Narrator Review: When I was first listening to The Prey, I had a hard time getting used to Sean Runnette.This review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Narrator Review: When I was first listening to The Prey, I had a hard time getting used to Sean Runnette. His voice is a little bit too mature for a seventeen year old boy. However, by the end of the first book, I’d grown to appreciate Runnette’s nuanced narrative style. He does a fantastic job with Gene and I even appreciated the way he embodied Sissy. Without a doubt, I’ll be listening to the rest of the books in this series, rather than reading them myself.
Book Review: My tolerance level for gore is only slightly higher than my tolerance level for white chocolate (IT’S NOT CHOCOLATE!). When my roommate watches The Walking Dead, I have to go to my room, close the door, put a pillow over my head and sing “LALALALA!” at the top of my lungs so I don’t accidentally hear any zombie noises. But this book? Oh, this book? I loved it, gooey, cheesey, melting flesh and all. Okay, I gagged at those parts, but I kept listening.
Before I continue with my review, let me recap a little. At the end of The Hunt, Gene was outed as a human. It also turned out that his crush, Ashley June, was human. She sacrificed herself so Gene could get away. Well, and come back to save her later, of course. (If you get the sense that I’m not an Ashley June fan, you’re right.) Unable to save her, and needing to get away from the ravenous vampire-creatures, Gene takes off on a river voyage with the hepers beneath the dome, including Ben, Sissy and Epap.
The Prey picks up so exactly where The Hunt left off that my head was spinning, trying to remember all the details of the last book. I know that I’ve complained about authors recapping in series books, but a little easing back into the world is, I think, necessary. No matter. I was soon swept up in the action and I never looked back. Andrew Fukuda is a master at creating suspense. It was almost unsafe to read The Prey while driving because I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly. I don’t think I ever breathed easy, not even when Gene, Sissy and Co. finally arrived in “the land of milk and honey, fruit and sunshine.”
The Prey isn’t without flaws. Gene, the main character, often irritated me. He’s still learning how to put others first, and he’s lucky that he’s got Sissy there to show him how it’s done. (Seriously. She’s awesome like that.) He’s also slow to understand what’s going on in the human village, even if he senses that something is off from the very beginning. The village scenario is pretty standard to dystopians, but I think Fukuda does a pretty good job of explaining how it came to be. He manages to humanize the elders (as much as that’s possible), but disappointingly doesn’t do the same for the village girls. I wanted have a better understanding of why they obeyed the elders. Or at least one that confirmed my suppositions. And I’m pretty sick of the he’s dead/he’s not dead back and forth about Gene’s dad.
But, really, the flaws just made The Prey that much more awesome. Or, rather, they made me realize how much I good the book really was. The Prey was completely engrossing. The ending left me hitting my steering wheel in frustration because it doesn’t just end on a cliffhanger, it ends on one that makes you go, “WHAT?! HE COULDN’T HAVE ENDED THE BOOK THIRTY SECONDS LATER?!?!” Basically, the most successful cliffhanger in the history of cliffhangers. I must have book three. I simply must....more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a retelling of Snow White, but the differences are subtle enough that you don't feel as if you're reading the samI thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a retelling of Snow White, but the differences are subtle enough that you don't feel as if you're reading the same old tale again. The world-building is also fascinating--if a tad complex. I'll need to spend more time in this world before I can understand it. Lili St. Crow hints at complexities that aren't fully explored in this book. I'm really hoping that the next book (a Cinderella re-telling) expands on what we learned, rather than moving us to a new sphere. ...more
Narrator Review: Right out of the gate, Sean Runnette did not strike me as the riThis audiobook review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
Narrator Review: Right out of the gate, Sean Runnette did not strike me as the right narrator for The Hunt. For one thing, his voice was far too gravely and deep to suggest "teenage boy." For another, it's slightly pedantic. Runnette won me over as I got to know Gene a little better--Gene is methodical and intensely cerebral--and these are things that are communicated through the quality of the narration. On the other hand, I've never met a male narrator who can voice a female character to my satisfaction, and Runnette is no exception. Review Review: I am the world's biggest wimp. I hate gore, and I will never, ever see another boxing movie for as long as I live. The scene in the body switch episode of Glee where Tina conks her head on the bottom of a fountain nearly ruined the episode for me. I bring up my squeamishness because The Hunt is extremely graphic in terms of grossness, the eating of humans and general gore. And, yet, despite the scene where a vampire essentially turns into gooey cheese (I just vomited a little), I loved this book. I had issues with 90% of the characters, but it made me think, and it stuck with me. To me, that is the mark of seriously bada** writing. The most interesting question that The Hunt brings up for me is what it means to be human. Gene, the narrator, has only survived amongst these vampire-zombies by completely subverting his humanity. And while it's saved him, it's also killed him. His is a character that I was on the verge of disliking, even to the very last word. Gene flirts with being irredeemable and it's that, more than the threat of his being discovered, that kept me on the edge of my seat. I can't really talk about the rest of the characters because doing so would be spoilery, but I want to touch on what I said about disliking 90% of the characters. The characters I was rooting for the most were the ones the least seen. Sissy totally kicked butt and, of course, I'm a sucker for kids. They better live, do you hear me Andrew Fukuda? Fortunately, I'm fairly certain we'll be seeing a lot more of them in the next book. Another thing that I enjoyed about The Hunt was its sheer bizarreness. Fukuda must have had a lot of fun coming up with the whole armpit/elbow make-out scene. After I read that part, I hurried over to Small's blog because I needed to talk to her about it, pronto. There are plenty of bits from the world-building that will make you go, Wait, WHAT?! And then there's the wrist-scratching. Finally, there were definitely times when suspension of disbelief was required. When Gene gets chosen for the Heper Hunt, it means leaving behind all the tools of his deception. The vampire-zombies don't sweat, bathe, have hair, require water and, apparently have perfectly groomed fingernails. Fukuda makes a big deal about all the rules Gene's father taught him to survive. Some of the problems are addressed--the need for water being one of them. But others--the lack of deodorant, how he got a razor, etc.--required the readers to look the other way. Not to mention the sheer unbelievability of being in control of yourself at all times. Humans just aren't made that way. Or maybe I just mean that I'm just not made that way. Who knows. I highly recommend The Hunt for anyone interested in the Paranormal and Dystopian genres. In fact, I recommend it to almost anyone, period. It's insanely gripping, thought-provoking and exciting. The only problem? The sequel isn't even listed on Goodreads yet....more
First of all: MAJOR SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW * * * * If you haven't read Hard Bitten, you'reThis review was originally posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
First of all: MAJOR SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW * * * * If you haven't read Hard Bitten, you're going to be in for a major shock. Don't read on unless you're willing to be spoiled...for Hard Bitten as well as Drink Deep.
