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!

Review: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Review: The Body Finder by Kimberly DertingThe Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Series: The Body Finder #1
Published by Harper Collins on 2010-03-16
Pages: 352
Genres: Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.

Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.

Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.

Thoughts: SLIGHTLY SPOILERY! This book started off so well. Derting had no qualms about showing violence and drinking and corpses – it was all slightly gruesome and ultra-realistic. I truly enjoyed the start. But once the annoying teen romance became disgustingly codependent and very unattractive, the flaws started to show.  And I’m afraid The Body Finder descended into the deep, dark pit of cliche and boredom.

It’s such a shame, because The Body Finder could have been fantastic. I loved the main idea of the novel – a girl with unpleasant superpowers uses her gift in for good! She has parents that understand and support her, a best friend who understands and supports her, and some he-said-she-said romance to look forward to. It could have been a great murder mystery, without any annoyingly-avoidable teen angst.

And it was that, for about 150 pages.

But The Body Finder had some issues I couldn’t overlook. Some pretty serious ones. As soon as Violet starts dating her BFF-turned-love-of-her-life Jay (that can’t be a spoiler, right? even from the summary, you saw that one coming) he becomes almost parental. He starts meeting with her father to “discuss” her issues, while Violet’s sole focus in life becomes the friggin’ prom. Sure, the murders which dominated the first half of the book are important, but what-oh-what should she wear? Now let’s cuddle on the couch with Jay and consider what a nice guy he is.

My eyes were rolling so hard, something nearly broke.

Perhaps this annoying change in Violet and Jay could have been smoothed over by the excuse of first love and a fascinating mystery to focus on. Except, that murder mystery we’d all been enjoying? It also descends into the aforementioned dark pit of cliche. No motive for the villains – not even a slightly psychotic one. Hell, the villains are so generic, they aren’t even named! Literally, no names. “Oh, Violet, I’ll never forget the time you caught that murderer… He-who-was-never-named, was it?”

Oh, and we can add The Body Finder to the list of YA books that have sexual assault (not full-on rape, but non-consensual contact) go unpunished – in this case, actually forgiven by the main character.  Not cool.

Bottom line?  The Body Finder left a bad taste in my mouth.  Although the book started off really well, I won’t be continuing with the series.  However, Derting is a pretty decent writer and I could be coerced into reading something else by her… maybe.

Review: Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Review: Mercy by Rebecca LimMercy by Rebecca Lim
Series: Mercy #1
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 288
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Exile

Mercy ‘wakes’ on a school bus bound for Paradise, a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business… or thinks they do. But Mercy has a secret life. She is an angel, doomed to return repeatedly to Earth, taking on a new ‘persona’ each time she does, in an effort to resolve a cataclysmic rift between heavenly beings. The first of a brilliant new series sees Mercy meeting Ryan, an eighteen-year-old whose sister was kidnapped two years ago and is presumed dead. When another girl is also kidnapped, Mercy knows she has to act quickly and use extraordinary powers to rescue her, even if it means exposing her true identity.

Thoughts: Mercy was rather stunning.  Honestly, it took me quite a while to get past the first 50 pages. I just really wasn’t in love with the main character, as she seemed rather – well – evil. Not outright, “I kill puppies” sort of evil, but certainly not nice.  But I kept going, and I am so very glad I did!

There was a point, about 100 pages through the novel, when I knew I was going to love this book: it’s when Mercy – as Carmen – sings her heart out. It was a show stopper, and it practically stopped mine.  It was just glorious- I could almost hear the music through the pages – and rather indicative of the ethereal quality of the entire novel. If I had known Mercy had this musical element, I would have made my way through those first 50 pages a lot sooner!

Although Mercy begins as a rather apathetic character, as she becomes more involved in her human’s life, I really started to like her.  She is really difficult to describe… partly because I don’t think she used to be a good “person”. She’s a self-aware adult in one way, but her lack of memory has given her room to change for the better. As she grows into her new body – Carmen – she really starts to develop into someone new.

In fact, even though this book has about 5 mysteries going on at once and a few romances that leave you begging for more action, Mercy is really all about Mercy. The singing, the murder, the hot-human!boy, and the bizarre supernatural powers are all just tangential to Mercy’s development.

I’ve read Fallen and Hush, Hush (oh, if only I were ethically capable of burning a book). Although both were Angel YA, they both lacked that otherworldly quality of angels – staring random “insert paranormal creature here” heros. I don’t mean a religious quality – I am the biggest atheist in town – but that feeling of something powerful that you can’t begin to imagine.  Mercy had that quality in spades – there was no doubt in my mind that she’s an angel. Powerful and inhuman and, often, cruel.

