Friday, December 19, 2014

Review: The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice



The Vampire Lestat
Anne Rice

Genre: Gothic Horror
Paperback: 550 Pages
Publication: October 1986 (originally 1985)
by Ballantine Books



Lestat, having risen from the earth after a fifty-five years' sleep, and infatuated with the modern world, presents himself in all his vampire brilliance as a rock star, a superstar, a seducer of millions. And, in this blaze of adulation, daring to break the vampire oath of silence, he determines to tell his story, to rouse the generations of the living dead from their slumbers and to penetrate the riddle of his own existence.


Review

Once again, my love of vampires reigned supreme when I drew this book for review. I was already well acquainted with Lestat from previous books and the film adaptation (yes, I did picture Tom Cruise at times while reading), so I was curious as to how his origin story would turn out. Needless to say, I was dazzled by the time I finished.

Since he's our protagonist this time around, let's look at Lestat. While he came across as devilish yet somehow magnetic in Interview with the Vampire, this book provides for a slightly different vampire. He's still a brat and seems to have thing for breaking rules, but we get to see why he acted the way he did in the last book. Call it my weakness for rock stars in leather on motorcycles, but I found myself falling for Lestat in the first few pages of the novel. I actually had to remind myself that this same guy was the antagonist of the book I'd read only a few weeks ago. But these first few chapters really reminded me why other characters find themselves so drawn to him.

I think what gave way to this change of feelings towards Lestat was the way this story was told. Since we only saw him from Louis's perspective in the last book, we saw Lestat as Louis painted him: a cruel leader who wanted to keep any and all knowledge of other vampires and vampiric nature from his fledglings. Again, since we see Lestat's life from his early years as a young aristocrat and actor to his transformation into a vampire and the years that follow, we learn the reasons why he kept all of this information from Louis and Claudia. He actually reminded me of Louis when he is first transformed, fascinated with his new senses and holding a desire to live among mortals.

Where pacing was a problem for me in the last book, it wasn't the case for this one. Lestat as a narrator has a livelier voice than Louis, and the way the narrative is split into parts allows for an easier transition to the different major events of Lestat's life. What I did find myself struggling with a bit was the fact that Lestat doesn't really mention dates as time goes by. He'll say that a few months or years have passed, but there are rare instances of concrete dates given. This may just be due to his vampire nature, since the passage of time feels different to immortals. We also get more on the physical aspects and abilities of vampires and their mythos, including the origin of Those Who Must Be Kept, the oldest vampires in existence.

I think what I loved the most about this book was the emergence of other vampires, some of whom were familiar faces from the previous installment of the series. We once again meet the brooding Armand and learn briefly how he came to be born to darkness, as well as the establishment of the Theater of the Vampires. Later Lestat encounters Armand's creator Marius, who also gives us his tale of becoming a vampire and becoming the guardian of Those Who Must Be Kept. (Marius was already familiar to me since I'd read Pandora, so it was fun getting to hear about his tenure as a vampire.) Towards the end of the book we also get the reappearance of Louis, our narrator from Interview. Call it my weakness for him in particular, but I just about screamed with joy when he showed up. The moments with him also illustrated the change in how Lestat is portrayed.

I'll admit that I did like how the ending for Interview set you up for this book, but I really loved how the ending of this book sets up the next sequel. The last few sections are thrilling, with Lestat's band putting on their first show at a sold-out stadium in San Francisco, and the scene is fabulously put together, making you feel that you are right there with him onstage. The high energy and action of these last few pages, as well as the cliffhanger at the very end, left me excited to pick up the next book.

This book definitely tops its predecessor. Again, Rice's writing is fantastic in this book, and Lestat as a protagonist is a real delight. The vampires were great, possibly better this time around, and the ties to the last book worked incredibly well. The origin stories were good additions and could easily be picked up again in more detail in later books. This installment of the Vampire Chronicles was an absolute joy to read.

