Quite possibly one of the most disappointing reading experiences I've had in a long while. I picked up this book, long neglected on my shelves, as a w...more Quite possibly one of the most disappointing reading experiences I've had in a long while. I picked up this book, long neglected on my shelves, as a way to indulge a bit on a snowy Thanksgiving at home. Unfortunately, the book's premise (a long reclusive vampire takes in a woman stranded in a snowstorm) didn't come together due to poor characterization and poor writing.
The best way I can think to describe this book is as "vampire wish fulfillment" with little beyond that. In addition to being stunningly handsome, the standoffish vampire hero Michael is an accomplished pianist, a doctor, an internationally bestselling author (and conveniently the heroine's favorite), and a master horseman who can "meld" his mind with his steeds. If that weren't enough, he's also sworn off feeding from humans for the past 200 years and he makes handcrafted music boxes. When Nicole, the foolish woman who drives her rental car into a winter storm, gets saved by him, he finds the one thing he's been missing his entire life: an equally perfect woman that he describes as such.
I've read many a case of instalove before, but never one as blatant as this; the couple has no real connection, but they are swearing their love to one another in mere days and their lovemaking is described in rapturously overdone similes and metaphors. Because the writing employed so much telling and very little showing, I never felt a connection between the couple and the whole situation came off as completely implausible, even when negating the vampire angle. If I was supposed to fall in love with these characters and ache for them and their doomed love affair, it didn't happen.(less)
Though I should be terribly ashamed of this rating, I have to admit that this book was the addictively readable, sometimes swoony stuff that brought m...moreThough I should be terribly ashamed of this rating, I have to admit that this book was the addictively readable, sometimes swoony stuff that brought me into the fold of YA literature. It was rife with anger-inducing sexist stereotypes, unhealthy relationships, and poor writing, but Meyer does weave a tale that pulls the reader in. That doesn't forgive it all its faults, but I admit to being sucked in, all while yelling at the characters (literally) about their foolishness.(less)
Lackluster mash-up of vampires & post-apocalyptic elements, 2.5 stars
In Julie Kagawa’s new BLOOD OF EDEN series, the future is a place of loss and...more Lackluster mash-up of vampires & post-apocalyptic elements, 2.5 stars
In Julie Kagawa’s new BLOOD OF EDEN series, the future is a place of loss and fear: most humans have died due to a world-wide plague and those who remain are controlled by vampire lords in guarded cities. Allie scrapes out a life on the edge of society as one of the humans beyond notice of the vampires. But after she is attacked, she must make a decision: die or become that which she despises? In her new form, Allie must battle between blood lust and humanity, especially as her journey takes her outside the city walls and joins her with a ragtag group of humans searching for a promised land free from vampires.
Though I went into The Immortal Rules with high hopes, I was left disappointed. Kagawa’s writing or style wasn’t bad, but neither ever grabbed me. The book also seemed too long for the tale it tells, and the premise didn’t feel very inspired. The book simply felt like a mash-up of what’s “hot” right now (vampires + pseudo-zombies + post-apocalyptic/dystopian). When the vampire or post-apocalyptic elements did appear, they felt predicable. For example, Allie’s vampire sire seemed straight out of other vampire tales (the cool, collected one who is patrician and guarded), and Allie seemed too much like the generic “tough girl” character so often seen in dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels. Because she was supposed to be so strong and hardened, some of the characterization used to describe her also didn’t feel right, like Allie’s concern for a needy, demanding refugee and her soft, reticent feelings about being kissed. The action, when it did occur, was often brutal and harrowing, but it wasn’t enough to keep me reading quickly for nearly 500 pages. The main character and those she cared about (or those who moved the plot forward) escaped true damage too easily and too often for me to be able to suspend disbelief.
On the positive side, this book might be great for Kagawa fans who are looking for her to do something darker than her Iron Fey series. The story is gritty and dark, and it doesn’t flinch at depicting gruesomely violent or harsh circumstances. The plot also includes some interesting ideas about vampirism as a disease, and the mix of that with an element of religious fanaticism among the surviving humans drew me in more during the latter half of the book.
On the whole, though, The Immortal Rules didn’t have enough positive points to make me ignore the predictability or slow pace. Despite that, I hope this book finds a warmer reception with those who like her writing or are looking for a tale that combines elements from some of today’s most popular genres.
