Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: Eighth Grade Bites

Eighth Grade Bites
Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story starts off with 8th grader, Vladimir Tod, who is definitely not the virile, strong vampire character most are accustomed to. I think that this is what will make this story endearing to young readers, and likely adults as well. That is, if you ever knew what it was like to be the outcast, and have to move through society with a secret.

It's a YA novel, so the plotline is simple, but I don't feel it draws away from the story being a great read. It's love interest isn't treacly, and there's nothing that would be inappropriate for kids reading this book. I say that because my 4th grader wanted to read this series, most likely because he shares a first name with the main character and was fascinated by that.

The characters deviate from where other YA novels go; this novel has a teen character that had a great relationship with his parents. He's a regular teen that doesn't always do the best in school, doesn't date all the most popular girls, and all the other kids refer to him as "goth boy" (not his own perception of himself nor is he really even anywhere near being goth. They simply do not know how else to label him).

It's a real, sometimes angst-ridden, but overall very funny and enjoyable tale that moves you through Vladimir's life, his relationship with his best friend Henry, and his "Aunt" Nelly. She is actually the best friend of his mother, but is now his guardian as his parents died in a tragic accident 3 year prior.

Hopefully the next books will expand more on the vampire legend and world, as this books takes a different approach than others I've read in the past. Looking forward to the next in the series to learn more about The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod.

Great first book for author Heather Brewer... I love her style already.

View all my reviews

Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story of two girls. Constance is quirky, kind-hearted and agoraphobic. Merricat is dark with some twisted fantasies and lots of paranoia. Both girls live in their family mansion with Uncle Julian.

I had thought it might be a ghost story from some reviews, but I must have misread them, because it read more like a cross between Neil Gaiman meets The Grey Gardens.

Right from the start, you read the psychopathic thoughts that Merricat has, and thus the mystery of these two girls and what happened to their family begins. Why does the village despise them? Why doesn't Constance leave the house? What happened to their parents, brother, and Aunt? It eventually makes it way there, but likely could have done it quicker and in more of a shorter story sense.

It's a disturbing story, but nothing graphic takes place. I went into it with expectations and that is my own fault, because that usually sets it up for failure. In my mind, it didn't deliver what I expected, but overall, not a bad read and it only took a short afternoon with it being around 160 pages.

View all my reviews

Review: The Thirteen Hallows

The Thirteen Hallows
The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Starting off the review, with a note from the author, found at the end of the book:
"Most of the Hallows mentioned in this novel still exist, as do the group of people known as the Hallowed Keepers."

Wow, I was surprised by the overtone of darkness and the grisly nature of this novel. I wasn't expecting it since Michael Scott last wrote "The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel" which is a kids series. This is definitely an adult novel in such contrast, with the magical rites using sex, torturous ritual, and lots of bloodshed. However, compared to other adult novels that involve murders and mystery it's not unusual. I would classify it as supernatural/adult fiction/fantasy, maybe a little horror in it as well. Nothing frightening though, you can definitely sleep at night after reading it.

I love that the author has studied mythology and folklore, because the tie-ins to religious mythology such as the number thirteen relating to the thirteen names of God, and the Hallows, regular items that were imbued with power, being the keys to locking away the demons that used to roam this earth before man existed.

The story itself is written in excellent form. It's well-edited and the story is absolute. It's a bit predictable in how it's all going to end up, but the details of how it all goes down along the way is different many other novels of it's genre so that is a major plus. The authors historical knowledge of folklore from many walks of religion (Christianity to Pagan) is wonderfully tied together to weave a tale that makes you realize that there really is no good or evil, just power and energy and how each individual chooses to wield. Personal choice is what it always comes down to. Then, and now. Picking otherwise is just an illusion of immunity (and often superiority).

The writing is a little dry to me, and some parts of the book seem somewhat dull and unnecessary. Overall, a good read in the end, especially to those that enjoy mythology, history, and the supernatural.

View all my reviews

Review: The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases

The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases
The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases by Michael Capuzzo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm feeling a little more towards 2.5 stars on this one.

This book begins in the present, introducing the people, William Fleisher, Frank Bender, and Richard Walter. These are the people who began the society, Vidocq. They are all experts in the field in one way or another, which they combine their unique talents to aid in solving cold cases for mostly family members, and sometimes police departments.

The story is written in a manner which I did find to be disjointed, and a little frustrating at times. It jumps around from event to event, which well done, makes for a suspenseful and fascinating read. In this case however, it makes for a sometimes confusing, sometimes just bothersome way to read this story. If this book was re-edited to better tell these stories, it would clean it up immensely and turn it into the suspenseful, and informative story it was intended to be. It's just not cohesive that way it is, and that really detracts from the novel.

The beginning of the story reads to me a bit like a snarky boys club, a little pulp fiction, a little gumshoe black & white themed introduction. As I read on, I felt that aspect left the book and it became more serious of a read. Characters like Walter and Bender seem to be confusingly described. They read like one type of person in the beginning, then it seems as you move through the book, the author wants you to see them in an opposite light. I think it was to bring more warmth to Walter, and to make Bender seem like a flighty self-absorbed artist, but it was too jerky in how it happened and it didn't flow. That might best describe the entire story.

Within a chapter, it would flash from one investigation or background to another, and this really made me have to re-read the paragraph to make sure I was understanding we were talking about another murder victim and then refresh my brain on that one. I could not understand the reasoning and how it was relative to what the current topic was discussing.

The story of the boy in the box was a huge one for this book. I felt very let down in the end with it's anti-climatic reveal. It left me wondering "who dun'it?" (sorry) because they never really definitively closed the book on that one. Some parts were drawn out, some parts were sort of skipped over quickly, with no obvious reason relative to story line.

As for the cases themselves, when it came down to finding out the details, that was engrossing. There weren't too many gory details to gross you out, but there was enough to be relative to the story being told. I was most interested in the process of solving these crimes themselves, and less interested in hearing about the characters rise to glory, although it is relative to the crimes. The process and discovery of solving crimes is what most readers want, I included.

It was an OK read. If I didn't have interest in forensics or process of solving crimes, I would likely be horribly bored with the book, since the rest of it is too disjointed to make a really great novel. In the end, it just became a mish-mash of many different parts of these journeys, with the author undecided on which actual route he wanted to approach with telling these crimes and Vidocq Society tales.

View all my reviews