Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fun at the vampire country home

Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta

Last week I read Happy Hour at Casa Dracula and Midnight Awakening (MA discussed here and here) back to back, and it was so interesting.

Both of these are vampire series books I’d recommend, but they couldn’t be more different. Whereas Midnight Breed is sort of big and dramatic and not especially realistic, Happy Hour is incredibly realistic, even personal, in a way.

I would describe Happy Hour as sort of like what would happen to a real girl if she started turning into a vampire. Or make that, a funny, interesting, real girl who you’d want to be friends with. Because it’s easy to resonate with the narrator, Milagro. Her delightful and funny narration is part of what makes this book so enjoyable. At times I would just laugh, and I’m not a big book laugher.

It all starts when Milagro goes to a party where she meets Oswald. They have what you might call an enthusiastic and sexy encounter where she accidentally gets “infected” with his vampire blood and then runs off. She becomes horribly ill over the next weeks, but she thinks maybe she just has the flu. Though when she finally drags herself to the all-night supermarket, all she wants is red meat.
Honestly, I had planned to fry up a burger when I got home, but I was agonizingly hungry and so weak after days without food that I thought I would pass out. I made it to the corner before I took out the package and tore a corner of the plastic wrapping. I lifted the Styrofoam tray to my mouth and sipped the blood. Then I sipped again. In seconds I was sucking at the raw meat, trying to extract every drop of liquid and telling myself it was no different than eating steak tartare.
And then later: "My vision had improved, if I defined “improved” as seeing everything clearly, but with a heightened sense of dimension."

Anyway, suddenly all the enemies of Oswald’s family are after her, but Oswald’s family intervenes and whisks her away to their country home.

Oswald’s vampire family is a little uptight, and not entirely comfortable with being vampires—they really try to be normal, though in the middle of the night they drink animal blood out in the barn (humanely taken from animals they lovingly raise) in a kind of odd yet fancy cocktail hour ritual.

What with the country home, the cocktails, the fun romantic intrigue, vivid and engaging characters (even the minor ones) and the unwinding secrets, this was a world I richly looked forward to spending time in. That's something I prize highly in a book.

Milagro is a Latina, and another dimension I really enjoyed was the way her sense of being an outsider in various situations related to Oswald’s vampire family’s own feelings of outsiderness.

Eventually the European cousins arrive—they are way more debauched and act a lot more like normal vampires, and Milagro takes up with them for a bit, until she gets disgusted. Overall, the family’s biggest problem is this secret society that’s after the whole group of them.

In general, this book merges the best aspects of chick lit with a paranormal drama. It’s not for somebody seeking alpha males, vampires with major powers, or lots of steamy scenes. It’s more like a quirky, very clever and fresh take on the genre I'd shelve with favorite authors like Evanovich or Josh Lanyon.

The next book, Midnight Brunch at Casa Dracula, is currently out. I am definitely going for it.


Lone Chatelaine said...

Ok, NOW I remember where I had heard of the MB series before. I saw it in the bookstore the other day, and knew I hadn't seen it before, but it seemed familiar. I totally remember reading your posts about it.

I don't know where my brain is lately. I can't remember people's names or anything.

So this other one looks good too. I'll have to add it to my wish list :)

Carolyn Jean said...

Good morning, LC!
Oh, I almost never remember where I hear of books unless I actually write it down. With MB, you probably heard it from more than me. I saw that you're reading it. I hope you like it.

And yes, HH is a lot of fun.

Katie(babs) said...

Oswald! What a funny name for a vampires. LOL

Marta said...

Thanks for the very kind review, Carolyn Jean.

Katie, it is a funny name for a vamp. In my second novel, a young vamp laments that the family always gives their kids terrible names.

Katie(babs) said...

Marta: I think it is kind of cute. :)
Sometimes reading the same old names gets boring.

Ana said...

I just love the title of this book! It sounds fab!