Thursday, February 12, 2009

Queen Betsy series, by MaryJanice Davidson

Vampire chick lit. This continues the descent of vampire novels into the most disposable of writing: this has all the complexity and moral probing of the shoe department at Nordstrom. Our heroine, Betsey (nee Elizabeth, ha ha) Taylor is hit by a car after a spectacularly awful day, and wakes up three days later in the mortuary. Turns out she had been attacked by something carrying the vampirism virus, and she's not dead. She's undead. And so the series starts, each book in the series titled "Undead and . . . ." beginning with "Undead and Unwed."

Betsy Taylor is a vapid and cartoonish figure, who inexplicably has vampire powers previously unheard of. She does not need to feed daily, but can go three or four days between taking blood; she lets her family and friends know about her new undead status, she can actually enjoy sunshine, althrough for quite a while it's like narcolepsy--once the sun rises, she is completley unconscious. But, due to her unusual powers, the vampires slowly come to believe she is the Queen foretold by their Book of the Dead.

As a result we have mysteries, solved by Betsy and her posse of human friends and vampire associates; Vampire 101, as Betsy learns about her new powers and obligations; as well as a great deal of angst and chatter, as Betsy out Bridget Joneses Bridget Jones. Really, the series is the lowest form of chick lit, in which Betsy cares more about designer shoes than almost anything else.

Why do I keep reading them? Primarily because they are set in the Twin Cities, where Betsy and her gang live in a mansion on Summit Avenue, shop at the Mall of America, and generally live their undead lives in places I know very very well.

Will I anxiously await the next in the series, or follow the career of the author? No.
Worth a purchase? No, unless you are in an airport or otherwise desperate for reading material. Worth a library pick up? That's how I'm reading them, and also library audio. They are fun, not at all taxing, and the novelty of reading a series set Right Here makes them a beach type read.

Edited to add: While Googling this series, I stumbled across the Bookclub Bitches, who podcast reviewed Undead and Unwed in 2007, dubbing it "the worst book ever." While there is an awful lot of giggling, they are pretty articulate about the flaws of this book. My favorite comment is as they detail Betsy's unusual powers, including immunity to holy objects. Thus, she is able to say, for example, "For the love of God." As the Bitches report, "And that is something I found myself saying multiple times while reading this book."

Well said, although I didn't hate it as much as they did. Perhaps that is the advantage of listening on audio--a decent narrator can make something better than it deserves to be.

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