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Sensual and Sarcastic Vamps


Photo Copyright of the Blood Ties television show.

Tanya Huff is a whiz with characterization. I thought I loved watching Vicky Nelson and Henry Fitzroy on the television screen, but I enjoy reading about them even more. Book 1, Blood Price, does not disappoint. There is certainly enough blood to go around. Poor Vicky; she gets so beat up in this first book. It makes you wonder how she copes with the supernatural in later books, but I guess she toughens up after this first experience with the demons.

***Spoiler Alert***

Vicky is full of sarcasm and equally arrogant about her abilities despite her loss of peripheral vision, and her ex-partner, ex-lover, Mike Celluci is pigheaded and arrogant as well. Coupled with the ageless Henry Fitzroy how could the supernatural possibly win out. Have I mentioned that Fitzroy, who prefers to be called Henry, happens to be a Vampire? Much of the book focuses on Vicky’s story and how she stumbles upon a murder on the subway, and how because she quit the police force she feels abandoned and useless. She left the force of her own accord and continues to fight the feeling of uselessness throughout the book until she comes to a realization at the end that she is not useless and that she has a great many skills to use in solving even supernatural crimes.

Mike takes turns as the bad guy reminding her that she left the job she loved and reminding her that she is still needed by him, at least. While Henry spends a great deal of time trying to place her; where has he seen her before; why has she entered his solitary life; and how should he deal with this newly budding relationship. Henry is drawn to her, not only as prey but also as a companion in the modern world.

***End Spoiler***

I won’t spoil the whole story for you, but I will tell you that the book is fast paced. The dialogue and interactions between Vicky and Henry are hilarious and had me laughing for much of the book’s latter half. I was equally amused by the conversations with Celluci and Vicky. Even the supporting characters, like Coreen and Norman, are quirky but not beyond total belief in this horror/fantasy novel.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in vampires or great characters.

The Quickie

How shabby can a plot or characters get? I remember a book I read long ago by Zane in which the character was not well created and everything under the sun happened to her by the end of the book. The Quickie by James Patterson is much like the title suggests, a quickly written novel to fill the space between two better written novels. I already reviewed Step on a Crack and You’ve Been Warned.

Unlike those two books, which has suspense and plot twists, The Quickie was a roller coaster ride you wanted to get off quickly. When I reached about halfway through the novel and it ended in a shootout with the bad guy, I thought thank goodness that is over. But it wasn’t over. I handled the transition to the subplot behind Detective Scott Thayer’s odd behavior and ultimately his death relatively well, but I could not absorb the other twists thrown my way.

***Spoiler Alert***

Lead character Detective Lauren Stillwell of the NYPD is not a good detective at all. She had no idea Scott Thayer was playing on her vulnerabilities and insecurities, and she is a “tough as nails” cop. She was equally blind where her husband was concerned, and still wanted to save his sorry butt even after learning he has another “wife and child” with twins on the way, not to mention he committed robbery, shipped off millions to be laundered in a foreign nation, oh and killed her lover boy Scott Thayer. Nevermind, Paul’s sordid past.

How is it that Patterson can write this many novels in one year without making mistakes? At one point she is driving around in her mini cooper when she has to head home to tend to “brownies” when she leaves to return to the scene she has a completely different car–did she misplace the mini, was it beamed away while she was looking for her husband or hiding the evidence that he killed Scott, or was it the editors and Patterson forgetting to keep the story consistent? Miraculously, and this is the part that really got me thinking about Patterson’s production levels this year, Lauren gets pregnant and it is determined she’s been pregnant a lot longer than she initially thinks, especially given she just slept with Thayer 6 days before the news. However, many places in the book, the character refers to her and her husband’s stagnant love life at home…which leads the reader to believe they are not sleeping together. So, I ask you how did she get pregnant? Immaculate conception or his sperm jumped through the air when they passed one another in the mornings. I have no idea.

There are so many plot twists and subplots in this book, it was driving me insane. The narration was all over the place and not tied together tightly enough for me to believe in it. The main character is a detective; Patterson writes about them all the time, but this one has to be the dumbest detective I have run across.

***End Spoiler***

I suggest you skip this one and read one of the other two I have mentioned. They are much better books.

Someone asked me if I think it is James Patterson’s use of co-authors that has hindered the plots and entertainment of some of his latest books, but I can tell you that is not the case. Step on a Crack had the same co-author, Michael Ledwidge, as the Quickie and it was a better book. I think it has more to do with Patterson’s schedule; he is cranking out too many books per year these days. I say slow down man, we can wait for a better book.

Solar v. Lunar Eclipse

The third installment in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, Eclipse, does not disappoint with even more action and drama than the last two over an even greater length of pages–629 in the volume I picked up at Borders. I tried to slow down and take in the entire book, but found the pages flying by as I grew more eager to discover what choice Bella would ultimately make between her werewolf and her vampire.

***Spoiler Alert****

Vampire clans in Italy are an imminent threat to Bella and Edward if she is not changed, while other vampires closer to home are on a rampage on their way to kill her for revenge. Meanwhile, Bella’s love for Edward continues to be the center of her night sky. I think what irked me about this book is how dense Bella seemed. It wasn’t until page 327 that she realized Jacob was in love with her. Could she possibly be that obtuse? She had glimmers of intelligence throughout the book when it came to deducing which vampire clan was after her and which were not, but she had no idea that her “friend” loved her. Granted she is a teenage character, and she may not be that perceptive, but I would have given Bella more credit than that.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Jacob takes it upon himself to kiss Bella to prove that she feels the same way, and she hits him in the jaw, only to have her own hand broken in several places. The teenage unpredictability is endearing in her because she is so emotional and where’s her heart on her sleeve. Despite her inability to control her emotional outbursts with regard to Jacob’s advances and Edward’s caution, she is still unaware of her own feelings for Jacob for about another 200 pages. This bit of ignorance on her part, however, is believable because they are teenagers and many times I remember confusing friendship for something more or pretending that there wasn’t more in favor of mere friendship.

The choice is inevitable for Bella in the end, but I still wonder if there is not more to her choice. Perhaps she does not need to choose the path Alice sees for her. Perhaps there are alternatives despite her love for both men in her life. I can tell you if I were caught in between I would have a tough time choosing, though I think I would have walked away from both of them at some point to clear my head and figure out the best choice for myself rather than plunge into a decision head first, blindly. However, that is probably why these characters are teenages, minus the few hundred years Edward has spent as a 17-year-old vampire.

***End Spoiler Alert****

Despite my passion about Edward Cullen, Bella Swan, and Jacob Black, my favorite character is Edward’s sister, Alice. She is such a giddy schoolgirl when it comes to human events and coming of age incidents. Bella always reprimands her for going overboard about proms, dances, graduation, and birthdays, among other parties. She wants a sister she can dress up and “play” with it seems, and she has found that with Bella. What I enjoy most about this character is the interplay she has with her brother, Edward. She sees the future to a certain extent and he can read minds, it makes for an interesting dynamic. Who will win their little tet-e-tets? It’s a fun bunch of dialogue, and the dialogue between Edward and Jacob in the latter portion of the book is equally amusing.

As for the Solar and Lunar Eclipse title of this post, it alludes to the eclipse of Bella, her true self by both sides of the coin, the moon (Edward) and the sun (Jacob). I feel as though she has lost herself in the midst of this struggle between her two loves and herself.

I had a great time reading these books and can’t wait for the next installment, tentatively titled Breaking Dawn. It is expected to come out in Fall 2008.

This Book Also Was Reviewed Here:

The Bookworm

New Moon Rises

The second book, New Moon by Stephenie Meyer, is read. Yes, in a day and a half. I have uncovered another passion for an author and these characters. I can understand her passion for her characters and their voices like a writer should.

***SPOILER Alert***

Edward and Isabella reunite in this book, but their world has changed.

Its akin to a teenage, vampire-werewolf Romeo and Juliet in the modern world. Jacob Black, the family friend’s son stars in much of the first portion of New Moon, with Bella at his side. He comes of age and their relationship changes, but she is not ready to move on. She merely wants to wallow in her pain and her memories of Edward. Jacob won’t let her because he loves her too much. While the feelings are not reciprocated, it does not matter. The adventures in this book are more heart-racing and adventurous than the last.

