offering no rest stops to appreciate the journey or the view along the way.

It really was just a determined rush to orgasm, and the saddest thing was that there was no love-making after the orgasm either. Here I mean love-making in the old-fashioned sense where endearments and warm touches are exchanged. There was no pillow-talk, no nuzzling, no gentle hands on the back or the hips, or wherever. There was no hugging, snuggling, or holding, no sweet teasing as an invitation to a future encounter. It was like these two couldn't wait to get out of bed, or to fall asleep. This betrayed all of the 'lovey-dovey' talk they spouted so tediously endlessly at each other the rest of the time.

I was actually glad that they slept, because if I'd had to read about Leila arching her back once more, or reading of her saying that she was "more than okay" one more time after having sex, I would have to arch my back and throw up before I was more than okay. Here's an example of the prose:

"More than okay," she said, grinning. "Here," I sad, biting into my wrist. A moment later, red crimson blood dripped from the wound. "Drink this," I gently cooed, knowing that I needed to heal her.
This is part of the problem. No, not the red crimson blood(!), nor the cooing, but the fact that Lance effectively owned Leila. She's "Mrs Lance Steel" (Lance Steel, really?! It sounds like the pseudonym of a porn actor!), and he's always putting his arm around her "protectively". He's hovering over her and worrying about her like she's his child, not his wife, and it was creepy. It was creepy how obsessively they were "in love" which actually felt fake in the extreme. There was creepily obsessive parenting, and it was creepy when they'd just become married and he kissed 'the bride' like so: "my tongue danced with hers before our family and friends." Seriously? In front of the guests they're tongue kissing?

The objectification of 'the bride' - especially given that this is a female author - was as sad as it was disturbing. I read phrases like "Leila was beyond beautiful in a white, spaghetti strapped wedding gown that accented her curves in all the right places," way too often. Nothing about her mind was said, like all she had to offer was this body and once that was gone, what use would she be to any man? This is upsetting. At least it was until I found myself contemplating how "her curves" could ever be accented in all the wrong places and managed a smile at last.

These two flew off on their honeymoon in Lance's private jet, but while it had sufficient range to fly them to Miami, it didn't have the range to get them just 200 miles further directly to Aruba? That was curious, but a minor issue. I think I really got to a point where I wanted to throw the book a the wall when Leila microwaved a bag of blood and stuck a straw in it to feed their child. Smart moms don't even heat breast milk in a microwave. The nutritional value of the blood would be destroyed if it was microwaved, but then since we get no vampire lore related here, perhaps not. Who knows?

That said, the thought of this happy, happy, joy, joy family sitting around with the kid sucking blood through a straw from a microwaved bag, and the husband hungrily gulping down his own blood bag, while the doting wife sits beaming at them both was simply too hilarious to take seriously. I had hoped, as I said, for something different, but all I got was more of the same tired ideas that have been staked to death long ago. There was nothing new here and nothing worth my time.

I had hoped to make it to at least 25%, but like a bag-o-blood, I honestly could not stomach it. The idea of a centuries-old vampire even remotely finding a twenty or thirty year old woman appealing as a partner carries the same creep factor as a ninety year old man marrying a nine year old child. What could they possibly have in common? Why would a normal woman find anything attractive about a man who drinks blood from hospital bags and sucks her blood when they make love, without even asking? Perhaps there's a market for this, but I could not take it seriously. Paranormal stories seem to do really well, but they're not for me when written so un-inventively. I wish the author the best of luck with this, but I can't in good faith recommend it.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Interview With the Vampire Claudia's Story by Ashley Marie Witter

Rating: WORTHY!

I'm not a fan of Anne Rice, nor of vampire stories in general (although I've made one or two exceptions), and I never read Interview With the Vampire, but this story looked appealing. I did see the movie, which was okay, but nothing special for me, so I had a vague idea of what was going to happen. This novel is essentially the same story as Interview..., but it's told in graphic novel format and from the PoV of Claudia, the young girl who is adopted by the two male vampires and who is played by Kirsten Dunst in the movie (the two male vamps are played by Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt). Now there's a dysfunctional family!

This version really digs into the psychology of Claudia, exploring her feelings and fears, and her understandable frustration and disgust with her mind maturing whilst her body remains that of a child. What a horrible fate. What a awful prison in which to be trapped! Doomed from the start because there is no way to win in this scenario, Claudia slowly grows to hate Lestat while perhaps hoping for a life with Louis which, while practical and appropriate from a purely chronological perspective and perhaps even a moral one, can never practically happen. Perhaps if they had lived three hundred years earlier when it was considered normal for children of Claudia's age to be married off? Perhaps if Louis had some spine? There's no happy answer to be had here.

You can feel the claustrophobia creep in from all the ragged edges of their lives. Claudia is strong and forceful - a sharply delineated counterpoint to the weak and vacillating Louis. She's the one who makes things happen and finally rids them of Lestat - or does she? This story does not end well for Claudia and we knew this all along, even if we wanted to hope for a better outcome for a juvenile vampire.

Ashley Marie Witter's story and art work are enjoyable. The art is simple and sepia toned, except for the blood, which makes it quite effective, even shocking at times. The vampire gore is restrained and sparse. I have issues with vampire stories which generally fail their own logic even within their own framework, which makes the stories truly dumb and unappealing to me. I have issues too, with two-hundred-year-old vampires finding anything of interest in a sixteen year old school girl, which is one reason I detest vampire stories in general. This one rather turned the tables on that, though. Instead of having a dirty old man lusting after a virginal juvenile (Edward, I'm looking at you, and don't you dare sparkle at me like that), this one went the opposite way and had a younger, but maturing vampire falling for an older one. I don't know how old Louis was, but the age difference between him and Claudia probably wasn't two hundred years!

There's another issue with vampires, too, which wasn't well handled here. They are eternally youthful, meaning that their cells regenerate. This is part of the canon, so it's fine insofar as it goes, but then in this story, Lestat gets injured and the injury failed to heal. I didn't get the 'logic' behind that. Those issues aside, though, I really enjoyed this retelling and I recommend it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Vampire Academy graphic novel by Richelle Mead

Rating: WORTHY!

I favorably reviewed Vampire Academy (the original novel) back in May of 2014, and I favorably reviewed the movie, too. This is a third strike and you're in review since I liked this graphic novel, too.

