Mini-Reviews: Werewolves

Book: Vesper
Author: Jeff Sampson
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: January 25, 2011
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
Series: Deviants #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Emily Webb is a geek. And sheâ??s happy that way. Content hiding under hoodies and curling up to watch old horror flicks, sheâ??s never been the kind of girl who sneaks out for midnight parties. And sheâ??s definitely not the kind of girl who starts fights or flirts with other girlsâ?? boyfriends. Until one night Emily finds herself doing exactly that . . . the same night one of her classmatesâ??also named Emilyâ??is found mysteriously murdered.

The thing is, Emily doesnâ??t know why sheâ??s doing any of this. By day, sheâ??s the same old boring Emily, but by night, she turns into a thrill seeker. With every nightfall, Emily gets wilder until itâ??s no longer just her personality that changes. Her body can do things it never could before: Emily is now strong, fast, and utterly fearless. And soon Emily realizes that sheâ??s not just coming out of her shell . . . thereâ??s something much bigger going on. Is she bewitched by the soul of the other, murdered Emily? Or is Emily Webb becoming something else entirelyâ?? something not human?

As Emily hunts for answers, she finds out that sheâ??s not the only one this is happening toâ??some of her classmates are changing as well. Who is turning these teens into monstersâ??and how many people will they kill to get what they want?

Overall impressions: I posted a status review for this book on Goodreads that said “this is the most exciting boring book I’ve ever read.” That pretty much sums up my feelings. While the story itself was full of promise of exciting things to come, they never fully materialized. I couldn’t wait to see where the story was going, but the plot never fully went anywhere. It felt like a very slow build to what is sure to be an exciting next chapter. If you can hang with the slower pace, I think the payoff will be big.

I really liked the fresh take on the supernatural characters here. We know there are mysterious things going on, not only because Emily is acting so strangely, but also because we see hints in weird behaviors in other minor characters. Additionally, chapters are broken up occasionally by transcripts from a future discussion Emily is having about the events happening in the book. We never got complete answers, but the action and mystery were just interesting enough to hook me. By the time I finished this one, I was dying for the sequel. More please!

Rating: 4/5 stars

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Book: Nightshade
Author: Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Philomel
Release date: October 19, 2010
Source: Borrowed from local library
Series: Nightshade #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she’ll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters’ laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything- including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

Overall impressions: From the beginning, this felt like a chore to read. I felt like I had walked in on a lecture mid-class and was struggling to keep up having missed some important revelations. The lore and history of this world is definitely intricate, but Cremer never bothers to clue us in. Instead, we have to make our own deductions and assumptions about how things work. I’m not the world’s laziest reader, mind you, but I do think that in complex fantasy worlds we need a bit more hand-holding.

The characters in this book were not very likable. BFFs we will not be. Calla seemed too willing to roll over and submit for being an Alpha, and neither of the love interests were that, well, interesting. Ren was overbearing but ultimately seemed to care for Calla, yet he kept doing such awful things that I couldn’t really fall in love with him. Shay was just too boring. I felt like with such rich mythology and settings, this could have been a home run, but the lack of info and frustrating characters ruined this reading experience.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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Review: Fateful by Claudia Gray

Book: Fateful
Author: Claudia Gray
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: September 13, 2011
Source: ARC received from Around the World Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) In Fateful, eighteen-year-old maid Tess Davies is determined to escape the wealthy, overbearing family she works for. Once the ship theyâ??re sailing on reaches the United States, sheâ??ll strike out on her own. Then she meets Alec, a handsome first-class passenger who captivates her instantly. But Alec has secrets….

Soon Tess will learn just how dark Alecâ??s past truly is. The danger they face is no ordinary enemy: werewolves are real and theyâ??re stalking himâ??and now Tess, too. Her growing love for Alec will put Tess in mortal peril, and fate will do the same before their journey on the Titanic is over.

Featuring the opulent backdrop of the Titanic, Fatefulâ??s publication is poised to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the shipâ??s doomed maiden voyage. It is sure to be a hit among Titanic buffs and fans of paranormal romance alike.

First impressions: Claudia Gray wastes no time setting the tone here. Tess is off on a last minute task before they sail on the Titanic, and she fumbles around in dark alleyways with trepidation. Fear is definitely a prominent emotion for Tess throughout the novel. An early run-in with a wolf lets us know that this is not going to be a typical Titanic tale. (Alliteration bonus points!)

Lasting impressions: SPECIAL SHELF! One of my favorite reads of the year.

Conflicting impressions: The dialogue felt a little cheesy at times. The interactions between Tess and Alec had the tendency to sound like something you’d hear on a soap opera – very melodramatic.

Overall impressions: If you like the story of the RMS Titanic, and you like young adult paranormals, you will L-O-V-E this book, just as I did. It was a near-perfect mashup of historical events with a werewolf twist.

I know. It sounds ridiculous. I promise you, it’s not.

Tess Davies gives us an honest account of life as a 20th century English maid. Working for the horrid Lady Regina, and her much more pleasant daughter, Irene, life is never easy for Tess. She hopes that when she arrives in New York at the conclusion of this voyage she can slip away from the Lisle family and set out on her own. All she wants is independence and the chance to get out from under the employers who have made her life, and the life of her sister, miserable.

