Gabriella Pierce invokes a distinctive vintage horror vibe reminiscent of such great like Shirley Jackson and Ira Levin in her debut novel, 666 Park Avenue that takes that old 1970’s occult influence and modernizes it in a way that is highly appealing. Like a dark, poisonous cloud wending its way through every page. Pierce artfully creates an atmosphere that is both subtle and creepy.
This re-tooled Rosemary’s Baby (but without the baby), piece is about orphan Jane Boyle who emigrates to the U.S from France on the heels of two life altering events: the whirlwind romance to New York’s blue blood Malcolm Doran, and the death of her reclusive grandmother Celine. But as she is further isolated in New York from Malcolm and immersed in the Doran family circle, she realizes that something is dreadfully wrong. Do the Doran’s know about her family history, the power she can barely wield?
Pierce does a great job seducing the reader into trusting Malcolm…an absolutely great job. We believe in the relationship, the tenderness, the stalwart support he provides. When all is said and done, I can admit that I was fooled. Completely and utterly fooled. Pierce also offers up Jane’s fragile and trusting nature to further topple our stability and her isolation lends a solitary feel to the novel that works with the atmosphere.
Pierce’s depiction of Lynne Boyle is classic: mutable and off-center to the reader…evil and conniving and nurturing to fulfill her own ends. Charles chilled me to the bone. And that scene with him and Jane was just…just thinking about it makes me shiver.
The major weakness of this promising new book is the lack of a set of strong support characters for Jane and more of an intricate back-story into the history of the seven families, the seven witches and Ambika to really get our teeth into the story and the conflict. Either of which would have made 666 Park Avenue a richer read. Maeve and Harris are simple teasers, and with Maeve struck down by the evil matriarch of Clan Doran, there is little she can do but exit stage right. Perhaps a more robust role from either one, including Dee would have been better. But if Pierce’s focal point was for tone rather than plot, then it succeeds. I found that I had alot of questions at the end that were left unanswered…the names of the family lines who carry the genetic trait…is Jane pregnant when she leaves…more conflict…the attraction between Harris and Jane…(which was absolutely scrumptious by the way).
Over all I like 666 Park Avenue, and I am definitely wanting to read the sequel, where Pierce has a few infinite possibilities to pursue..and definitely want to read more about Harris and Jane who I think will be making a repeat performance…
A Fiendishly Bookish Review (and one grumpy cat)
Part of the 2011 Book Chick City Horror and Urban Fantasy Challenge (less)
Lauren DeStefano’s latest young adult dystopian novel due out in March of 2011 is testament to a world gone wrong -science has wreaked havoc...more3.5 Stars
Lauren DeStefano’s latest young adult dystopian novel due out in March of 2011 is testament to a world gone wrong -science has wreaked havoc on the genetic code, war has broken out and decimated much of the known world, the polar ice caps have melted, and the center of the known world is now the United States…or at least what is left of it.
Now men only live until 25 and women to age 20. In order to perpetuate the species until a cure can be found, a sinister practice has surfaced. Girls are being kidnapped by Gatherers and delivered to either brothels or rich families and bonded into marriage with their prospective husbands and sister wives. The aging First Generation is hopelessly trying for a cure, but with the growing divide between pro-naturalists and the scientists, a cure is too far out of hand.
At first glance, I wondered is DeStefano’s world enough to draw in readers? Wither’s theme is off-putting…where girls…some very young, are thrust into the role of wife and mother, clinging to each other for support and guidance. It is a theme all too common in this day and age-and at every remote corner of the globe, and Wither brings it home to readers-riding a fine line between adult and YA fiction.
DeStefano plays this hand heavily in her characters: Rhine Ellery the lead in Wither whose unusual genetic makeup and beauty has targeted her for a House Governor’s mansion after being stolen away from her home and her brother Rowan. There is Cecily who grew up in a government orphanage desperate to escape-even if her route is as a child bride, and Jenna who has done whatever she could to escape the mean streets to survive. Each has a different background but a similar fate…
Much in the same vein as The Handmaid’s Tale, Wither delivers a similar theme, but there is too little to draw in readers, sparse relief, and hope seems in short supply. The draw between Rhine and Gabriel, her attendant provides a brief respite, and sometimes the uneasy truce between Linden (Rhine’s new husband). But overall, DeStefano seems uncertain on how to weave the uneasiness between Rhine and Linden. Does she fall for him, her captor? Does she hate him even though he does not know the truth about her abduction? Why doesn’t Rhine tell him the truth? About the true reality of “outside” and how she, Cecily and Jenna were abducted for his benefits? Everywhere is the spectre of Vaughn, Linden’s frightening father who controls every aspect of the estate and those who are held prisoner there.