I had no interest in the original print book version of this until I learned that some school (or schools) had taken the unprecedented and rather bizarre step of banning this entire series: not this novel per se, but the entire series, including unwritten future volumes! I thought this was so absurd as to be a joke, but then this is what organized religion does to people - it forces them to behave like morons. As for me, I was curious as to what it was that was in this series which had provoked such an extremist reaction. There was nothing to account for it other than religiously inspired stupidity. The first thing kids are going to do when they discover a novel is banned from school is to seek it out and read it!

This graphic novel, adapted by Leigh Dragoon and illustrated by Emma Vieceli, followed the original print book quite closely, but with a few necessary abbreviations, so I'm going to refer you to that review for details. With regard to this one, I enjoyed it. It was a fast read, well illustrated (if a little flatly) and it moved at a cracking pace. I recommend it, especially if you haven't read the novel.

Life Sucks by Jennifer Abel

Rating: WORTHY!

This graphic novel about vampires is hilarious. It deftly removes all the sickly sparkle from the modern genre (a sparkle which was never there in the early vampire stories save for the one written by John Polidori (The Vampyre), inspired on that famous night when Mary Shelley invented Frankenstein). In this story, there wasn't a glimmer of glamour. This one is more like a cross between Dracula and Clerks. The art work by the unlikely named Warren Pleece, and by Gabriel Soria was functional but nothing spectacular by any means. I wonder if this style was chosen precisely because it complemented the dressed-down" text? Who knows?!

The story is of a young man, Dave, who applied for a night shift job at a convenience store. He didn't know the store owner was a vampire, so went happily into the stock room where he was "turned" and became enslaved to his maker. I don't know who first invented that trope, but it is popular in the genre. Now the sort owner can get his employee to do anything he wants him to do for minimum wage and he can't be denied! Great business plan, huh? The sad thing is that from the employee's perspective, nothing has improved - it's all deteriorated. Dave doesn't get women fawning over him as vampires are popularly supposed to do. He still has to work for a living (so-called), and he used to be a vegetarian, so now his diet is appalling to him. He drinks plasma and substitutes, shrinking nauseously from the idea of actually biting someone. Un-life seems hardly worth living until he encounters a charming Goth girl, Rosa, a Latina.

Here's where the novel took a bit of a slide for me, because the only thing he (and his friends) have to say about the girl is that she's beautiful, so here we are once again objectifying women. Rosa is given no other credit. Admittedly the guy is lusting for her from afar and doesn't know her when the novel begins, and admittedly he's not the sharpest tack in the box, but this business of rating women solely on their looks is as primitive as it is obnoxious when you get right down to it. Graphic novels in particular need to get over this. In this case it was bad because Rosa is shown to be rather dumb and precipitous, so maybe they were right, and beauty is all she actually had going for her.

The funny thing here is that Rosa has a rather Twilight take on vampires and sees them as suave, sophisticated, wealthy dilettantes. She's unconvinced when Dave tries to educate her about how un-life actually is. Rosa starts falling for surfer vampire (now there's a concept) Wes, and Dave rails against it, pissing Rosa off, until she finds out for herself how Wes really is. Later, she learns of Dave's true nature. She wants him to turn her, but he won't, because he doesn't want to condemn her to his un-life style.

The ending is crappy, but it's worth putting up with that for the rest of the story. I recommend this as a worthy read.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

This totally Bites by Ruth Ames

Rating: WARTY!

This short novel (~180 widely-spaced, large font pages), aimed at middle-graders, amused me greatly from reading the blurb. Reading the actual novel was a slightly different experience. Emma-Rose Paley is a middle-grader who weirdly dreams of red eyes watching her at night. I know authors don't have a darned thing to do with their book covers unless they self-publish (or maybe if it's a young children's story or a graphic novel where they illustrate it themselves), but I have to ask what this girl is dressing for on the cover of this book - not her age, that's for sure, and not to look Goth. Did the illustrator even know how old she was supposed to be? Who knows.

One thing which annoyed me was ER's description of her friend "Gabby" which is a tragic diminutive of the gorgeous full name of Gabrielle Marquez which she sports. Why it's Gabrielle and not Gabriela, I don't know. Gabby is, commendably, a vegetarian (we rarely see those in novels). The problem was that immediately my pleasant surprise arose, it was harshly slapped away. ER tells us that, just as Gabby puts up with ER's burger cravings, she puts up with Gabby's salads. What? The only thing a vegetarian can eat is a salad? I'm sorry but that's an insult and totally inappropriate. It's condescending and abusive, and I see this repeatedly in books which have a vegetarian character. If it's not salad, it's nut cutlets or something equally ridiculous. If the author were making this kind of 'fun' and hurling snide comments at a person because of their skin color or their sexual preference, would it be considered appropriate? Damn straight it wouldn't. So why do we get a bye when it comes to something like food preference?

It doesn't end there. "My BFF can be a bit annoying when she starts gushing about the wonders of bean sprouts" we read. Can we heap the clichés any higher? Yes, we can! "I can get you some tofu to practice on" Gabby says shortly afterwards. There's a difference between an author portraying a character as behaving in a certain way - even in being a bigot and a moron - and the author themselves shamelessly embracing attitudes which are at best ignorant, and at worst, downright insulting. I was not much of a fan of Ruth Ames after this, but I still had to try and read this novel, which wasn't turned out in the dark ages. It was published just five years ago. You would think people would be a little more accepting and enlightened.

When ER's great Aunt Margo visits, ER quickly determines, which unimpeachable evidence, that she's a vampire, and deduces from this that ER herself is also a vampire - or well on her way to becoming one. At least ER isn't dumb and clueless. That helped. Whether she was on the right track, or completely misinterpreting what was going on, remained to be discovered.

Whether she is or not, I'll leave for you to decide if you choose to read this, the first in a series. For me, the story improved after that early problem, and would have been rated a worthy read were it not for those insults. Kids are likely to enjoy it, but for me, I can't recommend it precisely because of the gratuitous condescension towards vegetarians. Yes, it does totally bite.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes

Rating: WORTHY!

This is a first person PoV novel which for me is usually worst person PoV. I don't like the person because it's usually done badly and gets in the way of telling a good story. Here's the author explaining what a poor choice of voice it was, at the start of a later chapter:

** Note: Since I was not present for Krystal's experience after she was taken from my apartment, she has requested to tell this part of the story in her own words, rather than have it relayed. Therefore, the next two chapters will recount a part of the tale I cannot vouch for, as I did not witness it firsthand.**
As it happens, the voice wasn't completely nauseating so obviously this author can write it, although first hand is two words, not one. If in doubt, dash it out: first-hand!

