Friday, April 5, 2013

"Eternally Yours" by Cameron Dokey

Mercedes Amberson is viewed by the other girls at Cooper Riding Academy as a poor little rich girl. She certainly feels alone, with parents who don't seem very interested in her. Her only friend is Andrea Burgess, who is poor, but has a loving family she misses.

What Mercy wants most of all is a boyfriend to call her own. She thinks she's found the one in Conner Egan, the lead singer of band Elysian Fields playing at the popular Night Owl club. Little does she know, Conner is actually a centuries-old vampire. He needs a young girl to pledge her undying love to him so that he may turn her into a vampire, allowing him to become mortal again. He thinks he's found the one in Mercy Amberson. It is up to Andrea to step in and save Mercedes from Conner's clutches.

Just when I think I've found the dumbest, most exasperating heroine in a novel ever, something always seems to come along and raise the bar even higher. The latest doozy is Mercedes "Mercy" Amberson, whose too-stupid-to-live behaviour really stretches patience. It is suggested that she is under some kind of spell that Conner has used to bend her to his will, but it did little to generate extra sympathy for her.

It also makes the plot confusing.

If Conner needs a young woman to tell him she'll love him forever and do anything to prove it so that he can turn her into a vampire and become mortal again himself - and has supernatural powers to hasten the wooing process along - why has it taken him over 200 years to find a wet blanket like Mercedes? He mentions he spent at least 100 of those years living like an animal because he was so angry at his vampire state, but that doesn't explain the other 100 years. What has he been doing in all that time? Tending to his garden? Penning the ten-thousand-or-so teen novels about vampire love that have been released in the last 20 years? He's certainly taken his sweet time. Maybe because only Mercedes was the only person in the last century who was enough of a dolt to fall for his bullshit. Who knows?

Conner believes that once he is mortal again, he can have whatever he wishes for the remainder of his life. What exactly is that? How would he achieve that? Will he gain a magic genie who grants those wishes once he's human? The novel doesn't explain why being mortal again is such an important goal for him, especially considering he has not been terribly proactive about the whole thing.

The character of Andrea Burgess is far more tolerable. She's plucky and strong-willed. Why on Earth she would expend so much energy and risk death several times to save a simpering moron like Mercedes is another question that remains unanswered.

Of course, I'm probably expecting too much from a 90s teen novel released when the market was being absolutely saturated by multiple clones. It doesn't stop me from hunting down every single one of them. And I do enjoy reading them. However, the ones involving sappy vampire love are generally the more dire of the lot, indicating that not a whole lot has changed since the early 90s vampire stuff and the Twilight-inspired dreck being released now.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Snakes & Ladders" by Sean Slater

Detective Jacob Striker is upset when he attends the scene of a suicide and realises he knows the victim, Mandy Gill. When he notices a camera set up outside the scene, and then has a tangle with a mysterious lurker, he is pretty sure it was not a suicide at all.

The investigation leads him and his partner, Detective Felicia Santos, to a mental health facility run by Dr. Erich Ostermann. Ostermann is a bit strange, and his family isn't much better. Striker is caught in a bureaucratic nightmare as he tries to obtain information from various sources.

As it happens, a shrink that Striker was seeing after the suicide of his wife is also a patient of Ostermann, after having a mental breakdown of her own. She has now gone missing, and Striker fears that she may be the next victim in the conspiracy he is uncovering.

Striker is contacted by the villian - who calls himself The Adder - who wants Striker to be his latest victim in a ritual he calls The Beautiful Escape.

Snakes & Ladders is an improvement over Slater's debut The Survivor, but still suffers from the fact that Striker is an arrogant asshole. Seriously, it is extremely difficult to spend all my time with a character who thinks he's always right and is God's gift to the world. The fact that he is almost always right kind of nips any suspense in the bud. Maybe if he was a bit more human and less of an over-confidant tool, there might be some drama and mystery over whether he is pursuing the right lead or not. Instead, Striker just marches around everywhere with the knowledge that all his hunches will play out exactly as he predicts.

Another thing I noticed was the fact that nearly every single chapter ends with some reference to where Striker and Santos are headed, or how long it will take them to get there, or that they were running out of time. It gets very repetitive.

The rhyme and reason behind the killer and their motives was much more interesting in this go-round, however. Instead of the inner turmoil of some turd who murders children (as found in The Survivor), we get a killer with a complex history and a motive that is believably derived from their circumstances. This believability kept me involved in the story whenever I was in danger of giving up because of Striker's assholery. The eventual revelation regarding the villian and their associates and their motives was clever and unexpected.

There was also a little more action thrown into the mix to keep things lively between the more routine aspects of the police procedural. Sure, Striker and Santos have to question a ridiculous amount of people, but there is at least a palpable sense of danger lurking throughout the proceedings, as our heroes have a couple of close encounters with death in the course of their investigation.

While the cat is let out of the bag a little early (with at least 100 pages left), Slater actually manages to up the suspense as the possible actions of his characters become increasingly unpredictable. It was nice to be genuinely interested in how things would play out.

A couple of inconsistencies:

The Adder invites Striker to play a game through a sinister e-mail. This is never revisited.

Striker spends the first quarter of the novel complaining about Larisa Logan's hard-nosed, obtrusive manner in his therapy sessions with her and that he doesn't like her all that much. After she goes missing, he's referring to her as a great friend who got him through the toughest period in his life.

It took me a few days to finish Snakes & Ladders - it was a little too long, the main character was very off-putting, and the "procedure" aspect of the police procedural was a bit too heavy, so I put the book down more often than I picked it up, but it was a more consistant effort than The Survivor, and I am not opposed to checking out another Striker novel. And considering how much I detest the guy, that's quite a feat!