Bites

Published: May 4th, 2010
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a “research experiment” at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe – a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs. (goodreads.com)

Believe it or not, this is my first foray into Riordan’s work. I have the Percy Jackson series on my shelf, but ancient Egypt is far more compelling for me. It’s been a love of mine for as long as I can remember, to the point where I actually wanted to be an Egyptologist (with my eye on the Egyptology program at UCLA) until I was 14 and my dad talked me out of it (limited educational scope, very limited income potential, etc.; at least my dad had foresight enough on that one). But I’ve still stuck with reading about Egypt and I really hope I can visit the country in my lifetime without running the risk of separating my head from my neck.

With that being said, this was a fun jaunt through history as these kids try to navigate through a world of awakening gods and nominal possession while they try to save their dad. As far as I could tell Riordan played things fairly accurately when the situation called for it. Obviously there were a ton of liberties taken and I wouldn’t use THE RED PYRAMID as a text book any time soon, but he wasn’t shotgunning random Egyptian words into a story without them having actual context in what was going on.

I do wish Phoenix played a bigger role than it did, simply because I live there now. It just amuses me whenever I see a place I live or know in a book because I can orient myself in the story that much better. But Phoenix was mentioned at the beginning of the story and then the kids didn’t get there until the very end and even then Phoenix was merely a vague place with a mountain called Camelback. It ultimately wasn’t very relevant aside from its desert location. But that’s okay. It didn’t detract from the story any. Just kind of an ‘oh man’ thing going on.

I really liked Sadie and Carter. All things considered they handled the book’s events pretty well. Probably too well for a twelve and fourteen-year-old, respectively. I also liked how they didn’t do things on their own. Like how it wasn’t up to just them to get stuff done. They had a lot of help on the way to the end, including from the gods that possessed them, their cat-like helper god, other people, and so on. They didn’t solve problems in a vacuum. That’s probably why the story, to me, an adult, was more palatable and didn’t aggravate my suspension of disbelief much. Granted I’m not the target audience for these books, but whatever. I still read it so there’s that.

I’m looking forward to continuing the series and seeing where this all goes. I wish I had something like this when I was growing up because I would have loved the crap out of it. I liked it now, but, you know. I’m 34. Doesn’t hit quite the same way. Instead I get things like the trash pile that is Gods of Egypt with the whitest Egyptians ever in existence and it makes me sad. So I’ll live retroactively through these books. My eight-year-old self loves it. She who would go to the library and take out books on ancient Egypt on the regular.

4

Published: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Kensington
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Once an angel, now a demon, Monica is still a succubus with an insatiable desire for sex. The more the better. Soul-stealing orgasms beat out dealing with her broken heart any day of the week. Monica has no interest in being near both her ex-lover and his new girlfriend, so she’s not thrilled when she’s asked to join them in investigating a string of murders that are clearly beyond the pale. But when she sees that one of the victims has her Celtic family crest carved on his arm, she realizes she may finally find the answers to her past she’s been searching for all these years… (goodreads.com)

Ugh. I so love this trashy trash goodness. Smutty smut smut. I don’t read a ton of it, but when I do I like it engaging, with excellent characters, and incredible sex. Check, check, and check.

Collins doesn’t disappoint in the second book of her Soul Stripper series. We get more about Monica’s prior life as an angel, we get to see how she fell, and we get a bit of a creepy story in the mix. And not creepy in a crappy relationship way. But the murderer that Monica, Damien, Adrienne, and George are hunting is digging into people’s lives and annihilating their descendants in rather ritualistic ways. It’s creepy.

The only complaint I really had was that a good portion of the story took place in Salt Lake City and the descriptions of the city didn’t feel all that accurate. It painted a very rosy, almost stereotypical view of Salt Lake as the pious of the pious places where everything was really buttoned up and it was going to be so hard for Monica and George to do their business. I’ve been there. It’s definitely a different kind of place. Utah is as close to a theocracy as we’re going to get in this country. But it’s not this bereft of sin. Two words: Pioneer Park. Right around the corner from the Mormon Mecca Temple and rife with drugs and crime. It is Chicago? No. But it’s certainly not the Mormon vision people think of with Salt Lake either.

Aside from that, I really enjoyed the story. I felt the toggling between Monica’s current affairs and her background were excellently done and added to the story being told as opposed to distracting from it. I like how the women in Monica’s life are supportive of her in their various ways. Maybe not all the time, and maybe sometimes grudgingly, but they’re there and they’re there to stay. I also liked how the twist at the end ended up being atypical. I was expecting one thing and got another and it was refreshing to see that.

I liked the mix-up of supernatural creatures as well. It’s done in a way that they all fit in naturally together. I’ve read some books that use elements of the supernatural in glaring ways that make what I’m reading feel like a disjointed mishmash of things because the author wanted everything in there. Not here. Collins’s world is expertly molded and it fits together wonderfully.

