Tag Archives: paranormal

Book Review: The Opposite of Life

I remember screaming very loudly. In TV shows, that’s where the ad break comes in, while some ninny is screaming her head off. No ad breaks in life, though.

Lissa Wilson has seen more than enough death in her family, so when people start being savagely killed whenever she has a night out in Melbourne with her beautiful new boyfriend, she’s determined to investigate and make the killing stop. Even when she realises the murders must be the work of a vampire.

Things had been looking up for this librarian and 21st century geekgirl, but the murders make her remember why she prefers books to people. People leave you. People can die.

She finds herself teaming up with the painfully awkward Gary to get to the undead heart of the matter. But there are more challenges in story than Gary’s appalling fashion sense.

The idea of living forever can be a big temptation for someone who has lost so much…

 

I keep saying, “No more vampire books!” I know. But then I come across something interesting, and my protestations go out the window. And, in all fairness, vampire books seem to be everywhere I look.

I brought home The Opposite of Life by Narrelle M. Harris and the first thing my husband said on looking at it was, “Vampires in Melbourne? Sounds lame.”

My first reaction was to be annoyed. I mean, sure, over here in Futureland (ie. Australia) and raised to believe everything in the US of A is bigger, better, and cooler. But just because this book is set in Melbourne shouldn’t mean it’s instantly classified as lame! My second reaction was to feel guilty, because I’d thought exactly the same thing. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons I brought the book home with me. (Yes, I’m inspired to read by self-inflicted guilt. Don’t make a big deal of it.)

To be honest, that blurb doesn’t really appeal to me. But the first page did.

The night I went dancing with Evie I found two girls on the floor of the ladies’ loos, with their throats ripped out.

At first I figured it was pretty typical, you know? Just the kind of thing that would happen to me on my first night out in eight months. Get dumped, mope a lot, go out to cheer myself up and, of course, dead bodies in the ladies’ loos. Later on I thought it might have been me bringing everyone bad luck, before I found out what was really going on.

But that night it was just my own sheer crappy timing. Yeah, right, like it’s all about me.

Lissa (short for Melissa) is very much a product of the modern-day. She’s fairly self-absorbed, thinks everything is about her, and her mind jumps from cultural reference to cultural reference. But, for all that, she’s really quite likeable. She’s had a tough upbringing, and that’s evident in almost everything she says and does, but she loves her family and friends, and genuinely cares about people.

The book starts with her finding two dead women on the bathroom floor at a club. Their throats have been ripped out, and there’s blood everywhere. To say she’s shocked is something of an understatement. She goes home to recover, and probably would have gone back to her normally scheduled life, but… it keeps happening. She keeps finding dead bodies. Like any vaguely self-absorbed young woman, she immediately assumes it has something to do with her, and sets out to investigate.

And that leads us to the vampires.

These are not sparkly, emo, mary-sue vampires. Nor are they mindless, monster-movie vampires. I’d say they’re a cross between Dracula and World of Darkness. They don’t burst into flames in the sunlight, although it makes them weak (ala Dracula). They’ve got a vague “vampire society” going on (ala WoD). But there’s really nothing sexy, sultry, or appealing about them. They are, in fact, the very personification of “the opposite of life”.

This is a book about an ordinary, people-shy girl investigating a supernatural serial killer. It’s also a book about life, death, and the way people respond to it. I really enjoyed this book.

If you like your vampires red-hot and sexy, this is not a book for you. But if you’d like an entertaining and, at times, philosophical story about death, loss, hope, and revenge, I’d heartily recommend it.

(Oh, and it’s set in Melbourne. If you’ve been, you’ll recognise everything from the late-night Greek takeaway to the tram lines. If you haven’t, you’ll feel like you have. It’s win/win. And not lame in the slightest.)

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Book Review: Ravenous

Holly Carver is a small-time witch who busts ghosts for tuition money, but she ends up wrangling a demon when a haunted house job goes bad. Her Undead business associate, Alessandro Caravelli, suspects the demon is somebody’s not-so-secret weapon. The supernatural community is at war, and Holly’s unpredictable magic holds the key to the doorway to the demon realms. Soon Holly is on everyone’s must-have list, and not in a good way.

I picked up Ravenous by Sharon Ashwood because I liked the sound of the blurb. I tried to ignore the front cover. (Seriously? Who wears clothes like that, while delicately fingering the hilt of a blade?) The idea of a ghost-busting witch seemed interesting and entertaining, and by midway through the first chapter, I was hooked. My thoughts went something like this:

Chapter 1: This is great. Holly is a really interesting character, strong but not aggressive, and it’s such a novelty to see a vampire in the supporting role rather than in the spotlight, so to speak.

Chapter 3: Pure awesome. A witch fighting a house for possession of the souls of a group of frat boys, while a vampire played keep-away with sentient black goo, leading to great sentences like: Let the vampire play with the slime monster. She had civilians to save.

