Archive for the 'Vampires' Category

Review: Dark Prince by Christine Feehan

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

It’s not often that I get to indulge in pure fantasy junk food. Paranormal romance is not my usual choice, but a friend was interested in Dark Prince, so I decided to give it a try before I passed it along. I had a stressful business trip on the schedule and I thought that some chiseled, supernaturally handsome vampires would be great company in my lonely hotel room – and I was right. Dark Prince is literary junk food – no nutritional value but oh, so tasty.

Of course, it’s vampires. This is the first book in Feehan’s Dark series, originally published in 1999, reissued with additional material — 100 pages worth — and a purple cover, certainly earned by the purple prose within.  Curling up with the Carpathians in my hotel room took me right back to my mother’s Harlequin romance novels: the men are chiseled, strong, exotic and extraordinarily handsome, while the women are tiny, hauntingly beautiful beings who will stand up for themselves, but always seem to bow to their menfolk in the end. But Feehan must be doing something that resonates with readers — there are more than 20 books in the Dark series. I can see how easily readers can be drawn into the story of Mikhail and Raven.

Mikhail is the prince of the Carpathians, an ancient race of beings that are almost-but-not-completely vampires. They stay out of the sun, they drink blood, the shape-shift, turn into mist, control the minds of humans…but they aren’t vampires. Carpathian males are perpetually searching for their lifemate; if they don’t find her, they will eventually fall into darkness and either commit suicide or become a true vampire. Mikhail has nearly given up on the search when he “meets” Raven. He knows almost immediately that she is his true lifemate, but no human woman has ever survived the conversion without losing her mind. Will Raven be the one?

Of course she will — we all know that.  It’s all in how she gets there. In addition, there are vampire hunters who are determined to wipe out Mikhail’s clan, there are nosy tourists at the inn where Raven is staying, and there is a tremendous clash of wills between a [fairly] modern woman and an old-world prince, accustomed to being obeyed.  Oh, and did I mention the hot sex?

This was a quick, fun read. I zipped through it in a couple of nights and it was perfect hotel room fodder on a tough trip.  It didn’t require a lot of focus, it had just enough plot to keep the story moving along, and the sex was pretty hot. Of course, I ran into the problems I always have with romance novels.  The main characters are supernaturally beautiful (Raven is described as “tiny” 13 different times and I lost track of how many times we’re told she’s small and delicate). The language is flowery and over-the-top. the sex is hot, but the descriptions! There must be a list of romance novel sex phrases online somewhere and there is little that will dampen my interest in a love scene faster than reading about his pulsing manhood and her quivering sheath. The text could really use Coco Chanel’s advice: look at each sentence and remove one adjective before you hit save.

Does that sound harsh? It shouldn’t. I enjoyed this book! I won’t be picking up the rest of the series but if I was stuck in the airport, like I am this morning, I wouldn’t feel bad about picking up one of Feehan’s novels at the concourse bookstore. It will certainly be a fun read and I can rein in my eye-rolling for a few hundred pages. I never trust people who never read trashy novels; everyone needs a guilty pleasure. Paging through the reviews here you’ll find serious literary fiction, sci-fi, non-fiction, dashing detectives and scary serial killers. Balance is important and I like my books as varied as I like my dinner menu. I’m grateful to the friend whose interest prompted my own. I hope she enjoys this book as well.

My copy of Dark Prince was provided free of charge by the publisher, Harper Collins.

Teaser Tuesday: Dark Prince

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Happy Tuesday!  It’s that time of the week when we all gather round the computer and share snippets from our current books.  You know how this works: open your current read to a random page, pick 2 teaser sentences to share with us.  No spoilers, please!  Be sure to tell us enough about the book so we can add it to our TBR List.

