Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Cadogan Sentinel is Back

[Vampires in Chicago] You’d think headlines like that would have provoked the fine citizens of the Windy City to take up arms against us bloodsucking fiends. Instead, ten months later, we’re enjoying a celebrity status reserved for the Hollywood elite-- fending off the paparazzi, who are only slightly less dangerous than cross- and stake-wielding slayers. Don’t get me wrong. Joe Public isn’t exactly thrilled to be living side by side with the undead, but at least they haven’t stormed the castle… yet.

All that will change once they learn about the Raves, mass feeding parties where vampires round up humans like cattle and drink themselves silly. Most civilized vampires frown on this behavior-- but that doesn’t make a good copy for a first-time reporter looking to impress his high-society family.

So now my “master”-- centuries-old yet gorgeously well-preserved Ethan Sullivan-- wants me to reconnect with my own upper-class family and act as liaison between humans and vampires… and to keep the more unsavory aspects of our existence out of the media. But someone doesn’t want people and vamps to play nicey-nice-- someone with an ancient grudge.

Title: Friday Night Bites
Author: Chloe Neill
Series: Chicagoland Vampires, Book 2
Start & Finished: 2/9/10
Published: October 6, 2009
Publisher: New American Library
Pages: 357
Genre: Urban Fantasy

The Windy City has been host to many things over the years since the Great Chicago fire of 1871 (which wasn’t caused by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow by the way) but in Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampire series, vampires have recently come out of the coffin (so to speak, not literally!) and into the public eye. Friday Night Bites is the second story in this series featuring the newly initiated vamp named Merit who didn’t take too kindly to being turned in the first place though she is starting to enjoy a few of the benefits of being a vampire (she’s able to eat whatever she wants "with zero hip-related consequences")…

“Call me Ethan, please, Mr. Merit,” Ethan said. They shook, the guy who made me, and the vampire who made me something else. That seemed fundamentally wrong.

Where Some Girls Bite was mainly about Merit learning to deal with becoming a vampire, Friday Night Bites is about her personal relationships: family, friends, and even romantic ones. She starts to take on her role as Cadagon House’s Sentinel a bit more: “I blew out a breath, then adjusted my grip on the katana and released the thumb guard. Three months ago, I’d been a grad student standing before a classroom of undergraduates. And today . . . Today I stood Sentinel for a House of three hundred and twenty vampires. An old House. An honorable House.”

Ms. Neill has created a wonderful world full of all kinds of neat creatures (shifters, vamps, sorcerers, etc.) set in the great city of Chicago with characters that seem so real it’s hard to believe that they aren’t! For example, the unresolved sexual tension is thick enough to cut with a katana in this book. There’s a lot of Ethan Sullivan lovers in the fans of this series, and while I liked him a bit better in Friday Night Bites than the previous one, I have to say I prefer Morgan. Ethan’s character is very reminiscent of Charlaine Harris’ character Eric Northman. The arrogance, the position of leadership, etc. Not that that is a bad thing since Eric is one of my favorite fictional vampires of all time but for some reason “Darth Sullivan” doesn’t affect me the same way. Morgan has his faults too but he seems a bit more “human” even if I have a feeling he’ll never be Merit’s long haul guy.

At the end of this book, there are a few unanswered questions, some new characters, and quite a few plot threads that I can’t wait to see where they’re going. Will Mallory and Merit make up? What does the Mayor want with Merit? Will Morgan and Merit have a shot one day? What did Gabriel mean by “family”? Will we finally get to know what makes the shifters tick? Who sent that note? I’m really looking forward to finding out all of these questions in the third book Twice Bitten and hopefully many more books after that.

To make a long story slightly shorter, American vampires were divided into Houses. Chicago had three, and I’d been initiated into the second oldest of those—Cadogan. Much to everyone’s surprise given my background (think grad school and medieval romantic literature), I’d been named Sentinel. Although I was still learning the ropes, being Sentinel meant I was supposed to act as a kind of vampire guard. (Turns out that while I was a pretty geeky human, I was a pretty strong vampire.) Being Sentinel also meant training, and while American vampires had traded in the black velvet and lace for Armani and iPhones, they were pretty old school on a lot of issues—feudal on a lot of issues—including weapons. Put all that together, and it meant I was learning to wield the antique katana I’d been given to defend Cadogan and its vampires.

Chicagoland Vampires
1. Some Girls Bite (2009)
2. Friday Night Bites (2009)
3. Twice Bitten (2010)

First Paragraph: “Higher Merit. Bring up that kick. Mmm-hmm. Better.” I kicked again this time higher, trying to remember to point my toes, squeeze my core, and flutter my fingers in the “jazz hands” our instructor ceaselessly demanded.

Series Wikipedia
Author blog

Cadogan House "official" site
Author Guest Blog: Authorial
Author Guest Blog: Silk & Shadows
Author Guest Blog: SciFiGuy

Literary Escapism
The Eclectic Book Lover
Bitten By Books
Smexy Books
Wicked Lil Pixie

Source: Borrowed from local library

Picture Explanations
Cubs: “Although my new sunlight allergy kept me from enjoying sunny days at Wrigley Field, even vampirism wouldn’t diminish my love for the Cubs.”
Burger: Ethan has his first in this book!
Reporters: The vampires are still “new” in the eyes of the public and are extremely popular new fodder.
Chocolate Drawer: Merit’s guilty pleasure

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Vampires of Chicago

Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it was mine. I was doing fine until Chicago’s vampires announced their existence to the world- and then a rogue vampire attacked me. But he got only a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker… and this one decided the best way to save my life was to make me the walking undead.

Turns out my savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now I’ve traded my sweating over my dissertation to learning to fit in at a Kenwood mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan “Lord o’ the Manor” Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred-year-old vampire, he has centuries’ worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects my gratitude- and servitude. Right…

But my burgeoning powers (all of a sudden, I’m surprisingly handy with some serious weaponry), an inconvenient sunlight allergy, and Ethan’s attitude are the least of my concerns. Someone’s still out to get me. Is it the rogue vampire who bit me? A vamp from a rival House? An angry mob bearing torches?

My initiation into Chicago’s nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war… and there will be blood.

Title: Some Girls Bite
Author: Chloe Neill
Series: Chicagoland Vampires, Book 1
Start & Finished: 2/7/10- 2/8/10
Published: April 7, 2009
Publisher: New American Library
Pages: 341
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Chloe Neill has carefully built a world in which the city of Chicago has recently become aware of the vampires living amongst them in her first book of her Chicagoland Vampires series Some Girls Bite. "This is the first supernatural outing in modern history, and it happened in the post-Harry Potter era. In the post-Lord of the Rings era. Humans are a little more comfortable thinking about supernatural beings, supernatural happenings, than they were in the days when witches and vampires burned."

However none of that matters to the most recent unwilling and reluctant vampire from Cadagon House. Merit was turned to save her life and incidentally plopped down in the midst of vampires, shifters, sorcerers, and even nymphs (how else do you think they get the river green on Saint Patrick's Day?). She’s a normal TA at the University of Chicago when all of sudden things change, she changes: “They killed me. They healed me. They changed me. The tiny seed, that kernal of distrust of the ones who’d made me, rooted.”

Some reviewers have remarked that the found Merit whiny (which I totally disagree) Chloe Neill said, “[Merit] had a very specific plan for her life, and being a vampire wasn’t part of that plan. In the matter of a few days, the entire life she’s known–from grad school to sunlight–is taken away from her. While it’s fun to think “Oh, I’d love to be a vampire,” it’s still quite an adjustment to face. She’s slowly getting there–coming to terms with whom and what she is–but it’s definitely a transition, and I think that’s an honest reflection of how most of us would react.”

Some Girls Bite is full of great characters from Merit and Mallory (my only criticism for this book is that there are too many “M” names) to Ethan and Morgan, every person has a distinct “voice.” Merit is one of the best female “kickass” characters I’ve ever met through a series though. I also thought the author did an incredible job at making the reader feel welcome in both the supernatural and contemporary world of the Windy City (there are quite a few Buffy references in Some Girls Bite but it doesn‘t detract from the story, more like it‘s saying that this is essentially our world, maybe a few years in the future).

“What did you just do?”
Mallory and I followed Ethan back through the first floor of Cadogan House.
“I don’t know,” I whispered back. “Vampire Merit’s a lot braver than People Merit.”
“Yeah, well, you better figure out a way to reconcile the genetics, ‘cause Vampire Merit just landed you in some serious shit.”

