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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Book Review: Living Dead in Dallas (Southern Vampire Mysteries, #2) by Charliane Harris

Title: Living Dead in Dallas
Series: Southern Vampire Mysteries
Book Number: 2
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre: Fiction-Supernatural
Finished: November 15, 2008

I enjoyed this one as much as I enjoyed the first one. It was more violent and full of more sexiness, but that just made it better! Sometimes you have to wonder how one girl can get into so much mess, but then you have to suspend reality when reading these books anyway because of the whole vampire/shapeshifter/etc thing. Moreso than the first one, you come to see as a reader just the sort of discrimination that vampires face. It's strikingly familiar to anyone who watches the news today, which is full of people declaring hatred for lifestyles and people that they understand little about. Sookie first investigates the murder of a friend, which leads her to an interesting sex party. It's not for people with delicate natures, but I found it a lot of fun. But be warned, this one is extra bloody and extra violent. After solving one mystery, Sookie is sent out on loan to help a vampire coven in Dallas find a missing member. This storyline makes clear that vampires, while making many mistakes in line with their nature, also make very human mistakes. I found the idea of a vampire wanting to die very... sweet. But, I do have a history of Anne Rice and her vampires are the most angst-filled in the genre, by far. Did I like this second installment in the Southern Vampire Mysteries? I LOVED it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Book Review: Dead Until Dark (Southern Vampire Mysteries, #1) by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead Until Dark
Series: Southern Vampire Mysteries
Book Number: 1
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre: Fiction-Supernatural
Finished: October 30, 2008

It's been a long time since I've read a good vampire story. In fact, I don't read many vampire stories at all. I have high expectations... to high, I guess. But, I really enjoyed this one. And joy, none of the characters pissed me off or annoyed me. Dead Until Dark was funny, sexy, and interesting. I enjoyed the plot and really liked some of the characters. I overlooked my expectations for vampires to read this book and I found it worth my while. Though the Southern Vampires sort of defied some of what I think vampire should be, I liked the books enough to get past that superficial issue. I thought that the dialogue was especially good. Nothing can turn me off of a book faster than dialogue that seems forced or insincere... or just NOT the way that people talk. I am utterly charmed with the Southern Vampire Mysteries now. I finally found a series about vampires worth reading since Anne Rice. You want exciting and sexy? Read this series. In ways, it's even better than anything Anne Rice created since hers remain shrouded in mystery and lore. The Southern Vampire Mysteries make vampires part of this world; it rips from them a preternatural sense of otherness and puts them directly in the human world shamelessly. Simply wonderful.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Title: Never Let Me Go 
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro 
Genre: Fiction 
Finished: September 11, 2008

As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

I loved this book. I should say that it's not a book for everyone since it sometimes drags along with a lot of 'everyday life' detail. I can see some people getting bored, but I decided to take the book for what it was worth; I realized early on the value of the story pacing because I knew in the end it would personalize me more the characters in such a way that I could understand their mindset. I lived their life with them. There has been some criticism of this book that no character rebelled against their fate as eventual organ donors, that everyone just seemed to accept that one day they would become donors and then die. I feel that this criticism is misguided. How are people to know what the world is like when they've been conditioned to live and think one way? From the day these clones were 'born,' they were raised to believe and live one way. That they accepted their fate is no different from the way that we accept our own. One can't expect characters to manifest deep philosophical thought about something they have no knowledge of whatsoever. In so many dystopian novels, people do rebel against the order in place and this is what readers come to expect. Why should it always be the case? Why should every one of these books be about the destruction of a misguided society? Can't it just be a snapshot in the process? The lives of a few people involved but not earth shattering? The characters never went into long speeches about how unfair their lives were, they just lived life, enjoyed what they could, but always knew they would die for the sake of others. To tell the truth, I couldn't stand to read the last page. It actually hurt to read them. I didn't want the book to end because I knew what would happen, I knew what would become of the characters. It wasn't even their sadness that I absorbed more than it was my own sadness that this was all that their lives were about.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Book Review: The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

Title: The Hellbound Heart
Author: Clive Barker
Genre: Fiction- Horror 
Finished: August 10, 2008

Frank's pursuit of pleasure has trapped him in an extra-dimensional hell, and his brother's wife provides him the opportunity for escape. Frank's resurrection provides Julia with the opportunity for escape from the marriage she has quickly grown bored of. Rory, who naively adores his more worldly wife, becomes their innocent victim while Kirsty is drawn into this dangerous realm by her desire to protect him and show him the truth about Julia. Kirsty soon becomes the main character as she tries to save herself and Rory from the consequences of what Frank has unleashed.

