Title: A Discovery of Witches
Written by: Deborah Harkness
Series: Book 1 in the Al Souls Trilogy
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: February 8, 2011
Genre: Adult Paranormal
Source: Received as a Christmas Present
Buy the Book: A Discovery of Witches
Synopsis: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. (Via Amazon)
Brian’s Review: A Discovery of Witches is the kind of book that sweeps you away and keeps you under its spell for long hours at a time. I didn’t know what I was going to make of this book. At nearly 600 pages, it’s a whopper, and with there being a central romance between a witch and a vampire, I wasn’t sure what I would make of it. I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the Twilight books, but I love stories about witches. I received it as a Christmas present and I’ve been looking at it on my shelf for the last five months, intrigued to read a chapter or two and see if I like it.
A couple days before leaving for a family vacation in Maui, my brother’s fiancee asked if I had a copy of this book. I told her yes, and she asked if she could borrow it to read on the plane. I said she could, and as soon as I got home, I took the book off my shelf and set it on my nightstand, so I wouldn’t forget. Before I went to sleep that night I turned to the first page, just to see what all the fuss was about. Then I turned to page 2, then page 3. I read the first 50 pages that night, and read another 100 the following day. I was hooked. I didn’t want to give up my copy! So I did something I’ve never done before: give someone my own purchased copy of a book, then go to the library and borrow the same book, so that I can read it. Yes we both made A Discovery of Witches our vacation book, and we’re both happy we did.
What I loved most about A Discovery of Witches was the deft manner author Deborah Harkness draws you into the world. Some have said the book opens on a dull note, with so much fuss over a manuscript, but these early scenes fascinate with their magical tone and historical implications. The protagonist Diana Bishop is not a teen girl with nothing to do all day but pine over a boy at school—she is a supremely intelligent young woman who is trying to suppress her sordid history as a witch, and move on from the mysterious deaths of her parents by making a life for herself as an acclaimed Oxford scholar.
Of course the manuscript she peruses at the campus library turns out to be the Macguffin of the plot, when it’s discovered supernatural creatures all over the world have been looking far and wide for it for centuries. Yes, Diana meets, befriends, and ultimately falls in love with a vampire Matthew Clairmont, the central element of the story that isn’t exactly fresh material by any means, but it’s a relationship based more on the meeting of the minds, than pure animal lust or giddy passion. The small details slowly revealed about his centuries-long backstory offer tremendous pleasure, and when, in concern for her safety, he whisks her away to his family home, the novel really starts to get interesting.
I loved the tone and feel of this book, as much I enjoyed the story. This is one of those books you read when you can tell the author has done her homework. A professor of history, she fills the pages with historical details that enrich the central love story, and the impending doom of all the well-defined characters. Is it a perfect novel? It’s got some lulls in its 594 pages, especially, oddly enough, toward the end, when the tension should be ratcheting up, not dwindling. But overall I really enjoyed A Discovery of Witches and am glad I checked it out. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it two weeks ago, and I look forward to reading the follow-up.
Title: The Farm
Author: Emily McKay
Series: First in a Series
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publish Date: December 4, 2012
Genre: YA, Paranormal Dystopian
Buy the Book: The Farm
Shaunta’s Review: I picked up a copy of Emily McKay’s book, The Farm, as an ARC at RWA way back in July. I’ve been dying to share it with you guys, but wanted to wait for it to be released. Today’s the day! So, now I get to tell you that The Farm is a great book. I really enjoyed it.
It was refreshing to read vampires that were scary monsters, and not sparkly love interests. The Ticks, as they are called in this book, feed on the blood of teenagers who are rounded up and harvested. Harvested. I told you it was scary.
There are several things this book does just right, including the scary Tick vampires. They are as much of a psychological horror as they are a physical one for the reader.
One of the point-of-view characters is a girl named Mel who has autism. Emily gets that character just right. I appreciated that she was three-dimensional, authentic, and an individual instead of a collection of symptoms.
I loved the relationship between Mel and Lily, the twin sisters who were the two main characters. It’s warm and a little frustrating for them at times, and very organic.
The love story in this book hits just the right note, too. It added a level of excitement, without overtaking the adventure part of the story. I was rooting for Lily and Carter all the way through. I can’t wait to read the sequel, to learn how that plays out. Like I mentioned before, Carter is refreshingly human. It was nice that the two of them had a past history together, as well, so that this wasn’t a case of insta-love.
The Farm is a great book if you like your reads a little scary, a little sweet, and a whole lot action packed. It’s also well-written, with a fast pace and incredible attention to detail in the world building.
(Disclaimer: Emily and I share an agency and an editor at Berkley. My opinions on this book, though, are my own.)
Title: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: June 22, 2012
Buy the Movie: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
Synopsis: Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, discovers vampires are planning to take over the United States. He makes it his mission to eliminate them. (Via IMDB)
Shaunta: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was one of those movies where I left the movie thinking about how much fun I had during the movie. I was so entertained. The criticisms came out over time for me. But in general, I really enjoyed the movie. There were themes I loved, I loved the absurdity (which reminded me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my favorite TV show ever), and I really enjoyed the look of the movie.
Brian: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my favorite TV show ever, too, and to mention this movie in the same breath of Buffy is an abomination. I was really unmoved by Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I enjoyed some of the beginning material, of Lincoln as a young man first coming into contact with vampires, but the second half bored me. While I enjoyed Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted, I found a lot of the stylish action in this, his newest film, too over the top to fully engage in. I also didn’t really care for Benjamin Walker in the lead role. He looks like Lincoln, especially in the second half, but he came off as a bore, and the fact that he looks just like a young Liam Neeson didn’t help matters.
Shaunta: The absurdity of the movie is what made me think about Buffy. The over-the-topness. I didn’t get caught up in the Benjamin Walker-Liam Neeson look-a-like thing, mostly because it wouldn’t have occurred to me if you hadn’t pointed it out to me. I laughed a lot during the movie, in a good way, and I appreciated that. There was no point of the movie where I was bored.
Brian: I wasn’t necessarily bored at any point of the movie; I was just never really that invested in it. And a day later I’ve already forgotten most of the movie. When Lincoln kills his first few vampires, the visuals are neat, but when he’s running on top of the moving train, decapitating five vamps at a time, eventually I just got a little worn out. Also, did anyone else have a problem with how ferocious the vampires were in appearance but how clumsy and feeble they were during all of the actual attack scenes? I’d like to read the novel this is based on, the bestseller by Seth Grahame-Smith, because I’m sure there would be more character development. Even though Graham-Smith wrote the screenplay for the film, I bet he would recommend his book over the movie.
Shaunta: I’d like to read the book, too. The visuals of the movie, especially the burning bridge, were pretty awesome to me. I didn’t like how some of the characters were aged at the end of the movie. Those were some not-good laughs. What I appreciated the most though, was the re-imagining of the Civil War. I loved the southern soldiers as vampires, who feed on slaves, as a strange, fantastical explanation of slavery. That part of the movie struck me.
Brian: The re-imagining of the civil war I didn’t find particularly striking; given the title of the movie, this re-imagining was rather expected. Overall I just found the movie too one-note. I also found the look of the film to be too dark, even in many of the day scenes. Was there no daylight in the 1800’s?
Shaunta: I would watch it again, on HBO or something.
Brian: Let’s re-watch Season 2 of Buffy again and forget this movie ever happened.