Book Review: Anno Dracula by Kim Newman

annordracula It is 1888 and Queen Victoria has remarried, taking as her new consort Vlad Tepes, the Wallachian Prince infamously known as Count Dracula. Peppered with familiar characters from Victorian history and fiction, the novel follows vampire Geneviève Dieudonné and Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club as they strive to solve the mystery of the Ripper murders.

What would happen if Van Helsing had failed and Dracula had survived?

It’s Victorian England, Vampires are an established fact, and more and more people are “crossing over” to the Undead. Dracula is now the Prince Consort, married to a now un-dead Queen Victoria. His dirty blood line is being passed down into the lower dregs of society, into the prostitutes and lowlifes.

A killer, known as “The Silver Knife” has been killing vampire prostitutes in the fog bound London, and the newly dead Lestrade asks for help from an older Vampire to help investigate the killings. Meanwhile, the secret Diogenes Club sets its own “warm” investigator to pursue his own inquiries. Soon they join forces to progress to find the killer who has been renamed in the press as “jack the ripper”. It ultimately comes to a face off with a Dracula and his followers looking as you’ve never seen him before

Lots of fictional and non fictional characters have been included in the story. The Chinese elder vampire subplot I thought was a little redundant and could easily have been dropped – a lot of wordage was wasted purely to show how strong Genevive was (and how she recovered from her injuries). I think it could have been dropped in favour of the ending with Dracula.

Otherwise I think this is perhaps the best of the vampire books I’ve read. Certainly better than Twilight (spits into corner). I’ll be interested to compare it to the original.

What’s your favourite vampire story? Is Dracula still the best?

 

Book Review: Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

princeofshadowsA thrilling retelling of the star-crossed tale of Romeo and Juliet, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires series.

In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and—if they survive—marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born.

Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona—and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona…

…And will rewrite all their fates, forever

This is a retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story, but in text and from the Point of View of Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin.

Romeo makes the occasional appearance, as is appropriate for the young heir, still living in his father’s house.

Juliet makes two appearances, one at the famous party, where she meets Romeo for the first time, and one later where her behaviour is already cause for concern and puts her betrothal to Paris at risk.

Caine makes good use of the spaces left in Benvolio’s appearances during R&J and portrays the secondary characters well. The set pieces (such as the fight between Tybalt, Mercutio and Romeo that leads to the death of two and the banishment of the third) are handled well and add further dimensions to the original.

Benvolio has developed a skill as a cat burglar, which allows him to be places and see things that forward the story that wouldn’t have progressed otherwise. Because this is a time without phones, but with paid thugs roaming the streets, there are plenty of fights, but news travels slowly and often through rumour before fact.

Benvolio’s sister is used as an example where women are there to be “traded” in marriage for political means. Men are there to protect the family honour, which means protecting the heir as necessary and progressing the line where necessary – the further away from the heir, the more “disposable” your life is.

In summary: an enjoyable story, that is easy to read, where it is not necessary to know the original text (though it does help to understand the context of some of the set pieces).

When was the  last time you read (or watched) Romeo and Juilet? Did you wonder what happened in the spaces in between?

Release Announcement: Trail of Kisses by Merry Farmer

Trail of Kisses (Hot on the Trail #1) by historical romance author Merry Farmer is here!

Are you ready to ride the Oregon Trail? Available RIGHT NOW for only $0.99 on Amazon, iBooks, and Smashwords: 1-click before the price goes up to $3.99!

Trail of Kisses by Merry Farmer

Someone is trying to kill Lynne Tremaine. After her father sentences two members of The Briscoe Boys gang to death, Judge Tremaine feels he has no choice but to send Lynne to Denver City along the Oregon Trail to live with her Uncle George…against her will. For Lynne, the only thing worse than being sent away to the wild west is making the journey with the handsome, arrogant, wicked man her uncle has hired to escort her. Especially when the anger she feels toward him begins to turn to something hotter.

Cade Lawson is determined to prove himself to his employer, George Tremaine, after letting him down months earlier. But what he thought would be his second chance may, in fact, be a harsh punishment for his past mistakes. Lynne is headstrong, fiery, and determined to show him she is fearless. She is also beautiful and tempting, and when Cade sees just how afraid she really is underneath her brave act, he may be in danger of losing his heart to her forever. When her would-be killer attacks, it’s all he can do to keep Lynne safe.

He swore to protect her, but who will protect him from her?

PLEASE BE ADVISED – Steam Level: Hot

Trail of Kisses is available RIGHT NOW on Amazon, iBooks, and Smashwords

Add it to your Goodreads want-to-read list right here

Sign up for Merry Farmer’s newsletter to get the scoop on future Hot on the Trail books and get superfan-only news, exclusives, and giveaways!

