Friday, 28 August 2009

Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

SPOILER ALERT!! Unavoidable major spoilers for Shadow Kiss, the third Vampire Academy book, DO NOT read this if you've yet to read Shadow Kiss as it will spoil it hugely.

"Rose Hathaway's life will never be the same.

The recent attack on St. Vladimir's Academy devastated the entire Moroi world. Many are dead. And, for the few victims carried off by Strigoi, their fates are even worse. A rare tattoo now adorns Rose's neck, a mark that says she's killed far too many Strigoi to count. But only one victim matters . . . Dimitri Belikov. Rose must now choose one of two very different paths: honoring her life's vow to protect Lissa—her best friend and the last surviving Dragomir princess—or, dropping out of the Academy to strike out on her own and hunt down the man she loves. She'll have to go to the ends of the earth to find Dimitri and keep the promise he begged her to make. But the question is, when the time comes, will he want to be saved?

Now, with everything at stake—and worlds away from St. Vladimir's and her unguarded, vulnerable, and newly rebellious best friend—can Rose find the strength to destroy Dimitri? Or, will she sacrifice herself for a chance at eternal love?

After the heartbreaking events of Shadow Kiss, Rose has walked away from the academy, her duty and her best friend in an effort to hold up an unspoken promise. Now she's alone in Russia hunting the man she loves. But when she finally finds him, can she do what she promised? It's what he wanted, but he's not dead and he still wants her. She has the chance to finally be with him, for good, without anyone else in the way.

Rose meets several people along the way on her journey to find Dimitri, who help or hinder her, but all give her a better look at the world around her and the way some things work.

Blood Promise is very different to the first three books in the series, with Rose away from the Academy, Lissa and the rest of the people she trusted. It's the first time we've seen her truly alone and without a safety net. She's in the real world and in a lot more danger than normal.

It's much darker than the previous books as well. There is less humor and Rose isn't quite up to her sassy best, but at a realistic level given the circumstances. Rose is dealing with a lot of pain and sadness at the loss of Dimitri and you feel every moment of it, and you can completely understand her desperate desire to believe Dimitri is still the man he always was. Rose does a lot of growing up through Blood Promise. And back at the Academy Lissa is struggling to cope without Rose to lean on for the first time in her life. A real wake up call for her too.

There are plenty of twists and turns, and the book is well written, blending the flashbacks and time in someone elses' head well with the mostly emotional journey Rose is going through. There was a lot left open at the end leaving me wanting the next book now. But it wasn't the killer ending that Shadow Kiss was. Not a bad thing! Like Blood Promise this year, Spirit Bound is the book at the top of my 'must have' list for next year. 9/10

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Blood Promise review is coming, Promise!

I had meant to get the Blood Promise review up yesterday, but I was really ill, and am still feeling really bad today. It's part of the reason for there being no reviews for a couple weeks. Been away as well and had limited internet time there, so couldn't really get to any. I promise the BP review is coming, maybe later or tomorrow, but it will be up soon. Just can't concentrate enough to write it at the moment.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Frostbite by Richelle Mead

"It's winter break at St Vladimir's, and a massive Strigoi vampire attack has put the school on high alert. This year's trip away from the academy to the wintery peaks of Idaho has suddenly become mandatory. But Rose's troubles seem to follow her wherever she goes - dealing with the pain of knowing that her relationship with her tutor Dimitri can never be, things get even more complicated when one her closest friends admits his feelings for her. The glittering winter landscape may create the illusion of safety but Rose - and her heart - are in more danger than she ever could have imagined..."

Frost Bite is the second book in the very popular Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead.

Rose is meant to be taking her Qualifier. A combined interview and exam to show if she's good enough to be a guardian. She's taking it away from the school, but when she and Dimitri arrive at their destination they're met with horror. The guardian meant to give the exam is dead, along with the family he protected and the other guardians. All by Strigoi hands. The attack shocks the vampire world. It's almost unheard of and security is increased at the school and all Moroi families are on alert.

