Category: vampires


I am so late posting this. So late. Like, I was planning on having this up Wednesday and then work was so much more tiring than usual in the lead up to the store renovation.  This one is courtesy of the author, Michael Okon, this is Monsterland. Enjoy!

Monsterland cover

With zombies, werewolves, and vampires Monsterland promises to be the scariest place on Earth. It might also be the perfect place for Wyatt Baldwin and his friends to finally solve their debate about which is the best monster. Even better, they’ll get a chance to see it all on opening night, with full VIP invites after Wyatt shared a burger with the owner of the park, Vincent Konrad. A park full of monsters, what could possibly go wrong?

Monsterland by Michael Okon reads very much like a first book. There are a lot of good ideas and the frame work is solid but then there are bits that move too quickly. It has some interesting characters and others that don’t quite make it. So, some things work some don’t. That’s every book, and I should clarify, so let’s clarify.

The story for Monsterland is kind of ambitious. We’re started with the werewolves and shown that they didn’t join Monsterland on their own, then we get introduced to our protagonist and the world. It stars a pattern in the story, there’s a monster chapter and then a protagonist chapter. That works really well for me to a point. There’s a weird jump from the monsters as sort of victims of the part and planning to escape to the monsters as monster antagonists. That happens without a lot of build up and feels pretty disjointed. Something similar happens with Wyatt and his friends, they go from super excited about going to the park to thinking it was a bad idea and questioning if it was actually a good thing. Similarly again, we get Vincent jumping from being presented as a force for good to throwing out massive bad guy signals. I would have liked much more build up on all of these things. A slow burn and build and then reveal it. As it stands, while the end isn’t a twist or anything, it also isn’t super satisfying and could have benefited from just a touch more work.

The characters similarly could have benefited from more work. As it stands, they’re more or less sketches of characters rather than being fully realized. Wyatt is interested in zombies and Jade, the cute girl from school, he’s super about Victor Konrad’s plan to save the world with this theme park. His friend Melvin is super into werewolves and messes up his turns of phrase. The other friend is always addressed by his full name and is super smart, he’s afraid of the girl who’s into him. Then there’s background characters, I would have liked a fair deal more with them. It feels like Mr. Okom had a few ideas of what he wanted to work with characters wise, but wasn’t a hundred percent on how he wanted to implement them in the story proper.

I’ve said a fair amount about this needing a touch more work. Thing is, the book is average as it stands, but it has a lot of solid ideas. I liked the one friend’s love interest, Keisha, she had some really interesting moments and I would have really liked to see her do more. Vincent as the villain could have been really good if he was a little more subtle, he just gets a little too cartoony at the end for my taste. The monsters revolting could be built up a little more, show the vampires trying to get in contact with the werewolves. It would have been a fair number of little things, but it could have taken the book from average to good.

That’s pretty well where I’m left with Monsterland, it isn’t bad and it was enjoyable, but it is fairly average. I would read Michael Okon’s next book, and think he’s going to keep improving as a writer. That said, I’m giving Monsterland a three out of five.

Advertisements

Ahhhhh, I got this thing read and reviewed in less than a day. I feel wired. So this is the first book in The Essential World of Darkness and seems to be one of the few to have received a print run prior to the omnibus. We’re starting Halloween off with vampires. Enjoy!

Vampire Diary The Embrace cover

Auston Jacobson is many things. A runaway, a pastor’s son, a bartender, but he’s no monster. Not even with the horrible dreams he’s been having lately. The hunting dreams that he remembers so clearly. The ones where he wakes up sweating and aching. He only started the diary because Danya, the cute girl who comes to the bar a lot, suggested it. It gives them something to talk about. But it’s scaring him more and more.

Vampire Diary: The Embrace was written by Robert Weinberg and Mark Rein-Hagen with art by Daniel Thron and Chris Elliott. This book was hard to read, literally difficult to make out what the words on the page said, hard to read. Vampire Diary: The Embrace is the story of a young man coming into his own and then losing it all to something far more dangerous than he could have imagined. The concept and story are both pretty simple and interesting in their own right. I like the idea of a diary style book from the view point of someone being stalked by a vampire, it’s interesting.

Interesting is really the only thing this book really has going for it. The story has a lot of potential, but the writing is really basic and can get super overblown. It gets so bad that it’s funny at points. The concept is solid and it is definitely the kind of thing I would keep in character for a Vampire game, but it doesn’t totally work here because of the protagonist. He’s too much, nothing is just a thing, everything is big and probably leads back to his dad and how bad his dad treated him. The parts with Danya were pretty solid though, mostly because those bits were love song overblown rather than teenage sad poetry overblown.

