Tag Archives: vampires

Review: Blood Oath, by Christopher Farnsworth

Blood Oath (The President's Vampire, #1)

What Blood Oath is about:

The ultimate secret. The ultimate agent. The President’s vampire.

Zach Barrows is an ambitious young White House staffer whose career takes an unexpected turn when he’s partnered with Nathaniel Cade, a secret agent sworn to protect the president. But Cade is no ordinary civil servant. Bound by a special blood oath, Cade has spent more than 140 years in service to the president, battling nightmares before they can break into the daylight world of the American dream.

Immediately Zach and Cade receive their first joint assignment: one that uncovers a shadowy government conspiracy and a plot to attack the Unites States with a gruesome new biological weapon. Zach soon learns that the world is far stranger, and far more dangerous, than he ever imagined . . . and that his partner is the least of his problems.

This is the first vampire novel I’ve read since I devoured Justin Cronin’s The Passage last year.

I enjoyed Blood Oath thoroughly (not that it’s anything like The Passage at all, though – the only similarities are that they both feature vampires and there are secret service types involved). Blood Oath is one of those great, action-packed page-turning reads, the kind of book that delivers pure entertainment. Even though it’s a vampire novel, it’s not like your typical paranormal vampire novel. It reads more like an action thriller that just happens to have, as its main protagonist, a vampire.

It turns out, you see, that all of the presidents of the United States have had in their service a vampire, one Nathaniel Cade; it’s Cade’s job to keep the bad guys of the “other world” away from this world and back in the other world where they belong.

Cade does a fine job of things, too. He’s got a new partner now, though: young and quite cocky Zach Barrows, who had ambitions to achieve lofty heights in the political world. Being stuck partnering with a vampire isn’t at all the kind of thing Barrows has been dreaming about. Even though he’s been told it’s the most important position among the President’s staff, it feels more like a punishment to him.

I thought Farnsworth did a good job in terms of world-building; the vampire/other world aspect is tied into the regular world seamlessly and reads quite credibly. I liked Nathaniel Cade, too: his own personal code of vampire ethics, and the hints at the potential consequences of adhering to such a rigid code. Zach Barrows is the perfect partner for Cade, too; his cockiness and quick mouth add to the occasional humor in the story.

The action is fast-paced and extremely readable, and while there is violence, it’s not gratuitous violence at all. I enjoy reading thrillers, but sometimes they’re just too violent for my taste. That doesn’t happen here. The violence is there for a reason, to show the reader what’s happening, and Farnsworth doesn’t take it farther than it has to go.

I’m looking forward to reading the sequel!

Another Saturday Random

A Clean Desk

So yesterday I came downstairs in the morning, and discovered that my husband, who’s been getting up at 5 in the mornings for the past month, had decided to surprise me and clean up the office.

And not just the office, but my desk, too!

I will just say here that after three and a half months of back-to-back deadlines, my desk was not a very pleasant sight. Many, many things have been lost in the mess that was my desk, some of which have disappeared for good, or so it seems.

But now my desk is clean! And I’m not surrounded by teetering piles of papers, books, boxes and magazines.

I can walk to my chair using a direct, straight path! I can sit down in my chair and breathe! I can see again that my desk is a natural pine color!

It’s a change I needed, because I’d been avoiding my desk for a while now. It’s been feeling too much like work.

And now it feels like my writing space. I will definitely be finishing up the first draft of ELEMENTAL in the next 30 days. I have it my time all planned out – writing at least an hour a day, I should be able to wrap up this first draft.

Clean deskMy Clean Desk

The book in the picture above, by the way, is Creative is a Verb, by Patti Digh – I have Molly at My Cozy Book Nook to thank for this, as I first read about it on her blog. And yes, it’s as lovely as it sounds. The book, I mean. And Molly’s blog, too!

I’m in such an appreciative mood right now.

(And I’m now intending cleaner bathrooms without having to lift a finger …)

Vampires

Did I say in my last post, I haven’t really taken to the whole vampire sub-genre in urban fantasy?

So wouldn’t you just know it – guess what the next two books I started reading are about?

Vampires. Of course.

It’s not that I don’t like vampire books. In fact, my top read of 2010 was Justin Cronin’s The Passage. And the year before that, I devoured The Strain, which I read one eerie fog-filled day on the shores of Nova Scotia while on summer holidays.

But for some reason, I’ve just not really felt called to a lot of the other vampire-driven books out there – and in the past year, there’ve been a lot of these.

I’ve been enjoying these two latest reads, though. Maybe because they have a different feel to them than other vampire books I’ve heard about.

One is a secret agent thriller, the other one combines magic and vampires and science and history and evolution (yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds).

They are also very different from each other. I’ll be reviewing both this coming week; I’ve already finished Blood Oath, by Christopher Farnsworth (the secret agent thriller one), and am deep in A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness (the magic/vampires/science/history/evolution one), and enjoying it very much.

What about you? Have you read any vampire-based urban fantasies you’ve really enjoyed recently?

Join My Husband on Facebook!

Well, not my husband, exactly – his dojo!

Last year, I created a Facebook page for his dojo, Renseikan Dojo. I’ve unofficially been the “keeper of the page” for the past while (which basically meant, I didn’t do much with it), but recently stepped fully into the role (you can just call me the dojo’s Social Media Director, okay?).

I decided this past week to be the official updater of the page because it occurred to me, even though the dojo is a local business, its Facebook page doesn’t have to be, nor should it.

I mean, it’s a fantastic dojo, a great place to train, but with the emphasis my husband puts on not only the martial arts, but also meditation and the spiritual aspects of practice, it’s a way to share what the dojo’s all about with more than just the actual, local, physical members of the dojo.

I only just started really updating the page this past week, so right now it’s been mainly about the events we have coming up, but I’m planning on regular updates that will feature quotes about Zen, meditation and spiritual practice (that’s the kind of dojo my husband runs, so it’s a good fit) and lots of inspiring videos.

So, if you enjoy the martial arts, or meditation, or Zen or spirituality, or uplifting and inspiring videos, please like Renseikan Dojo on Facebook!

Speaking of My Husband

I know a few of you follow Ward on his cooking blog, Sensei Cooks. And you’ve probably noticed he hasn’t been posting much lately.

We were talking about it a few weeks ago; he told me he just doesn’t like the writing part of it much. He does like writing out his recipes, though; it’s just the words that go before it that he has trouble with, so he procrastinates writing more posts.

So I hit on a great idea. He’s not too sure of it, so I’m working on him. But hopefully, soon you’ll be seeing more posts on there regularly – and you’ll see Sensei Cooks transform into a vlog!

I think he’d be a natural; he’s used to talking to an audience because that’s part of what he does when he’s teaching. All he has to do is talk about the recipe he’s posting, what changes he’s made to it (and he’s always fiddling around with changes), what he liked about it, what he didn’t like.

And maybe one day I’ll get him to actually let me film him doing the cooking, going through all the steps!

That’s my bit of randomness for this Saturday. What have you all been up to this past week?

Insatiable, by Meg Cabot

InsatiableI am a huge Meg Cabot fan, so it’s probably not surprising that I quite liked Insatiable, which I read last month (I’d put in my hold request quite early at my library).

Having said that, I can kind of understand why it’s had some mixed reviews (I haven’t actually read any full blog reviews yet, so I’m going by the Amazon ones, which are definitely a mixed bag).

Update: I just realized I forgot to include a summary of the novel! Here’s the description:

Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper.

But her bosses are making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them.

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die. (Not that you’re going to believe her. No one ever does.)

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side. It’s a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.

The problem is, Lucien’s already dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met whom she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own.

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future. . . .

If she even has one.

