Step 10A--Book Reviews

Why waste time reading a sucky vampire book when I can do it for you? Wondering what kind of vampire book is up your alley? Look below to read book summaries (when possible, copied exactly from the back of the books) and personal approval ratings. (1 to 5 stars, five being the best.)

(Listed alphabetically by author)

Andersson, C. Dean-
I Am Dracula

From the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania to the glittering heights of aristocratic society, from the dusty halls of scholars to the dark shadows that hide the world's most blasphemous secrets...

Here is the story of the fifteenth century Wallachian warlord, Vlad the Impaler, and how he became the Lord of Horror, Master of the Undead, Nosferatu Rex. Learn how he struggled with Satan and how he terrorized in blood and evil for five centuries... and up to the present day.

I give this book a mixed review. It has little to do with the actual accounts of Vlad the Impaler, though the first four chapters do stay accurate to Vlad's life and/ or Stoker's accounts of what Dracula's castle looked like, etc. After that, the book moves into a lot of "behind the scenes" in the life of Vlad. Andersson gives Vlad a voice, and shows what he was thinking and doing when historical accounts leave off. But the book jumps out of a fictional, but otherwise historical biography and right into the realm of the supernatural, with the introduction of Vlad's "hidden" wife, who is a witch. The book ends up having little to do with vampires or the historical Vlad, and more to do with religion. Vlad gets locked in a struggle between God and Satan, then ends up discovering something strange all together. It is an interesting look at religion, and calls into question what one believes in.


To buy this book: I Am Dracula .

Bainbridge, Sharon-
Blood And Roses

The stranger came to High Grimmire seeking refuge from his ancestral home. His mysterious, reclusive behavior aroused suspicion among the local gossips-- and his striking looks and bachelor status captured the hearts of every eligible young lady in town. But one woman grew pale and weak after meeting Sir Geoffrey. Her life drained away night after night... but not her passion.

The only cure seemed to lie in the hands of another stranger-- a doctor who claimed to be a colleague of the famous Professor Van Helsing... the man who destroyed Dracula.

Well, here again is another book where the back cover doesn't match the story inside. I'm beginning to feel gyped here. On three different places on this book, Dracula is mentioned, yet he is never mentioned once in the book. This book has nothing at all to do with Dracula and though the doctor who is a vampire hunter does mention some reference to killing vampires-- he may even had said something about Van Helsing once-- the outside would lead you to believe that the inside contains some Dracula byline-- perhaps the story of someone he killed who escapes to go on a rampage elsewhere. But that is hardly the case. And I don't know who they are talking about with the young woman whose life drains away and yet she stays passionate. The people that get bit die and aren't seen until the end of the book and the ones who are passionate aren't getting bitten. So yet again, someone who didn't read the book wrote the back cover. Shame, shame, shame.

As for the book itself... Plot problems abound here. Some things just don't add up. Of course I can't name them because that would ruin the story for anyone who wants to read it, but lets just say that Dracula reference on the cover really hurts part of the book. I was in the mindset that this would be about hunting down vampires and killing them, and while that is true to a degree, unlike in Dracula, they don't kill every vampire they find-- only the evil ones. And one of the plot falls that bears mentioning is how quickly the characters take to believing in vampires. Sure there were vampire novels in print at that time, but that doesn't mean people believed them.

Yet for all the bad things I can say about this book, it's not the worst that I've read. I haven't decided what makes it enduring, but perhaps it's the characters. Most of the story is told through the eyes of two women who are rather unconventional in their time period. That, and I like history, so this story in the Victorian Era, told from a woman's point of view (and not a male's, as in Dracula) is very interesting to me.


Brite, Poppy Z.
Love in Vein, Twenty Original Tales of Vampiric Erotica

The classic horror tale is about fear. But now there is a controversial new literature of the macabre that goes deeper than horror, beyond fear, to explore our darkest, most intimate hungers. The ones even lovers are forbidden to share.

Acclaimed dark fantasy author Poppy Z. Brite has brought together this new genre's most powerful and seductive authors in an original collection of vampiric erotica, a shameless celebration of unspeakable intimacies. It is not for everyone.

But neither is the night.

