Bites
March 1, 2015

These things . . . are dangerous.  VNSA has been having this gigantic book sale once a year for decades.  This was my first year going.  You can bring your own receptacle for carrying books because there is a line for the four shopping carts they offer and screw that.  So I brought a small suitcase.  The carry-on size with wheels.  I didn’t think  was going to come close to filling it because I’ve been all picky with my book-buying lately.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

It got to a point where I had to go off to the side of the book floor and repack my suitcase because it was overflowing.  Silly turd I am.

The place is kind of a madhouse, taking place at the Phoenix Fairgrounds, and people actually camp out days in advance to be one of the first people in on Saturday morning.  Considering  this is one of the shittiest sections of Phoenix I really hope they’re armed or some kind of security is provided.  Truly.  Horrifying.  Saturday, of course, is the worst day.  My friend with whom I went did Saturday last year and she and her friend who also came along said they had to wait two hours outside just to get in.  Eff that.  So while we probably didn’t get the cream of the used books crop on Sunday we also didn’t have to piss around outside for hours waiting to get in either.  And thankfully it was cloudy and pretty cool because it rightly could have been awful inside.  And they don’t allow drinks in so there’s that.

Another benefit of Sundays: everything’s half off.  So when you’re done and you drag your haul to check-out they tally your shit up and then divide it by two.  For the following haul I paid $40.  I nearly wet myself.

There wasn’t a ton of order in this place.  Books were sorted vaguely by sections.  The hardbacks had some semblance of alphabetizing but the paperbacks were just a cess pool of cracked spines and no order whatsoever.  Initially when I went over to that section I was like HELL NO.  A half hour later I’d grabbed a fair amount of supernatural porn and was pretty happy with myself.  We ended up spending about an hour and a half in that place.  Seriously.  When I’m around books I go into a time suck.  Did not feel like an hour and a half at all.

So let’s take a look at the books, shall we?

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The porn haul.  I dig Heather Graham’s supernatural stuff so I decided to beef up my shelf with some of her work, if you couldn’t tell.  I’ve never read any Laurel K Hamilton either so good time to start in on that.  The bondage vampires book caught my eye too.  I wonder why . . .

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My cheese haul.  You can always count on a smorgasbord of these types of books being there.  A couple ended up being duplicates because I couldn’t be bothered to check my Goodreads list to see if I had it first.  A whole $1.00 lost.  What am I to do?  Also, first edition Night World #1.  NBD.

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My YA haul.  A rather scant selection of titles.  The section itself was half an aisle of books, a quarter of the pickings being Twilight.  I ended up buying A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY today so I can get myself started on that series since I got the companion.  HIGH SPIRITS is actually WE HEAR THE DEAD by Dianne K Salerni and SISTER ASSASSIN is MIND GAMES by Kiersten White.  I was really surprised to find such early copies of these books.  Snatched them up for posterity’s sake.

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My historical fiction haul.  I read THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE a while ago but I wanted it for my library.  I also decided to give Wilbur Smith’s older books a shot since everyone who commented on my review of DESERT GOD on Goodreads said they were far better.  For, like $3 for the two it couldn’t hurt.  Well, I guess they could give me a headache but we’ll see.  I also decided to try my hand at THE VAMPIRE LESTAT again.  I tried reading it a long time ago and just couldn’t get through it.  Too overwritten.  I did like IWTV, though.  Let’s give TVL another shot.

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Some random supernatural books.  John Saul’s always good for a creep fest, RL Stine is RL Stine, and I’ve been meaning to read more Walter Moers and I really liked the title of this one so yes.  Bought.

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Last but not least my thriller haul.  SIX YEARS ended up being a duplicate too but oh well.  $2 lost.  I’ll live.  Never read any JA Jance but she’s a local author who sets are work in Arizona and I think that’s neat.  I like seeing where I live in books.

I would say “that’s it” but that’s kind of laughable.  My TBR is disgusting now.  I can’t even reach the top of it anymore.  I’ve created a book monster.

Published in 2009.

The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s vengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their orphaned children – ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander – are taken in chains to Rome. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts. (book flap blurb)

I had wanted to read this book since it came out so when I won it from a fellow blogger’s contest, I was thrilled! Especially since I’m such a huge fan of the HBO series, Rome. When I was reading I kept envisioning the characters with the faces of the actors in the show.

The writing just sucks you in and keeps you reading from cover to cover. Considering the length of this book, it only took me a couple of days to read it all. I couldn’t put it down and didn’t want to when I had to.

There’s enough history included in the text to give you a great idea of just what high Roman life was like during that time but not so much you felt like you were getting information dumped on you. That’s a sign of an excellent writer that knows to keep herself behind the pages and the characters in the forefront. I’m sure there could have been so much more added regarding Roman life but if it had been, too much author knowledge would have seeped through. It’s hard to do such meticulous research and not include everything you find but the final product speaks for itself.

