Review: Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

Review: Blood Promise by Richelle MeadBlood Promise by Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy #4
Published by Razorbill on August 25th 2009
Pages: 503
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Vampire Academy, Frostbite

How far will Rose go to keep her promise?

The recent Strigoi attack at St. Vladimir’s Academy was the deadliest ever in the school’s history, claiming the lives of Moroi students, teachers, and guardians alike. Even worse, the Strigoi took some of their victims with them. . . including Dimitri.

He’d rather die than be one of them, and now Rose must abandon her best friend, Lissa—the one she has sworn to protect no matter what—and keep the promise Dimitri begged her to make long ago. But with everything at stake, how can she possibly destroy the person she loves most?

Thoughts: Richelle Mead is one of those authors that makes you desperate for a conclusion. So, I’ll just come out and admit it… I read spoilers for Blood Promise before I’d even read Shadow Kissed (which, FYI, broke my heart into so many ickle pieces, I couldn’t deal enough to write a review). I knew what was going to happen before I picked up both books – and I have a pretty clear idea about the last two books in the series as well. I just had to know. Emotionally, I just wouldn’t have made it through this series without some warning of what was ahead.

So, despite having a pretty fair idea what would happen in this book, it still blew me away. I wondered how far Mead could take vigilante!Rose. I mean, the book is over 400 pages long and there’s only so much angst a girl can handle. But as Rose makes her way through Russia, Mead takes the opportunity to introduce some fabulous new characters: including Sydney, who will be the star of the spin-off series.

Along with the painful Dimitri/Rose action – which kept a lump in my throat the whole time – there are about a dozen new plot lines that pop up in Blood Promise. For one thing, we got a look at a very different Moroi/Dhamphir society – the one Dimitri was raised in, and boy does that ever explain him. We also got a whole new insight into the twisted world of Strigolis, and introduced to a whole new branch of supernatural none of us had even known about. I adored all the new intrigue. When it really comes down to it, the Vampire Academy is all plot plot plot and it’s fantastic.

On top of that, Rose went through some extraordinarily terrifying things in this book. Seriously, there’s death and torture and blood and prostitutes. It’s not stuff for weaklings, and even knowing how everything could turn out did not comfort me! Rose proved to be stronger than I think humanly possible. I couldn’t help but be proud of this girl for keeping herself together, both physically and mentally.

On the less-positive side… I still don’t see what Rose sees in Lissa. I find her rather bland and continue to only be interested in her because of her friendship with our leading lady. I also don’t get the fuss over Adrian. He seems a perfectly all right guy, but that’s it. I guess he’s a great rebound… but I found his woe-is-me business is extremely unattractive.

Bottom line?  I loved this book for its angsty, plotty goodness.  In case you haven’t heard, the Vampire Academy series is a Must. Read.

Review: Hexbound by Chloe Neill

Review: Hexbound by Chloe NeillHexbound by Chloe Neill
Series: Dark Elite #2
Published by Penguin on 2011-01-04
Pages: 256
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Firespell

Lily Parker is new to St. Sophia's School for Girls, but she's already learned that magic can be your best friend-or your worst enemy. That's why Lily has to learn how to control her newly discovered paranormal abilities while fighting the good fight with her best friend Scout as they take on Chicago's nastiest nightlife-including the tainted magic users known as Reapers...

Thoughts: After I read Firespell last year, I was practically salivating for more Dark Elite books. Seriously, after finishing the final chapter I immediately went online to find out when the next book would be released – only to discover I had to wait an entire year. God, it was painful. But I waited, and the longing grew rather distant, and by the time I actually got a copy of Hexbound I could only vaguely remember the consuming desire for moremoremore I’d had after Firespell.

But surely, I thought, since Firespell was so fantastic I’ll have nothing to worry about. How wrong I was. The first 80 or so pages of this book are just such a disappointment – it felt like P.C. and Kristin Cast had taken over Chloe Neill’s characters. Instead of facing down evil with a smirk, Scout and Lily were too wrapped up in their blah-crushes to focus on the real evil that was going down. Not only was this boring as hell, it was also slightly soul-crushing. I mean, where were the fierce BFF’s from the first book? Who had swooped in and replaced them with these bobbesy twins?  I really considered putting this book down right then and there.

But I kept on, and I am glad I did. Because am soon as love interests Micheal and Jason were gone (yes, there is a God), Neill got down to the good stuff: what’s going on with Lily’s parents? Is Sebastian really evil? Is the Dark Elite even evil? Where should Lily’s loyalties fall in all this mess?

In other words, the book started to have a, er, plot. Because the good guys being good while fighting the bad guys who are bad… it’s kinda boring. It was Sebastian’s apparent ability to straddle the line between good and evil that made this book worth the read. Especially as his advice and character began to effect Lily’s own decisions.  Not to mention the guy is totally swoon-worthy.  If you’re looking for another redeemable bad boy in YA, look no further.Only problem was… there wasn’t enough of him!

Bottom line? Disappointing follow-up to Firespell, but there is still a whole bunch of potential in this series. I hope that the next book (Charmfall, 2012) will be better!

Dear publishers: When I shell out money for the hardcover, I expect someone to have edited the thing first. I’m pretty sure the characters meant to say “don’t beat me” and NOT “don’t bean me”. Although I admit, the latter scenario is far more amusing.

Review: Ghost Town by Rachel Caine

Review: Ghost Town by Rachel CaineGhost Town by Rachel Caine
Series: Morganville Vampires #9
Published by Allison & Busby
Pages: 479
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Glass Houses, The Dead Girls' Dance, Midnight Alley, Kiss of Death, Bite Club

While developing a new system to maintain Morganville's defenses, student Claire Danvers discovers a way to amplify vampire mental powers. Through this, she's able to re-establish the field around this vampire-infested Texas college town that protects it from outsiders.

But the new upgrades have an unexpected consequence: people inside the town begin to slowly forget who they are-even the vampires. Soon, the town's little memory problem has turned into a full-on epidemic. Now Claire needs to figure out a way to pull the plug on her experiment- before she forgets how to save Morganville...

Thoughts: I really cannot believe I am writing a non-glowing-verging-on-negative review for a Morganville book. This series has consistently been one of my favourite reads – I thought that there could be no such thing as a bad Morganville book. But after reading Ghost Town, I remembered the problems I had with the first book in the series (Glass House). Namely, it just didn’t make me care about the characters.

Claire and the gang are, as usual, in the midst of another action-packed drama – this time centred around Claire and Mrynin’s experimental new machine. Now, that should make my knees turn to jelly, because a) I am head-over-heels in love with Myrnin, and b) I absolutely adore the Claire/Myrnin relationship. And yet their dynamic in this book is pretty much centred around Ada – which was just one of those characters I wish Caine would drop already. Seeing Myrnin – of all people – so love-crazy (instead of regular crazy) just annoyed me. There were a few scenes between them at the start of the book that I loved, but then it was all downhill.
Same goes for Amelie and Oliver – usually two kick-ass characters who seemed to spend this book going on and on about their unbelievable emotional angst. Not to mention the fact that they have been having the same argument about Morganville for nine books. Every time they brought it up, my eyes would start to glaze over. I get it already! Geez.

As for the Glass House residents, I have been growing less and less attached to them with each book. Shane/Claire used to make my heart pitter-patter, and now I feel like skipping through all their lovey-dovey business. I guess they’ve reached that point in their relationship where the camera would usually fade to black and display a “happily ever after” banner. It’s great for them, but not so interesting for us readers. Not that I want angst, per say, but some kind of development would be nice.

Bottom line? Depressing installment to a great series. I remain a fan, but have lost my faith in the series.

Review: Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan

Review: Immortal Beloved by Cate TiernanImmortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan
Series: Immortal Beloved #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, Poppy
Pages: 400
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Darkness Falls

Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something's got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.

Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe--until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.

Thoughts: Immortal Beloved is a difficult book to describe. In a way, it felt like adult fiction. The main character is 400+ years old, so needless to say, she’s a grown-up. And the trauma she’s been through over those past 400 years? Not teenage stuff.

At its heart, Tiernan has written a book about a woman in rehab.  I absolutely loved the main character, Nastasya.  She has had an extraordinary, painful life and watching her deal with that was just stunning.  Nas is tough and self-confident, but is also uncertain about what her ultimate purpose in life is.  She has spent 400 years suppressing all emotion and she finally needs to just deal with it – and with the clever help of flashbacks, we get to go through it with her. I loved watching her transformation, and I actually really related to it.  But plot-wise, Immortal Beloved was a let down.

This is one of those extremely rare books where I loved the main character, but was let down by everything else.  Sure there was a over-arching mystical theme, a few supposedly-sinister characters – but both seemed to be thrown in last minute.  The real drama was Nas dealing with her memories – including an unbelievable-yet-immediate threat on her life was just an unwelcome distraction from the real substance.  I also really disliked Nas’s love interest.  They had every reason to want to kill each other, and yet some sort of magical attraction conquered all.  Right.  Sure.  *stabs*  If he dropped dead for the next book, I would not mind at all.

