Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Blood Books Vol 1 - Blood Price/Blood Trail

I picked up this book because I was enamored of the new Lifetime series, Blood Ties which is based on this series. I figured if I like the series I would love the books. I was right.

Victoria Nelson is a former cop turned PI. She suffers from a degenerative eye disease which is slowly sapping her of sight. She is nearly completely blind at night. It was due to this that she had to leave the force. In the first book, Blood Price, she witnesses a murder, albeit hazily. The victim's girlfriend hires her to prove it was a vampire. Vicky doesn't go in much for the supernatural but she's looking for a chance to prove to her former colleagues that she is still capable of catching the bad guy so she takes the case. As she unravels the mystery, she discovers that it is not a vampire but a demon who committed the crime and in fact has continued taking victims. In fact the only vampire she finds is a very charismatic, charming and handsome one, named Henry Fitzroy. They team up to stop the demon and have some fun along the way.

In the second book Blood Trail. Henry asks for Vicky's help to find out who is trying to decimate a family of werewolves who just happen to be good friends of Henry's. They team up again to stop the murderer while Vicky ponders this new turn her life has taken. The chemistry between her and Henry comes to a boil in this one and secrets are revealed to her former partner and lover Mike Cellucci.

I love these books. They are fun and don't take themselves too seriously. They also eschew much of the superstitions involving vampires and other creatures. For example Henry is a good Catholic and wears a cross. He can also be seen in a mirror. It's an interesting way to ground these creatures of fantasy in a more realistic world. The pairing of the night blind detective and the creature of the night works well. As they each cover their own place in their investigations. I highly recommend them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Before Sunrise by Diana Palmer

Dear god did I feel slimey after I finished this. I had this book on my shelf as a freebie for years. It talked about a murder mystery on a Native American reservation and the young anthropologist who helps the FBI on the case. What I didn't was a Harlequin Romance...blechh.

The story begins with Phoebe graduating from college. Her graduation is attended by a federal prosecutor she became close with previously when she helped him on a case. Jeremiah is older than she, dark, intense and mysterious (of course). Three years down the road we find Phoebe working at a museum. Having sworn off men because of the heartbreak she experienced she lives a quiet life. She receives a call from a man claiming to have found a major anthrolopolgical breakthrough but he can't talk at the moment. He is found dead later. This bring her back in contact with Jeremiah as he comes to investigate. Having joined the FBI at some point in the past 3 years.

The biggest problem I have with romance novels is they can't decide what they want to be. This one has a real plot and a not completely ridiculous mystery but much like a musical or a porn movie everything must stop for the all important love story. There is sex but it's not good. The author does avoid the usual purple prose that is typically in these things (her heaving mounds, his flaming loins etc.) but the dialogue during the sex acts is stilted and odd. I happen to enjoy good erotica but this doesn't even try to get that right. All in all not a good read for me.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Daja's Book - Circle of Magic book 3

This is the third book in the Circle of Magic series. My whole family reads this series. It's a great deal of fun. It's written for the young adult market but it works well as a straight fantasy that adults can enjoy as well.

Daja is one of the four mages who each of the Circle of Magic books are about. Her magical gifts involve metal and flame. She can control both. She is an outcast from her people as she was the only survivor of the boat wreck that killed her entire family. Her tribe, called Traders, believe this means she carries bad luck. While traveling with her friends and teachers she encounters a caravan of Traders. When one of them sees a piece of organic metalwork that Daja has created the Traders have to find a way around her exile to negotiate a purchase with her. This contact reminds Daja of how much she misses her people.

This is a fun series. Quick, light and an easy read. The characters are engaging and their inner turmoil is explored in interesting ways. It's not great literature but it is damn good fantasy. I enjoyed this nearly as much as the first book. I look forward to the fourth.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Sisters Mortland by Sally Beauman

It's taken me awhile to write my review of this book. It's very difficult to categorize or even summarize for that matter. It takes a number of unexpected turns and frankly I wasn't sure I liked it while I was in the middle of it. By the end however it was a very satisfying read.

The Sisters Mortland is actually the title of a painting of three sisters. A painter comes to do their portrait one summer and it there that that story begins. We meet the sisters one by one. There is Julia who is seemingly the stereotypical "pretty one", Finn the "brainy one" and Maisy the "odd one". Maisy is the narrator of the first third of the book but as you get to the next section you find she is not exactly what she seemed to be. The bulk of the story is told by Dan, the Roma boy, who in his way loves them all.

The story is for the most part tragic but it is told well and doesn't get mired in the darkness of it's story. I was put off by some of the intial turns but I couldn't put it down which to me is always the mark of a good book. The author only gives you enough information to keep you moving along. Letting the story unfold slowly. In the end the biggest secret of the book was the least expected and in my opinion the most real. It seemed as if there was some horrible dark thing that would explain all the events leading up to the end but the secret revealed was a very commonplace one. This made a somewhat ethereal story come back down to earth.

I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


I'm not much of a Stephen King fan anymore. I loved his early stuff, Carrie, 'Salem's Lot and of course The Stand. The Stand is in fact on my top 10 books of all time. Occasionally however I will still pick up a King book. Even more occasionally he'll still entertain me.

Cell starts the action right away. Our hero Clay just got a great offer from a large comic house to publish his comic. He is ecstatic and can't wait to get back home to Maine to share the news with his son and estranged wife. He decides to stop at a truck for some ice cream and all hell breaks loose. Basically some kind of pulse is sent through all cell phones so anyone who is talking on one immediately becomes a violent savage creature. I'll spare you the gory details but it's pretty nasty. The book then becomes a survival story with Clay picking up traveling buddies as he makes his way home. Even though he has no idea if there is a home to go to.

Initially I was put off by this book. It seemed so much of a Stand retread but the one thing I have always said is that King may not be a great writer but he is a master storyteller. This book proves that. At some point this weekend I realized I didn't want to put it down. I was dying to see what happens next. In true King style there are no real explanations for what happened, only theories bandied about by the survivors. This is not a flaw however, it's frankly farely realistic. In this type of scenerio the chances of ever knowing what caused the change would be slim at best. The ending was left somewhat up in the air but I didn't find it unsatisfying. It just left me to decide how I wanted things to turn out.

All in all a very good read.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Trouble With Magic

The Trouble With Magic looked like a light, fluffy, magical mystery. That really appealed to me. I like my mysteries light but not overtly stupid. I sometimes like when they have a bit of a gimmick (see Knit One Kill Two). Unfortunately many of them are fairly insipid, thankfully that was not the case this time.

Maggie O'Neill lives in the same small town where she grew up. She's always been a bit of an outsider, not fitting in to school cliques, nor living her life the way her mother wants her to. At the start of the book she's in a boring job with a jerk for a boss and pretty miserable in general. A chance encounter in a rain storm brings her a new job in a store called Enchantments run by the town witch, Felicity. Unfortunately Felicity is soon accused of murdering her estranged sister so Maggie sets out to prove her innocent.

I loved, loved, loved this book. Silly? Sure. Fluffy? Absolutely, but fun and not insipid. The mystery was a bit meatier than you usually find in this kind of genre mystery and I wasn't sure who did it for quite awhile. I loved Maggie as a character as well as Felicity. The magical stuff totally appealed to that witchy side of me. This was the first challenge to my Off the Shelf challenge. I really wanted to run right out to buy the second title in the series.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Ah Dexter. I'd heard much about the Showtime series and it seemed to have just the kind of dark humor that appeals to me. Imagine a serial killer using his murderous urges for the good of mankind. It's a fascinating idea. Tisha had borrowed the book from another co-worker and then passed it along to me.

