8. Midnight Crossroad – Charlaine Harris
There seemed to be a lot of possibility in Midnight, Texas. There are antiques, a diner, vampires, a psychic…a bunch of townspeople who are probably all hiding supernatural connections and secrets… It’s not entirely True Blood in Texas, but it’s also not totally set apart enough to not feel a like True Blood in Texas – complete with TV deal and vampire. I thought about watching the show, after all, the beginning seasons of True Blood were bloody, ridiculous fun, but I still haven’t. I also thought about reading more of this series, but I still haven’t. Midnight Crossroad just had a little too much scene setting and not enough story for me. I don’t want to know that you’re setting up a series, I want a whole. A solidly conclusive whole story, at least on some level that I felt Midnight Crossroad was lacking.
This is Merricat’s “Interrogating Pawnshop Workers in Texas” face. So intimidating.
44. Blood Farm – Sam Siciliano
The cover of this 1988 horror trade paperback is awesome. The title is perfect for an “Iowa Gothic” as it is labeled. That is where the awesome ends, unfortunately.
There are some strong images, the hippie driving the hearse is an amiable fellow, the damsel in distress is damsely and very 70s with the hitchhiking and such, and the highways covered in snow are aptly described. I also appreciated the very 1970s aesthetic of the apartment interior description… It falls apart in terms of the horror. It’s brutally obvious and gets rapey and well, the setting basically means nothing (kind of like the extremely cold Southern Gothic I read earlier this year, Who Made Stevie Crye? [sub-disclosure, I remembered the title as “What Makes Stevie Crye?” and that’s probably because a lot of the book made me want to cry(e)]) and that disappointed me a lot because I’m Iowan. There’s lots of Gothic to extract from the Iowa winter landscape and farms. I’ve seen some desolation, perhaps it is up to me to properly “Iowa Gothic.” To be fair, the one time I tried clove cigarettes and didn’t inhale seems like a more apt description of “Iowa Gothic” for me, which doesn’t bode well for the genre.
Danger Crumples and Horace engage in a tense scene from their Guinea Pig Gothic drama where they are friends and part of the same long lasting herd, but sometimes Danger is compelled by his dementia to be not friends and Horace wants the will re-written so he can inherit the unholy legacy of having as many little toys as Danger Crumples. It’s a real page turner. A flip book.
46. Stolen – Kelley Armstrong
Adding witches, vampires, demons, a mad scientist, and a sadistic billionaire to her urban fantasy (but this one’s mainly set in an isolated compound) series may have seemed like a good idea at the time for Kelley Armstrong. Second book in the series, throw in everything. And in fact, the Otherworld books are usually fun to read regardless of how many types of supernatural characters have been thrown in – besides, Charlaine Harris did the same thing and it happened on Buffy and Monster Squad and there are so many, many more. If one supernatural thing is real, they all must be! Here’s a kitchen sink for your trouble! It does get tiresome having to learn everyone’s powers over and over – oh you’re not all demon, you’re just half demon and a jerk- okay. On something else, you’d be super tortured and whining about not being able to find love or something…
In the context of Stolen, which came directly after Bitten – a novel dealing entirely with werewolves – it’s quite the expansion on what I thought was going to be a series dealing with the issues of one main species. And in the setting it has – some jerk billionaire uses his resources to capture and hunt different supernatural species, it makes it work. Armstrong’s female characters are very strong and very capable and I appreciate that. Even the imprisoned witches and Elena the werewolf are resourceful and making the effort to make do with their circumstances while finding a way out. It’s far more realistic than panicking and waiting for male characters to help them out…and sometimes it seems like stories have to be set in a fully supernatural universe for that to be truly understood.
Ozma, planning her escape from the couch full of pumpkins.
33. Darkest Heart – Nancy A. Collins
It’s recently come to my attention that I still know every single sound in the movie Interview with the Vampire by heart. It was on HBO the other night, presumably in anticipation of that Vampire Chronicles TV series I’ve heard minimal amounts of things about and so I watched it for the first time in ages with Finny, and Peregrine, when Finny got tired of me telling him when a noise I didn’t like was about to come on – like when Louis first dies and when that one prostitute is making that snapping noise at Lestat, and there’s more…there’s always more. I believe the main reason I know it by heart is that I used to listen to it when it was on Pay per View and I couldn’t see it (scrambled), but the sound was perfect. Apparently that’s not what other people were “watching” on scrambled Pay per View but that’s fine.