Wither is darkly haunting, uncomfortable, and well written. And DeStefano’s story world-building is superficial, not fully explained. But it is not the theme that turned me from DeStefano’s story. True, it is a troubling subject, but the vital component missing was hope. That necessary ingredient has to be present to save the reader from its depressing theme. Without this relief, Wither can be a dark, brooding morass emanating a poignant feeling of being trapped in a gilded cage.
A Fiendishly Bookish Review (and one grumpy cat) (less)
Power, knowledge and vengeance…these are the three key ingredients to Darkness Becomes Her, Kelly Keaton’s debut YA series. Keaton writes a strong YA novel about Ari Selkirk, a seventeen-year-old on a quest to find out anything she can about her biological family. As a former orphan and foster kid who grew up in the system, Ari is not anyone’s victim. This is a gun-toting teen, trained as a junior bail bondsman by her current loving foster parents, who most of all, is a survivor first, and shit-kicker later.
Her quest takes her to the boundary of The Rim and New 2. And later, directly into belly of the beast, New 2, that dark territory formerly known as New Orleans. Rebuilt into a strange land, governed by the Novem, and peopled by even stranger citizens (if the rumors are true), New 2 is the spectacular jewel in the crown for Keaton. It’s a sultry amalgam of the steamy legacy of New Orleans, but refashioned into Keaton’s own brooding and twisted territory. Rife as a playground and doubling as a sanctuary for paranormal entities known at the Doue, and the nine aristocratic families of the Novem, New 2 is crooked, labyrinthine, seething, and otherworldly. Home to demi-gods and even gods.
The rag-tag group that Ari is ensconced in during her quest read as post-apoc, paranormal, and grungy-homeless-hip. Settled in a Garden District manse, that hovers between decrepit and intact, this urban family reluctantly fills her in a way that she’s never before experienced-not even by the Sanderson’s, her current foster parents.
Violet is the key to Ari…the one person that has been able to crack the façade, to bring her beyond the inhuman shield she had forged that helped her survive through the most tormented parts of her life. Sebastian Lamarliere also is a critical character in understanding who Ari is. His shadowy mystery will have readers swooning. Even though his distant and brooding persona does not take away the fact that he is Josephine Arnaud’s grandson, the ruling matriarch of the Arnaud family. This lends a sinister twist to Keating’s story because it introduces the possibility of Bastien being influenced by his crooked grandmere. (those who have read the novel know the truth-so I won’t mention it here)
For the reader, Ari exists both as delightfully damaged and yet full of light. Like Carol-Ann we are drawn to her, her purity of spirit encased within a tough shell. The lure of her legendary ancestry has Keaton yanking on the chains of the Greek pantheon, complete with a plethora of snakes who might or might not do Ari’s bidding as well as pulling in other familiar paranormal beasties. Another build-up to the show-down that will happen in Book 2 are the alliances that Ari has made with the Born or Made, and her control over her extraordinary power. Ari will be a force to be reckoned with in the next novel
Hopefully she will not have a head of snakes by then.
A Fiendishly Bookish Review (and one grumpy cat) (less)
Raylene Pendle is full of snark and a damn fine princess of pilfering….after all she’s had practice. Like close to a century of donning sleek...more4.5 Stars
Raylene Pendle is full of snark and a damn fine princess of pilfering….after all she’s had practice. Like close to a century of donning sleek and stylish cat burgling attire, as she stealthily acquires pretty baubles in which to store in her warehouse of goodies.
But this time, her latest job comes knocking at her door, not the other way around, and despite being spooked that she’s been tracked down, she ends up being pulled into a vampire conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of government. It will drag her through a virtual storm of grenades, abandoned military installations, gunfire, parkour, a drag queen review, multiple unmarked cars, and a whole lotta blood.
