Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Few of My Favorite Paranormal Books & Authors (Updated Occasionally)

Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles)
I don't care what anyone says, I really like Anne's vampires. Especially Lestat. Even if he can't have sex, I like his clever, arrogant self anyway. I'm definitely a fan of Anne's rule-breaking writing, and I support her in having a temper tantrum whenever she needs one. What a bummer to read that she's finished writing about Lestat! I'll miss her intelligent bloodsuckers. It sounds like she might be exploring some of the unfinished business from the religious portion of her childhood. She has been on a recent publicity tour for her new, religious, book. Seems she had a epiphany, returned to the Catholic church, and now only focuses on writing about religious fictional characters. But she seems happy. I'll just wait around for her pendulum to swing back again.

Laurell K. Hamilton (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter books)
Laurell has created my favorite vampire character of all time: Jean-Claude. I don't know whether she set out to do this on purpose or not, but she has given Jean-Claude emotional and psychological depth in addition to his extraordinary physical attributes. I might find the overdose of shapeshifter plot lines to be tedious (I tend to skim over the Richard/Nathaniel/Micah/leopard/wolf/rat, etc. pages), and the sex every five minutes in the most recent books to be ridiculous, but I'll read anything she writes about Jean-Claude. (Somebody shoot Richard and put him out of his misery, please!) She contributed a new short story to a book called "Bite," which is a flash from the past, in which Anita has an encounter of the sexual kind with Jean-Claude during the months she was avoiding both he and Richard. I really like how she's given JC such emotional layers. Not to mention that just picturing his hind quarters swaying on the dance floor really does it for me. Laurell also writes the Merry Gentry series about the fae. Lots of mindless sex with multi-species (not my cup of tea) individuals. But, alas, no Jean-Claude. Her 3/06 release, "Micah," was ok. If he's going to be an ongoing character, it's nice to have more of his backstory and emotional baggage. But the best part of the book for me was the teaser at the end about her next regular book, "Danse Macabre." More Jean-Claude. Yum.

Charlaine Harris (Southern Vampire series/Sookie books)
Reading Charlaine's books just makes me smile. Sookie is a sympathetic, multi-dimensional, loveable character in a world that combines the "real" and the "unreal." I'll admit to rooting for her to be with Eric rather than with the very dry, dull Bill. Clever and sweet. Charlaine also has a wonderful short story ("Dancers in the Dark"), featuring different characters, in the anthology "Night's Edge," which also features Maggie Shayne and Barbara Hambly. I'm adding this after reading "Grave Site." I'm not sure what I think about this book. My experience (and that might be due to the nontraditional nature of the city I live in) is that "regular" people adore "special" people who can talk to the dead. These special individuals can charge large amounts of money for beyond-the-grave contact and they're in high demand. Nobody is afraid of them. Nobody shuns them. But, then again, Charlaine's new story takes place in the south where things are different. In the most recent book (2007), she finally cleared up the murky elements surrounding the nature of the relationship between the two main characters.

Lynsay Sands (Single White Vampire, Love Bites, Tall, Dark & Deadly, etc.)
I enjoy her voice. She manages to create paranormal love stories where the female characters are intelligent women with wide-ranging emotions.

P.N. Elrod (The Vampire Files)
I was surprised to really like these. The stories take place in gangster Chicago and the main character (Jack Fleming) stumbles into a different mystery in every book. Lots of long sections of dialog between the two main male characters, which might drive some readers nuts, but it's right up my alley. Jack is a less-than-dashing hero whose flaws make him endearing.

Mick Farren (The Time of Feasting, Dark Lost, More Than Mortal, Underland)
Clever books about a small vampire coven and their charming leader. Farren introduced some new, intriguing ideas into the old vampire lore. I wish he'd write another book in this series. Sigh.

