Tag Archives: vampires

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

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Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Cabot, Meg. Insatiable. William Morrow, 2010. ISBN 978-0061735066 464 pp. $22.99

**

I finished Insatiable this past week, and my husband commented, when I picked it up another night, “Are you STILL reading that same book?” It was kind of a crazy week, and I was pretty tired at night, so I’m not sure how that contributed to my difficulty getting through what has been pegged by other reviewers as an easy read.

I liked the irony of the premise: psychic New Yorker and soap opera writer who is a fed up her job and with the popularity of the vampire genre gets fed on by a vamp who she’s unknowingly fallen for. I really enjoyed the treatment of Meena’s psychic ability, that if she shares a vision, she can divert fate, that what she sees is a possible and changeable outcome.

I did think there was a lot of cleverness to Insatiable. I loved Senor Sticky, a great allusion to Kendra’s (and later, Buffy’s) Mr. Pointy. I don’t watch 24, an appreciated that the relevance of Jack Bauer’s name was explained, and I loved the allusions to Dracula. The narrative was pretty straightforward (with several predictable elements).

But overall, I found the writing … amateur. At times, I felt more like I was reading a screenplay, because of the pacing, description and dialogue. Although the dialogue was frequently and delightfully snappy or snarky, the construction of sentences, variety of vocabulary, and plot predictability didn’t have the pizazz of a multiple title novelist.

I wouldn’t call the characterizations stereotypical, but I didn’t findlot much depth or change–perhaps, Meena’s decision at the end is a change, but given her dissatisfaction at the beginning of the novel, it’s not a surprise. I liked the neighbors next door (they surprised and delighted me) and I especially loved Alaric’s first encounter with Mary Lou and her couture.

I randomly opened the book to page 104, and here’s the rundown of dialogue attributions:
Meena said
Jon said
she said
Jon said
Meena admitted
Jon said
Meena said
Jon said
Meena admitted

Now, I know most writing guides will tell you to simply use “said” & “asked,” but use should still be limited, because you can use other tricks, like action, to indicate who is speaking. The overuse of attributions really stood out jarringly for me, instead of fading into the background to let the dialogue shine.

Flipping ahead and skimming through a couple of pages, I am struck by how frequently Cabot uses words in italics. There are two clear purposes: one, to indicate thoughts, like Meena’s musing to herself, or the psychic words/images she receives as portent of death to come.

Cabot also (over)uses italics for emphasis, and this is a no-no, to me. A strong, evocative writer shouldn’t have to TELL the audience where to put the emphasis in the sentence. The sentence structure or choice of words should allow that to occur organically. Cabot tell us to put emphasis on “what” (p 105), counted (p. 106), not (pg 108), knew (pg 109), how (pg 109), what (pg 109), was (pg 109), do (pg 113) ;and then, when a thought in italics has a word to be emphasized, it’s back in a regular font style (him, pg 109).

For me, these are serious writing flaws, and while I have no doubt of potential appeal or audience for this novel, the quality isn’t there enough for me to appreciate it as chick-lit.

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris

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Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris

Harris, Charlaine. Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) Ace, 2001. ISBN 978-0441008537 292 pp. $

****

Sookie Stackhouse is a mind-reading waitress in Bon Temps, LA who falls for a tall dark and handsome newcomer … who turns out to be a vampire.

I am not a mystery fan, but spurred on by True Blood on HBO, I devoured this book in one setting and went on to finish the series. Funny, sexy, thought-provoking, great characterizations.

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I’m a sucker for a good vampire novel and Meyer makes monsters romantic again in this third episode of the Twilight series. The passion-colored ribbon snaking across the cover of Eclipse is a harbringer of rift and bloodshed to come. Bella Swan, ordinary high school student, is still madly in love with beautiful vampire Edward Cullen, but it’s complicating her friendship with Jacob Black (the one who was there to pick up the pieces when Edward removed himself from her life). Jacob just happens to be a werewolf, and werewolves and vampires are sworn enemies. In addition to the “which boy will she pick” dilemma, a parallel conflict is created when a series of brutal murders in the northwest indicates a rogue vampire pack is on the move, and the Cullens are going to be facing a major showdown soon. Per usual, Bella is wrapped up in the middle of it, and in mortal danger.

The best parts of the book are a long storytelling session in which Billy Black tells the myth of the Third Wife. The attention to detail and careful styling are excellent. A scene in which the love triangle are forced to spend a night in a tent together reveals more character than the previous 500 pages. The allusions to Wuthering Heights elevate the plot and are a nod to the tradition of gothic literature, and may even inspire some teens to pick up a classic.

Frustratingly, Bella remains little more than a pawn in this book, trying to please everyone but herself. Much of this tome is taken up with her obsessing over the events of the backstory, and looking to her future, and whether or not she wants to be married, deflowered, turned, or all three, and when. Although she is a terrible role model for young women (marry young, girls are possessions, let your mate control your life, there is only One True Love, etc), the palpable (and chaste) longing will keep fans of the series swooning.

Eclipse is a must-have for YA collections, in spite of the fact that I personally wanted to throw the book across the room when I finished it. See, I’m holding out hope that in the next book, Breaking Dawn, slated for release next year, Bella snaps out of it and ends up with the RIGHT guy–for the right reasons. The debate on WHICH guy that will be rages on.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

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Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Meyer, Stephanie. Twilight. Little, Brown, 2005. ISBN 978-0316160179. 544 pp. $16.99

****

Anne Rice meets Joss Whedon in this rich sensory tale of a Arizona sun worshipper displaced to dreary Washington state. Teen Isabella is drawn to a mysterious clique of aloof and shiny people who exude power, agility, wealth and beauty. One in particular returns her interest–the seductive Edward who is first angered by her presence, then resigned to it as he reveals his vulnerabilities–and strengths–to the innocently alluring Isabella. Balanced against typical high school drama of school dances, hiking and ball games is a dark and sexy yet chaste story in the gothic tradition of monsters and the women who are compelled to fall for them.

Romantic, angsty and surprisingly real, this tale of a girl and boy, each drawn to the very terrible person who could be their downfall, has “star-crossed” scribbled all over it. Crossing genres of horror and fantasy, Meyers delivers a modern twist that deserves a place of its own in vampire lore.

Bloodline by Kate Cary

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Bloodline by Kate Cary

Cary, Kate. Bloodline. Razorbill/Penguin Putnam,  2005. 323 pp. ISBN 1595140123 $16.99.

****

This horror novel reads like a sequel to Dracula. Set during WWI, a bloodthirsty captain falls for the sweet and innocent sister of his wounded lieutenant. Quincey Harker’s supernatural strength in battle and Lt. John Shaw’s hazy memories of military raid hint that there is something sinister about his superior–will he be able to figure it out before his sister is in love with a monster? 

All the traditional trappings are here: wolves at the beck and call of the vampire, great winged bats, wooden stakes, garlic, the crucifix. The biting scenes are blatantly seductive.

Like it’s sire, Bloodline is told through journal entries and letters, giving voice to several characters and points of view. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, and Cary can be commended for her details, voice and sentence structures evoke the ghost of Bram Stoker. Dark and gothic, Bloodline will be most appreciated by those who have read Stoker’s classic.