My major concern in this book wasn't how Merit was going to survive after the death of Ethan, but how Neill was going to handle his return. I was also worried that a new love triangle was in the offing. Jenny and I discussed this a bit back when I'd just finished Hard Bitten. I was concerned that, now that we'd finally gotten rid of the Morgan side of the love triangle, we were headed for a repeat with Jonah once Ethan finally came back. I'm happy to report that my fears were unfounded. Hopefully you'll find comfort in this as well! Drink Deep opens up a month or so after the death of Cadogan House's former master, and Merit's erstwhile suitor, Ethan. Merit is still grieving and to add insult to injury, she's been having Ethan-centric nightmares that make it difficult for her to move on even the slightest bit. She pulls herself up by the bootstraps, however, when her House needs her. Not only are they seriously understaffed, but they're also under investigation by the GP. Things go from bad to worse, as the GP rep not only rations blood in Cadogan House, but also outlaws junk food. Nothing, of course, could be more likely to stir Merit into action. I jest, but it really is a sign that tells Merit she's been in the doldrums long enough. Unfortunately, just when things at the House are getting bad, things in the city of Chicago get worse. First Lake Michigan turns completely black, then it's the sky. Merit and Jonah team up to try to figure things out, but have very little luck. All leads turn into dead ends. Merit suspects the former mayor is involved, but can't prove it, and interviews with the man only bring forth more questions. Pretty soon Merit doesn't just have a mystery to help her get her mind off Ethan--she's got a serious problem on her hands. I continue to love Merit. She gets better with each book, as she stays grounded even as she becomes more and more involved in vampire politics. She's also not one to sit and stare when she thinks she's lost her love forever, but neither is she lacking in visceral grief. Best of all, she maintains her snarky sense of humor and her integrity in spite of her surroundings and her acquaintances. Maybe because of them. Plus, I think her reverence for Mallomars is hilarious. Drink Deep was an awesome entry in terms of the greater story arc of the series, but it doesn't stand very well on its own. At this point, it's not supposed to. We're far enough into the series that no one who isn't familiar with the prior events really has any business picking up Drink Deep independently. Only--I like it when each installment of the series doesn't just add to the whole experience--but tells an encapsulated story of its own. Think Harry Potter. I figured out who the villain of Drink Deep was fairly early on in the game--and I'm not boasting. It could only have been who I thought it was, as devastating as the thought was. Drink Deep was more an interlude more than it was a story. It had to be told for the sake of series--but it's not a tale that stands up on its own. It acts as a tantalizer for Biting Cold, it makes you want more; it leaves you unsatisfied. So far, Neill's talent has shown no sign of wavering quality. I love this series, but now that we're approaching six volumes, I'm going to be nervous every time a new book comes out. Does anyone know if Neill has a stopping point in mind? I'd love to see the Chicagoland Vampires series become an exception to my never-ending series pet peeve--but will I? ...more
Okay, so you may or may not remember that, at the end of the last book, everything went all to hell. Jenn's dad betrayed her to the vampires in order to save her sister, Heather (and the rest of the family). Unfortunately for him, the plan totally backfired (duh) and Heather was, instead, captured and, ultimately, "converted." Whoops. Heather's "conversion" is a complicated issue on so very many levels. For one thing, it brings up the only question--Why is Antonio different? Why was he able to recover his human modes and morals? It's a sticky issue, especially since Antonio firmly believes that his faith is responsible and Jenn...well, Jenn doesn't really buy into religion. Which begs the question--does it really matter whether Jenn buys into it or not? Shouldn't the issue be whether Heather is at all religious? But, since Heather spends most of the novel in vampiric blood-frenzy, I guess they can't really ask her. More to the point, though, is that, with the addition of Heather to the party, the Salamanca team of vampire hunters is now harboring two of the very creatures they've been training to kill. Naturally this causes conflict. Jamie, in particular, is especially pissed. Boy, I didn't see that one coming. I'm not sure exactly why the authors felt they needed to create yet more conflict amongst a group that was already tenuously assembled...but they did. Just in time for them to add two more members--one of whom is a potential love interest for Jenn. This book felt largely repetitious to me. I'm kind of tired of Jenn's self-confidence issues. I thought they were supposed to be resolved in the first book? Why are we dealing with this again? I mean, I don't expect Jenn to miraculously become a fantastic leader, but the impression I got at the end of Crusade was that she had embraced her leadership role. I will be gravely disappointed--though not terribly surprised--if Jenn fights the exact same internal battle in each book of the series. While I admit to some curiosity about what makes Antonio different, I don't find him to be compelling in either of his guises--good vamp or evil. He's so obnoxiously good that I find myself thinking that he deserves wishy-washy Jenn. Unfortunately, Jenn and Antonio aren't this series' only problems. It hasn't endeared itself to me on behalf of any of the characters. I wasn't stirred by the action and I didn't grieve over the death at the end of the book. The series began with a large cast of characters, and what do the authors do but add more? That pretty much killed it for me. I don't think I'll be continuing with this series....more
Chloe Neill continues to amaze me with this awesome series. She does a fantastic job of balThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
Chloe Neill continues to amaze me with this awesome series. She does a fantastic job of balancing characterization with plot and that oh-so-necessary smidge of romance. There are times, I admit, when I think Merit verges into too-wonderful-to-be-true territory, but she always redeems herself with some faux-pas or the other. I have to confess that, though I find Merit to be a wonderful narrator, what I really love is Neill's ability to build a supporting cast of male characters who are, to a man, fantastic. This is totally a universe I wish I could inhabit. Between geeky-but-adorable Jeff, Ethan (who needs no explanation), and my personal fave, Alpha shifter Gabriel (suh-woon), I'm ready to up and move to Chicago. Hard Bitten is a fantastic installment in an awesome series. With each volume, Neill expands on Merit's world, from personal details of her past, to the vampire bureaucracy of her future. I feel like Neill has a definite plan in mind, which I appreciate. Too often, I find that series that I loved in the beginning begin to fizzle out, become meandering and scattered. This is, of course, only the fourth volume in this series, and Neill herself has said she doesn't know how many books there will ultimately be. I have to confess: I'd rather see the end of Merit and Ethan's story than to have things wander all over the place, but to be honest, I have high hopes that Neill's going to make the entire series a keeper. If I had one complaint about this book, it's that it was Mallory-lite. It's not that I love Mal all that much--although I do think she's great--it's that I really appreciate when Neill focuses on their best-friend-ship. It's nice to see that Merit gets along so well with Lindsay (who I totally want as my BFF), but the Mal-and-Merit-are-family wasn't as omnipresent as I'd have liked to see. It takes a backseat to the action in this book. Plot-wise, I'm not sure I can even begin to explain how many threads Neill is playing with. She manages to touch on a little bit of everything: the delicate situation between Merit and Ethan, the GP, the shifters coming out, Celina still on the loose, that creepy, lecherous Mayor Tate, Morgan's unresolved feelings...everything gets a little airtime. And it all weaves together to formulate a shocker of an ending. It's enough to send readers clamoring and frothing at the mouth to get their hands on Drink Deep. About a million years ago, Jenny from Supernatural Snark began gently to prepare me for the end of this book. Nonetheless, when I finished it, I threw the book aside and raced to my computer in order to type this email: No, no, no, no and also: NO! Long story short: be forewarned. Hard Bitten is doubtless going to send you off into a similar tailspin. If you've already read the book and you want to talk about it--or if you've already read it and want to talk about it--by all means, drop me a line. I'll be chewing over the ending for a couple of days. Weeks, even....more
The Vampire Academy books are good, don't get me wrong, but they didn't hold my interest pasThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com
The Vampire Academy books are good, don't get me wrong, but they didn't hold my interest past the third book and even having read Bloodlines, I don't regret my decision not to finish the series. I was, however, very excited about this new, but related series because I thought that a new cast of characters would revive my interest in the world. I was, at first, intrigued by Sydney, the Alchemist forced to work with the Moroi she's been raised to despise. Sydney takes on the job so her younger sister won't have to--an oft used technique in teen fiction. Still, my interest was piqued and read happily until I hit page 81 of my ARC, where I came to a screeching halt. Here's why:
Watching me button a white blouse, Mrs. Delaney tsked, "I think you need a size two."
I froze mid-button. "I wear a size zero."
"Oh, yes, you can fit into them, but look at the arms and the skirt length. I think you'll be more comfortable in a two. Try these." She handed over a new stack, and then laughed. "Don't look so mortified, girl! A two's nothing. You're still a twig." She patted her ample stomach. "We could fit three of you into my clothes!"
Despite my many protests, I was still sent away with the size-two clothing. I rode back to my dorm, dejected, and found Jill lying on her bed and reading. She sat up at my arrival.
"Hey, I wondered what had happened to you."
"Got delayed," I said with a sigh. "Are you feeling better?"
"Yeah. A lot." Jill watched as I put away the uniforms. "They're pretty terrible, right? We didn't have uniforms at St. Vladimir's. It's going to be so boring wearing the same thing every day." I didn't want to tell her that as an Alchemist, I might have worn an outfit like this, anyway.
"What size did you get?" I asked, to change the subject. I was kind of a glutton for punishment.
A twinge of annoyance shot through me as I hung my uniforms in the closet beside hers. I felt huge by comparison. How were all those Moroi so skinny? Genetics? Low-carb blood diet? Maybe it was just because they were all so tall. All I knew was that whenever I spent time around them, I felt frumpy and awkward and wanted to eat less.
This (long--sorry) passage irked me on so many levels, the primary one being a heroine who had image issues because she has to wear a size two instead of a zero. I wouldn't have a problem with this if there was the sense that this was a larger issue. If, perhaps, Sydney wasn't worried about a matter of an inch difference in the waist, bust and hips (yes, I looked it up), her attitude would have made more sense. What I'm trying to say, is, if Richelle Mead is trying to make a point about the pressures that women face regarding their weight, she went the wrong way about it. Creating a main character who wishes she were a size zero instead of a size two makes me want to hurl the book against the wall. It makes me want to demand to know how a size--gasp!--four is supposed to feel. The fact that Sydney is so distressed by it that she begins dieting rang the death knell for the character. My overall opinion of Sydney was colored by this facet of her personality. At least, after it was introduced (and maintained), I kept finding more and more things to irritate me about her. She hangs on to her vampire prejudices until they start to resemble bigotry, her ignorance of male/female interactions isn't "sweet" or "innocent"--it just makes her look stupid, and her long suffering, self-sacrificial air is frankly over the top. She's a character of very little empathy and I think it's too bad the books will all be told from her perspective. Sydney's potential love interest is Adrian. Adrian, who had his heart broken in the first series, has been dragged to Palm Springs to help out with the Jill Dragomir watch. All he does is loaf around and indulge in self-pity. As much as I liked him in the Vampire Academy books--Bloodlines did away with all my affection. Originally, I was pleased to learn that this series would tell his story--now I'm wondering how I'm going to make it through the next book. The characters that I liked best got the least screen time. I like Eddie, and I think Jill's okay, though she's awfully young still, and it shows. Irritatingly, I smell at least two love triangles in the offing, and that just feels like cheating to me. It's an easy way to throw a wrench in the romantic element and I'm tired of it. All in all, I was unimpressed by Bloodlines. Which is why I put it on my Saturday Swap list, I suppose. I realized, in rereading this review, that I put in very little about the plot. I guess you could say that that's how much it affected me, though I do have to say: Sydney's decision to keep quiet about her sister's rape was, frankly, the wrong one. If she'd encouraged her sister to tell, she wouldn't have had to worry that Keith would also rape her younger sister. I also worked out the mystery fairly early on, which never bodes well for my opinion of the MC. I've no doubt that my opinion is going to be in minority regarding this book and maybe I'm wrong. So, let me just say it had flaws that I, at least, couldn't overlook. ...more
Remember way back when I declared Jenny my New Best Friend? Well, our original NBFship wasThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
Remember way back when I declared Jenny my New Best Friend? Well, our original NBFship was based on a mutual adoration for Hawke. It continues because she does wonderful things like setting me up on a (literary) blind date with her Book Boyfriend, Ethan Sullivan. Okay, maybe not me personally, but it sure felt like it. I loved Ethan even before I read his book. Though, I guess it's technically Merit's book. I sort of remember that she was in it. Some Girls Bite begins with Merit's change. While walking across campus at night, she's attacked by a vampire and then rescued by an entirely different person. She has vague memories of what happened, and wakes up a few days later in a strange place, with strange clothes, with no wound at her throat. The tension between Merit and Ethan is set up from the very moment that Merit and Ethan meet--the very moment where he changes her has a "sit up and take notice" zing. We don't, however really meet Ethan until several pages later, after Merit is delivered to the house she shares with her best friend, Mallory. Though Mal is human, she's the one who helps Merit through that initial transition. Becoming a vampire drastically changes Merit's life. She can't finish grad school, she can't go out in the daytime any more, and she has to drink blood. Luckily, vampires came out a few months ago, so the idea isn't as much of a shock as it might have been. Besides Mal, Merit's only guide on newbie vampirism is the Canon, the book that outlines being a Housed vampire. Because Merit was changed by Ethan Sullivan, that makes her a Cadogan vampire, and being in a House means being part of a feudal system. And guess whose at the top? Yep, Ethan "Leige" Sullivan. Merit is a modern woman, and because she's estranged from her hoity-toity high society family, she's used to being independent. The fact that she was changed without her consent rankles, even though it was an act that saved her life. Merit's desire to remain independent is a war with her new reality. It's also the cause of a great deal of her conflict with Ethan. Merit thrives on bucking the system, but she's just become a vampire. And vampire society is ruled by the system. Insta-conflict. I loved this novel. I loved the friendship between Merit and Mal. They're delightful best friends, and Mal is exactly what Merit needs. Merit--though she'd rather die than admit it--has a deep seated fear of rejection. Mal's response to Merit's vampirehood is the perfect one. It makes no difference in their friendship. We should all be so lucky to have a friendship like that. I liked Merit despite the fact that I'm not generally crazy about heroines who are kick ass right out the barn door. I usually like heroines to discover the strengths they never knew they had (or secretly believed they didn't). Another thing I don't like is when characters are turned into vampires and they become unbeatable through no effort of their own. Merit's character sort of straddles this line. Being a vampire increases her powers exponentially, but she still has a lot to learn. The world-building wasn't particularly new, but still delightful. I love the idea of a modern-day feudal system. It always provides meat for modern-day heroines. Getting to know Chicago is fun, too. But then I'm invariably a fan of a series that has a setting that doesn't usually get much air time. I just wish I'd been there so I could visualize Merit driving around the city. Every time she mentions Hyde Park, I think of London, not Chicago. By far, of course, Merit and Ethan's relationship is the star of the story. There are sparks from their first meeting (as I mentioned above), and they just continue to fly every time they meet. I want to warn you, though, that Ethan has another love interest for most of the book--and there's a pretty graphic scene between him and the other girl. One that Merit sees. I was uncomfortable with it--and immediately sent Jenny a screaming email. She assured me it doesn't happen again. I've already purchased the next two books in the series, and my plan is to glom them next week. Not just because I want to see more of Ethan and Merit, but because this is the kind of Urban Fantasy I like. There's the always-necessary romantic element, but there's also good plot, good secondary characters, and fine world-building. In other words, plenty of chew for the discerning reader. ...more
Many of you are already familiar with my obsession with Private School Paranormals. It wasThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
Many of you are already familiar with my obsession with Private School Paranormals. It was that, as much as a desire to try out the renowned L.A. Banks' writing style, that led me to give this book a try. The weighty description gives you an idea of the way Shadow Walker rolls. It's a meaty tome. There's lots going on in it, though the events of the book occur in a relatively short amount of time. Most of the story is told from Sarah's perspective, although the p.o.v. is not first person. As a narrator, Sarah is believably conflicted. I can't imagine how incredibly hard it must be to be the children of two people who have saved the world. I mean, how are you supposed to improve on that one? How are you supposed to feel like you've ever done anything with your life, even if you join the Peace Corps, Doctors Without Borders and The Red Cross? The potential for an inferiority complex is huge here. But Sarah is the heroine so, while she does deal with some feelings of inadequacy, she's destined for her own acts of greatness. In the beginning of the story, Sarah is uncertain of her powers and jealous of her twin, who is already demonstrating the greatness of their parents. The major symbol of this fact is that Sarah has been named a "Blend." Being a blend means that you have no particular talent. Or, that it's yet to be discovered. By the epilogue, Sarah has learned what she needs to know--about herself, and others--that will lead her to be the kind of great leader her mother was. Shadow Walker didn't grab me right off. To be honest, Sarah wasn't my favorite kind of character. She has flaws--like getting an enormous zit the day she starts at the Academy--but she always does the right thing. She stands up to bullies, she defends the weak, and doesn't let her best-friend run her down. Which, okay, should all be positive stuff but, honestly--all that perfection becomes irritating. Sarah's loyal. Sarah's kind. Sarah's attractive to two boys. She doesn't like guys who are jerks. When you find yourself hoping that the main character will just mess something up for once, you know you've got a problem. I also felt a lot lost whenever the book returned to the events that must have taken place in the Vampire Huntress books. I'd thought that Banks would assume that, like me, her YA readers probably haven't read her adult fiction, and fill us in a little. I suspect, however, that the only way to truly be filled in is to have read the books. The description of paranormal creatures, people and family relationships would have been better placed at the front of the book. Still, it only tells a small portion of the story--a great deal more is half-related in the course of Shadow Walker. I was also underwhelmed by Sarah's romantic entanglements. Neither Wil nor Val did much for me. They're both good-looking, but kind of interchangeable. Which doesn't make sense, because Sarah's known Val all her life. And pretty much every guy who wasn't Wil or Val was a jerk. So, that came off as another one of Sarah's perfections: she knows how to pick the good guys. Having finished Shadow Walker, I have a feeling of apathy. I don't really care about the next stage in Sarah's journey. I was unimpressed with the story-telling and the world-building. Banks probably did all that in the Vampire Huntress books, so that's another thing I missed. Half the time I had some sort of image in my head that the Compound was like a space station. The school, too. Whenever they went off campus, I'd be wondering if they didn't need spacesuits or something. This is what happens to me when I read a book that lacks a resonating setting. I don't think I'm going to be reading anything else by Banks....more
Under Wraps is that rare gem of a novel--something you find quite by accident and without kThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
Under Wraps is that rare gem of a novel--something you find quite by accident and without knowing much about it. I found it during one of my incredibly long searches on Amazon, and after I featured it one WoW, Hannah contacted me to offer a copy for review. I jumped at the chance, and I'm so glad I did. Hannah Jayne's debut is fun, funny, sexy and deliciously creative. The book world is full of Urban Fantasies. It takes talent to stand out--and Hannah Jayne certainly has that.
Under Wraps tells the story of Sophie Lawson, an every day girl in a paranormal world. Her claim to fame is her immunity to all things magical. But besides stellar organizational ability, that's her only talent. She isn't a vampire or a witch or a werewolf. That makes her an outsider, too. So when she meets Parker Hayes, a detective from the "normal" police force, she's happy to be his guide on all things paranormal. It doesn't hurt that Parker is sinfully looking, or that he and Sophie have almost immediate chemistry.
Helping out with a murder investigation does for Sophie what it would do for any of us: sends her off into amusing fantasies that feature her fighting crime in floor-length leather jackets and high heels. As she quickly discovers, however, detecting isn't all smooth moves and cool clothes. For one thing, it involves real dead people. And the case she and Parker are working on has deeper implications than anyone realizes.
My favorite aspect of the book was the characters. I loved Sophie. She's funny and she's (to me, anyway) easily relate-able. It's not hard for a character to win me over by displaying a sense of humor, and that's what Sophie (and Hannah Jayne) did in Under Wraps. Sophie wasn't the only one I enjoyed. Parker Hayes is great, too, and the relationship between him and Sophie is awesome. These two don't want to jump each others' bones the moment they meet. Yes, there's an attraction, and Sophie has a little crush, but she doesn't spend quality narrative time speculating on what's in his, er...pants. She notices attractive things about Parker, but they don't keep her from acting naturally about 75% of the time. And when she can't quite pull it off, it's still funny. These two take the time to get friendly, and to form a connection that isn't about s-e-x.