My thoughts:

Insatiable is written rather tongue-in-cheek, and I think if you keep this in mind, you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

And one of the tongue-in-cheek things that Cabot does is throw in everything-but-the-kitchen-sink. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean. There’s a point during the “final battle scene” where your eyes kind of widen, and you think to yourself, “OMG, she’s throwing in everything but the kitchen sink!”. You might even say to yourself, “Wait a minute! I think that is the kitchen sink!”.

Fun, nevertheless. At least, I thought so.

Cabot’s also trying to get a few points across, too. Like this one: it’s not such a good thing to be stalked by someone who says he loves you – not even if he’s this really hot dishy vampire prince.

Another is: He might say it’s true love, but when someone wants to swoop into your life and take total control of it, even if it’s in order to keep you “safe”, this is really not such a good thing. No, not even if he’s this really hot dishy vampire prince.

Best phrase in the book? “… he definitely didn’t sparkle”.

See what I mean about tongue-in-cheek?

The Passage, by Justin Cronin

The PassageI was hesitant about reading The Passage, by Justin Cronin; I loved the premise of the book (a secret government project to create super warriors ends up unleashing a deadly vampiric virus onto an unsuspecting world – I ask you, how could I resist?), but I was uncertain because of the dystopian nature of the book (those of you who know my reading likes and dislikes fairly well probably aren’t surprised; I have several books on my list I’m hesitant about simply because they’re dystopian).

But one day, I was feeling a little bored, and fooling around with my iPhone (which happens to be one of the best little tools for alleviating boredom that I know of), and I ended up downloading the two free preview chapters of the book from one of my favorite ebook sites.

I started reading, and I was hooked. Stephen King had this to say about The Passage:

“Every so often a novel-reader’s novel comes along: an enthralling, entertaining story wedded to simple, supple prose, both informed by tremendous imagination. Summer is the perfect time for such books, and this year readers can enjoy the gift of Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Read fifteen pages and you will find yourself captivated; read thirty and you will find yourself taken prisoner and reading late into the night. It has the vividness that only epic works of fantasy and imagination can achieve. What else can I say? This: read this book and the ordinary world disappears.”

And let me say, he is so right. I literally read those first fifteen pages and I was captivated. After thirty pages, and I could not put the book (or rather, my iPhone) down.

It’s a hefty tome, weighing in at 784 pages, but I read it all on my iPhone, and when I finished the last paragraph, I did so reluctantly, not wanting to leave the world Cronin had weaved.

In a Q&A at Amazon, Cronin was asked, “You are a PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author of literary fiction. Does The Passage represent a departure for you?” His reply:

I think it’d be a little silly of me not to acknowledge that The Passage is, in a number of ways, overtly different from my other books. But rather than calling it a ‘departure,’ I’d prefer to describe it as a progression or evolution. First of all, the themes that engage me as a person and a writer are all still present. Love, sacrifice, friendship, loyalty, courage. The bonds between people, parents and children especially. The pull of history, and the power of place, of landscape, to shape experience. And I don’t think the writing itself is different at all. How could it be? You write how you write.

And I think this is exactly why the The Passage gripped me so tightly. Yes, it was a fabulous thriller of a book, about a vampire virus running rampant, a world pushed into destruction, and the power of the human race to continue living despite it all. The plot was breathtaking in its breadth and excitement, exactly the kind of thing I like in a book.

But at The Passage’s core are those themes that Cronin talks about – love, sacrifice, friendship, loyalty, courage. And this is what makes the book such a beautiful read.

It says a lot that today, about two weeks after I finished the book, I still remember all the main characters. They remain so very vivid to me. If book two begins with these same characters, I know they will come back to me immediately, as full of life as when I read the final pages; and if book two begins with different characters, I have the utmost faith that I will be drawn into the new story immediately.

And the dystopian aspect? I loved it. The dark, bleak hopelessness that I associate with dystopian fiction isn’t what dominates the book; it’s a dystopian world that, despite everything, is filled with so much human hope and potential.

When I first finished reading this book, and began thinking about writing this post, all I could think of saying was, “Wow. Wow. Wow.” And “OMG, you’ve GOT to read this.” I still want to say these things, and so I’ll end my post this way.