It takes chutzpah to try to hawk a novel which has the words "utterly uninteresting" embedded in the very title. Fred is an accountant. He's lackluster, timid, and was alternately bullied and ignored in high school, yet he elects to attend the ten-year reunion. He's fortunate that it's at night, because as a vampire, he cannot go out in daylight.

Despite enjoying eternal youth, endless longevity, and vampire 'super powers" such as strength and night vision, Fred is still retiring and intimidated by the school jocks and the school hotties. He does take satisfaction in knowing that as they age and wrinkle, and spread around the middle, he will continue to be slim, strong, and youthful. He contemplates a future where he could visit his nemesis in his retirement home just to make fun of him, but quickly decides he should probably just confine himself to dancing on his grave instead.

He doesn't expect to see any of his nerd acquaintances at the reunion - not friends, even, just acquaintances - so he's rather surprised when Krystal sits down beside him at his lonely table. He asks her about her work, and she promptly makes an excuse to go to the bathroom. He doesn't expect to see her again, but when the lights go out in the gym and he discovers the doors are locked, he makes his way up to the commentator's box high in the rafters to hide out, and he's surprised to find her trussed to a table up there.

He's even more surprised when she finally reveals that she works for a secret government agency which keeps paranormals under control, and he's more than disturbed to discover that the school reunion has been targeted by a hungry pack of werewolves.

This is the start of not so much a story, but a series of chronologically-ordered vignettes which are amusing, engrossing, inventive, original and self contained, although linked to one another. It was interesting to me to read this not only because it's original and offers a really interesting alternative take on vampires, but also because I reviewed a book containing a similar arrangement of stories recently. That book was so repetitive and uninventive that it was boring and not a worthy read. This one, even though it used a similar format, was quite the opposite.

That's not to say there were no issues with it. There are nearly always issues! The question is whether the author can offer you enough of a solid story to make the issues relatively unimportant when it comes to overall enjoyment. This author has an interesting way with words, and often that's fine, but in some cases I was wondering what he meant. "...[T]hat was not a burden with which I had been shouldered" is not good phraseology! "That was not a burden I was used to shouldering" would have made more sense.

In another case, I read, "Ah, the crux of vanity." I can see what he means, but shuddered to read it rendered like that. There were other cases where too many words were used. This is a case of using non-words like 'irregardless' when 'regardless' does perfectly fine. In this case, the author wrote: "...formerly abandoned church..." He meant an abandoned church. A formerly abandoned church is one which is now back in service (pun intended!). There was only one out-and-out spelling error that I noticed, which was "damndest", and which is missing an 'e', and one case of using the wrong word: "...which clearing wasn't feeding." I think he meant "which clearly wasn't feeding." One final one was "We tread slowly across the plush red carpet" when the author obviously meant "we trod".

A spell checker would have caught only a couple of these errors. You need a good editor or beta readers to catch the others. It wasn't all bad though, by any means. The writing in general was commendable and I enjoyed reading this. We get an object lesson in how to avoid using 'inch' as a verb, for example: "She pulled it inward inch by inch" (as opposed to "she inched it in" which is what a writer who loves English less than this author does might have fed their readers).

I was nonetheless disturbed to see yet another writer who is evidently convinced that you can't say 'female character' in your novel without qualifying it by adding "beautiful". We got: "I didn't have a lot of experience with beautiful women asking me out..." and "... it had certainly made her beautiful."

This was the main female character who had been some other sort of persona non grata in high school, and who had been evidently over-weight. How she managed to evidently slim down and turn beautiful post-high-school isn't explained, but the explanation I really wanted was why? Why could she not still be the nerd (or whatever she was) from school? Why did she have to be rendered "beautiful" to make her acceptable, thereby loudly instructing all the real girls who had high school experiences like hers, that they're really still losers because they're are not now slim and beautiful? It's an insult to women everywhere regardless of who they are and how they look. I wish writers wouldn't do this so routinely that it's become very nearly a rule.

That complaint aside, I did, as I've indicated, really warm to this story and to the characters. It moved quickly, told interesting and original stories, and was an engrossing read, so I rate it worthy regardless of the issues I've raised, while hooping for better in the next outing with this author!

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Lost Souls Dating Agency by Suneeti Rekhari

Title: The Lost Souls Dating Agency
Author: Suneeti Rekhari
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Rating: WORTHY!

There is a tiny prologue which I skipped as I do all prologues. If the author doesn’t think it worth putting into chapter one or later, I don’t think it’s worth reading. This is also a first person PoV novel which I normally detest because it’s all "Me!" all the time which is irritating at best. Some authors can make it work, but for most authors, it’s best avoided like the plague. This author makes it work. The story is short - only a hundred-fifty pages or so - divided into forty chapters, yet! The text is pretty densely packed, but it's a fast read.

What drew me to this novel was that the author was not another in a long line of US authors who think the US is the only place worth writing about! She's not US at all, but is of Indian descent and is resident in Melbourne, Australia. The main character, Shalini Gupta, is of Indian descent and is resident in Melbourne, Australia.... The novel flits very briefly from India to Dubai, and then on to Melbourne where Shalini now lives, attending college, while her uncle (not really - he adopted her and told her he was her uncle) remains in Dubai; then he goes missing!

My attraction to the novel in this case didn’t fail me. I loved the simple, matter-of-fact way it was written, and the perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek acceptance of the paranormal by Shalini and her two friends Neha and Megan. Not only has Shalini inherited some money from her uncle, she has also inherited a mysterious empty warehouse which actually isn't far from her apartment. The warehouse is old and run-down, but she feels compelled to clean it up. The only thing in there is a weird clock which is immovably attached to one of the walls. And the time is wrong.

As she's trying to figure out what to do with the place, a newspaper begins mysteriously appearing in he building each Saturday. Shalini quickly realizes that this is a supernatural newspaper, and she posts an ad in it advertising the warehouse as a dating agency for supernatural beings! Her first client soon shows up: Victor the cranky vampire. This part was hilarious. In fact the whole Victor thing is really amusing. Get this, for example (and keep in mind that Victor's a vampire):

'Bloody hell, Victor, you scared me! It’s daytime! How are you here?'
'I drove.'

I laughed out loud at that. Note the single quotes which Brit and Aussie novels tend to sport to demarcate speech. They look weird to me, and I grew up in Britain! Anyway, no more spoilers. Shalini takes on three cases, and gets deeper into the supernatural than ever she feels safe doing, but she meets some startling and interesting people along the way.

Be warned that this has a cliffhanger ending - it's obviously the start of a series, and I'm typically not a fan of series, but I'm not averse to reading more of this one!