This week, I’m reading Dark Prince by Christine Feehan.  The book is the start of her Dark series and it is not something I ever would have requested, but it’s been kind of fun.  Pure, cheesy vampire romance, with delicate heroines, chiseled dark heroes, danger, suspense, wolves…and wild hot sex on the floor in front of the fireplace.  I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like it since high school and it’s kind of fun.

“‘I don’t fear you, Mikhail,’ she denied gently, tipping her face up to study his in the moonlight. ‘I fear for you.'”

You knew there would be moonlight, didn’t you?  Check back later this week for the vampire romance reviews!

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Review: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

I saw the movie, Let the Right One In, last year and was immediately drawn in by it.  The stark settings and minimal dialogue gave the film a sense of isolation and dread.  Nothing good could happen in these surroundings.  As soon as I found out the film was based on a book, I had to have it.  It just took me a little while.

The book, Let the Right One In, resurrects all the chills the movie gave me.  Oskar is a lonely 13-year-old boy — chubby, friendless and a bit homicidal:

Strangely enough, he already knew the name of his victim, and what he looked like.  Jonny Forsberg with his long hair and large, mean eyes.  He would make him plead and beg for his life, squeal like a pig, but in vain.  The knife would have the last word and the earth would drink his blood.  Oskar had read those words in a book and liked them.

The Earth Shall Drink His Blood.

So, imagine this lonely boy, playing on a deserted playground in the middle of winter, surrounded by cinder-block apartment houses and Swedish forest.  He meets a girl, Eli — a strange girl — and the two of them develop a complicated relationship.  She tells Oskar she cannot be his friend (although she doesn’t tell him why), but she doesn’t act like she isn’t a friend.  Still, she hasn’t bathed and she isn’t dressed for the cold — just a thin pink sweater, no gloves, no coat.  When Oskar asks her why she isn’t cold, she simply says, “I guess I’ve forgotten how to.”

Eli is impervious to cold, remarkably strong for a girl her age, and only comes out at night.  Hmmm….

Eli also has a caretaker.  A much older man, who may or may not be her father, and who has decidedly sketchy motives for associating with a young girl.  Eli, we find out, is not above trading on those motives when she has to.  Things become even more complicated when Oskar begins to suspect that the new family on the block has a connection to a recent murder.  One body becomes two and a potential killer turns up in the hospital, horribly disfigured, and many more people are drawn into the devastating mix.

Frequently, I find that I either love the book and hate the movie or vice versa.  In this case, I found they worked together very well.  If I’d read the book first, some of the scenes in the movie involving Eli’s history and Oskar’s relationship with his father would have resonated more deeply — there is a lot of subtext there, a lot going on below the surface, only hinted at on film.  Seeing the movie first, I could place pieces of the story in a visual context, with my memory of the landscape and look of the places involved in the story.  If you’re not familiar with either, I would suggest reading, then watching.

I was fascinated by the book.  I kept thinking about the relationship between Eli and Oskar.  Eli appears fragile, but she is preternaturally strong.  She is most definitely older than her years.  She encourages Oskar to stand up to the bullies that make his life miserable, but what are her motives?  The book fills in a lot of blanks — about Eli’s past as well as Oskar’s — but that doesn’t necessarily make the picture clearer.  It certainly makes for a fascinating story.

Let the Right One In

Review: Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

The vampires are everywhere these days!  I thought I had called for a temporary ban on vampire books, then I found this one in my suitcase on my last trip (and in my carry-on for this week’s trip: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist — saw the movie and had to read the book).  But Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story is different.  It’s a hilarious send-up of vampire stories and modern romance.  What does your average girl do when she wakes up a vampire?

Jody never asked to become a vampire.  She is waylaid on her way home from work by an ancient and powerful vampire, who leaves her under a dumpster in an alley for a couple of days to recover.  When she gets home, she finds a boyfriend more pissed-off than worried — he is obviously no good in a crisis, since the sight of her burned hand leaves him rocking and hugging himself in the corner.  Thankfully, ol’ Ancient Evil left Jody a grocery bag full of cash.  She’s going to need it, since she’s out of a job and, apparently, will need to find somewhere else to live.

