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: 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.

Review: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Review: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine HarrisDead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Series: Sookie Stackhouse #1
Published by Ace/Roc, Gollancz
Pages: 292
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Dead as a Doornail

Sookie Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana, but she keeps to herself and doesn't date much because of her "disability" to read minds. When she meets Bill, Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's the type of guy she's waited for all of her life, but he has a disability, too--he's a vampire with a bad reputation. When one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fears she's next.

 I’d been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar.

Thoughts:  I really enjoyed this book. What got me out to the bookstore was seeing the True Blood pilot. I would highly recommend watching it when the season airs and as it totally added to the experience. I bought it mostly out of love for Bill – who reminds me of Edward from the Twilight series despite being nothing like him at all.

Anyhow, this book was so much fun. It was such an amazing look on the whole vampire/human romance because they are all “out of the coffin”. Usually it’s all one big secret, but in this case everyone and their mother knows what Sookie is up to with Bill.

Another thing that I really appreciated was Sookie being just that little bit special and it not being such a good thing. Charlaine Harris deals very well with the fact that a young girl hearing voices in her head is not exactly healthy. Reminds me of the J.K. Rowling quote, Hearing voices no one else can hear isn’t a good sign, even in the wizarding world.

Review: A Heart So White by Javier Marias

Review: A Heart So White by Javier MariasA Heart So White by Javier Marias
Published by Vintage
Pages: 279
Genres: Literary Fiction
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Javier Marías's A Heart So White chronicles with unnerving insistence the relentless power of the past. Juan knows little of the interior life of his father Ranz; but when Juan marries, he begins to consider the past anew, and begins to ponder what he doesn't really want to know. Secrecy—its possible convenience, its price, and even its civility—hovers throughout the novel. A Heart So White becomes a sort of anti-detective story of human nature. Intrigue; the sins of the father; the fraudulent and the genuine; marriage and strange repetitions of violence: Marías elegantly sends shafts of inquisitory light into shadows and on to the costs of ambivalence.

 I did not want to know but I have since come to know that one of the girls, when she wasn’t a girl anymore and hadn’t long been back from her honeymoon, went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror, unbuttoned her blouse, took off her bra and aimed her own father’s gun at her heart, her father at the time was in the dining room with other members of the family and three guests.

Rec for people who love: Spain, art, languages, the new age whodunnit

Thoughts: This was my first book read because of LibraryThing. I think I was looking for books written by Spanish authors – everyone I know trips over themselves when talking about Arturo Perez-Reverte, but it seems that he is the only Spaniard with any real recognition. Using Wikipedia and Livejournal as my guide, I discovered that Javier Marias writes for El Pais, had an uncle who produced pornography, and a philosopher father imprisoned under Franco. Well, if that didn’t make me love him on the spot – I don’t know what could have.

So, onto my TBR list he went and that was that last I time I thought about him or the book. That is, until I happened to be in an Oxfam bookshop that I rarely visit four months later. And there it was. An unused, unloved and untouched “A Heart so White” begging for a good home. I remembered my five minute online affair with the novel, and snatched it from the shelf. Almost as if I had been afraid someone else had seen it.

And so began a two month long journey with Javier Marias’s narrator – Juan.

Okay, so maybe when I started reading I had my expectations a bit too high. No that’s not right – I just wasn’t ready for the style of the novel, and had had no idea what the book was about when I started to read. In fact, it took me about a month and a half to get past the first thirty pages. Throughout the first thirty pages, I knew the words themselves were beautiful – they were just really difficult. The prose is intense, and lyrical – but it is long. It’s kinda the typical problem a lot of genre fans have with lit fic – the, er, pretentiousness? But JM does not write the way he does merely for gloating rights – it’s just what he is bloody brilliant at. Some authors are can write intense multi-character dialogue, others bloody, brutal fight scenes – and JM is the master at writing a character’s stream of conciousness.

Juan writes – for it is hard for me not to think of him as a real person – the way he thinks. And while his thoughts are stunningly beautiful, until you learn to ride his mind with him, you might be tripping over the plot a bit.

Oh yes, the plot.

Well, I couldn’t quite come up with a decent summary of this book without sounding like a lunatic – that is, until I saw this raving review of Javier Marias’s work in the NYTimes:

A simultaneous translator, recently married to another simultaneous translator, uses the growing friendship between his wife and his father to unravel the mystery behind a suicide that took place before he was born. [ …] If you judged by the summary alone, you might guess that Marías’s fiction is ludicrously melodramatic or cruelly comic or tediously postmodern. It is none of these. On the contrary, all four novels possess an odd combination of true sadness and deeply satisfying wit that I have yet to find in any of Marías’s English or American contemporaries.

At the most basic level, the book is about a man discovering the truth about his father’s life. That’s how the book starts off and ends – but that won’t be why you’ll love this book. Marias’s Juan made me examine my own way of looking at the situations and people around me; inspired the philosopher I had never known was in me.

On another note, this book is excellent for all you armchair travelers out there. We head from Madrid to Havana to New York to the UN to Geneva and back again. Also, I would like to congratulate Margaret Jull Costa on her fabulous translation of this breathtaking novel. ♥

You can read the first chapter of this excellent novel, here.

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