Well, the self-proclaimed summary certainly sounds... well, erotic. But not all of the stories in the book are erotic, by anyone's standards. Some aren't sexual at all. But then, some of them are. At least one or two were to the point that even I, seasoned reader of vampire literature, had to cough a bit. This certainly is an adult book, not for those afraid or disturbed by ready about homosexuality, gore, violence and blatant sexual content. But, if you can accept all of the aforementioned as something to be associated with vampires-- we all know vampires are on the fringes of society and have always represented repressed sexual urges-- then you will do well to read this book because the twenty short stories offer a wide range of varying views on what vampires are and how they act. It's like a quick-eat buffet of vampire literature.

To buy this book: Love in Vein .

Darke, David
Blind Hunger

Recently widowed and blind, Patty Hunsacker doesn't feel like going on with her life. Until the day an unexpected visitor shows up on her doorstep, claiming to be the twin brother of her deceased husband, Matt. Patty welcomes Mark into her life, but soon finds herself wondering if inviting a stranger into her home was the wisest thing to do.

Soon Patty is living not only in a world of darkness, but also of terror. At night she hears strange sucking sounds through the walls. Smells blood in the air. And when she finally allows Mark to embrace her, his stinging kisses fill her with fear.

At first Patty fears she's losing her sanity. Then she makes a shocking discovery. "Mark" is really Matt and he isn't dead-- he's a vampire. And now Matt plans on showing his wife that loving a vampire can be a bloody affair.

Well, I don't know who the dupe was that wrote that summary, but it's a horrible exaggeration of the true book. Which, by the way, isn't half as good as it sounds.

The summary leads you to believe that Patty and "Mark" actually live together for a while and she only slowly finds out that he is a vampire. Were that the case! Actually, his appearence and her finding that out happens in the span of one evening. And she doesn't start off in the book a window, but becomes widowed about a fourth of the way through it.

What other problems does this book have, besides the false advertising? One, the main character dies. That really ruined the end of the book. I mean you follow a character through a lot of troubles, then suddenly the book is switched out of her point of view and she dies. The way it was handled was done very badly, not to mention main characters usually don't die unless it's a story (usually several books' worth) that chronicles the character's life, ane you kind of figure that it will follow them to their death.

Secondly, there was a very bad stereotype of redneck people in the book. The "backwoods" family was stereotyped with everything from fanatically Christian beliefs, bad grammer, stupidity and incest. Being a southern person myself (and from a rural town at that), I seriously frown on anyone that tries writing from a southern point of view without knowing what they are talking about. But this was an abomination of writing. No one in any little rural town is that bad. Other characters had similar flaws that were the writer's fault. There's the cliched "evil" sibling, for one. Patty's sister Robin was a real bitch, and without good reason. In fact, no reason was ever given for why Robin hated her sister. And as an added unbelievable smack, Patty professed to love her sister. Even after Patty knew that Robin was plotting against her, I never saw her show any real anger towards Robin. It gets a bit sickening at that point. Heaped on top of that is the fact that Matt is revealed, at that point, to have been in with Robin in plotting against his wife. Yet before we saw him as a nice guy, only sadly lured away from his wife by the vampiress. Then suddenly we have to believe that he is a bad guy, only using his wife. And together Matt and Robin call Patty a bitch without ever saying why they think that. It is assumed, I suppose, that they called her that just because they were mean human beings with no cause for their rage.

This book (and a few others) gives me hope that my own book will reach a publisher, because mine, even in it's infant state, is twice as good as this one. There are major flaws all throughout the character development and plot. The author didn't write as if he knew anything about the characteristics of his vampires, but just mumbled on something about "sin." By the end of the book I was no closer to knowing the characteristics of the vampires than I was before I read it. This book is the horror/vampire equivalent to a really cheap romance novel, turned out with no more than a few months of work and thought, if that.

Duigon, Lee

Millboro, New Jersey. Just the kind of place Winslow Emerson, M.D. had in mind. A small township of yuppie couples who spent little time at home. Children shuttled between an overburdended school system and every kind of after-school activity. Parents too tired after a hard day's work in the city to notice anything odd in their darling children's behavior. A town ripe for the kind of evil Dr. Emerson specialized in...

For Emerson was no ordinary doctor, and no ordinary mortal. He was a creature of ancient legend, of mankind's darkest nightmare. And for the citizens of Milboro, he had arrived where they least expected it: in their own backyards...

