Review: Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #1) ~ Laurell K. Hamilton

Guilty PleasuresISBN ~ 978-0425197547
Publisher ~  Berkley Trade
No. Of Pages ~ 355 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Guilty Pleasures

Anita Blake may be small and young, but vampires call her the Executioner. Anita is a necromancer and vampire hunter in a time when vampires are protected by law—as long as they don’t get too nasty. Now someone’s killing innocent vampires and Anita agrees—with a bit of vampiric arm-twisting—to help figure out who and why.

Trust is a luxury Anita can’t afford when her allies aren’t human. The city’s most powerful vampire, Nikolaos, is 1,000 years old and looks like a 10-year-old girl. The second most powerful vampire, Jean-Claude, is interested in more than just Anita’s professional talents, but the feisty necromancer isn’t playing along—yet.

4 Thumbs-UpI had this book recommended to me, and I have to admit I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to read it; after all it has a romantic overtone to it, contains vampires and well just isn’t my usual read or even one I would have thought to pick up.  In this case I am glad I did as despite being classified as romance, it really wasn’t at all.

The main protagonist is the Anita Blake mentioned in the title of this review, and I thoroughly enjoyed her and her character make up immensely.  She is a strong-willed woman, very independent and has a sarcastic tongue that really helped me connect with her.  She has flaws too, she is judgmental and extremely abrasive but these only add to her appeal and make her a character that both male and female readers can get to grips with, even if they cannot relate to her.  I found it absolutely hilarious, and like so many people I know to discover that this character had never developed a working filter between her brain and her mouth.  Through great descriptive writing I was able to build an image of this main lead in my mind’s eye, and this is something that some Authors are unable to do.  All the other characters are treated with equal measure in this book, and are all given their personalities and flaws that the reader will either be drawn to, or dislike instantly.

This book is a quick read and, although gory at times, well it does contain vampires so go figure, it is full of mystery and irreverent humour.  However, I have to mention as a warning to those sensitive souls out there that the Author has managed to include a great deal of implied and actual eroticism in the storyline, so if this is not for you I would advise you to give the book a miss.  My reason for the 4 thumbs review was the dialogue, and I felt at time that the Author was trying to see how many times they could have the speaker use the interlocutor’s name; another reason is that although this is a darned good read it would never go down in the annals of classic writing and, if you want to enjoy them but don’t want to be seen doing so it would be a book to hide in something more ‘high brow’.

As for me I’ll definitely be reading some more in this series and I would highly recommend this book to any reader is looking for a light read, but one that has some substance to it.

divider

Advertisements

Review: Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) ~ Deborah Harkness

ShadowIT BEGAN WITH A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

Historian Diana Bishop, descended from a line of powerful witches, and long-lived vampire Matthew Clairmont have broken the laws dividing creatures. When Diana discovered a significant alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library,she sparked a struggle in which she became bound to Matthew. Now the fragile coexistence of witches, daemons, vampires and humans is dangerously threatened.

Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realise that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.

Together Matthew and Diana scour Tudor London for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782, and search for the witch who will teach Diana how to control her remarkable powers.

2 Thumbs-UpAfter devouring A Discovery of Witches by this Author, I spent a long time waiting for the sequel… why did I bother.  For those of you who may be thinking of picking this up to read as a standalone book, I would strongly advise against it, as you will be even more confused at the end of this tome than you were at the beginning.

As far as the characters in this book are concerned, so much more could have been done with the slew of new ones that were introduced, but I will get back to that in a moment.  The two main protagonists are still the same pair the reader encountered in the first book in this series, and we pick up with them exactly where the previous book left them.  As to their development within this novel’s pages, it is sorely lacking and has a tendency to take any likability they invoked in the first book away from them in this.  In fact they come across as being rather flat and one-dimensional.  As with most books that feature actual historical characters, there is a myriad of resources available to the Author to build their characters upon, unfortunately this was not the case here and I felt the Author left it up to the reader’s knowledge of these persons to create their back-story. This left the characters, from a fictional point of view, being people I really didn’t care about or want to know better.  The dialogue between the characters is between the characters is bland and, at times, there is far too much of it which results in the storyline becoming bogged down and boring.

