Friday, January 13, 2012

Paranormal “chick lit” is literally bestseller book list magic

When it comes to reading, I have varied taste.

While I’m not too crazy about really heavy stuff, I do like middle-of-the-road stuff like ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ‘The Help’ and ‘Water for Elephants.’

I also like cult stuff like ‘Pride and Prejudice with Zombies.’

I even enjoy young adult series like ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Hunger Games.’

My true passion, though -- right now at least -- is paranormal “chick lit” – I guess kind of like romance novels with a vampire, werewolf, or ghost twist.

To be clear, I’m not talking about bodice ripping steamers where the woman sits around waiting for some big strong man to save her. Don’t get me wrong, I like a little sex in my paranormal chick lit – but I like heroines who can do for themselves -- not like the whiny Bella from ‘Twilight’ but more like the rough and tumble Katniss from ‘The Hunger Games.’

I think Charlaine Harris probably piqued my interest in the genre with her Sookie Stackhouse novels. I fell in love with the books long before the television show came around. Then I branched out to MaryJanice Dickinson, Katie MacAlister and Madeline Alt – among a bevy of others.

Quite frankly, paranormal romance novels – or urban fantasies as they’re sometimes called – have become big business in writing circles. Harris, MacAlister, Dickinson and several other authors have become regular denizens of the best seller list thanks to a large fan base of devoted readers.

The truth of the matter is, there are so many great paranormal chick lit writers out there right now it’s hard to choose a favorite.

So, with that in mind, I came up with a group of writers that can keep you warm over the next few cold winter months – if you’re into that kind of thing anyway.

In no particular order:

Charlaine Harris – I’m not going to lie and say that the Sookie Stackhouse novels are as fresh as they were five years ago, but I will say this for Harris: She’s set an end date. We have two Sookie novels left before she puts the series to bed. Personally, I think she’s milked it a few books too long, but I give her credit for being able to walk away from the series -- which literally brings her millions of dollars every time she puts pen to paper.
Casey Daniels – I discovered Daniels’ Pepper Martin series on my Kindle about three years ago. I immediately was intrigued with the tall, red-headed heroine who wears designer shoes to work – especially when she works as a cemetery tour guide. Pepper is fiery, funny and sometimes selfish – but then again, what woman isn’t? The most recent installment, this month’s ‘Wild, Wild, Death’ was probably the weakest in the series – especially given the growth that Pepper and her love interest Quinn experienced in the previous book – but I have faith that Daniels can rebound from this slight mishap.

MaryJanice Davidson – Davidson’s Queen Betsy novels are actually a mixed bag. The earlier books are riotous fun. The middle books, yeah not so much. The two most recent books have been a nice rebound for a series that was in serious danger of becoming stale. Betsy is a 6’0” blonde in Minnesota who not only was turned into a vampire against her will, but found out she’s the queen of all vampires, half sister to the spawn of Satan (literally) and apparently responsible for some great apocalypse in the future. Betsy is loyal, sexy and ridiculously narcissistic. Davidson’s biggest problem is that she excels at dialogue and flounders at prose. Although, if you like her Queen Betsy books, you might want to take a look at her three-book mermaid ‘Fish Out of Water’ series as well. While not perfect, it was a nice change of pace in the genre.

Gerry Bartlett – The ‘Real Vampires’ series has grown leaps and bounds from its inception. In the first book, main heroine Glory was the only character truly fleshed out. Since then, a bevy of colorful compatriots have come to the forefront to grab our attention. From true soul mate Jerry (dude wears a kilt and is still hot) to her formerly furry best friend Rafe (dude wears leather pants and used to masquerade as a dog and he’s still hot) – Glory’s world is peppered with a colorful assortment of loyal and zany characters. The best thing about ‘Real Vampires’ is that the characters never go stagnant. They always move forward. You might not necessarily agree with where they go, but Glory is always looking for a way to be a better person, err, eternally bloated vampire, I mean.

Kimberly Raye – While she’s written a number of vampire books, the ‘Dead End Dating’ ones are truly my favorite. Raye has put the series to bed it seems, despite not being able to publish the final book (which has evidently been written). Some snafu with her publisher stopped the publication of the book, which would have seen the series’ heroine Lil finally get her man. Here’s hoping the issue can still be resolved between the two sides – the fans deserve it.

Keri Arthur – I thank Arthur for offering the first book in her ‘Moon’ series for free on Kindle. Without that, I probably never would have discovered guardian Riley Jenson – or the entertaining people she surrounds herself with. Because Arthur is Australian, the books are set there and it makes for a nice change of pace. Arthur also isn’t scared to kill off popular characters or risk the likeability factor of her own heroine.

Shirley Damsgaard – I’ve been waiting for another entry in the ‘Ophelia and Abby’ series for a long time now and I’m not sure where the development of the next book in this series stands. While Damsgaard is slightly more serious than her compatriots in the genre, I do enjoy her attention to detail. The lack of sex in the series is a serious downer, though.

Madeline Alt – The ‘Bewitching’ series has been a favorite of mine since I read the first book. My only problem with the series is that it can sometimes come across as clichéd. Being magical and working in a magic shop is a little too cutesy for my taste. Since Maggie and Quinn have hooked up, however, I’ve been enjoying the direction the series is taking.

Linda Wisdom – I prefer Wisdom’s “witch” books to her “demon” books – but I find both series enjoyable. If I’m being honest, though, the minute I found out that Wisdom had written a witchy character who had bunny slippers that were not only conscious but hilariously naughty – she had a lifelong fan.

H.P. Mallory – Mallory has made a name for herself with slightly eccentric characters (with highly charged libidos). I think my favorite character (of Mallory’s anyway) is Jolie Wilkins – mostly because the character can raise the dead and the entire idea of that makes me smile. Who hasn’t wanted the ability to raise the dead from time to time?

Amanda Hocking – This is another free Kindle find I stumbled on. Hocking’s ‘My Blood Approves’ series is a teenage vampire set that doesn’t have a weak-willed and mealy-mouthed girl at the heart of the story. There is tragedy. There are uncomfortable conversations. There’s even an inadvertent gay love triangle that involves two straight people. From what I understand, Hockings’ ‘Trylle’ series is just as entertaining – I just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

Katie MacAlister – MacAlister has made a name for herself with two series – her ‘Dark Ones’ vampire novels and my personal favorite, her ‘Dragon’ novels. While I think the four initial dragon novels – the ones focusing on the green dragons and heroine Aisling -- were my favorite,  I’ve also become intrigued by the light dragons she is currently writing about. The three silver dragon novels in the middle? Meh, they’re O.K., but May and Gabriel lack the heat her other pairings generate on the page and May’s personality is fairly vanilla compared to MacAlister’s other heroines.

So, what do you think? Who is your favorite paranormal chick lit writer?


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