Thursday, April 24, 2008

#16 The Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Felix Gomez is a private eye... who went to Iraq as a soldier and came back a vampire. To blend in with the rest of humanity and keep their identity a secret, he and his fellow vampires must hide their unique vampire features behind makeup (for their translucent skin) and special contact lenses (for the mirror-like hypnotic reflection of their eyes). However, there's one vampire custom which Felix hasn't much embraced—the drinking of human blood; he drinks animal blood instead. It makes no difference that the blood comes from blood banks, and no humans need be harmed in the taking. Yet Felix still very much lives with the guilt of the innocent Iraqi family he and his platoon accidentally gunned down over in Iraq.

Unfortunately, this failing of Felix's is causing him to slowly but surely lose his vampire powers. And though it hasn't much hampered his current investigation within the Department of Energy (DOE) of tracking down the source of the recent nymphomania outbreak, it is putting him at a slight disadvantage against the vampire hunters who are actively hunting him!

Part paranormal mystery, part Koontz-like thriller, and a sprinkle of the nonsensical, this was a wonderful first novel from Mario Acevedo, the first in the Felix Gomez series. Felix reminded me a little bit of Harry Dresden, from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series, except that the problems Felix is hired to investigate aren't necessarily supernatural in nature. And Felix presents himself as human to all but other supernaturals, while Harry openly admits to being a wizard. But I have to say that based on my enjoyment of this first novel, this series looks quite promising and like it could be nearly as good as The Dresden Files.

Though a first work from the author, I'd have thought he was already well established as he wrote quite well and in a style very much suited to the genre. I had absolutely no complaints about the dialogue, the writing style, or anything else for that matter. The pace of the story was quick and punchy and the chapters short which added to that fast-moving action. I already had the second book, X-Rated Bloodsuckers, here on Mt. TBR so I started on it immediately after finishing this one. I'm looking forward to another fun ride!

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

#15 The Scot, the Witch and the Wardrobe by Annette Blair

My Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Victoria Cartwright is a hereditary witch who prefers to deny her heritage rather than embrace it—until the day she opens her grandmother's locked wardrobe and discovers a carousel unicorn inside. From that point on, her carousel dreams, which previously starred her and a sexy Scot in kilt and full Scottish regalia, become even more vivid until Scotsman Rory McKenzie showed up on the doorstep of her little Salem, MA antiques shop a few days later, having traveled all the way from Caperglen, Scotland. What happens then is both unimaginable as well as magical. Are they doomed to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors? And just how are the two connected anyway since they've been featuring in one another's dreams so often....

This story was cute, if not exactly funny IMO. Because I don't really like romance, I didn't particularly care for the dream sequences as they were a bit too flowery for my taste. But the rest of the story wasn't too bad, and certainly entertaining enough to keep my interest. Though I remembered previous characters from The Kitchen Witch and My Favorite Witch, I remembered very little about Victoria, on whom this story was based, I think because I'd found her the least interesting (and most prudish) of the three friends: Melody, Kira, and Victoria. LOL

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

#14 Beneath a Mountain Moon by Silver Ravenwolf

My Rating: 1 out of 10 stars

This book, supposedly a mystery with a witchy background, wasn't grabbing me at all, and after only 30 pages in, I was having a hard time staying focused and keeping my mind from wandering. I picked it up at least 4 different times throughout the course of the day, just in case my disinterest was caused by my mood at the time, but try as I might, I simply couldn't get into it.

Now, dare I say this publicly, but in the real-life world of Witches, Wiccans, and others practicing the Craft, we refer to Silver RavenWolf as a "fluffy bunny" and her practice as "fluffy bunny wicca". Yes, being the bunny lover I am, I hate to use what to me is such a wonderful creature in conjunction with such a derogatory term, but since that definition has pretty much been adopted worldwide, and can be found at the Urban Dictionary, it's much easier to just adapt and use it myself rather than to try to come up with my own term and explain what it means. :P (See also the article "What makes a Fluff-Bunny?")

Anyhoo, because Silver RavenWolf lives in the fantasy world of Wicca, I thought perhaps I could get a kick out of her fiction; perhaps her delusions would translate well into the fiction realm. But sadly, such is not the case, and again, besides just being super bored with it, I was actually starting to get a bit angry as well!

Okay, so these are not your fantasy type of Witches at all. Too bad, as I think maybe I could have been able to enjoy this a little bit if they were. Instead, at only 15 pages in, she has the main character, Elizabeyta, proclaiming to the small town minister who's just declared his undying love for her that she's a W-I-T-C-H! A hereditary Witch who practices the old religion. Okay, that's all well and good. She's obviously trying to bring some validity to the religion, so you're thinking that she'll be treating the Craft in an honest and straightforward manner, but then the minister finds himself wondering if she can possibly be serious, and if he can suspend his disbelief of "ghosts, murder, and witches" (the author's words, not mine) long enough to listen to what she has to say. Give me a break! Major lame-o! Are we still living in the dark and unenlightened times where witches must practice secretly for fear of persecution? Apparently so because Elizabeyta's whole family lives at a secret covenstead to which no mere mortals know the location! =:o And they use the address of a safe house run by "non-magickal people" to act as their go-betweens to the rest of the world. *sigh* If she hadn't just finished trying to lay down a bunch of "facts" about our religion, I might've believed this was supposed to be based on fantasy after all. But at this point, the minister dude is really pissing me off with his attitude of thinking witches can't possibly be real! How trite!

