Cryptic Cravings is the eighth novel of the Vampires Kisses series by New York Times bestselling author Ellen Schreiber. It is also part of HarperTeen’s summer Dark Days of the Supernatural series, giving young minds and adults alike the paranormal romance and dark mystery they crave.
Raven Madison’s “morbidly monotonous” town of Dullsville has finally become the epicenter of excitement with the addition of her vampire boyfriend, Alexander Sterling, aka secret vampire-in-residence. Although concerned about when, or if, he will induct her into eternal vampire-hood, Raven is blissful as his mortal girlfriend. Her excitement is taken to the next level when the star-crossed lovers happen upon a group of vampires making residence in the town’s rundown old mill
Her bliss is mixed with woe when she learns the group of bloodsuckers not only includes friends of Alexander but also former-foe Jagger and his equally adversarial twin Luna. Jagger’s secret plans for a new club, the Crypt, in Dullsville are discovered by Raven and Alexander. With a checkered past, can Jagger be trusted to open a mortal-friendly dance club or does he have other plans?
Raven is torn between wanting a dance club in her boring town, a club that will meet her macabre desires, while also wanting to keep Alexander’s existence a secret and the town mortals safe. Her torment is further complicated by Alexander’s friend Sebastian and his fiery romantic relationship with Luna. Will Alexander ever give Raven the bite she craves?
I am familiar with Schreiber, having reviewed “Once In A Full Moon” earlier this year. I was drawn to the interesting werewolf love saga hidden within the pages of ho-hum storytelling. With that in mind, as well as her status as a New York Times bestselling author, I figure she has a significant fan base so there must be something to the Vampire Kisses series to keep readers coming back for more.
“Cryptic Cravings” begins with Raven admitting “Dullsville” was “no longer dull” because she’s madly in love with Alexander and witnessed a vampire bite for the first time in her “vampire-obsessed existence.” It took me a page or two to realize Raven wasn’t being sarcastic, her town really is named Dullsville. The town she wishes she lived in, several towns away, is Hipsterville. Schreiber should describe the towns, especially what makes them boring and hip, instead of simply calling them Dullsville and Hipsterville. Please, I can figure it out when you describe boring and hip aspects of the towns. I understand it’s meant to be humorous but I found it distracting.
Also, Raven’s been obsessed with vampires her entire life, yet, as I learn later on, has a normal family? How did this happen? Perhaps it was explained in a previous novel, since there are seven books filled with information about Raven, but instead of Wednesday Addams from “The Addams Family” I don’t see how Raven could be named Raven and be obsessed with vampires since birth (as she admits) with mom, dad and nerdy brother nuclear family unit. Also, she’s been living according to her own rules since she was born, which makes no sense and is a cliched phrase.
Obviously I’m over-analzying and should read on, enjoy the lighthearted fluff and relax, a la authors like Janet Evanovich or a theatrical romantic comedy.
So, I read on. I thought, perhaps this book would appeal to the goth/outsider crowd but then realized it’s somewhat demeaning. Insulting in its use of cliche after cliche and fumbling writing.
Trying to stay positive, I thought maybe as a teen I’d like to read this and went back and forth over this thought until I figured not so much.
Reading this story reminded me of when something trivial happens yet makes you crack. Maybe someone cuts you off in traffic or makes an offhand comment about your bad hair day. Whatever it is, it’s the cherry on top of countless things building up over time. With “Cryptic Cravings” I underlined and circled flaw after flaw, cliche after cliche, inconsistent and unlikely happenings and inconsistent characters to the point it became too much, taking it past the level of light, silly reading to ridiculousness.
Raven has pale skin, black fingernail polish, combat boots, lavender lipstick and uses corpse white cover-up. Fine. That’s information needed to develop a picture of her character. However, Schreiber took this to the next level, using terms such as a “morbidly monotonous town,” the smokestacks on the building resembling “grave markers,” Jagger driving a hearse and Scarlet a white Beetle painted to look like a skull, Raven listening to music by The Skeletons … there are morbid and wickedly cool outfits, wicked nail polish, morbid matchmaking, a haunting dance club … OK. I get it. She likes death and vampires. Stop suffocating me.
Other terms seemed out of place, like the use of soda jerk, as well as overly cutesy descriptions, including head-over-Doc-Martens, her house of Hello Kitty cards falling down, and blowing the coffin-lid off the secret identity of her vampire boyfriend. Overkill.
I get fluff. I love fluff. It’s fun, lighthearted and easy-to-read for teens and also for adults, who want to escape from serious adult-land for pages at a time. I understand. However, many things in “Cryptic Cravings” are absurd.
Raven and Alexander are peeking in on Jagger and Sebastian at night, trying to find out their plans, and Raven’s foot slips. The jig is up and the vampires hear but, luckily, a pigeon was walking along the window ledge so Alexander tosses a twig near the bird and it, in turn, is startled and flies away. Nocturnal pigeons in the country. Interesting.
Also, everything happens so fast. Raven goes back to investigate the club the next to day to see what’s been accomplished (in one night) and sneaks into a room filled with the vampires sleeping in coffins. When reaching Jagger’s coffin she hears the faint sounds of breathing? Breathing? Do they breathe? Schreiber used all the vampire cliches — turning into bats, nocturnal vision, sleeping in coffins, hanging out in cemeteries, inability to see their reflections or show up on film — but they breathe? They also seem to chew gum and drink strawberry shakes as shown by Luna, and Alexander and Jagger can flush red with anger. Hmm. Luckily Raven finds blueprints for the club so her secret mission wasn’t in vain. How convenient. She takes part of the sketching because Jagger “wouldn’t notice if one was missing.” Um, yeah he would.
More absurdness includes Raven’s friend Becky taking pictures of the vampires, who keep not turning up in the photos, but no one seems to show major concern when she whips out her camera, except for a few isolated times.
Also, Raven uses a flashlight on another secret fact-finding mission even though she’s with Alexander, who can see in the dark. Her flashlight must not work too well since she still manages to hit her head, which bleeds and fills the room with an intoxicating scent for the vampires they are trying to hide from.
Other absurdity includes Alexander parking his car a “safe distance” from the mill, so safe it never is seen by people or vampires driving by the abandoned building in a town known for wildfire gossip, must be some hiding spot! Alexander has an alter ego, Phoenix, which is basically him in a costume, yet no one knows. Must be some costume.
Also, Alexander and Raven know Jagger has a secret room to his club and they can’t get access. They confront him and he turns on “headbanging music” and they “all danced for a few hours.” What? New way to win arguments with my husband or friends, just turn on Megadeth mid-argument.
Also, I found Raven’s character confusing, especially how she went back and forth between obsessively wanting the dance club for the town but being concerned for Jagger’s secret plans, the safety of the mortals in the area and the safety of Alexander’s secret as a vampire. The dance club wins, which doesn’t make much sense.
The story is set in a cliche goth vs. prep town. Raven and her vampire friends look macabre, as is expressed through Schreiber’s dark-adjective heavy prose, and everyone else is cliche prep, going to the country club and described as Prada-bees wearing paisley and athletic boys who are secretly attracted to goth girls. Only Becky and her boyfriend seem to be between the black and white extremes, somewhat. Even Jagger, with his jagged and edgy white hair, mismatched eyes and “Possess” tattoo is mesmerizing to Raven. A cliche girl in a cliche world.
Also, the word nefarious was used more than 10 times (maybe 15 or 20 considering I lost count) in the 211 page easy-to-read book. It reminded me of Vizzini in “The Princess Bride” with his overuse of the word inconceivable. When used among a sea of simple terms, nefarious stands out. When used in excess, it becomes ridiculous. Another overused word is cryptic. Cryptic cravings, cryptic cage, cryptic of all clubs, cryptic clique, cryptic endeavor? In the words of Inigo Montoya, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Some of the cliches that stand out include: “It was as if he had touched my soul” (Alexander can touch and, also, see into her soul), “Adventure ran through my blood just as much as oxygen did,” and “His soulful eyes stared into mine and I kissed him with all my love.”
I know. I’m dissecting a book meant to be lighthearted. I should take Schreiber’s series for what it is, fluffy, silly, fun reading. The crop circles part was creative, as well as the underlying story. Also, Schreiber’s a bestselling author with a significant fan-base.
However, there is lighthearted reading and then there are books that make no sense, whether you are a young reader or an adult looking for fun supernatural romance. “Cryptic Cravings” is absurd. For all the Ellen Schreiber fans, keep reading, keep enjoying her books because absurd or not, reading is fun because it’s an escape from reality, an escape into another world.
To learn more about the summer supernatural series, visit www.harperteen.com/feature/darkdays/summer/
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