Elaine Bergstrom (Shattered Glass, Blood Rites, Blood Alone, Daughter of the Night, Nocturne)
Bergstrom has created a very unique species of vampire. Each book expands the story of the lives of the family members through the centuries. Elaine says she's slowly completing the next book in the series. Yay!

Linda Lael Miller
Miller has a short series of vampire romance stories. Very sweet, emotionally evocative with happy endings.

Jim Butcher (Dresden Files)
While Butcher's books aren't specifically vampire (but there are vampires in them, and one in particular -- Thomas -- definitely has my attention), they are very good. I have to say that some of the books pull me more than others (see the inner action vs outer action discussion at the top of this post), but his writing is so clever and his hero so flawed, you just have to love him. In fact, some of the writing is so witty that I laugh out loud, no matter where I happen to be. Now, THAT'S a good story!

Kelley Armstrong (Bitten, Stolen, Broken, etc.)
These aren't vampire books, but I love her characters. Elena and Clayton are lovely together (OK. It's really Clayton I like) and I thoroughly enjoy the time she spends in each of their heads/psyches. Armstrong has novellas/prequels to "Bitten" on her website. If you liked "Bitten," you'll enjoy the novellas -- they provide insights into Clayton and Jeremy. Of the "witch" series, I like "Industrial Magic," which features a more mature and psychologically-interesting version of the heroine Paige. I like the male characters Lucas, Aaron (vampire) and Jeremy. Kelley has an interesting take on the vamps in her books. Her next Elena/Clayton book ("Broken") will be out next year. Excellent.

Robin McKinley (Sunshine)
This is a lovely book. A heroine slightly reminiscent of Charlaine Harris's Sookie. Unique and strange experiences and clever new vampire material.

Lori Handeland (Blue Moon, Hunter's Moon, Dark Moon, etc.)
The first thing I noticed about this book was the great cover. Hunky Native male, cool visual of moon w/wolf and a great type face for the title. Sometimes paranormal books have the silliest covers. Anyway, nice job on this one. As is often the case, I was hooked by the male character. I enjoyed Jessie, the heroine -- mostly because she wasn't another one of those young, glaring, stomping, hysterical 20-somethings who are always pissed about something. She has a range of emotions. But the guy: William Cadotte -- looks, body and brains all in one. The kind of alpha who doesn't need to do any chest beating. Yum. Nice mystery, engaging writing. Hunter's Moon picks up where Blue Moon left off, with Jessie and hunky/intellectual Will Cadotte joining forces with another werewolf hunter and her werewolf lover. Really enjoyable. Her third book has some characters that aren't as easy to love, so I didn't take to it as readily as the first two. But still good.
Lori also has a wonderful short story ("Red Moon Rising") in an anthology with Sherrilyn Kenyon, Amanda Ashley and L.A. Banks, called "Stroke of Midnight."

J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts (The "Death" books w/Eve Dallas and Roarke)
I love these books. While not officially paranormal, this series takes place 50 years in the future and has an ensemble cast that is entertaining, engaging and clever. After Jean-Claude, Roarke would be my next choice to be snowed in up in the Rocky Mountains with. Actually, I see a lot of similarities between Jean-Claude and Roarke as well as between Anita Blake and Eve Dallas. Both the males are gorgeous, intelligent, psychologically complex and extraordinary in some way. JC because he's a master vampire, and Roarke because he's a genius-level bad-boy. Both have long, black hair and fantastic blue (dark for JC, sky for Roarke) eyes. And Roarke is Irish (as opposed to Jean-Claude's sensual French), complete with Celtic references and charming language. Both women are kick-ass, psychologically-limited, obsessive/compulsive and had damaging childhoods. I highly recommend this series and I thoroughly enjoy Nora's POV switches. I have no problem at all keeping up.

Rachel Caine (The Weather Warden books: Ill Wind, Heat Stroke, Chill Factor, Windfall)
I enjoyed the first three books in the series. In them, Rachel has an outstanding writing style/voice. Intelligent, clever and sassy without being shallow-snarky. Not a vampire in sight, but thoroughly enjoyable. She combines romance and implied sex with the adventures of the main female character. Very unique subject: wardens who control the elements of the functioning of the Earth.

J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter)
OK. I admit it. I'm addicted. J.K. has invited the archetypal Magical Child back into the bleak, repressive "reality" of the early 21st century. No surprise, the books are much better than the movies. In order to do justice to the books the movies would have to be 6-hours long. I appreciate that the characters in the book behave like intelligent young people rather than the obnoxious children often found in other kid-focused books. Thank you, J.K.

Margaret Atwood (A Handmaid's Tale)
Talking about the repressives above reminded me of one of the scariest books I've ever read. Scary because it could happen. This is the story of what happens to women and the world when a certain group of religious zealots take over the American government. And we thought all the religious terrorists were "over there."

Susan Squires (The Companion, Sacrament, The Hunger, etc.), Historical Paranormals

I have to say it has been a while since a book swept me up like The Companion did. Despite the fact that I had many things I should have been doing, I sat down and read the entire book straight through. As I said in the other post, I'm not a fan of historicals. I have to thank author Robin Owens for thrusting this book into my hands when we were in the "goodie room" at RT. Had she not been there and done that, I'd likely have seen the word "Regency" somewhere and put the book back on the table. That would have been a great loss for me. This book reminds me ever so slightly of some of Anne Rice's work. Maybe just the descriptions of the Egyptian stuff. Her hero and heroine are excellent and her explanation for the roots of the paranormal elements is well done. This is an intriguing, intense story which, according to the author's website, will be a series. Yay! I just read the second book, The Hunger, and enjoyed it. Her writing/style is wonderful.

Theresa Medeiros (After Midnight, etc.), Historical Paranormal
I enjoyed the intelligent, unsubmissive heroine and the soft-hearted alpha. Nice unexpected twists and turns.

Bram Stoker (Dracula)
I was raised in a very superstitious, fundamentalist household, which made it harder for me to hide my inherent "weirdness" (or, as my family said, the fact that I was obviously possessed by Satan). Actually, I was a highly sensitive, aware, psychic kid with an amazing imagination and an awesome inner world. Invisible friends? HA! Just because they couldn't see them, doesn't mean they weren't there. Anyway, the best thing my mother ever did for me was to share her addiction to books with me. I'm sure she grinds her teeth over the fact that I didn't choose nurse stories or other "appropriate" topics for kid reading. I was drawn to the magical, and often, the dark. I have no memory of how "Dracula" came to be in my possession. The library, I imagine, since I spent hours and hours there whenever I could. I do remember carrying the huge book around with me, reading and rereading. My mother (my father managed to ignore my existence, so he had no opinion about my book choices) tried valiantly to get me to put away the "devil" books and to read something "normal." I'm sure my rebelious side was enhanced by her efforts to set me on the "right" path. Anyway, my fixation with "Dracula" took hold and remains to this day. Maybe my "real" world was so filled with dysfunction, pain, and monsters of the human variety, that I used Bram's character to project my fears on. Who knows? But the book is a highly-recommended read.

Tim Lucas (The Book of Renfield)
I picked up this book at the library because its subtitle is: A Gospel of Dracula. See the paragraph above if you don't understand why that would appeal to me. This book is written from the POVs of the psychiatrist in charge of Carfax Asylum, John Seward, and his patient, R.M. Renfield. You'll recall that Renfield was the bug-eating madman in thrall to Dracula. This book fills in some of the missing pieces of the story, and offers a different version of how Bram Stoker's book came to be. I'm glad I read it, and I wish it had contained more about Dracula and less about Renfield's ramblings. But if you're a Dracula mythology fan, this book will appeal.

Barbara Hambly (Renfield: Slave of Dracula). This is a slightly different take on Renfield's story. The author fleshes out the character, gives him depth, uncovers motivations I've not seen in other books about the Dracula characters. I thought this was very well written.