This is the first book in the series. It introduces Dexter who is a blood spatter expert working for the Miami PD. He also likes to kill people. I mean loves to. He experienced a horrible trauma as a toddler, which is only explained late in the book, and then taken in as a foster child by a cop and his family. As a teenager Dexter and his foster father go on a camping trip where the father explains that he knows Dexter is "different" but he believes he is a good person none the less and that he believes there may be a way to channel all that destructive energy. There we have the birth of a sociopath with a moral center.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I didn't dislike it and I did like Dexter a great deal. The author does some interesting things so make the monster more human even while Dexter himself views himself as something alien outside of the human race. The premise attempts to make us believe that Dexter himself may be committing the crimes but is completely unaware of it. I found myself skimming through entire pages. The solution is fairly cliched but somewhat interesting and leaves certain thoughts of nature vs. nurture swirling around in one's head. Tisha says the second one is much better. I may have to try it.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Looking Glass War

Completed 1/15/07

The Looking Glass war is an interesting take on the Alice in Wonderland story. In the end though I could not help but feel this was a very masculine take on it.

Alyss Heart is the princess of Wonderland. When her family is slaughtered by the Red Queen who wants the crown for herself, Alyss flees her kingdom and escapes to our world. Where she grows up. Of course in the end a princess must become queen and so Alyss returns to Wonderland to face her evil aunt.

This a very fast read, and a fun story. It takes an interesting tilt on the Alice in Wonderland story, making it a much darker more adventurous tale. I couldn't get over the feeling that something was missing however and when I reached the last quarter of the book I realized, it's a boy book. Both Rinaldo and Avery loved this book, but when I read it I think it was the lack of heart that I noticed. It was more about good over evil but not the interpersonal relationships of the people involved. I've decided this was not a flaw in the book it was exactly what it set out to be it's just made for those with a bit more testosterone flowing through their veins;)

All in all it was a fun adventure and I will certainly read the sequels it so obviously sets itself up for.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi

Completed 1/6/07

I love Marjane Satrapi's books. Her autobiographical graphic novels, Persepolis and Persepolis 2 are an amazing use of the comic form. Her third graphic novel Embroderies is actually my favorite as it focuses on the women of her family and it so easy to see the threads that tie women together all over the world. I was greatly looking forward to her fourth graphic novel Chicken with Plums, sadly I was disappointed.

Chicken with Plums is Satrapi's take on a family legend. An uncle of hers, who died long before she was born, was a musician. It was said that he simply took to his bed and gave up living. Satrapi takes this story and creates a story around it to try explain why this man would do such a thing.

Frankly I never did understand. He seemed to have lost his muse it's true but he was not very likable so I didn't care very much about that. It seemed to me that he didn't lose his inspiration as much as he lost a crutch he used for it. Perhaps Satrapi has a difficult time understanding his motivations as well and that is why she felt a need to explore the situation. Unfortunately nothing in the story made me feel for this man, nor to understand his motivations.

If she was seeking to shed light on this odd event, she still left me in the dark.

Friday, January 5, 2007

School Days

School Days by Robert Parker

Started 1/2
Completed 1/5

I love me some Spencer novels. This was something like a snack however, not a meal. One of the things I love most about Spenser novels are his interactions with his compatriot Hawk and Susan Silverman his "inamorata", yet sadly they were both absent from this one.

Spenser is hired by a grandmother to investigate a shooting at a private high school. Her grandson has confessed to the crime but she refuses to believe he could have committed such a heinous act. Spenser of course sticks his nose in places he doesn't belong, knocks down doors, flirts with the ladies and generally pisses a lot of people off.

Things of course are not all they seem but even the biggest twist of the book feels like it was tossed in for shock value. It was interesting to see a character like Spenser trying to make sense of something that happens with a disturbingly increasing frequency in this country, but even Spenser can't really make sense of senseless murder.

I don't mean to imply that I didn't enjoy School Days. I always love spending time with Spenser, whether or not Hawk or Susan are with him. Robert Parker is one of my favorite storytellers and even his weak stories never fail to entertain.