Becky’s One Hundred and Fifth Book Review: “Fat, White Vampire Blues” by Andrew Fox

If you’re looking to read a book that is going to mildly entertain you, be rather offensive and racist and overall just make you feel queasy, you should read “Fat, White Vampire Blues” by Andrew Fox. I originally picked up this book because I enjoy reading paranormal literature and this sounded like a fun new twist on the genre. Twist yes. Fun…no, not really.

In “Fat, White Vampire Blues” the main character, Jules is an overweight vampire living in New Orleans. Now, this is the only part of the book that I really liked. Jules was fat because he would eat mostly fat people and he liked to take them out for a big, greasy dinner beforehand. I thought it was an interesting take on vampires. Typically, they are portrayed as the beautiful undead and Andrew Fox chose to take his vampires in a different direction. It was refreshing in a way to read of vampires facing consequences for feasting on the unhealthy people of the world. Unfortunately, that seemed to be the only refreshing part of “Fat, White Vampire Blues”.

The vampires in Andrew Fox’s novel held some similarities to the traditional vampire displayed in vampire lure. For instance, Jules was able to turn into a bat (although an extremely overweight bat that couldn’t fly) a wolf (again overweight with a belly that would drag on the ground) and even mist. His behaviors were a little ridiculous when he was transformed–especially when he became the wolf. I don’t want to give too much away just in case some of you actually decide to pick up this book but let me say for the record, ew.

So in the beginning of “Fat, White Vampire Blues”, Jules picks up a black prostitute and takes her out to eat a very fattening meal. Once she finished eating her food, he takes her for a drive and eventually kills her. Shocker. Anyway, he gets home from this and there is another vampire at his home. He introduces himself as Malice X, tells Jules that he isn’t allowed to kill black people anymore, turns into a leopard and pees on Jules’s casket, and then leaves. Jules now has to figure out another easy food source and soon calls for backup when he realizes it’s a little harder than he thought to just kick the habit.   He goes back to his sire for help, drama ensues.

Would I recommend this book? No. I thought that the book was just a little too weird for my tastes (which is really saying something) and I was glad when I was done. I almost put down the book without finishing, but I hate doing that. I’ll always be wondering if it got any better. In the case of “Fat, White Vampire Blues” it did not. There is actually a sequel and I bought it before reading the first one because I was so convinced that I would enjoy this book. Now I’m thinking that I will just get rid of both books. Life is too short to spend time reading books that aren’t awesome. 

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Becky’s One Hundred and Fourth Book Review: “The Little Lady Agency” by Hester Browne

This book was quite a fun surprise. I’ve had it on my bookshelf for awhile and since it was an unknown author, I didn’t rush to pick it up. Clearly, my mistake. What should have tipped me off was the fact that Sophie Kinsella was one of the authors commending the book on the back cover. Either way, I picked up “The Little Lady Agency” because I was looking for a light read after having pretty much overdosed on Stephen King. While “The Little Lady Agency” was definitely a chic-lit novel, it was a very well put together one with a main character that you couldn’t help but cheer for.

The premise of “The Little Lady Agency” is a girl, Melissa Romney-Jones, finds herself out of a job for the umpteenth time in a very short while. The Americans bought the company that she worked at (the book is set in England) and since she was the newest employee, she was expendable. Melissa needs to find a new source of income and fast and when she is out with her two best friends, Nelson and Gabi she bumps into an old acquaintance. This starts a series of events that leads to Melissa opening her own company called “The Little Lady Agency”. Her goal: help the men of the world without a clue. She does it all, from basic makeovers to posing as a girlfriend for gay guys not quite ready to come out of the closet. She even pretends to be one guy’s wife when his one night stand won’t back off. Now that was fun to read about. For all of these ‘male makeovers’ that she is making, she goes by the name ‘Honey’ and wears a blonde wig.

Most of her clients only need her services for a short while but there is one guy who hires her to pose as his girlfriend. New to England and recently divorced, he doesn’t want to have to deal with friends and acquaintances trying to set him up on blind dates – enter Honey.

