Sunday, 27 May 2012

Better Off Dead by Danielle Blanchard Benson

Buy the book: Amazon US ; Amazon UK ; Barnes and Noble

I was supposed to post a review of this book a good ten days ago now, but due to a technical glitch I didn’t actually receive the book until the evening before the review was due. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the book read and reviewed in time so I agreed to review it at a later date. Having finished the book now, it’s time to post the review!

Title: Better Off Dead
Author: Danielle Blanchard Benson
Series: The Vamp Saga #2
Publisher: Midnight Engel Press
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Paranormal
Length: 255 pages

Story: Welcome to Western Europe in 2020.

The International Vampire Council are in the middle of intense negotiations with the Global Six when a mysterious plot is revealed to end Manon's life and thinly veiled lies Mikkel has told his wife will be exposed once and for all.

Manon is sent into hiding with Emmerik as her protector while a deal can be negotiated to spare her life.

As the clock ticks toward a catastrophic outbreak of new virus which seeks to destroy not only the Lycan population but millions of humans along with it, two ancient vampires return prematurely from their time in the ground, and their mood is less than receptive.

What will happen? Who will live? Who will face betrayal? Who will die? Sometimes, the most devastating secrets are better off dead and buried.

This novel is not YA friendly, contains plenty of snark, supernatural creatures included, but not limited to, vampires and Lycans, not to mention a few choice scenes of sex and death.
It is not for the faint of heart.

Thoughts and impressions: When I started the book I was under the impression that it is possible to read each of the books in this series as a standalone. It soon became apparent to me that this is not the case. I was just missing far too much information from the first book that was often being hinted at by the characters. I could kind of just about follow things but there was so much going on, so many conspiracies being hinted at, that I came to feel that I suffered for not having read the series in order. For one, the novel focuses on Manon’s status as a day walker but as I’d missed out on events in the first book, I had no idea how she’d ended up as a day walker or even what that really meant for her or the vampire community as a whole.

Beyond this I felt that there was too much exposition through dialogue. This meant that characters would often start on lengthy reels that would explain things, but then the dialogue sounded like big, long explanations rather than natural speech between individuals. I usually find with dialogue that less is more. It also seemed to me that there was more dialogue than narration. This made it hard for me to form an opinion of the characters as each time I was presented a different version of them as another character perceives them. Mikkel, in particular, I found very hard to even begin to get a handle on as he’s presented as a ruthless man who makes everyone he encounters peons in his plans, a man unwilling to have a wife stronger than he is, a man with no feelings, and a man who truly does love his wife. The different images of him just didn’t fit together in my head and I never knew where I stood with it all.

Manon, the main character and the only one followed via a first person narrative (there are a number of others followed in the third person) was particularly hard for me to connect with. On top of this, her reactions to what others tell her are completely the opposite of what I was interested in. As an example, at one point another character informs Manon that her husband has been draining her of her blood while she’s sleeping and that’s the reason why she’s been so weak. What’s Manon’s reaction to this gem of knowledge? What reaction? Manon does not react to it at all. She just changes the subject or continues on with another part of the subject that they had been discussing. She doesn’t even stop to question this news in her inner monologue. This was completely the wrong reaction for me. I was interested in how she would react to the news that her husband has pretty much been stealing her blood without her consent but she doesn’t even stop to question his actions. She doesn’t even give them a second thought! I would have been pissed if I’d been the one to learn that sort of thing. That’s a pretty big bit of news to just completely ignore.

Despite all of this, the author did have a good, and very strong, idea of where she wanted to go with this story. It reads something like a television soap opera in literary form. There’s plenty of backstabbing, affairs (with stepsons), political power games, and so on. The main idea of controlling the population with a virus that will hit very specific targets was a good one and a very dastardly plan. I’m not entirely sure how I felt about using Josef Mengele as one of the vampire scientist characters, though.

Every single character is pretty much unlikeable with a few redeeming qualities that are overshadowed by, what I consider, bad qualities. There were some that I could grow to accept, but not that I really grew to like to the point where I was rooting for them, none that I could really connect with, and none that I could really empathise with.

It’s obvious that the author has a good idea that she’s working with, but as I mentioned before, I think my reading experience was affected by the fact that I didn’t know what had happened in the previous book. As such, I would recommend that anyone interested in this series start at the beginning rather than with this book.

Style: I found that the author had a case of what I term “wrong word-ism”. Often I’d come across sentences that didn’t really make sense with the word used in them, but if the word was tweaked slightly then it did make sense. An example of such is when Emmerik is telling Manon that he will be escorting her away from the vampire political power play central. He seems to be using a sarcastic tone and then he says that this will be an “honorary duty”. I suppose the author could mean honorary (= in name only) but it would make more sense if he was being sarcastic about it being an honourable (= that brings honour) duty. There are a fair number of other examples of this as well but this is the one that came to mind.

Also, it is apparent that the author does not know the grammar rule of when to use “x and I” and when to use “x and me”. Basically if there’s a verb and you’re replacing “we”, it’s “x and I”, if there’s no verb and you’re replacing “us”, it’s “x and me”. The author tended to exclusively use “x and I”.

Final verdict: A strong plot, one that I’m sure will appeal to many, but one that I felt I was unable to follow to its full potential due to not having the knowledge of what lead up to the situation in this book. 3 stars

Extra notes: both bad language and sex are present.


  1. I like this review. Articulate, constructive and informative.



  2. Thank you for the review! I've heard mixed things about this book. I try to stay away from books without proper writing structure, though!

  3. Very good review, I enjoyed the positives and negatives. Will think on this book a little more before I decide if I want to add it to my reading list


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