Raylene is an irreverent self-serving gruff- but with a gooey center-though she doesn’t know it yet. She’s also a ruthless vampire who has lived as a rogue for much of her life which puts her at a disadvantage when it comes to caring for people. She hasn’t had much to live for besides acquisition and looking continually over her shoulder. But Priest gives her something to live for…her acquired pet people….Pepper and Domino, the enigmatic Ian Stott who she is drawn to…for his fragile vulnerability and his exquisite killing force….and Adrian the hot-to-trot former Seal turned entertainer…their verbal ripostes are a constant source of amusement zinging merrily back and forth.
I have a thing for flawed, broken, characters and Priest has wrapped Raylene up so nicely for her readers….presenting us with the ripe opportunity to see this character grow and that she does…from the very first explosive pages. Her determination to find those responsible for Ian’s predicament, and to hone in on the fear that it could easily happen to her….to any other vampire… is a compelling push for the truth…no matter what the cost. She and Adrian will burn it all down with the added reward of some bloodthirsty revenge along the way.
I would have liked to see a more intimate glimpse of the inner workings and politics of the Houses…and their leaders-but maybe in Hellbent (Cheshire Red #2) Priest has something planned? I am rubbing my hands in maniacal glee just conjuring all the angles this amazing series can go.
What more can I say? I just got off the Bloodshot ride at the Cherie Priest amusement park and I gotta tell you it was a hell of a ride. Even my lipstick is smeared from the G-force Priest turbulence. And I got a runner in my pantyhose.
A Fiendishly Bookish Review (and one grumpy cat) (less)
Turned in 1967, Graf McDonald is your easy going laze-the-night-about vamp…but with attitude. Yeah, he’s blonde-blue-eyed hot, tall, and rip...more3.75 Stars
Turned in 1967, Graf McDonald is your easy going laze-the-night-about vamp…but with attitude. Yeah, he’s blonde-blue-eyed hot, tall, and ripped and he knows it. He’s got a fabulous sexy sire, Sophia who he lusts after, a 1974 De Tomaso Pantera L, and crazy-wild Fourth of July party to go to. That is, until his detour to Penance.
And Penance he’s going to end up paying because this one-dog town he’s stuck in is a white trash nightmare filled with pitchfork hillbillies…fighting a supernatural creature that has kept them trapped and isolated there for the better part of five years. And sexy, urban, sophisticated, Graf is stuck in it with only jean-shorts-wearing Jessa to help him out. Will he gulp her down, or get off his pedestal to be a bit more civilized, just enough to survive?
Armintrout’s American Vampire is about as far right you can get in the lore. She managed to make her readers ride the fence about Cyrus in her Blood Ties series, and Graf is no different. Do we love him or hate him? It’s as if Armintrout is intentionally annihilating all the vampire stereotypes and in a strange devil’s advocates way…I love it. It gives us something to work for….hard. Readers are definitely not going to immediately swoon over Graf (I know I’m not…when all I really want to do is kick him in the ‘nads) until Armintrout is good and ready.
But as Jessa and Graf try to face down the demon that has had a stranglehold on the town, and personal nastiness starts to bubble over with residents turning against one another…something flowers between them, reluctantly. Graf admits to finally striking Jessa off his Plan B menu…but that’s just about all he’s willing to admit. Together they have to figure things out, kill the demon, get out of town, and oh yeah…try to get along...
Painfully and belly-achingly funny in a dark comedy sort of way, and romantic in Armintrout’s trademark matter-of-fact writing style…with priceless….and I mean priceless dialogue…shows that Armintrout has razor sharp wit and an even greater sense of humor. I really adored American Vampire…especially watching an unfolding non-sparkling, anti-vampire hero like Graf get his comeuppance from sassy Jessa…by the end and the last page is turned, Graf will be admitting to a lot more…and doing a lot more than crossing off Jessa of his meal plan…Slurp!