Now, if you want to read a good fiction mystery which revolves around a real-life (non-fantasy) practitioner of the Craft, in the real sense of how they live and act in today's world, and integrate the Craft into their day-to-day life, then pick up M. R. Sellar's Rowan Gant Investigations series. He treats the Craft in a much more realistic way, doesn't try to sensationalize, and writes a darn good mystery in which the main character, a Wiccan High Priest, uses not only his divination skills but many of the other qualities and characteristics embraced by Witches and other practitioners. He truly understands what it's all about. If however, you prefer a lot of nonsense and rambling, and some half-truths and misinformation about a very valid religion, then by all means, read Beneath a Mountain Moon. Personally, I have too many other great books waiting on my to-be-read shelf to waste my time on this rubbish!

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Monday, April 14, 2008

#13 The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Atticus "Tick" Higginbottom thought himself to be just your average thirteen-year-old boy... until the day he received a mysterious letter from someone who signed himself simply "M.G.". Little did Tick know that from that point on, his life would be forever changed. For all of a sudden, Tick is exposed to things that he never knew existed, things that were previously hidden from him. He's visited by people from "alternate realities" who refuse to tell him too much, only that he must solve the 12 clues that he will be receiving to proceed to the next step, and that if at any time he wishes the "madness" to stop, he need simply burn the very first letter he received from M.G.

But Tick is determined to see things through to the end and solve all the clues he receives, despite the difficulties constantly being thrown in his path. Because in all honesty, this is one of the most exciting things that's happened to him in a very long time!

Many of the scenarios Tick encounters throughout the story actually present important lessons to the reader, which is great for a young adult book. And even better when you're an adult and don't even realize it's being done. ;-) But one of the strongest lessons which overlaid much of the story's premise is how the actions you take in the here and now have far reaching consequences that affect the rest of the world around you, often without your even consciously realizing it. It's the pebble in the water theory, where the waves or ripples caused by a single event (the pebble thrown in the water) reach out to affect all of the surrounding area as well. Or as it's applied in this story: every choice a person makes can lead to drastic changes in other Realities.

The whole pebble in the water theory is a concept wholly embraced by Pagans, something we build our lives around, so I really liked the subtle emphasis on it throughout the story. It just made me feel very connected to the story in a way... if that makes sense. ;)

To sum up, this was a very interesting take on the theory of parallel universes. From that standpoint, it may even be partially science fiction and not simply fantasy as it was originally labeled. But whatever the exact genre—probably a mixture of both—I found this to be a satisfying read and a great start to The 13th Reality series. More detail on Tick and this fascinating new series can be found at The 13th Reality website.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tipping the Velvet (the movie)

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

I know I don't usually do movie reviews, but the other night I saw the BBC made-for-TV movie of Tipping the Velvet, a book I previously read and reviewed by Sarah Waters, so I wanted to talk about it here. I thought it was really good, though I still think the book was slightly better. (Isn't that always the case? LOL)

At nearly 3 hours, it was fairly thorough and consistent with the book, though some parts of Nan's life, like when she was working the streets and living with Grace and Mrs. Milne, was made a wee bit shorter as if to gloss it over a bit. You never really got the impression about how close Grace had grown to her, and they left out the part where she returned a few days after she moved in with Diana to get her outfits and let the Milne's know she wasn't returning. Though they did sort of allude to it because DH turned to me and said, "How'd she get her outfits back?" Didn't she leave them all at the Milne's?" So I explained that in the book, she did return a few days later to pick up her stuff and let them know she was leaving. They also changed the circumstances surrounding Nan's initial meeting with Florence, before she hooked up with Diana, though that didn't really affect the movie all that much.

I'm glad this was made in Britain as opposed to the U.S. because Americans are way too hung up on sexuality and I'm sure they would've definitely complained about the sex scenes. Personally, our society's hangups over sexuality are a huge pet peeve of mine so it was refreshing to see a movie not shirk away from the subject of girl-on-girl love.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie, and was glad that I supplemented my reading of the book by seeing it as well. :)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

#12 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

My Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Harry is starting his 4th year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and already the mischief has started before he's even arrived at the school. It starts with Harry having strange dreams—or are they visions?—of Lord Voldemort, which leave him with a scorching pain in his forehead scar. And at the Quidditch World Cup, someone conjures the Dark Mark, Voldemort's sign, right in front of Harry and his friends. Do all these signs point to the imminent return and rise to power of Voldemort? Or are they just coincidence?

Well, it just so happens that Hogwarts will be hosting a very special event this year, a competition which hasn't taken place for several hundred years—the Triwizard Tournament. Perhaps that'll take Harry's mind off his problems. Or maybe it'll just make them worse since someone has decided to enter him as a Hogwarts Champion, an honour normally reserved only for older students with more experience. But since the Goblet of Fire has given his name, he is obliged to compete, whether he wants to or not. And perhaps someone is hoping that Harry just may die for it!

After finishing Goblet of Fire, I immediately wanted to see the movie again because I felt I understood so much more than when I saw it initially. Many of the new characters and some of the things that happened in this one seemed rather random to me when I saw the movie, but after reading the book, I see how everything (and everyone) all fits together. Since Goblet of Fire was a hefty 734 pages, whereas the previous three books were quite a bit shorter, I can see how a two-hour movie might not quite do this book proper justice. I'm glad to hear that the movie deal made for book seven is going to be done in two parts instead of trying to squish it all into one.

So though I was initially thinking this was the weakest one so far, after having only seen the movie, I now have to retract that thought after reading the book. There is some additional depth given to many of the characters here, and we learn a few new secrets about some of them. A lot of it is very mysterious and dark. We also start to see hints of a burgeoning romance between Ron and Hermione....

I really enjoyed this one a lot, so much so that I immediately wanted to start reading Order of the Phoenix right away. (And I'm holding off on seeing that movie until I read the book first.) Unfortunately, I have a number of other books I really need to get read before the end of the month; this was my short, quick detour to read one of my personal collection books that has been sorely neglected because it doesn't have an agenda after, or I don't owe a review for it, or something like that. ;-)

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