I had a hard time imagining the kids in this book speaking like they did and being as young as they were but like the addendum in the back of the book states, these were children being groomed as royalty. They’re not going to be children but future rulers so they’re, unfortunately, not going to get a chance to act like children.

I felt so bad for the romantic situation Selene was in and I felt for her every time she had a pang when looking at Marcellus or when he would do something for her. In the back of my mind I was rooting for her but, unfortunately, I knew how his story ended so I knew, considering how strict to historical facts Michelle was, that that story line wasn’t going to deviate. And while I didn’t know Selene’s history and where she ended up, I saw her arranged marriage coming from pretty early on. The hints are subtle enough that even someone who doesn’t know that part of history can pick up on it.

It’s hard to imagine that life was so much more precarious back then than it is now and how, at someone’s word, a person can just be killed for any reason, or none at all. This book had all the drama, love and torment of any good modern novel, except this could have actually happened. While we’re not too privy to what went on behind closed doors with the twins, a lot of inferences can be made based on what we do know. Bringing history to life is such an awesome power to wield and I think Michelle does an excellent job of raising these long-dead figures from their graves. This book has made me want to know more about Selene and Juba and read up on Alexander. Did Octavian really break Alexander the Great’s finger taking his ring? What happened to Cleopatra’s mausoleum? I can look at my pictures of the Pantheon and see Agrippa’s name on there and they mean that much more.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, be sure not to miss this one. You’ll regret it if you do.

October 28, 2009

Omnibus featuring Bloodlust and Initiation, both first published in 2006.

Jason Freeman is stoked when his family relocates to DeVere Heights, Malibu. The kids at his posh new high school are surprisingly friendly, and pretty soon Jason’s part of the in-crowd. He even gets to meet the hot-but-unattainable girl.

Then, the morning after one off-the-hook party, a girl washes up on the beach dead. There’s no explanation – except a suspicious-looking bite mark on her body.

Now Jason has to admit that what you don’t want to know can hurt you. And when an old friend pays him a visit, they have no idea that they’re about to put themselves in mortal danger. Literally. (book back blurb)

How are you put in mortal danger theoretically? That irked me.

Anyway, I’ve had this book for about 10 months, I’m just getting to it now and I just realized, when I picked it up to read it, that it was an omnibus. I had no idea. Gotta love my observant self.

So we have rich kids. In Malibu. The new kid that gets accepted. Rich kids have fangs. New kid gets tossed in the middle of it. How freakin‘ ORIGINAL. See, when I see the words ‘beach’ and ‘vampire’ together, my mind immediately goes to The Lost Boys so when I finally picked this up (after some puttering around, I kept going to Barnes and Noble, picking it up and putting it back down) and bought it, I was half-expecting something somewhat similar. Oh silly me. I should have known this wasn’t going to trend towards the good.

What a yawn fest. Seriously. Jason wants Sienna but can’t have her because she’s his buddy’s chick but none of the other girls entice him. That is the damn focus for 2/3rds of the first book. Internal back and forth and back and forth – oh god she’s so beautiful but I shouldn’t want to kiss her because she’s Brad’s chick but I want her but I can’t but I can’t help myself but I have to . . . SHUT THE FUCK UP! Talk about getting totally hung up. On both books, no less.

Also in both books, absolutely nothing going on except parties and pretty people for two-thirds of them. Anything worth reading is all shoved and resolved within the last third of the book. Thank god they both only took me an hour to read each. I might have had to stick this thing in a punkin‘ and to some chunkin‘.

The pretty, popular crowd, aka the vampires, weren’t your typical rich kids. They were actually down to earth and normal, which was nice and refreshing. That refreshing quality also made them boring as shit. And they’re vampires. WTF? Jason is the typical new kid without too much awkwardness, unless he’s around Sienna. And he’s around her a lot. They accept him but he’s the cool kid for being friends with the pretty people AND guys like Adam who’s a movie geek that never had an in before now. Add in the bratty sister and the overly concerned parents and you’re good to ride the cliche mobile down the trope highway.

Adam had the funny lines. Jason is not a compelling character at all. The events of both books really happen around him as opposed to to him. He just ends up getting himself involved because he’s the main character and he’d be even more boring than he already is if he didn’t. Sienna turns out to be a little on the slutty side because what would the books be without some teenage romance angst? Dani is your typical younger sister that’s as one dimensional as the page I read her on. Who else? The popular guys . . . Zach . . . cardboard. Jason’s friend from Michigan, Tyler, twitchy and was pretty much the only one with potential but the author likes rapid fire and clean-cut resolution so that didn’t play out like it could have. Am I missing anything? Doubt it.

