17 July 2009

Book Reports (all trashy summer reading)

I'm not sure if I should be amused or disgusted that Teenaged Vampire Romance is a genre of novels, like SciFi or Mystery.

Thanks to the juggernaut of Twilight, a whole horde of writers have glomed on to the phenomenon, resulting in both bright lights and dreck. Mostly dreck; I read this type of stuff as escapism, and then I feel semi-guilty that I'm not reading things like Desmond Tutu's memoir, or The Year of Magical Thinking.

It was mostly due to reading a bunch of crappy novels that I started writing my own back in the dark ages. It languishes, unfinished, and may stay there for the rest of my life. But I was writing because I couldn't find anything I actually wanted to read.

I digress.

The novels I've blown through in the last few months are mostly of that aforementioned Teen-aged Vampire Romance Novel genre. First is Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series; I read the first book sitting in Barnes and Noble that horrible winter where I should have been out on the road doing sales. I didn't know that she'd written two more until very recently. I bought them both, and breezed through both of them in a few hours. The fourth book is due out soon, and I will read it as well.

My opinion of most of these books is somewhat akin to my opinion about the Twilight series; the stories are compelling, enough to hold my attention, but we're certainly not talking about writing of a quality of Hemingway or Goethe. I hasten to add - before any of these authors' fans flame me - that the intent of the TAVRNs is of course, not world-changing, world-class writing. They're intended as a good time, an escapist read, and they accomplish that well.

The next series I stumbled across is The House of Night, by mother-daughter team PC and Kristen Cast. I have to admit, shallowly, that it was the shiny black-on-black designs on the covers of these books that made me pull them off the shelf. They drew me in from the first page of the first book, and the end of the second book made me sob, that bit of the writing was so powerful. It is impossible to tell where the mother-daughter team trades off, because it is seamless.

By the time I got to the end of the 4th book, though, exactly like my fatigue with Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series, I wanted the endless drama of the multiple lovers of the main character to either sort itself out, neaten itself up, or go the hell away.

In Hamilton's series, the main character, Anita Blake, goes from a prudish vampire-hater to promiscuous vampire protector in about 6 books. Her promiscuity is explained away as 'needful' (she's sort of a vamp herself - heh, pun intended - and "feeds" off of orgasm, sort of) and I understand that characters change and grow throughout a series, but this is 1. too extreme and 2. honestly, the multiple orgies get boring.


In the Casts' books, Zoey goes from one dopey football player high school boyfriend to being in a situation by the end of the 4th book where the high school boyfriend is still around, there's a vampire boyfriend who had been a fellow House of Night student (but graduated, sort of), there's the teacher that she slept with (!!!!) who was later murdered, there's an evil spirit who wants her and she's not sure if she can stay away from him, plus another student who she spends all of 4 paragraphs talking to before he dies in her arms and she thinks they might be soul mates. (Him dying and coming back to life just complicate that whole thing further.) Let's see....that's 5? No, wait, 4, because the murdered teacher doesn't come back to life. Yeah. I'm mostly over that. The classic literary device, the love triangle, is fine, but this is a love....pentagram?

I've also decided while reading all of these that I absolutely despise the literary device of foreshadowing. I think for horror writers, it is supposed to add to the doom that you feel building up while you read, but it just irritates the hell out of me. Maybe because my beloved DH loves to play "I Know Something You Don't Know" and that also annoys me. (You must imagine the game title in a sing-songy 5 year-old voice for it to work properly!)

So - verdict, then, for these two TAVRNs? Get 'em from the library. If you like them well enough, then buy them. But the $13 - $20 on the trade paperback editions? Nah, not worth it until you know that you want them in your collection.

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