As for the next book in the series… I do look forward to seeing more of Incy, who I found rather adorable in an evil, dark and twisty sort of way.  Is that wrong?  Perhaps.

Bottom line?  I’m not sure how much a teen reader would get out of this book, as some of the themes are rather adult.  But if you are looking for a main character to love, look no further.  Just don’t go in expecting a paranormal romance or an action flick – this book is neither.

Rachel Vincent Interview & Review of My Soul to Take

Rachel Vincent Interview & Review of My Soul to TakeMy Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent
Series: Soul Screamers #1
Published by Harlequin Teen, MIRA
Pages: 368
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: My Soul to Save, My Soul to Keep, My Soul to Steal, If I Die, Before I Wake, With All My Soul

Something is wrong with Kaylee Cavanaugh.

She doesn't see dead people, but...

She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.

Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about the need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who'll be next...

Thoughts: I really enjoyed My Soul to Take. It had characters that I genuinely liked, a universe that I adored and a focus on family that I found very realistic.

In fact, I found the entire book extremely realistic. For example, there was a great scene where Kaylee decides to Google her supernatural powers and comes to the conclusion that she has a brain tumour. How fantastic is that? I mean, honestly, that is the most logical answer. The idea that she would immediately assume she had inhuman abilities is just silly! As soon as I read that, I knew Kaylee and I were going to get on just fine.

You see, I’d read two of Rachel Vincent’s werecat series (Stray and Rogue) and while I had liked her writing style, I really disliked the main character.  It made me apprehensive about starting My Soul to Take, as I was afraid I’d just be in for some more of the same.  But I’d needn’t have worried, because Kaylee is fantastic.  She stands up for what she believes in, but not to the point where she is making too-stupid-to-live decisions. My Soul to Take proved to me that Vincent can write a main character that I could enjoy – it has made me hopeful for the rest of the werecat series too!

While I liked Kaylee’s boyfriend Nash, I was most intrigued by Tod the teenage grim reaper.  Now really, just the phrase “teenage grim reaper” should be enough to get you into this series.  I am hoping to see more of him (and Kaylee’s BFF Emma) in the rest of the books.

Bottom Line:  An original take on (what has become) the standard paranormal YA action/romance.  Great writing, a unique universe and fantastic characters make this book a must for YA readers.

Rachel Vincent - Author ImageInterview with Rachel Vincent

Rachel was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the Soul Screamers series and her upcoming literary plans.  Here’s what she had to say:

Q. First of all, I am very excited to have your YA series released in the UK. What do you think of the UK jacket covers?

I love them! I think the UK covers are gorgeous, and I love that they capture a different aspect of the books than the US covers do. Both fit the series, but in different ways. 😉

Q. Any chance of a tour in the UK?

Oh, that depends entirely on my publisher. I’ll go wherever they want me to, but to my knowledge, there’s currently no plans for me to go overseas. Travel is expensive…

Q. A lot of Urban Fantasy authors have crossed over into the YA market – with great success. What do you think of this trend, and what inspired you to write a novel aimed at young adults?

I think any trend putting good books into the hands of teens who might not otherwise be reading is a good trend. As for why I’m writing YA, I write it because I like to read it. I love being taken back to a more fantastic, exciting version of my own youth.

Q. Could you introduce the Soul Screamers series to UK readers, new to the books?

The Soul Screamers books are about a sixteen year old high school junior who discovers that she’s a bean sidhe (banshee) who knows when someone near her is going to die. Along with her boyfriend, Nash, Tod the rookie reaper, and a growing and assorted cast of friends/family, she saves lives, returns souls, and battles evil hellions bent on owning her, body and soul. Also, there’s kissing. Lots of kissing. 😉

Q. With your werecat series at an end, will your be Young Adult series become your main focus or do you have something else in the works?

I have a new adult series debuting in the fall in the US, and I’ll be splitting my focus between them for as long as I’m fortunate enough to have both on my plate.

Q. What were your favourite reads as a teen? What YA reads have you recently enjoyed?

Oddly enough, as a teen, I read adult books. I was a huge fan of Stephen King, Robert R. McCammon, and Patricia Cornwell. Now, I read adult urban fantasy and YA paranormal and contemporaries. Recently I loved Matched by Ally Condie [see my review here] and Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers. Both are well-worth importing, if they aren’t shelved in the UK.

Thanks Rachel!

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