Three book reviews here, in no particular order. All of them incorporate romance and the supernatural and/or modern scientific monsters.
Immortal by Gillian Shields- This is a YA supernatural romance in the gothic tradition. Evie Johnson’s mother is dead, her grandmother is in a nursing home, and she’s been handed over to a boarding school because her father is off on a long overseas job. Once there, she runs into the mysterious and “dangerously attractive” Sebastian James and falls in love. But there are impediments to their romance of course: odd teachers and staff at Wyldecliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies; a mean girl and her group; and Sebastian himself. Not to mention Evie herself, who is one of those Too Stupid To Live heroines you run into more often than you’d wish.
The more into the story I read, the less I liked either Evie or Sebastian. Gillian Shields tries to redeem Sebastian by making him seem mysterious and sympathetic in the first three-quarters of the novel, before giving the reader and Evie the whammy of what his real story is. It’s got that George Lucas Darth Vader effect; you know, Lucas trying to redeem Anakin Skywalker by making him *reallyreallyreally* sorry he murdered thousands of people and by having his son forgive him?
Evie doesn’t listen to her friends, flounces off in pursuit of a boy that everyone warns her against-even he does! Does she pay attention? No. The book does have plenty of girls/women in it talking to each other about things other than boys-but the entire point is Sebastian’s story. Evie seems to be a third wheel in her own narrative. There is yet more obsessive love that Twilight readers will adore. This is not on the top of my list: it wasn’t on my 14 yo’s list of books to read, either, after I asked her to take a look at the book. No vampires, just witchy powers and a search for immortality. She wasn’t interested. Oh well.
And in the months since I got the book, it looks like it has a sequel called “Betrayal (Immortal)“!
Next in line is:
I loved Mansfield Park and Mummies: Monster Mayhem, Matrimony, Ancient Curses, True Love, and Other Dire Delights. For a few weeks there, this was my go-to book when I wanted a laugh, or a chuckle, and a loving mash-up treatment of the least-likely novel in Jane Austen’s repertoire, Mansfield Park.
Mansfield Park and its heroine Fanny Price have never been among my favorites, but Vera Nazarian’s treatment of the characters emphasizes their characteristics until you have to agree (or I did) that yes, Aunt Norris surely would have been a werewolf. Or that the brother-sister team of the Crawfords were vampires. And that Lady Bertram was hog-wild into Egyptology. It makes so much sense! And it’s done respectfully and with a complete dose of silliness.
If I did have to criticize MP&Mummies, I’d have to say that it was too faithful to the original material. Just about every scene that’s in the original book is also in this version. Unfortunately, good jokes can only hold up for so long-even Harvard Lampoon’s Bored of the Rings: A Parody of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is only 160 pages long. That’s not to say that the humor fell apart at all in MP&Mummies. Not at all! The ending is satisfying, and funny, and sad, all at the same time. I only wish that Fanny hadn’t ended up with the same insipid man she ended up with in the original. The Mummy was an intriguing character that I wish there’d been more of. Ah well. You can’t have everything-but you can have what I think has to be the funniest Appendix in a book I’ve seen. Or two appendixes. I recommend this one, especially if you love Jane Austen, or you love mannered novels full of howling gentlemen and vampire ladies and wandering mummy-zombies. Oh! And don’t forget the Brighton Duck!
Zombies. Can you ever get too much of zombies? I haven’t, not yet. Married with Zombies is marketed as a romantic comedy with braaaaains, with the tagline “The couple who slays together, stays together”.
I’m not big into romances unless it’s done with a huge dollop of humor, and in this fast to read book, Jesse Petersen hits the mark. Sarah, the narrator, is in marriage counseling with her husband Dave. They live in Seattle, have obnoxious neighbors and an apartment super that likes to look at her chest, and she has a sister-in-law who is the second-coming of Martha Stewart and who hates her guts, and vice versa.
The main relationship is between Sarah and Dave, of course. It’s well fleshed out (ouch). Along the way to survival they bring their former high school cheerleader neighbor with them. She’s a little stereotypical, but Petersen gives her some real humanity, within the breezy comedy of the zombie apocolypse. They run into a cult in a casino, and have other adventures until they meet up with Gina, Dave’s sister.
I fully enjoyed this book. I finished it in about three hours of steady reading. Sarah isn’t the most likable person around, but she’s got some depth. She wisecracks a bit like the standard Urban Fantasy hip chick, but she doesn’t have superpowers; she’s smarter than many of the people she and Dave run across, and she has her failings. She does tend to come across as a sociopath in training. Most of the secondary or tertiary characters in the book are women-only two are men. It passes the Bechdel test. There’s one Chinese American girl in it, and the others are all coded as white-so, on that front, it’s pretty much like a lot of romantic comedies. Hopefully in the next book, Flip this Zombie (Living with the Dead), the cast will be more diverse, other than the zombies. I do wish that Petersen had kept Gina around longer. She was a wasted character.