27 October, 2009

Book 27 - The reformed vampire support group, or: "Being stuck indoors with the flu watching daytime television, forever and ever"

Vampires! They are pretty popular at the moment. Everywhere you go (if by "everywhere" you mean "the Young Adult section of bookstores") there they are, hangin' out, all, "Look how cool I am, I could drink your blood if I wanted to but I'm too cool for that! PS: I'm pretty sexy, unlike you. God, when did you last even wash your hair?" I may be projecting slightly.

I have to admit that I've never really got the whole vampire thing. That's not just a reaction to the recent surge in popularity, either; when I was thirteen or so I remember my friends reading a vampire series by Christopher Pike and being equally bemused. There are some exceptions: I loved the over-the-top pseudo-horror mess that was the Underworld movie. I also love Terry Pratchett's satirical take on vampires, who are far more style than substance and prefer to give up drinking blood for other, cleaner ways of gaining power of people. But when I saw this book I was immediately interested, since Catherine Jinks is a pretty talented author.

Title: The Reformed Vampire Support Group (2009)

Author: Catherine Jinks

Why this book?
Jinks wrote the amazing Pagan Chronicles, which was my sole food intake for like a year. She also wrote the pretty excellent Witch Bank. I was interested to see her take on vampires!

So what's it all about anyway?
Nina writes a popular vampire series, about the beautiful Zadia Bloodstone, crime-fighter extraordinaire. Secretly, Nina wishes she was just like Zadia Bloodstone, but she knows that it really is just a story. Real vampires aren't beautiful and strong: they're fragile, weak-willed, constantly sick and anti-social. Nina knows, because for the past thirty years she's been a vampire. And being stuck as a teenager forever isn't exactly fun.

Nina doesn't drink blood, either (at least, not human blood). She, along with the other members of Father Ramon's Reformed Vampire Support Group, have found other methods of coping with their problems. No attacking humans, that's one of their rules. So is not telling anyone what they are, because humans can be a bit - well - scared of vampires (although vampires are for the most part far more scared of them). But one member of their group isn't quite as dedicated to the cause as the others. That becomes apparent when they find him staked to death in his home.

Nina knows there is a slayer out there. And the group is sure that if they just talk to him (or her), he'll come to understand that vampires pose no real threat. But things are never quite that simple, and Nina and her friends suddenly find themselves in a world of underground werewolf fighting, deranged slayers, and vampires who really do think they can act like Zadia Bloodstone...

The Good and the Bad
This book should have been great - but I just couldn't get into it. The characters weren't quite engaging enough, the plot wasn't quite interesting enough, the pacing wasn't quite right - all in all, just not quite good enough. I actually really liked Nina, but since she was narrating the book it lost a lot of its suspense - you know the whole time nothing terrible is going to happen to her, because she's still alive (well, undead) at the end of the story to tell it, and I just couldn't work up enough enthusiasm about the other characters to care if any of them exploded in the sun or were eaten by werewolves or what have you. A disappointing read, overall.

So, should I read it or what?
It's pretty hard to make a story about people who eat hamsters bland, but somehow Catherine Jinks managed it. Not recommended.

Later this week, probably: Teen detectives, 70's style!

Link of the day: Top Ten 15 Saved By the Bell moments, because the 90's haven't really died yet.

21 October, 2009

Book 26 - A pocket full of rye, or: "I simply can't swallow this nursery rhyme business."

I'm so sorry! I have spent the last three weeks working on a research proposal, which left me with very little time for doing any non-research-proposal-related writing. Actually, I spent about two weeks doing the proposal, and one week doing a different assignment that I didn't have time to do because of the time I was spending on the proposal. That's the magic of university!

BUT I am all done with due date now until next February, which leaves me plenty more brain-room for books, and the reviewing of. Today we have the promised Agatha Christie write-up! It's only short, because I'm only just getting back into the swing of things, and my brain still feels a little bit like a lump of cottonwool.

Title: A Pocket Full of Rye (1953)

Author: Agatha Christie

Why this book?
Yes, it's another Agatha Christie. Yes, I'm now a Christie addict. Don't judge me.

So what's it all about anyway? When Mr Fortescue dies horribly after drinking a cup of tea, foul play is immediately suspected - especially after his pocket is found to be full of rye. Someone has poisoned him - but who? There's certainly plenty of suspects. There's his wife, who's having an affair; his two sons, who he constantly played off against each other; and his daughter, who he refused to let marry the man she was in love with. And if that wasn't complicated enough, then the Fortescue's maid is found dead in the garden - with her nose cut off. Inspector Neele does his best to sort through the lies and motives, but he is more than happy to accept the help of Miss Marple when she arrives on the scene. What do these murders have to do with a children's rhyme? Or is this about something else entirely?

The Good and the Bad Sadly, Miss Marple takes away more from this mystery than she gives to it. Inspector Neele, we're told from the beginning, looks completely uninspiring but is in fact a fairly astute detective. He proves to be a very good detective, but not quite capable of the leaps of logic that is required of any truly excellent mystery solver in Christie's world - that's where Miss Marple comes in, of course. Unfortunately in this case, what that means is that we see Neele's thought process, we get to know him, and then every time he hits a dead end Miss Marple pops up to give him a clue, and then fades into the background again. Her place in the book is more like that of a plot device than an actual character, and it's exceedingly annoying.

One thing I did like about this book was that for once everything wasn't tied up all neatly at the end. Oh, sure, you find out whodunnit and why, but Inspector Neele doesn't have enough evidence to put the murderer away for it - yet. It's going to take time, and a lot more hard work. The ending is also pretty sad - it's obvious that no surviving members of the Fortescue family are going to lead very happy lives, even after the murder has been solved.

So, should I read it or what? Despite my dislike for the story's style, I nevertheless enjoyed the actual mystery. I definitely wouldn't recommend it for a Christie newbie, but for the experienced Marple reader it's still worth a go.

Later this week, probably: vampires (and no mention of the T-word, I promise)

Link of the day: Upside down dogs. Oh internet, you really do have everything a girl could ever want (and more!)