Rating: 5 stars


Series
  1. Interview with the Vampire
  2. The Vampire Lestat
  3. The Queen of the Damned
  4. The Tale of the Body Thief
  5. Memnoch the Devil
  6. The Vampire Armand
  7. Merrick
  8. Blood and Gold
  9. Blackwood Farm
  10. Blood Canticle
  11. Prince Lestat
Similar Books
  • Hotel Transylvania by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
  • Anno Dracula series by Kim Newman
  • Sunglasses After Dark by Nancy A. Collins
Content
  • Violence
  • Kissing
  • Scenes with intense homoerotic undertones
  • Some gore
  • Some graphic depictions of murder

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray



A Thousand Pieces
Of You

Claudia Gray

Series: Firebird #1
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance
Hardback: 368 Pages
Publication: November 4, 2014
by Harper Teen



Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.


Review

A Thousand Pieces of You is by far one of the best books I've read in 2014. In fact, I knew that there was a good chance I was going to love this book from the first lines of the novel.

My hand shakes as I brace myself against the brick wall. Rain falls cold and sharp against my skin, from a sky I've never seen before.

How beautiful is that?

To my delight, the novel continued to live up to the high expectations those first lines set. The worlds that Marguerite crosses are beautifully imperfect in their own ways and gives a glimpse of how her life can change so much based on even the smallest change in history. To my surprise, I found myself getting swept into Marguerite's life as she chases Paul across the different dimensions. While I expected a somewhat emotional book, given their complex relationship (I mean, we're told from the beginning that he murdered her father. . . or did he?), I hadn't expected the depth to this book. The idea of two peoples' fates being tied together and seeing how parts of their relationship don't seem to change no matter what happens to them in the present or in their alternate egos. . . while I do believe that there is a danger to thinking there is only one person out there for us, as it can cause us to stay too long in a relationship that really isn't working (I had to say it), it's breathtaking.

Marguerite's story starts in the right place and time for me. Starting in medias res is a perfect introduction to so many components of the book: the multiverse, Marguerite's chase, and the mess of emotions this novel will work in your heart. It proceeds not to get bogged down in backstory or even to narrate the story from the beginning like a lot of books I've read. Instead, it gives us information as needed, giving time to build up the tension before revealing everything to us. My only problem is that the villain close to home was pretty easy to guess. (Spoiler alert: highlight to read.) There's a problem with the two-guy trend in YA lit. If one isn't good for you, the other has to be bad for you. At least, that's how it seems to run right now. Nevertheless, there are some twists to the plot, and the multiverse itself is interesting enough to keep me hooked.

Frankly, there are some glitches in believability. The science of the Firebird doesn't seem plausible to me. I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, but the whole idea was seriously questionable to me. Even then, there was just enough given that I was left with more questions than if Marguerite had no knowledge whatsoever about its workings. (In that case, I could have accepted it and moved on.) Nevertheless, while I have questions here, it certainly didn't take away from my enjoyment of the novel. The different worlds that Marguerite visits are beautifully sketched with such careful detail and compelling characters that they really come to life and made me feel for each one. It made me feel like this was what I've been waiting to see in a good sci-fi romance book.

(Warning: some potential spoilers)

At the same time, when you travel to another universe here, you adopt the body of the you in that reality. (Hence, you can't travel to a world where you're already dead or never existed in the first place.) I know that it's her body, so Marguerite naturally assumes that the her from that dimension would agree with her decisions, but each action she makes influences that her in that dimension. Sometimes, she does some questionable things that I strongly feel violate the rights of her alter ego. Like putting her alter ego's life in danger and having sex with someone. So it was really cool when Marguerite later realizes the ethical problems of multiverse traveling and raises the question herself. Even if her alter ego also likes the guy she had sex with, she took a precious moment away from her alter ego, who may not have even wanted it, not to mention that it complicates her feelings for that person in her own world.

