Monday, 30 March 2015

Review: 'Vampire Seeker' by Tim O'Rourke

Vampire Seeker (Samantha Carter #1)I am honoured to be part of the blog tour for the official release of Tim O'Rourke's Vampire Seeker. I have been very reluctant to read books about vampires after the massive hype around Twilight spawned a lot of bad books about vampires. Vampire Seeker was the book I chose to test the waters again.

Pub. Date: 16/01/2014
Publisher: Piatkus
Samantha Carter believes that a vampire is responsible for the brutal deaths of four women in Whitechapel, London, England. Each murder is identical to those committed a hundred years before by a very different serial killer. 
Desperate to prove the killer’s identity, Samantha follows him onto a late night tube train. But Samantha doesn’t reach the next station and finds herself on a very different journey, where she discovers vampires are very real and far more dangerous than she had ever imagined. To stay alive, Samantha needs to figure out why things have gone so terribly wrong for her – and more importantly, why she is out of time? 
‘Vampire Seeker’ is Book One in the Samantha Carter Series.
Displaying Poster Vampire Seeker.jpgI am terribly ambiguous about this book. On the one hand there were a lot of things about Vampire Seeker which I couldn't stand. At times O'Rourke's writing was incredibly flippant. Samantha finds herself in a completely different time which must, to a 21st century woman, appear like a whole different world. Gender expectations were completely different and yet this is never something that is addressed. Samantha adapts to her surroundings surprisingly well, which almost feels too convenient a plot development to be fun. The contrast between the modern world and the past and how Samantha had really adapted that would have made for a great read but unfortunately I didn't get quite as much of that as I would've liked. At times I felt like jokes didn't quite hit their mark, although the action sequences and erotic scenes largely worked. The dialogue at times hit that strange point between being strangely realistic and therefore almost inane.

Books that use time-travel always have me slightly on edge. On the one hand I always find them fascinating because I love seeing how different authors approach the idea of different dimensions and of how the characters actions affect the future. I have read some books in which I simply couldn't stand it and Vampire Seeker wasn't one of those. Within the novel, the time travel sort of made sense. Why it was possible is something I'm hoping will be addressed in the sequel, Vampire Watchmen, but O'Rourke managed to avoid the major plotholes that seem to follow in the wake of time-travel. I also enjoyed the way he worked with the idea of solving crime through the centuries and across the continents. It was different and interesting and Jack the Ripper always makes for interesting reading.

I think the time has come that I admit to myself that vampire-fiction is something that doesn't entirely work for me. As I mentioned above, I often feel as if it is a genre that has been so over-exposed and over-used that it needs a few decennia to reinvent itself and bring some truly original back to it. Bram Stoker's Dracula was something completely new and innovative in 1897 and unfortunately a lot of today's paranormal fiction seems a rehash of the books that came previously. Vampire Seeker strikes me as a book that will be a lot of fun to those who are avid fans of the paranormal genre. It is funny, O'Rourke has clearly thought about his vampires and other paranormal characters, and it makes for very entertaining reading. I am at the stage with this genre where I hope for more depth, but that depends on your expectations when you go into a book.

I give this book...

2 Universes!

Although it will be great fun for genre enthousiasts, it wasn't exactly the read for me. If you're looking for a fun vampire read then I recommend Vampire Seeker with my whole heart! If you're looking for a paranormal read that challenges you a bit more then I recommend you look further.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Weekly Overview

It's been a pretty good week for me, I think! I'm really happy I wrote some different posts this week, i.e. not memes or reviews. Besides this I only got one review up, which is a shame, but I've got quite some coming up next week. This post is linked up with The Sunday Post over at Caffeinated Book Reviewer (which is a great blog name btw)!

So, that was my week! How did it go for you? Happy with the posts you put up and what are you planning for next week?

