Ever since I read My Best Friend’s Exorcism a few years back, Grady Hendrix has topped a very short list of Authors Whose Books I Instantly Buy Hardcover Copies of Upon Their Release, While Simultaneously Reading Their Backlist Books. The list of authors is shorter than the title… So, when the Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was released, I told multiple people I wanted it for Christmas. It was the only thing I asked for, last year. Thankfully at least one person listened to me, and the book didn’t disappoint!Continue reading The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Dark Companion by Marta Acosta
Warning: this post contains spoilers.
Dark Companion by Marta Acosta is book #2 in my READ ALL THE LIBRARY BOOKS challenge, and like my initial reaction to Sign Language by Amy Ackley, when I pulled Dark Companion from the shelf, I was once again disappointed. In fact, I hadn’t even openly declared that I was trying to read all of the books in the YA section of my library at this point, so I almost gave up on the project in that moment. The book cover featured a young woman wearing a white gown in the middle of a spooky forest; between that image and the title, it screamed paranormal romance or paranormal fiction, which is a genre that has me hightailing it in the other direction faster than if it were a plate of brussel sprouts.
I chose to persevere though, and in the end…I’ll still run from PNR faster than if it were a plate of brussel sprouts.
Dark Companion by Marta Acosta
Released: July 2013
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Orphaned at the age of six, Jane Williams has grown up in a series of foster homes, learning to survive in the shadows of life. Through hard work and determination, she manages to win a scholarship to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy. There, for the first time, Jane finds herself accepted by a group of friends. She even starts tutoring the headmistress’s gorgeous son, Lucien. Things seem too good to be true.
The more she learns about Birch Grove’s recent past, the more Jane comes to suspect that there is something sinister going on. Why did the wife of a popular teacher kill herself? What happened to the former scholarship student, whose place Jane took? Why does Lucien’s brother, Jack, seem to dislike her so much?
As Jane begins to piece together the answers to the puzzle, she must find out why she was brought to Birch Grove and what she would risk to stay there..because even the brightest people make terrible decisions when they are offered the things they desire most.
Admittedly, for the first half of the novel, I thought Dark Companion was going to be a solid, four-star kind of novel. I thought it was going to be the book that changed my mind about paranormal fiction. So what if I thought the main character, Jane, was kind of uninspiring? So what if I thought Lucien and Jack, potential love interests, were worse then Edward Cullen (how?!)? It takes place at a friggin’ boarding school, which is one of my favorite settings ever! Plus, Acosta wrote one of my favorite secondary characters ever– Mary Violet (or MV). MV is hilarious and clever and vibrant, and all I wanted to do was read a book about her. Of course, there simply is no denying that Marta Acosta’s writing is beautiful either, and she captured the atmosphere of a gothic novel so perfectly.
Yet the exclusive Birch Grove Academy has a dark, cult-like secret. One that I wasn’t on board with.
I thought Dark Companion was going to be a vampire novel because there are these subtle clues that some of the characters in the novel have a certain fascination with blood. They like their steaks rare (Did I say “rare”? I mean “basically raw”), and they practically start salivating when people get paper cuts. And yet, vampirism would have been preferred to the twist that was presented (even though I can’t stand vampires. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Exhibit C.) A genetic disorder plagues Lucien and his family (who run Birch Grove), that makes them both incredibly pale and incredibly thirsty for blood. And Jane was invited to Birch Grove Academy because her blood is exactly what Lucien needs. When it is revealed to Jane that she was selected to be Lucien’s companion, she’s both freaked out (because this means he will drink her blood), but also kind of thrilled because it means she gets to be with Lucien forever and she totally has the hots for him. Except, their relationship ends up being just as creepy as you think it will be. Lucien is overwhelmed by literal bloodlust, and he tries to seduce Jane every time he wants to feed. It boggled my mind that this novel was marketed as a YA novel, especially considering in a previous scene, Jane returned to a friend in the slums and learned all about BDSM and “blood play”. All of this just made me feel so uncomfortable, and all I wanted to do was take a hot shower and scrub myself clean with a loofah made of steel wool. Ick.
