Bill the Vampire (The Tome of Bill #1) by Rick Gualtieri

There are reasons we fear the night. This guy is not one of them.

Bill Ryder is your average dweeb; he’s a computer programmer, gamer geek, and absolutely hopeless when it comes to the opposite sex. All he’s ever wanted in life was to hang out with his friends, collect his paycheck, and one day meet the woman of his dreams.

Bill’s life takes an unfortunate turn when he meets Sally. She was mysterious, aggressive, and beautiful – the poor sod never stood a chance. When she invites him to a party, he initially has his reservations but goes anyway. Too bad the party is a trap and when Bill awakens he’s now a member of the undead. And at the bottom of that particular food chain.

The head vampire has given him a 90 day ultimatum – either prove he belongs or be killed in a more permanent manner.

Poor Bill is in way over his head but he’s not about to go down without a fight. He’s got more than one trick up his sleeve; along with some unlikely allies and a severe attitude problem. The one bit thing Bill has going for him is a vampire like him hasn’t been seen for over 500 years. With all this going for him, Bill just might make the 90 day deadline, if he doesn’t get his teeth kicked in first.

Bill the Vampire is one of those books that was recommended to me several times but I never got around to reading. Upon reading it though, I see why I put it off for so long.

Allow me to be blunt, dear reader – Bill is a jerk.

Bill and his roommates embody everything of the stereotypical neck beard. And not in a good way. They believe themselves to be “witty” and “snarky” yet they are anything but. They are misogynistic, viewing the women around them as items to be ogled over and little more. And should any woman give them a dirty look or other verbal smack down, she is immediately labelled a “bitch”.

On the other side of the fence are the vampires. They are the diametric opposite to Bill and his friends. Led by the the self named Night Razor, they embody the age old enemy to freaks and geeks – the jock. Every one in the small group is beautiful; the women looking like they walked out of a print ad with the men looking they spend all their time at the gym.

Overall, Bill the Vampire is a decently written book. But that is about all it has going for it. Bill, as well as every other male character, were assholes (pardon my language). There were slight differences to separate the vampire from the humans, but they all felt alike. Much can be said for the few female characters as well, their actions and personalities were so alike it was only their names and physical descriptions that set them apart.

Personally, I think Gualtieri is either trying too hard with the character Bill, or not trying enough. The premise itself was truly promising, but the execution fell woefully short.

Should a person wish to read this first book of the series, I would advise them to tread carefully. The story itself is a virtual minefield of questionable language and other problems. And while it’s been compared to Revenge of the Nerds meets Return of the Living Dead, it’s not a good comparison. The movies are far more enjoyable.

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1) by Deanna Raybourne

London, 1887. After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

I discovered the Veronica Speedwell series quite by accident in my local book store. While perusing the new books, I came across A Perilous Undertaking and it sounded quite interesting. Unfortunately, I saw it was number two in a series and since I almost never start a series in the middle, I sought out the first book; which is being reviewed here.

A Curious Beginning introduces us to the character of Veronica Speedwell. Raised by two spinster aunts, she has traveled quite extensively – both as a child by moving from town to town, and as an adult in the pursuit of the passion of butterflies. She is an intelligent and head strong young woman, a trait that she uses many times to her advantage. She is also incredibly astute, noticing things about her and about the people around her that many would overlook. At times she reminded me of a beloved character – Sherlock Holmes; yet she also reminded me of another beloved character – Amelia Peabody.

In many ways, Veronica Speedwell is much like Amelia Peabody. Both women are brilliant in their respective fields and more often than not are looked down upon by their male counterparts simply because of their supposed weaker gender. Yet while there are times they must “play by the rules” of society, they are more than content to do things their own way.

One thing I thoroughly enjoyed – and hope Ms. Raybourn continues to play with in subsequent books – is the relationship between Veronica Speedwell and Stoker Templeton-Vane. There is a chemistry between the two characters that is difficult to deny and yet it seems they each treasure the other’s friendship too much to risk ruination with a more physical relationship. There are times they get on as well as cats and dogs, but in the end each is more than content to come to the aid of the other when needed.

Overall, I enjoyed the first book in the Veronica Speedwell series, A Curious Beginning. Readers who have previously enjoyed the Amelia Peabody series or any other series with a strong female character, should give this one a try.

The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles (Warlock Holmes #2) by G.S. Denning

Warlock Holmes is back again! Sort of.

Warlock Holmes last adventure left him just a little…dead. Not one to let a little decay stop him, Holmes is determined to solve the cases that come to his door. Together, he and Watson will face the Pinkertons (the real ones), flesh-eating horses, a parliament of imps, boredom, Surrey, a disappointing butler demon, a succubus, a wicked lord, an overly-Canadian lord, a tricycle-fight to the death and even Moriarty himself.

Oh, and a hell hound, one assumes.

Back when I reviewed the first Warlock Holmes novel, I recall saying how much I enjoyed it. How Denning’s take on two so well known and well loved characters was incredibly done. And how I would be eagerly looking forward for the second (and subsequent) books in the series.

With the second book, I am pleased to say that Denning continues in the vein of the original. Taking two characters and their stories and turning them on their ear. Yet Denning also strays from Doyle’s stories, not in a way that detracts but in a way that adds and makes the characters truly original.

I am reminded of one of my other favorite authors – Terry Pratchett – taking what we know (or what we think we know) and making us see it from a different angle.

Once again Denning has taken the well known world of Sherlock Holmes for a joy ride. Like the first novel, I laughed my way through the pages and even shed a few tears. And again like the first novel, I recommend this one to all my readers – especially my fellow Holmes and Watson fans.

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Milo is a very old soul. To date, he has been reincarnated over 9000 times; each time hopefully taking him one step closer to Perfection and Nirvana.

There is one small problem though…Milo doesn’t want to reach Perfection. He wants to spend his eternity with Suzie, aka Death. And it turns out she wants to spend it with him.

Milo now has to make a choice. You see, a soul can only be reincarnated 10,000 times before it must either move on to Perfection or fall in to the Void. But what good is Perfection if you cannot spend the time with the one you love?

Reincarnation Blues is one of those unique books that is hard to describe. Many have compared it to books by Kurt Vonnegut or Douglas Adams and after reading it I can see why. On the surface it seems a light hearted, almost formulaic tale – a young man searching for a way to be with his true love. Having to overcome various obstacles, so forth and so on.

Yet underneath there are darker threads interwoven through the story. Some of the lives Milo lives are fairly standard. While there are others that see him pushed to his limits, both mentally and physically. A few of them were actually hard for me to read because of this.

One thing I did find interesting was Milo’s transformation throughout the story. In the beginning he believes he knows the perfect way to reach Perfection (pun intended), yet with each life cycle he comes to realize that perhaps he doesn’t know everything. That every person must find their own path and there is no one correct way.

Overall, I liked Reincarnation Blues very much. Readers who enjoy Douglas Adams and other authors of their ilk will enjoy this one too.

 

Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez

Emperor Mollusk – Mad genius. Conqueror and Destroyer of worlds. Intergalactic menace. And Ex-warlord of Earth.

Not too bad for a guy without a spine…or any bones.

But what is a super villain to do when he’s already done everything?

With no new ambitions – no new planets to conquer – Emperor Mollusk finds himself in a bit of a quandry. Retirement isn’t as simple as he thought it would be. While he would certainly prefer to be left alone to explore the boundaries of science, even that becomes boring after a while. So when the assassins of a legendary death cult come calling, Mollusk is eager for the challenge. Someone has their eye on Earth and Mollusk isn’t about to let the planet go so easily, especially in to the clutches of someone less capable of ruling than him!

Dear reader, in reading a book have you ever that should said book be made in to a movie (or even audio book) that a particular actor would be perfect for a particular role?

I found myself having just those thoughts while reading Emperor Mollusk. The great Emperor himself reminded me so much of Iron Man’s Tony Stark that should this anything be done with this book, if Robert Downey, Jr. isn’t cast as Emperor Mollusk, it would be a great shame.

In the character of Emperor Mollusk, Martinez has captured the dry wit and genius of Tony Stark and put it in the body of a spineless blob from Neptune. In the story itself, he takes the numerous tropes that peppered 50’s B-movies and combines them in a fast and funny tale. If there is one drawback, it is that the prose sometimes gets a bit bogged down with techno-babble. This especially happens towards the end however I didn’t find it too detracting from the story overall.

Fans of 50’s B-movies, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and wonderfully bad sci-fi in general should absolutely read this book. I greatly enjoyed Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain both times I read it and can only hope that Martinez will take us back to visit these characters again.

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1) by Kevin Hearne

To the casual observer, Atticus O’Sullivan looks like nothing more than your average twenty something tattooed Irish lad. Add a few zeroes to the end of his age and one will come closer to the truth – Atticus is actually twenty one centuries old. For the past few years he’s lived happily enough; he owns his own occult bookstore in Arizona and in his spare time shape shifts to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. Atticus is the last of the druids and the owner of the magical blade Fragarach – the Answerer.