For Rose and her friends, there could be worse things than a mandatory ski trip, if it were as simple as that. But Rose can't forget the other things going on in her life. Her long absent mother has just reappeared and it's far from a happy reunion. Someone else has their eye on Dimitri, and it looks like he wants her too, making Rose very jealous. And Mason, Rose's good friend, is pushing for them to be more than that, for her to finally take his interest seriously. Lissa is making a new friend who could have a bit impact on her their lives. Of course there are also on going repercussions within their world after the attack and unrest is showing itself within the Moroi ranks.

Frost Bite is set a few weeks after the end of Vampire Academy. It continues the story of Rose's training to protect Lissa, but shows there is a lot more to the world then we've seen so far. Life is getting more dangerous for Rose and her fellow students, even inside somewhere meant to be completely safe like St. Vladimir's. It gives us a better look in to Moroi society, how it works, how guardians work and how each race see the other.

The story starts off with good pace and doesn't let up. You can really feel for Rose and what's happening to her and understand her actions. She shows that she's growing up, accepting the horrors she's seen and figuring out how to deal with them. There are plenty of unexpected twists and the ending is surprising, painful and fantastic. It left me wanting a whole lot more. 9/10

Stray by Rachel Vincent

"Female werecats are disappearing and the Pride is helpless to stop the stray responsible. Confined to home for her own protection, Faythe Sanders must face everything she went to College to escape: the family she left behind, the love she turned her back on, and the destiny tradition says she s bound to fulfil. And when it all becomes too much to handle, an emotionally charged error in judgment leads her into the unsheathed claws of the kidnapper himself. Armed with nothing but animal instinct and a serious attitude, Faythe must free herself and stop the kidnappers before their horrific plot robs her Pride of its most valuable asset: its own continued existence."

Stray is the first book in the Shifters series by Rachel Vincent.

Faythe Sanders is a werecat. One of very few females, tabbies, in the world, she's highly valued and been well protected by her alpha, several brothers and other enforcers. As a tabby the expectations of her were to grow up, marry a suitable tom cat and give her Pride the next generation of werecats. Instead, she left. After 5 years of almost complete freedom at college, she's...unhappy about being ordered home. But when she learns of the missing tabbies Faythe wants them back as much as anyone. Being the next target wasn't part of her plans though and when she's taken, she's determined to get herself out alive and make those responsible pay.

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong was the first book in the UF genre that I read, and it's still one of my favourites. On the surface, these two books appear very similar just with werecats instead of werewolves. Strong independent women, trying to escape their Pride/Pack (and over baring boyfriends there) and live their own lives, only to be forced home by their alpha's because of trouble. For me, the similarities just about finish there. Faythe is just too different from Elena. And the age difference, Faythe's 23 to Elena's 30, creates a different tone as well.

Faythe is impulsive and brash. She doesn't think about the consequences of her actions and usually speaks before she thinks. It constantly gets her in to trouble with her alpha (who is also her father) and the rest of the Pride. But despite her attitude, she does love her Pride and the missing tabbies. She shows potential for growth and development and that's why I could put up with her reckless attitude and apparent lack of care.

Rachel's werecat world is well thought out with clear laws, separate Prides, the way Prides work both individually and with each other. She's created strong, but flawed characters with lots of potential. She also gives good physical descriptions of both the characters and the world around them without bogging the book down. A fantastic first book and the series only gets better.

Rating: 8/10

Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr

"After the terrible events of Ink Exchange, the Dark Court has a new ruler. But will Niall's kindness survive his new responsibility to the most violent of Faerie courts? Meanwhile, Seth and Aislinn attempt to mend their relationship. But Aislinn is the Summer Queen and Keenan is her king -- and as summer approaches, their chemistry sparks. Will Seth's mortality lose him the one thing he loves above all others? As Niall seeks to control his new Court, Aislinn attempts to resist the seduction of summer, and Seth searches desperately for the gift of immortality, a delicate balance is threatened, and a terrible plot is revealed."

Fragile Eternity is the third book in the Wicked Lovely series, and the true sequel to the first book, also titled Wicked Lovely.

Aislinn and Keenan are fighting their mutual attraction, an attraction that's growing strength with their courts. And yet they're both trying to make it work with the people they really love, Seth and Donia. But all that changes when Seth disappears.