Oh right. The nice vampires. That don’t kill people. And can go out during the day. And donate to charity. That exist because it’s a hereditary trait . . . JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. They weren’t just emasculated. They didn’t even have vaginas. They were just downright eunichs, neuters that needed to get back to their damn bridge game or something. Seriously. Can we cycle back in REAL vampires please? WTF is the point in being this all-powerful supernatural being if you can’t even use any of it? And have to go to high school? WTF is with vampires and high school? It was cool with the original Buffy. It was still cool with the series. By now it’s so tapped out that that ass is raw. Can we let it heal, please? For the sake of vampire balls? Vampires used to be something to fear. Now they’re something to snuggle. *yak*

I think a little more time could have been spent tightening the plot, not to mention editing out all of the typos, than rushing two books out in a year. Quantity over quality, huh?

I’d recommend these for a beach read but, in all honesty, I don’t even think they’re worth that. They’re just not exciting or compelling or even all that interesting to be honest. The second book definitely had more potential than the first but I’ll be damned if I read yet another book where I have to wait 120 pages before anything of interest starts to happen. I guess if you feel so inclined to reading them, they’ll literally only take about an hour to finish each. Dense is not the word I would use to describe these books. But really, I wouldn’t waste that hour. You could be doing better things, like raking leaves.

First published in 2008.

George Archer, Liz Oldfield and Eddie Hopkins have made a rather unfortunate discovery: vampires actually exist, and they really do feed on human blood. Using a labyrinth of tunnels beneath Victorian London, these sinister creatures are intent on destroying the human race, and they’ll start by taking over the most powerful place in London – the Houses of Parliament.

Through their research on ancient mysteries and a secret London gentleman’s club, George, Liz and Eddie come up with a plan to beat the vampires at their own game. And they’d better do it soon, before they become the vampires’ next meal . . . (book flap blurb)

What an awesome book. Really. Now here’s a guy that knows how to play with the lore, not ass rape it.

First off, I was surprised by how British it was. Usually with British books, when we get them, they’re Americanized. Like the Harry Potter books. Most of the British colloquialisms were removed apparently because we wouldn’t get it. But this one appeared relatively untouched. There are even ‘ou‘ spellings, British punctuation and everything. I liked it. It didn’t insult my intelligence (because, really, Americanizing is pretty insulting) and it made the read feel that much more authentic.

While I pretty much raced through it, I felt it did meander a bit at times. The dawdling at the work house, for instance. I felt too much time was spent there in comparison to the relevance of the place to the greater plot. Yeah, it’s a little wordy but I’ve read worse and even though there were a few too many words, it still remained interesting and I wanted to keep reading. That’s really what matters, right?

Out of all the characters, I felt the closest to Eddie. I felt like he was the one character where we were really able to get into his head and his feelings and understand them. Plus he’s a snarky little shit and I just really liked that. Sir William’s a pretty cool dude. I wouldn’t mind working with him. George was a bit of a stiff, especially for someone his age, but he proved useful and not nearly as anal-retentive as he first appeared. I think I liked Liz the least. That’s not to say I didn’t like her but I felt she didn’t really add much to the overall story. I was neither here nor there about her but really just meh.

Plus I felt her “big role” would have been easily found out by the vampires. That was the only part of the book that I had a hard time believing in. By the time we get to that point in the book, we know what the vampires are capable of, what their powers are and so on. Considering that knowledge and the situation, I didn’t find her situation plausible and I think they would have ripped open her neck for playing them. But that’s just my opinion.

Now the lore part, totally awesome. Richards has all the basic constructs of vampires; fangs, light sensitivity (not combustion level but sensitive), blood drinking, plus he even went with the water fear and the connection to home soil. I loved that part, how they keep their soil on them. Very smart! The Great Lie, though, was quite possibly the best part. It twists the lore just enough that it still maintains its integrity but creates for something new and interesting and YES! I don’t want to give it away but let me just say that it takes a “standard” part of the lore that’s in favor of the vampires and turns it right against them. Very awesome. And then there’s the hibernation bit of it as well. That was another one of the parts of this book’s lore that I loved the most, vampires switching places in order to not inundate the planet. No wonder there was discord!

I loved all of the twists this book had to offer, especially with Liz’s father. He was such a dynamic character, and one of my favorites, even though he didn’t appear much in the book. He was such a strong presence that from the moment he was introduced, even when he wasn’t in scene, his presence permeated the pages. Really, no wonder the Reverend wanted to keep Liz away from the theater. While the reason, to me anyway, was pretty obvious as soon as it was introduced, the way it came to light, and then dark, was totally cool.

