Book review: ‘Insatiable’ by Meg Cabot

I have a writer crush on Meg Cabot. She’s fun and quippy, erudite and interesting — the blend of humorous chick lit I find so intoxicating. I began reading her Princess Diaries series as a teen and have followed her devoutly since, gamely picking up anything she scribbles.

Some have been hits; others have been misses. As I get older, my reactions to Cabot’s novels have gotten spotty and unpredictable. Despite going into Insatiable eager and excited to see her take on the recent cult of vampires, this book is going to flounder in the in-between category for me.

Television writer Meena Harper has her hands full. When she’s not unwillingly getting a glimpse of how others are going to die or picking up after her slacker brother in the apartment they share in New York City, she’s fighting off backstabbing coworkers and struggling to incorporate a campy new vampire plotline on “Insatiable,” the TV soap to which she contributes. Life gets a bit more interesting when she’s introduced to Lucien Antonescu, a charismatic European professor, and survives a near-death collision with a swarm of bats. Confused but thankful for Lucien’s heroics that save her life, Meena falls for the debonair Romanian.

Her love balloon is soon popped, however, by the arrival of Alaric Wulf, a man who has some startling accusations to level against Lucien. That he’s a vampire, for one — and that Alaric, a member of a secret Vatican guard, has been sent to kill him. And Lucien’s fate suddenly rests with Meena.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, it totally is. And at first I thought that was a good thing, you know, because Meena seemed like a normal, sane person. Even with the whole psychic powers thing. But as Meena became completely obsessed with a dude she met days ago and seemed to value his life more than her own, I got frustrated. And disinterested.

The weak beginnings of a love triangle form in Insatiable, but I didn’t really see how there was any contest between Alaric and Lucien. It’s the whole Edward/Jacob thing all over again — but I guess that, once I grew up and saw Edward’s stalker-like tendencies for what they really were, I got over the whole vamp thing. So I was Team Alaric, if you will, if only because Lucien seemed like a weirdo.

There’s a disturbing trend in literature that really gets under my skin, and I’m not sure we’ve coined a term for it. As such, let’s go with this:

The Undeserving Heroine.
• A female lead who, in mindboggling fashion, attracts the devout love of multiple men while seeming dull, boring, vapid or otherwise uninteresting. See also: Bella Swan.

Now, this is not to say that Meena was a total wreck. She wasn’t as brainwashed as Bella, that’s for sure, though her intense “love” for Lucien was eyeroll-inducing. Despite all this, I don’t mean to be a hater. I gotz the emotions, I swear, and know how ridiculous and squee-like we can all get during those heady early days of infatuation. But I guess I just don’t want to read about it.

Characters falling “in love” too quickly is a major pet peeve of mine, and sort of a literary deal breaker. It’s something I can rarely circumvent in my reading. Once I find both The Undeserving Heroine and a plot involving a too-quick-to-be-even-remotely-realistic love affair, I’m out. And that’s what happened here.

Fans of Cabot who have a penchant for humorous vampire tales might enjoy this one more than I did. Insatiable absolutely does tackle the whole vamp thing in a very light, tongue-in-cheek way, and Cabot never takes herself too seriously. The plot is a little trite but still compelling enough for me to finish, though I can’t see myself continuing with the series. Take that as you will.

3 out of 5!

ISBN: 0061735086 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Audio copy borrowed from my local library

Book review: ‘The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner’ by Stephenie Meyer

For Bree Tanner, life as a newly-created vampire has consisted of following orders, avoiding squabbles in a household of other newborns and being told, under strict penalty, never to go outside in the daytime. Sent out in the streets of Seattle, Bree’s only goal is to feed — as much and with as little trouble as possible. Human blood, even from the “dregs” of society, is her sustenance.

But something feels strange about her situation, about life with twenty other vampires and little knowledge of how they got that way. Bree was a troubled teen, true, and she’d been living on the streets when discovered by Riley and offered a meal. She became the meal at some point, taken to the dark home where she “lives” now, told that she’s a member of a coven whose purpose is still unknown. After she befriends Diego, another vampire and friend of Riley, Bree begins to think about getting away — especially when Riley’s lies begin to stack one atop the other. And something is beginning to happen. Something is coming after them.

Stephenie Meyer’s The Short Second Life Of Bree Tanner is a novella to supplement Eclipse, the third in her bestselling Twilight Saga, and centers around the life of a minor character from that third book. I’ll admit to reading and enjoying all four of Meyer’s novels several summers ago, pre-blogging, and getting lost in the complicated love story of Edward and Bella. The shadowy world of modern-day vampires was a new one for me, I’ll say, and while I know the series faces criticism (and rightfully so), I liked the Twilight books as the escapist fun I found them to be — and, in that vein, I enjoyed Bree Tanner.

Like all of Meyer’s books, the emotional depth was lacking — or non-existent, depending on your perspective. Things happen. Lots of talking. Many questions — entire paragraphs of questions, most of them centering around, “What is happening? Are they telling me the truth? Should I believe them? What if they’re wrong? What should I do?” And after the third or fourth set of Bree’s thoughts in that realm, I started nodding off a bit. (Well, not literally. I was reading it online. But if I were at home, that’s around the time I’d have gotten a big bowl of ice cream, put on some “Glee” and forgotten about it for a while.)

For me, the appeal of the books seems to center around being able to picture yourself as the heroine — the Bella, or the Bree — and imagining your own place within the adventure. The Twilight books hinge around a familiar formula: the slow building of a problem; gearing up for a fight or battle; the confrontation; the resolution. Bree Tanner doesn’t break from this, though it bothered me less in a 200-page story than a 700-page clunker of a book.

Twilight devotees will enjoy another glimpse at life within the newborns, a group which played an integral role in the plot of Eclipse and the fate of Bella. I liked watching the attachments forming between Bree, Diego and “Freaky” Fred, another mysterious coven member with special powers, but never got completely attached to Bree — especially knowing, as I did, how it all would end. That’s what’s strange about a book like this: we know the ending long before we open the first page. I didn’t find it particularly enlightening, moving or powerful, but hey — it filled an afternoon.

3 out of 5!

ISBN: 1907410368 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
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Book review: ‘Mr. Darcy, Vampyre’ by Amanda Grange

mr_darcy_vampyreFor Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, the honeymoon period may be over — literally.

Following the exchanging of their marriage vows in England, Elizabeth and her beloved Darcy set out on their wedding tour, planning to take in the splendors of France and Italy. At first delighted at the prospect of traveling the continent, Elizabeth’s joy at becoming a new bride begins to diminish as Darcy begins acting strangely, turning a cold shoulder to her and refusing to visit her in the evenings. After a harrowing experience while visiting Darcy’s uncle in an old, crumbling castle, Elizabeth finds herself even more confused and fearful at the change in her husband’s demeanor. And things seem to go from bad to worse.

Amanda Grange’s Mr. Darcy, Vampyre is definitely a different take on much of the Austen fiction that picks up where Pride & Prejudice leaves us. The novel literally opens on Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding day, giving us a peek at the happiness they both felt was initially promised. But the secrets between them threaten to destroy their relationship . . . mostly from the inside out.

Like Elizabeth, I often found myself with more questions than answers here. I spent the majority of the novel waiting for the shoe to drop, so to speak — waiting for something to happen. As a reader, we know something the new Mrs. Darcy does not . . . and all I wanted was for her to just discover that already. Despite its title, little mention is actually made of anyone’s vampyric tendencies, and I guess I’ve spent way too much time in the Twilight world . . . I just wasn’t that impressed. The story’s “villain” seemed to appear from nowhere, and I couldn’t really live in any sort of fear of him — he disappeared as quickly as he’d emerged. There was really little threat motivating the story and, quite honestly, I didn’t feel much of anything while reading.

That being said, there is an innately interesting plot going on here (I mean, c’mon. Darcy? A vampire?). I didn’t have any trouble reading the book, finishing it in just a few nights. It’s just that my mad dash to get done was motivated by the fact that I desperately wanted to see some vampire action going on, and I couldn’t help but feel a little let down. Still, Grange’s prose is interesting enough to propel the plot, and I enjoyed the descriptions of England, France and Italy in the early nineteenth century. Venice, in particular, was magical.

I’m a huge fan of Austen’s work and generally love fiction based upon her beloved novels. If you’re a Darcy fan or just find yourself roped in by the cover — I know I did! — I would still recommend checking out this latest edition to the Austen world. Finishing the book definitely made me want to re-read Pride & Prejudice, and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre seems true to the original plotline. Just don’t expect to, ahem, sink your teeth into it too quickly.

3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 1402236972 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher