Monthly Archives: November 2013

Blood Price – Tanya Huff

Tanya Huff is a Canadian writer who writes fantasy, paranormal romance and sci-fi, often involving strong female main characters.  Unfortunately, my personal knowledge and research hasn’t raised much in way of a background.  She was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia and has a Bachelor of applied Arts in Radio and Television Arts from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, Ontario and currently resides with her wife Fiona Patton in rural Ontario.

This novel is the first of the “Blood” books involving a former police officer, Vicki Nelson, who was forced from her position as detective by Retinitis Pigmentosa which causes failing eyesight, and Henry Fitzroy, a historical romance writer who also happens to be a vampire and the 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset.

Vicki witnesses the brutal murder of a young man and is hired to investigate by his girlfriend, Coreen Fennel who claims that her boyfriend was murdered by a vampire, which she of course does not believe and even after seeing the killer disappear she chalks it up to her failing eyesight.  While investigating, she’s knocked unconscious and wakes up in an unknown apartment with a strange man looking through her purse.  The stranger, Henry Fitzroy, explains that he isn’t the killer but a demon is, oh and he’s a 450-year-old vampire…so begins a guilty indulgence of a series of 5 novels and a short story involving these two and several other characters.

The stories are cheesy, to be honest, but enjoyable much like watching the silly Sci-Fi series.  Cleopatra 2525 and much like the first few years of Smallville, the stories are “monster of the week”. This first and the last are probably the best of the series, probably due to them being more character based.  My biggest complaint has to do with the simplicity, i.e. it’s very, very straight-forward and other than the main vampire, all of the characters are stereotypical with clear delineation between “good” and “evil” and little depth or background; however, that can be part of it’s charm as well since it doesn’t require any “deep thinking” either.

The series of books was also the basis for a Canadian/Lifetime channel television series, called Blood Ties, which ran for two seasons.  The series was “OK”, just a cheep, Canadian cable television series…but, if you can get it cheap or off of Netflix, it’s still watchable…but, like so many books turned into movies or series imagination and visual media never quite match up.

If you enjoy this, please read the remainder of the series:

  • Blood Trial
  • Blood Lines
  • Blood Pact
  • Blood Debt
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The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror – Christopher Moore

I know I’ve written about Christopher Moore before, so I won’t describe him much here other than to say that this story proves that he is one man with a fertile, wickedly funny and weird imagination.

I chose this book to write about merely because it’s getting so close to the Christmas season and frankly, I’ve been dying to do so.  This story has it all, Santa Claus (well someone dressed up as one), murder, betraying, Christmas angels, and zombies, what more could you ask for?

The angel Raziel, last seen in Moore’s “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal“, comes down to Pine Cove (a small coastal California town which is frequently a location in Moore’s novels) to grant one child a Christmas wish.  Raziel is not the sharpest tool in the celestial shed…and when he grants the wish of a small boy (who saw the local land developer dressed up as Santa killed and buried in a shallow grave on a Christmas tree farm a short distance from the town’s cemetery) to not let Santa be dead, he mistakenly resurrects not only “Santa” but all of the dead in the cemetery all of which reek mayhem and death and terror on the towns folk collecting for a Christmas gathering.  Will anyone survive?  Will anyone want to?

This is one of Moore’s funniest (and shortest) books to date and the first of Moore’s books to begin production into a film (although others have been discussed, options sold, etc..).  The films web site is claiming that principal photography is supposed to begin in 2013, they’re kind of running behind if they haven’t at least started.

If you like this, read:

  • Practical Demonkeeping
  • Bloodsucking Fiends
  • Island of the Sequined Love Nun
  • The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
  • Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

Towing Jehovah – James Morrow

James Morrow is a self proclaimed scientific humanist. His most famous series of novels is referred to as the Godhead Trilogy and are religious satire with elements of apocalypse.  The Godhead Trilogy (i.e. Towing Jehovah, Blameless in Abaddon and The Eternal Footman) are epic tales about God’s suicide and the aftermath, men coming to grips in a world without God and yet finally knowing that he did exist.  Religion and the religiously obsessed tend to be recurring themes in many of his stories and while many treat his novels as athiest (he considers himself to be one, I think this is too simplistic.  Blameless in Abadon, for example, is about a man who has suffered more than anyone should ever have to and taking God to task for his suffering. And while irreverant, whether the story is an affirmation of religion or of anti-religion is in the eye and mind of the reader.

In Towing Jehovah, the first in the Godhead Trilogy, the massive body of God is found floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  The Vatican secretly hires a supertanker to tow the body to a tomb being carved out of ice in the Artic.  Along the way, any number of challenges along the route including a group of atheists discovering the body and attempting to destroy it to prevent everyone from knowing that, while now dead, God did exist which now proves they were wrong all along.  The supertanker’s captain, Van Horne, struggles with guilt over damage caused to the ecology (think Exxon Valdez) as well as the usual that everyone struggles with (girlfriend and father), but hopes for redemption in his devine task.  Even worse are crew mutinys and the results of the devine corpose decomposing in ways never expected.

The novel is equal parts religious satire, and naval adventure drama.  The story is funny, scary, and critical of every faction you can imagine (feminists, athieists, organized religion, you name it).  Noone is off limits and everyone is lampooned in action and statement, yet, underneath there is a overwhelming question…”Can we, whether we say we believe in God or not, survive without Him?”

If you enjoy this, read:

  • Blameless in Abaddon
  • The Eternal Footman

Fantasy Lover (Dark Hunter #1) – Sherrilyn Kenyon

I like to include what I know about an author in my blog; however, I frankly don’t know much about Sherrilyn Kenyon. What little I’ve been able to find out is that she was born in Columbus, Georgia.  According to her website, she’s of mixed Cherokee lineage, has three sons, a husband, a sword collection and lots of pets.  That’s about it.  If others know more about her, I’d love to hear.

This was the first book in the Dark Hunter series and isn’t as connected as most of the others nor as well written.  The story centers around a Spartan soldier who is cursed to be a love slave to anyone who possess the book that he’s trapped in performing whatever sexual desire she wishes.  Sounds ideal, unless you’re the one who’s cursed. After over two thousand years, Julian of Macedon is summoned to fulfill Grace Alexander’s fantasies and for the first time the summoner sees him more than a sex slave and she alone dared to take him out of the bedroom into the world.  Is she the one that can finally break the curse and heal his wounded heart?

Even prolific and popular writers of several series of paranormal romance novels have to start somewhere…this is NOT a great novel.  It is funny, it is intriguing, it is entertaining; however, it is also either poorly written or poorly edited (I cannot decide which).  There are plot holes aplenty, even in a paranormal romance, which distract.  Not to mention, if this guy has been a sex slave for over two thousand years, conservatively assuming 2 women a year for 2000 years, that’s 4,000 women….experienced does NOT even begin to describe this individual, would a woman like Grace even be interested in such a “well traveled” man?  Anyway, despite it’s flaws, I did have fun reading it and it introduced me to her Dark Hunter mythos which does get quite a bit better.

If you enjoy this, try:

  • Night Pleasures
  • Dance With the Devil
  • Night Embrace
  • Kiss of the Night
  • Night Play
  • Seize the Night
  • Sins of the Night
  • Unleash the Night
  • Dark Side of the Moon
  • Devil May Cry
  • Acheron
  • One Silent Night
  • Bad Moon Rising
  • No Mercy
  • Retribution
  • Time Untime

Stardust – Neil Gaiman

Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman was born in 1960 in Portchester, Hampshire, England.  He loves to read and claims to have been able to do so since he was four years of age.  J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorecock, and many others inspired him.  In the 1980’s he conducted a number of interviews and wrote book reviews which ultimately was beneficial in getting him published later in his career due to connections in the publishing industry he acquired in those days.

In 1984, he wrote a biography of the band “Duran Duran” and a book of Kim Newman quotations called Ghastly Beyond Belief, which sold very well although he though they were terrible.

What really got him noticed was writing “Don’t Panic: The Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Companion” and collaborating with Terry Pratchett with the hilarious doomsday novel “Good Omens”.

Ultimately, his most enduring fame came from his re-write of the old DC Comics character “The Sandman” in which he changed quite drastically from the original, making it more hip, gory, and since it was being published by DC’s Vertigo label, nudity, blood and cursing were allowed.  “The Sandman” is to this day considered to be a classic work of graphic novel fiction and I myself have the complete collection in both graphic novel form and in bound collectors editions.

In 1999, Gaiman released Stardust which is a fantasy novel (and also a graphic/illustrated novel version).  The story is primarily about Tristran Thorn (a half-Faerie, half-human) and Yvaine (a fallen star) and their travels through the lands beyond the wall.

Tristran lives in a small English village named simply “Wall” which is set against a massive stone wall which devides the Human world from the world of faeries (which to my memory was never actually named).  Tristran knows he’s different and wishes for more. He desires “the most beautiful girl for a hundred miles around” (i.e. Victoria Forester), who only enjoys his attention but doesn’t love him.

One night they witness a falling star and Tristran claims that he will cross over the wall and collect the star for her if she will marry him.  Thinking that Tristran isn’t serious, she agrees.  Tristran does indeed cross the wall into the faery lands and comes across a crater which has a beautiful young woman at it’s center with an injured leg, Yvaine, which Tristran comes to realize is actually the fallen star.  He forces Yvaine to go with him as he is intent on bringing her back whether she’s a person or a rock to win his prize, Victoria.

The story follows the two as the experience hidden dangers at every turn, dangers such as the Lords of Stormhold who are also after the fallen star to gain the rule of Stormhold while killing off each other.  The witch, Ditchwater Sal and worse of all the Lilim which are three sister witches who have grown quite old and wish to capture Yvaine to cut out her heart and consume it to become young again.

I have to say, I loved this book in both forms; however, I preferred the book form over the graphic/illustrated novel.  The charcters are enjoyable and the story is both memorable, unique and at the same time vaguely familiar.  While over the wall, many characters and situations resemble fairy tales we learned and read when we were children, yet, they aren’t at the same time.  They’re not as terrifying as the actual originals, yet are creepy in the way only Neil Gaiman knows how to tell them.  It’s hard to describe exactly what it is about Neil’s style that makes it so creepy and in this case “sweet” at the same time, so I won’t try…just sit back and enjoy, again and again.

As of note, there was a theatrical release of Stardust in 2007, staring Charlie Cox as the renamed Tristan Thorn (face it Tristran doesn’t roll off the tongue as well), Claire Danes as Yvaine and Michelle Pfeiffer as the Witch Queen, with Robert De Niro, Peter O’Toole, and Ricky Gervais.  The movie was good, but, but much of what made the novel greate wasn’t present.  The journey was too short and the campy portrail of Captain Shakespeare as a cross dressing pirate was way too over the top.  The movie couldn’t decide whether it was a fantasy, comedy, or romance.  The movie was OK…it just wasn’t as good as it could have been, which is often the case when a beloved book is turned into a movie, particularly when it’s done by an American big distributor.  What was a saving grace was that it wasn’t produced by a big studio.

If you enjoy this, try:

  • The Sandman (graphic novels)
  • American Gods
  • Neverwhere
  • Anansi Boys

 

Except The Dying – Maureen Jennings

Maureen Jennings was born in 1939 in Birmingham, England; however, she moved to Windsor, Ontario, Canada with her mother at the age of seventeen in 1956.  She graduated with a M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto around 1965.  In 1966 she taught English at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute.  She left for a career as a psychotherapist in 1972 and published her first novel, “Except the Dying” in 1997.

This is one of those rare occasions where I first saw a TV movie which prompted me to read the source material.   Having seen “Murdoch Mysteries” listed in a promo clip from a DVD release of something published by Acorn Media, it looked interesting.  I rented the “series” which in reality were three movies that were produced staring Peter Outerbridge in the role of Detective Murdoch.  The first movie was an adaptation of Except the Dying with a number of significant differences between the book and the movie; however, they both stand well in their own rights….well, enough about the movie, what about the book?

Maureen Jennings is nothing if not exacting in her research of her adopted country and city’s past.  The novel takes place in turn of the late 19th century Toronto where William Murdoch is a Catholic police detective investigating the murder of young girl found drugged, strangled and nude in an alley in the red light district in the middle of Winter.  It is later discovered the girl was pregnant but everyone believes she was a prostitute, except for Murdoch.  Murdoch must investigate despite resistance from his superiors, because he dares interview and suspect members of Toronto society.

The novel is well written, completely engrossing and paints an incredibly vivid picture of Victorian-era Toronto following a massive tuberculosis outbreak and bitter winter where many buildings are still abandoned.  TB is still an ever present threat, some of those closest to Murdoch are dying of it, poverty is rampant and the divide between the haves and have-nots is  wide although even those that have are not all living as lavishly as they once did.  The mystery is ever present and it’s hard sometimes to remember that some of the investigative techniques that we take for granted (thanks to TV, movies, etc…) were just beginning to come into existence, such as fingerprints.

I highly recommend the novels.

The movies are good, but not for the squeamish and with some fascinatingly creepy (and titillating dream sequences).

The long running TV series, known as “The Murdoch Mysteries” in Canada and the UK and currently airing on Ovation in the US as “The Artful Detective”, which is based on the characters less than the novels can be hilarious and entertaining.

If you enjoy this, please read:

  • Under the Dragon’s Tail
  • Poor Tom Is Cold
  • Let Loose The Dogs
  • Night’s child
  • Vices Of My Blood
  • A Journeyman to Grief

Apologies

For those of you following my blog, you may have noticed that I have not posted anything for several days.  It is neither than I have nothing to write about nor have I lost interest.  Unexpectedly, my wife required surgery to her upper spine and frankly she takes priority.  Fortunately, she’s now home and doing extremely well so I should be able to write more frequently.