About Merry Farmer

Merry FarmerMerry Farmer is an award-winning author of historical romance. She lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats and enough story ideas to keep her writing until she’s 132. Her second novel, The Faithful Heart, was a 2102 RONE Award finalist and her unpublished futuristic novel A Man’s World won first place in the Novel: Character category at the 2013 Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. She is out to prove that you can make a living as a self-published author and to help others to do the same.

Find Merry on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon Author Page.

Book Review: Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé by Joanne Harris

lecureIt isn’t often you receive a letter from the dead. When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she has no choice but to follow the wind that blows her back to Lansquenet, the village in south-west France where, eight years ago, she opened up a chocolate shop. But Vianne is completely unprepared for what she finds there. Women veiled in black, the scent of spices and peppermint tea, and there, on the bank of the river Tannes, facing the square little tower of the church of Saint-Jerome like a piece on a chessboard – slender, bone-white and crowned with a silver crescent moon – a minaret. Nor is it only the incomers from North Africa that have brought big changes to the community. Father Reynaud, Vianne’s erstwhile adversary, is now disgraced and under threat. Could it be that Vianne is the only one who can save him?

Vianne Rocher, the woman who set up shop in Lansquenet in Chocolat returns to the town at the request of one of her friends – now long dead – via a letter left for her to be handed over on her grandson’s 21st birthday.

She brings her two daughters Anouk and Rosette (and their not-quite-invisible friends) with her, but her partner Roux remains in Paris on their house boat. His anger at how the boat people were treated the last time has not disappaited enough for him to return. Vianne returns to find things have changed significantly – Father Renaud is no longer saying mass in the church, and is in some kind of disgrace and the old tanneries outside of town is now packed with Muslims from North Africa.  The influx of these second and third generation immigrants – barely keeping inside the law with respect to their mosque and schools – is causing tension within the community and Vianne has returned into this tension between the two communities.

Vianne uses her charm and special skills in an attempt to bring some form of calm to the community. She comes across some of her old adversaries, many of whom are in various levels of success or disappointment. The young Muslim women, who previously had enjoyed a level of western freedom of dress, are taking to the veil and removing themselves from community, and it is seen to be the effect of another recent arrival in town, who remains under the veil since the day she arrived.

Finally things come to a head, where people have gone missing, the river-rats (including Roux) have arrived back in town, and it seems there have a lot of accusations, misunderstandings, and secrets are exposed on both sides that mean the story reaches a crisis point, and it is only a meeting of both groups around the river (that metaphorically and physically runs between the two sets of people) that brings things to a head and allows it to be resolved.

There is the usual magical realism in this, where Vianne uses her skills (Chocolate, Tarot cards, reading colours/auras) to try and work out what’s happening.  Vianne’s lack of self confidence kicks in when she sees the son of a friend, who was born after Chocolat, and whose father just might be Roux. The story is told from a French atheist (pagan?) woman and the local Catholic priest, rather than that of any Muslim, so this can only be told from their point of view.  Each woman is portrayed as a human first, rather than a stereotype, and the story goes some way as to show how things are handled according to the strict rules of each person’s community…

This is/was a well timed book, having been published in 2012, when there were still questions over whether the Niqab was to be banned in France. I have seen some reviewers complain that perhaps Muslim women should be allowed to tell their own stories their own way, but until Western readers and publishers are open enough to publish (buy, read, promote) books by Muslim women, then we will have to make use of those who can handle the story adequately.

 Have you read this book? Did you have issues about how any particular person/type of person was depicted? Is it a case of Christians being depicted “better” than Muslims (or vice versa)  in this book? Any recommendations as to books written about or by Muslim (women) that could be accessed by Westerners?

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll

FrosthollowhallThe gates to Frost Hollow Hall loomed before us. They were great tall things, the ironwork all twisted leaves and queer-looking flowers. And they were very definitely shut.

Tilly’s heart sinks. Will’s at the door of their cottage, daring her to come ice-skating up at Frost Hollow Hall. No one goes near the place these days. Rumour has it that the house is haunted . . . Ten years ago the young heir, Kit Barrington, drowned there in the lake. But Tilly never turns down a dare.

Then it goes horribly wrong. The ice breaks, Tilly falls through and almost drowns. At the point of death, a beautiful angel appears in the water and saves her. Kit Barrington’s ghost.

Kit needs Tilly to solve the mystery of his death, so that his spirit can rest in peace. In order to discover all she can, Tilly gets work as a maid at Frost Hollow Hall. But the place makes her flesh crawl. It’s all about the dead here, she’s told, and in the heart of the house she soon discovers all manner of dark secrets . . .

Frost Hollow Hall is a thrilling historical fiction debut. Told in Tilly’s unique voice, it is a tale of love and loss, and how forgiveness is the key to recovery

Received off Netgalley as an ebook and read on an ipad using kindle software.