Gross, scary and disturbing. I've always wanted to read this particular novel for the fact that I am a fan of Hellraiser and a fan of anything with S&M elements, especially horror. I wanted the literary experience of the Cenobites. Rather than pictures on a screen, I wanted my own imagination. This book was great. Gorey imagery, lots of horror, crazy people doing crazy things, and sadistic Cenobites promising a realm of sensation and pleasure beyond belief. It was chilling and I had nightmares when I went to bed after finishing... a sign of a good horror novel.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Book Review: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Title: The Handmaid's Tale 
Author: Margaret Atwood 
Genre: Fiction 
Finished: August 8, 2008

In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right Schlafly/Falwell-type ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: "of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be. This is without a doubt one of the best books of all time. The US government has been crippled by nuclear war and overthrown by a Christian Theocracy, which subjugates women and persecutes anyone who does not subscribe to the stated belief system. It's strict and secluded. The theocracy claims to protect its people, its women from how the world used to abuse them through rape and sexualization, by blaming the women and then perpetuating a worse sort of lifestyle. This book focuses on the story of one Handmaid, Offred (a name given to her after becoming a Handmaid). You can tell that Atwood is coming out of the feminist movement, as well as the backlash against feminism... Serena Joy was a lot like Phyllis Schlafly, who was quite vocal in her sense of traditionalism for women (and popularly, her stop ERA movement). Offred wasn't born a Handmaid; she remembers what life was like before and how the US changed. Much like the political apathy of today, most people in the US just slept or shrugged their shoulders, convinced that their world would go back to normal soon enough. By then, it was too late. Atwood's way of drawing out Offred's emotions, of putting visuals and sensations captivated me. I couldn't put this book down it was that addictive. I really felt what Offred was feeling and I understood why and how she came to be what she was. I only hope that the ending is what I believe.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Book Review: Discipline (Devitations, #3) by Chris Owen and Jodi Payne

Title: Discipline
Series: Deviations
Book Number: 3
Author(s): Chris Owen & Jodi Payne
Genre: Fiction- Erotica
Finished: August 5, 2008

Tobias and Noah explore their relationships more deeply than they ever have, not just with their own dominance and submission, but with their friends. As Noah helps Tobias through the loss of someone dear, he finds Tobias helping him, too, leading him through some intense sexual games, breaking down the last of Noah's fears, and helping him face his biggest one. The cage. Meanwhile, Tobias' ex-lover, Phantom, becomes close friends with Noah as they discover and try to resist the simmering sexual tension between them. Their teasing turns to real support when Phantom reaches the breaking point thanks to the lack of a master in his life, something he desperately needs. While Bradford works to become that master, Tobias and Noah go to Paris, where they see the sights, go to sex clubs, and re-negotiate their contract.

So the relationship of Tobias and Noah grows and evolves, becomes ever more loving and strong. I found this book to be more about the romance and companionship of being a couple than about a relationship that is balanced between romance relationship and the requirements of a BDSM lifestyle. The power exchange aspect of their relationship is somewhat dimmed and deluded in this third novel. There are BDSM club scenes, yes, and fantasy play. But, there is little to none of that throat catching, lung gripping power exchange that I had loved so much in the first two, that defined the "them". Where is Noah on his knees in the kitchen while Tobias ate? Where is that quiet, calm voice of Domination? It was all words and reminders but little action! There's only so long you can say, "I am your Master" before you have to actually show it, Tobias, come on. Tobias never lets Noah forget who is his Master, but it isn't entirely due to power or Domination, at least, not here. That I know their relationship is about this, is based on D/s, saved the BDSM scenes from being a sexual act alone. Still, it was a beautiful book that reminded the reader that even a Master and his slave can have a loving relationship, that two can connect emotionally, that BDSM is as much an emotional and physical need for some people as sex. This book worked through a lot of their issues like caging with Noah and Tobas' pride. Phantom, also, had a lot to deal with... in fact, we're left with a bit of a Phantom-cliffhanger at the end. Master Bradford has yet to disclose what is wrong, so that's no doubt a plot saved for the next book. Did I love the book despite its excessive and repetitive gay sex scenes (which I like, don't get me wrong, but I'm really reading these for the BDSM elements) in exchange for BDSM scenes? Yes. And I am going to consume the fourth and love it, too.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Book Review: Domination (Deviations, #2) by Chris Owen & Jodi Payne