Tommy is an aspiring writer from Incontinence, Indiana, come to the big city to make his fortune — or at least jump-start his writing career.  He is befriended by the Emperor, a fixture around the city, a homeless man with two dogs who seems to be revered by the city residents.

Tommy was startled out of his reverie by a screeching war whoop.  He looked up to see a Rollerblader in fluorescent pads and helmet closing in on him at breakneck speed.  An old man, who was sitting on the sidewalk ahead feeding croissants to his two dogs, looked up momentarily and threw a croissant across the sidewalk.  The dogs shot after the treat, pulling their cotton-rope leashes tight.  Tommy cringed.  The Rollerblader hit the rope and went airborne, describing a ten-foot arc in the air before crashing in a tangle of padded limbs and wheels at Tommy’s feet.

“Perhaps you should slow down on the sidewalks,” the old man called.

The skater sat up and turned to the old man.  “Oh, Your Majesty, I didn’t know.  I’m sorry.”

“Safety first, son,” the old man said with a smile.

The Emperor hooks Tommy up with a job as the night manager at a grocery store, where the most important question in the interview process seems to be “what do you throw?”  Tommy’s answer (a 12-pound Butterball) and his obvious familiarity with the great sport of frozen turkey bowling, is all he needs to make friends.   On the job, he meets Jody — beautiful, red-headed and newly undead — and that’s where his life really takes a bizarre turn.  Soon they are shacked up in the loft of his dreams, they’ve got great furniture, they’re having great sex — so why does she want him to go to Sears and buy the biggest chest freezer they have?  She doesn’t even eat – what could she possibly need to store in there?

The books is great fun.  All the little complexities of life as a new vampire (how do you pick up your last check from your old job when you can’t get there during business hours?  what do you do when your mother wants to come for a visit?) and the start of a grand new romance, all rolled up with ancient evil, crazy homeless guys and stoned slacker buddies.  It was a perfect airport read, but I am looking forward to something a little meatier.

My copy of Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story was purchased at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cleveland.

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Review: Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, by Amanda Grange

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

I swear, this is the last Jane Austen mash-up I’m going to read.

I also swear that I will not break out into Dear Jane letters, as Elizabeth is inclined to do at critical junctures of the book. The Postal Service could not be terribly reliable in Europe in her day, but the letters provide an easy way for Elizabeth to share her deepest secrets with us, as well as with Jane, and so she keeps writing.

I found Mr. Darcy, Vampyre to be a breezier read than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It’s not written to be funny, although it is occasionally ridiculous; it seems a more serious attempt to extend the romance of Elizabeth Bennett and her beloved Mr Darcy. From the glorious morning of their wedding day to the novel’s final sunrise, they stay true to the world Austen created.

The story begins on the morning of Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding. They are having a double ceremony, sharing the happy occasion with Jane and her Mr. Bingley. But the trouble starts almost immediately after the wedding breakfast — Darcy has received some disturbing news along with their wedding congratulations, and he cancels their trip to the Lake District and he and Elizabeth head for Paris.

As they travel across the Continent, there is a whirlwind of parties and balls given in their honor, visits with Darcy’s wide circle of friends and relatives, along with an undercurrent of menace. It is clear that things are not what they seem. Some of Darcy’s relatives seem openly shocked to meet Elizabeth, and when Cousin Sophia lets slip – “This is the dress I wore to meet Marco Polo” – it’s clear that someone has been keeping some secrets.

Of course, you and I know that Darcy is a vampire. Many of his friends and relatives are obviously vampires. Author Amanda Grange has tailored a vampire mythology (everything from their ability to go out in the sun to the way they age and die) to fit her story and purposes. In a puzzling turn, Darcy has not once visited Elizabeth’s bedchamber. Weeks into their wedding tour, our bride is still a virgin. Obviously Darcy is restraining himself, but why? What fun are vampires that don’t have sex?

