Friday, October 14, 2011

Vampire Books to Die for – Guest Blog by Erin O’Riordan

Vampire trends come and go in pop culture, but I can’t get enough of these undead blood-drinkers. Maybe it’s nostalgia for the late-night horror movies my brother and I used to stay up and watch with my dad. Maybe it’s the guilty-pleasure thrill a girl who was raised Catholic feels when she imagines cavorting with damned, soulless creatures that serve darkness. Most likely, though, it’s the vampire’s forbidden erotic allure: the hypnotic eyes, the piercing fangs, the fact that they’re played by total hotties on TV and in the movies. In my imagination, they’re even hotter.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula, written entirely in the form of letters and journal entries, is an excellent read and still very much worthy of your attention if you haven’t gotten to it yet. Post-Stoker, I tend to prefer paranormal romances to horror, but this is only a tendency. A few of my favorites include: ~Little Vampire Women, by Louisa May Alcott and Lynn Messina. I do love a good literary mash-up, and this one squishes together bloodsuckers and one of my all-time favorite novels. It contains every bit of the fun of Alcott's immortal girl-power classic, except this time the March girls have...well, immortal powers. They’re supposed to, anyway, though vampire hunters have unleashed a plague on the undead community that endangers poor, dear Amy. Laurie is a mortal, and still not immune to the charms of his feminine neighbors, even if they do want to drink his blood.

(Top: Christian Bale as Laurie from the 1990s film version. Bottom: the cover of Little Vampire Women)

~The Casa Dracula Books, by Marta Acosta. The first book, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, is thoroughly enjoyable. In this witty novel, Acosta creates a wonderful heroine in Milagro de los Santos. Mil, as she is known to friends, just wants what every woman wants: to be taken seriously as a writer, to live in a rat-free apartment, and maybe to find a fabulous guy to get serious with. That guy is definitely not Sebastian, her ex, who's sitting on top of a pile of dark secrets. Along comes Oswald, who may be a vampire, and whose secrets may or may be of the dark variety. Wonderfully written, funny, and romantic, this book is a definite winner – and the series only gets better from there, as Mil is torn between Oswald and his less straight-laced cousin, Ian Ducharme. The final book, Haunted Honeymoon, completely satisfies.

~J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The series is about a race of vampires who coexist with humans. Rather than feeding off humans, these vampires need to feed from the opposite sex of their own kind. The race was created by a goddess-figure known as the Scribe Virgin. Her nemesis, the vampire devil, is called The Omega. An elite clan of warriors, the Brotherhood, protects civilian vamps from The Omega's soulless army, the Lessening Society, or Lessers. The "Brothers" are not literally brothers (except Phury and Zsadist, who are twins).

Ward's writing style takes a little getting used to for those new to the series. She writes in a very noir-ish style. I believe she's heavily influenced by Robert B. Parker. She also invented a language the vampires use, which they call The Old Language. She peppers her novels with Old Language words like shellan and hellren ("wife" and "husband").

The thing about J.R. Ward's BDB novels that makes them so hard to put down is the way she keeps her pairs of lovers separated through so many hardships before she'll finally let them get together. That's the basic plot of every one of these novels, starting with the story of Wrath and Beth in the first book, Dark Lover. Every single one of the Brothers is absolutely gorgeous, all six feet tall and pumped up like comic book superheroes. My favorite is Zsadist--called Z--with his multicolored hair kept super-short, canary-yellow eyes that turn black when he's angry and terrifying exterior that belies how tenderly he loves his mate, Bella.

(photo by Eric Lin, Creative Commons license)

Perhaps the best short story Ward ever wrote is “The Story of Son,” which appears in the anthology Dead After Dark. Not part of the Brotherhood series, it’s an oddly affecting piece of dark erotica starring a vampire.

~Many Bloody Returns, by Charlaine Harris et al. There are many charming tales in this collection of paranormal stories on the theme of birthdays. The Sookie Stackhouse story by Charlaine Harris that begins the collection is only so-so, as is the last tale by Toni L.P. Kelner. (It does have a clever title, though. "How Stella Got Her Grave Back"--delicious!) The really memorable, unique tales include Bill Crider's "I Was a Teenage Vampire" (a Catcher in the Rye-meets-Dracula tale), "The Mournful Cry of Owls" by Christopher Golden (love that Eastern European folklore!), and "The Witch and Wicked" by Jeanne C Stein. In fact, "The Witch and Wicked" ends too abruptly. Expanded, it would make a nice stand-alone novel. The other stories are at least interesting, making for a better-than-average anthology.

About the author: Erin O’Riordan’s fabulous fictional vampires include 1950’s chef Oliver and stripper Oakley. “Vampires” is one of her most frequently used tags on her book blog, Pagan Spirits.


Nora B. Peevy said...

Thanks for blogging, Erin. I haven't read any on your list, but the last one. I am going to pick these up. I also liked the wall mural for the Ward books. It is fabulous.

Erin O'Riordan said...

Thanks for having me as a guest blogger, Nora!

shah wharton said...

I do so love vamps - these sound interesting and I am baffled that I don't seem to have read them? I haven't read nearly enough anthologies mind you.

I'm reading a very 'different' and arousing vamp novel at the moment which I plan to review. You might have read it already? 'Voice of the Blood - the vampire quartet by Jemiah Jefferson. I've gone through all sorts of emotions so far and I'm only half way through.

Great post Erin. Shah. X

Nora B. Peevy said...

Any time, Erin. :)

Shah, ANOTHER vampire book I haven't read. How is this possible? LOL

Ann Rodela said...

I can't wait to read one of these books. Last night I was watching Dracula with Bela Lugosi and I was surprised to see armadillos lurking in Count Dracula's castle! I realize armadillos are native to warm regions like Texas.

Nora B. Peevy said...

Ann, they are, but the only ones I have ever seen are dead ones. Apparently, they don't move fast across busy roads. :(

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