This is an excellent, and creepy, book about vampires. It makes them a little more realistic, a little sexy but very dangerous and very undead. You can’t become a vampire until you die and then you get to claw your way out of your grave. It’s probably one of the most traditional pieces of vampire lore and one that I liked the best. It gives them the juxtaposition of being appealing but at the same time truly the abominations that they are. They are undead, as they should be. People shouldn’t want to be that but there’s a side with a draw that, for some, is irresistible.

Read this book. Now. The vampires will appreciate it.

Published September 29th, 2009.

Do you ever wonder how some people have it all? The best schools, the hottest parties, the priciest clothes, the easiest jobs? Maybe it’s not because they work hard or get a lucky break every once in a while. Maybe it’s because they’re part of a secret group. A secret society. (book back blurb)

Gee. Yet another book about rich prep school kids getting everything handed to them. How original.

It’s Skull and Bones, peanut version but with some estrogen. The whole Egyptian involvement is completely contrived and never really explained. I understand we’re hopping around behind the eyes of the noobs to the group but as far as I’m concerned, these guys thought the Egyptians were cool and decided to use their logos for their club. By the end of the book, they could have been pirates for all it mattered to the overall plot.

And noob tattoo dude mistake numero uno – the neck is one of the most conspicuous spots to put a tattoo. No matter how small it is, unless it’s a little black dot, it’s going to get noticed. No more bobs for those girls! For a secret society, they sure flaunt their marker, don’t they?

As far as the writing goes, I didn’t feel it was quite there yet. It was . . . mediocre. In the hands of someone with more experience or greater talent, I think it could have done better but instead we get a Swiss cheese plot that meanders in all the wrong places, is thoroughly short on suspense and elementarily written. The characters are one dimensional, narrow-minded and as woe-is-me as you’d expect them to be in their current situations.

What little information we are given of this half-assed society is awkwardly dumped in some of the most chunky and ridiculously-sounding sentences I’ve ever read. The fact that the invitation is only handed out to prep school kids in their junior year is laughable. Want to narrow it down anymore? People with only blue eyes? One leg slightly shorter than the other? Literally, I laughed when that information was dumped because, considering the context and the way it was said, it was just absurd.

Maybe this is something that’s just showing my age but the casualness of underage drinking in this book really shocked me, not to mention the lack of consequences for these over-privileged kids. It’s parentfail if I’ve ever seen it because if I had ever come home drunk and hours past curfew, my grounded ass would never see the light of day again. These kids are actually encouraged to act like shitheads. Again, parentfail. I’m all for lowering the drinking age to 18 because if you’re old enough to die for your country, you’re old enough to have a drink (because that beer is so more more to handle than those assault rifles and justifiable homicide) but the extreme casualness of it all, how out in the open it was, just really bothered me. We had to be super sneaky when we drank. These kids just did it out in the open with absolutely no consequences. How nice.

The whole secret society concept is unoriginal. The writing needs to be improved. To me, the characters were unrelatable. Because of the poor writing, it lacked the suspense required of these kids’ situations. Maybe if it was there, maybe if I was able to feel their fear at what was going on, I might have been able to connect to them. But nope. Tell, tell, tell. I don’t care. If I don’t feel it, those characters could drink themselves to death and I wouldn’t bat an eye . . . oh wait . . .

Maybe it’s just my age that’s preventing me from liking this one. Or the sheer number of writing flaws have thoroughly detracted me from anything that might be worthwhile in the text. Either way, I didn’t like it. This one easily blends in to all the other prep school crap that’s out there. Except now it’s tainting ancient Egypt’s good name and for, apparently, no good reason because the connection is never made.

Alas, by the looks of the end, this isn’t the last we’ll see of this OMG-we-must-keep-this-secret-but-lets-give-ourselves-secret-tattoos-in-one-of-the-most-unsecret-places-on-our-bodies secret society but rest assured, I won’t be reading it. Inconsistencies and technical fallacies irk me. Especially when I’m sick. Irk meter is that much higher. And the ending wasn’t even good either. You almost expect it for everything that’s happened. But because the author can’t write a suspenseful sentence, you don’t actually feel it so it all falls flat.

Oh yeah, your neck is one of the most PAINFUL places to get a tattoo. Anywhere where you have a concentration of nerve endings. Where your brain stem meets your spine? I’d say that’s a pain hot spot. Just another fallacy that had me not believing anything the author wrote. For a 16 year old, they’d be crying. Just remember, a tattoo needle is as thick as a dime that moves up and down really quickly that punctures your skin over and over and over again in order to wedge the ink in there. And all this being done mere millimeters from your brain stem. Hello???

And this is an ankh tattoo people–


While the circle didn’t hurt at all, the butterfly body was some of the most god awful pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I’ll be going back to get my fifth sometime in early spring. And this is on my left hip bleeding onto the top of my leg. The circled ankh is 8 years old and the body is 5. I heart tattoos.

Contest Time!

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