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Review: Kissing Coffins by Ellen Schreiber

Friday, November 28, 2014


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

Review: Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber

Friday, November 21, 2014


Vampire Kisses
Ellen Schreiber

Genre: YA Urban FantasyParanormal Romance
Paperback: 253 Pages
Publication: July 26, 2005 (originally 2003)
by HarperTrophy



In her small town, dubbed "Dullsville," sixteen-year-old Raven — a vampire-crazed goth-girl — is an outcast. But not for long... The intriguing and rumored-to-be haunted mansion on top of Benson Hill has stood vacant and boarded-up for years. That is, until its mysteriously strange new occupants move in. Who are these creepy people — especially the handsome, dark, and elusive Alexander Sterling? Or rather, what are they? Could the town prattle actually ring true? Are they vampires? Raven, who secretly covets a vampire kiss, both at the risk of her own mortality and Alexander's loving trust, is dying to uncover the truth. 

Review

I was in high school when the Twilight craze was at its strongest, and I was a fan at first. But around the time the movie came out my junior year, I decided that I needed to look for some new vampires, preferably some that didn't sparkle. I actually read most of this series in high school, but I thought it would be good to revisit it and see if it holds up as well for an adult as it did for a teenage girl.

Schreiber's writing is fresh and light, definitely easy enough for a tween to follow. I did find a few inconsistencies in timing and details, but these were probably minor enough that wouldn't really bother younger readers. There is a bit of angst thrown in for teens to relate to, but it's not done in a heavy-handed way. There's plenty of humor, and seeing a Goth girl get the best of preppy boys made for some good laughs, whether you're a Goth or not.

Personally, I love and hate Raven at the same time. I love her because she is spunky and sassy, stands up for herself and what she believes in, and cares for her best friend and family even though they don't agree with or share her lifestyle choices. I hate her because her sassiness sometimes borders on making her look like a brat and at times her tastes seem a little... extreme in keeping with cliches, if you will. Something I think people should keep in mind (and that I wish I had known a few years ago) before reading this book is that Ellen Schreiber was a comedian before becoming a writer. Raven is a parody of Goths, what with wearing black lipstick every day, obsessing over vampires, and automatically hating any article of clothing that isn't black. As a Goth myself, I frequently found myself rolling my eyes or giggling at her, as I still embrace some of those cliches at my age.

Most of the other characters were bland, and this was really disappointing. We get quite a bit on how Raven's parents were hippies when they first met, but there isn't really any description about how they came to become more conservative. As soon as Raven's little brother Billy was born, their parents trade in the lava lamps and seventies paraphernalia for Tiffany lamps and business suits. Lack of braces and glasses aside, Billy is a stereotypical computer nerd and annoying little brother. Raven's best friend Becky is a shy and mousy farm girl, mostly acting as Raven's shadow. The antagonist, popular jock Trevor Mitchell, had the potential to be interesting, but that promise fell short, since we are never told why he constantly picks on Raven. Since this is the first book in the series, there will hopefully be some more development on these characters later on.

This book features probably the best teenage vampire I've read about, and we don't see him as much as I would like. We do run into Alexander once or twice in the first half of the book, but he doesn't actually do anything. When he does start to get more screen time, we can see that he really seems like an average, somewhat sheltered guy. He's definitely the opposite of the cool and confident Trevor. He's sweet and kind and very polite, and is later revealed to be something of a romantic. Even though we don't get to spend a lot of time with him, what we do get is enjoyable.

Film critic Leonard Maltin once called Jaws a "miracle" movie, because everything that could've gone wrong went wrong. The same could be said for this book, but in terms of coincidences. It seemed that every piece of evidence that could prove Alexander to be a vampire had some sort of explanation. It actually got to the point where I was expecting him to turn out to just be a normal boy, but then came the reveal in the last few chapters, which felt a lot like the twist ending of a Goosebumps book. I'm also not sure what to make of the ending. It's a good thing that this isn't a standalone book because, by the end, the story feels like it still has something to say. The last chapter practically sets you up for the sequel and leaves you wondering what will happen.

