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Meg Cabot

REVIEW: Insatiable by Meg Cabot

REVIEW: Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Insatiable by Meg CabotDear Ms. Cabot,

I’m not sure why I got a copy of your new book, “Insatiable” since I’m not the first DA reviewer who comes to mind when vampire books are being discussed but nonetheless it arrived in my mail and, since I hadn’t read any of your books in years, I found myself giving it a go. Yes, it’s about vampires but doesn’t feature a kick-ass heroine nor does it seem to have a ready made lineup of future heroes already set to go. It also doesn’t appear to be a standard UF either. And, despite a strong start, I did finish it with more than a few issues which keep me from a squee grade.

Meena Harris Harper has a gift/curse which allows her to look at a person and see when and how they’re going to die. After realizing that most people view her as a freak, she now just offers advice on how to avoid death rather than specifics when warning people such as the young woman she sees on the subway. She also tries to avoid her ultra-rich neighbor who is always trying to fix Meena up or commiserate with her about her unemployed brother Jon.

But somehow she finds herself roped into attending the dinner party the Antonescus are having for a cousin from Romania and then falling in love with Lucien Antonescu. He’s tall, dark, handsome and the first man in a while she hasn’t immediately known how he was going to die. All things Meena likes. Lucien returns Meena’s feelings and finds in her someone who stirs him for the first time in…well, centuries. That’s because Lucien is already dead and not just a vampire but the Prince. And Meena is about to get right in the middle of a vampire war set to rage across Manhattan and the secret human society dedicated to killing them.

The humor I remember from the historicals of yours I’ve read is here. Snappy dialogue, funny character characterization, cute dog – I enjoyed all of this. There are some things which make me wince such as the name of Alaric’s sword. Senor Sticky? And would a man of his taste really wear a Goofy watch? Another thing which works well is the relationship between Meena and her brother Jon. They argue like siblings, have that shorthand communication thing yet seem to care for each other and have each other’s backs. And that is about the only reason I didn’t lose it when Meena refuses to tell Alaric and Jon where Lucien is. But more on that later.

Thank you for giving a believable reason – well, once I’d accepted Meena’s “gift” – for Lucien’s interest and growing feelings for her. Meena isn’t just the standard heroine with whom all men instantly fall in love even though she’s described as average and sometimes a PITA. Her years long practice in hiding her thoughts renders her mind hard for Lucien to read and then when he gets a taste – literally – of her ability, she becomes someone who is different from any woman he’s known in his long history of knowing women.

I didn’t miss the irony of learning all about how vampires can bend people’s wills into allowing themselves to become essentially “feeding bags” and then having smart, independent Meena start to do the same thing. She makes the same excuses for Lucien that they all do and yet he is different from the standard selfish vampires who only want to exploit humans. He’s smart and has learned that blending means survival. And it’s lucky for Meena that she falls for the one vampire who can be trusted – as she learns when she learns she can’t trust them all.

Which sets up one of the issues I have with the story. When Meena’s talent becomes known and the other vampires decide to use her for this and against Lucien as well, what does she do but turn martyr for endangering her friends, rush off with only one weapon and no plan then decide to give up when she considers all lost. Then, in the midst of an all out battle, she still bleats on about some of these vampires possibly being redeemed and rehabilitated? Got to tell you I finished this section of the book less than thrilled with our girl. And after a lifetime of hiding her talent, I would think she’d be a little more interested in finally having a chance to put it to use for people who would appreciate it and her. She somewhat reinstates herself in my good graces because she did withhold information about Lucien’s whereabouts because she honestly thought she was protecting people dear to her and not just to protect Lucien and because she ultimately decides to join the Palatine Guard.

This is obviously the first book in a series yet I’m not sure I’ll be reading any further. Though Meena pulls herself back from the edge of utter twitdom and seems determined to use her powers for good, she still seems like she could slip up at any moment and Lucien appears determined to help her do just that. I also don’t buy into the sudden change in Alaric’s feelings and can’t say I’m too interested in any love triangles. I didn’t end up totally disliking the book but a C+ is about as good as it averages out for me.

~Jayne

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This is a hardcover published by HarperCollins, part of the Agency 5.

