Twilight (#1) by Stephanie Meyer

Published: 5th October 2005 (print)/14th May 2010 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 501/14 hrs and 51 mins
Narrator: Ilyana Kadushin
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
★   ★  ★  – 3 Stars

About three things I was absolutely positive.

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him—and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

It took me fourteen years but I have finally read Twilight and honestly…it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I can now agree that the movie made this into a much creepier story than it first appears. The first half actually reads like a normal YA novel, there’s a normal sounding girl in a normal kind of situation who falls for the pale, strange boy at her school…who turns out to be a vampire. I have no idea what the movie did to it but they made it much weirder and creepier than the vibe I got from this book. I’m not saying it is perfect, but it was a decent story.

As a character Bella is a bit strange but isn’t that the point? A different girl whose mind can’t be read by the vampires around her. Admittedly she is blasé about a few things which is strange, especially when you think she should have some kind of reaction, but maybe she is just a strange person which is totally within her rights to be.

I have only read a few vampire stories and each one has taken on a completely different approach to the vampire mythology. I liked Meyer’s approach, it is a different take on the traditional expectations which at the time was new. It may not be the blood sucking legends people expect but that is her whole point. This is “real life” and not the centuries of myth that has accumulated.

Edward is certainly odd. He has a curiosity about him in regards to Bella, but he also has a few moments of patronising and dare I say grooming. Despite being seventeen in appearance, he is clearly older mentally and you can see this in his actions. It is extremely creepy and having seen the debate over the years I honestly am no more enlightened why Edward is continuing to be 17 when he can lie and say he is 18 and go and live his life somewhere and not in high school.

Up until this point is was a decent enough introduction into this world, clearly the start of a bigger story Meyer has planned. The final third takes a sudden shift into the strange. Once Bella needs to be hidden it suddenly shifts to no other option than to flee. If they had an agreement with the other vampires why wouldn’t that stand? And of course there are hundreds of other people to feed on, why are they obsessed with this one? Is it only because she was friendly with them and it is deemed unnatural? This might be where Meyer was trying to make Bella into something special but that didn’t come across to me. It was too out of the blue. I don’t think I believed her reasoning for leaving town even despite the danger. I’m glad Meyer addresses this because it seemed to be a huge leap.

The narrator of the audiobook was ok, not great. The voices and tones Kadushin used for the characters didn’t work for them. It made Bella and Edward more soft spoken and breathy than they should have been and even if this was a paranormal and romantic story it doesn’t need to sound constantly dramatic and airy.

I can see the bigger story forming and I’m looking forward to see the few things I have picked up over the years finally in context. They are strange out of context and I have no doubt they will be strange in context as well.

You can purchase Twilight via the following

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Changeless (#2) by Gail Carriger

Published: 1st April 2010Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Orbit
Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
Genre: Steampunk/Paranormal
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears; leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. So even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can. She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

  The delightful Alexia is back, now married and now in charge of an entire wolf pack. I was glad to see Carriger hasn’t lost any of her charm and wit in her writing as this story is just as fabulous as the first.

The relationship between Alexia and Connall moves past the frustrated acquaintances and into frustrated newlyweds which feels natural and fitting. I love how both Alexia and Connall can love each other but be infuriated by one another, more so Connall than Alexia, though now that she is living with the pack there are a few more things to frustrate her. This story also brings to light some more of Carriger’s werewolf mythology and we see more intricately how the pack operates. We are introduced to new names and faces but the familiar faces remain and the pack becomes an extension of the main characters.

I loved the mystery Carriger has presented because it’s a fascinating exploration of how this society operates and how much the supernatural citizens contribute and rely on the existing structures. The mystery is only one of many things revealed and unravelled in this book. We gain a better understanding of Alexia’s preternatural abilities and a better look at Lord Maccon’s own supernatural and family history. I liked the pace Carriger has taken for this story because it is a decent time frame and also one that is chaotic, dangerous and filled with the wit and humour, not to mention the incredible inventions and contraptions, I’ve come to love and expect from her. One thing she does well is have multiple plots running that raise their head at various times as the need occurs. It also plays into the natural feeling of the story and the realism, if one can call it that, of this world. It is believable and the pacing and events reflect that.

There is an excellent hook at the end which raises all the questions and sparks a lot of intrigue, Carriger knows how to get you leaping into the next book. Even though I fell deeply in love with this series from the start, the more I learn and is uncovered as I read the more I adore it. I am fascinated by Carriger’s creativity, but more so I love how complicated yet simple and well-functioning this society is. This alternate reality, steam punk world sounds marvellous and it is a joy to read about a new interpretation of the werewolves/vampire myth as well as a new history of our own time.

You can purchase Changless via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

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Soulless (#1) by Gail Carriger

Published: 1st October 2009(print)/26 September 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Orbit/Hachette Audio
Pages: 357/10 hrs and 48 mins
Narrator: Emily Gray
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Steampunk/Paranormal
★   ★   ★    ★  ★ – 5 Stars

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. 

First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire–and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

I have so much love for this book, this world, this series, and Alexia herself. The story introduces us to preternatural woman Alexia Tarabotti. She has no soul which is information she can’t really share with anyone and when she touches someone who is of a supernatural persuasion she cancels out their abilities. This comes in handy when you live in a society with vampires and werewolves. I love her. She is sarcastic, she is polite and proper to the point of hilarity, and being soulless she certainly brings a lot of fun and frustration to those around her.

Soulless is our first introduction to Alexia and it is a fantastic introduction. It is also a brilliant way to introduce us to this Victorian world where vampires and werewolves exist in everyday society and are just as respectable as the next person. Please, please, please I beg you do not let the fact that there are vampires and werewolves in this deter you. It is not your Twilight, Anne Rice, or Vampire Academy vampires, or really any other vampire you’d be thinking of I promise you. This book and series has been described as a cross between Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse and I wholeheartedly agree. It is a steampunk, Victorian era, alternate reality where everything is the same, Victoria is Queen but instead there are werewolves and vampires which have been assimilated into society. There are rules, societal etiquette to consider, and they are highly civilised and these supernatural creatures are accepted into society no problem and society has evolved around them to accommodate.

The tone of the blurb is a great indication of the tone of the book. One thing I adored was Carriger’s use of language. It’s not so fanciful that it is hard to understand but her use of language is elegant, with wonderful humour without making it seem silly. There are dirigibles and glassicals and all many wonderful Victorian era inventions, phrases, customs, but there is a fantastic steampunk/paranormal/mystery part as well. This is the ideal way to introduce the world and society protocols because things have gone slightly haywire and in trying to work out the mystery behind it, you get told the history and standards of the modern world these characters live in.

The pure joy of this is not even these supernatural creatures, it is Carriger’s storytelling ability and her way with words and dialogue. There is mystery and danger and Alexia’s prowess at weaving through the chaos in her upper class manner is wonderful. The issue of societal rules and manners are half the fun as even as these dangerous and dastardly things happen social niceties must be observed. The absolute best way to experience this I my opinion is as an audio. I adored how Gray annunciates and it is quite fantastic to hear all the fancy words and the accents and inflections she uses are divine. If audios aren’t your thing though, the book is fantastic on its own because the story is captivating and the language and the dialogue Carriger uses only enhances this great narrative which is as delightful and hilarious as high society is allowed to be.

You can purchase Soulless via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

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Every Time He Dies by Tara East

Published: 5th November 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Self-Published
Pages: 477
Format: ebook
Genre: Paranormal/Crime
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Daphne Lawrence is haunted. Two years ago, her fiancé died in a terrible accident, her mother passed away from cancer and she stopped speaking to her father. As an embalmer, Daff is used to the company of dead people, but she isn’t used to them talking back. In fact, Daff isn’t used to anything that could be considered woo-woo including, but not limited to: psychics, crystal, meditation, tarot cards, vision quests and coincidences. Too bad that’s everything she’s experiencing.

Daff is forced to confront her own long ignored grief when she discovers a haunted watch buried in the sand at Golden Beach. The problem is, her ghost has no memory of his former life or how he died.

As Daff seeks to discover the spectre’s identity, dangerous truths and hidden secrets are revealed. Soon, she finds herself in the middle of an on-going homicide investigation led by Detective Sergeant Jon Lawrence, her father. A story about grief, time and identity, Every Time He Dies will leave you wondering whether our dearly beloveds ever really depart.