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Reluctant Vampire by Eric Morecambe

Title: The Reluctant Vampire
Author: Written and illustrated by Eric Morecambe
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: WORTHY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new novel is reward aplenty!

Eric Morecambe died in 1984 at the relatively youthful age of 58 - that's what a lifetime smoking habit will do to you. Paired with Ernie Wise, the twosome formed the most popular pair of entertainers in Britain in the 1970s. Their annual Xmas TV show was always brilliant and hilarious and had a huge following. It held very much the same place that the Doctor Who Xmas specials do now, although even Doctor Who doesn't pull in anywhere near as big an audience as Morecambe and Wise drew.

I got this book thinking it was a graphic novel, paying no attention to the author's name and not even realizing it was by the Eric Morecambe. When I saw the name on the cover, I thought it was maybe his son, or just someone who shared the name. Even wikipedia doesn't mention it, so I was really thrilled that I’d stumbled into a chance to read it.

The story is of a doctor who is called in to cure the son, Valentine, of the ruling vampire of Ketchem, or he will be completely liquidized and sent home in a children's beach bucket. The story has overtones of Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein, as you'll note as soon as you meet Igon, the vampire's assistant, who has only one eye. It's also a bit reminiscent of Spike Milligan's writing. The way it’s written will work for grown-ups or for children.

The castle servant's name is Des O'Connor backwards. Des O'Connor is an English singer and comedian who has pretty much retired now (and earned it!), but who appeared on the Morecambe and Wise show many times. The story begins with the doctor being called to the castle to fix Valentine's attack of the 'vampire vapors', but after a lot of farce, the Doctor learns that Valentine isn’t actually a vampire! Mystery and intrigue - but it all turns out well in the end!

I loved this story because the humor was completely off-the-wall, yet the story still hung together comfortably. There was a plot, and a beginning, a middle, and an end. I laughed a lot and enjoyed reading it. The fact that this story has to be at the very least thirty years old isn't apparent from the writing. It could have been written yesterday. I recommend it, and if you like it, there's a sequel: The Vampire's Revenge.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dresden Files: War Cry graphic novel by Jim Butcher & Mark Powers

Title: Dresden Files: War Cry
Author: Jim Butcher & Mark Powers
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Rating: WARTY!
Pencils by Carlos Gomez
Colors by Mohan
Letters by BillTortolini
Cover by Stjepan Sejic

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is reward aplenty!

I have to say up front that while I am a huge fan of Jim Butcher's Codex Alera hexalogy, I've never been a fan of his Dresden Files series. I've heard bits and pieces of it in the car as my wife listened to it on trips, but it never appealed to me. It’s not that it’s bad writing per se, it’s just that this kind of thing in general doesn’t appeal to me because it's so larded with trope and cliché that it bores the pants off me, and you know the main character is never really going to get into deadly danger because that's the series over.

I decided to give this one a go for two reasons: firstly, because it's often a lot easier for me to like a graphic novel or comic book than it is to like a novel on the same topic, especially when the novel is written in first person PoV. I can't stand 1PoV because it’s all ME! all the time and that just sucks majorly unless it’s very well done, and it rarely is. So the second reason was that this isn't 1PoV.

Unfortunately, I began running into problems on page two where we're told that there's a war being waged between humans and vampires which has been going on for "nigh on a century", which only tells me that we’re losing, and that our side sucks. How this is even a secret war when it’s fought in the streets between a loan swordsman (or a paltry handful of such) and a literal hoard of vampire animals, is a mystery!

What, in "nigh on a century" no one has noticed the clashing of swords, the masses of spilled blood, the snarling vampires, and the damage to property? And if this is the 21st century, why are we still fighting with swords? The vampires are using Sarin gas and we’re fighting with swords? Seriously? No wonder we’re losing. It’s this kind of thing which makes this truly suck for me, so I was really having doubts about this and I was only on page two! I don’t know Mark Powers, but I expect much better writing than this from Jim Butcher.

The next thing that happens is that Dresden's old VW bug car breaks down. This guy is a wizard and he can’t fix a car? So they're walking through the snow in Iowa, and even though we're shown the setting sun, their shadows make it look like it’s about ten am or two pm. At least in Iowa, unlike in the primitive backwater town Palermo, they have automatic weapons, which seem to do the trick, but this just reinforces my point from earlier, and it makes a more powerful one: if this is all it takes, then why isn't the military involved? Why do we need wizards?

Well I figured out why we need the wizards - it’s so we can have someone make really dumb-ass puns while they're out-numbered and being attacked. Seriously? It’s hard enough to make a novel sound realistic when you have fantasy creatures in it as it is. Does it really make it sound more authentic when you have some moron making cheap and lousy wise-cracks while the team is fighting for its life? Not for me it doesn’t.

And what’s with the women all wearing skimpy skirts the size of large belts, with two of them having slits up the thigh (one of which is almost to her hip). Seriously? And of course the males all wear the pants? There is one exception - a female who wears pants, but then she has a saber and cloak, so she's still a fantasy object. I know that comic book graphics are traditionally biased towards objectifying women, but I live in hopes that we can get a measure or two past that in 2014. I guess those hopes are not much of a place to live yet, huh?

And what are they protecting in this house in the middle of Iowa? A shoggoth - a fantasy beast that looks remarkably like a dragon, and which consumes sentient beings. The vamps (who also wise-crack) want to to unleash it and create carnage on Earth - thereby wiping out their own food supply. Yep. These vampires are suicidal. Seriously?

It was at this point that I decided that this comic book was too stupid to live. The one thing I can say in its favor is that the images (which are standard comic book art) use the whole page as opposed to being a tiny image in the middle of a vast white space which would be a sad waste of trees in the print version. That aside, though, I found no redeeming features in this novel. It's not so much Dynamite Entertainment as Squib Scribblings.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dracula by John Green and Bram Stoker

Title: Dracula
Author: John Green (and Bram Stoker!)
Publisher: Dover Publications
Rating: WORTHY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new novel is reward aplenty!

I reviewed the original Dracula back in January, and not favorably. It just wasn't up to scratch, and the audio book version was read appallingly badly, which never helps, of course. However, this is such a storied story that when I got a chance to review a graphic novel version, I flew at it like a bat out of Castle Dracula, and I'm happy to report that I wasn't disappointed this time.

John Green (not that sad-ass John Green fortunately, but a talented and artistic one, wrote this, otherwise I would never have asked to review it!) took the venerable tale and ran with it and did a bloody good job! The illustrations are so finely drawn that the artist may have used incisor teeth as pens....