Aragorn, Arthur, Charlemagne and Sigurd - How Tolkien Crafted a King

Tolkien's RingI have recently been reading David Day's Tolkien's Ring which discussed a number of different cultures and myths from which Tolkien drew inspiration for his characters, stories and settings. I thought it would be interesting to share some of my newly gained insights with you and add my own thoughts to it. Most of the credit for this post goes to David Day so if you find it interesting, definitely consider picking up his book! One of the key characters in The Lord of the Rings trilogy is Aragorn, son of Arathorn, who becomes King Elessar II in The Return of the King. From his introduction in the first book, it is clear that Aragorn is a royal figure, a man with power and a good heart. Even when the reader doesn't know much about him yet, he is a recognizable figure. The reason that readers can accept Aragorn as a leader so easily is because Tolkien consciously modeled him on both fiction and historical kings and heroes.

A key figure to whom Aragorn relates is King Arthur, one of the most famous kings of Britain, despite the fact that most of the Arthurian legends find their origin in France or Wales. Arthur is, as a child, fostered by a knight and therefore unawares of his royal birth. His pulling the sword out of the stone is what propels him into the courtly and martial world, where he then has to fulfill the role of king. Along the way he falls in love with a beautiful princess, Guinevere, and fights many wars. Similarly, Aragorn doesn't know about his heritage until the age of twenty, from which point on he spends much of his time considering and fearing his destiny. It is not until he is presented with Anduril, a sword forged from the shards of Narsil, his ancestor's weapon, that he truly accepts and takes on his role as king. These similarities in origin allow Aragorn to be immediately recognizable to the reader as an archetype. Here is a man who is noble and good by birth and upon whose shoulders rests a great responsibility. Another similarity between Arthur and Aragorn is that they have a wizard for a friend and counselor, Merlin and Gandalf respectively.

A different comparison can be made to the historical King Charlemagne, who himself was the source of many tales and legends shortly after his life time. Charlemagne started off as King of the Franks in 768, became King of the Lombards in 774 and then Emperor of the new Holy Roman Empire in 800. He can be credited with uniting Western Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire and his rule led to a period of cultural and intellectual renaissance. Although the link may not be directly obvious, much of Aragorn's work is aimed towards reuniting the lands of man in Middle-Earth. He rules not only over Gondor but over the Reunited Kingdom, combining the two lands of  Arnor and Gondor. Tolkien himself pointed out that this link to Charlemagne was explicitly made by him. I personally believe that Tolkien used this comparison to comment on the nature of kingship, namely that it should lead to unification and cultural development. Interesting also is that Charlemagne himself had a counselor, similar to Arthur and Aragorn. However, as the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire he could naturally not have a wizard at his side so he contented himself with a clergyman. Besides this, Charlemagne also possessed a sword, similar in repute to Excalibur or Anduril.

If you thought that surely these two characters were enough to give Tolkien plenty of material to work with you were sorely mistaken. Tolkien drew inspiration not just from English and European history, but also from Germanic and Scandinavian literature. Key among the figures here is that of Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer. Although I will readily admit that Aragorn never slays a dragon, there are certain similarities between the two characters that cannot be overlooked. Sigurd is fostered by a smith, after his father's death, until he is old and strong enough to take on the world. He then receives the shards of his father's sword and has it reforged into Gram, a very powerful sword. With Gram he slays Fafnir the dragon before taking possession of the Nibelungen treasure. Already there are key cross-overs such as the forging of a sword and a heroic heritage. However, a key part of the story of Sigurd is related to the Rhine gold, a treasure which contains a cursed ring. This ring caused Fafnir to become a dragon, caused Regin, Sigurd's foster father, to plot his death and, as part of the treasure, causes great calamity for Sigurd and his relatives. Day's book, Tolkien's Ring, largely stressed the role of the ring within the Nibelungen-narrative and I definitely think it's key. However, I see another theme that is extant in both Sigurd and Aragorn's stories and that is the theme of destiny. Sigurd was the son of Sigmund, who was the son of Volsung, both great warriors who did many heroic deeds. Sigurd's destiny is very much set, he is part of a bigger play and has to fulfill his role in that. Tolkien shows us a similar dread of destiny in Aragorn. Knowing where he came from, and especially knowing about the failure of his ancestors to destroy evil, Aragorn is hesitant to accept his role as king.

What I hope this post has shown is how Tolkien drew inspiration from a variety of sources, only to create a single character. There are many more comparisons that can be made between these four figures and even more could be involved. The main reason I am interested in this personally is that this intricacy of Tolkien's writing is very much the reason why it has resonated for generations with readers. Tolkien keenly recognized archetypes from mythology and history and adapted them into his own narrative framework. His characters strike the reader as familiar and recognizable because they are part of the culture upon which modern day Europe is built. It is because of this feeling of familiarity that The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion have remained popular for this long and it is what sets it apart from most Fantasy writing.

What do you think? Do these comparisons strike you as reasonable? Do you have other characters of whom Aragorn, or any LotR character, reminds you?

Friday, 27 March 2015

The King is Dead! Long Live the King! - Burying Richard III

Richard III has had the pleasure for centuries of being one of Britain's most defiled kings. A child-killer, a hunchback, a usurper, he has been called everything in the book and yet the audience can never quite seem to get enough of him. There are continuous stagings and adaptations of Shakespeare's Richard III and his burial yesterday garnered a lot of media attention. During the service on the 26th in Leicester cathedral, Rt. Rev. Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, said: 'People have come in the thousands from around the world to this place of honour, not to judge or condemn but to stand humble and reverent' (SourceBBC). Yet judge and condemn is exactly what the masses have done since the 15th century. What is it, then, that we find so interesting about this man? And does he deserve the attention?

Historically, Richard III was an important king. He was the last of the Plantagenet dynasty and the battle in which he was killed, the Battle at Bosworth Field, was the last true battle of the famous War of the Roses between the house of York and the house of Lancaster. Richard's rise to the position of king is what has thrown his character into dispute, during and after his life time. Upon his brother's death in 1483, Richard became the Lord Protector of the realm for his nephew, the 12-year-old Edward V. Within the same year, the previous king's marriage was declared invalid and Edward V and his younger brother were never heard of again. Richard was then crowned king. The disappearance of the Princes led to rumours that Richard had had them killed in the Tower of London, starting the trail of rumours that still hasn't quieted down. Although Richard made some beneficial changes in England, such as the creation of the Court of Requests and the Council of the North, and has been acknowledged as a good law-maker, it is his personal life and appearance which has caused the most stir ever since his death in 1485.

Although texts contemporary to Richard's life exist, they are largely subjective and distant therefore proving unreliable. Some sources declared him to be a good and righteous lord, yet most texts since than have deplored him as a truly horrible being. Although he has been remembered as a crippled hunchback, scans of his remains, found in 2014, show that despite having a deformity of the spine he could have easily hidden it. Why is it then, that Shakespeare portrayed this man as such a 'poisonous bunch-back'd toad' in his 1592 play The Tragedy of King Richard III? I always considered Richard III a character similar to Iago in Shakespeare's Othello. Neither are truly the hero and yet both steal the show. They commit horrid acts and are despised by most of the other characters, yet through their soliloquies and monologues they build up a connection to the audience which is almost spell-binding. Shakespeare makes the audience complicit in his characters' dealings and there is almost something of the anti-hero about both Richard III and Iago. Certainly in the 1995 film adaptation of the play, starring Ian McKellen as Richard, this aspect is increased and together with McKellen's attractive quickness and wit it becomes almost irresistible to slightly favour Richard. There is something strangely fascinating about a villain, especially one who seems as unashamed about his villainy as Richard, and I believe it is this that interested Shakespeare about him and continues to fascinate the world.
Richard III coffin and remains
SourceBBC - PA/University of Leicester

In the end, Richard's negative portrayal was largely due to the fact that it served his opponents. Through his rebellion and the killing of Richard Henry VII has effectively seized the throne. By satanizing Richard the Tudors could legitimise their actions and their popularity quiet most of the disagreement. To which extent his portrayal was the consequence of having powerful enemies, much like what happened to female Pharaoh Hatsheput, or was down to him truly being a horrid man and child-killer, will likely remain a puzzle for a long time. The facts are that the discovery of his skeleton and his recent burial have caused a major buzz and reignited the interest in this character. Over 20,000 people have visited his casket and many debates have been started over the morality of "celebrating" this man. These events are certain proof that history is never quite dead and that there remains something mysterious and fascinating about these characters.

I will end this post with some of my favourite lines from Richard III, which feel apt.
“And therefore, — since I cannot prove a lover,To entertain these fair well-spoken days, —I am determined to prove a villain,And hate the idle pleasures of these days.” (Act 1, Scene 1)

Follow Friday and 'Sharp Object' by Gillian Flynn

Alison Can Read Feature & FollowIt is the end of term here! I now have a month off in which I have to write all of my essays and the dreaded dissertation. I love my dissertation, it's my baby, but it is as annoying as I'm assuming my future children will be as well! Let's move on to the memes before I start pouring my heart out to you all.

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee. This week's question was suggested by The Paperback Princess:

Have you ever been to BEA? If not, what's stopping you? If you have, what was your best experience there?

Great question! But also one that makes me a little bit sad. I would love to actually go to BEA, were it not that America is a long and expensive way away from where I am. Last year, however, I "attended" Armchair BEA for the first time and that was absolutely amazing! Not only was it really interesting reading everyone's posts, I was also introduced to the complete and utter fun that is Twitter chats. It was a great time and I can't wait for Armchair BEA time to come around again!

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Billy over at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. This week's question was suggested by Elizabeth over at Silver's Review:

 Which books have you read in the past month that still have you thinking back to the storyline and the characters?

I just finished reading When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord, which I can't forget about. It was simply fascinating and I loved the prose as well. Same goes for The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton, which is such a baffling book that I will have to reread it soon, just to make sure I actually understood it properly. I love it when books stay with you like that and it always make me slightly sad when I read a book that just sinks into insignificance after the last page.

Sharp ObjectsThis week I am using a book which I bought two weeks ago and started reading this week. I love it so far. It is dark and twisted, as I was expecting, and it is quickly working its way up my favourites list! I am talking about Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. I figured I'd give this one a try before embarking on Gone Girl and I am desperate to get onto that one now!

WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.
NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.
HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.
Doesn't it sound fascinating? Book Beginnings and Friday 56 are hosted by Gilion over atRose City Reader and Freda over at Freda's Voice.

'My sweater was new, stinging red and ugly. It was May 12 but the temperature had dipped to the forties, and after four days shivering in my shirtsleeves, I grabbed cover at a tag sale rather than dig through my boxed-up winter clothes. Spring in Chicago.' p.1
I liked this beginning, although it wasn't exactly the most gripping of beginnings. You do get a sense of what kind of person Camille is though and it reminded me of the few days I spent in Chicago in spring, so that was fun as well!

'I wished then that I hadn't sucked down so much vodka. My thoughts were vaporizing, I couldn't hold on to what he was saying, couldn't ask the right questions.' p.56
Alcohol tends to do that to you! But it sounds to me like Camille has deserved a drink, or twenty, considering what she went through!

So, that's me for this week! I actually have time this morning to visit everyone and then it's off to go see Cinderella with my housemates! Have you been to BEA? And which book has stuck with you?

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Spotlight: 'A Dubious Race: the Phoenician Stones' by Gerald J. Kubicki & Kristopher Kubicki

A Dubious Race: The Phoenician Stones (A Colton Banyon Mystery Book 14)I've got another great novel for this week's Spotlight post. This time I'm sharing a sci-fi action novel with you: A Dubious Race: The Phoenician Stones by Gerald J. Kubicki & Kristopher Kubicki. This is the 14th book in the A Colton Banyon Mystery-series and this book was only released this week as well so it's a newbie!