Unfortunately, there are those who want the sword for themselves – one particular Celtic god has been trying to get it from Atticus for untold years. Now he’s on the verge of achieving his goal and getting his hands on the blade he’s coveted for years. Atticus, however, is not willing to give up the sword without a fight and he’s going to need all the help he can get from his friends to hang on to it.

Hounded was one of those books I saw mentioned on another website (this time Tumblr) and it immediately caught my eye. So of course I borrowed it from my local library and added it to my current queue.

Hounded reminds me a great deal of the early Dresden Files books. Our sometimes questionable hero is quick witted and funny, taking things serious but not too seriously. He is immensely likable. It’s little wonder the ladies’ in the books pages are drawn to him.

Hearne definitely did his research when writing Hounded because Celtic myth and mythos abound within the pages as well as mention of other belief systems. The subject is handled well without being too preachy about which one is “best” – though Atticus obviously has his favorite.

There were a few instances where the action was a little over the top but its easily forgivable. Overall, I thought Hounded was wonderfully well written. Fast paced and funny, I recommend it to any one who enjoys Joss Whedon or Jim Butcher. I’ve already gotten the next book in the series and cannot wait to read it!

The Rook (The Checquy Files #1) by Daniel O’Malley

When Myfanwy Thomas wakes in a London park, she is surrounded by dead bodies and no memory of how they, or she, got there. There is a letter in her pocked, supposedly written by her former self and containing a set of instructions. Myfanwy’s only chance of survival is to trust the note and follow its directions.

Quickly, she learns she is a Rook – a high-level operative in a secret agency whose purpose is to protect England from supernatural threats. She also learns there is a mole inside the agency and they want her dead.

But who among the agency would want Myfanwy dead? The person with four bodies? A woman who can enter dreams? It seems nearly everyone has an agenda and Myfawny has to untangle the knot to save not only herself, but possibly England and the world as well.

The Rook was again one of those books recommended to me by Goodreads. I hadn’t really paid much attention to it since I only read the first paragraph of the review and wasn’t really drawn to it. However, as a good reviewer, I know I should read and review as much as I can. So I found the book at my local library and decided to give it a shot.

I am quite glad I did.

Another reviewer over on Goodreads said The Rook is something like The Bourne Identity meets Johnny English and I couldn’t agree more. Reading almost like something by Pratchett or Douglas Adams, O’Malley manages to combine humor and suspense in a way that keeps the reader entertained. The tense, edge of one’s seat moments are tempered (but in no way lessened) by the humorous ones. And while O’Malley himself is an American, he captures the dry wit of English humor quite well.

Readers who enjoy authors like Terry Pratchett might do well to give O’Malley’s The Rook a try. At times nail bitingly tense and at others laugh out loud funny, I found it to be an enjoyable page turner and well worth the read.

An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel

After over three hundred years trapped underground, thousand year old vampire Yulric Bile awakens only to find no one believes him to actually be a vampire. Though he was once known as The Cursed One and The Devil’s Apprentice, now he is considered too ugly to actually be taken seriously. To his horror and dismay, he soon discovers that vampires today are pretty, weak, and horror-of-horrors…good.

Yulric is determined to correct this turn of events and re-establish his blood drenched reign. Or failing that, murder the person responsible.

An Unattractive Vampire was another one of those books that was recommended to me by my local library. And I am so very glad it was.

An Unattractive Vampire follows Yulric Bile as he awakens in the twenty-first century. Over three hundred years have passed since his imprisonment and while he and others of his kind were once feared, now opinions are worryingly different. Vampires of olden days have been replaced with a modern version; and to Yulric the new version is far inferior.

Fast paced and quite funny, I found it to be reminiscent of some of Terry Pratchett’s work. From me, that is high praise indeed as Pratchett continues to be one of my favorite authors. The inclusion of amusing footnotes only cements the comparison.

The book doesn’t hesitate to poke fun at the various tropes that have populated vampire lore in recent years. It also doesn’t hesitate to poke fun at itself which keeps the book light hearted if a bit violent at times. Yulric doesn’t apologize for what he is, he embraces it with enthusiasm and often malicious glee.

As I said earlier, McDoniel’s first novel reminds me a great deal of Terry Pratchett. Incredibly amusing, I found it quite a good read. Fans of vampires in all their many forms and the absurdity behind it will likely enjoy it as well.