Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review - The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, Book 1) by Clay and Susan Griffith (5/5 stars)

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, Book 1)Reading level: Adult
Genre: Historical Fantasy/Steampunk
Size: 301 pages
Publisher: Pyr
Release Date: November 18, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1616142476
Stand Alone or Series: 1st in the Vampire Empire series
Source: Signed copy from Book Expo America
Rating: 5/5 stars

I have been wanting to read this book forever.  I finally got a copy from the library and then that same week ended up going to BEA and was able to get a copy signed and meet Clay and Susan Griffith.  They were a lot of fun to talk to and very nice.  So, I was really excited to read this book and I wasn't disappointed.  The second book in the series, The Rift Walker, is due for a September 2011 release.

Princess Adele of the Equatorian Empire is on a ship that is attacked by a horde of vampires.  At first things are looking up when the Greyfriar (a mysterious vigilante) saves her; but then she is captured by the evil Caesar and held in the Tower of London in vampire occupied Britain.  Adele becomes the catalyst for a final battle between the human and vampire species; along the way she finds out that vampires may not be exactly what humanity thinks.

This was an absolutely excellent book.  The storyline is epic and the world incredibly creative.  The story is part alternate history, part post-apocalyptic, and part steampunk...with a little epic fantasy thrown in for good measure.

The Griffiths have created an incredibly detailed and interesting world.  Vampires have trouble surviving in warm climates which has driven humanity to the hottest parts of the planet.  The politics within human factions and vampire factions are complex and interesting to read about.  There is a lot of creativity in this story and many things which I haven't seen anywhere else.  The human parts of the world have a steampunk feel to them too which adds even more to the story.

The characters of Adele and Greyfriar are engaging, have a lot of depth to them, and as a reader you really want to know them better.  You can't help but root for them and hope that everything will work out.  Side characters in the book weren't as filled out as they could have been, but that is a small quibble.  I do hope that in future books we get to learn more about Adele's mentor and spend more time with her younger brother.

The plot is full of twists and turns and you can never predict what will happen next.  This makes for a very engaging book and really pulls the reader through the novel.  The novel ends well, but leaves a lot of issues unresolved for future books.  The writing style is well done and easy to read.

The only other small complaint I have is that the chapters that depict Senator Clark (Adele's intended) going to war were a bit of a struggle to get through.  It wasn't that they were poorly written...it was just that I loved reading about Adele and the Greyfriar so much more that I just wanted to get through the Senator Clark parts.  I am hoping in future installments Senator Clark will be more filled out and we will learn either to love or hate him with greater passion :-)

Overall this was a spectacular read.  It is very creative, the world-building was incredible, and Adele and Greyfriar are captivating characters.  The writing style was very well done and easy to read and it was hard to put the book down.  I love the detail that went into world-building and love how many fantasy elements (historical, post-apocalyptic, steampunk, epic) went into making this story.  I am very excited to read The Rift Walker when it releases in September.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- 100+ Reading Challenge
- Get Steampunked!

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, Book 1) 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Review - The House of Dark Shadows (The Dreamhouse Kings, Book 1) by Robert Liparulo (2.5/5 stars)

House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings Series, Book 1)Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Size: 304 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: May 6, 2008
ISBN-13: 978-1595544941
Stand Alone or Series: 1st in Dreamhouse Kings series
Source: Free for Amazon Kindle
Rating: 2.5/5 stars

I have been wanting to read this book for a long time so when I saw it was available for free on Kindle (a while back) I snapped it up.  This book is first and foremost an introduction to a series.  It has some neat ideas but starts incredibly slow.

The King family moves into this creepy old house that's definitely a fixer upper.  The oldest son, Xander, is bothered by some of the things that are going on in it.  For example when people talk the sound doesn't come from where you think it should, there are other strange sounds around the house, and then there are the gigantic footprints that show up every so often.  When Xander and his brother David go exploring they find a set of rooms that takes you to other sinister places.

