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review 2018-09-12 07:22
Vampire Wars: Vlad Gets Medieval

 

When Francis Ford Coppola's movie Bram Stoker's Dracula came out, my Vampire: The Masquerade gaming group debated its merits. The part we universally enjoyed was not the stylish costumes, or the goofy reincarnation plot, or Keanu's acting, but the opening ten minutes when Vlad Tepes is in plate armor spearing his enemies and throwing swords at crosses. "Why," we asked, "doesn't someone make a movie just out of that bit?"

This book is for that gaming group.

If you ever wondered what Dracula did between his death as Vlad Tepes in the late 1400s and the time of Bram Stoker's story, wonder no more. Vampire Wars is a short story collection about some of those missing years. It begins at the time Dracula (here using the Romanian, "Draculea") barely had two underlings to rub together. It progresses over the centuries to a climactic battle against the only unearthly horror that could possibly stop his minions or dampen his nigh-unbreakable will.

Along the way, Vlad kills, maims, tricks, or strikes bargains with more dead things than you'd find in a Kansas City slaughterhouse. Sure, he has a few monstrous minions such as lycanthropes and humans fed vampiric blood, but in the undead world there are revenants, Persian, African, and Russian vampires, and two notable vampire rivals from China (whom, as far as I could gather, do not hop like in Hong Kong horror comedies, because that's about as terrifying as sparkling).

Some of these undead are wholly original, while many others are well-known in horror circles from mythology, fiction, and history. Johann Faust, Erzsebet Bathory, Mircalla "Carmilla" Karnstein, and a conga line of undead from public domain works make appearances. For some extra spice, there's a cameo by some Lovecraftian byakhee and a passing reference to Angelus from you-know-where. If there's an overarching theme to the world-building here, it's simply "It's true -- all of it."

As other reviewers have pointed out, it's essential to view the chapters as individual stories and not a novel. Practically all my quibbles with the narrative style came from the expectations of reading a single story. The author repeats some information (like Vlad's minions' roles and his powers) quite often, which is irritating in a novel, but makes perfect sense in short stories where one can't be assured of reading the previous installment. Because the stories can't depend on each other, Vlad's rise to power is less a long-term campaign with masses of legions, and more a series of small-unit attacks on powerful undead. Decades go by between stories, giving it an episodic feel, and Vlad's minions are often done in during the fighting or just as often, killed off-screen before a new story begins. By the time we get near the climax, Vlad's survival alone seems like reason enough to crown him as the ruler of the vampires. While Vampire Wars is the first in a trilogy, the ending had enough closure to leave me satisfied, which is usually a sticking point for me.

My remaining quibbles are mostly with editing and the odd anachronistic phrase. Vlad uses "thee" and "thy," but his minions will occasionally pipe up with modern language like "you have to be kidding." As for content, I personally wanted to see a bit more interaction between Draculea and his allies apart from the campaigns, and it appears I am not alone in this. The sequel, Brides of Dracula, appears to cover exactly that ground. So though I took off a star or so for not being a work I would reread obsessively, I think I will be checking out more by the author.

At about 200 pages, Vampire Wars is pretty fast reading. I personally got it on Kindle. I'd recommend it to Lovecraft fans, vampire buffs, and yes, to my old gaming group.

Note: I can't find the author on Booklikes, nor am I able to add him, which means I can't add this book, either. Navigate to Amazon/Goodreads if you are curious.

Source: www.amazon.com/Vampire-Wars-Perry-Lake-ebook/dp/B00IWTUK2O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536730789&sr=8-1&keywords=vampire+wars+perry+lake
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review 2018-09-01 06:00
Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood
Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood - Liesl Shurtliff

Audience: Upper Elementary/Middle School

 

The first time I tried my hand at magic, I grew roses out of my nose.

- First sentence

 

Red's granny is sick (maybe dying) and she is determined to find a way to save her. She sets off on an adventure that brings understanding, knowledge, fear, excitement and even unexpected friendships.