The story features crisp line drawings that do a really polished job of illustrating the text, which itself is sparse and cuts to the chase - sometimes literally! How the heck he managed to parse that tome down into this essence, or even quintessence, is as mysterious as it is impressive, but it’s all there, and I much prefer this decimated version to the unexpurgated.

The author also has a charming turn of phrase here and there, too. One which particularly stood out for me was where he wrote, "..dark side of twilight…". I thought that was beautifully said. The original Dracula had some notable phrases of this nature, too, but the only one I recall from it was where Van Helsing and his team were about to enter the tomb and slay Lucy Westenra, and one of them courteously offered another the opportunity to go first. The writing said, "There was a delicious irony in the offer, in the courtliness of giving preference on such a ghastly occasion," (Dracula p313) and it was so memorable that I can quote it verbatim to this day.

The only complaint I had about this is one I've had about several graphic novels: the use of the white space on the page. In an ebook, it doesn't matter, but in a print book, we're talking about dead trees here, and how many of them we're going to kill to make a print run, since this isn't going to be printed on recycled paper as far as I can tell. There is a large amount of white space around the margins, which means this graphic novel could have had smaller dimensions and maybe saved a few trees? Maybe there are good reasons for this, but my hope is that writers and graphic novelists will appreciate how important trees are and make best use of the space upon which they purvey their art. OK, pet peeve off!

This graphic novel is really well done, well illustrated, beautifully written, and well worth the reading. Now I have to wonder if John Green (not the sad-sack John Green who trashes indie authors, but the artistic one) is going to grace us with other classics or if this is just a one-off?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

Title: Shadow Kiss
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: WARTY!

In which Richelle Mead does 50 Shades of Grey!

I panned volume three in this series so why, oh why, did I start in on volume 4? I cannot understand this behavior in others, and typically, I do not indulge in it myself. A bad review is the end of a series for me. I don't go looking for the next volume in the hope that it might get better. Life's too short to waste on bad writing; however, in this case, I plead mitigating circumstances.

One of my biggest beefs with the first three volumes was Rose's relationship with Dimitri. I didn't care about the difference in their ages which so many reviewers made so much of, because from a sexual PoV, Rose was legally an adult in Montana so: no issue, get your heads out of your asses clueless reviewers.

That said, the real problem was two-fold. First there was the very serious issue that Dimitri was the authority figure in Rose's life. He was her teacher, which is what made their relationship completely inappropriate. Dimitri should have been fired for his misconduct. The second problem was that the relationship simply did not work. There was absolutely no basis for it whatsoever, so to continue this patent fiction that there was this irresistible bond between them was ridiculous in the extreme, and I was thrilled to see it busted.

Herein we have the reason why I came back: Dimitri was gone (as a potential partner at least), and I thought perhaps things would improve, and I'd like the stories better now that he was out of the picture. Unfortunately, Rose still couldn't let him go. She had this completely stupid 'moral obligation' to stake him and 'rescue' him from that 'life'.

This, in itself, is also unmitigated bullshit, given what we've been told about strigoi. He was effectively dead and gone. He knew nothing of his life before. He was little more than a rabid animal at this point, and there was nothing Rose could ever do which would change that or be appreciated by him. So make no mistake, Rose did not perform any heroic act here. She did not do a single thing for Dimitri. There was no Dimitri any more. As was made clear at the end of Shadow Kiss everything she did in this volume was purely for selfish reasons which had nothing to do with him or her juvenile infatuation with him.

What Rose did do here was to selfishly and completely forsake and abandon her best friend - the one she had so often sworn she would die to protect. So once again the biggest problem with this volume is Rose, as usual. We've spent the previous three volumes being reminded countless times by the narrator - Rose herself - how desperately she wants to be not just a guardian, but Lissa's guardian. Nothing else matters, we were told time and time again, yet she forsakes Lissa at the drop of a bat, and hares off to slay Dimitri, thinking she's somehow rescuing her lover from his fate as a strigoi. Yeah, right. What Rose did here was to betray every principle of guardianship that she had ever been taught, and for purely selfish reasons.

The most inexplicable thing about this volume - at least to begin with - was that it had a prologue! It's volume four in a series for god's sake WHY THE HELL DOES IT NEED A PROLOGUE? And why does Mead need to use the phrase 'kind of' three times in the first two pages? These first two pages aren't pages 1 & 2, BTW, they're pages 17 & 18. Chapter one doesn't begin on page one, so this isn't actually a 503 page novel. Just so we're all on the same page...!

It began rather interestingly, but way too verbosely. Mead could have trimmed this down by probably two hundred pages without losing anything vital if she had self-edited instead of running off at the mouth with way too many details - particularly fashion details. Would anyone in Rose's position even remotely think about what the hell fashion someone else was wearing and how good or bad they looked? And it sucked how often she felt the need to describe how "beautiful" someone was, as though there is absolutely nothing in the universe more important than how skin-deep pretty people are. Jeeze!

And what's with going to Russia? Yeah, Dimitri went to Russia, but there is no explanation offered as to why. He's not a thinking being any more (so we're supposed to believe). He has no human impulses. He's a mindless vampire who is driven solely by blood lust - and he decides to vacation in Russia? I call bullshit on that one. The only reason this took place in Russia was not because of some critical plot element but because Mead simply wanted it to, and she wasn't a good enough writer to put together a decent plot to justify it.

That said, and apart from the wordiness of this volume, there was some decent action buried in all the silly descriptive prose. In Russia, Rose is easily kicking strigoi ass (how she manages this is a bit of a mystery, but let's let that one go) while trying to get a lead on where Dimitri went, by locating his home town in Siberia. How the hell he even managed to even travel there is a mystery which goes unsolved. Oh, and Rose meets an Alchemist!

This is a brand new feature which has had zero mention for three volumes but which now turns out to be an integral part of the lore - conveniently only revealed to guardians upon graduation! Alchemists are magical chemists who can, for example, create cloud potions which completely erase strigoi bodies - conveniently for serial slayer Rose. Equally conveniently, Sydney - the alchemist - is assigned by a higher power to accompany Rose to Siberia where equally conveniently, after taking out two strigoi and collapsing, Rose magically ends up in the home of Dimitri's family.

This is one of endless examples of really bad writing. There are way-the-frick-and-frack too many coincidences in this novel, even by YA standards. I mean how convenient is it that everyone in Russia, no matter how back-woods and out-of-the-way they are, speaks perfect English? When Rose trips back to Lissa's mind, it's inevitably and without exception when some crucial event is taking place. It's never, ever, ever when when she's sitting on the can, or reading a fashion magazine (inexplicably enough), sitting bored out of her gourd in class, sleepily watching TV, or humping Christian.,/p>

Indeed, so convenient is this insta-contact that we get a detailed history of the arrival and installation, and the drama surrounding the new headmaster, who has a disaffected daughter, Avery who will be a TA (no, that's not tits and ass although it might as well be), and a younger son who is going to attend the academy as a student.

At one point Rose is given a healing charm - she puts it in her pocket for a rainy day. How come the magic doesn't wear off as soon as it's close to her? But that's not what important. What's important is that when Dimitri inevitably encounters her, instead of killing her as strigoi do - as we've been told repeatedly that strigoi do - he takes her prisoner and abuses her as a sex slave, a la Fifty Shades of Grey! Then when she stakes him at the end, he falls off a balcony and she never checks on him, dumb-ass guardian that she is, and to top all of that, he sends her a note when she's back in the US assuring her that they will meet again. In short, he behaves completely out of character for a strigoi based on what Mead has been telling us for the three entire volumes prior to this one. Seriously?

This novel was by far the worst and most badly written of the entire series and I am now done with this ridiculous series completely.

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Title: Shadow Kiss
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: WARTY!

This is the third one in the Vampire Academy series. I liked the first two, but I've had a harder time with this one. It's funny because a lot of reviews I read for this series say that while the first is not so good, it gets better with the second, or while the second isn't great, it gets better with the third, but I've experienced just the opposite. I guess I'm, not in sync with any of this; I mean while the vampire Academy movie was a complete flop, I really loved it! The experience has been similar with the novels, too. The first one, I thought was most enjoyable, the second okay, and the third proved less than impressive and downright dumb in parts. It read like bad fan-fiction in far too many places, as I shall point out in this review.

Instead of growing as a character, Rose isn't changing, and if anything, is deteriorating as both a character and as a guardian. She seems incapable of learning, and is far too self-centered. As if that isn't bad enough, she's undisciplined and is given to tantrums and jealousy fits. The bottom line is that, based on her sorry showing here, she's simply not fit to be a guardian. Indeed, she's barely making it as a human being at this point.

There's a 'reason' for this, but whether it's valid is a matter of opinion. Lissa, for inexplicable reasons, has been allowed to go off drugs and begin using her "Spirit" power. You may recall that she was banned from doing this because it drives people insane. Nothing has changed on that score, so why the restriction on her using it was lifted is completely arbitrary bullshit - and she really doesn't do a whole heck of a lot with it anyway. The problem for Rose is that she's getting some sort of feedback from Lissa's new-found freedom, and it's affecting her mood, but the effects seem very patchy and inconsistent.

Mead's writing doesn't help. She begins this novel with a really cheap shot. It's a dream scene, wherein it initially looks like Rose is about to indulge herself in some hot sex, but in the end it turns out to be that she's simply tapping into Lissa's activities with Christian. She can evidently keep these at bay whilst awake, but fails dismally when asleep. It was neither impressive writing, nor a good writing technique.

Rather than turn over and go back to sleep, idiot Rose once again breaks the academy rules and sneaks outdoors. Once again her combat tutor Dimitri turns up. Either he is a really creepy stalker, or there's far-the-hell too much convenient coincidence going on here. Unlike Rose's mental link with Lissa, there is no such link at all with Dimitri, and therefore no excuse whatever for him to be always, tediously. ridiculously, irritatingly there. Again, it's really poor writing.

This external excursion serves two purposes. The first is to clue Rose in on the fact that neither she nor Lissa will be testifying in the case against Victor, which pisses Rose off. The second is that on her way back into the dorms, she sees the faint ghost of Mason - her dead friend from the previous volume. He appears to be pointing to something across campus, but never once does it occur to dumb-as-a-brick Rose to go see what he's pointing at.

Next, Rose discovers that she doesn't get to be Lissa's guardian during a trial period where the guardian wannabe's get to guard their Moroi around campus while existing guardians, pretending to be strigoi, stage no-holds-barred attacks. Rose has to guard Christian, and a guy named Eddie gets to guard Lissa.

Her first failure is to go on a tirade to the teachers about how wrong this is, like she's god almighty and they're pond scum. She behaves like a spoiled brat child. Next she fails in her actual assignment! She freezes when an attack is coming, mesmerized by the sight of Mason's ghost, and does nothing to prevent the attack, yet never once does she consider telling the review committee what happened! Major fail.

This is catastrophe on so many levels that it's really a joke. She simply lies about what happened, and conceals the hallucination by claiming she simply 'froze'. So not only is she being irresponsible about her mental health, she has also here proven that she can be so distracted from her duty that her charge is put at grave risk. Worse than this, though, is that she spends her entire time as a guardian gossiping and chatting with Christian and Lissa, allowing herself to be seriously distracted, and not paying anywhere near enough attention to her surroundings and potential threats. Rose simply doesn't get it - despite all her bravado about being a kick-ass guardian.

Bearing all that in mind, let's now consider the romance with Dimitri. It doesn't work! And it reads like atrocious fan-fiction. Dimitri actually is a kick-ass guardian, so why in the name of all that's holy would he ever pay any attention to a blustering hot air-bag like Rose? I can see why she'd be drawn to him: he's hot and she has the shallowness and mentality of a socially-challenged thirteen-year-old, but why would he be even remotely interested in her? She's a failing guardian who has no discipline and a truly poor attitude, so what is there about her which would attract a skilled and dedicated guardian like Dimitri? NOTHING! There is no basis for this relationship. It does not work, period.

Some reviewers have bitched about him being older and that therefore it's inappropriate for the two of them to become involved, especially as involved as they get in this book, but I will simply reiterate what I said in my review of Vampire Academy, which is that it doesn't matter a damn what you think about their ages since both of them are over the age of sexual consent in Montana. END OF STORY. What matters here is that he is her tutor. He is in an authority position over her and that's what makes his behavior completely inexcusable. That so few young people get this is what's truly disturbing about this relationship. It speaks badly that so few young-adult readers understand how wrong this is.

I found it ridiculous that Mead puts so much effort into telegraphing Rose's big "revelation" at the end: how she now wants it to be about her. It's a joke because this entire series is about her! It's all Rose all the time! It's about her views, her wants, her opinions, her activities, her priorities, her selfishness. Of course it's about her. She's telling the story. It's never been about anyone else but Rose. Jeeze!

I also found it hilarious how many negative reviewers gave this a two star rating, but then professed their desire to read the next volume. Seriously?! Why would you ever want to read more if you felt it was so bad? This is why I initially rejected the star rating system. I only changed my mind and began using either one or five stars (and nothing in between) because I realized that I am rewarding bad novels by not rating them one star (I would use zero stars if it was an option) and I was unfairly downgrading good novels by not giving them any stars. To me a novel is worth reading or it is not, which is why I now give all of my reviews give a one or a five star rating.

But back to the story, fan-fiction that it is: Rose plays a Clueless Sue in this novel, too (apart from not getting what Mason's ghost is trying to tell her). She knows that Moroi are talking about grouping together, learning to fight, and protecting themselves, yet when she sees random Moroi turning up with bruises on their faces, she never once figures out that there's perhaps practice fighting going on amongst themselves. That's not what's happening exactly, but it's close enough that I have to ask: how far does she have to have her head embedded in her own ass to not figure out something in short order?

And why does she need to seek out Victor and get his advice? How does that work when she hates him so much? Yeah - she ends up going to the trial after all, and she goes to see Victor and have a nice, Cozy chat with him despite her supposed hatred of him. On the journey there she sees dark shadows and ghosts on the plane, but she pretends she has a headache! Bad guardian again. After the trial, she and Lissa have their fortunes read. The fortune teller does what all frauds do: she tells them things which are so vague that you can back-fill them with any future events you like and make the 'prophecy' come true, yet this is referred to as 'prediction'! What a joke! No, a prediction has date, time and details. It isn't a ridiculously vague claim that could fit any one of a number of events and be made 'true' by this random coincidence.

In another fan-fiction moment, the cluelessness of the Moroi queen is revealed after the trial, as she warns Rose off from having an affair with Adrian (which isn't happening), yet she doesn't warn-off Adrian himself. Rose speaks to the queen like the latter is some girl in high-school with Rose, yet never once does the queen seem offended by her attitude! Some queen. On the way back from the trial, Rose has a complete breakdown, but despite this, I knew before I read another page that it would in no way affect her still being in the running to be a guardian. Bad writing.

But it gets worse. Rose wakes up in hospital and there's no-one with her save for the doctor and two guardians, Alberta, and, of course, Dimitri, who is never not there. There is no reason for either guardian to be there. There is a reason for someone like Lissa to be there, or the school principal, but none of these people show up, and evidently no one considers calling Rose's mother. This is bordering on the ridiculous.

Rose continues lying to her best friend Lissa, even as she 'fesses up to Alberta and Dmitri that she's been seeing ghosts. Rose once again talks everyone into doing what she wants and she's put back on guardian duty (who says dhampir don't have compulsion?!) - but on a 'half-time' basis. This seems to have been forgotten when Mead depicts her as being worried about curfew and separating from Christian rather than staying in his dorm room as she had been doing. Once again she sees Mason, and this time he can communicate but he can't talk, so all he can do is indicate 'yes' or 'no' with movements of his head. This is truly pathetic and an amateurishly bad way of creating fake suspense.

Oh, and Dimitri dies at the end - but not really. In fact, this will be the pattern in volume 4, as well. This novel sucked and is warty to the max.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Isis, Vampires, and Ghosts - Oh My! by Janis Hill

Title: Isis, Vampires, and Ghosts - Oh My!
Author: Janis Hill
Publisher: Hague
Rating: WORTHY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

p? "...we can assist you release your sadness..." should be "...we can assist you to release your sadness..."
p11 "...sorry your family has been effected..." should be "...sorry your family has been affected..."
p14 "...I'm taking your torque and cramming it..." should be "...I'm taking your torc and cramming it..."
p17 "...Goddess' Light..." should be "...Goddess's Light..." since we're talking about the property of only one goddess here.
p " near silent cynicism...' should be "...your near silent cynicism..."
p29 "...find out how to his crucible..." isn't right! Maybe it should be "...find out how to destroy his crucible..."
p29 "...over power..." should be "...overpower..."
p52 "...Branwyre growled something that was obviously fowl..." should be "...Branwyre growled something that was obviously foul..."
p77 "...effected..." should be "...affected..."
p85 "...regain consciousness too..." should be "...regain consciousness to..."
p86 "...ass' rectum..." should be "...ass's rectum..." since there is only one ass here.
p100 "...the Priestess of Isis were..." should be either "...the Priestesses of Isis were...", or "...the Priestess of Isis was..."
p127 has an extra letter 'o' at the start of a line beginning "o I sat tentatively...".
p133 "..tagging alone." should be "tagging along."
p136 "...under the shops eaves." should be "...under the shop's eaves."
p182 "...Word Domination..." probably should be "...World Domination..."
p187 "...wrecking further havoc..." should be "...wreaking further havoc..."
p199 "...postulate to..." maybe "...pontificate to..."?

This is book one of the "Other World" series and it begins with Stephanie Anders attending the funeral of her loved and hated sister Estella, whose stated wish, evidently, was to have her funeral conducted at the apparently oddball 'church of Isis'. Stephanie is a bit freaked by this, but is willing to put up with it for a couple of hours to get this over with and move on with her life.

Just a word on a small point of order here: 'Isis' is actually the Greek name for an Egyptian god whose name is unknown. The name that the Egyptians gave to her means 'she of the throne', and it's thought to have been pronounced as something like 'Aset', or 'Iset'. Why we're using Isis here goes unexplained.

Stephanie is of the considered opinion that the acolytes in this church are weird from the off, but that's nothing compared with what she's about to learn. She thinks it's more weird when she's escorted down, down, down deep into a cavern beneath the church to view her sister's body and that very body sits up and greets her with, "Hey sis, 'bout time you showed up."

Unwillingly and disbelievingly, Stephanie learns from the sisters of Isis (the Isisters?!) that her sibling is actually dead, even though she appears to be quite alive. She's told that the only thing which is keeping her pinned to her life on Earth, is the fact that her soul is 'stained' with a kind of 'essence of vampire'.

The vampire leader, Branwyre (great name for a vampire, BTW!), has a hold on part of her soul - a hold which is of course weakest in daylight hours and strongest at night. This hold must be broken before the next full moon three weeks hence, so that Estella can pass on to the after-life, otherwise Branwyre will be strong enough to possess Estella which can't be good. This isn't exactly what Stephanie was expecting from this funeral!

There's an element of Harry Potter here, in that Estella will be safest in Stephanie's company because of the blood tie between them - so she can't abandon Estella to the sisters and walk away from this. There's also a bit of ass-backwards folklore of "the night is darkest before the dawn" variety, which is of course, patent nonsense. The night is darkest when there's the least light which, absent a severe storm and a power outage, is at midnight when the sun is at the exact opposite side of Earth from you, but at least it explains why these two have to hang out together.