Susanna Clarke (Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell) Here's another book in the vein of The Historian -- a lush, literary tale involving magic, faeries and magicians. It is the tale of two practical magicians who restore British magic. It weaves their experiences in the historical backdrop of the early 19th century: the war between Britain and France. Featuring largely are real characters like Napoleon, Wellington, Nelson and an "unreal" character, the Raven King, a human who mastered magic from the land of faerie. The women in the story are incidental, which usually puts me off (I don't need yet another example of womens' invisibility throughout history) but the roles women play are interesting and necessary. As with The Historian, if you don't like rich, information-thick stories, you won't like this one. I really did like it and highly recommend it. Very clever writing and a sense of the time/place.

Elizabeth Kostova (The Historian)
This was a challenging book. Not only because it was over 600 pages (I love long books), but because it was multifaceted, intricately woven, simultaneously layered and utilized a less familiar writing style. If you are looking for Fast Food Fiction, this isn't the book for you. One of the complaints I read about this book (I guess from someone who likes FFF) was that it was filled with information dumps, descriptions and historical lectures. That's all true. But it fit perfectly with the style of the book and the voice of the writer. If you are a lover of history, of past and present Europe, and of Dracula, prepare for a feast. This book moves very, very slowly. Glacially slow. I suppose this was offered as a criticism by those who don't like the slow building of a story, but for me it was a delicious unfolding -- like licking the chocolate off a candy bar only to find there is a fudge reservoir in the center. As we were given more insights about the main characters, and the story began to explore mysterious territory, I found myself totally caught up. My only thought would be that I was disappointed by the lack of interpersonal elements in the ending. I'll leave it at that so as not to spoil the story for anyone else. Once again, this book requires the reader to slow down. To turn from the fast pace of life and our ever-shrinking attention spans, which feed on meaningless infotainment. And to dive into an altered reality. It might also motivate you to get out your copy of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and read it again.

Carrie Vaughn (Kitty and the Midnight Hour, etc.). Carrie lives in Boulder (where I live) and the book takes place in the Boulder/Denver area. How could I not like that? This is a lighthearted romp through werewolf adventures, featuring a likeable radio DJ heroine who is sure to grow through the remaining books in the series. I just read "Kitty Goes to Washington," and really liked it. (There are vampires in it.)

Marta Acosta (Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, etc.). I really enjoyed Marta's writing and her sassy-yet-intelligent heroine. Sometimes I laughed out loud (referring to her Fancy University as F.U.). She had an interesting take on vampirism. I look forward to more from this articulate character.

Diane Whiteside (Bond of Blood). This is the first in a trilogy called "Texas Vampires." It was advertised to be erotic. I guess it was, but it wasn't the sex, directly, that created a tantalizing vibe in this book. It was everything else. I won't give away any secrets, but the author brought in other metaphysical information and the story was told in present-then-past sections. Her vampires have an interesting world/history/hierarchy and the hero of this particular book was very much in touch with his inner female. (I really like the strong males who don' t have to do any chest beating or strutting in order to show confidence.) I look forward to the next book in this world.

Fred Saberhagen (Dracula series). I'm always flabbergasted when I find an entire series of vampire books I didn't know about. Fred writes a lot of sci fi and fantasy books, and maybe that's why I didn't know about his vamp books. Anyway, they're good. The one I found (and since checked my library for all the others) is a new paperback of a 1987 release by TOR. Vlad Tepes is the central vampire character in these books, and he's not a foul monster. He's a complex individual. These books remind me (or vice versa) of P.N. Elrod's books. Fred's writing is great. I won't be able to sleep at night thinking about how many other undiscovered vampire series might be out there. Get a life, Lynda. Grin.

James A. Moore (Blood Red). I regularly check the catalog at my local library (an exceptionally fine library system!) for the newest vampire books. I'd never read anything by this author before, and it was defined as "horror," which I don't usually grativate toward. I did like Stephen King's first 6-8 books, then lost interest in them for one reason or another. Although, if I was recommending books for an adolescent male, I'd definitely send him Stephen's way. And, since I've been reading so many books with romance in them (romance elements more than any form of traditional romance), where there is often a "happy ever after," or at least some kind of a happy ending, this book reminded me that the happy ending thing is not universal. I found this story (gruesome -- lotsa gory deaths) to be very well written, clever and -- even though it did remind me a lot of King's Salem's Lot, it still was very good. I read it in one day. I'll have to check out the rest of Moore's work.

Diana Gabaldon, "Outlander" series.
These aren't technically paranormal. They have a little time travel in them, but I'm including them anyway. OK. I'm the last person in the world to discover these books. Actually, I had heard of them. Repeatedly. But I thought they were historicals. I just don't enjoy regular historicals. So, prejudice firmly in brain, I disregarded them. Until I got the first book in the series as a gift. I actually read the back of the book and said, "huh?" (Yes, I said that out loud.) I resisted liking the book (for about 15 minutes), because I hate having my prejudices overturned. Don't you? But it's truly excellent. Her writing and storytelling are delicious. If you skim even one paragraph (or one line), you'll likely miss a very important piece of something. She just packs in the goodies. I do love Scotland (and England, places of my ancestry), but if the book had only been a love story in 18th century Scotland, I'd have read a couple of chapters, praised the exceptional writing, and closed the book. What made it great for me was the contemporary view of the first-person heroine (or as contemporary as someone was in 1945, but you know what I mean). It really isn't a paranormal historical, because the only unusual element in the book is the time-travel situation. But that TT situation -- and the heroine's more modern language, assumptions, beliefs and expectations -- cause the story to shine for me. Of course, I had to run out to my local second-hand book store and find all the rest of the books in the series. And they're so THICK! Be still my heart. I can curl up with these friends for a long time. I'm so happy. (I also like the "Lord John Grey" books, which make mention of the characters from the Outlander series.)

Graham Masterton, "Descendant"
I don't usually like the kind of vampire books where the vampires are monster-yucky. Gross looking, foul smelling take-offs on the original Nosferatu with the skinny bald vampire with the bad teeth and long fingernails. When I saw that movie, I couldn't get the image of the ugly fellow out of my head. Which is probably why I never watch/read those kinds of stories. Anyway, the vampires in "Descendent" are of the creepy variety. But the story has some interesting additions and tweaks of the familiar vampire mythology. The narrator is a college-type who wrote a thesis on vampires, based on his mother's stories. He gets called to Europe during WWII because vampires are running amok. Then vampires run amok again in London after the war. This book was another one I sat down and read til I was finished. I liked it. I don't know what else Masterton writes, but I'm going to have to check it out.

Marked, Betrayed
(House of Night series)
By P.C. & Kristin Cast

Vampire Academy
Richelle Mead

Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse
Stephenie Meyer

Bloodsucking Fiends, You Suck
Christopher Moore

The Society of S
Susan Hubbard

Blood Bound, Iron Kissed
Patricia Briggs

New Amsterdam
Elizabeth Bear

Heart of Stone, House of Cards
C.E. Murphy

Here's another vampire resource. A website filled with vampire books: http://www.vampire-books.com/

Welcome To My Universe

The name "Paranormality" came to me as I was driving behind a car with a bumper sticker that read: "Why Be Normal?" I chuckled and reaffirmed that normality had never been in the cards for me. In fact, I thought, para-normality was more like it. Taking into consideration my love of all things supernatural, occult, woo-woo, transpersonal, transcendent, preternatural and -- of course -- paranormal. So, another little slice of my psyche crawled onto the internet and found a home in this blog.

If you'd like to visit the other portion of my expanded consciousness that is floating online, please visit my website: www.LyndaHilburn.com