This book isn't horrible, but it isn't stellar either. Lack of character depth and overuse of stereotypes aside, this was a pretty fun read. Despite being something of a caricature, Raven is a likable enough protagonist, and Alexander as a love interest is intriguing and sweet. The mystery and reveal could've been handled better, but there were quite a few moments that provided great laughs throughout the book. This is definitely a teen and tween friendly read, and this book is definitely better than that other series we've come to make so much fun of.

Rating: 3 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
  • Vampire Crush by AM Robinson
  • Got Fangs? by Katie Maxwell
  • Pulse by Kailin Gow
Content
  • Kissing
  • Biting
  • Some physical confrontation

Giveaway: Endsinger by Jay Kristoff

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Endsinger
by Jay Kristoff


Genre: SteampunkFantasy
Hardback: 432 Pages
Publication: November 25, 2014
by Thomas Dunne Books



A TREMBLING EARTH
The flames of civil war sweep across the Shima Imperium. With their plans to renew the Kazumitsu dynasty foiled, the Lotus Guild unleash their deadliest creation—a mechanical goliath known as the Earthcrusher, intended to unite the shattered Empire under a yoke of fear. With the Tiger Clan and their puppet Daimyo Hiro in tow, the Guild marches toward a battle for absolute dominion over the Isles.

A BROKEN REBELLION
Yukiko and Buruu are forced to take leadership of the KagĂ© rebellion, gathering new allies and old friends in an effort to unite the country against the chi-mongers. But the ghosts of Buruu’s past stand between them and the army they need, and Kin’s betrayal has destroyed all trust among their allies. When a new foe joins the war tearing the Imperium apart, it will be all the pair can do to muster the strength to fight, let alone win.

A FINAL BATTLE
The traitor Kin walks the halls of Guild power, his destiny only a bloody knife-stroke away. Hana and Yoshi struggle to find their place in a world now looking to them as heroes. Secret cabals within the Lotus Guild claw and struggle; one toward darkness, the other toward light. And as the earth splits asunder, as armies destroy each other for rule over an empire of lifeless ash and the final secret about blood lotus is revealed, the people of Shima will learn one last, horrifying truth.

There is nothing a mother won't do to keep her children by her side.

Nothing.


Giveaway

1 Copy of Endsinger
Open to the US / Canada only

a Rafflecopter giveaway


About the Author

Jay Kristoff grew up in the most isolated capital city on earth and fled at his earliest convenience, although he’s been known to trek back for weddings of the particularly nice and funerals of the particularly wealthy. He spent most of his formative years locked in his bedroom with piles of books, or gathered around dimly-lit tables rolling polyhedral dice. Being the holder of an Arts degree, he has no education to speak of.

Connect with Jay
Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter


 
This post was made as part of the tour hosted by Thomas Dunne
To view the full list of participating sites, click here

Review: Needful Things by Stephen King

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Needful Things
Stephen King

Genre: Horror
Hardcover: 690 Pages
Publication: October 1991
by Viking



Leland Gaunt opens a new shop in Castle Rock called Needful Things. Anyone who enters his store finds the object of his or her lifelong dreams and desires: a prized baseball card, a healing amulet. In addition to a token payment, Gaunt requests that each person perform a little "deed," usually a seemingly innocent prank played on someone else from town. These practical jokes cascade out of control and soon the entire town is doing battle with itself. Only Sheriff Alan Pangborn suspects that Gaunt is behind the population's increasingly violent behavior.


Review

I'll start by saying this: you don't want to rush through this book. There's a lot going on in Needful Things, and you will definitely want to take your time with it. I had to learn the hard way, hence why this review took me a little longer than usual. That being said, let's move on.

I'm always happy to be reading Stephen King, and Needful Things was another delight. I loved the references to other King works, and while I had to look up a few, there were some that were familiar to me. Characters from Cujo and The Dead Zone came up in passing, as did Shawshank Prison. (I also couldn't help but picture Ace Merrill from "The Body" in Different Seasons as looking like Keifer Sutherland, who played him in the movie adaptation of said novella.) Protagonist Alan and his girlfriend Polly were great characters, both revealed to be people struggling with painful personal losses. How they come to cope with these not only shows how strong their relationship is, but also helps in defeating the antagonist.