I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of the Darcy’s vampire nature in action. There are a few incidents, but until about three-quarters of the way through the book, you could make the case that he simply had cold feet and was keeping his distance from his bride. It is fun to read certain comments and reactions, knowing what we know, and watching Elizabeth try to sort out the mystery on her own, but I would have liked it better if she clued in a little earlier.

I read Mr. Darcy, Vampyre on the flight from Cleveland to Minneapolis. It was a quick, fun read — it kept the feeling of other Austen novels, with some downright silly situations. Devoted Austen fans don’t seem to enjoy it as much, but I was amused by it. Heck, I finished it, which is more than I can say for Sense and Sensibility.

My copy of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre was provided free of charge for review. You can read more about the book at the novel’s blog, and more about the author, Amanda Grange, at her website.

Review: How to Catch and Keep a Vampire by Diana Laurence

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

Vampires are all the rage these days. True Blood on HBO, the Twilight series and movies, Being Human on BBC America has a vampire, even the recently (and sadly) departed Blood Ties on Lifetime (and the books by Tanya Huff) – those bloodsuckers are everywhere. (I’ve even got a giveaway featuring vampires!) And for the modern woman who can’t resist a real bad boy, Diana Laurence has written How to Catch and Keep a Vampire: A Step-By-Step Guide to Loving the Bad and the Beautiful. This fun bit of fluff is billed as a modern-day dating guide for the gal who wants her very own vampire boyfriend. It gives you all the inside info you need on where to meet a vamp, how to attract his attention, how to avoid a deadly dinner party…it even reveals The Secret of the Red Satin Ribbon. Follow that advice at your own risk.

The book starts with a bit of a cheat. To get around the obvious problem of not being able to be seen in daylight, Laurence provides vampires with LiquidShade – an elixir that keeps your new beau from bursting into flames when he steps out in the sun. She also explains that vampires long ago developed synthetic blood. After all, they have a lot of time on their hands for research and it was a pretty important problem for them to solve. Still, taking all the obstacles out of it takes some of the fun, too.

Laurence counsels “vampirophiles” on how to deal with their Inner Mina, named for Dracula’s victim in Bram Stoker’s novel:

“At every age we read vampire books and watch vampire movies over and over so we can imagine ourselves as Mina, melting into Dracula’s arms. We never tire of this fantasy of utter capitulation to the dangerous but imminently seductive power of the vampire. He is so dark, so foreboding…and yet promises such transcendant delights. All he asks is that you lose your will to him, and in return you will feel the glorious bliss of his domination…”

Okay, it’s not all quite that bad. It focuses on very modern-day problems, things like how to tell your co-workers you’re dating the undead, how to deal with the infidelity issue, whether or not to let him bite you on the first date. (And I do mean him — there’s really no info here for gents who want to meet a lady vampire.) She gives advice on where to meet vampires and how to balance dating a mortal boyfriend with keeping a vampire lover on the side. She also tells stories about her own dating experiences with her previous vampire loves – Conner, Mordred, Adam, Gunnar, etc.

There are also a lot of vampire myths to dispel: are they cold to the touch, can they see themselves in a mirror, can you kill them with holy water and garlic? And what about those fangs — how do they just pop out right when they’re needed? She treats these tops in a very matter-of-fact manner, as if you could pick up any issue of Vanity Fair or Scientific American and find the answers you need.

How to Catch and Keep a Vampire is, as I said, a bit of fluff. It’s fun, if you’ve caught the current vampire craze, and not a bad way to lounge away a weekend afternoon.

My copy of How to Catch and Keep a Vampire was provided free of charge for review.

Jane Austen goes monster-crazy

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Apparently, I am not the only reader who thinks Jane Austen’s novels could use a little more excitement. Last month, I reviewed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I loved. Then, via USA Today, I got the news that Quirk Productions is negotiating a movie deal for the surprise best seller! And there are more monster novels on the way.

