May 3rd, 2011

vampire love, paranormal

Books 39-41: Dark Swan 01, Mediator 01 and Queen Betsy 09

Book 39: Storm Born (Dark Swan 01).
Author: Richelle Mead, 2008.
Genre: Urban Fantasy. Faerie. Erotic.
Other Details: Paperback. 512 pages.

The series takes its title from narrator and main protagonist Eugenie Markham, a powerful shaman known as Odile, Dark Swan for the form her spirit body assumes for her journeys to the Otherworld. Eugenie makes her living banishing spirits and fey that cross into the mortal world. When she is hired to rescue a teenage girl taken captive by the Gentry, she has to undertake the dangerous task of crossing in her physical body to the Otherworld. There she finds her reputation precedes her and encounters both allies and enemies. She also makes a starling discovery about her own heritage.

This was my first novel by Richelle Mead. I was mainly attracted to it because of its Otherworld aspects. Plus, I have a soft spot for shamans, swans, kitsunes and goddesses; all of which feature here. Mead is skilled in story-telling and world-building and sprinkles the story with a measure of humour and eroticism. She also utilises folklore and world mythology in her tale with confidence. I also appreciated that it took time and hard work for Eugenie to gain new skills. It was an engaging read, which I enjoyed so much that I immediately replaced my library copy and ordered the next two in the series.

Book 40: Love You to Death (Mediator 01).
Author: Meg Cabot, 2000.
Genre: Paranormal Romance. Ghosts. YA.
Other Details: Paperback. 208 pages.

Published in the USA under the title of Shadowland, this is the opening of a six novel series about 16-year old Susannah (Suze) Simon, who is able to not only see and communicate with the corporeally-challenged but also is a mediator, someone who assists them in crossing over to their next great adventure. Basically a YA version of TV's Ghost Whisperer with a more subdued wardrobe.

In the first novel Suze has moved to California with her mother, who has recently remarried. So she is adjusting to a new state, a new school and having a new family consisting of three step-brothers. At school she encounters Heather, a mean girl who is no less determined to be queen of the school now that she's dead.

There was a lot to enjoy in this novel including a likeable heroine who is down-to-earth. While clearly aimed at teens, there is enough to hold the attention of older readers looking for a paranormal romance with a lighter touch. I did wonder if naming the malevolent teen ghost Heather was a conscious reference to the 1989 black comedy. Anyway, a fun read and I will probably continue reading the series for light relief.

Book 41: Undead and Unfinished (Queen Betsy 09).
Author: MaryJanice Davidson, 2010.
Genre: Paranormal Romance. Vampires. Time Travel.
Other Details: Unabridged Audio, Length: 7 hours, 41 mins Read by Nancy Wu.

In this latest outing for Betsy, she strikes a deal with Satan (never the best idea) so that she can safely access the vampire Book of the Dead. For her side of the bargain Betsy has to accompany her half-sister on a trip to Hell so that Laura can gain an appreciation of that side of her heritage. Once there the sisters are sent off on a trip through time.

This was my audiobook in the car for a few weeks. Overall, I found this quite patchy and a bit of a disappointment compared to other outings for Betsy and Co. Seriously I want vampire fluff from this series not doom and gloom! There still were some funny segments such as when Betsy decides to introduce Laura to the child-of-Satan sub-genre of horror films and the repartee between the sisters. Yet the lack of humour in favour of this new darker storyline didn't work for me.

eight rose crows; dead plain portraits; Mendel's Leaky Cartooning; Orthodox Widow

The Crows of Pearblossom, by Aldous Huxley (reread)
When I was small, this was one of many picture books I adored, albeit with a starker story than most of the others, and I had no idea who the storyteller was. It just came back into print and I am amused that "the man who wrote the story about the crows and the snake" is Aldous Huxley. Whimsical, but sharp-toothed.
(56/200, 32/100)

The Eight, by Katherine Neville
Back when The DaVinci Code came out, I worked in a used bookstore. People would often ask me if I'd read it and if I liked it. I didn't like lying or giving negative reviews, and I suspected I wouldn't enjoy it much, so I never read it - that way I could say "I haven't read it, but Booksellers X and Y did and they thought it had these sterling qualities..." This usually worked a treat, but one of my regular customers once squinted at me after I used that evasion, and said, "Yeah, I don't think it'd be your thing. You strike as someone who'd like Katherine Neville a lot better." I still haven't read The DaVinci Code, but The Eight is a marvelous confection. One third Bonfire of the Vanities, one third Jean Plaidy, one third Gertrude Bell, and lashings of charm, tied together with a compelling thriller plot and topped off with a dash of the supernatural. Great fun.

Fables, vol. 15: Rose Red, by Bill Willingham et al
Absorbing and immersive and pitch-perfect. When does the next one come out??
(58/200, 33/100)

The Unwritten, vol. 3: Dead Man's Knock, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
This one was thorny and complicated and entirely swell. I took perverse pleasure from reading the choose-your-own-adventure part straight through instead of following the paths.
(59/200, 34/100)

Two Cents Plain, by Martin Lemelman
Martin Lemelman grew up behind his parents' candy store in Brooklyn, in the Fifties. The story he tells is so vibrant and so concretely detailed that I almost felt as though I had been in those rooms, on those streets - wrestling with his brother, hearing his parents' memories of the war, making ice cream sodas, and watching the neighborhood change. The way he works photographed objects into the otherwise standard comic format is remarkable.

100 Portraits, by Barry Moser
It was interesting to see so many of these at once, and there are a few of them I'm madly in love with. They look on the page as though Moser himself in is love with most of his subjects.

Adventures in Cartooning, by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost
This is a charming show-em-don't-tell-em cartooning primer aimed at the elementary school set. It's very Ed Emberley-esque (and they give him props), but more linear/story-focused, less about the details of individual critters.

A Leaky Tent Is a Piece of Paradise, edited by Bonnie Tsui
Fresh! New! Takes on nature writing!! Aw, I kid. It was an interesting collection of essays about the natural world - though my favorite, "Courting," was about the mediated experience of nature found on the tennis courts. Worth seeking out if nature writing and/or essays are your bag as they are mine.

Mendel's Daughter, by Martin Lemelman
This was as powerful and intimate as Two Cents Plain. The subject is his mother's family's experience in the Holocaust, so it is NOT a fun or lighthearted book. Worth reading, but only when you have the strength for it.

Northlanders, volume 4: The Plague Widow, by Brian Wood et ali
Ah, stylized imaginary violence of far distant history, so much more pleasant to contemplate.
(65/200, 35/100)

Chapters for the Orthodox, by don marquis
This was an entirely odd little volume of short stories that mostly featured either the Devil, Jehovah, Jesus, or some combination of all three, traipsing around New York City and having shenanigans. Also it was written in the 30s. Also one of the stories seemed to presage the Manhattan Project, only with shades of the Rosenbergs, oh, and did I mention two of the main actors in that one were a flea and an Airedale? Yeah. don marquis is one of my favorite poets, because of his archy & mehitabel stuff, and maybe it's that familiar voice, but all the weirdness hung together for me.... in a very 1934-iconoclast way.
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Chil Rajchman, who testified at John Demjanjuk's trial in Germany, wrote (in Yiddish) a memoir now available in English as The Last Jew of Treblinka.  It's a short book, spare in its language, and it's difficult to conceive of the author being able to write down what he saw, let alone to proofread or edit it.  It's this year's Book Review No. 9, and we have it because Mr Rajchman appeared fit enough to be selected for a work detail upon arrival at Treblinka, persevered on work details where to lag was to be killed, and survived an escape from that camp.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)