Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Lunatic Cafe

Level: Explicit Lite
Genre: Urban Fantasy > Vampire
Obtained: Purchased at Borders
Reviewed by: Nic Echo

I have to say that I like this cover. I wouldn't say that it's a favourite of mine, but it's fairly pleasing to the eye. Honestly, I think the main thing that throws me off is the colour choice. Red seems to be very hit or miss, and this shade seems closer to the miss. However, I still think it shows the feeling of the series quite well: a mixture of sensuality and horror. The wolf and moon is a nice touch as well; there's no mistaking that this is going to be a book about werewolves. Granted, I feel they could do a better job on the blending or just use the wolf. The way they have it makes it look a bit amateurish. 

About the Book:
In this book, someone comes to Anita to help find a missing person -- a missing lycanthrope to be precise, which is why the client isn't going to the police. Later on, Anita finds out that this isn't the only lycanthrope to have gone missing recently. Because of this, the local wereanimals are also keen on having Anita search for their missing brethren and that is causing Anita to learn more about the lycanthropic culture, which Anita ends up learning that it is both dangerous and bloody.

Rating: 8/10
I'll admit that I found more flaws in The Lunatic Cafe than the previous Anita Blake books. However, they have pretty much all have been forgotten as well. Of course, these now mostly forgotten flaws can still pull a reader out of the story when reading. Because of this, I kept debating whether to settle on an eight or a nine. Still, even with the teetering rating, I would say that The Lunatic Cafe is worth a read. First off, it's nice to get to see more of the lycanthropes in the Anita Blake universe. Before you ask, I like seeing my werewolves monstrous -- and Laurell K. Hamilton delivers. Are they the most terrifying werebeastie out there? No. Not even close. Yet Hamilton still manages to show us a savage side to these creatures while also having many try to maintain their humanity.

Well, what about the plot? It's no Agatha Christie mystery, but it's not as bad as Guilty Pleasures where Anita only figured it out after the bad guy told her. In The Lunatic Cafe, we get more of a mix. Anita does figure out some things on her own so

Okay, I may be a little harsh. Although Anita helps the police with preternatural type of information, she is not a dectective so it makes sense that she is going to miss a few things. Still it can be quite annoying when the protaginist is simply told the evil plan.

So The Lunatic Cafe may not have the strongest plot, but it still contains several interesting characters, a highly entertaining world to play in, and a narrator with a good amount of sarcasm that is bound to make many readers smile. Of course, if you didn't like the earlier Anita Blake books, skip this one. If you enjoyed them, keep on reading! It may not be written gold, but it has me returning to it time and time again.

What I'm Reading Next:


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Circus of the Damned

Level: Explicit Lite
Genre: Urban Fantasy > Vampire
Obtained: Purchased at Border's
Reviewed by: Nic Echo

Not pleasing to the eye at all. First off, there is the colour. Now, browns can work, and I can easily see why they chose brown, but the colour just seems bland with this design. Speaking of the design, what is going on here? Obviously, the artist is trying to tie in the cover with the book, and I love that they are doing that, but they could have done something much nicer (such as the French cover shown below). Here, it's just ... I don't want to say a mess, but it always seems unfinished to me. A lot of that would have to be the scales on the girl. Realistic scales can be damn difficult to do. The ones here look like the artist simply took a scale pattern and overlayed it onto the model. I'm actually wondering if the cover would have been better without the scales. Then, there is the snake. This snake has always bothered me. I think it would have worked a lot better if they just had a snake next to the girl instead of this tattoo turning into a snake thing that they have going on. The transition isn't all that great. You have the crisp, clear lines of the tattoo portion, the sharpness of the real snake, and then a blurry portion where the two meet. It's distracting. As far as covers go, this isn't the worse one out there, but it really should have been tossed and reworked.

About the Book:
In this third installment of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series, there are several murders happening that seem to be the work of a rogue group of vampires. Meanwhile, Anita is still having issues with Jean-Claude, master of St. Louis, who is wanting Anita to become his human servant. The thing is Anita isn't willing to gamble her soul, not even for immortality. Unfortunately, the master vampire from the rogue group isn't going to give Anita the choice.

Rating: 9/10
Rereading these always reminds me of why I fell in love with the Anita Blake series, how much they can grab you and hold you. Circus of the Damned is no different. That's not to say it's not without its flaws, but overall, it is a very entertaining read. Even with the repetitive phrases (ri-ight being one of many) and the cheesy clothing taken from the 80's (and this is coming from someone who loves the 80's), Hamilton managed to create several memorable characters, which you found yourself rooting for time and time again. Seriously, I would hate Anita as a person and yet I want her to succeed.