Note: Though I didn’t take this into account in my review, I have to mention the white-washing of the cover. The main character, Allison Sekemoto, is repeatedly described as Asian, but the cover model is not.
**This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
Though I had a rocky experience with Harkness' first novel, A Discovery of Witches, I began reading Shadow of Night with hopes that its setting in the past would add intrigue and excitement to the unfolding story. Unfortunately, it did not, and the story became more plodding and convoluted in this installment.
Shadow of Night suffered most from its almost obsession-like focus on detailing every aspect of the historical period in which it was set. From particulars about the floor coverings to the convenient inclusion of almost every notable figure of the time, I felt bogged down in the details and the name-dropping. Character development also progressed in fits and spurts and ultimately stalled. Though Matthew and Diana have some "breakthrough" moments in their relationship, Diana remains relatively incompetent and reckless and Matthew continues to be controlling and possessive. Slow pacing made the first 80% of the novel drag, and very little time or attention was given to the threats or worries of the present day. When action or plot movement did occur, it provided little tension or excitement. The couple's impetus to be in the past - to hone Diana's magic and to find Ashmole 782 - often got lost among historical notes and unrelated intrigue. The mythology regarding time travel and Diana's magical skills was also unclear and seemed to contradict itself at times.
Even though Shadow of Night didn't work for me, this book might be an enjoyable read for those who love history and detail. The time spent exploring Diana's magic and her special capabilities was interesting, as was the information revealed toward the end of the novel about Ashmole 782 and its related prophecy; I finished the book wanting to know more about each. The story also provided some insight into Matthew's character and how his past and his family had shaped him. Chapters set in the present day that were interspersed between sections also provided glimpses into what was happening in the present-day world and moved things along for the secondary characters. Of all of the different parts in the book, I enjoyed these infrequent additions the most.
While I can appreciate the ambitious nature of Harkness' series, I left this second book of the trilogy feeling unmoved again by the story or its characters. Even such, I will likely read the final installment when it comes out to see what happens to Diana, Matthew, and all those connected by Ashmole 782. As she wraps up her story, I hope that Harkness provides readers with faster pacing, clearer world building, and more character development.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy. (less)
One story gives good bite while others only nibble
As a follow-up to her first young adult anthology, editor P.C. Cast brings together six more short s...moreOne story gives good bite while others only nibble
As a follow-up to her first young adult anthology, editor P.C. Cast brings together six more short stories of vampire romance in Eternal: More Love Stories with Bite from some of the most popular young adult paranormal authors today, including Claudia Gray, Lili St. Crow, Nancy Holder, Heather Brewer, Rachel Caine, and Jeri Smith-Ready.
"Bloodshed" by Claudia Gray - Like her contribution in the first anthology, Gray uses her tale to provide back story about the trials of love and vampirism that Patrice (of her Evernight series) has endured before the present day. I liked the war theme and the return of Patrice but it wasn't overwhelming. 3/5
"Say Yes" by Lili St. Crow - This story employs a gritty and vulgar style reminiscent of Holly Black to examine what can go terribly wrong at a drunken teen party where darker forces lurk. Though chilling, the tale lacked any romance or love, though the anthology's name suggests that readers should expect otherwise. 3/5
"Letters to Romeo" by Nancy Holder - In an interesting reconception of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo has been pining away for his lost love for 700 years and thinks he has found her in a modern girl. While the potential was there, a rushed and unexpected ending and a lack of connection with the vampire Romeo left me unmoved. 2/5
"The Other Side" by Heather Brewer - Unrelated to her Vladimir Tod world, this story details what happens to two teen lovers who wake up in a dark cell to find themselves bound and being drained of their blood. The story was set up well to make the twist surprising, but it didn't move it past being merely interesting. 3/5
"Drama Queen's Last Dance" by Rachel Caine - Set in Caine's Morganville Vampires universe, this story details Eve's fight to keep Michael's affection when a sultry vamp shows up in town. Because it was set in an established world, little work was done to build the characters or their relationships, and I didn't like the voice or style. 2/5
"Thief" by Jeri Smith-Ready - By far the best story in the bunch, "Thief" draws readers into a world where Travelers steal to make a living and old-school betrothals still happen, despite the power of real love to insist otherwise. This story created a fascinating world and endearing, sympathetic characters quickly and effectively; I would love to read more set in this universe. 4.5/5
While I enjoy short story anthologies and the opportunity they present to sample multiple authors, ETERNAL: MORE LOVE STORIES WITH BITE didn't have anything to make it stand out from similar books. Only one story ("Thief" by Jeri Smith-Ready) really stuck with me and the rest were interesting but not memorable. In addition, this book had only six stories, two fewer than its predecessor, and it wasted space on another rambling and patronizing introduction from Cast. If you're willing to branch out into other paranormal creatures in search of a good anthology, I would heartily recommend Love Is Hell instead.(less)
Frustrating mix of problems slows novel down, 2.5 stars
In Cassandra Clare's fourth installment of her Mortal Instruments series, CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS...moreFrustrating mix of problems slows novel down, 2.5 stars
In Cassandra Clare's fourth installment of her Mortal Instruments series, CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS, the Great War has passed and everyone is left trying to recover. Clary and Jace have the first opportunity to really enjoy their relationship, but Jace starts to pull away. Simon is juggling relationships with two girls while also contending with different factions that want him for his Daylighter abilities. When Shadowhunters start turning up dead in the different Downworlder districts, the group realizes that darker threats are afoot and secrets are being kept that could endanger them all.
Unlike the fun but light reads of the previous books in the series, CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS does not continue that trend. The fast, action-driven pace of the past novels is gone and replaced with character drama that doesn't serve to elicit growth from any of the characters. The storyline focuses heavily on new problems between Jace and Clary, and some of Jace's actions become inexcusable. Because of this focus on the characters' personal problems, pacing is slow for the first 300 pages. The writing remains okay but overwrought with similes and metaphors, and typos appear starting on the third page. Most frustratingly, this installment is filled with plot points similar to those in past books, plot holes, and continuity errors that could not be ignored. Many plot points are dropped after being brought up, and others are handled clumsily with many logic errors. Unclear or unreliable world building permeates the story, especially in regard to new threats, new villains, and Simon's mark. The book also ends on much more of a cliffhanger than previous installments, and the new conflict that's created is an extension of a storyline that readers would have thought had finished with the first trilogy.
On the positive side, this book continues a series that is loved by many. Greater focus on Simon, Isabelle, and some of the other characters provides a nice reprieve from the Jace/Clary drama, and the identity of the villain, while unoriginal, does come as a surprise. In the coming two sequels, I hope that Clare clears up some of the plot misses and moves beyond the set conflicts she's created in order to provide her characters with more opportunities for growth.
Additional note: A new character is introduced, and his character adds some novelty to the story. His previously horrific actions and those of another male in the book, however, are given the unsettling treatment that it's all right if he didn't mean to do it because he was under the influence of something else. While it's a stretch to compare fantasy motives to real-life situations, I'm concerned that this message suggests that an abusive partner's actions are excusable if the action can be "blamed" on something else (e.g., alcohol , drugs). (less)
In AWAKENED, Zoey and Stark are recovering on the Isle of Skye after their harrowing return from the Otherworld. Nefe...moreLackluster continuation of series
In AWAKENED, Zoey and Stark are recovering on the Isle of Skye after their harrowing return from the Otherworld. Neferet has returned to lead the Tulsa House of Night after being exonerated by the High Council, and she continues to grow stronger with Kalona now under her control. The rogue Red Fledglings are terrorizing the city, and Stevie Rae and Rephaim continue to struggle to define their relationship. With new threats and tragedies occurring in Tulsa, Zoey must decide where her conscience leads her and what she will do.
Despite my concerns with this series, I always come back to the next book with hopes for improvement. Unfortunately, AWAKENED continues the series' downward trend. The use of slang, unrealistic "teen talk," dated references, and racial and homosexual stereotypes continue (even though it's obvious the authors are trying to be inclusive). Like TEMPTED and BURNED, Zoey's perspective is written in first-person, while everyone else is in third-person. This stylistic back-and-forth remains frustrating, especially given the sheer number of characters included. Very limited character growth happens for anyone, especially Zoey. As a character, I'm no longer able to take her seriously. For example, Zoey refers to other characters as being "gross" for "playing kissy-face," and then she's depicted as sexually and emotionally mature a few chapters later, which seemed unbelievable. While things moved forward plot-wise a bit more in this book, the pace still felt stagnant for the first half. The major conflict remains Neferet and Kalona, with little change, and predictable plot outcomes continue. At the end, the book also concludes at a moment in which the authors resurrect a painfully overused plot point.
