Friday, June 26, 2009

Skin Trade

SKIN TRADE (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #17) by Laurell K. Hamilton

Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0425227723
ISBN-13: 978-0425227725
When a vampire serial killer sends Anita Blake a grisly souvenir from Las Vegas, she has to warn Sin City’s local authorities what they’re dealing with. Anita heads to Vegas, where’s she’s joined by three other federal marshals, including the ruthless Edward.

It never ceases to amaze me at the number of bad reviews Hamilton gets on her books, but people keep on reading them. I am a HUGE fan of Hamilton's work, and I would probably read the telephone book if she wrote it.

That being said, for me, the last few books have not as good as some of the earlier books - and not because of all the sex. I thought there were too many characters for each to get any screen time in the books. SKIN TRADE is more like these earlier books and I am happy to say, Hamilton is back on top of her game.

Our little necromancer, vampire executioner, wereanimal queen and human servant - Anita Blake - receives a severed human head in the mail and instantly knows it is from the big bad of Las Vegas, Vittorio, a vampire who almost killed her several months ago.

After talking with the Las Vegas police, Anita packs up and leaves St. Louis without waiting for her main sweetie, Jean Claude, the Master Vampire of St. Louis, to wake up for the evening. Anita knew Jean Claude would try to talk her out of leaving town to pursue this dangerous vampire. Joining up with Edward (aka Death) and prior associates Bernardo and Olaf, they work with the local police and psychics to track this vampire before he kills more people.

Although I missed the interaction between Anita and Jean Claude, Nathanial and Micah, have a smaller number of characters to deal with made this book a much faster read. And as for the growing sexual situations in recent books, this aspect was greatly toned down. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the sex in Hamilton's books, but it was quickly becoming the main focus of the book.

SKIN TRADE reminded me more of some of my favorite Anita Blake books: Obsidian Butterfly, Narcissus in Chains, and Cerulean Sins. For Hamilton lovers and people who enjoy a good vampire book, this is a definite "must read."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - Guilty Pleasures

With the current release of the 17th book in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton, I felt the urge to go back and review the earlier books in this series.

Guilty Pleasures was originally released in 1993 in paperback format and introduces the character of Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter and her world of magic, vampires, werewolves and other supernatural elements.

Anita is a zombie animator (able to raise dead people from the grave and then put them back again) and licensed vampire executioner (with legal sanction to kill vampires that break the law). This book gets its title from the Strip Club/Bar owned by the second most powerful vampire of St. Louis, Jean Claude - Guilty Pleasures is the only legal business for vampires currently living in St. Louis.

In this book, Anita investigates a series of vampire murders and comes into contact with many of the supernatural creatures that fill this alternate world. The city's most powerful vampire, Nikolaos, is 1,000 years old and looks like a 10-year-old girl. In dealing with Nikolaos, Anita must also fight off the romantic intentions of Jean Claude, who feels a powerful connection to the vampire executioner.

What makes this series unique is the strong-willed, tough-fighting character of Anita. Before Guilty Pleasures, vampire stories rarely had female leads, so Hamilton's character helped to fill a void. Her characters are in the same vein of Anne Rice - beautiful, deady, but morally just.

Jean-Claude is my favorite modern romantic vampire, easily winning my heart long before Edward Cullen was conceived. He also has qualities of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Spike with easy to look features and style.

This book is fast paced and filled with a mixture of horror, suspense and supernatural experiences. There is a steady sexual undercurrent, although the first books in the series are lacking the sexual exploits of later books in the series. Guilty Pleasures it is an effective plot device that keeps the heat turned up. If you are a vampire fan, I cannot recommend Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series highly enough.

With the current bestselling success of the Anita Blake series, the original six books have been reprinted in hardcover format.

Books in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series:

Guilty Pleasures (1993)
The Laughing Corpse (1994)
Circus of the Damned (1995)
The Lunatic Cafe (1996)
Bloody Bones (1996)
The Killing Dance (1997)
Burnt Offerings (1998)
Blue Moon (1998)
Obsidian Butterfly (2000)
Narcissus in Chains (2001)
Cerulean Sins (2003)
Incubus Dreams (2004)
Micah (February 2006)
Danse Macabre (June 2006)
The Harlequin (2007)
Blood Noir (2008)
Skin Trade (June 2009)

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Wedding

I realize this is my book review blog, so I am only going to post one picture from the big wedding this weekend. If you would like to see more photos, you can visit my Rants blog or my writing blog. When we get the photographer's photos back, I may print a few of those.
Rightmyer Rants
My Muse and Me

Mr. and Mrs. Jason Wilham - June 20, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Temporary Insanity

Sorry guys, but I'm pleading temporary insanity for the rest of the weekend. If I don't post anything again by Monday morning, someone come looking for me - I may need you to bail me out of jail or cart me off to Eastern State.

Wedding, wedding, wedding, wedding ... bet you can't guess what's on my mind!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sookie Stackhouse

Melissa from Melissa's Bookshelf is having a book give-away with a set of 7 Southern Vampire Mysteries - starring Sookie Stackhouse - by Charlaine Harris.

With the second season of HBO's TRUE BLOOD just starting, more and more people are discovering the joys of Sookie and her gang.

There are several ways to enter the contest, so got check out Melissa's blog. The contest ends on July 5th.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Normandi Ellis

Normandi Ellis - Kentucky author, Berea College teacher and Editor of Berea College Magazine - was the guest speaker at The Advanced Writer Workshop, lead by Tony Sexton on Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at the Mercer County Public Library. She offered the class a "jump start" - a prompt to help start the writing process - in addition to talking about the publishing aspect of writing. She also read several passages from two of her books.

For more information on Normandi Ellis you can visit her website here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Strain

The Strain (Book One of The Strain Trilogy) by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061558230
ISBN-13: 978-0061558238

This is the perfect horror read - action, mystery, thrills ... and vampires! And I'm not talking about the Twilight kind of vampires - I'm talking the blood and gore vampires of old legends. (This doesn't mean I don't like Twilight, because I do - these are just 2 entirely different kinds of vampire books). I have been a fan of Del Toro since Pan's Labyrinth, so this was a big selling point for me - along with the evil vampires.

Ephraim Goodweather, epidemiologist for the CDC is called away from a weekend with his son to examine a plane which landed at JFK in New York, but suddenly went dark upon landing. It appears that a mysterious illness has killed almost all of the passengers on Flight 753 and his investigation revolves around identifying the illness, finding a cause and eventually a cure.

Guillermo and Hogan have given us an entirely new species of vampires and believe me, these are not vegetarian vampires. It's really hard to give a synopsis of this book without giving away major spoilers, but this book is full of dead bodies that refuse to decompose, victims with white blood, an huge black earth-filled coffin, and mass chaos raining down on the Big Apple.

I usually do the biggest portion of my reading late at night, but this is one book I could not read before bed - I tried the first night and had nightmares. I quit sleeping with the light on years ago, but I've had to dig out my old nightlight to chase away the demons.

This is an excellent read, just in time for summer beach reading - yeah, sunlit beaches would probably be the perfect place to read. No need to worry about vamps in the sunshine. I am eagerly awaiting the release of the next book in the trilogy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - Interview with the Vampire

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Interview with the Vampire is a classic vampire novel by Anne Rice published in 1976. This is the first book to feature the vampire Lestat, and the first book of The Vampire Chronicles. Lestat is the perfect evil vampire, nothing like the "wimpy" vampires that have populated the reading world over the past few years.

The story is a simple one: Louis du Lac, an 18th century Louisiana plantation owner descends into alchohol binges after the death of his family. At his lowest point, Louis is confronted by Lestat, a charismatic and powerful vampire. In a moment of weakness, Louis allows Lestat to give him the dark gift, turning Louis from a grieving human to a grieving vampire.

While Lestat preys on the innocents of society, Louis finds it repulsive to kill humans to feed his own hunger. He resorts to living off the blood of rats and other small mammals, until one day he is confronted by a lonely little girl, Claudia, who has suffered losses of her own. In a moment of uncontrol, Louis feeds off Claudia and with the help of Lestat, turn her into a daughter of the night. Claudia turns into Lestat's perfect pupil, learning from him all the tricks of the living dead.

But the good times don't last long, and when Claudia learns what really happened to her, she turns on her teacher, Lestat. Claudia and Louis they decide to go overseas in search of others of their kind (this is also the book that introduced the vampire Armand). Unfortunately, the Old World vampires do not get along with the New World vampires and their time overseas turns into a fatal trip for one of the two.

The true charm of this novel is the method Rice chose to tell her tale. Louis gives a first-person confession to a skeptical boy. In retelling his story, Louis transformed the evil vampire into a sympathetic and seductive entity. It is Louis' deep sorrow and undying grief that turn him into the most sympathetic vampire since Barnabas Collins.

If you love vampires and have never had the privilege of reading The Vampire Chronicles, then you are missing a true literary treat. Interview with the Vampire is one of my all time favorite vampire books, and I have read dozens and dozens of them. So, go ahead, don't be afraid - check out some real vampires.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Awakening

The Awakening (The Dark Powers trilogy #2) by Kelley Armstrong

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061662763
ISBN-13: 978-0061662768
Chloe’s a teenager who likes Simon, but maybe likes Derek, and definitely hates Tori, who crushes on Simon, who kind of cares for Chloe. Sounds pretty typical. Except that Chloe’s a necromancer, Derek’s a werewolf, and Simon and Tori are sorcerers.
Just this little blurp on Amazon was enough to make me want to read this story, even if I hadn't read the first book, The Summoning.

If you’re looking for a nice light beach read for the summer, this 2nd book in Armstrong’s The Dark Powers trilogy may be just the thing.
Picking up where The Summoning left off, Chloe Saunders learns her DNA has been the center of an experiment to try and neutralize her supernatural powers. She learns her enemies are relentless and will stop at nothing to control her. Meanwhile, Chloe is working very hard to try and gain control of her powers, while keeping one step ahead of the Edison Group.

Although similar to the Twilight series with its theme of witches, werewolves and other urban fantasy creatures, this book will show you a whole other side to the supernatural. It is a great 2nd book in a series, so I highly recommend reading the first book as well.

Armstrong is also the author of the wildly popular adult series The Otherworld.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Eternal Hourglass - Magickeepers #1

(The Eternal Hourglass #1)

by Erica Kirov

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1402215010
ISBN-13: 978-1402215018
What would you do for an hourglass that stopped time? Nick Rostov's father is the worst stage magician in Las Vegas. He can barely pull a rabbit out of a hat. So it is a strange morning indeed when Nick wakes up to find himself on the top floor of the Winter Palace Casino with a promise from the greatest magician in the world to teach him magic.

Raised by his father after the death of his mother, Nick Rostov is turning 13 years old. Born into a long line of magicians, Nick's mother had been the real deal, and although his father was able to get mediocre jobs, his magical talent could never compare. Nick always thought he would follow in the footsteps of his family, but he never dreamed he would be taken under the wing of the greatest magician Las Vegas had ever seen.

Stolen away from his father, the morning after Nick's 13th birthday, he awakens in a strange room and begins to learn the history of his family's lineage. Nick is one of the true Magickeepers, sworn to keep magic hidden when the powerful and corrupt Shadowkeepers.

Soon Nick is confronted by the Shadowkeepers, who try to bargain with Nick for the Magickeepers most prized possession - the Eternal Hourglass. The Hourglass is extremely powerful and has the ability to turn back time - in the hands of the Shadowkeepers, this could signal dangerous times for everyone.

A great new introduction into the young adult fantasy genre, The Eternal Hourglass weaves magic, fantasy and Russian history all into one neat little package. This is a great introduction to the Magickeepers series and I look forward to reading the next installment.

Erica Kirov is an American writer of Russian descent. Though she is not from a family of magicians, she is from a proud family of Russians, and she grew up hearing stories of their lives there.

Erica lives in Virginia with her husband, four children, three dogs, parrot, her son's snake (she really hates snakes), and a pet hedgehog. She is busy at work on the next Magickeepers novel. Visit her blog here.