That said, I did have a serious problem with the sex scene. On top of Marguerite violating her alter ego's rights, putting her in a compromising position, and endangering her (there's no condoms or birth control), she didn't know the guy very well. Sure, she knew the version from her world, but their relationship moved very quickly. This wasn't even the first time it happened. Near the beginning of the book, she would have had sex with another guy if he hadn't decided they should wait. Everything just seems to move so fast for Marguerite in relationships. It made me very uncomfortable. Other than this, however, I loved the book for the most part.

(End potential spoilers)

Set in a richly imaginative multiverse with, A Thousand Pieces of You is filled with compelling characters, plotline, and narration, that come together to explore some deep questions about fate and the ethics of traveling into parallel universes. I recommend this to readers that enjoy an emotional, deeply provocative novel that will sweep you into its world.

An ARC was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 4.5 star

Series
  • A Thousand Pieces of You
  • Firebird #2
  • Firebird #3

Content
  • Alcohol, Drugs, Clubs
  • Kissing, making out, sex
  • Some violence

Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: House of the Rising Sun by Kristen Painter



House of the Rising Sun
Kristen Painter

Series: Crescent City #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Crime
Paperback: 403 Pages
Publication: May 13, 2014
by Orbit Books



Augustine lives the perfect life in the Haven city of New Orleans. He rarely works a real job, spends most of his nights with a different human woman, and resides in a spectacular Garden District mansion paid for by retired movie star Olivia Goodwin, who has come to think of him as an adopted son, providing him room and board and whatever else he needs.

But when Augustine returns home to find Olivia's been attacked by vampires, he knows his idyllic life has comes to an end. It's time for revenge—and to take up the mantle of the city's Guardian.


Review

House of the Rising Sun has a compelling plotline. Those of you who have followed this blog regularly know that I've been getting into urban fantasy this year, and I was prepared to be taken for a thrilling ride with this one. While the novel wasn't quite the thrill I hoped it would be, the story definitely had me hooked with the intrigue surrounding the sudden population of vampires, not to mention the different subplots relating to different characters.

I especially like how the story is focused on Augustine, a male character. It's different from most UF books I read, and I liked him pretty well despite the awkward start. (Meeting him in a hotel the morning after... not a great start for me.) As I got to know him, I really grew to sympathize with Augustine. He's a kind boy who had to grow up too fast because of his differences. His abilities are pretty neat as well, and I enjoyed seeing how he makes use of them on the battlefield. The addition of Harlow's narrative was a surprise. I hadn't expected her presence as the synopsis only mentions Augustine. Honestly, I really didn't like her for much of the novel and still don't particularly like her. Family is really important to me, and the way she treats her mother (the sweet Olivia) made me so mad. To give her credit thought, she grows somewhat over the course of the novel.

I found the world very compelling and wish there was more world building. For the most part, I felt like I was reading for the plot when so much could have been done to really bring the world to life. I would have also loved to see more character development. So many of the characters are going through trying times with all the deaths and ruckus going on. I would have loved to see more of the characters' growth over the story.

Overall, House of the Rising Sun is a solid novel. While there is definitely room for the story to grow over the course of the series, it has a unique plot and characters with compelling backstories. If you're looking for a good, but not fantastic UF crime novel, I would recommend picking this one up for a different kind of UF read.

** I'm writing this review a several months after I read the book, so my memory isn't the best **

An ARC was provided by Orbit Books for review

Rating: 2.5 stars

Series
  1. House of the Rising Sun
  2. City of Eternal Night

Similar Books
Content
  • Kissing / making out
  • Alcohol
  • Sex
  • Violence

Friday, December 12, 2014

Review: Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen



Centaur Rising
Jane Yolen


Genre: MG/YA Urban Fantasy
Paperback: 272 Pages
Publication: October 1, 2014
by Henry Holt and Co.



One night during the Perseid meteor shower, Arianne thinks she sees a shooting star land in the fields surrounding her family’s horse farm. About a year later, one of their horses gives birth to a baby centaur. The family has enough attention already as Arianne’s six-year-old brother was born with birth defects caused by an experimental drug—the last thing they need is more scrutiny. But their clients soon start growing suspicious. Just how long is it possible to keep a secret? And what will happen if the world finds out?


Review

Centaur Rising is unique from other urban fantasy books I've read in that it explores how an isolated incident of magic will be received by the human world. This is definitely the part that I loved most about the book. From seeing the family's initial reactions to how they dealt with keeping this secret to how they deal with peoples' reactions upon learning their secret. (Because you really can't hide a growing centaur boy forever.) Robbie's reaction is especially precious. Having been homeschooled for most of his life because the other kids at school made fun of his appearance (he's a thalidomide baby), he hasn't really had the chance to socialize with other young boys, and the way he takes to Kai, as they decide to name the centaur, is precious. It's also a great reminder that sometimes we should accept gifts / miracles for what they are instead of questioning them.

Another wonderful aspect about the book is that it provides a sketch on how people approach conflict. As more people find out about Kai, more people want to give their opinion on what should be done, providing the breeding grounds for dissension. Even when people seem to be in agreement on the surface, there is a lot of internal conflict as well with everyone struggling with his or her own demons and the adults keeping things from the kids (Arianne is thirteen, Robbie six). This makes it a great book to present to upper MG and younger YA readers because it shows them the different ways that people approach conflict and deal with the problem of keeping a secret. Given the troubles keeping a secret brings Arianne's family, it also raises the question of whether a secret is worth keeping. Is it worth keeping the secret, or would have transparency from the beginning have been better?

Despite the great themes in the book, I did have problems with the narration. I always felt like a future Arianne was relaying events to us. While this is case, the narrative distance made it hard to relate to the characters over the course of the story. Arianne the narrator seems to be so busy telling the story that she misses out on chances to explore her feelings in the moment and show us how it feels to be a part of these events. The dialogue also felt forced and the characters weren't well developed. Mostly, the characters were brought in as needed to make a point and disappeared afterwards until they were needed again. This is a missed opportunity to show us how an unusual event influences people. While we definitely see the community coming together, there definitely could have been more to the process. For example, while Mr. Suss is mentioned, we never really see him appear. I would have also liked to see more exploration of the changes in Joey's mother after she finds out about Kai. It's also problematic that Kai, the one upon whom everyone's attention is focused, never really gets a chance to speak for him. Even when he speaks up at the end, it's truly Arianne who makes the bargain in his place.

Nevertheless, this is definitely a story meant for younger readers. There are great themes for them to explore in this book, and the unique plot may capture their interest. I recommend this for those who enjoy MG/YA books with a magical feel.

An ARC was provided by Macmillan for review

Rating: 2.5 stars

Series
  • N/A

Similar Books
  • N/A
Content
  • Language
  • Alcohol and alcohol-related aggression (drunken dad shows up)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Review: The Dark Between by Sonia Gensler



The Dark Between
Sonia Gensler

Genre: YA ParanormalMystery
Hardcover: 352 Pages
Publication: August 27, 2013
by Knopf Books For Young Readers



At the turn of the twentieth century, Spiritualism and séances are all the rage—even in the scholarly town of Cambridge, England. While mediums dupe the grief-stricken, a group of local fringe scientists seeks to bridge the gap to the spirit world by investigating the dark corners of the human mind. 
Each running from a shadowed past, Kate, Asher, and Elsie take refuge within the walls of Summerfield College. But their peace is soon shattered by the discovery of a dead body nearby. Is this the work of a flesh-and-blood villain, or is something otherworldly at play? This unlikely trio must illuminate what the scientists have not, and open a window to secrets taken to the grave—or risk joining the spirit world themselves. 

Review

I think this is the first time I've ever read a novel that centers around Spiritualism. Since this was the case, I have to admit that I was looking forward to reading it based on the premise. However, I felt that this novel fell a bit short on its promise.

I have mixed feelings about our protagonists. Kate, Asher, and Elsie get fairly equal amounts of screen time, so they're pretty well developed characters. However, I thought their individual developments could've benefited from some flashbacks. We're told about their pasts in tidbits, in particular about Elsie's unique condition, but these pieces are never expanded later on. I wanted to know more about the art tutor Elsie once loved, the relationship between Asher and his father, and how becoming an orphan affected Kate. Since the brief pieces of their past aren't elaborated on, I thought this was a big loss, as this information could've made these somewhat interesting characters even more so.

Much like previous books I've reviewed, this narrative follows a different character in each chapter. This was fine, but the problem I had with this structure was that there would be switches of the narrative within individual chapters. These sudden changes felt jolting and disorienting because of the switches of character and situation. I felt that this would've been better handled if each chapter just followed one character at a time.

Normally I take my time reading books because I like to savor them, if you will. This was a rare instance where I wish I had rushed through the book instead. The pacing felt very, very slow throughout the whole novel. There were a few sections that I wish hadn't meandered so much, and these made the plot seem to drag out more than necessary. Unfortunately, the prose didn't do anything to help this problem either. It wasn't horrible, but at times it didn't make for smooth reading.

Throughout this book, I felt most invested in the mystery. The way the clues were gradually revealed worked well, and I really liked how the three protagonists discover personal ties with the society of paranormal researchers. Since there were quite a few possible suspects for the murderer, it was actually fun and compelling to see how the trio gathered evidence and figured out who could and couldn't be guilty. I was curious about the nature of the murders and really wanted to know who or what was doing the killing, and the sleuthing moments didn't disappoint.

That being said, the ending left quite a bit to be desired. Once the killer's identity has been revealed, the story skips to a few hours afterwards with the characters discussing the accident that resulted because of said discovery. It honestly felt really anti-climactic for me. I thought this revelation would cause some sort of uproar, but because the character who finds out who the killer decides not to tell everyone the truth, we don't get the full effect of the revelation. I have to admit that I was genuinely shocked at who it turned out to be, but I felt that the motivation was lacking. Even though this novel is a standalone, the last few pages made me think that there would be the possibility of a sequel, or at least some sort of epilogue.

Part of me thinks I'm being a bit generous with this book because I genuinely liked the mystery for the most part. The characters were all right, though I still wish we had gotten some more on their respective pasts. However, missing background on characters, sudden switches in narrative, a lukewarm climax and an unsatisfactory ending hurt my enjoyment of this book.

Rating: 2 stars


Series

N/A

Similar Books
  • Born of Illusion by Teri Brown
  • Notes From Ghost Town by Kate Ellison
Content
  • Kissing
  • Some touching
  • Brief physical violence
  • Some disturbing imagery

Friday, November 28, 2014

Review: Kissing Coffins by Ellen Schreiber



Kissing Coffins
Ellen Schreiber

Genre: YA Urban FantasyParanormal Romance
Paperback: 240 Pages
Publication: May 1, 2007 (originally 2005)
by HarperTeen



Not far from Dullsville, someone's lurking in the dark. . . . After meeting the handsome and shadowy Alexander Sterling, goth-girl Raven's dark world has a bright, new glow. But as in her favorite movie, Kissing Coffins, Raven knows that love always has its complications, especially when Alexander has a big secret to guard. When Alexander suddenly disappears, Raven leaves Dullsville to begin a dangerous search to find him. Can she stay safe, no matter who--or what--she encounters on the way? 

Review

When I first discovered the Vampire Kisses series, I read some of them out of order, this entry being the first one I picked up. While I remember being very excited when I read this book a few years ago, I have to admit that I had to hold back any fond teenage memories of that reading. Fortunately, this entry in the series held up better than the first.

