A most appropriate read for my R.I.P. IV  Challenge and a great one for my and Fall Into Reading 2009 challenge.

Author :  Elizabeth Kostova

Date of First Publication :  June, 2005 (Hardcover)

Publisher of 1st Edition :  Little, Brown and Company

This Edition’s Publication Date :  January 2006 (Paperback)

This Edition’s Publisher : Back Bay Books

ISBN:  0-316-05788-6

No. of pages : 820  (Paperback)

The Story :

A young American girl stumbles upon an unusual book in her father’s library.  Its pages are empty except for a woodcut of a menacing dragon with the title, Drakulya, on it.  Along with it is a stash of old letters written by a her father’s favorite professor, Bartholomew Rossi, who mysteriously disappeared at the time when her father was still his student.

Her discovery reveals her family’s dark and dangerous quest for the continued existence of Vlad Tepes, the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula.  Slowly , drawn by her father’s accounts, she joins her family’s adventure of pursuing the undead through old letters and ancient texts, from libraries , aged monasteries and closed countries of Eastern Europe.

The Review :

You’ve got to be “in love at first read” with Elizabeth Kostova’s lush, vivid, elegant prose.  Her attention to detail is a constant that keeps the ambience of the book flowing, cloaking the reader with gothic creepiness that blends surprisingly well with romantic elements,  all throughout its eight hundred and so pages.  (By romantic elements I mean the sumptuous descriptions which enamor a reader to places, culture, people, etc. )  To read Kostova’s work is  to experience a story so intimately — you “see” the colorful pageantry of Byzantine culture, “taste”  delectable Turkish food, “smell” the smell of the undead, “feel” the anguish of the tortured.

If she fails to capture your interest in her first one or two hundred pages, chances are you simply cannot love this.  It’s one of those books that will either mesmerize you with its sensual vividness and alluring writing or because of these very qualities, tire you with its ponderous pace and lengthy minutiae.

For me, however, it is exactly Kostova’s way with language and her meticulous manner that are the charms of this novel.  It makes me wish I could absorb Kostova’s prose into my very pores in the hopes I would be able to write as eloquently and as gorgeously as she can.  Aside from being able to string words  so marvelously, she can switch the narrative perspective between a number of characters so effortlessly that the reader is hardly left wondering who is telling the story at certain points.

As a gothic novel, The Historian is superb.  It’s got all those dark elements, creepy atmosphere, but tempered so that it just falls short of being a horror novel.  The story moves like a slow crescendo,  building up bit by bit to a startling peak that gently tapers out toward the end. With all that, the reader is treated also to a well-researched history of Dracula, which makes reading all the more interesting.

In A Nutshell :

A horror novel, The Historian is not.  It may raise a few hairs, make your spine tingle, give you little shivers but it stops short of being truly terrifying.  It wasn’t written to be really such.  Yes, a chiller; but one laden with a lot more history and mystery than visceral terror.

This is a thick, page-laden novel .  But length becomes no object when you have totally immersed yourself in it.

Those who take to the novel quite early are more likely to appreciate this gem.  On the whole, it is worth the time.  To echo  a fellow blogger, KyusiReader, The Historian is indeed a very, very satisfying read.

My Mark :  Excellent

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Author :  Laurell K. Hamilton

Series   :  Book 14, Anita Blake Series

Publication Date :  March 27, 2007 (Paperback Edition)

Publisher :   Jove

ISBN-10: 0515142816

ISBN-13: 978-0515142815

No. of pages : 576

The Story :

Anita Blake thinks she is pregnant but doesn’t know who the father is.  Is it Micah, the wereleopard;  Jean-Claude, her master vampire;  or Richard the werewolf?  She is a human with vampiric powers and a variety of lycanthropic strains — wolf, lion, leopard, etc.  She is supposedly every woman’s erotic fantasy, possessing the powers of the ardeur, which unleashes a sexual desire so great that men cannot resist but fall desperately in lust and in love as well.  Lust is Anita’s food upon which she feeds and her orgasmic delights in turn feed  some of her partners whose very existence rely on her ability to arouse and drink in sexual pleasure.  Thus, her harem of men.

Sex and the ardeur is a necessity so that Anita is not a slut but rather a very important element in the supernatural community.

The Review :

If the synopsis sounds lame and vacuous, that’s because it really is. The thin,  feeble plot seems like an flimsy excuse for providing a story when the book is really just plain porn.   Events always necessitate sex and despite the author’s obvious attempt to imbue deep emotional dimensions on her characters, they come out as pathetically half-baked, sex-starved freaks who just can’t relate with each other without rutting — and rutting in all forms : straight sex, gay sex, threesomes, anal, a bit of SM and animal sex.  And since the story is character driven,  it falls utterly flat on its face with them.

This book practically reeks of sex, so much so that it becomes tiresome and entirely unerotic.  Hamilton comes out as a bad erotic writer (and a bad storyteller,  to boot) and this supernatural piece of porn does not tilltilate but bores.

However, this is the 14th book in the Anita  Blake series and for Hamilton to have published a book this far into her series  makes me  wonder if this particular novel is simply a dud in her  collection, and if her other books are actually great.

To Read Or Not To Read? :

Read, if you :

  • like written erotica  (and you don’t give a damn if it’s artistically done or not)
  • get off on supernaturals
  • are unrelentingly going through each book in this series and so just have to read this one
  • have nothing else to grab for the loo

Otherwise,  ditch this and spend your time on something more worthwhile.  Or get to know the first few novels and see how Hamilton managed to acquire a fan base to make it this far (book # 14).

My Mark :  Poor

Author : Teresa Medeiros

Release Date : Sept. 26, 2006

After quite a bit of serious novels, I figured I needed a quick, easy read.  I found this book on my shelf and happily, delved into it.

The cheesy title should have forewarned me; but, hey, I wanted a no-brainer.  Well, this was exactly what I got plus a whole lot of wasted time.

What can I say?  The whole book just screamed TACKY!

I laugh at myself because I’m embarassed to admit I read the whole insipid thing!   I’m just not one to leave a book unfinished.  I always hope it’s got a saving grace somewhere.  In this case, I just couldn’t find it.

At times, I found myself cringing at some tacky writing spattered across portions of the book :

“Portia trembled beneath his touch. In that moment she was his kitten, purring and writhing beneath the masterful stroke of his hand…”

“The nimble flick of his tongue transported her to some dark and dangerous Eden where the two of them could feast on forbidden fruit without being banished from the garden.  He was both serpent and angel, temptation and salvation, and she knew he wouldn’t be satisfied until she’d surrendered herself to him, body and soul. “

< SHIVER >

There may be others, though, who find this cloyingly descriptive style, alluring.  Perhaps, lots, given the large amount of positive reviews for this book. Teresa Medeiros seems to be a well-loved author.   But I honestly cannot see how this novel could be worth anyone’s while.

That being said, I won’t start delving into the merits of plot and characters.  It’s enough to know that they were jejune and boring.

This, being my first book by Teresa Medeiros, and the fact that she seems to have a huge fan base, merit a second look.  I think I shall attempt one or two more books by her before I can truly say, she’s just not my type.  Suggestions, anyone? I may just have picked up a lemon.

My Mark : UGH!