Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ROYAL BLOOD rona sharon


Royal Blood is a Tudor-period vampire romance. Yep. Tudor period. With vampires. That could work, and for a lot of readers it clearly did. For me, it was a total clunker. Sorry. It seems that once again I am out of step with the mainstream of popular opinion. What sort of reviewer am I?

The ornate use of language struck me as off key from the very first page--sometimes sounding like an undergraduate trying to use a vocabulary they haven't quite mastered yet. "Mud splotched the grille of his visor as massive hoofs reached his sprawled form and reared up, threatening to fossilize him in the midden." What? Rearing hoofs (as opposed to 'hooves', and disembodied from horse) are going to fossilize (a word and concept not invented for another 300 years and not related in any way to being crushed) him in manure pile (that is presumably some distance away from the jousting field). I like ornate language, but I like it to make a little more sense. Many reviewer's seem to consider the language historically accurate but it struck me as rampantly anachronsitic and awash with unecessary ticks like hundreds of uses of "alas".

We meet King Louis' unwed daughter sleeping with a commoner, dragged naked through court and called a whore before being sent off as a spy. Uh-huh. Right. Where she will meet Michael Devereaux, heir to an Earl, who will go on to save the King's life, win the princess's heart and investigate some mysterious murders. The hero's struggle with his vampirism which he takes to be a seating sickness is probably the most interesting aspect of the book, but otherwise I found both the historical and paranormal aspects unconvincing separately, and jarring in combination. The first half of the book only hints at the role vampirism has in this world, then it springs up rather suddenly and takes over the plot.

One thing I will say is that this is a highly original book with an idiosyncratic plot, subject and voice. You'll either love it, or in my case be very, very irritated by it--but you probably won't be bored.

Rating: 1/5

See also
Love Vampires: 4/5

Running average: 2.5/5

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Vampire Bookshelf

Just thought you might like to see this; the majority of my vampire book collection.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

EIGHTH GRADE BITES Heather Brewer

It is easy to review a book I like.

It is even fairly easy to review a book I didn't like for some set of overt reasons.

But I find it difficult to review a book, that through no really obvious fault, just never grabbed me. And that is why have been sitting on an advance review copy of Eighth Grade Bites so long that the book has been long released (in August 2007), and any review I write now of negligible use to anyone. For which I can only apologise.

Oh well. Better late than never (I hope).

In the mean time this and two sequels have been released to great acclaim by customers. The book is, by any reasonable measure, a success. Reviews, on the other hand, were mixed.

For me the story of Vladimir Tod, orphaned son of a vampire and generally picked-upon thirteen year old, fell flat. He was just a stock kid with a good friend, a crush on a girl and trouble with bullies. The main character seemed to be a somewhat-superpowered bland everykid. The vampire lore had no real originality or interesting twist.

However your average picked-upon teen with a best friend, a crush on a girl, and trouble with bullies might well enjoy fantasising about having some super-powers and a mysterious past--and trouncing the evil villain. So I guess I would chalk this one down to just not being in the target audience.

p.s. FWIW I like the ARC cover (shown right) over the one used in wide release. But then, as I said, I am no maven of teen tastes.)

Rating: 1.5/5

Other reviews:
Commonsense Media (4/5)
Au Courant (4.5/5)

Running Average: 3/5

Sunday, November 29, 2009

DRACULA (SMN) jon j muth

Dracula: A Symphony in Moonlight & Nightmares
Jon J Muth
Marvel
2/5

All of the water color illustrations on this book are good, some are truly excellent--to fine art levels. It is not really a graphic novel, most of the pictures a full page and there are words in the pictures or sequential story telling. The text is present as prose or play-like dialogue sometime on a separate page with a heavy black border and some times over or around the pictures.

As I have already mentioned the pictures are great, the text is okay, an abbreviated and modified version of the Dracula story, but the formatting and overall result is a bit of a mess. Mr Muth is a talented artist, but I think he over-reached himself on this one and missed the mark. But a more sympathetic reader might find the eccentricities of this montage more appealing.

