Yes, I know. January has already come and gone and, really, this post should have come at the end of December. What can I say? I am the Queen of Procrastinators. I really should have a tiara to go with that title.
Author Kim Newman has made a career as a journalist and film critic, most notably of the horror genre (he also looks like a very dedicated Sci Fi/Fantasy convention fan boy… but that’s neither here nor there.) So it’s no surprise that his works of fiction read like a mash up of historical facts & horror movie legend. Anno Dracula takes place in Victorian London during Jack the Ripper’s reign of attacks. Oh, and in this reality, Van Helsing never defeated Count Dracula (yep, that Count Dracula) and he (Dracula, not Van Helsing) decided to stick around and marry Queen Victoria and usher in a great era of British vampires living proudly out of the coffin. Seriously. With a cast of historical and fictional characters merged into one universe, it might be easy to jump to comparisons with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But don’t. Newman’s work pre-dates the comic book series by almost a decade. Anno Dracula is the first in a series of four novels and an even longer list of short stories. And, for my money, this one’s a keeper (and another impetus responsible for the further expansion of my To Read list.)
Yes. I totally picked this one up based on my penchant for Sex in the City reruns. Don’t judge. We all have our guilty pleasures. But this Carrie Bradshaw is quite different from the version to which we’ve all grown accustomed. This is a teenaged Carrie Bradshaw. And, while it was fun to get a peek at what her world was like before she took a bite out of the Big Apple, let’s be honest: it’s NYC Carrie Bradshaw we all know and love (or hate, as the case may be.) The Carrie Diaries does show early glimmers of a pre-Manhattan fashionista Carrie and a not-all-that-surprising almost guest appearance by another familiar face . But I don’t think I’ll be investing in any further adventures of our heroine as a high-schooler. If she’s not crushing on Big or Aiden, I’m really not all that interested.
In 2006 I fell in love with a bizarre and beautiful German film that, of all things, explored the life of a murderous perfumer. It was one of the most visually gorgeous movies with one of the most deliciously twisted plot lines that I’d ever seen. Needless to say, I had to add the novel on which it was based to my To Read pile. A perfume apprentice in 18th century France, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille enters into this world in a most horrific and vile manner. The same can be said with regard to his exit (trust me, you will NOT see this coming!) Born with no body scent of his own and a powerfully acute sense of smell – in his mind, making him not quite human – Grenouille spends his career in search of the Perfect Scent. Unfortunately, his super acute sense of smell leads him to less-than-ideal sources to collect the base elements for said scent. If you like historical novels at all, you’ll find this a fun read. If you also like dark fantasy & horror novels, then you’re going to love this!
I’ve seen Cecelia Ahern’s name bandied about for a while but have never actually picked up any of her books (nor have I seen any of their Hollywood adaptations.) And, while this book reads a bit like a classic Chick Lit/Maeve Binchy-esque tale, it does have a certain je ne sais quoi of its own. The best way I can describe The Book of Tomorrow is to call it a fairytale for grownups. Spoiled rich girl Tamara is forced to move out of her palatial city home after her father’s death and is sent to the country to live with relatives. Her only source of entertainment is the local bookmobile and its young, handsome driver. Don’t worry. It doesn’t turn Harlequin. But it does offer glimpses into Narnia. Tamara finds, among the stacks, a locked leather-bound book with no author’s name or title. And, though she’s told it’s not meant to be on loan, she pilfers the book to pry it open and see just why. There are a few fantastical twists that are a wee bit predictable. But, all in all, The Book of Tomorrow is a cute read.
If Miss Marple solved mysteries as an eleven-year-old, she’d be Flavia de Luce, a precocious science prodigy with a flair for the dramatic. And when she discovers a dead body in the field outside her window one morning, she decides to take it upon herself to uncover the mystery of just who this unfortunate stranger might have been. Armed with her trusty bike, Gladys, Flavia sets off on a course of adventures with fearless determination. I, for one, would love to see this properly (key word: properly) turned into a movie or TV series. So, if anyone from the BBC happens to be reading: could you get on this? Thanks. Oh, and this is the first in a series of Flavia de Luce mystery novels. I can see a few more in my future plans.
What if those stories about the Cathedral of the Holy Blood Altar in Rothenburg, Germany having a capsule containing Jesus Christ’s blood were actually true? What if some crazy-ass religious zealots got their hands on said capsule and decided to clone themselves a Second Coming of Christ? Not a bad premise for a novel, right? The downside, though, is that this self-published novel hasn’t seen an editing desk so you will have to weed through some pretty poor story progressions. The concept alone, however, is so compelling that you’ll be willing to plough through to the end.
I really should have paid more attention to the fact that this novel was subtitled A Paranormal Romance. What can I say? I got sucked in with a promise of time travel. I got hosed and was delivered schmaltz.
Reading a little bit like Terminator meets Serendipity, Kindred Spirits is a bit of a challenge to get through. But if you can wade through all the extraneous information (seriously FAR too much minutiae), there is a pretty fun story underneath it all. Unfortunately it doesn’t reveal itself until about the halfway point. And, I’m guessing most folks will have given up by then. I soldiered through. But only because I felt I had to.