Well, wasn't that back-page summary overly dynamic? And more than a bit misleading. Whoever wrote it hadn't read the book. Certainly there's too much emphasis placed on "Doctor" Emerson. Yes, he is one, but throughout the book he tells everyone he's retired, so after reading the back you think he's going to be a practicing doctor, doing all kinds of things to little kids in his examining room, and then in the book he does very little in the way of being a doctor. He's more a scientist of his own vampire disease than anything.

As for the book itself, it has a definite 80's tongue-in-cheek flavor. We all remember those good old days when punk kids really were punk kids and grunge was grungy, not just everyday fashion. (And if you don't remember that, then you're too young to be on my page!) And there is plenty of biting (no pun intended) sarcasm in those pinnacles of modern society, the housing development. You think those crazy days of nightmarish, looping road planning, 1/4 acre lots and houses so close together they don't even have windows on the sides to keep you from looking directly at your neighbor, were over, but no, they are still here. There's $150,000 houses just down the road from where I live that meet all those requirements. Crazy! People in London have more backyard, and we're living in America, third (or is it fourth?) largest nation in the world. Tsk, tsk.

What does this have to do with a book review, you ask? Well, my friend, this kind of sarcasm is prevalent throughout the book. Our vampire, Dr. Emerson, preys on the listlessness that such places provide, while Dorothy, one of the main characters, recognizes it for all its "yuppieness" and is the main carrier of the bitter resentment of the hypocritical town.

Personally, as you can tell, I have a thing for such towns and developments, so I found the dark humor very amusing. And the book does have good characters, and whether we like them or not, we are put inside their head and you end up a little saddened when they get played the fool by Dr. Emerson. Certainly this is not a book about a good vampire. Everything heads us towards disliking, if not hating, the pompous ass vampire in this book. As for the plot, it is okay. There were a few things in there that were just a little too convenient, and there were some things that could have been edited out, like the whole prologue. And the ending is a surprise twist, which I have always been taught to dislike, though no one would dispute Edgar Allen Poe's work, and he's a master of a twist(ed) ending. For a surprise ending, it wasn't too much of a surprise, so I can let it pass as being pretty artfully done.


Dvorkin, David

Only a select few know the ecstasy-- and the agony-- that only the taste of blood can bring. Richard Venneman was the first to be called. He is part of a new breed of the undying who live by day and whose mother's milk is the blood of other vampires.

But the hunger for fresh blood and new peaks of erotic pleasure soon draws Richard Venneman into the seductive web of two women. One is Elizabeth Valle, who years for an eternal soulmate among the undead; the other is Karen Belmont, who feeds on blood-- and flesh.

No Richard Venneman has set loose an evil that could turn the earth into a floating sea of crimson. Only he has the power to stop it. But first he must make a choice. And man cannot die by blood alone...

Let me get to the point: The ending in this book is so completely horrible that it is an affront to fiction. I don't know who wrote that ending, but talk about last minute. In all honesty, the ending of this book seems like something that some other person wrote and tacked on to the end of the book, instead of what the author wrote. I hope, for Dvorkin's sake, that this dreadful ending can be blamed on someone else. I won't go into details, but only to say it makes no sense and throws a whole book's worth of character development and plot into less than a page's worth of action and finale.

The rest of the book had only minor problems, such as the occasional typo and arguable comma splices here and there. It was a bit more gory than even I am used to in a vampire book, and the vampires were generally bastards, in that they had no concern for anyone but themselves-- not even for each other. Such vampire action never sets well with me, the lover of the misunderstood, but humane, vampire. The only other problem with the book was that it is divided up into sections, with a different point of view in every section. While I'm all for multiple P.O.V.'s (and, in fact, it is my preferred writing method at this time), Dvorkin makes a flaw with his. The P.O.V shifts are too infrequent. The book is essentially divided up into fifths, with each character getting a piece. This leaves the problem that you get very attached to a character, then it is taken away. And secondly the characters are interacting, so you get well into a new one, then find the old one pop in again, but it's been so long since you saw him last that you forget what he was about. Dvorkin needs to learn to break the shifts up into much small increments, such as every chapter. (Harry Tutrledove-- alternate and fantasy fiction-- is a master of this.)

