Thursday, December 31, 2009

Book Review: The Morganville Vampires (omnibus edition of Glass Houses and The Dead Girl’s Dance)

Morganville Vampires

I pretty much avoid sparkly vampire stories. I’ve never read Twilight, and have not seen the movies. I am only vaguely familiar with Anne Rice’s stuff. I have been “self-sheltered” from vampire fantasy fiction. But when I saw that Penguin Books was re-releasing Rachel Caine’s The Morganville Vampires in omnibus editions, I asked for a copy of the first one (Glass Houses and The Dead Girl’s Dance). I wanted to get a feel for this whole area of fantasy about which I was mostly clueless.

Glass Houses and The Dead Girl’s Dance were both written from the perspective of 16-(almost 17!)-year-old Claire Danvers, an exceptionally smart girl who got into college early. She wants to go to Yale or MIT, but before her parents will allow her to live on the other side of the country, they are making her do a two-year term at a close college in Morganville, Texas. This proves to be a rather unwise decision on the part of her parents, as Morganville happens to have a lot of vampires. Our little Claire ends up in the thick of them rather quickly.

In Glass Houses, Claire is getting harassed and beaten by other girls in her dorm, so she takes refuge in an off-campus house with three roommates. Claire and her roommates become the four central characters of the story as they try to unravel the bloody secrets of Morganville while trying not to piss off the local vampires. Glass Houses ends and The Dead Girl’s Dance begins in the middle of the same knife swing. In The Dead Girl’s Dance, the four girls get deeper into the vampire doodoo, and it’s fun to speculate about how they are going to get out of it without nuking the entire town.

The Morganville Vampires books are definitely intended for teenage girls. I suffered through several detailed descriptions of hunky dudes with windblown hair, various shoe selections, and lots of kissy-face action. But I knew what I was getting into and, to be honest, none of the girly stuff was overdone. I felt that Rachael Caine wrote the extremely smart 16-year-old perspective rather well.

I have only a few real complaints, mostly with the first book: In Glass Houses all of the characters except for Claire felt a bit shallow and the plot felt rushed. It’s almost as if Ms. Caine needed to get this opening book out of the way in order to get into the more juicy bits of her story. In The Dead Girl’s Dance several characters go through changes that bring them more depth and the plot is more complicated and feels more cohesive. I wondered whether these two books were originally written together, because it certainly felt that way.

I enjoyed The Morganville Vampires books, even though I’m way outside the intended demographic. I think it’s safe to recommend them to any fantasy fan that needs a break from their usual fare. I can definitely recommend them to our teenage readers. I would advise parents to read to them first, though, especially if your young one is under 15 or 16. There is some suggestive content, but all of it falls within a PG rating.

There are seven Morganville Vampires books out now, with #8 (Kiss of Death) on the way. I hope Penguin plans on publishing the rest in the 2-for-1 package, for it makes it a worthy purchase.

See this review and others at

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book Review: Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

Best Served Cold

Joe Abercrombie is a master of his trade, and his trade is dark fantasy. He is becoming the standard bearer for gritty realistic fantasy, and Best Served Cold might well be the masterpiece that represents that sub-genre. Monza Murcatto is a renowned and very successful mercenary, or was…till she was stabbed, beaten and thrown from a mountain side by her employer. Best Served Cold tells the tale of Monza and her quest for revenge. Monza contracts a party of unsavory characters to aid her in her revenge quest. The story goes from dark to black to “a wet match in the bottom of a dark cave”. Everyone suffers, lots of people die, the trail of blood and tragedy that Monza leaves in her wake is unprecedented. Abercrombie takes what appears to be a simple tale of revenge and twists it into a sanguine journey of self discovery on the part of each character. No other author I’ve found works so hard to create likeable characters out of such nasty individuals

The book is exceedingly well written, so much so that I have really no other option but to give this book 5 stars. It really is an amazing work. Reading his work is always bitter sweet for me. I know I’m going to get an amazing story, with unique characters told in a way that only Abercrombie is able to pull off. All the wonderful writing comes with a price for the reader. The price is that it changes you a little, it’s altered my perception of what fantasy can be. Before reading Abercrombie I was blissfully unaware of how truly brutal and tragic fantasy as a medium can be. Sure there is George R.R. Martin and his love of killing off main characters, but these books are different. In Martin’s work I never had any doubt that I was observing the story from the outside. With Abercrombie he makes it a point to bring you there. I feel the character’s spirit break in the hands of the torturer. I know the person that was on page 112 is now someone else on page 113, and it makes me sad. There is no redemption, no “making it up” later…they’ve simply changed. It’s a very real and unsettling thing to experience as a reader, and it’s a feeling that’s not commonly found in fantasy. The heart of Best Served Cold is how Abercrombie strips our “heroes” down to their core and reveals with in them who they truly are.

I have a love hate relationship with Abercrombie’s books. I will most certainly continue to read them, they are just too incredible not to. I will be sure to keep something exceedingly happy to read right afterwards. Best Served Cold is technically a stand alone novel, but I would highly recommend reading The First Law Trilogy prior to this since I get the feeling of an overall “Big Picture” taking place in this world. Read this book if you are ready to have your thoughts on fantasy challenged. Do not read this book if you like your fantasy to be a pleasant escape from the harsh realities of life. -JB

See this review and others at

Friday, December 11, 2009

Google Wave invites

I think just about everyone that wants one has one, but if you don't and would like one. All you need to do is follow my blog and comment on this post and I'll send you an invite. I have 15 it's first come first serve. I'll need an e-mail address to send the invite to. You can choose to post it in the comments (e-mail at or drop me a line a at geeksonfireblog at with the name you used in your post and "wave invite" in the subject line and I'll send it straight away.

Tis The Season! #3: Child's Play

Another unique charity that I like a lot and thought I should share.

Since 2003, over 100,000 gamers worldwide have banded together through Child’s Play, a community based charity grown and nurtured from the game culture and industry. Over 5 million dollars in donations of toys, games, books and cash for sick kids in children’s hospitals across North America and the world have been collected since our inception.

This year, we have continued expanding across the country and the globe. With almost 70 partner hospitals and more arriving every month, you can be sure to find one from the map above that needs your help! You can choose to purchase requested items from their online retailer wish lists, or make a cash donation that helps out Child’s Play hospitals everywhere. Any items purchased through Amazon will be shipped directly to your hospital of choice, so please be sure to select their shipping address rather than your own.

When gamers give back, it makes a difference!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Review: The First Lord's Fury by Jim Butcher

The First Lord's Fury

Grab your helms, shields and swords, fantasy fans. In The First Lord’s Fury, Jim Butcher is taking you to war! In the 6th and final book in the Codex Alera series, Butcher not only takes you to war, but makes you laugh and cry along the way. The First Lord’s Fury is a very suitable ending to what I found to be a most enjoyable fantasy series. The Codex Alera series takes place several thousand years after a lost Roman legion found its way to another world and rebuilt a society. The novels’ setting, the realm of Alera, is therefore loosely based on ancient Roman culture. The story follows a young man named Tavi through his eventful life and The First Lord’s Fury is the ultimate conclusion of Tavi’s story. In the previous books, Tavi finds himself in impossible situations and relies upon his wit and support from loved ones to win the day. The First Lord’s Fury is no different in that respect. Where this book differs is that the weight that’s been placed upon Tavi has grown significantly. A feeling of utter desperation takes root in all the characters. People die, families are torn asunder, the realm is in total chaos, and everything depends on the rest of my review on

The copy I used to review this book was sent to me by Berkley Publishing Group. It was released in the US(11/24/09)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tis The Season! #2: Iraq Stars Inc.

For my second highlighted charity I selected IraqStar

Iraq Star Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing the necessary reconstructive surgeries to assist war veterans recovering from physical and mental injuries. It's the Foundation's hope that reconstructive surgery will also help our veterans heal from emotional trauma, increase self-esteem, and ease their return from their pre-war lives.

I seen them highlighted in an episode of American Chopper. Seems like such a great "filling the gaps" type of charity. Providing much needed non life threatening cosmetic surgery for injured veterans. The VA facilities are often only capable of basic surgery, just enough to allow the vet to function in day to day life. Iraqstar takes that one step further. Great charity.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tis The Season!

From now till New Years I will be posting various charities that I think are worth taking notice of. I typically like charities that have a more hands on or practical approach to helping people. If you have a charity you'd like me to feature just reply to this post and I"ll check them out.

Ok the first the charity I'd like to feature is WorldBuilders or rather Patrick Rothfuss's collection front for Heifer International

Heifer is a kick ass charity in that instead of sending supplies that is often stolen are used on black markets, they choose to provide sustainable food a whole cow, or a hive of bees. Agriculture education, things like that. It's actually quite an amazing charity. As a bonus if you donate through Pat's link you get entered into a series of drawings for various gifts donated from the fantasy community. Lots of cool stuff check out the links above to learn more.