What is it with Jane Austen and monsters? There’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. There’s the soon-to-be-released Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. (I missed out on an early reviewer copy, but I should be receiving a final copy sometime very soon, review to follow in short order.) There’s Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (huh? Not sure I get that at all). And those are not the only books in the works. Amanda Grange is the author of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, as well as a number of other novels about Austen’s characters, including Mr. Darcy’s Diary, Mr. Knightley’s Diary, Captain Wentworth’s Diary — you get the picture — and other historical romances. She is also working on a prequel to her Vampyre novel that will take place before Pride and Prejudice. According to the USA Today article, we can also look forward to Darcy’s Hunger and Jane Bites Back.

I have a theory that this has something to do with all of the fan fiction out there on the Internet these days — because that’s really what these books are. They take characters created by someone else and play with them for a while. They send them on new adventures, hook them up with other characters to create more interesting relationships, and explore themes that the original work only hinted at. I think it’s fun; there are plenty of writers who have made a living with these sorts of novels expanding on Star Wars, Star Trek, Torchwood and other “fandoms”, but I wonder why Jane Austen is the most popular ‘verse of late.

Maybe it’s also a desire to go back to high school English class and liven it up. Could we interest kids in Robinson Crusoe if we found a way to tie it into Lost? And how about Around the World in 80 Days? That’s not much of an accomplishment anymore, but just think of the places Phileas Fogg could go in the Tardis! Would Crime and Punishment have been an easier slog if Raskolnikov had been visited by Lizaveta’s ghost?

Of course, the truth is probably more pedestrian: one book was a hit, so a dozen variations will soon follow. Maybe some English teacher will be brave enough to use them in class, but I doubt it. Still, I hope it stimulates the interest of some kids who can’t get interested in Victorian manners and morals (heaven knows I couldn’t) and keeps them reading, if only to better imagine the scene where the Mummy shows up at the Bennet’s door.

Review: The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

If you’re tired of the current glut of wimpy, sparkly-shiny vampires, this book is the perfect antidote. Del Toro’s vampires are brutal, disgusting, ravenous monsters. No romance here, folks.

Ephraim Goodweather heads up the Canary Project, a “rapid-response team of field epidemiologists organized to detect and identify incipient biological threats.” These could be biological weapons, man-made outbreaks or naturally occurring viruses that become a danger to the population. When a plane lands at JFK under mysterious circumstances, his team is called in to assess the danger.

Eph is a devoted dad, fighting for custody of his son, Zack – not an easy prospect, with a job like his. He tries to protect Zack and his ex-wife, Kelly – even her new boyfriend, Matt, But they won’t listen. No one is going to listen until it’s too late.

The mysterious landing of Flight 753 (Berlin to New York) is one of the creepiest things I’ve read in a long time. The landing is perfect…then it just stops. Sits there on the runway – no power, no lights, no engines, and every single window shade pulled down tight. The atmosphere described by the authors is so ominous that you’ve got goosebumps well before Eph and his team show up.

Of course, there was a vampire on that flight. An ancient evil, to steal an over-used phrase. These vampires don’t just spread their disease by biting; they have other ways to get under your skin. But there is one man in Manhattan who is very familiar with this particular evil, an old pawnshop owner named Abraham Setrakian. He will join forces with Eph, Zack, Eph’s partner, Nora, and an exterminator named Vasily Fet. Vasily has spent his whole life killing vermin – he may have a useful trick up his sleeve.

I loved this book! I love a good scare and this one delivers. The vamps are creepy, there is plenty of atmosphere and the story just sucks you in. I would expect no less from Guillermo del Toro (I’m a big fan of his movies); I’m not familiar with Chuck Hogan’s work, but I will definitely be checking him out.

The Strain is the first book in a trilogy. It is scheduled for release June 2, 2009; you can pre-order your copy at