Book Review: The Night Owls (Timony, Timony)

December 17, 2010

*ARC Alert*

The Night Owls by Peter and Bobby Timony was released March 30, 2010 by Zuda Comics (softcover, black and white, $14.99, 192 pages).

A nerdy supernatural detective, a flapper with a mean right hook, and an ever-hungry gargoyle?  Yes, please! The Night Owls combines the tried-and-true aspects of the detective genre with Prohibition-era America, flirty comedy, and light-but-satisfying violence (great taste, less filling!).  Add simple, elegant grayscale art and an original cast of baddies and you end up with a great read for middle-grades and up.  The book ends on a rather sizable cliffhanger, and I’m praying for a second volume.


Book Review: Infinite Days (Maizel)

July 22, 2010

*ARC alert*

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel will be released on August 3rd, 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin (Trade Paperback, $9.99, 320 pages). It is the first in the Vampire Queen series and Maizel’s debut novel.

Like the “dog books” from my previous post, “dark” teen dramaromances have a certain formula– an awesomely hot and probably well-off teen girl, attending high school and possibly haunted by her dark past, falls for the hottest, most elite guy at school. He reciprocates. At least one of them is a vampire/faery/something hot and supernatural. The by now well-established minigenre includes books which I actually enjoyed, like Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely, and a lot that I didn’t, e.g. the Twilight series and Alyson Noel’s Evermore. Infinite Days, admittedly, falls under that category and shares some of its flaws.

On the other hand, its premise is completely original and quite interesting– after 500-odd years of terrorizing the general populace, Lenah Beaudonte decides that vampirism holds only illusive charms and seeks a way to regain her humanity. After a hundred years of hibernation and a ritual that involved the self-sacrifice of her best friend and lover, she wakes up in the year 2010 and finds herself needing to learn how to be human again in a new and confusing century.

Lenah herself makes for a strong and often funny voice that I was able to connect with emotionally. Though she seemed at times to be a bit too capable, I surprised myself by liking her– she didn’t take the angsty, desperate tone of so many dramaromance “heroines,” and I’m willing to believe that a 592-year old can handle a lot. Her story, too, was well-though out and engaging, though it dragged the tiniest bit toward the end of part one. Overall, I loved her discovery of day-to-day existence and the backdrop of flashbacks to vampire life and lore that she contrasted it with.

I did suffer from some Pretty in Pink syndrome with this, though. You know, where by the end of the movie everyone in the room is going “No, Andie! You have to choose Ducky!” I found myself biased against Lenah’s love interest, Justin, perhaps because he was the Edward of this story (in role only, thank the gods). Personally I liked Lenah’s friend Tony a lot more, but I can’t complain too much since Maizel did give sufficient support for the romance and lack of it, respectively, and didn’t try to run with it too badly.

And as my final point, I want to say that this read like the first novel it is. I don’t mean that in a bad way; Maizel is obviously worthy of having been published and will no doubt have several more books ahead of her. What I mean to say is that you can tell just by reading it that this is her breakout book; the ideas are fresh and vibrant, but the prose is somewhat rough, even choppy in places. I have every faith that she will improve with practice.

So. Go ahead and pick this one up for its original take on the vampire mythos and likable main character, but be ready to accept that it’s a long read for its 320 pages, and that it does contain elements of established stereotype in the romance aspect of the plot. I would nevertheless recommend it to fans of the genre and perhaps those looking for a good book to introduce them to dark teen dramaromance hibbijabba (a genre that really needs a better name than I am providing).

Book Review: Iron Kissed (Briggs)

February 19, 2010

*Spoiler Alert*

Fun fact: Mercy's tattoos change on every cover.

I have read the first four Mercy Thompson books and loved each of them, but Iron Kissed is by far the best, though, due to a graphic rape scene, it is not for everyone. Wow, you’re saying, she’s sick: her favorite book in the series is the one with the rape? However, part of what attracts me to this book is how Patricia Briggs portrays the psychological impact it has on the victim; to me, at least, it seems very accurate. Though she’s no sniveling coward, it is, perhaps more often than we would like for a character we love, overpowering in its horror. Briggs doesn’t downplay this, nor does she overstate it.

Apart from the rape, the mystery of the book, a grisly string of murders on the fae reservation, for which Mercy’s friend Zee is being blamed, keeps you guessing, or at least it did for me. The world is as rich and real as ever, and of course there’s the ever-present tension with Mercy’s relationship problems.

All in all, Briggs has crafted a lovable character who can stand up for herself without being an unrealistic Superwoman, and who lives in a richly layered world of that includes romance and intrigue as well as broken-down cars and homemade brownies.

New Readers: The first book in the series is called Moon Kissed, if you want to find it. There is also a rather excellent graphic novel prequel called Homecoming.

Five stars.

This book contains explicit sexual content and scenes of graphic rape which may offend some readers.

Book Review: Fray (Whedon, Moline, Owens)

February 8, 2010

Melaka Fray is a tough chick living a life of crime in the huge cities of the future, stealing to survive and enjoying the occasional bar fight for variety. Sure, her police sister gets on her back, and yeah, she wishes she weren’t haunted by the death of her twin brother a few years earlier, but for the most part Mel lives in the moment, kicking ass and taking names while pulling off a fantastic blue-and-pink hairstyle. This all changes the day Urkonn, a huge, demonic, “sarcastic goat-thing” steps in and informs Melaka that she is the latest in the line of the Slayers, and that it is her destiny to combat the vampire scourge. Her response? “What’s a vampire?”
Slowly, though, pushed on by a will to avenge her brother’s murder, Mel begins to take up the mantle she is meant to. It’s not enough to pick off the hunters in the alleys, however. A war is coming, one that will test Mel’s emotional fortitude even more than her physical strength as she is brought up against an enemy she never expected to have to face.

I have decided that Joss Whedon is God and that nothing he does is wrong. This may sound fanatical, but I’m basing that supposition on the fact that, to date, I have found nothing that he has done that was wrong. Fray is one of the better not-wrong things in his portfolio. If you loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will probably enjoy this book. If you enjoy science fiction more than fantasy, you will be pleasantly surprised to find flying cars, ray guns, and sprawling, futuristic urban decay alongside the vampires and creepities. If you just want a kickass heroine who doesn’t take any crap, well, you already know that Joss Whedon supplies those without the ridiculous man-contrived accoutrements such as double-D breasts and skimpy, oft-torn clothing (God bless him). Also, there’s a giant snake. You just can’t go wrong with that.

Hell yes.

If you have already read Fray, heads up: Mel makes a second appearance in Tales of the Slayers and a third in Time of Your Life, the fourth volume of the Season 8 comic series of Buffy. I haven’t read either yet, but (see above) Joss Whedon is never wrong, and I have every confidence that it will be fantastic. Five stars.