Friday, September 11, 2009

Put a stake in it!

What is with the vampires? Of course, I know the answer ... but this week's listening made me harken back to a really great vampire novel, The Vampire Lestat; and wonder why that book didn't cause vampires to show up everywhere in literature.

Some parentheses before moving on:
  • (Cease wondering: There's no true love forever in Anne Rice's books.)
  • (I gave up on this series after the fourth entry ... too weird.)
  • (Anne Rice's best book: Cry to Heaven. Out of print?)

Where was I? Oh, yes, teen vampire romance. I can't stand these. However, when I saw that Katherine Kellgren and Jeff Woodman were narrating Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey, I thought I could cut the genre some slack. Jessica Packwood is headed for her senior year in rural Pennsylvania when a tall, dark stranger enters her life. He is Lucius Vladescu and he has come a-wooing. Jessica, it turns out, is really Antanasia (a name that never ceased to bug me), a Romanian vampire princess destined to marry Lucius in order to peacefully unite their rival clans. Jessica is a little freaked out by Lucius and his plans for her, but after a lot of high-school angst and navel-gazing, she [gag] realizes that they are meant for each other eternally, so why not go the undead route. Lesson learned here: Some teen novels are best left to teenagers.

Kellgren does most of the first-person work here. Woodman narrates a series of interspersed letters from Lucius home to his powerful uncle in Romania. These letters are actually pretty funny -- as Lucius snidely comments on the excesses of American culture. Woodman reads with a sly humor, as well as a pretty nifty Romanian accent. For me he lightens up the novel considerably.

Alas, I wasn't as enamored of Kellgren's performance here (and I love her work!), although I'm likely to put most of the blame on the novel. Jessica is sarcastic and vulnerable -- but she does go on and on with the do-I-love-him/does-he-love-me vampire-novel thing-y. I hear that mix of confidence and fear in Kellgren's voice, but it just isn't enough to transcend the book. Kellgren is excellent in her character portrayals, although she doesn't seem as confident in her Romanian accent (which she uses to read Lucius' dialog) as Woodman is. At the same time, I didn't hear her reading with the same verve and commitment that she brings to Bloody Jack, does she need a more lively story to really blossom as a narrator?

I stopped listening to this after Disc 5 (of 9). I never do this, I stick it out no matter what I think; but I couldn't devote another minute. But I am compulsive, so I did read the remaining 150 pages with my eyes (a lot quicker). It didn't improve, but I do know how things turned out (did I need to finish it to know this?). I think I'll just drape myself with crosses and garlic if another VR crosses my path.

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