Snowblind by Christopher Golden

A full-throttle paranormal thriller starring a variety of complex, likable characters.

snowblind

Coventry, Mass., was expecting a snowstorm, but nothing like the one that blows through the opening pages of Christopher Golden’s Snowblind. The novel begins with small-town residents managing their relationships, jobs and businesses, readying for the possibility of power outages and blocked roads. Just as readers are drawn into the lives of the diverse sympathetic characters, though, they’re ripped away from us–and something more terrifying (and more cognizant) than ice and wind is involved.

Fast forward a dozen years. The survivors of the first storm–men and women still mourning their loved ones–are faced with a disturbingly similar weather pattern headed their way. Coventry is still haunted by the unexplained deaths, and now the lost townspeople are coming back to try to warn the survivors of the returning danger. Families will have to pull together quickly to avoid a second tragedy.

A fast-paced, thoroughly engrossing supernatural thriller, Snowblind employs likable, multifaceted characters linked by their small-town connections and a tragic past. Golden’s writing is suspenseful and action-driven; it’s not ornate, but he still takes time to develop stories about characters’ relationships and backgrounds that will engage readers. The terror evoked is visceral and real and, along with a fairy-tale element and realistic backdrop, grips readers from the very first pages. Snowblind is a tale of trauma, individual responsibility and, ultimately, redemption.


This review originally ran in the January 28, 2014 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!


Rating: 6 snow plows.

book beginnings on Friday: Snowblind by Christopher Golden

Thanks to Rose City Reader for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.

snowblind

Snowblind is a thriller with a paranormal element, and I am finding it rather gripping. I’ll share the opening lines:

Ella Santos stood on the sidewalk with a cigarette in her hand, watching the snow fall and feeling more alone than she ever had in her life. The storm seemed to loom around her, holding its breath and waiting for her to go back inside.

Not ornate, but language is not the strength of this novel. The pacing and atmosphere will only ramp up from here.

This quotation comes from an uncorrected advance proof and is subject to change.

Released by Amber Polo

Full disclosure: This book was sent to me by the author, who very astutely offered me dog treats with it for my two babes and therefore got in the door easily. Great trick, Amber!


releasedLiberty Cutter is a librarian recently returned to her hometown of Shipsfeather, Ohio, having taken the position of public library Director. She’s there to learn more about her own history and that of the town; ever since her mother abandoned her at age 5 in the children’s section of the local library, she’s had precious little information about her background and family. (She was raised by four law librarian aunts who apparently lacked any sense of fun.) Shipsfeather is a strange place: no one in town wants to talk about the past. As the book opens, Liberty dashes off to a massive fire that destroys her library. City officials are less than helpful, but she ends up reopening in an beautiful old school building, with the help of the friendly townspeople and her excellent staff. It turns out that her new library building was already occupied! Underground from the old Academy lives a pack of dogshifters, who it turns out are humankind’s original librarians, and are pleasantly disposed towards Liberty. And it’s a good thing, because the werewolves are the enemies of librarians everywhere – book burners, no less! I’ll mostly quit here for the sake of spoilers, but: Liberty makes new friends, and the library gets a fresh and healthier new start.

The first in a series, Released is great fun, if you’re a fan of books, dogs, or libraries (preferably all three). It does rely heavily on the reader’s appreciation of these framing elements, but this doesn’t concern me overmuch, because I doubt many people pick up such a book who aren’t. Shipsfeather is full of library references: “thank Dewey,” Liberty thinks, when things go right; certain characters talk in “Dewey-speak” (substituting Dewey numbers for nouns). This idyllic small town has far more enthusiastic librarians and library patrons than seems realistic, but again, we’re happy to forgive. The dogshifters in the basement are named and described by breed (and their country of origin plays an important role, too), in another instance of casual indulgence in our mutual interests. The chihuahua is, of course, my favorite character (and he shares a name with a major Mexican beer!).

There is plenty to like: the fantasy is clever and cute, the characters are likeable in their eccentricities, and again, there’s plenty of dog- and library-play. There is some romance, of the swooning and weak-kneed, he’s-so-handsome-and-strong variety. It’s all “clean.” I could make a few criticisms, too. The plot and fantasy realm is not terribly complex; this is a light-hearted romp, not a world-building feat. The dialogue can be a little tedious and unreal. Phrases like “even so” don’t feel right in dialogue, and likewise the lack of contractions: “I will do everything I can” in informal speech. The humor is heavy on the puns – not a problem for every reader, but noteworthy.

Released is easy-reading fun, not crafted in high literary style but a worthwhile jaunt. I enjoyed it, despite a few stylistic flaws, and found myself thinking about the sweet characters and the sweet little world of Shipsfeather as I fell asleep one night this week; and they made me smile. And that’s always worth a few points.


Rating: 5 liver treats.

Thanks, Amber, for sending me a copy of your book.

Teaser Tuesdays: Released by Amber Polo

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. The idea is to open your current read to a random page and share a few sentences. And try not to include spoilers!

released

Here’s a strange book for you, about libraries and librarians, and werewolves and dog-shifters (those are the good guys). It’s a little paranormal, a little romance, a little fantasy, and a lot of candy for the book- and dog-lovers. Here’s a cute thought for the day:

She read aloud the Alphonse Karr quotation on the back, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they are the same. She didn’t want change; she wanted the status quo, just better.

This made me laugh, as it’s so apt. I don’t want it all; I just want everything I want right now. :) I’m enjoying Released so far.

This quotation comes from an uncorrected advance proof and is subject to change.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith (audio)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is an alternative history with fantasy/paranormal elements thrown in. It reexamines Abraham Lincoln’s life, his presidency, and the American Civil War, with a twist: the US is overrun with vampires, mostly unknown to the public, who are secretly pulling the strings that shape Abe’s life, the institution of slavery, and war. The book opens with a charming sequence in which a would-be novelist in a small town on the Hudson Valley meets a new resident and gets a book idea from him. The foreboding sense in the idyllic setting reminded me of Stephen King, which is a compliment.

It is a rather fascinating concept. I had my doubts at first – again, the whole vampires-in-pop-fiction trend gave me pause; it’s not a trend I have bought into in the past. But as soon as I began the book, I was drawn in. So full points for intriguing me early on. I loved the parts about Abe’s early life; the atmosphere, the mood of tension, of Abe’s efforts against long odds, his determination in the face of tragedy, are all well executed.

But I think the middle section of the book dragged on far too long; it’s a great concept that Grahame-Smith indulged in for too many pages. All of which is to say, it probably made a great movie! That may be the proper format.

Another concern: I had some misgivings about the use of vampires to explain some of the evils in our national history. Slavery, secession, civil war, all belong to vampires in this book (with a quick mention of WWII’s genocide apparently coming from the same source). While Grahame-Smith struck me as careful to always treat these heavy topics with due sobriety, it still makes me a little uneasy to play with them in this way. Slavery and civil war are unsettling, terrifying, gruesome, disturbing enough in fact; it rather feels like diminishing their somber import to make them the fictional playthings of entertainment in this way, no matter how carefully treated. And again, the tone of this book is serious and in always respectful. But I’m just not entirely sure. It gives me pause.

Late in the book, I really missed our narrator of the beginning section: the writer, that is, who is approached by the mysterious stranger and given the lost diaries of Abraham Lincoln. The quick sketch of small-town life and the birth of this novel was a definite strength, and I regret that we never returned to that early narrator at the end of the book. I was looking forward to revisiting him.

So I have my criticisms, as you can see; but I really did enjoy this audiobook, and never considered putting it down. I think Grahame-Smith could have executed his rather genius story concept in less space: my audio ran to 9 CDs, and he could have kept it under 6, in my opinion. But again, this only makes me more interested in the movie version. Apparently the screenplay is written by Grahame-Smith as well, which is a good sign; and hopefully that format will push for a little more condensed action, which the book could have used as well. Call this a rare case where I am excited for the movie after reading the book.