On the positive side, as mentioned, there is a bit more movement in the plot when compared to the previous two installments. The relationship between Stevie Rae and Rephaim remains interesting, and character development occurs in Rephaim, a bit in Kalona, and even a little bit in Erik. Damien and Jack's relationship also gets some more attention, and it's depicted as healthy, loving, and meaningful. While the switch from first-person point of view to third-person remained bumpy at times, the transitions were smoother and the writing was better in the third-person sections than in previous books.
With four book more books to go in this series, I'm finding it difficult as a reader to motivate myself toward picking up each additional one. If I do, I hope the Casts move beyond the set conflict or kick it up a notch, along with some significant character growth for Zoey and her friends. (less)
Satisfying but mostly predictable conclusion to the series
In Last Sacrifice, the final installment in Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series, the stak...moreSatisfying but mostly predictable conclusion to the series
In Last Sacrifice, the final installment in Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series, the stakes for Rose and her friends have reached their breaking point. Rose has been accused of the Queen's murder and awaits trial and possible death, Dimitri is still struggling with his restored dhampir state and people's distrust about his transformation, and Lissa has been thrust into court life as the last living Dragomir. While wrestling with her feelings for both Adrian and Dimitri, Rose must find a way to free herself, clear her name, and find the missing Dragomir heir to ensure Lissa's rightful place on the Council.
LAST SACRIFICE will please most fans due to its ending and the wrap-up of the most significant storylines. Resolution occurs regarding the missing Dragomir heir, the queen's murderer, and the love triangle between Rose, Adrian, and Dimitri. While much of the plot is predictable, the twist regarding the identity of the Queen's murderer was a nice surprise. For the main characters, the story ends in a conclusive place where the reader can imagine their futures (or lack thereof) without needing to know more detail. In this book, Lissa and Rose also become more of their own characters as they are forced to face challenges apart from one another, and Dimitri and Lissa show significant growth and resilience. In addition, I finally felt some of the connection between Rose and Dimitri, which I hadn't in prior books.
On the downside, the many dropped or unresolved plot points about secondary characters seemed obvious as set-ups for the forthcoming spin-off series, Bloodlines. The writing remained decent but not overwhelming, and the repeated use of ellipses (...), em dashes (-), and empty phrases like "so, so" became noticeable. Pacing also lagged significantly during the first 400 pages, and the book felt like it could have been much shorter, especially given the predictable outcomes of many plot points. Rose's first-person narration also failed at times because of the unbelievable lack of self-awareness on her part; and similar to Blood Promise, Rose's ability to "see" Lissa's experiences became too convenient and repetitive as a plot device. As a character, Rose remained impulsive and abrasive, so when she did have moments of growth in this book, they felt manufactured. Finally, while I liked that Mead depicted a romantic relationship based on equality and trust, its presentation sometimes felt forced, like a teaching moment.
Even with these faults, Mead's Vampire Academy is, by far, the best and most engaging young adult vampire series out there. Fans will undoubtedly find this final installment satisfying, and certain loose ends promise readers more action and intrigue in BLOODLINES next summer. Though I was never able to fall in love completely with these characters or their stories, I'm sure I'll pick up BLOODLINES to see what happens next. (less)
In Cynthia Leitich Smith’s BLESSED, teen restaurant manager and new vampire Quincie Morris finds herself struggling t...moreConclusive wrap-up for characters
In Cynthia Leitich Smith’s BLESSED, teen restaurant manager and new vampire Quincie Morris finds herself struggling to handle the demands of saving her restaurant, hundreds of souls, and her relationship with werewolf-hybrid Kieren. With help from a beautiful new hire, Zachary, and his friends, Quincie must race to stop Bradley Sanguini’s quest to make himself into a modern Dracula, complete with his own army of fledgling vampire minions. In the process, Quincie also must consider what her vampire soul is worth.
BLESSED combines the casts of TANTALIZE and ETERNAL to provide a conclusive wrap-up to the supernatural story world Smith has created. While the first two books were companion novels, BLESSED is a true sequel that merges the two previous storylines to provide a satisfying ending for each character’s story. Strong themes about faith, redemption, and self-sacrifice run through the novel and are examined in non-preachy ways. Quincie experiences much more character development here than in the first book, and fans of Kieren and Quincie will be delighted to see their relationship developed beyond the first sparks seen at the end of TANTALIZE. The novel also explores the vampire myths of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA and links them in believable ways to a modern setting.