So what is there to like about Circus of the Damned? Well, I admit that really enjoyed the villain and the reason behind what he was doing. I don't want to give anything away, but his reasoning made sense. Now, a lot of people that I have talked with had had an issue with how he was defeated. Again, without giving too much away, he agrees to limit his powers in a duel. Personally, I thought it made sense why he limited himself, but many others disagree. This seems to be a huge deciding factor how much someone liked the book. Even if you found the villain a bit lame, there should still be plenty to make it an entertaining enough read. There are giant snakes, werewolves in action, and even a lamia.

Honestly, from what I recall, the main downfall I had with this book was Anita herself, especially with how she treated Larry. For those who don't know, Larry is the new animator (zombie raiser) that Bert hired. When Anita first meets Larry, he is raising a zombie. Anyway, he doesn't have the energy to control said zombie. Needless to say, Anita saves the day from potential danger and tells Larry off.  This I have no problem with, but later, she keeps going on and on about how dangerous their job -- to the point where people come after them. Um ... Anita, me thinks that you are getting your animating job confused with vampire slaying. Yes, we later find out that Larry wants to be a vampire hunter, but until then, Anita is saying that animating is the dangerous job. I'm not saying it can't be, but not to the point that she is implying. If it was, I doubt people like Charles, who strongly dislikes violence, would be an animator. I don't know; maybe it's a bit of a nitpick, but it kept getting brought up, and Anita was never really shown as being wrong.

Overall though, I still found Circus of the Damned really enjoyable, even though I have a severe disliking for the author and what the series has become. Sure it has its flaws, but it manages to pull me into Anita's world every single time, and I still find myself recommending the earlier books to several people.

What I'm Reading Next:    


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Tenth Grade Bleeds

Level: Teen
Genre: Urban Fantasy> Vampire
Obtained: Borrowed from room mate
Reviewed by: Nic Echo

Oh, what to say about this cover? Like the others, I think it does an excellent job at bringing in its intended audience, which is the best thing a cover can do. Again, I am liking the stark contrast and using only one colour. It certainly makes the book stand out on shelves.

About the Book:
Vlad is now entering the tenth grade, and it seems his usual troubles are following him; mainly he has someone else trying to kill him -- again. However, this isn't the only issue Vlad is having when it comes to his vampiric nature. Vlad's hunger has been increasing immensely, and he is finding it harder and harder to resist feeding from humans. To top this off, Vlad is alone in his struggles since he is unable to contact his Uncle Otis, and Henry seems to be wanting less of Vlad each day.

Rating: 5/10 (7/10)
In case you don't know by now, the first rating is for a general audience, and the second rating is for the intended audience.

Talk about a sense of deja vu, but I could have sworn that I've read this before. Now, I understand that many series end up repeating plot outlines, but there comes a time when it starts to grow dull. I have read other books where the plot nearly always ends up with the antagonist trying to kill the protagonist (Harry Potter, anyone?), but the journey usually varies. When it comes to the Vladimir Tod books, however, most of the plot seems extremely similar to the other books in the series. Every book, so far, has someone hunting for Vlad, Vlad learning more about his vampire powers, Vlad making googly eyes at Meredith, blah blah. Now, each book does add a few more elements. Ninth Grade Slays introduced Vlad's training, Eddie's stalking, and more  information about Vlad's parvus status. Tenth Grade Bleeds creates more tension between Henry and Vlad, along with an ever increasing blood lust. However, even with these added elements, I seem to be hearing the same song.

But what did I think of the specifics of this particular book? The tension between Henry and Vlad was interesting, and I could see many wondering if Henry will remain Vlad's drudge. Because of the tension between Henry and Vlad, we get to witness Vlad hanging out with people other than Henry and Meredith. Remember the goth kids Vlad used to see hanging out on the school steps all the time? Yes, we get more scenes with them. I have to say I had mixed feelings about the goths. On one hands, I really liked that Brewer showed them as fairly normal teenagers that just happened to like alternative things. The thing I disliked was all the fake Gothic names. Having been and hung out with goths during high school, I rarely came across goths that created their own names. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it's not as common as people seem to think. Guess it's just a pet peeve of mine. Again, I really liked that Brewer didn't make her goths have a darker than the blackest night type attitude. In fact, their attitudes were pretty varied from the pretentious Kristoph to the highly energetic Sprat.

I did feel there was little tension from the person hunting Vlad, however. Besides the fact that we have another two-dimensional character, he ended up having a severe weakness. Now, I am all for characters having weaknesses, but Ignatius extreme aversion to sunlight made him a fairly useless threat since he was only able to move on a moonless or overcast night. True, he is supposed to be this scary vampire, who excels at pain and torture, but seriously, this guy can only move two to three nights a month. It just loses a lot of tension.

The other problem that I had with Tenth Grade Bleeds involved Vlad and Meredith. After dating a little over a year, Vlad realises that Meredith is his one true love. Yeah ... I'm sorry but that bothered me even as a teenager. I am really hoping that Brewer makes it where Vlad only thinks Meredith is his ultimate love. I doubt it, but a boy can dream. In relation to all of this, there is also a bit that really bothered me. It does contain light

At the end of the book. Vlad is at a school carnival with Meredith, and, out of the blue, he pulls the "I need to hurt her to keep her safe" crap. You know, sometimes this can makes sense, but I really don't think he needed to emotionally harm Meredith. Not to that extent anyway. Seriously, he could have easily just said that it wasn't working out or that he was having issues so he couldn't emotionally handle a relationship at the moment. Okay, so the latter would be a bit unlikely for a teenager, but it is still an option and not a completely out there one (even for a teen). I guess you could argue that it could give Meredith hope, causing her to wait for Vlad, which kind of ties in with my other problem of Vlad's "I need to hurt her to keep her safe" malarkey. In continuing with my last thought, I'd like to point out why it wouldn't be horrible for Meredith to wait. The harm that Vlad is keeping her from is his ever increasing urges to feed from the source. The thing is that Vlad will be able to control this in time. This is not a forever thing. Granted, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Vlad's "harm her to keep her safe" bull. I've already commented on how Vlad could have let Meredith go better, but I am seriously at a loss on why he had to hurt her. Now, if Vlad's enemies had threatened or tried using her to get at Vlad, I could maybe see him wanting to push her away for good, but this never happens. What's more is I don't even think Vlad's enemies know about Meredith, except Joss, who no longer seems to be in the picture. It seems that Vlad is only protecting her from his blood lust. As I already pointed out, Vlad will be able to control this at some point. However, the point I want to make is it makes little difference whether he wants tasty blood or not. The fact is that Vlad is keeping who he is from Meredith. Now, there is nothing wrong with not telling her straight off the bat, especially considering what severe implications could come of him telling her. However, the fact remains that she is entirely in the clueless about a major part of Vlad. I'm sorry, but you cannot keep up a good and well balanced relationship for a long time if you are keeping a secret of that size from you significant other. So why not find a way to tell her or, at the very least, don't be a dick when you let her go. I realise Vlad was looking out for Meredith, but there is no logical reason why he had to let her go the way that he did/ Oh, never mind, I know why. For angst.

I am sure there was another flaw I found with the book, but I have been working on this review for too long, and this book isn't that memorable so I'll skip to the overall. Like the other Vladimir Tod books, I can't see many people enjoying it over the the series' intended audience (though reviews seem to show otherwise. Personally, I found Tenth Grade Bleeds repetitive and merely okay. I'll probably still finish the series, but only for review purposes and the fact that the books are easy reads. If you liked the other Vladimir Tod books, I would suggest picking this one up as well, but if you merely found the series to be okay, like me, Tenth Grade Bleeds doesn't add much so you are likely to be just as bored.

What I am Reading Next:         

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Warm Bodies

Level: Teen
Genre: Sci/fi Dystopia
Obtained: Online library
Reviewed by: Maggie W.


I've seen a couple different covers for this book. The one above, which is the cover that was on my ebook copy of the book and my favorite out of the 3, a more minimalist cover which I liked a little, and a movie tie in that I don't really like, mostly because I dislike movie publicity campaigns that don't let a good book stand on it's own. For those interested here's the second cover. I feel like for a book about brain eating zombies a cover with arteries of the brain was a good choice. 

About the book:

This is a fairly short book, but for something so brief it's an excellent story. Originally I had a friend suggest this book to me but as zombies aren't really my thing I sort of put in pretty far down on my list of books to read. It wasn't until a few months ago when I saw the previews for the movie adaptation that I thought maybe I should move this book up the list a bit. Most of the time when you read a zombie story it's always told from the point of view of the poor bastards that are running for their lives, no one ever seem to want to tell the zombies side of the story, until this one.

Rating 7/10

The story starts out with R, the somewhat hero of the story, wandering around an abandon airport with his friend M. None of them are sure why they do this, but figure it must be the last traces of memories of their former human life. The zombies strangely mimic the human lives by getting married, raising a family(well if adopting random zombie children counts), and occasionally going out for take away. 
It's on one of this food runs that everything changes for R. A group, R and M included, go into the city to hunt down some straggling human when R meets Julie. After attacking Julie's boyfriend Perry, R is advancing on Julie when something stops him. So the logical thing to do is of course take her home with him. 
R stashes Julie away in the jumbo jet he's been living in at the airport to keep her safe. Julie astounded by the fact that her zombie keeper has a fondness for Frank Sinatra and can also hold a fairly decent, if somewhat slow conversation. Meanwhile R stashed Perry's brain away for a snack after killing him and slowly, as he eats the brain, he starts to get more of Perry's memories. 
The rest of the book is filled with humor and a bit of a commentary on what actually makes someone human.

What I'm reading next: