Dink Klassiks: Carmilla by Justin Sheridan le Fanu

Before there were sparkles and R-Patz, there was Dracula and before Dracula there was Carmilla. Written by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu in 1872, it is similar to Twilight in that the vampire is obsessed with a dreamy young girl. However Carmilla contains two things missing in Twilight:

1) Blood
2) Lesbians

Laura is a normal teenager who spends her days listening to Justin Bieber and smoking meth. Well, she would if they had been invented, but they haven’t so instead she spends her days moping around her dad’s house, a large, draughty castle in the mountains in Austria.

Her biggest wish is to have a friend and she finds one in the most expected way, when a carriage has an accident right outside their castle. The beautiful young Carmilla is taken in and nursed back to health, becoming Laura’s BFF in the process.

Only thing is, Carmilla is really friendly. She likes kissing Laura’s neck and talking about how the two of them will probably die together. Also, a mysterious plague has struck the nearby village, and young girls are being found dead each morning.

Never mind Twilight, what Carmilla most closely resembles is Let The Right One In. There’s a creeping sense of dread on every page, a hypnotic rhythm to the way Laura tells her story and the ache of teenage loneliness at the heart of it.

It’s quite brilliant. If you’re a vampire fan of any stripe and you haven’t read this, you should get cracking now. It was also the inspiration for Carl Theodore Dreyer’s silent movie Vampyr, which you can watch FOR FREE by clicking on this link. A free book and a free movie. We’re too good to you.

Review: Thirst (Ava Delany #1) – Claire Farrell

‘Thirst’ is the first in a series of books about Ava Delaney, a slightly anti-social, slightly OCD ‘hybrid’; a cross between a vampire & a human with presumably low carbon emissions.  After accidentally getting herself a man-slave, Carl, who she just can’t be arsed dealing with (and who can blame her?  A man doing exactly what you say, when you say it?  Oh the tedium!) she pops off to find someone who knows how to undo the bond.  Luckily, Ava’s Granny has been conveniently making friends with knowledgable people who may be able to answer the questions Ava is suddenly presenting her with.  Out of the blue.  After 7 years without communication.

So her Granny sends her in the direction of Peter, who greets her with a punch to the face.  “Only I could be attracted to a man who hated my guts on site” thinks Ava a chapter later, after Peter has burst into Ava’s home declaring he will help, but for Carl’s benefit, not Ava’s.

In trying to rid herself of an accidental man-slave Ava is forced to expand her previously small world, and learns of a potential civil war amongst vampires.

The story moves along like an old fashioned porn film, but without any sex scenes.  Potions & talismans are just a little too convenient, they could easily be marketed in the same way as apps.  Need to make sure anyone who wishes you harm can’t find your home?  There’s a talisman for that.  Punchy love interest bruised your face?  There’s a potion for that.

Oh, & because she’s half human she can go out in daylight.  And if blood is her heroin then milk is her morphine, although it isn’t explained how or why that works.

There are a few interesting ideas in this novella but they are not explored in any depth.  A childhood spent being dragged, by the Grandmother who was in charge of her welfare, between con-men & faith-healers who would try to beat the demon out of Ava gets a very brief mention, and given the childhood trauma she was subjected to the relationship between Ava & her Granny should be quite a lot more complicated than it is.  There is little description of the characters’ appearances beyond ‘attractive’ or ‘unattractive’ & it isn’t mentioned that the story is set in Ireland until the epilogue.

Although this is not our cup of tea, the lack of depth may work in the book’s favour towards a certain type of reader.  The absence of decent physical descriptions means you could probably project your own fantasies onto the characters, if you were so inclined, and if you’re looking for a book to enjoy because the Living TV channel is experiencing technical problems, this may be right up your street.

-RB

Free Fiction Roundup: The search for Biblical erotica

Sometimes we wonder if we’re too mean to authors on this site. Then we read the comments from Amazon users and realise we’re practically living saints in comparison. For example, check the reviews on Shrouded In Silence. It’s not quite as savage as the Three Wolf Moon t-shirt reviews, but what did this poor book do to deserve writeups like “One star was too much” and “So glad I didn’t pay for this rubbish”?