The Authors biggest downfall, in my opinion, was the depth in which she outlined the political intrigue of the time period of the novel.  It was apparent from this that they had done an extensive amount of research, but by including so much of it in this fictional piece of work I found myself drifting to other things and feeling as if I were reading a very dry and dusty history text-book.  Another irritant for me, and one of a multitude that led to the rating this book was given, was the flippant way in which the Author treated time travel; there was none of the tact or explanatory pieces that appear in works by Diana Gabaldon, or the humour used by Connie Willis to help the reader navigate around these segments of their work.

I’m hesitant to recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed the first in the series, and doubt very much that I will be reading the conclusion.

divider

Review: Sunshine (Sunshine #1) ~ Nikki Rae

Sunshine18-year-old Sophie Jean is pretty good at acting normal. Sure, she’s not exactly happy, but happiness is nothing compared to being like everyone else. She can pretend she’s not allergic to the sun. She can hide what her ex-boyfriend did to her. She can cover up the scars she’s made for herself. Ignore anything. Forget anything. Then Myles enters her life, and he has more than a few secrets of his own. When accident after accident keeps happening to Sophie, she can’t help noticing that he’s everywhere. That he knows too much. That she’s remembering too much.

It’s one thing covering up her own dark past, but does she really need to worry about people finding out just how much Myles likes her? Or that despite how much she doesn’t want to repeat past mistakes, she kind of likes him back? Not to mention the fact that she now has to conceal that Myles drinks blood-that he says he’s about four hundred years old.

She almost forgot about that part.

But Sophie has no plans to ruin the normal life she has created for herself. She can deal with this little glitch, no problem. Even if word has gotten around to the wrong vampire about Sophie and Myles, even if she’s putting the few people she loves at risk. Suddenly, those who were monsters before are just people, and the monsters? They’re real. Now being a normal human being is the least of her problems. Now she has to stay alive.

3 Thumbs-UpThis was definitely not my usual choice of a read and review book as it contains the dreaded ‘romance’ that can sometimes overwhelm a book and make it all too cloying and sickly sweet.  Not the case with this debut novel from this Author, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  I can honestly say I wasn’t looking forward to reading this book at all, but now that I have, I am really glad that I took that leap of faith and read on until the end.

The characters in this novel were what really made it worth my time, in my opinion. They were well-developed and fleshed out enough to make them easy to like, or dislike if they were of that persuasion.  The main protagonist had a depth and originality to her that is often lacking in books of this kind, and it was refreshing to see that the Author wrote her in a way where she was not full of teenage angst, but able to open up, grow and move on from the things which were originally holding her back.  This quality made her easily likeable, and probably someone most readers would want to know in reality.  Even the minor characters, to a point, were given enough depth to make them interesting and not just appear as ‘part of the scenery’

Unfortunately if you are looking for the next great thing in the paranormal/creature love interest genre, you won’t find it here.  This book is in a genre that in my opinion has been done to death making it hard for any new Author to find a different approach to writing it; the plot wasn’t anything new and groundbreaking, but there were so many good things going on in the book that this didn’t detract too much from the overall enjoyment.  However, what I do feel would have really pulled it up another notch, would have been the use of a really good proof reader and/or editor as some of the flaws that appeared should have been picked up by those working in this area of the book.

Overall, I would recommend this book to lovers of this genre, and I will probably be reading some more in the series as I am intrigued to see how the Authors style, and the plot/characters, develops as it progresses.

divider

‘And now for something completely different’

“Let’s face it, writing is hell.”
~William Styron

writers almanacI thought it was about time to take a break from the book reviews, and my attempts at writing articles I think may interest people, and hand today over to those who actually know what they are about.  Today, Wednesday August 28, 2013, I am turning my blog over to “The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor”.  For those of you reading who may not be familiar with this web site, it contains daily poems, prose, and literary history from Garrison Keillor, and other Authors.  Not only do these great folks keep this website full of wonderful tidbits, they also produce a podcast for us to listen to as we go about our day.  So, without further ado, take it away “The Writer’s Almanac”:

“Song of Smoke
by Kevin Young

To watch you walk
cross the room in your black

corduroys is to see
civilization start—
the wish-
whish-whisk

of your strut is flint
striking rock—the spark

of a length of cord
rubbed till

smoke starts—you stir
me like coal

and for days smolder.
I am no more

a Boy Scout and besides,
could never

put you out—you
keep me on

all day like an iron, out
of habit—

you threaten, brick—
house, to burn

all this down. You leave me
only a chimney.

“Song of Smoke” by Kevin Young, From Jelly Roll © Knopf, 2003. Reprinted with permission.

divider

It’s the birthday of the father of German literature, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , born in Frankfurt, Germany (1749), the author of the epic drama Faust.

He moved to Italy in 1786, and when he returned to Germany two years later, he fell in love with a woman from Weimer, Christiane Vulpius, a 23-year-old who was 16 years his junior. That year, he wrote her an epithalamium, a wedding poem, but he didn’t actually marry her; instead, the couple lived together for 18 years unwed. That is, until one night, Christiane saved Goethe’s life by driving off a band of Napoleon’s soldiers who had broken in their home. Goethe went down to a church the very next day and married her, his live-in girlfriend of 18 years.

In 1806, the same year of the home invasion and marriage, Goethe published a preliminary version of Part I of his great work, Faust, the story of a brilliant scholar named Heinrich Faust, who makes a deal with the devil. The great epic has it all: seduction, murder, sleeping potions, an illegitimate love child, a stray poodle that transforms into the devil, contracts signed with blood, imprisonment in dungeons, heavenly voices, and even redemption. Faust is often called a “closet drama” because it’s intended to be read, not performed. Goethe spent 50 years working on this two-volume masterpiece, finishing it in 1832, the year of his death.

Christiane survived for only a decade after her and Goethe’s wedding. In later life, after recovering from a heart disease that nearly killed him, the 73-year-old Goethe fell passionately in love with an 18-year-old woman, Ulrike von Levetzow, and was devastated when she turned down his proposals of marriage.

Goethe, who said, “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

divider

It’s the birthday of poet Rita Dove , born in Akron, Ohio (1952). Her father had a master’s degree in chemistry but had to work as an elevator operator because he was black. He eventually became the first African-American chemist to work for Goodyear Tires.

He encouraged his daughter to take advantage of education, and she was at the top of her class. She was chosen as one of 100 of the best high school students in the country to visit the president of the United States. Her parents assumed that she would go on to become a doctor or lawyer, so when she announced that she wanted to be a poet, they weren’t sure what to make of it. She said, “[My father] swallowed once and said, ‘Well, I’ve never understood poetry, so don’t be upset if I don’t read it.'” Her teachers at college told her that she was throwing her education away if she didn’t study something more practical.

But with her poetry collection Thomas and Beulah (1986), based loosely on the lives of her grandparents, she became only the second African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and she went on to become the first African-American national poet laureate.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Guest Host: Billy Collins
Host: Garrison Keillor
Writers: Betsy Allister, Holly Vanderhaar
Technical Director: Thomas Scheuzger
Engineer: Noah Smith
Producer: Joy Biles
Permissions: Kathy Roach
Web Producer: Ben Miller”

001

‘You are NOT allowed to read that!’

bebelplatz-berlin-memorial-to-burned-books

Bebelplatz Book Burning Memorial

 ‘The fact that anybody wants to burn a book shows you how powerful the physical object is, both as itself and as a symbol’ ~ Chuck Wendig.

Until I married my American Husband I was not fully aware of the fact that there are people out there who want to restrict my access to the types of book I read, not just fiction but non-fiction as well.  I was also naive in thinking that book burning was a thing of history; for example the May 10 1933 book burning in Berlin, the monument to which I have visited.  Book burning is also a thing of the 21st century and takes places in America for various reasons; Non-approved Bibles, books and music in Canton, North Carolina in 2009; Tolkien’s works publicly burned in Alamogordo, NM, in 2001 as satanic.  Really?  In the 21st Century, here in America, intelligent people would fail to celebrate Tolkien’s masterful achievement and, instead, find it threatening enough to burn it?

