Review: Betrayed by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Review: Betrayed by P.C. and Kristin CastBetrayed by Kristin Cast, P.C. Cast
Series: House of Night #2
Published by ATOM, St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 400
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Marked, Chosen, Tempted

Things seem to be going pretty well for Zoey Redbird. She's settled in at the house of night finishing school and is coming to terms with her incredible new powers. It all seems too good to be true. And guess what?
Someone has been murdering human teenagers and all evidence points to the vampyres at Zoey's school. Which means her first assignment as the leader of the dark daughters is finding out which one of her classmates or teachers is a killer.

Sigh. And she thought her boyfriends (yes, plural) were going to be her biggest problem this year....

Rec for people who love: Vampire Chick-lit, and people who miss their high school days.

Thoughts: Yet again, as with The Dead Girls’ Dance by Rachel Caine, the second book in the series has convinced me to enjoy it! Betrayed made me laugh, made me – surprisingly, even though I sob pretty easily – cry, and, all-in-all got me out to the store to buy the rest of the series.

Admittedly, the writing is almost painfully, er, un-good. Most of the characters are rather simplistic stereotypes, and the Casts remind us of the events of the last book – and at times the last chapter – to distraction. But the writing flows, so reading through the bits you don’t enjoy does not take too long.

In my review for Marked, I complained about the books painful realism. And while the characters are still very much the same as they were in the last book, for some reason I found the same realism refreshing. Having Zoey sit in a Starbucks and talking about Brokeback Mountain, well… it was actually kind of enjoyable.

As for the romance mentioned in the summary, it is very well done. Having Zoey juggling three guys at once I found amazingly acceptable. Instead of sitting through the scenes wondering what these three guys see in her, I instead can understand what she sees in all three. Hell, I might not have done any different in her shoes.

Villain wise, the Casts have really taken it to the next level. Zoey learns to empathise with those she hated, and comes to realise the people she considered allies may not always have her best interest at heart. Hell, the book is called Betrayed, which kinda gives you an idea how it goes!

All in all, a huge improvement over the first in the series, but if you hated Marked you probably still aren’t going to enjoy Betrayed!

Review: Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Review: Marked by P.C. and Kristin CastMarked by Kristin Cast, P.C. Cast
Series: House of Night #1
Published by ATOM, St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 368
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Betrayed, Chosen, Tempted

When sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird gets Marked as a fledgling vampire she must join the House of Night school where she will train to become an adult vampire. That is, if she makes it through the Change. But Zoe is no ordinary fledgling. She has been chosen as special by the Goddess Nyx and discovers her amazing new power to conjure the elements: earth, air, fire, water and spirit. When Zoey discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite group, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look within herself to embrace her destiny - with a little help from her new vampire friends.

Rec for: People over 17, and vampire chick-lit.

Thoughts: I was in a wee bit of shock for the first couple of chapters of this book. The teenagers are just such teenagers it was almost painful. Drunk, back-stabbing, swearing, fornicating teenagers.

I wanted to put it down – mostly out of shock – but what kept me going was the universe. In the acknowledgements at the start of the book, P.C. Cast thanks her editor for the words “Vampire Finishing School” – and I have to thank her too. They have created a very unique universe in an already saturated genre; kind of Harry Potter meets Anne Rice. Admittedly, I had to suffer through a variety of excruciatingly boring religious rituals before I could bring myself to appreciate the verse. Not only are the rituals long and tedious, but they also form a pretty central part of the story. Which means skipping ahead is a no-no if you want to understand what on earth is going on.

So, having said that, what did I enjoy? Well, the main character, Zoey, is a pretty likable gal who honestly wants to do what is right. Had we gone to school together, I would have really liked her – even though on paper she is a rather typical heroine. Her gang of merry men are also pretty adorable – and YAY for a gay teenager (her buddy Damien) being featured in a popular YA novel. Also, the token nemesis, Aphrodite, is extraordinarily villainous (although no where near as bad as Monica from the Morganville Series).

All in all, it was an OK book. There’s some potential in the series, so Betrayed is already in my basket!

Review: The Dead Girls’ Dance by Rachel Caine

Review: The Dead Girls’ Dance by Rachel CaineThe Dead Girls' Dance by Rachel Caine
Series: Morganville Vampires #2
Published by Allison & Busby, NAL Jam
Pages: 320
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Glass Houses, Midnight Alley, Kiss of Death, Ghost Town, Bite Club

Claire has her share of challenges. Like being a genius in a school that favours beauty over brains; homicidal girls in her dorm, and finding out that her college town is overrun with the living dead. On the up side, she has a new boyfriend with a vampire-hunting dad. But when a local fraternity throws the Dead Girls' Dance, hell is really going to break loose.

Rec for people who love: Smart young heroines, maturity in YA, and Buffy!

First Line: It didn’t happen, Claire told herself.

Thoughts: Let me just start off by saying: WOW.

