Disclaimer: I received a copy of this for review years ago, and Heather is one of my Goodreads friends.
After reading and enjoying Heather's other book, PRINCE OF MISERY, I was eager to leap into her repertoire to see what other vampire books she had written. I was all set to buy DREAMS FOR THE DEAD, because dat summary, but then I realized that I already had a copy of A DARK-ADAPTED EYE in my library.
A DARK-ADAPTED EYE is about the teenage Asha. She's an orphan and trapped in her home town of La Seca with her brother, Ivory, because it's under siege by vampires. Things get even more dramatic when she finds out that her brother his best friend, Les (who she has a crush on), are both vampire slayers. Things get even more dramatic when she wanders into a vampire club by accident and meets a vampire named Rade, with whom she has a strange but compelling connection that makes her feel like he's familiar...
I really wanted to like this book and I think it has a great premise. There's also a vintage feel to it, in the same way that PRINCE OF MISERY was; they feel like retro vampire novels from the 80s and 90s, when vampires were predatory and scary, and would kill you just as soon as look at you. TWILIGHT changed the status quo for vampires, and as much as I enjoy TWILIGHT, I have to say that these changes were not for the better. I miss the scary days of yore. Heather's bringing 'em back!
The problem is that parts of this book are pretty slow. Even boring. I stopped reading around page 54 the last time I attempted to start A DARK-ADAPTED EYE, and had a difficult time forcing myself to finish with this latest attempt. There's large portions where little, if nothing, is happening. Les and Crisedeys and Ivory aren't very compelling characters (and I really didn't like their names). Rade was great, but he wasn't in the book for very long, nor were many of the other vampires. The dialogue was also tedious, contrived, and didn't feel authentic at times, and I didn't care for the love interest, Les. He's one of those guys who angsts about the girl he likes and sleeps with other women because he just can't. No, Les. That is not how you have relationships. That is the exact opposite of what to do.
What kept me reading were Rade, obviously, and the club scenes and the action scenes. Heather is really good at writing horror and making it erotic. That sounds like a bad thing, but that's what people expect with vampire stories: the gothic romance of beauty and monster. Few authors are able to strike that balance and make it work, but Heather can. She's also really great at writing beautiful descriptive passages. PRINCE OF MISERY has great dialogue, too, but that's one of Heather's newer works: in DARK, a lot of it is stilted and wooden.
I'm always happy to discover new vampire novels I haven't read yet, and I'm sorry that this one was such a bust. But I'm glad I read it, too, because it shows how much Heather's style is evolving, which makes me excited for her future projects (which also hopefully involve vampires).
I don't generally make a habit of posting my political beliefs in public forums, but that is a difficult subject to escape when reviewing a book about politics. I mean, it's possible. I could write something dull and impartial like, "GAME CHANGE is a great look into the 2008 election. Eye-opening. I enjoyed it" - but let's be honest, okay? Where is the fun in that? Plus, as it turns out, I actually have some sincere thoughts on the subject. I know, what a surprise. A blogger having an opinion. Imagine that.
Since there's a fairly good chance Clinton might become president #45, I bought a few nonfiction books about her because I wanted to see what she's about. One is adoring, tinted by the rosy lenses of nostalgia - it's called REBELS IN WHITE GLOVES, and it's about Hillary Clinton, and the women in her graduating class at Wellesley, and how their ideals helped mold the world. This book, GAME CHANGE, is a bit more unforgiving. Everybody's friends in politics, except when there's an election. Then it's Mean Girls on steroids with million dollar smear campaigns - oh, and on Wednesdays, we wear flag pins.
The first two-thirds of this book are exclusively about Clinton and Obama, and their rivalry to secure the position of the democratic candidate. I remember these events pretty well, because this was the first election I ever voted in, so everything was new to me, and I was completely wide-eyed as I tried to take everything in. It was a pretty historic election period for the democrats, because no matter which way it went down, they were going to get a first - the first black president or the first female president. Regardless of who I voted for in that election, I'm surprised to say that I like Hillary Clinton a lot more this go-round. Like many others, her 2008 run left a bad taste in my mouth. She was ruthless back then, and not in a good way. Many of her tactics were low-blows, and she came across as unnecessarily militant with her policies for the Middle East. Some of that is explained in this book - she was put in a difficult position, forced to stand by decisions she made when the war was still popular, and afraid to go back on her decision and being a flip-flopper like Kerry. Part of the reason for her tenacity is because of who she was running against. Obama was unflappable, calm, cool, and collected, and it's hard to run against someone like that as a woman and still get your two cents in - too quiet and they call you meek and subservient, too loud and they call you a nasty woman. You really can't win. She's mellowed out now, and she's not making the same mistakes that she made before, which is very reassuring. She seems prepared and doesn't allow herself to be baited.