This book is okay-- certainly not remarkable-- to read up to the ending, which is a major cop out. If you read it, I suggest you stop short of the ending, but if you read it, don't say I didn't warn you about the disappointment. I have to rate this book very low solely on the ending-- which any author knows is the most important part of the book. It's always the last thing in the mind of the reader, and will decide if the reader recommends the book or rereads it, or if it ends up in a used book store or in some bin for half price (Which is where I happened to find it, actually).

To buy this book: Unquenchable .

Hamilton, Laurell K.
Guilty Pleasures

My name is Anita Blake. Vampires call me The Executioner. What I call them isn't repeatable.

Ever since the Supreme Court granted the undead equal rights, most people think vampires are just ordinary folks with fangs. I know better. I've seen their victims. I carry the scars...

But now a serial killer is murdering vampires-- and the most powerful bloodsucker in town wants me to find the killer...

This first book by Laurell K. Hamilton will blow your socks off. It was certainly like nothing I had ever read before. It was so great I had to read it in one sitting. In fact, when I re-read it a year later, I had to read it all at once again, it was just that entralling. It's positively addicting!

The plot was non-stop, yet the characters were well developed and likeable. You even have a twinge for the nasty of characters sometimes, especially if you're partial to vampires in the first place. In this first book, Hamilton introduces us to a world that is parallel to our own. Where we have known only superstitions about wild beasties, they exist for real in her world. Everything is the same but for these vampires and wereanimals that roam the streets as if it's natural. When you put the book down, you really expect to go out and find these things are real. Hamilton's a brilliant writer who's obviously done her homework on supernatural creatures and voodoo.

And, here's a kicker, the main character in the vampire novel is not only not a vampire, but she's a vampire killer. How can any good, red-blooded vampire lover like a vampire killer? Because she kills the bad vampires even vampire lovers hate. It's wild. I thought Tanya Huff was witty before I read Hamilton, but her book is even more off the wall and humorous. Writing from a seldom used style-- first person-- Hamilton is able to show us the mind of Anita Blake, vampire hunter, and it allows plenty of room for funny side thoughts.

To buy this book: Guilty Pleasures .

The Laughing Corpse

"The older the zombie, the bigger the death needed to raise it."

After a few centuries, the only death "big enough" is a human sacrifice. I know because I'm an animator. My name is Anita Blake.

Working for Animator's Inc. is just a job-- like selling insurance. But all the money in the world wasn't enough for me to take on the particular job Harold Gaynor was offering.

Somebody else did, though-- a rogue animator. Now he's not just raisign the dead...he's raising Hell.

And it's up to me to stop it.

Master of plots that Hamilton is, her second book in the Anita Blake series has two series of events that run together into one by the end. (Alas, I wish I was so good with plots.) In this book we see Anita the necromancer (as opposed to the first book where we saw Anita the vampire executioner) and Hamilton does a wonderful job of bringing zombies and voodoo rituals alive. I can't tell too much more, or give away the plot, but we do see our favorite local vampire-- Jean-Claude, turned Master of the City. He doesn't figure prominently in the book, but we have to be fair; the series is about Anita, and she really shines in this book.

To buy this book: The Laughing Corpse .

Circus of the Damned

I'm Anita Blake, expert on creatures of th night. I've dined with shapeshifters, danced with werewolves, and been wooed-- but not won-- by Jean-Claude, the Master Vampire of the City.

And now a darkly dangerous vampire named Alejandro has hit town. He too wants me for his human servant. A war of the undead has begun. Over me.

I would be flattered. If my life weren't at stake.

Score a third hit for Laurell K. Hamilton. This is a great book for the vampire fans, because it centers almost completely around Anita and Jean-Claude. As Jean-Claude moves one mark away from owning Anita as his human servant, another vampire, Alejandro, moves in on his territory. We don't get to see much of the exotic Alejandro, but there's just something appealing about him... You'd almost give up your loyalty to Jean Claude for him.

This book finds Anita really admitting that she "lusts" after Jean-Claude (hey, we know she's in love with him, but she hasn't admitted that one yet). And we find out that he loves her as well in his own sort of way-- he's not just after her out of lust or a need to dominate that which he can't control. She comes close to betraying him, but in the end-- as always-- we see her come riding in to save the day. but Jean-Claude has more than Alejandro to watch out for; a werewolf named Richard is out to date Anita, and for the moment, he's winning. Poor Jean-Claude, but in Anita's book of standards, being alive counts for something. And in another relationship first, Edward-- a.k.a. "Death-- her comrade in execution, makes yet another appearance. He, like Alejandro, is after the Master Vampire, but Anita risks threat of torture to keep Jean-Claude's name from him. But, instead of being tortured, Anita manages to win Edward over, and in the end, he gets to kill as much as he wanted to. But the reason he didn't torture her? He's her friend more than either of them thought. Nothing like a strong relationship built on death and pain.

To buy this book: Circus of the Damned .

Huff, Tanya
Blood Lines

Sealed away through unending centuries in a sarcophagus never meant to be opened, he had patiently waited for the opportunity to live again, for the chance to feed on the unwary and grow strong, Now, at last, the waiting had come to an end. Brought to the Egyptology Department of Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum, the seals and spells that imprisoned him chipped away by his discoverers, he reached forth to claim the minds and souls of the unsuspecting city dwellers, to begin building an empire for himself and his god. And only three people had even a hint that anything was wrong.

For Henry Fitzroy, a 450-year-old vampire, it began with a haunting, inescapable image of the sun, a terrifying symbol of death to one such as he. Fearing for his sanity, he called upon his sometime-lover and comrade in supernatural investigations, ex-cop Vicki Nelson, for help. And even as the two struggled to cope with Henry's obsession, Vicki's closest friend and former partner, Police Detective Mike Celluci was following up on two mysterious deaths at the museum, certain he was looking at murders not accidents-- and equally convinced that the killer was a mummy brought back from the dead!

I, quite by accident picked up the last book in Huff's serious, rather than the first. I read it (Blood Debt) and liked it so well that I went back to read her others. So far I have only picked up one prequel, this one, but I have enjoyed it almost as much as the first one (er... her last one) that I read. I was especially drawn to Blood Lines because I am, and have always been, very interested in Egyptian mythology. As far as I can tell, this book was well researched and done as correctly as a fictional Egyptian god and mummy could have been done. Huff has a wonderful, witty style of writing that often makes the reader laugh out loud.

To buy this book: Blood Lines .

Romkey, Michael
I, Vampire

"Women are my weakness. Or to be more accurate, I should say they are my greatest weakness, for I have many. Travel. Books. Classical music. Art. Excellent wine. And formerly cocaine. I admit these things without a sense of guilt. I am, as my friend from Vienna says, a man with a man's contradictions.

I am neither good nor bad, neither angel nor devil.

I am man. I am a vampire."

So much of this book is a surprise that I'm hard pressed to talk about the characters in too much depth, else I'll ruin it for everyone else. I have found, however, that vampire books can be divided into two types: completely original or historically based. Books written about Lord Byron being a vampire, or one from Mina's point of view are these kinds of historically based novels-- the characters are already well known to the vampire community. Well, in this book, there's a mix of both. The main character is original, but his vampire colleagues are not. They aren't people you would really expect to see as vampires, but they are recognizable figures.

The book itself is written in a diary style. It's not too badly done except when either the author or the character doesn't seem to know what to write and goes on about the diary a bit much-- "I'm writing this diary at a desk with a small bit of light," "I'm writing with a black ink pen"-- and miscellaneous extraneous things. The character, David, also divides the diary up into two parts, one in the present and one in flashbacks to his time before becoming a vampire and directly afterwards. This could be done a little bit better than it was, as some parts seemed to drag and you just wanted to skip ahead. Towards the end it goes way off in left field detailing the life story of one of the vampire companions. I skipped that part because it didn't matter one bit to the final outcome, to the characteristics of the vampires, or to the main character. I think the author was trying to drag out the ending, which is a very bad thing to do.

Overall the plot line just wasn't as exciting as I am used to. Parts really dragged and I had little motivation to finish the book but my own tenacity for needing to finish even the worst books so I can complain about them. Other times the plot was really good and I hurried through the chapter quickly. Though the author has problems with plot, he doesn't have problems with writing, which is refreshing after just reading two books previously that had bad grammer and punctuation. I think this book should be reduced by about a 1/3 of his current length-- removing all those nonessential parts-- and it wouldn't hurt to see some explanation of the vampire traits. I find it a bit odd that with a character that internalizes everything, he doesn't ever wonder why he can levitate or how blood keeps him alive. Give me some scientific theories!