Stephanie has those three short weeks in which to find the ceremonial crucible belonging to Branwyre and employ it to bind Branwyre and thereby save her sister. During all that time, Branwyre is going to be fighting her tooth and nail to prevent this, and as if that wasn't bad enough, she's actually going to have to live under the same roof as a sister whom she resents intensely and for very good reason.

overall, I liked this novel, but there were some issues with it which I felt left the edges a bit rough. one was the record-breaking 17 spelling and grammatical errors (my previous record was twelve). Janis Hill needs to recruit me as a beta reader!

Another example of sneaky problems occurs at the end of chapter six, where Stephanie finally arrives at a motel and gets a room in which she ties up Estella and surrounds her with ring of salt so that when Branwyre's spirit shows up that night and starts to animate her, Stephanie won't be at risk, and the vampire won't be able to escape in Estella's body.

Now she has him restrained physically as well as magically, he is quite literally bound to answer her questions truthfully, so she asks him where the crucible is being kept, and eventually he spits out an address, but she fails to follow up on that and ask him exactly where at that address the crucible is located. That was probably done to play out the story, and keep Stephanie at risk, but it makes her look at bit dumb that she didn't think to narrow it down. I like Stephanie and don't like to think of her as dumb.

There was also some cheating going on here, too. I had understood that Branwyre, when bound, could be only truthful yet (as we discover) he lied about the crucible's location. This was rather glossed-over in the story-telling. I don't mind cheating characters; people in real life cheat after all, but when a writer cheats a reader, that's a different matter. OTOH, maybe I missed something here. The author does go on a lot about speaking loosely, so maybe it could be put down to her poor wording of the question.

I should also say a word about this novel's cover. I don't normally do covers since the author typically has little or no influence on how they look (unless they self-publish), but I have to question the utility of this particular cover in regard to its appeal (or otherwise) to any given readership demographic.

For me it doesn't make any difference because I don't judge a book by its cover (! I'm all about the writing), but for others who do consider the cover, this one seemed to me to be out of step with the playful and sarcastic tone of the writing. Jade Zivanovic's art is beautiful - don't get me wrong. It's really good, but it just doesn't match the tone of the writing. Is Jade Zivanovic an awesome name or what? She's a fellow blogspotter, although I don't know her. Her web site is well worth a visit and it has at least one Doctor Who image!).

Both the cover artwork and the tone of the writing seemed out of step with the whimsical title, too. The cover looks like it belongs on a Gothic horror story, not here! The title looks like it belongs with a story aimed at a much younger readership, so there's a sort of demented ménage à trois going on here between title, cover and interior! Or in this instance, I guess more like a mélange à trois! For me, I'd like to have seen something a little more amusing or comical in the cover illustration - not slapstick, but less foreboding than this one is - with a title that's reads a bit more maturely.

I have to say that I began to go off this story somewhat when the ghost showed up, and he uses the word "left" way too often, but even this was turned around, so it became readable again, although even then, the endless insulting (which wasn't really that amusing to begin with) became really annoying after too many repetitions. I didn't get why Roxanna - the Isis sister who is supposed to be guiding Stephanie, was being so completely useless to her. Why, for example, didn't she advise Stephanie to bind the ghost to herself before the night came on?

It became truly annoying that neither Roxanna, the 'priestess', nor Estella were helping Stephanie. I know that people can be obnoxious, either purposefully or ignorantly, but frankly, this was too much to swallow. I know that this was somewhat excused by the fact that this situation was new and different, so no one really knew what was going on, but there was so much, even within those constraints that those two could have done to help out, and which they failed to do.

They were far too passive, leaving literally everything to poor Stephanie, without making any real effort to lift a finger or even trying to go the extra mile for her. She had to squeeze everything out of them like getting blood from a stone, and this felt completely unrealistic to me.

Estella was depicted from the beginning as being, shall I say, socially challenged, so her lack of utility was not a surprise, but the 'priestess' was supposed to be an example of goodness personified, yet she was effectively no better than Estella. No one expects gods to help - they are consistently useless in fiction or out of it - so I wasn't surprised by how pathetic Isis was, but Roxanna could have been a lot more forthcoming, otherwise what exactly is it about her that defines her as 'good'?!

On this topic, you I have to ask why 'priestess'? Why not priest? We really need to work on removing this stealth genderism from our vocab! I keep hoping that female authors (not 'authoresses'!) will take the lead in this and push it in their writing, but so few of them seem willing to step up, and instead simply parrot vocabulary designed by men for men, women need not apply. Writing with a more gender-neutral approach doesn't require stridency or harsh agendas (harsh isn't what strong women do anyway, not in my experience). It can be done with subtle changes to the way we write, like using 'priest' instead of priestess, 'actor' instead of 'actress', mater instead of mattress (that last one might be a joke).

Yes, I know that 'priest' isn't exactly gender neutral, but that's not because it's an inherently masculine word, like 'male', or 'tomcat', or 'bull'. Priest is a gender-neutral word that has been artificially imbued with masculinity by dint of the fact that priests traditionally were only male, women need not apply. There's no reason it cannot be reclaimed. So there! Take that Bembridge Scholars!

I do have a problem with the ultraviolet aspect of this story. We're told that it's the ultraviolet emissions from the sun to which the vampires don't react too well (this trope has been used before in stories, notably in the Underworld series of movies), yet we're also told that moonlight can help to "bind" Branwyre. The problem with this is that Moonlight, which does contain ultraviolet emissions, doesn't contain much (which is why you can't get a tan from Moon-bathing!), so here's the problem: if there's so little coming off the Moon that vampires can wander out on Moonlit nights with no problem, then how does it bind them? If there is enough to bind them, why isn't it a problem for them on such nights?

In related news, we're also told that Stephanie is going to have a really tough time binding Branwyre one night because of the heavy storm clouds hiding the Moon, yet clouds do not stop UV light from reaching the Earth (which is why you can get sunburned on a cloudy day). This is what happens when writer devotes too much time to honoring a god and nowhere near enough time honoring science! We're talking about UV light, but the story is written as though we're talking about visible light. UV light isn't visible to the human eye! The visible light you see from a so-called 'black light' isn't the actual UV, it's just visible light that's emitted with the UV.

But enough griping. I started out liking this novel, got a bit disillusioned with it in the middle where it seemed to miss its stride a bit, and very much liked it again at the end. I think it could have done with being a bit shorter and a bit more briskly-paced, but in the end, the overall story was good and fun, and entertaining, so I have no problem in recommending this.