If you read enough books, they all start to be family. A second-cousin might remind you of an aunt you met at a party once. You wish you could have a giant reunion to get everyone in the same room to compare faces and laughs. Book vs. Book is as close as I can get to this monstrous occasion.
Speaking of monsters…
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw is the first in a series about Dr. Greta Helsing. She’s a doctor to the supernatural, and if there’s a hook that could pull me into the boat, that’s it.
Because of the language, tone, and topic, I was expecting Victorian London. But, she’s driving a car, so that’s not it. This was one of many adjustments my brain needed to make against my expectations. Not necessarily unpleasant, but a bit jarring.
There were wicked transitions and lots of head-hopping. I think I’d have preferred no more than two points of view, and perhaps more time spent exploring the emotional range of Dr. Helsing. As it stands, it was a fun read with a unique topic, but the narrative suffered from a thinness — an anemia, if you will.
A strange cult of monks is attacking the vampires, vampyres, and ghouls, as well as young women. I never fully understood the young women angle, and it’s a mystery with convenience and a bit of deux ex machina, but I kept reading because medicine for otherworldlies…yay!
Greta Helsing seems to lack a personality beyond duty and grief at the loss of her father. While I think those are both great starts, I wanted more. The humor wasn’t enough to carry the lack of deep emotion missing from her character for me. I’d love for Shaw to get a better editor and go deeper. This topic could keep me entertained for weeks.
Soulless by Gail Carriger is a popular novel published in 2009, which is now a fabulous series. It’s been reviewed to the moon and back, but whoa…the voices here are super similar, so I needed to get these two books in a room and have a good look.
Alexia Tarabotti is a bluestocking and a preternatural. With no soul, she’s able to transform the overly-souled supernaturals in Victorian London back to their human state with a touch. At a dinner party, a rove vampire attacks her and she kills him in self-defense, which brings along Lord Maccon to investigate. Mystery ensues. It’s also a romping romance, and that part is what really kept me enthralled.
Even though both books are pretty much the same amount of pages, Carriger manages to layer politics, romance, family dynamics, werewolf pack rules, vampire society, and much much more until you’re left with a rich and full world to enjoy. There are scenes that feel deceptively leisurely, but they are advancing the plot in subtle ways. It’s artful and fun.
Both books have repetitious language and chunks of narrative reinforced, but Carriger’s world has enough space in it that you don’t notice it as much. Plus, you’re so busy wishing to be gnawed on by a hot, Scottish werewolf you can forgive it.
Alexia is never a damsel-in-distress even when she’s strapped to a table and about to be exsanguinated. She fights everything all the time, even the hot Scottish werewolf Lord. It makes for a heroine you admire and love.
Either one of these books makes for a fun escape from the hot weeks of summer. Soulless brings some of its own heat, especially in the last chapter – fair warning.