I was riveted to the words on the page and stayed up until 1am to read to page 400. On the way to pick up the little niece and her mom, I read in the car and finished the book this afternoon. I have never been enthralled with two characters before. Ok, that may not be entirely true. My passion for Edward and Isabella is akin to my passion for Heathcliff and Catherine in Wuthering Heights.

To think, I have read over 1,000 pages in the last three days, and all I have is another 600 to go in the third book. And no, I have not started it yet. I will be.

I love the red and white flower cover on this book and its depiction of how the passion and innocence of the characters is comingled. Their interactions are much like young teenagers, rash and passionate, but at the same time an enduring love and understanding binds them to one another. Edward aptly says in the book that there is a new moon lighting his night sky when he is with Isabella, and without her the sky is black and devoid of stars and moonlight. I can’t wait to get to Eclipse.

This Book Also Was Reviewed Here:

The Bookworm

Not the Twilight of Your Life

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer has to be one of the best vampire books I have read in a long time since giving up on Anne Rice and her vampire series. I won’t disparage Rice’s work in this entry, but I will praise Meyer for a job well done. It has been several months since a book has captivated my attention to the point where I lose track of time. I read over 200 pages of the book yesterday evening and said to my husband as he walked through the door, “Boy, you are home early.” To which he replied, “I’m a half hour late.” Where did the time go? Into reading about Edward Cullen and Isabella Swan, perhaps.

Unlike other vampire novels, the main vampire in this book, Edward Cullen, is a teenage boy, and Bella is also a teen. The unique morality that drives the Cullen family to hunt animals rather than humans is endearing, and certainly naive. However, readers must remember vampires, most of them anyway, were humans at one time and probably have a hard time adjusting to their new lives. So despite the moral compass governing their lives in Forks in the Pacific Northwest, they still desire human blood. The concept is simple, a boy and a girl meet and fall in love even though they are not supposed to, a boy from the wrongside of the tracks or a girl from the wrong side of the tracks; it really doesn’t matter.

The writing is very descriptive and intense. The energy between the couple leaps off the page. It is electric to follow them through the town of Forks. Their interactions with other classmates, their attempts to hid their true feelings from one another and their fellow classmates–something teenagers often do in high school in the first place–and their quirky introductions to parents., even his vampire parents. You might think I am giving away too many details about this book, but there is so much more beneath the surface.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in vampires or merely in human relationships, and yes Edward is human to an extent. It is the combination of those human qualities and his vampire attributes that attracts Bella, and who wouldn’t be attracted to him and his charisma.


I finished Twilight by Stephenie Meyer as you know. I have given a lot of thought to the cover choice for the book, which depicts of a pair of young arms with hands cupped around an apple. Oftentimes, I find book covers either have little to do with the book’s contents or are lame in many respects, but this cover has significant meaning given the themes in the book.

First off, Isabella Swan is forbidden fruit for Edward Cullen, much like the apple in the Garden of Eden was for Adam and Eve. However, Bella also represents his prey; the dichotomy of their relationship is summed up easily in the cover choice.

I just want to applaud the publishing house and the author for a wise choice. The image above is borrowed from the Stephenie Meyer Website.

This Book Also Was Reviewed Here:

The Bookworm

Warning…for Readers

I finished James Patterson’s You’ve Been Warned in record time while on a mini-vacation with the parents in town. So what did I think of the latest creation from Patterson? It was an odd read. I was confused much of the time while reading it. It’s suspenseful, but annoying at the same time because you are confused much of the time you are reading it, particularly when you are wondering what the main point of the story is and who is chasing the main character, Kristin Burns. This is not an Alex Cross or Women’s Murder Club or Michael Bennett novel of cops and robbers, though the mentality of those cops is carried slightly over into the Burns character who hopes to unravel the mystery. The best part for me with the character of Burns is her love of photography, which I can totally relate to. She just clicks away on her camera, much like I do sometimes…the urge is there to just keep shooting, probably why film got to be too expensive for me and I switched over to digital–though there are some things I prefer about film photography.

