Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Vampire Files

This week we're talking about what we like to read and why or doing a book review. I had some grand plans on what I was going to write and what book I was going to cover, and then I read Liz's post yesterday. I don't read a lot or romances anymore and I haven't read most of the authors she listed, but the sheer number of new talent and up-and coming writers she covered was humbling (I definitely need to start reading more than one book per week again).

Next, I read the insightful and witty comment left by Harrison and again, I now doubted the latest books I read and whether or not I should cover them. I read the NYT Bestsellers in my genre, urban fantasy, plus the ones that don't make the list. I've read some incredible work over the years and I still see a diversity of plot and characters. On the other hand, I can see a lot of what Harrison pointed out as well - book series that started off great and later became slightly monotonous or pandering to the market.

Since I find it nearly impossible to do a review on one book, after all, if I like the author I will buy everything they've ever written, I will focus on a series where the first book came out in March 1990 and I discovered the series in the mid-90's: The Vampire Files, by P.N. Elrod.

The book is set in early 20th century Chicago, prohibition times, and organized crime is on the rise. A young man, and former investigative journalist, is murdered and changed into a vampire - but he feeds from the cattle in the stockyards rather than hunt from humanity. Jack Fleming comes to life within the pages-- suave, debonair, chivalrous, and out to fight crime.

He pairs up with Escott, his older human counter-part, in a private detective agency.  At times, their exploits resemble reading a Mickey Spillane novel. Each book is pretty short, almost like a cozy in size, but the characters and the story line drew me in instantly. Ms. Elrod, and yes, for a while there I thought the author was a guy, transports the readers into her world and makes the entire time frame the story is set in an absolute joy to experience. Her writing is descriptive, the pacing is excellent and her characterization has you rooting for the young inexperienced vampire as he struggles with what he's become while trying to balance it with his all too present human morals and values.

The series is listed as fantasy, but we're also talking twenty years ago before a lot of the current genre classifications had popped up. I'd say today this book would fall under paranormal mystery, and the time frame may or may not qualify it as historical. There are eleven books total in the series, the last one having been released in 2005.

This series, plus Blood Ties, by Tanya Huff, mark the turning point in my reading tastes from when I crossed over from high fantasy and contemporary fantasy to more modern monsters that go bump in the night. I've read non-bestsellers and lots of writers that became bestsellers over the past fifteen years. One thing I can say with all certainty, is I won't be reading the cookie-cutter stuff most book clubs focus on anytime soon.

I read to escape. I read to dream. I read to be transported into the magical land the author has chosen to share with me. I want the out of the ordinary, the fantastical, the sci-fi and the paranormal --and if it has some action, blood, sex and a little suspense, then I'm in heaven.

Prior to the self-proclaimed "founder" of urban fantasy, Laurell K. Hamilton, there were some amazing stories - and even afterward, there still are. Whom do you read and why? Please share. I'm always looking for some good reads - and the romance is optional. ;-)

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  1. This is great! I am now building a nice big wish list of new books to ask for for birthday/xmas etc. I am impressed you manage to read one book a week - you must be a fast reader!

  2. I've heard of The Vampire Files, but never read them or even knew what they were about. They sound great. I might even get my anti-vamp husband to read it.

    I say, "Feel no shame for not reading romance." It takes all kinds of stories and events to inspire our writing. I have found that since I've started writing, my romance reading has decreased. Gone are the days of wanting gratuitous sex, a hot Highlander, and a touch of conflict. I need more meat and more variety. Luckily there are thousands of wonderful authors out there giving me what I want.

  3. Have you read the Smoke series by Tanya Huff? They came out I think around 2006 and had two of her Blood characters -- Tony and Henry Fitzroy. I read all 3 in the series and enjoyed them very much -- the writing is really good, with a little more humor than in the Blood books.

    Before writing my own novel I really hadn't read much outside the mystery genre, but now that I'm 'in the business' so to speak, I love having all these new options to occupy my time!

  4. I used to read three to four a week! It was my only vice. My husband would give me a budget to spend on books - I'm not kidding. The library never had what I wanted (the new authors and unheard of fiction categories) so I would buy $200 worth of books at a clip.

    Writing has slowed down my intact considerably and now I reward myself with reading X number of chapters when I write!

  5. I really enjoyed them and though they were written by a guy, she does the male POV very well. My husband was not a big fan when he picked up my copy on our last vacation. He didn't care for the language and style used to capture that time frame in history - but I really did.

    I'm with you - I've been getting into darker stuff steadily for years. I've got some writer friends who don't read romance and have read my MS , who swear my stuff has a horror element to it. I think they are referring to the subject matter and the bloody bits, but the humor I write in tends to take center stage in some scenes.

    I'm certainly having a blast at it!

  6. Yes, I did read the first two in that series! I liked the Blood Ties series more, but there is no doubting the woman has some serious talent! She's a great writer and I only hope with a enough hard work I can spin a tell as well as she does someday.

    Oh and I've got some great paranormal mystery books for you - have you read any of Victoria Laurie's stuff yet? You might want to try her Psychic Eye series. Her writing is funny and yet she still creates likable characters you enjoy following from book to book. More lighthearted than Huff's work, but still good.

  7. The Blood Ties Series by Tanya Huff was what Lifetime based the Blood Ties series on.
    They canceled it along with so many other good vampire shows.
    Now with the rise of the popularity of the vampire, another Canadian television channel is picking up the Smoke Series and going to make a show based on that. No news is Kyle Schmid is going to play Henry.

    But on about books. With the writing I can't read as much as I want to. I love to read- I would read lots more but just no longer have the time.

    But I have read vampire books since I picked up Bunnicula when I was in like 2nd grade and Sesame Street books and read The Count..lol

    Again- thanks for a great blog

  8. I LOVE Bunnicula!! I remember when ABC had the cartoon on -- good times.... And I only read the Blood books by Huff because I was going through serious Henry/Blood Ties tv show withdrawal, when Lifetime cancelled the tv series. I did see somewhere that Kyle might pick up his role again, but of course it's not certain. Fingers crossed, though!

    I will have to check out Victoria Laurie's stuff. I've read alot of historical mysteries, but none paranormal (though I did read Rita Mae Brown's series in which the animals talk -- it sounds crazy but it was really well done.). Thanks for the recommendation!

  9. So funny...a friend gave me a B&N gift card for my birthday recently, and I bought the whole blood series by Tanya Huff. Haven't started it yet, but it may move higher in my TBR stack after your glowing reviews!

  10. Thanks for stopping by, Bertena - always a pleasure to hear from you! I have heard lots about Bunnicula and I have never seen it - I'm going to have to check it out now!

  11. I think you'll love the heroine in the first series - she's phenominal!

  12. Thanks for the reviews, might have to check some of them out. I have recently read two of Brian Keene's works - in the horror section of Borders - but very paranormal with other-world beings and demons and such. Very interesting reading.
    I haven't read romances for a while, since my subscription to Harlequin ended, but I subscribed to their mystery/romances, so they had more of a mystery/murder/suspense storyline to them instead of the boy meets girl, falls in love, courting type romances. I certainly like something with a little more meat to the story - the sex scenes don't hurt as long as they don't overwhelm.

  13. I read pretty much all over the spectrum but restricted to the romance genre...Some of my fave authors are Lisa Jackson, Kay Hooper, Linda Howard, Leslie Parrish, Karen Robards, Annmarie McKenna, Carol Lynne, Claire Thompson, Cameron Dane, D.J. Manly, J.M. Snyder, Marie Harte, Shelly Laurenston, Moira Rogers, Jenny Penn, Bonnie Rose Leigh, Michelle Marquis, Madeleine Montague, T.A. Chase, Mackenzie McKade and so many more. I like a HEA...that's my absolute requirement in all my books.

  14. I could easily spend $200 or $300 hundred dollars a pop for books! But my husband (of three years) would have a hissy fit! He is of the opinion that reading is a waste of time unless it is up building literature (like from our church) or biographies or books that teach you something. Any other reading is trash. That includes all novels. . .(Can you imagine a person who doesn't read???) Funny thing is. . .he is not the least bit against movies that are made from those same novels. Interesting.
    I finally bought a Sony EReader so that I can download books onto it. Now, there aren't a lot of miscellaneous paperbacks laying around for him to make annoying comments about. I am happy and and he is happy.
    Wow! I got way off the point with that one. . .
    Has anyone read the Vampire series that was written by Linda Lael Miller? That was the first vampire series that I read that was sympathetic towards Vampires. It is still my favorite of all times.

  15. Thanks for commenting, Michelle! I haven't heard of Brian Keene. I'll have to check him out. Thanks for the recommendation, and yes, I'm with you on wanting more in the story. Funny how our tastes change as we grow.

  16. Hi Anna!

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us. I haven't heard of all the writers you mentioned, so I'll have to give them a gander in the book store. I can see what you mean by enjoying the HEA, but a lot of the urban fantasy doesn't have a bad or cliff hanger ending, it has resolved the current conflict and set the hero and heroine up for possible happiness, but it doesn't wrap it all up in a bow and make it pretty b/c it has to or anything like that either.

    I can't stand those tear-jerking book-club sob stories, but something more adventurous and exciting - with an ending that reflects it.

    Appreciate you commenting, hope we see you again!

  17. Hey Cheryl!

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I will refrain from bashing your husband, although it takes a hell of a lot out of me to do so (after all, books are a big part of my life!), BUT suffice it to say I am happy to hear the ereader has solved your issues - yay!!

    I've read some of Ms. Millers work in the past, but I'm not sure if I've read her vamp series. I don't mind sympathetic vampires, it takes all kinds of creatures to make a good book and I certainly wouldn't judge until I read it!


  18. Hey c.j.!
    Of all the vampire books I've read ( there have been tons) I always go back to Kim harrisons Rachel Morgan novels! They just have a great blend of mystery, action and sex!! From vampires to werewolves, witches to pixies, she creates such an amazing world of characters that the reader becomes seiously attached to throughout the series... I have read thousands of vampire novels but her work really stands out!!

  19. I love Tanya Huff too. All I read before her is sf, now I read Romance mostly Paronarmal Romances.


  20. Hi Amanda,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and joining in the conversation. I love the Hollow series as well! I remember picking my first Harrison book up thinking "Ooo.. cool. A kick-ass red head!"

    She really is an incredibly talented author, no doubt about it.

  21. The whole genre has so much to choose from now, doesn't it? I thought for sure my book would be slammed by the romance community b/c of the response I got from some judges in contests. But thankfully, I was wrong.

    The romance readers have welcomed the fun-loving and snarky, happily-married couple I created and I'm grateful.

    Now... if I can just get it published... ;-)