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

East has created a captivating and engaging story that brings together humour, love, family, and a little bit of the unknown. Told from dual perspectives we get to see Daphne’s life and the perspective of her estranged father, Detective Lawrence, on the cusp of his retirement from the force with an ongoing battle against old adversaries. Daphne on the other hand, is still coming to terms with, and in a way running from, her own grief after her fiancé Tom dies.

The structure of the story is done incredibly well because East leads us into the story providing detailed yet simple backgrounds about characters and situations, but then also throws us into the unexpected and uses these new situations to slowly pull out further detail making a well-rounded and beautifully complicated story.

I loved how we are introduced to this new phenomenon of Daphne’s and her realisation she can see a ghost. That first encounter was wonderful and the ideal draw card to get you intrigued into the supernatural aspect of this story and with a realism and humour that stays through the whole narrative. East’s descriptions are vivid and I could picture every scene as if it were playing out in front of me. From the start I fell comfortably into this narrative and it felt believable, even with the supernatural elements East anchors it in reality and possibility with a touch of the unknown but ever possible.

The characters are complicated and have deep personal issues and worries but East balances it perfectly and while there are ongoing references and emotional moments, it never felt over the top or overly dramatic. The emotions of these characters comes and goes at natural intervals, often with realistic and believable prompts and it is a great example how the death of a loved one never really leaves you no matter how much time has passed.

The dialogue is natural which was a huge plus for me. There is emotion and frustration, cheek and humour but it felt like conversations people actually had. The voices were great too because they are distinct and each character became their own person. One thing that impressed me was that East captures the detective voice so well without being stereotypical and cleverly manages to shift it between policeman and father and still make it feel like the same person. I believed Lawrence to be an aging cop, on the brink of retirement, still wanting to do his job but also able to see how much things have changed in his time on the force.

I liked Daff as a character too. She was grieving but trying to push the pain down, and East shows us the hurt is still there but she also wants to move on with her life. Even Liam who didn’t remember his own name or who had no memory of his life was a character of depth. I fell in love with him almost immediately and he and Daphne make a great pair. His personality shone through and his interactions with Daphne were some of my favourite parts of the story.

I loved this story from start to finish; East grabs your attention straight away with one storyline but then manages to pull you in further and hooks you with two others. It is most definitely a story about love and family, but it’s also about ghosts and the mystical and a fascinating police procedural with bikies and murder which becomes wonderfully and complicatedly intertwined as these things often do.

You can purchase Every Time He Dies via the following

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The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Published: 1st December 2001 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 David R. Godine Publisher
Pages: 138
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classic/Paranormal Gothic
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

What real reader does not yearn, somewhere in the recesses of his or her heart, for a really literate, first-class thriller–one that chills the body, but warms the soul with plot, perception, and language at once astute and vivid? In other words, a ghost story written by Jane Austen?

Alas, we cannot give you Austen, but Susan Hill’s remarkable Woman In Black comes as close as our era can provide. Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story has as its hero Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north from London to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and most dreadfully–and for Kipps most tragically–The Woman In Black.

I read this expecting to be unnerved and unsettled but it didn’t quite reach that point. Overall it was enjoyable, but I found it a bit boring and slow at times. I understood the haunting, creepy nature but it didn’t grab me like it probably should. For the most part it was an ok story and I was curious about it, but that was as far as I got.

Reflecting the stories of centuries past this isn’t a horror story to frighten you, it’s meant to put you ill at ease with stories of ghosts and a mysterious woman lurking in graveyards. Small towns on moors with constant fog with secrets and unwilling to trust strangers.

You have to wait for the story to kick off and once that happens the plot unfolds properly and you get a few explanations and events that keep you intrigued. One thing I wasn’t expecting was how much the ending affected me. After reading about Kipps and his life, his experience with this old house and what he finds there I was anticipating the ending, but when it came to read about it I was quite moved. It’s that I remember most from this book, for that I give Hill credit for her writing. It burrows in when you think you aren’t paying attention and then turns your emotions on you in unexpected ways.

This is a relatively short book and it was better than the film, though both tell the story well. I think I missed that ending from the film which to me made this book all the better.

You can purchase The Woman in Black via the following

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