Soon the lines begin to blur between Melissa and Honey. Melissa starts to take on some of Honey’s traits and even a blonde wig cannot keep the two separate. Melissa is finding the strength and confidence that came with the blonde wig are seeping into her life. She is becoming less of a pushover and embracing the fact that she is a smart, beautiful woman. It was fun to read about how Melissa pretended to be confident so she could be ‘Honey’ and found she benefited from embellishing Honey’s character. 

I found Melissa to be quite a fun character to read about. I felt a very similar affection for her as I felt for Becky Bloomwood the first time I read the Shopoholic series by Sophie Kinsella. There are a lot of differences in each girls’ world though. For one, Becky has a very supportive, loving family with a lot of quirks. Melissa on the other hand has a terrible family for the most part. Especially her father, I did not like him at all. Whenever I read things like this where the parents are awful I’m reminded of just how lucky I am to come from the background that I do. That being said, “The Little Lady Agency” has plenty of quirks and even though her family was a nightmare to read about, they made for some very funny situations.

Would I recommend this book? YES! I am so pleased that I found another chic-lit author who is able to paint her character’s world so well. I have high hopes for Hester Browne. She has written several other novels including two sequels to “The Little Lady Agency” which I am planning on devouring as soon as I can find the time. This book was a really fun read and just might appeal to a male audience as well although it is definitely aimed towards the women of the world. If you’re looking for a light, fun read – pick up “The Little Lady Agency”.   

Becky’s One Hundred and Third Book Review: “Insomnia” by Stephen King

“Insomnia” by Stephen King was like an acid trip. Ok, to be fair, I’ve never actually done acid or any hallucinogenic drugs…but I do believe that what he wrote about in “Insomnia” can most closely be described as that. Pretty crazy.

Stephen King’s “Insomnia” is set in a small town in Maine where a man named Ralph lives. In the beginning of the book, Ralph is in the process of saying goodbye to his wife. She is dying from brain cancer and rather quickly, forgetting who he is and who she is. It was very sad to read about him losing the woman he had been with for most of his life. Soon after Carolyn’s death, Ralph begins losing sleep. It starts out small enough, he begins getting up just a little earlier every day. Then he is missing hours of sleep. Soon he is lucky if he gets three or four hours a night. Not long after, Ralph starts to see things. Everyone and their mothers are offering Ralph advice as to how to solve his insomnia. He tries all sorts of things including drinking a shot or two of whiskey before bed as well as eating honeycomb. (Which I now really want to try). Nothing works and Ralph is still not getting any rest.

The way that Stephen King describes what Ralph begins to see is what really made me think to compare “Insomnia” to hallucinogenic drugs. Ralph is seeing what most people would call an aura. But it isn’t just people who have auras. Buildings, plants, furniture, food…everything has an aura. One that stood out for me was when he saw the aura of some flowers in a vase. The color coming off of them was a misty green and Ralph could feel the flowers dying. That was what it was like for him with pretty much everything. He would see the colors and feel the emotions. I really liked this aspect of the book. Stephen King was able to stretch his writing, at least in my opinion, to include the different ‘colors’ that different emotions would be linked to. It was quite different from what you would normally expect from him.

As I say that, I feel compelled to mention that yes, there is horror in this story as well. It really wouldn’t be a Stephen King novel if it wasn’t at least a little. One of the things that Ralph is seeing once he is sleeping less and less are these black clouds or ‘death bags’ as he comes to call them. The presence of one means something bad is coming, the larger the death bag, the greater the trauma will be. (The death bags really reminded me of the creatures that Odd Thomas sees when something evil is coming. Some of Dean Koontz’s best works in my opinion).

Some of these things are explained to him by ‘the doctors’. There are three all together, and they cannot be seen by ordinary people but only by Ralph. The three ‘doctors’ are compared to the three sisters in Greek mythology — the ones who cut the thread of life. Essentially, that is what these guys do. It was really interesting to read King’s interpretation on a Greek myth. Two of the doctors could be categorized as ‘good’ and then the third can be described as a messenger of chaos.