She seeks the identity of the man who continues to warn her throughout the novel and continues to avoid the cop following her, but does she do it successfully? You’ll have to read the book to find out. I will tell you this about the new book. It was a great twist at the end; one I had an inkling about; but it was still a great end. You’ll also have to read to figure out if this novel is one of the better experiments run by Patterson over the years.

He’s tried romantic novels with Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas and Sam’s Letters to Jennifer–one faring much better than the other. I really loved Suzanne’s Diary, but really hated Sam’s Letters. Then he attempted a historical novel, The Jester, which I really enjoyed as well. I think some of his bread and butter series, like Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club, have fallen a little flat as of late, but the recent You’ve been Warned novel indicates there is a muse at work behind Patterson’s writing still, he just needs to pay closer attention when writing the series his readers’ love.

Don’t Break Momma’s Back

Step on a Crack by James Patterson was a quick read and the lead character Michael Bennett is a breath of fresh air–a NYPD detective who actually isn’t the job. Alex Cross is the reason I began reading James Patterson books in the first place, and the Women’s Murder Club series kept me interested in his books with their camaraderie. Those characters forsake their families, lovers, and friends for the sake of catching the bad guy and making the big arrest, but Mike Bennett is different. His wife is his center and the kids are hers, but the job still takes precedence most of the time. When it counts and when he is needed at home, he’s there for the kids. Don’t get me wrong, you know the main point of the books is the suspense and the unraveling of the crime at hand, but the emotions of the characters need to develop beyond surface dedication to the family and the job.

Mike Bennett is a well developed character who made me hope along with him that his wife would not die, and strive to solve the successful kidnapping, though he was distracted. He held fast against the anguish in his heart to pump up the spirits of his brood and still remain dedicated to tracking down the hijackers. There were several points near the end of the book where my emotions nearly burst forth through my eyes as the unthinkable happened.

***spoiler ALERT**

He held his dying wife in his arms at the end of her life just after failing to take down the hijackers and discover their true identities. Her life slipped away quietly in the hospital room.

This was the one and only time I have seen Patterson take a leap and kill off a character he incited readers to believe would make it in the spirit of Christmas and rebirth. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed, but I think the loss may strengthen the drive of Mike Bennett should Patterson choose to create yet another detective series.

***End Spoiler***

While of late I have had a hard time keeping interested in James Patterson books because he puts so many of them out per year, with dare I say not so captivating prose in many cases, Step on a Crack held my attention and made me wonder what will happen next for the main character and his Irish brood.

Princess of the Oddballs

Queen of the Oddballs by Hillary Carlip takes the reader into her past with all of its quirky star sightings, stalkings, and encounters. Those are just the tidbits to entice you into her journey of self-discovery. From her obsessions with famous women, like Carly Simon and Carole King, to her obsessions with becoming famous as a jailbird rockstar she invented, Carlip revisits her inner demons of low self-esteem. The year-on-year lists of events in the outer social world preceding each chapter are a great trip down memory lane.

The antics in her teen years with fire-eating and juggling are hilarious. Her alternative lifestyle in the book has less to do with her sexual orientation than it does with her ability to stick to her convictions and achieve the near impossible, like writing scripts and getting them made into films and plays. Her first book, Girl Power, made it to the Oprah show–and much like my dreams and many others–the actual experience did not reach her expectations. I imagine being on the Oprah show with my first book, sitting on stage with Oprah herself, who will gush over my fiction work. Now, that I’ve read Queen of the Oddballs I know that there could be an alternate ending to that fantasy–one in which I am in the audience and others are asked questions about the book and their contributions while I sit in the audience and stare, appalled. Ok, so I would not be writing a memoir or nonfiction piece, but it could happen with a fiction novel.

Overall, this is a quick read and entertaining beyond anyone’s expectations. I had a great time reading this book and getting to know the author, Hillary Carlip. This was a great recommendation from my friend Sarah.