Plus the sex. Collins writes incredible sex scenes. But as much as I like seeing Monica getting into a relationship that’s deeper than the physical I do miss her aggressive, assertive side too. The end of my copy of SOUL SURVIVOR had the first few pages of SOUL STRIPPER in it and the sex scene with the guy she met at the coffee shop was incredibly hot. I miss that Monica a little bit and I hope she’s not gone for good. I still have one more book in the series so we’ll see.

SOUL SURVIVOR is definitely not a disappointment, especially for the middle book of a series. Intense action, great storytelling, wonderful characters, and salacious sex. It’s a Hell of a package! (Pun vaguely intended.)

4.5

Published: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Anouk has finally caught the break she’s been looking for—she’s been selected out of hundreds of other candidates to fly to France and help with the excavation of a vast, underground palace buried a hundred feet below the suburbs of Paris. Built in the 1780’s to hide an aristocratic family and a mad duke during the French Revolution, the palace has lain hidden and forgotten ever since. Anouk, along with several other gifted teenagers, will be the first to set foot in it in over two centuries.

Or so she thought.

But nothing is as it seems, and the teens soon find themselves embroiled in a game far more sinister, and dangerous, than they could possibly have imagined. An evil spanning centuries is waiting for them in the depths. . . (goodreads.com)

This was a hell of an interesting and original book that I just could not put down. Bachmann gave enough details as the plot progressed to keep me intrigued but didn’t deny me too much that I became annoyed. He struck a good balance between intrigue and trickling information in enough to keep the reader turning the pages.

I wasn’t that big of a fan of Anouk as a character. She comes off brash and unlikeable with a really bad attitude. They all kind of do, actually, except Lilly. But she’s annoying due to her way too chipper of an attitude and her need to be overtly nice to absolutely everyone. As more poop hit the fan the sardonic attitude of them all leveled out, to be replaced by the pure need to survive. As that’s wont to happen.

The setting is really interesting and I liked how the storyline toggled between present day and the French Revolution when the underground palace was completed. It’s such a demented place, equal parts vivid in his descriptions and unknowable in its terror, it’s something that truly creeped me out. And that doesn’t happen very often. That overarching unknown of WHY all of this was happening was, I think, the creepiest part of all. And when everything was revealed I wasn’t disappointed! That’s actually a huge thing. I’m so used to horror building up and building up and building up only to be completely let down. So to not be let down at the end was pretty spectacular.

There were still some unanswered questions at the end, but I think that lends itself to being even more creepy, not knowing every single little detail of what was going on. And I liked the darkness of it all. When the kids were down there, running for their lives, there were shadows everywhere in my head. There was just enough description to get me through, but it was shrouded enough in darkness that I really felt like I was there with them as they worked their way through this underground maze. I kept finding myself referring back to The Catacombs movie and the minotaur of Crete, the latter of which was even mentioned as a reference for what they were all going through. It’s apt, that’s for sure.

A DROP OF NIGHT is creepy in its insanity, in its unknown, and in the bits and pieces you do know. Bachmann does have something unique here, even though it reminded me of other things. Mostly horror, part thriller, and just all around creepy, I couldn’t put the book down and I certainly didn’t want to read it when it was dark. Not too many books freak me out, but this one did. Bravo!

4.5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Published: January 2, 2008
Publisher: Signet
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Archaeologist Carrie Norton makes a startling find in a historic New York City site: the remains of a Civil War-era murder victim. Detective Max Slattery sees something more-uncanny parallels to a recent series of brutal slayings. What seems impossible becomes terrifyingly real as Carrie and Max’s investigation unearths a conspiracy between the living and the dead nearly two centuries in the making-one that has yet to claim its final victims. (goodreads.com)

Ugh. THE VAMPIRE OF NEW YORK was rough. Between the overabundance of racial epithets, gratuitous detail, and meandering, jerky plot, there’s very little to like with this book.

On the surface it has things that immediately draw my attention: old New York and vampires. But that’s where that ends. The timeline alternates between Civil War New York and present day New York and if it’s not the gratuitous use of the n-bomb or other racial slurs to describe any number of non-white people in the 1865 timeline, it’s self-deprecating racial slurs and stereotyping of black characters and heinously racist villains flinging out every manner of slur. Some would argue that, at least for the 1865 timeline, the author was being “historically accurate.” I call bullshit on that. Not that it’s not historically accurate, but that this book wasn’t written in 1865. It was written in the 2000s. There are ways around that. But combine it with all the racial bullshit in the current timeline and it’s just far too pervasive to not be author insertion. Racial slurs and stereotypes abound regardless of setting so it’s not the story. Not to me.

The insertion of Dracula into this storyline was awkward at best. It felt forced and without direction. The story often lost its way as it went on, getting lost in way too much detail, whether it was about old New York or autopsy results from the body that was found on the modern timeline. I get it, author. You did a lot of research. That doesn’t mean I needed an entire chapter on the descriptions of a street (seriously, this happened).