Anyway, vampires have been of interest to me for a long time, and my mom found Darkest Heart at a library sale and got it for me. It turns out it’s the last in the Sonja Blue series, and I read it first. It did make a little bit of a difference. I wasn’t entirely invested in the character as a vampire who also happened to be a “badass vampire hunter,” perhaps I’ve been tainted by Blade. But I did see a certain familiar conflict between vampiricism and humanity (“Oh, Louis, Louis, still WHINING, Louis!” – best part of the whole movie, unexpectedly) and the plot and action were fast paced (Sonja is not as mopey as Louis, even though I’ve always loved Louis, [named one of my own characters after him – a broody, angry poet werewolf] Sonja is like the Slayer to Louis’ Neutral Milk Hotel) and made it clear that there’s a toothsome quality to the series. I’ve since read more Sonja Blue books and enjoyed them, but I haven’t stumbled across the first one just yet.
“Yes, please, tell me more about all those noises I don’t even understand in this movie.” – Peregrine
31. They Thirst – Robert McCammon
Some of the territory this book covers is familiar- if only listening, and, say, heeding warnings were revered qualities. They’re not in this book and they don’t seem to be in real life either. If only.
Anyway, this is McCammon’s take on the ensemble vampire story, and he chose a large amount of space to work with, which works to his disadvantage. It’s lengthy and wordy and a little flat in a way that reminds me of They Live (They live, they thirst. They’re doing so much!) and it’s not going to show you anything new if you’ve already read any vampire books, or, say, The Stand and Salem’s Lot. It’s one of McCammon’s early novels, and having read the later-written Swan Song first, I can see attempts at what he will achieve with an ensemble cast and a slightly out of the way supervillain. I am inclined to give some points for effort, although certain characters that become important are completely out of left field when they suddenly appear (Ratty…) and others with potential are too flat to invest in because there are so many people to follow (Andy and Solange, in particular). The main aspect that interested me was the Hammer Horror throwback of the castle.
Mortemer and Belvedere in their own ensemble drama. Father and son, scampering over a quilt on a double bed, scampering in search of a good hiding spot… to take a nap.
49. Blood Legacy – Prudence Foster
Florida- scene of many neon-hued, blood-soaked evenings scored by synthesizers. I imagine if this novel had made it onto film they would have gone with off-brand classical played on a broken keytar – extra loud cues every time main character Angelique has a hysterical moment. Sometimes characters take things in stride or try to make sense of bizarre situations like a pale, apparently enticing (from the description, he has terrible hair) Count courting a bookstore owner with a fondness for overreaction, Angelique just goes all out with the hand waving and wailing and frankly, I was hoping she’d just give in to the dark side. I think she would have been a lot happier…but that meddling police lieutenant got in the way, as they do when you need someone with a solid moustache and a sport coat to keep the histrionic bookstore owner from realizing their destiny.
Side note, while trying to remember the lead character’s first name (my copy of this ridiculous narrative wasn’t handy), I found that two of the reviews on Amazon got the author’s name wrong – Who is this ‘Prudence Board’ that writes such amazing works? – while extolling the virtues of Blood Legacy. Suspicious.
Horace doing his best Halloween version of Manhunter. So dramatic and orangey. Do you see?
44. The Strain – Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
So, I like Guillermo Del Toro, quite a bit. Details like the Hellboy II elf prince guy’s blood looking exactly like McDonald’s barbecue sauce not withstanding- even though I was fond of that and consider it to be a clever observation regardless of whether or not it really is clever- I feel like I can usually trust his world building and storytelling for the most part. I really enjoyed Pan’s Labyrinth. Anyway, The Strain had some serious-level clunkiness and suffered a bit from the “this is a novel, but we’d prefer it to be a screenplay of some sort” syndrome.
I do not care for Ephraim. That is not helpful when reading the book. I also do not care for his family. Whatever, Kelly. My lack of concern was not helped by the television show, at all. In fact, it made me totally hate Zack. There is no award for not doing what you’ve been asked to do for your own safety, kid, and if there was, Carl is, was, and always will be the winner…emeritus. Get in the house, Carl! Where’s Carl? Carl is not in the house. Moving on yet again, I also feel bad for the actress who plays Kelly because she keeps playing characters who end up in relationships with supernatural creatures – or are trying to, like she was on Bitten. She’s got a really good “concerned” tone in her voice, but I hope she someday gets into a better supernatural relationship, one that doesn’t kill her like on Being Human or turn her into a bald vampire like on The Strain. I haven’t really moved on, have I? My favorite things about this first of the trilogy is that it spawned a really disgusting advertising campaign for the TV show, that the Abraham Sertrakian character is played quite nicely by David Bradley, and the A.V. Club comments section for the TV show recaps wherein the discussion of Corey Stoll’s wig in the episodes is delightful – I agree, the wig’s state of disarray really does convey the majority of the emotion Ephraim the annoying is feeling.
