Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood – Review for #AWW2012

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood is the first in a very long series of books (I think they are up to number 19 now) about the fabulous Phryne (pron frynee) Fisher, lady detective.  Phryne was orginally born in Australia but moved to England as a girl when her father became heir to a title and a fortune.  She has spent her formative years as a wealthy socialite, learning to dance the tango in Paris with a gigolo, learning to drive from a race car driver and learning to fly planes.  She is certainly accomplished and handles every situation with aplomb.

When we start this book, Phryne solves a mystery of missing jewelry almost without getting up from her dinner table and when he witnesses this, another guest engages her to find out if his daughter’s husband is poisoning her.  To do this she must head off to Melbourne.

When Phryne arrives she settles in at the Windsor hotel, engages a maid and settles in to solve crime and socialise, all in the best of frocks.  She also finds time to fraternise with a Russian dancer, solve an international drug ring and make the police look stupid for not being able to find an illegal abortionist.

In fact Phryne is a little too perfect.  But she is wonderful all the same.  I fell in love with her wittiness, her dry sense of humour and her willingness to chip in and help out those of lower class than her.  She was a fun character to listen to.  But I think what I loved the most about this book was the descriptions of Melbourne in the 20’s.  As a Melbournite, I love my city, and to hear it so lovingly described made me want to go back there, to experience it for myself.  Greenwood obviously did a lot of research about Melbourne in the 20’s to sound so convincing, and it is obvious she loves this city as well.

I am glad I got to experience this book before the television series starts on the ABC this year.  I think I am definitely going to enjoy it.

I read this book for the AWW2012 Challenge.  You can find the challenge at the following link http://www.australianwomenwriters.com/p/australian-women-writers-book-challenge_25.html 2 down – 8 to go 🙂

The Reformed Vampires Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Before I say anything about this book, let me just say this, what a cool title for a book.  This was what originally attracted me to this series, although I must be honest, the cover of the original one I saw was much sexier than this one, which was the cover of the audiobook that I listened to.

When I first tried to read this, about a year ago, the book didn’t really appeal to me.  As a great fan of vampire romances, the idea of sickly vampires, who didn’t really do much of anything and whinged and complained a lot, really didn’t appeal to me.  So I put it back on the TBR pile where it languished for months (don’t worry, some books languish there for years).

The other cover really made the vampires seem way cooler than they really were

I rest my case.  To me this cover was quite misleading, this cover says to me the heroine is a kickass vampire with an attitude that no-one is going to diss.  In reality Nina, the aforementioned heroine, is in fact, a sickly, weak reformed vampire who has been living in her mother’s basement since 1973 when she was turned at the age of 15.  She is a skinny pale girl with a bad haircut and a can’t do attitude.  Does this cover portray that at all?  Whereas the cover of the audiobook accurately portrays the whimsical nature of this book.  Anyway, enough about the covers, what did I think of this book.  In a word (or two), I liked it, but didn’t love it.

There is something quite special about this book (indeed the sequel The Abused Werewolves Rescue Group has a similar quality to it as well).  I did enjoy the originality of the premise, that Vampirism is a disease and that Vampires are basically very unwell forever.  They talk in terms of science rather than the supernatural, they scoff at the vampire legends, they laugh about the super strength, and they vomit a lot.  Plus I liked the Australian setting as well, you don’t get many vampire/werewolf tales set in the outback or Sydney (unless you read Keri Arthur but if you like her you won’t be reading this I don’t think – not enough sex – none in fact)

The support group to which the title of the book refers, is where the vampires meet every Tuesday night to bitch and moan about life as a vampire and what it entails.  This is where we meet out intrepid heroine Nina, who is about to head off to yet another interminable meeting when they find out that one of their number has been staked by a slayer.

What ensues is definitely a comedy of errors and misunderstandings as the usually apathetic (I can relate) vampires must motivate themselves to save the group from discovery and a young werewolf from slavery.

I found it to be an almost uplifting story, that the most unlikely of people can be heroes, but there were a few things that annoyed me about the story.

One – the author’s use of ‘never the less’ and ‘needless to say’ were by far too prevalent throughout the book.  It may have been because I was listening to it, but I found it to be quite annoying.  This is also the case in the sequel, even more so.

Two – the lack of romance.  Although this is not a vampire romance per se, I still felt a bit cheated.  Even though Nina does find someone (I won’t say who but it is obvious from the very start) we don’t even get to listen in on a kiss or a cuddle at all.  I understand this is written as a diary perspective but the main character is in her fifties for god’s sake, surely there could have been some nookie?

Three – the first person point of view.  I normally quite like a first person point of view but considering that this first person is unconscious for all the daylight hours I felt this could have been better with third person.  Again, I realise this was supposed to be a diary format kind of book but sometimes first person gets my goat, and way too many YA books are written in first person.

Aside from these few things, I did quite enjoy this book, I thought it was better than the sequel, easier to relate to a sickly vampire than a stupid 13 year old werewolf.  I recommend it for lovers of the out of the ordinary and teens.

This is my first book review for the AWW2012 challenge – http://www.australianwomenwriters.com/p/australian-women-writers-book-challenge_25.html which I will post there as well.