Considering how ambivalent I was about the first book in the Morganville Series, this one definitely changed my mind! After the cliffhanger at the end of the first book, the characters continue their epic search for a little bit of peace – but to no avail. Just as one problem is solved, another pops up unexpectedly. Claire was extremely sleep deprived during the entire book, and to say that Caine put her through a lot is an understatement. Also, the series got a bit gruesome in this book. Details of which I don’t want to spoil, but lets just say that the Dead Girls’ Dance that Claire attends could have been a lot more than traumatic.

This book ultimately was about sacrifice – those who are willing to give their lives for their friends, versus those who barely spare a thought for their own family. Claire, Micheal, Eve and Shane demonstrate how much they care by how much they are willing to give away. They did it willingly, but it was never an easy choice to make. Unlike, say, Bella in the Twilight Series – who considered her life so worthless that sacrificing it for Edward only made me roll my eyes – Caine’s characters value their lives, their own hopes and dreams. Like, you know, sane people.

It was their sacrifices that ultimately made me love this book. I my mind, Shane went from being a random angry guy to become the love-of-my-life, tortured soul; while Claire went from being a spineless bookworm to a brave, kick-ass-yet-sensitive heroine. In just 300 pages. Sheesh.

Note on the Cover: As I mentioned in my post about the first book, this UK cover makes me cringe. Apparently publishers cottoned on to this, as new UK editions have just been released with hot new covers. So basically, you can either go to your local bookstore, which will probably still have the old editions, to get the cover in this post. Or you can go to a store with rapid turnover/order it from Waterstones (where they are currently 1/2 price) to get the new cover. Or, as I did, buy the US edition from BookDepository.co.uk.

Other Reviews:

  • LoveVampires only gave it 2 stars (SPOILERS) (despite a 5 star rating for the first). Even though I loved the book, the review brings up an important issue regarding a particular scene in the book that is… not so pleasant. Let’s just say I understood Claire’s reaction in this case but usually I would also have been put off.

Review: Stray by Rachel Vincent

Review: Stray by Rachel VincentStray by Rachel Vincent
Series: Shifters #1
Published by MIRA
Pages: 624
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Rogue, Pride

The difference between the movies and reality? In real life, I was the monster.

Faythe Sanders looks like an ordinary student, but she’s hiding a dark secret: she is a werecat, a powerful supernatural predator. Yet headstrong, independent Faythe resents her power, heading to college to escape her family and her overprotective ex, Marc.

That is until a stray – a dangerous werecat without a pride or territory – catches her scent. With two werecat girls already missing, Faythe is summoned home for her own protection.

But Faythe will do whatever it takes to find her kidnapped kin. She has claws – and she’s not afraid to use them.

Rec for people who love: Cats, kick-ass females, and cats (loving cats is kinda key for this book).

First Line: The moment the door opened I knew an ass–kicking was inevitable.

Thoughts: Let me start out by saying that I did enjoy this book. Quite a bit by the end. But I am still pretty conflicted about the main character, Faythe. The book opened with her being as a rebellious werecat, pretty flighty and, erm, completely irrational. The only thing that made me feel better was the fact that she realized how juvenile she often sounded – but was just unable to hold herself back.

Also, her relationship with Marc, the overprotective ex in the summary, was bizarre. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Marc. He is exactly the type of traumatized-but-noble hero that I fall in love with. But she just kept flip flopping between being furious with him (for no particular reason) and being completely understanding. It drove me slightly mad.

Her behavior towards her family – her father in particular – was also irrational. Especially considering how much danger she knew she was in. While I understood that she felt like she was trapped by her family – and she was, literally at times – she also understood their motivation. To me, if you understand the motivation and even agree with it, shouldn’t you approve?

Well, I continued reading the book despite this rather intense dislike. I felt they really couldn’t do anything to make me dislike her any more, so the only way forward was up.

Let’s just say I was right. Without giving away too much of the plot, Faythe grows up quite a bit by the end of the 600 page novel. It’s a natural development that keeps her tough-as-nails personality intact – which even I appreciated. By the end of the book, I actually liked Faythe – so if you dislike her while reading, I would recommend you stick it out.

On a different note, this was a pretty violent book. Death, rape, kidnapping, torture – the whole shebang. I expected it to be since, hello, werecats? But I know that some people will be pretty disturbed by a lot of the themes. Some of which – women in cages, raped and brutalized – will probably resonate more with female readers. Vincent does an amazing job describing violence without loosing the reader – to either the fear or to the plain old “but I thought he had a broken arm” confusion. I could really visualize what Faythe goes through from the sound of breaking bones, to the smell of blood. Let’s just say the excruciating pain seeped naturally out of the pages. But unlike some horror authors, the trauma was bearable and won’t turn your stomach.

At least, hopefully it won’t.

I will be getting to the next books in her series. Although I might wait a month or so. There is only so much werecat I can take.

I really am more of a dog person.

Review: Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

Review: Remember Me? by Sophie KinsellaRemember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
Published by Bantam Books, Dial
Pages: 448
Source: Purchased myself
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When twenty-eight-year-old Lexi Smart wakes up in a London hospital, she’s in for a big surprise. Her teeth are perfect. Her body is toned. Her handbag is Vuitton. Having survived a car accident—in a Mercedes no less—Lexi has lost a big chunk of her memory, three years to be exact, and she’s about to find out just how much things have changed.

Somehow Lexi went from a twenty-five-year-old working girl to a corporate big shot with a sleek new loft, a personal assistant, a carb-free diet, and a set of glamorous new friends. And who is this gorgeous husband—who also happens to be a multimillionaire? With her mind still stuck three years in reverse, Lexi greets this brave new world determined to be the person she…well, seems to be. That is, until an adorably disheveled architect drops the biggest bombshell of all.

Suddenly Lexi is scrambling to catch her balance. Her new life, it turns out, comes complete with secrets, schemes, and intrigue. How on earth did all this happen? Will she ever remember? And what will happen when she does?

Rec for people who love: Page turners with a good laugh!

Thoughts: This was the first so-called “chick lit” book I have ever read. To be honest, I have always been somewhat skeptical about their quality. But after listening to an interview that Barnes and Noble did with Sophie Kinsella, I had to read something of hers. She was witty, intelligent and extremely British. So stumbling upon her book in a charity shop the same day seemed like fate. However, the summary left a lot to love.

It took about a hundred pages for me to really start liking the book. The main character, Lexi, at first seems painfully typical – the get-pissed-and-pull girl I went to school with. But I quickly realized there was a lot more to her than that, and she turned out to be a funny, bright and fiercely loyal lady.

I read the book in two sittings, which is highly unusual for me, even when I love a book. But I couldn’t help but trying to will Lexi into realizing her new life is not really hers. As if the faster I read, the sooner she would realize.

It is really easy from my point of view, of course, but Sophie Kinsella goes about the realization in a way that stays true to character. Things go from horribly awkward, to just down right horrible for Lexi (I actually cried at one point, which was extremely odd considering no one had died). Just as I was about to call my own life as miserable as Lexi’s…. Kinsella turns the mood around to brightly comic in a half page. It was genius – and it completely turned around my view about the genre.

I am not saying it is literary genius, but it was one hell of a story. Kinsella can spin a tale extremely well, and just because it happens to be a tale about a young, single woman is kinda irrelevant. If you are a fan of chick-lit, I am pretty sure you already have this on your TBR pile. But if you, like me, tend to shy away from anything with a cartoon twentysomething on the cover… well… reconsider. Kinsella spun together a story for pure escapism, and I for one plan to buy more of her tales!

Review: Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

Review: Glass Houses by Rachel CaineGlass Houses by Rachel Caine
Series: Morganville Vampires #1
Published by Allison & Busby, NAL Jam
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
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Also in this series: The Dead Girls' Dance, Midnight Alley, Kiss of Death, Ghost Town, Bite Club

College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation, where the popular girls never let her forget just where she ranks in the school's social scene: somewhere less than zero. When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don't show many signs of life, but they come out fighting when the town's deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood...

On the day Claire became a member of the Glass House, somebody stole her laundry.

Thoughts: Okay, I can’t help myself. I have to bitch about the cover* – all the Morganville UK covers in fact. Who on earth are these random girls supposed to be? I am assuming it is supposed to be Claire, if we decide to, you know, ignore her description. Not to mention the painful clashing colours and fonts and just… eww. This is one of those books I just won’t take on the tube. If you can, get the US edition which is fierce.  ETA: The covers I was ranting about were these – luckily the publishers reissued these books back in 2010 with much better covers, now including in this review.

Moving on. The book – it was enjoyable, but not amazing. Glass Houses is very different to most YA Vampire books out at the moment, because unlike the House of Night Series or the Twilight Saga – Vampires are so not the good guys. They are soulless SOBs, and the humans in their control are not much better. Monica, a college girl who immediately puts Claire on her hit list, has a violent streak that would make Angelus (BtVS) look like a weakling. She was psychotic, but extremely enjoyable.

With all this evil going around, the book is action packed. There are hospital stays, kidnappings, sieges, breaking-and-enterings, and a lot of run-for-your-life moments. But unlike say, Kelly Armstrong or Rachel Vincent, Caine is not too great at describing the action. I often had to go back a page or two to work out what was going on.

Caine also didn’t succeed in making me feel for any of the characters. All the action meant that character development was left out. It was one of those cases where you are just ohsoclose to relating to the protagonist when, bang, you’re back to apathy. I understood that the characters were supposed to be scared – but the writing just didn’t make me feel it. The romantic tension was pretty un-tense, and the scary scenes were pretty bland.

This book barely gets three stars, although I do plan on getting the rest of the series. Hopefully my interest in the characters will grow the more I read.

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