Monday, May 25, 2009

Now reading:

Royal Blood


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


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

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 []: [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