Chapter 4: A sudden jolt. The point of view switches from Holly to Alessandro. I can see why it was necessary, but it’s a bit jarring. Although that may just be because I’ve been reading a lot of 1st person narrators lately.

Chapter 7: Two chapters of Alessandro’s POV. He’s interesting, but I wanted a witchy novel, not a vampy novel. I don’t care about the vampire court, I want to know what Holly’s doing.

Chapter 9: WTF? What’s with all the insane sexual tension? Ooooh. Oh. Oh! Right. This is paranormal romance. How the heck did I miss that?

At this point, I put the book down for a few days. It’s not that I don’t like reading outside my own genre, you understand, it’s just that paranormal romance really doesn’t do it for me. Especially with a vampire as one of the obviously-going-to-make-it couple. I put it on the ile of books near my bed, and started thinking about what to read next.

Only…

Only…

I kept thinking about it. I kept thinking about Holly. I kept thinking about the strange psychic injury she sustained as a child that stopped her from being able to cast capital-M magic without being in excruciating agony. I kept thinking about her magical house, and the giant mouse-demon she fought. I kept thinking about… Well, the whole book.

So I picked it back up, and devoured the rest of it in one sitting.

The plot of Ravenous is fairly predictable, and none of the “surprise twists” surprised me at all. The point of view continues to switch between Holly and Alessandro, which I found vaguely annoying, but very reasonable within the plot of the story — they both had access to different information, and neither was very good at sharing. Both Holly and Alessandro have a disturbing proclivity for running through intense sexual fantasies in their heads whenever they encounter each other. Or anyone else of the opposite gender, for that matter.

But the plot is entertaining, the world-building is phenomenal, and Holly is a staggeringly awesome character. (And, as an added bonus, she doesn’t look, dress or behave anything like the picture on the cover of the book.) I found myself skimming over the various sex scenes (which were quite good, if you’re into that kind of thing) with a frustrated, “Get back to the story!” And that’s got to be a good thing. Right?

All the standard tropes are covered. There’s the ‘sudden but inevitable betrayal’, the ‘vampire potentially saved by love’, and the ‘magic-used with more power than she could possibly know’. But these were all woven together around a beautifully realised character, an interesting love interest, and a world full of magic and mystery.

Ravenous isn’t going to make you think. It isn’t going to open your eyes to any great truths. But it is going to entertain. If you’re looking for a bit of light, magical, romance reading, then I highly recommend this book.

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Book Review: The Accidental Demon Slayer

It’s never a good day when an ancient demon shows up on your toilet. For Lizzie Brown, that’s just the beginning. Soon her hyperactive terrier starts talking, and her long-lost biker-witch grandma is hurling Smuckers jars filled with magic. Just when she thinks she’s seen it all, Lizzie learns she’s a demon slayer — and all hell is after her.

The first word that springs to mind when I think about this book is ‘fast’. The action begins on the first page, and would finish on the last page, if the book didn’t end with a paragraph designed to act as a segue into book 2 of the series. There are only a few short breathing spaces in the story, and those are full of leopard-print wearing senior citizen witches, road kill spells, a super-sexy shape-shifting griffin, and Pirate, the most adorable talking dog to ever grace the pages of a book.

The Accidental Demon Slayer starts with the opening paragrpah:

When I opened the door to greet my grandmother for the very first time, I’m not sure what I was expecting. I know I hadn’t envisioned an apple-shaped woman in a Kiss My Asphalt T-Shirt, with wind-burned cheeks and a sagging tattoo of a phoenix on her arm. But what I really didn’t bargain for was a brief hug, followed by a forceful shove that had me landing firmly on my butt on the cold, black-and-white checked floor of my hall bathroom.

And the action pretty much gets doing from there. It doesn’t take long before Lizzie is fighting demons, riding on the back of a pink Harley, partaking of a Beast Feast, and dodging the amorous advances of the aforementioned sexy griffin.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s funny, smart, and full of non-traditional characters and interesting world-building. Even the settings are exciting. Lizzie goes from her suburban house, to a biker bar, a haunted riverboat, and then into hell itself. And she does it all with Pirate by her side. (If I had to pick, Pirate would be my favourite character in the book. I just want to give him a hug, and then feed him people-food.)

I loved this book so much that talking about it is difficult. Have you ever been to watch a movie with a real fanboy/fangirl, who’s seen it a dozen times, and keeps wanting to interrupt to tell you about how cool the special effects are, and how funny it was when the actors couldn’t get the scene right, and how there’s a really awesome bit coming up….. now. Well, if I talk about this book too much, that’s what I’m going to sound like.

So, rather than alienating you with my fangirl tendencies, I’m just going to say that you need to read this book. Seriously.

Oh, one thing. Don’t read it if you have an aversion to steamy love scenes. And by love, I mean… well, you know what I mean.

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