As Promised…Carol Dine Poem Review

Trying to Understand the Lunar Eclipse by Carol Dine has a number of vivid poems within its pages. “Hurricane, Megansett Harbor” espouses eerie and lasting sounds that echo in the reader’s ears. The hurricane is heard and felt, and my favorite image in the poem is “We can smell it/deep in our throats,/wet and panting,/its mouth wide open”

The eye of the hurricane is wide and the wet rains pour down on the ship as it cruises through the waves with its passengers huddled inside. This poem brings me back to New England, and the summer storm season. Hurricane season on the Atlantic coast runs from June through November, so you can imagine how many tropical storms and hurricanes can form in a given season. While each storm has its unique characteristics and strengths, the experience of surviving or living through a hurricane is unique to each person. This is the the opener of the poetry book. What a way to start off the book. Way to go Carol.

Stay tuned for another installment of poetry reviews from this book until I finish the memoir and Patterson novel I am reading.

Places in My Bones…

Though I have not had cancer or breast cancer for that matter, it probably would seem odd that a memoir about a cancer survivor would get to me that much, but it did. I may not have cried while reading the book, but Carol Dine’s Places in the Bone reaches into the soul of the reader and pulls at the heart strings and a number of other senses through poetry, journal entries, and prose.

This book is not only a journey through her cancer ordeal, but also through her familial struggles with her father and mother. The distance between her sister and herself as a result of these struggles and how she copes. I have one of her poetry books slated on my to read list, but this memoir gives the reader a clear perspective on how these struggles infuse her poetry with palpable imagery and insight. For example, “When the heel of my father’s hand/pounds my back,/I focus on the bedroom wall./I am walking beside the reservoir./ The oaks are giants/taller than him;/”

Her past relations with the likes of Anne Sexton and Stanley Kunitz also play a significant role in her ability to cope with the realities of her treatment and her growing frustration with the relationship she had with her father, mother, and sister. I admire Dine’s ability to connect words to express her frustration, her anguish, her hopelessness, and her resilience.

Dine teaches at Suffolk University, my alma mater, though I never had the pleasure of her company in the classroom. However, I will never forget her generosity in helping out a fellow poet, floundering when her mentor turned her down; she agreed to sponsor my poems for an emerging writers contest for Ploughshares. Even though I did not win the contest, her kindness inspired me to keep going.

Chinese Food, My Favorite

Billy Collins, the Poet Laureate between 2001 and 2003, makes an appearance in the July-August 2007 Issue of Poetry with “Old Man Eating Alone in a Chinese Restaurant.” Ashamedly, I admit I have never previously read any of Billy Collins’ earlier work. However, anyone who knows me has seen my obsession with Chinese food, Crab Rangoon in particular.

This poem, however, does not delve into the nuances of appetizers or of entrees like Moo Goo Gai Pan. At the beginning of the poem, the reader is told the poet had thought about writing a poem about an old man in a Chinese restaurant sitting alone at a table, but he did not write the poem when he was younger. However, now that he has aged, he opted to write the poem. It begs the question how different would the poem have been had it been written when he was younger, rather than when he was older.

Collins expresses his opinion on the matter: “I would have gotten it all wrong/ thinking: the poor bastard, not a friend in the world/and with only a book for a companion./”

Collins takes his watercolor brush and paints the scene, from the big windows filling with light to the supple hair of the waitress. From the lines in the first stanza it would seem Collins thought he would have had a more somber view of the lone man in the Chinese restaurant.

Rhyme This

Traditional forms of poetry often leave me cold; but on occasion, a poet will surprise me. Wendy Cope’s “Some Rules” in the July-August issue of Poetry uses an ABA rhyme scheme with an ending couplet in the final stanza. The rhyme scheme provides a sarcastic and sort of whimsical undertone to the poem.

“Don’t fall for an amusing hunk,/However rich, unless he’s kind./Don’t answer e-mails when you’re drunk.//” Sounds like pretty solid and practical advice to me. The rhyme is a bit elementary, but I think it works here, especially since the rules are simple. The main rule in this poem seems to be not engage in activities with heavy consequences when drunk. However, the poet explicitly reminds the reader not to answer emails when drunk. As a reader, it makes me wonder why this rule is particularly important to remember.

The fourth stanza is full of regret, or so it seems to me. “Don’t live with thirty years of junk–/Those precious things you’ll never find/Stop, if the car is going ‘clunk.’//” Car troubles, plus rising piles of junk seem to get the poet down. It’s almost like the poet has created a list of New Year’s resolutions to follow.