Oh. It’s a badly-written Dan Brown knock off. And it’s Christian fiction. Shudder.

Moving swiftly on, and nothing is a better antidote to Christian Fiction than a bit of filth. Rhythms of Grace looks like erotica, what with a scantily-clad hot chick on the cover and a suggestive title. Let’s dive in and read her saucy adventures:

“I dropped my bag to the floor. Even Maya Angelou wouldn’t get me through this one. This was going to require some Jesus.”

Ack! Darn Christians! They got us again! Unless Jesus is a Mexican plumber…no, it’s definitely a Christian story of redemption

(Random thought: Seeing as there are no exceptions to Rule #34, Christian slashfic must exist somewhere. Email us if you have any.)

And the next book… has Jesus in it as well! God really is everywhere, even in Amazon’s limited time offers. Unlike the last two efforts though, Walking on Broken Glass is written by someone who doesn’t consider plot, character and grammar to be tools of the devil. It’s about a woman grappling with her alcoholism with help from friends, family and The Lord. It is not terrible. It’s the kind of thing that might be made into a decent TV movie with, say, Jennifer Grey in the lead role.

Right then. Like the entire indigenous population of South America, we’re going to have to admit defeat to the Christians. Let’s look at The Road Trip: Sidecar Adventures With God. This is a lighthearted, whimsical book in which the author rides on the sidecar of a motorbike being driven by God almighty himself. They travel by places with names like “The Comfort Zone” and “The Cottage of Wisdom & Virtue” (spolier: they’re not real places, they’re actually very subtle metaphors) and God acts as a tour guide, explaining his opinion of each place and citing relevant bible verses. It’s an excellent book that tells you exactly what God is thinking about everything in the world. Assuming God co-wrote his bits. If the author just made it all up, then it’s kind of stupid.

Pick of the bunch: The only safe haven from the god-bothering this week is 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover by Linda Wisdom, which attempts to mix Twilight with Pratchett-style fantasy humour, and succeeds to a reasonable degree. A witch and a vampire who’ve got an on-again, off-again relationship have to join forces to track down a serial killer, with hilarious* consequences. There are plenty of neat little ideas, like the haunted car, that keep this thing rolling. And not a single Bible quote in the whole thing.

(*well, amusing)

Review: The Penal Colony – Richard Herley (or, Escape From Daily Mail Island)

Price: Free

In a nutshell: Battle Royale reimagined by Richard Littlejohn

The island of Sert just off the coast of Cornwall has become a dumping ground for violent convicts. Rapists, murderers and other nasty sorts are left to fend for themselves with no help from the mainland. Into this hellish world steps a wrongly-imprisoned man, determined to survive and clear his name. What kind of man is he? SAS? Ex-cop? Bear Grylls?

Nope. He’s a quantity surveyor from Surrey named Anthony Routledge.

And that’s the crux of this novel. It’s essentially a right-wing, middle-class fantasy about a world gone mad. At first, Routledge doesn’t think it’s too bad on the island: no women to nag him, plenty of gardening to keep him busy and, crucially, a strict rule of No Poofters.

But it turns out that this is The Village, a small, civilised community in one corner of the island. The feral monsters living outside The Village do not have the same zero-tolerance anti-poofter policy; in fact, they’re like a bunch of Greek sailors on shore leave. Routledge must keep his wits about him, unless he wants to re-enact Deliverance with himself in the Ned Beatty role.

The Penile Colony, as it should be called, is a trip into the macho daydreams of Daily Mail readers. The Village represents the ideal civilisation (no gays, no dole scum, few blacks and small government), while the rest of the island is filled with blacks and bummers, and half of them don’t even bloody work you know, thank you very much 14-years-of-Labour. If they were to overrun The Village – as they plan to – then the only gardening getting done would be uphill gardening. It’s a perfect metaphor for Broken Britain. If you live in the Home Counties and are insane

But credit where it’s due, this is actually written extremely well and as a straightforward thriller you’d be hard-pressed to find anything as good in the eBook Bargain Bin. If you’re in the target demographic (Mondeo Men who fancy themselves in a fight), you will love this. Although it may cause nightmares where you’re being violated by a big black guy. With Gordon Brown’s face.