Jane eventually comes to her senses and realizes this relationship is absolutely crazy and toxic and ends up falling for Jack, Lucien’s brother, instead. Neither of the love interests are particularly decent, but at least Jack doesn’t want to drink Jane’s bodily fluids.
Dark Companion was a disappointment, but I still find myself optimistic about this challenge. This is especially odd because the next book in line is Halo by Alexandra Adornetto, and I’ve intentionally avoided YA novels featuring angels as the main character. I’m not keen on innocent and pure main characters and forbidden love.
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
About a month after publishing a blog post about how I was nervous to start reading Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris, a reader pointed out that a fair amount of time had passed and I still hadn’t written a review for the novel; she was curious about what I thought of the book. The truth is…it took me nearly a month to read the novel, and it was a pretty grueling experience.
I went into reading Dead Until Dark with skepticism. I’ve never developed a fondness for novels about vampires, and I suspected this novel was mostly smut, yet I was pleasantly surprised in the first few chapters. I was impressed by the character of Sookie Stackhouse and how vivid her voice was. She seemed like a down-to-earth and simple southern girl who had an insatiable curiosity about vampires. She also had a peculiar gift that allowed her to read the thoughts of others, which…okay…I wasn’t that impressed with. It was a little too Bella Swan for my taste (and yes, I realize Dead Until Dark was published first), though I was willing to overlook it.
And then everything changed following her first roll in the hay with Bill, the vampire. Sookie Stackhouse? Surely her name is really Mary Sue!
- She’s the most gorgeous girl in Bon Temps, Louisiana, which she and everyone in Bon Temps constantly remind the reader about. I guess the only reprieve the reader gets is at least Sookie doesn’t try to convince you she’s just mediocre looking despite an excess amount of male attention.
- She refers to her magical ability, which allows her to read the minds of those around her, as a “disability”. Gross.
- Said magical ability is a result of her not-so-human status (which is actually revealed in later novels, I just accidentally found a spoiler).
- Spoilers also tell me of a love pentagon? A love hexagon? Just no.
- She’s abstained from any romantic and sexual relationships because of her mind reading ability, so naturally her first sexual encounters, with a vampire of course, reveal she’s actually a sexual beast. Who doesn’t come out the gate swingin’ though, amiright? (Just kidding. The answer to that question is “NO ONE”).
- She essentially has a minimum wage job, but she doesn’t ever have to worry about money because a giant “nest egg” has been willed to her. On multiple occasions. This allows her to take all the time off from work that she needs with no consequence. That and her boss is in love with her. How convenient.
There was a mystery in this book too that became quite muddled after Sookie lost her V-card. I mean, it was a compelling murder mystery at first, but then the story morphed into this weird relationship power struggle between Bill and Sookie. Bill was a bit of a wet blanket unless bedroom activity was involved, and Sookie was excessively stubborn by refusing her gentleman caller unless bedroom activity was involved. I forgot about the mystery until the last couple of chapters, which in all fairness, wrapped up nicely.
In the end, while I didn’t hate Dead Until Dark, it definitely didn’t impress me. I sort of wish I could have my month back to trudge through a different novel.
Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris
Released: May 2001
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Mystery
Age Group: Adult
[goodreads | indiebound]
Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She’s quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn’t get out much. Not because she’s not pretty. She is. It’s just that, well, Sookie has this sort of “disability.” She can read minds. And that doesn’t make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He’s tall, dark, handsome–and Sookie can’t hear a word he’s thinking. He’s exactly the type of guy she’s been waiting for all her life….
But Bill has a disability of his own: He’s a vampire with a bad reputation. He hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of–big surprise–murder. And when one of Sookie’s coworkers is killed, she fears she’s next….
Book Blind Date | Shakespeare Undead by Lori Handleland
I’ve mentioned it before, but I go in “blind” with almost every book I borrow from the library. It encourages me to select books I never would have otherwise because of perceptions of a genre or a style. This was the case for Shakespeare Undead by Lori Handeland. I picked up this novel for two reasons:
- I needed spooky books for my October “horror” series, and well…this book does have “undead” right in the title.
- The book cover features Shakespeare with vampire fangs, and apparently that’s all the convincing I need.
Continue reading Book Blind Date | Shakespeare Undead by Lori Handleland
I Finally Finished Another Series: Twilight
[Warning: this post may contain spoilers]
I’ve done it! I’ve really done it! I have officially completed two entire series in my 26 years of existence. I spent the afternoon of Labor Day power reading the last 200 pages of Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. And this GIF of Kristen Stewart sums up my feelings over losing several hours of my life to the book:
I avoided the Twilight saga for as long as possible. I had heard too much about the bland characters, the poor writing, and the sketchy romantic relationship to know that this was one book hype I should probably avoid. And! When Twilight hit the shelves, people compared its popularity to Harry Potter. As if it were even in the same league! But somehow, someone talked me into reading the series. I went in totally prepared to hate everything about it, but if I’m honest, I don’t actually hate the series. Not all of it, anyway.
When I read Twilight, I was surprised. Surprised by how much I didn’t dislike Bella and Edward and Jacob. Surprised by how easily I was swept up in the fantasy of Bella’s budding romance with a sparkling vampire. Surprised by how I did not want to put the book down– not even for Fallout 3, which I had just purchased that weekend, and this is kind of big deal. I ended up reading it in two days even though I’m a pretty slow reader. I was just…hooked! I mean, obviously I could tell the quality of story telling and character development wasn’t the greatest, but for some reason that didn’t even matter. Twilight has this junk food quality about it. I compare it to cookie dough, which is unhealthy, but I cannot help gobbling down spoonful after spoonful of it anyway.
New Moon made me even weaker in the knees. While Twilight focused on Bella and Edward’s relationship, New Moon, focused on Bella and Jacob’s friendship, and I adored that. I freaking loved Jacob Black in New Moon– in all the books. I finished book two just as quickly as the first book. I had to because the second movie was hitting theaters, and I ended up dragging both my parents along to see the film.
Then, my love for the series ended abruptly. Eclipse happened, and I fell out of love with the series. Eclipse was so boring; I actually skipped nearly an entire chapter of this book because it could not hold my attention– the one where Bella is sitting about a campfire with Jacob and his family/friends, learning about shape shifters. I consider myself Team Jacob, but not even he could keep my attention during the info dump. To make matters worse, Bella turns into a jerk– she was over-compensating her faithfulness to Edward because she finally realized she had feelings for Jacob too.
I didn’t think it were possible, but I started to like Bella even less in Breaking Dawn. Edward too. Because they were just so, so mean. Their attitudes were so unappealing that I ended up putting the book down for two years. I regret doing that because the last 200 pages of the book were such a doozy; attempting to finish the book became a challenge. I ended up skim-reading to the end, but nothing really happened anyway. I thought it was going to be this battle royale– Cullens and Co. vs. the Volturi. I thought that’s what New Moon and Eclipse were building up to, but they just talked through their differences, and everyone lived happily ever after. It was anti-climactic. [Note: I actually saw Breaking Dawn part II in theaters before finishing the book, which was also a mistake because, while I liked the movie’s ending a little better than the book’s ending, it was still a “cop-out”, and this affected my attitude towards the book.]
I of course dragged my mom to see all the movies, and I think I preferred them to the books despite Kristen Stewart’s emotionless acting and all of the cheesy fight scenes. I liked the scenery and I loved the music. Also, I liked this guy and his abs:
Have you ever read the Twilight saga? Did you love it or did you hate it? Or, do you fall somewhere in the middle like myself?