I read the 1986 version, there is also a 1993 version which I believe may differ--but I have yet to see a copy of it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vampire Book-Related News

A transfusion of new blood (Washington Post)
"A descendant of Dracula's creator is managing the 2009 comeback tour. Dacre Stoker, Bram Stoker's great-grandnephew, and Ian Holt, a screenwriter and Dracula fanatic, have co-authored 'Dracula the Un-Dead.'"

Bram Stoker Film Festival
Scheduled for October 14-17, 2010 (Whitby, England)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mana from Ebay

Don't you love Ebay? While I am sure it has had a bad effect on some second hand book stores, I am just amazed how I can find rare books and great deals on large lots of books like this one :)


Monday, October 12, 2009

Cheesiest spin off book: Barnabas Collins In a Funny Vein

I have seen some pretty bad novelisations of vampire TV shows, but this is surely a new low. In a transparent effort to cash in on the then newly popular Dark Shadows series, this book of jokes was released. This 1969 paperback is appalling, and not in the good way.



Here we have a random page of the so called jokes, also displaying the haphazard formatting in a large point courier font, with no page numbers. To quote the back cover text: "groovy".



Not.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Requesting a review

If you have a book that you would like reviewed on the Fleam:

Authors: please email veinglory at gmail.com with the subject line [FLEAM] and include the title of the book, a synopsis or blurb, and a link to the point of display or sale. Ebook review copies are preferred, paper copies are also accepted.

Publishers: may choose to attach the complete book rather than send a query--however in these cases a review is not guaranteed.

I am interested in most areas of vampire fiction and non-fiction and associated subjects such as immortals and other life-force depleting paranormal creatures. Special areas of interest include poetry, anthologies, gay fiction, erotica, romance and psychological non-fiction.

I am particularly interested in any book that uses the vampire archetype to investigate complex issues such as codependency, libido/thanatos, moral or ethical dilemmas and/or realistic consequences of power, immortality or the need to harm or kill others to survive.

Example of this type of fiction would include:
* Blood is Not Enough edited by Ellen Datlow
* I am Legend by Richard Matheson
* Running Dry by M Christian
* Sabella by Tanith Lee

Monday, September 28, 2009

RUNNING DRY by M Christian

This post is part of the book review blog chain. The previous post is [Review: "Equus"] and the next post is [Review: Dewey].

When asked to post a review of the book I loved, I decided to talk about Running Dry. A full review of the book can be found here on my personal blog. The executive summary is that Doud and a female friend are involved in a chase-slash-road trip-slash-memoir dealing with a monster who is tracking Doud down.

The story, to be honest, is no longer all that clear in my memory. But to me the idea of the vampire is not about the plot, or even about the character, is is about the dilemma. You see Doud is also a monster, the same kind of life-force sucking monster as the man that is hunting him--the only difference is that he has a conscience.

When it comes to vampires it seems that there are two main camps. Some people like horror with the vampire as the cursed, evil monster. Some people like romance or adventure with the vampire as the handsome hero with supernatural superpowers. But, to me, both of these concepts completely miss the essence of the modern vampire.

And by modern I mean over the last 150 years or so. You see it in Varney, Dracula, Carmilla... the vampire is a deadly, ambiguous, baffling combination of of libido and thanatos. He (or she) can be powerful, seductive, influential and irresistible--and in equal parts vulnerable to simple light or water, hideous, soulless and murderous. The best vampire stories to me are about trying to resolve that enigma.

M Christian rediscovers this storyline from the point of view of the vampire who tries not to abuse his powers, and who tries not to harm others. But Doud cannot help reaching out to others any more than he can avoid destroying them, and that is the theme that turns yet another adventure story into a new vampire classic. That is why, more than two years later, I chose to revisit this book from hundreds of vampire tomes I have read, and in most cases forgotten.

