Kitty and the Silver Bullet by Carrie Vaughan (#4 in the Kitty Norville series) 2008 (326 pgs)
When her mom calls with a cancer scare, werewolf DJ Kitty breaks her banishment from Denver and risks the wrath of her former Alpha to rush to her mom’s side. And then things get complicated. Kitty finds herself smack dab in the middle of not just a werewolf power struggle, but a vampire one as well. Kitty has to figure out who’s pulling the strings; how to keep from becoming anyone’s pawn; and keep herself, her boyfriend, and her family alive in the process.
The Host by Stephenie Meyer 2008 (619 pgs)
When the world’s population gets body-snatched by invading aliens, a few rebel humans are forced into hiding, struggling to remain whole. A newly installed alien named Wanderer finds herself in a body whose former owner hasn’t quite vacated. What should be an effortless takeover instead becomes a battle of wills as Melanie refuses to disappear. At first biding her time, waiting for Melanie to surrender, Wanderer instead finds herself coming to an understanding and eventual affection for the human trapped in her mind. As they share memories and experiences, Wanderer even comes to love those who Melanie loves. Together they break away from the alien occupied civilization to track down Melanie’s loved ones.
I was pleasantly impressed with Meyer’s much more refined and challenging writing. This in no Twilight novel; it surpasses that series in character realism and evolution, its exploration of humankind’s capacity for cruelty and kindness, and the nature of selfhood and emotion. Billed as “the first love triangle involving only two bodies,” what could easily have become a cheesy sci-fi or sappy romance is instead a surprisingly deft exploration of identity and humanity.
Winter Haven by Athol Dickson 2008 (333 pgs)
Vera is called to a remote island off the coast of Maine when her brother’s body is discovered on the shore. He’s been missing for 13 years, and Vera has out of necessity blocked all thoughts of his fate. But when she arrives, a hard duty becomes nearly impossible. Her older brother looks like a teenager, unchanged from the day he disappeared. And that’s not the only mystery on the island.
I was keeping a wary eye on this one, in case it turned sappy and life-affirming. (The author won a Christian fiction award for a previous book.) It did, but not until the very end. The bulk of the novel was an easy and enjoyable gothic-light (in the traditional “wife in the attic/bleeding wallpaper” sense) suspense story. I was disappointed in the too pat “it all happens for a reason” tie-up, but otherwise it was fairly entertaining.
Touch the Dark by Karen Chance 2006 (307 pgs)
Mediocre vamp novel with a clairvoyant heroine gaining increasing power over the spirit world. The writing is a bit obtuse and meandering. And the author has an annoying tendency to make a vamp out of every historical figure she can think of- throwing Cleopatra, Rasputin, and Jack the Ripper in the same room.
The Society of S by Susan Hubbard 2007 (320 pgs)
Ariella doesn’t realize what a sheltered life she’s led for her first thirteen years until she’s introduced to the wider world through her housekeeper’s family. She makes her first friend, has her first kiss, becomes enthralled by the horses at the nearby track, and generally learns what it is to be involved in the world. She also begins to wonder what became of her mother and why her father is so mysterious and otherworldly.
Yup, dad’s a vampire. And because Ariella is the child of a vampire and a human, no one knows quite what she will become. So she sets off to search for her mother and discover her own identity.
Enjoyable, quick read. The characters are exceptionally well developed, with even peripheral characters are fully sketched and well-drawn. I’ll definitely pick up the sequel.
The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier 2006 (252 pgs)
A global illness is wiping out humanity. Isolated in Antarctica, a single survivor remains. As she tracks across the brutal landscape, Laura Byrd plumbs the depths of her memories to distract herself from the harsh conditions. In an afterlife city, the longtime residents begin to notice the population changing drastically. As the pandemic takes hold, the recently departed funnel into a city, and even more rapidly disappear, until mere thousand are left from billions. For the inhabitants can only dwell there for as long as they live in the memory of the living.
In this haunting (or shall we say haunted?) narrative, Brockmeier illustrates the power of memory and the connections we form throughout our lives. Both portions of the story are separately compelling and it’s fun to see how they connect. And I always appreciate a book that doesn’t tie everything up in a pat little fluffy bow- but rather leaves the ending open to interpretation and imagined possibilities.
Madeleine Is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum 2004 (259 pgs)
A tale made up of hallucinatory dream-like fragments that blend together until you can’t tell which is dream, which is flashback, and which is reality. In a narrative a bit like Anais Nin via Lewis Carroll, a young girl lies in constant sleep, dreaming. She’s suffered a trauma (or has she? or does that lie in the future?) and her mind lifts off on a journey- or possibly she’s remembering a past journey. Around her, circles her family as semi-miraculous curses-in-disguise seem to appear. In the end, the threads combine to form a journey of self-discovery or at least self-exploration that culminates in the girl converging with at least one of her alter-selves, to blistering results.