Seth wants to spend eternity with Aislnn, rather than grow old and die. To do that he needs to become fey, like Aislinn. His best friend Niall, new king of the Dark Court could help him, but he refuses. So Seth looks elsewhere, in the High Court ruled by the unchanging Sorcha.

Aislinn is left with no clue as to where Seth is, or even if he left voluntarily. Without him around she turns to Keenan for support and he works harder than ever to make her his true queen, turning his back on his Winter Queen, Donia. Aislinn withdraws from the mortal world with Seth no longer there to ground her in it and wonders if she's not just better off giving in to her attraction for her king.

I was looking forward to this book. I really enjoyed the first in the series, Wicked Lovely, and really liked Seth and Aislinn's characters. But I found this book disappointed. Ms. Marr's prose may be beautiful, but I found the writing dragged on a lot at times, and could get very repetitive. Readers don't need to be told multiple times, and with almost the exact words/phrases, withing one chapter that Aislinn is feeling torn between Seth and Keenan, or that Seth is frustrated with still being mortal in Aislinn's new world.

Likewise, Bananach's constant warnings of a war about to start were tiresome and lost any meaning after the first couple times as there was no real sign of it. She's also meant to be scary, called 'war' by many people, but she's yet to do anything to make me see her as such. She shows visions of death and destruction, but actually doing it would have greater effect.

Very little actually happened in this book. It all seemed to be back and forth talk with people changing their minds over and over. I went from really liking Seth before the book, to thinking his strange and not liking him by the end. Aislinn spent the majority of the book either on the verge of tears or in them, as apposed to the stronger girl from the first book. The mother/son relationship that develops between Sorcha and Seth is nothing short of strange and verging on cringe worthy.

By the last third of the book I found myself wanting to skip large sections because it was all the same thing. I wouldn't have missed anything. And the ending? Well there really wasn't one. Almost everything was as it was at the beginning, just slightly tweaked. Aislinn is still torn between her men, Keenan between his women and Seth not truly belonging to any one court but attached to all four. Utterly frustrating after almost 400 pages. I didn't think this would be worse than Ink Exchange, but I think it actually was because characters I originally liked, Seth and Aislinn, I now don't. 4/10

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

This is what my boredom brings you...

...a 1,400+ word post on the merits of Vampire Academy vs. Twilight. Apologies. I'll get back to reviews now ;)

Vampire Academy vs. Twilight

Vampire Academy: Rose is a 17 year old dhampir training to be a guardian to her best friend Lissa, a mortal vampire, a Moroi princess. The biggest threat they face are the immortal vampires, the Strigoi who hunt the Moroi and would love to turn or kill as many of the Moroi as they can. Rose's mentor is Dimitri Belikov and he's training her to be the very best she can be. And they're falling in love. In a world where a dhampirs soul job is to defend the Moroi they shouldn't be together, even if he wasn't her teacher and 7 years older.

Twilight: Bella is a human 17 year old who moves back to small town Forks to live with her dad after her mom remarries. There she meets the Cullen's and becomes obsessed with Edward. But the Cullen family are different, they're almost too beautiful to look at and keep completely to themselves. They're vampires. But that doesn't stop Bella going after Edward. Her best friend, Jacob Black, does his best to stop the relationship though. He's a werewolf and natural enemy to the vampires. He'd like nothing more than to take Edward apart and the feeling is mutual.

The Story
Vampire Academy is a full and well rounded story. It looks at friendship, and how it changes between two people who've known each other forever as they grow up and become adults. Love, both the 'I'd die for you' kind and the relationships that are more suited to friendship. Questioning the things you've always believed in as it's what you've always been told, and figuring out for yourself that life is not all that you thought. And it asks too big questions of Rose constantly: How far would she go to protect the ones she loves. And, how to choose between the two people she loves most when they both need her.

Twilight is almost solely a love story, with a little extra danger thrown in. Bella will do anything to be with Edward including turning her back on her friends, lying and running from her parents, basically ignoring all the people who want to keep her grounded in reality. She'll even give up her humanity to spend forever with him. Bella is wanted by vampires in Europe as well though, who are the law in the vampire world, creating the potential for serious conflict.

