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REVIEW: American Vampire by Jennifer Armintrout

Dear Ms. Armintrout,

By now, one would think that I've had enough of vampires, paranormals and the strange and unusual. One would be way off base. I don't think that will ever happen. It's like assuming a lover of historicals will eventually tire of the rakes, rogues and scoundrels. Sure, every once in a while I need to take a break and read something different, but when I return to my heart's desire, I'm all the more ready for something new and exciting.

American Vampire by Jennifer ArmintroutAmerican Vampire definitely started out in the "new and exciting" category. Graf McDonald is a quintessential bad-boy vampire who loves what he is, loves his toys and loves his lot in life. There’s no ennui, no “woe is me, I’m a hot vampire”, no “I hate my Sire/Lover(s)/Self”. Nope, Graf is one super happy, super self-centered vampire with no deep dark pit of sadness/need/loneliness. He drives a sexy Italian muscle car, smokes like a chimney, and feels zero remorse when he chomps on humans. As the book opens, Graf is on his way to a giant Independence Day party in Washington D.C. when he becomes lost in Penance, Ohio.

I know that in this day and age we all have some sort of GPS technology (hell, even my mother-in-law has it and she’s hopeless with technology), and conveniently, Graf's isn't working. So after nearly making roadkill out of a deer, Graf decides to stop for – wait for it – a map. Graf heads into a presumably deserted gas station to see if he can scrounge up (read: steal) what he needs when he runs into Jessa and a monster called "It".

Since I’m feeling rather lazy, I’m going to let the book take care of giving you some of Jessa’s character. And you’ll get to see why this was fun to read, even if the story was a bit thin:

“What was up with the sheriff’s wife? did you piss on her birthday cake or something?”

Jessa didn’t answer. She kept her head down as they walked, still hugging her arms around her chest.

“Well, let me feel free to form my own conclusions, then,” he went on. “You have a reputation.”

“What are you, from the sixties or something?” she snapped. “A ‘reputation’? Who am I, Rizzo?”

“I see I have struck a nerve.” He followed behind her, kicking stones down the road. “And, while dated, reputation is a perfectly good word. You have one. Either that, or you stole Marjorie’s boyfriend when the two of you were in high school.”

Jessa stopped walking and dropped her hands to her hips. Without facing him, she ground out, “Yes, everybody in town thinks I’m a whore. Are you happy?”

Yep, Jessa is an outsider in a small town; and might as well have a scarlet letter tattooed across her chest. But Jessa is not hick; she’s had a taste of the big city and she’s neither naïve nor uneducated. Jessa would leave Penance if she could, but that’s the problem with Penance: no one has been able to leave the town in years, and all the town’s residents have been stalked by “It” at one time or another.

Put a small Midwestern town together with an inexplicable monster and residents that have been trapped together for years with no outside contact and it’s a recipe for suspicion, wild accusations and utter madness. One of the gripes I have with this book? Why so few cool heads seem to exist, let alone prevail. I know the citizenry has been trapped for a long time, but it seems that by the time the book opened, they’d given up on finding out how and why, and had become reduced to just dealing with their current reality. It felt like a bit of a stretch that so many people would just give up and accept that they’re trapped in a tiny little reality.

Penance’s citizens don’t trust each other, and every interaction has a pitchfork mob just waiting to happen. Assuming that they might welcome, let alone trust, someone that suddenly appears in their closed off little world is just silly. Graf immediately recognizes that he has major problems: he doesn’t have a food source that can be easily overlooked, he may not have a permanent home, and the first person the town will attack is an outsider. He does quite a bit of fancy footwork to keep the fact that he’s a vampire secret from everyone.

The majority of the secondary characters in American Vampire could have been cast straight from Merlott’s bar in the Sookie Stackhouse series, and frankly Jessa was easily the sharpest tool in the shed. The background cast along with the somewhat uninspired mystery put a dent into my enjoyment of Graf and Jessa’s developing relationship, which was a lot of fun to read. I felt that the end of the book was incredibly rushed, and could have done with more of Graf and Jessa and less with the weak mystery. C+.

~ Shuzluva

Book Link | Kindle | Amazon | nook | BN | Borders
| Sony| eHarlequin

Note: this book is not available digitally until March 1, 2011.

Sydney (better known by her handle, Shuzluva) knew that she wanted to be Han Solo's copilot after seeing Star Wars at the tender age of 5. She fell in love with romance novels over 20 years ago when she got her hands on Sandra Brown's Texas! trilogy, and in the mid 90's was overjoyed to discover romance writers had branched out into the world of SciFi/fantasy. While she enjoys the occasional contemporary or historical novel, the world of SciFi holds an unshakable fascination for her. Some of her favorite authors include Nalini Singh, Catherine Asaro and Kresley Cole, and she's always interested in adding new authors to the list.

11 Comments

  1. Barbara
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 16:07:42

    I’m not sure why, but I seem to have enjoyed this more than anyone I recommended it to. I thought it had a funny little atmospheric twist of Stephen King’s “The Mist” with a little bit of The Lottery in it. To a lesser extent, obviously. Maybe some Deliverance with the a couple of the characters.

    The plot was a little thin in spots, I agree, but I really loved Graf. He was such an unapologetic smartass, I wish he’d have been given more time in the book – and that he’d have stayed that way for more of it.

    I got an oddball kick out of it – I hope that’s what Armintrout was going for, because if not, then I feel pretty goofy about missing the point.

  2. jennifer armintrout
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 16:36:05

    Thanks for reviewing it! I’m glad you liked part of it!

    @Barbara I’m glad you got a kick out of the book. And you didn’t miss any deeper point, oddball is exactly what I was aiming for.

  3. LG
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 16:45:28

    Despite the middling grade, I think I’ll have to try this one sometime, just because it features a vampire who actually enjoys what he is. While I do still enjoy reading about brooding, weary vampires, the ones who like what they are (and aren’t the story’s villains) are few and far between. The only ones I can think of right now who don’t get their blood from blood banks were all penned by L.J. Smith.

  4. Kelly L.
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 17:33:37

    I grew up in a sh*t town myself and we had a running joke about a curse that kept people from leaving. I already intended to read this–but now I’m even more interested. *g*

  5. Merrian
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 19:15:56

    What was the food source for the people let alone the vampire? were local farms included inside the boundary?

  6. Jane
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 19:30:00

    @LG This is how I felt about the book after reading the review. Sounds like a fast, fun read even though it might be flawed.

  7. Willa
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 21:22:47

    ” I know that in this day and age we all have some sort of GPS technology (hell, even my mother-in-law has it and she's hopeless with technology), and conveniently, Graf's isn't working.”

    Wow. I must really live in the backwoods. I don’t have GPS.

  8. Shuzluva
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 13:01:09

    @Barbara I’m glad you enjoyed the book, too.

    I wish [Graf] have been given more time in the book – and that he'd have stayed that way for more of it.

    Exactly!

  9. Barbara
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 14:59:01

    @Merrian:

    Yep, it’s a farming community and for an inexplicable reason, the power never went out, so things can be cooked and kept fresh once they’ve been harvested. Over the five years they’ve been trapped, the residents established a pretty major barter system, so what they can’t grow or provide for themselves, they trade for.

    It makes sense in the story.

  10. Angela
    Feb 24, 2011 @ 15:32:58

    Nicely written review!

    I’ve been eyeing this book since I first heard about it, and will definitely be grabbing it now.

    It sounds like a fun read. I too am looking forward to a vampire that’s happy to be what he is, not that I don’t love the brooding vampires too, but diversity is always a good thing ;)

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