Chicagoland Vampires
1. Some Girls Bite (2009)
2. Friday Night Bites (2009)
3. Twice Bitten (2010)

First Paragraph: At first, I wondered if it was karmic punishment. I’d sneered at the fancy vampires, and as some kind of cosmic retribution, I’d been made one. Vampire. Predator. Initiate into one of the oldest of the twelve vampire Houses in the United States.

Series Wikipedia
Author blog
Cadogan House "official" site

Blogging the Muse
Karen Mahoney
Love Vampires
Ellz Readz
Grasping for the Wind

Picture Explanations
Chicago, Illinois: The series takes place in Chicago and the vampires in the Houses there are the first ones who’ve come out of the coffin, so to speak.
Coconut Cake: Merit celebrates her 28th birthday in the book though since she’s been changed, she’ll always look 27.
Katana: "I stroked my thumb over the handle of the katana, prayed for calm. Two weeks into vampiredom and I was being asked to defend the House against a band of marauding unHoused vampires. Lucky me."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rest in Pieces

The movie series that taps into your deepest fears returns with a new and imaginative chapter that delivers the expected - in so many keep-you-guessing, unexpected ways! A strange premonition causes friends to abandon their day at the speedway, just before a crushing pileup hurtles cars into the bleachers with fiery consequences. They have cheated Death. But Death is only getting started. From the director of Snakes On A Plane comes the eerie, innovative tale of the friends' fierce fight to keep themselves and others alive.

Title: The Final Destination
Release: August 28, 2009
Genre: Horror
MPAA Rating: R
Writer: Eric Bress (screenplay) & Jeffrey Reddick (characters)
Director: David R. Ellis
Music By: Brian Tyler
Produced By: Craig Perry & Warren Zide
Distributed By: New Line Cinema
Run Time: 82 minutes
Official Site

Originally written to be an X-Files episode, the Final Destination franchise has come a long way since the first film with Devon Sawa and the Flight 180 plane crash that sparked the series. Using new 3D technology, The Final Destination still somewhat follows the rules set up in the previous movies which was such a hit because “it's not a typical horror movie. It's not zombie. It's not being chased after with a mask and a knife. It's death. It's something that's intangible. You can't figure it out. There's no rules, nothing.”

This film may be 3D which is why it didn’t do too bad in theaters but I thought it was unrealistically gory (almost B-movie at times) and more time seemed spent on making it 3D than on making a good, or at least decent horror sequel. The acting was also completely forgettable. Almost all these actors are actually TV actors who have small bit parts for one episode and that’s it (Bobby Campo who plays the guy who gets the visions actually just appeared on CSI: Miami). The only really redeemable actress is Shantel VanSanten and she’s a repeat character on One Tree Hill. It’s not really their fault that they don’t have too much experience but because the producers went with mostly unknowns it stopped the film from being over stylized which would have made me hate it instead of merely disliking it.

The Final Destination wasn’t a completely horrible film, it even had a few good parts but in my opinion I believe it’s the worst in the Final Destination franchise. I do like the Final Destination movies or at least I did, but I believe it has started being run into the ground (thankfully according to one of the producer’s this is supposedly the final Final Destination though he does mention the fact that he has an idea for a fifth one) and it’s more about grossing you out than scaring you. I appreciate that the writers tried to be a little different while sticking to the canon as much as possible, however it’s become so predictable that the only high note of the film was how it ended.


Bloody Disgusting- Producer Craig Perry
Movies Online- Actors Bobby Campo and Shantel VanSanten


Friday, February 5, 2010

Rehvenge is Sweet

Rehvenge is used to living in the shadows and dealing with the roughest nightwalkers around-- including the Black Dagger Brotherhood. His fearless reputation is why he’s approached to kill the race’s king, and his bad side is dying to rise to the occasion. As his secret identity as a sympathy is threatened, he turns to the only light in his ever darkening world-- a female vampire untouched by the corruption and the only thing standing between him and eternal destruction.

Title: Lover Avenged
Author: J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 7
Start & Finished: 2/2/10- 2/5/10
Published: April 28, 2009
Publisher: Signet
Pages: 642
Genre: Paranormal Romance

WARNING: There are slight spoilers below but they are only for previous novels in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. NOT Lover Avenged.

Drug lord, pimp, and owner of the club ZeroSum Rehvenge has been a constant minor character throughout J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series since his first appearance in Bella (his sister) and Zsadist’s book Lover Awakened. With the seventh book Lover Avenged, he’s finally getting his own story. Rehv has been a mysterious character all along with his seedy dealings but all along he’s been presented as neither good nor bad: “He was a cobra, this male; he truly was…mesmerizing because he was deadly and because he was beautiful. With that mohawk and his hard, smart face and his big body, he was sex and power and unpredictability all wrapped up in…well, a black pin-striped suit that clearly had been made for him.”

The Brothers in this series are all unique (and I have a few favorites) but this was the first time someone not a part of the Black Dagger Brotherhood was the main romance part of the story. Rehvenge is the story I’ve been waiting for since J.R. Ward first wrote him into the series. Like all the Brother’s he has a “handicap” (Wrath=blind, Rhage= cursed, Zsadist=physically, sexually, & mentally abused, Butch= lots of emotional baggage, Vishous= his hand is a lethal weapon, and Phury= (now recovering) addict in addition to other things) because he is part sympath which is “subspecies within the vampire race characterized by the ability and desire to manipulate emotion in others” and for this they are also known as sin-eaters. They are also sociopaths, which is why Rehvenge keeps his “evil side” under wraps by using dopamine.
“The numbness was a side effect of the drug he used to keep his bad side from coming out in mixed company, the prison in which he jailed his sociopathic impulses. All he needed to get back to basics was one missed dose, though. An hour later? The evil in him was alive and kicking and ready to play.”
Ehlena is a caregiver both professionally and personally (her dad is a schizophrenic, proving that these vampires can have human illnesses even without aging quite like we do) and some TLC (as the author said, “even pimps need love” even though that‘s not quite how I would explain him) is just what the doctor ordered for Rehvenge. Ehlena was a great mate for Rehvenge as she has a backbone and as Xhex says, is “no little nursey,” yet she’s still somewhat passive (or maybe Rehvenge just overwhelms her character) up until the end. I didn’t dislike her but at the same time, she isn’t in the running to be my favorite shellan of the series either.

In each book there are tons of little side plots from the main two character’s romance, which is what makes this series so unique but once a Brother has had his book written, he’s rarely a first person narrator. Since the first book Dark Lover, Wrath; the Blind King, really hasn't featured that prominently in the series. Especially since he no longer fought with the Brotherhood, well... until now apparently because "he didn't care what the law said. His race needed him to be more than a bureaucrat." I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was such an integral part of Lover Avenged.

The world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood has been changing, shifting, and evolving ever since the sixth book Lover Enshrined with Phury abolishing the antiquated practices of the Chosen and things continue to change throughout Lover Avenged. Almost all of the changes are big and will affect all of the future books in this series and I’m looking forward to finding out how.

Black Dagger Brotherhood
1. Dark Lover (2005)
2. Lover Eternal (2006)
3. Lover Awakened (2006)
4. Lover Revealed (2007)

5. Lover Unbound (2007)
6. Lover Enshrined (2008)
7. Lover Avenged (2009)
8. Lover Mine (2010)
-. The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide (2008)

First Paragraph: “The king must die.”
Four single-syllable words. One by one they were nothing special. Put together? They called up all kinds of bad shit: Murder. Betrayal. Treason.

Author & Series Wikipedia article
Black Dagger Brotherhood Livejournal community
Official Yahoo group

Book Page

Source: Personal copy

Picture Explanations
Ehlena met Rehvenge because she was a nurse at Havers’ (Marrissa from Lover Revealed’s brother) clinic.
Money: With Lash now in charge of the Lessening society, he’s turned to stealing/ selling drugs for money to live in the style he was accustomed to before.
Penicillin: Rehvenge has a really bad infection on his arm from using unsterlized needles for his dopamine and Ehlena is the only one who knows about it. She brings him these.
Jack Daniels: John Matthew goes through some tough things and changes a bit in Lover Avenged. He’s the main character is the next book Lover Mine though.

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