My eye twitched after I finished Velvet. I rubbed it, it twitched again. Apparently, my eye didn't know what to make of Velvet any more than I did. WaMy eye twitched after I finished Velvet. I rubbed it, it twitched again. Apparently, my eye didn't know what to make of Velvet any more than I did. Was it bad or was it good? Did I enjoy it or did I hate it? Is it possible to say yes to all of those questions? Just a heads up that this review is going to be even more convoluted that usual and skip around a lot. I regret nothing.
At first glance, Velvet appears to be the same Paranormal Vampire Romance novel we've all read a hundred times. Girl moves into a new town. Girl meets Hot Guy who's never shown interest in any other girls in town. Girl almost dies, but Hot Guy saves her. Blah, blah, blah... romance. So if you are tired of this kind of set up, then prepare to be highly disappointed for the first 40% of the novel. That fact is, if Velvet had been published during the Twilight Era--let's be honest, it totally belongs there--it would have probably been a huge hit. But now, it has a lot working against it. Readers expect more from their PNR and the Twilight-esqe model is, frankly, played out.
But moving on to what you actually really care about: was this any good? That is such a complicated question so, I will give an equally complicated response. Velvet is like an Oreo Cookie. It's not the best cookie you can have, but it will satisfy your desire for one. The end pieces are pretty terrible by themselves and the icing in the middle is just way too much high fructose corn syrup in one go. The cookie works okay when it's together, but still kinda leaves this weird aftertaste in your mouth. It's like your body subconsciously knows that you fed it a sub par treat and denied it a chocolate chip cookie. But at the same time, you find yourself reaching for another Oreo and your body is strangely okay with this. And after you've finished the entire pack, you end up craving a real Cookie.
The first 40% is an absolute struggle. It features a ridiculous premise (Adrian's demon, vampire father wants to impregnate Caitlin to produce more vampire babies for reasons), awkward dialogue (though some parts are chuckle worthy) and scenes that is sure to make your eyes roll. In fact, most of it is so unreal, that I often wondered what went through the author and editor's head when green lighting this. I really hate to say that because it sounds like an insult, but it was so bad to the point of hilarity, which made me wonder if I was reading actually reading a satire. If that was the case, then bravo to both West and her editor because they nailed it.
Oh shit. That's totally what Velvet is, isn't it? West purposefully stuffed every overused cliché into Velvet to both poke fun at PNR and attempt to write a better one at the same time! AHHHH, the world just came full circle!
Or maybe I just read it as a satire to actually make it through the book? Also a possibility.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I need to really tell you guys how ridiculous the first half is. Many would say Velvet is just like Twilight. That's true, but not true enough. Others would say Velvet is nothing like Twilight. I guess, in a way, that's true, too. But again, not true enough, in my opinion. Velvet has an explanation for how vampires came into existence and it's as confusing as all getup, but at least the attempt is there. Then the love interest, Adrian, is actually a decent guy. He respects boundaries and goes away when Caitlin tells him to hit the road. So, I'd say Velvet is like Twilight with manners, science and a ridiculous/frustrating/fascinating plot.
While I was reading Velvet, I found some parts so unbelievable, that I went to find out what inspired West to write it. What I discovered was something shocking... she was inspired by Twilight! She wanted to write a vampire novel with a slightly different spin and therefore, it is inevitable for this novel to be compared to its inspiration. Just like how we all love to compare Fifty Shades of Grey to Twilight. Oh damn, I just went there. Anyway, in many ways, she did improve on an existing Vampire Novel Template. She excelled where Stephenie Meyer didn't for me. And I can't believe I'm about talk about some things I liked about Twilight. WTF has this world come to?
Twilight's beginning, while super slow, allows a good amount of build up for Edward and Bella to meet. I'm not referring to the insta love, because that definitely happened, but they had several interactions woven into Bella's boring life of cooking her dad dinner before things got started. Obviously, it goes downhill from there because the insta love arrives and sets everything on fire.
On the other hand, Velvet doesn't have the same setup and it makes it harder for the reader to be thrust into the novel with no real introduction. As soon as the novel starts, suddenly, Caitlin is in trouble and Adrian is there saving her.
"I nearly killed you, to keep you alive."
It was completely jarring to me because I was still trying to figure out who, what, when, where, why and WTF. And from then on there was a barrage of not-so-carefully constructed scenarios that forced the couple to be in close proximity. At one point the end up in a closet together and then a bed all in the same night. Yup. Adrian literally goes from not caring about any girl at the school to picking Caitlin up for school the next day.
"You're here two days and he just offers to drive you home?"
But of course, all these "happenings" are not without a purpose. I mentioned before that Adrian saved Caitlin from his demon vampire dad who wants to impregnate her. So it's his job to stay with her at all times to protect her.
"What did you mean when you said you were my personal shadow?" He rubbed his eyes. "It means that you're in trouble." I frowned, waiting for him to elaborate. "For instance--that storm? Wasn't a storm." "The storm was not a storm." "It was a disturbance." I snorted. "In the force?"
As per the usual characterization of a PNR heroine, Caitlin brushes off the impending danger until she finds out what he wants. And if those quotes made you slow blink, feast your eyes on this gem:
"He wants to impregnate me? Like, with a baby that kind of impregnate?" "I understand you're upset--" "That does not even cover the middle finger of what I am feeling--" "--but please believe me that nothing is going to happen to you while I'm here--while we're all here, my family and I." "What about when you're not here?" I sputtered. "What about when I'm at home? Or when I'm asleep? What about my family?" "This is not--he won't rape you, or anything," he said, struggling for words and looking awkward as hell. "He'll make you want him. It's--what they do. It's a game."
Because of course making someone want you, even when they actually don't, isn't rape. It's totally consensual! Like I said, the for the first 40% of Velvet, the struggle is REAL.
But then something strange happened when I hit the cream filling. I started to enjoy Velvet. My friends, who had the misfortune of being there when I decided to tell them every painful detail about the beginning, are convinced I suffered from Bookholm Syndrome. They say Velvet took my brain hostage and I started falling for my captive. But I think the real reason is, once West ditched the clichés and let the romance develop, it wasn't half bad.
Unlike Twilight, Caitlin and Adrian's romance is very slow burn. For most of the novel, they aren't "together" and don't particularly want to be, but they do have an attraction. And I have to admit, it was nice seeing their banter and watching their obvious feelings growing. West never rushed it and therefore made me appreciate it more. The only thing I have to complain about with this was that the sexual tension got ridiculous. Once Caitlin and Adrian finally admit their feelings for one another, the spend the night as his place, in his bed, clothes off, cuddling. I just don't buy that.
Another thing Velvet did right was female friendships. Caitlin's best friend is considerate and kind as well as the other girls in the novel. They hang out outside of Adrian's presence, have sleepovers and talk about topics other than boys or Adrian. Basically, what I'm trying to say here is that Velvet completely passes the Bechdel test and that's something I never expected. Even some of my favorite YA novels fail at this.
All good things came to a swift end when the final conflict caught up with the plot. Unfortunately, I was let down. I went through the entire novel waiting to find out more information about why Adrian's dad sought out Caitlin in particular only to discover nothing. I was given virtually no new development! It just ends on the same note it began, but with more romance. It was so frustrating! It feels like it was a cheap attempt to get me to read the second book and goddamn it, I think it worked because yes I'll fucking read the sequel and I'm not happy about it. UGH! Where's a real cookie when you need it?!
I don't know if I'd seriously recommend Velvet to anyone. Well, that's a lie. I kinda do want some of my friends to read it because I'm super curious of what their face would look like while doing so. And now you all know what gift you're getting on Friendship Day. I'm an awesome friend.
All jokes aside, I don't really know what to make of Velvet and I suspect its target audience is smaller than it would have been 5 years ago. If you are in the mood for cliché-filled vampire romance, double-stuffed with occasionally overly sweet, witty banter, smashed in between two, over baked, sad excuses for cookies, then this might be a good choice on a rainy day. Just remember, "C" doesn't just stand for Cookie, it stands for Crap, too. BAM!
For you visual folks, here's a book talk video on Velvet. (Yes, I drew fangs on my picture. I had one job in photoshop.)
I went into this book like a person between jobs, bored of their last venture and not yet ready to dive into anything too serious. I knew exactly whatI went into this book like a person between jobs, bored of their last venture and not yet ready to dive into anything too serious. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into and my expectations were appropriately set for mindless entertainment. I know this may seem like a strange thing for some people and I'm sure many would wonder why I decided to read a book I was sure to dislike. The simple explanation would lie somewhere between "Because I felt like it" and "Because I paid for it." But for those of you who aren't as easily pacified, I'll say this: Reading books like this is like inviting your friends over for a night of popcorn, ice cream and really, really terrible horror movies. It takes itself so seriously, that you can't take it seriously. And instead of scaring you, the intentional outcome, it has the reverse effect, providing you and your friends endless fodder for punch lines to new jokes and puns equally as terrible as its source material.
But the moral question, of course, must be considered. Is this fair to the author? And to that I would have to reply in the affirmative and point such cynics in the direction of my Amazon receipt. A Shade of Vampire isn't a book that I would recommend or even one that I could see myself coming back to. It's served it's purpose of being different enough from what I usually read, breaking up the monotony. It entertained me and now I shall entertain you. (Also, spoiler alert.)
Here we go.
There. I've already shot, mangled and killed the Fat Elephant in the room right out the gate. I'm not pulling the "T" card strictly because this book is about vampires and forbidden love. Plenty of other Paranormal Romance books have those qualities and still maintain their independence from the pop culture phenomenon. I bring it up because it's inevitable and follows similar book canon. As such, I created a Choose Your Own Adventure based on A Shade of Vampire.
Choose Your Own Adventure: A Shade of Vampire
1. You're walking through the park alone, feeling down and under appreciated by family and friends. A handsome stranger comes out of nowhere. He's creepy, invades your space and asks you name. You:
A. Tell him your name and force yourself not to run away because you'll show your friends and family! So what if he turns out to be some psycho serial killer. You're 16 and invincible and living on the wild side for once. WHOO-HOOO! YEAH BABY! (Proceed to #2)
B. Run, because he could be some psycho serial killer. (Proceed to #6)
2. Okay, so that was totally not smart and now you're tied up to a post in a basement. Turns out they want to pamper, primp and prime you for this important Vampire Prince. You vow to be smart from now on about your decisions. You are brought before the Prince along with several other girls, made up for the sole purpose of sexual objectification. You're scared and nervous, so you hold one of the other girl's hands. The Prince notices this gesture and singles you out! Oh noz! He slams you against the wall hard, ready to suck you dry. You:
A. Tell yourself you are not the victim here, despite clearly being in a victim-like situation. It's something your Yoda, best friend used to always tell you. So naturally you tell the Prince, who just can't seem to control his thirst even though he really, really wants to, that he is also not a victim. You do all this with a clear head even though Vampire Fangs are breaths away from your throat. Also, you are a Mary Sue. (Proceed to #3)
B. Think about the great life you had and go down fighting like the lion you are. You die. GAME OVER.
3. Whew! Somehow that worked! Who knew your Yoda best friend's advice could come in handy against a Vampire Prince with a tortured past?! As a result, the Prince has taking a liking to you and gives you the plush room right next to his in his pimped out tree house (because where else would a vampire sleep? A coffin? Yeah, right). In fact, he's drawn to you and you to him. But you have to get home, so when the Prince thinks you're sleeping, you:
A. Miraculously find a hoodie and pair of shorts in your closet that's conveniently filled with cocktail dresses, find a way down the treehouse, and make a run for it... all on the same page! Who needs details? You have no idea where you're going, but you'll find a way. You're the heroine after all! (Proceed to #4)
B. Buy out the opportune time. You get to know the Prince and find out as much as you can about the secluded town to help plot your escape. All things come to those who are smart. (Proceed to #6)
4. This was a bad idea. You didn't realize this was an island with no way of escape! WAAAA WAAA! They even have a fence as tall as the wall of China! UGH. Damn Vamps! If only you had attempted to learn more about this place, maybe you could have anticipated this and prepared better. Alas, you are a dunderhead. Oh, no! Here come two guards. You:
A. Think about name-dropping your powerful master's name in the hopes that it'll put fear into their hearts, but you allow yourself to be interrupted because something has to encourage this ridiculous plot along. This is it. Your death is coming. (Proceed to #5)
B. Run. You Die. GAME OVER, silly girl.
5. One of the guards has his fangs in your neck. Just as you are mentally saying goodbye to your life, the Vampire Prince comes out of nowhere and rips you away from the attackers. Then some serious Indiana Jones type shit happens.
You're scared, hurt and mentally cursing yourself for yet another terrible decision. Vampire Prince makes you drink his blood to heal yourself and takes you back to your fancy prison. He tells you never to run away again and that you are his. You:
Fall in love because he seems like a nice guy underneath it all. GAME OVER.
6. Congrats! You're probably not a dunderhead, but will most likely still die because you're playing by cliché YA rules. May the odds be ever in your favor.
The basic plot for A Shade of Vampire is Sofia coming to accept Derek and help heal him. I'm generally not a fan of those type of books because it creates an imbalance in the relationship and breeds co-dependence. The next thing you know the characters are proclaiming their undying love and saying things like they'll never love another or how they can't be without that person. Of course, you also have the fact that Derek wants to EAT Sofia. And somehow after 400 years of not drinking blood, he's able to resist Sofia because she's different.
No other woman -- and believe me when I say that I've been with many -- had the same effect that Sofia Claremont has on me. [...] She'd only recently entered my life, yet it felt like I'd known her for ages.
I've already stopped even thinking about a life that doesn't have Derek Novak in it.
Whether I liked it or not, home had become wherever Derek Novak was.
What made me angry was the not so subtle sexism and slut shaming that went on. Sofia is a member of Prince Derek's harem and other Vamps in the town assume she's sleeping with him, because HAREM, and all that. Sofia is oblivious to this until a member of the Prince's guard says she's doing a good job of pleasing him. And she replies:
"That's not... I would never!" I spluttered. Here I was, a virgin, being rumored to have given the newly awakened prince a pleasurable night in bed. He frowned, an amused glint in the corners of his eyes. "You mean you didn't..." My eyes widened. "No! I'm not that kind of girl..."
Then we have Derek's brother, Lucas, who wants nothing more than to rape and kill Sofia. Every time he showed up in a scene he made these intentions clear. Because it's not enough that he wanted to drink her blood and kill her, he has to want to rape her too.
The lust was unmistakable. He was practically undressing her with those eyes and I could tell that Sofia felt it based on how she sat there tense and unmoving.
But why does Lucas want Sofia so bad? WHAT'S HIS MOTIVATION? Her blood smells good just wasn't a good enough for me. But that brings us to the novel's biggest issue. Regardless of the clichés, A Shade of Vampire could have been decent if the writing had been tighter and not had sentences like this:
I was aware of it all, and yet, I wasn't. It was almost like everything was happening to another person, and yet it was me.
WUT. Let me help you: "It was surreal."
The characters could have also used some development besides the usual descriptions. Sofia is a girl who can do no wrong, a pure virgin, The One to Change Derek, selfless, not used to attention, etc. The only unique thing about her is her Low Latent Inhibition disorder, which basically amounts to nothing more than a really good memory. I kept wondering if it would somehow relate to the plot or have some other use, but it's kinda like Nora's iron pills from Hush, Hush. They serve no other purpose than being present.
(OH. And there just happens to be a witch on the vampire island who also was a psychologist and able to diagnose this disorder. I swear this book was written with an Easy Button.)
The underlying plot with the war between the other covens and Vampire Hunters would have been more interesting if it had more page time instead of just being casually mentioned once or twice. This is certainly not the worst book I've ever read, but I can't really recommend it to anyone either unless you're bored or a huge Twilight/Hush, Hush fan. And even then, this book may be too ridiculous to be true....more
EDIT: So the cover is up and I'm actually happy with it. I'm very please Harlequin dropped the model from The Immortal Rules who wasn't Asian and went EDIT: So the cover is up and I'm actually happy with it. I'm very please Harlequin dropped the model from The Immortal Rules who wasn't Asian and went in a different direction. It's not my favorite cover in the world, but it's not bad either.
If there is anything good coming from the newer crops of dystopian fiction these days it's one thing: Evil, ravenous vampires are back. With books lik If there is anything good coming from the newer crops of dystopian fiction these days it's one thing: Evil, ravenous vampires are back. With books like The Immortal Rules and now The Hunt, YA thiller fans are sure to be pleased by this turn of events. I know I am. Unfortunately, The Hunt failed to WOW me on that factor alone.
In a nutshell, The Hunt is like an inverted Immortal Rules with a Hunger Games-esque twist. Instead of our young, male protagonist, Gene, being the only vampire among humans, he is one of the only humans living in the lion's den. In order to pull this off he must shave off all his body hair, clip his nails, polish his fake fangs, and bathe rigorously every single day. In addition to the intense grooming, he must suppress his basic human mannerisms such as laughing, sweating, singing, flinching, clearing his throat, ect. when in contact with "people." All of this is done because Gene lives in a world where he is considered a "heper," barely a step above a farm animal. In order to survive he has to hide who he truly is or risk being eaten. So when he is chosen for the Heper Hunt (think Hunger Games arena), you can only imagine his uneasiness. "Awkward" is an understatement.
The Hunt has a lot of potential because regardless of how I feel about it I can't deny that it's creative. It features an entirely different spin on vampires that both intrigued me and weirded me out. It's also very readable and easily holds a reader's attention. I also felt myself enjoying Fukuda's prose as well, especially when Gene thought of his past memories of his family. That's the main reason why I ended up giving the book two stars instead of one. But like I said earlier, that alone won't win anyone points with me.
*sigh* I feel like a broken record saying this, but if we are going to write a dystopian novel, please supply some background info. I don't need to know everything under the sun, but I'd at least like to know how your world ended up in its current cesspit state. Is that too much to ask? How did the vampires come to take over the world (literally)? Where did they come from? They managed to eat almost ALL the humans? Why did Gene even bother to try to blend in with vampire society? Why not run away? Have vampires taken over the entire world or did only the U.S. go to hell? Again. Is the rest of the world still partying like it's 1999? Why does Gene know so little about his world? Did the humans - excuse me, hepers - not pass any knowledge of their histories down to their children? So many question, with too few no answers.
I think I hated almost all the characters in The Hunt, but Gene? He takes the number one spot on this here shit list. My biggest issue of the book resides with him because he was an idiot. A very selfish idiot. At the Heper Institute (where the hunters stayed and "trained" for the Heper Hunt) he begins to go thirsty since vampires don't need water, but there was a lake right in front of him the entire time. He talks about it and never thinks to go drink from it when the vampires are sleeping during the day. *facepalm* The plot twist - if you can even call it that - was so easy to guess, but guess who was incredibly shocked? Ding, ding, ding! Gene. And no, this was not a case in dramatic irony because everything that was revealed to the reader, Gene already knew. Hell, he's the one who narrates the story!
But that's not even the half of that. I could deal with a slow main character, but what I couldn't deal with was his "I'm better than these dirty hepers!" attitude. When Gene first arrives to the Heper institute and finds out the heper can talk, read, write, comprehend things, he is blown away. Shocked! This does not compute. I just wanted to yell at him, "YOU ARE A HEPER! If you can bloody do it, uh duh, so can they, genius." But it gets worse. Gene knows the hepers will be hunted, but they don't. Does he tell them? Attempt to help his people? NO. He just goes on business as usual, thinking that once the hepers are sent out to their deaths he can sneak away. That made me so angry. These are your people - perhaps the last humans alive - and you are going to sit and let them be eaten without doing anything about it? No, instead, you drink their water, eat their food and work their deaths into your escape plan. (view spoiler)[Even by the end when Sissy ("Head Heper in Charge") tells him, "We don't abandon our own" all he is thinking about is Ashley June. Not one single shred of remorse for his original plan to lead them to their deaths. Unbelievable. (hide spoiler)] Cast him out of the human race. He is not one of us.
I mean, what did he expect he would do after the Heper Hunt? Go on living in his fake life where he could die at any moment? Who would want that kind of life? That makes not sense. If the world happens to end with vampires devouring humans and I'm left with an idiot like Gene, I'm tripping him as I run from the vamps. And don't get me started on Ashley June. She was just as bad as Gene and can die in a fire for all I care.
The Hunt reminds me a lot of another book I've read called Glimmerglass. Not because they are similar in plot or anything, but because the reader must abandon a certain amount of logic and "just go with it." If anyone is familiar with me, they will know that it takes a lot for a book to convince me to "just go with it."
A list of things Fukuda expected me to buy:
-Vampires only eat bloody meat and can't stomach other foods except for ice cream. Wait, what?
-Gene never got sick from eating raw bloody meat.
-Gene has learned to suppress basic human instincts like smiling, laughing, coughing, squinting, flinching? How the hell is that possible? So what happens when Gene gets sick? He stays home? And what would be his excuse for not being in school? The vampires don't appear to fall ill in this world.
-Sex by armpits? I'm sorry, that one, while creative, was a little too hard to swallow. Or were they making out?
Before she could regain her footing, I shoved my elbow into the socket of her armpit. The way I had read about in books, seen in movies. I had her. Her body tensed in anticipation as my elbow locked into her armpit. And just like that, her body lost all tension and softened. I swiveled my elbow in long, luxurious circles, and her body moved in rhythm. Salivary wetness slivered between and around her snarling teeth. I concentrated hard after that, keeping up with appearances, making sure that the snarls came out in the right fevered pitch, that my body oscillated with enough passion and frenzy.
-Vampires couldn't tell Gene was a heper just because he shaved all his body hair off. Really? He still had hair on his head. Does that somehow smell different than facial, leg and arm hair? If they could smell the hepers in the dome even when they weren't sweaty, then they should have been able to always smell Gene is school.
It left me dangling of the edge of a cliff with three words. *tries to repress a very human sigh* *doesn't work* *LE SIGH*
I'm sure there are a lot of people who will love The Hunt. It's different, interesting, creative and action packed. And while it didn't really work out for me here, I'm tempted to check out book two to see where the story goes. But as I say in the rest of my two star reviews, the next book can hang out on my "You're on Probation" shelf.
ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you!
More reviews and other fantastical things at my blog Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
**This is a review of the 6 page preview provided by the publisher.
Well, ummm, uh, that is to say,
Oh, my. This book took my breath away. Literally. An **This is a review of the 6 page preview provided by the publisher.
Well, ummm, uh, that is to say,
Oh, my. This book took my breath away. Literally. And not in the good way. I thought it would be funny in the same way you may laugh at a dog chasing it's tail. But this was just disturbing. I didn't like the artwork at all. It was creepy and the dialog didn't help. The heads of the characters looked a little too big for their bodies too. The preview showed a scene of Zoey and Aphrodite arguing about, what else? A boy. "He was mine first." "No, you broke up with him." "Well, he's mine and you're a hag from hell!" Rinse, lather, repeat.
Ah, Twilight. It seems like everywhere you turn, you can't escape it. The books are everywhere, the franchise has 5 motion pictures, a make-up line, c Ah, Twilight. It seems like everywhere you turn, you can't escape it. The books are everywhere, the franchise has 5 motion pictures, a make-up line, clothing, and now graphic novels. What's next? Toilet paper?
Oh, c'mon. Who wouldn't want to wipe their ass with Edward Cullen's face? The only question is: will it leave a trail of sparkles?
So, those three stars you see? Not for the story, but for the artwork. If you want to know what I thought of Twilight...lol...well, you can check out my review here.
BUT I'm going to go ahead and give credit for where it's due: The artwork is stunning. Kim Young did an awesome job bringing the characters to life. Most of the pages are in high gloss, black and white, some consisting of a few colors splashed here and there:
And when you get to the end the last few pages are full color. They are very beautiful!
Ok...That's pretty much all the praise I can force out of my body for anything related to Twilight.
New Moon: The Graphic novel (Stephanie's version):