My big issue with this book is its presentation. The combination of art and text is reminiscent of the blurbs in the World of Darkness source books. It’s super messy though, with art overlaid with text and pages where the lay out breaks the flow and really should have been done better. More thought to how this would affect the reader’s ability to enjoy the story would have been fantastic. Though, part of the layout issues might be that I’m reading a later reprinting rather than the original printing of the book. There are pages here that hurt my eyes to try and decipher with the art and text laid over each other.

I feel like this book would have been a lot better if the art had been more separated from the text. The pages where art covered the text itself hurt my eyes to try and read, thought those pages were also some of the most overblown bits so they may have been meant to be skipped. I’m not entirely sure. I’ve said it a lot but, while there’s a lot of potential to this, the book isn’t good. I’m giving it a two out of five.

After a long and totally undeserved break, I’m back! With summer break just starting an a to read list longer than my arm I should be busy for awhile.  I’m sorting out my library at the moment, so there may be a couple of giveaways down the road for some books that I, unfortunately, just don’t have space for anymore.  It’s good to be back though so, as always, on to the review!

James R. Tuck’s Blood and Bullets is a mix of urban fantasy and action movie with a main character who is a study in over done manly man-ness.  Chalk is a larger than life, gun toting, monster slaying badass and he’s going to tell the reader about it at every chance he gets.  This gets old really quickly.  Chalk is supposed to be the big tough monster hunter who shows up and gets things done, the problem is he reads a lot like a bad self insert from a kid who wants to be the tough guy that solves problems.  This could have still worked out alright if the story had been in third person, the plot itself is fairly solid if a bit underwhelming.  The book is in first person though with the world’s most talkative know it all narrating everything that he does no matter how insignificant it is.  Even with that I would have been alright were it not for the repeat descriptions, Chalk describes his guns and himself at least three times.  His apparent effect on some women is also brought up repeatedly.  I don’t know if Tuck ran out of things to write with these descriptions or just didn’t trust his readers to remember any of it.

The plot, as I said before, is fairly decent.  Good guy gets attacked by more vampires than any of the major players in the city should have been able to put together, discovers the big bad’s existence, and has to figure out how to beat her without losing his rag tag team of monster hunters.  It’s been done, but that doesn’t stop it from working here.  To my mind the things that bring down the plot are, yet again, Chalk’s reiterating things too much, the big bad’s throwing logic out the window because she wants to have sex with Chalk, and the dues ex machina character that shows up towards the end.  I’d have really liked to have seen more of the secondary characters doing what they’re supposed to be good at rather than just taking Chalk’s word for it, it seems like most of them could do pretty well as protagonists on their own.

At the end of the day, the blurb for the next book sounds interesting but this seems like more of a series to borrow from the library than one that I would purchase the rest of.  I’m giving Blood and Bullets a three out of five for decent premise but a miss with the main character.

This might be a bit late.  The last couple of weeks have been a bit wild, trying to get back into classes and then adjusted to a schedule that involves regular sleep and studying.  But I’m back and ready to do stuff, so let’s kick off the new year two weeks late!

She is Lady Death, protector of humans, the enemy of every blood hungry monster around.  But Kat Redding is a vampire, one who fights her very nature, one who desperately wishes she was still human.  When the count of a small house tries to force the local werewolf cult to merge with his house Kat has to stop him.  But with only a few allies and highly illegal weapons will she be able to succeed before her own nature consumes her?

E.S. Moore’s To Walk The Night covers fairly familiar ground in urban fantasy, the monsters have revealed themselves and humanity has adjusted accordingly.  The main differences here are that humanity has been mostly relegated to hiding in the daylight and being preyed upon and there is a stark lack of sympathy for most of the monsters.  The second is quite possibly because of Kat’s own bias as it improves after meeting with the Luna Cult.  I get the feeling that my review for this book would be significantly different if it weren’t for the preview of the next book at the end.   As a standalone novel To Walk The Night falls rather flat, as the beginning of a new series it’s still fairly average but more forgivably so.

I’m going to jump right into the need for more character development and less navel gazing.  This is the kind of book that I would have really enjoyed if Moore could have stopped reminding the reader that Kat is a monster and terrified of losing her humanity every time there was a lull in the action.  Likewise, I liked the Luna Cultists and Ethan, but it felt like there should have been more to them.  I could have also done with either a bit less about her dark and tragic back story or would have liked to see Moore put it off until after Kat’s more developed, it’s something that I’m hoping will tie into the later books but felt like it had too much focus in this one.