By the time the end of the book rolled around it felt like the author forgot that he actually needed to end the book so really out of character things happened that left me with some whiplash. Plus there wasn’t much closure with the 1865 characters, or the little tidbit with the benefactor of the dig Carrie was on in the modern timeline. There just seemed to be too much going on for the author to handle and then when it came time to wrap it all up he just smashed everything together and made a big, messy knot.

Skip this one. It’s good for details about old New York, but that’s about it. There’s pretty much no character development, the plot can’t keep track of itself, and with all the racial slurs it’s just off-putting at best. Yuck. Utter waste of time.

1

Published: September 25, 2017
Publisher: Rabbit Publisher
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

In this origin story, Harry Moon is up to his eyeballs in magic. In the small town of Sleepy Hollow where every day is Halloween night, his archenemy, Titus Kligore, has eyes on winning the annual Scary Talent Show. Harry’s sister, Honey Moon, says Harry needs better tricks so he finds a new and better magic wand. Still, Harry has a tough job ahead of him if he is going to steal the crown. He takes a chance on a magical rabbit who introduces him to the deep magic. Harry decides the best way forward is to “do no evil ” while the battle to defeat Titus goes epic. (goodreads.com)

Whoa, buddy, are there some serious issues with this book. Like deeply troubling issues.

So to start, I’m not sure who the target audience is. On Goodreads it’s listed under children’s but Harry’s in 8th grade and is 13 years old. I would probably peg this as being for someone in the 7/8/9 age range and while it’s not uncommon for kids to read up the age of the protag and style of writing don’t seem to fit.

Combatting bullying is the main theme of this book. Harry’s the one on the receiving end of said bullying. The thing is, the bullying in this book is a bit outdated. That’s not to say bullying isn’t still a physical problem, but it’s definitely moved more into the realm of the psychological and insidious, taking place online and outside of school where the bullied can’t escape. HARRY MOON doesn’t even touch on that. The bullying Harry received is taunting and then Titus, the bully, holds him down and shears his head with a pair of sheep shears.

So that’s assault and the police would be involved if that were to happen. That’s not something that you treat with kindness and you have a touchy-feely conversation with your kid over a sundae about. That’s press charges territory. And electronics are a thing in this world. The kids have cell phones and laptops and everything but cyber bullying doesn’t exist, apparently.

That was my first thought when I read that scene but I’m like okay. This book is obviously not going there. It has a message to tell and it’s going to tell it. Fine. So I kept reading and it was going along okay. I was really afraid there was going to be some godly moralizing going on based on the marketing material I had for it, but that’s actually kept to a minimum. I just thought it’s kind of weird that magic and religion to that extent are co-existing in the same book. As an outsider they seem very antithetical to me. But whatever.

And then we get to Sarah, Harry’s former babysitter and assistant for his magic act. Initially I didn’t think anything about their relationship. They’re only three years apart and I imagine she just stopped babysitting for him and she’s just kind of humoring him in a big sister sort of way with being his assistant and being encouraging. Of course Harry’s crushing on her hardcore but for most of the time she’s very adamant that they’ll always have that age difference and nothing will come of his crush.

Until she kisses him. On the lips. To which I went

Why? Because she’s 16 and drives and is in high school and Harry’s 13. Of course he’s over the moon about this and she actually shows some intent there and I’m just like:

Because I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in most states. This should not be in a children’s book as being okay. At all. Because it’s pedophilia. Thing is you can age them up and it would be less of an issue (if they’re in their 20s). But he’s THIRTEEN. She’s SIXTEEN. This is what Lifetime movies are made of. No. This is not sweet and awww and how cute. This is fucking gross.

And then you have the effectively morally superior Harry talking about do no evil and only using his magic for good. And there’s this paragraph at the end where some of his friends got in trouble and he’s looking at one friend in particular standing with his very angry dad and he thinks about all the welts that the kid comes to school with and how he lies about them to cover them up. And Harry just kind of turns his back on it and thinks about how thankful he is that his parents don’t beat him and basically sucks for his friend but THAT’S not the kind of evil Harry’s going to be fighting.

This book does not fit in the current market. At all. Its message is antiquated at best, downright ignorant at worst. There are elements added effectively to add detail that just end up raising eyebrows. I mean yeah, show some “diversity” in characters in how not everyone has a great home life but dropping little tidbits about how one of Harry’s friends gets the shit beaten out of him by his dad and have Harry, who’s on a crusade against evil, just ignore that, is not the way to go about adding detail to flesh out characters.

And then the “love interest.”

No. That’s horrifying. People go to jail for shit like that.

Update your thinking, guy. This book is indicative of the author not understanding what kids these days are going through or how to address them. This is not a well-represented book on bullying for multiple reasons. It’s so out of touch and so whimsical with a serious issue while outright ignoring other very heinous problems that I just can’t take it seriously as any kind of lesson book. It teaches nothing that a kid can use that would be pertinent to their lives.

Missed the mark on this one. Big time.

1

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.