This book definitely has a very scary and creepy horror feeling to it.  Strange sounds and strange men showing up in bedrooms, that kind of thing.  In general it creeped me out; so I wouldn't recommend it to people who scare easily (like me) or people who aren't fans of suspense/horror type books.  There is a fantasy element to it when the boys find the strange rooms that can take them to other times/places.  Even with this fantasy element; when the Kings travel to the other places everything is always scary, sinister, and trying to kill them.

The book starts incredibly slow.  It takes half the book or more, for the family to move into the house and start seeing the strange things.  The whole time I was like, come on, come on, let's get to some good stuff here.  Once they discover the magic rooms things do get much more interesting; but that part is so small compared to how long it takes to set the story up.  Because of this pacing issue, this book is more like an intro to the Kings and their house than an actual complete story.

The plot itself is also very predictable.  I guessed right at the beginning who the father was and what his past was and was right.  I totally agree with Xander about how stupid his dad was about everything that happened; I think it is incredibly unrealistic that a dad would knowingly put his family in that type of position.  Which leads me to talking about the characters...they were all okay, but never very interesting.  All of the characters do stupid things (as happens in many horror novels) and aren't really that engaging or likable.

I think the strong part of this novel was the idea of the magic rooms; there is a lot of potential there for an interesting story and it would be interesting to see how these things all tie together.  

The book ends on a complete cliffhanger with no resolution (again I am not a fan of those).  I really felt like this was just a short intro to this world and not really a complete book at all.  The writing style overall is so-so; but nothing to write home about.  I also have trouble believing this is targeted for young adults; maybe it might be suspenseful for younger kids...maybe middle grade?  I think the YA crowd will find it boring and predictable.

Overall it was okay.  The idea of the magic rooms is interesting and I think Liparulo could do a lot with that in future books.  The story started very slowly, with lots of setup.  The plot was predictable and the characters were so-so.  This isn't really a complete book; it just sets up the world and leaves the poor reader on a total cliffhanger.  Oh, and it is way more of a horror book than a fantasy book.  So if you are a wuss about scary stuff, like me, then you will want to look elsewhere.  I personally will not continue on with this series and am glad that I got it for free.  Definitely not my thing.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

In My Mailbox and Mailbox Monday - 5/30

IMM is a meme started at The Story Siren with some inspiration from Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.

Anyone can participate in IMM and you are not limited to only sharing books that arrive via your mailbox. You can also share books that you've bought or books that you've gotten at the library.

Mailbox Monday can be found at: The Printed Page

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

This week I got twelve books.  I bought three of them; Fire Dance was free for Kindle.  I got ARCs of Shimmer and Ashes, Ashes for $1.99 at The Strand Bookstore in NYC.  

I got a couple books from Amazon Vine.  I brought back seven books from BEA, the rest are in a box slowly coming to me via freight (I think it ended up being 38 pounds of books).  I got The Greyfriar signed by Clay and Susan Griffith and was soooo excited; they were lots of fun to talk to.  I am reading it right now and am loving it.

Anyway, you can see more info on them below.  Hope that you all have a great week of reading.  I will do a Vlog next week when I get the rest of the BEA books.  I can't even remember everything I ended up with, it was all kind of a blur.  I tried to only get books I was really interested in, but I ended up with a couple that people thrust into my hands and I wasn't sure what the book was about exactly.

 Fire Dance Shimmer: A Riley Bloom Book (Radiance) Ashes, Ashes
Fire Dance by Delle Jacobs
Shimmer by Alyson Noel
Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari

From Amazon Vine:
The Dagger Quick The Map of Time: A Novel
Dagger Quick by Brian Eames
The Map of Time by Felix J Palma

From BEA (books I brought back in my bag):
Janitors Mind Over Monsters (A F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Investigation) The Mephisto Covenant: The Redemption of Ajax The Dervish House Pathfinder Tales: Winter Witch Blood Rights (House of ComarrĂ©) The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, Book 1)
Janitors by Tyler Whitesides
Mind over Monsters by Jennifer Harlow (signed)
The Mephisto Covenant by Trinity Faegen (signed)
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
Winter Witch by Elaine Cunningham
Blood Rights by Kristen Painter
The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith (signed)