Though I enjoyed seeing Quincie, Kieren, and Zachary’s stories brought to a close, this installment has many of the same weak points as its predecessors. Dialogue comes across as stilted and unbelievable at times, and there are a few abrupt transitions between scenes. Again, like in TANTALIZE, attempts to infuse sensuality into the text felt a bit forced, as though the author was trying noticeably to be edgy. A few items regarding the mythology were left unresolved, and an overreliance on summarizing Stoker’s DRACULA weighed down the middle section of the book. Additionally, while the division of the novel into meal courses felt creative in TANTALIZE, the use of the same structure now felt trite and unnecessary to understand the story.
In all, BLESSED provides a nice final course for the characters Smith created in TANTALIZE and ETERNAL, but the book didn’t offer anything to make it stand out in the word of young adult paranormals other than its darker tone and its reboot of the Dracula myth. Fans of Smith will still undoubtedly eat up this conclusion though.
ETA: I learned after writing this review that the author plans to write one or two additional books in this universe, so this was not the end of the series. Things felt fairly well concluded for all of the characters at the end of this book, so this news surprised me.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy.(less)
KISSES FROM HELL brings together five popular young adult paranormal authors with short stories about love and v...moreLacking real bite despite the vampires
KISSES FROM HELL brings together five popular young adult paranormal authors with short stories about love and vampires. Similar to the companion anthologies that came before it (LOVE IS HELL, PROM NIGHTS FROM HELL, and VACATIONS FROM HELL), this book is composed of five different tales, each centered loosely around the title's theme. Different from the other volumes, however, this book focuses on vampires only, instead of a wider host of paranormal creatures.
"Sunshine" by Richelle Mead - Set in Mead's Vampire Academy universe, this story explores how Lissa's parents met and fell in love, and it succeeds in providing a great backstory for that series. "Sunshine" was cute and showed good character development, but it wasn't overwhelming. 3/5
"Bring Me to Life" by Alyson Noël - In this story, Noël presents a modern twist on the Dracula myth involving an eerie fog, an old English manor, and a cute artsy boy. Though okay, "Bring Me to Life" wasn't very engaging or original with its use of obvious and cliché plot clues throughout. 2/5
"Above" by Kristin Cast - In "Above," Cast attempts to create a complex new paranormal mythology about creatures who live below the surface of the earth and their enemies who live above. Even with its two sympathetic main characters, this story fell extremely short due to its confusing and unclear world building that seemed like an attempt to be avant garde or edgy. 1/5
"Hunting Kat" by Kelley Armstrong - Set in Armstrong's world that appears in her Darkest Powers series, "Hunting Kat" introduces a feisty young vampire named Kat who is being pursued by the Edison Group. In the process, she meets two boys, either of whom may be with her or against her. "Hunting Kat" was fast-paced and interesting with a strong, likeable female protagonist and a likeable male lead. I really enjoyed this story and would love to see a longer novella or book based on these characters. 4/5
"Lilith" by Francesca Lia Block - In this story, Block puts a vampiric twist on the original bad girl of the Bible, Lilith. This story had the potential to be very original, but it seemed out of place in this collection with its very dark tone and lack of any real romance. 2/5
While I enjoy short story anthologies and the opportunity they present to sample multiple authors, KISSES FROM HELL left me disappointed. Outside of those by Mead and Armstrong, the stories weren't very interesting or well-written. In addition, the huge font size and the chapter breaks used within individual stories felt like an attempt to hide the overall short length of the book. Despite its title and description, most of the stories also contained very little romance or kissing. If you're willing to branch out into other paranormal creatures in search of a good short story anthology, I would heartily recommend KISS ME DEADLY: 13 TALES OF PARANORMAL LOVE or LOVE IS HELL instead.(less)
In IMMORTAL: LOVE STORIES WITH BITE, editor P. C. Cast brings together eight short stories about the everla...moreBitten by some stories, untouched by others
In IMMORTAL: LOVE STORIES WITH BITE, editor P. C. Cast brings together eight short stories about the everlasting kiss, the bite of a vampire, from some of the most popular young adult paranormal authors today, including Kristin Cast, Richelle Mead, and Rachel Vincent, among others.