Rose Hathaway: Tough and independent she struggles to trust anyone. Aside from Dimitri and Lissa, she rarely lets people in. She's fiercely protective of Lissa and clearly cares deeply for her despite growing distance between them. She's fallen for her mentor, who's 7 years older than her. She knows they shouldn't be together however and does try to stay away from him. She can be bratty and impulsive and she tends to speak (or yell) before she thinks. But she has a much greater understanding of the world around her than most give her credit for. More so than some of the adults around her.

Bella Swan: She spends almost all of her time pining after Edward. If he's with her, she's upset she can't be closer to him, that he won't let her because she's 'too fragile', and if he's not with her, she wants to be with him. She cares about her best friend, Jacob, as well, but he's not enough for her to stop thinking about Edward. She can be impulsive, but where Rose knows there will be consequences when she acts suddenly, Bella doesn't and isn't prepared to deal with them. Her world revolves around Edward, she'll do anything to be with him and to protect him.

Dimitri Belikov: Strong, tall (really tall, like, 6' 7") and preferring to stay in his room and read when off duty, he's a very respected guardian, despite only being 24. He's completely dedicated to his duty, going against his training is like him going against nature. He may have feelings for Rose but he doesn't go soft on her. He's training her to be the very best she can be, to be one of the best guardians there are. And as much as he pushes her physically, he doesn't come close to pushing her romantically, in fact, he does what he can to avoid the relationship knowing it would be bad for both. But above all, he treats her with respect. Intense and deadly his temper can snap like Roses', but it's much better hidden and he can strike with the precision of a viper.

Edward Cullan: Equally obsessed with Bella. He takes to stalking her, breaking in to her room to watch her sleep at night (not cool - disturbing). He doesn't do much to encourage her to have a life besides him and his family. He may have a point wanting to marry her rather than turning her into a vampire, but with the stalking and other things, it falls flat. He may put up with Jacob for Bella, but he'd rather have her totally to himself.

Romantic Relationships
Vampire Academy: Rose and Dimitri may be forbidden, but it's not a reason for it. They fell for each other as they got to know each other. Learning that they had a lot in common, understood the other almost, if not better at times, then themselves, and on having a mutual respect for each other. It's a strong relationship, but it's not all consuming, they're still capable of being individuals.

Twilight: The majority of the story is about Bella and Edward. A love so consuming all other life fails to exist. Okay, there is a love triangle between Jacob, Bella and Edward as well, but it is very clear very early on that it's only ever going to be Edward, so it's a moot point. And the relationship between Bella and Edward isn't a healthy one, I'm not sure how people can say it is, because she turns her back on everyone and everything, including her own humanity for him, and he doesn't stop her. Not healthy.

The writing style in each book is very different. Ms. Mead gives her readers a clear and vivid image of the world and characters she's created. You can get to know characters quickly and easily and you're given good physical descriptions of them, with space to interpret for yourself. There is a great balance of darkness and grit, with a touch of humor to give some lighter moments. Ms. Meyer's work on the other hand is much more about Bella's feelings, rather than the physical nature of her experiences. There is little detailed description of the world around her or the people (with the exception of Edward) so you get a rough impression, but most of if you can make up yourself. Her tone isn't as strong and the words don't have the punch of Ms. Mead's as a result.

Vampire Lore
Twilight has little traditional vampire lore. They are supernaturally fast and strong, almost indestructible, but they're not affected by sunlight (apart from to sparkle of all things), a simple stake to the heart won't kill them and it takes a massive amount to destroy them. They do need blood to survive though and human food is a big no.

Vampire Academy however, has plenty of commonly found vampire lore, particularly with the Strigoi. They're immortal, supernaturally fast, strong, enhanced hearing and sight. They're evil and killers, hunting their prey alone or in groups. They're unable to enter holy buildings and daylight is a big no no. They can be killed with a silver stake to the heart or by decapitation. They, along with the Moroi and dhampir's, all have a basis in mythology and legend with Ms. Mead's own twists. But it's all much closer to that commonly found and recognized as vampire lore.