This book struggles with the essential conflict at the heart of the vampire archetype and does not evade or glibly resolve the unavoidable tragedy that flows from the contradictions of undeath.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blog Chain A'Coming

The next post will probably be my contribution to a blog chain dedicated to 'books we love'. Participants as follows:
Lost Wanderer - http://www.lostwanderer5.blogspot.com/
Forbidden Snowflake - http://www.alleslinks.com/
coryleslie - http://corrinejackson.wordpress.com/
razibahmed - http://www.southasiablog.com/
DavidZahir - http://zahirblue.blogspot.com/
veinglory - http://thefleam.blogspot.com/
aimeelaine - http://www.aimeelaine.com/
Fokker Aeroplanbau - http://rightfarright.blogspot.com/
Claire Crossdale - http://theromanticqueryletter.blogspot.com/
Lady Cat - http://firecatsbooks.blogspot.com/

Monday, August 31, 2009

LOLvamps


The 5 Best Vampire Books

This is a list of the five best vampire books according to The Fleam--these are the only books, so far, to have received a 5 star rating.

I am Legend -- Richard Matheson (horror)
* Short Review: Absolutely riveting post apocalypse SF style story, circa 1954. Not to be missed; one man, alone against a world full of vampires.
* My Advice: skip the movie.

Vampire: Two Centuries of Great Vampire Stories -- edited by Alan Ryan
* Short Review: THE collection to start with, containing all the best historical and early modern classics. A great read!

Blood is Not Enough -- edited by Ellen Datlow

Bloodlust -- PN Elrod

Guilty Pleasures -- Laurell K Hamilton

Sunday, August 16, 2009

BOYS OF THE BITE: A GAY VAMPIRE ANTHOLOGY Cecilia Tan (ed)

This is an anthology by new e-publisher Ravenous Romance. I accepted a review copy based largely on the strength of Tan's reputation as an editor. As is often the case with anthologies, Boys of the Bite includes stories of mixed tone and quality.

Wanting Having Needing by R R Angell has excellent contemporary world building and a believable protagonist, but the plot--such as it is--depends on a twist that is broadcast well in advance.

To Be Beloved by Pepper Espinoza is a Dracula-esque historical story with a very appealing first-person protagonist. This story updates the Victorian approach by more strongly evoking the the morbid pleasures writers of that time could only elude to--as the victim sinking all to willingly into the the fatal embrace fo a vampire.This story is exquisitely well written but without the moralist ending that would once have resolved the tale it feels rather unfinished.

Lost in Translation by Tammy Jo Eckhart is well written but essentially just a story of a modern surfer becoming the slave of a vampire scholar, which is not the sort of story I enjoy.

The Love of a Faithful Servant by Teresa Noelle Roberts is again wonderfully written but basically a 'being made into a vamp' story. At this point I am beginning to wonder why so many authors write a wonderful vignette and so few produce a fully plotted (beginning-middle-end) short story.

The Cold Color of the Heart by Eric Del Carlo and Amber Jane Dodd is a emo first love story with a well-imagined vampiric twist.

The Sin Eater's Prince by Keta Diablo is another first time story combined with strong high fantasy world building.

The Conservative Dark by Connor McKay is yet another first time story with the standard OMG-what-if-I-hurt-my-mortal-lover plot.

The Last Brother by Ken Panadero describes a high fantasy order of vampire monks, but is also yet another falling in love story. I support this is a romance publisher, but in the absence of other plots the stories are starting to feel monotonous. Each is in a different world, a different culture, a different kind of vampire, a different kind of man, and a different writing style, and yet.... it is not just that each story is a vampire and a human, but the human is a nervous virgin etc. Perhaps I am too demanding having been raised on classic collections of sci fi short stories which each made a different kind of conceptual point rather than the same basic point ('love redeems') in different ways.

The Devil's Half Acre by Ryan Field introduces a world weary vampire moving into a town, segues to a pick up and sex scene and then ends. Of all those stories it has some of the best erotic content but is the furthest from really being a fully realised story.

VAMMP: Conquerring Dissension by Bryl R Tyne was a story I found very hard to follow and make sense of. The editing also seemed a little off; there were many awkwardly constructed sentences. For example: "Alan sensed the scrutiny tossed at his still-booted feet and warmth flushed his face." And only in this story did the intricate world building seem really rather supernumerary to the plot of (surprise surprise) lust and longing finally requited (the ol' destined life mates thang).