As I said in my review of Something Wicked This Way Comes, every great horror story needs a great antagonist, and Mr. Gaunt is a devilishly good antagonist. Call it the wave of nineties nostalgia that's hit me lately, but he came across as an evil version of Sardo from Are You Afraid of the Dark? (for those of you not familiar with the show, it was a horror anthology series for kids that ran for a while in the nineties. Think like Goosebumps, only darker and creepier.). But whereas Sardo sold magical objects without actually knowing they were magical, Mr. Gaunt uses dark magic to trick his customers into buying his wares. Like Mr. Dark from Something Wicked This Way Comes, Mr. Gaunt is scary because we know very little about him. The things we do learn only enhance the image of him as a boogeyman.

The pacing held very well throughout this novel. There was plenty of intrigue when Needful Things and Mr. Gaunt are first introduced; even though customers leak into the store literally one at a time, their reactions to whatever they buy really makes you wonder about the nature of the shop. But once the first few hints concerning the unusual nature of Needful Things arose, everything quickened. The narrative is separated into the three parts, and the third act was literally where all hell broke loose. There was murder and mayhem going on left and right, and the final confrontation had me racing through the pages because of how insane it was.

As much as I loved the concept of the curio shop that turns out to be sinister, I really loved the way Mr. Gaunt set up the whole town to turn against itself. This book had a seriously similar vibe to the famous Twilight Zone episode, "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street." I'm a huge TZ fan, and this book just kept making me think that the sort of events that would've unfolded in the episode were more than fulfilled here. If the episode shows just how dangerous paranoia and panic can be, this book shows just what happens when those two things are allowed to spiral out of control.

The biggest problem I had with this book was that it felt too overstuffed. It wasn't so much a problem of there being a lot of characters so much that it seemed like there were too many parts to the big plot Mr. Gaunt set into motion to wreak havoc in Castle Rock. It got hard after a while to remember not just who was "pulling a prank" on whom, but also what they bought and why they went for that specific item. There was also another subplot about the members of two churches getting into a squabble, but that felt kind of tacked on because it didn't really have anything directly to do with Needful Things nor with Mr. Gaunt.

I thought the ending to this book was really unsettling. We get the reveal about Mr. Gaunt, which should probably be obvious to some after seeing the effects his wares have on the people who buy them, but it was still pretty creepy. The end of the actual narrative came to an uneasy conclusion in my mind, the sort where the characters end up in the least worst possible outcome. The lesser of two evils, if that makes sense, since what becomes of Mr. Gaunt isn't one hundred percent clear. The epilogue hints that the story isn't exactly over, and it's that uncertainty that makes the ending so successful.

Again, this is *not* a book you want to try speeding through. Because of the web of manipulation speared on by Mr. Gaunt and how complicated it is, one can get tangled up in it very easily, no pun intended. That being said, the way Mr. Gaunt's plot to turn everyone in Castle Rock against each other worked well, and our protagonists were fairly likable and clever enough to catch on to the strangeness of the events going on around them. Great suspense and intrigue and a few good scares made this a really good read.

Rating: 4 stars


Series
  • N/A

Similar Books
  • The Monsters are Due on Maple Street by Rod Serling and Mark Kneece
  • In the Dark by Richard Laymon
Content
  • Strong language
  • Some sex
  • Graphic violence
  • Graphic depictions of murder
  • Drug use

Review: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Friday, November 7, 2014


Interview with the Vampire
Anne Rice

Genre: Gothic Horror
Paperback: 342 Pages
Publication: September 13, 1991 (originally April 12, 1976)
by Ballantine Books



This is the story of Louis, as told in his own words, of his journey through mortal and immortal life. Louis recounts how he became a vampire at the hands of the radiant and sinister Lestat and how he became indoctrinated, unwillingly, into the vampire way of life. His story ebbs and flows through the streets of New Orleans, defining crucial moments such as his discovery of the exquisite lost young child Claudia, wanting not to hurt but to comfort her with the last breaths of humanity he has inside. Yet, he makes Claudia a vampire, trapping her womanly passion, will, and intelligence inside the body of a small child. Louis remembers Claudia's struggle to understand herself and the hatred they both have for Lestat that sends them halfway across the world to seek others of their kind. But they find that finding others like themselves provides no easy answers and in fact presents dangers they scarcely imagined.