The Passage is an incredible, absolute wow of a read. Read it, and you’ll be captivated. If you’re at all uncertain, do what I did – download the free preview chapters from your favorite ebook site, and take the plunge.

And a PS: despite the vampire virus/destruction of the world theme, there is minimal blood and gore. Cronin’s writing is wonderful, and he’s quite able to provoke an emotional response from the reader without the need to be extreme.

Review: The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The StrainA Boeing 777 packed full of passengers lands at JFK and begins its way across the tarmac when it suddenly stops dead – the engine’s turned off, all window shades are down, all the lights are off, and no-one on board is communicating with the outside world, not even passengers screaming about delays through their cell phones.

The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, begins with this eerie situation, and continues to pull you deep into the story at a full gallop. If you’ve been reading MsBookish.com for a while, you’ll know that I saved this book to take with me on holiday to Nova Scotia, where I then proceeded to read it one fog-filled morning, and didn’t put it down until I finished the book, late that same evening.

Perhaps not surprisingly, considering Del Toro’s film credentials, the book reads very much like an action-packed movie. Chapters are filled with shorter scenes that take the reader back and forth from place to place and character to character, all at a wonderfully thrilling speed that makes it difficult to put the book down until the very end.

Can you tell I enjoyed this book a lot? You’ve got a vampire virus thing going around, tons of suspense, the beginnings of some dark and evil mastermind plot and a motley crew of unlikely heroes – so yes, I loved it!

Be warned, though. The vampires in The Strain aren’t dark and handsome. They’re not about to play the romantic lead in any play, that’s for sure. Think more along the lines of brain-dead zombie-like creatures that just happen to want to suck your blood, and you’ll be on the right track.

Even though these ugly zombie-like vampires are involved, I wouldn’t call the book a horror novel. Nor did I find it extremely violent, either (although there are ample chopping and slashing scenes). I would put this book in the suspense thriller category, with just the right touch of spine-tingling suspense – the kind of suspense that makes you jump if someone comes up behind you while you’re reading it, especially when you’re reading it at a cottage by the Atlantic Ocean on a dark and foggy early summer night.

You don’t really want to read this one on a dark and stormy night when you’re home alone by yourself. But then again, maybe you might …

Where to buy The Strain:

U.S. (Amazon.com) | Indiebound | Canada (Chapters) | UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by William Morrow/HarperCollinsPublishers, 2009, Hardcover, 401 pages

Incoming! The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Incoming! is a feature at Ms. Bookish that chronicles new books that have arrived in the Ms. Bookish household. Here’s the latest new arrival:

The Strain, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The StrainAbout the Book:

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing . . .

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city—a city that includes his wife and son—before it is too late.

First line: "Once upon a time," said Abraham Setrakian’s grandmother, "there was a giant."

Received from: Part of the stash from my "No BEA, Books Anyway" book-binge weekend

My initial thoughts:

I know I’ve mentioned getting The Strain a few times already, but I’m chronicling all new book arrivals so I wanted to make sure this much-anticipated book (much anticipated on my part, I mean) gets its own Incoming! page.

I am very excited about this read, and I’m saving it to savor while I’m on vacation at the end of this month, when I will be on the beach along the foggy South Shore of Nova Scotia – perfect atmosphere for reading a book like this. There is just such an epic feel to this book, and the anticipation has been half the fun. I have high hopes that this will be a read that lives up to expectations.

(And I didn’t dare entertain the thought of getting this in audio; way too scary.)

Related Links and other Fun Stuff

Here’s the first of three video trailers for the book:

And here’s Del Toro talking about his inspiration for The Strain:

Where to buy The Strain: U.S. (Amazon.com) | IndieBound | Canada (Chapters) | UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Looking for reviews?

The Strain has been reviewed at the following:

The One Ring

Flames Rising

Sci-Fi Wire

Debbie’s World of Books

Fantasy Book Critic

King of the Nerds