Similar to other anthologies, IMMORTAL was a great way to experience the style and writing of multiple different authors in only one book, and it was easy to pick up and read a single story at a time. With each story running only 30 - 35 pages, it was perfect for lunch breaks or right before bed. Among the stories, there was some strong contributions, most notably Rachel Vincent's "Binge" about a siren and leenan sidhe fairy and Claudia Gray's "Free" about vampires and race in pre-Civil War New Orleans. Both stories were linked to the authors' existing series, SOUL SCREAMERS and EVERNIGHT respectively, and I liked both enough to want to seek out the authors' other books. Other well-done stories included Richelle Mead's "Blue Moon" about a vampire on the run, which had a tone and style similar to her VAMPIRE ACADEMY series, and Rachel Caine's "Dead Man Stalking" that provided a glimpse into the dysfunctional families of Morganville from her ongoing series.
Unfortunately, I found only half of the stories in this collection to be enjoyable or memorable. The stories by Kristin Cast ("Amber Smoke") and Tanith Lee ("Table Manners") were particularly weak, and those by Cynthia Leitich Smith ("Haunted Love") and Nancy Holder ("Changed") were just unmemorable. Many of the stories concluded with unhappy or unfinished endings, and very few of the entries were love stories in the traditional sense, which may be misleading to some readers based on the subtitle of the book. The lengthy introduction by P. C. Cast was also rambling and patronizing.
Even with this lack of balance in story quality, IMMORTAL proved to be a quick and inexpensive way to sample the work of multiple authors, and it provided me with some new authors to check out. I'm looking forward to the sequel, ETERNAL: MORE LOVE STORIES WITH BITE, which comes out later this year. If you're looking for something similar in the meantime, consider THE ETERNAL KISS: 13 VAMPIRE TALES OF BLOOD AND DESIRE.
(NOTE: Be sure to buy this edition of the book. An earlier, limited edition of the novel was available exclusively from BORDERS, but it did not include the story by Vincent and it cost six dollars more.)(less)
Middling addition to paranormal romance genre, 2.5 stars
In Claudia Gray's EVERNIGHT, Bianca has been uprooted from her life and brought by her parents...moreMiddling addition to paranormal romance genre, 2.5 stars
In Claudia Gray's EVERNIGHT, Bianca has been uprooted from her life and brought by her parents to the elite Evernight Academy where they will teach. Feeling out of place among the rich and talented students, Bianca finds herself a small group of friends, including Lucas. As things heat up with Lucas, Bianca grapples with the attention (both good and bad) she's receiving from some of the popular students and with Lucas's continued suspicion about her classmates and the school. Both Bianca and Lucas are keeping secrets from each other about their identities, and the truth could tear them apart.
After being impressed with Gray's short story in IMMORTAL: LOVE STORIES WITH BITE, I decided to pick up EVERNIGHT and see how it compared. Regrettably, the full-length book did not have the pull of her short fiction. Told in first-person through Bianca, this point-of-view did not work for the plot twist that is revealed after the first third of the book. The author uses repetitive, simplistic descriptions, like of Bianca's constant blushing or her shyness, to replace character development. Continuity errors regarding times and seasons drew me out of the story, causing me to flip back pages to check what I had just read. The symbolism attempt comes across as clunky and unclear and didn't add to the story at all. Though much of the plot focuses on the romance, I never felt or understood the connection between Lucas and Bianca, especially given how they met. Inexplicably, the romantic foil was made much more appealing and likeable than the romantic lead. The book closes with an obvious set-up for the sequel and not as much as closure as I would have liked.
On the positive side, Gray's writing is easily readable, and her descriptions provide a good sense of place regarding the academy. In the first third of the book, Bianca is a likeable protagonist with realistic flaws. Secondary characters of Bianca's parents, Raquel, and Balthazar are all interesting and likeable as well. When the second plot twist comes, it's interesting enough to keep you reading.
Even with these good points, this book didn't grab me as I had hoped it would. In the sequels, STARGAZER and HOURGLASS, I hope that Gray provides better romantic tension, fewer continuity errors, and more consistent characterization for Bianca. (less)
In Cynthia Leitich Smith's ETERNAL, guardian angel Zachary loses his charge, Miranda, to a vampire bite...moreDarkly enjoyable take on vampires & angels
In Cynthia Leitich Smith's ETERNAL, guardian angel Zachary loses his charge, Miranda, to a vampire bite and falls from grace in the process. Following his punishment, Zachary finds himself indulging in a life of earthly pleasures until another angel shows up and gives him a chance to redeem himself. His former charge and love interest, Miranda, is now a vampire princess who has committed all types of horrors against humans and vampires alike. When she needs a new assistant for her gruesome life, Zachary jumps at the chance, hoping to save them both.