Based on her previous anthologies I know Tan knows good writing when she sees it. However I think the last story ends this collection on a low note. The world building the writing style of each writer is excellent and idiosyncratic, but the old vampire and M/M tropes become repetitious by the end. It might be best read in snatches rather than in one sitting. A reader who has read these two genres less exhaustively might not feel the same ennui.

Overall I would rate Boys of the Bite well worth the price of entry, and a nice sampler of gay erotic romance stories that put a twist in the old tropes but never escapes or subverts them. I would certainly be interested in reading longer works by most of the authors included in this collection.

4/5

See also:
BOYS OF THE BITE Receives Great Review From the Fleam

Thursday, August 13, 2009

THE VAMPIRE FAMILY Kristin Battestella

The Vampire Familyopens with 50 pages of rapid fire royal melodrama. The evil Antonio emerges from harsh poverty and by cunning and blithe murder takes a throne. An awful lot more than that happens, and lacking a pause to appreciate the impact of all this rape, murder, torture and betrayal--and lacking a sympathetic protagonist or a point-of-view character, I have to admit is passed as rather a blur with Antonio somehow both the hero and the villain of the piece.

Around page fifty the story leaps nine centuries into the future, but still lands thirty some years short of the present day. Surrounded by the female vampires created in the first part of the story (his family in more ways than one) Antonio now has plans for world domination. The time period bounces around rather a lot from there with an ongoing blur of action involving Antonio, his women and various secondary characters.

Somewhere in the middle of the murders, dungeons, zombies, torture and a cast of scores I realised I just could not get interested in this story. The Vampire Family has an authentic air of the old vampire tales like Varney the Vampire or even Dracula, but as a modern reader I find I want a character to root for, and some insight into his thoughts and feelings. And that is one thing this book doesn't have. Others may enjoy the convoluted family and their exciting lives, but this just wasn't my kind of book.

2/5

Monday, May 25, 2009

Now reading:

Royal Blood

STAKES AND STILETTOS Michelle Rowen

It wasn't apparent to me when I requested Stakes & Stilettos that it was the fourth book in a series. So this review will need to be taken with a grain of salt. For at least the first third of the book I was keeping up with the very busy life of Sarah Dearly, chick vampire. There was enough information built into the book for a reader to make sense of what was going on, but there were a hell of a lot of "as you know, Bob" statements to fill in the gaps.

Essentially the book is about Sarah, her master vampire boyfriend Thierry, and lots of surrounding secondary characters. At about the middle of the book the story coalesces into a discernible plot involving a witch who curses Sarah based on an old high school grudge, and a mysterious vampire hero of legend called the Red Devil. Sarah is an amusing, glib character and her first person account really draws the reader to identify with her. By the end of the book I was finding it entertaining and engaging and seriously considering buying subsequent books. However the meat of the story did seem to be squished into the later parts of the book with one heart wrenching plot twist thrown in and completely resolved within the three, short final chapters--which seemed something of waste given how whole chapters early in the book were devoted to such thrilling activities as borrowing a dress to wear to a party.

Ultimately I would suggest that readers considering this series start at the beginning, because a proper introduction might make the uncomfortable and uneven melange of themes work better. I mean the first chapter is fully serious third person account of Thierry in the verge of suicide, and he also has a lump of similar serious-boarding-on-melodramatic chapters in the middle of the book. There is a large subplot that is unashamedly Scarlet Pimpernel with a dash of Zorro. The rest is first person chick lit.

And my problem with some chick lit did rear its far-too-pretty head. That is that the chick lit heroine has a tendency to resemble the most shallow and nasty girls form high school, meaning that if one was, lets say a late bloomer, seeing such a character become more gorgeous, more successful, more beloved and more supernaturally powerful is not 100% gratifying. And Sarah is an ex-cheerleader who publicly humiliated a girl in a fit of pique and forgot about it by the end of the day. Personally, despite the witty first person, I was at least a s sympathetic with the "villain" and ultimately unhappy to see her meet a grisly end.