Part of the 2011 Book Chick City Horror and Urban Fantasy Challenge A Fiendishly Bookish Review (and one grumpy cat) (less)
At the end of Black Magic Sanction we were left with a quite a few loose ends. Rachel began her studies as Al’s student in the Ever-After, got...more5 Stars
At the end of Black Magic Sanction we were left with a quite a few loose ends. Rachel began her studies as Al’s student in the Ever-After, got possessed by insane demon Krathion, was imprisoned in Alcatraz, bumped hips with Gordian Pierce, got screwed over again by Nick and the laundry list goes on. As she continues to weather her shunning, it appears that the Coven of Moral and Ethical Standards is not simply going to let her stand in that magical state of limbo. They have deemed her dangerous enough to either lobotomize or sterilize. Anything to ensure that she or any future children will never be able to kindle magic again-certainly not black magic.
If anything, the single most important point of conflict for the Hollows series is that Rachel Morgan has existed in flux-treading, no…teetering on the line between acceptable magic use, and black magic. This has been simply because the chaotic circumstances in which she has been thrust-defending herself by any means necessary. Is she a white witch who twists black curses? Is she a natural born demon? Did she really think she was going to ride the fence for this long, and not choose a side?
In Pale Demon, Kim Harrison successfully brings that central theme of choice to the fore and forges new ground in old conflicts (including one new ley line). This time Harrison has really spelled the plot, putting it all out on the table that things are going to have to change. With Rachel’s potential in mind, Ceri’s baby on the way, and Trent’s “secret”…a new generation is going to arise regardless. Will their arrival precipitate a new chapter in the Demon/Elf wars…or will bridges be built? Will Inderlanders be caught in the maelstrom? What about the constant ebb and flow of Ever-After receding from Reality and vice versa? Sides are plotting and planning and where will Rachel stand? On a chosen side, or in the way? Will the minds of the Coven and Inderlanders regarding defensive black magic be changed in time for the coming storm?
These conflicts all come to head as Rachel is forced to attend her hearing and trial by peers by the Coven of Moral and Ethical Standard in San Francisco. Unfortunately since her recent shunning, her movement is pretty much restricted and instead of flying she has to drive to the trial location. Accompanied by Trent Kalamack (who has to make it to Seattle in three days), Ivy, and Jenks, make this latest adventure an unholy road trip from hell. They are plagued by assassins, Jenks being kidnapped, the betrayal of Gordian Pierce, death by fairy, the St. Louis arch crumbling, and the release of the Ever-After’s most uncontrollable demon, Ku’ Sox.
If you don’t think things are going to get worse, then think again. Trent manages to curse Rachel to the Ever-After for all eternity…unless she is summoned. And lovely Ku’Sox manages to level half of San Francisco in her absence. It is going to take her nearly dying before defeating him.
The biggest possibility (and surprise) that exists for Rachel is the Ever-After-It’s one that readers should be focusing on-because if anything ever goes wrong in Cincy, or anywhere else on the sunny side of the lines…then she could…quite possibly build a life for herself there. With Newt lucid for once, there is a possibility of her remembering the secrets that the demons have had buried for the past two millennia. Her relationship with Al has taken a turn for the better, now that he realizes she is so much more than a familiar and student. Her worth has been fully realized, and the trust between them continues to grow. And she has finally accepted that she is a demon. If that stunt in Dalliance were not a clear indication of that, then I don’t know what is.
And cannily enough, Harrison has highlighted Rachel’s impending choices in neon. Will she stay in Cincy living with the derision of Inderlanders, her public shunning (which could get revoked), and her banishment? Or will she chose the demons…who accepted her unequivocally? And what about Trent when he reveals just a few of his motives? Never has there been such calculation on the part of one of Harrison’s characters…(besides Ivy)…and some of it has been to motivate Rachel to some unknown end. Trent might have actually given her what no one else has…a clear choice to fully accept who she is and ride with it. And he might have planned it all along.
I love, love, that Harrison manages yet again, to elevate the conflicts, and the entanglements surpassing her earlier efforts. She manages to show us something new every time, wrapped in resolution, illuminating numerous possibilities that keep you guessing, and always foreshadowing a possible future in the next book. Pale Demon hummed and arced with all the electricity and fire of the ley line of Fountain Square, was unputdownable, and provided a thrill ride that is uniquely Kim Harrison. It was everything….and I mean everything I was hoping for in the next installment of the Hollows.
A Fiendishly Bookish Review (and one grumpy cat) (less)