“The wig is not that bad!” – Belvedere
“Yes it is! You know it is.” – Pickles
13. The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group – Catherine Jinks
The previous novel in this series was excellent – except for the eating of guinea pigs…I’ve tried to make it clear to people that guinea pigs, based on their gestation period alone, are not the best choice for vampires – or the stupid hospital people on The Walking Dead (All the guinea pigs would have been dead already unless there were already some in the constantly air conditioned hospital and no one stressed them out during the initial stages of the zombie apocalypse…unlikely. Rabbits and rats already have wilderness experience, breed way faster, and rabbits are bigger! Ahhh! I will never get over these bad choices!) – partly because of how it altered the perception that vampires are so strong and full of stolen vigor. Jinks’ vampires are creaky and full of sloth, probably because they eat relatively inactive domesticated animals (see photographic evidence provided by Pammy and Twiglet below).
The werewolf sequel does not suffer from a lack of action, and thankfully some of the vampires do show up to slow it down a touch. It’s much more of a kidnapping story than a werewolf story. I’m not entirely sure that it was a good choice to speed the sequel up so much and throw it completely into action-territory as I ended up feeling like I didn’t really know the major characters. I was just following along to see what happened without any real stake in the outcome.
Pammy and Twiglet being relatively inactive. They were champion synchronized nappers and loungers. Eyes on the prize, ladies.
12. Soulmate – L.J. Smith
I did not know of the Night World series, or any other L.J. Smith series, actually, until I found a bunch of Night World books in the detritus of a closing book store’s YA section in 2014. I was looking for 1970s, 80s, and 90s YA as I usually am and the 1990s editions of the series have the most amazing covers. They’re paintings (of course, like I’d really be attracted to photography-based covers in YA…so 2000s…) of the main female characters (sometimes with special guests) surrounded by flowers and weird monster and demon faces and one face that really looks like wolf form attacking Lucy in the rain-Gary Oldman-Dracula from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and ravens and black cats and this one has a candlestick and they are bizarre and awesome pieces of book coverage. I know that this one was published in 1997, when I was a freshmen in high school and had moved on to reading Interview with the Vampire and Silence of the Lambs, but if I had known about this series when I was a teen I would have totally loved it. The female characters are well drawn and considering these are always romances, they’re feisty enough to not drive me nuts with their romantic angst (they’re certainly not swooners or “rape me and I’m yours” types) and I know I would have totally related to them –minus opportunity- when I was younger.
Soulmate concerns a romance throughout the ages, kind of like what Gary Oldman-Dracula is trying to imprint upon Winona Ryder-Mina in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and by the way, I dug that movie quite a bit when I saw it as a teenager (surprise surprise); you know, “I have crossed oceans of time to find you” and all that other shit vampires say to not look like pedophiles to high school girls who don’t recognize them for the creepers that they are. Anyway, Hannah aka vampire dude’s soulmate, current body edition, is seeing a psychiatrist and it brings up repressed memories of her other lives with said vampire, and how said vampire murdered everyone she knew when they first met (and her) and it’s an interesting path to reconciliation. I know that the soulmate concept has a bigger part to play in the Night World, but I don’t have the whole series and I haven’t read all the ones I do have yet, so I have no idea where it’s going. Hopefully not a sad, couple filled kegger. Maybe Thunderdome for couples. I do know that I shelved the re-published, multiple books to one volume, covers featuring bland black and white photographs of random, staring girls versions of these books when I worked at the public library and I was not even remotely intrigued to read them. That was a shitty re-design, people. A shitty re-design. Those lonely, staring girls do not say “I have charisma and well constructed female characters inside.” They say “You will be alone forever inside the black void.” I, like, already know that.
Thaddeus knows Pickles is not his soulmate, that would be Pammy, but they still enjoyed each other’s company without dramatic protestations and no prehistoric villages had to be slaughtered.
1. “Seventh Wave” – Devin Townsend
2. “Satellite” – TV on the Radio
3. “Freya” – The Sword
4. “Sweet Leaf” – Black Sabbath
5. “Schyssta Logner” – Witchcraft
6. “Night City” – The Sword
7. “All Black” – Hanni El Khatib
8. “Long Time Coming” – Droids Attack
9. “Mouths of Madness” – Orchid
10. “Moonchild” – Fields of the Nephilim
11. “Satan/Dance You Fukr” – Zydepunks
12. “Bruane Brenn”- Kvelertak
13. “High Road” – Mastodon