Friday Reads: Actresses, Zombies, Vampires, Seekers, and Diviners

I am a bit of a bibliophile. It’s a lot like saying rain is a bit wet, the sun is a bit warm, and the ocean is a bit salty. I’m also a fast reader; I finish books in single sittings more often than not. My favorite genre is Urban Fantasy but I’ll read things from almost any genre. It kinda distresses me how many romance novels I own (not quite a dozen) though since it is one of my least favorite genres.

In my quest to be more organized (and stop buying duplicates of books. It’s happened more than once), I have a giant excel sheet with all most of the books I own on one page, and books I’ve read but don’t own on another. Since it isn’t too much more work, I try and keep track of when I start and finish a book. Just in 2012, I’ve read 36 books already. In the past two weeks, I’ve read six, working on my seventh now.

Esther Diamond
I picked up this series on a whim a few months ago. The title of the second book in the series (the first being out of print until this last Tuesday) amused me: Doppelganster. I REALLY enjoyed that one and kept an eye out for the next two in the series, Unsympathetic Magic and Vamparazzi at my local Big Box Bookstore. I was finally able to find them a few weeks ago and set aside time last week to read them.

The one thing I really like about the Esther Diamond series is that Esther is a normal person, if actresses in New York count as normal. She is becoming clued into the supernatural at the same time the reader is, which feels very natural to learn about the supernatural world through her. Doppelganster deals with doppelgangers plaguing gangsters; Unsympathetic Magic deals with vodoun and zombies; and Vamparazzi deals with Vampires. I enjoyed the break from the stereotypes. Most zombies in fiction are the brain-eating type not the type that the word originated from. I enjoyed the series’ take on Vampires; no Lestat or Edward here.

The first book in the series, Disappearing Nightly, is in my bag to be read, having been delivered into my hot little hands this Tuesday. I’ll sit and knock that out sometime between crocheting projects this weekend I think.

Raine Benares
This was a series I picked up based on a recommendation and the sixth and final book, All Spell Breaks Loose, came out last week. Raine is an elvish seeker; her magical talent is finding things. In the first book of the series, Magic Lost, Trouble Found, Raine becomes attached to a soul-sucking rock (the Saghred) that a LOT of evil people want to get their hands on to kill a lot of people and rule the world. You know, that sort of thing. All Spell Breaks Loose is a satisfying ending to the Saghred saga, wrapping up a great many loose ends while leaving things plenty enough open enough that a revisit to the world is highly possible (and hopefully likely).

One of my favorite things about this series is the goblins. In most fiction, goblins are ugly and stupid. In Raine’s world they are beautiful, intelligent, and deadly. Intrigue and deception is the name of the game in the goblin court. Elves aren’t ageless and wise beyond everyone else; they are very human-feeling with some very good and very, very bad elves being featured in the series. My one complaint about this last book is that Raine’s cousin, the Pirate Phaelen, doesn’t make an appearance.

Alex Verus
This series I picked up last Friday and by Saturday, I had both books that are out, Fated and Cursed, read. I stumbled upon an author to author interview between Benedict Jacka (the author of this series) and Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden Files (which is one of my favorite series). I was so amused by the interview that I decided I must own these books *now*, leaving work for a few minutes (which is possible because we own our own business) to find them.

Alex is a diviner. He can see possible futures. That’s his magical talent. While it isn’t as powerful as say, throwing a fireball around, it allows him to gain a lot of knowledge, given time. It takes him something like five minutes to crack a password or pick a lock; as he says, when you know what doesn’t work, you also know what does. It also means that he’s a lot weaker in a fair fight and much weaker in an unbalanced fight. He can’t kick down a door and start shooting off his mouth (which is what Harry Dresden does a lot). He has to think, he has to to plan, he has to outsmart his enemies. Things don’t always go his way, but Alex perseveres in the end.

Ulrika the Vampire
The last book that I’ve read in the past two weeks is the third and (supposed final) book in the Ulrika the Vampire series, Bloodsworn. It is set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, something my husband enjoys teasing me about. I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much as the previous two, but I did still like parts of it. Ulrika starts out as this very honorable person at the start of the series; she won’t feed from innocents and refuses to feed from a possible enemy, a witch hunter, to make him her slave (because that’s what a vampire’s feeding does in this universe), because she hates the idea that he’d be hard on the outside and soft on the inside.

It was interesting to see Ulrika fall into darkness, to slowly but surely lose those human morals she clung to so dearly, justifying her actions to herself along the way. This book dealt a lot more with the political aspects of the universe, which given that I haven’t read any other books outside of the Ulrika series and I don’t play the miniature game, was completely lost on me. The battles were fast and furious, turning this way and that way (which seems appropriate from what I’ve heard my husband and our friends say about the miniature game) but I wasn’t reading it for the battles. I’m sure if I took a shot every time someone was “cut to the bone”, I’d be pretty wasted. Maybe even get alcohol poisoning. It was a really overused phrase.

It was an unsatisfying end to the trilogy and my least favorite. The end of the first book made me shout in horror. The end of the second made me cheer. This ending kinda makes me want to spit. If there are ever more Ulrika books written I’ll definitely pick them up because I like the character, but the last book does not endear me whatsoever to the Warhammer Fantasy Universe.