Overall opinion: Twilight is an okay series, but nothing more. The characters are pretty unbelievable at times and can get very annoying. Jacob was my sole reason for finishing the series and he seemed the best of the characters. Vampire Academy on the other hand has strong, but flawed characters, who are easy to relate to. The plot is strong and holds together very well making a great read. Twilight tends to drag on a bit, with Bella thinking of little but Edward. Would I buy another YA vampire series by Ms. Meyer? Unlikely. By Ms Mead? What's the quickest way to get it? Is yesterday too soon?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Destined For An Early Grave by Jeaniene Frost

"Since half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her undead lover Bones met six years ago, they've fought against the rogue undead, battled a vengeful Master vampire, and pledged their devotion with a blood bond. Now it's time for a vacation. But their hopes for a perfect Paris holiday are dashed when Cat awakes one night in terror. She's having visions of a vampire named Gregor who's more powerful than Bones and has ties to her past that even Cat herself didn't know about.

Gregor believes Cat is his and he won't stop until he has her. As the battle begins between the vamp who haunts her nightmares and the one who has her heart, only Cat can break Gregor's hold over her. She'll need all the power she can summon in order to bring down the baddest bloodsucker she's ever faced ... even if getting that power will result in an early grave."

Cat has started to have nightmares about being hunted, forced towards a man she feels she knows. But the dreams seem too real to mean nothing. The man, Gregor, is after Cat believing she is his, and not Bones'. He works to steal her from Bones, while Bones does everything he can to keep Cat safe.

But a part of Cat wants to go to Gregor, at the least for answers, she wants the truth about her experience with him. Understandably Bones isn't happy about it and things become tense between the couple as Bones fights to keep Cat safe, and Cat fights for the truth as she tries to keep everyone else safe. Before long, more than Cat's life is in danger, the stakes are upped and the fight is on.

Destined For An Early Grave is the fourth book in the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost. I loved the first two books in the series (Halfway To The Grave and One Foot In The Grave) and thought the series was likely to become a favourite. I questioned that after reading the third book, At Grave's End and finding it much less intense and with little of the sizzling chemistry from the first two books. I hoped this would be an improvement and to start with, it was. The story started out well, with a strong plot and the characters seemed much more 'alive' again this time around. There was plenty of darkness and Cat and Bones had their work cut out for them.

But as the book went on, I found it became predictable. Instead of barely survived big fights, Cat develops sudden new powers and suddenly it's an easy win. Big build up and then nothing. All over with almost no consequences for the main couple. The tension between Cat and Bones started out well too, but became tedious because both characters deserved a slap and should have just talked instead of ignoring each other. I've never been a huge Bones fan, but I disliked him even more through this book. And his similarity to Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer doesn't do him any favours at all.

Overall, it is still a decent enough read, I finished it in a couple of days, but it didn't have the flair, punch or surprise of the first two books. There were a couple of little things that were surprising, but they weren't enough to make me go 'Wow! Never saw that coming!' like I did a lot in the first two. I wasn't left wanting more, and I wasn't even inclined to find out when the next book is out after finishing it. I do hope the next is better because this series started out with so much promise. 6/10

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

"In a world where being of mixed-blood is a major liability, Sabina doesn't really fit in. And being an assassin - the only profession fit for an outcast - doesn't help matters. But she's never brought her work home. Until now. Her latest mission is uncomfortably complex, and threatens the fragile peace between the vampire and mage races. As Sabina scrambles to figure out which side she's on, she uncovers a tangled political web, some nasty facts about her family and some unexpected new talents. Any of these things could be worryingly life-changing, but together, they could be fatal"

This is a fantastic first book to a new series. Sabina is a tough half vampire, half mage who has spent her life trying to make up for her heritage, doing everything her Grandmother (one of the ruling three vampires) asks of her. But her latest task isn't entirely that of an assassin, but a spy. She's sent to infiltrate a cult headed by another half breed, this time vampire and demon, Clovis and assainate him. Determined to finally prove herself to the Dominae, Sabina agrees and starts letting it spread that she's turning against the Dominae to draw out Clovis' supporters. Quickly Sabina has the meeting she wants and finds herself falling in to a much bigger mess than she'd first assumed.