I know I brought it up when talking about the last book, but comparisons tend to come up between this series and Twilight, since they fall within the same genre and came out within a few years of each other. Unlike Bella, who does nothing in the several months the sparkly one is gone in New Moon, Raven is very active in this book from the beginning. She goes out and does some investigating (calling herself "Nancy Drew dipped in black") to figure out where Alexander could have gone. I feel like this sequence is both a plus and a minus. The bad thing is that it makes Raven looks like a clingy girlfriend, needing to know where her boyfriend could've gone off to only a few days after he leaves town. The positive is that her taking initiative and actually doing something is better than just moping around and wondering when Alexander will return. It reminds us of how feisty and spunky she is. I also liked that we got some of her thoughts about dating a vampire and the possibility of being turned into one; she takes the time to stop and consider the consequences of such a choice.

We don't see much of Raven's family here, but we are introduced to her Aunt Libby, her father's sister, and the town of "Hipsterville." I loved Raven's aunt and would really like to see her again in the future. Like her niece, Libby isn't afraid to be her own person; she's a modern-day hippie who works at a vegan restaurant during the day while performing with a theater troupe at night. Maybe it's because Raven only spends two or three days in the town, but I really wanted to see more of Hipsterville. Where Raven's hometown of Dullsville is called a pastel, conservative town full of preps, Hipsterville is full of people from many different subcultures, from Goths like Raven to hippies like her Aunt Libby. I felt like Schreiber could've spent some more time in the town for us to get a better feel on the town's funky vibe.

I also loved the development we got in this book on Alexander. Just as we discovered Raven's love of vampires in the last book and her desire to become a creature of the night, here we got to see some of Alexander's thoughts on his vampire nature and what he thinks it would be like to have been born a human. I thought this worked well to establish him as a complement to Raven; just as she wishes to live in his world, he wants to live in hers. I really loved this about him and felt that it made him come across as a mature character, or at least more mature than Raven. There's also some development of Raven's best friend, Becky. She is described as mousy in the last book, but her few moments here show that she stands up for herself a little more now that she has a boyfriend.

What I probably loved the most about this book was the antagonist, Jagger Maxwell. Maybe it's because I just reviewed Interview with the Vampire, but I feel like Jagger is a modern-age teen version of Lestat de Lioncourt. Schreiber portrayed him as very gorgeous (albeit gorgeous if you're into guys with piercings and funky hair colors) and seductive; even I found myself drawn to him, though he clearly seemed dangerous. However, I felt like his appearance just screams "I'm the villain of the story!" when he is first introduced. I thought this could've been more subtle, like Jagger could still have the appearance of a bad boy but some redeemable quality that wouldn't make him seem like such a bad guy.

Just like the last book, we think that the whole storm has blown over by the last few chapters and that Alexander and Raven can live in peace. However, the very last chapter came with a twist that sets you up for another sequel. Unlike the twist from Vampire Kisses, this one could be seen coming, as there were a few clues sprinkled in about the person it centers around. The twist has a better setup for the sequel than the first book, and you don't quite get the feeling that the story is missing a chapter at the end or something. The trouble with Jagger has presumably ended, but then comes a new character and there is the feeling of "To be continued" that leaves you in anticipation for the next book.

Though it has some flaws, this book was an improvement to the last one in my mind. (For this review and the last one, I read the new edition that has the first three books of the series collected in a single volume. If you would like to check it out, click here.) Even though Schreiber still relies on some stereotypes, there's actually more development to some of the characters, in particular Alexander and Raven. We get to leave Dullsville and see the town of Hipsterville, if briefly. We get a great villain in Jagger Maxwell, and the lead-up to the next book was executed well. This book was definitely better than the original.

Rating: 4 stars


Series
  1. Vampire Kisses
  2. Kissing Coffins
  3. Vampireville
  4. Dance With a Vampire
  5. The Coffin Club
  6. Royal Blood
  7. Love Bites
  8. Cryptic Cravings
  9. Immortal Hearts

Similar Books
  • The Taste of Night by R.L. Stine
  • Got Fangs? by Katie Maxwell
  • Pulse by Kailin Gow
Content
  • Kissing
  • Some touching
  • Biting
  • Some physical confrontation