So, I really can’t wait for the rest of the books in this series – the nature of Mercy’s condition will make the next book very interesting.

Bottom line?  I really enjoyed Mercy for it’s tough amnesiac of a main character, it’s show-stopping choir performances, and it’s rather subtle-yet-star-crossed romance.  I’d recommend this book to fans of the Wicked Lovely series, as they both have that somewhat ethereal quality about them.

Review: Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott

Review: Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth ScottStealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
Published by HarperTeen
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Dani has been trained as a thief by the best--her mother. Together, they move from town to town, targeting wealthy homes and making a living by stealing antique silver. They never stay in one place long enough to make real connections, real friends--a real life

In the beach town of Heaven, though, everything changes. For the first time, Dani starts to feel at home. She's making friends and has even met a guy. But these people can never know the real Dani--because of who she is. When it turns out that her new friend lives in the house they've targeted for their next job and the cute guy is a cop, Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she's always known--or the one she's always wanted.

Thoughts: I was surprised by Stealing Heaven. I picked it up expecting a cheery, chick-lit read – Ocean’s Eleven a-la-Sophie-Kinsella. That would have been great, but what Scott delivers is about 20x better. Stealing Heaven is a serious book. Dani grows up with a mother who has indoctrinated her into a life of crime – a life that Dani is just not meant for. She’s never been to school, never been able to tell anyone her real name, never had any friends – and, on top of that, there’s her absent father and her mother’s manic relationship with thievery. Less than ideal is putting it mildly.

But even as Dani’s mom behaves in ways unbefitting a mother, Dani is able to recognise why her mother her is behaving so thoughtlessly. It’s really easy for a teen to just turn around and hate their parents – but Dani doesn’t because, even as a teen, she can see her mother with the eyes of an adult. I read this book wishing I could hate her mom – but I just couldn’t. It is fantastic, and adds a whole new level to what could have been a simple break-away-from-your-family book.

Stealing Heaven is about a girl working out who she is, and what that means for her family. About a girl who has to wake up, take her head out of the sand, and truly examine her life. She doesn’t do it for a boy – although she does have an extremely influential romance with, get this, a cop – and she doesn’t do it for a friend – although she makes pals with a lovely girl along the way. Dani changes her life for herself, and it is wonderful to read.

Bottom line?  A fantastic contemporary read for young adults. This book is sweet, sad, and thoughtful – you’ll love it.  I can’t wait to read more by Elizabeth Scott!

Review: Dark Life by Kat Falls

Review: Dark Life by Kat FallsDark Life by Kat Falls
Series: Dark Life #1
Published by Scholastic
Pages: 304
Genres: Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Ty has lived under the ocean for his entire life. Following global warming and the rise of the seas, his family joined an underwater community in hopes of living in the new frontier of the ocean floor. But When Ty meets Gemma, a girl from "topside", who is searching the seas for her brother, she quickly makes his life very complicated. Together Ty and Gemma face dangerous sea creatures and venture into the frontier town's rough underworld as they search for her missing brother. But the deeper they dig, the more attention they attract, and soon Ty and Gemma find themselves being hunted by a gang of outlaws who roam the underwater territories causing havoc, and who seem to have eerie abilities. But Ty has a secret of his own, living underwater for his entire life has meant he has also developed a "special" power. Can he keep it a secret from Gemma and his family or is it time for him to finally tell everyone the truth?

Thoughts: I adored Dark Life. Lately, I’ve been reading books that have been on my wishlist for eons and have turned out to be extremely disappointing. (The Body Finder is a fantastic example of a book I was in lust with – and like most superficial relationships, it fell apart upon actually reading it.) So, my high expectations for the Dark Life were worrying.

But Dark Life lived up to every expectation. It’s science fiction only, instead of space, we’ve colonised the ocean. The book follows some sort of apocalyptic disaster – the opening of the novel has Ty swimming around what seemed to be the ruins of New York City. But, society had moved on, and the apparent overthrow of the modern world is old news.

Dark Life has action, cool underwater gadgets, a couple of quasi-paranormal abilities and a dash of romance. All the perfect ingredients for a brilliant YA novel. But what made me love it were the things that you aren’t thrown at you. Dark Life deals with some pretty serious social, scientific and political issues without seeming preachy. In fact, they are so subtly handled, they can almost be overlooked in favour of the action.

I love, love, love that. Of course, books which wrap up with a take-away message can be great – but I adore the ones that make you stop and think, whilst gently nudging you in a particular direction. Dark Life is that kind of book.

Bottom line? Faaantastic! Read Dark Life if you are looking for something fun yet thought-provoking. Ooh, it also has a male narrator! Isn’t it sad that that is rare enough to warrent excitement?

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