Besides the characters, there are a number of elements that make this novel delightful. There's the troll, Steve, who is Sophie's stalker/admirer, and talks about himself in the third person. Sophie's roommate's nephew comes to visit. He's a perpetual sixteen-year-old who has changed his name to Vlad and joined VERM (Vampire Empowerment and Restoration Movement). At one point, there's also a gun in the freezer. The world-building is great, and the flavor of San Francisco floats around in the background. If you enjoy Urban Fantasy that has a lighter tone, I highly suggest Under Wraps. Even if you're not, give the Underworld Detection Agency a try. I dare you....more
It's unlikely that I will ever hate a Nalini Singh book. My love of the Psy-Changeling bookThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
It's unlikely that I will ever hate a Nalini Singh book. My love of the Psy-Changeling books will carry me through any less than satisfactory tale she might tell. I don't mean to imply that Archangel's Blade wasn't a good book--it was. It entirely revived my interest in the Guild Hunter books, which have always taken a back seat to her other series. For me, anyway. In the first three Guild Hunter books, Raphael and Elena were center stage. But Raphael's right hand, Dmitri made appearances in all three books. He was the slightly malevolent but essentially good character you go all dreamy over because he's "the bad boy". And goodness knows we love a bad boy. Dmitri also houses another male cliche--he's that guy with the tortured past. Between these two characteristics, he's had a legion of (female) admirers since we first met him in Archangel's Blood. In the first three Guild Hunter books--and, indeed, in this one--Dmitri comes off as a cold-hearted you-know-what. Archangel's Blade being his book, we get the opportunity to delve into his psyche, and to learn what events are responsible for him having so thoroughly closed off his human side. The truths that are revealed are so devastating you begin to think of him as well-adjusted. Archangel's Blade also tells the story of a Guild Hunter named Honor. On the surface, this vampire and this hunter have very little in common--except, of course, a mutual attraction. Furthermore, Honor was abducted and tortured by some vampires not so long ago, and so she's understandably wary around Dmitri. He may be good-looking, but he has a reputation for mixing pain and pleasure and Honor, scarred as she is, wants no part of it. In typical Nalini Singh-hero-fashion, Dmitri doesn't see this as an obstacle and commences pursuit. What evolves between these two is more than either of them bargained for, and because this is a Nalini Singh book--that's a wonderful thing. While I enjoyed my reading of this novel, I guessed the twist fairly early on in my reading. Which would have been fine, except that the hints felt clumsy instead of like admirable foreshadowing. And then, when all the details came to light, I wanted a better ending for these two. Spoiler:(view spoiler)[Specifically, I was upset that they won't be able to have children, after what they had lost. (hide spoiler)] I also got really worked up over the fact that (view spoiler)[Honor had to go through rape and torture twice! (hide spoiler)] In the end, though I whizzed through Archangel's Blade, the love story didn't completely satisfy me. I did enjoy seeing Raphael and Elena from another perspective. I'm also greatly looking forward to Venom and Poison's book--I'm going out on a limb here, but I think they're meant for each other. I know I'm going to have to wait for it, but hey--I've learned that with Nalini Singh, the waiting is definitely worth it. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Lynn Viehl is, of course, only one of many writers that has dipped her toes in the vampire gThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
Lynn Viehl is, of course, only one of many writers that has dipped her toes in the vampire genre. Her take is that vampires (here called Darkyn) are former Knights Templar that contracted a sort of viral infection that forced them to drink blood, grow fangs, have supernatural gifts and be sensitive to the sun. Oh, yes, and live very long lives. In the first book, we meet the head of the American vampires, Michael, and his lifemate, Alexandra Keller. In their story, Alex becomes a Darkyn, but not quite. She doesn’t feed from any human directly and is devoted to finding a cure for the “disease” of vampirism. Or Darkynism. Whatever. Alex and Michael make more than an appearance in this novel, as they did in Private Demons. I should mention that Alex was the first Darkyn to be made in centuries, but since her change there seem to be more on the way.
Each of the Darkyn novels so far has had an individual plot that feeds into some larger, overarching ones. There is, first of all, the fact that the High Lord of the Darkyn has appointed Michael the seigneur of the United States. Michael’s rule is in its infancy, and so it suffers from all the things that fledgling governments suffer from. Rivals who wish to usurp his power, renegade members who don’t follow rules…and I lost interest in my list already. Also concurrent is Alex’s aforementioned search for a cure. Oh, and I can’t leave out the continuing conflict between the Darkyn and the Brethren (who are basically evil priests). Each novel brings the readers and the characters further into the story. In that way, the Darkyn novels remind me of Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series.
That said, Viehl is not as talented a storyteller as Singh. She does not quite pull through on the romance front. Her stories are compelling and I enjoy her writing style, but through all three of the Darkyn novels that I’ve read so far, the heroes and heroines have spent more time apart than together. This would be fine except for the fact that I always end up wondering what, exactly, brings them together and keeps them together. Except, of course, for the hot sex. This is one reason why I am glad to see Alex and Michael pop up in each installment. It gives the readers a chance to see their relationship develop in a way that their own story didn’t.
By now you’re probably wondering, what about Dark Need in particular? The hero, if you can call him that, is Lucan. Lucan’s special Darkyn power is an ability to kill by touch. For many years he has acted as assassin for the High Lord, Richard. Lucan has also been the enemy/rival of Michael and was very much put out by Richard’s decision to appoint the latter as seigneur of America. Lucan is a Tragic, Misunderstood hero, who Loved and Lost. Plus, he is also Tormented By The Gift of Death. Samantha, the heroine, is also Tormented. She is an Orphan. She has an Amazing Figure that she downplays. If my random capitalization didn’t do the job for me, I will point out that many of these attributes are Paranormal Romance Standards. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Sam may or may not be a lesbian. Until she meets Lucan, of course. Then there’s no question at all. Finally, Sam has a Special Ability. Since she was shot twelve years ago, she has developed the talent of seeing the last moments of murder victims’ lives. This turns out to be both useful and convenient since Sam is a homicide detective. Sam’s occupation is also the instrument for the meeting between the two. When someone starts killing people and framing Lucan by leaving objects that link him to the crime scene, Sam and her partner get the case. When Lucan first sees Sam, he is struck by her physical resemblance to his lost love—and her ability to withstand the hypnotizing trick that is the specialty of the Darkyn.
I did enjoy reading this story, Paranormal Romance clichés or not. The problem was, I wasn’t satisfied when the book was over. I felt the story was cut off too soon. This may be because Viehl was setting her readers up for the next chapter in the Darkyn universe, but I’m guessing that the next book probably won’t feature much about Lucan and Sam. I base this assumption on the fact that Dark Need does little more than mention the hero and heroine of Private Demons in passing.
The other thing I have to confess is that I skimmed many of the later chapters with Alex’s brother John. I just plain don’t like him. He’s boring, self-righteous and altogether unsympathetic. I stopped caring about his personal journey in the first book. I just hope Viehl is going somewhere with this guy—but I’m having a hard time bringing myself to care. ...more
How do I love A Hunger Like No Other? Let me count the ways. One, Lachlain. Two, Emma. ThreThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
How do I love A Hunger Like No Other? Let me count the ways. One, Lachlain. Two, Emma. Three, Nix. Four, Bowen. Five, Lachlain. Six, Nix. Sorry, couldn’t resist. This was my second time reading the first book in the Immortals After Dark Series. I read it for the first time a few months ago, which makes me I’m a recent convert. I’d heard about Kresley Cole and seen her name mentioned many times as a suggested Paranormal Romance author I should try. I think I’ve mentioned that the cover really turned me off. And now I come to think of it, it’s not very accurate. Yes, Emma has long, fair hair, but it’s curly. And the cover kind of makes it look like Lachlain is the vampire. I mean, he’s all pale and looks like he’s very interested in biting Emma’s neck. Also, Emma reflects on Lachlain’s tan skin more than once. And there’s the all-black ensemble. But, points for Emma’s nails being polished! And the gold necklace.
Why did I reread this book? Well, it all started with Pleasure of a Dark Prince. If you’ll recall, a great deal of Dark Prince covered the same time period as A Hunger Like No Other. Of course, in Dark Prince, the action is from Lucia and Garreth’s perspectives. It was great fun to go back and reread Hunger knowing the other parts of the story. While Hunger is Emma and Lachlain’s story, it also introduces Lucia and Garreth’s. We know from the first book of the series that the latter pair will end up together. Lucia is, after all, Garreth’s mate. And Lykae do not let their mates go.
All right, back to the beginning. A Hunger Like No Other begins with Lachlain sensing his mate. He is, unfortunately, in an underground prison. Vampires have been torturing him for 150 years. In order to escape, Lachlain cuts off his leg—no, don’t worry—it’ll grow back. Let me also explain a little about the Lykae/mate thing. Lykae are part of a group of mythical beings called the Lore. The Lore is made up of immortal creatures like werewolves, vampires, witches and Valkyrie, all of great age. Lachlain is “roughly twelve hundred years old.” Though Lykae live a long time, they also have only one true mate. Unfortunately, their mates aren’t always easy to find. Those same twelve hundred years that Lachlain lived, he has dreamed and waited and anticipated and prepared for the “one woman who would be his.” All this should help to explain why Lykae are so possessive of their mates.
Did I mention that Lachlain has been tortured by vampires for 150 years? I did? Oh, well, did I mention that his mate, Emma, the woman that he has waited over a millennium to find, is also a vampire? No? Well, you should at least be able to imagine the drama that ensues when Lachlain finds out that his fated beloved is one of the bloodsucking species. It’s pretty grisly. Especially for the girl, who is known among her Valkyrie aunts as Emma the Timid. When the two meet, Lachlain is furious that fate has dealt him such a blow. Emma is terrified by the bedraggled, but beautiful, man that essentially kidnaps her off the street and demands that she take him back to her hotel room.
What follows is several pages of angsty back and forth between Lachlain and Emma. Lachlain is, from the first, overbearing. This makes sense because he’s the King of the Lykae—basically the alpha of alphas. But also because he doesn’t know that Emma is only half-vampire or that she has never taken blood directly from a human before. Lachlain comes pretty close to being unforgivable. The only thing that saves him is that his anger at having a vampire for a mate is constantly at war with his Lykae need to care for and protect her. And when the latter wins out, he more than makes up for it. I love the little quirks that Cole adds into her characters, like the Valkyries’ acquisitiveness, and their love of nail polish. Lachlain’s genuine desire to make Emma is deeply ingrained. He’s planned on the ways he would make his mate feel cherished and happy for over a thousand years. So when Lachlain is finally able to move past Emma’s vampire nature, the ways that he tries to make things up to her are alternately endearing and laughable.
This book is a shining example of a successful entry into the series. It stands alone as its own story, but it also serves as the starting off point for the books that follow. There’s no awkward exposition, but we learn a lot about the world of the Lore. What impressed me when I read Pleasure of a Dark Prince was how much Cole had already planned out even before the second novel was published. It reminded me of reading the third Harry Potter book and realizing how many layers J.K. Rowling put into Sorcerer’s Stone without her readers realizing it yet.
I think I could write about this book forever, I love it that much. However, this post is already impossibly long and I need to wrap it up. I hate to end on a negative note, but it was inevitable I’d start nitpicking on a reread. You already know I love this book, so I think I’m safe enough to point out a few things I noticed. One thing that niggled at me was Emma’s repeated reflections on Lachlain’s tanned skin. I thought this was bizarre considering the fact that he has spent 150 years in an underground dungeon. Maybe immortals don’t ever lose their tans, but it still niggled at me. Another thing was that, in this reading I wasn’t as easily able to forgive Lachlain’s behavior towards Emma during the first half of the book. He’s pretty awful and if he wasn’t a fictional character I don’t know if I’d ever be able to forgive him. The last thing I want to mention is that, in the Lore, vampires’ eyes turn red when they have killed a person by drinking all their blood. Emma does not have red eyes and yet Lachlain never stops to reflect on this when he is accusing Emma of being a filthy bloodsucker. I suppose that this could be chalked up to Lachlain’s irrationality brought on by the torture he’s experienced.
There’s so much more I wanted to say, so maybe I’ll have to do a follow-up post on A Hunger Like No Other. For now, I need to stop. My eyes are crossing even though my brain is still churning with thoughts. See you soon! ...more
I was late the Mortal Instruments Loveathon, but I refuse to admit that this fact makes meThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
I was late the Mortal Instruments Loveathon, but I refuse to admit that this fact makes me any less a member. However, when I heard that there would be three more books in the series, my first reaction wasn't glee. When an author writes more than he or she initially intended, it invariably messes with the happy ending. Therefore, I was pleased when I read that CoFA was to be Simon's book. That was okay with me. It meant Jace and Clary could still have their HEA. Then I read Cassandra Clare's statement that CoFA wasn't Simon's book, it was all the characters', and I was once more pitched into happy ending-anxiety. CoFA (because I refuse to type the whole title over and over again), lived up to these fears. I don't mean that it wasn't good. I liked it. Some parts I really liked. Others...not so much. By far, my favorite aspect of this book was the exploration of Simon, Isabelle, Maia and a new character named Kyle. Simon is believably in denial about the vampire he has become. His denial is aided by his ability to walk in the sunlight. So, while Simon can keep up the semblance of a "normal" life, it interferes with his ability to adjust to--and accept--the way his life has changed. Simon is floundering and his dual romances with Maia and Isabelle emphasize his paralyzation. He's completely incapable of making decisions. Speaking of the love triangle, it was clear to me where Simon's preferences truly lie, and the end of the book confirmed my hypothesis. Isabelle--due to her relationship with Simon--is the other character we get to see more of in CoFA. She's definitely someone who needed more definition. While Clare made her likable and full of amusing idiosyncrasies in the first three books, she was definitely a side character. I think she's grown up a lot, and I think we know her better. By the end of the book, I liked her a lot more than Clary. I can't say much about Kyle and Maia without being spoilerish, but we don't see much of the latter. Kyle is the more interesting character anyway, and I liked him a lot, and I really, really hope to see more of him. I like, too, that Simon has the opportunity to make a male friend. Or, to be more accurate, a friend who isn't Clary. Because that girl has few thoughts in her head besides Jace. Not that it would be awful to have Jace on your mind all the time. It just makes you a lousy best friend. The plot was really more of an instrument to get the series started. It worked, and I think it mirrored the internal conflicts of both Simon and Jace in an effective way. Jace's scars are old, and deep, and it makes sense that being with Clary wouldn't not be enough to magically erase all of that. Simon's scars are newer, but run to a depth that is nigh equal to Jace's. The difference is in their circumstances. With Clary completely wrapped up in her new boyfriend and her mother's upcoming wedding, a mother he dares not reveal his secret to, and two girlfriends he's trying to keep in ignorance of each other, there really isn't anyone he can turn to. He also doesn't really know how to articulate his problem, or even have an idea of what he really needs. Jace, on the other hand, knows exactly what his problem is, and consciously refuses to address it. In the first three books, I was all about Jace and Clary. In this book, I could have done without them. Clary has devolved into an ineffectual heroine, and I'm kind of over Jace. His philosophy seems to be "my life sucks and that gives me permission to block out the people that care about me and also, to act like a jackwagon." I kept picturing Clary spending the rest of her life reassuring Jace that she loved him, that he deserved to be loved, that he wasn't the evil monster Valentine tried to make him. I don't know if Clare's portrayal of Jace changed, or if it was a "this, again?" reaction to the same old Jace or maybe my opinion of him just changed. I don't know. What I do know is that I did not find Jace as appealing in this volume. I hate to say that I'm over him--but, honestly, the end of the book made me roll my eyes, groan and consider writing Clare, demanding to know why she felt it necessary to add to the fire of Jace's self-pity. Simon, Kyle, Maia and Isabelle made this book worthwhile for me. I'm looking forward to seeing the next two books, but not for them alone. Clare is a great writer, and she often makes me laugh. Her dialog is witty and fun, but self-consciously so. And, who knows? Maybe Jace will turn the corner in book five and I'll go back to fantasizing him with his shirt off. C'mon guys. It'd be illegal if I said "nude." He's a minor....more