Monday, August 13, 2007

Laughter Reviews, #3

Given the abundance of regular reviews on the web, Apprentice Writer provides capsule reviews with the focus: Funny? Or not? (Be warned: AW is difficult to please.)

I'M THE VAMPIRE, THAT'S WHY
BY MICHELLE BARDSLEY
CONTEMPORARY PARANORMAL

Premise
Single mom is forced to deal with life as a 'Turnblood' (fresh vampire).


What Works
Original premise. Apprentice Writer never got into the Buffy phenomenon, so her vision of the vampire world is still made up of elegant, sultry adults drifting about remote castles and slaking various lusts by candelight, with nary an underage person in sight. Tossing children and everyday life chores into the mix is an imaginative new take on the genre; the juxtaposition of vast new vampiric abilities vs. plain old parental frustration in the face of offspring defiance (as evoked by the title) promises mondo fun.

One of the most believable and thoughful aspects of the book is how the heroine, Jessica, deals with the emotional baggage generated by her husband's infidelity and subsequent death, forced as she is to confront the Other Woman on a new level.

Also, Apprentice Writer was pleasantly surprised to find some unexpected layers of complexity beyond the simple 'I want to bite you/But I don't want to be bitten' storylines of classic movies. This novel touches on vampire origins, propagation, disease, government, anarchists, and cross-paranormal-species relations - in other words, lots of room for interesting developments.


What Doesn't
Several rough spots in the text seemed to point to an inexperienced author (or, perhaps, copy editor) such as a scene in the beginning when Jessica leaves a room where the hero, Patrick, is calm, naked, and chained to a wall, and when she encounters a rampaging hairy beast soon after immediately assumes it is he. Huh?

Jessica repeatedly refers to her need to toss a coin into the 'cussing jar' as monitored by her daughter, yet judgmentally labels a rival as 'crude' when she uses similar language. The hypocricy seems unintentional, rather than a deliberate indication for the reader of Jessica's human flaws. In the same way, when displeased with something, various characters refer to how the offending situation "sucks"; but without any of the irony that should go along with that particlar verb in a story where blood extraction is the primary pastime.

In a TSTL moment, security guards have been stationed inside and out of Jessica's home after she was brutally mauled twice. In classic teenage slasher movie error, she then leaves by herself, without telling anyone her destination (the security guard outside actually waves at her as she flies off) and - surprise, surprise - she is attacked again.

Stylistically, there is this remarkable paragraph:
"I watched in awe as Nara faded into nothingness. The vampires who still encircled us, watching the action in silent regard, dispersed. It was eerie to watch the undead walk out of a cemetary - almost like I was stuck in one of those Sci Fi channel movies Jenny liked to watch."
So sad when book advances don't even cover the cost of a thesaurus.

A look at the author's website, though, reveals that she is no newbie but multi-published in different genres - one of which is erotica. Perhaps this is why Jessica's first encounter with Patrick involves her waking after her first, life-changing bite to find herself dentally attached to his inner thigh, cheek pressed against his naked groin. Call it old-fashioned, but Apprentice Writer believes it is simple good manners to know someone's name before squishing your face against their genitalia.

Then there is the issue of bond between the male and female leads. Why Jessica is attracted to Patrick is not hard to understand; he is written as an highly appealing character, both inside and out. The reverse, however, remains fuzzy even beyond their HEA. At one point, Jessica asks Patrick if he really loves her or if he just thinks he should because she has inherited a family heirloom meant for his soulmate. It is a valid question; beyond the soul-mate prophecy and the fact that Jessica's children seemed to remind him of his own, long-lost offspring, there didn't appear to be a clear reason why Patrick was drawn to Jessica more than many another crabby woman he might have encountered over the millenia.


Overall
The author deserves much credit for imagination and writing about fascinating aspects of the vampire world beyond the basic love angle. This is as much of a tease as a good point though, given how this is yet another first book which all but cattle-prods the reader into buying the next in the series because so frustratingly little explanation of elements is given here.
Apprentice Writer will grudgingly admit that authors must be smart about making a living and publishing more than once per year, and that sometimes detail must be sacrificed in order to move the action along. But it seems like missing the whole point when the painstaking effort of creating an entire society is made only to skimp on description. Surely fantasy/paranormal authors should be afforded a little more latitude than usual in this regard.


But does it make you laugh? NOT ENOUGH
There are some amusing one-liners, and a humorous scene with a father-in-law. Otherwise, snarkiness frequently seems to be confused with funny. What seems especially lacking is humor related to housewifery and kids, given the book's title. Jessica's interactions with her children are mostly non-existant in the beginning (this is explained as Patrick making arrangements for their care while their mother gets used to the first few days of night-living), and then mostly angst-ridden for the remainder. This is understandable in light of the plot, but leaves this reader feeling cheated given the apron/cupcake cover art and "hilarious", "funniest", "fun, fun read!" cover quotes. Although the book has its strengths, humor-wise it fails to deliver as promised.

1 comment:

Christine d'Abo said...

Now I have to say I like my vampires dark rather than funny. A bit of humor here and there is great, but over all I like the tone to be dark. :)