Title: Domination
Series: Deviations
Book Number: 2
Author(s): Chris Owen & Jodi Payne 
Genre: Fiction- Erotica 
Finished: July 24, 2008

Tobias works at becoming more comfortable and finding his balance as a full-time Master again. Meanwhile, his work brings out the true submissive in Noah, who faces some of his greatest fears, and his greatest secrets, confessing to Noah about a terrible time in his past. He's not the only one who has a rough time. Tobias breaks down and shows Noah he's not all dominance, too, which sends shockwaves through their romance, leaving them to wonder if they can keep it together. Boy was it good to be back reading about Tobias and Noah. I have to say, since the last book, I missed them. I actually craved to read this second book of the Deviations series because I HAD to know what happens with them. It didn't disappoint. There was a lot of hot action, a lot of hot scenes, and a lot of romance. This book was definitely more romantic than the first, and emotional in a different way. In this second book, Tobias and Noah have to find balance between having a regular romantic relationship and having a relationship based on the exchange of power. In this one, Tobias examines his weaknesses as Noah comes to terms with his. Their dynamic and struggles show that not even the best Dom in the world is infallible; no matter how strong we are, we break down, we screw up. We're not perfect. I can't wait to read number 3.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Book Review: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind

Title: Perfume: The Story of A Murderer
Author(s): Patrick Suskind (translated by J.E. Woods) 
Finished: July 22, 2008

Set in 18th century France, Perfume tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. Born lacking a personal odor (a fact other people find disquieting) but endowed with an incomparable sense of smell, he apprentices himself to a perfumer and becomes obsessed with procuring the perfect scent that will make him fully human. In the process, he creates perfumes presumably based on pheromones that powerfully manipulate human emotions, murdering 25 girls to take their scent. I loved the movie and decided that I wanted to try out the book. When my reading group selected this one, I was excited to open it up. 

Suffice to say, I was satisfied with the book. The main character, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, was definitely... a bad person. I spent so much of the book wondering what was going on in his head, trying to diagnose just what mental illness he suffered from to be so without emotion. Cruel, perhaps not, but definitely without moral judgment or really any sense of attachment to the people around him. I found myself disgusted, asking myself, "what is wrong with this guy?!" more times that I could possibly count. 

Ultimately, I found all of the characters repulsive in their own way, full of their own evil and vice. I think this was intended. Chilling of all is the plot, the decision of scentless Jean-Baptiste Grenouille to possess the sweetest smell of them all: the smell of beautiful young women. He is truly a man filled only with his own strange desires and hatred. His power to map any scent, to smell everything around him, is used to this end. It's a book about obsession, murder, mystery, mental illness, beauty... so many categories. It's definitely a good read, too, for anyone who likes historical fiction.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Book Review: Submission (Devitations, #1) By Chris Owen & Jodi Payne

Title: Submission
Series: Deviations
Book Number: 1
Author(s): Chris Owen & Jodi Payne 
Genre: Fiction- Erotica
Finished: July 4, 2008

Tobias is a Dom and Noah is a submissive with a rocky past that has made his submission all the more of a test for both him and Tobias. They draw closer together as they test Noah's limits, working through his fears, deepening their relationship and their love for each other through Domination towards the ultimate submission.I like what this does for the BDSM scene. Submission shows that even in a BDSM relationship, there is romance and affection. So many people are under the (false) impression that BDSM is about cruelty and slavery when that's just not so. The book moved fast but not too fast. The characters were well developed, as well; I didn't leave the book feeling as if I lacked an understanding of the characters. What's more, I liked them and I was rooting for it to work. Submission focuses on the submissive, Noah and how he and his new Dom, Tobias, work through Noah's trust issues to bring him to the ultimate state of slavery. It was very hot but also very emotional. Definitely a good read for anyone who likes gay erotica with an edge. This isn't about light spanking and handcuffs, guys.