On the up side though, Moore managed to do something fairly new with his vampires and werewolves without it feeling forced or gimmicky.  Having the two be different strains of a blood born infection was a pretty awesome way to introduce a bit of science while still keeping it magic.  I’m also kind of counting on the Luna cult dissidents to show up later with their leader as one of the series big bads. He’d be really good in the role just based on his characterization in this book.  It might also be interesting to see Kat have to solve a problem without her weapons since she treats them as her big advantage rather than the skill she has with them.

                I suppose what I’m trying to say is that, while I enjoyed To Walk the Night, it felt very much like a first novel and it moved rather slowly because Kat kept talking about her self hate and doubt.  I’m sure that this will get better in later novels.  The action scenes and the bits with more werewolves than vampires were worth the problems from the rest of the book.  I’m giving it a three out of five and wondering what happens next.

So, today is the official release date of J.N. Duncan’s new book The Vengeful Dead.  This is awesome.  What’s even more awesome is that one of you guys is going to win a signed copy of both The Vengeful Dead and the first book in the series, Deadworld.

So, what do you guys have to do to enter?

Be an e-mail follower and leave a comment about your favorite urban fantasy or paranormal romance series.

For an extra entry follow me on Twitter @Tymp3st

The contest will run from today until next Tuesday the 11th at midnight and I’ll announce the winner on Wednesday.

Edit:  The giveaway was meant to be for the books separately rather than together, I got that mixed up while setting this up and gave you guys bad information. There are more details in the guest post. Best of luck everyone!

I’m really excited for this one because I get to be one of the early reviewers for it and because I really enjoyed the first book in the series.  I’m even excited enough to get this one posted on time, so wow.  On a less literary note, I’m also probably not going to be posting any more regarding the DC reboot for a bit, this is just a delay until September when I’ll actually get some of the rebooted comics.  On the the review!

Agent Jackie Rutledge is still haunted by the death of her partner.   She’s falling apart with no anchor and a forced vacation.  In comes a vengeance driven serial killer from the wrong side of Deadworld and powers that she doesn’t understand, the side effects of her previous trip into the land of the dead.  Jackie’s going to have to pull it together long enough to stop the furious ghost of a grieving mother and prevent herself from becoming suspect number one.

The Vengeful Dead by J.N. Duncan continues the story from Deadworld almost from its end.  Jack is still stuck dealing with the emotional upheaval of having failed her partner and being dragged into Deadworld.  She and Nick are still uneasy around each other, though he seems much more able to move on that she does.  They have to rely on each other to find Rosa and convince her to stop, and convincing her to stop could easily kill them both and destroy all they care about.  It’s also one of the most entertaining urban fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time with elements of a murder mystery police thriller and the best parts of a good romance novel.  It’s quickly becoming one of a handful of series that keep me interested in urban fantasy and make me want more.  In fact, the only low point I can think of is that the antagonist was painfully one note for most of the book, and I’m fairly sure that she was written that way on purpose.

It’s the character growth here that makes the book excellent Jack is still damaged, still angry and confused, and still incapable of standing on her own.  She’s stubborn beyond belief though and hits rock bottom quickly thanks to her new powers and the stress of literally chasing ghosts.  Nick is still prone to melancholy and worrying about Jack being afraid of him, but he grows enough of a spine to decide to live his unlife and try for the relationship.  Shelby seems to be growing more and more into Jackie’s trickster mentor, pissing Jackie off enough to make her tear down her own walls and grow as a character.  I’m a little disappointed with Laurel’s use in the book, she’s the only one who doesn’t seem to grow much and remains for the most part just Jackie’s worried friend who wants Jack to heal enough to function on her own.  That said I also expect that she’ll get more character development as the series continues and that makes me happy.

I’m OK with waiting for the next Deadworld novel only because I only have to wait until next April and because I get to be an early reviewer for this one.  The series is good enough and The Vengeful Dead is enough better than Deadworld that I don’t particularly want to wait, but I can. Duncan is now an immediate add to my “to read” list.  Where does that leave my review of The Vengeful Dead?  It leaves it at a four and a half out of five because I still can’t get Rosa out of my head as just a horribly driven monster.

So, editing on 8/31/2016, I stopped doing half stars in my reviews pretty quickly since most places that host reviews require an even number out of five. So, for the sake of the new “Rating” category, this is counted as a five star book.