After my experience with Smith's TANTALIZE, I was skeptical about reading ETERNAL. However, I'm glad that I did. In this book, Smith shows a vast improvement in her writing in form, plotting, and structure. As characters, Zachary is likeable as an angel with sarcastic wit and Miranda is relatable before her change. Smith's use of blog posts, help wanted ads, and cultural references worked well, both to add humor and the perspective of unobserved characters. Unlike other current vampire titles, these vampires are also decidedly bad and cruel; Smith does not shy away from the horror of them and their power. To illustrate this, she employs creative, campy ways to depict their brutality, and in doing so addresses significant themes like class and the abuse of others for one's own desires. The book then closes with an ending that made sense and provided closure, even if it won't satisfy those looking for a happily-ever-after.
On the negative side, the writing in the beginning was not as smooth as one would hope for, and it was hard initially to figure out what had happened to both Zachary and Miranda. Through the middle of the book, pacing drags. Though the narration alternates between Miranda and Zachary, Zachary's voice is much stronger and more interesting. When we do learn important things about Miranda, we're told them (instead of shown) through Zachary's eyes. As a character, Miranda is inconsistent, and there is little change or development among the cast. For those looking for a romance, it is limited in this book. Some elements of the angel mythology were also unclear.
If you came looking for a sequel to TANTALIZE, you will not find it here as there is no overlap in characters or storyline. However, in its place, you will find something much better. With its darker mood, ETERNAL will appeal to fans of dark urban fantasy like Holly Black's Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale series. I'm looking forward to Smith's return to this universe in BLESSED, which will bring together characters from both TANTALIZE and ETERNAL. (less)
Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize begins as Quincie Morris, placed into her uncle's care after her pa...moreCould have been tantalizing but wasn't, 1.5 stars
Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize begins as Quincie Morris, placed into her uncle's care after her parents' death, is helping prepare the family's restaurant for its grand re-opening. Quincie helps runs the restaurant, which is undergoing a renovation to become Sanguini's, a vampire-themed dining experience. When the head chef is murdered, Quincie must decide whether to trust her best friend and crush, Kieran, a half-werewolf hybrid, to not be the culprit. Soon, new chef Henry Johnson sweeps in, complete with quirky comments, red contact lenses, and a wish to make the place as vampirific as possible. Henry also takes a decided interest in Quincie. As things get weirder and weirder, Quincie must decide whom to trust: the now-suspect Kieren or her uncle and the intriguing new chef?
Very rarely have I seen such widely-ranging reviews as I did for TANTALIZE, so I decided to pick up the book and decide for myself. Unfortunately, I fell among those who did not enjoy this book. Smith's writing was stilted and jumpy, and there were little to no transitions between scenes. In the first two-thirds of the book, the plot and setting were somewhat interesting, but the big plot twist that occurred in the final third was very abrupt and unpleasant. The incomplete character development didn't make me care for any of the characters, and the villain was obvious from his first introduction. Overt attempts at sensuality throughout felt forced. Finally, the climax and ending felt very rushed, and the villain and love interest both acted in unbelievable ways.
Underneath these problems, I could see glimmers of what could have been a great story. The restaurant setting, complete with described menus, décor, and subculture, provided a unique backdrop and way to tell the story. Smith's use of inserted want ads and menu displays in the book, along with the segmentation of the book into meal courses, was very clever. In the beginning of the story, Quincie and Kieren are likeable characters and their lifetime history as friends felt endearing and real. The modern-day setting of Austin and a world where vampires and weres exist as known human subspecies could have also provided for an interesting mythology.