I felt that Sarah was a shallow character who, despite her boyfriends repeated warnings, behaves foolishly and is regularly almost killed. She starts the book as a cross between Buffy and a vampire Cynthia Nixon (Sex in the City) and ends up the same but with an extra dose of super powers. I think Michelle Rowen writes well, but ultimately having her heroine rewarded for a combination of sarcasm and stupidity (with true love as her only real redeeming feature) didn't sit well with me. Now a story of the high school pariah learning black magic and getting her own back through a series of curses before being redeemed by true love, that I would like to read.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Stakes & Stilettos

I am taking some time off to read Stakes and Stilettos by Michelle Rowan. A jug of... well a bottle of Heinekin, a loaf of... um bag or potato chips and thee (if the dog counts as a "thee").

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Twilight Issue

There is absolutely no doubt that the The Twilight Saga Collectionby Stephanie Meyers are some of the most well known works of vampire fiction in the world today. As such their omission from this website might be considered conspicuous. All I can say about this is the following:

The books on this site are all reviewed by me, based on person interest. I don't happen to be interested in reading the Twilight books. But that is a totally persona and subjective failure to be intrigue, not any kind of judgement or antipathy. Vampire fiction is such a huge body of work that no one reader is going to cover it exhaustively.

There are plenty of other sites that give good coverage of Ms Meyer's books, including the Twilight series. there are some of the most reviewed and discussed books in recent history. I doubt I could add anything of substance to this discussion. I would prefer to spend my time seeking out the more obscure and under-appreciated books rather than added to the Twilight cacophony.

That said of anyone out there feels they have something to say about these books (movies and/or other derivative works) and would like to submit a guest review, I would be happy to post it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH Wendy Pini

Wendy Pini's Masque Of The Red Death Volume 1MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, Volume 1
Wendy Pini
Go! Cmi
graphic novel: $19.99
2/5

This graphic novel is the first in a series (very) loosely based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe. While not about vampires per se, it does concern a quest to achieve immortality--so I am going to consider it "close enough". The creator, Wendy Pini, is most famous for her work on Elfquest.

This graphic is a hybrid comic/manga with strong yaoi (gay erotic) themes. Some commenters have been a little shocked by that--unused to comics with adult material. However these kinds of themes are entirely welcome to me as a fan of similar work by the likes of Donna Barr and Coleen Doran.

The main characters are the reclusive Anton Prosper who embarks upon a secret scientific project, and the gorgeous Steffan Kabala, soon of a preeminent geneticist and a scientist in his own right. Both characters are rendered as a cross between an Olympic swimmer and an anorexic model. The general styling of the world and people seems exotic but haphazard.

However in this case I was disappointed. The plot is slow moving, the art work suffers from a lack of distinct line work and is weighed down by amateurish digital techniques like filters and gradients. While this is obviously a work of love Pini has spent a lot of time on it simultaneously seems thin and poorly worked out.

For example, Prosper effectively tortures himself in penance for using a single lab rat (at least I think it was a rat) yet provides his pet black panther with flocks of goats to recreationally hunt and kill. Ultimately, Masque of the Red Death had some charming moments and clever conceits, but equally deep flaws in rendering and general lack of engaging plot. I think this graphic novel may amuse Pini's more established fans but it is too self-indulgent to win her any new followers.

Masque of the Red death . com

Other Reviews:
Deb Aoki [About.com]: [3/5] "While there are a few missteps, such as the garish costumes, the long-winded dialogue, and a more 'grown-up' plot than most yaoi manga, it does accomplish something unexpected...."
ComicsBulletin: [5/5] "Taken all together, Masque of the Red Death is a superb opening volume."

See also:
GoodReads : Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Currently reading...


The Vampire Family by Kristin Battestella

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How annoying is that?

So, yesterday someone emailed me out of the blue because they had read one of the books I reviewed, but their copy was missing its last page. Bummer! I was more than happy to scan that page and email it to them.

I know this blog and website has been languishing a little. But if you are out there, say hi. If I can help, just ask. It might kick me into finally getting the site redesign and relaunch finished!