Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Undead and Unemployed

Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Published: August 3, 2004 (Berkley)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Quote of Choice: "I know that look. She's got an idea. Or she needs an Ex-Lax."

I can't stay away from the paranormal fiction, can I?

We rejoin Betsy, now the Queen of the Undead, and she's still trying to avoid her attraction to Eric Sinclair (aka Betsy's consort/king AND a super sexy studmuffin vampire). At the same time, she's trying to solve brutal vampire killings, avoid being queen, and keep a part-time job in the shoe department at Macy's.

At first, the killings were attributed to a gang called the Blade Warriors, composed of teenaged misfits and a priest for their leader. They make the mistake of trying to kill Betsy, but are a bit confused by her quirky personality and the things she says, like "blow me." In short, she changes their perception of vampires and they become friends, trying to figure out the identity of the person who was anonymously directing the Blade Warriors.

There was a bit more romance in this one, but again, not as much as I'd like. Hey, why call it paranormal romance if there's not much romance in it? At least Betsy isn't trying to hate Eric anymore by the end of this book. Also, I was a little annoyed by her whole "I don't want to be queen" thing because I can't stand it when characters don't want to take responsibility. I mean, she's dead and doesn't really have anything better to do with her un-life.

Why not be the queen and have your studmuffin too?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sweep (Series)

Author: Cate Tiernan
Published: January 2001-September 2002 (Puffin)
Category: Teen Fiction

I read this series of fourteen books over about two weeks. I have this feeling that if I'd had all the books at once, I would've been done in a few days. However, Jennie loaned me most of hers, a couple at a time, and I had a few from take shelves.

The Sweep series is about a teenaged girl, Morgan Rowlands, who takes up Wicca with a number of her schoolmates. In doing so, she discovers she's a very powerful witch and is then exposed to that age-old question. Is power evil, or the person who wields it the evil one? When you add the fact that Morgan has some evil ancestors, she has to choose whether her magick will be used for good or bad. I should probably mention that I liked studying the whole "is man inherently evil" question in English class.

Of course, no teen fiction is complete without some angst. Morgan has fights with her best friends, experiences her first love, betrayal by loved ones, and finds a happy ending.... as well as nearly dying a few times. I felt like my high school career was a lot more boring in comparison to hers! Seriously, reading these books brings back all those adolescent emotions and I identified with all the insecurity Morgan went through. Some people might think that watching The O.C. and Laguna Beach will bring back the high school drama, but Sweep captures all those feelings so much better with words.

And to top it off, this series is Jennie approved for good reading. I find it funny that I'm using the Jennie-approval icon before Jennie, but thanks for telling me I "have to read them!"

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Big Over Easy

Author: Jasper Fforde
Published: July 21, 2005 (Viking)
Category: Mystery
Quote of Choice: He was particularly fearful that a giant mongoose was after him, was phobic about soufflé, meringue, and egg whisks, and had a recurring nightmare of being boiled alive for exactly three minutes.

I'm a huge fan of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, so I think my expectations were really high for The Big Over Easy, the first of a new series spinning off from TN. I started reading it last summer, but put it down and haven't picked it up again until this week. I think my initial reaction (last year) was one of disappointment because I was hoping for another TN.

We meet Jack Spratt, first seen in The Well of Lost Plots, when Thursday Next entered the Character Exchange Program to take the place of Mary Mary, Jack's sidekick. Thanks to Thursday's ingenuity, Jack's book was saved from destruction. It became a haven for overworked nursery rhyme characters, hence the strange mix of cop mystery and nursery rhymes.

In BOE, Jack heads the Nursery Crime Division in Reading, specializing in crimes relating to nursery characters. Apparently, Humpty Dumpty (full name: Humperdinck Jehoshaphat Aloysius Stuyvesant van Dumpty) was found dead below one of his walls. At first, they thought he killed himself, but the bullet hole was discovered when the pathologist put Humpty back together again.

Mary Mary (quite contrary) is a new transfer to Jack's team. She transferred to Reading in hopes of working with Friendland Chymes, a hotshot detective. At first I didn't like Mary because she kept hoping the NCD would be disbanded so she could try getting a post in Chymes's team. And then I disliked her even more when she agreed to act as a double agent, spying on Jack's investigation because Chymes wanted to steal the case so he could write a spectacular story in Amazing Crimes, a true crime magazine. It's a big deal for a detective to have his work published; it's such a big deal that solving crimes are secondary to creating a dramatic and entertaining story for the readership.

But of course, Mary realized that Chymes was a jerk and she actually belonged in the NCD (with a name like Mary Mary, of course she did!) and helped Jack solve this complicated crime. The ending was so satisfying, with a solution to the puzzle so multi-layered that I couldn't see how Amazing Crimes could pass up on the story.

Besides Humpty Dumpty, the cast of characters includes Wee Willie Winkie, Rapunzel, Old Mother Hubbard, and the Gingerbreadman (a psychopath killer reminding me of Hannibal Lechter when he's in captivity). It was tons of fun spotting the references to nursery rhymes throughout the book.

The second Nursery Crime book, The Fourth Bear, is coming out this summer. I can't wait!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Undead and Unwed

Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Published: March 2, 2004 (Berkley)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Quote of Choice: [Betsy says] "Being a a vampire doesn't bother you, but my giving money to P.E.T.A. does?" [Marc says]"Hey, it was one thing when you were a soulless underling of Satan, I could work with that, but a tree-hugging marmoset lover... ugh! I've got my pride, dude."

I certainly didn't waste any time returning to my beloved paranormal romances! This is an entertaining book, the first chronicling the adventures of Elizabeth Taylor (a.k.a. Betsy Taylor, Queen of the Undead). When she rose from her coffin, the first things she did were try to kill herself and then take back her designer shoes from her wicked stepmother. The death and stepmother are not connected.

It turns out that there are two factions in the vampire world and Nostro needs to be eliminated. Betsy is the best hope, being the queen as prophecy foretold... provided she can stop giggling over the nicknames she gives ol' Nostro (a.k.a. Nostril, Nosehair, Noseo, Notso, etc.). The dangerously handsome vampire Eric Sinclair wants Betsy to side with him and defeat Nostro, if Betsy can get over the feelings of attraction between her and Sinclair.

The dialogue is funny, but not as funny as Katie MacAlister's Aisling Grey series. Betsy laughs at the clichés the humans believe in regarding vampires, such as Gary Oldman's "old lady hairdo" in Dracula. There was not so much romance in this book as there was lust. In terms of a good vampire story, Davidson did a really good job putting together a world and I'm excited to see what happens in the second book, Undead and Unemployed.