10 years after the drowning of the young Kit Barrington, Tilly is sitting at home with her sister and mother, awaiting the return of her father who has been working away. Will, the local butcher’s boy, arrives and dares her to go skating with him. She accepts without realising that he means to go skating on the very lake where Kit had drowned 10 years before.

The ice breaks under Tilly, making her fall into the water. Whilst she is drowning, she is visited by a blond and beautiful angel, who ensures that she doesnt drown – however she gets the impression that he has saved her, in order that she saves him.

Over the next few days, and with the help of Will and the downstairs staff, Tilly spends more time with in Frost Hollow Hall, and even seeing the remaining family members. She finds out how she can the angry young spirit inhabiting the house and tries, even when the adults around her dont want her to. There are secrets held by many, in and outside of the house, and that adds strain to the situation. 

There are hauntings at several different layers – the house as a whole gets haunted by angry spirits that hurt and break things, Tilly gets haunted with dreams of her blond haired angel calling to her to return to her, and Kit’s mother is haunted by memories of her dead son who never comes back to visit her in dreams or otherwise.  Tilly also has to deal with personal grief of her own, when she realises that neither her father nor her sister are the people she thought they were.

In the end (trying not to do plot spoilers here), Tilly is the agent that brings certain issues to a head, and moves people to action where they have previously been stuck in a moment. She is also able to come to some level of acceptance of what her father and sister have done, and she can see her own, better, path without them.

This is down as a “Children’s book” and I’m certainly impressed with it whether that’s the right category or not for it. I have already recommended it to someone with teenage boys as an October read. Well done Emma!

 

Book Review: Maid for the Billionaire (Book 1) (Legacy Collection) by Ruth Cardello

maidMaid for the Billionaire (Book 1) (Legacy Collection) by Ruth Cardello

Dominic Corisi knew instantly that Abigail Dartley was just the distraction he was looking for, especially since having her took a bit more persuading than he was used to. So when business forces him to fly to China, he decides to take her with him, but on his terms. No promises. No complications. Just sex.

Abby has always been the responsible one. She doesn’t believe in taking risks; especially when it comes to men – until she meets Dominic. He’s both infuriating and intoxicating, a heady combination. Their trip to China revives a long forgotten side of Abby, but also reveals a threat to bring down Dominic’s company. With no time to explain her actions, Abby must either influence the outcome of his latest venture and save his company or accept her role as his mistress and leave his fate to chance. Does she love him enough to risk losing him for good?

Dominic, having heard that his estranged father has just died, tries to escape to one of his boltholes, only to find his housekeeper (actually her sister), in the place cleaning.  When she doesnt behave the way he wants or expects, he realises that he’s come upon exactly the person he needs in his life right now.

There is an instant attraction between the pair, despite his arrogance and bullish behaviour. The next few days are a whirlwind, taking Abby into a world she’s never known, facing both Dominic’s sister at the reading of their father’s will, and an emergency trip to China to recover a major business deal.   There are threats that Abby faces but wonders – perhaps too late – whether she’s in over her head and done the right thing.

This is the first in the series, so there are some strings left untied (the issue over the will and Dominic’s sister and you can see that some other relationships have started in order to be carried over into other books), which is fairly standard in series. Not entirely sure I’m happy with the “kidnapping is sexy” scenarios (I’m sure there’s a Feminism diatribe in there somewhere if I tried hard enough, but I wont).  Some of the scenes are a little “racy” but should be acceptable to all but the most easily offended

Sunday Salon: Bookcases and finishing TBRs

TSSbadge1How many bookcases do you have, and are they all in one room or different rooms? Do you think you will ever read every book in your TBR stack? How many bookcases do you have, and how do you organize the shelves?

My bookshelves are all in one room, however….

I have two sets of bookshelves on either side of my fireplace.   To the right are three longish shelves that contain my “permanent collection” books – the ones that I’m am not willing to get rid of. These are my hardbacks, the Persephone greys, the signed editions etc. These shelves are single deep, but are slowly filling up with overflow (usually hardbacks) from the other shelves

To the left are three shorter shelves, double deep and packed to the gills. These are the books, usually paperbacks, that I plan to get let go sooner or later, usually once read.  Occasionally I do a cull here and give people the book before I’ve read it. Down on the bottom shelf are the hardback graphic novels, another set of books that I dont plan to give away.

As I spent 2013 reading primarily ebooks, I’ve not kept a check on my paper books, and therefore have not added any into general circulation with my friends. Unfortunately I’ve not done a corresponding stop on adding to this pile, so it’s spilled out onto the coffee table as another bookcase!  2014 I tried to read more paperbooks  – I still haven’t cleared down as many as I need, but I’m getting there!

2015 is the year I plan to have a better balance between paper and ebooks to stop myself getting into this situation again! At the very least I will have my paperbacks back onto the right side of the fireplace!  A few months ago I did a “tidy” round that meant books were put in themes – dont know if that made things better or worse!

So tell me about your bookshelves