Archive | July, 2010

Shakespeare Undead by Lori Handeland

15 Jul

 

There have been rumours surrounding Shakespeare for decades.

Most feel that he could not possibly have written all the works he penned. Some even go so far as to saying he stole works and put his name to them. Others say that William Shakespeare was more than one man.

Even more mysterious are Shakespeare’s Sonnets. The one hundred and fifty four poems, each composed of fourteen lines a piece, all written to a mysterious Dark Lady; a woman with dark hair and a husband. Who was the mysterious Dark Lady? How did Shakespeare write all that he wrote.

No one really knows the truth; until now.

Posing as a member of human society in the 1500’s, Shakespeare is hiding a secret that would be devastating should it get out: he is actually a vampire. A member of the undead, he is also capable of raising zombie armies.

William Shakespeare is a vampire necromancer.

Though he has not raised armies of the dead for some time (though he did raise undead armies for Caesar and for Cleopatra), a barrage of zombie attacks are threatening the safety of London and his carefully kept secrets.

All of his secrets are in danger of escaping him when he meets Katherine Dymond. Posing as a boy, Katherine stalks the streets of London as a Chasseur, a slayer or hunter of zombies. After accidentally killing William Shakespeare in the dark streets of London, Katherine flees, hoping not to be haunted by what she has done. Though she has killed zombies, she has never taken another human’s life.

But William Shakespeare isn’t human. Using her scent to track Katherine down, William pledges to love and protect Katherine with the rest of his life; considering he’s already dead, it’ll be a hard promise to keep.

Working together, the two lovers must find out who is raising the army of zombies, find out what they plan to do and protect the Queen of England. All in a days work for your typical necromancer vampire playwright and his lover…

I was a little sceptical of this book at first. I’m a huge fan of the literary mashups by Quirk Books. However, any other mashup I’ve read (with a couple of exceptions) has been lacklustre by comparison and is usually riding on the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, published by Quirk Books in 2009.

Thankfully, that is not the case with Shakespeare Undead by Lori Handeland.

The novel is a sheer delight from start to finish. And it is far from being a mashup. Sure, it takes William Shakespeare and pairs his story with vampires and zombies, but the mashup stops there. Thankfully, Handeland tells her own tale with laugh out loud results.

What I loved about this book, aside from the madcap storyline, was the characters. You really feel for Katherine and for William Shakespeare. He’s suffering from writers block and his words are freed by Katherine’s love for him. The comedy is sheer hilarity and the romance just sizzles off of the page.

Handeland has also done her homework. The novel reads like a farce of one of Shakespeare’s own plays. Women dressing as men, witches, vampires, ghosts, doomed love, a crazy nursemaid and more. Handeland has borrowed freely from Shakespeare’s work and made his story elements her own.

This novel is for anyone who hated reading Shakespeare in high school, or for anyone who hasn’t even read Shakespeare. Far from being a literary mashup, Shakespeare Undead is something altogether more.

An absolute madcap delight, this is one novel you won’t want to miss.

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The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

5 Jul

 

Bree Tanner is living on borrowed time.

 

As a fledgling vampire, she knows that her old life is lost to her. Unfortunately, her new life isn’t what she thought it would be. She was promised eternal life, for a price. Now she feels that she’s paid that price many times over.

 

Keeping to herself is the only way to survive. Newborn vampires are an unstable lot; there are constant battles for supremacy and domination. The only way to keep on living is to stay hidden, stay unnoticed and to stay quiet.

 

That all changes when Bree meets Diego.

 

Diego is a newly turned vampire, just like her. And like Bree, he knows that there has to be more to their new life than constant fighting and bickering and bloodshed. He also knows a few things that Bree doesn’t.

 

For instance: why were they created? And who is their creator, this mysterious woman they only know as her? Diego confirms Bree’s fears: that they have been created for a dark purpose.

 

Bree and Diego plan to leave their conclave together, but it is too late. They are pushed into battle, a battle that they can’t win, and neither of them will survive…

 

For those of you familiar with the incredible Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer, you might remember Bree Tanner. She made an altogether brief appearance in Eclipse, the third novel in the series. Introduced and killed off in about a page and a half, Bree had a very short life.

 

But, as Stephenie Meyer explains in her wonderful introduction to this book, the voice of Bree wouldn’t let go. So, while editing Eclipse, she began to write what she thought of as a short story about Bree Tanner and what her life would have been like as a newborn vampire.

 

The result is The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner and it’s a stellar piece of writing. It’s refreshing to see the Twilight Saga from another point of view. It was a very satisfying experience to live the Twilight Saga through someone else’s eyes and I hope this means that Meyer will work on Midnight Sun and release that sooner rather than later.

 

There are a few things that make The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner unique from the other novels in The Twilight Saga. First and foremost, the novella gives us a different view from a world we already knew.

 

As well, it touches on a theme in The Twilight Saga that was never fully explored; that of being a newborn vampire. Though one of the characters does in fact become a newborn vampire (I won’t tell you which one in case there is one person left on the planet who hasn’t read Breaking Dawn) but they are unlike most newborns.

 

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is a little darker fare than we’re used to with The Twilight Saga. There is no each shattering love here; only a girl trying to survive until the next day.

 

The only things that left me wanting were the fact that The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner was so short. Stephenie Meyer could have easily added another hundred pages to this story to turn it from a novella into a novel. I think it would have benefited from a little more room to manoeuvre. Just as the story got pulse pounding exciting, it ended.

 

As well, it lacked something. I think that The Twilight Saga had something that Bree Tanner didn’t. There wasn’t the same spark, the same intensity to the writing that The Twilight Saga had. That might have a lot to do with Bella and Edward, or with Meyer finding her footing with another character in a smaller space to play. Either way, the novella left me wanting.

 

That’s not to say that The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is a bad book. Far from it in fact. It’s fast, frantic and fantastic.

 

And leaves you wanting more.