I feel it would be amiss of me as a lover of the printed word not to write about this form of censorship and, how we are slowly creeping towards a more complete ‘Nanny State’ where we are told what is good for us, and how much of it we can consume.  I understand that there needs to be checks and balances in place for some things, but when it comes to art, and to me writing is an art form, personal choice needs to be allowed to run free.  If, after reading the synopsis of a book on a fly-leaf, we feel uncomfortable or it may be against our beliefs, we have the choice to put the book down and find something more to our tastes.

jailed-book1If you are completely confused by this topic, I’m referring to the upcoming Banned Books Week.  Whether you may be blissfully unaware, or choose to pretend it doesn’t exist, it does with challenged and banned books spanning all genres and reading age groups.  But what is Banned Books Week?  It is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read that is typically held during the last week of September and highlighting the value of free and open access to information; it brings together the book community, from reader to publisher, like nothing else can as they share their support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some may consider unorthodox or unpopular.

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship, and all of the books featured during this week have been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools, by individuals or groups. While books have been and continue to be banned, the fact is that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available, unless you happened to be in Alamogordo NM, where not only Tolkien but the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling were committed to the flames.

banned-book-week-pic-1

Although we are still a month out from Banned Book Week, I strongly feel it is an issue that needs to get publicity not just for one week of every year but all the time.  However, I know how difficult this would be so, in my attempt to stand up for an art form that gives me great pleasure, as well as broadening my mind and horizons, I am going to focus all of my posts for the week of 22-28 September 2013 with books that have been challenged since the beginning of the 21st century.  I will be choosing four books and proudly showcasing them on the blog.

I am giving you all advance warning of this, in case there are some people out there who would rather not see these books blazoned across their computer screen, and they will know to give my reviews a miss for that week.  I will not just be showcasing the books that week, but also listing why these books were challenged and also giving a little background on the Authors.  List of nominees for this week of challenged books are:

2001 – Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
2002 – Harry Potter (series)*, by J.K. Rowling (because I have never read any Harry Potter books)
2003 – The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1), by Jonathan Stroud
2004 – The Alice Series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
2005 – Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
2006 – The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood
2007 – The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
2008 – His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
2009 – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story, by John Berendt
2010 – Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs
2011 – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, by Alan Moore
2012 – The Glass Castle: A Memoir, by Jeanette Walls
*Please note, where books are part of a series, I will only be featuring the first.

One last thing to bear in mind, and an indication of just how out of hand some of these book challenges are becoming; in 2010 in the Menifee, Calif. Union School District pulled the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary because a parent complained when a child came across the term ‘oral sex’.  Officials for the District said, at the time it was pulled, that they are forming a committee to consider a permanent ban of the dictionary; whether they went ahead with this is not known.

Banner

Review: The Trust Casefiles ~ Lee Cushing

Trust CasefilesThe Trust – A secret organization comprised of thousands of independent field units fighting an eternal war against demonic forces that prey on the innocent.

One such unit is led by Alexandra Glinyeu, a Voodoo Priestess. Her top operatives are former vigilantes, Forrest King and Catherine Jordan – two people who have discovered that the demons they fight could be anyone – friend, lover or family.

This collection of their exploits include Catherine facing the prospect of potential lifelong happiness with a new love when she helps the head of a Trust library whose former girlfriend has returned as a blood sucking Nelapsi, an unidentified flesh-eating creature stalking an isolated community living on a small island, an American television star under sentence of death and an ancient evil returning from beyond the grave.

3 Thumbs-Up

Just because you feel this may be yet another vampire book and pass it over, I have to warn you that you may regret not taking the time to read this, apparently, collection of tales.  Take the time to pick this up and you will quickly discover it is something more than that; it is full of a variety of beings of both the vampiric and supernatural variety, and their coming to be included in the ‘Casefiles’.

Because of the vast number of different beings covered, not to mention a myriad of their opponents, this novel did have a tendency to become muddled at times, which made it a challenging read in a few areas.  Some parts did not quite flow on from one another and this led to some confusion and backtracking on my part as I read it.  Perhaps if this book had been broken down in to smaller bite-sized parts all the different characters would have been easier to keep track.  Also the main characters could have benefitted from a little more time being taken on their development earlier in the book as there was nothing about them that would help the reader engage with them from the start, and I found myself becoming rather bored with them in places.

With this said, the Author has invested a lot of time into providing readers with a host of unique vampires, not one of which ‘sparkle’, and showing a side to this topic the reader rarely sees, which is that they are as diverse in their nature as we humans are.  To add to this unique perspective of the vampire, the plot is equally as refreshing.  There are numerous twists and turns which keep the reader on their toes, and the plot moving along at a nice pace.  However, a good editor may have pointed out that there needs to be a few more breadcrumbs in the book, as even the most dedicated of readers can find themselves getting lost occasionally, that would be me again, and these would help them back on to the path.  Regardless of this minor point I found it to be a very enjoyable read.

I would recommend this fast paced, action packed book to anyone who likes their vampire tales traditional, but with a slight twist. Also lovers of supernatural tales would find this book enjoyable.

001

Review: Eyes like Blue Fire ~ Amanda M. Lyons

Eyes Like Blue Fire

Katja is a vampire who has lost sense of herself and her value in the world. Lost, broken and damaged she wanders the streets of Europe hoping to find some sense of purpose beyond the death and tragedy she has always known. Betrayed by her sire and left alone in the night she is startled to discover herself forming a connection to a young man who shares a close resemblance to her master and lover. Though everything in her begs her to stay with him she flees only to come running back to save him when a sadistic monster from her sire’s past comes to destroy the only hope she has had in 300 years.

Katja and Raven will face many horrors among them Renfield style zombies, ghosts and the undead.

2 Thumbs-Up

This is the first novel by this Author in the Broken Edges series.

There has been a lot of time invested in the development of the characters in this book.  The Author describes in great detail the emotions, feelings and thoughts of the main female lead, in an effort to create a link/bond between the character and the reader.  There is a lot of back story for the main lead also, which helps explain her current circumstances and the motivation for doing the things she does.  Not the same can be said for the male lead, he is full of angst and intricacies that make him not a very lovable character at all; he really reminded me of a teenager who declares all too often that the world doesn’t understand what he’s going through.  In a sense this is true, as we don’t understand his particular lifestyle, what may have helped him would have been the Author giving him as much attention to detail as she did the female lead.  Other characters in the novel seemed to appear for no obvious reason and then leave just as quickly.  Even though some of their involvement in the plot was explained at a later date, it still made their sudden appearance seemed a mite contrived.  The character I enjoyed the most in the novel was the villain, unfortunately she didn’t appear until about a third of the way through the book.  She was, as all good villains should be, malicious, vindictive and violent.

The full history of a main character, and the time taken to build a world, is something I usually enjoy in a book (the sweeping epic), but for one of this length it was not needed, along with the all too frequent flashbacks.  But again, if this is something you enjoy in your reads, you won’t be disappointed in this one as it delivers in all three areas.

The novel also contains a lot of descriptive scene setting, again in an attempt to draw the reader into the world between the novels pages.  For some this may be too much description and not enough dialogue, but I actually liked this aspect of the book, along with the fight scenes, as I am not a lover of the ‘chatty’ novel.  However, the amount of descriptiveness in the book has a tendency to slow the plot down, and it’s not a fast paced building plot to begin with.

After reading the summary I was interested enough to want to read the whole book, and it did start off with such promise.  However, the formatting on both my Kindle for iPad and for PC was diabolical.  There were sentences cut off halfway through, and being turned into paragraphs; chapter numbers appeared in a seemingly random way and, it was very rare for one to appear in the intended spot.  This really interfered in my enjoyment of the novel, and actually made carrying on to the end a painful task.  As I have said, in a previous review though, I will not put a book aside completely unfinished as I feel that is more of an insult to the Author than a mediocre review.

Would I recommend this to others?  Yes, especially to the fans of The Twilight series and Vampire Diaries lovers, it is right up their street.  If you are looking for something vampiric along the lines of Anne Rice, I would steer clear, this is not for you. I would actually classify this as a nice little book for YA readers.

If not for the formatting debacle, and the inconsistencies in the appearance and development of some characters, I feel I would have really enjoyed this book.  As it is though, I wasn’t made to care enough for the lead to make me want to read any of the other novels in this series.

001