At the same time, she's being stalked by a hot mage, Adam Lazarus, and a red eyed white owl. The mage makes his presence well known, trying to convince Sabina she needs to embrace the mage heritage she's always ignored and begin to learn to control her magic.

As Sabina works to complete her grandmothers wishes, she learns a whole new side to vampire politics and realises not everything is as she thought, or was raised to believe. The more she discovers the more she fights the truth and questions motives, pushing boundaries further than before as she tries to find her place in the world.

Along the way it's entertaining to watch loner Sabina making friends with an overly peppy faerie Vinca, and a demon Giguhl (or Mr. Giggles as Sabina takes to calling his talking cat self). Giguhl in particular is fantastically funny relief from the increasingly dark and dangerous world Sabina finds herself in.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It had a few slow moments with world building and scene setting, but it didn't detract from the overall package. Sabina is a conflicted character, but compelling and tough. There is popular myth smoothly blended with Ms. Wells' own twists and the world created observes a careful balance between the vampires and mages, with other creatures generally falling one side or the other. Red-Headed Stepchild has quickly become a favourite of mine and I really look forward to reading the second book in the series, The Mage In Black, next year. 8/10

Thursday, 6 August 2009

No review, though there should be

I had every intention of reviewing Destined For An Early Grave by Jeaniene Frost today. But I'm really struggling to write it. If I love a book, it's easy, if I hate a book, it's easy, when the book doesn't really hit me, it's harder. And that's my problem. I will review it, but it may be a little while.

I've been reading pretty slowly at the moment cause I've had other things to do and it's had to take a back seat. Will likely be like that for the next week or so, but I'll try and get a couple up soon.

I'm currently half way through Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells and I'm really, really enjoying it! I'll probably finish it tomorrow if I have time, so hopefully I'll get to reviewing it over the weekend.

Until then, apologies for the silence :)

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

"After suffering a terrible trauma at the hands of her brother's dealer friends, Leslie becomes obsessed with the idea of getting a tattoo -- it's the one thing that will allow her to reclaim her body, renew her self-confidence. And when Rabbit, her local tattoo artist, shows her a secret book of his own designs, she finds one of them irresistible. Soon, her back is adorned with a pair of mysterious eyes, framed by black wings. Leslie feels good -- more than good. Nothing bad can touch her. But what she doesn't know is that her new tattoo binds her tightly to the faery whose symbol she chose: Irial, the exquisitely dangerous king of the Dark Court!"

Ink Exchange is the sequel to Wicked Lovely, but following different characters. Leslie is one of Aislinn's (the girl from Wicked Lovely) closest friends, and the book follows her fight to regain control after a horrible and terrifying event. She decides that the way to do that is to get a tattoo. But unknown to her, the tattoo she chooses is that of the faerie king of the Dark Court, Irial.

With the tattoo comes unexpected changes for Leslie. Her sight changes, the emotions she feels and the way she reacts. The pain, hurt and fear that had been consuming her, disappears. But at what cost?

The more she changes, the more Niall, advisor to the Summer King and Queen Keenan and Aislinn, wants to help her. Having escaped the Dark Court himself many years ago, he's determined not to let them have Leslie. But in the end, can he himself escape their clutches again?

Wicked Lovely was a really good read, but unfortunately this does not live up to it. The idea behind the story, surviving - not allowing someone else to rule your life, is a good one, but it doesn't work here. The writing tended to ramble on and got confusing at times. You could see what the end was going to be long before you got there, and when you did, it was over quickly. It didn't help that half of the book was from Irial's perspective. As the 'bad guy' I had no sympathy for him or his motives. I didn't like his character and even found him dull at times.

On the good side, we saw some of Keenan's true nature and we got a better look at Niall, easily the most interesting, though least seen, character in the book. I intend to read the third book in the series, Fragile Eternity, because it focuses on different characters. But I don't feel this book really added anything to the series. Long winded, slow and dull at times it didn't do it's predecessor any justice. Hoping for more from the next one. 5/10