Would I recommend “Insomnia” by Stephen King? Yes – but it isn’t for everyone. I think most die-hard Stephen King fans would enjoy it but it certainly isn’t something that I would go raving about to those who do not read his books most of the time. It was a very entertaining read, but not his best work ever.                                   

Becky’s One Hundred and Second Book Review: “Audrey’s Door” by Sarah Langan

If you ever start to feel like you are losing your mind, you should read “Audrey’s Door”. It will put things in perspective. I think pretty much everyone has a touch of the crazy, but in “Audrey’s Door” the main character is two steps away from a straight-jacket. This book was a total impulse buy. It was being advertised as a book that I could get new for one credit and two bucks shipping on paperbackswap (awesome site by the way). So I saw the cover, judged the book by it and thought that might be good and decided to order it and several others. Cause one is never enough. After going through all that, the book sat on my shelf for months. Finally I picked it up and I was very pleasantly surprised at what I found there.

The main character in this novel is Audrey. She is a young architect with O.C.D. – and by no means a mild case of it. At the beginning of the book, Audrey has just broken up with her fiancé and is looking for somewhere new to live that she could possibly afford. The story is set in New York City, so Audrey knows she’s asking for the impossible really. Eventually, she stumbles across an advertisement for an apartment that is by all means a steal. She finds out that the reason the place is priced that way is because the previous tenant had drown her four children and slit her own wrists. So no one really wanted to live there – but Audrey doesn’t see the harm in moving in because she certainly isn’t going to be murdering anyone. Things quickly get strange.

I really liked the character Audrey. She was massively screwed up and in a way it was comforting. Like, there are times when my life is really overwhelming — but I’m not that bad. I liked her flaws and I liked the way that she thinks. For example, “She’d never met a happy family, and wasn’t quite sure she believed in them. They sounded as Kosher as Scientology Aliens or leprechauns.” (Audrey’s Door, pg 35) or “It’s such hubris to think your problems are bigger than the person’s sitting next to you, just because they have the fortitude not to complain.” (Audrey’s Door, pg 159). Audrey has kind of a ‘fuck you’ attitude, but not because she necessarily thinks she is better than everyone else — she is more-so of the mindset that everyone else is better than her. I liked the change in pace. There are so many protagonists who spend all their time thinking they’re better than everyone else when they are just as much of a screw-up as the rest.

In addition to Audrey being O.C.D., her mother is bipolar and living in an assisted living kind of place. The flashbacks throughout the book to her time growing up with her mother were very revealing. It was really strange to think of what that situation must have been like, “She thought of Betty in a bed, all by herself. One moment an angel, the next, a villain. And the thing is, do you blame the sickness, or its host?” (Audrey’s Door, pg 176).

I don’t want to give too much away because that would spoil it. But I found the book to be sufficiently creepy with a nice air of mystery to it. Plus, as I stated earlier, I really liked the main character. Overall, I think that the author did an excellent job and (surprise, surprise) I went out and got the rest of her books. Her writing is poetic in a way. I especially liked this paragraph towards the end: “No thinking creature can tolerate captivity. In the presence of just four white walls, the mind invents. Stagnant air and locked doors skew perception. Eighty-degree angles turn obtuse. Holes form between joists where bricks no longer neatly meet. Smiles become sneers; love skinned leaves the skeleton of lust; and too much sleep unmoors its dreamer. Without the possibility of freedom, the rituals of living are abandoned. Bathing, eating, cleaning, and even language are lost. Things fall apart, and in the vacuum of their absence, madness nears.” (Audrey’s Door, pg 371).

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely!! I was pleasantly surprised by it and I think “Audrey’s Door” would appeal to a wide audience. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to someone who doesn’t enjoy mystery/horror/thriller novels. But it was a great read and I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the books.