The audio narration by Scott Holst was good. He emphasizes mood as a narrator should; he varied the voices of his characters a little, was not overly theatrical, but lent atmosphere where it belonged.

As always when I read historical fiction, I found myself contemplating the line where fact meets fiction. In this case, I’m sad to say (and it’s far too often that I’m sad to say this!) I don’t know the subject well enough to judge for myself; but here are a few notes of interest. At the end of my audiobook is a short interview with the author, in which I learned: first, that he was in fact quite purposefully following the aforementioned trend of vampires in pop fiction; and secondly, that he had great respect for his subject and did a fair amount of research. Now, this is a subjective measure (and he’s judging himself, which makes the judgment even more subjective), but I still find it encouraging. Finally, he mentioned a particular source of nonfiction inspiration: Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, which I have in my iPod just waiting my attentions. And that was the most encouraging detail of all. :)


Rating: 6 fangs.

Teaser Tuesdays: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just open your current read to a random page and share a few sentences. Be careful not to include spoilers!

I confess I thought this looked a little silly. Maybe it’s the whole vampires-in-pop-fiction trend? But I confess, I like it. And there’s a movie, you know… Here’s a teaser.

I shouted after him: “Why haven’t you killed me!” His answer came calmly from the next room. “Some people, Abraham, are just too interesting to kill.”

And maybe that’s how the book is striking me, too. Too interesting to kill. :)

What are you reading this week? Do share.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

My friend Amy told me about the Parasol Protectorate series, and I was intrigued. It took me a while to find a copy of this, the first in the series, but it was worth finding!

The cover asserts that this is “a novel of vampires, werewolves and parasols,” and so the uniqueness begins. The series is set in Victorian London, and combines the genres of paranormal romance and steampunk along with, I suppose, alternate history. And there is a mystery as well. Most interesting.

Alexia Tarabotti is a confirmed spinster of the advanced age of twenty-six. There are several setbacks to her marriageability: her father is both dead and (was) Italian; he gave her a swarthy complexion; her nose is rather large; she is tall; and her personality is far too assertive and prickly to make her a decent wife. Furthermore, she is a preternatural – meaning, she has no soul. In Alexia’s society, werewolves and vampires are well-integrated into society (if not entirely accepted in all circles). To become a vampire or a werewolf, one must have an excess of soul; Alexia’s total lack thereof means that she can, with a touch, neutralize supernatural qualities. At the opening of the book, a vampire attacks her and in defending her, she accidentally kills him. The werewolf authority sent to investigate the death is a peer, one Lord Maccon, with whom she has tangled in the past. As new vampires begin appearing where they shouldn’t, and known vampires (and werewolves) fail to appear where they should, Alexia comes under suspicion. The clever and not-to-be-daunted Alexia, with her preternatural abilities to help her along, works on solving the mystery, further motivated on repeated attempts to abduct her. Lord Maccon works on the mystery because it’s his job. The two have some personality clashes but are also drawn to each other (cue the classic romance-novel device).

There is no arguing against the absolute silliness of this book, but it is oh! so much fun! I really enjoyed the romance that develops between Lord Maccon and Alexia. They struggle with understanding one another’s culture in their courtship: his involves pack dynamics that she’s unfamiliar with, and hers involves chaperones and proper proceedings that Alexia herself is not terribly comfortable with, being such a spinster. Carriger writes some very funny scenes; I giggled aloud. The mystery is engaging. The steampunk background was totally new to me and didn’t necessarily add anything to the appeal, other than being a layer of interest, something shiny to look at between steamy scenes.

I am surprised at myself, because I haven’t liked any paranormal romances yet; but despite the vampires (Lord Akeldama is great fun!) and the werewolves (Lord Maccon is really a sexy beast) this was an engaging, entertaining, clever story with a very likeable main character. I think I’ll seek out more of the Parasol Protectorate series! I wonder if we’ll ever learn more about the incident involving the hedgehog?? Thanks Amy for a very strong recommendation!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 378 other followers

%d bloggers like this: