Deadtown by Nancy Holzner

(Deadtown, #1)

If you were undead, you'd be home by now...

They call it Deadtown: the city's quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its borders-but Victory Vaughn, Boston's only professional demon slayer, isn't exactly human.

Two rules I live by: Never admit to being a shapeshifter on a first, second, or third date with a human. And never, ever bring along a zombie apprentice wannabe on a demon kill.

This book pushed almost all my UF-Fangirl buttons. It even has an artful (non-cheesy) cover.

Demons? Check. Shifters? Check. Zombies? Check. Vampires? Check. Weird social system? Check. New creature invented for series? Check, several times.

Vicky Vaughn is a demon slayer, but not the Buffy-The-Vampire type. There are different forms of demons and they mainly attack people in their sleep, where Vicky battles them on a dreamscape setting. The town has been quarantined as the 'Deadzone' since the plague that hit and turned many alive into zombies. Vicky's boyfriend, Kane, is a werewolf who fights for the rights of all the paranormal. She lives with a roommate vampire. You can't get more paranormal than this story character-wise, or this plot.

Vicky herself is a shapeshifter, but not the Sam kind from Sookieverse. She can only shift three times per month, although it's not restricted to the three day lunar cycle.

How the author conceived the world fascinated me - the paranormal are not trusted and are cursed by various laws. Werewolves have to be locked up in compounds with gates, guns and guards for the three day lunar cycle. Vampires are cold and lethal but out in the open, perhaps against their will. There is a designated goon squad invented to police the supernatural, and not all cops on that team are pleased about it.

Vicky rocks as the main character - I'm tired of female protagonists with a chip on their shoulder the size of a boulder, who snap at everyone who comes near them, thinking they have to prove something every time they blink. She's reasonable so her sarcasm works, and she's compassionate so she's not a melodramatic pushover. She's the only one of her kind in the town (yay) but she isn't so bad ass it's unrealistic and eye rolling. She knows her stuff but she's still learning.

Juliette as the roommate vamp is...odd. As expected with the age old vamp types, they don't have much feeling or personality. They intrigue, however, in the small spaces they're shown. The zombies are like their former selves, reanimated corpses killed by the virus, subtly rotting. If they were injured when dying, they keep the ugly blemishes and dismemberments. Their personality is the same as before, so they aren't the mindless brain-eating monsters of typical lore. There is the issue of their appetite, though - they consume large quantities, and any blood in the area can send them in a mindless, blood-thirsty frenzy.

This book is fun because of the humor that works naturally through Holzner's appealing writing style, not hokey, complex enough with it's supernatural world building, and pacing is kept swift as Vicky has to battle several obstacles that shove themselves in her way. There's a mini love triangle potential, but it doesn't take away from the story or the characters themselves.

The only thing I didn't like was Tina, the apprentice. She's supposed to be funny on an annoying teenager style, but she got on my nerves and I hated her. Besides her screwing up the dreamscape fight, she then actually stole a sword and plays it off like it's not a big deal. Couldn't stand her, but have a feeling she'll be a series regular.

Already bought the rest of the series - can't wait to lose myself into more of this intriguing supernatural world.

As a series starter, it's almost drool-worthy.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

(No Series)

In the bitter November wind, Mary Yellan crosses Bodmin Moor to Jamaica Inn. Her mother's dying wish was that she take refuge there, with her Aunt Patience. But when Mary arrives, the warning of the coachman echoes in her mind: Jamaica Inn has a desolate power, and behind it's crumbling walls Patience is a changed woman, cowering before her brooding, violent husband. When Mary discovers the inn's dark secrets, the truth is more terrifying than anything she could possibly imagine, and she is forced to collude in her uncle's murderous schemes. Against her will, she finds herself powerfully attracted to her uncle's brother, a man she dares not trust.

Now this author could write:

'And then I'll feel the thirst come on me and I'll soak. Soak for hours. It's power, and glory, and women, and the Kingdom of God, all rolled into one. I feel a king then, Mary. I feel I've got the strings of the world between my two fingers. It's heaven and hell. '

Daphne du Maurier has style. The woman has a way with words that is as enchanting as her story concepts themselves. She had a bravery in writing realistic characters who are flawed, shining gems. I was first wowed with the classic Rebecca, and then she wowed me again with The Birds and Other Stories.

Jamaica Inn was penned earlier in her career, so it shows she was just learning how to climb the creative ropes the right way. It's not her best work but it's definitely readable because, hello!, it's Daphne du Maurier.

Mary was unique in that she didn't mind so much with having to consort with lesser-liked types, those who are criminals or viewed poorly by the local village. She's headstrong and daring, but also unique in that she's not the classic goth heroine who is overcome with compassion, fainting spells, hysteria, and insanely overdone innocence. She may not always be the wisest with her actions, but she's spirited in motive and refreshing with her courage and outlook.

The story is goth blended in with disorganized crime. While Gothics of the day usually held back most mystery on the evil deeds going on until later for a big reveal, this one shows them pretty early, having the character deal with them the best she can for the sake of a vulnerable aunt. There is a twist at the end on a villain, of course, but nothing too tightly woven. The book is lackluster because of this. We go through her life at the inn, face the horrors and discover the crimes, but there's not enough tension there to make it overly exciting.

“No, Mary had no illusions about romance. Falling in love was a pretty name for it, that was all.”

The relationship was another weird thing. It made little sense to me that she was so attracted to the brother, but then again it shows that she circled around to live the same life as the aunt she so harshly judges. He's a classic anti-hero though, so that's cool enough by concept. I didn't understand all the chemistry between them but I think it falls down to a few things - one, that the men's family tree lured in women of her line, like her aunt who had fallen for the uncle when they were younger. Second, that they both had some bond with how they were similar - she liked the adventurous and mildly daring, didn't mind a little lawbreaking, was rather wild and free in a way that would draw him in. That's probably why the uncle liked her a little too.

The ending was hardly romantic, it was a little bit of an abrupt afterthought, but if he didn't come back at all it would have bugged me.

Overall, the book needed a little more story rather than some of the padding to keep it fresh. It's worth reading for more of du Maurier's fantastic writing ability, her unusual characters who stand out like sore thumbs in a sea of normalcy, and for a darker themed gothic novel that dared to take chances with unusual violence.

   Book Quotes:

“Dead men tell no tales, Mary.”

 “And, though there should be a world of difference between the smile of a man and the bared fangs of a wolf, with Joss Merlyn they were one and the same.”

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She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb

(No Series)

In this extraordinary coming-of-age odyssey, Wally Lamb invites us to hitch a wild ride on a journey of love, pain, and renewal with the most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years.

Meet Dolores Price. She's 13, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Stranded in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallomars, potato chips, and Pepsi her anxious mother supplies. When she finally orbits into young womanhood at 257 pounds, Dolores is no stronger and life is no kinder. But this time she's determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before she really goes under.

“I think... the secret is to just settle for the shape of your life takes...Instead of you know, always waiting and wishing for what might make you happy.”

Damn, but this is one of those hard books to rate, think about, and review. It's a cauldron of chaos, a literary train wreck written into the character's life. We're with Dolores from a young age, and we go through the agonies of aging and tragedy with her. So. Much. Tragedy!

It's a book I couldn't take in all at once - instead I had to ingest small doses, then come back to it later. Wally Lamb writes cleverly well - his wording sucked me in when I dared to continue Dolores' depressing story. There's symbolism, there's growth, there's walking backward, there's surprises, there's pain and beauty.

Dolores is hard to identify - in one way this book is so honest, touching upon things people don't mention enough. Obesity and Aids and rape and horrible husbands and death and...well, so much. This is in no way a simple novel about a woman overcoming obesity. Does she ever survive and find herself? Or does she just survive and find herself in a realistic way, the only way people ever really can?

In some ways Dolores was a turn off, and I don't mean her weaknesses, because I understood those. I mean her lashing out and willingness to hurt those close to her so easily. I know it was because of her age at some point, her anger and frustration and teenage hormones - later I know it was because of her rage and because that was the only way she knew how to fight back. But ultimately sometimes (only sometimes) I just couldn't like the character.

I sympathized with her - she went through awful, horrible stuff. I understood when she fell because so many have fallen there too. I didn't mind that - there was just something a little mean-spirited about her sometimes, but I guess that's another thing that makes her a more realistic and honest character too.

This book is heavy - I don't mean just length, although that's considerable, but because I went through so many long phases with Dolores, phases that were enough to cover a whole novel by each phase itself. I figured when I got to a point, then the rest of the novel would keep following it. But no, more cycles would start and begin, life was lived a long time in these pages, from a child with the world shattered to a woman nearing forty who has found a semblance, finally, of peace.

I struggled between a three and four star rating. The subject matter, the writing style, the heavy depth deserve four stars. I think I didn't enjoy the second half as much, I was growing impatient with it, how it was draining me, and maybe that sucked a rating away from my enjoyment.

I do have to say that She's Come Undone is different, it's daring, it's honest, it's heartbreaking (really), but it's also wonderful and deserves a read. Definitely not a book I'll forget, and it's not something I've read before.

For Dolores, and for so many of us, there's that ray of hope that is at the same time covered with reality's bleakness.

   Book Quotes:

“I think... the secret is to just settle for the shape of your life takes...Instead of you know, always waiting and wishing for what might make you happy.” 

 “It was a matter of perspective, I began to see.
The whole world was crazy; I'd flattered myself by assuming I was a semifinalist."

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