REVIEW:  Runaway by Meg Cabot

REVIEW: Runaway by Meg Cabot

runaway meg cabotDear Ms. Cabot,

Your books are known as some of the best YA chick lit out there. How To Be Popular was my first book of yours, and it’s combination cuteness and morality was hilarious and made for a great read. The only other book of yours I’ve read is Avalon High, which really was not your best moment in the literary world. So, I came into Runaway with a few concerns. As good as it sounded, stepping into a series at the possible tail end was not something that I was sure about. It just didn’t sound appealing. But, your writing was quirky and light-hearted, so I figured I may as well read the book and trudge on through my lack of series knowledge.

Nikki Howard is on the run. Well, Em Watts is on the run. Rather, both of them are on the run – in a confusion of bodies and boys. Em Watts’ brain was transferred into Nikki Howard’s body after a serious accident involving a falling television to cranium collision. Em enjoyed the fab life; Nikki – or rather, her body – is a major celebrity, modeling for Stark Enterprises. But when Em discovers Nikki was killed on purpose for knowing too much information about Stark enterprises, things get hairy. Not to mention Nikki herself was transplanted to another, much less pretty body, and the son of Richard Stark, company head, kidnaps both of them along with Nikki’s mother and brother. Stark’s son, Brandon, then attempts to extract the information and take over the company himself.

Em also has to deal with modeling, an eccentric roommate named Lulu (who’s in love with Nikki’s brother, Steven), and a mucho sexy kinda-sorta-boyfriend Christopher, who she may have told she never wanted to see again.

Yeah, it’s a mouthful, and that’s just the first couple pages.

While part of my confusion was the lack of reading books one and two, I couldn’t help but be put off with exactly how much confusion there was. Without knowing all of the background knowledge, I was utterly clueless about everything until it was basically recapped. After the story began to move along, however, I found it very easy to keep up. But the beginning was a trial, making this a series that one should start at the beginning, with Airhead and Being Nikki, before diving in to the latest release.

Aside from that little speed bump, the plot moved like a freight train. Never once was there a dull moment . The entire book takes place over the course of maybe two or three weeks at most. There wasn’t much time to work with, yet you managed to cram in several escapes, some harrowing junior-Nancy Drew skills, and a whole lot of sexual tension. While the entire plot is enjoyable, it isn’t completely believable, just because the entire plot revolves around the secrets of a big cooperation, some major black market dealings, some technical aspects, and a major surgery that can transfer brains. If any of this was explained in the first books, then that may have been well and good, but for a newcomer, some of it was left too much alone. I would have preferred an explanation to how some of these things worked – at least so I wouldn’t question them later on in the book.

Character wise, you are in top form. Em is a vibrant teenage girl who has to learn to juggle a very shallow career and the thoughts that go along with it. Overall, she works out pretty well, though there are times where she’s a bit too dense for my liking. Christopher is a nice male lead, if for the simple fact that he very much acts like a normal boy, and gets Em to rethink some of her actions towards him for the better. Normally, I like a girl who one-ups her man, but Christopher was much more level headed in some areas, and I liked him a lot more.

Stephen and Lulu were probably my two favorite characters out of them all, and they rarely had enough face time. Lulu is eccentric, wearing outfits that involve fake animal skin, tutus, and leather jackets. If that isn’t enough, Stephen is a sexy naval recruit that you want to lick off of the page. They could have an entire book to themselves. With such good characters, it’s disappointing that their developing relationship is barely mentioned as opposed to all of Em and Christopher’s problems.

The other characters served their purpose well enough, but never really sparked my interest. Nikki is a brat, plain and simple, and Brandon is a dumb, rich man’s son who just looks for a woman who looks good. Both get paired off, and while I liked their partners (one is a band member who barely gets mentioned, the other is Em’s much older manager, Rebecca) for their personalities, as couples they never developed enough for my liking.

Your writing is something that people will either like or hate. References to pop culture abound, and are always worth a good laugh or two. However, as other reviewers in the past of noticed, you sometimes slip the occasional political/religious comment that, while amusing, isn’t needed in any context. I would, at the very least, like these comments to be more subtle, if not taken out completely. Like the main villain conversing with Rush Limbaugh? I appreciate the idea, but please don’t be so obvious about it.

Runaway was an quick, enjoyable read that left me feeling that warm, cuddly feeling I get from a good romantic comedy, but there was something missing from it that would really make it stand out. I still want to read the rest of the books, especially to see some of my favorite characters return, but I wish the side relationships were developed better, and that some of the tidbits of writing were better covered. This book is probably a B- as of now, but that’s also coming from someone new to the series. Either way, you write enjoyable Chick-Lit that’s ultimately pretty good, and I will continue to be a fan despite some of your flaws.

All the best,

John

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