What you should be reading: Hard Times – Charles Dickens

Hard Times
- Click here to buy

We normally like to look at slightly less well-known books in this section, but today is the Big Man’s 200th birthday so let’s dip into one of his classics.

Hard Times isn’t quite as popular as Great Expectations or Oliver Twist but it made a hell of an impact when it was published. Like a lot of his novels, it first appeared in serialised form in a magazine and it was lapped up by the 19th century public, who saw Dickens as a kind of JK Rowling figure but less punchable.

Unlike a lot of 19th century books, this is one that crosses social lines. We get to see from the top of society – in the form of wealthy windbag Mr Bounderby – to the lowest of the low, with the moral heart of the book being downtrodden miner Steven Blackpool, a man who served as an early prototype for The Fast Show‘s Unlucky Alf. At the centre of the story are the Gradgrind family. Mr Gradgrind is a schoolteacher with strict ideas about the importance of mathematics and logic over trivialities like “fun” and “smiling”. Tom and Lou are his children, who vaguely fantasise about murdering him.

A good introduction to Dickens for people who enjoy quality writing with great characters. And do read the rest of his stuff because he’s brilliant. Happy birthday, Charlie.

(Want more Dickens? Buy the Works of Charles Dickens (200+ Works) The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Bleak House, David Copperfield & more (Mobi Classics)
for £1.92)

Free Non-Fiction roundup 5th Feb: Free orgasms for all!

How can you resist a book named Orgasms!: Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, YESSS!! (52 Brilliant Ideas)? Answer: you can’t, and we expect you’ve already clicked on the link to download it. Never mind, we’ll wait?

Finished? What did you think? We’re big fans of the 52 Brilliant Ideas series as they tend to be written by people who vaguely know what they’re talking about. Orgasms! has chapters with titles like “Get Him To Use His Mouth” and “Porn Star Protocol”. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to roadtest any of these suggestions as most of them require a partner and they forgot to include a chapter called “How to achieve orgasm alone (without bursting into tears of loneliness)”. Maybe next week.

So alone…

Maybe we’d find a lover if we had some cash? Ladies love bling, right? The Rules of Money: How to Make It and How to Hold on to It, Expanded Edition by Richard Templar promises to show you how to make great big piles of sweet, sweet moolah. Rule #1: You’re poor because you choose to be! Do you hear that, entire population of Swaziland? Although we’re not sure about taking tips on getting rich from a book that’s being given away for free.

What about if we became rock stars? They get lots of groupies, right? Maybe there are some tips in Brand Like A Rock Star: The Musical Companion by Steve Jones? Well actually this book should be called Brand Like A Cynical Record Producer. It is the Simon Cowell route to success and we’re not so hard up that we’d sleep with Sinitta.

So very alone…

Maybe if we manned up a little, we wouldn’t be having these problems. Man Words – Real Words For Real Men by Jeremy Greenberg sounds like a promising start in this, being a dictionary of words used by men when being manly. Grawr! Sadly the actual book is pretty disappointing. We were hoping that this would be something like Roger’s Profanisaurus, but instead it’s like being stuck in a traffic jam with Jeremy Clarkson. And he keeps explaining what he’s saying, although you got it the first time. And he’s suddenly turned American.

(If you feel like splashing out, Das Krapital – Roger’s Profanisaurus is now available on Kindle for £6.18)

Obviously this project is going to take some real thought and effort. Or not, if Peter Taylor is to be believed. The Art of Laziness is a short, free sampler of his Lazy Manager programme which is based around the idea of attaining success by not really trying. Or rather, only bothering with the stuff that’s important and leaving the rest to someone else. Now that’s a philosophy we can get on board with.

Pick of the Bunch: First Year Teacher: Wit and Wisdom from Teachers Who’ve Been There is a niche book (it’s aimed at people beginning a teaching career and not really anyone else) but we enjoyed dipping into it and it’s certainly put together quite well. Filled with simple practical tips and interviews with experienced teachers, it’s a great read for anyone joining the profession or thinking of becoming a teacher.

Also, it helped to relieve our crushing sense of loneliness for a couple of hours. Sigh…


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