 

Other books in this series include Rump, Jack, and Grump. They all come from the same world, but see it from different perspectives.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this series so far. I haven't read Grump, but I'm sure it won't disappoint. Red is a great character though a bit naive and sheltered. She learns a great deal during her adventure and grows into a stronger person. 

 

Bottom line: A fresh take on the story of Red Riding Hood that will take you on an exciting adventure filled with danger and unexpected friendships.

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review 2018-07-10 20:44
Lots of fun
Quidditch Through the Ages - J.K. Rowling

Madam Pince, our librarian, tells me that it is “pawed about, dribbled on, and generally maltreated” nearly every day – a high compliment for any book.

 

Dumbledore's introduction set the tone.

 

I liked this one A LOT better than Strange Beasts (caveat: my digital copy didn't have the margin notes, so it lost the meta gold extra). Anyway, Bestiaries are good for curiosity, but this one was just plain entertaining. The tong in cheek tone was great, and the amount of laughters it pulled from me with the shenanigans involved in the rules creations, and the fouls mentions can't be counted. I mean:

 

The full list of these fouls, however, has never been made available to the wizarding public. It is the Department’s view that witches and wizards who see the list “might get ideas.”

 

Refereeing a Quidditch match was once a task for only the bravest witches and wizards. Zacharias Mumps tells us that a Norfolk referee called Cyprian Youdle died during a friendly match between local wizards in 1357. The originator of the curse was never caught but is believed to have been a member of the crowd.

 

That last is naturally taking "cursing the referee" to it's expected literal end, and those are just fast examples.

 

I got the edition with the History of the World Qudditch Cup and the the 2014 articles, which was just the cherry on top. Aaand also very fitting in timing *grin*

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review 2018-06-29 03:55
Lemons - audiobook
Lemons - Melissa Savage

 

Bigfoot.

It's the very first thing I see when we pull into town.

-opening lines

 

This is a charming story about a feisty 9-year-old girl (Lemonade Liberty Witt) who is forced to uproot her life to live with her grandfather (who she never even met) when her mom passes away. Willow Creek is the Bigfoot Capital of the world and Lem's neighbor, 11-year old Tobin Sky, is the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives, Inc. Together, Lem and Tobin follow Bigfoot leads and try to capture him on film.

 

This is a realistic story set in the 1970's that deals with some pretty serious issues surrounding grief and loss. Lem is grieving the loss of her mother and Tobin is dealing with his father's disappearance after coming back from Vietnam. Tobin and Lem are cute together and their interactions bring humor to what is a pretty serious theme. The additional plot line with Tobin's father is a little overwhelming and his issues with PTSD may be hard for children to understand. The end of the book is a bit surprising considering how realistic the rest of the book is, but overall this is a touching story of friendship, loss, and dealing with grief.

 

Recommended to: Grades 4-6, fans of realistic fiction who can deal with a bit of sadness

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review 2018-06-17 22:06
Code Name Flood - audiobook
Code Name Flood - Laura Martin

This was a bad idea.

- First sentence

 

I loved the first book so much and the cliffhanger ending got me, so I jumped directly into this when I finished The Ark Plan. The change in narrator was a bit jarring because I was accustomed to the way the characters "spoke" in the first book, but the story is just as good, if not better. 

 

Sky, Shawn, and Todd continue their journey to solve the mysteries of the topside world and the Noah. Why is the military so set on catching them and will Sky be able to complete her dad's mission? Oh and don't forget all the deadly dinosaurs.

 

I thought one character was going to be traitorous, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. (In an adult book, I might have been right.) Any kid who liked The Ark Plan will be thrilled with this sequel. The audio is a delightful way to experience the thrills and adventure of this fantastic story.

 

Recommended to: Grades 4 and up - fans of sci-fi, adventure, dinosaurs, and kids saving the day.

 

 

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