Even with this potential, the book was simply an unsatisfying read with too quick a resolution and characters that become unlikeable and difficult to understand. In future books, I hope that Smith uses the creativity and cleverness she obviously has and puts it into a more consistent and enjoyable storyline. (less)
In book seven of the House of Night series, BURNED(House of Night Novels), the reader returns to the cliffhang...moreBurned by another lackluster installment
In book seven of the House of Night series, BURNED(House of Night Novels), the reader returns to the cliffhanger ending of the last book where Kalona has killed Heath, Zoey's soul has shattered, and now Zoey and Heath are together in the Otherworld. With Zoey gone and the prediction looming that she will die permanently within seven days unless her soul is restored, her friends and colleagues must devise a way to bring her back. Stevie Rae is also continuing to deal with the rogue Red Fledglings and her need to hide Rephaim, all while new manifestations of evil surround them.
Despite my claim that I wasn't going to buy this book after the disappointment of TEMPTED(House of Night, Book 6), I went ahead and did so; unfortunately, this book failed to improve over it. Pacing was dreadfully slow for the first 270 pages, and within the first 60 pages, readers can easily discern the plot and outcome of the book. The writing tries too hard and fails with repetitive phrases and similes/metaphors that don't work. Typos abound. The use of slang, unrealistic "teen talk," racist and homosexual stereotypes, and dated references continue. The "nerd herd," Erik, and other characters become insignificant, and there are character inconsistencies in others like Zoey and Heath. Like TEMPTED, Zoey's perspective is written in first-person, while everyone else is in third-person. Even though third-person is typically an omniscient narrator, the authors tried to change the voice of the third-person narrator to match that of each character, and it comes across clumsily. Given the limited focus on Zoey, the book could have easily and more smoothly been written in all third-person and without the need for chapter headings with each character's name; the authors should know that readers are smart enough to figure out the scene changes without names, just like in other books.
On the positive side, the final 50 pages were fast-paced and interesting. Stevie Rae, Rephaim, and Stark show significant character development, and Stevie Rae and Rephaim's evolving connection was by far the most interesting part of the book. Though some may miss the focus on Zoey, I liked the shift because it gave new life to the other characters. Cast and Cast also delve into an expanded mythology, and the book ends on much less of a cliffhanger than the last installment.
Even with these problems, I know that I'll likely pick up the eighth book when it comes out. I just hope that my curiosity doesn't get the better of me and that I have the strength to save my money and wait until it comes to the library. (less)
In Richelle Mead's fifth installment to the VAMPIRE ACADEMY series, SPIRIT BOUND takes the reader back to St. Vla...moreMarked improvement over Blood Promise
In Richelle Mead's fifth installment to the VAMPIRE ACADEMY series, SPIRIT BOUND takes the reader back to St. Vladimir's Academy where Rose and Lissa are preparing to set out into the real world. Dimitri, still in his Strigoi state, is stalking Rose with the intent to kill her; Rose is frantically searching for a way to use spirit to cure him; and both Lissa and Rose are graduating and moving on to court, where Rose's guardian role will be assigned and where Lissa hopes to move into her royal role as the last in her family's line.
SPIRIT BOUND was a marked improvement over the past two books, and I was excited for that. Mead's writing style remains easily readable, and pacing was better, with the resolution of Dimitri's Strigoi state (one way or another - no spoilers) resolved within the first half of the book. Lissa's character grows in many ways, including her role in court, her personal strength, and her willingness to take risks for others. Adrian and Christian also develop as characters, with each getting more attention in this book; their wry and humorous dialogue adds much to the story.
Even with these strengths, the book fell short in other ways. The plot is unsurprising with resolutions to many points that you can see far in advance, and other events are so implausible that it takes away from the credibility of the story arc. The book ends with another cliffhanger, with a set up that comes out of nowhere and makes the book feel unfinished. Even though pacing picks up soon into the book, the first 100 pages are slow, with lots of backstory and reiteration from previous books. As for characters, Rose's development seemed stunted throughout. She shows no compunction about putting her friends and fellow guardians in mortal and professional danger for her own ends, and she acts out multiple times like a petulant child. While her actions annoyed and frustrated me, I couldn't decide whether it was 1) good characterization to show her traits as they are or 2) bad characterization because she doesn't grow or change. Also, while it was nice to see Adrian play a significant role, he becomes little more than a simpering fool for Rose, despite her recurring misuse of his feelings.
Overall, the Vampire Academy series continues to be leaps and bounds ahead of other YA paranormal series, but it still could see some improvement with more consistent pacing, fewer predictable plot points, and more character development for Rose. I hope that the final book in the series, LAST SACRIFICE, brings the resolution everyone been looking for, along with some significant growth for Rose. (less)