 

Given that it’s a Tuesday and I’m still studying for finals, I thought I’d take a quick break to post my review for J. N. Duncan’s Deadworld and remind everyone about the Maiden in Light giveaway that ends on the first.

FBI agent Jackie Rutledge is at least as tough as any of the supernatural killers she’s faced before, but when bodies start showing up exsanguinated and totally clean of evidence she finds herself faced with needing help beyond the FBI’s resources.  For this case she and her partner Laurel are going to have to rely on the Bruce Wane-esque P.I. Nick Anderson and his team of odd ball supernaturals.  Can they trust him though?  Nick’s keeping secrets that stretch back over a century that may drag Jackie and Laurel far further into a twisted game of vengeance than they ever should have gone.

My impressions of J. N. Duncan’s Deadworld are colored by his use of a few tropes that tend to really annoy me as well as an immediate degree of respect for his writing for using them in a way that takes them from annoying to genuine feeling plot twists and bits of character development.  Jackie is six kinds of emotionally messed up and hard to like because of it, but then character development happens.  She’s still messed up, but it’s an understandable level of messed up that she doesn’t just magically get over all of the sudden.  Laurel’s most blatant characterization for a big chunk of the book seems based on her sexuality, but she’s not written as just a bundle of stereotypes and gets nearly as much development as the main characters.  Nick gets slightly less active development, the guy’s a pile of secrets and guilt from cover to cover, but he gets a back story that shows why he has that guilt and a personality that almost gives reason to the secrets.  That said, the villain is never given any reason for his actions aside from doing it for the sheer evil of it and to mess with Nick for no adequately explained reason.  I will complain that there were some moments of dialogue that seemed completely out of character and threw me for a bit of a loop, especially towards the end.  It’s also a nitpicky little thing, it may be the stilettos or the leather pants, but I can’t see Jackie as the cover model.  It’s also worth mentioning that Duncan didn’t immediately shoe horn Jackie and Nick into a relationship, a definite plus in my book as they’re both too damaged for something that fast to work out, but seems to be easing them towards something.

For the little things and the fact that I have problems with the lack of villainous reasoning, I give it a four out of five and wait impatiently for the October release of book two The Vengeful Dead.

Nothing much to say here. Think I may have a bit of the flu, but I’m getting over it.  No sightings of tall skinny fellas recently, so on to the review.

In light of the trend towards YA vampire titles recently, I was a little hesitant when I started reading Will Hill’s Department 19. Happily my doubts were more or less put to rest rather quickly, this is not a weepy diluted romance novel nor a particularly angst filled rage at the world in general.

Jamie Carpenter’s father was killed two years ago by men in black uniforms, shot down as a traitor to England.  Now his mother has been kidnapped by a terrifying man with abilities that can’t exist, a man who seems to know him.  If Jamie is going to save his mother he’ll need the help of Department 19 the mysterious government agency that protects Britain from the things that go bump in the night.  With that help comes information he may not want to know about his father, Jamie will have to deal with the past to face a monster beyond anything he’d imagined before.

Now for the fun part, this was one of the better YA vampire novels I’ve read so far.  With exception to Larissa, most of the important vampires were of the classic undead near-Dionysian sadist persuasion doing what they wanted simply because they could.  The exceptions were, while sympathetic, minor character.  I was rather caught off guard by some of the language used in Department 19.  It was accurate for the way many modern teenagers speak but with far more profanity than I’ve come to expect from a YA novel.  I personally found this refreshing because it shows that the author knows a bit about how his target audience interacts.  Some of Jamie’s interactions with Frankenstein came across as a bratty kid know-it-all to his Watson, but can be forgiven fairly easily.  He is a brat for much of the book, understandable in that he’s a teenager, but it kind of makes me wonder if he was taught any manners.  I didn’t like the speed at which Jamie mastered the skills needed to fight vampires, but acknowledge that it was necessary to the plot and to keep down page length.  My only serious problem with Department 19 was the sequel hook at the end.  We are talking a near painful jar apart the conclusion sequel hook that makes me wonder if all YA novels are part of a bigger series now.  It loses points for that, but for the quality of writing up to that point and the enjoyment I got out of the parts that Jamie wasn’t being a brat in, I give it a four out of five.

As promised, a new review hot off the word document.  Not really much to say here today, so let’s jump right in.

I’m not really sure how I want to start my review of H.P. Mallory’s Fire Burn and Caldron Bubble.  I could start by talking about how it’s odd for a romance novel because she keeps her main characters kind of separate after the first couple of chapters.  I could also start with the way it feels like a first book both in the case of the series and the author.  When we meet our lovely narrator, Jolie Wilkins, she’s busy being a fortune teller and a serial single.  This all changes with a ghost and a visit from the hottest man she’s ever met.  Suddenly Jolie finds herself with the ability to raise the dead and a lot of unwanted attention from the super natural world.  From there the novel becomes more and more what I expect from a romance novel, lots of mush without much substance until towards the end.

When first we meet Jolie she seems content with her life, yeah she could use a better paycheck but she’s got her best friend and her cat.  Enter Rand, the almost freakishly gorgeous warlock with a job that needs her help.  He needs to find out who killed a client of his’ father, and apparently needs Jolie’s help to do so.  Well, things don’t go quite as planned and the dead guy winds up somewhat less dead than before.  This intrigues all manner of supernatural folks and puts Jolie into a bit of a spot when she finds herself having to pack up her life to follow Rand to England where they will hopefully be safe from dead guy’s daughter and her army of loyal (and terrified) followers.  This leads to quite a bit of day-to-day nothing as Jolie and Rand distance themselves from each other and get her ready for an eventual confrontation with Bella.

So, where does this leave me?  It was good, not spectacular, but something that makes me want to read the rest of the series.  There were spots of purple prose scattered throughout.  At some point in time Mallory decided that one of her characters is a jerk, but hadn’t characterized him as such and then dropped him entirely.  Plus the book is definitely the first in a series; it doesn’t have a really satisfying end.  But my big problem was that Jolie is never wrong about anything or anyone, ever.  That got really old really fast.  So, I’m left wondering why I enjoyed the book as much as I did.  Mallory teases her reader, offering images of what might happen in the future via Jolie’s being a seer.  She hits some genuinely humorous moments with a smartass lead that I kind of wanted to talk to.  Where there’s a little purple prose, the rest is solid and offers a view of how good a writer Mallory can be.  Definitely worth reading, definitely worth continuing.

Because it is Friday, and because I had fun with the book and can, I’m going to post another early review.

Nicole Peeler’s Tempest Rising, is one of those books that I’d seen a few times at the bookstore but hadn’t thought much of.  Later I picked it up at a sale as part of a “buy x, get one” deal.  It had a good review from an author that I already knew that I liked, and the blurb had me expecting something along the lines of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods mixed with a romantic suspense novel.  When I started reading it, I was struck by the narrator.

Meet Jane True, your protagonist and narrator for the evening, she enjoys going on nightly swims in the freezing cold ocean near a whirl pool.  When she discovers a body in the Old Sow, she gets thrown into a world that she never knew existed.  Enter hot vampire Ryu, an investigator for the supernatural world’s ruling body.  Suddenly it turns out that many of the people who were kind to her aren’t human.  The following investigation leads Jane further and further into her mother’s world, and closer to Ryu.

Because Jane is the narrator, we spend the entirety of the book in her head.  This gives the reader a great view of her interests, her opinions on other characters, and a ton of self-pity.  Jane’s thoughts do seem to fit those of an actual young adult, unfortunately this leads to her hitting the same idea a dozen different ways.  At the same time, she is brave, she is clever, but she also seems to get side tracked quite a bit.  Add in Ryu, Jane’s love interest.   He’s attractive, he’s protective, he’s romantic, but he also tends towards trying to protect Jane from things that she really should be aware of.

My only real problem with the book was some of the word use. .  Peeler writes almost exactly like I would expect an English professor to.  She tends to use large words where smaller, more common ones would do, and seems to be trying too hard to get her twenty something protagonist to sound twenty something.  Jane used words in her thoughts that I don’t think I have ever heard anyone use in real life and used a couple of words in rather odd ways.  The story was fairly solid, with a pretty good mix of plot and action, but I had some trouble with some of the descriptions due to them being offered in the form of movie comparisons.   In a rather strange turn I found myself repeatedly reminded of Twilight, but then found that subverted in the next few lines.  For example, Ryu is described as being really well put together, hotter than a match head, the whole nine yards.  He also frustrates Jane a number of times and tends to seem rather temperamental.  The two leads fall for each other almost immediately, but Jane doesn’t call it “true love” or obsess about Ryu.  The series could very easily fall into clichés, but manages not to by mocking some of those very clichés.  I will definitely be reading the next book when it comes out.