Some people criticizing this book have pointed out that Hillary doesn't come out looking like a good person, shrieking and screaming when things don't go her way. But Obama doesn't escape criticism, either, which I appreciated because some of his missteps actually explained a lot of the antagonism in the race. He slighted John McCain, turning down a position he'd been offered in 2007, and Hillary Clinton essentially took him under her wing when he was still a young senator, so according to the book, she felt like he'd betrayed her, and cut ahead of her in the presidential line. One of the reasons the race might have felt so personal was because it was; both of his opponents may have had cause to feel betrayed by him. And don't even get me started on John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth. I had no idea how messed up that situation was. A real sh*t show.
The Republicans and vice-presidential nominees don't make an appearance until the last third, where they're all lumped together with a quick conclusion and afterword. I actually felt a little sorry for Palin at the end of this - although the image of her surrounded by mountains of index cards as she studied policy with her increasingly frantic aides made me laugh a bit. It's interesting to think about how the election might have played out if McCain had ignored the advice of Rove and gone with one of his earlier choices of running mate, Joe Lieberman.The book ends on a happy note, with Clinton a little worse for wear but still as proud and indomitable as ever, being handed the olive branch in the form of Secretary of State by Barack Obama. A decent consolation prize, as far as things go.
I couldn't do politics. I hate superficiality, and in politics it's all about that glittery facade that posturing politicos put on for the public, when really, the two parties are made of mostly the same stuff with different labels. Or at least, that's how things used to be. There didn't use to be that much difference between the two parties, except for a few key issues. Now, it seems like a number of things are partisan issues that shouldn't be partisan issues, like consent and civil rights, for example, and that rallies of some parties (one in particular) are becoming overrun with people looking for a platform to spew hate. That's one of the things that has me so upset about this election.
It's something that I think many of us have reason to be upset about with this election.
I love historical romance, specifically historical romance that takes place in Regency and Victorian times. I enjoy the language, the costume porn, the odd customs, the strange romance of it. But I would never, ever want to live there. We have a tendency to romanticize the past, and focus on the feel-goodsy aspects of it that make for good films and A+ school dioramas when the truth is, it's the past for a reason.
In UNMENTIONABLE, Oneill discusses all manner of R-rated factoids about the Victorian era that you most likely didn't learn in school. For example, did you know that those beautiful corsets crushed women's rib cages and moved their organs around (and also stank to high heaven)? Did you know that foundation was a heavy "enamel" made of lead? That soap contained arsenic? That strychnine and tapeworms were handy diet tools? That doctors had electric masturbation machines to treat women with hysteria? That underwear was crotchless?
I knew some of these facts because I read a lot of historical fiction, but others were new to me. And the tone they're delivered in is also very enjoyable. Oneill's writing style kind of reminds me of Gail Carriger's - affected, airy, light, and fun. It comes and goes at times, though, which can make the narrative seem off-balance. One moment, you're listening to the Mrs. Bennett from hell telling you gleefully why the heavy frippery of Victorian accoutrements made crotchless underwear a necessity for 19th century bathroom breaks, the next you're faced with a rather dry examination of food handling and hysteria. I can understand why the author might want to treat more serious subjects with more gravity, but it does leave the overall "mood" of the book feeling slightly off balance.
UNMENTIONABLE is a great book if you're interested at all in feminism, history, or Victoriana. I'm interested in all three, so it was a delight to receive this book from Netgalley for review. I enjoyed every chapter and learned a lot of interesting and disturbing facts that will make me look at my favorite romances differently (or perhaps not so differently in the case of my bodice rippers). I sincerely look forward to this author's future projects! Maybe 18th century France?