Pub Date: 20/03/2015
Ever wonder who really discovered America? Did you know they are still here? This book explores the evidence and the startling conclusions.
Colton Banyon enters the Law offices of Dewey & Beatem and finds his business partner, Bart, has gone missing He becomes mired in paperwork to keep the organization functioning. His day goes downhill from there as an old client, Professor Lisa Lange, suddenly intrudes and asks for his immediate help. 
Professor Lange claims she has uncovered evidence which solves several ancient archeological mysteries and poses a few more. She has photos of ancient stones which tell an unbelievable story. She claims the Phoenicians discovered America and discloses evidence to prove it. Not only that, but she claims the Phoenicians never left and are still here. 
Professor Lange needs Banyon’s help because one of the stones has been stolen from a ranch in Nevada. She needs it back as proof of her theories.Banyon and his new team members race to the ranch to investigate, but soon find out there multiple suspects in the thief and an incredibly determined villain who will stop at nothing to own the ranch.
About the author:

I (Gerard) was born and raised on Eastern Long Island in the Westhampton area. My youth was full of adventures since we had miles of woods surrounding my home and we were near the ocean. I didn’t know until I reached college that most people didn’t have celebrities living nearby. The Hamptons are loaded with them. I considered myself an athlete and excelled in baseball. My goal was to play major league baseball, but a shoulder injury ended that dream.
I attended college at Suny Plattsburgh on an academic scholarship. My mother told people that I was an educated bum.

For more on Gerard and Kristopher, hop over to their bio! Find more about them and the book on the authors' website, Goodreads, Amazon and Facebook.

And now, especially for you: a short excerpt from the book!
“Oh, this is a valuable artifact alright,” she answered with a throaty laugh. Banyon now sat up in his chair and motioned for Mandy to take notes.“What can you tell me about the artifact?”“As you know, I am a professor of history at UNLV. One of my students brought me a picture and told me that the artifact in the picture had been recently stolen from his grandfather. The artifact is a stone tablet with writing on it. I have been attempting to verify the language and what was written on the stone. I’m hoping that you could meet me and go over my findings. I think you’ll want to help me.”“I’m not in Las Vegas at the moment,” Banyon said.“Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot to tell you that I’m here in Chicago at Northwestern University. I came here because a friend of mine is an expert on ancient languages. Are your offices near here?” She asked politely.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Intro Tuesdays and Teaser Tuesdays - 'Pride & Prejudice' by Jane Austen

This week I'm blessed enough to be reading one of my favourite books for university. I love it when these two major parts of my life come together in this way. This week I am teasing you with Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Pride and Prejudice, which opens with one of the most famous sentences in English Literature, is an ironic novel of manners. In it the garrulous and empty-headed Mrs Bennet has only one aim - that of finding a good match for each of her five daughters. In this she is mocked by her cynical and indolent husband.With its wit, its social precision and, above all, its irresistible heroine, Pride and Prejudice has proved one of the most enduringly popular novels in the English language.
As the synopsis above already says, this book has one of the most famous opening lines ever so I figured it would be perfect for today's memes! Tuesday Intros is hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea and Teaser Tuesdays is hosted over at A Daily Rhythm.

'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.' p.1
I thought I'd share a bit more than the opening line and provide a little bit more context because it is especially the context that is what makes line so perfectly ironic! A truth doesn't have to be acknowledged and nothing is agreed upon universally, and by adding the second sentence it becomes clear exactly what Jane Austen thinks!

'Elizabeth awoke the next morning to the same thoughts and meditations which had at length closed her eyes. She could not yet recover from the surprise of what had happened; it was impossible to think of anything else; and, totally indisposed for employment, she resolved, soon after breakfast, to indulge herself in air and exercise.' p.115 
This is why Elizabeth will always be my favourite because this is exactly what I do when I am stuck on something! Go outside, get some fresh air and take my mind off of things!

So, that is my read for this week! What are you guys teasing at the moment?