Review

So, I know I've mentioned this before, but for anyone new to my reviews, I'll say it again: I absolutely LOVE vampires. I'd heard of Anne Rice when I was in high school, but I didn't actually get to read her until college, when an absolutely awesome professor of mine included Pandora (from the New Tales of the Vampires) on our required reading list my freshman year. I decided to start from the beginning and picked this book up for the first time a few months after that. Since the series was picked up again with the release of Prince Lestat a little less than two weeks ago, I figured it was time to revisit this book and remember why I had enjoyed it so much.

I love Anne Rice's style of writing. While it's not as complex or lush as that of Poppy Z. Brite and Neil Gaiman, it has some complexity to it but also a simplicity that makes it easy to follow. I can actually believe that the words are coming from Louis, and this enhances his characterization as a refined, articulate gentleman who was made into a vampire and has lived for centuries. The descriptions of all the places visited by the vampires were beautifully rendered, though there were a few places where I would've liked to spend more time, in particular towards the end of the novel.

This is a book  whose antagonist just screams for attention. Lestat is one of those rare villains whom I love to hate. He comes across as seductive and magnetic, especially because of his physical appearance, and you are as mesmerized by him as Louis is. As the story progresses and you get to see more of his character, you start to wonder why you found him so fascinating in the beginning. He is so mean towards Louis and definitely lives up to his nickname of the Brat Prince. But then come the last few pages of the novel, and he is portrayed in a somewhat sympathetic light. I have to admit that I actually felt a little bad for him and wanted to know what became of him after Louis left.

Since I was in high school when the romantic teen vampire trend hit the hardest, I was more than happy to see these vampires. Not only were they incredibly beautiful, but I really believed that they were dangerous, especially when reading about their kills. Though we're not given a lot on their mythos and what we do get is kind of vague, there is enough to figure out that they share some traits with classic vampires (no exposure to sunlight, only around at night, sleeping in a coffin, etc.). I also loved how Rice portrayed individual differences among vampires, even among the three we spend the most time with. This really helped to make them seem more human, despite being supernatural creatures.

My one complaint about this book would probably be the pacing. While there are parts where the action and dialogue flow really well, almost beautifully, there are some sections that can get a bit tedious and drawn out. It could be due to the fact that the book lives up to its title; it's an interview, Louis recounting the events of his immortal life as he remembers them. It would probably be natural for there to be moments where the story lulls but these felt to me like they were dragging more than necessary.

However, this stretching out of moments could also have been a ploy for characterization, since Louis is shown to be really contemplative. The nature of the vampires can raise some really interesting topics for discussion, in particular the price of immortality. This is probably what Louis thinks about the most and, though I've seen this happen with a few characters from other stories, his case is different because of what he has to do in order to maintain that immortality. I also really liked how the kid interviewing Louis gets a firsthand demonstration of what vampires have to do and how nicely it sets you up for the sequel.

Of course, I also have to throw in a good word for the film adaptation. While some scenes were cut or swapped out for something else and I'm not entirely sure what they were thinking with some of the casting choices (as much as I love Antonio Banderas, I don't see him as Armand), the rest of it was pretty good in my book. Kirsten Dunst was fabulous as Claudia, and I ended up liking Tom Cruise's Lestat better than I thought I would. Not to mention the fact that Brad Pitt made for an incredibly gorgeous vampire. It's more mellow and has more humorous moments than the book, so you might want to take that into consideration before checking it out.

Pick this one up. Even if you're not as crazy about vampires as I am, there are a lot of things people can appreciate, from the writing to the questions of immortality and how it can affect someone. Lengthy and dragging sections aside, the characters are incredibly memorable, the action is great, and the writing is fantastic. This book is a staple of vampire literature for a reason.

Rating: 4 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
  • Nudity
  • Scenes with intense erotic undertones
  • Mentions of arousal
  • Some gore
  • Some graphic depictions of murder