To buy this book: I, Vampire .

Isilwath, T.
Blood Origins

"The Balance is in danger and Aiya, Keeper of the Webs, creates her predator.

Aurek, the first vampire has gone missing, and Rain is sent to find him. But there are those who fight the Balance and conspire against her. Rain must use all of the resources at her disposal, and the help of both vampire and her own kind, to discover Aurek's whereabouts before it is too late....

Come to a world where the Balance has been disrupted, and killers are brought forth to even the scales. Search for the one who started it all, and discover the truth and betrayal of Earth's vampire. Enter a story of power and subterfuge, where myths come to life, nothing is what it seems, and love is the only thing that lasts forever."

...And so are the days of our lives. Man, that last paragraph is over the top. Who thinks up these things? Subterfuge? Give me a break. Stick with describing the book and let it sell itself. People who watch soap operas are not the kind of people that read this kind of book.

Speaking of this kind of book, this is not your average, run-of-the-mill vampire story. Talk about unique. Vampires and Christianity have always come into conflict. Vampires are almost always seen as evil, as sinful, even as the devil's work. Yet any good vampirologist knows that vampires can be seen as an evolutionary step in the development of man. Nothing stays on top of the food chain forever, and so even man must become the hunted. Well Isilwath (is that not some more pen name?) takes that theory a step further; not only are vampires needed to keep a balance with the food chain, but they are also fighting a war between gods. In this book it is not the vampires who are evil but the Christian god, who seeks to undermine the power of the goddess. Vampires are her weapon against the human children of that god.

Certainly points are given for creativity-- I do hate the slash and snuff vampire books–- but what about style and plot? I seriously frown on bad grammar. Well, Isilwath has no demerits for bad writing. Nor is she guilty of any major plot problems. I got rather interested in the book and read it over some 3 days (it's over 550 pages long). I did have some minor issues with characters and plot line, however. The book has multiple p.o.v.'s (point of views) and they tend to switch pretty frequently without any sort of chapter or line break. Sometimes that became confusing, though, having written my own book in such a manner, I know how difficult it can be to keep several characters running at once when you want to be inside all of their heads.

Secondly, the plot follows a Saving Private Ryan kind of line. The plot line is always moving towards finding this one character, who, by default, must be the supreme character. However, everything that happens while getting to the character constitutes the main plot, and you end up being really attached to the characters that are sent to save him. By the time Private Ryan shows up, you could care less about the little snot because you're in total admiration of Tom Hank's character. The plot line in and of itself is flawed, not the writer's writing abilities. There's just nothing to be done about it but restructure the whole shebang, and that's a bit much to ask for. But in this book, like the movie, the plot line is driving at finding the first vampire, while it is everyone who is trying to rescue him that are the stars of the book.

But those things aside, the overall originality just carries this book. I've never seen anything like it, nor have I even attempted it. It's well worth reading if you want something different. As a cautionary note, it does contain scenes of explicit heterosexual and homosexual sex. It also portrays Christianity in a negative light, which some people might find offensive (but I seriously doubt they're on this page in the first place). But hey, we don't read about vampires for the status quo; we read about them because they're out there breaking all the rules.

To buy this book: Blood Origins .

Thanks to T. Isilwath for sending me her book to read. I am not currently accepting anymore books to read as I don't have the time and I'm two behind as it is. But good luck to all of the authors out there. I can empathize.


Here's a new site with some information on Dracula, the literary and cinematic figure: Dracula Forever

The above picture was taken by myself. St. Canice's Cathedral. The round tower dates to the early 800's, the church from the 1200's. It still operates as an Episcopalian church. Kilkenny City, County Kilkenny, Ireland. © June 2001.

You are on: Step 10A

Dictionary/Terms | Step 1, The History of Eastern Europe | Step 2, Pre-Vampire Entities | Step 3, Vampire Creation Myths | Step 4, How Vampires Are Made | Step 5, Vampire Folklore | Step 6, "Living" Vampires | Step 7, Medical Information | Step 8, Vampire Names | Step 9, Vampires in Modern Culture | Step 10A, Vampire Book Reviews | Step 10B, Vampire Movie Reviews | Essays | The End | Home