Book Review: Blood and Sunlight by Jamie Wasserman

Details from Amazon:

 

Book Description

Publication Date: August 2, 2010

Melanie would love to believe in fairytales. She’d love, in fact, to believe in anything. The twenty-three-year-old college dropout is stuck – stuck in a dead-end waitress job, stuck in her hometown of Ellicott City, Maryland, and stuck with a boyfriend who likes to play dress-up as a vampire.
Vampires. Her world and her reality are turned upside down when she encounters the real thing. Along the way, she meets Lucas, the would-be vampire slayer, his father the sheriff, and ultimately the vampire himself. Melanie learns that fairytales can come true, and evil isn’t always where you expect to find it.

 

Product Details

Initial Thoughts:

This book was recommended to me by fellow Penumbra author Natasha Larry (if you haven’t read her books yet, why not?) and since I am a big vampire fan I figured I would give this book a try. Also I know from being a Penumbra author myself (The Newfoundland Vampire will be out later this month!) that they only produce high quality stories so I knew Jamie Wasserman’s would be no different.

What I liked:

This book is very different from most vampire books I’ve read. It begins with a father and daughter at bedtime. The father beings to tell her a story and we immediately see this is a special story he knows by heart and that “You don’t. Not always,” know who the real monsters are.

To be more general I really enjoyed how the story approaches vampires from a very realistic/scientific angle (as much as you can) and at first there is no sign of anything out of the ordinary as we are introduced to Melanie, a talented, interesting, sexy woman who is wasting her life away in Ellicott City with her pathetic vampire-obsessed boyfriend and his somewhat crazy friend Carl.

I loved how much he makes fun of stereotypes and common myths/ideas about vampires. Bryan says things all the time like “listen to the children of night, what sweet music they make”. Also I’ve never been to Ellicott City but it sounds a very cool/mysterious place in it’s own right. The way he describes abandoned places (like the abandoned monastery Hell House), tunnels and even the surrounding forests makes an ordinary town into an enchanting place ripe for story and adventure.

Soon though everything changes as Melanie, Carl and Bryan’s drug/sex filled evening is destroyed when Carl and Bryan are both killed by a savage woman and Melanie meets a mysterious rather inhuman man in a trailer near Hell House ruins. She wakes up only to have the trailer on fire and must throw in her lot with Lucas, the person who set fire to the trailer in the first place.

As usual since I’m going to deal with more specific details this is your SPOILER ALERT!

After Chapter 6 things take a very unexpected turn. Melanie must deal with the death of her boyfriend and Carl (though she cared little for him) and how her saviour Lucas is obsessed with hunting vampires (and blew Bryan’s head off) along with the fact that he is determined to enlist her help in his quest.

I’m getting ahead of myself a little though. Once Melanie accepts that she needs Lucas (as she can’t handle being alone) it turns out that he did tell her the truth that her boyfriend would return and try to kill her in her apartment. Bryan does return there later in the afternoon and Lucas is forced to kill him. Luckily for Lucas (and Melanie)  his father (Trevor) is the local sheriff and is able to quickly deal with the murder scene.

One scene where Lucas compares a vampires apparent immortality to sponges is very amusing. To continue the story, Lucas is not the nicest guy, he is rough sexually with Melanie and uses her as bait to try and catch a vampire (unsuccessfully I might add). Melanie does feel threatened by him several times but she learns that he is abused by his father and her extreme desire not to be alone (and gratitude for him saving her life) keeps them together.

After the body of Lucas’ ex-girlfriend Leah (who attacked Bryan and Carl) turns up it looks like the whole vampire idea may not even be true. Melanie (after Lucas’ used her sexually and freaked out after touching his stuff) has finally had enough and moves out of his apartment. She investigates Leah’s apartment and despite the fact that it has every window boarded up she finds no evidence that she became a vampire.

This is when things really change, Lucas’ surprises her by inviting her out to the nicest restaurant in town and she accepts. She realizes too late that while they are walking in the woods after dinner that it was in fact Lucas’ that “killed” Leah and the vampire that saved her. The same fate happens to Melanie as she is “killed” by Lucas only to wake up a few days later in her apartment with holes in her memory and a stranger in her apartment named Keenan.

I liked how we are returned to the mysterious man and his daughter and then the story of Melanie the vampire begins in Part II: Rise. Keenan is a great character and I think Jamie captures the idea of a mysterious and aloof vampire well. He answers Melanie’s questions as best he can about vampire nature and shows her his memories of being turned.

Keenan shows memories to Melanie through his eyes, a kind of hypnotism I suppose, and she becomes him to experience his horrible rebirth. I also loved how Keenan lives in an abandoned castle with his cats and carefully drinks from them (with a syringe no less) so as not to cause them any harm. I enjoyed how he turns many vampires myths on their ears such as holy water, crosses, sleeping during the day, home soil, silver and garlic. I liked how Keenan shows that he still considers himself some kind of catholic and even compares vampires to Jesus and Lazarus (as I also see the Bible more as text/distorted history rather than the word of God I was not offended at all).Hot smile

I liked how in Jamie’s world vampires don’t turn people in the usual way. The people have to be almost dead first and then given the “poison” of a vampire’s blood to turn them. Also unique here is the fact that many times when someone is turned it doesn’t go well, they become feral monsters that eventually burn themselves out. Keenan tells Melanie that many times  he tried to make a companion for himself.

It was a nice twist to have a human, Lucas, as the main villain rather than the vampire, I didn’t see that coming. Of course Keenan has his own demons and is a man looking for forgiveness and redemption above all else. He savagely beat Lucas twice and almost killed him the second time. I enjoy any book that explores ideas of good, evil and that grey area in between and that certainly comes up here with most of the characters.

Something else I particularly enjoyed was the irony that vampires can smell amazingly well when it comes to food (to the point of smelling the land/people where the food came from) but are unable to enjoy eating food anymore. Also another great idea was the fact that human blood is like heroin to vampires and once they start to drink it, it is almost impossible to stop.

I also enjoyed a humorous part where Melanie expresses her boredom with vampire life and Keenan goes to the dump to find board games for her. As I put in my book there is no reason a vampire can’t still enjoy simple human hobbies.

Chapter 21-22 shows how Keenan can let loose as they ride on top of a train. I particularly enjoyed the sex scene here (hey I am a guy! Winking smile) and the simple beauty of the rain is written very well in this chapter.

Chapter 23 was another one I enjoyed a lot as Melanie is given a chance to kill Lucas but when she sees just how badly hurt he is her hate turns to pity and she decides letting him live is punishment enough. Keenan regrets what he did to Lucas and more than anything doesn’t want her to hate him like he hates his creator Darvos.

I enjoyed the turning point for Melanie as she really starts to change as a character. No longer is she coasting through her life, clinging to a loser boyfriend to not be alone and almost wishing for death. Now she cares enough to about someone else to risk her own life in the sunlight.

Keenan eventually shares some very disturbing memories with Melanie so she can see how dangerous human blood is to her. I thought the flashbacks of Keenan’s killing spree were very exciting to read and the baby being cut from the woman very graphic (but not too gory). I liked how it was a simple animal, a cat, that helped lead to Keenan’s salvation.Smile

There are some nice surprises at the end. Trevor has been the one telling the story to the little girl (Lucas’ sister). Melanie and Keenan become a part of the town and the castle is modernized. Finally Lucas sets the castle on fire in a fit of rage and Keenan goes to the house for revenge. Melanie soon rushes to the house only to find Keenan badly hurt, along with Trevor, and Lucas intent on killing them both. It is Trevor, surprisingly, who kills his own son before he can shoot Melanie and Lucas’ little sister, Kirsten, must be sacrificed to save Keenan (or so we are led to believe).

There is a final twist as the little girl, Kirsten, (obviously not dead) has two special vampire friends who now tell her stories, as soon as her aunt Sophie leaves the room.

Dislikes:

Ok time for the critical part of this review. Similar to what I’ve said for a couple of other books I enjoyed these final chapters but I think it could have ended earlier for a better ending.

There were some funny ideas with Keenan and Melanie hiding in plain sight as it were but somehow it seems strange for Keenan to change the way he acted for 200 years so suddenly.

I also wanted to read the scene where Keenan confronts Lucas. How did a terribly injured man with one working eye almost kill an ancient and powerful vampire? Did he make a big mistake? Did Lucas surprise him? I would have liked these questions answered.

The book did also have some editing errors. Such as the first time fangs are mentioned there are said to be the incisor teeth (which are the front 4) when later on it is written correctly as cuspids (which are just the 2 canine teeth). Maybe not everyone would pick up on this but as someone who wrote their own vampire book I did (to be honest I made the same mistake myself but my excellent editor Pat caught it Smile).

Also I think the second sex scene with Melanie and Lucas is too descriptive, it is bordering on porn. While I enjoy a good sex scene as much as anyone else once you actually start describe a man’s pubic hair I think you’ve gone a little too far.

I enjoyed the idea of the whole book being told to a little girl but it made little sense for Trevor to be telling Kirsten this story when she was already afraid of “the bad man” who terribly hurt her brother Lucas.

Also having a little girl being told two more stories (by Sophie and vampire couple) seems a bit repetitious for one book.

Final Thoughts:

With those minor concerns noted I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It approaches the whole vampire genre from a unique angle and I thought Melanie and Keenan were excellent characters (aside from the minor concern above) and I hope they return to a more secretive lifestyle in book 2. The dialog is excellent and I loved all the references to other literature. There were some great twists and turns and I did love the final line “How wonderful it is to be young. If only we could stay that age forever.” Open-mouthed smile

Jamie is a talented writer and I am glad I waited to read book one as I can immediately go on to book 2: Holding back the Day. Overall I give this book a strong 8/10 Thumbs up. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys horror/vampire fiction/romance but I would certainly not want anyone under 18 reading it.Vampire bat

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