While boarding the Titanic, Tess has the distinct feeling of being watched, and after several run-ins with the ominous Russian Mikhail, she discovers she is in danger. Luckily, a handsome young son of a Chicago steel magnate, Alec, comes to her rescue. He harbors secrets of his own, however, and despite his efforts to keep Tess away from his problems, she winds up sucked right into the middle of them.

The werewolf lore is just sparse enough to serve the story without bogging us down with too many details. We know at least one wolf is on board, wants something from Tess, and will stop at nothing to get it – even if she doesn’t know what it is. As she struggles to avoid trouble with the wolves, she winds up getting into trouble with her employer, the Lisle family. The balance of work duties with real fear of a very supernatural situation is hard on Tess, made even more difficult by the fact that as a servant she has almost no power or trustworthiness in the eyes of the ship’s staff. She is alone, and it is terrifying.

When she does manage to make a tentative friend out of one of her bunkmates, things ease a bit for her. Tess doesn’t really know what it’s like to have a friend, and this experience sets up an important relationship that will impact the rest of her life. Likewise, her blooming romance with Alec also has lasting consequences, and she learns that sometimes you can have joy in your life no matter your station.

My only disappointment with this novel is the fact that the sinking of the Titanic doesn’t occur until the very last pages. I would have liked to see this moved up a bit, since we all know it’s coming, and I kept wanting to get there quicker. The description of the ship going down is as vivid as in the James Cameron film, and just as tragic. Because of the third-class/first-class love story here, as well as the setting, it’s hard to not think of Jack and Rose, which is why I appreciated the werewolf angle. It sets this story apart a bit more, giving it a unique twist and some exciting action to carry the plot forward.

This was an absolute treat to read, and I so very highly recommend it. This is definitely going on my top five books of the year.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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Review: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

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Book: Forever
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: July 12, 2011
Source: ARC received for I Read Banned Books Tour
Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls #3

Summary: (from Goodreads) In Maggie Stiefvater’s SHIVER, Grace and Sam found each other. In LINGER, they fought to be together. Now, in FOREVER, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.

First impressions: Man, Maggie Stiefvater sure is a gorgeous writer. She writes as if each word is carefully chosen, in this specific and beautiful way. I fell into the rhythm of this book very easily, and it took me right back into the world.

Lasting impressions: This was my favorite installment of the trilogy. Based on my so-so reactions to the first two, I wasn’t sure if this one would be any better. I wanted to see how the story ended, and ultimately I’m glad I read not only this book, but the whole series.

Conflicting impressions: I’ve come to accept that my problems with this series are ones of personal taste. I don’t think the way the parents were written out of the story came through for me the way Stiefvater intended. I also will never be able to tell the multiple narrators apart. I realize, though, that these things don’t bother most fans of this series.

Overall impressions: This one is certainly not vying for “special shelf” status. Grace’s relationship with her parents drives me bonkers. I can’t ever keep the narrators straight without double-checking the designation. The science of the wolves is overly complicated. Yet there’s something that has kept me reading all three books.

The writing style is very specific to Stiefvater. She is a master of prose, no doubt. She beautifully captures the isolation and cold of the Minnesota woods. I think she’s at her best when the scenes have a lot of internal conflict and are light on dialogue. When Sam is trying (still) to process his bathtub fears, for instance, or when Cole goes on another depressive bender. There’s an incredible scene with Grace in the woods in the middle of the book that is terrifying, and I was totally swept away by it.

But JEEZ-US! Sometimes I had no idea where the story was going or how much of the backstory I was supposed to have memorized. I tried finding a detailed recap anywhere online for Linger because for much of this book I just felt lost. Authors! It’s been a long time since your last book came out! You can’t really expect all of us to re-read the series each time, can you?

I remained frustrated with Grace’s parents in this book, although her mom tried to redeem herself. Mostly, though, they remain self-absorbed little shits (pardon my French) who show up when typical parents would be needed and disappear when it suits the story. They are just awful, and I get that that is the point, but then why is Grace so forgiving? Why does she even try to involve them anymore? I wish I could define that breaking point a little better, but since I can’t, this point goes woefully unresolved for me.

This book is made much more tolerable by the growth of Cole and Isabel. Cole takes over for Sam as Most Interesting Despairing Wolf, and Isabel shows much more depth of feeling and introspection than ever before. I loved Isabel in this book. She showed why she is the way she is and so I understood her much more. Why didn’t we get more of this before this book?

Despite my personal hang-ups toward the book, it resolved the Mercy Falls story adequately enough. It had some major shockers toward the end, and though it teases us with a few twists, I’m not angry that this is the end of these characters’ stories. I can let my imagination fill in the blanks.

I definitely recommend this one to fans of the series, but for anyone on the fence, I’d say this book makes the trilogy worthwhile. If you have the free time, I think it would be best to knock them all out in a row so you stay invested and caught up in the action. I also recommend them in the summer, because reading these cold, depressing books in the middle of a cold, depressing winter does not make for an enjoyable reading experience. Should you choose to ignore me, I will not be held accountable for any side effects you suffer.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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Interested in reading my reviews for the rest of the series? Click to read my reviews of Shiver and Linger.

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